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Westminster Christian Warriors Baseball

09 baseball preview

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Prep baseball season preview team capsules

  Bartlett Hawks

Coach: Chris Pemberton (1st season)

2008 Record: 18-10

Top returnees: Seniors Kyle King (P), Alex VanNess (OF/INF/P), Tucker Erickson (IF), George Tintera (IF), Devin Roland (P), Erik Lira (IF).

Top newcomers: Juniors Mike Mancuso (IF), Greg Partyka (C/IF), Mike Tomsovic (P/IF).

Outlook: Pemberton takes over as coach for the Hawks, replacing Rocco Marinucci, who stepped down last fall after leading the program through its first 10 seasons. Bartlett will be trying to make up for the loss of several key contributors from last year's team, which reached a regional championship game. Pitching will be the key and the Hawks will look for Creighton signee King to lead the rotation.

"We will look to build from the core of players who were a part of the success of last year," Pemberton said. "In order to do this, we need to have our seniors lead on a regular basis and depend upon some of our juniors to be successful at this level."

Burlington Central Rockets

Coach: Kyle Nelson (4th season)

2008 Record: 15-12

Top returnees: Seniors Bill Rodriguez (OF/P), David Hartwell (OF/P). Juniors Austin Jarvis (C), Zack Romando (SS).

Top newcomers: Senior Dan Berg (P). Juniors Drew Stover (2B), Jeff Ehlers (2B/1B/OF), Shane Larkin (P/OF). Sophomores Nick Hahn (3B/P), Sam Klein (OF/SS/P). Freshman Tanner Scott (OF/C).

Outlook: Jarvis, who earned All-Area honors as a sophomore last year, will shoulder a big load in the middle of the order. Last year he hit .436 with six homers and 23 RBIs and behind the plate threw out 75 percent of base runners attempting to steal. Rodriguez should lead the staff. He posted up a 2.94 ERA last season.

"We are a very young team and we have a lot of learning left to do," Nelson said. "We are also a talented team and we have made great strides in the preseason. We should be a solid defensive team, but we need big things from some very young players in the middle of our order."

Dundee-Crown Chargers

Coach: Jon Sawyer (1st season)

2008 Record: 14-13

Top returnees: Seniors Willy Larsen (CF), Brendon Schumacher (P/OF), Ethan Finn (C/IF).

Top newcomers: Senior Bill Peterson (P/OF). Juniors Chris Sailor (3B/P), Zach Vodicka (IF/P). Sophomores Steve Schwartz (SS), Kirk Hanselmann (C).

Outlook: Larsen returns after an All-Fox Valley Conference season a year ago and is joined by Schumacher as the only other returning full-time starter. Sawyer, a 2000 D-C graduate and former member of the program, takes over for longtime coach Fred Bencriscutto, who retired last season after leading the Chargers for 18 years.

"We are looking to get better each day," Sawyer said. "We hope to come together as a team and finish the season strong."

Elgin Maroons

Coach: Dave Foerster (3rd season)

2008 Record: 5-23

Top returnees: Seniors Tom Roth (OF/P), Dan Schmerber (OF/C), Casey Knaak (P/OF), Mike Stackowiak (3B/P), Cody Thomas (1B), Adam Jazwiec (C/P), Ty Loiseau (2B/SS/OF/P).

Top newcomers: Senior Julian Narvaiz (OF). Juniors Cory Michalik (OF/P/3B), Zach Frerichs (OF), Chris Riggio (1B/3B), Julian Smith (OF). Sophomores Lee Jackson (SS/P), Javier Cardenas (2B).

Outlook: After a tough season, the Maroons return with a good amount of varsity experience. Leading the way is Roth, a three-year varsity member who starred at the plate (.329, 5 HRs, 19 RBIs) and on the mound (3.38 ERA, 43 Ks in 37 1/3 IP). Foerster is also looking for Schmerber and Knaak to take leadership roles, while newcomers Jackson, Cardenas and Michalik will be among those filling large roles with the team.

"Overall depth is a concern for us," Foerster said. "Hopefully our younger guys will blend in nicely and contribute throughout the year."

Genoa-Kingston Cogs

Coach: Mark Casamento (1st season)

2008 Record: 10-14

Top returnees: Seniors Trevor Muench (SS/P), Ryan Muir (C).

Outlook: Casamento takes over for Chad Stewart, who is now coaching in Rochelle. The Cogs finished strong last season after a rough beginning and hope to contend in the Big Northern Conference West Division. G-K hasn't posted a winning season since going 24-9 in 2000.

Hampshire Whip-Purs

Coach: Steve Ream (11th season)

2008 Record: 18-14 (won sectional)

Top returnees: Seniors Zach Crinigan (3B), James Goebbert (OF), Bo Price (2B), Joe Moore, Tyler Bentley (C), Matt Kuefner (1B), Erik Chellberg (P). Juniors Ryan Burke (P/SS), Kent Larson (P).

Top newcomers: Juniors Ron Laramie (CF/SS), Jared Wienke (C/IF/OF), Ryan DeChant (3B/P) Ty Hendry (2B), Ryan Meyer (OF/P).

