It doesn’t feel like it as I write this, but baseball season is here.
I’ll be doing play-by-play for select Oklahoma City University baseball games this season for OCUSports.com.
The Stars, a traditional NAIA power, struggled last season, finishing 38-19 and bowing out in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament. Injuries hurt OCU last season and head coach Denney Crabaugh hopes for health and the long ball this year.
“We’re going to be able to swing the bats,” Crabaugh told Andrew Himes during the OCU Sports Update earlier this week. “We’re going to have a lot of power up and down the lineup.”
OCU’s opener Saturday will be a tough test. The Stars’ welcome 13th-ranked York (Neb.) to Jim Wade Stadium at 10 a.m. The Panthers are 3-1. OCU will then play Avila (Mo.) at 3 p.m in the Eagles’ opener.
You can hear both games, as well as the York-Avila game at 12:30 p.m. on OCUSports.com.
After a 10-year absence, I will be returning to WWLS The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City to host High School GameNight. I enjoyed covering high school sports in Oklahoma and Indiana for both newspapers and radio in the past and I’m looking forward to this next chapter.
If you have a score to report, tweet me (@joelreagansport).
You might have noticed that I haven’t been writing for The Times lately. Things have changed at my day job (working for K-LOVE and Air1 radio) lately, so my free time has been limited.
After covering Hamilton Heights in the second round of football sectionals, I asked to step away for a bit. I hope to cover some basketball and baseball in the future when I can.
Thanks to Rich Torres, Neil Burk, Mark Morrow, Rick Holtz, Tim Timmons and the rest of the staff of The Times for the opportunity to cover Hamilton County sports.
GAME STORY: Tigers outrun ‘Hounds; will meet Millers (TheTimes24-7.com)
Despite an early exit from sectional play, Carmel baseball coach Dan Roman was pleased with the season overall.
“It was an awesome season,” Roman said of the ninth-ranked Greyhounds’ run. “We’re making strides.”
Carmel finished 17-6 and tied with Lawrence Central for the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference title at 11-3. The Greyhounds shared the title with Center Grove in 2009 and last won it outright in 2008.
The second-year coach will see his team change in 2015, with 11 seniors graduating. The youth movement already started for Roman with sophomore Sam Berry at shortstop and freshman Parker Massman in right field.
“There are good things to come.”
The ball was flying out of Nathaniel Rhodes’ hand Tuesday night and it was going up. That’s not usually a good thing for the Fishers’ starting pitcher.
Fishers coach Matt Cherry said that Rhodes was “a little amped up” for the sectional opener. Rhodes insisted he had a hard time adjusting to a steeper mound and a slick spot where his foot touches the pitching rubber. Whatever the reason, Carmel took advantage of the walks, base hits and a balk for a 3-run rally first inning rally.
It could have been worse for the Tigers. But, Rhodes went away from the fastball and started changing speeds, using his curveball as his primary pitch.
“His curveball kept them off balance,” Cherry said. “He was able to get some ground balls.”
After walking two in the first inning, Rhodes walked just three more over the remaining six innings.
“I think I only threw five or six (curveballs) for balls the whole night,” Rhodes. “They couldn’t hit it.”
Because of the rough first inning and some jams throughout the game, Rhodes threw 120 pitches in the complete game win. The workload doesn’t bother Rhodes because he’ll four days rest before the Tigers meet Noblesville in the sectional semifinals.
“My arm’s not too sore.”
Back on April 3, Fishers handed Farragut (Tenn.) a 10-0 loss during the Tigers’ spring break trek south. The loss started a 3-game losing streak for the Admirals. The Knoxville school rebounded to finish 33-12 and win Tennessee’s AAA State Championship.
GAME STORY: Millers rally for HCC win (TheTimes24-7.com)
AVON — Noblesville baseball coach Justin Keever preached the same sermon Friday night he’s been preaching all season about the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.
“This league is tough,” Keever said after the Millers beat Avon, 7-4. “We got other good teams trying to win, too. They’re going to punish you for your mistakes just like we punish them for theirs.”
After two tough wins over Zionsville two weeks ago (including a walkoff win at home), Keever’s theme was similiar.
“That’s the HCC. Every game is going to be like this,” Keever said. “Everybody’s pretty evenly matched.”
The Millers (15-6, 8-3 HCC) sit atop the HCC by a 1/2 game over McCutcheon — a team that earlier in the week gave the Millers back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
Two squads (No. 6 Noblesville and No. 8 Fishers) are ranked in Class 4A’s Top 10 poll and eight of the ten schools have overall records at .500 or better. Westfield was ranked No. 1 in 4A early in the season before dropping out of the poll. The Rocks have had mixed results in the HCC at 6-5 (12-7 overall).
