Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 13 Lincoln-Way Central


By Diego Solares
Illinois Staff

The Illinois high school baseball season kicks off on April 12, opening day for regular season action under IHSA regulations. Over the next several weeks, leading up to opening day, we’ll be publishing our team previews ahead of the 2021 spring season, touching on programs spanning all state classifications, leading into a countdown through the official PBR Illinois Preseason Power 25 Rankings.

Perennially, we’ve submitted a Preseason Questionnaire to high school head coaches across the entire state. Their responses have been flooding in and we’re using the detailed insight they’ve provided in our team-by-team preseason analysis.

Our 2021 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Lincoln-Way Central
Preseason Rank: No. 13
2019 Record: 20-11
Conference: Southwest Suburban - Red
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Mitch Nowicki

TOP PLAYERS

NAME POS CLASS COMMITMENT
Joe Barret C 2021 -
Turner Doran INF 2021 Southwestern Illinois JC
Charlie Graefen OF 2021 Carthage College
Ryan Kraft LHP 2021 Indiana
Richie Lacien RHP 2021 Lawrence
Caden Leonard RHP 2021 Kent State
Matthew Maloney RHP 2021 Parkland JC
Michael Maloney INF 2021 Parkland JC
Quinn McGuire RHP 2021 St. Francis
Liam Rossi C 2021  Aurora
Ethan Rossow OF 2021 Milwaukee Area Technical JC
Dylan Walenga LHP 2021 Milwaukee Area Technical JC
Patrick Barry LHP 2022 -
Hunter Stumpf RHP 2022  -
Collin Mowry C/UTL 2024 Louisville

STAT RAT

8: The number of seniors that Lincoln-Way Central will roll out on an everyday basis, several of which played at the varsity level as sophomores and all of them are committed to play baseball at the next level, too.

UNDERCLASSMAN TO WATCH

Lincoln-Way Central is home to one of the top prospects in the state’s 2024 class: Louisville commit Collin Mowry. The athletic, well-proportioned 5-foot-10, 170-pound C/UTIL has impressed multiple times over the last year, most notably at the 2024 Top Prospect Games last August, taking arguably the most impressive BP round of the entire event. There, Mowry barreled one up at 96.05 mph that traveled at an estimated 356 feet, all while posting the furthest average fly ball distance (282 ft.) and hardest average exit speed (89.83 mph) of the entire event, too. Those physical tools translate into gameplay, where Mowry profiles as a future top-of-the-order impact level bat and an all-around steady offensive contributor. His athleticism should allow Coach Nowicki to play him wherever is needed, which may be in the outfield for this freshman season. Look for Mowry to be one of the top freshman contributors this season across the state.

Collin Mowry (8/22/20)

X-FACTOR

Caden Leonard. Leonard, fairly new to the mound, could play a crucial role in the success of the Knights this spring. The Kent State commit, boasts a lanky 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame and has the stuff to turn into a shut-down conference arm in things fall into place. We saw Leonard for the first time at the PBR Fall Championships in September of last year. There, he ran his fastball up to 89 mph with the makings of a go-to slider. If Leonard can throw a high-volume of strikes this spring and consistently be in the zone, he could be a go-to arm come playoff time, with the velocity and stuff to contend with any lineup.

Caden Leonard (9/12/20)

OUTLOOK

The Knights, one of the most experienced teams in the state, will turn to a formidable one-two senior punch at the top of their rotation to lead them throughout the season: LHP Ryan Kraft and RHP Matt Maloney. Kraft is an experienced, competitive southpaw that attacks the zone with a mid-to-high-80s fastball and lands both his secondary pitches, a curveball and changeup, for strikes. Maloney is a 5-foot-11, 170-pound live-armed athlete that regularly pumps his fastball in at 85-86 mph and with feel for a big-bending breaking ball.

Ryan Kraft (7/24/20)

While the aforementioned three arms are expected to headline the Knights’ rotation, several other key pieces should slot in around them, starting with seniors Richie Lacien (Lawrence University commit), Dylan Walenga (Milwaukee Area Tech commit) and Quinn McGuire (St. Francis commit). Uncommitted juniors, LHP Patrick Barry and RHP Hunter Stumpf, should also add quality arms to this deep rotationBarry is a long-limbed 6-foot-5, 175-pound southpaw that was up to 83 mph last October while Stumpf boasts a similar frame to his counterpart, standing at a lanky 6-foot-4, 170-pounds. Overall, the staff is well-rounded with a couple of high-level seniors leading the way.

From top-to-bottom in their projected everyday lineup, this Lincoln-Way Central team might be one of the most experienced teams across the 4A classification. They’re expected to start eight seniors on an everyday basis, all of which are committed to play baseball at the next level, and their only non-senior projected starter is the aforementioned Mowry, a freshman already committed to Louisville.

Carthage College commit Charlie Graefen is penciled in as the Knights’ starting center fielder and their leadoff hitter, too. Right next to him as the expected starter in left field is Ethan Rossow (Milwaukee Area Tech commit) and Mowry completes this trio as their right fielder. Up the middle at shortstop for this squad is Michael Maloney (Parkland JC commit), a smooth, sure-handed defender with athletic infield actions. Right next to him at second base is Turner Doran (Southwestern Illinois JC commit), who’s also projected to bat cleanup for the Knights and saw time on the infield as a sophomore. Handling this staff as their starting backstop is Aurora University commit Liam Rossi, a left-handed hitting catcher that brings more senior experience to this starting lineup. And then there’s the aforementioned Kraft and Maloney that’ll man first and third base, respectively, when they aren’t on the rubber.

BOTTOM LINE

Lincoln-Way Central will turn to a senior heavy and veteran bunch to lead them throughout the spring. They believe in the depth that they have on the mound and in the consistency that this offense, from top to bottom, will give them each time they take the field. While they don’t have the firepower that some other teams at the 4A level do, they’re a deep, experience and talented group that should be ready to make a run at the Southwest Suburban - Red title and beyond.

Make sure to follow @PBRIllinois on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the 2021 season.

Find more information on the 2021 Knights below:

+ Team Website

+ Team Schedule

+ Team Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN