ESPNHS Baseball Players of the Week

June, 7, 2012
(After games of Tuesday, June 5)

One player is chosen from each region of the country. These are the final ESPNHS Player of the Week honorees for the 2011-12 school year.


Alex Godzak, Westhill (Syracuse, N.Y.)

The senior left-handed pitcher was dominant in an 8-1 win over Cazenovia (N.Y.) in the Section III Class B championship game. Godzak allowed only one hit -- a sixth-inning double -- while striking out 13 batters and yielding only one walk to avenge a regular-season loss. Godzak, a Canisius recruit who had a perfect game through five innings, improved his season record to 10-1 with an earned run average under 1.00. The win advances the Warriors to the state tournament this week. Westhill won state crowns in 2009 and 2010.


Jimmy Boyd, Middle Creek (Apex, N.C.)

A four-year varsity starter, Boyd led the Mustangs to the Class 4A state title, which also is the first state title in any sport for the school. Boyd pitched a one-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 2-0 win against Hough (Cornelius, N.C.) in the first game of the best-of-three title series. Middle Creek then won the second game 10-4. In addition to pitching, Boyd also reached base four times in the two games. For the season, Boyd went 8-1 with a 0.86 ERA. He also batted .450, including .550 in the playoffs.


Kevin Ruff, Minooka (Ill.)

The right-handed senior pitcher was perfect in a 9-0 victory over O'Fallon (Ill.) in the Class 4A sectional tournament final. Ruff retired all 21 batters in his first career no-hitter. Ruff struck out just four batters, but allowed only five balls hit out of the infield and depended on team defense in the playoff game. Earlier in the season, Ruff -- who also plays third base and the outfield -- had a one-hitter against Romeoville (Ill.).


Turner Larkins, Arlington Martin (Arlington, Texas)

He’s the only sophomore on the roster for Martin’s No. 7 FAB 50 squad, but Larkins pitched like a seasoned veteran when the team topped Southlake Carroll (Southlake, Texas) 5-2 in the third game of a best-of-three playoff series. Larkins keyed the win by striking out 13 batters and pitching out of jams. He improved to 10-0 for the season with a 1.25 ERA. Martin advanced to the Class 5A state tournament for the first time since 1993.


Luke Eubank, Newbury Park (Calif.)

He didn’t get his fourth no-hitter of the season, but this senior will gladly take a three-hitter at Dodger Stadium and leading his team to the CIF Southern Section Division I title. Eubank, who had eight strikeouts and no walks, was the difference in Newbury Park’s 3-1 victory against Corona (Calif.). Earlier in the week, he closed out the Panthers’ 5-2 win over previous FAB 50 No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) with two scoreless innings of relief. For the season, Eubank finished 11-0 with two saves and an ERA of approximately 1.01.
If anyone predicted this final four before the start of the state tournament, we'd like to see the evidence. And ask for lottery numbers.

Favorite after favorite has fallen in the Class 4A tourney, leaving an unlikely foursome of Lyons, Minooka, Oak Park-River Forest and Grant to battle it out for the state championship. None of the four were in the top 10 of the POWERADE state rankings as of last week.

It's a similar situation in Class 3A, with Nazareth Academy, Marian Catholic, La Salle-Peru and Triad left standing in the semifinals. None were ranked last week, though Nazareth Academy has been in and out of the top 10 throughout the season.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. Lyons (26-12) — Last week: NR
  2. Oak Park-River Forest (29-9) — Last week: NR
  3. Nazareth Academy (30-9) — Last week: NR
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).

Get Familiar: USC commit Ty Isaac

June, 4, 2012
Ty IsaacTom Hauck/ESPNHSJoliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.) running back and USC commit Ty Isaac, the No. 68 recruit in the ESPN 150, received one of five invitations to The Opening at the Champaign NFTC.
When it came time for Ty Isaac to make his commitment, the Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.) running back didn’t want any bells and whistles.

So no hats in front of a table, no fancy props and certainly no televised announcement.

Instead, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior called the coaches from USC and Michigan — the two schools he was considering — and then announced his commitment to the Trojans via Twitter.

That’s about as Hollywood as the low-key Isaac would go with his pledge. He’d rather make his noise on the field.

