By STEVE KRAH
The Eagles played Roncalli in the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game.
Zionsville led 2-1 after their sixth at-bat and then lost 3-2 with the Rebels scoring the decisive run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
That Eagles roster was chock full of impactful seniors. So even though they left Victory Field oh-so-close to a championship in 2016, they flew under the radar in 2017.
“We were so senior-heavy last year, everybody (outside Z-ville) assumed we were going to be down,” says fourth-year ZHS head coach Jered Moore. “Everybody assumed we were going to have to rebuild.”
People in the community knew better.
“Our junior class was always very successful at baseball,” says Moore. “They would have been starting (last year) on a lot of other teams.”
The 2017 version of Zionsville (22-11) is back in the 4A northern semistate against Penn (26-6). The game is slated for Saturday, June 10 at Kokomo (following the 1 p.m. 2A game). The Eagles topped the Kingsmen in last year’s semistate showdown at Kokomo.
The ’16 Eagles had five pitchers who touched 90 mph on the radar gun. There are practically no innings back from that squad and the hardest thrower hits 86 mph.
A deep mound staff is led by right-handers — seniors Max Bohrer and Eli Copner and junior Nick Brier.
The new 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 been a “non-factor” for Zionsville this season. Starters did not pitch more than once a week and rarely went more than 100 pitches.
“Last year, we had one of the top pitching staffs in the nation — top to bottom,” says Moore. “This pitching staff is completely different. Last year, we threw strikes and threw hard. This year, we rely on throwing strikes and good defense.
“If you concentrate on defense, more than likely you’re going to win games.”
Zionsville stresses pitching and defense so much that they keep a “free base” chart that tracks walks, hit batsmen, passed balls, wild pitches, stolen bases, errors, dirt ball reads, advancing trail runners and extra bases on balls hit to the outfield.
“If we win the free base war, we’re going to win 90 percent of our games,” says Moore. “It’s pretty much held true.
“We can’t be giving up free bases.”
Moore notes that in the four games where the Eagles committed five or more errors, they lost three of those (the win came in extra innings).
Two full-time starters from ’16 (senior third baseman Chad Garisek and junior shortstop Riley Bertram) and one part-timer (junior first baseman Sam Edgell) can be found in the field for the Eagles. The first six batters in the order are all juniors.
Playing three-game series in the strong Hoosier Crossroads Conference (with Avon, Brownsburg, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville and Westfield) gets the Eagles ready for the rest of their schedule.
“Our guys are not going to be intimidated,” says Moore. “We just go out and play baseball and see who wins.”
Jered Moore is the son of Craig Moore, who played at East Gary High School and coached back-to-back state runners-up at Blackford High School in 1977 (losing to Logansport and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Jim Turner) and 1978 (losing to Evansville Memorial and IHSBCA Hall of Fame coach Quentin Merkel and player Don Mattingly) and then at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis and many years with the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
The Bulls offer the Craig Moore Memorial Scholarship in honor of the man who passed away in 2004.
Jered coached about 15 years with the Bulls (he is still a 17U assistant) before joining the Zionsville staff. His brother, Quinn, is also a Bulls coach.
The 2017 Zionsville staff includes Alex Graman (pitching coach), Jeremy Honaker (hitting coach) and Drew Koning (assistant coach) at the varsity level with Josh Medvescek, Jarrett Johnson, Brock Noye and Stephen Damm running the two junior varsity squads (Green and White).
Graman, a Southridge High School graduate, pitched at Indiana State University and briefly with the New York Yankees and in Japan.
Honaker, a Connersville High School graduate, played at the University of Southern Indiana and also coaches with the Indiana Bulls.
Koning, a Lafayette Jeff graduate, played football at Franklin College and also coached with the Indiana Bulls.