Uhland's Overtime Homer Propels Cathedral Past Penn

Sun June 18, 2017

By Pete Cava

PBR Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS – Cathedral’s Evan Uhland entered Saturday’s IHSAA Class 4A championship game at Victory Field hitting a buck-sixty for the year with one run batted in.  
  
The junior left fielder proved to be the man of the hour for the Indianapolis school with a three-hit spree, including a home run that spelled the difference in Cathedral’s 4-3 win over Penn (27-7) in extra innings. 
  
“We call it ‘the frickits,’” said Uhland, explaining the unexpected heroics.  “It’s when you’re in the postseason, where someone in the lower half of the lineup gets hot –  straight-up hot.  I guess I caught a case of ‘the frickits’ today.” 
  
Led by first-year coach Ed Freije, Cathedral (29-0) became the fourth undefeated state champion.  
  
“We knew we were playing a tough, gritty Penn team that was capable of scoring runs.  They never let up.  They kept fighting. Fortunately, we did too.”  
  
“They got some timely hits,” said Greg Dikos, Penn’s Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame coach.  “I was proud of the way our guys battled back.  Down 3-to-1, they came back and tied the score.  We showed some grit out there.” 
  
The opening line from Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet, “Two households, both alike in dignity,” applies to the storied programs that battled for this year’s 4A crown.  The Mishawaka-based Penn Kingsmen have won four state titles (1994, 1998 4A, 2001 4A, 2015 4A), while Cathedral now owns three (2001 3A, 2007 4A, 2017 4A).    
  
The schools have been a springboard to professional baseball for players like Jake Fox and Tommy Hunter of Cathedral and Penn's Skylar Szynski.  Six of this year’s players – three from Penn, three from Cathedral – have committed to NCAA Division I college teams.  
  
Heading into Saturday’s championship, the lone discrepancy was the career records of the two coaches.  Penn's Dikos, a 30-year veteran, entered the game with 703 victories to just 28 for Freije.  A 1999 Cathedral grad, Freije had replaced his prep mentor, Rich Andriole, at the start of this season.  Andriole had won over 500 contests during a legendary career with the Irish. 
  
While Dikos's teams had lost 248 times, Freije had never tasted defeat.  His Cathedral squad steamed into Victory Field with an unblemished record and dreams of becoming the fourth school in IHSAA history to go undefeated. 
  
The first was Evansville Memorial, which went 30-0 in 1978 with the help of future New York Yankee legend Don Mattingly. Next was Brownsburg, the 2005 4A winner with a 35-0 slate.  The Bulldogs roster that year included future major league pitchers Drew Storen and Lance Lynn.  Most recently there was Norwell (Ossian, Ind.), the 2007 Class 3A champ.  Norwell went 35-0 with the help of another future big league hurler, Jarrod Parker. 
  
Saturday’s starting pitchers were both lefthanders, Penn's Kameron Koch and Nick Eaton for Cathedral.  Koch, a sophomore, came in with a 9-1 mark and a 2.37 earned run average while Eaton (10-0, 0.90) is a senior bound for Indiana University. 
  
Eaton got into a jam right off the bat.  Trevor Waite opened the bottom of the first for Penn with a blast that landed on the right-field warning track for a triple.  When Matt Kominkiewicz was hit by a pitch, the Kingsmen had runners at the corners with nobody out.  Waite scored the game's first run when three-hole hitter Nik Kavadas, a Notre Dame recruit, grounded out to first.  Nolan Metcalf's base hit to right put runners on first and third again, but Eaton got the next two batters to fly out. 
  
Eaton avenged himself in the top of the second with a leadoff triple down the right field line.  Ross Kirkpatrick ran for Eaton, and scooted home one out later on Jake Andriole's ground-out to second for a 1-1 tie. 
  
In the top of the third Koch gave up three hits to Cathedral, but emerged unscathed with the help of an unassisted double play. Tommy Kafka opened the frame with a single and took second on Charlie Gomez's bunt single.  The next Irish batter, Jared Poland, lined a shot right at Penn second baseman Matt Kominkiewicz, who stepped on second for the twin killing.  Kevin Flood followed with a ground single to left, but Koch fanned the next batter to retire the side. 
  
Cathedral pulled ahead with a two-out rally in the top of the fourth.  Evan Uhland sparked the Irish with his second double of the night.  After Mack Murphy was drilled by a pitch, Tommy Kafka smashed a single through the left side that sent Uhland rambling home for a 2-1 Irish lead. 
  
