Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 9 Warren Township


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: Warren Township
Preseason Rank: No. 9
2019 Record: 32-5
Conference: North Suburban
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Clint Smothers

TOP PLAYERS

NAME POS CLASS COMMITMENT
Brian Rapanan C/RHP 2021 MIT
Ryan Risch C/UTL 2021 -
Michael Rivera RHP/INF 2021 Heartland CC
Nicholas Shiu 1B 2021 Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Caleb Tharpe OF 2021 -
Maxwell Thompson 1B 2021 Millikin
Adam Behrens RHP 2023  -
Derek Jahn RHP 2023 -
Albert Jaquez-Ramirez INF 2023 -
Adam Schilz INF/RHP 2023 -
Zachary Pyles C 2024 -

UNDERCLASSMAN TO WATCH

RHP Derek Jahn exploded onto the radar when he reached a 93.3 mph high on the mound in the fall of his sophomore year, so just this past October. Built at a muscular 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Jahn sat 90-92 mph in that ‘pen and flashed a sharp swing-and-miss slider that he was still harnessing the control over back then. We’ve not seen him since, but look forward to our latest look, as a productive offseason could push Jahn even further up the ‘23 rankings. For Warren, if Jahn’s able to locate his power arsenal for enough strikes, he’ll become one of the team’s most impactful pitchers in his first year on varsity.

Derek Jahn (10/25/20)

X-FACTOR

Brian Rapanan has started on Warren’s varsity squad since his sophomore year – and that’s saying something, as the Blue Devils typically have a pretty full squad from class to class. The senior, committed to MIT, has earned a reputation for his authentic versatility, as he can provide outstanding defense from behind the plate or second base, while also swinging a quiet, compact right-handed bat. Additionally, Rapanan’s a highly competitive right-handed pitcher who may just be Warren’s go-to arm in 2021. Up to 88 mph early last summer, Rapanan fills up the strike zone and can mix in a tight slider and feel changeup. He’s this team’s engine, and in multiple ways.

Brian Rapanan (6/14/20)

OUTLOOK

The Blue Devils have strung together some really impressive seasons out in the north suburbs, winning 25+ games four of the last five seasons, and they’re stocked up on the talent to produce another winning season on Head Coach Clint Smothers’ watch. The lost 2020 season was a let-down for all, and Warren’s loaded Class of 2020 looked fully capable of making it back to another Sectional, with their 2021 class perfectly situated to boost them even further into playoffs.

This spring, that ‘21 group will be relied on to carry the Blue Devils, as it’s another deep group that will provide the ideal winning foundation, and the stand-outs inside the junior and sophomore classes can plug in any remaining holes on the lineup and roster.

One of Warren’s obvious strengths lies on its pitching staff. The aforementioned Rapanan is a highly dependable senior righty to lean on, and classmate RHP Michael Rivera has ace-like stuff, with a live fastball that’s been into the upper-80s, with the makings of a swing-and-miss slider. Rivera’s athleticism has previously allowed him to show well in front of our staff on the infield and from the right-handed batter’s box, so he may contribute on both sides of the ball for the Blue Devils – though his work from the mound will be most important to this squad’s chances in 2021.

Michael Rivera (8/11/20)

Another two-way senior to monitor: UTL/RHP Ryan Risch. He’s long carried some substantial arm strength, and it’s reportedly been translating to big velocity on the mound – which lines up, as he was up to 85 mph around this time last year. His versatility will help him effectively cover the day-to-day holes on the roster. When Rapanan’s pitching, Risch can receive; and he may have a spot at third or left field otherwise.

Risch’s right-handed bat strength should slot in neatly to the middle of this order, where he’ll presumably hit near 1B/DH Nicholas Shiu, a Wisconsin-Oshkosh commit with more right-handed physicality to offer. Shiu appears to rotate between first and DH with fellow senior Maxwell Thompson. Another right-handed-hitting slugger, Thompson recorded some of the hardest-hit contact along our summer showcase circuit in 2020, measuring a max exit speed of 99.6 mph back at Top Prospect – Chicago. A Risch, Shiu, and Thompson center of the lineup can be a potent one, and is another one of Warren’s strengths on paper.

Conversely, senior OF Caleb Tharpe will offer something needed and different than his classmates: defense and speed. Tharpe’s a wiry left/left athlete who will operate as the team’s starting center fielder, while most likely setting the table as the squad’s lead-off man. His arm is also good enough to earn his share of innings – and may even some starting opportunities.

It’s not clear which members of this junior class will contribute most to Warren’s season, but there’s a gifted sophomore class that should receive plenty of chances to earn playing time, and soon.

INF/RHP Adam Schilz sticks out first, as he is fresh off one of the day’s best performances at the star-studded Underclass Invitational. There, his simple and smooth left-handed swing landed barrel after barrel, with enough feel to square up a hard line-drive or lift one deep into the right-center gap. He could offer his team some innings on the mound, too, same as RHP Adam Behrens, who looks prepared to take on a huge role within this pitching staff. 

Adam Schilz (2/27/21)

Behrens’ is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander who just came off a highly impressive performance at a Milwaukee-area showcase, where he sat 85-86 mph, up to 87, with three-pitch feel to generate a starter’s profile. It’s easy to envision his skillset translating to varsity action quickly.

Another sophomore, INF Albert Jaquez-Ramirez, just transferred in and is listed at a physical 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. We’ll be eager to get an early look at him, as it appears he’s another sophomore talent who may have the opportunity to earn early playing time.

BOTTOM LINE

The depth here, combined with the recent history of winning, form a North Suburban Conference team to be reckoned with. It’s a risk to rely on a handful of underclass talent, but the Blue Devils balance that out with the large number of seniors expected to be in the everyday lineup, meaning their 2023 class is here to take them from good to great – and we think there’s a realistic chance these sophomores can hit the ground running in Warren.

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

Find more information on the 2021 Blue Devils below:

+ Team Website

+ Team Schedule

+ Team Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN