Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 5 Providence Catholic

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: Providence Catholic
Preseason Rank: 5
2017 Record: 20-17
Conference: Chicago Catholic League (Blue)
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Mark Smith
Playoff Run: Sectional semifinals appearance
2017 Final Rank: NR
Returning Starters: 7
Returning Pitchers: 8


Kurt Dankovich, RHP (Lewis)
Gaoshua Williams, OF (Central Michigan)
Drew Hunniford, OF (Saint Xavier)
Tyler Zarembka, LHP
Mike Massaro, C (Hillsdale College)


Name State School Class Pos Commitment
Dakota Kotowski
IL Providence Catholic 2018 INF/1B Missouri State
Dylan Gorski IL Providence Catholic 2018 INF/OF  
Logan Anderson IL Providence Catholic 2018 INF  
Nick Jones IL Providence Catholic 2018 C Memphis
Ryan Kaup IL Providence Catholic 2018 INF Wabash Valley JC
Jake Miller IL Providence Catholic 2018 RHP  
Ethan Petric IL  Providence Catholic 2018  RHP  
Alex Helmin IL  Providence Catholic 2019  OF Arizona State
Bryce Barnett
IL Providence Catholic 2019 INF/RHP Arizona State
Josh Mrozek
IL Providence Catholic 2019 OF Kent State
Caden Boggetto IL Providence Catholic 2019 RHP  
Basil Webber IL Providence Catholic 2019 RHP  
TJ Galligani IL Providence Catholic 2019 RHP  
Ben Vitas
IL Providence Catholic 2020 INF/RHP
Ryan Manikowski IL Providence Catholic 2020 RHP  


Talented sophomore INF/RHP Ben Vitas has impressed head coach Mark Smith enough to the point where he has a legitimate shot to earn a spot in the regular rotation this spring while getting some playing time on the infield occasionally. Vitas is advanced on the mound for his age. He currently pitches in the low-80s with feel for three. When he is not toeing the rubber for the Celtics he will be pushing for a spot somewhere on the infield. He has the hands, range and arm strength to play anywhere on the infield. Keep an eye out for Vitas to impact the Celtics in 2018.

Ben Vitas (10.22.17)


The Celtic lineup should be one of the most talented in the Chicago Catholic - Blue and the state. With that said, they have a chance to be a extremely daunting group if senior Dakota Kotowski breaks out this spring. The Missouri State commit has some of the best raw power in the country but had an up-and-down junior campaign. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound, imposing, right-handed hitter has potential to hit double digit home runs and carry the talented offense. If he can stay with a consistent approach and control his swing the rest of the state better be on alert.

Dakota Kotowski (2.4.18)


Providence Catholic boasts an impressive amount of Division-I talent in its home dugout each gameday, and even then they might have a couple more on the way. The Celtics will line up at least five D-I commits once its season starts on Monday, including two Arizona State-bound juniors, Bryce Barnett and Alex Helmin. The D-I committed seniors are the first baseman Kotowski and C Nick Jones. The two will captain a team with a large returning class of seniors, and that kind of varsity experience blended with a captivating list of juniors has Providence Catholic gunning for the kind of state glory this program has become accustomed to.

Some of the seniors in this group may even remember what it was like to be around such a renowned team back in 2016 when the Celtics earned their program’s third straight state championship. That must have made the sectional semis loss that much more impactful when it became the first Providence Catholic team to miss out on state in four seasons.

Maybe this year’s seniors learned a valuable lesson that day against Sandburg last June. If so, a rejuvenated Celtics squad will strike fear in the hearts every single 4A team in the state.

Up and down the order, Providence Catholic will hit in bunches. The Celtics hope Kotowski is will be the slugger that churns the order because of his upside and power potential. Nick Jones gets his own shot at redemption after missing a chunk of last season with a broken hand. The catcher also serves as the team leader and is headed to Memphis next year. Senior utilityman Dylan Gorski will bring back the bat control that only saw him strike out five times in 105 PAs last season. The starting SS Ryan Kaup, another senior, hit .506 last year in 33 games. And Logan Anderson, last year’s three-hole hitter, is back for more. Seniors like this anchored in the lineup is the Celtics biggest and best attribute.

The junior class is something to behold and will keep the program in fine shape when Kotowski and Jones move on. For now, they’ll complement an already stacked roster. Helmin is the No. 20 ranked player overall in his Illinois class because of his long, lean athleticism. He started part-time last season but he should take a stronger hold of starter’s playing time in the spring. Fellow ASU commit Barnett is the staff’s ace. He was most recently clocked at 92 mph at a showcase and couples that fastball with a sharp, tight slider and advanced changeup that gives him a three-pitch mix, a combination that makes him one of the best righties in the state, even as a junior. Head Coach Mark Smith will be looking for some guys behind Barnett to take a step forward on the mound this spring. Some of the candidates will be senior RHPs Jake Miller, Ethan Petric and junior RHPs Caden Boggetto, Basil Webber and TJ Galligani. Miller missed 2017 due to injury and his return could be huge for the Celtics in 2018. Sophomore RHP Ryan Manikowski is a sleeper to keep an eye on. The 6-foot, righty was up to 85 mph this winter with a sharp slider.


Last season, the Celtics did something they hadn’t done in the three prior seasons: lose their final game. Fittingly, they lost that game despite scoring 10 runs. Behind their standalone No. 1 starter Barnett, Providence Catholic is going to be in search of some help on the mound. There are plenty of pieces at coach Smith’s disposal but it remains to be seen who will emerge as the starters alongside Barnett. This batting order is potent enough to scare anyone come playoff time but pitching will be the key to a long run.

Finding the right starting pitching will be a key if the New Lenox high school is to return to state for the fourth time in five years.

Find more information on the 2018 Celtics below:

+ Full Schedule
Team Website
+ Gamechanger

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