TERRE HAUTE —
High school baseball pitching depth is almost always at a premium. Toss in a Big 4 round-robin tournament that includes three games, one a big conference game for all teams involved, and other conference matchups in between and it equals a major headache for the coaches of the four teams.
Terre Haute North (11-4) and Terre Haute South (11-6) will play one another Thursday and Friday nights — both Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference games and the other counting for the MIC and Big Four — and then play Big Four games Saturday.
Northview (9-3) and West Vigo (10-5) also play big conference games Friday night, but they play vs. one another in a Western Indiana Conference/Big Four matchup tonight.
“The intention of the Big 4 was good, but I think it’s run its course,” South coach Kyle Kraemer said. “Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South are at a distinct disadvantage because we play Thursday-Friday-Saturday. Any coach in their right mind would not pitch a kid on Thursday or Friday and bring him back on Saturday. Playing four games in five days is easier than four games in three days.”
Hence, pitching depth will come into play Saturday as the four teams vie for local bragging rights.
West Vigo, winner of last year’s Big Four, has been led by junior left-hander Brandon Calleja (5-1), who is likely to go head-to-head with Northview tonight.
Freshman Davie Inman is 2-0 for the Vikings, and “another kid that’s come on a little bit, Travis Lewzader, he’s a senior. He’s got a great attitude and wants to play somewhere. He throws pretty hard and has a breaker,” West Vigo coach Steve DeGroote said. “And Kevin Stewart [0-4] is really starting to pitch well but has had hard luck with some errors behind him.”
Kraemer has been getting quality pitching from several guys this spring. Veteran right-handers Daniel Marlow (0-4), Cody Brock (3-0) and Damon Olds (2-0) are joined by freshman lefty Timmy Herrin (2-1) to form the Braves’ rotation.
“We don’t have that one guy that we would consider our ace. I think we have four guys that are about equal. If they throw strikes, they’re going to give us a chance to win,” Kraemer said.
The coaches all agreed that the tournament looks as wide open as it’s ever been.
“It looks like North is playing awful strong,” DeGroote said. “Northview ought to be tough. They’ve got a lot of kids that are juniors and seniors, a pitcher that can make a difference. South is always tough. If our pitching is there, we’ll be very competitive.”
Terre Haute North is 11-4 and off to a strong 5-1 start in the MIC. Coach Shawn Turner’s squad is led by senior right-hander Adler Inglesby on the mound.
“Location guy, he does a great job hitting his spots,” Turner said. “Doesn’t do a heck of a lot to get himself into trouble.”
Senior southpaw Landry Kaufman is 2-0, and seniors Nickohli Kimmel, Chris Gonzales (4-0) and sophomore Austin Hicks can all throw pretty hard, Turner said.
“All have started at some point. Don’t necessarily label them as No. 1, No. 2, No. 3. For the most part, we’ve gotten a lot deeper into games than we thought they would,” Turner said.
Northview’s pitching staff may be the most experienced of the four led by T.J. Decker, Kodie Girton, Craig Peters and Brock Wheeler.
Coach Scott McDonald likes his team’s chances if his offense can produce behind them.
The left-handed Girton can throw in the upper 80s when he’s on top of his game.
“Kodie got off to a slow start, but his [ERA] numbers will start decreasing. We try to protect all of our pitchers [as far as innings early in season],” McDonald said. “We’re really excited about our pitching. Whether we can catch the ball and score will dictate our success next weekend.”
While the four squads may not be at their best by Saturday — thanks to the busy schedules this week — the quality baseball of Terre Haute will be on display.
The four teams are a combined 41-18 (.696), which might be considered a down year compared to some recent seasons.
“Absolutely. Baseball in Vigo County and surrounding area often gets overlooked. I’ll put baseball in Vigo County up against any county in state of Indiana,” Kraemer added.
Looking at the other Big Four action this week:
• Track and field — With solid depth and five athletes that combined to take five first-place finishes at the MIC championships last week, the boys and girls teams of Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South will be the top contenders to win the Big Four meet Saturday morning.
North’s girls are the favorite after taking fifth at the MIC. Sydney Dickerson (800) leads the Wabash Valley in that event, while TaPring Goatee will be tough to catch in the 400.
Frsehman Keirra Porter, second at the MIC, has been a jolt to North’s girls in the 100-meter hurdles.
“She’s one of the top freshman hurdlers in the state,” North coach Mike Dason said. “Just looking for her to continue with her success. The girl that won it [at the MIC] and Keirra were far out in front of everyone else. She’s just one heck of an athlete. She’s also our second leg in 4x100.”
