OSSIAN – There are a lot of factors for Norwell High School baseball coach Andy McClain to consider before the state championship game. His batting order is not one of them.
McClain fills out a lineup card that ranks as one of the most potent in the school's tradition-rich history.
Seven of Norwell's nine batters are hitting .316 or higher. Two are over .400. All nine have gone yard with homers at some point this season.
“I've never made lineup changes until you lose,” McClain said. “Knock on wood, we've been on a pretty good roll.”
Norwell (32-3) has won 19 straight games heading into the Class 3A state championship game against No.1 Jasper (32-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Victory Field, Indianapolis.
Here's a look at McClain's lineup, with the coach's observations on each player:
Leadoff: Josh VanMeter, SS/P, .450, nine homers, 14 doubles, 57 runs, 36 RBIs.
“Heart and soul of the lineup. As talented as he is, he's just as hard a worker and competitor. I like him in the leadoff spot setting the tone for the game. They aren't going to pitch around him much. Very talented, very competitive, the best baseball player I've ever coached.”
No.2: Nathan Shelton, RF, .342, 10 doubles, 32 RBIs
“When I think of Nathan, I think of how coachable he is. He's an intelligent young man, an overachiever, and that's not a slight, I was the same way. My two big things are runs scored and RBIs and he's scored a bunch and knocked in a bunch.”
No.3: Tailur Szarenski, 1B, .378, 11 doubles, six homers, 41 RBIs
“We've had old 'Z' there in the three-hole all year. When he struggled just a bit, I said, 'I'm not moving you out of there so figure it out.' He picked it back up. Solid, steady, dependable, he's a leader. He keeps us loose. The semistate (4-for-4, three doubles) is fresh on our mind. He was huge.”
Cleanup: Jonah Patten, SS/P, .349, three homers, 29 RBIs
“We were glad to get him in the lineup and get him rolling. Jonah is going to Arkansas (in 2014-15) or maybe even in the major league draft like Josh. I think about Jonah as a baseball player, not just a pitcher. He's made some great plays at shortstop and driven in some big runs.”
No.5: Austin Dettmer, CF, .427, three homers, 23 RBIs
“I love him in that five-spot. I kind of tried to set it up with three sets of 1-2-3 hitters. Austin is a guy who's tremendous on the bases, has great baseball instincts and is a clutch hitter. He's scored a bunch of runs, stole a bunch of bases. He's had a great season.”
No.6: Luke Hunter, 3B/P, .393, two homers, 29 RBIs
“He's been clutch all year, a guy on the mound we have counted on and may need to count on again Friday night. A big, strong, hard-working kid. He's been pretty clutch and a good hit-and-run guy. We've won a lot of games with his bat as well as his arm.”
No.7: Austin Dantzer, 2B, .316, one homer, 14 RBIs
“He'd be a good leadoff hitter or No.2 guy. Austin down there after Luke gives us another leadoff guy to start the lineup back over and flip it back over to the top. He got hot at the right time. He's a lefty, he can bunt and steal, a solid, talented baseball player.”
No.8: Cale Schumm, C, .274, eight doubles, 17 RBIs
“I thought of him as the prototypical Norwell kid before I got here – burr haircut, strong faith, strong kid, working on the farm. He's just a solid young man. He's taken that catching position and said, 'This is mine, I want it, I'll be back here all year.' He leads by example, our kids respect him very much.
“If we feel like we need something else (as a pinch hitter), we have old Jake Meyer, our secret weapon. He's come through in the clutch.”
No.9: Spencer Newell, LF, .283, six doubles, four homers, 20 RBIs
"A lot of guys talk about hiding a guy in the nine-hole. I don't think he's hidden any more. All you have to do is look at him. He's a strong kid, a fast kid, a hard worker. Good-natured. I know he wants to play college baseball, and he can. Talking about him in that nine-hole makes us pretty special with that lineup.”