2018 Renegade HS Baseball Week-6 Poll for Northwest Indiana

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


You could say that 'Bearcat baseball is better' (if you want to use a lot of Bs) but a 10-game winning streak has put Wheeler into this week's poll. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (5-01-2018) Last week, I may have promised you warmer weather. I might have. I say a lot of things. I'm not sure. I don't recall.

Well, after a couple of 60-degree teasers, temperatures Saturday (when a lot of teams have multiple games scheduled) sank back into the low 40s. Boys. I know you have to play when itís 43 degrees and sunny but I hope you understand when nobody but your parents come to watch you. Please donít take it personally.

But you have to question the sanity of anybody who stands outside for baseball in a sub-40 degree wind chill conditions.

With that said, I'm going to do it again. I'm going to make promises I canít keep.

By the time you read this daytime high temperatures will be in the low-70s. Your friends will come to watch you play. Your little brother will come to the game and run around annoying people while he's not watching you play. Everything will be back to normal from a baseball weather standpoint. I promise.

With the implementation of pitch count limits last season and the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) and Northwest Crossroads Conference (GSSC) scheduling format that has teams play league games against each other, two things occur as the games begin being played regularly.

Teams seems to settle on two pitchers to pitch the back-to-back league games with third and fourth starters used in relief and on weekends. LaPorte, for example, has used left-handers Chandler Banic and Noah Mathias in DAC games the last two weeks with senior Lee Timmons starting on Saturday.

Crown Point has settled on Ryan Fender and Ryan Bolda pitching the back-to-back league games with underclassmen Gene Kolarik and Marek Bauner pitching on the weekend.

In some respects, itís always been this way with the top pitchers working during the week. But now, with pitch counts taking you out of the game, a boy who throws 100 pitches on Wednesday isnít eligible to come back Saturday morning.
I'd like to see pitch counts combined with innings restrictions.

For example, allow a starting pitcher to complete seven innings no matter how many pitches he throws. Then require him to sit three days.

Too many times, the starter has to leave in the sixth or seventh inning when he nears or reaches his pitch limit. That distorts the game. You are not allowed to throw more than 120 pitches. Chesterton lost a sectional arguably on pitch count rules in 2017.  Baseball has always had a pseudo limit of 100 pitches. When you throw 100 pitches, your coach starts to look at getting you out of there. To my knowledge, there is nothing specific about 100 pitches that is damaging to the arm of a young (or old) baseball player.

I'd also like to see the '3-days off' rule for starters who throw 85 pitches dropped to two. Unless the numbers were changed in the offseason (they differ in many states as well) a pitcher who throws over 85 pitches must sit three calendar days before he can pitch again. If you only have four 'real' pitchers (the other boys will go out there and throw if you ask), what's the point in scheduling a Friday game and a quality Saturday double header when you have league games the next Tuesday and Wednesday? You wonít have real pitchers to pitch against the nonconference teams. Friday and Saturday are probably the best days to play because there's no worries about getting home and getting ready for school the next day. But, under present pitch count rules, playing three games Friday and Saturday might not be a good idea for your 'pitching staff.'
This is the last week when we donít know the future. The draw for the 52nd Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state tournament is Sunday, May 6 at 6 p.m.

1. (3A) Andrean (15-1)
26-9 (2017), 26-6 (2016), 30-6 (2015), 31-4 (2014), 27-3-1 (2013)

MERRILLVILLE: The hits just keep on coming for Andrean. The 59ers got nine of them and Joel Holtcamp allowed just two hits in six innings of a 7-1 Andrean victory over Crete-Monee Friday. Thursday was a bit of a surprise as the 59ers rolled over Valparaiso 11-1 with right-hander Mike Doolin (5-0) striking out 12 in the six-inning game. The Vikings don't get paddled around like that, but Andrean is rolling. They topped Illiana Christian 5-3 and 9-4 on April 21, and beat Lowell on back-to-back days 10-7 and 11-0. The 59ers have two Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) games with Highland (11-2) remaining on May 7-8 and they take on Chicago superpower Marist (16-5) on May 10 at Andrean. On May 13, the 59ers take on Marian Catholic of Chicago Heights in a game to be played at the University of Notre Dame. Crown Point (10-5) comes to Andrean on Saturday, May 5 for a 10 a.m. double-header.

2. (4A) Lake Central (12-3)
23-9 (2017), 27-5 (2016), 25-5-1 (2015), 23-10 (2014), 23-9 (2013), 32-1 (2012)

ST. JOHN: LC swept a wind-chilled double-header Saturday 17-0 and 6-1 from (Lafayette) Jefferson (04-28-2018). Brock Begesha struck out seven in six innings in game one before the Indians rolled up 13 hits in a five inning Game 2 win. I've got a feeling the Indians expected a slightly tougher day than a combined score of 23-1. LC turned back Munster 7-4 Friday afternoon (04-27-2018). Justin Graves had six base hits in the three-game weekend. The only losses here are 10-7 to Portage, 5-4 to Penn and 4-2 to Valparaiso. After 15 games (a little past the halfway mark of the season) LC was batting .370 as a team. The Indians scored 10 or more runs eight times in the first 15 games, but let's see what they can do in two games each against the pitching of LaPorte (10-5) on May 1-2 and Chesterton (10-4) on May 15-16.

