Coach: Jake Howells (third season, 40-29-1)
Last year’s record: 18-16-1 (7-8 Northern Illinois Big 12 East)
Postseason result: Lost, 4-1, to Marmion in Class 3A Kaneland Regional final
Top returners: Shaun Johnson, senior, P/OF; Corey Nelson, senior, P/1B; Jared Johnson, junior, INF; Danny Petras, senior, OF; Patrick Aves, junior, C/INF
Ready for impact: Logan Herring, sophomore, C/OF; Jake Kuykendall, sophomore, 3B
Outlook: DeKalb always sets high expectations, and this year is no different, as the Barbs hope to compete for an NI Big 12 East title and make a run in the Class 4A postseason. DeKalb’s pitching isn’t necessarily the deepest, but is strong at the top.
Howells’ take: “If you look at the pitching we have returning and then some of the guys who we plan to fill in there, we should be able to really rely on some good pitching throughout the year.”
Coach: Anson Ellis (first season)
Last year’s record: 6-21 (2-8 Big Northern East)
Postseason result: Lost, 10-0, to Stillman Valley in Class 2A Stillman Valley Regional quarterfinal
Top returners: Jake Langford, junior, C/INF; Mason Lucca, senior, P/INF; Adam Price, senior, P/OF; Bobby Treadwell, senior, P/INF; Ben Rabe, senior, P/INF
Ready for impact: Jose Ruiz, junior, OF; Will Crozier, junior, P/OF; Brady Huffman, freshman, P/INF
Outlook: Ellis takes over a program that has been over the .500 mark only once since 2000. He has experience at G-K, as he was the Cogs’ sophomore coach from 2009 to 2011. The Cogs’ rotation might not be deep, but Ellis likes what he has at the top.
Ellis’ take: “I think this is one of the most athletic and deep teams we’ve had in the four years I’ve been in Genoa.”
Coach: Sean Donnelly (sixth season)
Last year’s record: 10-18 (8-8 Little Ten)
Postseason result: Lost, 13-3, to Somonauk in Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional semifinal
Top returners: Will Corn, sophomore, C/P; Tyler Burger, senior, C/P; Mike Mercado, junior, 1B/P; Ed Canchola, senior, 3B/P; Donald Giebel, senior, 2B/P
Ready for impact: Nick Doolittle, sophomore, SS; Jace Williams, sophomore, OF
Outlook: Donnelly said this year’s team could be the best squad he’s had in his coaching career at the school, and the Hawks have a goal of winning the program’s first-ever regional title. Donnelly said he has a solid pitching staff with Corn, Burger and Mercado at the top. Hiawatha also returns its entire infield.
Donnelly’s take: “Our infield was solid and I can only see us being solid this year with all those guys coming back, to where anything hit in our infield is going to be stopped.”
Coach: Brad Unger (first season)
Last year’s record: 21-11 (14-2 Little Ten)
Postseason result: Lost, 6-2, to Somonauk in Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional final
Top returners: Mitch Ruh, senior, C; Jacob Ryan, senior, INF/P; Jake Schrader, senior, P/INF; Luke Winkle, senior, P/UTIL
Ready for impact: Andy VanLanduyt, junior, OF; Bailey McQueen, sophomore, OF
Outlook: The Royals have had a good amount of success in recent years, and Unger said the senior class is going to carry the load this season. Unger likes the two arms at the top of the rotation, Ryan and Schrader.
Unger’s take: “All of our guys have been tremendous as far as intelligence in picking up the new program, all our offensive and defensive sets. I think their intelligence is going to come into play right away.”
Coach: Joe Piekarz (third season, 24-30)
Last year’s record: 14-13 (11-5 Little Ten)
Postseason result: Lost, 2-1, to Hinckley-Big Rock in Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional semifinal
Top returners: Dillon Martenson, senior, OF/P; Tim Sommerfeld, sophomore, C/IF; David Boehne, sophomore, shortstop
Ready for impact: Drew Headley, freshman, P/IF
Outlook: This year’s Indian Creek team is young, as 13 of the Timberwolves’ 18 players are either freshmen or sophomores. Piekarz hopes a strong pitching staff, led by three-year varsity arm Martenson, can carry the team.
Piekarz’ take: “We want to try and pitch more strikes and play better defense. We feel like if we do that we should be able to compete with quite a few teams this year.”
Coach: Brian Aversa (seventh season)
Last year’s record: 24-11 (13-2 Northern Illinois Big 12 East); NI Big 12 East champions
Postseason result: Lost, 9-3, in Class 3A Kaneland Regional semifinals
Top returners: Joe Pollastrini, senior, SS; John Hopkins, senior, P/3B; Matt Limbrunner, senior, P/IB
Ready for impact: Joe Komel, junior, 1B/P; Tyler Carlson, junior, UTIL
Outlook: Kaneland has won the past two NI Big 12 East titles, and is ready for a run at a third straight crown. The Knights return two of their top three starters from last year in Hopkins and Limbrunner.
Aversa’s take: “We have to keep our errors to a minimum. If we can keep our mistakes to a minimum, we’ll be in a good position to win a lot of our games.”
Coach: Jason Cavanaugh (16th season)
Last year’s record: 21-13 (7-8 Northern Illinois Big 12 East)
Postseason result: Lost, 4-3, to Burlington Central in Class 3A Hampshire Regional final
Top returners: Mitchell Jordan, senior, 3B/P; David Schultz, senior, OF; Nate Haacker, junior, C; Colin Eggleson, senior, P; Alec Kozak, junior, SS
Ready for impact: Brett Weaver, sophomore, OF; Cooper Vinz, junior, 1B; Mark Skelley, junior, INF
Outlook: Cavanaugh said his team not only has a good lineup, but solid depth, as well. He isn’t sure who his ace will be, but Cavanaugh said there’s a good amount of arms he can count on.
Cavanaugh’s take: “I think we have a really solid lineup 1 through 9, with a couple extra guys who can really hit the baseball. So, we have some depth for the first time in a while. Not many high school teams have much depth that they can go to. So we can mix and match some pieces.”
– Steve Nitz, email@example.com