INDIANAPOLIS — Steve Stutsman looks at his Elkhart Central Blue Blazers and the Rich Andriole-coached Indianapolis Cathedral Fighting Irish and sees plenty of similarities in the two teams who will play for an IHSAA Class 4A baseball championship around 7 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“We are really mirror images of one another,” said Stutsman, who is in his 18th season and going into his first state final. “We both have good pitching, defense, power (though we have a little more) and speed. They stress family just like we do.
“It should be a pretty evenly matched contest.”
Central, the designated home team and champions of the Elkhart Sectional, LaPorte Regional and South Bend Semistate, are expected to send senior left-hander Tanner Tully to the mound while Cathedral, winners of the Roncalli Sectional, Avon Regional and Plainfield Semistate, are likely to counter with sophomore right-hander Ashe Russell.
Tully has a fastball that exceeds 90 mph with a hard-biting curveball.
Stutsman summarizes Russell, who has already verbally committed to Notre Dame, by saying he throws “in the mid- to upper-80s, keeps you off-balance and pounds the strike zone.”
Andriole, who is in his 17th season at Cathedral, already has two state championships (2001 in 3A and 2007 in 4A) and three state runner-up finishes (2006, 2010 and 2011, all in 4A) to his credit.
Pete Cava, who has covered the Irish for Prep Baseball Report, says “they don’t make mistakes and when you do, they make you pay for it.”
The Blazers, led by Tully (.500), senior Casey Ianigro (.454) and senior Cory Malcom (.448), are hitting .377 as a team with 20 home runs.
The Irish, paced by junior Alex Boos (.423), senior Mike Hammel (.408) and junior Harry Shipley (.403), have a team average of .346 with 16 long balls (nine coming from senior Austin Sparks).
Victory Field, home of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, is 320 feet down each foul line, 418 to left center, 362 to right center and 402 to straight-away center.
Sparks has committed to play college ball at Cincinnati. Senior Luke Cureton has signed to follow in his brother’s footsteps at Indiana. Justin Cureton is with the Hoosiers at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
A 4-2 win against Lake Central gave the Blazers the program’s first regional title in 25 years. Cathedral also played the Indians in 2013, sweeping them 5-0 and 8-3 in a May doubleheader.
USA Today’s most-recent national rankings (published June 5) had Central at No. 12 in the country among its Super 25.
MaxPreps says the Blazers are No. 25 — four slots below the Irish. Fourteen of those above Central and Cathedral have already won state championships.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association’s final regular season rankings had Central and Cathedral both tied for No. 2 in Class 4A.
Prep Baseball Report has the Blazers No. 1 and the Irish No. 2.
Central won its first Northern Indiana Conference championship in 19 years in 2013.
The NIC has produced several state finalists and six state champions — three for Penn (1994, 1998 in 4A and 2001 in 4A, all under coach Greg Dikos), two for LaPorte (1967 and 1971, both under coach Ken Schreiber, before leaving the conference in 1975) and one for South Bend Clay (1970, under coach Jim Reinebold).
Taking state runner-up honors while representing the NIC were Marian twice (2008 in 3A and 2011 in 3A, both under coach Tim Prister) and South Bend Washington once (1985 under coach Rick Tomaszewski).
Seeking advice and sharing voice mails with Dikos this week, Stutsman was told to “keep doing what you’re doing.”
4A State Finals
Indianapolis Cathedral (28-0) vs. Elkhart Central (31-1)
Saturday, approximately 7 p.m.
(At Victory Field, Indianapolis)
Top Elkhart Central players (designated home team): Batting — Tanner Tully (.500, 9 home runs, 29 runs batted in, 46 runs scored. .637 quality at-bat average), Casey Ianigro (.454-2-37, 26 R, .610 QAB), Cory Malcom (.448-3-31, 33 R. .567 QAB), Matt Eppers (.369-3-37, 25 R, .518 QAB), Kaleb DeFreese (.358-0-19, 29 R, .611 QAB), Jesse Zepeda (.351-1-15, 15 R, .493 QAB), Riley Futterknecht (.347-0-31, 25 R, .559 QAB), Austin McArt (.337-2-21, 30 R, .500 QAB). Pitching — lhp Tully (9-1, 0.43 earned run average, 107 strikeouts, 63 innings), rhp Malcom (9-0, 1 save, 0.73, 89 Ks, 62 IP), lhp Futterknecht (7-0, 1 save, 1.56, 69 K’s, 52 IP).
Top Indianapolis Cathedral players (designated visiting team): Batting — Alex Boos (.423-1-30, 30 R), Mike Hammel (.408-1, 26, 20 R), Harry Shipley (.403-0-13, 31 R), Luke Cureton (.395-2-24, 37 R), Brendan Flood (.357-3-20, 29 R), Austin Sparks (.350-7-36, 26 R), Ashe Russell (.324-2-21, 17 R). Pitching — rhp Russell (12-0, 1.23, 96 K’s, 74 IP), rhp Will Birch (11-0, 0.86, 66 K’s, 65 1/3 IP), rhp Hammel (3-0, 1.31, 14 K’s, 21 1/3 IP).