2019 Renegade HS Baseball Final Poll for Northwest Indiana
... and a look ahead to 20

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Andrean won Class 3A state baseball championships in 2014 and 2015... and then won 3A titles in 2018 and 2019. What's next? The only sure bet is that coach Dave Pishkur, left, will be back to hand in that lineup card in 2020. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (7-04-2019) The baseline thought about Andrean winning a second consecutive Class 3A state championship is: Andrean 2018-2019 is now, without question, a great team.

If you win a title, you may simply have had a lucky month. Single-elimination tournaments don’t always produce the most worthy winner.

But if you come back the next season carrying the weight of the words ’defending champion’ and you get yourself to the post-season and win every single game... Like the old song said: That makes you larger than life.

I want to commend WJOB for their efforts to televise sports this last year.

The ‘WJOB Network’, available on app-based TVs like Roku (and many others), aired football, basketball, softball and baseball. Their efforts to cover the basketball state tournament were greatly appreciated here. Sometimes they carried as many as four games a night and people like me could watch whichever one they wanted.

Interest in high school sports has retreated in the last few years in NW Indiana and my stated reason (here many times) is that people can't watch games at home on TV in our region as they can in much of the state.

Lakeshore Public broadcasting got out of the high school sports TV business about a decade ago, choosing highlight shows instead. You can watch games online, but I can't.

I want to see the games on TV and that stopped in these parts a long time ago. Interest in high school sports began to sink the day that occurred. WJOB’s multiple game (per night) coverage of the basketball state tournament was the best thing that happened to local sports media in many years.

With all that said, WJOB’s telecast of baseball and softball were fatally flawed. They used one camera located behind home plate and, while one-camera ‘shoots’ of football and basketball are just fine, you just can't see much from behind home plate at a baseball and softball game.

If you only have one camera (and you need two or three for baseball) you simply have to put the camera behind the center field fence so viewers can see the pitcher and the batter on ever play. You guys have all watched baseball on TV. You know that without a camera looking over the pitchers’ shoulder, you might as well be listening on the radio.

I’m going to take a leap of faith here and assume that the WJOB folks know that ‘one camera’ TV coverage of baseball and softball is coverage in name only. I know they know that the video version of their baseball and soft ball games was not good. I’m assuming they were working within a limited budget.

But as one who would love to see local softball and baseball playoff games, I hope that WJOB appreciates the need for two or three cameras at a baseball game. I hope they go forward with that in mind. They have started something that is worth taking to the next level.

The big question for 2020 is: Where will Andrean be? I’m not sure.

The 59er baseball program was Class 3A in 2016 and 2017. They’d been 3A for decades. But they won the state championship in 2018 and 2019. So they move up, right?

But wait a minute. Andrean is a 2A school by enrollment. Can you be bumped to two levels above what you are?

I honestly don’t know.

Here’s five teams to look at for 2020. And four of them will keep an eye on where Andrean is going.

1. (3A) Andrean (36-1)
31-6 (2108), 26-9 (2017), 26-6 (2016), 30-6 (2015), 31-4 (2014)

MERRILLVILLE: Andrean won the school’s seventh Class 3A state championship in 12 years with a one-from-behind 2-1 win over Edgewood. The Niners' seven state championship leaves them one behind LaPorte’s all-time state record.

Coach Dave Pishkur (1,014-284) passed the 1,000-victory mark and his 59ers completed a season where they were the favorite every time they stepped on the field, a very difficult task. The state champs lose just six seniors, but two of them are All-America pitcher Mike Doolin (14-0, 0.50 ERA) and Joel Holtcamp (5-1, 1.92 ERA). But the 59ers won't join the 2020 fight unarmed. Justin Schassburger (6-0, 0.88 ERA) had some success in limited duty.

Shortstop Tyler Nelson (3-0, 1.88 ERA) will get more than the 22 innings he pitched in 2019. Charlie Jones (4-0, 2.21 ERA) was a little wild at times, but he won four and picked up two saves.
Nelson (.436, 22 stolen bases) will bat high in the order. The Niners look like they will fall back a bit in 2020, but when in recent years has that really happened?

Has any Indiana high school baseball program ever averaged 30 wins a season (180–32) over a six year span?

2. (4A) Crown Point (28-5)
21-8 (2018), 19-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014)

CROWN POINT: It was a hard knockout end for the team ranked No. 1 in the state the second half of the year. CP lost 8-0 to arch rival Lake Central in the regional semifinals. Of the Bulldogs’ five losses in the 33 games in the 2019 season, two were to LC.

I don’t remember which CP player mentioned to me that the team ranked No. 1 during most of the season rarely wins the state title. Get ready, though because CP will be ranked very highly in 2020 as they lose just five seniors off a sectional championship team.

Big time pitcher Ryan Fender (8-1) graduated but ‘Mean Gene’ Kolarik (7-2) will be back with Jonathan Sabotnik, who excelled as a spot starter in 2019. Most of the batting order returns, including all-DAC third baseman Christian Mojica (.407, 221 RBIs).

CP faces a tough DAC-flavored sectional fight in 2020, especially if two-time defending 3A state champion Andrean moves up to 4A.

