Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 14 St. Laurence

By: Diego Solares
Associate Scout, Staff Writer

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: St. Laurence
Preseason Rank: No. 14
2019 Record: 27-9
Conference: Chicago Catholic League - Blue
IHSA Class: 3A
Head Coach: Pete Lotus


Angelo Luna
OF 2022 Illinois-Springfield
Osvaldeo Ballesteros Jr.
RHP 2022 Saint Xavier
Mikey Gentile
2022 Upper Iowa
Max Montgomery
OF 2022 -
Jalen Headly
2022 -
Dennis Helwig Jr.
2023 -
Johnny Wendling
2023 -
Luke Stulga
2023 -
Jesse Contreras Jr.
MIF 2023 -
Rodney Lester Jr.
2023 -
Jameson Martin
2024 -
Kannen Mosher
2024 -
Jimmy Sloan
2024 -
Joe Olson
2025 -


+ INF Kevin McCormick (2021; Evansville)
+ C Jason Krol (2021; Lewis)
+ SS/RHP Michael Laudando (2021; Rockhurst)
+ INF Jimmy Gurgone (2021; Illinois-Wesleyan)


RHP Dennis Helwig (2023): Helwig, who represented Team Illinois at the PBR Future Games as an underclassman in 2020, holds a high ceiling inside a long-limbed 6-foot-6, 175-pound frame. He threw 44 innings last season and was an all-conference selection – a significant honor given the fact that he was only a sophomore and he now returns with an extra layer of experience under his belt. We’ve seen him bump his fastball up to 87 mph in the past and we’ve received reports throughout the offseason that he’s climbed a few ticks over the winter months.


OF Luke Stulga (2023): Stulga really popped at the Preseason All-State Upperclass event a few weeks ago, putting up impressive numbers across the board. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior darted his way to a 6.54 in the 60-yard dash and took a relatively loud round of BP to pair, barreling his hardest hit ball up at 96.8 mph while averaging 90.8 off the barrel throughout. He displayed more impact-type contact than we’d seen from him in the past as well, sending his furthest batted ball 372 feet with an average batted distance of 300 feet, among the event’s best. His most notable statistical measurements may come from his hands, as Stulga’s average bat speed (78.8 mph) and hand speed (24.1 mph) are both well above-average marks for his age. To put the finishing touches on an all-around performance, Stulga reached an 87 mph max to home from the outfield. Once again, he’ll be looked at as a key cog to what the Vikings’ are looking to achieve on both sides of the ball.


LHP Joe Olson (2025): Olson first popped onto our radar at the Underclass Showcase last October, displaying advanced arm strength for his age after he ran his fastball up to 80 mph from the left side. Fast forward just four months later and the 6-foot, 190-pound southpaw is now touching 86 mph with his heater, sitting at 84-85 mph. He can swing it a bit too, so expect him to get some run on one of the state’s more successful programs as a freshman this spring.


The Vikings are perennially one of the more successful programs at the 3A classification, making it deep into the state playoffs on an annual basis. They did so again last spring, taking home the third place finish at the state championships after a 27-win season and a split of the Chicago Catholic League Blue conference title.

Just like they are every single season, St. Laurence is yet again positioned nicely to make a repeat run at the state crown. While they did lose some key seniors, head coach Pete Lotus’ squad brings back several key pieces, including nearly their entire pitching staff from last season.

Anchoring that group are two arms that each shouldered heavy workloads last year: RHP Osvaldo Ballesteros Jr. (2022; Saint Xavier University) and DJ Helwig. Helwig’s progression on the mound over the off-season could be the deciding factor for St. Laurence, but they’ll absolutely need to get top-of-the-rotation-type production from their senior right-hander. Ballesteros Jr., who earned All-Conference honors in one of the state’s best conferences last year, was an anchor for the Vikings in 2021, pitching to a 2.54 ERA across 41 ⅓ innings pitched. He’s capable of being a competitive bulldog that St. Laurence can feel good about giving the ball to in a key game.

The Vikings do have a handful of arms they can deploy in multi-faceted rolls aside from their one-two punch at the top of this rotation. RHP Kannen Mosher (2024) saw time on varsity as a freshman last season on the mound and should get an opportunity to log a decent amount of innings this spring, while LHP Rodney Lester (2023) is another returner to factor into this mix as well. Though it’ll be his first season at the varsity level, OF/RHP Jimmy Sloan (2024) is another underclassmen that could see some run on both sides of the ball for the Vikings as the season progresses and so is Joe Olson (2025), who we highlighted above in the ‘Newcomer To Watch’ segment.

St. Laurence will certainly not make things easy for opposing teams on offense, either. Replacing INF Kevin McCormick (2021; Evansville) and SS Michael Laudando (2021; Rockhurst) certainly won’t be easy, but there is a ton of talent littered from top to bottom in this lineup. They bring plenty of experience back to the dish, starting with their trio of All-Conference outfielders: OF Angelo Luna (2022; Illinois-Springfield), OF Max Montgomery (2022), and the aforementioned OF Luke Stulga (2023). Luna is a highly athletic left-handed hitter that’ll hit right in the middle of this order and look to build off a successful campaign last spring, all while providing St. Laurence with defensive stability in center field. Montgomery was a menace on the basepaths last year, stealing 23 bases and slashing .313/.489/.343 as a top-of-the-order table setter type. Then there’s Stulga, who performed as an everyday contributor last season in his first year at the varsity level. He’s been an arrow-up name from a prospect standpoint after showing well at the Upperclass Preseason All-State a few weeks ago, running a 6.54 in the 60-yard dash and taking an impressive round of BP. Senior OF Jalen Headly (2022) should hit towards the top of this order and factor into the outfield mix as well, DHing for the Vikings when he’s not playing the field. Regardless, this is an experienced group of high-level athletes that’ll all hit while also giving St. Laurence one of the better defensive outfield groups in the state.

Angelo Luna (8/10/21)

The talent doesn’t stop there, however. C Johnny Wendling (2023) was an All-Conference honoree as a sophomore last season and his loud right-handed bat is back, nestled right in the middle of this lineup. Wendling, who’s a physical 6-foot, 200-pound backstop with a knack for loud contact in our looks, represented Team Illinois at the PBR Future Games last summer. He’ll once again be viewed as a run producer for the Vikings and, with several talented players set to hit around him in their lineup, Wendling’s offensive performance will certainly be pivotal to this team’s success.

Johnny Wendling (7/28/21)

Expected to man both up-the-middle infield spots for the Vikings are two players that played at the varsity level last year, albeit in a limited role: MIF Jameson Martin (2024) and MIF Jesse Contreras Jr. (2023). Both are sure-handed on the infield and their performances, especially on defense, could prove valuable to the success of this St. Laurence pitching staff. Expect the senior duo of INF Mikey Gentile (2022; Upper Iowa) and 1B Jake Merda (2022) to man the corner infield spots early on in the year.


This Vikings’ roster is capable of beating opposing teams in many different ways. They’re really athletic, defend at a high level, and they’ll definitely be well-coached and prepared for any team they take on this year. The Vikings return a large chunk of their pitching rotation and offensive firepower from a team that made it to state less than a year ago, with their sights set on going back in 2022. 

Make sure to follow @PBRIllinois on Twitter for the most up-to-date coverage throughout the 2022 season.

Find more information on the 2022 Vikings below:

Team Website
Team Schedule
Team Twitter