3. (4A) LaPorte (11-5)
22-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)

LaPORTE: LaPorte has split with DAC rivals Valparaiso, Crown Point and Portage in Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) play. Last week. the Slicers won 4-2 at home over CP and then lost 5-2 at CP. Left-hander Chandler Banic struck out eight and allowed just three hits before he reached his pitch limit in the seventh inning of the 5-2 win. The next day, lefty Noah Mathias struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings of the CP win. Saturday, senior football star Nolan Lorenz had a single, double and three RBIs in a 7-3 win over Washington Township (6-3-1). This week, LaPorte takes on Lake Central May 1-2 under sunny skies in warm conditions (don't hold me to that) and next week they challenge Chesterton May 8-9. Their final DAC games are May 15-16 against Michigan City.

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

CROWN POINT: Crown Point split two games with LaPorte and topped Michigan City 12-7 in eight innings Thursday (4-26-2018) as Jonathan Sabotnik was 3-for-5 at the plate and pitched the final two innings to get the win. Crown Point has lost to Hanover, LaPorte and to Lake Central twice. Other than losing to a school 1/3 your size (Hanover), none of those losses are to average teams. Saturday, CP lost 6-5 to undefeated St. Xavier (17-0) of Louisville, Kentucky, but bounced back to take down Terre Haute North 12-0. Bulldog senior right-hander Ryan Fender, who had control problems in the 4-2 loss to LaPorte, bounced back with four shutout innings and eight strikeouts in the win over Terre Haute North. Since back-to-back losses to LC early in the month, the Bulldogs have won 6-of-8 games. The Bulldogs face Valparaiso May 1-2 in DAC play before a visit to Munster Friday and Andrean (15-1) for a 10 a.m. neighborhood double-header Saturday.

5. (4A) Chesterton (10-4)
19-9 (2017), 19-10 (2016), 16-16 (2015), 15-12 (2014), 20-6 (2013)

CHESTERTON: Are the Trojans struggling? How can you be 10-4 and struggle? Chesterton took a 10-8 loss at Hobart Friday as the Brickies got 12 hits off three Trojan pitchers. I'm concerned about runs allowed here. The Trojan record is that of a quality team. Chesterton has lost to Crown Point 8-7 and 5-0. The Trojans have swept Portage 8-1 and 6-2 and they have topped Valparaiso 11-0 and 10-0. Chesterton also has a nonconference sweep of Morton 19-1 and 11-4. But I'm surprised at how many runs they've given up. Chesterton has lost 10-8 to Munster, 9-3 to Harrison and 8-7 to Crown Point. The Trojans' pitching staff is surely better than those numbers indicate and I'm convinced they'll show it as the weather (allegedly) gets warmer. The most important games of the regular season are still to be played for Chesterton. The Trojans play LaPorte (11-4) May 8-9 and they take on Lake Central (12-3) May 15-16. I'm still of the mind Chesterton has the pitching to handle those back-to-back games against winning teams. But the again, I'm still of the mind that it's spring.

6. (3A) Griffith (11-4-1)
15-15 (2017), 16-14 (2016), 16-13 (2015), 0-0 (2014)

GRIFFITH: Good week for Griffith with four wins and a tie. The Panthers rolled over out-manned Calumet 20-0 and 14-1 in the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) and then topped Kankakee Valley 14-2 and Valparaiso 3-1. In the win over Valpo, the Panther's Gabe Pulido (18 of 35, .514) was 2-for-3 including a first inning RBI double. I'm not sure why Saturday's nonconference game ended in a 1-1 tie at Michigan City. Weather? Pitch count rules. I'm not sure. Jeremy Maynard (25 of 39, .641) was 4-for-5 with two triples against KV and has hit safely in 12 consecutive games before to the mini-game at Michigan City. Griffith, which is 8-0 in the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC), takes on Wheeler (11-1, 7-1 GSSC) in key back-to-back league games Monday and Tuesday this week. The Panthers have a night game May 12 against Munster (7 p.m.) and the key game with Hanover Central (10-3) is a 5 p.m. game on May 14.

7. (3A) Wheeler (11-1)
21-5 (2017), 18-10 (2016), 16-12 (2015), 10-14 (2014)

UNION TOWNSHIP: Wheeler's 7-6 win over Hanover Thursday and a better overall record lifts them to this spot. Senior Sam Beier (21 of 40, .525) has 10 stolen bases and 20 RBIs while Adam Wagner (13 of 37, .351) has walked 12 times and scored 20 runs. No secret to how the Bearcats get things done. Wheeler has 28 stolen bases and senior captain Jacob Armetrout (3-0, .091 ERA) has 23 strikeouts in 15 innings. The Bearcats have allowed just 37 runs in 12 games. Wheeler has split with Hanover (the only team to defeat them so far) and now they take on Griffith in the GSSC league games Monday and Tuesday. Again, the Bearcats' numbers are a bit tainted by the GSSC competition. But this was a 21-win team last year and they will get the chance to stand tall against Griffith (11-4-1) and Hobart (11-5) in the final four weeks of the season.

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Revised: April 30, 2018.