3. (4A) Lake Central (24-7)
23-9 (2017), 27-5 (2016), 25-5-1 (2015), 23-10 (2014), 23-9 (2013)

ST. JOHN: Lake Central didn't get to the state finals, but they defeated arch-rival Crown Point two out of three times. That probably meant more to them than winning 20 games or more for the 12th year in a row. Will graduation hurt them? Yes. Best guess? They’ll win 20 in 2020 as well.

Two 2019 LC juniors stood out. Brock Begesha (7-0, 0.71) shut out No. 1 Crown Point at the LaPorte regional. He struck out 11. Catcher Nolan Zahorsky had amazing totals of 53 base hits and 43 stolen bases in 31 games.

I’m ‘Mr. Obvious’ here, but LC benefits from not having to face their Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) rivals for a third time in sectional play. LC also benefits from having a big-time program.
Did I mention that LC baseball has won 20 or more games 12 years in a row?

4. (3A) Kankakee Valley (13-17)
2018 (11-14), 2017 (8-20), 2016 (5-21), 2015 (7-18)

WHEATFIELD: KV had a losing season, obviously. But the Kougars were three outs away from the upset of the century. KV led top-ranked Andrean 7-3 in the seventh inning before the defending state champ and No. 1 ranked 59ers scored five times to win 8-7.

Upset of the century? Hyperbole? Overstatement. The 59ers ended the season at 36-1 and won a second consecutive state championship. It would have been the upset of the century.

Watch this space. My KV roster shows just three graduating seniors and pitcher Tyler Feddeler, who pitched the Kougars to within three outs of the big upset, has two more years. Feddeler batted .321 (26 of 81) and he led KV in innings pitched.

First year coach Doug Nelson had great success at Hanover Central before coming to KV and he’ll have over 90% of his team back. There almost certainly will be significant improvement here. They'll also be watching to see if Andrean moves up to 4A in 2020 as well.

5. (3A) Hanover Central (14-7)
19-8 (2018), 22-7 (2017), 19-11 (2016), 25-5 (2015)

CEDAR LAKE: Hanover lost to Andrean early in sectional play, but they were 11-3 (2nd to Griffith) in the Greater South Shore Conference. Hanover graduated seven seniors, but among the players returning is Jared Comia (.409, 16 RBIs) a promising outfielder. Bret Matthys (2-4, 2.65) is a tall lefthander with potential. Batters hit just .228 against him in 2019.

I like that Hanover got Lake Central on the schedule and that they continue to play Crown Point. HC has too many ‘walkover’ wins in the GSSC. Odd as it may sound, they need to get beat more. Regular season losses mean nothing if you aren’t intimidated when you get to the playoffs.

I’ve always thought Hanover Central should find three new friends and host their own baseball tournament. That is, until they join the Northwest Crossroads Conference (where they belong) and get to play Munster and Andrean twice every year.

2019 CROWN POINT Bulldogs (28-5)
21-8 (2018), 19-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015)
Coach Steve Strayer (23rd year), DAC games in CAPS
3-26 (W) 4-1 at Hanover Central (6-1)
3-28 (W) 18-2 (5 inn.) Bishop Noll (3-4)
3-30 (Rain) 2A No. 3 Boone Grove (4-1)
4-2 (W) 11-4 CHESTERTON
4-3 (W) 8-5 at CHESTERTON

Lafayette Invitational

4-5 (W) 11-5 at Jefferson (5-7)
4-6 (W) 9-2 at McCutcheon (4-4)
4-6 (W) 14-4 (6 inn.) at Harrison (4-4)

4-9 (W) 11-3 LAKE CENTRAL (16-5)
4-10 (L) 5-6 (6 inn.) at 4A LAKE CENTRAL (16-5)
4-13 (W) 1-0 (8 inn.) Penn (6-2)
4-13 (W) 12-6 Concord (2-4)

4-16 (W) 4-1 MICHIGAN CITY
4-17 (W) 10-0 (5 inn.) at MICHIGAN CITY
4-23 (W) 11-0 (5 inn.) LaPORTE
4-24 (W) 6-0 at LaPORTE
4-25 (W) 10-0 Kankakee Valley
5-4 (W) 3-1 VALPARAISO (13-5)
5-4 (L) 0-1 Andrean (17-1)
5-6 (W) 7-5 at VALPARAISO (13-5)
5-7 (W) 10-2 MERRILLVILLE (10-10)

5-8 (W) 7-5 (8 inn.) at MERRILLVILLE (10-11)
5-10 (W) 7-1 at Hobart (11-10)
5-14 (W) 11-3 at PORTAGE (12-9-1)
5-15 (L) 1-3 PORTAGE (12-9-1)
5-16 (W) 6-3 Munster (15-5)
5-18 (W) 20-6 Plymouth (at McCutcheon)
5-18 (L) 6-7 at McCutcheon
5-20 (W) 4-1 Illiana Christian

Class 4A Sectional 2 (at Crown Point)
5-22 (W) 2-1 (10-inn.) Chesterton (quarterfinal)
5-24 (W) 5-2 Valparaiso (semifinal)
5-27 (W) 6-0 Portage (championship)

Class 4A Regional (at LaPorte), 06-01-2019

Lake Central 8, Crown Point 0 (semifinal)
Mishawaka 7, Northridge 0 (semifinal)
Mishawaka 2, Lake Central 0 (championship)

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