Walk-off wonder: Joe Rycerz double lifts Andrean past Chesterton for sectional
Mike Hutton Mike Hutton
May 29th, 2017
Joe Rycerz didn’t waste any time. The junior designated hitter smashed the first pitch from Chris Torres into the right-field gap, driving in three runners in Andrean’s pulsating 4-3 victory over the host Trojans in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional championship game. The two-out, bases-clearing double in the bottom of the seventh inning for Andrean (25-7) stunned Chesterton (19-8), which looked like it was headed to the regional.
An improbable series of events led Rycerz to the plate for the final at-bat. He was still trying to process the walk-off moment after the game as fans and teammates congratulated him.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem real. It’s awesome.” Rycerz had plenty of time to study Torres, who came in to relieve Austin Peterson. Grant Brunt started, but Peterson came on in relief in the third inning. Peterson, the Trojans’ No.1 pitcher, used 63 of his allotted 120 pitches in the first game in a 14-7 win over Crown Point.
With two outs in the seventh, Chesterton coach Jack Campbell had to pull Peterson, who had reached his pitch-count limit. The Trojans looked like they were going to cruise through the inning as Evan Hylek popped out to second and Eric Mularski flied out to center. Kevin McCune, however, reached on an error by the shortstop. Clay Thompson, the first batter to face Torres, had a huge at-bat. After getting down 0-2 in the count, Thompson fouled off a few pitches and then coaxed a walk.
That at-bat gave Rycerz plenty of time to check out Torres.Rycerz was ready. “I just was fighting to get a hit,” he said. “I visualized it in my head. I just didn’t want to do too much.” It looked pretty good for Chesterton in the top of the seventh when Owen Hallas lined a pitch over the left-field wall for a two-run homer and a 3-1 lead. There was no doubt about Hallas’ homer. It left the park in a nanosecond.
After the Trojans scored in the fifth, Andrean answered with a homer by Nick Fushi in the bottom of the inning for a 1-1 tie. The final inning was a bitter moment for Campbell. He said the IHSAA pitch count rule has hurt the game. He wouldn’t have pulled Peterson, who gave up just two hits and struck out six, if it weren’t for the rule. This is the first year it has been in place. “Used to be that a kid got 10 innings every three days,” Campbell said. “It’s hard when you don’t have control. Yep, that left a sour taste.”
It was a satisfying end for Andrean coach Dave Pishkur, who has won five state championships but none in 4A. The 59ers were bumped up to the class last season because of the success factor. Pishkur doesn’t believe his team can take a 4A state title, but he was happy to win a sectional. Andrean lost to Chesterton in last year’s sectional championship game.
The 59ers had three goals this year: win the Northwest Crossroads Conference, win 25 games and beat Chesterton for the sectional title.
It’s in the books.
“It sure feels gratifying,” Pishkur said.