Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 16 Lincoln-Way East


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: Lincoln-Way East
Preseason Rank: No. 16
2019 Record: 26-6
Conference: Southwest Suburban
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Eric Brauer

TOP PLAYERS

NAME POS CLASS COMMITMENT
Joey Boland OF 2021 Joliet JC
Ethan Brooks C 2021 Joliet JC
Nicholas Heerde C 2021 Lawrence University
Daniel Heimer LHP 2021 Loras College
Zak Keegan INF 2021 Lakeland College
Landen Looper RHP 2021  Louisville
Matthew Michaels 1B 2021  McHenry County JC
Anthony Panzella RHP 2021 St. Xavier
Max Polad OF 2021  Southeastern CC (IA)
Ryan Ball RHP 2022 -
Andrew Bollman RHP 2022 -
Jake Petak OF 2022 -
Randy Seymour INF/RHP 2022 -
Alex Stanwich OF/RHP 2022 Tennessee
Zachary Kwasny RHP/DH 2023 -

STAT RAT

19.5 inches of induced vertical break (IVB) on average. RHP Ryan Ball is one of several physical right-handers on staff, listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. On two separate occasions – once at the Lockport I.D. and again at Preseason All-State – Ball sat in the 85-87 mph range with the fastball, but the pitch projects to earn plenty of swings and misses on its own, as it averages nearly 20 inches of IVB, indicating that it’s going to be especially tough to square up for opposing batters – not to mention it’s coming from a unique arm action and steep, high release to home. Ball's changeup looks like his best offspeed, pairing effectively next to his fastball, giving him two quality offerings to lean on in his first year at the varsity level.

Ryan Ball (3/20/21)

UNDERCLASSMAN TO WATCH

With a healthy set of seniors and juniors ahead of him on the depth chart, there’s no clear-cut path to innings for the sophomore RHP/INF Zachary Kwasny. The physical 6-foot-4, 210-pound righty has impressed us twice now since last September on the mound and is also more than capable with the bat, as well. Kwasny could impact the roster in either regard at some point, depending on how healthy the team stays throughout the season and how well the upperclassmen perform. Regardless, he is arguably the most talented sophomore on the roster and should be one to watch in the coming years, if not the latter-half of 2021.

X-FACTOR

Senior RHP Landen Looper holds the largest portion of LWE’s key to a successful season, with deep playoff aspirations. The Louisville commit is listed at a physical 6-foot-3, 205-pounds and received quality innings as a sophomore on a 2019 club that went 26-6. Reports from the winter have been positive for Looper and if he emerges as a lock-down ace it will go along way for the Griffins this spring.

OUTLOOK

The race to the top of the SWSC will be a dogfight in 2021, and the perennially competitive Griffins are certainly right in the mix, per usual. There’s a notable balance on this roster – you can see some offensive firepower at the top of the order, and the squad should be somewhat deep on the mound, led by the aforementioned Looper.

There’s no better place to begin than with Alex Stanwich, the state’s top-ranked junior, and a top-50-ranked ‘22 in the country. Simply, Stanwich’s toolset is as explosive as it gets for a player his age. He ran a 6.58 this time last year, and he complements his premium athleticism with some of the top raw power potential in the Midwest. He broke the PBR Future Games exit velocity record in 2019 (106 mph), and recorded a 104.2 mph max exit speed during batting practice at an event last summer. The twitch and tools could and should combine to create one of the most impactful players in the 2021 IHSA season, directly benefiting Lincoln-Way East’s lineup. Dependable seniors will surround Stanwich in the order, which projects to be a productive mix.

Alex Stanwich (7/10/20)

The lineup should be full of seniors who are moving on to play college baseball. Senior Zak Keegan has impressed so far early this spring and has a chance to set-the-table at the top of the order and man second base. INF Max Polad should have a place near the top of this everyday order, and even Looper is capable of contributing offensively, swinging a clean-up caliber right-handed bat. Senior 1B Matthew Michaels and junior OF Jake Petak provide some more power potential within the middle of this order. Senior OF Joey Boland, junior INF/RHP Randy Seymour should help round out this balanced lineup, which offers a little bit of everything.

Seymour continued to show off impressive gains to his overall game a the Lockport Preseason ID this winter. He is an upside 6-foot-3, 175-pound junior who should be in line to handle everyday shortstop duties. 

Randy Seymour (3/20/21)

Seymour will also see time on the mound, likely in a relief role. Back at that Lockport event, Seymour’s quick and loose arm reached an 86 mph high, and his changeup features hard arm-side action, with some deception. as well as a curveball he is able to land for strikes. And he’s not the only two-way junior to know on this roster, as Stanwich can really pitch, too. He’s been up to 91 mph for us with a wipeout slider. Stanwich's athleticism and versatility give Coach Brauer the option to use him in whatever role is needed.

LHP Daniel Hiemer should be a go-to arm out of the bullpen as he provides a tough look, especially to left-handed hitters, given his low slot, deceptive stuff and strike-throwing abilities. RHP Anthony Panzella and junior Andrew Bollman are two other arms who will provide depth to the staff. Senior C Ethan Brooks will be relied as the staff’s primary battery mate – and Brooks has previously shown as an above-average receiver, so he has an important role handling this suddenly deep staff. Another catcher for the Griffins will be senior Nicholas Heerde, a Lawrence University commit.

OF Declan Emery, a junior, is a kicker on the football team and may not be with the team for the first couple of weeks but should immediately impact the team whenever he arrives, thanks to his well above-average speed. Emery provides Coach Brauer a base stealing threat whenever needed. 

BOTTOM LINE

The Griffins seem to be well-covered across the diamond by either reliable seniors or impact juniors, an historically winning combination. There’s some depth on this rotation, and it’s led by a prominent senior right-hander who’s headed to Louisville in the fall. One of the Midwest’s best juniors is also on this roster, adding to its intrigue, creating a team with authentic hopes of another crack at a deep playoff run.

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

Find more information on the 2021 Griffins below:

+ Team Website

+ Team Schedule

+ Team Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN