Northern Knights Have A Winning Formula
BY DINO MACRO email@example.com July 18, 2011 6:40PM
Strong pitching, solid defense and timely hitting are often a recipe for winning baseball.
The Northern Knights 16U team, a Joy of the Game program based in Buffalo Grove and Mundelein which is in its fourth year of fielding travel teams, has all of these elements, so it's no surprise the club has won 22 of 30 games this summer.
On the hill, the Knights are stocked with quality arms. The pitching standouts include Adam Reuss (Warren High School), Xander Horwitz (Deerfield), Paul Boidanis (Glenbrook North), Nick Costantini (Stevenson), Duncan Amrein (Carmel Catholic), Dillon Wallace (Deerfield) and David Silverberg (Deerfield).
"Our pitchers keep us in the game because they throw strikes," said Knights coach Chuck Gandolfi.
Horwitz and Amrein have been particularly effective from the left side.
"Duncan has an outstanding curveball and decent speed," Gandolfi noted. "Xander doesn't overpower people, but he hits his spots very well."
The offense is usually well balanced. One constant threat to mash the ball is right fielder Tyler Murphy (Carmel).
"He drives the ball well," Gandolfi said. "He's a Major League line drive hitter."
Murphy missed some of the early-season action after fracturing his foot at a tournament in Omaha, Neb. But according to Gandolfi, "he came back and did not miss a beat."
Defensively, the club leans on the catching duo of Matt Vogt (Libertyville) and Michael Bartlett (Lakes).
"Matt is a left-handed hitter who handles the pitchers well," the coach said. "Michael is a very good catch-and-throw guy."
Another stalwart on defense is shortstop Will Farmer (Mundelein).
"Will is a big-time defensive shortstop," Gandolfi observed.
Other contributors to the 16U team include Thomas Gandolfi (Mundelein, infield), Mitch Schulewitz (Mundelein, infield) and Jared Rubin (Deerfield, outfield).
The Knights captured a championship in the USSSA Northwestern Invitational earlier this month. Last week, the team reached the semifinals of the Buckeye Elite Tournament in Ohio. The Knights lost 3-2 to North Georgia Barons, a team that is still undefeated after claiming the tourney championship.
Gandolfi's club will head to Georgia this weekend to participate in the CABA 16U World Series at the prestigious East Cobb Baseball Complex. The Knights are guaranteed six games and could play in as many as 12 contests.
A simple recipe of pitching and defense has allowed the Northern Knights 18U to put together a solid season.
"Our pitchers are not dominant, but they throw strikes," said second baseman Charlie Gandolfi, a recent graduate of Mundelein High School. "We have solid infield defense and good outfield defense. Our outfielders catch everything."
Completing the picture is an offense that knows how to deliver with men on base.
Last weekend, the club won four straight games at the Top Collegiate Prospect Invitational in Normal, before falling 3-1 in the quarterfinals to Central Illinois Lightning.
Left-hander Mark Blakey (Deerfield H.S. grad) began the tourney in style, firing a 1-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Top Tier 17s.
"Mark throws strikes," said Knights coach Ryan Dunsworth. "He has a lot of movement on his fastball and he has a nice changeup."
The other big pitching performance belonged to Ryan Dragoon (Antioch). Facing DuPage Travel Academy, a team that eliminated the Knights from a recent tournament, Dragoon was sharp during a 10-3 victory.
The big moment came in the sixth inning. DuPage had loaded the bases and were threatening to cut into the 4-3 deficit when Dragoon gave up a liner to left. Jordan Wiegold (Mundelein) raced over to make a strong running catch to end the inning.
"If that clears the bases, we could've had a much different weekend," said Dunsworth.
Dragoon then ignited a 6-run bottom of the sixth with a suicide squeeze bunt.
The other winning pitchers in the tournament were Jesse Katz (Deerfield) and Daniel Mooney (Carmel).
Earlier in the month, the Knights reached the semifinals of the USSSA Northwestern Invite.
The other players on the 18U club include John DeVito (Mundelein), Luis Carrasco (Mundelein), Andrew Goldstick (Deerfield), Jeff Johnson (Deerfield), Paul Kukulka (Lakes), Devin Sarno (Prairie Ridge), Smith Donelon (Vernon Hills), Frank Maione (Highland Park), Ricky Kern (Stevenson) and Noel Mrowiec (Lake Bluff resident).
DeVito committed to Eastern Illinois University over the weekend. DeVito figures to compete for the catching job next spring.
Tyler Coppney is hitting the cover off the ball for this Northern Knights team.
Vernon Hills HS graduate Tyler Coppney, who will playing at College of Lake County next year, is hitting .528 with 37 RBI for coach Eddie Holbrook.
"He's absolutely destroying the ball," said Holbrook. "Everything he hits is a laser beam."
Coppney plays first and third. He had some outstanding games on the defensive end at the Top Collegiate Prospect Invitational in Normal.
"He made one web gem after another," Holbrook noted. "He really flashed the leather."
Deerfield's Kevin Egan (.414), Stevenson's Stephen Glanopoulos (.427) and Highland Park's Jordan Schwartz (.400) also carrying hot sticks.
Carmel's Alex Young has been dominate on the mound. He has 67 strikeouts in 31.2 innings.
"He's touching 91 miles per hour," said Holbrook. "He's getting a lot of looks. He's 6-foot-3 and left-handed. That will do it every time."
Kent State has made him an offer. UIC and SIU-Carbondale, along with several other teams, are tracking him closely.
This Knights team, which was a semifinalist at the Cincinnati Tourament earlier this month, is loaded with local players. The other roster members are Matt Boston (Carmel), Joe Gregory (Antioch), Jack Karras (Stevenson), Zach Losch (Conant), Doug Mazewski (Glenbrook North), Steve Nelson (Vernon Hills), Danny Oversen (Highland Park), Zack Pawlowski (Mundelein), and Sean Terrett (Carmel).
The Knights also field a pair of 15-year-old squads.
The Orange team, which is coached by Drew Simonis, features Zach Brownstein (Deerfield), David Collins (Carmel), Brian Cummings (Deerfield), Jacob Feece (Vernon Hills), Jay Goldsher (Highland Park), Thomas Greffly (Carmel), Mac Levin (Deerfield), Justin Millman (Stevenson), Jake Price (Deerfield), Nick Ramagnano (Carmel), Sam Slotten (Stevenson), Grant Platek (Warren), Brian Stanislawski (Carmel), Nick Tyndorf (Carmel) and AJ Warzecha (Carmel).
The Black team roster includes LJ Austin (Stevenson), Austin Black (Stevenson), Jack Campbell (Vernon Hills), Mitchell Goll (Stevenson), Luke Hanson (Libertyville), Addison Jacoby (Deerfield), Ryan Kain (Warren), NIck Day (Glenbrook North), Tyler Kozarirtz (Mundelein), Miles Mrowiec (Lake Bluff), Michael Pattis (Deerfield), David Simon (GBN), Jake Stotter (Deerfield), Brad Weaver (Deerfield) and Tommy Wuich (Warren). Zach Scipicone is the coach.