By STEVE KRAH
But the Slicers had experienced a title drought.
The orange and black will not only be hosting but playing in the Class 4A LaPorte Regional for the first time since 2010.
“Pitching and defense — that was the story of the sectional,” says Upp, who got commanding mound performances from Andy Samuelson and Chandler Banic. “We didn’t knock the cover off the ball. We got timely hits.”
“All three of those programs are well-known throughout northern Indiana,” says Upp.
The regional field at Schreiber Field features Andrean (25-7) against LaPorte (22-8) in Game 1, Lake Central (23-8) against Penn (24-6) in Game 2 and the regional final at night Saturday, June 3. Andrean is No. 6 in the final Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association 4A poll. LaPorte, Lake Central and Penn all received votes.
Between the four schools, they have won 18 state crowns (LaPorte 8, Andrean 5, Penn 4 and Lake Central) 1).
Upp knows from his experience as a LaPorte player (he’s a 1986 graduate who played for and later coached with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ken Schreiber) knows about the intensity and urgency of postseason baseball.
“You have your regular season and your second season,” says Upp. “If you can get hot or be playing your best ball at that time.”
LaPorte lost to Chesterton in the regular-season finale, but took the time between then and their sectional games and “got back to the basics.”
“We got individual time in with defense and hitting,” says Upp. “Our pitchers got a chance to breathe a little bit.”
Getting that chance to practice and refresh is just what the Slicers needed going into the sectional.
While LaPorte has won plenty of sectionals, Upp notes that it has become a tougher proposition since the class system came along with the 1998 season (the year he took over for Schreiber 11 games in).
With all the state’s biggest schools and, in the case of Andrean (playing “up” in class because of the IHSAA success factor, postseason success is not a given.
“We seem to have different sectional champs every year and there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Upp. “It’s good baseball.
“I’m not making excuses for LaPorte and why we’ve had a seven-year span. It is more difficult.”
Upp calls IHSAA state tournament games “a rough way to go.”
“In high school baseball, you take one guy on the mound and that team becomes totally different,” says Upp. “And it’s a one-and-done tournament.”
There are no series or second chances.
The coach notes that there are not too many back-to-back champions in the Duneland Athletic Conference (which also includes Chesterton, Crown Point, Lake Central, Merrillville, Michigan City, Portage and Valparaiso) either.
The 2017 Slicers were tied for first place in the DAC going into the final two games with Chesterton. LaPorte lost both games against Chesterston and split two games each with Crown Point, Lake Central and Valparaiso, finishing 9-5 and in fourth in the conference.
Chesterton won it at 11-3 (then lost to Andrean in the Chesterton Sectional championship game).
It’s all-Slicer coaching staff at LaPorte. Everyone played their high school baseball on Schreiber Field.
Jeff DeMass (Class of 2005) is the pitching coach. Rob Schellinger (1998) has moved up from the junior varsity to be a varsity assistant. Mark Manering (1981) is a volunteer varsity coach. The JV Slicers are led by Kevin Upp (2010) with help from Blake Hindsley (2005).
The rich traditions of the program are detailed in a book, Slicer Baseball: A Cut Above (produced by Prime Time Publications LLC, dba Indiana Football Digest) and sold by LaPorte High School.
Scott Upp, a 1986 LaPorte High School graduate, has been the Slicers’ head baseball coach since early in the 1998 season. His 2017 team will play in the IHSAA Class 4A LaPorte Regional. (Steve Krah Photo)