Northview seniors (l-r) Sean Brackney, John Reberger, Graig Bass, Travis Nodley, Austin Bryan and Jesse Johnson head to the postseason with a 24-3 record this year.
Crunch time has arrived for the Northview baseball Knights this week as sectional competition begins for them on Thursday night with a bye bracket game against Mooresville at Terre Haute South High School.
The Knights come in as the defending sectional and regional champions after putting together a 26-4 mark and advancing to the semistate before losing to Indianapolis Cathedral.
The 2005 Knights boasted a dynamic and powerful lineup with a pitching staff with a definitive No. 1 starter that launched them to their eventual lofty standings in the regular and postseason.
That Northview squad boasted eight starting seniors that got the lion's share of the playing time and just one junior who saw considerable starting time. So there were plenty of questions heading into the 2006 season with a squad that displayed plenty of talent at the junior varsity and 'C' team level, but were untested by the fires of the big time.
The 2006 Knights bided their time under the tutelage of JV coach Scott MacDonald and 'C' team coach Kent Bass as well as head coach Gary Witham. This year has proved just how hungry they were while waiting their turn for the spotlight.
Northview got little attention in the preseason polls, but have steadily gained notice as they continued to ring up victories week-by-week to the tune of a 24-3 regular season and a share of the Western Indiana Conference championship.
First baseman Graig Bass and shortstop Jesse Johnson are the only regular starters from last year's team, combining to play in all 30 games last year. Bass hit .432 for the Knights last season and provided some pop with five homeruns and a .732 slugging percentage and 35 RBIs. Johnson contributed a .300 average with 19 RBIs and was second on the team with 12 stolen bases.
The pair were one of the few proven commodities for a team that had to replace seven starters and lost nearly the whole pitching staff that had experience.
But the team has banded together, displaying a wealth of talent and some surprising power at the plate along with a pitching staff that has flat out gotten the job done on the hill.
Six seniors are pacing this squad, topped perhaps by the development of John A. Reberger who has been a monster at the plate, posting a .506 average and leads the squad with seven homeruns and 14 doubles along with 41 RBIs. He has also been a key contributor on the mound with a 1.94 ERA and a 4-0 mark. Right on his heels has been J.J. Smerdel who took on a starting role early in the season and has hit .483 while throwing out a 1.62 ERA to top the squad. He has a perfect 5-0 mark and has struckout 32 batters in 34 2/3 innings.
One of the hardest positions to step into, catcher, has been more than adequately handled by Keaton Robertson, who leads Northview with 41 runs scored hitting in the No. 2 slot behind Johnson (.424 BA - 11 stolen bases - 36 hits and 36 runs scored). Robertson is tied with leftfielder Cody Crooks at four homeruns for the season and is second to Reberger with 31 RBIs. Robertson has also added 12 doubles and 10 stolen bases for the Knights.
Bass has continued to add another power threat from the middle of the lineup, driving in 29 runs for the Knights hitting behind Austin Bryan who had just seven varsity at-bats last season.
Remarkably, he started his charge to the varsity season by hitting .348 in 23 games with the Summer Northview Knights who certainly played a major role in developing this year's outstanding squad.
Bryan has worked his way all the way to the cleanup spot in the Northview lineup where he is hitting .410 on the year with 34 hits, 10 doubles and 29 RBIs.
Chase Yocom was used as a pinchrunner last season for the Knights, getting just 14 at-bats. However, he did make the most of those trips to the plate, hitting at a .357 clip.
This year he has developed into a key hitter for the Knights after posting a .328 average over the summer and has parlayed that into a 34 hit regular season where he stole 16 bases and sets the table for the Northview offense.
Regardless of how powerful the offense has been this season, perhaps the biggest surprise has been how the pitching staff has come together.
The Knights are led by Curt Peters, a sophomore who threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings of varsity ball last year and just 7 2/3 innings over the summer. However, he has turned into the leader of the pitching staff, topping the rotation with an 8-1 mark and 61 1/3 innings of work, compiling 54 strikeouts. He's joined by Sean Brackney, a senior who didn't throw at all at the varsity level last year and pitched in only one game over the summer.
For this season he is tied for third with four wins and has pitched 43 1/3 innings while striking out 22.
Sophomore Ryne Barr has also used his arsenal of breaking balls to contribute a 2.92 ERA for the Knights in spot duty this year as Northview heads into the postseason on an eight-game winning streak.
The Knights, unranked by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches' Association in the preseason, take a No. 6 ranking into the sectional and look to cement their season's success with a defense of their sectional championship beginning in the second game of Thursday's sectional that begins at 5 p.m.