Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 24 Jacobs


By Andy Sroka
Illinois and Wisconsin Assistant Director

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: Jacobs
Preseason Rank: No. 24
2019 Record: 15-21
Conference: Fox Valley
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Jamie Murray

TOP PLAYERS

NAME POS CLASS COMMITMENT
Luke Bellizzi INF/RHP 2021 -
Nathan Cihak RHP 2021 -
Matthew Flondro RHP 2021 -
Tyler Jacobsen C/OF 2021 Kishwaukee JC
Tyler Ringa UTL 2021 -
Michael Scardina INF 2021 Aurora
Quinton Schwartz OF/RHP 2021 Kishwaukee JC
Kyle Washington INF/RHP 2021 Morton JC
Nathan Chapman RHP 2022 -
Keegan Connors OF/C 2022 -
Joe Fiorenza OF 2022 -
Grant Helbig 1B 2022 -
Anthony Edge UTL 2023 -
Nicholas Gottfried OF/1B 2023 -
Kyler Kennen RHP/INF 2023 -

STAT RAT 

The Golden Eagles have some substantial speed on this roster, and they can weaponize it on defense and the basepaths. C/OF Keegan Connors shaved his 60 time down from a 6.75 in the fall to a 6.54 at the Preseason All-State – not to mention he’s been up to 90 mph from the outfield and pops in the low-2.00s with 79 mph arm strength from the crouch.

Keegan Connors (3/20/21)

At that same showcase, fellow junior OF Joe Fiorenza ran a 6.57, and his loose left-handed bat recorded a max exit speed of 94.4 mph. These two statistical stand-outs will operate as key bats within the top half of this order, sandwiched between a few other seniors who are low-7.00 runners.

UNDERCLASSMAN TO WATCH

If this year isn’t Jacobs’ year, they’ll at least be able to hang their hats on a bright future, underscored by one of the most talented classes throughout head coach Jamie Murray’s 10-year tenure. A deep crop of seniors, and juniors, probably prevents this 2023 group from seeing much of the field, but C/UTL Anthony Edge may just budge his way into everyday at-bats. A compact, muscular 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Edge recorded some the hardest-hit contact among sophomores at the Aurora I.D., and he has a shot to feature regularly in Jacobs’ lineup.

Fellow ‘23s like OF Nicholas Gottfried and RHP/INF Kyler Kennen are a pair more Jacobs sophomores who showed well this winter, eventually earning invites to the recent Underclass Invitational. It remains to be seen if they’ll land playing time in 2021, but the talent is there to earn opportunities ahead of schedule.

X-FACTOR

Junior RHP Nathan Chapman authored a pair of impressive bullpens at two PBR events this winter and he has the pure stuff to navigate into a go-to arm responsibility. We’ve seen him fill up the strike zone with three pitches and upper-80s velocity, and that could comfortably translate into ace-like stuff for the Golden Eagles. And that’s just what this team needs. There are a lot of competitive two-way players on the roster, and the sheer amount of usable arms translates into viable depth from the mound, but Chapman is the one pitcher who really looks geared to take the ball in the must-win game.

Nathan Chapman (3/20/21)

OUTLOOK

Competing in the trenches of one of the state’s toughest conferences, the Jacobs Golden Eagles look primed to grind their way for a spot near the top of the standings in 2021. There are few programs that can boast depth and experience following the lost 2020 season, so that makes Jacobs’ 11 players who’ve previously earned varsity experience that much more meaningful.

Of those 11, seven were significant contributors to the 2019 team, and senior INF Kyle Washington is this lineup’s engine, and most important returning member. He’s a wiry switch-hitter with quick, above-average actions on the infield that should allow him to capably take over the shortstop position, all while hitting at the top or in the middle of the order.

Kyle Washington (8/11/20)

Opposite Washington up the middle at second base will most likely be the Aurora University recruit Michael Scardina. Several other fellow seniors – like Kishwaukee JC commits OF Quinton Schwartz and C/OF Tyler Jacobsen  – will reinforce an experienced lineup bolstered by impact juniors, and potentially even a sophomore or two. Expect other seniors like 1B/RHP Matt Smolzer, INF/RHP Luke Bellizzi, RHP Matt Flondro, RHP Nathan Cihak, and RHP/UTL Tyler Ringa to reliably fill out this roster as well.

Mentioned in an earlier section for his speed, Keegan Connors is an impressive athlete and it translates beyond the 60-yard dash. He has more strength in his left-handed swing than might first meet the eye, and his barrel feel should allow him to handle a lead-off role. Connors has the traits to become one of the conference’s top table-setters for an experienced lineup behind him, with the versatility to catch or roam the outfield, while above-average in either roles.

And, yes, this team finished below .500 in 2019, but that group was especially young, which has conversely reversed a weakness into a strength, as there are now 11 players on this roster who have accrued at least some varsity experience. Few programs in the area, or state, can boast that kind of returning experience, and they’re also reinforced by a hungry and gifted sophomore class. A number of players could be waiting in the wings to help pitch in if/when the time comes.

BOTTOM LINE

Jacobs was one of the programs with players who consistently performed well at our winter showcases, and it forced us to take an even closer look at this roster. A full senior class will lead a talented collection of juniors – and even a sophomore or two – through a rigorous Fox Valley with the hopes of a deep playoff run, reminiscent of other FVC programs in recent years.

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

Find more information on the 2021 Golden Eagles below:

+ Team Website

+ Team Schedule

+ Team Twitter

PBR ILLINOIS PRESEASON POWER 25