The monsoon has passed and (most) teams made their season-openers in week two. Castle was the local team to improve its stock the most, catapulting from receiving votes all the way to fourth in Class 4A in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. The Knights were 4-0 this past week with wins over Tecumseh, Jeffersonville, North, and Central.
I covered that North game on Saturday, which breezed by in just an hour and a half (recap here). It was one that honestly could have went either way. North junior Tyler Hagedorn was strong, allowing just four baserunners in a complete game effort while striking out seven and flipping 58 of a ridiculously-low 79 offerings for strikes (73.4 percent). But Castle righties Jon Blackwell and Sam Huff came up with some big pitches in critical situations and their defense behind them was lights out. You hope to see two more of those games.
We move on to the third week of the season, which features some intriguing matchups:
- Two teams in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference welcome Jasper into Evansville this week: Central (1-3) on Monday and surging Castle on Thursday. The Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start after junior Cal Krueger pitched a complete game one-hitter against Memorial in a 3-0 victory on Saturday. Last summer, the 6-foot-1 righthander was one of the first recruits—with Reitz sophomore outfielder Elijah Dunham being the first—under Indiana coach Chris Lemonis (not ironic that they both play for the Louisville-based Ironmen travel team. Lemonis spent eight years as an assistant at UL). Also a pretty good third baseman, Krueger works in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball and mixes in a mid-70s curveball and changeup around 78-80. Most recruiting sites have him listed primarily as a position player at the next level, though that kind of arm strength is definitely playable on a Division I team. I will be going out to Paradise later this week to watch.
- Mater Dei (3-1), which moved down two slots to fourth in 2A, will face a tough early-season test when it hosts Hobart on Friday night. The Brickies (5-0) compete in the loaded Northwest Crossroads Conference, which also features 3A No. 1 Andrean and 3A No. 3 Griffith. Hobart is ranked No. 9 in 4A, has outscored its opponents 41-1 so far this season and carries a talented arm in junior Braden Niksich, a 6-1 righthander who can also dial it up to the upper-80s. Ideally, fans would be treated to a duel between Niksich (an Illinois State commit) and Mater Dei senior lefty Ben Sellers (a Western Illinois signee). But I would think the Wildcats throw Sellers in their SIAC opener against Reitz tonight at home. My partner in preps, Gordon Engelhardt, will be at the Westside rivalry game to tell us.
- Speaking of Reitz (3-1), I was able to get somewhat of a glimpse of the Panthers this past Friday against Harrison. Level of competition aside, I view them as a team to surprise some this year—though I don’t know how much of a shock that would be. They’re obviously in a tough sectional with Castle and North, but it’s not hard to see the kind of potential offensive firepower they have with junior Blake Ruckman, senior Aaron Euler and Dunham atop of the lineup. Euler had himself a day against the Warriors, hitting a two-run homer, a grand slam and a double. Ruckman showed some pop and has some speed at the leadoff spot and in my first look at Dunham, I could see why Ironmen coach Mark Peters said he has progressed the most this past summer with his approach at the plate. He’s a very disciplined and selective hitter. Harrison gave him a steady dose of breaking balls, so it’s clear that he’s feared even as a sophomore. Reitz will turn around after the Mater Dei game to face Mount Vernon and Castle, so it has its work cut out.
- Other notable games: Apollo, Ky. (13-4) at 2A No. 3 South Spencer (2-1) on Monday; 1A No. 8 Barr-Reeve (1-1) at Vincennes Rivet (2-2) and Memorial (2-1) at Heritage Hills (2-1) on Wednesday.
Follow the jump for the rest of the IHSBCA Top 10.