Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 16 Plainfield East


By: Peter Hamot
Area Scout

The Illinois high school baseball season kicks off on March 14, opening day for regular season action under IHSA regulations. Over the next two weeks, leading up to opening day, we’ll be publishing our team previews ahead of the 2022 spring season, touching on programs spanning all state classifications, counting down 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 2022 preseason coverage continues today.

Team: Plainfield East
Preseason Rank: 16
2021 Record: 19-15
Conference: Southwest Prairie
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Adam O'Reel

ROSTER PREVIEW

NAME POS CLASS COMMITMENT
Bryce Atkin 1B 2022 -
Aden Auckland OF/RHP 2022 College of DuPage
Christian Mitchelle SS/RHP 2022 Central Michigan
Nathan Rudd MIF 2022 -
Lance Wilson C 2022 Goshen College
C.J. Lamb OF 2023 -
Brady Louck LHP/OF 2023 Notre Dame

key players lost

+ RHP Gavin Schmitt (Illinois)
+ C/INF Michael Bailey (Illinois Wesleyan University)
+ OF/RHP Caden Dyhr (Wisconsin-Oshkosh)
+ OF/RHP Ryan Skiba (Joliet JC)

x-factor

(6/24/21)

+ Brady Louck, LHP/OF (2023; Notre Dame commit): Louck's role in boosting the Bengals from sub-.500 to the 4A state title cannot be understated – it was a historic stretch for the then-sophomore. The southpaw turned in one of the more dominant postseason performances in recent memory, tossing 19 innings over three starts while racking up 36 strikeouts. He encouraged Plainfield East to rally back while down to their final three outs against Yorkville in the sectional title game, sparking the comeback with a two-run homer down 8-3, doubling in another run to pad the out-of-nowhere 11-8 lead to virtually clinch it. Three days later against what is arguably the state's most star-studded lineup, Brother Rice, Louck completed a shutout with 13 Ks and he allowed just two walks and two hits – and he recorded three of the games six total hits combined, propelling Plainfield East to the 3-0 Super-Sectional victory.

With five days in between, Louck was handed the ball for the team's 4A state semifinal matchup with Hononegah where he tallied another 13 strike outs and drove in another run from the top of the order in a narrow 5-3 win to send them to the championship game. And while Lake Park was relieved to avoid Louck's arm, they still had to contain his bat, which he prevented them from doing. His two-run double in the bottom of the second pushed the Bengals to a 3-0 lead, an inning after her led his team off with a triple and later scored the game's opening run. Despite a Lancers rally, the Bengals clung to the 6-5 lead and win, claiming the 4A title from an unlikely starting position at the beginning of the playoffs.

The Notre Dame commit headed into the state tournament as his team's everyday center fielder – when he wasn't its ace – with a batting average of .384 with five doubles and two home runs, and tremendous athleticism on defense. Now a junior, it'll be exciting to see what's in store for Louck in 2022, considering it'll be hard to top what he did late last season – but we can't count it out, either.

outlook

The Bengals might not have the kind of roster that leaps from the page, but much of this team is intact from a year prior, and their key pieces are one year older, equipped with invaluable state experience. It's still a group that pulled off one of the more exciting and unexpected playoff runs in IHSA history last spring.

The loss of Gavin Schmitt (Illinois) puts a slight dent in their rotation, but we can still expect to see a number of quality arms taking the ball for the Bengals in 2022. Arms such as the aforementioned Louck, INF/RHP Christian Mitchelle (2022; Central Michigan), RHP Jonathan Boyles (2023), OF/RHP Aden Aukland (2022; College of DuPage), and RHP Josh Keller (2023) will be the expected starters for the season ahead, and each should provide the Bengals with a real chance to win when they take the mound.

Mitchelle is one of the more dynamic players in the state, currently ranked No. 27 overall in Illinois. The 6-foot, 180-pound Central Michigan commit provides the Bengals with some thump in the lineup; collecting a .347 batting average to go along with eight triples, seven doubles and four home runs before entering state last spring. He's a 6.91 runner in the 60 who easily translates his athleticism both to the infield and the mound, possessing fluid actions at shortstop while also running his fastball up to 91 mph. Having a legitimate two-way weapon like Mitchelle – as well as Louck – is a huge bonus for the Bengals, and we can expect to see him lead their offense in 2022, all while adding notable rotation depth. 

Another valuable two-way player for the Bengals this coming season is Aukland. The College of DuPage recruit possesses a physical right-handed bat that should help give the lineup some extra juice, creating easy pop with off the charts bat speed (82.8 mph max according to our Blast sensors) and a max exit velocity of 97 mph. He will provide the Bengals with quality defense in the outfield as well as a strong arm, which we can expect to see on the mound, too. The right-handed pitcher can run his fastball into the low 80's and should see some quality innings for the Bengals in 2022.

Other such names – like C Nathan Rudd (2022) and C Lance Wilson (2022; Goshen College) – will be looked on to provide added depth in their lineup on a daily basis.

bottom line

While this team may have entered the IHSA playoffs 12-15, they exited it a completely different beast. Much of this roster rallied together to rip off seven straight wins in the postseason to take home the state title in electric fashion. If there's anything to know ahead of time about Plainfield East, it's to never count them out.

With the number of returning players from last year's team, there is definite big-game experience among the Bengals that should undoubtably play to their advantage. However, Plainfield East will have to find a way to replace the innings Gavin Schmitt provided in 2021, though there are a number of new faces to the lineup this year that are more than willing to step up when called upon.

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

Find more information on the 2022 Bengals below:

+ Team Website
+ Team Schedule
+ Team Twitter

PBR ILLINOIS PRESEASON POWER 25