Sal Aguilar has been a part of baseball success as a player and an assistant coach. He was the starting third baseman for the Hammond (Ind.) Chiefs that went to the Babe Ruth Baseball World Series. The 1998 graduate of Griffith (Ind.) High School was on the coaching staff at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., as the 59ers won IHSAA Class 3A state championships in 2018 and 2019 — two of eight state titles on Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur’s watch. Aguilar’s first year as an assistant at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind., was 2021 and the Wildcats finished as Class 3A state runners-up. Ryan Bridges let his team know that the 2022 season would be his last as Hanover Central head coach since he was taking a job at the school as assistant athletic director to Kelly Bermes. In June, Aguilar was hired to head the Wildcats baseball program. “We have great kids and great community support,” says Aguilar. “We’re excited to embark on this new chapter of Hanover Central baseball. We have a very bright future “We’re not going to shy away from the ultimate goal which is to win a state championship.” Hanover Central (enrollment around 775) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Hammond Bishop Noll, Boone Grove, Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, South Central of Union Mills, Wheeler and Whiting). The Wildcats were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Culver Military Academy, John Glenn, Kankakee Valley, Knox and River Forest. Hanover Central has won two sectional crowns — 2011 (2A) and 2021 (3A). Players from the Class of 2021 included outfielder Jared Comia (now at the University of Illinois), 6-foot-9 right-handed pitcher Peyton Olejnik (who went to Triton College in River Grove, Ill., and is heading to the University of Oklahoma in 2022-23), left-hander/infielder Bret Matthys (Purdue Northwest) and infielder Blaze Cano (who is transferring from PNW to Calumet of St. Joseph in Whiting). Three athletes in the Class of 2023 expected to play at the next level include shortstop/pitcher Zach Zykowski, pitcher Luka Zakman and two-sport standout Gannan Howes (who is getting attention in baseball and football). Aguilar came to Hanover Central as a teacher in 2020-2 and is entering his 16th year in the classroom. He taught seven years in Texas, three in Illinois and this will be his sixth in Indiana. He instructs HCHS freshmen in Integrated Chemistry and Physics (ICP). Born in Munster, Ind., Aguilar spent his first nine years in East Chicago, Ind. After fourth grade, he moved to Griffith and attended St. Mary School then went to Griffith High School for four years. He earned three baseball letters for the Todd Iwema-coached Panthers. Aguilar played for the Hammond Seminoles in 1997 then for Dave Sutkowski’s Hammond Chiefs in 1998 and 1999. “The kids call him Bush,” says Aguilar of Sutkowski. “I learned a lot from Dave as a young kid about building relationships with players.” One way to do that at Hanover Central is through junior high baseball program. Thirty players in grades 6-8 play and practice in the fall. “That’s a huge asset for our program,” says Aguilar. “It’s all hands on deck here so varsity coaches are going to run that team. We’re going to be able install and implement our brands of offense and defense. “We get to cultivate those lifelong relationships with those kids at a very young age.” Aguilar’s coaching staff includes four Hanover Central graduates — Nic Sampognaro (Class of 2011) with the varsity, twins Sam Momcilovic (Class of 2019) and Evan Momcilovic (2019) with the junior varsity and Mike Biegel (Class of 2018) as freshman head coach. Former Hammond Bishop Noll and Merrillville head coach Paul Wirtz lends his experience to the varsity staff. Jesse Forrester (Lowell Class of 2019) is a freshman assistant. Aguilar finished his college degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2006. His teaching and coaching career began shortly after that. He came back to Indiana and married Griffith alum Brittany Clark in 2016. Sal and Brittany Aguilar have two children — Luis (5) and Gianna (2). “(Brittany) knows it’s not easy being a coach’s wife,” says Sal. “We’re lucky to have family around to help us out.”
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.
The 55th IHSAA State Finals for baseball is returning to a Friday-Saturday format with two games each day at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. On Friday, June 17, the Class 2A game pits No. 7-ranked Centerville (21-5) against unranked Illiana Christian (21-7) at 5:30 p.m. ET/4:30 CT. Both teams are making their first State Finals appearance. Centerville has outscored opponents 38-20 in five postseason games. Illiana Christian has a run differential of 62-6 in six games. The 3A game features No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit (26-4) against No. 1 Andrean (30-4) at 8 ET/7 CT. The Braves have earned one state runner-up finish in 3A (2012), the 59ers seven state titles (2005, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) and one runner-up (2003). Tournament run differential — Brebeuf 47-5 in six games, Andrean 49-6 in five games. On Saturday, June 18, the 1A title contest is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 CT and includes vote-getter Tecumseh (19-12) and No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic (26-6). The Braves won it all in 1A in 2003 while the Knights have carted off the state trophy on seven occasions (2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). Tournament run differential — Tecumseh 58-15 in six games, Lafayette Central Catholic 62-7 in five games. The 4A championship is slated for 8 ET/7 CT and pits a pair of unranked clubs — Indianapolis Cathedral (18-10-2) against Penn (25-6). The Irish have reigned three times (2001 in 3A, 2007 and 2017 in 4A) with five runner-up finishes (2006, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2018). The Kingsmen have four state crowns to their credit (1994 in the pre-class era, 1998, 2001 and 2015 in 4A) with one runner-up (2017). Tournament run differential — Cathedral 59-27 in five games, Penn 33-12 in six games. Andrean’s Dave Pishkur, Lafayette Central Catholic’s Tim Bordenet, Penn’s Greg Dikos are all members of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A capsule look at the finalists:
Class 4A Indianapolis Cathedral Top hitters: Jr. Kyuss Gargett (.395 average, 3 home runs, 18 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases), So. Carson Johnson (.389, 20 RBI, 12 SB), So. J.T. Stiner (.364, 2 HR, 30 RBI), Sr. Ben Gomez (.342, 2 HR), So. Patrick Mazur (.341, 21 RBI), 13 SB, Jr. David Ayers (.247, 18 RBI, 16 SB), Sr. Connor Hall (15 SB). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Ben Gomez (5-1, 36 strikeouts, 15 walks, 3.55 earned run average, 51 1/3 IP), Sr. RHP Dylan Haslett (3-3, 3.58, 56 K’s, 25 walks, 43 IP). Cathedral won the Pike Sectional (Pike 11-1, Lawrence North 10-8), New Palestine Regional (Anderson 14-4, New Palestine 11-7) and Mooresville Semistate (Columbus East 13-7). The Fighting Irish have won a season-best seven in a row. Saturday’s game against Penn recalls the 2017 4A championship game (a 4-3 Cathedral victory). Bishop Chatard bested the Irish in the 2022 city championship game May 10 at Victory Field. Cathedral head coach Ed Freje (Sixth season, 113-32-5) says: “We’ve struggled early and throughout to kind of find our identity on the mound and some pieces that worked offensively for us. We had some bad losses. We had some good wins. It was kind of an up-and-down year … Ben Gomez threw a great game, a complete game (in a 3-2 Senior Night win May 16 against Mooresville). I don’t know if that was a turning point, but I think it definitely gave the guys confidence to beat a good opponent. It was some momentum to build on going into the postseason … We make it a priority (to play a competitive schedule). We definitely want to play and see good teams to see where we’re at early and throughout the season — most importantly to see good pitching and challenge ourselves … We can learn from our wins and learn from our losses and grow through the season … Hopefully — along the way — we’re winning some games. Losing is something we try not to settle in too much in the program … We try to go out and compete everyday to win so you know the losses we took throughout weren’t easy, especially some of the lopsided ones (including 11-1 to Homestead, 17-1 to Center Grove and 18-8 to Franklin Community) … We’ve had games where we’ve had to battle and win in some ugly ways … One of the staples of the program when I was an assistant to Coach (Rich) Andriole was pitching and defense and holding opponents to low-scoring games and that — quite frankly — hasn’t been how we’ve won this year. We’ve been kind of fortunate to find some offense and find our bats here lately … Each team kind of takes its own identity and this isn’t the team from 2017 and it’s not the team from 2018 (which lost 4-3 to Fishers for the 4A title). This team is its own team. I’m proud of the way we’ve stuck together … It’s a special opportunity (to play at Victory Field). We try to tell our players it’s nothing to take for granted … It provides a little bit of reassurance the fact that we’ve been there.”
Penn Top hitters: Zach Hoskins (.412, 1 HR, 14 RBI), Jr. Cam Dombrowski (.409, 21 RBI), Sr. Ben Gregory (.373, 30 RBI), Jr. Adam Lehmann (.366, 20 RBI), Jr. Cooper Hums (.333, 2 HR, 16 RBI), Sr. Zac David (.313, 27 RBI), Jr. Evan Tuesley (.219, 2 HR, 11 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Ben Gregory (3-1, 2.07, 37 K’s, 8 walks, 27 IP), Jr. RHP Brayden Schoetzow (10-0, 1.37, 62 K’s, 14 walks, 51 IP), Jr. RHP Adam Lehmann (3-1, 1.64, 49 K’s, 16 walks, 34 IP), So. RHP Joe Trennery (4-2, 3.30, 49 K’s, 18 walks, 36 IP). Penn won the Penn Sectional (Elkhart 7-0, Warsaw 3-1, Northridge 7-5), LaPorte Regional (South Bend Adams 11-0, Lake Central 5-4) and LaPorte Semistate (Zionsville 4-2). The Kingsmen are in the state championship game for the sixth time coming off an 11-game win streak. Penn has won 14 of its last 15. Penn head coach Greg Dikos (35th season, 793-281) says: “I think it’s going to be very good baseball … (Cathedral) is pounding the ball pretty good. That’s one of the things we have to stop. They score a lot of runs. They look to have some team speed … Like we did for Zionsville, we’re going working on holding runners and with our catchers getting rid of he ball. You know, making sure we don’t allow them any free bases … We want them to take a look around and enjoy the atmosphere because this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (for our players). I also want to make sure they understand the responsibility on their shoulders. The community is expecting a ‘W.’ … (Competing for championships) is the culture here at Penn … (Assistant coach Jim Kominkiewicz) has been involved for all six (State Finals) appearances. (Tom Stanton) has been involved since 2002. The kids see that we’re experienced (coaches) and I think that might take a little pressure off as well.”
Class 3A Brebeuf Jesuit Top hitters: Sr. Sam Reed (.444, 2 HR, 22 RBI), Sr. Will Schenkelberg (.426, 2 HR, 32 RBI), Sr. Luke Bauer (.413, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 19 SB), So. Will Loftus (.407, 3 HR, 32 RBI), Jr. Jayden Ohmer (.398, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 21 SB), Sr. Anthony Annee (.320, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 33 SB), Jr. Michael Finelli (.329, 22 RBI), Jr. Alex Cookerly (.241, 22 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Andrew Dutkanych (8-0, 106 K’s, 24 walks, 1.02, 48 IP), Sr. LHP Sam Reed (5-0, 1.17, 89 K’s, 15 walks, 54 IP). Brebeuf won the Danville Sectional (Greencastle 10-0, Danville 11-3, Tri-West Hendricks 12-2), Danville Regional (West Vigo 4-0, Beech Grove 8-0) and Jasper Semistate (Silver Creek 2-0). The Braves have won 15 straight. Their last loss was April 30 at Center Grove (9-8). Brebeuf won the Marion County tournament championship May 10 against Lawrence North (13-3) at Victory Field. Brebeuf head coach Jeff Scott (Fourth season at Brebeuf and 12th overall, 131-100-1) says: “We never really talked about the State Finals this year. We had a senior leadership meeting (in the winter and throughout the season). One of the things I talked about was ‘let’s enjoy this ride here and let’s take this thing day-by-day. Let’s go work hard and enjoy each day and see where we get when this thing’s over … This is my last year at Brebeuf. I’ve kept that under my hat. I didn’t want to take away our seniors or our team (Scott, who is in his fourth season leading the Braves, lives in the Center Grove district and makes a long daily commute to Brebeuf and wants to spent more time enjoying his children’s activities) … We knew we compete on that stage and compete with that team (after the loss to Center Grove). I think our mindset changed a little bit … Sam (Reed) gives you a great look on the left side. He really works down and keeps the ball down. Where (Friday’s starter) Andrew (Dutkanych) will rely on the breaking ball a little more, Sam relies on the change-up a little more. That’s probably the noticeable differences between those two pitchers … It’s a huge advantage (having played recently at Victory Field). You know we were there last year. The majority of the team has played on that field the last two years already. When you first play there No. 1 you’re a little awestruck. It’s a beautiful venue and unbelievable backdrop with the city of Indianapolis there. So you have that factor. It’s really big (320 feet down the lines, 418 to left-center, 326 to right-center and 402 to dead center). The foul territories are much bigger and the gaps are much bigger that your normal high school field. Positioning the outfielders is very difficult at Victory Field, especially if you haven’t been there. Communicating is extremely challenging out there for some reason … (Andrean) is going to be well-prepared to go pitch it well and defend it well. I’m certain they’ll have a good game plan to try to attack (Dutkanych) as well — just like Silver Creek did this past weekend.”