He's made plenty of it during his junior year. Rated the nation’s No. 68 recruit in the ESPN 150, Isaac earned ESPNHS Underclass All-American honors this past fall after rushing for 2,629 yards and scoring 51 touchdowns. His best game of the season came in the Class 5A state final against Montini (Lombard, Ill.) when he rushed for a state-title game record 515 yards and six scores, though Joliet Catholic lost 70-45.

And on Sunday, he earned an invitation to The Opening with a stellar performance at the Champaign Nike Football Training Camp.

Now that his commitment is out of the way, Isaac took some time to talk about his decision, preparing for his senior season and comparisons to Marcus Allen.

Get Familiar with one of the nation’s top running backs.

ESPNHS: How much of a relief is it to have your college decision out of the way?
Isaac: It’s huge. You don’t have to worry about 100 phone calls or texts asking you about what you want to do. It was getting to be a lot. It really started the end of my freshman year. I felt like I was so far along in the process that I was ready.

ESPNHS: What led you to pick USC?
Isaac: I like the staff, I like the players, the people around the program and obviously the whole school. It’s nice to be able to focus on my team now.

ESPNHS: What made you announce on Twitter and not make a big deal about your commitment?
Isaac: It’s not my style. I don’t like that kind of stuff. I like to be under the radar.

ESPNHS: You ended up making an impact on varsity as a freshman. Did you feel any pressure that year considering your dad used to be a star player at the school? (Note: Isaac’s father caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the 1987 Class 5A state final.)
Isaac: It taught me how to work. When you’re up on varsity, everyone is held to a higher standard. I felt a little pressure, but you just have to go out and make a name for yourself.

ESPNHS: How tough was it to take that loss in the state final?
Isaac: It was rough because we were in it the whole way. Then it just broke down. We have to take care of this season. That last game taught us how much harder we have to work. You learn from it and hopefully we’ll be a lot better off this season.

ESPNHS: What do you think of the comparisons to Marcus Allen?
Isaac: There’s no pressure. A lot of high school players are compared to somebody. But at the end of the day, you’re going to go out and build your own legacy.

ESPNHS: Who do you credit the most for getting you to this point?
Isaac: My dad. He’s taught me how to handle myself and take care of my business. He taught me there’s more to life than football. You have to take care of your academics. You’ve got to have a degree. You’re not going to go anywhere without one.

School: Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.)
Class: 2013
Position: Running back
HT: 6-2
WT: 225
College: USC

TV Show: “Pardon the Interruption”
Movie: “Contraband”
Musical Artist: YG
Athlete: Russell Westbrook
Team: San Francisco 49ers
School Subject: History
Food: Shrimp
The state playoffs are underway, and each team in this week's edition of the POWERADE state rankings has a legitimate chance to win a championship.

As always, the Class 4A bracket is brutal, with No. 1 Providence Catholic, No. 2 Mount Carmel, No. 3 Maine South, No. 4 Mundelein, No. 6 Plainfield North and No. 7 St. Laurence all still alive. In Class 3A, No. 5 Joliet Catholic is looking like the early favorite.

As we get deeper into the postseason and the Top 10 teams begin facing each other, expect some radical shifts in the rankings.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. Providence Catholic (29-7) — Last week: No. 1
  2. Mount Carmel (31-5) — Last week: No. 3
  3. Maine South (31-5) — Last week: No. 7
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (MGrimalaESPN).
St. Laurence has fallen out of the No. 1 spot in this week's POWERADE state rankings, but that wasn't the biggest story to emerge last week.

St. Laurence and St. Rita brawled on the field during a game on Friday, with players and coaches from both sides involved in the fighting. Mandatory one-game suspensions have already been handed down for players who were ejected from the game, but the IHSA could take more disciplinary action once the incident is reviewed.

Obviously, any player suspensions could have a huge impact for both teams. St. Laurence is ranked No. 6 this week, while St. Rita is No. 9.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. Providence Catholic (27-7) — Last week: No. 2
  2. Joliet Catholic (27-7) — Last week: No. 4
  3. Mount Carmel (29-5) — Last week: No. 5
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.
For the second week in a row, St. Laurence lost a game but still remains in the No. 1 spot in the POWERADE state rankings. The Vikings were shocked by Brother Rice, but the have too many quality wins this season (including a 2-0 record against No. 2 Providence Catholic) to be bumped from the top spot just yet.

