South Bend St. Joseph Earns First State Title

By Steve Krah

PBR Indiana Correspondent 

INDIANAPOLIS — Strong pitching and offensive production from the lower part of the order helped South Bend St. Joseph take its first state baseball championship. 

Making its first state title game appearance against Jasper (making its ninth along with its 16th trip to the State Finals), the Indians prevailed 4-0 in the IHSAA Class 3A state final Saturday, June 17 at Victory Field. 

“This is incredible,” 10th-year Indians coach John Gumpf said. “I’m so proud of my team. 

“I’ve never felt anything like this and to be able to do it with this great group of guys is amazing.” 

Junior left-hander Michael Dunkelberger (7-2; 7 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts) was the winning pitcher. He threw 63 of his 96 pitches for strikes. 

“His curve ball was working early,” Gumpf said of Dunkelberger, an Indiana University commit. His change-up was one of the most-effective pitches toward the end of the game. 

“He’s an absolute gamer.” 

Dunkelberger surrendered one single in each of the first three innings then faced 10 batters in the next three straight hitless frames. 

“This is unbelievable. It really is,” Dunkelberger said. “I’m so happy for the guys behind me — the seniors. The first two innings I was trying to use my fastball to overpower them. My curve ball was real good today (from the third inning on). 

“I decided to mix it up more.” 

Wildcats coach Terry Gobert, in his 30th season, summarized the game for his team. 

“If you don’t get to a guy like that early, he picks up steam and momentum,” Gobert said. “They beat us the way we normally beat teams — put the ball in play put some pressure on them. They took advantage of our mistakes or walks. They got a couple key hits when they needed it — nothing fancy. They executed better than us.” 

Sophomore Patrick Farrissee drove in two runs from the No. 9 hole and junior Alex Voss contributed two hits and scored two runs from the No. 6 slot for St. Joseph (25-4).

Senior right-hander Reece Kleinhelter (9-3; 6 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits, 2 walks, 1 strikeout) absorbed the loss for Jasper (30-5).

Jasper wound up as state runners-up for the fourth time. Jasper has won five state titles.

The Wildcats made the last out in the top of the second inning at home plate.

Jasper junior Jacob Lents hit a one-out single to left, moved to second on a sacrifice by junior Justin Persohn and third on a St. Joe error. When Lents tried to score he was picked off — pitcher Dunkelberger to junior catcher Luke Houin.

The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.

With two outs and a 2-2 count, Farrisee smacked a two-run single into left field, scoring senior Jacob Hoover (courtesy running for Houin who was walked by Kleinhelter) and Voss (who singled to right off Kleinhelter).

“How huge were those two-out runs?,” Gumpf said. “That relaxed us even more. We did a great job of staying focused.

“We had some mistakes, but two-out hits. Those will win ball games.”

The Wildcats left five runners in the first three innings, including two each in the first and third frames. 

In the first, senior Evan Aders singled to left and senior Adam Hedinger was struck by a Dunkelberger pitch and were stranded at second and first, respectively.

In the third, senior Jared Sermersheim singled to center and Aders was plunked by a Dunkelberger delivery and left and third and second.

A diving catch by Indians junior second baseman Hunter West on a ball rapped by Persohn closed out the Jasper half of the fourth inning.

“I’ve been playing with him since we were 5,” Dunkelberger said of West. “I knew he had it.”

St. Joseph tallied two unearned runs in the fourth inning for a 4-0 lead.

Voss singled off the leg of pitcher Kleinhelter and senior J.R. Haley followed by reaching on a Jasper error.

A sacrifice fly by junior Andrew Washburn would score Voss and another Wildcat error would allow Haley to score the fourth run.

Worth Noting

Aders was presented the L.V. Philips Mental Attitude Award for 3A.

He completed high school with a 4.50 grade-point average.

The son of Doug and Pam Anders plans to play baseball at the University of Evansville and study biology/pre-medicine.

St, Joseph had bus issues Saturday morning. After taking batting practice in Westfield, their vehicle would not go and they were about to board the Penn bus when a fix was made and the Tribe made it to Victory Field just a little behind schedule.

It was the second team state title for St. Joe athletics in 2016-17. The girls basketball team won a 3A crown in the winter, beating North Harrison 57-49.

More State Championship Coverage