Andrean Top hitters: Sr. Jax Kalemba (.460, 5 HR, 38 RBI), Sr. Billy Jones (.435, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Sr. Alonzo Paul (.434, 17 RBI), Sr. Miguel Martinez (.429, 2 HR, 11 RBI), Sr. Peyton Niksch (.425, 2 HR, 33 RBI), Fr. Mason Barth (.406, 1 HR, 43 RBI), Sr. Owen Walkowiak (.395, 18 RBI), Jr. Drayk Bowen (.355, 2 HR, 30 RBI), Jr. Chris Koeppen (.282, 2 HR, 13 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Peyton Niksch (10-0, 0.22, 79 K’s, 15 walks, 62 2/3 IP), Sr. RHP Owen Walkowiak (5-2, 1.76, 59 K’s, 17 walks, 47 2/3 IP). Andrean won the Griffith Sectional (Griffith 10-2, Calumet New Tech 18-0), Griffith Regional (South Bend Saint Joseph 5-3, Glenn 4-0) and Kokomo Semistate (New Castle 12-1). The 59ers have won six in a row. The team reeled off 14 straight wins April 14-May 10. Andrean head coach Dave Pishkur (42nd season, 1,070-292) says: “The Penn game (a 4-3 win on April 29) might be the one that told me that we’re good enough to beat some of the really good teams. But we kept on getting better week after week (as the starting lineup from Day 1 evolved through the season as is typical at Andrean) … We went right by Victory Field (on the way came back from Louisville Ballard in late March). Our kids were saying ‘we’ll be there in two months.’ My son and I, we were kind of laughing like there’s no way we’re coming back there if we don’t get markedly better and we did. They prophesied that they were going to be there … This is a very athletic team. We put a premium on baserunning and putting the ball in-play … We’ve seen good pitching this year. The problem is Dukanych might be a step up from good pitching. He might be that elite generational type of talent … We’re fortunate at Andrean that we have a lot of good equipment (including a $14,000 iPitch machine which can deliver 97 mph fastballs, 76 mph breaking pitches and just about everything in-between) … With a good opposition (like Brebeuf) you expect good pitching. You expect good hitting. But, on the other side, they should expect the same out of us and you kind of hope it’s a well-played game.”
Class 2A Centerville Top hitters: Sr. Jamari Pamplin (.429, 6 HR, 28 RBI), Sr. Javontae Pamplin (.423, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 16 SB) , Sr. Keegan Schlotterbeck (.364, 2 HR, 27 RBI), Sr. Logan Drook (.361, 18 RBI), Jr. Jacob Crowe (.357, 1 HR, 26 RBI), Jr. Collin Clark (.338, 2 HR, 18 RBI), So. Kollyn Peed (.333, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Sr. Bryce Robertson (333, 18 RBI), Sr. Zach Thompson (.274, 1 HR, 14 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Jacob Crowe (10-3, 2.13, 87 K’s, 14 walks, 62 1/3 IP), Sr. RHP Logan Drook (5-0, 1.30, 66 K’s, 28 walks, 43 IP). Centerville won the Centerville Sectional (Shenandoah 4-2, Hagerstown 14-8), Park Tudor Regional (Cascade 6-3, Heritage Christian 8-2) and Mooresville Semistate (Linton-Stockton 6-5). The Bulldogs have won eight in a row — including the school’s first-ever regional and semistate titles — following a three-game losing skid. The team strung together 11 victories April 20-May 9. Centerville head coach Tracey Crull (10th season, 120-94) says: “It’s absolutely madness. It’s crazy (the excitement in the community) … We have a walk-off (RBI single by Jamari Pamplin against Linton-Stockton to punctuate a two-run seventh) and we’re in the state title game. My phone, email, text messages, all kinds of messages have been blowing. It’s not just the Centerville community. It’s the whole county … We had a really tough week in May where we played our rival Hagerstown twice (in Tri-Eastern Conference Wayne County tournament games). We lost both ball games by a run (2-1 and 3-2 sandwiching a 10-0 loss at Lapel). After that week we had some long conversations as a team. We talked about focus. We talked about accountability. We talked about how we react to adversity. We then went on a run … We’ve had a stretch where we’ve hit the ball really well … It could be (Jacob Crowe or Logan Drook starting on the mound Friday). Logan gave up only one unearned run all year. They are completely different pitchers. Logan (who was the semistate starter) is a little bit harder thrower. He doesn’t give up as many hits. Jake gives up a few more hits, but he’s really good at keeping runners and batters off-balance with his motion and his delivery. It depends on whoever is feeling the best and having the best match-up Friday … Our boys like to see really good pitching (which the Bulldogs have faced in tournament play). I think it will be a good ball game (against Illiana Christian).”
Illiana Christian Top hitters: Jr. Kevin Corcoran (.471, 4 HR, 37 RBI), Sr. Ian VanBeek (.446, 22 RBI), Sr. Adam Walters (.410, 12 RBI), Sr. Tyler Barker (.373, 29 RBI), Jr. Cody DeJong (.351, 2 HR, 22 RBI), So. Isaac VanderWoude (.338, 19 RBI), Sr. Levi Hescott (.300, 12 RBI), Sr. Gabe VanRoekel (.282, 17 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. LHP Kevin Corcoran (4-1, 2.194, 75 K’s, 13 walks, 44 2/3 IP), Sr. RHP Ian VanBeek (3-2, 1.474, 56 K’s, 6 walks, 38 IP). Illiana Christian won the Whiting Sectional (Bowman Academy 19-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 3-1, Wheeler 16-4), Whiting Regional (Winamac 11-1, Eastside 7-0) and Kokomo Semistate (Wapahani 6-0). The Vikings have won a season-best seven straight games. There was a stretch from April 25 to May 2 where Illiana Christian went 2-4 with two losses to Griffith and one each against Highland and Hanover Central. The team has triumphed in 13 of its last 14. Illiana Christian head coach Jeff VanderWoude (Third season, 40-13) says: “Last year we had a younger team. I thought we were pretty good. Last year we ran into Rex Stills of Wheeler and lost that game 2-1 in the (Whiting) Sectional final … This year our (Bible) verse is James 1:2-3. It’s basically saying consider it pure joy when you hit trials and tribulations because our faith has been strengthened … This team turned around when they started playing for each other and not themselves. Our team does that extremely well, I am 100-percent convinced that’s exactly whey we’re in this position … We try to play the bigger schools (around northwest Indiana) … Kevin Corcoran competes really well. He’s a very athletic kid.”
