This is what Indiana High School baseball looks like.
The Indians are aggressive on the basepaths, taking advantage of any mistake by the opposition and forcing several more in the process. It’s an offensive strategy that works at the high school level, especially with a lineup that is well-rounded, despite not having one or two set sluggers.
Indiana brings the star power on the mound, though, and this identity has shone through during a breakout season, most recently in an eight-game winning streak, putting the Indians in prime position to secure their first section title in nine years with a little more than a week to go in their section schedule.
The blueprint worked according to plan again Thursday afternoon, with Indiana’s offense antagonizing Yough while pitcher Zach Schultz got stronger as the day went on in an 8-2 victory in a WPIAL Section 2-AAA game at Keystone Rehab Field.
“It’s a good vibe right now,” Indiana coach Rob Stossel said. “They’re really playing for one another, they trust themselves, they’re committed to the team, and they’re working hard.”
Indiana (11-2, 7-1 section) managed its eight runs by stroking seven hits and taking advantage of six errors. Indiana runners moved up on 11 plays involving either a stolen base, wild pitch, passed ball or fielding error, often advancing more than one person at a time.
“I think baserunning is a very underrated part of the game that a lot of people don’t pay attention to,” Stossel said, “and I definitely see now, over the course of 13 games, our baserunning has improved steadily, and it’ll only get better.”
“It seems like we get contributions from all nine guys. When the season started I said we’re going to run, whether it’s a straight steal, delayed steal, whether it’s just being aggressive going from first to third on a hit, I try to really make sure the teams I’ve coached know how to run the bases, and I think the kids like that, because they like that aggressive style.”
Yough (7-7, 5-3) had its four-game winning streak end. It had gone 5-1 since losing to Indiana, 5-4, at home on April 8.
The Indians broke out for five runs in the fourth inning Thursday. Trent Ream scored the first of the inning, stealing third and taking home when the catcher’s throw sailed into left field. Indiana scored on two more plays involving errors in the inning.
Danny Clark went 2-for-2 and was the only Indiana player with more than one hit, but he was one of three, with Ream and Jordan Hudzicki, that scored two runs. Six others got at least one hit or reached in some way.
It was plenty for Schultz, a freshman right-hander, who allowed just two unearned runs and three hits, striking out 10 and walking one in seven innings.
He allowed just one baserunner after the third inning and retired the side in order on nine pitches in each of the sixth and seventh innings.
“No velocity drop that I saw,” Stossel said. “He kept coming right at them.”
“I was trying to get that first-pitch strike and go from there,” Schultz said. “I was just throwing a lot of strikes. I had the curveball and the changeup working.”
With Sean Thompson and Clark solid in the top two rotation spots, the freshman has given Indiana another anchor on the mound.
“All our pitchers are very capable on any given day,” Stossel said. “Those three have seen the bulk of the innings. Trent Ream got hurt early, so we’ve got to get him innings again, and it’s nice when you have some options and you have four or five. I’d even feel comfortable throwing six or seven pitchers during any given week now.”
That should come in handy next week, when the Indians face Mount Pleasant, Laurel Highlands, Uniontown and Derry to finish section play. Derry (6-4, 5-2 section) is in second place.
“We have four games next week, and who knows how many pitchers we’re going to use,” Stossel said. “But the way these guys have been starting and finishing games, it’s hard to take them out when they’re throwing with confidence. As a coach I have a hard time. As a former pitcher, I always like to finish what I start. That’s what I tell those guys: I’m going to keep you out there until I think you’re completely done. It’s your game.”