By Sean Duncan
Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the top 75 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage:
Team: St. Rita
Preseason Rank: 4
2013 Record: 31-8
Conference: Chicago Catholic Blue
IHSA Class: 4A
Head Coach: Mike Zunica
Playoff Run: Lost in Sectional Final (Mount Carmel)
2013 Final Rank: 5
Returning Starters: 5
Returning Pitchers: 5
Mike Costanzo, LHP, 2014 (Austin Peay)
Jake Shepski, INF/RHP, 2014 (Notre Dame)
Nate Soria, C, 2014 (Xavier)
Jake Drada, 3B/OF, 2014 (Western Michigan)
Tyler Halas, INF/RHP, 2015 (Tennessee)
C.J. Santoyo, LHP, 2014 (Utah)
Marty Bechina, MIF, 2015
Shane Peisker, OF, 2015
Chris Delgadillo, INF/OF, 2014 (IPFW)
Aaron Fuller, OF, 2014 (John A. Logan JC)
Jake Shepski. The Notre Dame recruit is a two-way standout. Shepski earned MVP honors of the IHSBCA summer state tournament in leading the Mustangs to the championship.
NEWCOMER TO WATCH
Marty Bechina. The junior middle infielder is another Division 1 prospect for the Mustangs.
KEY PLAYER LOST
Anthony Ray, OF (Drafted, St. Louis Cardinals)
LHP Mike Costanzo served as St. Rita’s workhorse last spring. Pitching against all the top teams in the state, Costanzo racked up 96 strikeouts, 41 walks, and five complete games. He finished with a 9-3 record – his three losses were to 4A champion Mount Carmel, 3A champion Joliet Catholic and Chicago Catholic Blue champion St. Laurence. Costanzo earned third-team All-State honors last spring.
Over the last decade,
few, if any program in the state, has been in the state-title contending mix more than St. Rita. Every year, it seems, coach Mike Zunica has a loaded 30-plus win squad, one that is equipped to win not only the Chicago Catholic Blue, but a state championship. The Mustangs are a perennial top 10 program, and this year is no exception. St. Rita is fresh off winning the IHSBCA summer state championship, defeating Lyons Township in the championship game. The Mustangs are hoping to carry that same mojo into the spring. They certainly have the horses to so. St. Rita has arguably the most potent offense in the state, and have remarkable positional depth all over the field, especially in the infield. SS/RHP Jake Shepski, a Notre Dame recruit, is a three-year starter. Juniors Marty Bechina, Tyler Halas and Shane Peisker are all Division 1-caliber prospects, with Halas already committed to Tennessee, and INF/OF Chris Delgadillo is also a D1 signee at IPFW. The Mustangs also return their ace from last season, Costanzo, who pitched all the big games. After Costanzo, LHP C.J. Santoyo, Shepski and Halas are all very capable arms. Zunica also has several more untested options on the mound, as well. Catcher Nate Soria is a top-level defensive backstop that will limit opponents’ running games.
To be clear, St. Rita has the across-the-board talent to be No. 1. More importantly, it has the talent to win the Chicago Catholic Blue and, ultimately, be the last team standing in Joliet come June. Scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem for the Mustangs. If the pitching staff after Costanzo can consistently deliver against their rigorous competition, then the Mustangs very well may be putting another state trophy in their case.