By STEVE KRAH
Pat Antone has learned plenty of baseball from Dave Pishkur.
The first-year head coach and the veteran will both have their teams in the IHSAA State Finals Saturday, June 16 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Antone takes his Boone Grove Wolves into the Class 2A title game against Southridge. It will be the day’s second contest (Game 1 pits Daleville against University for the 1A crown at 11 a.m.).
Pishkur, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer with more than 900 career wins and five state championships to his credit, leads his 2018 Andrean 59ers into the the 3A final against Silver Creek in the nightcap.
The two have already chatted on the phone.
“It’ll be nice for us to communicate during the week,” says Pishkur.
“I talked to him (Sunday) night and asked him what to expect,” says Antone. “I’m sure we’ll talk more as the week goes on.
“One thing I’ve learned from (Pishkur) is to be a life-long learner. I also like doing my own research.”
A 2009 Chesterton High School graduate, Antone played his first two high school seasons for Pishkur at Andrean and his last two for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Jack Campbell at Chesterton.
Antone was an assistant coach for Campbell’s Trojans in 2015 and Pishkur’s 59ers in 2016 and 2017. He was also a teacher at Andrean those two years.
Pishkur has his program in the state championship game for the seventh time by improving at the most-important time of the season.
“They weren’t a very good team at the two-thirds mark,” says Pishkur, whose club won the Kankakee Valley Sectional, Griffith Regional and Kokomo Semistate. “They bought into what I asked them to do. They’ve gotten better.
“We’ll see what we do on the big stage.”
Boone Grove will be making its first state championship game appearance.
But finishing the year at Victory Field comes does not come as a shock to Antone and his team.
“That was a our goal from Day 1 when we set our team goals last fall,” says Antone. “We’ve done everything we possibly could to get there. We’re not totally surprised by it.”
A team-first mentality and modern training techniques have helped BG have a strong regular season then take Hebron Sectional, Whiting Regional and Plymouth Semistate titles.
“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 technology allows for measurement of exit velocity, launch angle and studying the swing.
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.”
IHSAA STATE FINALS
At Victory Field, Indianapolis
Friday, June 15
Class 4A: Fishers (28-7) vs. Indianapolis Cathedral (23-8-1), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 16
Class 1A: Daleville (21-9) vs. University (28-6), 11 a.m.
Class 2A: Boone Grove (21-5) vs. Southridge (25-6), 2 p.m.
Class 3A: Andrean (30-6) vs. Silver Creek (26-3), 5 p.m.
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.