Keever’s not the only one with this opinion.
“”Conference’s going to be a gauntlet,” Fishers coach Matt Cherry said before conference play began. “Everyone’s got pitching and (add) a couple D-I hitters. It’s going to be a tough road.”
The Tigers had one of the best starts in schools history at 8-0-1 before hitting the conference slate. Conference play has handed Fishers four losses.
Perhaps no one know how tough the HCC like Hamilton Southeastern. The Royals entered conference play at 3-2 and proceeded to lose their first five conference games. The Royals are 7-11, 4-7 in the HCC.
“There’s a lot of good ballclubs and ball players here in central Indiana,” HSE coach Scott Henson said earlier in the season. “All the coaches in the HCC have said that if you win 12 (conference) games, that’s going to win it.”
Behind the leaders (Noblesville, McCutcheon, Fishers and Westfield), three schools have conference records at the .500 mark giving credence to the opinion that there’s plenty of parity in the HCC.
LEADERS: Fishers’ Griffin Hulecki leads the HCC with six home runs . . . Noblesville’s Andrew Wilson tops the league with 31 runs scored . . . Noblesville’s Brian McLean leads the HCC with 12 stolen bases. There are three Millers in the top five in that category.
GREENCASTLE — Edgewood basketball coach Jeff Farmer took some shots at Guerin Catholic and private schools in general during and after the regional championship Saturday night.
In the final quarter, with Guerin in control of the contest, Farmer started yelling his displeasure that Guerin coach Pete Smith hadn’t substituted for his senior starters. The exchange was brief with Smith cupping his hand to his ear on the other side of the floor and asking Farmer, “What’s that?” It did appear that Smith didn’t hear Farmer’s complaint. Just a few minutes later, Smith did take out his starters.
After the game, Farmer had more to say.
“If the IHSAA doesn’t do something about the private schools, it’s going to ruin high school basketball,” Farmer told the Bloomington Herald-Times.
How much success have private schools had during the tournament this season? Let’s take a look at the teams still playing in each class.
Bloomington North (Public)
Indianapolis Arsenal Tech (Public – Magnet)
Lake Central High (Public)
Guerin Catholic (Private)
Bowman Academy (Charter)
Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (Private)
Park Tudor (Private)
Clay City (Public)
Barr Reeve (Public)
Michigan City – Marquette (Private)
Liberty Christian (Private)
10 Public Schools (1 Magnet)
5 Private Schools
1 Charter School
Edgewood coach Jeff Farmer: "If the IHSAA doesn't do something about the private schools, it's going to ruin high school basketball."—
Mike Miller (@BowieMike) March 16, 2014
“Whit was ready to go. He was really excited,” Smith said.
Rapp poured in 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor to pace the second-ranked Golden Eagles to a 74-58 win over Tri-West at the McAnally Center.
Rapp, known for his assists, had nine of those too. The senior point guard also hit 10-of-12 from the free throw line (9-of-10 in the final quarter) to help Guerin (21-3) pull away.
“I thought he controlled the game,” Smith said.
The same could be said about the Guerin, which sprinted out to a 11-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Golden Eagles shot nearly 60 percent in the first half and contained junior guard Tyler Waite (who finished with 15 points).
“Waite’s a very good player,” Smith said. “It’s all about him with their offense.”
Tri-West senior forward Brant Gadberry added 15 points as well, hitting five 3-pointers.
Guerin gained a comfortable 53-30 lead to start the fourth quarter and Smith put in some reserves in the hopes that the banged up Golden Eagles cold get some rest in the final period. But, the Bruins (15-8) had one more run, which started with two straight treys from Gadberry. Tri-West cut the lead to ten points (58-48)
Smith was forced to put the starters back in. After a strong defensive possession, junior guard Matt Holba put the exclamation point on the Guerin victory with a one-handed, commanding dunk to give Guerin a 62-48 lead with 3:22 left.
“Matt uses his athleticism extremely well,” Smith said of Holba, who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
After Holba’s dunk, Guerin took back control of the game and near the end, Tri-West was forced to foul. Guerin hit 14-of-19 from the line in the final period to seal the win.
“I wish we would have gotten a little better play out of our reserves so that we didn’t feel like we had to get (the starters) in to finish it out,” Smith said. “It got a little close.”
Senior forward Aaron Brennan, one of the banged-up starters (knee) scored 13 points and brought down six rebounds in 20 minutes on the floor. Brennan hit 6-of-8 from the floor.
