A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith
|Early nonconference wins over Portage and Crown Point may have Hanover Central coming around the corner and heading towards a 20-win season. (Photo by Mark Smith)|
Last Saturday was a bright day with crystal clear skies. Sun shining. Birds
It was 35 degrees.
There's been more than a few games played in the first two weeks of the 2018 baseball season, but the total of games played in 'baseball weather' stands at zero.
'Baseball weather' in NW Indiana high school universe can be defined as any day with temperatures about 40, with winds below 25 miles and hour and enough room between the snow flurries where players can see the baseball.
It's an old refrain. The Indiana High School Athletic Association does not take baseball and softball seriously. If they did, they would move the first legal play dates back into mid-April and run the post-season until the 4th of July. If the state finals were held the Saturday before the 4th of July holiday, it would not only release athletic directors state wide from being forced to send athletes out in flu-friendly conditions, it would also make the state finals a showcase weekend similar to football, which is played over the Thanksgiving weekend.
This is not a genius proposal. Those who read these pages will recall I've said this for years and I'm not the first to say it. There is a rush to end the spring athletic year that I believe is (or should be) outweighed by the miserable conditions baseball, track, softball and golf all suffer through.
This will change someday. The spring seasons will run from mid-April to the end of June someday. I may not live to see it, but I'm sure it will happen.
After three warm days this week the rainy, 50-degree chill came back and a lot of Friday and Saturday games were postponed.
1. (3A) Andrean (5-1)
26-9 (2017), 26-6 (2016), 30-6 (2015), 31-4 (2014), 27-3-1 (2013)
MERRILLVILLE: Early season baseball polls are silly because baseball is not a game that can be defined in two or three games. You use a different pitcher every day. It's the only sport where the most important person on the field changes from game-to-game. So a baseball poll taken after a team plays six games is useless. With that said: Andrean is one of the top two teams in NW Indiana. The 59er pitching is top flight with Mike Doolin (8-0, 1.59 ERA in 2017) and senior Clay Thompson (6-1. 2.75 ERA). In a 3-1 win over Brother Rice, Doolin struck out eight in four innings and Thompson struck out four in three innings. In a 1-0 win over Baylor high in a spring break tournament at Vanderbilt University, Doolin (2-0) struck out nine in five innings, Tyler Nelson and Joel Holtcamp combined for a 5-inning no hitter against Hebron. The only loss so far was 8-6 in nine innings to Grace Christian high (8-4-1) of Franklin Tennessee. Andrean has won at least 25 games five years in a row in a state where I believe you can still only schedule 31 regular season games. And the best news for the 59ers? They drop back to 3A in playoff classification. Andrean, by enrollment, is almost a 2A school but 3A is where they should be and will be in June.
2. (4A) Chesterton (4-1)
19-9 (2017), 19-10 (2016), 16-16 (2015), 15-12 (2014), 20-6 (2013)
CHESTERTON: Chesterton is the 'other' team. The Trojans are loaded with pitchers, including big 6-foot-6 Austin Peterson, who was 7-0 last year (15-0 the last 2 seasons) with a 1.38 ERA. Seniors Chris Torres, Braydon Cortwright and Grant Brunt give the Trojans more pitchers than they can use in a short season schedule. There's no way out for the opposition. You're not going to see an average Trojan pitcher on the mound this season. I don't know how much they'll hit, but I don't know how much it will matter. Even with bad weather jamming 5 or 6 games into one week, Chesterton will have the pitchers to handle it. The Trojans lost to Andrean in sectional play last year when pitch count rules took Peterson out of the 4A Sectional 2 title game. It's going to be hard to stop the 59ers in sectional play this spring. So far the only loss was a final inning 8-7 defeat at Crown Point.
