Grit Key for Indiana Landsharks

Super25 : : General
Sean Cunningham        
Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Super25 series was created in order to emphasize team-oriented baseball rather than showcasing individual talent. This past weekend at the 17u Midwest Super Regionals, the Indiana Landsharks were evidence of this, as they battled in each one of their games on their way to the championship.

Landsharks coach Dave Ryans is a strong believer in the concept of putting together a team rather than bringing together talent for the purpose of showcasing it. He used to coach in big travel-ball organizations, but a few years ago decided to put his own team together of local kids and try and find the best competition he could.

This weekend, that team he put together went on a run in the tournament and proved itself as the best team in the Midwest Region, something they have been hoping to do for a long time. According to Ryans, “we circled this date on our schedule last year, we said we were going to win this tournament and get to Arizona for the Super25 National Championship somehow.”

Coach Ryans believes the Landsharks had an edge over their competition because of their grittiness and ability to play team baseball.

“We have some Division I guys,” Ryans said, “but the one thing we have though is a lot of really good players that could play Division I that probably wouldn’t get looked at as much because of their physicality, like their size, or they run a 7.1 [60-yard dash] instead of a 6.9. We’re just gritty.”

While the Landsharks may have less physical tools than their opponents, they still have a solid track record of success. “We play so many teams that have eight guys committed to Division I schools, and we’re fortunate enough to beat them. Our guys seem like they don’t get the same looks, but they’re just gritty ballplayers. They do the little things and come up with big hits.”

The Landsharks relied on great pitching and manufacturing runs throughout their tournament run. Outside of the single game they lost, the Landsharks gave up 0 or 1 run in every contest.

As for the team’s hitting, Ryans was reluctant to give one individual any more credit than another. “It’s a collective effort. When we win, we win as a team. It could be a guy getting down a bunt, moving guys over. When we score, it’s often with a guy on second base, somebody moves him over with a groundball, the next guy hits a groundball, and we score a run without doing much. It was kind of like that for the whole tournament, it was less about guys stepping up individually but more so us manufacturing runs as a team.”

The Landsharks’ grittiness was evident from their first game of the tournament, when they took on the Triple Crown Warriors. The Landsharks started Jacob Schmatz, who gave up just one hit in six innings while striking out seven. A scoreless game through five innings, the Warriors got a run across the board in the sixth.

The Warriors’ lead didn’t last long, however, as Matt Potter tripled to lead off the bottom half of the inning, sparking a three-run rally. The Landsharks held on for a 3-1 victory.

Andrew Petsche gave the Landsharks another great pitching performance in the team’s third game of the tournament. He threw a complete-game shutout, striking out seven while walking just one against Pony Express Baseball. Coach Ryans believes Petsche epitomizes the gritty nature of the team with how he pitches, saying, “he doesn’t throw very hard, but he pitches to contact and changes speeds really well. He’s able to be effective because he keeps people off balance.”

Augustine Rubalcava continued the Landsharks’ trend of great pitching performances in the playoffs, throwing a gem against a tough Indiana Nitro team. “He got his fastball up to 87,” said Ryans. “He changed speeds and got his curveball over, and he spotted his fastball really well. He made it tough on them.”

While the Landsharks battled their way to the championship by winning close games, their offense exploded for a 7-1 win in the finals against the strong Indiana Mustangs Red, who had yet to lose a game in the tournament.

“We came out, we had some big hits, and hit the ball pretty hard in the first inning,” said Ryans. “Aaron Bond had a big hit, and we were able to get the lead early. It set the tone for us to put it on cruise control and rely on our pitching. Cody Quier did a phenomenal job pitching today, changing speeds and getting ahead.”

Overall, the Super25 series was ideal for a team like the Landsharks. “When we put this team together, it wasn’t about stacking up a roster for a tournament. In other tournaments where teams bring in 25 guys from all over, we don’t have the depth of pitching that they have. The Super25 tournament was the perfect situation for showcasing our team, just as a team, and not having to pick guys up, playing with what we have.”

The Landsharks will have the chance to show off their gritty style of play against the best teams in the country in July during the 17u Super25 National Championship.

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