Outlook: After a lackluster start and a 5-5 mark in the Big Northern East, Hampshire finished the season on a roll before falling in the super-sectional to eventual state runner-up Illinois Valley Central. The Whip-Purs return many of their key pieces from that team, including All-Area players Burke (6-2, 1.87 ERA, 43 Ks, .370 batting average, 23 RBIs, 13 SBs) and Crinigan (.410, 26 RBIs, 3 HRs). Larson (1.76 ERA) will lead the pitching staff. Hampshire will face a new challenge as it moves into Class 3A this season.

"We expect to be competitive every time we take the field this year," Ream said. "Our success in the conference and in Class 3A will depend largely on hitting and defense, which we think will be improved from last year. Our pitching should keep us in most games."

Huntley Red Raiders

Coach: Andy Jakubowski (4th season)

2008 Record: 20-15

Top Returnees: Seniors Craig Lipp (P/OF), Tanner Funke (P/OF), Nathan Sopena (SS), Zach Liebman (3B/SS), Jimmy Gordon (C/OF), Jose Rodriguez (P/OF), Matt Wolf (P/3B), Jordan Contreras (2B). Juniors Chris Klein (P/OF), Phil Pupillo (C/1B), Garrick Penrod (P/1B).

Top Newcomers: Juniors Jeremy Ahillen (P/OF/1B), Andre Sopena (2B), Matt Szytz (P/2B/SS), Tom Crohan (1B) Zach Staab (P/3B), Matt Morin (P).

Outlook: The Red Raiders will look to improve on their third-place finish in the FVC Fox Division by becoming more athletic and improving their production with runners in scoring position. In addition to an improved offensive approach, the Red Raiders will also trot out a deep pitching staff anchored by Funke, Lipp, Liebman and Klein. Huntley's defense also figures to be strong up the middle with Gordon handling the catching duties for the third straight year, Nathan Sopena at shortstop and Contreras and Andre Sopena platooning at second. Lipp will frequently patrol center field when he is not toeing the rubber.

"We really like the top of our order," Jakubowski said. "It features speed, power and the ability to do the little things. Our team has set some lofty goals this year and we will do everything in our power to achieve them."

Jacobs Golden Eagles

Coach: Eric Sanders (2nd season)

2008 Record: 14-15

Top Returnees: Seniors Johnny Amann (IF), Mike Rung (OF), Jake Vojtsek (IF), Matt Carlson (OF/IF), Patton Hofer (C), Shawn Hickey (IF).

Outlook: A trip to Florida opened the Golden Eagles' 2009 season. With Amann, Vojtsek and Rung back with plenty of experience Jacobs hopes to improve on a fourth-place finish in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division from 2008.

Larkin Royals

Coach: Matt Esterino (1st season)

2008 Record: 13-16

Top Returnees: Seniors Luc Geier (P/1B), Justin Kalusa (OF), Joe Stace (SS), Brandon Anderson (P), Brian Fahey (P), Jon Meidel (INF/OF/P/C). Junior Reid Ellis (OF).

Top Newcomers: Juniors Scott Harm (P/INF), Alex Wahl (INF/OF), Ivan Bello (P), Jake McCleary (P).

Outlook: A 2001 graduate of Larkin, Esterino takes over as the third Royals coach in four seasons, replacing Doug Ellett. Geier is the ace of a pitching staff that includes three or four capable staters and two or three relievers. Kalusa returns as the biggest bat in the order after hitting .437 and earning All-Upstate Eight Conference honors. Esterino said pitching and defense will be the keys for Larkin to bounce back from its first losing season since 2002.

"Winning conference would be great and we want to compete for that every year, but we'd trade it for a run in the playoffs any day," Esterino said. "That's what we're gearing towards hopefully."

St. Charles East Saints

Coach: Mark Foulkes (6th season)

Last season: 18-14-1

Top Returnees: Seniors Zach Scott (SS/P), Dan White (OF/P), Kyle Wiebe (P/1B). Juniors Ryan O'Dell (3B), Johnathan Erickson (2B).

Top Newcomers: Juniors Robert Wendt (OF/P), Tom Laudadio (OF/P), Tommy Konrad (OF/P), T.J. Travis (C), Evan Prose (C). Sophomore Wes Benjamin (P).

Outlook: The Saints will certainly have their work cut out for them, having lost Courier-News All-Area members Steve Schenk and Mike Hoscheit. East will try to pick up the slack by focusing on fundamentals and balance. Scott is a three-year varsity member who will likely be asked to carry a heavy load as the Saints go for their 16th winning season in the past 17 years.

"We are a team that is very strong up the middle defensively," Foulkes said. "We're bringing back an experienced infield and have the luxury of having two strong players (Prose and Travis) at the catching position. We have some very talented pitchers who have the ability to keep us in ball games and give us a chance to win. Our success will depend on how quickly our juniors can make adjustments to varsity baseball."

St. Charles North North Stars

Coach: Todd Genke (5th season)

2008 Record: 24-12 (won regional)

Top returnees: Seniors Zach Hirsch (P/1B), KC Wright (2B), Colin O'Carroll (OF), Travis Misner (P). Juniors Ryan Richardson (SS), Matt Stevens (C), Kevin Borst (P/3B).

