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OCHI TAKES THE REINS

Friday, June 3, 2011 • POSTED BY:  Hillary Smith

MERRILLVILLE | Tyler Ochi was just a sophomore with a little ability and an interesting last name when fall baseball rolled around in 2008.

He'd thrown some batting practice in the Andrean postseason as a freshman and remembers the juniors almost taking his head off with how hard they were hitting the ball.

If he was going to be noticed, he'd have to hit the ball that hard, too.

As a sophomore, he made sure the coaches remembered his name.

"We saw a kid who every game he plays, he hits the ball to the screws two times," Andrean coach Dave Pishkur said. "You remember that kid. His sophomore year, before the season started, he was just squaring up so many baseballs that, we said, he has a chance to hit for us."

He found his spot in the starting lineup as the designated hitter and played the entire postseason, the only sophomore on the card. Andrean won a state title. Last year, he was one of three returning players from the championship roster and, again, Andrean won a title, this time with Ochi at third base.

The senior has never lost a postseason game. He's the full-time third baseman and hits third in the 59ers batting order, where he held a 19-game hitting streak this season. He leads the team in multiple offensive categories, including hitting at .476.

"My goal was to come in and be our No. 3 hitter and after the first week I've accomplished that goal and hit in the three spot since the start of the season," said Ochi, who will take his talents to Benedictine University in Aurora in the fall. "I don't look at batting average, I don't look at how many runs I drive in per game, whenever I see an opportunity out there on the field, I try to capitalize on it as best I can."

"To be a good hitter, you have to be confident, have good eye-hand coordination, have a lot of heart and he has all of those things," Pishkur said. "I'm not saying he's a great athlete, but he's an awfully, awfully good hitter."

Andrean, ranked third in the state, will meet West Lafayette at noon Saturday in the Plymouth Regional, with the championship game at 7 p.m. The winner advances to the semistate, where the Niners have been every year since 2007.

Like the senior classes before him, Ochi said he hopes this team, of which he is the captain, helps to continue the traditions he has learned. The postseason success, he said, comes from the hard work that happens even in the fall.

"Hard work is definitely the thing you take from the seniors the past couple of years," Ochi said. "It's all about hard work in the offseason and hard work in season and once you get to the postseason it just gets harder and harder."