1A IHSA State Finals Preview

By: Gavin Smith & Diego Solares
PBR Illinois Staff

The field is set for the 1A IHSA State Finals this year.

Gibault Catholic, Goreville, Henry-Senachwine, and Newman Central Catholic will be making the drive to Dozer Park in Peoria this weekend. The semifinals start with a matchup between Gibault Catholic and Goreville at 10:00 am. The second matchup of the day between Newman Central Catholic and Henry-Senachwine will begin at approximately 12:00 pm.

On Saturday, the third place game is scheduled for 9:00 am with the championship game scheduled for approximately 11:30 am.

We’ll have extensive coverage of these games, as well as the 2A playoffs, in Peoria this weekend on our Twitter, @PBRIllinois.

Below, you’ll learn more about the ‘Final Four’ teams that’ll be battling it out for the 2023 1A state championship this upcoming weekend.

Gibault Catholic (22-14)

The Hawks started their season off to a 4-6 record, playing some of the state’s top teams in No. 18 Mascoutah, No. 15 Columbia and No. 2 Father McGivney in that stretch. They have arguably played one of the toughest schedules in 1A baseball this season, mixing in a majority of 2A squads, as well as 3A/4A matchups throughout the regular season. 

Coach Andy Skaer has been at the helm since 2005 and he’s taking the Hawks to his third final four. He’s amassed 244 wins since he started coaching, including one state title, one state runner-up, three sectional titles and five regional championships.

Gibault Catholic is led by OF/LHP Daniel Darin (2023; Lindenwood), Hudson Blank (2024), and C/SS Kameron Hanvey (2023) on offense. Darin posted a .382 batting average and has tallied five home runs, 28 RBIs, two triples and eight RBIs. Blank boasts an impressive .396 batting average with two home runs, 35 RBIs, five triples and six doubles. Hanvey is leading the team in batting average (.398) and had three triples, three doubles, 19 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases, which also leads the team. Hanvey has been their go-to arm this season with a 9-3 record. He’s tallied 35 strikeouts, walked 10 and has allowed 24 runs in 59 innings pitched, good for a 2.85 ERA, a team low.

Another run producer for the Hawks is Ty Frierdich (2025) who has driven in 33 RBIs, the second most on the team. Frierdich has slashed a .317 batting average including three home runs and four doubles.

With run producers in their offense and a tough regular schedule, the Hawks are a battle tested group with pedigree that’s ready to keep their hot postseason stretch alive.

Goreville (25-13)

The Blackcats were off to a hot start, going 10-1 in their first 11 games of the season, and they’ve rekindled that success into these playoffs.

Goreville is making their first final four appearance since the 2018 season where they finished third place, and their sixth appearance in Coach Shawn Tripp’s tenure. Coach Tripp has been at Goreville for 19 years and boasts a 388-198 record. He has won a state title, finished second once, and third three times. Goreville has now won nine regional titles in a row and are looking to win their first state title since 2016.

Ian Sopczak (2023) and Hunter Francis (2024) headline this Goreville roster on both sides of the ball. Sopczak leads the team in batting average (.373), on base percentage (.472), home runs (5), triples (3) and RBIs (39). He’s also thrown 38 ⅓ innings, tallied four wins, struck out 64, and he’s pitched to a 2.56 earned run average. Francis has a .319 batting average with 23 RBIs and three doubles. He’s also thrown 43 innings on the mound, struck out 49, and has a 2.28 earned run average.

Pitching looks to be the Blackcats strength this year with Drake Moss (2024) throwing 44 ⅓ innings, a team high. He’s gone 5-1 with 60 strikeouts and a 2.53 earned run average. Dawson Cloud (2024) leads the team in wins with six, striking out 45 and only walking 13. Cloud also has a 1.57 ERA in 37 innings pitched. These two, matched with the aforementioned duo above, gives the Blackcats a quartet of formidable arms to trot out to the rubber.

With loads of pitching depth and playoff experience, Goreville has the makings of winning their second state title under Coach Tripp.

Henry-Senachwine (22-6)

The Mallards are headed to their first ‘Final Four’ in school history with their squad coming together at the right time, going 12-1 in their last 13 games. They have outscored their opponents 191-86 this season, giving up four or more runs only six times.

The Mallards' head coach, Max Kirbach, is in his first season at the helm. He has brought success to the team this year, winning 23 games, including securing the first back-to-back regional titles in Henry history, as well as their first sectional championship since 1993.

Henry’s offense is led by a handful of names that have provided positive contributions throughout. RHP/1B Lance Kiesewetter (2024) leads the Mallards in batting average (.400), RBIs (29) and home runs (4), doubling nine times, too. C Colton Williams (2023; College of Lake County) leads the Mallards in hits (31) and doubles (14), batting .388 on the year while driving in 22 runs, too. Mason Guarnieri (2024), Preston Rowe (2024), and Carson Rowe (2026) are other names who’ve swung it well.

On the mound, Henry’s two-headed monster may be the strongest amongst this field of four. The aforementioned Kiesewetter has been nothing short of dominant, fanning 121 over 63 innings of work, with a 1.33 ERA and 10-1 record. LHP Mason Johnson (2023) is enjoying plenty of success in his own right, posting a 1.92 ERA across 62 innings of work, with 57 strikeouts and a 6-1 record. Freshman Carson Rowe has allowed just three earned runs (0.91 ERA) over 23 innings, walking just one, while punching out 23.

The Mallards are looking to finish off their historic season with their first state title in school history.

Newman Central Catholic (22-8)

The Comets are making their first ever trip to Peoria this year after winning 22 games. They are currently riding an 11-game win streak. The Comets offense has been hot all year long, scoring 240 runs, with 102 of those runs coming in their last 11 games.

Newman Central Catholic is coached by Kenny Koerner, who is in his third season with the team. During each of those three seasons, including this year's state run, the Comets have won a regional and sectional championship.

OF Brendan Tunink (2024; Notre Dame) headlines this offense with a full-blown power surge this spring. He’s homered 17 times in 117 at-bats, collecting six doubles too, and bringing home 47 runs total. Aside from Tunink, the Comets have a handful of other bats enjoying strong seasons at the plate. Kyle Wolfe (2023) brings a team-high .348 batting average to Peoria, totaling 40 hits as the table-setter of this offense. Joe Oswalt (2025) isn’t too far behind, batting .337 with 26 RBIs this season, and Jaesen Johns (2023) has produced at the plate too, driving in 29 runs on nine doubles, and 31 hits total.

Aside from his offensive efforts, Tunink has anchored the Comets’ rotation too, pitching to a 1.07 ERA and a perfect 10-0 record over 59 innings of work, striking out 98. Wolfe has been strong on the mound too, logging 55 innings with a 1.40 ERA and an 8-1 record.