2018 Renegade HS Baseball Final Poll for Northwest Indiana
... and a look ahead to 2019

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Defending state champion Andrean will need 22 victories in 2019 to make Dave Pishkur just the second coach in state history to win 1,000 games. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (7-04-2018) The baseball season ended well for Northwest Indiana as two local teams won state championships. Class 3A No. 1 Andrean and unranked Boone Grove both traveled the tournament trail and won final games in Victory Field.

I’ve always had a philosophy on bad calls. You argue until her game ends and then you drop it. Umpires miss calls. They make errors. That’s as much a part of the game as errors made by players. But from what I understand the situation was in the Fishers-Chesterton Semistate game in Kokomo, this is a different situation.

The umpires didn’t know the rules. Chesterton trailed 4-0 in the third inning, but they had two runners on base with two out. Tommy Benson singled to center, driving in both runs. But the home plate umpire called ‘catchers interference’, meaning the catchers’ glove has touched Benson’s bat during his swing. But he also ruled the play dead. Benson was awarded first base and the runners who scored had to go back to second and third. Fishers' pitcher Luke Albright retired the next batter and the Chesterton third inning ended with the score 4-0.

Chesterton protested at the time of the play. The Trojans players and coaches said that the rule is: They should have been given the option of the dead ball play or the live play. They were not the team that committed the violation.
The umps ruled that the ‘option’ is a pro rule and not a high school rule. The home ump said that the play was ‘dead’ once the catcher interfered and that the batter gets first base. The umpire was right that the ‘option’ rule is for pro baseball.
But Chesterton was correct.

According to both the ‘Baseball Rules Academy’ (rule 5.05-B) and the National Federation of High School rules (section 8, article 1), you cannot negate the play in cases of catcher's interference if the batter hits a fair ball. If all runners all advance at least one base and the batter reaches first base (which was the case in the case of Chesterton-Fishers), the interference is nullified and the play stands.

The umps insisted on the ‘dead ball’ interpretation of catchers’ interference, and insisted the ‘wronged’ team had no option. They were simply wrong. The option actually is in the high school rules and, beyond that, the rule reads that obstruction is ignored if the batter and runners all advance one base.

Chesterton was denied two runs because the home plate ump simply didn’t know the correct rule adaptation. Fishers won the game 5-3 and went on to win the state title. Would Chesterton have won if they’d have gotten their two runs? It does not matter.

Bad calls are part of the game but misinterpretation of the rules isn’t. All games must have written rules which stand in all occurrences or the outcome isn’t fair. And if it's not fair, we’re wasting our time playing these games.

What could have been done?

What should have been done?

You can't replay a state tournament game days later. That would not have been fair to Fishers. They went on to win that day. You can't take it away from them.

I don't want the umpires involved here to face any kind of discipline or to lose assignments. They thought they were right. They simply weren’t.

But there is a solution. I’m as old as dirt and I remember multiple Little League games where an on-field rules interpretation was debated and the rule book appeared to support both sides. In the old days, the lead ump got on the phone and called the Little League Central States office in Indianapolis.

A designated head of umpiring analyzed the play, listened to both interpretations and gave a final ruling based on his understanding of Little League rules. It sure didn’t make everybody happy, but it ended the debate. It was a kind of ‘Supreme Court’ ruling and lifted the blame from the game umps.

My suggestion is that the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) create a system like that for the state baseball tournament. It would not be difficult. One person is named the state’s head umpire in charge of high school rules interpretation. That person is available (he can be anywhere, he just has to have a phone) all month whenever any tournament game is played anywhere in the state. The ‘head ump’ listens to both sides, gets out the rule book and makes a final decision. He is the ultimate judge. He is not on site. Not involved emotionally and not swayed by the heat of the moment.

This ‘head ump’ appeal is not for balls and strikes, close plays at a base or tag plays. Just rules interpretations like Chesterton-Fishers.

Is catcher's interference a play where there is a batted ball in fair territory and runners can advance if the batter gets a hit? Or is it an immediate dead ball? Yes or no. And the game goes on.

