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State finals
At Victory Field,
Indianapolis
Today
Class 3A
Jasper (32-3) vs. Norwell (32-3), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday
Class A
Vincennes Rivet (19-12) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (30-5), 1 p.m.
Class 2A
South Spencer (22-8) vs. Northfield (29-3), 4 p.m.
Class 4A
Indianapolis Cathedral (28-0) vs. Elkhart Central (31-1), 7 p.m.
Admission: $9 per day
TV: MyTV Fort Wayne
Webcast: IHSAAtv.org
Chad Ryan | Journal Gazette
Norwell is in the Class 3A state baseball title game for the third time since winning its first title in 2003. The Knights also won the title in 2007 and were runners-up in 2006.

Norwell continues diamond success

Knights return to Class 3A title game with new head coach

Toward the end of an 8-1 loss to Western in the 2012 Class 3A state title baseball game, Andy McClain (then the coach at Indianapolis Brebeuf) peered across Victory Field in Indianapolis and noticed the support for his opponent.

It was something he certainly craved and eventually got when he took over the proud tradition at Norwell, replacing the successful Kelby Weybright as the school’s coach.

“I kind of looked over at the Western crowd and the community, and I said that’s Norwell right there, and the community getting behind the team and the little kids at the game saying that will be them someday,” he said.

McClain was a college baseball teammate of Norwell athletic director Eric Morgan and was asked by Morgan and Weybright to take over the program when Weybright stepped aside to be an administrator.

“Anyone who has developed a program and has been there a long time wants to see someone who takes it over who is not going to run it in the other direction,” said McClain, who is the first coach in state history to take two teams to the state championship game. “I am really enjoying the sense of community, the signs up at the gas stations and all that good stuff.”

While McClain has gotten what he wanted with the Knights’ fans, the school got what it wanted as McClain has guided Norwell back to the 3A state championship game tonight against Jasper. Norwell has been there three times, winning titles in 2003 and 2007 and a runner-up finish in 2006.

“I would be lying if I didn’t admit I knew they had some talented kids coming back,” McClain said of taking the Norwell job. “This is what I expected and wanted.

“(Getting Brebeuf to the title game) gave me instant credibility with these kids. I didn’t have to beat them over the head about it this year, but they knew this guy can take them where they want to go. It was a big advantage because I had to develop relationships with them quickly. They figured out quickly that I love baseball, and I love teaching it and I had their best interests in mind.”

No. 3 Norwell (32-3) is getting to be known as a baseball school, while top-ranked Jasper (32-3) is already there with five state championships (including beating Norwell 13-12 in 2006) and 14 state finals appearances.

“These are two tradition-rich programs,” McClain said. “The biggest thing with (Jasper) is they are not going to beat themselves. You can’t count on them making mistakes because it is not going to happen.”

The Knights bounced back this year after a somewhat disappointing 20-9 record (1-7 in the NHC) in 2012 that ended with a 4-3 loss in the sectional title game to Bellmont.

“I think there is a certain pressure knowing what is expected out of our team every single year,” senior third baseman/pitcher Luke Hunter said. “We are a huge baseball school, so winning is expected out of us on the diamond.

“We know that it’s not just us that care about the outcome of a game or an entire season, but it’s also the community that takes pride in following and talking about the Norwell baseball team with others.”

gjones@jg.net

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