“I thought he played tremendous,” Smith said. Brennan was a “game-time decision” before the contest because of his injury.
Guerin meets Edgewood (13-10) in the Class 3A Regional 7 Final. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.
GAME STORY: Holba hits 30 as Guerin soars (TheTimes24-7.com)
INDIANAPOLIS — The sports adage is that it’s hard to beat the same team twice.
That’s what 2nd-ranked Guerin Catholic has to do to win Class 3A’s Sectional 26 today — beat No.9 Brebeuf Jesuit again. Guerin coach Pete Smith thinks it will be a challenge.
Guerin (19-3) handled Brebeuf, 76-60, Jan. 24 at home with senior Aaron Brennan, junior Matt Holba and sophomore Christian Munson each scoring in double figures.
“It’s really going to come down to little things,” Holba said. “It’s going to come down to our defense and rebounding. They’re going to miss their shots and we’ve got to make sure we don’t give them second chances.”
Much of the talk Friday night after Guerin’s semifinal win over Indianapolis Herron was whether Brebeuf senior standout P.J. Thompson would play in the title game. Thompson injured his foot in the regular season finale against Carmel. He sat out Brebeuf’s semifinal win over Bishop Chatard with a walking boot on his foot.
Smith expects Thompson to play today for the 15-5 Braves.
“If he doesn’t play, they were pretty good without him this year,” Smith said, recalling the Braves’ win over Lawrence North Dec. 13 in which Thompson was a spectator.
In the first Guerin-Brebeuf contest, Thompson scored 18 points.
Herron got off to a fast start in Friday’s semifinal, but that didn’t necessarily surprise Smith.
“That’s a very dangerous team,” Smith said. “They’re lightning quick, so we played more zone than we normally do. I don’t expect us to play as much zone (against Brebeuf).”
Smith wasn’t pleased with the rebounding effort, allowing 15 Herron offensive rebounds (12 in the second half.)
Junior Matt Labus brought down four rebounds coming off the bench, but Smith think his impact on the boards is bigger than the stats might show.
“Labus blocked out as good anybody,” Smith said. “That allowed Whitt and Holba to get some rebounds.”
Holba’s 30 points was impressive, but Smith sees other things besides the scoring that make a difference.
“He sees the floor so well,” Smith said. “Even though he doesn’t credit for a lot of assists, he gets the ball up so fast.”
Smith bragged on senior point guard Whit Rapp again in the regular season finale as Rapp continued to pile up the assists while avoiding turnovers.
Against Herron Friday, Rapp notched 13 assists, but turned the ball over five times.
“He tried to do a couple things and didn’t realize how fast a couple of those guys were,” Smith said. “He pushed (the break) just like I told him to, but sometimes it was just a little bit too much.”
“I’ll take the blame for some of his turnovers.”
Among the injured (most minor) in Friday’s game was senior Cris Burrough, who was poked in the eye by an opponent’s finger. Burrough got treatment from the Guerin training staff, but later in the contest had to shoot free throws. He missed both shots but said later he saw two rims because of injury to his eye.
“I had to shoot with one eye,” Burrough said with a smile.
Senior reserve Stuart Schultz’s story has been well documented. Being back on the court after successfully fighting lymphoblastic leukemia is considered by many to be a miracle.
He scored his first point earlier against Indianapolis Howe Dec. 20, sinking a free throw. When he grabbed a rebound on Senior Night against Pendleton Heights, the home crowd went nuts.
He can add another first to his special season — his first field goal.
Schultz hit a short jumper with 2:15 left in Friday’s game..
After his big moment, Schultz was quick to deflect praise.
“I really owed Nick Sahm that because he’s passed to me so many times and I’ve blown it,” Schultz said. “That was my one thought as I shot it — I want to get him an assist.”
Sahm got his assist, Schultz got his first 2-point basket and the Guerin crowd got an exclamation point in its semifinal win.
“It felt good when I saw it go in the basket,” Smith said with a smile.
Schultz left the game with 0:48 left to a standing ovation from the Guerin crowd with a smile on his face and another accomplishment in his journey back.
Since starting IHSAA tournament play in 2007, Guerin is 19-6 in the tournament. The Golden Eagles have made it to the sectional finals every year but two.
We now know 2nd-ranked Guerin Catholic’s opponent Friday night in Class 3A’s Sectional 26.
If you ask Guerin coach Pete Smith, he would rather have known sooner rather than later.
“I don’t see (the bye) as a ‘big’ plus,” Smith said via email last week, noting that two other teams in the sectional (Bishop Chatard and Brebeuf Jesuit) have the same luxury.
