Baseball: Minooka starts season as Herald-News No. 1
By Tina Akouris email@example.com March 17, 2013 7:12PM
Minooka's Mitch Vogrin (from left), Steve Wittkamp, Joe Carnagio and Max Brozovich. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 19, 2013 6:07AM
Minooka is every bit a baseball town as it is a football town. Talk with any player or coach in the Indians program and they say that kids in Minooka start playing baseball early in their athletic careers.
Maybe that’s why the Indians have all the tools to be the Herald-News’ preseason No. 1 baseball team.
Here’s a look at the Herald-News Preseason Top 10 (2012 records in parentheses):
1. MINOOKA (27-13)
The Indians have a solid core of seniors, and it’s the same group who, as juniors, led Minooka to fourth place in the 2012 Class 4A state tournament. So there will be that experience on their side.
“I think the key guys did contribute in the postseason and it’s important that the kids see what it’s like to get there,” coach Jeff Petrovic said. “They are really excited and it’s good to see that they have that drive.”
The three big guys coming back are third baseman Joe Carnargio, who was also the Indians’ starting quarterback and should hit in the middle of the lineup, first baseman Max Brozovich and designated hitter/left fielder Steve Wittkamp.
Petrovic also said junior Mitch Vogrin will resume a starting pitching role that he took up in the middle of last year.
2. JOLIET CATHOLIC (29-8-1)
Coach Jared Voss is happy with the Hilltoppers, especially with three starters going into their third year of varsity baseball: catcher Alex Voitik, shortstop Chris Tschida and first baseman Ryan Peter.
“Those are the three big guys we have to hit in the first four to five spots,” Voss said. “We have a good amount of depth, but the thing is we need those three to be the best leaders they can be.”
Sophomore center fielder Nicky Dalesandro, who started as a freshman, returns for the Hilltoppers and is one of Voss’ dependable pitchers.
At the top of Joliet Catholic’s pitching rotation are three seniors — righties Sam Couch and Cal Placher and left-hander Matt Testa — who have had a great deal of success in the program.
3. PROVIDENCE (29-8)
A blue-collar approach apparently is in the cards for the Celtics as they hope to avenge last year’s sectional semifinal loss to Marist. It may be tough as the program graduated seven starters in 2012.
“It’s hard to say who the go-to guy is,” coach Mark Smith said. “There’s a couple of spots that are open right now in the lineup, so I’m not sure.”
Smith is sure about junior third baseman Dylan Rosa, a returning starter, and senior second baseman Billy Quirke, who missed almost all of last season because of a broken wrist.
Smith’s two front-line pitchers are right-handers Jake Godfrey, a junior, and Yianni Pavlopoulous, a senior.
The Celtics also return Evansville-bound shortstop Devin Williams, who also will get some mound duty.
4. PLAINFIELD NORTH (33-5)
Having lost in the sectional semifinals last season will give Tigers seniors a lot in terms of motivation.
Coach John Darlington’s team is a senior-heavy group, led by pitcher Brendan Miller, shortstop Kurt Palandech, second baseman Zach Zyburt and first baseman/left-handed pitcher Colton Smith, who led the Tigers in home runs last year with six.
Also watch for junior pitcher Joe Callahan, who had a strong summer season.
5. LOCKPORT (24-13)
The Porters, thought by several coaches as one of the top teams in the area, are pretty confident entering the season.
Ted Snidanko (outfield), Dan Sullivan (infield) and pitchers Evan Martens, Eric Duzan and Connor Ryan all return. Snidanko, a senior, is a three-year starter and will play college ball at Purdue. Lockport also welcomes junior pitcher Noah Masa.
Senior catcher Derek Bangert likes the experience his team brings to the table.
“We are definitely experienced,” Bangert said. “Our whole starting lineup should be senior (-laden). I think we’re ready to go.
“We had a pretty good season (in 2012), but our whole goal was to be a 25-win team. We didn’t have that good a season the year before.”
6. LINCOLN-WAY WEST (24-15)
The only real worry coach Jake Zajc has is depth with his pitching staff. Otherwise, the Warriors look solid.
Nine players return from a year ago, with the top returnee shortstop/pitcher Luke Morgan. The junior hit .326 with 10 doubles and on the mound struck out 29 in 211/3 innings.
A noteworthy returnee is senior outfielder Tyler Kopp, who missed most of the 2012 season because of a broken hand after getting hit by a pitch.
7. LEMONT (23-10)
First-year coach Brian Storako is inheriting a strong team, but has one big concern.
“We have to replace 86 innings on the mound, so we will need some pitchers to step up,” Storako said. “Our players have worked extremely hard in the offseason to prepare for this spring.”
The big gun on the mound is junior pitcher Jake Latz, an LSU recruit, who had a 1.32 ERA as a sophomore and struck out 79 in 59 innings. Senior Cody Caballero will be fighting for a top spot in the rotation after throwing 23 innings a year ago.
8. PLAINFIELD SOUTH (22-14)
Coach Phil Bodine has four starters coming back in seniors John McNulty (catcher), John Smith (second base), Rick Salazar (third) and Tyler Butler (outfielder/DH).
“We have a pretty good mix of those guys there,” Bodine said.
Also in that mix should be senior Victor Garcia, who missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament, and junior first baseman Trevor Henderson.
9. COAL CITY (24-12)
Senior left-hander Austin McLuckie and senior outfielder Nate Natyshok are the top two returnees for the Coalers. Both earned All-Interstate Eight Conference honors a year ago.
“We have good overall team speed and we should be sound defensively,” coach Jerry McDowell said. “We have a goal of finishing high in the conference and getting 20 wins.”
10. PLAINFIELD CENTRAL (24-13)
The Wildcats are coming off their first 20-win season since 1999, but coach John Rosner may find repeating success will be a challenge.
Rosner lost seven starters from last year’s team and is looking for a younger group of players to produce. Pitcher Tomas Aguilar and center fielder Blake Kerzich are the top two returnees.