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This Week in Sports, April 1-5, 2024

Articles courtesy of TOM KEEGAN sports@chestertontribune.com 

April 4, 2024

Trojans golf team in championship state of mind

All five golfers who played Chesterton High to a 15th-place finish at state are back for their senior seasons, which begs the question: What is this team’s ceiling?

Pat Ward, an optimistic coach in a sport fraught with so much negativity, didn’t dodge the question.

“We plan on winning state,” Ward said.

Wow!

Chesterton beat out South Bend St. Joseph for the third and final state spot at the regional by a stroke, so there is no guarantee the Trojans will make it back to Carmel for another two high-pressure rounds at Prairie Golf Club in Carmel.

Gueren Catholic won the 2023 state title with a score of 589 strokes. (The score is calculated by adding the scores of the top four out of five golfers for each round.)

Chesterton finished 61 strokes behind the winner, but that doesn’t deter Ward from believing the Trojans can contend. And if you think you can contend, why not plan on winning it?

“Honestly, I’d give us about a 10 or 15% chance of winning state, but I’d give anybody in the top five or six that chance,” Ward said. “We’re the only team that has all five seniors returning. We’re the only team that has all five guys who have state experience, and that goes a long way on how calm you are out there on the course, knowing what shot you’re supposed to hit.”

Bo Smith led the way for the Trojans, shooting 74-79 153 to tie for 26th, followed by Paul Scott 78-79 157, tied for 43rd, Noah Bazil 83-86 169, 82nd, Phil Scott 85- 86 171, tied for 83rd, and Joe Ennis 93-86 179, 94th.

Ward said all five players have developed sharp short games and all five have improved significantly.

“The biggest change we’ve had is how calm they are every shot,” Ward said. “Even under pressure, it’s practice swing, practice swing, hit a shot, 20 feet away. We can twoputt 20 feet away all day.”

Ward said he has been impressed with Ennis’ length and accuracy off the tee, and called Smith, “a different beast this year. He might finally be that under-par golfer. This is the best I’ve seen him. He’s just relaxed, fairway, green. It’s almost automatic now. Again, we’ll see, but our goal this year almost every tournament is to be 300 or lower.”

The season is scheduled to open Saturday in the Rochester Invitational at Round Barn Golf Club, a course on which the Trojans have struggled in the past.

Smith said the five varsity players played many rounds during the offseason at Sandy Pines, the regional course, bringing a JV player with them and splitting into threesomes.

“That’s been good to get out there, get comfortable on it,” Smith said. “State’s not guaranteed, so we have to make sure that we still play well through sectionals and regionals.”

The five Trojans appear comfortable and confident heading into their final season of high school golf.

Smith has put a lot of pressure on himself during his high school career to have as much success as he did in youth golf and hasn’t quite attained that level. He appears to have let go of that self-imposed pressure for his final season.

“We’ve put in a lot of work over the winter,” Smith said. “It’s kind of building off the confidence from last year too. I feel really good going into this year. I’ve been playing good golf for a while now, probably the best since I’ve played in high school.”

The spring preview tournament is May 4 at Prairie and the Trojans plan to go a day early to play a round, viewing it as a twodays simulation of the state tournament.

“We’re to that point where we’re focused on winning this thing and I give us a good chance at it,” Ward said.


Trojans eager to defend DAC tennis title

The girls were just a few laps into their warmup run around the tennis courts at Chesterton High when the rain started, forcing the practice to the upstairs gymnasium.

Conspicuous by their absence were the team’s top two players: junior Aleksa Sorgic, the No. 1 singles last spring, and sophomore Kenzie Kania, a No. 1 doubles player then.

Everyone knew why they weren’t there, where they were, and what they were doing.

Sorgic and Kania were at The Courts, playing the latest in a series of challenge matches that will determine the team’s No. 1 singles player.

None of the rest of the dominoes will fall into place until a winner of the challenge is crowned.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Chesterton coach Tom Bour said. “Pretty lucky. Those two girls are arguably the second and third best players in the area.”

Nobody disputes that Crown Point junior Ana Baron, undefeated MVP of the DAC in 2023, is favored to repeat that feat.

The Bulldogs had the best two players in the conference a year ago, the other being since graduated Alexandra Baron, Ana’s sister, but Chesterton had the best team.

