Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 2 Brother Rice


By Diego Solares
Illinois Staff

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: Brother Rice
Preseason Rank: No. 2
2019 Record: 25-13
Conference: Chicago Catholic League - Blue
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Sean McBride

TOP PLAYERS

NAME POS CLASS COMMITMENT
Sebastian Barrera RHP 2021 Webster
Michael Bernas LHP 2021 Saint Leo
Nick Cipriani UTL 2021 -
John Creviston LHP 2021 -
Ben Guzek RHP 2021 Maryville
Cameron Hill OF  2021 Purdue
Luke Lawrence C/1B 2021 Webster
Brendan McQuillan RHP 2021 Dubuque
Arturo Mora RHP 2021 -
Nathan Mosqueda INF 2021 Webster
Nick Daugherty OF 2022 -
Jacob Fenton RHP 2022 -
William Flanigan OF 2022 -
Andrew Ivy Jr. OF 2022 -
Jack Lausch OF/LHP 2022  -
Beau Polickey INF 2022 -
Dylan Warda LHP 2022 Wichita State
Amir Gray INF 2023 Purdue
Bryce Nevils C 2023 -
Zion Rose C/OF 2023 Louisville
Cole Van Assen RHP 2023 -

STAT RAT

14 - The number of players on this Brother Rice roster that are ranked prospects in the 2021, 2022, or 2023 Illinois high school classes according to our state rankings. 

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

RHP Cole Van Assen emerged as a high-follow sophomore arm after a strong showing in the fall at our PBR Midwest Championships and once again at the Fall Limited Series. At the Midwest Championships, Van Assen started in the championship game and performed admirably, navigating through a tough lineup and working into the seventh inning. Fast forward to the spring and Van Assen now finds himself as a potential staple arm for one of the top teams in the entire state. We’ve seen the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Van Assen comfortably pump his fastball to both sides of the plate at 82-84 mph in the past, all while showing advanced feel to land a breaking ball for strikes and to spot his changeup down in the zone. He has a real chance to grasp onto a more significant role on this staff as the season goes on and if Brother Rice wants to achieve their goals of winning the 4A state championship, they’ll need Van Assen to rise up to the occasion.

Cole Van Assen (10/4/20)

X-FACTOR

Committed to Louisville, sophomore C/OF Zion Rose is among the top-ranked prospects in the entire country for the 2023 class and is presently ranked number one overall in the state for his class. Rose is built like a linebacker boasting a muscle-bound 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame with advanced athleticism for his age to pair. He consistently creates hard contact off the barrel pairing that impact type of offensive skill-set with quality actions behind the plate. He is also athletic enough to play all over the diamond, which may be needed given the depth this Crusaders team features. In his first full season at the varsity level, Rose figures to be a staple at the top of this Crusaders’ offense and serve as a table setter type for the multitude of high-octane offensive threats behind him.

Zion Rose (12/19/20)

OUTLOOK

Regardless of how you look at it, this Brother Rice baseball program has cemented itself as a pillar of consistency throughout the IHSA over the last several years. It’s a team that constantly restocks and reloads on highly-coveted talent across the state. They’ve won the extremely competitive Chicago Catholic League - Blue title twice in the last five years, took home the summer state championship back in 2019, and this year’s roster is littered with high-octane talent from top to bottom across multiple different grade levels. 

The biggest strength throughout the season for the Crusaders will be their gauntlet of an offense, which might arguably be the best lineup in the state. It’s a dangerous bunch from top to bottom and not one member of this group is going to be an easy out on any given day. 

Headlining this force once he returns back from captaining Brother Rice’s football team is nationally ranked OF Jack Lausch (2022; uncommitted). Lausch stars as the Crusaders’ starting quarterback on the gridiron, but his athletic ability translates exceptionally well to the diamond, too. It’s easy to dream on Lausch’s left-handed bat; a clean, crisp stroke with natural quick-twitch to it and easy gap-to-gap barrel feel, all while consistently producing hard contact. He’s your prototypical top-of-the-order type bat and he should slot right into that spot in this Crusaders’ lineup once he’s done playing football. Defensively, Lausch is a lock to stick in center field moving forward with fluid actions throughout in the outfield and the athleticism to pair. He’s undoubtedly going to play a huge role for Brother Rice this season. 

