2018 Renegade HS Baseball Week-8 Poll for Northwest Indiana

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Andrean senior Clay Thompson (9) should be leading off and playing centerfield when the top-ranked 59ers begin the 52nd Indiana state baseball tournament next week. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (5-15-2018) The pairings for the 52nd Indiana State baseball tournament are out and some teams certainly found out how lucky they are.

The IHSAA goes a long way to make the state playoff fair, but they are not. Not even close. The 'blind draw' of opening game pairings, something designed originally for the state basketball tournament, is inflicted on baseball and some teams know they are doomed long before they play the first game.

For example, in the 6-team Class 3A Sectional 18 at Kankakee Valley, the host school has been selected to play the state's top-ranked team, Andrean (22-4) in the quarterfinals. Anybody can win on any given day, but Andrean has defeated KV twice this year 28-2 and 19-0. The day on which this year's KV team defeats this year's Andrean team has not and will not be 'given'.

At the other end of the 'luck' spectrum, it is impossible for Lake Central (20-3) to lose in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A Munster Sectional. LC got a bye and does not play a quarterfinal game. They will face Morton (7-10) in the Sectional semifinals. In the very 'fair' state tournament, Lake Central has a yellow brick road to the sectional championship game.

Best bet to win their sectional? Griffith.

But we didn't need the draw to determine that.

In the 6-team Class 3A Sectional 17, which will be played at Griffith, the host Panthers (17-6) got a quarterfinal bye and a semifinals date with Gary West Side. I'm not even sure West Side has a team. The other four teams in the Griffith sectional are Clark (8-7), Hammond (5-7), Morton (7-10) and Gavit (5-13). I'm just kidding.

Of course, West Side has a baseball team. According to the Max Preps web site, the Cougars have played 17 games and won two. Let's just say that Griffith is favored to win their sectional.

Baseball regional tournaments will be held at Whiting (2A), Griffith (3A) and LaPorte (4A). The Northern Semistate sites are Plymouth (great for NW Indiana teams) and Kokomo (not so great) while the state championships will be held June 15-16 at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. This year any and all Northwest Indiana schools reaching the finals will be the 'visitors' batting first in every game.

Again the four state championship games will be seen live in every part of the state on FOX Sports Indiana. Every part of the state except Northwest Indiana, which does not get FOX Sports on cable or satellite systems because they are said to be in the 'Chicago market'. You can watch delayed broadcasts of the state title games on the IHSAA web site, but you cannot watch live on that site. To my knowledge, NW Indiana is the only part of the state where IHSAA championship events are not all carried live, certainly not on free TV. I do not know whether the IHSAA is aware of that or not.

Some teams that got first round byes (LC, Griffith, Valparaiso, Whiting) may schedule extra games Monday and Tuesday, May 21 and 22, depending on their pitching situations.

For some of us who can only get to games easily on Saturdays, from a spectator standpoint, these are the best two weeks of the season. Night games in the final regular week and two games for the price of one at the sectional. The games are still at local sites with everybody using their best pitching.

Not much rain is in the the forecast for the next two weeks. These are the best days of the season.

1. (3A) Andrean (22-4)
26-9 (2017), 26-6 (2016), 30-6 (2015), 31-4 (2014), 27-3-1 (2013)

MERRILLVILLE: Andrean rolled over Highland twice 7-0 and 10-3 last week to win the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) championship. The 59ers also topped Morton 10-0 and Marist 8-3 to create a 4-game winning streak. Mike Doolin struck out 10 in the shutout win over Highland. Mason Sanito stuck out eight in six innings to shut out Morton. Charlie Jones went 3-for-4 in the win over Marist. On May 13, the 59ers take on Marian Catholic of Chicago Heights in a game to be played at the University of Notre Dame. The May 16 game with Bishop Noll is the last one on the Andrean schedule. Andrean drew KV in the quarterfinals of the KV Sectional. The 59ers hope they have to make three long drives to Jasper County. But if the 59ers do win the first round title, the regional games will be held in Griffith on June 2.

2. (4A) Lake Central (19-3)
23-9 (2017), 27-5 (2016), 25-5-1 (2015), 23-10 (2014), 23-9 (2013), 32-1 (2012)

ST. JOHN: I have LC with 10 consecutive wins since a 4-2 loss on April 25 at Valparaiso. Last week, the Indians shut out Michigan City 2-0, topped Homewood-Flossmoor 9-2 and rolled over Hanover Central 11-1. Conner Hoffman was 3-for-3 in the win over Hanover. Justin Graves was 4-for-4 against Homewood-Flossmoor with two doubles and 3 RBIs. Alex James shut down eight in six innings in the shutout of Michigan City. The only losses here are still 10-7 to Portage, 5-4 to Penn and 4-2 to Valparaiso. In the final days of the season, LC plays Chesterton (15-4) twice on May 15-16 and Hobart (16-7) on May 18 but they may add a game if they can. Because, as previously noted, nobody got a better draw than Lake Central, which gets a bye in the 6-team Class 4A Munster Sectional. The Indians would not play Munster, their neighbor and arch rival, until the sectional championship game.

