Top-10 Stories of 2019: No. 8 Illinois well-represented at the College World Series


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer, Associate Scout

Every year, there’s always at least a little Illinois representation in the College World Series, but the 2019 tournament featured a ton of talent from our home state with Michigan and Louisville making deep playoff runs, in addition to the other programs who made it to college baseball’s biggest stage.

We’re going to focus on the four programs to make it to the semifinals in this post: Michigan, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, and Louisville. Those four programs combined to roster 17 Illinois prep products total.

LOUISVILLE, 9 PROSPECTS

  • Tyler Fitzgerald, INF, Rochester: Fitzgerald operated as Louisville’s everyday shortstop while leading the team in RBIs (65), hitting .315 with eight home runs, too. His big year culminated in a fourth-round selection in the MLB Draft and he signed with the San Francisco Giants.

  • Danny Oriente, OF, Downers Grove South: Oriente led Louisville in batting average (.332) and drove in 49 runs in 63 games. He’s etched into the middle of the 2020 Cards’ lineup as arguably its best bat as a returning senior.

  • Bobby Miller, RHP, McHenry: The former McHenry standout had a huge year for Louisville that propelled him to an opportunity with the USA’s Collegiate National Team. For the Cardinals, Miller went 7-1 with a 3.83 ERA in 80 innings of work, with 86 Ks, as a sophomore. Our friends at D1Baseball reported in the fall that Miller’s stuff is even more electric headed into the offseason, making him a high-end draft target come June.

  • Pat Rumoro, C, Oak Park-River Forest: Rumoro is a savvy defender who mostly works in a backup backstop role for the Cards. You might remember him for giving us one of the plays of 2019 when he juked a would-be runner out with a sneaky tag at home.

  • Jake Snider, OF, Champaign Central/Ballard (KY): Snider is another one of the prospects Louisville lost to the MLB Draft last June. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as their 20th round pick after putting together a productive season for his college. He hit .283 with 34 RBIs and was an integral reason the Cards won their Regional, in which he was named its most outstanding player.

  • Glen Albanese, RHP, Batavia: Albanese saw his first-ever innings of work as a sophomore for the Cardinals in 2019 where he recorded a 3.72 ERA in eight appearances. He was a former Super 60 standout himself, like Fitzgerald, and was the No. 8-ranked prospect in Illinois in his graduation year (2017).

  • Danny Zimmerman, LHP, Lincoln-Way East: An injury put him on the shelf for his first year on campus at Louisville, but the former Griffin has premium stuff and could force his way into an impact role of some kind once he proves to be healthy. He wrapped up his prep career as the No. 20-ranked prospect in the state’s 2018 class.

  • Reid Detmers, LHP, Chatham-Glenwood: Another former Super 60 talent on this list who has only skyrocketed in his time on Louisville's campus. As it stands, Detmers is the No. 13-ranked prospect on our PBR Draft Board and is the No. 3-ranked left-hander. He was the top prospect in Illinois’ 2017 class and he finished his sophomore season accruing a ton of individual awards, from All-America lists to the ACC Pitcher of the Year, and he was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes award. He’ll be this team’s Friday night anchor as one of the very best players in college baseball.

  • Luke Smith, RHP, Centennial: Smith spent a couple of years at Parkland JC byway of Centennial before coming to campus. He made 18 appearances in his first year as a member of the program and really came on in the postseason, especially in his gritty start against Vanderbilt where he punched out 10 in 8.1 competitive innings of work. He’s an intense competitor who should be penciled in as the third starter for this rotation.

MICHIGAN, 5 PROSPECTS

  • Joe Donovan, C, Westmont: The Wolverines’ everyday catcher is building steam headed into his junior season. He slugged .421 with nine homers in 60 games coupled with excellent defense. Donovan is turning into one of the nation’s best catchers at the right time and should earn some serious looks from the pro scouting community.

  • Ako Thomas, 2B, Mount Carmel: Thomas wrapped up his electric collegiate career just short of a national championship. Still, he helped spark the team his senior season en route to a spot in the College World Series finals and was named to the all-tournament team. He’s always been an explosive athlete, going back to his time with the Caravan in Chicago.

  • Christian Bullock, OF, Morgan Park: Like Thomas, Bullock is another Chicago-area prospect who helped the Wolverines finish a win shy of college baseball’s ultimate prize. He made 31 starts in the outfield for Michigan and slugged .407 on the year. His game-changing speed could help him find some pro opportunities following his senior year on campus.

  • Jordon Rogers, C, Simeon: Rogers repped Team Illinois at the 2016 PBR Future Games and committed to Michigan later that year. He red-shirted in his first season on campus though could help relieve Donovan of the daily duties every now and then in 2020. He was one of the top backstops in Illinois’ prep ranks inside his 2018 grad class.

  • Angelo Smith, LHP, Richards: Smith found more innings of work in his sophomore season on the mound in Ann Arbor. He punched out 39 batters in 31.1 innings and had a productive fall which should help him garner greater opportunities in his junior spring. He finished his prep career as the No. 20-ranked prospect in Illinois’ 2017 class.

VANDERBILT, 2 PROSPECTS

  • Drake Fellows, RHP, Joliet Catholic: Fellows was a high-profile prospect in Illinois’ 2016 prep class, ranked No. 3 overall by our staff. He had a tremendous three-year career at Vandy before signing with the Padres as the team’s sixth-round draft pick. He was earning regular opportunities as a true freshman and became the staff’s Friday night starter as a sophomore. Fellows finished his career on top as a national champ and his career 308 strikeouts are the sixth-most all-time by a Vanderbilt pitcher.

  • Erik Kaiser, RHP, Waterloo: Kaiser, entering his junior season in the program, hasn’t yet seen a regular role in the program but that could change in 2020 with so many holes to fill on the roster and in the staff. He’s a right-hander who works in the 88-90 mph from a lower slot and he has the opportunity to carve out a role for himself this spring. He was the No. 10-ranked prospect overall in our state’s 2017 class.

TEXAS TECH, 1 PROSPECT

  • Ryan Sublette, RHP, Lemont: The former Lemont star righty made 13 and 14 appearances in 2018 and 2019 which should help him find even more chances to pitch this coming spring. Sublette was responsible for authoring one of the best IHSA pitching performances in recent memory when he tossed a one-hit shutout against Joliet Catholic in a 2017 regional. He finished his prep career as the No. 5-ranked prospect in the state’s senior class.

TOP-10 STORIES OF 2019