By STEVE KRAH
John Gumpf has enjoyed watching his South Bend St. Joseph Indians take turns wearing the hero label on the way to the program’s first IHSAA state championship game appearance.
“It’s not one person all the time doing it,” says Gumpf, who sends St. Joseph (24-4) against Jasper (30-4) in the 3A title game (following the 11 a.m. 1A game) Saturday June 17 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. “It could be top half the order one time. It could be the bottom half of the order one time. It could be our defense. It could be our pitching. It’s been a team effort throughout.”
Team chemistry has also played a major part in the Tribe’s success.
“(Chemistry) can take you a long way,” says Gumpf. “They’re a pretty loose group. They enjoy one another. They are definitely fighters. They don’t quit.”
Gumpf, who is in his 10th season as head coach, says he plans to send junior left-hander Michael Dunkelberger to the mound against Jasper. It has been Dunkelberger and junior right-hander Alex Voss logging most of the playoff innings for St. Joe.
The new IHSAA pitch count rules (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) have not been a real concern for Gumpf in ’17.
“My goal for these kids is to play at the next level and I don’t want to jeopardize anything by overthrowing them,” says Gumpf. “During the year, you’ve got to manage it a little more. We did have pitchers throwing their (between-appearances) bullpens more during games this year.”
Voss slammed a key three-run home run in the semistate.
The Indians’ path to the championship game includes wins over New Prairie and Culver Academies at the Jimtown Sectional, Griffith and John Glenn at the Griffith Regional and NorthWood at the Plymouth Semistate on the heels of a strong regular-season schedule which featured against Northern Indiana Conference foes Penn (2017 4A state finalist) and Glenn plus one game against 4A Plymouth and doubleheader vs. 3A Fort Wayne Dwenger.
St. Joe won its first 16 games of the season before falling to Penn in mid-May.
“I try to schedule games that will help us play into June,” says Gumpf, who also serves as assistant athletic director at St. Joe. “I think it has helped us.”
Gumpf, who played in the Minnesota Twins organization from 1989-92, coached high school baseball and junior college football in southern California before coming to South Bend when wife Deanna took an assistant softball job at Notre Dame (2017 was her 16th season as Irish head coach). John was a volunteer softball coach at ND for four seasons and volunteer Irish baseball assistant for three more before taking over the St. Joseph baseball program.
Gumpf, 45, is a stickler for the fundamentals.
“The biggest thing is doing the little things,” says Gumpf. “If you do the little things, the spectacular things will come.”
After giving his team Monday off, he planned to go back to work on Tuesday with the players and coaching staff of John Smolinski, Ray Torres, Nick Kleva, Drew Mentock, Dan Mentock, Ryan Newland, Ted Pajakowski and Tom Kostielney.
“We’re going up against a great baseball team in Jasper with great baseball tradition,” says Gumpf. “Hopefully they’re not scared, but excited to be a part of this.
“It’ll be fun If we do the best we can and bring home a state championship.”
John Gumpf, in his 10th season as head baseball coach at South Bend St. Joseph High School, will lead the Indians against Jasper in the IHSAA Class 3A championship game on Saturday, June 17. (St. Joseph Photo)
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