One last campaign
La PORTE — With a multitude of graduation losses and not much varsity experience returning, La Porte’s baseball team will greatly rely on its four seniors to guide the charge.
After saying goodbye to 11 seniors, including Indiana All-Star pitcher Chandler Banic, catcher Will Malekovic and center fielder Nolan Lorenz, the squad has to regroup. It starts with the four upperclassmen, Brock Lipscomb, Josh Trim, Jake Spence, and David Applegarth, who have all been part of the Slicers’ baseball program their entire prep careers.
“In today’s world, sometimes the commitment is hard for young kids,” La Porte coach Scott Upp said. “These four guys have committed four years of their career to play here and to make Slicer baseball important to them. That’s a credit to them.
“These guys have decided I’m going to finish my four years. It’s something to be proud of.”
Lipscomb concurred, adding the seniors’ commitment level is paramount and significant.
“It’s real important,” Lipscomb said. “It shows who really wanted it and who wanted to make their high school years memorable, and just have fun with it.”
Lipscomb, who played all of 2018 on the varsity, can pretty much play any position. He’ll play short or center, pitch and even catch. He began his high school career as a backstop.
Upp said Lipscomb can virtually play anywhere on the field. As a result, Danville (Ill.) Area Community College signed him as a utility player.
“It’s advantageous for us, that’s for sure,” Upp said of his versatility. “Especially when he can play those positions well. Not only just put him out there, but he’s a good enough athlete to where he can play all those positions. It helps us tremendously.”
At the same time, Upp added that he likes to have those type of players on the team because of the flexibility they provide in being able to interchange them when you have somebody else who needs to play a particular position.
“I had a lot of experience last year,” Lipscomb said. “So being more of a leader on the team and helping the younger guys with getting better.”
Trim will primarily play third base, but he’s dealing with some arm trouble, so Upp said he could move to first base. He saw only varsity action last year.
Trim sees himself fitting in as hopefully an exemplary role model for the underclassmen.
“Just coming in every day working hard, showing the young guys what they need to do,” he said. “Passing on the torch pretty much, making sure the young guys know what they’re doing.”
Applegarth’s foremost position is pitcher. The right-handed hurler saw some time at the varsity level in 2018. Upp said he also could see some time at third, first or designated hitter.
“I see myself as being a leader and being on the mound a lot this year,” Applegarth said. “Just getting in there, leading the guys, especially the younger guys, showing them how it’s done, because I learned a lot last year from Chandler Banic. He kind of showed me the way and I respect that a lot. I’m going to try to do that to the best of my abilities this year.”
Spence, meanwhile, is mostly a first basemen and right fielder.
He is also a basketball player, something that Upp believed affected Spence’s hitting last year.
“It’s hard to come off the basketball floor, and then, to come out right here and in two weeks be ready to go,” Upp said. “And a lot of times if you don’t get started well, you just play catch-up all year. He didn’t start as well as he wanted to and it was just hard to get going.
Spence said he likely has a hernia on his right side, according to his doctor, so his availability for the first few weeks of the season is in question.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what his status is,” Upp said.
In order for La Porte to have success, the significance of the basics isn’t lost on Spence.
“We can’t make mistakes,” he said. “Our defense and our hitting has to keep it up. And our pitching has to start throwing strikes and start doing the little things in the field.”
Like Spence, Trim recognizes the little things add up to big things on the field.
“We just have to get better every day,” Trim said. “Just making sure we’re doing the little things right. Like coach Upp always says, ‘Playing catch the right way before practice.’ Doing the little things, the fundamentals right every day.”
While the importance of principles can’t be overstated, the fact the team lost so many pivotal players to graduation is also a factor.
“Everyone has to come together and play as a team,” Spence said. “We can’t have any bad chemistry. We need good chemistry on and off the field.”
In the end, all of the seniors are looking to make this campaign a memorable one, considering it’s their last season donning the orange and black.
“I want to make it the best out of all of them,” Spence said, “because it’s my last year.”