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LC ALL-STAR DYKEMA SPARKLES IN THE FIELD

Friday, July 8, 2011 • POSTED BY:  Jim Peters, Times Correspondent

Cody Dykema's glove might not be mightier than the bat, but it comes in a close second.

"People always say defense wins championships, but they don't stand behind it," Dykema said. "They look at the offensive powerhouses. Defense can win a lot of games. If you're solid back there, you can eliminate a lot of hits."

If anyone would know, it's Dykema, a gifted fielder who honed his skills in the Lake Central gym an hour before school with double-play partner Eddie Moldenauer. The Illinois-Chicago-bound shortstop went a stretch of 40 Indians games without making an error, finishing his senior season with a sparkling .991 fielding percentage.

"A lot of it came natural. I've been a shortstop all my life," Dykema said. "It also took a lot of hard work, a lot of repetition. Basically, (defense) was a strong point up until high school and it stayed with me. Confidence is a huge factor. If you feel like you can make every play, you more than likely will."

Coach Jeff Sandor couldn't measure the value of Dykema's play in L.C.'s season, which included a Duneland Athletic Conference title.

"All you can ask of kids is to make the routine plays, and he did that and then some," Sandor said. "His hands are phenomenal. His baseball sense is uncanny. He's one of those kids who just has the instincts to know where the ball's going to be, how to play a guy. He gets a great read and gets great jumps, like you talk about with outfielders. The kid's just fearless."

When the Indiana high school baseball record book is updated next season, Dykema's errorless streak will rank third in state history. Sandor doesn't know it for a fact, but hazards to guess the marks ahead of Dykema were not fashioned by shortstops.

"I knew I didn't have an error all year until the very end, but to be honest, I had no clue it was that long," Dykema said. "Looking back on it now, it's pretty amazing. I hate making errors, but I didn't really worry about it. I just put it all out there and did what I could."

Dykema's streak ended in L.C.'s final regular-season game against Downers Grove South. He charged in on a slow roller, but got his hand caught in his glove and threw the ball away.

"He's the best (shortstop) I've been around," Sandor said. "He hit in the three hole for two years. He worked his tail off and got better and better every year."

At UIC, Dykema is expected to compete for a starting spot right away. If he doesn't win the shortstop job, which he prefers, he's willing to slide over to third if it means getting on the field.

"Anywhere, any time," he said. "I'll do it."

Before joining the Flames, Dykema will play three more games as an Indian this weekend at the North-South All-Star series in Fort Wayne.

"It's exciting," he said. "I'm going to make a lot more friends and get to see all the great talent from around the entire state."