“However, playing one less game is one less chance of one of our players getting injured in a game,”
Indianapolis Herron beat host Indianapolis Marshall, 83-78, Tuesday night to advance to the sectional semifinal.
Guerin beat Herron by twenty points in its season opener back on Dec. 3. The Archaens lost in a similar fashion three days later to Brebeuf. The squad then reeled off 12 straight wins, its only other loss came to Marshall Jan. 31.
“(We) know they’ve improved a great deal,” Smith said. “They are athletic, they’re confident, and they’re playing very good basketball.”
The charter school squad is led by second-year head coach Scott Adams. Herron is only in its fourth year of being eligible for the postseason. So, when Adams claims that the school is an unknown, it may not be a stretch.
Adams’ prescription for an upset: “(We need to) sell out defensively, work as a team and commit ourselves to rebounding and valuing possessions.”
Senior Cris Burrough has drawn praise from Smith on numerous occasions for staying on the block and not being tempted too much by the 3-point shot. Burrough is averaging 12.7 PPG since Guerin’s last loss, when they lost to Kentucky’s number one team, Louisville Ballard.
Smith thinks it’s also paying off for at least one teammate.
“That has allowed Matt Holba to play more on the perimeter and Matt’s productivity has been better,” Smith said of the 6-6 junior who’s averaging 15.1 points a contest, just behind senior Aaron Brennan’s 17.5.
When junior guard Matt Labus went down with a knee injury Jan. 4, it forced sophomore Christian Munson into the starting lineup. Munson has been solid, averaging 10.3 points a contest since his first start the following weekend against rival Bishop Chatard.
Labus returned from injury but is now coming off the bench.
“Both have thrived in those roles,” Smith said. “(Labus is) giving us a great lift and presence of the bench instead of starting, and I believe that’s made us better.”
There’s one stat that Smith points out somewhat proudly, but might not be a plus for Guerin. The Golden Eagles haven’t lost a home or away game all season.
Guerin lost on consecutive days (to Bloomington South and New Haven) at the Noblesville Tournament back in December. Smith points out that both losses were noon games. Its only other loss was to Ballard Jan. 11 at Louisville’s Freedom Hall. Those are all neutral floor losses.
But, Guerin would play the rest of the way on neutral floors. At least this Friday, they won’t be playing at noon.
(NOTE: The preview article was accidentally truncated in Monday’s print edition of The Times. Here’s the full preview)
If you ask most coaches and observers, Guerin Catholic and Brebeuf Jesuit are the favorites to win Class 3A’s Sectional 26, which starts Tuesday at Indianapolis Marshall.
But, Guerin coach Pete Smith knows there’s more than meets the eye with the five teams including talented squads and traditional rivals.
“I see our sectional being one of the best in 3A,” Smith said via email. “Only (Bishop) Chatard comes in with a losing record, and because they’re such big rivals of Brebeuf and ours they’ll fight and play extremely hard.”
If both No. 7 Brebeuf and No.3 Guerin advance, it would set up a much anticipated rematch. Guerin beat Brebeuf, 76-60, on Jan. 24.
“I am very happy with the way we have been playing lately,” Brebeuf coach Noah Haynes said via email. “(Guerin) caught us at a bad time and played really well. When we play with confidence, play within our roles, and take care of the ball, we are dangerous for any opponent.”
Smith agrees: “It will be a great challenge for us to play that well against them a second time.”
However, the Braves (14-5) might be without standout guard P.J. Thompson. Reports indicate he hurt his foot last week and he didn’t play in the regular season finale against Carmel. His status is “questionable,” Haynes said.
Guerin (18-3) has an important injury concern of its own with senior point guard Whit Rapp injuring his ankle last week. Rapp was limited in practice the rest of the week, but Smith said the ankle is “a lot better.”
But, before you pencil in Guerin or Brebeuf for the sectional championship, there are two other squads with winning records.
Indianapolis Herron is a surprising 18-4 going into the sectional
“The majority of the casual high school basketball fans haven’t even heard of us,” Herron coach Scott Adams said via email. “We have a talented team mostly made up of seniors and one of the top offenses in the state of Indiana capable of exchanging baskets with any team.”
Haynes agrees: “They are capable of shooting very well and they are very athletic.”
“They know how to win, no matter what their strength of schedule is,” Smith added.
One of Herron’s losses was to Indianapolis Marshall (13-8). The sectional host has played well at home, only losing twice.
“We are coming in with a chip on our shoulder, looking to protect our home court,” Marshall coach Aaron Sembly said via email. “This is the first time all year that we will have our full squad.”