2018 Renegade HS Baseball Week-10 Poll for Northwest Indiana

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Hitting one over the fence at Plymouth will be on the minds of boys from Boone Grove and Chesterton when they head to Bill Nixon field in Plymouth for semistate baseball matchups this Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. EST. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (6-04-2018) The weather was perfect for the regional round of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state tournament after we got the first week of the high school baseball and softball playoffs out of the way. I just wish that wasn't the goal. 'Getting it out of the way,' I mean.

There is no need for the Indiana softball and baseball playoffs to begin the same week. For decades, they did not. Almost every school in Indiana has a team in both tournaments and they often play on the same day in that first week.
It disrespects both sports. It isn't done in basketball and it doesn't need to be done in the spring.

For those who do not know, the softball tournament began this year on May 21 and the baseball sectionals began on Wednesday, May 23. Obviously, unless your softball team is eliminated in the opening game, schools could have baseball and softball playing on the same afternoon/evening. You can't attend both, no matter who you are and how much you want to. Both tournaments get lesser levels of attention and fan support. And the solution is easy.

Softball sectionals last four days because there are no pitch count concerns with softball pitchers. This year's sectional began on May 21 and ended on May 25 with the one game regional playoffs set for Tuesday, May 29.

What if instead of starting the baseball playoffs the Wednesday of softball sectional week (May 23 this year), we begin them the day after the Tuesday softball regionals are scheduled, which was May 30?

By midnight on that Tuesday (May 29 this year), there are only 32 schools remaining in the softball playoffs. If you begin the baseball sectional playoffs the next day and skip Saturday, which most baseball sectionals do to give pitchers adequate arm rest, there could be no baseball-softball conflicts until the day of the softball state finals. And at that point, we're only talking about eight schools still playing softball. And on that state softball finals day, the only conflicts could be among schools who had both baseball teams that advanced to the regional and softball teams that advanced to the final games. There would be very few conflicts.

This year, the state baseball finals weekend would be the third week (June 22-23) this year instead of June 15-16. But the calendar school year does not end until June 30.

Springs sports are about playing the sport and representing your school and your community. Summer teams and travel teams are not the concern of high school sports. In the 1990s, the state baseball tournament began on Memorial Day and ended in the fourth week of June and no summer activities seemed to be hurt by that.

So I wish this change (beginning the baseball post-season 7 days later) would be considered. It would enhance both state tournaments, if only by allowing the softball players to watch the boys play and the boys baseball players to watch the girls play. That has become difficult and, to me, is some of the essence of high school sports.

Andrean, Boone Grove and Chesterton advance beyond the regional level and Andrean draws the short straw from a location standpoint.

At Plymouth, Boone Grove plays 2A No. 1 Lafayette Catholic at 1 p.m. EST followed by Chesterton against Fishers. 3A No. 1 Andrean gets shipped 100 miles to Kokomo where they will play the late afternoon game (maybe 4 p.m. EST) against Jay County (20-6). Admission is $8 for two games at each site.

1. (3A) Andrean (28-6)
26-9 (2017), 26-6 (2016), 30-6 (2015), 31-4 (2014), 27-3-1 (2013)

MERRILLVILLE: Andrean had little trouble in sectional play as they defeated Kankakee Valley 15-1, Wheeler 16-3 and Twin Lakes 10-0. None of the games went the regulation seven innings before the 10-run "mercy rule" was invoked. The 59ers did what they had to do at the regional level winning 11-1 at Griffith and turning back 2017 3A state champ St. Joseph's by a 2-1 score. Andrean's 'Land of Lincoln' schedule saw them defeat Chicago Catholic League teams Brother Rice (24-12-1), Marist (28-8) and south suburban Crete Monee (18-13) while losing to Chicagoland Catholic powers Mt. Carmel (26-10), Providence (19-14) and Marist (28-8). No doubt that helped them against St. Joe which featured Division I left-hander (he's going to Indiana University) Mike Dunkelberger (7-2), who struck out 13 59ers. But the 59ers junior Mike Dolin struck out 11 and allowed just one hit. Joe Rycerz' second inning home run was the margin of victory. Left-hander Clay Thompson pitched the win over Griffith and got the final two outs against St. Joe (22-3). Andrean faces speedy (51 stolen bases) Jay County (20-6) at the Class 3A semistate at Kokomo's Municipal Stadium on June 9.

2. (4A) Chesterton (20-8)
19-9 (2017), 19-10 (2016), 16-16 (2015), 15-12 (2014), 20-6 (2013)

CHESTERTON: Nobody won more than Chesterton last week, which topped Lake Central 4-3 and Mishawaka 4-1 to win the school's first regional baseball championship. Chris Torres' two-out double in the bottom of the ninth inning topped LC. Tommy Benson's two-run homer capped a 4-run seventh inning in the 4-1 win over Mishawaka. Chesterton big gun Austin Peterson (8-1), who pitched the first seven innings against LC, allowed just three hits in a 7-0 victory over Valparaiso in last week's sectional championship game. Peterson also pitched (5 innings) and won the quarterfinal game against Hobart (20-9) three days earlier.

