3A Griffith Regional: Top-ranked Andrean Tops No. 3 South Bend St. Joseph for Title

Steve Krah
PBR Indiana Correspondent

GRIFFITH — Andrean High School baseball coach Dave Pishkur could be heard in the third base box imploring 59ers senior Matt Lelito to “stay hot.”

Lelito did just that, smacking a home run and double, driving in two runs and scoring two Monday, June 3 to help No. 1-ranked Andrean best No. 3 South Bend St. Joseph 8-3 in the championship game of the IHSAA Class 3A Griffith Regional.

Batting eighth for the 59ers, Lelito knocked in one run and scored one Saturday in an 11-0, five-inning regional semifinal win against Griffith. The title game was postponed until Monday because of rain.

By claiming the 14th regional title in program history and the second straight, Andrean (34-1) will play Yorktown in the northern semistate at either Plymouth or Kokomo on Saturday, June 8.

The 59ers ran their win streak to 34 Monday. Andrean lost to Father Ryan of Nashville, Tenn., in the season opener. Lelito, who drove in one run and scored one as Andrean beat Silver Creek 6-1 to win the 2018 baseball state championship, was not yet with the 2019 baseball squad since he was helping the school win a 2A state basketball championship in March.

“He doesn’t know how to lose,” said 59ers coach Dave Pishkur of Lelito. “He has really turned it on at tournament time. He got a big hit against Kankakee Valley (in the Kankakee Valley Sectional) to start that rally.

“He’s a big, strong kid. He’s always had unlimited ability. He’s our most talented all-around baseball player.”

Senior right-hander Michael Doolin went the distance as the winning pitcher, giving up five hits while striking out nine and walking two (he had not walked a batter in his six previous mound appearances).

Doolin, who threw 26 pitches in Saturday’s semifinal, said he had “C” stuff Monday and thanked his teammates for backing him up on defense.

“I would say that was my worst outing of the year,” said Doolin. “My fastball command wasn’t as good as I usually like it to be. My curveball and slider were a little loopy.

“These guys picked me up and that’s all I could ask for. I knew we were going to score. I just needed to keep the ball low and let (St. Joseph) make contact.”

The Indians used two pitchers — senior left-hander A.J. Klimek (5 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts) and senior right-hander Michael Schroeder (1 inning, 3 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts).

Senior Joe Rotkis was not available for mound duty because of the IHSAA pitch count rule. He threw 70 pitches in a semifinal win against Western and was required to rest for two days.

St. Joseph was going for a sixth regional crown and first since 2017 before finishing 2019 at 22-4.

“We played for two championships (sectional and regional) and won one of them,” said Indians coach John Gumpf. “Not many people can say that.”

Designated visiting team St. Joseph produced a runner when senior Noah Hickey was hit by a pitch with one out. A line drive off the bat of junior Caleb Hlade to junior first baseman Mason Sannito was turned into a game-ending double play.

Andrean assumed an 8-3 lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.

The inning began with Schroeder relieving Klimek on the mound for St. Joseph.

Junior Tyler Nelson reached on a bunt single and later scored on sophomore Michael Jarek’s groundout.

Doolin singled to right and sophomore courtesy runner Bradley White trotted home on a single to center by senior Rigo Martinez.

The Indians left a runner at first base against Doolin in a scoreless top of the sixth.

After two strikeouts, senior Mitchell Coleman walked.

The inning ended with a diving catch by Andrean center fielder Jarek to take a hit away from Klimek.

The 59ers left runners at first and second against Klimek in a score-free bottom of the fifth.

Lelito and sophomore Charlie Jones drew walks around two groundouts and a caught-looking strikeout.

St. Joseph second baseman Hickey threw out senior Joel Holtcamp on a bang-bang play first base for the first out.

The Indians stranded one runner at second base against Doolin in a scoreless top of the fifth.

Hlade smacked a one-out single to and moved to second base on a fielder’s choice. Andrean third baseman Jones made a diving stop and quick fire to first baseman Sannito for the second out.

The 59ers took a 6-3 lead with tthree runs against Klimek in the bottom of the fourth.

Andrean loaded the bases with no outs on a Lelito double to left, Sannito fielder’s choice and Jones bunt single.

Junior Jake Mullen’s single to right plated Lelito.

Nelson’s single to center drove in Sannito and Jones.

Doolin retired St. Joseph 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth with a fly-out, strikeout and groundout.

The 59ers went scoreless against Klimek in the bottom of third, leaving one runner. Jarek reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second base.

Junior Brady Gumpf belted a three-run homer against Doolin to help St. Joseph pull even a 3-all in the top of the third.

After a walk to Hickey, Andrean turned a double play — third baseman Jones to shortstop Nelson to first baseman Sannito — for the first two outs.

Senior Patrick Farrissee (single to left) and senior Nick Dolniak (single to right) were on base when Gumpf sent the first pitch over the left field fence.

Pishkur said he had told Doolin to go after Gumpf with high fastballs. 

The homer came off a breaking pitch.

“He’s probably thrown a 1,000 pitches and that’s the only guy who I told him how to pitch all year and he kind of went to his own thing,” said Piskkur, who surpassed LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber to become Indiana’s all-time win leader among high school baseball coaches Saturday against Griffith (Pishkur now has 1,012 wins). “(Doolin) is the best I’ve ever had. “He did not have his best stuff but he battled.”

Coach Gumpf saw the two teams trade control.

“This game is momentum,” said Gumpf. “They put pressure on. They got the hits when they needed them. They had a great pitcher on the mound to stop some momentum, too. “You could see that (Doolin) didn’t have his normal breaking ball today. We battled at the plate and fouled off a lot of pitches (Hickey had a 13-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning). We wanted to get those guys on and get those big hits to keep the momentum. “They were better than we were today.”

Lelito propelled the 59ers to a 3-0 lead with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second.

With one out, Lelito launched a 2-1 Klimek pitch over the fence in left to score Holtcamp (single to right) and himself.

“I believe it was an arm-side change-up,” said Lelito. “I picked out a pitch I could drive and I got one. “The (momentum) definitely switched to use once we had three runs.”

The outs were a groundout and two strikeouts.

The Indians went down in order against Doolin in the top of the second with a fly-out and two swinging strikeouts.

Andrean scored the game’s first run against Klimek in the bottom of the first.

Mullen drew a one-out walk and senior courtesy runner Benjamin Warren scored when Doolin served a two-out single into left. 

St. Joseph left one runner against Doolin in the top of the first.

After two caught-looking strikeouts, Gumpf smacked a single to right before an inning-ending groundout.