The Trojans won at Crown Point, 3-2, and went undefeated in winning their first DAC title since 2013.

Nobody predicts that Chesterton will wait another 10 years for their next conference championship.

“I think we’re the conference favorite, but Crown Point is on our radar, they’re going to be out to get us, as will everybody, but we’re hoping our experience and our work ethic in the offseason pays off,” Bour said. “As long as we stay together as a team and don’t get too selfish and think more about the team first we’re going to have a great season. It’s going to be exciting.”

Fourth-year varsity player Ava Komp is like anybody else in that she enjoys trying to figure out how the lineup falls into place, but it’s more curiosity than worrying about where she’ll end up.

Komp played No. 2 doubles as a freshman, No. 1 doubles as a sophomore and No. 2 singles as a junior.

Her preference for this year?

“I don’t care,” Komp said. “I just want to have fun. I care about winning. I care bout my partner having as much drive as I have to have a good record for the season, but it’s my senior year, I’m not playing in college and I just want to have fun.”

Assuming that sophomores Ameila Smith and Anisha Faroh lock down spots in the varsity lineup, that leaves two open spots in the seven-deep lineup with three players leading in the fight for them: seniors Ellery Denny and Regan Krachinski and junior Lauren Pilarski.

Last year, Bour chose from 11 players to make his lineups. This year it won’t be as difficult because he said “eight or nine” are in contention.

Denny spent last season floating between the JV and varsity as a junior. Her best shot at extensive varsity action is as a doubles player, which is fine with her because that’s her preference. “

“I like having a partner that keeps the morale up during the matches,” Denny said.

The Kania-Sorgic matches are far from the only close battles taking place in practice.

“I just updated the stats from challenge matches,” Bour said. “It’s so close and not just the top eight. No. 9 and No. 10 are pushing the girls ahead of them too.”

Bour expressed optimism at the seasons he expects from Smith and Faroh.

“Amelia is going to play a huge role for us this year because that’s another player who can go either way, singles or doubles,” Bour said. “Anisa Faroh is going to be fulltime varsity this year. That will be new for her, but she’s doing outstanding. She had a great offseason. Our whole team had a great offseason. It’s been one of the best offseasons we’ve had in a long time. They spent a lot of time indoors working, all summer, all fall and winter. I tell the girls all the time, that’s why we’re so successful because you work so hard in the offseason.”

Komp passed on naming the team’s most improved player.

“Not to sound cheesy, but I am genuinely impressed with everyone,” Komp said.

All the varsity players, we were all at The Courts at least three or four times a week. Kenzie and Amelia worked at The Courts, coached younger kids. They were there all the time. Aleksa was there all the time. Ellery and I were there all the time.”

According to their coach, it shows.

“Clear as day who has put in the effort in the offseason,” Bour said. “Clear as day.”


April 2, 2024

Troy Barrett debuts with two-hit shutout

On a cold and gray Chesterton day, the forecast for the high school baseball team’s long-range pitching fortunes appeared extremely sunny.

Making his varsity debut Wednesday at home against Boone Grove, sophomore left-hander Troy Barrett pitched a gem that those lucky enough to witness it, peeking out from under their hoods or clinging to their blankets, won’t soon forget.

Barrett tossed a two-hit shutout, walked just one, hit another batter with a pitch and struck out 11 in a 5-0 victory over Boone Grove.

One of the hits was a bunt, the other a double to left-center, one of the only two balls hit out of the infield by the Wolves.

In support of Barrett, the Trojans (1-2) played tight defense and opportunistic baseball, turning one hit into five runs.

Barrett went the distance and threw 110 pitches, impressive for any March pitcher and especially so for a teenager who as recently as January was in a back brace, recovering from a stress fracture.

Senior Brayden Barrett, Troy’s brother, the Trojans’ exceptional shortstop and most proven varsity pitcher, never got to see Troy dominate as the ace of the junior varsity staff last season because he had varsity games at the same time, but he knows him well enough not to be blown away by his brother being so ready, so soon.

“He had time to prepare and he took it seriously, didn’t mess around, did what he’s supposed to do, so I’m not surprised,” Brayden said.

The older Barrett went 2-1 with a 1.09 ERA when he wasn’t manning short so capably last season. Nice numbers, but sibling rivalries being what they are, Troy isn’t ceding staff ace honors just yet.