Jack Lausch (9/13/20)

Roaming the outfield right next to Lausch upon his return will be senior Cameron Hill (Purdue commit) and junior William Flanigan (uncommitted). These two are both projected to bat right in the heart of Brother Rice’s lineup, and rightfully so. Hill boasts a professional 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame with a loud all-around toolset, including above-average speed, arm strength, and noticeable raw pop attached to a smooth right-handed stroke. He’ll serve as Brother Rice’s cleanup man for a majority of the season and has a chance to put up some eye-popping offensive stats, especially with the talent he has hitting in front of him. Flanigan is presently penciled in to hit right above Hill in their everyday lineup, where his compact left-handed stroke and on base skills play nicely in tandem with the top of this order.

Cameron Hill (7/7/20)

There are several other names to know on this Brother Rice offense that’ll contribute in one way or another for them throughout the season. Senior Luke Lawrence (Webster commit) is a left-handed hitting backstop, who can also play first base, that brings a veteran presence to a lineup that doesn’t have a ton of seniors. Nick Daugherty is a top-100 prospect in the state’s 2022 class and he showed well at our Preseason All-State event last month, posting some intriguing batted ball metrics. On the infield, seniors Nathan Mosqueda (Webster commit), and Nick Cipriani, along with junior Beau Polickey, should all see time in different spots on the dirt throughout the season.

The 2023 class for Brother Rice has the potential to be a special all-around group. We mentioned Rose and Van Assen as key contributors above, but CIF Amir Gray (Purdue commit) and C Bryce Nevils are both top-20 prospects in the state for the 2023 class and could be two more potential impact assets to know on this team. Gray is a large, physical 6-foot-1, 210-pound athlete with a loud left-handed stroke that has a middle-of-the-order thumper upside attached to it. Nevils came away a winner from our Underclass Invitational a few weeks ago, showcasing a clean right-handed stroke that comfortably worked gap-to-gap. The biggest takeaway from his workout however was his glove, as he handled some impressive arms in his ‘pen sessions with ease, showing soft hands and quality pitch presentation throughout. Match these two youngsters up with the high-end upperclassman talent this team has on offense and pitching to this team won’t be an easy task by any means.

Brother Rice doesn’t have a true ace-like arm on this pitching staff, but what they do have is multiple highly competitive and quality arms that could ultimately pitch their way to that frontline starter tag. Leading the charge are two seniors: LHP Michael Bernas (Saint Leo University commit) and RHP Ben Guzek (Maryville University of St. Louis commit). Bernas is a strike-throwing southpaw that fills up the zone with a low-to-mid-80s fastball and has shown a swing-and-miss changeup in the past that plays well off his heater. Guzek is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander that’s reportedly been up to 87 mph on the bump this off-season and, like Bernas, can land his secondary offerings for strikes, too. 

Two more seniors to throw into this mix are RHP Sebastian Barrera (Webster commit) and RHP Arturo Mora. Barrera has reportedly also seen an uptick in velocity up into the mid-80s range with his fastball and brings another senior presence to this rotation that can log quality innings for them throughout the spring. The confidence and moxy that Mora brings to the mound is noteworthy and his stuff plays, too. He doesn’t have overpowering velocity, but his fastball enters the zone with natural movement to it and he also has two distinct breaking balls in his arsenal. 

One arm that could end the season with the “ace” tag for Brother Rice is LHP Dylan Warda (Wichita State commit). The 6-foot-3, 190-pound southpaw has a relatively high ceiling on the mound, but his present stuff is equally as impressive. We’ve seen him bump his fastball up into the 87-88 mph range and his ability to spin a hard breaking ball around the zone, or down for swings-and-misses, is the separator for him. He’s primed to have a big season for this team and they’re going to need him to, especially once conference play begins.

Dylan Warda (3/20/21)

Completing this pitching staff out of the bullpen will be four primary pieces: LHP John Creviston, RHP Brendan McQuillan (Dubuque commit), RHP Jacob Fenton and the aforementioned Van Assen. All four of these players are names-to-know that will serve as primary relief options for Brother Rice all season and are also capable of eating innings as swing-man types should they need to.

BOTTOM LINE 

This Brother Rice team is one of the more loaded rosters we’ve seen over the years. They don’t have many holes, if any, on either side of the ball and their offense looks capable of competing with anyone that toes the rubber against them. Playing against other highly competitive teams on a day-to-day basis in the CCL should prepare this group adequately for the IHSA playoffs, where they look primed at making a deep run into the state tournament. 

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

Find more information on the 2021 Crusaders below:

+ Team Website

+ Team Schedule

+ Team Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN