State champs and more: 6 Springfield-area high school baseball teams not to miss in 2022

Springfield's Ben Hartl (3) hoists up the championship trophy as the Senators celebrate defeating Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge 8-7 in the Class 3A State Tournament Championship at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg, Ill., Thursday, June 17, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
Ryan Mahan
State Journal-Register

Three Springfield-area teams went to the Illinois state finals in their respective classes last season, while other teams which are always a threat to make a deep postseason runs. Because of this, The State Journal-Register's coverage area has plenty of solid baseball teams fans will want to see this year. 

For this list, we included three teams from large schools and three teams from small schools. But there will be other teams — such as Class 2A sectional finalist North Mac, for instance — who have good enough cases to be included. 

When the season is over in June, maybe this list will encompass some of the teams with the best postseason success while others might out-perform expectations and come home with some playoff hardware. 

Top players:The top 20 high school baseball players to watch in the Springfield area for 2022

Here's The State Journal-Register's list of six baseball teams in the Springfield area not to miss. 

Springfield High

The Springfield Senators pile on as they celebrate defeating Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge 8-7 in the Class 3A State Tournament Championship at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg, Ill., Thursday, June 17, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

The Senators (31-5) had a remarkable run to the Class 3A state championship with six straight come-from-behind wins, which included a 6-4 eight-inning win over Burbank St. Laurence in the semifinals and an 8-7 win over Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge in the title game. It was never safe to count out SHS. And while the Senators will miss graduated players, such as all-stater Luke Flesner, four underclassmen really had a huge impact on the team’s success: juniors Ryne Crum (1B/P/DH), junior twins Cooper (OF/P) and Griffin Burk (OF/P) and sophomore Jack Swaney (1B/P/DH). But coach Jim Steinwart is excited to bring back Nolan Kulavic (C/P/3B) after he sat out last season.  

Mount Pulaski 

It’s true, the Hilltoppers (21-3) lost all-state pitcher/centerfielder Drew Martin to graduation, but the fourth-place Class 1A finishers still have junior A.J. Bailey (1B/P/OF) and junior Evan Cooper (P/SS) after their impressive sophomore years. Bailey and Cooper hit 1-2, respectively, in the Hilltoppers’ batting order en route to its first state finals. The Toppers return six of the nine starters in the state semifinal: Bailey and Cooper along with junior Jackson Fricke (C), sophomore Landon Smith (P/3B), junior Gavin Smith (P/OF) and senior Lucas Kuhlman (OF).  

Softball players:The top 20 high school softball players to watch in the Springfield area for 2022

Sacred Heart-Griffin 

Sacred Heart-Griffin's RJ Jimerson (15) celebrates a triple against St. Joseph-Ogden in the second inning during the Class 2A Supersectional at Workman Family Baseball Field in Decatur, Ill., Monday, June 14, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

The Cyclones finished 33-3 and lost in the Class 2A third-place game to fellow Central State Eight Conference member Normal U-High 7-5 for a fourth-place finish. But with a few key returning players, SHG at least shouldn’t make plans for the second weekend of June for the Class 3A state finals (SHG’s non-boundaried enrollment multiplier was added this season after the Cyclones’ run last year). Senior R.J. Jimerson (OF) is committed to play at Oklahoma. Mitch Dye (P/1B), who will play at Lincoln Land, was one of three pitchers in 2021 to lead the CS8 with seven wins. And senior Quinn Butler (P/3B) has several collegiate options. 

Chatham Glenwood

No list would be complete without including the Titans, despite a 13-10 (overall, 6-3 CS8) record a year ago. The two-time state champions are in their second year under head coach Casey Erickson, who took over when Pat Moomey retired in 2020. The Titans have two returning members of The State Journal-Register's large-school baseball team a year ago — catcher Will Plattner and shortstop and pitcher Nolan McMasters. Senior Eli Curtis (1B/P) will also be a big contributor. Junior pitcher Parker Detmers, who is committed to play at Louisville, will be the Titans’ workhorse again on the mound. As a sophomore, he was 5-3 with a 2.60 ERA in a team-high 40 1/3 innings pitched. 

Top softball teams:Here are the top 12 high school teams in the Springfield area

Pleasant Plains 

This is the last season a son of longtime coach Dave Greer will suit up for the Cardinals. But senior Cannon Greer (CF) will try to help Plains to a state finals for the second time in his career after the Cardinals placed second in the 2019 Class 2A postseason. Helping Greer carry the load early will be junior Seth Kieninger (OF/IF). Coach Dave Greer will have several sophomores and freshmen who, he said, might make some mistakes early but they should be battle-tested come postseason time. Two freshmen to watch will be Cooper Schallenberger (P) and Charlie Severino (SS).  

Pana 

Brenden Schoonover

While shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Panthers’ 2021 season was a banner year. And Pana returns five starters from a team that went 17-5 and won a regional title for the first time in 20 years. The Panthers’ 7-2 record in conference play was good enough to win the South Centreal for the first time. Sophomore Ryan Karbach (SS), senior leadoff hitter Brenden Schoonover (CF), junior Evan Swisher (C) and senior Bo Christer (P) will anchor a Panthers team which wants to continue some deep postseason runs for several players who were on the football and/or basketball teams. Senior Austin Henschen (OF) is returning to the team after a year off in 2021 and senior Austin Karbach will be a utility player. With pop in the bats and speed on the bases, coach Mike Malisia has his team in contention for its first sectional championship. 

Contact Ryan Mahan: 857-246-9756, ryan.mahan@sj-r.com, Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.