The ‘head ump’ concept would not cost anything and the judge could make the ruling rather quickly. And a team like Chesterton would not be abused because the umps did not know the correct interpretation of a rule.

Andrean was the top team all season, so lets move on to 2019 when hopefully, we’ll get better weather but the same on-field success. Boone and Chesterton take heavy graduation losses, so let's look at five teams that may matter next spring. Not necessarily the top five, but five who will bear watching.

1. (3A) Andrean (31-6)
26-9 (2017), 26-6 (2016), 30-6 (2015), 31-4 (2014), 27-3-1 (2013)

MERRILLVILLE: Andrean won the school’s sixth Class 3A state championship in 15 years with a relatively easy 6-1 win over Silver Creek. Junior Mike Doolin (11-1) struck out 13, allowing three hits and one walk. And the 59ers led 6-0 after four innings. Coach Dave Pishkur (978-283) has lifted the 59er program beyond even other private schools with the regular season schedule. Andrean regularly plays five schools (Brother Rice, Marist, Mount Carmel, Marian Catholic and Providence Catholic from Chicago’s Catholic League which has private schools much larger than Andrean. Andrean was 2-3 against the Chicagoland Catholic League and 29-3 against everyone else. The 2019 59ers will be fine. Doolin returns as does right-hander Joel Holcamp (4-3, 2.59 ERA) along with Tyler Nelson (3-0, 5.40 ERA, but 26 Ks in 22 innings) and catcher Jake Mullen. Switch-hitting second baseman Charlie Jones (23 of 59, .389) and Nelson (36 of 101, .356), the regular shortstop are both back along with third baseman Matt Lieto (23 of 71, .339) and Doolin (36 of 110, .327) to lead the offense. The way the state tournament is set up, you only need one really good pitcher. Andrean will contend for the 2019 state title.

2. (4A)Hobart (21-7)
2017 (8-19), 2016 (21-9), 2015 (19-9), 2014 (26-6)

HOBART: The Brickies should be on the rise in 2019. Mart Benton (7-1, 1.38 ERA) struck out 60 in 61 innings as a sophomore. Benny Guevarra (3-2, 3.69 ERA in 36 innings) also had a good sophomore season as did Tommy Schultz (2-1, 2.28 ERA in 22 innings). That’s a lot of experienced pitching coming back for two more seasons. Benton (29 of 895, .341), Schultz (40 of 100, .400) and Guevara (26 of 84, .310) won't need anyone to be a designated hitter for them. Ryan Earp (27 of 84, .321) and 6-foot-2 catcher Jaden Deal (21 of 72, .292) also figure to be back for the Brickies. Guevarra was 18 of 19 in stolen bases. Benton was 13 of 17 and Schultz stole 16 in 19 attempts so Hobart has a chance to steal 100 bases again in 2018. The 2018 Brickies stole 128 in 151 tries. Hobart, like Crown Point, needs to wade through 4A Sectional 2 so they need a little luck. But it would not be a shock for us see the Brickies playing well into June of 2019.

3. (3A) Griffith (22-8)
15-15 (2017), 16-14 (2016), 16-13 (2015)

GRIFFITH: The Panthers lost to 3A No.1 Andrean 11-1 and Andrean went on to win the state title so Griffith has no illusions for 2019. Whatever the regular season holds, a playoff run means facing the state champs in the regional in June. When the day comes, Griffith will have high hopes. The Panthers return almost everybody off a 20-win team which suggest it's ‘their turn’. Among the .400 hitters returning are Cole Cervantes (37 of 91, .407), Gabe Pulido (29 of 71, .408) and Jeremy Maynard (36 of 81, .444). Among the .300 hitters are Kyle Iwinski (26 of 74, .351), Andrew Davenport (24 of 78, .308) and Anson Wright (24 of 69, .348). Maynard (4-3, 3.12 ERA, 49 strikeouts in 40 innings), Davenport (3-1, 3.00 ERA), and Ty Lawson (4-1, 2.31 ERA, 32 strikeouts and just 8 walks in 31 innings) will vie to supply the pitching on a team that graduated just two seniors.