Providence Catholic remains at No. 2 this week, while Plainfield North climbs one spot up to No. 3.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. St. Laurence (28-4) — Last week: No. 1
  2. Providence Catholic (24-6) — Last week: No. 2
  3. Plainfield North (25-3) — Last week: No. 4
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).
St. Laurence dropped a game last week, but it wasn't enough to knock the Vikings out of the top spot in the POWERADE state rankings.

That's partly because St. Laurence has been so good this year that the Vikings get the benefit of the doubt after slipping up. And it's also because the Nos. 2 and 3 teams from last week also lost, so neither was really pushing hard to be take over St. Laurence's spot.

Providence Catholic enjoyed a strong week and is now the No. 2 team in the state.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. St. Laurence (23-2) — Last week: No. 1
  2. Providence Catholic (20-6) — Last week: No. 4
  3. Mount Carmel (23-2) — Last week: No. 2
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).
The top two teams in the POWERADE state rankings faced off last week, and though they split two games, there is a new No. 1 in Illinois.

Mount Carmel won the first meeting against St. Laurence, 16-2, but St. Laurence came back to take the second game, 1-0. Even though St. Laurence handed the Caravan its first loss of the season, that alone wouldn't have been enough to take over the top spot in the rankings. But the Vikings then got some help from Loyola, which beat Mount Carmel on Monday and opened the door for St. Laurence to assume the No. 1 position.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. St. Laurence (21-1) — Last week: No. 2
  2. Mount Carmel (23-2) — Last week: No. 1
  3. Plainfield North (22-1) — Last week: No. 3
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

ESPNHS Baseball Players of the Week

April, 26, 2012
(After games of Tuesday, April 24)

One player is chosen from each region of the country. The only other criteria is that no player will be chosen more than once during a season.


John Miraglia, Wilmington Friends (Wilmington, Del.)
The senior right-handed pitcher/shortstop got off to a bad start against St. Andrew's (Middletown, Del.) when the Saints loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning. Miraglia then fanned the next three batters to start a 19-strikeout performance. He also ended with a three-hitter in leading the Quakers to a 1-0 victory. The other two outs were recorded by routine, infield grounders to Miraglia and the first baseman.


Zach Wall, Hayesville (Hayesville, N.C.)
In a game played earlier this week, Wall hit three homers and also went 4-for-4 with eight RBIs to lead Hayesville past Swain County (Bryson, N.C.). The 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior shortstop and pitcher also had a six-RBI game last week and had raised his season home run total to 10 in just 13 games after the monster outing against Swain County. Wall, who also allowed three hits in five innings of pitching in that same game, pitched a no-hitter earlier this season against Murphy (N.C.). He was a Class 1A all-state pick last year and was a preseason all-state choice by ESPNHS.


Zack Silerzio, Crete-Monee (Crete, Ill.)
The senior right-handed pitcher recorded consecutive no-hit victories last week over Kankakee (Ill.) 10-0 and Rich East (Park Forest, Ill.) 7-0. In the two gems, he struck out 20 batters and walked five while tossing 13 consecutive hitless innings. In his next outing, Silerzio (4-3) allowed five hits in five innings of a 7-3 victory over Bloom (Chicago Heights, Ill.). A Bloom single in the first inning halted Silerzio's no-hit streak.


Austin Bentlage, Union (Mo.)
After missing all of last season with a sore arm, Bentlage is making up for lost time. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior set a Missouri state record last week by striking out 18 batters in a row during a 3-0 no-hitter against New Haven (Mo.). Bentlage was making only his fifth start of the season. He walked the third batter of the game, then whiffed 18 in a row for the record before the last batter laid down a bunt and was thrown out at first. Bentlage broke the previous state mark of 15 straight strikeouts set in 2007 by Ryan Austin of Hume (Mo.).


