Senior staff writer
Two Roncalli seniors destined to play collegiate baseball and a junior who set a national hitting record are eager for the new high school season to begin.
Senior Nick Schnell (University of Louisville recruit) and classmate Colten Panaranto (Michigan State) and national home run record holder Tommy Hansen talked last week about the upcoming season.
Hansen attained acclaim last year when becoming the first high school player to hit three consecutive grand slams in the same game. The historic game took place April 7 against Metamora Township (Ill.) in the second contest of a doubleheader in Louisville, Ky. He was the sixth to hit three grand slams in the same game, but no player had hit three in a row.
“It was insane,” Hansen recalled of the days after the record. “The video was on Twitter and it went crazy. People 3,000 miles away knew about it. It wound up being a lot of fun.”
Roncalli won the second game 12-1 as Hansen drove in all of the Rebels’ runs.
He was interviewed locally by newspapers, including The Southsider Voice, and TV reporters.
The product of Indiana Central and Edgewood little leagues said the pitches he saw last season changed dramatically. As a sophomore last year he opened with five home runs in his first six games as a varsity player.
“They (pitchers) avoided throwing good pitches,” Hansen said. “After that I saw a lot more curve balls and off-speed pitches and more outside pitches.”
Hansen wound up hitting .396 with 25 hits and 47 RBIs as the Rebels finished 18-10-1 and won their first back-to-back sectional titles since 1998-99. The 2016 state champions fell to undefeated and eventual 2017 state champion Cathedral in the Decatur Central regional.
Schnell, an outfielder and a pitcher, batted .471 with a slugging percentage of .853 and had a 4-1 record with a 1.65 ERA.
He was a key player on the ’16 state champion team and longs to return to Victory Field. Knowing that he will play collegiate ball allows him to enjoy his senior year even more.
“It makes me relax a little bit, knowing that my college choice is out of the way,” Schnell said. “I want to have fun with it and go out there and play baseball with my buds. And just like any other year, the goal is to win the state championship again.”
One of the top hitters in the state, Schnell was honored as the Marion County Player of the Year and named to the American Family Insurance All-USA Indy-area Super Team. He’s looking for another outstanding season at the plate.
“Having confidence is the biggest thing when you get up to the plate,” said Schnell. “Every time I step up there, I am confident that I’m in control and can get a hit in any situation.
“Pitchers were trying to throw around me last season, so I had a lot of walks. I was more aggressive as a freshman and sophomore. This year I know I must be patient, wait for my pitch and do what I can with it.”
He threw more than 30 innings last year as coach Aaron Krull utilized 14 players on the mound to develop depth.
“Everybody’s ready to get out there and play,” Panaranto. “I want to get back there (Victory Field).”
Along with most of the Rebels, Panaranto is bigger and stronger after offseason conditioning. “Lifting and running has increased my strength,” he said. “It has helped me with my velocity and movement of my pitches. My freshman year, I used a lot of arm, but I realized it would be better if I used my legs. I like to mix pitches, but I want to see if I can overpower them.”
The Rebels open their season at home Tuesday against Brebeuf Jesuit at 5:30 p.m.