By Mike Sandrolini
The accolades keep coming for Westmont standout senior shortstop Charlie Donovan.
Before the end of the season, Donovan got word that he had been selected as Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois for baseball.
“I got an email letting me know that he had gotten the Gatorade award as the best player in the state of Illinois and that’s just a great honor,” said Westmont coach D.J. Cocks. “The top player in the state no matter what class. It’s just an honor for him as a player and for us as a program to have that kind of recognition. It’s just amazing.
“I’m really proud of the way he is as player and as a person; he totally deserves it, but what an honor, no doubt.”
Donovan, who has been tabbed the Voyager Media Player of the Year for the third straight year, hit .484 with seven homers and 33 RB, 64 runs scored and 42 stolen bases.
“I didn’t really expect it, but it was a very humbling thing,” Donovan said of the Gatorade award. “I think it’s just kind of a result of all the hard work I put in and the dedication I put in towards the game.
“There’s a bunch of other kids that could have got that award and they were deserving, but I guess all I could do at the end of the day is go out and have fun playing the game that I love.”
He was drafted in the 30th round by the Milwaukee Brewers last month, but that selection likely reflected the fact that he stated prior to the draft he intended to fulfill his commitment to play collegiately at Michigan.
“I’m looking forward to going to the University of Michigan,” he said. “The draft is not in the picture anymore.”
The rest of the Voyager Media All-Area team consists of:
Senior Righty from Lockport was 5-2 in 44.1 innings pitched, allowing 39 hits and had a 2.53 ERA. He struck out 55 hitters and walked 12.
“Cole helped lead our team to our conference championship with his dominating performances on the mound,” said Lockport coach Andy Satunas. “He averaged nine strikeouts per game while facing some of the best teams in the area.”
He had a .404 average with 42 hits for JCA.
He tallied 20 extra base hits, with 12 doubles, 6 triples and 2 home runs. He also had 28 RBI and 27 runs scored.
Junior catcher hit.388 with an OBP of .452 to lead Plainfield Central.
“He has come up with countless big hits all year,” Central coach Jon Rosner said. “He has played great behind the dish.”
Callender, a sophomore pitcher from Plainfield Central, was 5-2 with a 2.21 ERA. He also hit .329 at the plate.
Senior catcher from JCA had a .388 average with 45 hits, 37 RBI and 32 runs scored. On the mound, he was 3-0 with one save, a .897 ERA with 55 strikeouts with nine walks.
Plainfield East junior hit .438 with nine doubles, four homers and 32 RBI. Also went 5-3 on the mound with 45 strikeouts.
“Has been our leading hitter all season as well as one of our top starters on the mound,” East coach Adam O’Reel said. “He is an exceptional athlete, leader and representative of East baseball. He finished with the best offensive season in East short history. He has many DI offers on the table.”
Westmont opponents might be saying good riddance to ultra-talented Charlie Donovan, but they still have to deal with his younger brother, Joe, for two more years. All the sophomore catcher did this season was break the Westmont single-season school record for home runs (10) while driving in a team-high 42 runs, hitting .464 and stealing 22 bases. Like his brother, he is verbally committed to Michigan.
“Joe is a team leader on and off the field,” said Westmont coach D.J. Cocks. “He completely shuts down other team’s running game. It is amazing to have a catcher with that skill-set for four years.”
A starter at shortstop at Downers South since late in his sophomore season, the senior batted .395 this spring, but Engel’s exemplary defensive play is what coach Darren Orel likes to talk about. Engel will be playing college baseball in the Ivy League at Columbia University.
“He’s one of the best, smoothest and most consistent fielders I’ve seen all year,” Orel said. “He’s as good of an infielder as there is in the state.”
A senior shortstop, two-year starter and All-West Suburban Silver player for coach Chad Isaacson’s Downers North Trojans, Farley—also a starting guard for the Trojans’ basketball team—hit .336 with 26 RBI and 30 runs scored.
“Myles has the ability to control and win a game at the plate and in the field,” Isaacson said. “He was the type of player that would elevate his level of play in the key moments of the game.”
The JCA junior lost only one game all season, a nine-inning loss to Lemont in the playoffs, to nine wins. He posted one save on the season, while having a .575 ERA, a .753 WHIP, 98 strikeouts and only 11 walks.
Ferri, a junior, has verbally committed to Arizona State, one of the most highly acclaimed baseball programs in the country. The three-year starter was Notre Dame’s top hitter with a .379 average, but his forte is his work behind the plate.
“I’m pretty spoiled having him back there for the past three years,” said Dons coach Nelson Gord of Ferri, who also was the team’s closer. “He’s at the top of the heap when it comes to defensive catchers. When game is on the line you want him up at bat, you want him as the closer on the mound and behind the plate. Pressure doesn’t seem to get to him. He’s a special one.”
Plainfield South pitcher went 6-2 with a 1.45 ERA and 38 strikeouts.
“He is a pleasure to watch,” South coach Phil Bodine said. “He has been part of a staff with six straight shutouts, tying a state record.”
Plainfield North junior came up with big hits throughout the season, including the playoffs. He batted .419 with a .489 OBP, drove home 34 runs and had 14 doubles.
“Josh had a tremendous season and played great in the playoffs,” North coach John Darlington said. “He came up with big hit after big hit for us all season.”
