Veteran Cathedral coach Rich Andriole was not bashful when boasting about his baseball team following Monday night’s Class 4-A regional championship at Avon.
“This is a phenomenal team, and you can put that in caps,” Andriole told the media in the afterglow of victory. So far the undefeated Irish have backed up those words with perfection, winning all 27 games.
Jeffersonville (23-5) will tangle with No. 2 Cathedral in the one-game semistate at Plainfield this afternoon, immediately following the Class A game between Vincennes Rivet (18-12) and Rising Sun (23-3) at 1 p.m. The winner will advance to the state championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis on June 15.
The Red Devils will be seeking their fifth semistate title and first since 1998. They are eager to see if the Irish can measure up to the hype.
“All the pressure is on them,” Jeffersonville coach Derek Ellis said.
Winning every game requires more than personal horn blowing. The Irish are stocked with pitching talent, with sophomore right-hander Ashe Russell, who already has committed to Notre Dame, at the top of the staff. They are loaded with dangerous offensive weapons, headed by leadoff batter and senior first baseman Brendan Flood (three hits in the regional final) and Indiana University recruit Luke Cureton.
Cathedral has been challenged only once (6-5 by Lawrence Central in the sectional final) in the state tournament. It won the other four games by a combined score of 35-1, including consecutive shutouts in the regional.
“Of all the things we try to do well, chemistry is at the top of the list,” Andriole said. “This time of year, when you’re playing games where the stakes are high and you’re advancing in the tournament, pitching and defense is critical. You’re not going to advance if you have errors and walks. You’re just playing with fire.”
To quench Cathedral, the Red Devils will hand the hose — and the baseball — to their ace. Senior left-hander Trent Astle, who pitched a one-hitter against Franklin in the regional at Evansville’s Bosse Field, is 7-1 with a sparkling 0.97 ERA.
“There’s no mystery whatsoever,” Ellis said. “If I put someone else out there, they’d probably run me out of town. Trent is the best big-game pitcher in the state. Hopefully he will do what he always does.”
Jeffersonville’s offense is sparked by junior shortstop Drew Ellis (.465, 4 HRs, 26 RBIs) but also gets key contributions from Astle (.354, 20 RBIs) and surprising pop from lead-off hitter Nick Gallagher (4 HRs).
“We know about Trent and the shortstop,” Andriole said. “Those are the guys that jump right out at you. But you don’t get this far with just one pitcher and a shortstop. We know what we’re up against. We know we’re in for a heck of a battle.”
Cathedral is gunning for a chance to win its third state title (2007 in 4-A; 2001 in 3-A) and become the fourth team in state history to finish a season unbeaten. The Irish could join a short list (Norwell 35-0 in 3-A in 2007; Brownsburg 35-0 in 4-A in 2005; Evansville Memorial 30-0 in 1978) of perfect teams.
“I don’t think we’ve said one word about a winning streak,” Andriole said. “We’ve never even broached the subject. This has been a businesslike team, and I don’t think they care about being undefeated. They just try to play as well as they can on a daily basis. It’s a very professional approach.”
Jeffersonville’s five losses have been by a total of six runs.
“I look for it to be really tight,” Ellis said. “We’ll do whatever we can to score a run. Both teams are solid and it will depend on the team that can score first.”
The winner will face either Lafayette Jefferson (22-12) or Elkhart Central (30-1) in the final.
CLASS 4-A SEMISTATE
Jeffersonville (23-5) vs. No.2 Indianapolis Cathedral (27-0)
Today, about 3:30 p.m., Plainfield
* Notes: Cathedral defeated Jeffersonville in the Class 4-A boys’ basketball semistate at Seymour. Cathedral has won two state titles, the last in 2007. Jeffersonville is seeking its first semistate title since 1998. The winner will face either Lafayette Jefferson (22-12) or No. 2 Elkhart Central (30-1) in the state final on June 15 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.