3. (4A) Crown Point (17-6)
19-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)

CROWN POINT: At the start of the year, I didn't see CP being rated ahead of Chesterton at any time, but the Bulldogs have won six in a row since a 6-5 loss to Valparaiso. Bulldog senior right-hander Ryan Bolda pitched a complete game 4-0 shutout over Hobart last Friday. Ryan Fender pitched a five-inning, 11-strikeout shutout against Merrillville. Bolda struck out eight in a 4-1 Saturday win over Andrean on May 5. On May 12, The Bulldogs topped Highland 6-2. Scott Ferkul and Josh Lindeman had two hits each. At the start of last week, seniors Nick DeFries (25 of 64, .391), Alex Rich (21 of 54, .388) and Ben Fridrich (21 of 61, .362) were a big part of the offense. I don't believe that playing well in the final weeks of the season means you'll likely play well in the sectional. I don't think baseball works that way. CP most certainly did not get a good draw. They play Hobart in the quarterfinals and then would see Chesterton in the semifinals of the 4A Chesterton Sectional.
It's better to be good than be lucky. Especially if you weren't lucky.

4. (4A) Chesterton (13-4)
19-9 (2017), 19-10 (2016), 16-16 (2015), 15-12 (2014), 20-6 (2013)

CHESTERTON: Potentially, this is still a 4A regional champion. You just won't be able to show it by wins and statistics. Senior Chris Torres allowed just one hit last week in a 5-0 win over LaPorte. Logan Lawson had three base hits. The Trojans survived four errors and beat Michigan City 7-3 the day before. Tuesday. Chesterton topped MC 7-2 with 11 base hits including a home run by Grant Brunt. The Trojans haven't played as many times as they've wanted to and I'm guessing they'll try to squeeze in six or seven games in the final week. The Trojans play in the Carmel Invitational next weekend May 18-19. Chesterton opens the post-season with Merrillville (1-16-1) so they can save all-stater Austin Peterson (3-1, 0.55 ERA) to pitch against Crown Point (17-6) in the 4A Sectional 2 semifinals next week.

5. (4A) LaPorte (16-8)
22-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)

LaPORTE: LaPorte swept Lowell 6-4, and 2-1 Saturday, but they wouldn't call it a good week to end a good week. The Trojans split two games with Chesterton (13-4), topping all-state right-hander Austin Petsron in the 2-1 game. LaPorte star Chandler Banic pitched that complete game win. The Slicers have won 5-out-of-6 since losing back-to-back games to Lake Central. Right-hander Logan Missal pitched the 2-1 win over Lowell. The final Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) games for LaPorte come May 15-16 against Michigan City. Just so we're clear. LaPorte is in 4A Sectional 3, which will be in LaPorte. Chesterton is not there and Penn (17-4) is in 4A Sectional 4. The toughest team in Sectional 3 other than LaPorte is probably Mishawaka (11-6). Here's a team to watch in the post-season with two tough lefthanders in Banic and Noah Mathias and no DAC teams other than Michigan City in their sectional.

6. (3A) Griffith (17-6-1)
15-15 (2017), 16-14 (2016), 16-13 (2015), 0-0 (2014)

GRIFFITH: I'm not sure about the 3-4-5 rankings here. Those teams seem very close. There's a grouping of Griffith, Hobart (15-7), Wheeler (14-4), Highland (14-4) and Hanover (16-5) that's hard to split up as well. What tipped me off for Griffith here was Saturday's 5-3 win over Munster. Johnny Maynard had a 3-run double in the third. Julian Rutherford pitched three shutout innings in relief to finish off the win on the road. Maynard (32 of 66, .485) has 13 doubles in 22 games. Junior Cole Cervantes (34 of 76, .447) has three triples and 10 stolen bases. Griffith ended the week with a 5-game winning streak since an 8-0 loss to Highland and they play Hanover Central Monday and Tuesday for the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) regular season championship. The Panthers host Lowell at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 19. But I'd bet they'll add another game in the final week.

7. (4A) Hobart (16-7)
2017 (16-7) 2016 (21-9) 2015 (19-9) 2014 (26-6)

HOBART: Hobart probably should have been in the poll all year. They beat Chesterton 10-8 and split with Munster and Andrean (22-4) and they swept Lowell and KV in conference play. The 7-3 March 28 loss to Washington Township (17-6-1) wasn't as bad as it looked when it happened and and now nobody cares what happens in March anyway. The Brickies lost twice to Highland (14-4) and they dropped a nonconference game at Crown Point (17-6). So there are seven losses but no bad ones. Brock Cooper (27 of 64, .422) and junior Tyler Schultz (33 of 80, .412). Sophomore Matt Benton (5-1, 1.43 ERA) gave up seven runs in a start against Andrean and has given up 12 runs in all his other starts combined. Hobart has scheduled a game with Wheeler for Tuesday night, May 22, the last day you can play before the sectional. The Brickies drew Crown Point (17-6) in the 4A Chesterton Sectional quarterfinals and, if they win, they face Chesterton. So luck was not on their side in the draw.

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Revised: May 16, 2018.