PLYMOUTH | Centennial Park and Andrean baseball have a history, and it has been mostly unglamorous for the 59ers.
Two-game regionals, one-game semistates, two-game semistates -- no matter the round or format, Bill Nixon Field has been a Waterloo of sorts for Andrean.
“Initially in the early ‘80s, if we came on the field in Plymouth, we were going to lose that game at some point because either Plymouth was going to figure out a way to beat us or we would figure out a way to lose it,” 35th–year Andrean coach Dave Pishkur said.
“In ’03, we finally broke through and then we had a stretch where this became our field for a while, and then we had that stretch the last three years with Griffith, Griffith and Mishawaka Marian.”
Saturday, the parochial power exorcised its demons of recent and historical letdowns with a six-run first inning and pounded 18 hits and 18 runs to eliminate upstart Fort Wayne Dwenger 18-2 in five innings at the Class 3A Plymouth Semistate.
Andrean advances to the state championship game for the fifth time in program history.
The 59ers (30-4), who won state in 2005, 2009 and 2010, will face Gibson Southern -- an 8-5 winner over New Palestine Saturday -- next weekend at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
The IHSAA has not yet determined a schedule for the four championship games.
“It’s exciting to get back to Victory Field,” Pishkur said. “It seems like it’s been a long time. Once you get there or once you win it, you’re always striving to get back again.
“These kids work hard, practice hard, they’re competitive kids, and I would have been really sad had they not won today and got to that next step. They’re a very talented team.”
Every Andrean starter recorded a hit and a run scored, and all but a few collected at least one RBI. The 59ers sent 12 men to bat in the six-run first and eight more in the three-run third. The nine-run fourth erased all hope for the Saints (19-12).
Junior center fielder Parker Huttel, who hadn’t played since May 20 when he pulled a hamstring against Hobart, had two of the biggest early blows in an offensive onslaught mostly consisting of walks, steals and singles.
Hitting sixth, his two-run single in the first put Andrean up 4-0, and his two-run double in the second made it 8-1. His first practice was Friday. Before he talked to reporters, a teammate jokingly said, “Hashtag, ‘the return.’”
“I was really confident and felt really good about what I could do, and then I just got a good pitch to hit, hit it up the middle and got us some runs and helped the team out,” Huttel said. “Our team just clicked today. It was really nice and felt really good.”
Winning pitcher Matt DeSomer threw four innings with only a few hiccups while focusing on a second state finals berth to go with his football title from the fall.
“Just the bad history on this field, that was the only thing in my head,” DeSomer said.
“Matt’s been here freshman, sophomore and junior year and seen loss, losss, loss in this stadium,” Pishkur said. “To get to a state championship with him on the mound, he’s ecstatic, and we are too.”
Dwenger, not an expected state contender by most metrics entering the postseason, was the Cinderella story of Class 3A before the game.
“Dwenger’s got a reputation in our area of the state for being a football school, so my hat’s off to them and their first-year coach for changing the mentality of those guys and buying into the idea that they can be competitive in baseball,” Pishkur said.