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Diamond gems

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 

2015 All-Area Baseball Team

Diamond gems

POY Schalasky was a double-edged weapon for Rice

 

                        FIRST TEAM

MIKE SCHALASKY, Brother Rice, C/P, Sr.

            * When the National Federation of State High School Associations removed aluminum bats from prep baseball a few years ago, there was a noticeable drop in power numbers. Suddenly far fewer balls were leaving the yard and teams were forced to improvise a bit more in order to score. And then along came Schalasky, who managed to turn back the clock by unloading a dozen homers this season and serving as the ringleader of a potent Crusaders lineup that cleared the fence more than two-dozen times in all. But unlike so many free swingers, Schalasky was definitely not just an all-or-nothing performer -- when he wasn’t going deep he was finding holes in opposing defenses often enough to compile a hefty .459 average and respective on-base and slugging percentages of .543 and .936. And there was more, such as the 51 RBI, 102 total bases, 12 doubles, 21 runs and 19 walks. Schalasky fanned just 17 times in 130 plate appearances, fielded his position at a .942 clip and, as a bonus, was Brother Rice’s winningest pitcher with a 7-1 record. He kept his earned-run average below three, held opponents to a .207 cumulative average, struck out 51 batters in 52 2/3 innings and tossed two complete games. The 2015 area Player of the Year was an Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association All-State selection and will attend the University of Indianapolis on a baseball scholarship.

CHRISTIAN BOLHUIS, Chicago Christian, P/OF, Sr.

            * While Bolhuis didn’t repeat as Player of the Year, he became the Knights’ career-wins leader during his senior season after claiming seven of eight decisions and is also No. 1 all-time in strikeouts with 298, a team-high 75 of which were registered in 2015 in only 49 1/3 innings. Headed to Wheaton College in the fall to play both football and baseball, Bolhuis struggled a bit more with his control this season than he had as a junior, which was reflected in his 39 bases-on-balls, but he still did well enough to post an impressive 1.99 ERA. At the plate Bolhuis stroked 33 hits -- 10 of which went for extra bases -- scored 30 runs and drove in the same number of them, the latter mark placing him in a four-way tie for team leadership in that department. For good measure he also drew 20 walks and stole 10 bases.

ANDREW DYKE, Brother Rice, OF, Jr.

            * Dyke skipped football last fall so he could concentrate on baseball and his extra work paid off in a season that, had Mike Schalasky not been on the scene, likely would have established Dyke as the Crusaders’ top gun. As it was, he still enjoyed an outstanding junior campaign with a .440 average, .680 slugging percentage and .537 on-base percentage. Augmenting those statistics were 44 hits, 37 runs, 35 RBI, eight doubles, four homers, 18 free passes and seven stolen bases. Dyke, a first-team all-area pick for the second consecutive year, whiffed only 13 times in 123 plate appearances and was guilty of just two errors, which helped him produce an excellent .965 fielding percentage. Dyke, Michael Massey, Ryan Kutt and Ryan King will form the nucleus of Rice’s 2016 club that should contend for a Chicago Catholic League Blue championship next spring.

TOMMY FARRELL, St. Laurence, 1B, So.

            * After displaying plenty of promise while participating in summer ball with the Vikings, Farrell showed those 2014 exploits were no fluke as he quickly became an integral part of a revamped St. Laurence lineup. He paced the Vikings with a .429 average and 51 hits while manning first base and demonstrated a keen batting eye for one so young -- opposing hurlers fanned Farrell just eight times in 132 plate appearances, which included 119 official at-bats. Twelve of his hits went for extra bases, but even when he only got to first Farrell was a threat because of his speed, as attested to by his team-high 13 steals. He scored 36 runs, drove in 26 more, drew 10 walks and generated respective slugging and on-base percentages of .546 and .485.

ANDY GAYTAN, Sandburg, OF, Jr.

            * A virtual unknown at the start of the 2015 season, Gaytan was a shining light for the Eagles in what turned out to be something of a rebuilding campaign. Sandburg failed to win 20 games for the first time in memory, but Gaytan certainly did his part to try to prevent any shortcomings as he batted .408 with a .504 on-base percentage and .495 slugging percentage. He included six doubles among his 42 hits, tallied 34 runs, knocked in 13 more and demonstrated a superb eye at the plate -- he struck out only four times in 124 plate appearances while coaxing 17 walks. Gaytan also was reliable on defense -- he made two catches Richards coach Brian Wujcik raved about in the Eagles’ 7-1 victory over the Bulldogs in the teams’ Class 4A regional opener.

ADAM GREGORY, Shepard, P, Sr.

            * An Illinois Baseball Coaches Association All-Northern Illinois selection and runner-up to Oak Lawn’s Boo Quillin in South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year voting, Gregory anchored an Astros pitching staff that was missing one of its aces -- Brett Smith -- much of the year due to injury. He went 9-1 on the hill, the only loss being a 2-1 decision to Evergreen Park in a game where Mustangs hurler Brian Pall fanned 15, and Gregory complemented that record with a 1.02 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 55 innings while holding opposing batters to a meager .172 cumulative average. Gregory, who walked only 19 and threw seven complete games, did not give up any triples or home runs. As a hitter, he batted .391 with a .509 on-base percentage and .494 slugging percentage, 18 RBI, 18 runs and 15 walks. Gregory posted a solid .975 fielding percentage as well while helping the Astros tie the school record for single-season triumphs and capture their first league title in two decades.

RICH KAIRIS, Marist, OF/P, Sr.

            * Making his second straight appearance on the all-area first team and a three-time All-East Suburban Catholic Conference pick as well, Kairis was the RedHawks’ cornerstone both as an everyday player and on the hill. At the plate Kairis batted .427 with 53 hits, .556 slugging and .503 on-base percentages and 19 stolen bases; the average and hits total were dramatic increases over 2014. He tallied 33 runs, knocked in 16 more, smacked 10 doubles, coaxed 18 walks and was virtually impossible to strike out -- only four whiffs in 124 official at-bats. When he stood on the rubber, however, Kairis managed to find opponents’ weaknesses as evidenced by his 53 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings of work and foes’ cumulative .198 average. Kairis boasted a 1.35 ERA, logged six wins and didn’t hand out many gifts -- batters drew only 14 free passes from him. And just in case that wasn’t enough, Kairis, who’s headed to Augustana University, did not commit a defensive error in 85 fielding opportunities.

RYAN KING, Brother Rice, 2B, So.

            * Being surrounded by heavy hitters likely helped King see some good pitches, but he didn’t squander his opportunities as he quickly became a stalwart in his own right. King performed admirably on both sides of the ball for the Crusaders -- defensively he accumulated a .985 fielding percentage by committing just two errors in 136 total chances. He augmented that with offensive production that included a .369 average, 38 hits, 25 runs, 15 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts. King’s respective slugging and on-base percentages were .456 and .444. While Brother Rice will obviously miss Player of the Year Mike Schalasky in 2016, King is one of several solid returnees who will give the Crusaders a running start into next season.

BOBBY PETERKA, Shepard, DH, Sr.

            * While no one was about to dislodge Mike Schalasky from his position as all-area first-team catcher, Peterka’s numbers were too good to drop him down into second-team territory. And although he was the Astros’ regular backstop, Peterka easily could have filled the designated-hitter role as he swung the bat to the tune of a hefty .422 average. Thirteen of his 38 hits were of the extra-base variety -- two of them left the ballpark -- and he posted a solid .622 slugging percentage to go along with an equally impressive .509 on-base percentage. Peterka drove in 34 runs, scored 20 of his own and reached base 17 times via walks. He struck out just seven times in 90 at-bats. Behind the dish Peterka was highly dependable -- he was guilty of only three errors while ringing up a .986 fielding percentage.

BOO QUILLIN, Oak Lawn, SS, Sr.

