Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 16 Crystal Lake South


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

The Illinois high school season kicks off on March 12th, the first day for regular season games.

Leading up to the opening week of games we will be rolling out team previews of high school teams all across the state and across all classifications, eventually launching our Preseason Power 25.

We will bring you a snapshot of what to expect along with top players and keys to success for that particular team.

Team: Crystal Lake South
Preseason Rank: 16
2017 Record: 36-5
Conference: Fox Valley Conference
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Brian Bogda
Playoff Run: 4A State Champions
2017 Final Rank: 1
Returning Starters: 4
Returning Pitchers: 6

KEY PLAYERS LOST

Griffin Bright, 2B (Saint Xavier)
Luke Dunham, RHP (Dubuque)
Andrew Engelking, RHP (Saint Xavier)
Brian Fuentes, SS (Wabash Valley JC)
Ryan Parquette, C (McHenry County JC)
Nick Wolski, 1B/RHP (Missouri-St. Louis)

TOP PLAYERS

Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Noah Tyrrell IL Crystal Lake South 2018 1B/OF/RHP Wisconsin-Parkside
Kyle Lang
IL Crystal Lake South
2018 RHP McHenry County JC
Scott Skwarek
IL Crystal Lake South
2018 INF McHenry County JC
Blake Kuffel
IL Crystal Lake South
2018 1B/LHP
Mark Paul
IL Crystal Lake South
2018 LHP St. Mary's (MN)
A.J. Luehr
IL Crystal Lake South
2018 RHP McHenry County JC
Riley Tannhauser
IL  Crystal Lake South
2019  LHP  
Kyle Hetherington
IL  Crystal Lake South
2019  OF/LHP
Beiker Fuentes
IL Crystal Lake South
2019 INF/OF/RHP  
Evan Jewson IL Crystal Lake South 2019 C  
Ghavin James IL Crystal Lake South 2019 1B/RHP  

NEWCOMERS TO WATCH

Ryan Parquette (McHenry County JC), last year’s starting catcher and one of the team’s leaders, is graduated. Taking over for him behind the plate full-time might be junior Evan Jewson, who has the ability to do so admirably. Jewson is a well-rounded catcher, who’s solid both defensively and offensively. His bat, specifically, is capable enough to help this team reassert itself within the conference and the state.

Junior OF Kyle Hetherington will see more playing time this year, too. He’s highly skilled but just couldn’t budge his way past last year’s group of strong, talented seniors as a sophomore. This year will be different. With more opportunity, Hetherington will prove his mettle.

This year’s edition of the Gators will be looking to fill some present weaknesses in the lineup and Jewson and Hetherington could make themselves very useful.

X-FACTOR

Junior Beiker Fuentes, the brother of last season’s out-of-nowhere phenom Brian, is among the most talented players on this Gators team. He’s the team’s best athlete, too. He proved to the PBR staff at an event last fall that, not only is he exceptionally fast, but he’s got a very strong arm, evidenced by 90-plus mph throws from the outfield and upper-80s in the infield. Beiker is talented enough to give Coach Brian Bogda wins at any position he plays, though he’s probably best suited for center field and maybe the occasional save situation on the mound.

Brian captured the hearts of fans last spring when his family story broke. He left a dangerous Venezuela, his home, to come to the United States to play baseball in May of 2016. Brian eventually captured scouts’ attention with his on-field abilities, too. He finally reunited with his younger brother last summer with their travel ball team when Beiker ventured to America. 

It remains to be seen how Beiker will be inserted into this lineup, but no doubt he’ll dazzle regardless of where he is on the field.

Beiker Fuentes (10.15.17)   

OUTLOOK

I don’t think there will be a state championship hangover for the Gators in 2018. Despite losing some of the team’s heart and soul from last year’s seniors, a great number of key contributors to last season’s 4A championship squad are back and ready for a shot to repeat, including the state playoffs’ unsuspected superstar, senior Noah Tyrrell (Wisconsin-Parkside). Tyrrell, who went homer-less in the regular season, hit two homers and drove in nine runs through the Gators state semi- and final games -- his five RBIs in the title game tied an IHSA record. He’s back to contribute in a bunch of different ways to this team, both in the lineup and on the mound.

This program, under the direction of Coach Bogda for the past 10 seasons, won its first-ever state title in only its second-ever trip down. Bogda, who was named the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Class 4A Coach of the Year in 2017, will have his hands full managing a reigning champion without its former ace, RHP Andrew Engelking (Saint Xavier), who started the championship game against Edwardsville. Yet, things will stabilize once South’s new No. 1 takes to reins, senior RHP Kyle Lang (McHenry County JC).

As dependable as Engelking was last season, you could make the case Lang was even better. He went 10-0 as a junior last season (and was 5-1 as a sophomore), struck out 52 batters in 72.1 innings, and held onto a stingy 1.36 ERA.

He will captain a deep and reliable pitching staff this spring, lined with the combination of skill and experience. He’s joined by seniors Mark Paul (St. Mary’s, MN) and Riley Tannhauser, both lefties, and RHP A.J. Luehr (McHenry County JC). Paul and Tannhauser each surpassed the 25-inning mark on the mound with varsity last season and both performed well as supporting cast members to the Engelking and Lang tandem.

The same pitching prowess that boosted them all the way to the state title game is back this spring, but what about offensively? Losing last year’s seniors Parquette, 3B Brian Fuentes (Wabash Valley JC), 1B Nick Wolski (Missouri-St. Louis), 2B Griffin Bright (Saint Xavier), and OF Michael Swaity stings. They provided the firepower that hauled this 36-win team to a title. That same offensive force is absent from this roster.

But you don’t get to state without a little luck. Last year, it came in the form of the senior Fuentes. Fuentes’ story is heroic. He moved to the States from Venezuela in the summer of 2016 and was eligible to compete for the Gators in the spring of 2017. Brian went on to lead the team in batting, recording a .448 average, hit a team-high 20 doubles, and was a 2017 PBR First-Team All-State Selection.

Though Brian, his big smile, and his bat are gone, his brother Beiker, a junior, is set for a big role on this team. He’s gifted enough to pick up right where his big brother left off.

BOTTOM LINE

Though its graduated losses from a season ago are substantial, the Gators look menacing to the rest of the Fox Valley Conference once again. Their depth of pitching alone should keep them within many ball games, but it might take a little time for Coach Bogda to sufficiently replace the holes on the roster left by its most significant contributors last spring.

Crystal Lake South is on the prowl for a second straight title and the biggest fear on every other team’s mind is that they have the magic to do it again.

Find more information on the 2018 Gators below:

+ Full Schedule
Team Website
+ Gamechanger
Twitter

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

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN