Prep Baseball Report

PBR Fall Championship: Illinois Takeaways

By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

This past weekend, the inaugural PBR Fall Championships took place at Grand Park in Westfield, IN. The event featured a total of 29 teams from around the Midwest. 13 teams participated in the 18U division and 16 in the 17U with five hailing from the state of Illinois.

18U Illinois Teams:
+ Cangelosi Sparks
+ Top Tier Americans 2018s

17U Illinois Teams:
+ Elite Baseball Training 2021s
+ Midwest Rangers 2019s
+ Top Tier Americans 2019s

In the 18U Division, the Cangelosi Sparks finished runner-up, losing to the San Francisco Giants Scout Team 4-3 in the championship game. The Sparks made things interesting in the final frame, scoring three runs off of the San Francisco Giants Scout Team closer who was sitting 87-89 mph but it was not enough.

In the 17U Division, the Midwest Rangers 2019s, finished the event 4-0-1 and took home the Championship, defeating the indiana Bulls 2-0 in the title game. RHP Alex Pittman (Morgan Park, 2019) led the way in the final game, tossing a complete game, one-hit, shutout. In his seven inning masterpiece, Pittman struck out nine and walked two.

When it comes to Illinois prospects, there were a countless number of takeaways from this weekend's action. Below is some of the main things that stuck out over the course of three days:


+ The biggest winner of the week from Illinois may have been 3B Cam McDonald (Hall Township, 2018). The 6-foot-4, 180-pound, long and lean, highly-projectable Illinois commit, seemed to barrel up everything thrown his way throughout the weekend. McDonald uses his long levers to create a loose, whippy swing that stays through the zone for a long time. He currently does a lot of his damage up the middle and into the right-center field gap. Should be able to create occasional pull-power in the future as he adds strength and consistently gets the barrel out front. Just as impressive as his offense was the way McDonald manned third base all weekend long. He made all the routine plays and a few that were not-so routine. In the championship game, McDonald picked a ball on the backhand that was heading down the line for a double, planted and all in one got rid of the ball with plenty of arm strength behind the throw to get the runner rather easily. Also, showed the ability to make a run-through play with rhythm, changed his arm angle and made an accurate throw. All-in-all McDonald is developing into his frame and has plenty to dream on in the future.

+ 2020 SS Christian Knapczyk (Joliet Catholic, IL), is a ball player in every sense of the word. The dynamic Louisville commit floats around the diamond, plays with energy, bounce and has advanced feel for the game. Defensively he could play all over the diamond but looked in his element at shortstop. Confident, exciting defender, moves extremely well to either side; fluid, easy actions and makes the game look easy. Arm is loose and strong, easy carry across the diamond. The left-handed hitter, has a keen eye for the strike zone, recognizes spin and understands who he is as a hitter, which is a top of the order guy who can control the barrel and use the whole field. Also, a high-level baserunner, stole a number of bases on the weekend, looks to take the extra base and thinks two out of the box. Got multiple 4.3’s down-the-line throughout the weekend. High-level 2020 prospect who will only continue to elevate his stock as he continues to mature.

+ Illinois commit Branden Comia (Sandburg, 2018) continues to solidify himself as one of the top 2018 prospects in Illinois. Comia has worked hard on his body and his speed and it has shown. In the last year and a half he has dropped his 60 time from 7.27 to an elite 6.65 and has added quality lean muscle to boot. Comia made a number of tough plays over the weekend and anchored the middle of the batting order.

+ 2019 LHP Cole Kirschsieper (Lincoln-Way East), one of the top uncommitted 2019 arms in the event, started the semi-final game for the Cangelosi Sparks and was on a pitch count of around 50-60 pitches. So what did Kirschsieper do? Induced a ton of early, weak contact using a fastball/changeup combination. It was one of the most impressive and efficient outings of the tournament. The talented left-hander pounded the strike zone and went to his changeup whenever he wanted. He seemed to be playing a game of catch, exerting little effort while dissecting a talented lineup. When all was said and done, Kirschsieper went six strong innings allowing one run, striking out five, scattering five hits and did not walk a batter. His fastball sat 82-85 and he commanded it to both sides of the plate. He went to his changeup early and often, showing advanced feel for it at 76-77.

+ LHP Ryan Surin (Joliet Catholic) emerged as an unsigned senior who should be on the radar of college programs moving forward. The 6-foot-2 southpaw has a clean, loose arm from a 3/4 slot and threw a high volume of strikes in his outing. His fastball sat 84-85 mph early on and settled in at 82-84. He consistently mixed in a curveball at 73-75 mph. It varied in shape and action, but when good it had depth and 1/7 shape.

