HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

SECTIONAL BASEBALL PREVIEW: Crawfordsville senior Andrew Martin leading Athenians into sectional

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Crawfordsville senior Andrew Martin has brought the energy, work ethic, and leadership into the 2021 season for Athenian baseball.

And his teammates have joined him on a successful campaign as they enter IHSAA Tournament play looking for their first sectional title since 2013.

After struggling to break into the lineup as a freshman and sophomore and being used primarily as a pinch-runner and defensive specialist — Martin has found a home at the top of the Athenian lineup in 2021.

The senior is second on the team with a batting average of .375 and has scored 22 runs.

“It’s just my approach and mentality at the plate,” Martin said of the changes. “When I was younger, I was scared to say the least. Being a senior changes your mentality as a whole, so you go up there and know you can get the job done. As when I was younger I was just hoping to put the ball in play, and now I know I can do it.”

Martin spent time in the gym all of last summer during the COVID-19 quarantine. His hard work led to a breakout senior football season and now a leadership-driven baseball campaign.

“Andrew Martin had not really established himself as a hitter,” first-year coach Brett Motz said “Had always been a great centerfielder, but there’s no question that Andrew’s bat has been a huge part of our lineup in setting the table and getting on base.”

With a lost 2020 season, and very few returning varsity guys back from 2019 — leadership was a big question mark for the Athenians. And Martin has rose to the occasion — mostly because of the strong leadership that came before him.

“We have a lot of young talent on this team and a lot of young arms,” Martin said. “Some guys that are trying to figure themselves out and figure out how to adjust to playing varsity baseball. I was in that same boat too and was appreciative of the leadership that the seniors and upperclassmen would give me when I was younger, so I’m just trying to repay that to the freshmen.”

Martin hasn’t been the only senior that has stepped up this season. Henry Taylor is hitting .338, has 20 RBI and 10 extra-base-hits, while Caleb Coons is hitting .310 and has done the majority of the catching, while taking over as Crawfordsville’s No. 2 starting pitcher.

“Henry Taylor solidifying himself as the No. 3 hole hitter was a very welcome piece to what I wasn’t sure about at the beginning,” Motz said. “And Caleb Coons has been huge for us behind the plate and there’s no question we are a better team when he’s catching.”

A trio of younger players have stepped up too.

Junior Austin Motz leads the team with a .388 batting average, 28 runs scores, and 21 RBI. Sophomore Cale Coursey is the ace pitcher with a 2.78 ERA, allowing 44 hits in 53 innings pitched, walking 20 and striking out 80. He’s 6-3 on the season. Freshman Kale Wemer has also impressed with a 4-0 record in 16 relief appearances, striking out 51 hitters in 33 innings pitched against just 18 walks.

Crawfordsville had a bumpy start with a 4-3 record, but finished second in the Sagamore Conference with an 11-3 mark and carries a 16-9 overall record into IHSAA Class 3A Sectional play at North Montgomery this week.

Not only did the Athenians miss the 2020 season, but the program is under new leadership for the first time since 1982 with Motz, who replaced retiring hall of fame coach John Froedge — and that created a whole new aspect of uncertainty.

“It was an uncertainty for them,” Motz said. “They had been part of the Crawfordsville baseball program their entire lives and knew what was expected of them and that’s why the program has been what it’s been, because guys already know by the time they’re 8, 9 and 10 years old, what it’s going to be like and what the expectation is.

“And the uncertainty of me taking over the program for the seniors especially, was the most difficult transition. I feel like I’ve gotten their acceptance as a coach and I feel like they have trust in me and I hope they feel I have trust in them. And that all six guys can be out there and contributing to the game.”

Crawfordsville will face Lebanon, who handed them two of their three SAC losses in the opening round of the sectional at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Tiger ace pitcher Garrett Harker, who was recently named IHSBCA District K Player of the Year, will likely get the ball in the opening game for the Class 3A No. 3 ranked Lebanon, who is 21-2 heading into the sectional.

Harker, a University of Cincinnati commit, has an ERA of .79 with 96 strikeouts in 44.1 innings pitched. He’s also hitting .537 with five home runs, including two against the Athenians.

“You can go in with the philsophy that it’s hard to beat a good team three times,” Motz said. “And we are going to definitely challenge them. Our guys will be up for it, and we are going to put our best uniform on, best pair of cleats and give it our all.

“We will be going up against great pitcher in Harker and a quality team that has proven themselves throughout the season, but that’s why you play the game and hopefully we compete our butts off and give ourselves a chance at the end of the game to win.”

The winner will play the winner of North Montgomery (14-12)and South Vermillion (12-6) in the first semifinal on Memorial Day. The other semifinal will feature Northview (14-4) and Frankfort (14-12).

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