West Vigo’s Janelle Lucas and possibly Tasia Brewer of South could challenge Porter in the 110 hurdles, while Brewer appears to be the favorite in the 300 hurdles.
North’s relays — the 3,200 relay is three seconds off the school record — and throwers are also lifting them to favorite status this weekend.
Dason just looks forward to seeing everyone compete from all the teams.
“We’ve had such crappy weather for track meets that all the coaches have talked and want everyone involved,” Dason said. “Usually we have to identify our top athletes. This year, we can run anybody we want in it, we’re trying to give our other kids a chance to compete more.”
South’s girls team is led by distance specialist Nikki Theide, who will be the favorite in the 1,600 and should have another strong battle with North’s Chanli Mundy in the 3,200.
On the boys side, North’s Tyeson Mundy and South’s Jackson Bertoli should contend in the 3,200. North’s Justin Clapp has also been running well.
South’s Bertoli may be the top miler after running a 4:24.35 at the MIC, but points will be up for grabs as well with Peter Davis of North and Logan Hambrock of South also posting strong times of late.
West Vigo’s Andrew Kump and Nathan Kump have also posted strong times in the two distance races and should be in the mix.
“There’s good competition between those distance guys on all the teams,” South coach Mark Raetz said.
The Braves, defending Big Four champions, outscored the Patriots at the MIC meet, but the two teams went back and forth last year. Raetz expects more tight battles between the two as the spring continues.
“I think we’re pretty equal. It’s a pretty good matchup. I feel like we’re going to be pretty close all year. We were pretty close at the conference meet,” Raetz said.
South’s Tyler Seibert will be the man to beat in the 400, and Northview’s Nic Yocom is a contender in the 800 and above.
The field events include some great athletes.
North has the advantage in the pole vault with MIC champion Connor Curley, but Northview’s Patrick Durcholz, South’s Derik Whalen, and North’s Zach Potter and Willie Lower should have a close battle behind him.
South has a great high jumper in MIC champ Nick Jaeger, and Durcholz has jumped 6-3 this season. Throws should be fun with North’s Lee Davis and South’s Nic Keller being close so far on the performance list for discus.
• Softball — Action also begins today on the softball diamond, weather permitting.
Northview (14-3) and West Vigo (8-7) play tonight at Brazil in a Western Indiana Conference/Big Four game. Terre Haute North (14-3) and Terre Haute South (14-5) play today at 5 p.m. on the Braves’ diamond.
Like baseball, four programs take winning records into the action, meaning anything can happen.
“With this tournament and same goes for sectionals, it’s always wide open,” Northview coach Bethany Jones said. “With any team, knowing our history of many years, any one of us could go in and win it. Just depends on who plays best that day.”
Northview has the most dominant pitcher in the field — senior Taylor Carter, who had struck out 103 batters in 77 innings through last week.
“I think Northview’s the team to beat. Their schedule’s been tougher than ours from what I’ve seen,” South coach Steve Woerner said. “Their losses are to some pretty talented ballclubs. With Taylor on the mound, they’re tough. Us and North are so much alike. It’ll come down to who makes plays and who gets the big hit.”
Northview can also bring the offense behind Carter, Alyssa Conrad, Ashley Hughes and Hope Torbert near the top of the lineup.
The Patriots of Jack Kirchner are led by sophomore Jazmine Allen, who has a batting average of .585 to lead the Wabash Valley.
Kirchner looks forward to battling the Braves tonight.
“We’re kind of hot with our hitting,” he said. “We both pretty much play the same schedule and we’ve pretty much got the same record. I think it’s a typical North-South game. It’s going to be a close game. It’s going to be the team that makes the big play [today].”
Woerner has gotten solid performances up and down his lineup from players like senior Ashley Watkins and speedy sophomore Lexi Higgins.
While players like Mackenzie McGregor, Shelbie Scamihorn and Marissa Stout hold down the middle of the order, players like Watkins and Higgins have been big additions to the lineup.
“Watkins is new to the starting lineup this year and she’s been hitting the ball well for us,” Woerner said, “and Higgins has had a couple real big hits for us.”
West Vigo has been forced to deal with adversity as key offensive player Jacy McClain (.417 batting average) has been out with a head injury of late, and the Vikings were without pitcher Hannah Harden for a couple weeks.
Leslee Walters has been swinging a good bat for the Vikings, and Harden is back in the circle and throwing well.