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Sports

Herald-News Baseball All-Area First Team

Providence Catholic's Bryce Barnett pitches against Stagg at the IHSA 4A Boys Baseball Sectional SemiFinal on May 29 at Lockport Township High School in Lockport.
Providence Catholic's Bryce Barnett pitches against Stagg at the IHSA 4A Boys Baseball Sectional SemiFinal on May 29 at Lockport Township High School in Lockport.

Bryce Barnett

Providence, Pitcher

The Celtics ace pitcher really found his groove down the stretch which included a 15-strikeout performance against Stagg in the regionals, which served as his final appearance of the year. He allowed more than two earned runs in only one start over the course of the season, and the Arizona State recruit finished with a 2.47 ERA with 68 strikeouts.

Martin Bender

Lincoln-Way West, Infielder

Bender is considered to be a football-first athlete and is committed to Central Missouri to play the sport in the fall, but the baseball skills of Bender are notable. The big first baseman had plenty of pop and delivered with a .372 batting average that also included a trio of home runs and 23 RBI.

Charlie Bischoff

Plainfield Central, Infielder

Bischoff was an anchor in the infield for the Wildcats and proved to be a productive offensive player, as well. Hitting .375 to lead the regulars in a very potent Plainfield Central lineup says a lot about what he brought to the table while he also provided nine doubles and 28 RBIs to consistently keep the line moving.

Garrett Cook

Plainfield North, Infielder/Outfielder

Cook proved to be a real catalyst for the Tigers, batting over .400 for much of the season before settling in with a .394 average at the end of the season. Cook proved to be a consistent offensive presence with 27 runs scored and a nine extra-base hits.

Jared Cushing

Joliet Catholic, Infielder

Cushing showed incredible range and ability at shortstop as he helped anchor the Hilltoppers’ infield. The Texas Tech recruit wasn’t too shabby with the bat either as he hit at a .385 clip and generated runs (34 RBIs), as well as scoring them (35). He also walloped 14 extra-base hits, including 10 doubles.

Jack Crowder

Plainfield East, Pitcher/Infield

There was plenty of thump in Crowder’s bat and plenty of juice in his arm as he became an extremely valuable player for the Bengals wherever he found himself on the lineup card. Crowder crushed eight doubles and three homers, driving in 27 runs. On the mound, he notched 69 strikeouts.

Jake Donahue

Plainfield Central, Infielder/Outfielder

Need a run scored? Donahue is your guy. A staple on the top of the Wildcat lineup, Donahue seemed to cross the plate nearly every time he reached base, scoring a whopping 44 runs this season. Scoring runs wasn’t his only skill,as he drove in a more-than-impressive 32 runs and rapped 12 doubles.

Anthony Fornero

Lemont, Infielder

Fornero was an absolute nightmare on the basepaths for the Indians and there was pretty much a guarantee that if Fornero got on base, and he did often hitting at a .369 clip, that he was going to steal a base. He led the area with 39 stolen bases and also used his speed to finish with 40 runs scored.

Keegan Gagliardo

Coal City, Pitcher/Infielder/Outfielder

Gagliardo provided for a spectacular 1-2 pitching punch along with teammate Payton Hutchings for the Coalers as he racked up eight victories against no losses while posting a more than solid 0.62 ERA. He also whiffed 69 batters as Coal City opponents found few places of solace when trying to scratch out runs against the Coalers.

Mark Garcia

Joliet West, Infielder

You didn’t get Garcia out without a fight. While his .387 batting average is more than solid, he posted an incredible .544 on-base percentage. Garcia would get on any way he could, with eight doubles, two triples and three homers on his ledger. He also coaxed 13 walks and was hit by pitches 19 times.

Ben Gerl

Lincoln-Way West, Pitcher

Gerl started the season with a confidence and a bit of a swagger, which was understandable with the string of five consecutive starts where he allowed two unearned runs or fewer. He kept that momentum going throughout the year as he finished the campaign with a sparkling 2.02 ERA and 71 strikeouts.

Michael Gurka

Joliet Catholic, Pitcher/Outfielder

Gurka seemed to routinely deliver exactly what the Hilltoppers needed at times this season. He emerged as a trusted part of the JCA pitching staff, racking up four victories without a loss compiling a 2.41 ERA with 37 strikeouts. He more than got the job done with the bat, finishing up with a .365 batting average and driving in 20.

Alex Helmin

Providence, Outfielder

The outfielder and Arizona State recruit missed a small chunk of the early portion of the season because of an injury, but wasted no time lacing up his hitting shoes upon his return. Helmin’s .354 batting average was highlighted by multihit efforts down the stretch. Helmin also finished with 12 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs.

Jake Hesselmann

Infielder, Providence

Hesselmann was a model of offensive consistency for the Celtics hitting in the middle of the lineup over the course of the season. At one point, Hesselmann collected at least one hit in 15 of 16 games and the one game he didn’t get a hit he had just one plate appearance. He finished the season with a .370 batting average while driving in 21 runs.

Payton Hutchings

Coal City, Pitcher/Infielder/Outfielder

For the second consecutive year, Hutchings proved to be one of the state’s top pitchers. The University of Illinois recruit posted a microscopic 0.57 ERA with 87 strikeouts as the junior continued to be a very severe challenge for opposing batters. He wasn’t exactly a liability with the bat either as he hit .389 with 10 doubles.

