Prep baseball

Mack, Rippe leave their mark at LaCrosse

2012-05-17T19:00:00Z 2012-05-18T03:26:53Z Mack, Rippe leave their mark at LaCrosseBy Jim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

For Tyler Mack and Jimmy Rippe, it seems like yesterday.

It seems like yesterday when Rippe, as a freshman, pitched LaCrosse to a Porter County Conference tournament upset of Boone Grove.

It seems like yesterday when Mack, also as a freshman, ran full speed into the fence in right field, chasing a fly ball.

"It's went by quickly, especially this season," Rippe said. "It seems like we just started and now we're getting ready for sectionals. It's hard, knowing it's coming to an end."

The Tigers seniors have been teammates since fifth grade in Wanatah Little League, when they were coached by Mack's dad, Corey. They've known LaCrosse coach Brian McMahan since fall ball in seventh grade.

"They've been the cornerstones of it," McMahan said. "They're the ones I've really enjoyed coaching more. They represent LaCrosse baseball very well."

The ride hasn't always been smooth, and that's not just the bus trip to Hanover Central. LaCrosse won just seven games their freshman year, despite a senior-laden roster.

"They were a big disappointment," Mack said. "(We learned) you have to take the game a lot more seriously, and be better leaders than they were. Don't be afraid to get your pants dirty."

A young squad managed just four wins in 2010, but jumped to 15 last season, upsetting Whiting in the sectional semifinals, and have posted a dozen Ws this spring.

"This was the year," Rippe said. "I feel like we could've done a lot better."

That win against Boone put weight on Rippe's shoulders that he's had to carry since as the team's ace, pitching all of LaCrosse's big games.

"Even as a freshman, everybody was looking to him to lead us, to be the go-to guy, the guy to get the big hit, to be on the mound," McMahan said "He's the one we want. The team knows it. I know it. He loves pressure, (performing) in the clutch."

With that has come the admiration and emulation of younger teammates. In a recent game, during a meeting at the mound, McMahan noticed a player spit moments after Rippe did.

"I asked him, 'Did you do that because Jimmy did?'" McMahan said. "He said yeah. They follow him to a T. He leads everything we do. All the kids have respect for him."

Rippe's not afraid to show a little tough love either.

"I take it pretty serious," he said. "I feel we've grown up a lot, become leaders. I get on everybody's case in practice. Everybody's got to have criticism. You've got to come ready to play. Anybody can beat you, any time, any place."

A three-year mainstay in center field, Mack has also thrown his share of innings this season, and actually leads the team in wins (four).

"Tyler really beats himself up," McMahan said. "If he's going bad at the plate, he'll tell me to put him in the nine hole or don't bat him. He loves the game. He knows it really well."

LaCrosse's last game will be the end of baseball for Mack, who umpires Little League. Rippe may continue playing at Ancilla.

"I'm going to miss playing outfield with Tyler Sharp," Mack said.

"I can't point to one thing I won't miss," Rippe said.

The only memory missing at this point is a title.

"(Winning a sectional) was our main goal at the beginning of the year," Rippe said. "I think we've made it a better program, but I still won't be satisfied if we don't win it. That would be a good way to leave it."

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