            * The 2015 South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year put together a memorable senior campaign for the Spartans, who led the division for a while before giving way to eventual champion Shepard. Quillin batted a hefty .454 with 49 hits, 35 runs, 19 RBI and respective slugging and on-base percentages of .565 and .535. He reached base 16 times on free passes, went 12-of-14 in steals and rarely whiffed -- just six strikeouts in 128 plate appearances. What further enhanced Quillin’s value to Oak Lawn was his work on the mound. While his 4-2 ledger seems somewhat pedestrian, there was nothing ordinary about his other pitching stats, which included a microscopic 0.58 ERA and .192 opponents’ batting average. Quillin, who will play baseball at Elmhurst College next season, struck out 43 in 48 1/3 innings while walking only 12. He threw five complete games and two of his victories came via shutout.

JACK SNYDER, Marist, P, Jr.

            * Rich Kairis understandably attracted much of the attention directed toward the RedHawks, but Snyder was an important member of first-year coach Kevin Sefcik’s roster. His seven wins were tops among Marist pitchers and he also saved one game. Working 50 2/3 innings, Snyder issued just 13 walks while striking out 32 and opponents didn’t do much against him when they put the ball in play, as shown by their cumulative .173 batting average for the season. Snyder, who’ll unquestionably be considered the RedHawks’ mound ace in 2016, registered a minute 1.11 ERA.

DAN VOS, Chicago Christian, P, So.

            * Proving his notable seven-win freshman campaign was no accident Vos stepped forward as the Knights’ workhorse in 2015. His 63 2/3 innings pitched were 14 more than the next-busiest hurler and he compiled a 10-1 record, which put him more than halfway to Christian Bolhuis’ program-best career total for victories. Vos registered his second straight sub-2.00 ERA (1.98) and whiffed 68 batters while walking just 22. He was not necessarily counted on to be an offensive force, but Vos still contributed 24 hits, 26 RBI and 24 runs to an attack that played a key role in Christian reaching the 30-win plateau. Vos achieved all-area honorable-mention status as a freshman.

TREVOR WOLTERINK, Chicago Christian, 3B, Jr.

            * Chosen an all-area first-teamer for the second season in a row, Wolterink performed well enough to be named the Metro Suburban Conference Player of the Year in the Knights’ inaugural campaign there. His 2014 stats obviously warranted later recognition, but Wolterink still managed to improve on all of them this spring. As a junior he batted an even .400 with 40 hits, 38 runs and team-high 30 RBI. Eleven of his hits went for extra bases as he posted respective slugging and on-base percentages of .530 and .485. Wolterink drew 26 free passes, stole five bases and was unselfish -- he tied for the lead among Chicago Christian players with nine sacrifices. And although Dan Vos and Christian Bolhuis anchored the pitching staff, Wolterink certainly did his part in that area too as he went 7-3 with a 1.76 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 47 2/3 innings.

 

SECOND TEAM

JOHN CARMODY, Marist, 1B, Jr.

            * Solid both offensively and in the field, Carmody’s RBI total was just one less than his number of base hits (35-36). A dozen of the latter went for extra bases, including four round-trippers, and he recorded a .479 slugging percentage to go along with a .391 on-base percentage, .308 average, 18 runs and 15 free passes. Carmody handled his defensive chances at a .960 clip and was a part of 16 double plays turned by the RedHawks’ infield. Last fall he gained all-area first-team recognition as a defensive lineman after making 56 tackles for Marist’s football squad.

JACK CAVANAUGH, St. Laurence, OF, Jr.

            * Along with Tommy Farrell, Cavanaugh was a newcomer of influence as the Vikings survived the graduation of some key individuals from the previous season to remain an area heavyweight. Cavanaugh was somewhat anonymous at the outset, but he quickly made himself known with a potent bat that generated an eye-opening .408 average by year’s end. He stroked 40 hits -- 10 of them going for extra bases -- scored 27 runs and drove in 21 while posting a .551 slugging percentage and .450 on-base percentage. Cavanaugh also swiped 8-of-10 bases.

MAX DOWNS, Stagg, OF, Jr.

