The Brebeuf Jesuit baseball team is hoping a family connection helps produce a state championship tonight.
The Braves (21-8) face Western (24-9) for the Class 3A title at 7:30 p.m. at Victory Field. Brebeuf's pitcher is senior Connor Hale. His younger brother Hunter is the team's sophomore catcher.
"We're an interesting group of seniors and sophomores," said coach Andy McClain, who started one junior, four seniors and five sophomores in Saturday's semistate win over Greensburg.
The Hales come from a catching family. Todd Hale, their father, caught for Murray State during his college days. Connor was a catcher too, before switching to the mound.
"I started pitcher workouts freshman year," said Connor, who will attend Notre Dame this fall. "Then when I was a sophomore, I started pitching some games."
Connor completed the conversion last season.
"He was too valuable on the mound to have him getting beat up behind the plate," McClain said.
Hunter became Brebeuf's catcher this year, and has called every pitch of each game.
"It's something that (pitching) coach (Emmitt) Carney and I believe in," said McClain. "He does a great job, and the game goes so much smoother and faster."
Connor praised his sibling's defensive work.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have apprehensions going into the season," he admitted. "But I've been pleasantly surprised."
Hunter also had misgivings, but he said Connor gave him plenty of advice.
"He showed me a lot of things to look for in batters," said Hunter, "and how to get ground balls and outs. He's still got that catcher mentality."
While Hunter was coming into his own behind the plate, Connor established himself as a top-grade hurler (7-1, 3.29 ERA, eight complete games).
Jon Richardson, who coaches Connor's summer travel team (Indiana Pony Express), said the 6-4, 175-pound right-hander "got some early looks" this year from big league scouts.
"He's a little raw, being a pitcher for just two years," said Richardson. "But after his junior year at Notre Dame, I fully expect to see him being drafted. He's one of those special players. His future is huge."
Hunter said Connor's command of his change-up has improved in postseason play.
"His fastball moves a lot, and it's pretty hard to hit," Hunter added. "And we've got his curveball going."
Connor said having Hunter as his battery mate has "been a lot of fun. It's actually the first season that we've played together as pitcher and catcher."
Today's game could be a milestone for the Hales, on several levels.
"Unless I can get Hunter into Notre Dame," said McClain, "this could be the last game they'll play together."
If it is, playing in a championship game at Victory Field "would be the best way to cap it off," Hunter said.
But when Connor leaves their Carmel home this autumn for South Bend, he's not sure Hunter will miss him.
"He's planning on replacing me with a dog," said Connor.
"Yeah," Hunter chimed in, without hesitation. "I was thinking about a beagle."
Class 3A title game
When: Today. Where: Victory Field, 501 W. Maryland St. Tickets: $9. Television: WTTV-4. Webcast: IHSAAtv.org. Class 3A: Western (24-9) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (21-8), 7:30 p.m. WESTERN Nickname: Panthers. Coach: Ty Calloway. Conference: Mid-Indiana. Enrollment: 822. Key Players: OF Marcus Pingleton (.385, 10 HRs, 22 RBIs), SS Adam Bolen (.375, five HRs, 25 RBIs), P Ronnie Smith (12-5, 2.41 ERA. 76 Ks, 752/3 innings). BREBEUF JESUIT Nickname: Braves. Coach: Andy McClain. Conference: Independent. Enrollment: 785. Key players: 1B/P Connor Hale (.433, six HRs, 37 RBIs, 7-1, 3.29 ERA, 89 Ks, 726 1/3 innings), 1B Nic Meyers (.352, nine HRs, 26 RBIs) LF Eric Petruzzi (.359, 13 2Bs, 19 RBIs), 3B Joey Perkins (.333, four HRs, 17 RBIs) 2B Jacob Wischmeyer (.361, two HRs, 23 RBIs).