Top-10 Stories of 2018: No. 6 Aurora Christian captures the 1A title

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

At No. 6 in our Top Stories of 2018 countdown is Aurora Christian’s 1A title win last spring, the program’s first-ever IHSA baseball championship. After coming into 2018 as a relatively unknown commodity, AC’s Jake Kuntzendorf (pictured right) starred for the Eagles in the spring and tossed a complete game in the championship game against Valmeyer, helping Aurora Christian coast to a 5-1 win. He allowed just six baserunners in the game and was hoisted up by the Eagles’ early run support.

Kuntzendorf, a junior now, made his debut on the Illinois 2020 board in the April update and is the No. 11-ranked prospect in the state. He continued his meteoric rise this summer by earning a roster spot on Team Illinois at the PBR Future Games. He capitalized on his stellar spring and summer by verbally committing to Purdue in early September.

The team thrived all year long and won 33 of its 35 games. With the likes of Kuntzendorf on the mound, the Eagles were regularly boosted by the like of Eric Hernandez, M.J. Stavola, and Sam Tickel on offense. The three of them each collected three hits a piece in the title game and helped Kuntzendorf pitch with a lead to protect.

Check out the game story below from the June title game in Peoria.


(From June 2, 2018) PEORIA, Ill. - Aurora Christian and Valmeyer called upon a pair of underclassmen to try and salvage a victory in either team’s most important game of the season. Aurora Christian starter Jake Kuntzendorf answered head coach Andy Zorger’s call and encored his Friday home run performance with a complete-game win on the mound in the state title game Saturday morning at Dozer Field. The Eagles of Aurora Christian began championship Saturday with a 5-1 victory over Valmeyer.

Already ahead by one, Aurora Christian gave Kuntzendorf all the run support he’d need – and then some – in the second.  Back-to-back doubles by Eric Hernandez (2-for-4; 2B, R) and MJ Stavola (2-for-4; 2B, RBI) plated the Eagles’ first run of the inning. Sam Tickel (2-for-4; RBI, R) immediately followed with a hit of his own, scoring Stavola. Tickel then scored the third and final run of the frame on a wild pitch.

The Eagles scored again in the fourth, aided by a series of doubles. Catcher Zach Zavasnik (2-for-3) and Trey Madsen went back-to-back to pull ahead by five.

Valmeyer sent 27 men to the plate and mustered only four hits and one run against Kuntzendorf. That run came in the fifth after capitalizing off an error allowing Cole Juelfs (Southwestern Illinois JC commit) to reach. Tyler Kempfer used a double to score Juelfs, but couldn’t manage to plate anything else.

The Eagles didn’t need much offense with Kuntzendorf on the hill. The sophomore right hander allowed a total of six baserunners. Only two of those runners reached third – one scored. He retired 11 of the last 13 Pirates he faced. The only run that crossed for Valmeyer was unearned. Kuntzendorf was sitting comfortably in the mid-to-low 80’s throughout and mixing in a sweeping breaking ball.

His sophomore counterpart, Philip Reinhardt, threw 5.1 IP, surrendering 12 hits resulting in five runs – all earned.

Valmeyer (31-10) fell in the title game for the second consecutive season.

The Eagles (33-2) win their first state championship under Zorger in his 11-year tenure.