By Ken Fillmore
MADISON – All three area all-stars made quality contributions to help the North take the rubber game of the 45th annual Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Series at Madison High School’s Gary O’Neal Field Sunday afternoon.
Eastside middle infielder Chase Franz, New Haven catcher Angel DiFederico and Bishop Dwenger first baseman Charlie Howe helped the North beat the South 8-4 in the wooden bat game after the two teams won a game each over a long Saturday. The South won the opener 7-3, then the North took Saturday’s nightcap 16-3.
Saturday’s games started two hours later than originally scheduled after stormy, rainy weather went through southern Indiana Saturday morning. There was also delay in action because of an umpire getting hurt as a result of a foul tip.
Sunday was warm and sunny during the game before rain moved in later in the afternoon. Series most valuable player Kyle Schmack from Union Mills South Central had a two-run single in the third inning and a two-run home run to leftcenter in the fifth inning to lead the North to victory. The Valparaiso-bound Schmack hit 8-for-10 in the series with eight runs batted in.
Some of the top players from Northeast Indiana also played a part in the deciding win.
Franz started the wooden bat game and batted eighth. He played second base in the first three innings and the final two innings.
“I had a lot of fun,” Franz said. “It was really cool to hang out with these great players. I learned to get along with a lot of different guys.”
“It was kind of a long time to socialize (on Saturday), and it wasn’t always about baseball.”
DiFederico started at catcher and batted ninth. The Purdue Fort Wayne commit played behind the plate in the first three innings and the final three frames and showed off his athleticism and defensive abilities.
Howe played first base from the fourth through seventh innings, splitting time at first with NorthWood’s Matt Dutkowski. Howe struck out in the fifth inning, and drove in an insurance run in the seventh inning when he was hit by a pitch from New Palestine’s Jack Walker with the bases loaded and two outs. That gave the North a 6-4 lead.
Howe hustled to make a big play in the bottom of the fifth after a wild North pickoff throw from the pitcher. Howe chased the ball down in foul territory and threw a strike to third base to throw out Edgewood’s Ethan Vecrumba as he tried to advance from first to third. The North was hanging on to a 5-4 lead at the time.
“I chucked it as hard as I could,” Howe said. “It was fun to throw out a big D1 guy.”
Vecrumba will play baseball at Indiana University.
“This was a great experience for me,” Howe said. “I played with some great guys.”
Franz singled to center with two outs in the top of the second inning off of Hamilton Southeastern’s Michael Dillon, who is bound for Xavier. However, not long after, Franz was thrown out attempting to steal second base.
Franz re-entered the game in the eighth and hit a fielder’s choice grounder to third. A North runner was forced out at second base on the play. Franz then scored on a double to leftcenter by Warsaw’s Liam Patton, and that put the North ahead 8-4.
DiFederico and Franz each made a big defensive play in the opening inning.
After the South’s leadoff hitter reached base, DiFederico was quick out of his crouch on a South bunt to throw out the lead runner. Then Franz caught a line drive and turned it into an inning-ending double play as he caught the runner at first too far off the bag.
DiFederico threw down to first base to pick off South Dearborn’s Ethan Getz in the third inning. And the Bulldog standout was hunting for more attempting to run against him later that inning, but Indianapolis Roncalli’s Brian Keeney made a nice slide to the front of second base away from the tag to steal the base.
“It was such an incredible experience,” DiFederico said. “This brought together the best of the best. They (the South team) had five or six Indiana commits. It was fun comparing them to a small D1 guy like me.
“It went from guys who were throwing 70 miles per hour to guys who were topping out at 91, 93,” DiFederico said of the North pitching staff. “It was really a lot more fun to frame even faster pitchers.”
DiFederico singled through the right side in the third inning off of Dillon. DiFederico left the game momentarily as he was replaced by courtesy runner Corbin Beard from Rossville. Then DiFederico re-entered to catch in the bottom half of the third inning.
The North leads the IHSBCA All-Star Series with 24 series victories. The South has won 19 series. There have been two ties with the third and final game being canceled by rain after each team won a game.