INDIANAPOLIS | The images were palpable, the softball state championship ring around Frank Podkul's neck and the word 'Dad' printed in marker on the tape on Nick Podkul's wrists.
There's no debating who the two 59ers were thinking about after winning the Class 3A state title Saturday at Victory Field. It was their dad Frank, who passed away last fall.
"I know he's so proud of me and my brother, the whole team," Nick Podkul said. "It (stinks) that he couldn't be here to see it, but I know he's looking down on us. He won so many state championships, it's great to follow in his footsteps."
Nick iced the win with a triple on a line drive that skipped past the right fielder in the sixth inning, scoring two runs. He kept coming when the relay throw got away.
"It was a great feeling to have that hit in that situation," he said. "I busted it hard out of the box and when I saw it skip over his glove, I thought I could get to third. Then it got past (the infielder) and I just kept going."
Skiff with the save: Jimmy Skiff is used to starting, as his 10-0 record would indicate. In the state championship, he earned his first save with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
"I started throwing in the first inning to stay loose and in the top of the sixth, Coach (Joe) Plesac told me to get ready; just in case Matt got tired, we might need you," Skiff said. "It was different coming in with runners on already, but you've got to go with what you've got. I just came in and tried to get a ground ball, trust my defense, and it worked out."
Coach Dave Pishkur was almost apologetic over not starting Skiff.
“Jimmy’s been our No. 1 all year while Matt was out,” Pishkur said. “I feel somewhat bad for Jimmy, because he led us through all the tough games until Matt became healthy. Matt just has a little bit more fastball and he can give you a lot of strikeouts. Jimmy isn’t going to give you a lot of strikeouts, but knowing we have a guy on the bench that can throw the ball over the plate with three different pitches, huge, huge.”
We have ignition: Donovan Chandler continued his role as spark plug for the Andrean offense. The 59ers' leadoff man registered hits to start the first and fifth innings and scored his team-best 47th and 48th runs.
Chandler and Jamie Johnson took home three blue ribbons this season, all state championships. Chandler and Johnson were on the football and baseball title teams, and combined for an 800 relay championship at the Hoosier State Relays indoor track meet in March.
“Three now, hanging up in my room,” Chandler said.
Been there, done that: Pishkur is the longest tenured coach in the state tournament this season, with 35 years, and all four of his championships have come since 2005.
Local arbiters at state: Zach Sliwa of Valparaiso, a LaPorte grad who coaches and teaches at Merrillville, umpired home plate for the Class 3A state championship. Mike Albert of Westville handled second base in A and Bernie Deem of Valpo had first base in 2A.
Pitching rules: The four-game state finals marked the second-lowest total of runs scored in the class format at 17, one off the record of 16, set just last season. No team scored more than three runs in the first three games with Andrean posting six Saturday night.
Record numbers: Friday's attendance of 4,961 for the 4A game was a record for that night at state. Combined with the 5,162 folks who came to Victory Field on Saturday, the two-day total of 10,123 marked the most fans to come to the finals under the class format.
Title towns: Shakamak (A), Wapahani (2A) and Noblesville (4A) won their respective classes.