By STEVE KRAH
While Major League Baseball has been accused of sometimes proceeding at a glacial pace, that’s not the way they Raiders of Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter High School like to play the game.
“We want to work at a quick tempo,” says fourth-year Ritter head coach Dave Scott as he prepares his team for the IHSAA Class 2A state championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 16 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. “(The players), the umpires, the fans are more into the game.
“This is the greatest game int he world. Let’s go play.”
Bolstered by the pitching of senior right-handers Blake Malatestnic (an Eastern Illinois University commit) and Brian Bacon, strong defense anchored by senior shortstop Alex Vela and a specific offensive approach, Ritter (27-3) will make its first State Finals appearance against Wapahani (19-11), which is making a third trip to Victory Field (those Raiders reigned in 2A in 2014).
Malatestnic has an earned run average below 1.00. Scott says Vela makes a “web gem” fielding play every game that fires up the rest of the team.
Scott, who played at St. Vincent de Paul High School and the College of Marin in California before coming to Indianapolis to be an all-conference and all-district catcher at Marian College (now Marian University), has his Ritter hitters taking a “West Coast” approach.
“Early in the count. we’re looking for one spot and location (for the pitch) only,” says Scott. “If it’s not there, we have confidence the pitcher is eventually going to throw it right there.”
Failing that, the Raiders are prepared to hit with two strikes.
“Pitchers get frustrated when you start hitting balls with two strikes,” says Scott, who notes that only one “hitter’s pitch” may come in each big league at-bat, but that number goes up in college and — certainly — in high school.
“It’s not easy to throw it exactly where you want it,” says Scott. “We believe in on-base percentage and OPS. We want runners on and put pressure on defenses that way.”
Ritter has outscored opponents 268-65 with 16 games of nine or more runs, including 10 by the mercy rule.
The Raiders have won a sectional in each of Scott’s four seasons, including the 2017 Park Tudor Sectional in which the Raiders topped Covenant Christian, Indianapolis Scecina and Cascade. They went on to best Southmont and Heritage Christian in the Park Tudor Regional and Providence in the Plainfield Semistate.
Ritter plays its home games at a church-owned field next to Eagledale Little League on the northwest side of Indy.
Scott’s coaching staff features Mike DeChant, Scott Leverenz, David Scott Sr., Nate Mills, Greg Gough and Fred Sheats.
Dechant handles statistics and is a bench coach. Leverenz handles pitchers and first base coaching duties. David Scott, a Carmel graduate, gives feedback to his son the head coach and keeps spirits high. Volunteer Mills works with infielders and hitter. Gough leads the junior varsity squad. Sheats guides the freshmen and also handles outfield positioning during the varsity postseason.
Dave Scott not only handles offensive philosophy, the cousin of Indianapolis Cathedral pitching coach Brad Pearson calls pitches for the Raiders.
As a player, Scott learned much baseball from a number of men. There was St. Vincent de Paul head coach Steve Berringer (now head coach at College of Marin), SVDP assistant and later College of Marin assistant Matt Markovich (now athletic director at Santa Rosa Junior College in California), COM head coach Tom Arrington (now head coach at San Jacinto College in Texas), Marian head coach Kurt Guldner and assistants Kip McWilliams (now head coach at Indiana Tech) and Toby Rogers (now assistant at Park Tudor, who Ritter faces in Indiana Crossroads Conference play).
These folks are more are the reasons Scott became an educator and coach.
“I want to give back,” says Scott. “It’s not fair to learn something and not want to give it to other people. That’s why I do what I do.”
Before coming to Ritter, Scott spent eight seasons at George Washington Community High School in Indianapolis — one as assistant coach and seven as head coach. He was a special education teacher at the school until this academic year when he became an assistant AD and weightlifting teacher at Ritter.
Scott, 37, also plays for the LMB (Love My Brother) fast pitch softball team. One of his teammates is broadcaster and former Indiana University basketball player and coach Dan Dakich.
Three generations of Scotts celebrate a Cardinal Ritter baseball sectional title in 2017. From left, there’s Drew Scott, assistant coach David Scott Sr., David Scott III and head coach Dave Scott. The Raiders are in the IHSAA Class 2A state title game Friday, June 16. (Ritter Photo)