Joliet West middle infielder posted a .485 average and .557 OBP this season, while hitting 12 doubles and four triples. He drove in 28 while stealing 10 bases and scoring 40 runs.
The Benet senior lefty went 6-2 on the mound this season, including coming on in relief to pick up the victory in the Redwings’ sectional semifinal game vs. Glenbard South—a game in which he also homered. He hit .322 for the Redwings, yet Hayes’ calling card wasn’t necessarily his hitting or pitching; it was his defense at first base.
“He reminds me a lot of (former Chicago Cubs first baseman) Mark Grace,” said Benet coach Scott Lawler. “From my 12 years coaching in college and my four years in high school, he’s the best defensive first baseman I’ve ever coached.”
The senior center fielder and two-time all-ESCC selection led Benet in hitting each of his three varsity seasons, including a .385 average in 2015. He’ll be attending the University of Illinois-Chicago and playing baseball there.
“The last couple of years he’s been batting either one or two for us and has played a stellar center field,” said Lawler.
Leadoff batter for Plainfield North hit .366 with an OBP of .444 and 11 stolen bases. He scored 48 runs with seven doubles and 17 RBI.
“Zach is one of the best athletes to play for Plainfield North baseball,” Darlington said. “He shows up everyday with a great attitude.”
Bolingbrook pitcher and third baseman batted .467 with a home run and five doubles on the year. On the mound he was 2-2, with a pair of complete games and a shutout. In 38 2/3 innings, he had an ERA of 3.52 and tallied 40 strikeouts.
He led the Raiders in batting average, complete games, shutouts and ERA and was second on the team in innings pitched and strikeouts.
Romeoville senior posted 40 hits on the season including 10 doubles, for a .402 average. He stole 20 bases. In the Spartans’ playoff win, he went 3-for-4 with a home run and pair of doubles and struck out 11 on the mound.
Oakland (MI) recruit and Plainfield East senior batted .365 with 10 doubles, 11 RBI and 25 runs scored.
“He’s been a constant threat in the lineup for three seasons, starting as a sophomore,” O’Reel said. “He has been a top hitter for the program each season as well as taking a beating behind the plate. He is the first D1 player to come out of East baseball program. He was patient all year while being pitched around with 19 walks and only 4 strikeouts and still put up quality numbers.”
Parker, a senior two-year team captain and two-year All-CSL South pick, hit .374 and was Maine South’s leader in RBI (23), triples (5) and on-base percentage (.517). Base runners who attempted to steal on him usually grabbed some bench as he threw out runners at a 68 percent rate. He’ll be suiting up for Lewis University, where his grandfather also played.
“He’ll do a nice job for them,” said Maine South coach Bill Milano. “He’s an outstanding kid on and off the field. We’ll miss his leadership and his production as well.”
The senior pitcher-outfielder came up big for Downers North throughout the year. He finished 5-4 on the hill with a 2.77 ERA and pitched a shutout with 11 strikeouts in the Trojans’ regional title victory over Neuqua Valley. He hit .343 for the year, including a .442 average in conference play.
“Brett was an all-conference player who contributed both on the mound and at the plate,” said Isaacson. “He is a highly competitive kid who wants the ball in his hands.”
A junior catcher for Downers South, Oriente put together a season that literally was one for the record books. He hit a whopping .560, set a new school record for the most hits in a season (61) and tied the single-season school records for most doubles (15) and triples (eight) while striking out only three times this season. Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Louisville and Indiana have shown interest in him.
“He developed into a leader and has a tremendous work ethic,” said Orel. “He hits the ball equally to all fields hard.”
University of Iowa-bound senior pitcher went 5-3 with four saves, 99 strikeouts and a .689 ERA for Plainfield South.
“He has been dominant all year with pure stuff,” Bodine said.
Minooka senior was team leader at the plate and on the hill.
Offensively, he batted .500 on the season, with 47 hits, 25 RBI and 29 runs scored.
On the bump, he posted a 5-1 record with a save, a 1.34 ERA and a .908 WHIP.
Schau, a Madison (Wis.) Community College recruit, was money in the bank on the bump for Maine South this season. He posted a 7-3 record and a 1.42 ERA, including a one-hit shutout victory over Niles North in postseason play and beating Jacobs—the eventual Class 4A third-place state finisher—in the Hawks’ final regular season game.
“He was a dominant as anyone we’ve had in our program,” said Milano. “He spent a lot of time in the offseason working on strength and conditioning and pitching mechanics.”
A senior ace from Plainfield North, Strepek went 9-0 with a 1.58 ERA and 94 strikeouts for the sectional champs. Batted .361 with seven doubles and 27 RBI.
“Kyle has been our No. 1 pitcher all season,” Darlington said. “He is a great competitor and leader on the field.”
Tountas successfully switched from second base, where he played his sophomore season, to shortstop this year, and batted .375 for Niles West.
“Christos was our most consistent hitter,” said Niles West coach Garry Gustafson. “We counted on him to get on base and make things happen.” Tountas is further developing his skills this summer playing in a showcase league out in California. “He works at baseball 12 months a year,” Gustafson added. “He should be one of our team leaders next year on and off the field.”
Finished his season for Plainfield North batting .408 with 53 hits, 39 runs scored, 30 RBI, 18 doubles and a .470 OBP.
“Bryan has been our most consistent hitter all season,” Darlington said. “He performed at a high level for the passed two seasons.”
Mark Gregory and Scott Taylor contributed