Dylan Cozens, Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
As we were finishing this week’s honors, Chaparral grad Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox was hitting his 400th career homer and had just moved to No. 48 on the all-time major league list. It’s just one reason we couldn’t resist choosing a player from his high school. Cozens, in fact, just broke Konerko’s school record after smashing a pair of homers last week for the Firebirds in their 19-0 romp past Camelback (Phoenix). Cozens’ two blasts upped his season total to 14 and moved him past Konerko’s previous record of 13. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Cozens is a transfer from Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and was MVP earlier this season at the Cleats Sports Classic. He hit two homers in the title game to lead Chaparral past Cactus (Glendale, Ariz.). Cozens also is a defensive end in football and had 7.5 sacks last season. He has signed a football letter of intent with Arizona, but could be coming up the charts quickly as a prospect for the upcoming MLB draft.
The top half of the POWERADE state rankings remain unchanged from last week, as all five teams enjoyed perfect weeks and held on to their spots. The bottom half, however, is a different story.

There are two new teams in the rankings (No. 8 Mundelein and No. 9 Marist), while Simeon is on the verge of dropping out after a disappointing week. Joliet Catholic, which peaked at No. 4 earlier in the season, is the biggest climber of the week after jumping from No. 10 to No. 7.

For now, it looks like the top five teams are separating themselves from the rest of the state.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. Mount Carmel (17-0) — Last week: No. 1
  2. St. Laurence (18-1) — Last week: No. 2
  3. Plainfield North (14-1) — Last week: No. 3
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).
There is some slight movement at the top of the POWERADE state rankings this week, with the No. 1 and No. 2 teams flip-flopping. Mount Carmel is the new No. 1 team after enjoying a 4-0 week, while St. Laurence drops to No. 2 after suffering its first loss of 2012.

The rest of the rankings remain mostly unchanged, with the exception of No. 5 Lyons dropping out of the top 10. The Lions were No. 1 after week one, but they've stumbled recently with three losses over the past two weeks.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. Mount Carmel (14-0) — Last week: No. 2
  2. St. Laurence (14-1) — Last week: No. 1
  3. Plainfield North (9-1) — Last week: No. 3
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).
Kevin RossScott KurtzRoss is the type of talent who comes around "every 10 to 15 years," according to his coach.
This story originally appeared in the April issue of ESPNHS Magazine.

At first glance, you’d probably think Niles West’s Kevin Ross had a good 2011 season. As a junior, he hit .436 with four home runs and 30 RBIs, numbers that would impress most people. But numbers don’t mean everything. Not to Ross, anyway. For the slugging shortstop, the campaign was something of a disappointment.

“I don’t feel like I did as well as I could have last year,” says Ross, who is ranked No. 87 in the Class of 2012 by ESPN. “I never felt loose all season. I was always out in front, and a lot of curveballs were getting me. I’ve got to improve on that if I want to have the kind of season I’m capable of.”

So Ross spent his offseason working on his flexibility and speed. By getting more athletic, he believes he’ll be able to handle pitches that were difficult to square up last year. He’s got the elite bat speed and strong lower half of a prototypical power hitter, but loosening up should make him a more complete hitter in 2012.

Ross, a right-handed batter, looks to one of MLB’s best lefties for inspiration.

“I like to remind myself of Robinson Cano,” says Ross, evoking the New York Yankees’ All-Star second baseman. “He stays loose and lets the ball get deep, and that’s one of my biggest problems. I jump at the ball a lot and don’t always let it get deep. And he’s one of the best hitters in the game, so I try to remind myself to take that approach when I’m up there.”

The offseason focus on better athleticism has also helped Ross in the field. He considers shortstop to be his home on the diamond, but at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, coaches and scouts have told him that he may have to change positions in the near future. Ross wants to hold off on that as long as possible.

Ross stole 16 bases last season, so he’s not exactly slow. But he knows he has to clean up his footwork and increase his range in order to stay at shortstop.

Wherever Ross ends up in the field, his greatest asset will always be his bat. Niles West coach Garry Gustafson says Ross is the type of talent who only comes around “every 10 to 15 years,” and he expects Ross to be among the state leaders in all the power stats this season. Ross is currently batting over .600 through the Wolves' first 11 games.

Ross has been in contact with MLB scouts, and he’s been projected as a potential pick in June’s MLB draft. He’s signed to play at Michigan next year, but being drafted could change those plans.