Top newcomers: Juniors Jordan Huxtable (OF), Mike Budka (1B/P), Jared Shurtleff (P), Ryan Hudspeth (OF/P), Chase Williams (OF).

Outlook: The North Stars graduated three All-Area players from the team that finished in second place in the Upstate Eight and won its second consecutive regional. Despite the losses, North figures to once again be an area power. It will be led by the Nebraska-bound Hirsch, a lefty who finished last season with an 0.87 ERA in 48 1/3 innings while striking out 58 and walking only 15.

"I believe we will contend for the conference championship again this year," Genke said. "We are hopeful that this is the year we will break through and make it to the state playoffs."

St. Edward Green Wave

Coach: Gene Belmonte (4th season)

2008 Record: 11-16

Top Returnees: Seniors Riley Coleman (P), Mike Kondrath (P), Jim Franczek (P), Adam Gilles (OF), Anthony Bauer (IF), Moises Quiroga (3B/C/P). Juniors Jordan Torres (OF/P/C), Dave Hoebbel (OF), T.J. Madzy (IF), Julian Ramirez (P/C).

Top Newcomers: Juniors Gus Domel (IF/OF), Jon Godfrey (IF/C), Nathan Gaige (IF/OF), Zach Von Ahnen (1B), Dan Phelan (P/OF)

Outlook: The Green Wave hit a high-water mark for wins under Belmonte last season, and the hope is that momentum carries over to the 2009 campaign. Coleman, Kondrath and Franczek make up a trio of battle-tested starting pitchers that should keep St. Edward in most contests. Belmonte also points to his team's hitting as a strength. This marks the first time in several years that the Wave will field a team made up of all juniors and seniors.

"The team has expansive varsity experience that should pay dividends in 2009," Belmonte said. "We've got a chance to have a pretty good year."

South Elgin Storm

Coach: Jim Kating (3rd season)

2008 Record: 13-13

Top returnees: Senior Chris Ciccone (OF). Juniors Drew Buddle (SS/P), Kyle Kinyon (C/IF/P).

Top newcomers: Seniors Charlie Sabo (CF), Ben Irving (1B). Junior Jake Toppel (2B).

Outlook: With only a few players returning you might think the Storm could be in a rebuilding mode. But that's not the case after the sophomore team posted a 20-win campaign in 2008. Kinyon will be called on to play many roles and Kating likes the attitude of his squad.

"It's a good, hard-working, scrappy group. They're really loose and fun to be around. Not too much fazes them," said Kating. "As long as we get some solid pitching we should be able to play with anyone."

Streamwood Sabres

Coach: Steve Diversey (2nd season)

Last Season: 13-18 overall

Top Returnees: Seniors Brian Brauer (IF), Ryan Kiesel (IF), Matt Cohen (IF), Matt Korntved (OF). Junior Mike Diebold (P). Sophomore Josh Harris (1F/P).

Top Newcomers: Senior Eric Thompson (OF). Junior Dylan Noncek (OF).

Outlook: The Sabres finished ninth in the UEC last year despite fielding a squad teeming with young talent. Much of that talent is back again for Diversey's second go-around as Streamwood's skipper, and he sees no reason why the team can't bounce back. The Sabres' offense will be led by All-Area member Brauer, who batted .324 last season with 19 RBIs and 30 runs scored. Diebold and Harris will anchor the rotation.

"Our team strength will be having a lot of returning players and having players that have worked hard and won't quit," Diversey said. "Our team is striving to turn the corner this season and if we do that, who knows where we could end up?"

Westminster Christian Warriors

Coach: Jeff Moeller (8th season)

Last Season: 25-10 overall

Top Returnees: Seniors Brandon Siewert (P/INF), Chadd Schroy (OF), Zach Holmer (INF), Steve Berglund (P/OF), Jacob Moeller (OF).

Top Newcomers: Juniors Joe McGannon (C/INF), Brandon Weingartner (INF/P/C), Michael Bruce (OF/P), Mike O'Neil (OF). Freshmen Ryan Perez (P), Kevin Elder (P).

Outlook: The Warriors will have a new look this year after losing to graduation four All-Area team members who helped the program record 25 wins each of the past two seasons. However, the cupboard isn't completely bare. Siewert is back to lead Westminster's pitching staff after notching an 8-2 record last year. He joins Schroy as the top returning offensive threats. Perez and Elder are expected to figure prominently in the pitching rotation. Perez, who is the younger brother of assistant coaches Aaron and Nathan Perez, will likely turn some heads as a switch pitcher and switch hitter. With so much turnover in the lineup, the depth of the Warriors' rapidly growing program will be truly put to the test for the first time since the school arrived as a Class 1A power two seasons ago.

"We're working hard with these guys trying to get them developed and ready to compete and pick up where we left off," Moeller said. "Obviously our goal every year is to go deep in the playoffs. We want to compete and be in every game we play."

-- Compiled by R.J. Gerber, Erik Jacobsen, Andy Rohr and Alex Lawson