Steve Krah
Steve Krah
Baseball has been sports reporter Steve Krah's passion since childhood. In Season Tickets, there will be plenty of stories from the diamond, but that's not all. Look for stories about athletic happenings and personalties of all kinds.

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Reporter Steve Krah covers sports for the Elkhart Truth.

Elkhart Central reflects on state baseball championship run at awards dinner

Elkhart Central, the 2013 Indiana state baseball champions, look back on a strong run that led to the championship game.

Posted on Aug. 8, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 8, 2013 at 8:30 a.m.

Elkhart Central High School's baseball record books were largely re-written by the 2013 team - the Class 4A state championship-winning Blue Blazers, a team saluted Wednesday, Aug. 7, at The Lerner Theatre.

A team that topped Indianapolis Cathedral 1-0 for the right to wear shiny state championship rings - presented Wednesday - and to be known for the rest of their lives as state champions set the following marks:

Victories (32)

Hits (336)

Runs (276)

Runs Batted In (253)

Doubles (66)

Batting Average (.371)

Slugging Percentage (.543)

In addition, senior and Hoosier Diamond's Mr. Baseball, Tanner Tully, set marks for career pitching victories (31) and home runs (27).

Tully, who is headed to Ohio State, and Arkansas-Little Rock-bound Cory Malcom finished their season season the way they did their freshmen years at Central - as the Blazers' co-MVP honorees.

Eighteenth-year head coach Steve Stutsman, who had the chance to share Wednesday's festivities with parents Dave and Kay Stutsman (celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary), wife Kristie and in-laws Tom and Barb Kurth, had plenty to say about a special season.

An 18th-year head coach, Stutsman looked back to the beginning and expected a strong season with pitchers like Tully, Malcom and Riley Futterknecht. He was not sure who would replace replace four-year starter Adam Raifsnider as catcher, but junior Kyle Smith stepped up to that challenge.

To make them comfortable with their roles, Stutsman kept Casey Ianigro at second base and Austin McArt played at third unless he needed to slide over to shortstop when Malcom took the mound.

Senior Mike Namisnak accepted his role as designated hitter and first baseman when Futterknecht was pitching. Senior Devin Prater filled in pretty much anywhere he was needed.

Tully played right field when not pitching (junior Jesse Zepeda filled that spot when Tully toed the mound) while senior Matt Eppers roamed center field and senior Kaleb DeFreese left field.

Senior Nick Ponce and juniors Kyle Kucala, Colin Rudicil and Mike Wain did their part.

"It seemed like every piece fell into place," said Stutsman. "They all accepted their responsibilities and did what was best for the team.

"Everyone contributed in one way or another."

At the pre-season chili supper - a team tradition - Stutsman always talks about things like fun, respect, teamwork, accountability, teachability, discipline, character, commitment, enthusiasm and passion.

He saw all of these qualities in the 32-1 state title-takers and more.

Elkhart Community Schools superintendent Dr. Rob Haworth talked Wednesday about the integrity of the 2013 team and he also offered an invitation for players to return in a decade.

"Come back and talk to us about what it is to be a champion," said Haworth. "I want you to be champions are fathers, citizens and community members."

Among the many gifts presented to the school were a large photo of the team and an Indiana-shaped sign signaling the Blue Blazers as state champions.

Elkhart Central

Baseball Awards

Major Awards: MVP - Cory Malcom, Tanner Tully. Mental Attitude - Matt Eppers. Captains - Riley Futterknecht, Casey Ianigro, Austin McArt. Most Improved - Mike Namisnak. Offense - Tanner Tully. Pitching - Riley Futterknecht, Cory Malcom, Tanner Tully. Defense - Matt Eppers (outfield), Kyle Smith (infield). Utility - Devin Prater. Hustle - Kaleb DeFreese. Dugout - Nick Ponce. Rookie - Jesse Zepeda. Quality At-Bat - Tanner Tully (season), Casey Ianigro (state tournament).

Major Letterwinners: Fourth - Cory Malcom, Tanner Tully. Third - Matt Eppers, Riley Futterknecht, Austin McArt. Second - Kaleb DeFreese, Casey Ianigro, Mike Namisnak, Nick Ponce, Devin Prater. First - Tyler Kucala, Colin Rudicil, Kyle Smith, Mike Wain, Jesse Zepeda, Brian Harter (mgr.), Natalie Snyder (mgr.), Hollie Weidner (mgr.), Haley Working (mgr.).


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