The Somonauk baseball program has set the bar at a high level over the past handful of seasons, finishing second in Class 1A in 2016 and fourth in 2017. Last season was another solid campaign, but a return trip to the Final Four in Peoria ended with a sectional semifinal loss after a fourth consecutive regional title.
That setback may be just another log on the fire to motivate another talented bunch of Bobcats in 2019.
"Our seniors this year were kind of along for the ride two and three years ago with our trips to the state finals (in Peoria), and we came up a little short of that goal last season," said fourth-year coach Troy Felton, his squad ending the year 19-2 (14-0 in Little Ten Conference) and winning or sharing the league crown for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons. "They are ready to go this year, and that is their ultimate goal, to get back there.
"I feel we have a solid team again this year, and I think it's going to take a lot to hold these guys back from reaching their goals. We have really good senior leadership."
Somonauk figures to boast a one-two pitching punch of senior right-handers Steven Kenyon and Nolan Wegener. Kenyon went 9-0 with a save and 1.74 ERA in 44 1/3 innings while hitting .406 with 28 RBIs — earning All-LTC and Times All-Area First Team honors as well as being named to the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association's Class 1A All-State team. Wegener batted .424 with 21 batted in, but only worked 8 2/3 on the mound with 14 Ks.
"We are going to lean on and expect big innings from Steven," said Felton. "He is an all-state pitcher, but that title came with a lot of hard work on his part. He was a guy we counted on down the stretch last season even more than we thought we would when the season started after Nolan went down with an arm issue.
"Nolan's arm is healthy now, and he is ready to go. He will also be counted on to lead from his third base spot as well when not on the mound."
Along with his two hurlers, Felton expects big things from seniors Sam Brooks (C, .365, 11 RBIs, 16 SB) and Drew Westbrook (OF, .339, 18 RBIs), plus junior Liam Roberts (1B/OF, .298, 11 RBIs).
Rounding out the Bobcats' 17-member roster are seniors Chris Franzone (IF/OF), Dalton Armour (IF/OF) and Cam Davis (OF); juniors Isaiah Nunez (P/OF), Garrett McNurlan (P/OF), Max Neidigh (C/P/IF), Weston Hologa (IF/OF); and freshman Brendan Roberts (P/SS). Freshmen Payton Wyant (IF/OF/C), Andrew Wernsman (P/C/Util.), Alex Krejci (P/Util.) and Jaylen Dion (C/P/IF) will see time at both the varsity and junior varsity levels.
"We lost some key players in Brady Kreiter, Andrew Johnson and Clayton Morris, to name a few, but I feel we have done a pretty good job at finding guys that are going to step up and fill those spots that some of those seniors left," Felton said. "The guys have really put in a lot of work in the offseason to get back to where they want to be.
"I think we have a group that are all capable of consistently put the ball in play, but the truth is until we can get outside a little more it may take a little time to get everything going in the right direction, but we'll get there."