A superb season
La PORTE — For the La Porte Crush 14U team, winning was like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes. It became a habit.
That certainly didn’t mean it was any less fun.
The travel baseball team from La Porte thrived over the spring and summer, claiming seven tournament titles in 10 tournaments and finished with an exceptional 36-6-1 record. And they’re striving to truly shine when they become prep players beginning next season.
“This was the kind of year where we really kind of came together,” La Porte Crush 14U coach Brent Raymond said. “This 14U team will be 100 percent La Porte High School kids. I had the opportunity to get some other kids that were out of town, and it could have made our team better through the years. But I just always wanted to keep the La Porte kids together, and kind of develop a good feeder system, to give that team to Scotty [La Porte coach Scott Upp] and the La Porte Slicers. And hopefully, they can do some special things in a few years.”
Most of the players on this team started the original Crush team when they were 10U and they have stayed together the last five years, hoping for tremendous success when they reach high school.
“If they can keep these kids together, I honestly think in two to three years, we can contend for another state championship, which this town has really wanted for a long time,” Raymond said.
“That’s been the goal of the Crush, to develop players, and hopefully, bring home another state championship to this town. Because it’s been a baseball town forever, and it’s time to bring it back.”
Raymond was referring to La Porte High School’s baseball program, which has hoisted eight state title trophies, but hasn’t won it all since 2000.
The Crush 14U captured five straight tournament titles this season, which ended three-and-a-half weeks ago. They finished as the runner-ups twice and placed third once.
So in 10 tournaments, the Crush racked up seven tournament crowns and played in nine title games.
“It was fun to win, there’s no doubt about it,” Raymond said. “But on this team, there was never any animosity. The kids really got along. With Jason Flores and Steve Bernth, my assistant coaches, it was really fun for us to just kind of sit back. We put lineups together, we do changes. But we just kind of let the kids play this year. We let our catchers call their own games, we stopped calling pitches. Just let them gel. We really wanted to turn them loose.”
The Crush 14U garnered tournament titles from Lakeville, Ind. three times, South Bend, Michigan City, Wisconsin and Crown Point.
The tournament in South Bend was at Four Winds Field, home of the Class A South Bend Cubs.
In the tournament final, the Crush 14U beat a team from Cincinnati, the Ohio Force, who Raymond said had 200 players try out for that squad, so he added they were an extremely competitive team.
But the Crush prevailed, using four pitchers — Brady Bernth, Camrin Worthington, Cole Raymond and Hayden Lowe — to combine for the victory. Offensively, the Crush scored 60 runs in the four games during the tournament.
That started a stretch where the Crush won 15 straight games.
The Crush 14U closed its season by winning the silver bracket of the Game Day USA National Championships on July 8 in Crown Point.
Members of this Crush team were Spencer Noveroske, Brady Bernth, Cole Raymond, Camrin Worthington, Jayden Parkes, and Kade Flores, Shane Weaver, Gavin Zolvinski, Collin Bergquist, Hayden Lowe, Carson Stalbaum, Coach Brent Raymond, Coach Jason Flores, and Coach Steve Bernth.
All three Crush coaches played for renowned former La Porte High School coach Ken Schreiber.
With that in mind, this squad focused on the fundamentals, which it greatly benefited from.
“We make the small plays very, very good,” Coach Raymond said. “We make the routine plays, and that’s kind of what we’ve always stressed. Just make the routine play. Hit the cut-off man, field the ground ball. I don’t ask you to catch balls in the hole and make an Addison Russell play or a Javy Baez play, because those guys are truly gifted.
“We don’t make errors. We throw strikes. We don’t walk people. We never had a dominating pitcher, we really didn’t. And then, we did hit the ball this year. The hitting was kind of a nice, pleasant surprise.”