PREP BASEBALL

Small ball helps Andrean reach state finals

2014-06-17T17:15:00Z 2014-06-19T20:12:35Z Small ball helps Andrean reach state finalsHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

MERRILLVILLE | Andrean baseball coach Dave Pishkur hasn't shown his team its offensive stats this season.

None of his players know their batting average and if they know how many hits they have, it's because they've kept the numbers in their heads themselves.

Most will tell you they're hitting better than last year, which is just internal knowledge.

"It feels like I've been doing better," Niners senior Matt DeSomer said. "I've been taking more wisely the pitches I want to swing at. If I get a chance, I take it."

Pishkur has focused his team on the quality of each at-bat, instead of whether it produces a homer, a double or a single.

"A quality at-bat is process over outcome," Parker Huttel said. "Doing the job, getting on base, hitting the ball hard, you don't have to get a hit but if you ground out to the second baseman and get a guy from second to third, that's a quality at-bat. Getting the ball in play, that's a good chance of getting a quality at-bat. It's a confidence booster."

The sum total of those "quality at-bats" this season has been one home run, hit by Noah Davis against Hebron. It is also a 30-4 record that Andrean sports, the best of any team playing in this weekend's IHSAA state championships.

Focusing his players on their single at-bats has helped turn Andrean into a small-ball team. Pishkur has the athletes to steal bases as long as they reach first somehow.

In the preseason, players were told to take a pitch, even in practice, leading to more than 50 hit-by-pitch advances this year.

"From year to year you don't know what you're going to get and some years you get big, strong guys who can't run and some years you get athletes, and we just happened to have a year with a bunch of athletes so you have to coach to their strength," Pishkur said. "We don't always bunt, but everyone on our team is capable of bunting. Everyone on our team is also capable of hitting. We take advantage of what our strengths are, but we also play into our opponent's weaknesses. If they don't defend the bunt very well, we bunt. If they take the bunt away from you then they're going to give you something else."

In all, Andrean has won by 10-or-more runs 11 times, showing that the small-ball approach doesn't just create one-run wins.

"We really took on that role," Alex Vode said. "The bottom of the order with Jamie (Johnson) and me and Parker, we got on base for those big guys to hit. We really took on that role. We fit and we're all working together really well."

It also gives the players at the bottom of the order hope despite a batting average. When a seven through nine player might before have been a .200 or .250 hitter, now they don't care about the average, as long as they can take a walk or lay down a bunt that puts them on first.

"Playing small ball, I feel like it's a lot more fun," Huttel said. "Yeah it's nice to hit home runs and stuff, but this is more fun. We have really fast guys on our team and (Pishkur) is really good about making use of our speed, which is what the quality at-bats do. It's made us take pitches more, so we're really selective on the pitches we can hit and what will get us walked. That's made the team a lot better hitters. We have a lot of guys who have done well on the quality at-bats. He's never brought up average once, which is great because you don't think about it. It's a lot easier to get a quality at-bat than it is to get a hit."

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