In three sectional games, the Trojans won 17-0, 11-0 and 7-0. If we go back to the start of the season, it was generally accepted that Chesterton, which now has 10 pitching shutouts in 28 games, had the best pitching staff in this part of the state. So the Trojans' pitching staff has allowed four runs in five playoff games so far. Those senior pitchers served them well when the time came. The time comes again when the Trojans face Fishers (27-7) and right-hander Luke Albright (7-1, 3.12 ERA, 83 strikeouts in 59 innings) in the 4A Semistate at Plymouth. Chesterton had never won a sectional in boys basketball, football or baseball until last week.

3. (4A) Lake Central (24-6)
23-9 (2017), 27-5 (2016), 25-5-1 (2015), 23-10 (2014), 23-9 (2013), 32-1 (2012)

ST. JOHN: A hard loss for Lake Central, 4-3 to Chesterton at the Class 4A LaPorte regional semifinals, which ends their season. Zack Dobos pitched the first seven innings, striking out seven and throwing 104 pitches. LC led 3-1 as late as the sixth inning. Lake Central topped Morton 7-2 and Highland 7-3 to win Class 4A Sectional 1. Conner Tomasic stuck out five in relief after Highland (20-6) had cut a LC lead down to 4-3 in the fifth inning. In the sectional semifinal against Morton, Brock Begesha and Max Born combined to strike out 18, a total which may have said more about Morton than it did about LC. Along those lines, LC obviously had a very good season, but the standards of winning are so high for them that even 24-6 can be a little disappointing to the players and coaches.

4. (4A) Crown Point (21-8)
19-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)

CROWN POINT: A difficult end for Crown Point losing 1-0 to Hobart in the sectional opener. Crown Point had not been shut out all season. The Bulldogs had won 17 of their last 21. I guess we found out again that there's no carryover or momentum from the regular season to the post-season. CP right-hander Marek Bauner had probably the best game of his career. He struck out 11, allowing just two hits and three walks in six innings. Bauner also was 2-for-3 at the plate. But Hobart won 1-0, ending the CP season. And then Chesterton (20-8), Andrean (28-6) and Boone Grove (19-5) all teams CP defeated, all won regional championships. That makes those Bulldog wins impressive, but it doesn't makes CP feel any better about losing in the sectional quarterfinals. This was a good season for CP, but as with LaPorte, I thought the post-season was going to go at least one game further than it did. And, as with Lake Central, the expectations are always fairly high.

5. (4A) LaPorte (18-10)
22-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)

LaPORTE: LaPorte topped Clay 11-1, but then was upset by Mishawaka 3-2 in the 4A Sectional 3 semifinals. Mishawaka went on to win the sectional by defeating Adams (14-14) and topped Penn before losing to Chesterton. I thought that the strong left-handed pitching of the Slicers would get them a little further. Lefties Noah Mathias and Chandler Banic allowed a combined three base hits to Mishawaka, but LaPorte could only scratch out two base hits in the one-run loss. Life in the Duneland Conference: LaPorte was 4-6 against Portage, Valparaiso, Chesterton, Lake Central and Crown Point. The Slicers were 14-4 against everyone else.

6. (2A) Boone Grove (20-5)
2017 (13-9-1), 2016 (22-2-1), 2015 (20-8-1)

PORTER TOWNSHIP: Boone Grove reached the Semistate for the first time in 10 years with a 1-0, 10-inning win over South Adams. Ty Bothwell struck out 13 in nine innings, but he wasn't pitching in the 10th when a double steal that forced a throwing error, giving Boone the win. Boone was 2-3 at one point this year and then won 18 of the next 20, losing only to Griffith (22-9) and Hobart (21-8) in the final six weeks. Wolves pitching has allowed six runs total in four playoff games and a lot of that is Bothwell (8-2), who has five no-hitters in Porter County Conference (PCC) play this season. All that was the good news. Now the bad news: Boone drew top-ranked Lafayette Catholic in the Class 2A semistate. Lafayette Catholic, against a schedule that includes Cathedral (22-8-1), McCutcheon (20-7), Western (23-3), Bishop Dwenger (17-12) and Evansville Memorial (23-7) has allowed just 69 runs total in 30 games. Boone does get the short drive to Plymouth Saturday and the high noon (12 noon Boone time) start.

7. (3A) Griffith (22-8)
15-15 (2017), 16-14 (2016), 16-13 (2015)

GRIFFITH: The Panthers were overmatched against Andrean in an 11-1 loss at the Griffith 3A regional semifinals. The Panthers needed to start well and they didn't against their top-ranked rivals in what turned out to be a five-inning game. Before I decide where Griffith rests in peace in this poll, let's wait and see how Andrean and Boone Grove end up. Griffith lost to the 59ers, but defeated Boone. Are they somewhere in between? Can't decide yet. Griffith's future is very bright. The Panthers return seven juniors who started against Andrean. Eight, if you count designated hitter Andrew 'Bubba' Davenport. As the state tourney format is right now, Griffith has the odd dichotomy of playing in one of the state's easiest sectionals, but then advancing to one of the state's toughest 3A regionals with perennial powers Andrean and St. Joseph's. That will certainly be the case again in 2019.

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Revised: June 03, 2018.