            * The Chargers’ attack couldn’t be termed a juggernaut, but it was improved over the past couple seasons and a big reason for that was Downs’ presence in the lineup. He flirted with the .400 mark before finishing with a .392 average, one point less than Josh Nowak’s team-leading figure. Downs built his mark on 40 hits, which included a Stagg-best 11 doubles, and amassed respective slugging and on-base percentages of .529 and .451. He accounted for 40 runs (22 scored, 18 driven in) and augmented his efforts at the plate with a respectable .965 fielding percentage.

ZACH FRIELING, Chicago Christian, SS, So.

            * An all-area honorable-mention choice as a varsity freshman, Frieling continued his rapid development in 2015 and stands on the cusp of becoming one of the Knights’ all-time greats. In his second year he paced Chicago Christian in virtually every major offensive category, including average (.402), runs (47), hits (45), doubles (19), slugging (.607), on-base percentage (.531), steals (18 in 21 attempts) and even hit-by-pitches (eight). Frieling’s 30 RBI tied him with three teammates for the No. 1 slot in that department while his 24 bases-on-balls ranked third overall.

FRANK GRECO, St. Laurence, 3B, Sr.

            * Greco is back as a member of the all-area second team, but he accomplished the repeat in a rather unique manner as this time he was selected as an infielder. He got tabbed as a pitcher in 2014 and again performed admirably in that regard as he was 6-4 with a 2.71 ERA and nearly 4-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (44-12) in 59 1/3 innings. One of his losses came in a 2-1 verdict against a California team that occupied the nation’s No. 1 position in USA Today for part of the season. However, Greco was perhaps even more valuable to the Vikings as a hitter as he batted .344 with 33 hits, 49 RBI and 20 runs. Included among his safeties were 10 doubles, five triples and three homers. Greco’s slugging stood at .646, his on-base percentage was .431, and he received 16 walks and stole 8-of-9 bases.

ERIC HORBACH, Shepard, P, Sr.

            * Adam Gregory understandably commanded the most attention among Astros pitchers, but Horbach also was a significant contributor to Shepard’s South Suburban Conference Red-winning fortunes in the absence of Brett Smith from the rotation. Horbach didn’t match Gregory’s glossy ledger, but his 5-3 record was certainly acceptable, particularly when complemented by 51 strikeouts -- versus 17 walks -- in 56 innings and a 1.50 ERA. Opposing batters managed just a .213 cumulative average against Horbach, who tossed four complete games. Offensively, he racked up a .327 average with 32 hits, 26 runs, 18 RBI and seven doubles. Horbach got hit by a pitch 11 times, making him the Astros’ leader in that painful category.

PAT MEEHAN, Marist, P/INF, Sr.

            * Along with Rich Kairis, Meehan served as a veteran ringleader for the RedHawks, who won 24 games and just missed reaching a sectional final. He saw action on the hill as both a starter and reliever and had a hand in one-third of Marist’s successes (five victories, three saves). He averaged nearly a strikeout per inning, finishing with 45 in 48 frames while surrendering only 11 free passes. Meehan’s ERA was 2.63 and opponents hit just .237 against him. He was also a defensive standout -- Meehan registered a .929 fielding percentage on 127 total chances and took part in 14 double plays. He will attend Dayton University but does not plan to continue his baseball career in college.

SEAN MILLER, Evergreen Park, 2B, Sr.

            * Alongside fourth-year shortstop Mark Martin, Miller provided the Mustangs with one of the south suburbs’ best double-play tandems. The latter was especially proficient with the glove during the South Suburban Conference Red portion of Evergreen Park’s schedule as he committed only one fielding error in 68 defensive plays. Miller was guilty of just two miscues on 94 chances overall for the season and had a hand in nine double plays. He was no slouch as a hitter either as he batted .358 with a .427 on-base percentage, .547 slugging percentage, 32 RBI, 25 runs and three homers. Miller will attend Loras College in Iowa along with Mustangs teammate Brian Pall.

BRIAN PALL, Evergreen Park, P, Sr.

