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Dave Pishkur

Andrean coach Dave Pishkur, middle, has taken six prior teams to the state finals, winning five. The 59ers will go for their sixth state title in Saturday's Class 3A title game against Silver Creek.

It's hard to simulate the feelings of a state championship game — the wide eyes, the accelerated pulse, the dry mouth.

If players haven't been through it personally, one asset a team can have is a coach who knows how to make the moment as normal as possible.

Enter Andrean's Dave Pishkur, who will be making his seventh trip to state. The 59ers will face state finals rookie Silver Creek in Saturday's Class 3A title game in Indianapolis.

Pishkur is 5-1 in the state finals.

"It's good that we've been there before," Pishkur said. "Seven times in (15) years, it's not like we're strangers. But it's a new group of kids who are going through it for the first time. You hope that us sharing the experience, they don't get too nervous, too overconfident, that we can use that experience to make sure we're working so they play the best they possibly can."

Pishkur referred to the scene from the movie "Hoosiers" where coach Norman Dale, who is played by Gene Hackman, pulled out the measuring tape before Hickory's practice in Hinkle Fieldhouse to show that the court had the same dimensions as their little gym back home.

"We have to try to make sure we don't do anything different," he said. "It's still 60 feet, 6 inches (from home plate to the mound). Everything's the same."

Andrean's typically challenging schedule and experience on big stages — the 59ers played a game at Vanderbilt in April — also helps. A scheduled game at Notre Dame was rained out.

Pishkur has already seen how a big game can affect a team or player several times in the postseason.

"I think one reason we do so well in state games is we play so many hard games," Pishkur said. "We have a good record every year and we usually go somewhere (in the postseason), where some teams, it's probably their first appearance. I've seen it in the sectional by an opponent. I've seen it in the regional by an opponent. I saw it (Saturday) in the semistate. There's jitters, doubt in the first inning, and if you're confident, you can take advantage."

Clay Thompson is the only current member of the 59ers to play in the 2015 championship. He showed no butterflies that afternoon, going 2 for 3 with what proved to be the game-winning RBI.

"I got a hit my first at-bat, which helped calm me down," Thompson said. "My freshman year, I had a great group of seniors with me, guys like Nick Podkul and Chase Dawson, and they calmed me down a lot. They told me just to relax and play my normal game. Bad things may happen, but you can't focus on that. You just have to find a positive thing to calm you down. Obviously, (Pishkur's) been through it a lot and it's great to have a coach who has that experience."

The pregame message Saturday won't be any different than any of the prior 36 games this season.

"Play hard, focus on the game at hand and do what you need to do," Thompson said.

Part of Andrean's preparations included practicing mid-afternoon this week to replicate Saturday's 4 p.m. first pitch. While the stakes will be bigger, the game itself is the same.

"You have to pitch well, play good defense and get timely hitting, which we've done in the past," Pishkur said.


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.