Baseball: Chase Fieldhouse is Lake Central’s king of swing
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org June 13, 2012 11:08PM
Lake Central's Chase Fieldhouse drives one deep to center field which allowed 2 runs to score putting the Indians up 6-0 over the Munster Mustangs at Munster High School for the Munster baseball sectional. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 3:02PM
The first time Chase Fieldhouse was intentionally walked in last Saturday’s Class 4A semistate against Zionsville, it loaded the bases in a tied game. He was surprised, but shrugged it off.
The second time Fieldhouse was intentionally walked in the game, there was a runner at third and one out. He was disappointed, but it made sense to set up a potential double play.
The third time? In the ninth inning? With two outs and a runner at first?
Fieldhouse was furious.
“You don’t even understand,” he said. “That was unreal.”
The move wound up costing Zionsville a chance to play for a state title, as the next two Lake Central batters were hit by pitches, driving in what proved to be the winning run. That sent the Indians to their first state championship game, Saturday evening against Roncalli at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“At first, I was obviously very angry,” Fieldhouse said. “But at the same time, it put us in a good situation. No idea why they’d do that, but we’ll take it.”
Even if you disagree with the decision to walk him, it’s pretty obvious why Zionsville did.
Simply put, Fieldhouse is one heck of a hitter.
“No doubt, it’s a sign of respect,” said LC coach Jeff Sandor. “He’s walked nine times this postseason, and I can think of six intentional walks he’s received. (Highland’s) Jordan Minch intentionally walked him twice.”
Of course, Fieldhouse isn’t looking to get a free base. He’s looking for extra bases. One of the most productive batters in the region over the last two seasons, he’s a home run waiting to happen every swing. He has a .449 batting average and a remarkable .620 on-base percentage, with four home runs, 10 doubles — including a run-scoring gapper in the first inning against Zionsville — and a team-best 35 RBI.
“There are a lot of overwhelming arms in our area, and he’s kind of become known for hitting a ton of great, Division I pitchers,” Sandor said. “His last three home runs were against Minch, (Chesterton’s Jake) Post and (Elkhart Central’s) Tanner Tully. His last two at-bats against Post (an Ohio State recruit and Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick), he hit the right-center wall. We don’t have another kid in our lineup that can do those things. I don’t think many teams do.”
On paper, it looks like Fieldhouse took a small step back this season. After all, he led Northwest Indiana with 10 home runs last spring. This year, he’s down to four. Part of that can be attributed to the new, deadened BBCOR bats (LC had 40 homers last year, 17 this year) and part of it can be attributed to some nasty spring weather.
But Fieldhouse said this was his best offensive year yet, because he’s not one-dimensional anymore.
“Last year, I kind of went up there and just swung as hard as I could,” he said. “This year, I’m putting it in places I want to, and doing what’s best for the team.”
Fieldhouse actually credits his relatively slow start — it took him a few weeks to get his first homer — for helping him become a more well-rounded batter.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself and I knew the expectations I had to live up to,” he said. “After a game, I’d get to school and hear, ‘Hey, Chase, you hit any home runs? Hey Chase, you hit any home runs?’ After I finally hit one, I realized I was definitely not swinging for the fences on that one. So I just started to try to make contact and get base hits, and I knew the home runs would come.”
There was no swing change involved. Just a mental change.
“Baseball’s a game of mental attitude,” he said. “It’s a messed-up game, man.”
Fieldhouse was patient with his swing, but he’s getting impatient with college recruiters. Surprisingly, given his gaudy numbers on a high-profile team that has produced a handful of Division I players over the past few seasons, Fieldhouse hasn’t seen many yet. There have been a few Division II and NAIA offers, but nothing Division I. Sandor suggested that Fieldhouse hasn’t been seen by as many recruiters because pitchers Jimmy McNamara and Taylor Lehnert were already locked up by Central Michigan well before the season began.
Fieldhouse can’t explain it.
“I honestly couldn’t answer that question,” he said. “It puts me in a little shock whenever I think of it. Honestly, I’ve been focused on high school this entire time, but I’m sure once the season ends, I’ll finally dwell on it.”
Right now, the plan is for Fieldhouse to go the junior-college route in hopes of eventually earning a Division I offer. But both he and Sandor are hoping that he gets a look while playing for his summer team, Apex.
“I still think someone’s going to call up late and steal him,” said Sandor, who said he spoke at length with a Xavier assistant coach who marveled at how far Fieldhouse has come, and how they “missed the boat” on him now that their roster is full.
Fieldhouse has one more opportunity to impress in a Lake Central uniform Saturday at Victory Field. He plans to make the most of it — as long as Roncalli actually gives him a chance to swing.