The talk wasn’t of repeating, or matching past results.
When Cathedral High School’s baseball team discussed goals for 2018, most of the talk instead centered on something as basic and familiar as it was lofty: meeting the program’s standard.
Because if that’s met, a lot of other things follow.
“We talked about the expectations obviously being at a high level year in and year out,” Cathedral second-year baseball coach Ed Freije said. “We embrace that and we want that. We wouldn’t want the opposite of that. We want high expectations and we want people to hold our program to high standards.”
The Irish in the early part of 2018 have continued to live up to those standards.
A year after winning the Class 4A state title with an unbeaten record in Freije’s first season as the program’s coach, the Irish got off to what Freije considered a good start. They went 5-1-1 during a rainy March/April stretch, and were ranked No. 1 in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association April 9 rankings.
“It was a pretty solid start,” Freije said. “We’re still seeing how some people fall into place. We have a few more moving parts this season and we’re seeing how our pitching falls into place. We graduated most of our innings on the mound and we have some guys coming in without varsity experience, but we have high hopes and so far they’ve done a nice job.
“All in all, we’re playing some pretty good baseball.”
The Irish lost 3-2 in nine innings to Noblesville in the season-opener, then won four consecutive games before a 2-2 tie against West Vigo in a game called because of darkness.
“We talked a little bit about preseason polls,” Freije said. “I always kind of laugh a little bit with those. Nobody’s played a game yet. We talked about how last year going into the season we weren’t receiving votes and weren’t on the radar and we came out on top. This year all of a sudden we’re ranked No. 1.
“We graduated some key pieces and we returned some key pieces, but it’s a long season ahead and a lot of baseball to be played. We’ll focus on ourselves and how we can get better day in and day out.”
The Irish in ’18 are led by a solid senior class that includes not only outfielders Seth Link, Mack Murphy and Evan Uhland, but senior shortstop/pitcher Jared Poland. Murphy was batting .318 with five doubles through seven games and Poland was hitting .360 with five runs batted in.
Collin Greene, a senior catcher who played sparingly as a junior with then-senior Charlie Gomez playing nearly every game, moved into the starting role this season with an early home run.
“He’s really embraced coming in,” Freije said. “He’s a vocal guy and a go-getter. He’s done a great job behind the plate.”
Junior Cole Vassilo led the Irish offensively early, batting .375 with a team-high eight. RBI. His home run in a 4-0 April 7 victory over Brebeuf was the first home run hit at the Irish’s new home field, Brunette Park.
Also key to the ’18 Irish: junior pitchers Derek Haslett, Peyton Schofield and Sam Phillips, Poland and sophomore pitcher Kyle Cortner.
“We always try to hang our hat on pitching and defense,” Frejie said. “If we’ve got guys who are consistently throwing strikes and we’re defending behind them, I like our chances a lot. I think leadership and urgency will be big pieces for us. Can we play with a hunger throughout the season? If we’re playing hungry and with a purpose and going out to get after people and competing at the highest level, I think we can be pretty tough.”
Freije said junior Mitch Bertrand has pitched and played second base, doing a “nice job” at both. Junior second baseman/shortstop Bo Sanders and freshman catcher/second baseman/pitcher Cade Conlon also could play key roles.
“We’re looking for him to contribute some as freshman,” Freije said of Colon.
Freije said while a task in the early part of the season will be finding a way to consistently play with the hunger and urgency, that search will be made with an eye on the future rather than the past.
“Going into the season, we talked about, ‘This is a new season, it’s a new group, it’s 2018 with new guys and new guys in different spots,’’’ Freije said. “We talked about, ‘What the program was able to accomplish last year was different than what had been done the year before and the year before that; this year will be different and next year will be different and each year kind of takes on its own identity.’ We just want to go out and compete at a high level day in and day out, and ultimately be in position to win a baseball game every night.”
Freije as the season began also discussed Brunette Park, a 35-acre facility acquired through a major donation from Dan Brunette – a 1970 Cathedral graduate – and his wife, Betsy. The complex includes baseball and softball diamonds as well as offices, parking and an indoor community center.
“The park itself is beautiful; just having that place to call home is great,” he said. “The facility is gorgeous. Turfdogs did a great building the field and Ryan Weaver does a great job maintaining it. It’s great for the fans. It’s great for the school. It’s great for the program, obviously, and we’re extremely thankful for it.
“It plays beautifully and the atmosphere is great. We’re looking forward to calling it home.”