Class 1A Tecumseh Top hitters: Jr. Conner Anglin (.472, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 13 SB), Jr. Brody Julian (.383, 14 RBI), Jr. Drew Dupont (.341, 2 HR, 27 RBI), Jr. Dax Bailey (.387, 1 HR, 27 RBI), So. D.J. Dupont (.298, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 15 SB), Jr. Chase Jones (.263, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 11 SB), Fr. Mason Gogel (.256, 18 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Dax Bailey (5-4, 3.35, 39 K’s, 22 walks, 54 1/3 IP), Jr. RHP Conner Anglin (5-2, 1.13, 28 K’s, 10 walks, 31 IP), Jr. RHP Drew Dupont (5-1, 3.00, 47 K’s, 23 walks, 42 IP). Tecumseh won the Cannelton Sectional (Northeast Dubois 9-8, Wood Memorial 11-2, Springs Valley 11-0), Loogootee Regional (New Washington 11-1, Barr-Reeve 4-1) and Jasper Semistate (Shakamak 12-3). The Braves have won a season-high nine straight games. The team, which has no seniors and four freshmen in the starting lineup, started out 1-4 and entered May 6-9. Of the 12 losses, seven are by two runs or fewer. Tecumseh head coach Ted Thompson (Fifth season, 77-44) says: “We started out struggling a little bit. Our four freshmen (Mason Gogel, Wyatt Huddleston, Braydon Long and Thomas Pemberton) were just learning how to play it at the varsity level. I thought by the time we were going to do tournament we were going to be in good shape as far as being able to compete at a high level … About the month of May everything started to click … Everything just really started to work well with our four freshmen and our juniors provided great leadership … We’ve made one — maybe two errors — in the last three weeks. It’s been really good defensively and we’ve just really played well … We try to load up our schedule (with 4A and 3A schools including Evansville North and Gibson Southern) to try to be competitive. We try to do everything we can to provide an atmosphere for our guys to improve … The first two weeks of the season we only pitch our pitches for 35 to 40 pitches. The second two weeks, which ends April, we don’t even get our pitchers above 60 pitches (with freshmen pitching often in relief) … For our young guys to really get some innings is going to be valuable for us not only this year, but next year as well … (The State Finals) is a brand new environment for everyone. They’ve never faced it before. We feel like we do a great job of preparing our guys for big moments. We put a lot of pressure on them in practice. We really drill them on a lot of different situations … We’ll definitely be focused on the Tecumseh Braves. We have a great philosophy and I believe we have a great system. We’ll try to give the kids an idea of what to expect. Lafayette Central Catholic is going to be a formidable opponent. We know they’re going to come at us with a lot of different variations of the game. I can tell you our players will be prepared for those moments. It’s all about execution.”
Lafayette Central Catholic Top hitters: Jr. Evan Dienhart (.462, 18 RBI), Jr. Owen Munn (.366, 1HR, 23 RBI), Jr. Ryan Schummer (.354, 2 HR, 26 RBI), So. Kayden Minnich (.270, 21 RBI), Sr. Justin Brady (.250, 1 HR, 21 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Ben Mazur (8-1, 0.63, 96 K’s, 19 walks, 55 1/3 IP), So. RHP Brinn Robbins (8-1, 0.95, 61 K’s, 15 walks, 59 IP). Central Catholic won the Lafayette Central Sectional (Attica 13-1, Riverton Parke 8-0, Covington 10-0), Lafayette Central Regional (Union City 12-2, Rossville 10-0) and LaPorte Semistate (South Central of Union Mills 9-4 in 8 innings). The Knights have won a season-best 13 straight after a two-game losing streak. The team’s other setbacks came between April 1 and May 4. Knights head coach Tim Bordenet (27th season, 634-203) says: “We were kind of up-and-down until our (Hoosier) Conference championship against Western (a 6-1 victory on May 13 against University of Louisville pitching recruit Mitchell Dean). I think that was really the turning point. We had two games that week and were not playing that well. (Beating Western) proved to our guys that when we play the way we’re capable of we can compete and beat anybody … You’ve got to be able to get in a lot of hitters’ counts and put pressure on the opposing pitcher and opposing defense. Saturday (in the regional against South Central) we only had one hit for seven innings, but we did draw a lot of walks and hit by pitches and so we had a lot of traffic on the bases. I thought our approach at the plate was really good … We know we play a tough schedule and intentionally put ourselves in some adverse situations where we have to come back or hold on to a late lead in a close ballgame. Undoubtedly those situations have helped us here in the (state) tournament … We brought (junior right-hander) Evan Dienhart in (to pitch) with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in a tie game … He got a strikeout and fly out to get out of that inning … Our outfielders have to have good angles at balls in the gaps (at spacious Victory Field) and not let balls get past them. Fortunately for us, our outfield (senior Carter Johnson in left, Brinn Robbins in center and sophomore Kayden Minnich in right) is probably the strength of our team and has really good speed … Our kids are pretty savvy. The moments haven’t been too big for them to this point.”
