BY STEVE KRAH
Peyton Nisch has a torn left shoulder that doesn’t allow him to effectively swing a bat.
But Niskch (11-0) can pitch and held No. 4-ranked Brebeuf Jesuit in-check much of the time in helping No. 1 Andrean (31-4) to its eighth IHSAA state baseball championship in nine final appearances at the State Finals.
The 59ers beat the Braves 5-1 Friday, June 17 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“I changed up my tempo; I changed up my first pitch,” said Niksch, a 5-foot-11 senior right-hander who struck out eight, walked two and yielded three hits and one unearned run over seven innings and 112 pitches. “Sometimes it would be a fastball. Sometimes it would be a change-up.
“I kept them off-balance and they knew it was coming.”
Said Brebeuf coach Jeff Scott of Purdue Northwest-bound Niksch, “I thought we’d get a few more hits off him. He did a really good job. Our kids battled through it. We had a lot of adversity tonight.”
Andrean opened the 2022 season with Tennessee trip. On the way back to northwest Indiana, the team bus went past The Vic.
“We’re gonna be there,” said Niksch and several of his teammates, predicting a future that came true months later. All the coaches said that the way we played in Tennessee there’s no way. We proved them wrong. That’s all that matters.”
Dave Pishkur concluded his 42nd season as 59ers coach with his eighth 3A state title — all won since 2005. Andrean was state runner-up in 2004.
“We won the state championship because of the guy that we beat,” said Pishkur after the 59ers topped senior right-hander Andrew Dutkanych, who is committed to Vanderbilt University but could been selected high in the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. “We beat a stud today. That’s a feather in our cap.
“So seven years down the road when he’s pitching in the major leagues, (we can say) we beat that kid or I got a hit off him.”
L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award winner Dutkanych (8-1) went all six innings and gave up eight hits with eight strikeouts and one walk over 102 pitches. Four of the five runs scored against him were earned.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” said Pishkur. “They’re tough kids and they’re athletic.”
Andrean swiped seven bases — three for junior Caleb Smith and one each for senior Alonzo Paul, freshman Mason Barth, junior Drayk Bowen and senior Kyle Tyler — and diving catches were made by sophomore right fielder Moises Vazquez for the first out and senior center fielder Billy Jones for the 20th of 21.
The 59ers took a 5-1 edge with a run in the fifth.
Senior Jax Kalemba led off the frame with a single — one of his three on the day — and courtesy runner Smith later scored on a sacrifice fly by junior pinch-hitter Angel Ramirez — who came in with just three at-bats for 2022. Kalemba’s plate appearance was kept alive by a dropped foul pop-up.
Andrean pushed across a run in the fourth for a 4-1 lead.
Bowen drew a lead-off walk, stole second, went to third base on a wild pitch and scored on suicide squeeze bunt by Vazquez.
Brebeuf (26-5) pulled to within 3-1 with an unearned run in the third.
With two outs, senior Anthony Annee singled, moved to second base on an error, third base on junior Jayden Ohmer’s single and scored on an errant pick-off throw toward first base by Niksch.
The 59ers strung together five straight hits and scored three runs — all with two outs — in the second inning.
After two strikeouts, Jones doubled, Nisch bunted for a single (and was spelled by courtesy runner Tyler), Paul singled, Barth produced an infield single and Kalemba smacked a single.
Jones and Tyler scored on Paul’s hit. Paul crossed the plate on Kalemba’s safety.
Scott, who had announced that he’s stepping down after four years of leading the program, talked about Friday’s game.
“We tip our caps to Andrean,” said Scott. “They had a really good game plan coming into this.
“We knew they were going to (suicide squeeze). It’s just a difficult play to defend in baseball. It takes the perfect bunt and they got it down.
“We had one heck of a season and will have nothing to hang our heads about when all this wears off.”
In going 26-5, Brebeuf got to its second state finals (the Braves were 3A runners-up in 2012) by winning 15 straight and 19 of 20.
“We had an unbelievable senior bunch to lead the path for these young guys here coming up through the program,” said Scott. “I came in with these guys when they were freshmen and watched a bunch of kids work their tails off.
“It gives me a lot of joy that they set the tone of our program and our culture.”
Brebeuf’s next head coach will be Wes Neese, who has been a Braves assistant.