4. (4A) Crown Point (21-8)
19-9 (2017), 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014), 7-17 (2013)

CROWN POINT: Crown Point lost 1-0 to Hobart in the sectional opener, but the Bulldogs had won 17 of their last 21 and 2019 should be a good season. CP right-hander Marek Bauner (2-3), who struck out 11 in the loss to Hobart, returns for 2019. Gene Kolarik (4-0), who only got 22 innings pitched will also be back. Ryan Fender (3-3) has a lot of potential for his senior season as does Jonathan Sabotnik, who pitched mostly in relief as a sophomore in 2018. Outfielder Alex Rich (29 of 83, .361) and infielder Josh Lindeman (25 of 84, .285) have one more year while catcher Mason Boyd and third baseman Chris Mojica (24 of 72, .333) have two more years. There was a feeling in the preseason that it would be tough to get past Chesterton locally in Class 4A and that proved true. 2019 could be time for another DAC team to make a playoff run.

5. (4A) Lake Central (24-7)
23-9 (2017), 27-5 (2016), 25-5-1 (2015), 23-10 (2014), 23-9 (2013), 32-1 (2012)

ST. JOHN: Lake Central won the sectional title and they won the marathon Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) regular season championship with an 11-3 record. The season ended with a regional semifinal loss to Chesterton. Seven graduates will be playing college baseball at some level by 2019. But LC usually has more than just seniors. Right-hander Alex James was 4-0 in Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) play. Max Born struck out 10 in the sectional against Morton. Third baseman Alex Bais returns after batting .398 as a junior. LC’s underclass teams (junior varsity and freshman) were reportedly well stocked again this year and that suggests that good returning pitching will have a lot of support. Lake Central benefits from not having to play their Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) rivals for a third time in sectional play. The best situation you can be in is to play in a big school conference and then face smaller schools in sectional play.

2018 CROWN POINT  Bulldogs (21-9)
19-9 (2017) 19-9 (2016), 25-6 (2015), 17-13 (2014) 7-17 (2013)
Coach Steve Strayer (22nd year) = Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) games in CAPs

March 26 (L) 1-4 Hanover Central (19-8)
March 29 (W) 12-0 Bishop Noll (15-13)
March 31 (W) 5-3 Boone Grove (21-5)
April 7 (W) 13-1 at (Lafayette Jefferson (8-21)
April 7 (W) 9-0 at (Lafayette) Jefferson (8-21)
April 10 (L) 4-10 LAKE CENTRAL (24-6)
April 11 (L) 6-7 (9 inn.) LAKE CENTRAL (24-6)
April 12 (W) 8-7 CHESTERTON (20-9)
April 17 (W) 1-0 MICHIGAN CITY (8-16)
April 19 (W) 5-0 CHESTERTON (20-9)
April 24 (L) 2-4 at LaPORTE (22-10)
April 25 (W) 5-2 LaPORTE (22-10)
April 26 (W) 12-7 (8 inn.) at MICHIGAN CITY (8-16)

Noblesville Invitational
April 28 (L) 5-6 (Louisville, Ky.) St. Xavier (37-2 – Kentucky state champion)
April 28 (W) 12-0 Noblesville (21-11) 3rd place

May 1 (W) 18-13 at VALPO (11-13)
May 4 (L) 5-6 VALPO (11-13)
May 4 (W) 8-4 at Munster (10-15)
May 5 (W) 4-1 Andrean (31-6)
May 8 (W) 10-0 at MERRILLVILLE (5-20-1)
May 9 (W) 7-3 (6 inn.) MERRILLVILLE (5-20-1)
May 11 (W) 4-0 Hobart (20-9)
May 12 (W) 6-2 at Highland (20-6)
May 15 (W) 4-0 PORTAGE (14-10)
May 16 (W) 6-5 at PORTAGE (14-10)
May 19 (L) 4-6 Plymouth (17-11)
May 19 (W) 5-4 McCutcheon (20-7)
May 21 (W) 6-1 Wheeler (18-6)  

Merrillville (4A) Sectional
May 23 (L) 0-1 Hobart (20-9)

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Revised: July 09, 2018.