SOUTH BEND — Two games, more than any, showed Jayce Lee’s importance to South Bend Saint Joseph’s batting lineup.
It’s opening game, a 3-2 loss to Plymouth, was evident because Lee didn’t play. He had to serve a one-game suspension from an ejection in last year’s regional loss to Hanover Central. And in one of Saint Joe’s recent games, Lee broke a 10th-inning 2-2 tie against Jimtown with a go-ahead hit, leading to a 7-2 win.
“Crunch-time situation and my team needed me to come through,” Lee said. “I live for those. It’s what you work for.”
In Saint Joe head coach John Smolinski’s eyes, Lee is the guy he wants up in any clutch situation.
Lee, a sophomore, is one of, if not, the most talented player on the Indians. An all-around player who is receiving major college interest, including from Notre Dame.
Midway through last season Lee, a center fielder, made the jump from junior varsity. He was a little nervous to join a team full of seniors. But in his first game, in a tournament against Lake Central, he made an acrobatic catch, affirming his arrival on the big stage.
“That was the play I needed to settle down,” Lee said.
And since then, he has taken off.
In 18 games last year, Lee batted .244 with 11 hits and three RBI. Smolinski buried him in the batting order to relieve some pressure of being a freshman varsity player.
This year, that is no longer the case. Lee is no batting third.
“His confidence is there,” Smolinski said. “He knows in that three-hole spot he is expected to produce.”
In 12 games this season, Lee is batting .412, already with 13 hits, 17 RBI and two home runs, one against South Bend Clay and a grand slam against Hammond Bishop Noll.
“It was big in my progression as a high school athlete,” Lee said. “It was big that I had to go through that growing year, going through struggles. Now I am seeing success.”
Smolinski views Lee as a true five-tool player. He can hit to all fields and hit for power. He is strong on the basepaths, already with 10 stolen bases this year.
Last year, Lee was Saint Joe’s defensive player of the year and continues to have a strong glove and throwing arm for the outfield.
That has led Smolinski to even try Lee on the mound.
So far, Lee has only pitched one inning this year, allowing one earned run in a loss to Lafayette Central Catholic. But by the time his high school career is over, he believes that will become an elite part of his skillset, too.
“It’s just another tool I can put in my toolbox as I go to the next level and play college baseball,” he said. “Having that asset in your toolbox is always good.”
Mishawaka’s Maddux Yohe continuing goal to play D-I baseball
For Mishawaka baseball coach John Huemmer, it is easy to pick out junior shortstop Maddux Yohe from a crowd.
In terms of baseball, Yohe goes about his work a little differently than other players on the Cavemen roster.
“His hustle and demeanor on the field. You just have to watch him,” Huemmer said. “Everything is 100%. There is nothing he cuts corners on because he knows if he wants to play at another level he has to push himself to be the best.”
Like many high school baseball players, Yohe has a dream of playing the sport at the next level.
Standing at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Yohe’s intangibles don’t make him stand out. So he knows he has to work harder to get where he wants to go.
“Everything else you could work on but if you have the effort it could only help you out,” he said.
Effort is something Yohe said he’s always had on the diamond. He learned it from his time playing on Mishawaka’s basketball team.
“That’s what got me on the court,” Yohe said. “I just took that and put it into baseball.”
This year, Yohe has been Mishawaka’s leader in the infield, starting at shortstop. He gets things going with his bat, too, moving into the Cavemen’s leadoff spot this year.
In 11 games, he is batting .276 with eight hits, six RBI and also hit a home run in an 11-1 win over South Bend Riley.
“You watch how he does everything,” Huemmer said. “Sprinting, throwing, hitting, fielding and you are like this guys got it. He’s got the skills (to play college baseball).”
Some division one programs are noticing that, too. Along with a large group of NAIA programs, Yohe said he has also talked with coaches from Akron and Morehead State.
For Yohe, that is a good start. His dream school would be to play at University of North Carolina. With those school’s interest he believes he’s on the right track, so that effort isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“It would mean a lot,” Yohe said. “I put a lot of work into this.”
Other top performances from this week’s baseball action
Deacon Dillenbeck recorded two hits and three RBI in Jimtown’s 8-6 win over New Prairie….Cam Worthington pitched eighth innings, allowing four hits, one earned run, two walks and nine strikeouts in LaPorte’s 2-1 over Chesterton…..Gage Gongwer recorded three hit, two doubles and three RBI in NorthWood’s 15-1 win over Concord….Chase Bays pitched seven shutout innings, allowing three hits, three walks and striking out eight in Mishawaka Marian’s 8-0 win over Elkhart…..Cooper Hums hit two homers in Penn’s 11-1 win over Bremen…..Joe Chrapliwy recorded four RBI on two hits in Glenn’s 12-0 win over South Bend Riley…..Noah Alford recorded three RBI on three hits and two doubles in Goshen’s 8-1 win over NorthWood…..Chase Bays recorded five RBI on one hit and a homer in Marian’s 17-1 win over Bishop Dwenger….Baylor Orcutt struck out 10 batters over five innings, allowing two earned runs in Bremen’s 13-2 win over NorthWood……Jimmy Fox threw a no-hitter in South Bend Clay’s 13-0 win over South Bend Washington…..Austin Wittrock and Troy Smith combined to throw a no-hitter in South Bend Riley’s 10-0 win over Bowman Academy…..Carter Gilbert recorded both of Northridge’s two RBI on a home run in its 2-0 win over Chesterton…..Deacon Dillenbeck recorded four RBI on three hits in Jimtown’s 13-1 win over West Noble….Colin Stephens recorded three RBI on three hits in Glenn’s 11-1 win over South Central….Darrian Gillespie recorded four RBI on a home run in Jimtown’s 12-1 win over NorthWood….Reece Greene struck out 11 batters, allowing only one hit in five innings in Bremen’s 11-0 win over Bethany Christian…..Jayce Lee recorded five RBI on two hits and a home run in South Bend Saint Joseph’s 17-1 win over South Bend Clay.