3. (4A) Lake Central (5-1)
23-9 (2017), 27-5 (2016), 25-5-1 (2015), 23-10 (2014), 23-9 (2013), 32-1 (2012)
ST. JOHN: LC won two games in March and then found themselves waiting for spring like everyone else. In a 16-12 win over Portage Central (a Portage, Michigan high school), LC's Justin Graves was 3-for-4 with five RBIs. In a 5-2 win over Portage Central, LC pitcher Zack Dobos pitched a complete game, allowing three hits and striking out seven. This past week, the Indians topped Crown Point 10-4 and 7-6 before a surprise 10-7 loss (LC committed 6 errors) to Portage. Lake Central has two games with LaPorte (7-3) set for May 1-2. LC, after six games, had scored 49 runs and allowed 37and that doesn't tell you much.
4. (4A) LaPorte (7-3)
22-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)
LaPORTE: LaPorte split a double-header with Logansport early and won three other games. Nothing is tougher to deal with at the high school level than a good left-handed starting pitcher. The boys just don't see a lot of them. In his first two seasons Chandler Banic (2-0 this year) was 11-5 in 17 games with a 1.44 ERA and 146 strikeouts and 36 walks in 96 innings. The Slicers split their second Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) back-to-back confrontation week (they earlier swept two from Merrillville) against Valparaiso (3-1). The best thing LaPorte has done so far is play 10 games before Friday the (April) 13th. I think the Slicers have done well so far against some quality in the first third of their spring season, but they don't play Lake Central (5-0) and Chesterton (4-1) until May.
5. (3A) Griffith (5-1)
15-15 (2017), 16-14 (2016), 16-13 (2015), 0-0 (2014)
GRIFFITH: The Panthers began the season with a 5-0 loss at Whiteland (4-2) and they haven't lost since. Senior Jeremy Rutherford (2-0) struck out 13 in his first 12 innings. Junior Cole Cervantes, a .301 hitter (25 of 83) as a sophomore, had nine hits in his first 15 at-bats. Junior Johnny Maynard, a .306 hitter (19 of 62) as a sophomore, had seven hits in his first 13 at-bats. Griffith has moved to the Greater South Shore Conference, but they still have most of their old Northwest Crossroads Conference foes (Kankakee Valley, Hobart, Lowell, Highland, Munster) on the schedule. The Panthers no longer play 3A playoff rival Andrean and that will be their hurdle once the post-season begins.
6. (3A) HANOVER CENTRAL (5-0)
2017 (0-0), 2016 (19-11), 2015) 25-5 (2014) 23-6 (2013) 20-5
CEDAR LAKE: Hanover has outscored its first five foes 59-16 including a 4-1 victory over Crown Point which may be (CP and HC were in the same sectional in the 70s and 80s) Hanover's first ever win over Crown Point. Junior Michael Biegel (2-0) has won his first two starts and Bobby Nowak (1-0) stuck out 13 in his first six innings. The Cats are not going to see a lot of competition in the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) except for Griffith (5-1), a team they will not see until May 14-15. The Wildcats do not play quite the caliber of schedule Griffith (5-1) or Hobart (7-2) does, but early wins over CP and Portage put them in this poll.
7. (4A) Crown Point (5-3)
19-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)
CROWN POINT: CP played in what must have been painful conditions and won a double-header 9-0 and 13-1 at Jefferson in Lafayette last Saturday. Ryan Fender struck out four in less than two innings in the 13-1 win. Senior Nick DeFries had seven base hits in seven at bats in the double win. The Bulldogs lost 10-4 to Lake Central Tuesday afternoon and lost 7-6 to LC on Wednesday (April 11). Bad weather scratched games against Chesterton April 9 and April 12. Crown Point will see LaPorte (7-3) on April 24-25 and Valparaiso (4-1) on May 1-2 and, in between, they head to the Noblesville Invitational on April 28. Games with Penn and Concord were postponed on April 14. The Bulldogs don't have the pitching staff that Andrean and Chesterton have, but they have enough to win more than they lose, even with games ahead against Plymouth, McCutcheon and neighbor Andrean.
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