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Season Preview: Baseball

They can pitch and play defense.

Those traits long have defined the Cathedral Irish around Indiana high school baseball, and Ed Freije said that should be the case for a young team in 2019.

The major task for the Irish?  Building on those traits throughout the season, something Freije said will be a challenge but also something he said this team can do.

“We’ve got what we’ve got,” Freije, now in his third season as the Irish’s baseball coach, said recently. “We’ve got a good mix of guys. We definitely have to grow, which is good.

“We’re hoping to do that and hoping to see growth throughout the season and hopefully we compete while we do it.”

The Irish, after winning the Class 4A Indiana High School Athletic Association state title with an unbeaten season in 2017 and finishing as the state runner-up a year ago, enter the 2019 season with a young, talented team. It’s also one Freije said can grow into something special.

“Our goal is to win a state championship,” Freije said. “It does not change this year. It won’t change next year. Those our expectations. With the expectations at Cathedral, especially with Cathedral baseball, those are our expectations. We want to compete day in and day out and be as competitive as we can be day in and day out to win baseball games.

“We want to be as competitive as we can and find the pieces to the puzzle that can hopefully work for us to make a run at it. We’ll keep working to find those pieces to work.”

Key to this season: a veteran pitching staff that includes five upperclassmen -- seniors Peyton Schofield, Derek Haslett, Mitch Bertrand and Sam Phillips and junior Kyle Cortner – who logged significant varsity innings in last year’s state runner-up season.

“We like what we have on the mound,” Freije said. “That’s going to be what we build from. Our pitching has been good early. Our defense has been OK. We want to keep getting better there. We’re still finding what works best. We said we want to pitch and pitch well and we want to defend and be consistent defensively, then keep growing offensively.”

Schofield and Haslett had 14 and nine strikeouts through five games, respectively, and Phillips according to Freije had been a “go-to guy to get things done” early in the season with a 2-0 record.

“We knew going in we were returning quite a few innings,” Freije said. “We knew what we had coming back on the mound, so that was something for us to build on.”

Seniors also are the core of the Irish’s day-to-day lineup, with Bo Sanders starting in the outfield, Bertrand starting at second and senior Cole Vasillo starting at third with Schofield and Cortner both playing first base.

“We knew had some pieces there, and some youth around them,” Freije said.

Starting shortstop Chris Gallagher is a sophomore, as is starting catcher Cade Conlon and starting outfielder Camden Jordan.

“We talked after our first game that sophomores have to grow up quickly and grow into it quickly and seniors have to step up,” Freije said. “They were juniors last year, and some solid role players who stepped up. This is their group as seniors, so they have to step up and take ownership of this group with sophomores growing up around them.”

The Irish en route to a 3-2 early-season record not unexpectedly struggled somewhat offensively, with Frejie saying the team had struck too much against some solid early pitching.

“We have potential,” Freije said. “With three sophomores in the lineup daily and a fourth that might play some, we know there’s room for growth. We know we have some pieces and some guys who can run. If we can get on base and do some things, we can play differently that way. Obviously we’d like to put a little more pressure on the defense and out the ball in play more so we can make some things happen.

“We know we’ve got quite a bit of room for growth there. We know that’s going to be something where we’re looking to grow and get better each day offensively while trying to be as steady as we can on the mound and defensively.”

And Freije said as that growth happens, the Irish will keep one goal in mind.

“Our seniors have done a good job setting the tone,” Freije said. “So far, the pitching has been steady and competitive. Defensively, we’ve been good in spirts and obviously we can get better. Our guys come to work every day. We’ve got guys who are hungry, which is great, and guys who want to be in the lineup.

“Our expectation is to compete and put a competitive product on the field and hopefully make a run at a state championship.”