For The Tribune
It is easy to see why the Trinity Lutheran baseball team enters Saturday’s Loogootee Regional with confidence.
In the Lanesville Invitational on April 16, the Cougars scored 3-1 victories against both Lanesville and Barr-Reeve.
The Cougars will play the Eagles at 1 p.m. after Northeast Dubois and Barr-Reeve play at 11 a.m.
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The winners advance to the championship game at 8 p.m.
“We’ve talked about staying calm, staying under control, and really trying to get them to relax,” Trinity coach Bob Tabeling said.
“When you get to the season everybody wants to put more pressure on themselves, so we want to get them to relax and do what we’ve done all year long. Don’t try to do anything special, just do the things we’ve been working on all year long and do the basic baseball fundamental things, and that’s what we really want to try to do.”
Pitching has been one of the strengths of this team as the Cougars set a school record this spring with eight shutouts and allowed only one run in six other games.
Jacob Schult has a pitching record of 8-1 with 58 innings of work, 93 strike outs and a 1.19 earned run average.
Ross Kruse is 5-0 with 32 innings, 30 strike outs and a 2.60 ERA; Jake Moore is 3-3 with 41 innings, 56 strike outs and a 3.07 ERA, and Sam Crick is 1-2 with eight saves, has thrown 29 innings with a 2.96 ERA and has 35 strike outs.
Schult and Moore are left-handers and Kruse and Crick are right-handers.
“I guess it’s been one of the big surprises,” Tabeling said. “We knew we had strong pitchers, but they’ve really taken on the role well of coming in and just pitching one or two innings and getting us out of a situation, and not have one individual — Jacob has a lot more starts in the postseason — but still it’s really everybody coming in and doing their part.
“If anybody gets in trouble, we can make a change and the coaching staff has a high degree of confidence that any pitcher we put out there can get us out of an inning, through some trouble, and get us to the end of the game.”
Crick and Kruse, who are both juniors, have not only done the job on the mound, but also in the field and with the bat, and said the sectional title was a good feeling.
“We started off really well, had a rough stretch, and it’s nice to see the team come back and battle at the end of the season,” Crick said. “I was ecstatic (winning sectional). It’s hard to control your emotions, but you don’t want to look like a fool. I was happy for my team, but I want more.”
Kruse said he was excited following the sectional.
“It felt pretty good to represent our school well,” he said. “I felt like we’ve had a good year and we’ve prepared all year for it. We knew we could do it, we just had to prove it.
“We know we can beat Lanesville. We’ve just got to make sure we play our baseball and come out ready to play.”
Kruse, who has been in centerfield when he’s not on the mound, said the key to the 19-8 record has been teamwork.
Schult leads the Cougars in batting average with 36-for-84 for a .429 mark, and is No. 1 in RBI with 29.
Moore is hitting .395 (32-81) with 14 RBI, and Chandler Reynolds is hitting .367 (29-79) with 28 RBI.
Crick is third in RBI with 26, while the top three in runs are Moore (36), Kruse (27) and Schult (26).
“You’re facing everybody’s No. 1,” Tabeling said. “You’re going to see harder pitches, better breaking balls, better changeups. You’re going to see that in their lineup just like we have with our pitching staff. We tell them ‘don’t chase, stay within your hitting area.’”
Tabeling said he doesn’t want his team to try to do too much.
“That’s the basic baseball philosophy,” he said. “Try to do what you do best. Our pitching has been good for us all year long. Our defense has been solid, so that is what a team has to do. You start trying to do things at this point in the season that you’re not accustomed to, those special things could disrupt more than they could help.
“We just try to focus on things that are our strengths; our defense is solid and our pitching is solid. As long as we have good plate appearances I think we’re going to be competitive in the game. All arms and legs are healthy so we’re excited about the opportunity.”
Trinity Lutheran at Loogootee Regional
2009: lost to Vincennes Rivet
2011: lost to Loogootee
2013: lost to Vincennes Rivet
2016: vs. Lanesville
The Tabelings family affair
Bob Tabeling has coached the Cougars to each of their four sectional titles.
His son, Bradley, was a member of the 2009 and ’11 sectional winners, and his son, Bobby, has been a member of the 2013 and ’16 sectional winners.