+ 2020 INF Alec Gonzalez (Mount Carmel) is an athletically built, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds and stood out among players two years his senior. He showed the ability to move gracefully at shortstop as he has made plays on the run with strong accurate throws. With that said, he appears better suited for a possible move to third base where he may have a chance to be a top-level defender. Gonzalez has a presence in the box. He starts slightly open and relaxed and is ready to hit from the get-go. Gonzalez took competitive at-bats all weekend long and is extremely aggressive on pitches in the hitting zone. Present bat speed and natural lift in swing. He smashed a deep triple to right centerfield before turning heads on other fields with the sound of later fly out to the same part. Gonzalez also got on the mound in the final day of the tournament and showed he is a capable two-way prospect. Gonzalez went after hitters and mixed a sharp breaking ball with late 10/4 action. The talented 2020 is yet another high-follow prospect the Caravan will have at its disposal for years to come.

+ OF Khyle Radcliffe (Morgan Park) is a high-ceiling outfielder in the 2019 class. Radcliffe, a 6-foot, 160-pound, athletically built, left-handed hitter, starts from a narrow open setup and has a free-swinging mentality. Loose swing, creates easy bat speed and the ball jumps off of his bat. Has lift in swing and gets extension through contact. Fluid actions in the outfield, long easy strides and possesses a plus arm (was clocked at 92 mph at the PBR Future Games). High-follow uncommitted 2019 outfielder.

+ Catcher Ryan Hampe (Sandburg, 2018), an Illinois-Chicago commit, has seen himself evolve into one of the top 2018 catchers in the state over the past year and did nothing but help that argument this weekend. Hampe, who had taken some off over the past couple of weeks, came right out of the gates and hit balls hard all over the field. In his first at-bat on Saturday he laced a line-drive single right back up the middle and proceeded to fly out to the warning track in left-center field (the deepest part of the park) in his next at-bat. All weekend long he looked confident and comfortable in the batter's box. Hampe has good pitch recognition, has abilities to make adjustments and has current pop in his bat with more to come. Defensively, he is a steady, consistent defender. Handles a pitching staff well, squared, low target, firm wrist and active blocker. Highly-accurate arm, carries on a line and pop times are consistently around 2.00.  

+ 2019 RHP Alex Pittman (Morgan Park) led the Midwest Rangers to the 17U title with his performance on the mound. Pittman fired a complete game, one-hit, shutout. In his seven inning masterpiece, Pittman struck out nine and walked two. After issuing a leadoff walk in the third, he retired 13 straight. Pittman did it by pounding the strike zone with three pitches, consistently dropping in his 69-71 mph curveball for strikes, and he held his 80-82 fastball velocity throughout all seven innings.

+ 2019 RHP Tyler Schlaffer (Homewood-Flossmoor), an Illinois-Chicago recruit, started the game for the Midwest Rangers in the semifinals against Midwest Evoshield Canes 2020 and came away with a hard-fought victory. After battling through the first two innings, the 6-foot-1, 160-pounder settled down and pitched six strong to stake the Rangers to a 9-2 lead in the seventh before Evoshield made a furious comeback against the bullpen. Schlaffer, who closed out the victory on Saturday, pitched at 84-86 in the first inning. He also flashed a solid 74-76 changeup. Schlaffer was one of the biggest risers following the Future Games where he ran his fastball up to 91 mph. 

+ A 2021 from Central Illinois to keep an eye on over the next few years is left/left outfielder Cory Ronan (Routt Catholic). Ronan, who is listed at 5-foot-9, 140-pounds, still has to mature and get stronger, is currently a really sound baseball player. Ronan has a clean, repeatable left-handed swing. He uses the whole field, controls the barrel and has a line-drive approach. Hit a game-tying, two-run double down the left-field line in Elite Baseball Training’s Saturday afternoon game. Also, hit a line drive single to right-center field in their night game Defensively, has natural outfield actions and a strong, accurate arm from the outfield. Recorded multiple outfield assists on the weekend.

+ Another impressive 2021 was Nick Demarco an infielder from St. Charles North. Demarco has atheltic infield actions at third base, fluid footwork, made plays on the move and has a strong, accurate arm across the diamond. Should be able to stick on the left-side of the diamond moving forward. Offensively, the right-handed hitter, hit in the three-hole, has strength in his swing and has feel for hitting.