The real Deel: Senior catcher is invaluable to Hobart's young pitching staff
La PORTE -- As valuable as his bat is -- and Jaden Deel's bat is pretty valuable for Hobart -- it's the senior catcher's work behind the plate for a pitching staff that doesn't nearly have the maturity to grow facial hair like he does that is most important to the Brickies' fortunes this season.
"A big leadership role this year," Deel said Friday. "As a catcher, the past four years, I've always had that role, but I feel it's a lot more important this year with a young team, not a lot of varsity experience."
Deel went 4-for-4 with three doubles and two RBI in an 11-4 win over La Porte at Schreiber Field, also guiding sophomore left-hander Cam Gonzalez through his first high school start.
"He's invaluable as far as that goes," Hobart coach Bob Glover, Jr. said. "They trust him implicitly. He's a very calming influence for the younger guys. I told some other people I'm not sure there's a batter catcher in the area than him. He really swings it and he's been extremely mature, even when he was coming in as a freshman and sophomore. Now it's his chance to take the team and lead. That's the same challenge as everybody's dealing with, when you're putting something together that's brand new and there's been no period to ease somebody into it, and a guy like him is huge."
The Huntington University recruit took some ribbing in the dugout for his first two doubles, both popups that found grass in the shallow outfield.
"After the first one, I said, have you ever seen a cheaper one than that?" Glover said. "And then the second one might have been cheaper than the first."
The third one was bullet over the left fielder's head.
"I felt like I had to get a real one, one that shouldn't have been caught," Deel said. "It shows up in the scorebook as a line drive. Everyone swung the bat good. It was just a good hitting day. I think we're just putting together what we can do as a team, making it work, doing what we can with our roster, putting the bat on the ball, getting it through holes."
Speaking of holes, fellow Brickie Kyle Feterick had the magic touch at the plate as well, singling four times on well-placed ground balls through different spaces on the infield. He knocked in three runs.
"I was running to first and coach was (smiling) and I was (smiling)," said Feterick, who didn't have a varsity hit coming into the game. "Just jump on fastballs. They're throwing it right down the middle. Just put the bat on the ball, hit it up the middle."
The Brickies cranked out 15 hits with Ryan Ellis, Jevon Edwards and Ivan Balboa all adding a pair. Deel and Balboa each plated a pair.
"One of the things we like about Kyle is he gets the bat on the ball," Glover said. "I think that's the message, be aggressive, find a way to get the bat on the ball, and a lot of times, good things will happen for you. There's definitely a chance that could have been a closer game if things go differently here and there. There's no doubt about that. We were lucky to get out with that kind of lead and take pff some pressure."
Hobart scored four runs in the third and fourth, nearly batting around in both innings.
"A lot of first-pitch fastballs," Deel said. "It's early season. There's a lot of young rosters, a lot of newer guys who haven't played high school baseball games in two years at this point. It's new to a lot of people."
Gonzalez, who retired five straight Tuesday to earn a save against Washington Township, worked out of trouble in the first two innings, when he walked three and hit one, stranding four runners. He cruised into the fifth before La Porte scored four runs with just one ball leaving the infield.
"He's off to a nice start," Glover said. "He gave himself a chance to win."
Bryce Niksich blanked the Slicers (1-1) over the final 2 1/3 innings.
"Cameron is a very young arm," Deel said. "He hasn't gotten a varsity season. I think it was a really good way to really come out and make your mark to start the year. He's not super overpowering, but if he can mix his pitches, he's going to do damage on the mound. Niksich (was) solid. He put in a lot of work to get where he's at to stay consistent with what he's doing."
Hobart capped a productive opening week that also included wins over Merrillville and Washington Township, the 2019 Class A state runner-up.
"We're still a work in progress, probably like most teams feel this time of year," Glover said. "But we're doing a lot of things well and giving ourselves a chance to win."