Frank Podkul’s baseball journey has taken him to many places in North America. The trek began in northwest Indiana. Podkul’s first organized experience came at Schererville Little League. That was followed by a Lake Central travel team, Northwest Indiana Shockers (coached by John Mallee), Indiana Playermakers (coached by Dave Griffin), Hammond Seminoles (coached by Ryan Pishkur, Tyler Oche and Matt Pobereyko), Hammond Chiefs (coached by Dave Sutkowski) and Midwest Irish (coached by Shane Brogan). Podkul graduated from Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., in 2014. He helped the 59ers (steered by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur) win an IHSAA Class 3A state title that year. Younger brother Nick Podkul played up on most of Frank’s teams, including Andrean. Nick went on to Notre Dame and is now with Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. “We talk just about everyday,” says Frank. “We’e really close.” Frank and Nick grew up in a neighborhood with kids who played many different sports — football, basketball, baseball, tennis etc. “When you build that culture growing up you get a better appreciation for everything,” says Podkul, who turned 26 June 3. “:earn to be an athlete first. Everything else falls into place after that. “It hurt when people want to specialize early. Let kids be kids.” After he thought he might be a pitcher in college since he didn’t swing a potent bat in high school, Podkul played four seasons in the infield for Lance Marshall at Franklin (Ind.) College (2015-18). “He’s just the best,” says Podkul of Marshall. “He would do anything for any of his players — no matter what. The way he’s built that program over the years it is one big family. “On the baseball side of it, he let guys be themselves and got the best out of everybody.” A corner infielder for the Grizzlies (mostly third base his last two years), Podkul appeared in 132 games and hit .290 (134-of-462) with 29 home runs, 25 doubles, 122 runs batted in, 109 runs and a .946 OPS (.414 on-base percentage plus .532 slugging average). In 2018, Podkul hit .327 (53-of-162) with 16 homers, 10 doubles, 57 RBIs, 52 runs and a 1.129 OPS (.444/.685) while Franklin went 39-5 and ending the season at the NCAA Division III Central Regional. “We had a ridiculous lineup,” says Podkul. “The amount of times we scored four or five runs in the first inning was almost comical.” With baseball workouts and games, classes and his duties as a student athletic trainer, Podkul felt like a two-sport athlete as a senior. In the fall, he would awake at 5 a.m. for soccer practice, followed by classes, baseball practice and weightlifting then football practice and staying on top of his homework. “At Franklin you have to be a good student,” says Podkul. “There’s no gimme classes. “Everything is challenging.” In his first two college summers, Podkul played for the Midwest Irish in 2015 and in the Virginia Beach (Va.) Collegiate Baseball League in 2016. Podkul got a kickstart to his senior season at Franklin by spending the summer of 2017 with the Medicine Hat (Alberta) Mavericks of the Western Canadian Baseball League. “It was amazing,” says Podkul. “There’s really good competition in that league. Learning some stuff from those guys helped me in my senior year.” One of his fond memories is playing a game in Fort McMurray, Alberta, which is 890 kilometers (428 miles) north of Medicine Hat and seeing the sun out at 1 a.m. After graduating from Franklin as an Athletic Training major with minors in Exercise Science and Coaching, Podkul went through some workouts in the independent pro Frontier League. Nothing came of those and he went to the California Winter League where he landed a spot with the Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers in 2019. In the fall of that year, Podkul contacted Joe Torre (not that Joe Torre) of Torre Baseball Training LLC in Ridgewood, N.J. He runs an independent ball spring training camp in Palm Beach, Fla. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and much of baseball was shut down, a four-team league — the Yinzer Baseball Confederacy — was established with all games played in Washington, Pa., run by Torre and Washington Wild Things president/general manager Tony Buccilli. Podkul split his time between the Road Warrior Black Sox and Baseball Brilliance Sox. The Frontier League put in the two other teams — the Wild Things and Steel City Slammin Sammies. The YBC is back for 2021 with the Road Warrior Black Sox, Baseball Brilliance Sox, Killer Bees and Wolfpack. Players are not paid. They are reimbursed clubhouse attendant dues if they are picked up by another league. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Podkul is with the Carson McCurdy-managed Black Sox — playing corner infielder and occasionally in the outfield. Through 32 games, he was hitting .284 (27-of-95) with five homers, 10 doubles, 13 RBIs, 16 runs and a .981 OPS (.433/.547). The Yinzer league provides the opportunity for players to stay sharp and build up their numbers while looking to catch on in independent leagues. Rosters are set a month at a time. “It’s real games,” says Podkul, who plays daily — either afternoon or night — at Wild Things Park. “It’s not a showcase. “You’ve got to play and get in front of (coaches and scouts). You go where you’re going to be a good fit.” Since January, about 60 Yinzer league players have moved to other clubs.
Chase Dawson was an elementary school student the last time he was a regular in the outfield. At that time he was with the Zuni’s House of Pizza, a travel team that went 44-4 during Dawson’s 8U and 9U travel ball seasons and played in the Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series. Now 24, Dawson is back in the outfield for the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers in his second professional baseball season. He’s been mostly in center field or left field during the team’s first 35 games in 2021. “It’s been a fun little transition,” says Dawson, a 5-foot-9, 185-pounder. “Going into the 2020 season (Boomers manager) Jamie (Bennett) said to be ready for it so I trained my arm a little more. “I did well the first couple of days of spring training and we brought in some pretty good infielders. Jamie trusted me that I’m athletic enough to make the switch. “It might sound goofy but one of my best qualities as an athlete is my athleticism. I can do just about anything in any sport.” Dawson played four years of baseball (two varsity), three years as a soccer midfielder and one as a football defensive back and kicker at Andean High School in Merrillville, Ind., where he graduated in 2015. A lefty batter and righty thrower, Dawson was the starting second baseman for the Dave Pishkur-coached 59ers’ back-to-back IHSAA Class 3A state champions in 2014 and 2015 (he batted second and scored a run in a 6-0 win against Gibson Southern in ’14 and led off and went 2-of-3 with a triple and tallied the first run in a 2-1 triumph against Jasper in ’15) and was a second sacker the majority of the time in his four seasons at Valparaiso (Ind.) University (2016-19), playing for head coach Brian Schmack. Dawson says Pishkur has a knack of teaching the fundamentals and getting talented to players to reach their potential. “It seemed like he out-coached any team we ever played,” says Dawson of Pishkur. “He was definitely hard on us and it stunk at the time, but it’s starting to add up for him.” Pishkur has more than 1,000 career victories, seven state titles and currently has former players Sean Manaea and Mike Brousseau in the big leagues. Schmack’s lessons about leadership and tenacity stuck with Dawson, who earned a Business Management degree at Valpo U., in 2019. “He’s such a good role model,” says Dawson of Schmack. “He brought a lot out of me in my four years. “He made mentally-tougher player.” Dawson played in 199 games (152 starts) at VU, hitting .276 (199-of-722) with seven home runs, 13 triples, 30 doubles, 88 runs batted in, 145 runs scored and 28 stolen bases in 37 attempts. He was named to the Horizon League all-tournament and all-freshman team in 2016 and was all-Missouri Valley Conference second team in 2019. The summer of 2018 was spent with the Coastal Plain League’s Martinsville (Va.) Mustangs, where he hit .395 and was all named all-CPL first team and the CPL select team that competed against the USA Collegiate National Team in a midseason all-star game. In 13 contests with the 2019 Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, Dawson’s primary position again was second base. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the RailCats in 2019 and Dawson did not play. “I shut down baseball activities for five or six months,” says Dawson. “It was a good decision. I came back twice as eager. “I’ve tried to find positives out of the situation.” Pat and Lindy Salvi own both the Gary and Schaumburg franchises and RailCats manager Greg Tagert and Schaumburg skipper Bennett are good friends (Bennett pitched for Tagert with the Dubois County Dragons and the RailCats and was Tagert’s pitching coach at Gary). Dawson landed with the Boomers. “It’s been a very good fit,” says Dawson, who has come to appreciate Bennett’s approach. “He’s very easy to play for because of how relaxed he is. “He’s very positive and a go-get-the-next-one type of guy.” Dawson was born in Munster, Ind., and moved to Chesterton, Ind., at a young age. He attended St. Thomas More School in Munster for Grades K-8 then entered Andrean. Dave Griffin’s Indiana Playmakers were Dawson’s travel team from 10U until high school when he went to Shane Brogan’s Midwest Irish. Chase is the son of Rick Dawson and Tonia Michalski. “My dad’s my biggest idol,” says Dawson. “He works his butt off so I can play baseball. “My little brothers (Kingston, 10, and Maverick, 6) mean more than anything to me. It’s fun to hang out and teach them baseball and basketball.”
