Andrean picks off Michigan City: Galanos cuts down baserunner to escape jam, preserve victory
MERRILLVILLE -- Sidearm relievers with slick pickoff moves have been one of the lesser-acclaimed trademarks of Andrean's success in Dave Pishkur's storied coaching tenure.
"I bet Mark picked off five guys in that situation his senior year," Pishkur said of his son and current assistant coach, who was submariner as a 59ers pitcher.
In Monday's season opener with Michigan City, the Niners coach pulled one out of the bag to close the door on a tense 3-2 win over the Wolves as pitcher Michael Galanos spun around and caught Ryan Cuma way off the bag for the final out of the game.
"That's probably one of our best pickoff moves," Pishkur said. "The pitch before, I was already thinking, this pickoff play has a chance. It went 0-2, I said, we got him. That was their best hitter. (Galanos') job is to look like he's throwing home. He started his secondary lead way too early, which happens when you get the bases loaded and they're not paying attention to him. The worst thing that can happen is he gets in a rundown and the guy scores from third, but he went back to second. He shouldn't have tried to go back. We picked him pretty easily."
Michigan City loaded the bases with two outs on an error and a walk, allowing Wolves cleanup hitter Alex Contreras a chance to bat. Galanos got ahead two strikes, but Pishkur left nothing to chance after Contreras had singled earlier on an 0-2 pitch.
"You always like to see your No. 3 and 4 hitters," Michigan City coach Jeff Rochowiak said. "Alex likes to battle. You want him to get as many swings as he can. It's early in the season, we haven't faced a sidewinder in years. It was a great pickoff play. You can tell he's practiced it. It worked."
Andrean prevailed despite seven walks and two errors in the field, and seven strikeouts and only four hits at the plate.
"We walked way too many guys," Pishkur said. "It looks like we haven't swung the bat this year. Velocity is all we have seen off our machines. Maybe we need to dial it back. Our approach was poor, one through nine, pretty much. Everybody was trying to hit the ball into the tennis courts. Every ball we hit hard was in the parking lot. We have kids who are capable of hitting. We just didn't do good job of adjusting to pitchers who didn't throw as hard. That's our fault."
Andrean scored once in the third, aided by a two-base throwing error on Kyle Tyler's infield hit to third, when Billy Jones singled an 0-2 pitch through 5-6 the hole to left field, though the Niners left the bases loaded.
"We're going to take a different approach tomorrow in batting practice," Pishkur said. "It's a very athletic team. Hopefully, baserunning, base stealing will be a part of our offense. Bunting will be part of our offense."
The 59ers stole seven bases, four alone by Drayk Bowen, and took three other bases uncontested with a runner on third.
Andrean scratched out the decisive runs in the fifth after Andrew Oleksiuk retired the first two batters. He was up 0-2 on Charlie Jones when he bounced a pitch that barely grazed Jones. After a steal and two wild pitches scored Jones, Galanos came across with the go-ahead run on an errant throw to first on Jax Kalemba's grounder to short.
"We don't even know who our players are yet," Pishkur said. "A lot of guys are going to get a chance to play in the month of April. It's learn, learn, learn, try to get better."
The same goes on the mound where the Niners used five pitchers. Peyton Niksch went the longest, starting with a scoreless pair of innings. Hunter Niksch was tagged with two runs in the fourth after consecutive walks to start the frame brought in Cam Nohos. After a single loaded the bases, a hit batter and an air-mailed pickoff to first put City in front.
"I was happy with Peyton," Pishkur said. "He was very good. Brad (White) did good. I have confidence in Mikey at the end. Cam had some spots. He can throw two good pitches, then three bad pitches in a row. The plan was to throw four pitchers and we ended up throwing five."
The imposing Nohos kept the score at 2-1 with three straight strikeouts, then White came on to strand a pair of walks in the fifth, snagging a Contreras line drive back to the mound. He also worked a clean sixth.
"We've got 12 kids that can pitch," Pishkur said. "We'll get the other seven in Saturday. It's just good to get out and play. It's been two years. At times, it felt the same; at times, it was, wow, when was the last time we were out here? For March 29th, it's not bad."
With just two experienced players and a few more projected starters unavailable due to COVID protocols, Rochowiak was buoyed by the effort.
"It's what we needed," he said. "We have a very young team. I'm extremely happy with how everything went. I didn't know what to expect. We've just been practicing. They've been working hard and you can tell. Just getting that first game in, no matter what the outcome is, we're just happy to be out here. The kids are gaining confidence every day. That's one of the best teams in the state. I'm excited."