SHABBONA – Just a few months ago, Indian Creek senior first baseman/pitcher Ivan Harvell didn’t think he’d pitch this season.
He had been a pitcher since Little League, but the Indian Creek baseball coaches elected to leave him at first base during his junior season. Early in the season, he told coaches he wanted to pitch, so they let him start a few junior varsity games before he earned his first varsity start in April against Serena.
“I was ecstatic. It was a thrill just to get to pitch in a varsity game,” Harvell said. “I’ve always been a pitcher since I was young and I got away from it. … I talked to [the coaches] and they said, ‘We can get you in a couple of games, I suppose.’ ”
On Monday, just more than a month after his first start, Harvell allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings and struck out 11 in the Timberwolves’ 10-2 win over Paw Paw in a Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional quarterfinal. He leads the Timberwolves with four wins.
“I knew Ivan would be fine in this type of regional-atmosphere game,” coach Joe Piekarz said.
The Timberwolves will move on to play H-BR in a regional semifinal matchup at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Harvell’s improvement is only one of the reasons why Indian Creek (14-13) is a much different team than it was the past few times it played H-BR.
With five freshmen starting, the Timberwolves were in the midst of a 5-12 start when they lost twice to the Royals.
“We just had a young team,” junior Dane Fleming said. “We just didn’t have much experience with changes of speeds, and we faced some good teams with good pitchers.”
But the young Timberwolves rebounded to win eight straight before losing the final game of their regular season to Putnam County.
“A lot of it is confidence, and a lot of it is growing up and learning to play varsity baseball,” Piekarz said. “They’re learning to win games and they’re starting to play so much better than they were early in the season.”
That improvement was apparent in Monday’s win against Paw Paw (4-22)
The Timberwolves scored four runs with two outs, including three in the second inning, and three runners scored on sacrifice hits.
The Timberwolves scored in all six innings, thanks to RBIs from Drew Winterton, Josh Elliot, Robert Johnson, Tim Sommerfeld, Dillon Martenson and Fleming.
“It’s been a learning experience these last few years of learning how to win, how to do the little things,” Piekarz said. “We’ve had some ups and downs, but they’ve earned the right to play on Thursday in this game against Hinckley.”