Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 5 Providence Catholic


By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting 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: Providence Catholic
Preseason Rank: No. 5
2019 Record: 23-16
Conference: Chicago Catholic League - Blue
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Mark Smith

TOP PLAYERS

NAME POS CLASS COMMITMENT
Sebastian Biggs  INF 2021 Ave Maria
A.J. Gliwa OF 2021 -
Cain Headrick
OF 2021 Lewis
Kyle Hussey RHP/INF 2021 Lewis
Justin Janowski
CIF 2021 South Suburban JC
Ryan O'Neil
INF 2021 -
Jake Rybka  C 2021  -
Brant Singler
1B 2021 Benedictine
Mike Swanson
INF 2022 Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Alex Alberico
RHP 2022 -
Jack Wajda
RHP 2022 -
Tyler Young
RHP/INF 2022  -
Gavin Gomez  LHP 2023 -
Ryan Hussey  RHP 2023 Notre Dame
Ryan Jefferson  SS 2023 Illinois
Albert Moreno
INF 2023 -
Drew Zemaitis
RHP 2023 -

STAT RAT

2023 RHPs. Two of the Celtics top three arms heading into the season are sophomores (2023 graduates). To some that may be looked at as a negative, but when they are as talented as these two, their age is not quite as important. RHP’s Ryan Hussey (Notre Dame commit) and Drew Zemaitis will get their first taste of varsity baseball this spring and are expected to play a big part in the season. Both have clean and easy deliveries with polished repertoires. Hussey sat 88-89 mph, climbing into the low-90’s at the Underclass Invitational this March while Zemaitis works in the mid-80’s with an advanced three-pitch mix and a demeanor well-beyond his years on the mound. 

Ryan Hussey (8/2/20)

UNDERCLASSMAN TO WATCH

Ryan Jefferson, SS, 2023: Jefferson, an Illinois commit, is a polarizing sophomore who continues to get better upon every look. Defensively, he is as smooth as it gets with fluid actions, high-level hands and the ability to make plays look easy, especially on the move. From what we have seen, Jefferson is the top defensive shortstop in the class and gives Head Coach Mark Smith a steadying figure at one of the most important positions on the field for the next three seasons. Not to be overshadowed, Jefferson can hit, and from the left-side. His bat profiles at the top-of-the-order thanks to his uncanny bat-to-ball skills and ability to spray the ball around the yard. The swing is extremely fluid, quick and will continue to rise as he gains strength. Of all the impactful sophomores on this year’s roster, Jefferson may be the most talented.

Ryan Jefferson (7/21/20)

X-FACTOR

YOUTH. The talent across the diamond is there for the Celtics but a lot will depend on how quickly the plethora of sophomores can adjust to varsity baseball, especially on the mound. If coach Smith can get the youth of this roster in enough tight/stressful situations during the regular season, they should be battle-tested and ready by the most important time of the year; the playoffs….and no one knows this better than the man at the helm.

OUTLOOK

This Celtics roster is as balanced and talented as any across the state. They should be extremely talented on the mound, led by junior RHP Alex Alberico. Alberico showed off impressive strides he made over the off-season at the Preseason All-State this March. Alberico showed off an improved three-pitch mix and his fastball sat 90-91 mph, giving the Celtics a bonafide ace if he can carry that over into the spring. The aforementioned Hussey and Zemaitis provide one of the top 1-3 arms in the state, regardless of age. All three have the ability to stifle an opposing lineup when on their game. 

Providence should have plenty of depth alongside the top three arms mentioned above. Junior RHP Jack Wajda, sophomore LHP Gavin Gomez, senior RHP Kyle Hussey and junior RHP Tyler Young help round out one of the better staffs in the state. 

Outside of the pitching staff, a strength of this unit should lie within their defense and their depth. On the infield they are led by the sophomore SS Jefferson, who we touched on at length above. Elsewhere on the infield, there should be challenges to get on the field throughout. Seniors Justin Janowski (South Suburban JC) and Brant Singler (Benedictine) will look to compete/split time at first base which should work out pretty easily given the fact that Janowski hits right-handed and Singler left-handed. Senior Ryan O’Neil, who is currently busy playing football, was a starter as a sophomore and has the ability to play any infield spot. Seniors Sebastian Biggs (Ava Maria), Kyle Hussey (Lewis), Mike Swanson (Wisconsin-Oshkosh) and sophomore Albert Moreno will all be vying for time on one of the deeper infields in the state.

Behind the plate, senior Jake Rybka, who is yet another senior who saw time as a sophomore, will be tasked with handling the talented, yet young staff. Cain Headrick (Lewis) and AJ Gliwa should see a lot of time in the outfield with the third spot still up in the air heading into the season. 

The biggest question looking at the makeup of the roster is how much will they hit? Luckily for them, they have the staff and defense that should allow them the luxury of not having to outslug every team they face.

BOTTOM LINE

This team has the makings of being extremely dangerous come playoff time. It may take them a while to show their total potential, as it normally does with a Providence club. They year-in and year-out play one of the toughest schedules in the state and looking at all the young faces on the roster there are sure to be some growing pains. With that said, if Coach Smith is able to push the right buttons there is no reason why this group cant be the last 4A team standing come mid/late June.

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

Find more information on the 2021 Celtics below:

+ Team Website

+ Team Schedule

+ Team Twitter

PRESEASON POWER 25 COUNTDOWN