Who’s the better pitcher?

“Well, since I just threw a complete game shutout and he gave up four runs against Carmel, I’d say I am,” Troy said. Said Brayden: “When you look at the two starts so far, he’s not wrong.”

Then again, Boone Grove isn’t Carmel, the seventh-ranked team in the state 4A poll. But Boone Grove did win its opener, 6-3 vs. Portage, and does have twins who committed to play baseball at Indiana University, hard-throwing pitchers Davian (a right-hander) and Javy Carrera (a lefty).

The Carrera twins had the Wolves’ only hits and Davian limited Chesterton to one hit and four unearned runs in his five innings on the mound.

“That kid’s very good and he’s tough to beat, so that’s a good win, a very good win,” John Bogner said after his first win as Chesterton’s coach.

Leading off the bottom of the first, Brayden Barrett reached on a double to the gap in left-center and scored from there on a throwing error after he got caught in a rundown. The first hit was the Trojans’ last hit.

“I saw the pitcher spike the ball and the catcher made a great pick,” Barrett said of how he got caught in a rundown. “When I saw the ball down, I thought for sure it would get away from him, so I was trying to get a good jump, but then he picked it and I got stuck in a pickle.”

The catcher’s throw was behind him, so he took off for third and the next throw got past the third baseman, enabling Barrett to score.

Troy Barrett escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth with back-to-back strikeouts, starting a string of four consecutive strikeouts to the last four hitters in the batting order. He finished the game retiring the final 11 hitters he faced.

Barrett’s pitch count stood at 98 heading into the final inning.

“So for futuristic purposes I asked him about 10 times, ‘Are you good? Are you good? Are you good?’ We had Rob (Czarniecki) on the back burner,” Bogner said. “Troy got stronger as the game went on. So he might be a guy who has to throw 30 or 40 in the bullpen first. His last three innings were better than his first three or four. I’d chalk some of that up to nerves, first varsity start. He took command of the last three innings.”

Bogner said he took his pitcher’s word for it that his arm felt fine because, “He’s not going to lie to me.”

Catcher Hunter Leach-Griffin caught the shutout in the battery’s first game together.

“We were pretty familiar because we threw a lot of bullpens together in the offseason,” Troy Barrett said.

Bogner let Leach-Griffin drop the fingers for Barrett, who didn’t shake him off very often, and the coach had the ultimate veto power if the scouting reports on the hitters made him feel strongly on what to throw.

“I had to call maybe four or five pitches the whole game, maybe,” Bogner said. “Hunter did a good job. I gave Troy some freedom too. I’m still getting to know what their out pitches are and what they aren’t. If I saw some things on our charts that I wanted to see, I would over-rule it, but I didn’t have to do too much. The kids were pretty good on the same page.”

Barrett kept the hitters off balance by mixing sinking fastballs with sliders and occasionally throring an occasional curveball, a pitch that he said that Brayden has been helping him to develop.

Working with a lead never hurts a pitcher either, and the lead grew to 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth when Czarniecki led off with a walk, stole second and scored on an infield throwing error.

The next run came when Brady McCormack did his job by pushing a groundball to second base to score Jason Bogner from third. An outfield error and wild pitch led to the fourth run in the fifth and the fifth run came when Bogner, Nick Foust and Mc- Cormack started the sixth inning with walks and Greg Guersney drove in a run with a groundout.

Brayden Barrett made the game’s best defensive play when he chased down a popup in that Bermuda Triangle in shallow left, an area where balls sometimes drop, just out of the reach of three fielders. The shortstop was on it from contact and snared it for the final out of the fifth.

“We capitalized on their mistakes and didn’t make many ourselves,” Brayden Barrett said. “Against a good pitcher like him, obviously, runs don’t come by so easy, so it’s good to capitalize on their mistakes.”

Chesterton’s next opponent will have a lineup stocked with a better bottom half of the order. Valparaiso is scheduled to visit Chesterton at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and the Trojans are slated to continue their first DAC series Wednesday at Valpo at the same game time.

Carmel 5, Chesterton 0: In relief of Brayden Barrett, left-hander Caysen Bontrager surrendered one unearned run in 4-1/3 innings, but the Trojans encountered defensive troubles and were limited to two hits against the talented Greyhounds.