High school baseball teams in South Bend prep for 2022 IHSAA regionals

SOUTH BEND — Most high school athletics teams have some unsung stars on the roster. Even South Bend Saint Joseph baseball.

Guys like Jayce Lee and Zach Stawski got the headlines during the Indians’ fifth consecutive sectional title run because of their walk-off homers and grand slams. But it is a trio of freshman — Joe Washburn, Brody Zielinski and Owen Balint — that Saint Joe coach John Smolinski said has raised his squad to the next level.

“Their growth has been huge for us,” Smolinski said at Tuesday’s team practice. “Now they are sophomores pretty much. They have gotten so much experience under their belt now and I don’t think they feel the pressure anymore.”

Washburn, Zielinski and Balint all played big roles in Saint Joe’s two sectional wins this weekend over Mishawaka Marian (8-7) and New Prairie (18-4).

More:South Bend Saint Joseph wins another sectional, now looks ahead to regional

Washburn, Saint Joe’s starting shortstop and leadoff hitter since the middle of the season, collected four hits and scored five runs between the two games.

St.  Joseph's Owen Balint bats in the top of the 2nd inning of the class 3A sectional championship Monday, May 30, 2022, at Clay High School.

Zielinski, the starting third basemen, added two hits, too and also made a couple of diving plays which saved some runs against the Cougars.

Balint, the starting catcher, added two hits and three RBI batting in the middle of Saint Joe’s lineup.

“It was a great experience, not just for me, but the other two freshmen,” Balint said. “Playing in that type of atmosphere will get us ready for when we are juniors and seniors.”

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