Oakton baseball ‘expects greatness,’ managing high expectations in 2017

(March 17, 2017) Returning just eight players from a 2016 team that finished 38-18, the Oakton Community College baseball team has reloaded with a talented group of 26 freshman and three new sophomores that have the Owls “expecting greatness” in 2017.

Head coach Bill Fratto (403-211), now in his 12th season, has built a winning tradition at Oakton and says now is the time to move from good to great: “Our goal is to win 40 games and compete for a Region IV championship and Division III World Series berth to compete for the national championship.”

Fratto likes the mix of his new recruits and returning players, noting, “the coaches have high expectations for this group.”

The Owls return second baseman-outfielder Alex Niecikowski (.302, 5 HR, 31 RBI last season) and first baseman-outfielder George Karavidas (.322, 25 RBI), both of whom had significant playing time as freshmen last year. Sophomore returnees outfielder-pitcher Pierce Albright and outfielder Grayson Vance will also be looked on to contribute.

The Owls will heavily rely on freshmen to contribute immediately, including third baseman Tom Smart, infielder Gianfranco Sorrentino, first baseman-outfielder Lucas Karz, infielder-outfielder Chris Broccolino, infielder Tim Schau, outfielder Ron Clark, shortstop Sawyer Price, outfielder Nico Torres and outfielder-pitcher Dan Schneberger.

Globe Tech (Argentina) transfer catcher-outfielder Ramiro Milar and Aurora University transfer Connor Quinn, a catcher, are expected to play key roles in the Owls 2017 fortunes as well.

“I like this team defensively, and that will be a key to our team success,” Fratto says. “We will be able to score runs in different ways and compete on the mound.”

Southpaw sophomore Brandon Nowak (7-2, 4.27 ERA, 67 strikeouts), who received a scholarship offer to pitch for the University of Miami Hurricanes next year, will lead a young pitching staff.

“After winning conference pitcher of the year and being named first team all region, Brandon will be No. 1 in the rotation, leading a group of freshman pitchers,” says Fratto. “If our freshmen pitchers step up, it will be a great year.”

Sophomore right-handed returnees Adrian Santiago and Bailey Egan—along with freshmen RHP Chase Pearce, RHP Alex Crinigan, LHP Fred Fitte, LHP Zach Kalosutian, RHP Pat Sexton, RHP Ivan Varela and RHP Russell Langan—are expected to contribute significant innings. Iowa Wesleyan southpaw transfer Jordan Milkolajewski should also make an immediate impact on the pitching staff.

The Owls move from NJCAA Division II to Division III in the 2017 season, and Baseball America says the “Owls should be a national championship contender.” The team’s early-season Florida trip might offer some indication of those chances, as the Owls play a number of nationally-ranked Division II programs.

“We want to put Oakton on the national map to compete for a national championship every year. That is our challenge,” Fratto says. “The key will be taking care of business here (in Illinois). It will be tough to get out of the state.”

The Owls open Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference play at 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 24, at Moraine Valley Community College.