Penn Goes for 'Fourth' and Claims Another Regional Crown



By Steve Krah

PBR Indiana Correspondent 

LAPORTE — Penn put together two big fourth innings for a pair of come-from-behind victories and a 10th IHSAA regional baseball championship. 

The No. 7-ranked Kingsmen (26-6) fell behind 4-2 and then scored five fourth-inning runs on the way to beating No. 10 Andrean 9-5 in the Class 4A LaPorte Regional final Saturday, June 3 at steamy Schreiber Field. 

It was the third straight regional title for Penn. 

Andrean, playing “up” in class because of the IHSAA success factor, wound up at 26-8. 

In the semifinals, Andrean beat No. 17 LaPorte 6-4 and Penn erased an early 2-0 deficit with the help of a four-run fourth-inning uprising to top No. 12 Lake Central 6-2. 

Andrean beat Penn 14-11 during the regular season. Both teams piled up 14 hits in that April 8 game. 

Penn plays Lafayette Jeff Regional winner Zionsville in the one-game 4A northern semistate Saturday, June 10 at either Kokomo or Plymouth. 

Championship - Penn 9, Andrean 5 

Andrean’s double play — senior second baseman Brad LeVeque to sophomore shortstop Mike Doolin to senior first baseman Kevin McCune — ended the bottom of the first inning for Penn. 

The Kingsmen loaded the bases with no outs in their half of the second inning and scored the game’s first two runs on a 59er error on a ball put in play by senior Ryan Lau.  

Courtesy runners junior Marshall Furner (spelling senior Nolan Metcalf who singled to left field) and sophomore Kameron Koch (running for freshman Ryan Lynch who singled to right) scored the runs against junior left-hander Clay Thompson. 

Andrean racked up four hits against left-hander Lynch in the top of the third inning and took a 4-2 lead. 

McCune spanked an RBI double to left, scoring junior Nick Fushi (on base with a single to left). 

Doolin drilled a two-run single to left, chasing home senior Evan Hylek (walk) and McCune.

After Penn catcher Metcalf picked off a runner at first base, junior Joe Rycerz socked a Lynch fastball for solo home run to left center field for the fourth 59er run. 

Senior left-hander Sawyer Allen relieved Thompson (2-plus innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, 1 hit batsmen) on the mound for Andrean with no outs and runners at first and second base in the Penn third inning. 

“We forced Thompson to throw a lot of pitches,” Penn coach Greg Dikos said.  

With a senior Niko Kavadas infield single, the Kingsmen loaded the bases.  

But Penn came up empty with Allen fanning one batter and 59ers senior third baseman Adam Bednarek throwing to home for a force-out and the second out and and snagging a hard grounder and tagging third base for third out of the inning. 

The Kingsmen filled the bases with no outs again in the fourth inning and went on to send 10 batters to the plate and score five runs to take a 7-4 lead. 

Waite’s sacrifice fly to center knocked in junior Nate Lovisa (lead-off double to right).  

Kavadas ripped a two-run single up the middle to drive in Lau (walk) and junior Nate Vargo (fielder’s choice) for Penn’s fourth and fifth runs. 

Senior right-hander Billy Johnson took the place of Allen (loss; 1 1/3 innings, 5 runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout) on the hill for Andrean. 

Kominkiewicz (single to center) scored on a 59er miscue and Kavadas tallied the seventh run on junior Payton Kerr’s fielder’s choice. 

Right-hander McCune relieved Johnson (1/3 innings, 2 runs, 0 hits, 1 walk, 1 hit batsman) with one out and two runners on base in the Kingsmen fifth inning. 

McCune (1 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout) surrendered a two-run double to left to Kavadas that scored Lau (hit by Johnson pitch) and senior Trevor Waite (walked by Johnson) and gave Penn a 9-4 advantage. 

“Kavadas is a dangerous hitter,” Dikos said. “He was due to break out.” 

Penn went to the bullpen with one out in the Andrean sixth and runners on first and second and replaced Lynch (win, 7-0; 5-plus innings, 5 runs, 5 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts, 2 hit batsmen) with junior right-hander Chase McKenzie (2 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts).  