Brunke and Marovich grew up as next-door neighbors and have known each other since before they went to elementary school.
Furman and Brunke played baseball through high school. Marovich played until about 16.
Furman played third base for coach Doug Nelson at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake and Brunke second base for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur at Andrean High in Merrillville and graduated in 2014. Brunke helped the 59ers to a IHSAA Class 3A state championship dogpile as a senior.
A year younger than the other two, Marovich did not play baseball at Lake Central High School in St. John, but enjoyed lively conversations with Furman and Brunke about sports.
Like it had for years, this would often go on for hours.
During all those spirited boyhood conversations at one another’s houses, a parent would sometimes say they should their own show.
Now they do.
This week marked the debut of The Yipps Podcast (@theyippspod on Twitter), a weekly baseball conversation featuring Furman in Pennsylvania, Brunke in Arizona, Marovich in Indiana and a guest from their location.
An introductory episode dropped May 24, followed by an interview with Nick Podkul May 27. Brunke was a teammate of both Podkul brothers — Frank Jr. and Nick — at Andrean. Nick played at Notre Dame and is now in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
The plan is to feature players and coaches in professional and college baseball and show their “normal side” and put out one episode a week — usually on Wednesday nights.
“Our goal is to get their story and take the professional athlete out of them to show that they’re just normal guys who love baseball,” says Furman.
The Nick Podkul episode tells about how he lost his father while in high school and used that to motivate him.
“It’s the stories you never hear,” says Furman.
Brunke says the idea is to give the listener a deeper connection with the guest.
“They still have a life off the field,” says Brunke. “We want to be the avenue to personalize these guys for fans.
“We want to make (the podcast) a platform for all levels of baseball to share stories about normal people rather than have them seen just as athletes.”
Marovich explains his role in the project, which came to fruition over the past few weeks.
“Baseball is the first sport that we played,” says Marovich. “We’ve always had a passion for it. Why not try to explore this avenue of the Podcast space?
“I have friends who wanted to start this journey and I compelled to help them start it.”
Marovich has no previous audio editing/mixing skills.
“But I’m a quick learner,” says Marovich. “I’m a quick learner.
“If it’s something I’m passionate about, I can grind on it heavily.”
Marovich dove into YouTube videos and is teaching himself about it through trial and error.
Right now, podcasts are recorded by taking the audio from a Zoom conference call. He expects to find a method for a higher sound quality in the future.
So podcast rookies Furman, Brunke and Marovich chose The Yipps as their handle.
“We’re probably going to have mistakes, especially in the beginning,” says Marovich, the executive producer. “You have to learn. It’s all part of the experience.
“The best is yet to come.”
Furman got started with USI baseball when he learned that he needed 20 internship hours for one of his Sports Management classes. He approached assistant coach Jeremy Kuester and wound up being team manager for his first two years of college.
“At that time I really wanted to get into coaching,” says Furman.
Then came a conversation between Furman and Screaming Eagles head coach Tracy Archuleta just before Christmas break in the fall of 2016.
There were thoughts of purchasing some video scouting equipment for the program.
“I had two weeks to learn the system and then we’re off to Tampa to play our first series,” says Furman. “That’s where my career changed for baseball.”
“Kevin taught me a lot about the mechanical side of baseball,” says Furman, who learned how to recognize things like hand grip and weight shift. “In 2018, I was helping college hitters at a higher level.”
Furman then worked with the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network, which had many MLB organizations as clients. He worked from a list of players near Evansville and evaluated many NCAA Division I and II as well as some high school players.
“It was a really cool experience,” says Furman.
There were several interviews in the baseball industry before the chance came to join Sports Information Solutions.
“I knew this was a great opportunity to take and I didn’t want to pass it up,” says Furman.
During COVID-19 quarantine time, he has been working on small projects.
When spring training was happening, he was at home or in the office watching feeds of games and charting every pitch, running times, ball off bat speed, velocity, defensive shifts, catcher positions and more.
“It takes awhile to get used to,” says Furman. “It’s basically the same thing I did at USI, but probably with 10 times more data.”
As an SIS video scout, Furman can rewind and zoom to get different camera angles. He usually employs three screens per game.
“Once you get into the groove of things, it’s really fun,” says Furman. “Once the season starts I’ll be doing the same thing.”
Scouts work either the morning or night shift. In the mornings, they go over games that have already been charted and make sure the data is inputted and correct. At night, it’s usually about live games.
With this experience, Furman is not the same kind of baseball fan he was growing up, though he still roots for his Chicago White Sox.
“My viewpoint on baseball is completely different,” says Furman. “I can sit and watch a game and I know what pitch they’re going to throw before they throw it based on things like swing patterns.
“I look at baseball differently than I ever thought I would.”
Brunke counts himself fortunate to have been part of Andrean baseball, led by the Hall of Famer.
“(Pishkur) knows how to get the most out of you as a player,” says Brunke. “There was a sense of pride in wearing (Andrean) across your chest. There was competition within the program. Practice was not easy.
“If you’re going to play in the program, you’re going to have to play your tail off and really buy in or it’s not going to work. It was a super-advanced program.”
Brunke recalls tracking things like launch angle and pitch locations and using them to the 59ers’ advantage.
Next up on The Yipps Podcast (available on Spotify): Atlanta Braves prospect Logan Brown.
The Yipps Podcast is presented by (from left): Aaron Furman, Matt Brunke and Brett Marovich. The trio played baseball together as boys in northwest Indiana and now they talk about it. The podcast was launched May 24, 2020.
One was playing for the Duneland Flyers, the other for the Indiana Bulldogs, when they first discovered an interesting coincidence.
“It was kind of funny that there was another Tyler Nelson on a team,” Tyler Nelson of the Bulldogs said.
It was just the beginning for the 10-year olds, Tyler J. Nelson of Chesterton and Andrean’s Tyler D. Nelson of Crown Point. Their baseball paths have continued to cross in the years since, the boys with the same name and talent for the same game building a friendship as they began to climb the ranks in local and state baseball.
