Baseball: NCC season outlookAndrean's Zak Ryan delivers the pitch during a game against Penn on Saturday, April 9, 2011. | Mark Smith`Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2012 11:22PM
The bad news for Andrean last year was that the 59ers, who have a state championship on their minds every season, lost in the regional final to Mishawaka Marian.
The good news? Nearly everybody’s back, starting with Louisville Slugger preseason first-team All-America third baseman and pitcher Zac Ryan. The junior and Georgia Tech commit hit .400 last year with 48 RBI, and was 8-2 on the mound with a 1.87 ERA. He’s the undisputed ace now with Tyler Ochi and Mike Hanchar (a combined 12-2) having graduated.
But Ryan will have plenty of help, as seven starters return to the lineup, led by seniors Zach Goldasich (.386), Nick Tobye (.397) and Mike Brosseau (.398). Second baseman Mark Pishkur (.333) and outfielder Cody Haver are both coming back from injuries.
As always, Andrean has its sights set on Victory Field in June.
“We always have lofty goals,” said 33rd-year coach Dave Pishkur, who needs 21 wins to reach 800 for his career. “We will see how many we can obtain.”
One-time NCC powerhouse Griffith had a nice bounce-back season last year, posting a solid 16-13 record and 6-6 mark in league play before falling to Andrean in the sectional championship.
If the Panthers want to take the next step, they’re going to need to find some arms to step in for the graduated Calvin Bonewits and Mike Dobosz. But with six of eight position starters back —including shortstop Garrett Litke (.348), center fielder Brett Brinkley and second baseman Jesse Smith — and only two seniors in that mix, Griffith should keep rising in the NCC ranks.
Perennial afterthought Hobart had its first winning season since 2004 last year (17-12) and was 6-6 in league play, its best finish since the NCC was founded. It didn’t come without headaches, as third-year coach Bob Glover Jr. took a lot of heat from parents and fans after purging the program of many players he didn’t feel “bought in” to his system.
“It was very gratifying to see our decisions about the direction of our program pay off,” Glover said.
Now that Glover’s players are in place, the key to keeping the Brickies competitive could be a talented sophomore class that will have to help fill the void left by ace Tony Curatolo, as well as big bats Sam Moore and Jake Trezak.
Sophomore Brandon Murray — who has touched 88 mph on the radar gun — averaged more than a strikeout per inning as a freshman No. 2 starter last year, and should step into the ace role, supported by seniors Phil Madvek and Jake Erhlich. Junior lefty C.J. Komosa will come up from JV to be the fourth member of the staff.
Other sophomores expected to take on major roles this year include shortstop Tyrus Joseforsky and catcher Nick Bokun.
Highland has arguably the top pitcher in the region in senior lefty Jordan Minch (6-1, 1.47 ERA), a Purdue recruit.
After Minch? No pitcher has varsity experience. Three pitchers with ERAs under 2.00 graduated.
“We will need to get our pitching in line,” said 31st-year coach Dan Miller, who was voted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame this past fall.
Aside from Minch, the Trojans lost almost all their big bats, too, from last year’s squad, which won 23 games and lost 2-1 to Lake Central in the sectional final. Senior Luke Polster is the only other player with significant experience. Tyler Fraley, Cullen Gordon and Nick Christensen put up good numbers in limited at-bats.
Kankakee Valley is Southpaw Central this year, with seven left-handed pitchers in the program. In fact, of the 15 players on the varsity roster, 11 are pitchers. The Kougars will need all those arms to counter five huge losses — Mike Tilley, Tyler Simmons, Kevin Bobby, Dylan Patrick and Tyler Cambe.
But the cupboard is far from bare. Third baseman Zach DeFries his .386 and drove in 27 runs last year, while catcher Jake Wright hit .389 with 22 RBI.
In his 27th year, coach Doug Greenlee wants his team to be opportunistic at the plate, given the national move this season BBCOR bats, which will deaden the trampoline effect of aluminum bats and make them behave more like wooden bats, which will — in theory, at least — bring small ball back into fashion.
Second-year Lowell coach Bobby Wong likes where his program is headed, but he knows it will take some time with just four players with any varsity experience.
“(We’re) looking to continue to build our program and be competitive in our conference and sectioanls,” Wong said. “We have a lot of young talent, but our lack of experience will be our greatest challenge.”
Wong will lean heavily on returning juniors Danny DeBoer (.303, 44 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched) and Bryan Thomas (.382).
A trying 10-win season might pay dividends this season for eight-year Munster coach Bob Shinkan, who lost just two starters and brings back the likes of Mark Strbjak (.385), Chris Slivka (.306), Colin Mudroncik (.274), Valparaiso recruit Scott Jerge (1.73 ERA) and Anthony Gomez (1.55 ERA).
“They have been a very hard-working group in the offseason,” Shinkan said.