Chase McKenzie, Penn's burly 6-foot-2 junior right-hander, relieved Koch in the top of the fifth.  McKenzie plunked the first batter he faced, Jared Poland, and walked Kevin Flood.  Eaton, attempting to bunt, popped up to the catcher for the first out. But Jack Myers followed with a line single to center that drove in Poland and stretched Cathedral's lead to 3-1. 
  
Penn fought back to even the score in the bottom of the sixth.  With one out, Nolan Metcalf singled off Eaton's glove.  Ryan Lynch followed with a grounder to Cathedral first sacker Jake Andriole, who fired to second for what appeared to be a double play.  All hands were safe, however, when the Irish shortstop couldn't hold on to the ball. Payton Kerr's two-base hit down the right field line scored courtesy runner Brock Boynton and sent Lynch to third, and Lynch scampered home on Nate Lovisa's sac fly to knot the game at 3-all. 
  
“It was painful,” Freije said.  “We knew they didn’t need help scoring runs.  We kind of opened a door for them a little bit there.” 
  
“I was kind of shocked,” said Eaton of the Penn surge.  “But I had confidence in my team all the time.  I knew I had a lot of great defense behind me, and we had a great offense at the plate, and I kept pitching.”  
  
When Eaton and McKenzie traded blanks in the seventh, the game went into overtime. 
  
Uhland led off the top of the eighth for Cathedral and with a 2-and-1 count, McKenzie threw him a fastball up and in.  The lanky 6-foot-2 right-handed hitter drove it deep to left.  As Penn’s Trevor Waite raced to the warning track, the ball barely cleared the wall.  “It was far enough,” Uhland said.  “When I hit it, I thought it was gone.” 
  
McKenzie retired the next three Cathedral hitters, setting the stage for Penn’s last stand. 
       
In the bottom of the eighth Eaton, pitching with a paper-thin lead, retired the first two Penn hitters.  When Ryan Lynch reached first on an error, the Kingsmen had the game-winning run at the plate.  
  
But Eaton fanned the next man to end the contest, keep Cathedral undefeated, and give the Irish their third state title.   
  
“I don’t think the magnitude has hit any of us yet,” Coach Freije said after his players received their championship trophy.  “I can’t say enough about our coaching staff and how great they’ve been.  For this to be our year was special, but it’s mostly special for the seniors.  
  
“I’m gonna coach next year, and we’re gonna have another team out here.  For those seniors, this is it.  So whether it was going undefeated or winning a state championship, or both, I couldn’t be more proud or happier for those guys.”    
  
Eaton (11-0), relying on a fastball, curve and changeup, allowed six hits, two earned runs and no walks while striking out seven.  “Nick got better as the game went on,” said Freije.  
  
“Eaton was outstanding,” said Penn coach Greg Dikos. 
  
Tommy Kafka had a 2-for-5 night for Cathedral, while Penn’s Nolan Metcalf, who’ll play for Kansas next season, went 3-for-4.    
  
After the post-game ceremonies, a lone spectator slipped out of Victory Field unnoticed.  And Rich Andriole, the man who did so much to build the program that Ed Freije molded into an undefeated championship team, got into his car without fanfare and drove away.  
  
DIAMOND DUST:  The 4A championship game wrapped up the IHSAA's 51st annual baseball state finals.  Saturday’s crowd count was 6,664 for a two-day total of 9,446.  
  
The start of the game was moved back 45 minutes to 5:45 p.m. due to rain that passed through the Indianapolis downtown area after the conclusion of the 3A contest.  The Indianapolis Indians ground crew had the infield covered and in perfect condition by the time the contest got underway.    
  
The one-hour, 55-minute game began with overcast skies and winds out to left up to 13 mph.  The temperature at the time of the first pitch was 80 degrees.   

Penn left fielder Trevor Waite is the winner of this year’s L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award in Class 4A Baseball.  Waite graduated with 3.9 GPA and received the Pennant Award for Outstanding Journalism and Contribution to School Culture. He’ll enter the University if Dayton this fall.        
  
Heading into this weekend, Cathedral stood fifth in USA Today Sports Super 25 rankings behind Shawnee, Okla., Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.), Eastlake (Chula Vista, Calif.) and Woodlawn (Rison, Ark.).  The only other cold-weather school in the top ten is tenth-ranked Roosevelt (Sioux Falls, S.D.). 
  
Cathedral first baseman Jake Andriole is the son of legendary Irish coach Rich Andriole. 
  
Penn freshman infielder Camryn Szynski is the younger brother of Skylar Szynski, a former Kingsman who currently pitches in the Oakland Athletics system. 
  
Pete Cava is the author of “Tales From the Cubs Dugout” and “Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players:  A Biographical Dictionary, 1871-2014.”

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