“It just really developed the more we played together,” Tyler J. said. “We’d be with each other all the time over the summer.”
At the age of 11, the Nelsons found themselves on the same roster as members of Team Indiana, the first of several seasons they would occupy a dugout together.
“We hit first and second,” said Tyler J., an outfielder most of his career. “I never played shortstop in my life, I look at the card before the game and I was playing shortstop. I was like, OK, whatever. So then the first inning, I get a ball, I make a play, I didn’t say anything. (Tyler D.’s) dad (Bill) was the coach, he made out the lineup, and he’s like, that’s not (my) Tyler. They flipped us.”
Meanwhile, Tyler D., a shortstop, was standing in the outfield, also wondering what was going on.
“I remember thinking, why am I out here?” Tyler D. said. “I just went out there and didn’t think about it. I might’ve had one play or two.”
The confusion has only accelerated over the years, becoming a source of humor for the boys.
“It keeps happening,” Tyler J. said. “We had shirts for all-state, someone went up to someone and said your shirts have a mistake, there’s the same name twice. The coach will say Tyler, we’ll both look and the coach will be looking at one of us, so you’ll just turn away. We just kind of figured it out eventually.”
It didn’t help matters that the boys had similar offensive skill sets, top-of-the-order-type hitters with plus speed, meaning they often batted in succession. Tyler J. has long worn No. 1 and for years, Tyler D. sported No. 2. Heck, they even have an identical nickname, T-Nelly, on their high school teams.
“Sometimes, I batted last and he batted first,” Tyler D. said. “When I’d come up, they’d say, ‘oh, the leadoff guy’s up now.’ We were on a team one time, we had another Tyler. They’d say Tyler and we’d all look.”
In addition to three seasons with Team Indiana, the Nelsons were also teammates on the Indiana Bulldogs as 14-year olds, Elite Baseball as 15s and on a Futures squad before their junior years.
“People get these guys confused all the time,” Shane Nelson, Tyler J.’s dad, said. “I’d have adults text me, they’d see something in the paper and say, ‘hey, did Tyler switch schools? Is he going to Andrean now?’ I’d say, ‘no, no, that’s the other one.’ One time, we had the lineup card before the game, someone said, ‘you’ve got Tyler Nelson on here twice.’ We said, ‘well, there’s two of ‘em.’”
Tyler D.’s mom Kristina recalled over 10 times that parents from other teams asked if they were brothers.
“Because we would name two children the same,” she said. “Then opposing coaches thinking the line-up was wrong, (Prep Baseball Report) and Perfect Game trying to figure out which one since they played on the same team.”
As the boys’ careers continued to intersect, their growing circles of friends also began to overlap more and more, creating some even more humorous moments.
“One time, a girl meant to (direct message) him something on Twitter and sent it to me,” Tyler J. said. “He texted me, like, I think she meant to send that to me.”
“I’ve had other friends text me and say, ‘oh, sorry, I meant that to go to the other Tyler,’” Tyler D. said.
Tyler D. ascended to the Andrean lineup as a freshman after a brief stint on the JV, starting at shortstop on the 59ers’ Class 3A state championship teams the last two seasons. Tyler J. came up to Chesterton’s varsity as a sophomore, becoming an outfield mainstay.
They have never squared off in high school though their teams did meet in a memorable Class 4A Chesterton Sectional final in 2017, a game Andrean won 4-3 with three runs in the top of the seventh inning after the Trojans broke a 1-1, scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth. Tyler J. was on the Chesterton roster but didn’t play, while Tyler D. left the game following an early injury.
The rivalry intensified with the transfer of Tommy Benson from Andrean to Chesterton, reaching the point that the schools stopped playing during the regular season.
“(Benson) was actually my neighbor growing up for 10 years,” Tyler D. said.
With the 59ers back in 4A this season as a result of the success factor, the teams were slated to be in the same sectional again until the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out spring sports and prematurely ended the Nelsons’ prep careers.
Fortunately for both, the cancelled senior season won’t hamper their college plans. Tyler D. drew an early offer from Indiana University and committed to the Hoosiers going into his junior year.
“I liked IU, being the home state, it’s not real far,” he said. “They’re doing a lot of positive things, they have a new coaching staff. They’re really good at developing players. They had like 10 guys drafted last year.”
Tyler J. will play about 60 miles up State Road 46 at Indiana State.
“The recruiting process, I over-stressed it, getting it done,” Tyler J. said. “I felt like it was a good fit, all the coaches are super cool. The biggest thing for me, my goal is to play professionally, and they’re really good at developing guys for pro ball, turning three-star guys into four and five-star guys for the next level.”
In the interim, both are doing what they can to stay on top of their games, given the social constraints.
“I’ve got a batting cage in my basement,” Tyler D. said. “We’ve got a small weight room next to it. My friends text me, can I come over and hit?”
Shane Nelson is the strength and conditioning coach at Chesterton, so Tyler J. has always gone there to work out. Now he’s got to improvise at home.
“I’ll go to the local parks to run and throw,” Tyler J. said. “I have a friend who has a hangar at the Porter County Airport with a batting cage in it.”
Tyler D. was slated to start summer school June 22 and Tyler J. was scheduled to head to Terre Haute on July 5, but neither expects to be heading to campus before August.
“We don’t know anything for sure yet except that all classes are online for the summer,” Tyler J. said.
Before taking the next step in their baseball careers, the two hope to play together one more time this summer with the Whiting-based Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
“I am very excited to be playing with the other Tyler again this summer,” Tyler J. said. “It will be a fun end to our high school baseball careers.”
Tyler J. latched on with the Midwest Collegiate League team in March, while Tyler D. joined the roster recently.
“I think it’s icing on the cake because I was never supposed to be playing summer ball this year and I was supposed to be at Indiana,” Tyler D. said. “I never thought I would have played with Tyler (J.) again after the fall and it is just crazy how we ended up back on the same team again. I think it is very funny that we will have to hear our name called from the dugout and we both look at the same time or teams thinking what’s going on with the lineup. This just gives Tyler (J.) and me another laugh at the fact we have two Tyler Nelsons on the same team.”
Follow Jim Peters on Twitter — @JP8185
Tyler D. Nelson (left) and Tyler J. Nelson have been linked by more than a name for years. They are both standout baseball players in northwest Indiana — Tyler D. at Andrean High School and Tyler J, at Chesterton High School. Tyler D. is bound for Indiana University and Tyler J for Indiana State University. (Jim Peters Photo)
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and the game,” says Sweeney, who made his last appearance of the GCL season Aug. 28. “I learned how to pitch, control myself out on the mound and stick to the things I know how to do and not try to out-stretch myself.”