“My dream is to play in the major leagues,” says Ross. “I’m going to do everything I can to get there.”

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).
The season is still very young, so there was (predictably) a lot of movement in this week's POWERADE state rankings. There's a new team at No. 1, and two new additions to the Top 10.

St. Laurence moves up to the top spot after winning three games last week to improve to 9-0. The former No. 1 squad, Lyons, has hit a rough patch, with a pair of losses causing the Lions to fall to No. 5.

The biggest jump in the rankings is Oak Park-River Forest, which slides in at No. 6 after starting the season unranked. New Trier also enters the rankings for the first time this week at No. 10.

POWERADE State Baseball Rankings
  1. St. Laurence (9-0) — Last week: No. 3
  2. Mount Carmel (10-0) — Last week: No. 2
  3. Plainfield North (6-0) — Last week: No. 7
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Warrenville South

March, 28, 2012
Dan VitaleScott Powers/ESPNChicago.comWheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.) loses star running back Dan Vitale, but the Tigers return a number of other top performers to make some national rankings noise.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation in the fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.)

2011 Season: 10-4, Class 7A state finalist

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 35. The Tigers rebounded well after a 1-3 start, but their quest for a third consecutive state championship was thwarted by unbeaten Boylan (Rockford, Ill.) in last year’s 7A title game. With two state titles and a runner-up finish in the past three years, Wheaton Warrenville South is buoyed in the FAB 50 by that track record of success. In 2010, the Tigers finished No. 13 in the rankings after winning the second of their back-to-back championships.

Team Strengths: The 2010 title team was senior-dominated, which made last season's state runner-up finish an unexpected surprise. The Tigers will field a more experienced squad in 2012. Injuries forced the team to use three quarterbacks last season, and two of them will return in the fall: sophomores Ryan Graham (6-2, 180) and Jordan Davis (6-2, 185). Graham saw time on the varsity squad during the regular season, while Davis was an emergency starter in the playoffs after starting for the sophomore team all fall. Replacing senior running back Dan Vitale will be the No. 1 task on offense. The Northwestern recruit rushed for 1,340 yards and 17 scores in 2011. The good news is that Vitale was running behind an offensive line made up entirely of juniors, so whoever takes his place will be running behind an experienced unit. Junior Corey Davis (6-3, 195) will also be back at wide receiver. There are questions on the defensive side of the ball, but overall the Tigers appear poised once again to challenge for a state crown.

Another Illinois team to watch: Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.) was 11-3 last season and finished as Class 5A state runner-up to Montini in a wild 70-45 finale, the highest scoring title game in state history. ESPNU 150 Watch List member Ty Isaac will be back after a junior season in which he rushed for 2,629 yards, including 515 in the title game defeat. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound bruiser will be joined in the backfield by junior quarterback Craig Slowik. The Hilltoppers will be seeking an unprecedented 14th state crown, including a seventh for coach Dan Sharp.

POWERADE hoops rankings: Final

March, 20, 2012
The question at the beginning of the season was simple. Everyone knew Simeon would start out at No. 1 in the POWERADE state rankings, but could the Wolverines hold off every challenger and finish the year on top? Against such a deep, talented field? With every team gunning for them?

The answer is yes. Simeon closed out a dominant season by beating Proviso East in the Class 4A state championship game to earn a third consecutive IHSA title. It wasn't the Wolverine's most dominant performance, as they had to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit, but there's no denying that this team was special. Simeon's only loss came to out-of-state Findlay Prep, the No. 2 team in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Proviso East suffered just one loss on the season, to Simeon in the finals, and so the Pirates slide in at No. 2. Peoria, which survived a loaded bracket to win the Class 3A title, ends the year at No. 3.

Looking forward to next year, you can go ahead and mark Simeon down for the top spot. With superstar forward Jabari Parker and guard Kendrick Nunn returning for their senior years, the Wolverines may even be stronger in 2012-13.

POWERADE State Basketball Rankings
  1. Simeon (33-1) — Last week: No. 1
  2. Proviso East (32-1) — Last week: No. 2
  3. Peoria (25-3) — Last week: NR
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).