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Baseball: Previewing Benet, Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central and Westmont

Benet's Jared Novak pitches to a Nazareth batter in La Grange Park during the 2018 season. Novak is one of the anchors to the Redwings' pitching staff.
Benet's Jared Novak pitches to a Nazareth batter in La Grange Park during the 2018 season. Novak is one of the anchors to the Redwings' pitching staff.

The high school baseball season has begun as teams start their quest toward the state finals at the Joliet Slammers Stadium in Joliet. Here is a preview of area teams.

Benet Redwings

Coach: Scott Lawler

2018 record: 17-14

Top players


Aaron Staehely sr. OF

Connor Hincks jr. SS

Jared Novak jr. P

Jack Rodi so. P

Outlook: The Redwings ooze potential with a strong and talented group of returnees that is paced by Virginia recruit Hincks. The shortstop batted .286 last season, while outfielder Staehely is coming off a season in which he drove in 21 runs and struck out only eight times in 107 at-bats. Novak and Rodi headline the pitching staff. Novak, a right-hander, was 4-2 with a 5.32 earned run average last year. Rodi, a right-hander, was 1-1 with a 3.23 ERA.

Downers Grove North Trojans

Coach: Kyle Briscoe

2018 record: 11-20

Top players


Scott Jakobsze sr. P/1B

Cam Demos jr. P/OF

Owen Geraghty sr. OF

Outlook: Jakobsze is the Trojans’ No. 1 starter after throwing 26 innings and finishing with a 4.20 ERA while batting .333. Demos is another player set to handle more innings this year, and Geraghty is a player to keep an eye on.

“With an opening day roster featuring eight seniors and 13 underclassmen, including three sophomores, we will be very young,” Briscoe said. “We like some of the young pieces that we have. The only two guys returning that played last year are Scott Jakobsze and Cam Demos. We will look to compete every day and continually get better. We have a good mix of kids that are prepared and working hard to get better.”

Downers Grove South Mustangs

Coach: Darren Orel

2018 record: 22-10

Top players


Jack Blazevich jr. IF

Andrew Alfini sr. P

Mike Hoes sr. P/3B

Anthony Stellato sr. IF

Jake Pieleggi sr. 1B

Keegan Garland sr. C/OF

Gino Cozzi sr. P

Outlook: The Mustangs have a streak of at least 22 wins in each of the past 14 years, so if they plan on extending that run, the current crop of seniors are a big key. Alfini, Hoes, Stellato, Pieleggi, Garland and Cozzi bring a lot of experience to the table.

“Defense should be a strength as we have the entire infield back from last year,” Orel said. “We also have two returning pitchers from last year to give us some experience on the mound.”

Hinsdale Central Red Devils

Coach: Jason Ziemer

2018 record: 16-13

Top players


Ayden Head sr. P/3B

Charlie Huth jr. P/IF

Tom Jurack jr. P/RF

Simone Lane sr. P/3B

Griffin Hawthorne jr. P/IF

Jimmy Lynch sr. OF

Ethan Harrast sr. P

Alex Perez sr. P/IF

Danny Schaub sr. OF

Outlook: The Red Devils were dealt a major blow when their top pitcher from last year, Kyle Wisch, suffered an arm injury and will miss his senior season.

But the Red Devils have plenty of experience and depth, mainly on the infield, which should lead to a stronger defense. 

Jurack leads the offense after batting .440 with a 1.184 OPS last year.

“Our defense should be a strength with so many returners,” Ziemer said.

“Offensively, we should be pretty solid, too. We return two of our top three hitters from last year, along with a number of guys that got a lot of at-bats against talented and experienced pitchers in our conference.

Westmont Sentinels

Coach: D.J. Cocks

2018 record: 15-17

Top players


Alex Marotta sr. P/OF

Matt O’Leary sr. P/SS

Riley Basit jr. C

Robbie Burns sr. DH

Caden Anderson sr. P/1B

Outlook: The Sentinels will rely on a deep pitching staff to carry them this year and keep them in most games. Marotta batted .278 with a 2-5 record and a 2.39 ERA last year. Anderson, a three-sport athlete, is coming off a 2.63 ERA with a 2-1 record last spring. Basit led the Sentinels with 21 RBIs last year, and O’Leary hit .408 with 42 hits and drove in 32 runs to go with 20 RBIs. 

“The strength of this year’s team is pitching depth,” Cocks said. “We have a lot of quality arms to turn to for a long season of games. If our pitching can click and keep us in games, we hope to manufacture enough runs to win ballgames. We also have a lot of experience with most of our seniors being three- and four-year varsity players.”

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