Sweeney pitched in 10 mound games (all starts) and went 2-5 with an 8.13 earned run average, 42 strikeouts and 46 walks in 31 innings at Pensacola State before being selected in the 36th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pirates June 5. His 19th birthday was June 14.
His professional debut came on June 28. While he walked two batters in three of his first five outings, he did strike out three in a 13-pitch performance on July 29. After throwing five of his first 24 pitches for strikes, he wound up at 80-of-146 for the season under the guidance of pitching coach and former big leaguer Fernando Nieve.
Sweeney hurled in 13 games (all in relief), going 0-2 with a 3.45 ERA, 12 strikeouts and 15 walks in 15 2/3 innings. After a brief visit with family a friends in northwest Indiana, Sweeney returns to Bradenton, Fla., on Sept. 8 for three weeks of instructional league.
“We’ll have one thing we need to get better at,” says Sweeney of his mission at instructs. “We’ll stick with it and build off of that.”
Sometime after instructional league, Sweeney says he expects to be back in Pensacola to work out in preparation for 2020.
“We had a very short time together,” says Sweeney of Glover. “He’s a great guy.”
As a senior, Sweeney pitched in the 2018 Perfect Game Spring League in Iowa on weekends and attended classes at Hobart during the week. After graduation, he headed to Florida to begin the college experience.
And the experiences have just kept coming for the big left-hander.
Jake Sweeney, who grew up in Hobart, Ind., pitched one season at Pensacola (Fla.) State College in 2019 and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is a 6-foot-7, 240-pound left-hander. (Pensacola State College Photo)
Undrafted after four seasons at Oakland (2013-16), Brosseau made it to the Double-A level in his third professional season in 2018.
Playing mostly third base, the righty swinger hit .262 with 13 home runs, three triples, 24 doubles and 61 runs batted in over 104 games for the Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits. Montgomery went 79-61 and made the Southern League playoffs.
Using advice from former Oakland head coach John Musachio, Brosseau did his best to “slow the game down” while doing what he could to contribute.
“(Musachio) talked about playing the specific game you have and getting in the lineup and helping the team out,” says Brosseau, 24. “People let the moment and pressure get to them too much. I want to just be able to stay within my game and not let the outside factors effect it.
“It’s about letting my abilities do the best for me. I’m a guy that’s going compete for you. I’m going to find a way to do what I can to help the team win.”
A shortstop for Musachio at Oakland, where he made 183 starts, Brosseau hit .308 with 19 homers, three triples, 39 doubles and 104 RBIs for his Golden Grizzlies days. He was a first-team all-Horizon League selection in 2014 and 2016.
“I got close to him really fast in my career,” says Brosseau of Musachio. “He’s a genuine, good human being. He cares for his family, team and university.
“It was a blessing to play for him for four years.”
At Andrean, Brosseau was a contributor for 59er teams coached by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur.
“Coach Pishkur is one of those guys who connects to his players,” says Brosseau. “He was instrumental in my development process — both in baseball and as a human.”
Mike Brosseau, a graduate of Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., and Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., played for the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits in the Tampa Bay Rays organization in 2018. (Montgomery Biscuits Photo)
Mike Brosseau, who graduated from Andrean High School and Oakland University, is an infielder in the Tampa Bay Rays system. (Donten Photography)
“Our guys have bought into the concept of ‘the team, the team, the team,’” says Antone. “They work at being good teammates.”
The Wolves put in off-season work in the weight room and at Saint Anthony Sports Medicine Institute in Crown Point, where trainer Kevin Devine took them through agility, endurance, flexibility, speed and strength workouts.
Antone also introduced the HitTrax Baseball hitting simulator at Boone Grove. He says they are the second high school in Indiana to get one (Andrean is the other).
The Wolves also started doing Driveline Baseball throwing and hitting programs. The throwing program is individualized for ages and positions and there are an in-season and off-season routines.
The hitting program involves a series of different-sized bats for overload/underload training.
“(These tools) allow us to measure everything and that’s huge,” says Antone. “If it’s important, we measure it. We want to see what progress is being made.
“We’ve been working hard and competing.”
Antone models his program on some of the things Pishkur does at Andrean, including practice plans, and also adds his own twist.
The Wolves and 59ers both employ the number system for signs.
Pishkur has been using it at least as far back as a his first state championship team in 2005. The coach has a list of numbered plays and players wear a wristband with the same information.
“It might say HR for hit-and-run or S1 for a sacrifice down the first base line,” says Pishkur, who picked up the sign system at a clinic from the Texas A&M staff. “There must be 30 things we can do. We are able to expand our offense.
“I couldn’t remember all the signs the other way.”
Some of the numbers mean nothing. Some of the plays may lie dormant until just the right moment.
“If we need them, they’re there for us,” says Pishkur.
Antone favors the system because it makes thing simpler for himself and his players and is more efficient.
“Besides, I like doing things a little differently than everybody else,” says Antone.
Certified as a physical education and health teacher, Antone was hired to coach at Boone Grove with no openings in that area. Instead, he taught in the alternative school in 2017-18.
“It was a challenge,” says Antone. “But I grew a lot as an educator and as a person, too.”
Another link between Andrean and Boone Grove is a family one.
Joe Plesac Sr., brother of former big league pitcher Dan Plesac, is Pishkur’s pitching coach at Andrean and his brother-in-law.
Joey Plesac Jr., Joe’s son and Dave’s nephew, is Antone’s pitching coach at BG.
Joey Plesac played at Andrean and then DePauw University.
“I’m really glad to have him on staff,” says Antone of Plesac. “He’s done a good job calling the games for us this year.”
Andrean beat Jay County for the Kokomo Semistate crown by frequently using a familiar postseason strategy — the bunt.
“I couldn’t manage in the major leagues because they don’t allow that,” says Pishkur. “But in high school, it’s a pretty good weapon. And at the college level, it’s a pretty good weapon.
“It’s a weapon for us and we have to take advantage of it.”
Gordie Gillespie, who won more than 2,400 games in four sports including baseball, was a big proponent of the bunt.
“He said, in the tournament, the team that executes the bunt and defends the bunt is going to win,” Pishkur says of Gillespie, who died in 2015 in Joliet, Ill. “We’ve taken that to heart and we’ve done a really good job in the tournament with that.”
In his first year as a head coach, Pat Antone has Boone Grove High School in the IHSAA Class 2A State Finals. The 2009 Chesterton graduate was on the Andrean staff in 2016 and 2017. The 59ers will be going for a 3A state crown Saturday, June 9 in Indianapolis.