SOUTH BEND — Mother Nature has thrown plenty of curve balls into the spring sports season, but athletes and coaches at Saint Joseph High School remain undaunted. While some games and matches have been postponed due to rain and snow, returning starters and rising stars are making the most of every opportunity to play every chance they get.
Saint Joseph baseball coach John Gumpf is pleased with his team’s 10-2 start, but he knows there are plenty of challenges to come.
“With the way the conference is doing home and away series with each team this year, it’s safe to say our NIC chances are going to come down to the last four games of the season,” says the veteran coach. “Obviously, we have to take care of business with every opponent, but having Elkhart Central and Penn at the end of the season allows us to control our destiny.”
The Indians are tied with Elkhart Central for the conference lead and one reason is a very potent offense. Seniors Neal Dowling, Patrick Korman, Brad Hartman and Michael Madden have highlighted an attack that is averaging almost eight runs per game.
“Our seniors have a lot of experience, and in turn that gives them a lot of confidence,” lauds Gumpf. “It’s a great group that has given a lot of leadership to the young guys behind them.”
Some of those young guys are getting the job done on the mound. While senior Connor Sweeney is clearly the Indians’ ace, sophomores Oliver Page and Andrew Petsche both threw shutouts Saturday.
“Ultimately, any team is as good as its pitching,” admits Gumpf. “We believe we have some good arms, but there are a lot of solid pitchers in the NIC. We can’t afford to be satisfied. Every player has to keep getting better every day.”
Neither rain nor cold has kept Saint Joseph’s golf team off the links, but it has kept the Indians from playing to their potential.
“It certainly influences the scores,” notes head coach Ron Wilcoxson. “The cold affects the ball, the flight, the club, and the guys are finally starting to adapt.”
It’s a mix of veterans and freshman on this year’s squad. Seniors John Dean and Alex Jones are serving as co-captains, and they have provided “sound leadership,” according to their coach. However, it’s freshman Tate Heintzelman-Dee who has assumed the role as the team’s No. 1 player.
“Tate has a strong overall game,” lauds Wilcoxson. “He shoots in the high 30s to low 40s, which is excellent.”
Juniors Andrew Cernicky, Matt Takach have bolstered the lineup, as has Peter Han, a talented freshman who has logged some varsity time. Han is one of four freshmen on the 12-man roster.
“We are very heavy on freshmen,” admits Wilcoxson. “We just have to keep getting better every day. We have a very good chance to get out of sectional, and I think we can make a good run in the regional.
Coach Mike Williams says while the weather has been miserable, his team has managed to avoid cancelling any games or practices, posting a winning record with strong senior leadership and the largest freshman class in Saint Joseph’s history.
“Typically we have between five and nine freshmen,” says Williams. “For the 2013 season we have 26. This will be huge for our program for years to come as the sport continues to grow.”
Williams expects senior captain Peter Smith, one of the state’s top returning midfielders, to be an All-American candidate. Graham Murphy is a returning all-state midfielder and his brother Anthony is an up-and-coming midfielder who, Williams says, is among the top athletes in his class in the state. He calls Paul Byszewski a “shut-down defender” and also expects him to be an all-state player this year.
“To date we have had a successful season,” summarized Williams. “Our only losses have come against quality competition, including a four-goal loss to defending state champion Carmel. Our goal is to advance to the state semi-finals and hopefully reach the finals.”
Boys’ and girls’ track
“The weather is the worst I’ve seen in 10 years of coaching,” admits Head Coach Mike McCarthy, “and with no indoor facility to practice on it has made it very tough to develop a young team.”
Track is a short season and McCarthy says the constant change of plans makes training a challenge. Injuries also plague this young team with two returning state finalists from the 4×100 relay team, Rachel Staud and Michelle Weaver, sitting out the season after sustaining injuries in other sports. Freshman Sam Kambol is a bright spot and he leads the sprinters, while Becca Carpenter set a school record in pole Vault at 9 feet 7 inches.
The boys’ team is very young with only nine returning athletes after losing 23 to graduation.
“We have a very talented freshman class,” says McCarthy. “We need a year of competition and maturation to get back to the level we want. Good early performances have come from Dylan Dominello and Sam De Trempe. Freshman 400 runner Max Otiato stands out among the new runners.”
The Indians qualified 26 athletes for Indoor State and had seven Indoor State medalists.
“Our goal is to advance as many people to regionals as possible,” adds McCarthy, “remain healthy and finish this year well.”
“Miserable” may be the word most coaches are using to describe the spring weather, but head coach Bill Mountford says he takes some comfort in hearing from 25-year veteran coaches that this is the worst season they have ever experienced.
“The biggest effect of the weather has been a general lack of practice dates and an increasingly compressed schedule as we get closer to the end of the season,” says Mountford.
With a record of 4-2 as of April 25, Mountford says he likes what he sees so far.
“Our starting seven has five juniors, one senior and one freshman,” explains Mountford. “Our No. 1 player is junior Sid Corrigan, and she leads a fairly experienced team. We have a different look and feel this season, with some new faces stepping into the line-up.”
Mary Mullaney is the freshman making an impact, playing doubles.
“She may be our second best player,” points out Mountford, noting the weather has limited the number of challenge matches during practice. “Mary comes to us with a great deal of junior tennis experience.”
Mountford takes a practical approach to the remainder of the season.
“We want to win matches, get better every day and have fun out there,” he smiles. “We have a talented team and I believe we can accomplish all three of those goals!”
While the Head Coach Earl Keith would much rather be outdoors, his team has made the most of several indoor practices, chalking up a 9-5 record as of April 25.
Keith says seniors Amanda Peteson, Madison Drajer, Sierra McDonald and Jordan Walczewski will lead the way, along with sophomores Anna Irons and Kelly Welsh. Freshman Alyssa Gutierrez is making her presence known, smacking a game-winning homer last week against Adams. Keith says sophomore Maggie Gillis will also have a big impact on this year’s success.
“We are very young but improving every day!” says Keith. “After losing nine seniors from a year ago, we just need time to gel. Our goals are always the same: win our conference, win our sectional, be a better team at the end of the season, be respectful teammates, and be productive, compassionate people in the community to represent Saint Joe High School.”
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