Cole Kirschsieper

Lincoln-Way East, Pitcher

Kirschsieper is one of the area’s all-time most successful pitchers. He broke his school’s record for career victories and had back-to-back 10 win seasons for the Griffins. Along the way the University of Illinois recruit had several impressive victories over strong opponents while posting a miniscule 0.42 ERA with 70 strikeouts.

Christian Knapczyk

Joliet Catholic, Infielder

Knapczyk, a Louisville recruit as a junior, has done an excellent job of living up to being an early NCAA Division I signee. A slick middle infielder who makes all the routine plays, and some of the nonroutine ones, too, a quick, compact swing at the plate is highly efficient. Knapczyk hit at a .440 clip and turned some of those singles to extra-base hits with an aggressive mindset on the bases.

Griffin Lapp

Plainfield South, Pitcher/Infielder

Plainfield South utilizes many of its players in a variety of roles, and it seemed whenever Lapp was asked to contribute he came through. Lapp was one of a number of successful pitchers for the Cougars, sharing team honors with seven victories and posting a 1.49 ERA. He also scored 31 runs and had 20 RBIs off the plate.

Jac Lindish

Plainfield Central, Infielder

Lindish started the season with a power flourish, hitting several home runs in Plainfield Central’s spring trip. Although the power slowed down, he remained a consistent middle of the lineup threat, finishing the season with five home runs and 35 RBIs. Lindish also scored 34 runs to go with a .372 batting average.

Josh Loomis

Reed-Custer, Pitcher/Outfielder

Loomis was a big part of Reed-Custer’s solid season, which ended with a loss in a Class 2A Regional title game. Loomis stepped in as its ace and responded with a solid season that saw him net six pitching victories. He also was a threat with the bat, hitting at a .367 clip and crossing the plate with 34 runs.

Ryan McCoy

Lincoln-Way East, Catcher

McCoy was a run-producing machine for the Griffins in the heart of a productive lineup. Hitting at a .373 clip shows that he was more than proficient at finding a way to get on base and he was the type of hitter that no opponent wanted to see with runners in scoring position as he knocked in 31 runs.

Justin McGuigan

Plainfield South, Pitcher/Catcher

McGuigan was an absolute staple for the Cougars who had 28 wins this season. McGuigan was a valuable catalyst, hitting .333 with 29 runs and 22 RBIs. When he switched over to the mound he flourished there, as well, collecting seven victories to go with a 1.76 ERA with 59 strikeouts.

Brandon Micetich

Plainfield Central, Infielder

Micetich was one of a number of Wildcats that made the team’s lineup so difficult for opposing team’s to manuever. Micetich was one of a very short list of players that had 30-plus runs scored and 30-plus runs driven in this season (31 runs, 33 RBIs). He also hit a robust .368 for the season and seemed to spend a majority of his game time finding a way to get on base.

Riley Morris

Plainfield East, Infielder/Outfielder

Whatever hole the Bengals needed filling in their lineup, Morris usually found a way to plug it. The jack-of-all-trades player also proved to be a very solid offensive producer, not only scoring runs, but driving them in as he had 25 runs scored and 25 RBIs. Morris hit a very solid .355 on the year.

Austin Pullara

Coal City, Catcher/Infielder

Pullara is about the most well-rounded offensive player in the area that you will find. Obviously capable of making contact, he hit .380 on the season. He connected for 14 extra-base hits and boasted 30 RBIs. He wasn’t a station-to-station baserunner either, swiping 24 bases, as the junior quickly approaches the school career record in that category.

Zach Rana

Plainfield Central, Pitcher/Infield

Rana became an absolute workhorse for the Wildcats as the pitching staff the team had hoped for was depleted by injury. Rana took the ball constantly over the course of the second half and delivered most of the time, finishing with a 7-4 record with 60 strikeouts for Plainfield Central, who won a school-record 29 games this season.

Ryan Ritter

Lincoln-Way East, Shortstop

Ritter is simply is an exceptional all-around player and drew the notice of professional baseball as he was a 33rd round selection of the Cubs in the recent MLB draft. Ritter is a rangy, athletic defender with a lot of pop in his bat as he hit .429 this season with 20 extra-base hits.

Alex Vera

Joliet Catholic, Pitcher

Vera, a University of Illinois recruit, continued to thwart opposing batters in his senior season. Vera was particularly tough in a pinch, recording 72 strikeouts on the season, often when he bore down in tough situations. Vera also collected six victories, many of which came against strong East Suburban Catholic Conference opponents.

John Weis

Lockport, Pitcher/Infield

A key cog in the performance of a 22-win Lockport squad, Weis was a steady element for the Porters who they could always rely on for top level play. He led regular contributors for Lockport in batting average and was also a key arm in Lockport’s pitching rotation.

Bobby Wisz

Lemont, Infielder

Wisz spent most of his time on the basepaths for the Indians, completing the season as one of few players that posted a batting average with an above .400 batting average (.414). Once reaching he made his presence felt on the basepaths, swiping 22 bases and coming all the way around more often than not, as he finished with 44 runs scored.

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