Illinois & Wisconsin D-I Recruiting Classes: ACC


By Diego Solares
Illinois Staff

This offseason, our Illinois and Wisconsin staffs have collaborated to break down the state's Class 2021 committed players and their post-high school destinations, now that they’re preparing for the final springs of their prep careers.

The signing period opened on Nov. 11, so we’re well into monitoring this senior class make their formal commitments to their next-level homes. We began breaking down both states’ 2021 classes earlier in the offseason, assessing the 11 Division-I programs in Illinois and Wisconsin and the entirety of the players headed in their direction.

To view Part One and Part Two of that analysis, click on either of the previous hyperlinks.

We also started breaking down the players from our states who are headed to D-I programs elsewhere. We've been analyzing them by conference, beginning with the Big Ten, the MAC, and the Missouri Valley. We’re onto the Atlantic Coast today.

LOUISVILLE

+ Consistently one of college baseball’s top programs on a year-to-year basis, Louisville has pumped out several highly productive prospects hailing from both Illinois and Wisconsin. They recruit this part of the country as well as any other program in college baseball, with three of the top-25 players in the Illinois’ 2021 class headed there next fall. 

Marist SS Noah Smith currently headlines this class as the highest-ranked player committed to Louisville from Illinois, checking in at No. 168 overall on our national rankings. He’s an impressive athlete up the middle with advanced range and soft, clean funnels. It’s a short stroke at the plate, creating some loft through contact, allowing him to occasionally drive the ball into the gaps. Louisville has developed several quality middle infield prospects in the past and Smith could be next in line. 

Kyle Walter RHP / Minooka, IL / 2021

EWalter is the No. 13 overall prospect in the state’s 2021 class, and he has the chance to be one of Louisville’s top incoming arms for its 2021-22 group. Walter boasts a durable, broad-shouldered build, standing at a massive 6-foot-5, 235-pounds. He impressed our staff in early June, sitting at an easy 90-92 mph with his fastball and touching 93. His go-to secondary pitch is a sharp breaking ball in the 77-81 mph range. The Cardinals’ pitching staff has boasted several premium Illinois natives in recent years, including a pair of 2020 first-rounders: LHP Reid Detmers (Glenwood, 2017; Angels, 10th overall) and RHP Bobby Miller (McHenry, 2017; Dodgers, 29th overall). It will be fun to watch this program get to work with its latest power-armed Illinois right-hander.

(6/1/20)

Rounding out Louisville’s recruiting class are OF Eddie King Jr. (Marian Catholic) and RHP Landen Looper (Lincoln-Way East). King Jr. is a strong 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed hitting outfielder with twitchy bat speed and gap-to-gap carry off the barrel. 

NOTRE DAME 

+ There’s plenty of firepower headed to South Bend byway of both Illinois and Wisconsin, as the Fighting Irish have a loaded incoming freshman class. 

SS Nicholas DeMarco (St. Charles North) is ranked No. 236 nationally and No. 4 overall in Illinois’ senior class, and he has all the makings of an impact talent at the next level. A multi-sport star in high school, DeMarco’s athleticism plays especially well up the middle, where he’s a legitimate candidate to stick on the left-side of the diamond moving forward. It’s an all-around silky smooth operation with a strong arm and an advanced internal clock. DeMarco’s right-handed stroke is twitchy and stays short to the ball while working gap-to-gap. He is also more than capable to help out on the mound if needed, thanks to a firm fastball that runs into the low-90s and a swing-and-miss 12/6 curveball. Getting him to campus will prove to be a major boost for the Fighting Irish down the road.

Joey Spence C / West Bend East, WI / 2021

Right behind DeMarco at No. 257 on our national rankings is top-ranked Wisconsin backstop Joey Spence – another potential impact prospect headed to Notre Dame next fall. Spence’s bat is his carrying tool, as things stand – a compact, left-handed stroke with natural barrel feel. He has middle-of-the-order upside and it’s one of the safer bats in this year’s Midwest class. Spence has made strides behind the plate defensively throughout his high school career, just further adding onto an already intriguing all-around profile.

 (7/7/20)

Right behind DeMarco at No. 257 on our national rankings is top-ranked Wisconsin backstop Joey Spence – another potential impact prospect headed to Notre Dame next fall. Spence’s bat is his carrying tool, as things stand – a compact, left-handed stroke with natural barrel feel. He has middle-of-the-order upside and it’s one of the safer bats in this year’s Midwest class. Spence has made strides behind the plate defensively throughout his high school career, just further adding onto an already intriguing all-around profile.

A physical right-handed hitting third baseman with raw power, Karson Bonaparte (Normal University), is another highly-ranked Illinois prospect committed to Notre Dame. We saw Bonaparte at The Rock this summer, where he took plenty of aggressive swings that resulted in noticeably loud contact. The premium bat strength harnessed within his right-handed stroke alone makes him an intriguing follow at the next level. His arm plays well-above-average from third base as well as on the mound, where he’s sat comfortably in the upper 80s in previous looks.

Two intriguing right-handed pitchers from Illinois with upside on the hill, continue to bolster this already impressive recruiting class: Zach Kempe (St. Charles North) and Aidan Krupp (Oak Park-River Forest). Kempe is the third nationally ranked recruit from Illinois joining the Fighting Irish and his emergence this summer led to his commitment. Kempe was uncommitted heading into the Midwest ProCase. There he showed swing-and-miss stuff with TrackMan metrics to back it up, spinning a wipeout slider consistently in the 2,800 rpm range, complementing it with a low-90s fastball.

Zach Kempe, PBR Midwest ProCase (7/7/20)

Krupp is a strong, barrel-chested 6-foot-3, 220-pound specimen that brings a physically imposing presence to the mound. His fastball plays with heavy horizontal action and late sink at 87-88 mph, touching 89 mph. Krupp also throws a breaking ball and changeup, with the former being more advanced right now – a sharp, late-breaking short wrinkled pitch that spins off a 10/4 plane. Both Kempe and Krupp have impact potential, particularly as back-end bullpen options. 

Rounding out this Notre Dame recruiting class is MIF Benjamin Loyd (Tremper), one of the top all-around prospects in Wisconsin’s senior class. Loyd swings a loose left-handed bat that stays on plane through the zone, peppering line drives to all fields. He’s sure-handed up the middle as well and has the athleticism to play multiple positions, too.

Benjamin Loyd, South Milwaukee Preseason I.D. (3/1/20)


PITTSBURGH

Nick Giamarusti OF / Notre Dame, IL / 2021

The lone recruit headed to Pittsburgh from Illinois this fall is one of the top runners in the entire country: Nick Giamarusti. Giamarusti made his mark at the PBR Future Games back in 2019, where he broke the event record 60-yard dash by recording a 6.22 time, measured by laser – he actually broke the record twice in a re-run to affirm that show-stealing time. He’s one of the fastest runners in the country and that speed obviously plays on the diamond, both as a baserunner and defensively in the outfield. There’s noticeable bat strength in his swing as well and he creates some leverage to the pull-side, further enhancing an already impressive profile. Giamarusti’s speed alone should allow him to carve out a role with the Panthers, but improvements offensively throughout his college career will only improve his stock.

(2/9/20)

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