Goss: Joliet-area products heating up college diamonds
By Dick Goss email@example.com March 14, 2013 7:36PM
Sam Travis. | Supplied photo
Updated: April 16, 2013 3:59PM
You may recall that last spring we named a mythical Joliet-area NCAA Division I baseball player of the year.
Midway through the season, we identified several potential finalists. After the season, we selected Louisville second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet Catholic) as the first winner of our award.
Ratajczak is a senior with the Cardinals (13-2) and will be hard-pressed to repeat, although he is hitting .297 in his first 64 at-bats and is 4-for-4 in stolen bases. Sam Travis (Providence), the runner-up a year ago, is on fire to begin his sophomore season at Indiana (10-3). He is hitting .413 with five doubles, a triple and two home runs among his 19 hits.
Illinois State junior catcher Mike Hollenbeck (Joliet Township), Illinois senior infielder Brandon Hohl (Lincoln-Way East) and Northwestern sophomore right-hander Brandon Magallones (Providence) were among the finalists a year ago. Hollenbeck is hitting .205 in the early going, Hohl .245 and Magallones, who is in the Northwestern starting rotation, is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in 18⅔ innings.
Another outstanding pitcher from Providence is Central Michigan sophomore left-hander Matt Trowbridge. In six appearances, including one start, he is 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA. In 12⅔ innings, he has walked five and struck out 21.
Four of Trowbridge’s teammates with the Chippewas (6-9) are sophomore catcher Alec Ornelas (Lincoln-Way East), sophomore infielder Joe Houlihan (Providence), sophomore pitcher Sean Renzi (Plainfield North) and freshman infielder Adam Collins (Joliet Catholic).
Then there are the freshmen who appear ready to join our area D-I player of the year competition. Zak Kutsulis (Providence) is hitting .314 (11-for-35) as an outfielder for Notre Dame (10-3) and has pitched in four games in relief. He has a 3.38 ERA in 2⅔ innings and has struck out three.
Kutsulis’ Notre Dame teammates include freshman right-hander David Hearne (Providence), who is in the starting rotation, along with freshman infielder Joe Cresta (Plainfield North) and sophomore infielder Kevin DeFilippis (Providence). Hearne is 0-1 with a 5.12 ERA. In 19⅔ innings, he’s walked five and struck out 17.
At Illinois (10-4), Hohl has some young teammates who may make noise, including freshman left-handers Kevin Duchene (Joliet Catholic) and Tyler Jay (Lemont) and sophomore right-hander Josh Ferry (Lemont).
Duchene has made three starts among four appearances and is 2-0 with a 4.12 ERA in 19⅔ innings. Jay, 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA, has worked 10 innings in six relief appearances and yielded four hits and one walk while striking out 12. Ferry has a 3.86 ERA in three relief outings covering 2⅓ innings.
Elsewhere, Kevin Goergen (Lemont) has been playing regularly at second base for Michigan State (6-7) and is hitting .265. Catcher Nate Ruzich (Joliet Catholic) and infielder Tommy Hook (Lockport) are at Northern Illinois. Starting pitcher Matt Borens (Peotone) and first baseman/pitcher Cody Vogler (Lincoln-Way West) are at Eastern Illinois.
I’m sure other former area standouts are in Division I ball as well. No attempt here to name them all, just an early season citing of many who may become candidates for our second D-I player of the year.
If we had a similar award for softball, it’s difficult to imagine anyone beating DePaul junior Kirsten Verdun, who gets it done with her left arm and bat. She is 8-4 with a 1.87 ERA in 75 innings for the Blue Demons (12-8) and is hitting .333 in 63 at-bats with two homers and 14 RBI.
Of course, senior catcher Samantha Stanicek (Lockport) is hot, hitting .400 with two homers and 12 RBI in 40 at-bats for SIU-Edwardsville, where senior Taylor Tooley (Plainfield Central) is a starting infielder and is hitting .240.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer (Lockport) has fit right in at Valparaiso (10-9). She has pitched in 14 games, starting nine, and is 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA. She has struck out 74 in 52 innings.
Catcher Cailey Baker (Plainfield Central) is playing at Division II Missouri S&T (2-8) and is hitting .240.
On the NAIA level, senior outfielder Danielle Reilly (Joliet Catholic) has claimed the season’s first Crossroads League Player of the Week award. She led Bethel (Ind.) to a 6-0 start, going 9-for-19 (.474) with two doubles, a triple and seven RBI.
During the NCAA Women’s Tournament, keep an eye on UConn freshman forward Morgan Tuck (Bolingbrook) and Tennessee sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook). Tuck has played about 15 minutes per game off the bench and averages 5.9 points. Massengale runs the show from the point and averages 7.9 points.
During the men’s tournament, we hope to see Boise State sophomore guard Derrick Marks (Plainfield Central) and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo freshman forward Brian Bennett (Plainfield East).
However, Boise’s chances may have been hurt by a 73-67 loss to San Diego State in the opening round of the Mountain West Tournament. Marks shot an uncharacteristic 4-of-22 and scored 14 points. However, he was named to the All-Mountain West second team this week. He’s the only player in the league in the top five in scoring and assists.
The 6-9 Bennett has started all season for Cal Poly (17-12), the No. 3 seed in the Big West Tournament. He is averaging 9.7 points while shooting .538 from the floor, ranking 49th in Division I and fifth in the Big West. The Mustangs must win the conference tourney to get into the NCAA Tournament.