A McKenzie wild pitch allowed Leveque (walked by Lynch) to score from third base to cut the gap to 9-5. The rally was abbreviated with an inning-ending strikeout by McKenzie. 

Penn completed a game-ending double play — pitcher McKenzie to shortstop Kavadas to first baseman Lovisa — in the top of the seventh. 

Kavadas visited McKenzie on the mound with advice during the seventh. 

“‘You’ve got a four-run lead, let’s constantly go after the hitter. If they score three, we’re getting out of here with a W,’” Kavadas said in repeating his words to his pitcher. 

Kavadas, a Notre Dame recruit, was moved to shortstop in the last few weeks of the regular season. 

“It’s been awesome,” Kavadas said of a position he has not played regularly since he was 8. “I’ve been in the outfield watching the shortstop have all the fun. I’ve been really jealous.” 

Kavadas explained his mindset in the right-handed batter’s box. 

“All week I knew we were going to see good pitching and see left-handers,” Kavadas. “I told myself to stay inside the baseball and drive the ball with backspin over the shortstop’s head. That was my approach.” 

“We should be a very talented team next year,” Andrean coach Dave Pishkur said, looking at a roster that has several returning underclassmen. “Our seniors did a good job this year. They probably took us as far as they can take us. We got outmatched by a team that has more talent than us.” 

Dikos and Pishkur have combined to win more than 1,600 games in their Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame coaching careers. 

Semifinals - Andrean 6, LaPorte 4

Andrean left the bases loaded in a scoreless bottom of the first inning. Senior left-hander Andy Samuelson walked one batter and hit two while also fanning two and coaxing a groundout. 

59ers senior second baseman Danny Murray ranged near first base, snagged a grounder to threw to right-handed pitcher Doolin covering the bag to retire junior Chandler Banic by an eyelash for the second out in the top of the LaPorte second inning. 

Andrean stranded two runners in the bottom of the second frame. Samuelson issued a walk and hit another batter, but also racked up two more strikeouts and a flyout. 

The 59ers left a runner at third base in the bottom of the third inning. 

Doolin produced the game’s first hit on an infield single, went to second base on an LaPorte error and third base on a passed ball. But Samuelson got a foul pop and strikeout to end the threat. 

LaPorte (22-9) went down in order in the first four innings with four strikeouts against Doolin. 

Slicers junior catcher Will Malekovic threw out a would-be base stealer to end of Andrean fourth inning. 

LaPorte’s first base runner against Doolin was junior Nolan Lorenz, who drew a one-out walk and did not advance past first base in the top of a scoreless fifth inning.  

“We just weren’t barreling up the ball,” Upp said. “As hard as (Doolin) throws, we didn’t have as many strikeouts as we should have.  

“You’ve got to give him credit. He was filling (the strike zone) up right to the end.” 

The 59ers broke a scoreless tie when Thompson was hit by a Samuelson pitch (his first HBP of the contest) with the bases full, forcing home Hylek (who was hit by a pitch). 

Andrean led 4-0 at the end of the fifth.  

Bednarek smacked an 0-1 Samuelson pitch for an RBI single to left field, plating sophomore pinch-runner Joel Holtcamp (running for McCune who was hit by a pitch). 

Bednarek — the last batter than Samuelson faced — lashed a two-run single to left to score senior courtesy runner Eric Mularski (running for Doolin who laid down a bunt single) and Thompson. 

Left-hander Banic (1 1/3 innings, 2 runs, 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout) relieved Samuelson (loss, 7-5; 4 2/3 innings, 4 runs, 4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 6 hit batsmen) with two outs and runners at first and second. 

“Andy likes the inside corner; he always has,” LaPorte coach Scott Upp said. “He’s lived there all season. (Andrean) did a good job of not getting out of the way.” 

Junior Jose Ochoa became the second LaPorte player to reach base as he worked Doolin for a one-out walk in the top of the sixth inning. Doolin retired the next two Slicers. 

Andrean added two runs for a 6-0 lead through six frames. 

Hylek rapped a lead-off single to center field and McCune followed with an RBI double to deep center. 

