MERRILLVILLE — Dave Pishkur first noticed Nick Podkul’s mental toughness not on the baseball field, but on the basketball court.

“He was a sophomore on the basketball team. There were seven seniors and Nick. It was the fourth quarter and the game was close and Nick is taking the shot,” the Andrean baseball coach said. “I knew he had some toughness.”

That mindset has translated well in Podkul’s two years on the varsity baseball team.

The junior is the cleanup hitter and shortstop for No. 1 Andrean, which faces No. 9 Gibson Southern in the Class 3A state title game Saturday at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

“I’m really anxious to get to Saturday. I’ve just been counting down the days,” Podkul said. “I’m really excited to get out on Victory Field and play with my team.”

Podkul has a .407 batting average. He’s knocked in 27 runs and has scored 38.

“Nick is a special kid. He’s a very good athlete, he’s a very talented athlete,” Pishkur said. “When he broke in as our starting shortstop last year, very early on in the season, he never relinquished it. And I know in the tournament time, nobody hit like Nick did in the tournament time. And he’s basically carried that through this year. He’s had a great tournament run. He’s a really tough kid.”

Podkul is just the latest in a long line of talented Andrean shortstops.

“I’ve always looked up to the shortstops at Andrean like Adam Norton, Tommy Finn (and) Mike Brosseau,” Podkul said. “It’s an honor to be in their footsteps and follow them. It’s just nice because you are kind of one of the leaders on the team and it’s a big role to play. I enjoy that.”

He’s also enjoying this tournament run.

“We play as a team. We don’t care about individual stats,” Podkul said. “The only stat we know is that we are 6-0 in the playoffs and we have to get to 7-0. Just the fact that everyone cares about the guy to the left and the guy to the right.”

Every batter in Andrean’s starting lineup contributed to the 18-2 semistate win over Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger. Each starter had at least one hit. Podkul had three hits and an RBI.

“In the beginning of the season, coach told us to try to simplify things. Try to hit the ball hard with a fast bat speed. That’s what I try to do,” he said. “I try to get a good pitch early in the count. The best way to not strike out is hit strike one or hit strike two. That’s what I try to do.”

The approach has helped Andrean reach its first state title game since 2010.

“It’s been so much fun,” Podkul said. “I’ve dreamed about this since I was a kid. It’s crazy that I’m actually in a situation to play for a state championship Saturday.

“Words can’t describe it. It’s such a great feeling. I just hope for the best.”