Lyons Township High School baseball will field a largely inexperienced team in 2021, but head coach Kevin Diete, who’s entering his seventh year with a career record of 110-48, is confident of his team’s chances for another successful campaign.
“It was really hard to tell our seniors last year they’ll never be able to play a game for their high school again,” he said. “That being said, it leaves us with a lot of questions around the diamond. We’ll have to rely on a lot of players who don’t have varsity experience to get us another conference championship and a deep playoff run.”
Three seniors that will be counted on for leadership in Noah Jouras, Harrison Kowalski and Emmett Scolari. The Lions are also looking for big things from juniors Charlie Breen, Jack McNamara, and Cooper Ohlson.
The formula for success with LTHS baseball has long been relying on excellent pitching and defense while getting timely offense. And even with the inexperience, Diete doesn’t anticipate any deviation from it.
“I think the two strongest areas of our team will be defense and speed,” he said. “Like most teams, we lack varsity experience, and we will need our role players to be disciplined and pay great attention to details in an effort to win more baseball games.”
The West Suburban Silver is usually among the state’s top baseball conferences, and Diete believes that will be the case again this spring, with Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Oak Park and River Forest and York all seen as viable contenders along with the Lions.
“The biggest lesson we’ve all learned from this is don’t take things for granted,” Diete said. “It’s a very easy saying that gets tossed around, but the only people who truly know what that’s like regarding a sports season are the 2020 seniors that didn’t get a chance to play their last year of high school.”
LTHS is scheduled for 23 regular-season games, all within the West Suburban Conference. The Lions begin with a three-game series against Downers Grove North on April 13 (after the Landmark’s press time) at home.
Pitching a strength for RBHS in 2021
The Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball and softball teams were crushed having to sit out 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but both look to come back strong in 2021.
The Bulldogs’ baseball team (21-11 in 2019) opened their season April 13 (after the Landmark’s press time) with a matchup against Wheaton-St. Francis, and will face some tough opponents within the Metro Suburban conference as well as some non-conference opponents. Coach Dallas Till said he felt confident that his team’s pitching will be one of the keys to success this season.
“Pitching depth will be one of the strongest points,” he said. “We have several new additions to the varsity team and these newcomers will offer pitching depth and should be impact players.”
Among the new faces on the Bulldogs this season are junior pitcher/third baseman Jack Niekrasz, junior pitcher/first baseman Jax Giampietro and sophomore second baseman Rex Dockendorf.
The Bulldogs’ returning juniors and seniors will be back on the field, providing leadership. Junior pitcher/shortstop Owen Murphy, junior catcher/third baseman Brian Twomey, junior pitcher/outfielder Sean McDermott, senior pitcher/shortstop Jeremy Fox, and senior pitcher/shortstop/third baseman Henry Rausch will be back for this strong RB team as they head into 2021.
When the IHSA announced that the season could be played, Till and his team were thrilled to get back onto the field.
“Obviously, we were elated,” Till said. “The kids did not get a high school baseball season last year and the experiences and memories are so important. Everyone is extremely excited to get back on the field and compete.”
Talent-laden Naz looks to contend again
Since Lee Milano became baseball coach in 2000, the Roadrunners have been a consistent contender in IHSA Class 3A, having won at least 20 games in each of the past 11 seasons. The streak includes four state trophies: second-place in 2015, third in 2012 and 2018, and fourth in 2011.
In 2019, Nazareth finished with a 29-9 record, losing in the 3A sectional final to St. Rita. Even after missing last spring due to COVID-19, the elements of another successful campaign are present for the Roadrunners this year, due to a senior class with numerous collegiate commitments and offers.
“We have depth which creates great internal competition,” said Milano, who has amassed 480 wins as Nazareth coach.
Seniors Anthony and Joseph Milano — twin brothers who are Lee’s sons — headline a list of top returnees from 2019. Anthony is a first baseman and Joseph is a pitcher. Both will play at Morton College. Infielder Wylder Guido is another player who will continue his career on the collegiate level at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Other seniors who have made collegiate commitments are infielder Justin Gutierrez (Loras) and Jack Ryan (St. Norbert). Another senior, pitcher/infielder Ryan Smith, is one of the top unsigned prospects in the state. He has several Division 1 offers.
There is also a solid underclassman group led by sophomore outfielder Lucas Smith, who Lee Milano says would’ve started as a freshman on varsity had last season taken place.
The Roadrunners are expecting another grueling season in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which Lee Milano believes is the deepest in the state.
Having been with the Nazareth program for 26 years — the last 22 as head coach — has allowed Milano to gain some perspective over that time, and he feels missing last season has taught his players a valuable lesson.
“I believe the players learned not to take things for granted and appreciate what they have every day,” Milano said.
The Roadrunners will play 34 regular season games beginning April 13 (after press time) with a home game against Reavis.
Unlike most sports in this truncated IHSA sports year, baseball will have a state tournament, with regionals starting June 2 and the finals from June 16 through June 19.