Evans, Weishar lead Class of 2014

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Evans, Weishar lead Class of 2014

The class of 2014 may not measure up to 1985, the gold standard of recruiting classes ever produced in the Chicago area. And it might not even compare to the class of 2013. But this year's sophomores show plenty of promise -- and they have two years to get even better.

By then, everybody -- analysts, college recruiters, media, fans -- should be able to correctly spell the first name of Parrker Westphal, Bolingbrook's outstanding cornerback. That's right, P-A-R-R-K-E-R.

"Everybody drops one of the r's, even our school's registrar," Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow said. "Nobody believes his name is spelled with two r's. We sent our roster to the Illinois High School Association for the official program in the state finals and they changed it, too."

Westphal made a name for himself -- no matter how you choose to spell it -- in Bolingbrook's victory over unbeaten and top-ranked Loyola in the Class 8A final, constantly harassing Loyola's wide receivers, and Ivlow predicts he will be a genuine Division I recruit as a senior.

But tackle Shane Evans of newly crowned Class 6A champion Prairie Ridge and wide receiver Nic Weishar of Marist already had established their reputations. They are popular choices as the 1-2 players in the class of 2014. But the list is long and distinguished.

Evans, a 6-4, 255-pound offensive tackle, was a full-time starter as a freshman and started all 14 games for Prairie Ridge's state championship team last fall.

"We always run to his side," coach Chris Schremp said. "He is a great run blocker. He can move people. As a senior, he could be the best lineman ever to come out of the Fox Valley."

Weishar, a 6-5, 205-pounder, caught 77 passes for 1,160 yards and 13 touchdowns last fall. He has been offered by Illinois and Northwestern and Notre Dame has expressed interest.

Others who already are attracting interest from Division I colleges are Glenbard North running backdefensive back Justin Jackson, Joliet Catholic tackle J.B. Butler, Kaneland quarterback Drew David, Bishop McNamara linebacker Robbie Odeneal, Naperville Central quarterback Zach Kolbe, Hinsdale Central wide receiver Ian Bunting, St. Rita defensive end Eddie Randle and Stevenson safety Matt Morrissey.

David, a 5-11, 165-pounder, could emerge as the most prolific passer in state history if he stays healthy for the next two years. As a sophomore, he passed for 3,306 yards and 39 touchdowns for a 12-1 state semifinalist. He also was academic all-state.

Rich Zinanni, Bishop McNamara's veteran coach who recorded his 300th career victory in 2011, said linebacker Robbie Odeneal is "one of the best players I have coached in 37 years," comparing him to former McNamara stars Tyjuan Hagler, Thomas Guynes and Kurt Belisle.

Two sophomores who missed the top 20 list but definitely are on the short list of the leading prospects in the class are linebacker Clifton Garrett of Plainfield South and offensive lineman Logan Plantz of Providence.

Top 20 (Class of 2014)

1. Shane Evans, Prairie Ridge, OT
2. Nic Weishar, Marist, WR
3. Justin Jackson, Glenbard North, RBDB
4. J.B. Butler, Joliet Catholic, OT
5. Drew David, Kaneland, QB
6. Robbie Odeneal, Bishop McNamara, LB 7. Jake Kolbe, Naperville Central, QB 8. Ian Bunting, Hinsdale Central, WR 9. Eddie Randle, St. Rita, DE 10. Matt Morrissey, Stevenson, DB 11. Corey Davis, Wheaton Warrenville South, WR 12. Jake VandeMerkt, Riverside-Brookfield, QB 13. Nyles Morgan, Crete-Monee, LB 14. Desean Brown, Naperville North, RB 15. Ryan Graham, Wheaton Warrenville South, QB 16. Mikael Wilbon, De La Salle, RB 17. Parrker Westphal, Bolingbrook, DB 18. Jesse Balluff, Kaneland, RB 19. Tommy Mister, Richards, QB 20. Anthony Thielk, Batavia, RB

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”