A sacrifice fly to right by Rycerz drove in McCune with the sixth run. 

After Samuelson was hit by a pitch to open the LaPorte seventh, Malekovic’s single to center field broke up Doolin’s no-hit bid. 

With two outs, senior Thomas Pope was hit by a Doolin pitch with a the bases loaded, plating Samuelson (who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning).  

A Doolin wild pitch allowed junior courtesy runner Blake Braddy (running for Malekovic who singled to center) to score the second run. 

Ochoa’s two-run single to center knocked in freshman Grant Collins (walk) and Pope (hit by pitch). 

After Doolin issued a walk to junior Caleb Rettinger, left-hander Allen relieved Doolin (win, 8-0; 6 2/3 innings, 4 runs, 2 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts) with runners and first and second and two outs. 

Allen faced one batter and coerced a come-backer for the game’s final out. 

“We didn’t cower,” Upp said. “A lot of the guys who were productive in that last inning are underclassmen. Some good things are coming for 2018.” 

SEMIFINALS - Penn 6, Lake Central 2

 

With RBI singles by the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the order, Lake Central (23-9) scored two runs off sophomore left-hander Koch (win, 8-1; 7 innings, 2 runs, 7 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 1 hit batsman)  in the top of the second inning. 

Senior Max Pattison singled to center to score senior Tyler Frank (on base with a one-out single to center) and senior Hunter Mihalic singled to left to plate senior Brad Loden (single to left). 

The rally was cut short when Michalic was cut down coming around second base — left fielder Waite to third baseman Lau to senior second baseman Matt Kominkiewicz. 

The Indians turned a double play — senior shortstop Nick Bandura to second baseman Loden to senior first baseman Chris Fundrich — for the first two outs in the scoreless Penn second inning.  

Lake Central loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning. 

The frame ended with a Kingsmen double play. First baseman Lovisa caught a foul pop off the bat of Pattison and fired to catcher Metcalf who tagged out Frank (on base by infield single).  

The first out in the fourth came when Metcalf picked an LC runner off third base. 

“Those are on me,” Indians coach Mike Swartzentruber said. “We’ve been aggressive all year.  

“You can’t fall asleep. That’s at any level, at anytime.” 

Swartzentruber saw it as a missed opportunity. 

“We had the bases loaded with no out,” Swartzentruber. “If we could have gotten two or three (runs) there, it could have been a while different game. (Penn) got the momentum.” 

Dikos saw the worth in the Kingsmen’s defensive plays. 

“Those were huge,” Dikos said. “That’s something that gets lost in all the scoring.  

“Even when they got those two runs, we caught the guy at second base and those could have been more runs for them. It comes down to hitting the cut-off man and making those plays. 

“Nolan’s got a cannon and he’s had a number of those pick-off plays this year.” 

Penn’s first hit came in the bottom of the fourth inning. Senior left-hander Joe Graziano (loss; 6 innings, 6 runs, 9 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts) yielded a lead-off single to left by Kominkiewicz. 

The Kingsmen scored four one-out runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and forged a 4-2 tie. 

Lynch bashed a two-run double into right to knock in Kominkiewicz (single to left) and sophomore courtesy runner Brock Boynton (running for Metcalf who double to left). 

An infield single by Lovisa drove in Lynch with the go-ahead run and Lau singled to right to tally Kerr (single to right) with the fourth run. 

“It’s all about being disciplined at the plate,” Dikos said. “Do you want to go up there and hit the six-run homer or start chipping away?  

“We were hitting line drives away (in the four-run fourth). We were hitting the ball where it was pitched. (Graziano) is a good pitcher. You’ve got to take what he gives you. That’s the difference.” 

Penn left three runners in a scoreless fifth inning.  

The Kingsmen took a 6-2 lead with two more runs in the sixth inning. 

Vargo drew a one-out walk and scored on Waite’s triple to center. 

Waite trotted home with the sixth run on a Kominkiewicz groundout. 

Before the last two runs scored, Lake Central second baseman Loden had to leave the game he was hurt colliding with right fielder Mihalic as both went after a fly ball.