Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 20 St. Viator

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: St. Viator
Preseason Rank: 20
2017 Record: 25-15
Conference: East Suburban Catholic
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Mike Manno
Playoff Run: Class-3A State Champions
2017 Final Rank: 11
Returning Starters: 5
Returning Pitchers: 2


Cole Kmet, LHP/OF (Notre Dame)
Bobby Perna, RHP (Concordia, IL)
Brett DeSelm, 1B/LHP


Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Bryce Hellgeth IL St. Viator 2018 RHP/C Dayton
Hunter Johnson IL St. Viator 2018 2B/RHP
Michael Wittich IL St. Viator 2018 C  
Jake Sinnema IL St. Viator 2018 INF  
Ryan Stejskal IL St. Viator 2018 LHP/1B  
Casey Pulikowski
IL St. Viator 2018 LHP/1B
Casey Kmet
IL  St. Viator 2019  3B/C  Notre Dame
Jack Mahoney
IL  St. Viator 2020  OF South Carolina


.422: The batting average of Casey Kmet, who spent the 2017 season as the starting third baseman for the Lions as just a sophomore. In addition to his impressive average, the Notre Dame commit, added 14 extra-base hits, including two homers, over the course of the season and scored 37 runs. He’ll most likely return to his spot on the corner of the infield in 2018 where he’s expected to bolster a sturdy lineup once more.

Casey Kmet (2.11.18)


We last saw Jack Mahoney (South Carolina), the two-way sophomore prospect, back in the late summer of 2017 at the Future Games. There, Mahoney emerged as one of the top arms in the Midwest with a fastball that topped at 89 mph. He paired that strong arm with two advanced off-speed offerings. Mahoney had previously been known primarily as a position player, starting as a freshman on the 2017 state title team. With the emergence of what he can do on the mound, the Lions have a high-level two-way prospect on their roster, similar to what Cole Kmet, the 2017 Illinois Player of the Year, did last season. Despite only being a sophomore look for Mahoney to carry much of the load this spring for the defending 3A state champs. 

Jack Mahoney (8.2.17)


Last season, St. Viator achieved what every single team in the country sets out to do in the spring: win the state championship. Viator was victorious in the 3A state title game against a punchy Marian Catholic team in a dramatic game that featured the Lions relinquishing an 8-1 lead late. It was a nice moment for the since-graduated seniors Cole Kmet and Brett DeSelm, two key contributors that day and all season long, and two players St. Viator will certainly miss in its bid at a repeat.

Kmet’s brother Casey is back though. The junior was a staple in the lineup last spring and will be joining his older brother on Notre Dame’s campus once he himself graduates.

In fact, a number of last season’s major players will return in 2018 for a shot at more state glory.

Senior RHP/C Bryce Hellgeth (Dayton), who started on the mound in last season’s championship, is back to be a useful two-way talent for coach Mike Manno to strategically use. Fellow senior 2B Hunter Johnson, a mainstay in the middle of the order on last year’s squad, is also returning. He hit .345 last year and drove in 22 runs from that spot in the lineup. Senior C Michael Wittich and hero returns; he was the one who drove in the game-winning run in the top of the seventh against Marian. He had 12 hits in 20 at-bats in last year’s postseason and drove in a clutch 11 runs across over  that period.

And the sophomore Mahoney is back, too. He verbally committed to South Carolina in the fall and should be able to contribute even more meaningful innings to the Lions in 2018 -- both on the mound and at shortstop. The fact that he was even able to break into this state-bound lineup and rotation a season ago should tell you a lot about the type of special ability he offers.

On this pitching staff, Mahoney will be flanked by Hellgeth, and lefty seniors Ryan Stejskal and Casey Pulikowski -- Johnson should see some time on the mound, as well. Coach Manno will take the early parts of spring to unlock the right combination with his staff because there isn’t a lot of depth there, presently. But, when/if he’s able to, St. Viator looks like they’re just as much of a threat to reign as state champs as any other team in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.


So many of its most dynamic contributors from last season’s championship-winning roster are back in 2018 and that’s going to help make the Lions roar just as loud. They’ll miss the depth on the mound they had when Cole Kmet roamed these parts, but their staff is still strong, only thin. Their offense is what makes St. Viator look like a state contender once more. Finding consistency will be its biggest challenge.
There were parts of last season when the Lions just looked flat in the batter’s box. As good as they were, no doubt, they still lost 15 games -- albeit in a very competitive conference. Once the postseason rolled around, though, this team steamrolled opposing pitchers. If it can carry that offensive prowess from last season’s playoffs into spring ‘18, the 3A state trophy could call Arlington Heights home for another whole year.


Find more information on the 2018 Lions below:

+ Full Schedule
Team Website
+ Gamechanger

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