It was a season to remember, and few around it will forget.
The 2017 Cathedral baseball team rode an unbeaten run through the Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 4A state playoffs, with a 4-3 victory over Penn in the state title game putting a fitting wrap on a remarkable season.
The Irish won their third state title, their first since 2006.
They finished unbeaten for the first time in program history.
And they did it all in Ed Freije’s first season as head coach, with Freije having taken over the program in the offseason after five seasons as the girls basketball coach.
“It was a great group of guys and a really good coaching staff,” Freije said. “They played loose and confident. It was a fun run.”
The Irish with the victory became the fourth IHSAA baseball champion to finish a season unbeaten and the first to do so since 2007. The Irish finished No. 4 in the nation according to USA Today, No. 18 according to perfectgame.com and No. 48 according to Baseball America.
“Ultimately, it’s one game at a time,” Freije said. “We knew one of our strengths going into the season was our depth on the mound. From that point on, it’s just game by game: take care of business on Tuesday, then go back at it. It was that way all the way to the state championship game.”
The Irish, No. 2 in the final Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A poll, came from behind in the state championship game at Victory Field on June 17, taking a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth inning with a solo home run by Evan Uhland.
The Irish, who held Penn scoreless in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory, fell behind 1-0 in the first inning of the title game, but rallied with runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings. Penn tied it with two runs in the sixth.
Senior Nick Eaton (11-0) pitched all eight innings in the state-title game.
“It was a pretty loose group in the sense that they were relaxed, but at the same time, they were completely dialed in and focused – and confident,” Freije said. “I told the guys at or last practice, the Friday before the state championship game, that one of the cool things about this group was that collectively they never got too high or too low.”
Despite the unbeaten record, ’17 was not easy for Cathedral baseball.
The Irish not only transitioned to a new coach in Freije’s first season, they did so while playing home game away from Hair Field in Lawrence for the first time in a decade and a half.
“With change and things being different, we knew there was going to be some transition with that,” Freije said. “That got compounded a bit with the field situation. It was really in the fall where we brought them together. We said, ‘Here’s the reality of where we are, and here’s where you guys want to go.’
“We hit the ground running in the spring, and after the first practice or two, the guys just really realized, ‘It’s time; we have to move on and go play baseball.’’’
Eaton was named first-team All-City, as were senior catcher Charlie Gomez, junior first baseman Jake Andriole, senior second baseman Tommy Kafka, senior outfielder Mack Murphy and junior utility player Jared Poland.
Senior pitcher/infielder Kevin Flood, junior outfielder Seth Link, senior pitcher/outfielder Jack Myers and senior pitcher Jack Phillips were honorable mention All-City. Myers and Phillips both picked up key post-season victories.
The Irish won their 21st sectional title by winning the Class 4A Section 10 tournament at Warren Central over Memorial Day weekend, rallying for a 4-1 victory over Lawrence North in the section title game. They beat Lawrence Central, 9-2, in the sectional semifinal after a 2-1 victory Mount Vernon in the opening round.
The Irish also withstood a tight regional semifinal, beating Greenfield Central 1-0 in eight innings after being no-hit by Greenfield Central ace Drey Jameson through the first seven innings. Andriole’s single off Adam Hutchison drove in the winning run after Jameson left after reaching the Indiana pitch-count limit of 120 pitches.
Eaton allowed two hits in that game and struck out 10.
The Irish then won their 13th regional title and first since 2013 with a 5-2 victory over defending state champion Roncalli at Decatur Central before winning their sixth semistate title with a 6-0 victory over Columbus North at Plainfield.
“The program has such a storied history, and obviously there’s a lot of respect for that,” Freije said. “Our ultimate goal is to continue the success of the program. Fortunately, we were able to do that this year. I couldn’t be happier for our guys.
“We’ll have more teams to coach, but this is really about the seniors. This was their team, their chance and their opportunity. To see them go through the season the way they did and cap it off in the manner it happened … I couldn’t be prouder of them and happier for them.”