ST. JOHN – When Jeff Sandor took over the Lake Central coaching position three years ago, he didn’t have to build a program from scratch or repair a roster that was in shambles. He inherited a team that went to regionals the year before and had a solid foundation. While that may bring a lot of expectations and pressures that first year coaches normally don’t face, it can also be a luxury that other new hires aren’t afforded.
A major benefit that Sandor had in taking over the position was that he was already entrenched in the program. A former LC pitcher, Sandor was the Indian freshman coach, so he had a familiarity with his roster that an outside hire would not have had. It seems only fitting that Lake Central’s first trip to the baseball state finals features a group led by seniors – members of Sandor’s last freshman team.
While the roster is solid now, Sandor wasn’t quite sure if all of these players were going to make it this far when he was their freshman coach.
“Some of those guys, I could have said as freshman, you really weren’t sure if they were going to be around as juniors and seniors,” Sandor said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth. They’ve matured as people, definitely matured as players and I think these guys have earned the right to play for a state championship.”
It’s not only the kids who have changed since their freshman year. Indian clean-up hitter Chase Fieldhouse notices some differences in his coach as well.
“He’s definitely a lot stricter with us since he’s been the varsity coach,” Fieldhouse said. “When he was the freshman coach, I would say he was more of our friend, but now he’s more of a coach. We’ve really clicked with him since freshman year, so it was a benefit of him moving up.”
Not only has Sandor seen the growth of these seniors over the past three years, it’s been the tournament run over the past three weeks they are on now, which really impresses him.
“It’s hard to argue that anybody’s had a run of these last six tournament games like we’ve had,” Sandor said. “You go through Munster at their own place, then you take on Jordan Minch (of Highland), Tanner Tully (Elkhart Central), Penn’s Chad Whitmer and then Zionsville, who is arguably one of the best offensive teams in the state. We’re battle tested right now. It means a lot for them to go through that route and that’s why I say they’ve earned it.”
LC has already made school history by advancing this far in the state tournament and they can make Region history with a victory on Saturday, which would be the first 4A state title for a Region school since Munster in 2002 and only the third 4A title in baseball overall for Northwest Indiana (LaPorte 2000) since the tournament was split into a multiclass system in 1998.
Nathan Laird can be e-mailed at
. Comment on this story or any other topic on the RSN's Facebook page by clicking HERE