            * The other half of Evergreen Park’s Loras College-bound duo, Pall pieced together the single most memorable pitching outing of the spring when he mowed down 15 Shepard batters on third strikes in a 2-1 win over the eventual South Suburban Conference Red champions. Pall, an honorable-mention linebacker on the 2014 all-area football team, ended the season with 77 strikeouts in 60 innings and mustered a 6-3 ledger. He also recorded a save in his lone opportunity to garner one.

JOHN ROBERTS, Oak Lawn, C, Jr.

            * In a year when quality catchers abounded, Roberts nosed out such strong competition as Evergreen Park’s Mike Rizzo, St. Laurence’s Anthony Rios and Stagg’s Mitchell Spencer for the second-team nod. The Spartan did so largely on the strength of a superb .448 average -- which was just four points below Boo Quillin’s squad-leading mark -- that was constructed on 47 hits, eight of which went for extra bases. He accrued 25 RBI, tallied 15 runs and fanned only nine times in 114 plate appearances. Roberts’ respective slugging, on-base and fielding percentages were .543, .478 and .973, the latter of those being fashioned on 222 chances.

JIM ROCHE, Sandburg, DH, Sr.

            * The Eagles shortstop didn’t get placed ahead of Chicago Christian’s Zach Frieling at that position on the all-area second team, but he was still good enough to warrant a spot after pacing Sandburg with an excellent .458 average. He also was No. 1 in hits (44), doubles (14) and triples (three) while being runner-up in runs (32) and RBI (23). Roche drew 12 walks and struck out just seven times in 111 plate appearances. He was named an all-area honorable mention as a junior.

PATRICK SLATTERY, Oak Lawn, OF, Jr.

            * Another important cog in the Spartans’ offensive machine was Slattery, one of four Oak Lawn players to bat at least .365 for the season. Slattery’s final mark was .385, which was generated on 40 hits, almost one-third of which were of the extra-base variety. Those included nine doubles and two homers, which helped him compile a .567 slugging percentage. Slattery also had a .453 on-base percentage, 27 runs scored, 17 RBI and nine steals. He reached base eight times after being plunked by a pitch and produced a fielding percentage of .915.

ANGELO SMITH, Richards, P, So.

            * After becoming just the second freshman to start his prep baseball career at Richards on the varsity level in 2014, the hard-throwing Smith returned to action this spring as one of the area’s top strikeout pitchers. While exhibiting just enough wildness to keep batters from getting comfortable in the box, Smith blew third strikes past 83 of them – the highest total among local hurlers – in just 53 2/3 innings of work. And despite his alleged control issues, the lefty boasted a fine 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Smith won six of nine decisions and amassed a nifty 1.57 ERA. In addition, he fielded at a .943 clip (six errors in 98 chances) and batted .327 with 27 hits and 16 RBI.

                       

                        HONORABLE MENTION

RYAN KUTT, Brother Rice

MICHAEL MASSEY, Brother Rice

TOM PRZEKWAS, Brother Rice

PAT MCCARTHY, Chicago Christian

MARK MARTIN, Evergreen Park

MIKE RIZZO, Evergreen Park

JOE DODARO, Oak Lawn

IVAN GEORGELOS, Oak Lawn

NICK MEJIA, Richards

BRETT THOMAS, Richards

CHRIS ZESCHKE, Richards

KENNY GORSKI, Shepard

ETHAN GLAZA, Stagg

JOSH NOWAK, Stagg

MITCHELL SPENCER, Stagg

ANTHONY RIOS, St. Laurence

                       

COACH OF THE YEAR

FRANK DIFOGGIO, Shepard

            * The veteran skipper had several close calls over the years when it came to conference championships, but the Astros always had to settle for bridesmaid status -- until 2015, that is. Not only did Shepard erase a 2 ½-game deficit to overtake Oak Lawn and end a 20-year title drought by capturing the South Suburban Conference Red championship, but the Astros’ 24 victories tied a single-season school record and their winning percentage was the program’s best ever. What made DiFoggio’s coaching stand out was that he was able to keep his guys focused on the task at hand while dealing with injuries that sidelined two mainstays -- Brett Smith and Kevin Carmody -- for most of the year. Along the way DiFoggio also collected his 300th career triumph.