Prep baseball

Basketball star Wallace a catalyst for Hebron baseball, too

2012-06-07T18:15:00Z 2012-06-08T03:15:08Z Basketball star Wallace a catalyst for Hebron baseball, tooBy Jim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

It wasn't all that long ago when Damon Wallace's dream was to play college baseball.

Then came a monster senior season in basketball that spurred Hebron to a 23-2 record and a sectional title.

"His focus changed," said Hebron's John Steinhilber, Wallace's coach in both sports. "He said he just can't get it out of his head. You'd never know it on the baseball field. He's 100 percent ready to go."

Signed to play for Indiana University-Northwest, the slick point guard was Hebron's catalyst on the court. As the leadoff man, Wallace has also been a trigger man for the baseball team, which has already taken the hoops success one step further.

"I keep telling 'Stooks' (catcher Brad Stooksbury), 'Could we have had a better senior year?'" Wallace said. "Winning's fun and we've done a lot of winning. Expectations for baseball were always higher for this group. People were saying since middle school that we'd be really good our senior year. We've gotten progressively better and adding (Kyle Joyce) helped a ton."

Though basketball kept Wallace from doing any pre-season baseball workouts, he hit the field running, at least with his bat.

"I started out way better than I ever have," Wallace said. "Normally, I start off 0-for-10. I didn't start off in a slump."

Eased into the order at the outset, Wallace soon found himself in the top spot, with Cody Hayes sliding down to the two spot.

"He's really sparked us," Steinhilber said. "He's really turned into a leadoff hitter. He's learned how to work counts, wait for pitches. He's been pretty disciplined."

Going into Saturday's South Bend Class 2A Semistate, Wallace leads the Hawks in hitting (.462) and doubles (12), shares the lead in runs (28) and steals (16), and stands second in RBIs (25).

"I feel quicker this year," Wallace said. "I'm bunting more. When I'm not bunting, I'm taking advantage of 2-0, 3-1 counts. I'm able to drive the ball in the gaps. One to seven, everyone can hit. We've got good power."

Wallace is lukewarm about his pitching (5-3, 3.28 ERA), but the crafty lefty has remained a solid second to Cody Hayes along with Kyle Joyce.

"I've expected too much of myself, tried to do too much, and it hasn't gone as well as I hoped," Wallace said. "I'm not upset about it. There were a couple bumps in the road, but I guess I fight through it because I hate losing."

When Wallace doesn't pitch, he usually plays first. When Joyce pitches, he moves to right field.

"Sometimes, I think he wishes he'd rather have the ball more, but we need his defense and he's accepted that," Steinhilber said. "You've got to make the plays, too, and he's one of our better fielders."

The only down side to Wallace's college decision is he knows his days on the diamond are numbered.

"It sucks that I'm not going to be playing any more organized baseball," he said. "I guess it's got to end at some point. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win the sectional. However far we go now, it's all for fun. I don't want us to be done playing together. I'd like to win two more games."

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