Nixon, Schott, Berger North All-Stars

Ron Haramia
Sports Writer

The games were abbreviated, but not the experience.
Plymouth High School’s Benji Nixon, John Glenn’s Robbie Berger and Culver Academy’s Hayden Schott were part of the North squad for the 44th annual Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North-South All-Star series played at Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs, this weekend. Thirteen former players from this series have played in the Major Leagues, Jeff Samardzija one of the most recent.
“It was one of the most fun baseball experiences that I’ve ever had in my life,” said Berger, who although limited to pinch-running duty due to an arm injury that will require surgery July 31, nevertheless relished the opportunity. “Just being part of a winning North team was awesome. Even being in the bullpen, it was so much fun. These were guys who really want to win and have fun doing so.”
After all of the weather delays/cancellations the spring baseball season had, it was fitting that Saturday’s doubleheader became a single four-inning contest due to rain. Sunday’s first game using wood bats was halted for rain, but finished with South on top, before a seven-inning second game completed just before another downpour. The North won two of the three games.
The long-running series is special in its own way, but Nixon made it even more memorable by getting permission to wear a retired jersey when player’s donned their high school uniforms in the final game of the three-game series.
“Wearing my grandpa’s retired jersey was a really big thing for me,” said Nixon, who wore the No. 4 of legendary Plymouth High School coach Bill Nixon. “The last couple of days have been a nice cap-off to my high school career. There is no way to describe it; definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Playing second base, Nixon teamed up with Penn shortstop Payton Kerr to turn an impressive double play during the North’s 8-0 win in Game 3.
“That’s probably the hardest I’ve thrown a ball in a couple weeks. I was feeling it after that one,” Nixon added. “It’s been a while since I’ve played second base, but I’ve played it before so I was used to it.”
Offensively, he added an RBI single and later scored on a wild pitch.
“I was getting some lip after getting walked twice (in the first game), like that’s my fault,” laughed Nixon. “I just told myself I wanted to get at least one hit this week. It turned out pretty well.”
As did the whole experience.
“Friday was a little weird just getting everybody’s names down, but by Sunday, we knew each other and now we’re pretty close,” he concluded.
In Game 1, the North scored six runs in the first inning – off Luke Albright from Class 4A champion Fishers High School — and led 8-4 when the game was called. Nixon, batting ninth, walked twice and scored once. Jay Miller of Plymouth was the second base umpire.
Game 2, an 8-4 South win, was played with wood bats and led to an interesting experience for Schott.
“I was hoping nothing would happen and the first swing, there it goes, flying off,” said the former Culver Academy outfielder,. “That was the first time I’d ever used that bat so I was going to tar it up, but lost track of time.”
Schott was part of another rarity in Game 3, when he was credited with stealing home. He was the lead runner in a first-and-third situation. The runner on first attempted to steal second, but the throw from the catcher did not go to second, instead going to third to try and nail an unsuspecting Schott.
“It was a total mistake on my part,” Schott said. “I went for the fake (throw to second base) and I turned back and he threw it (to third). I thought, ‘I have to go for it’ (and headed home). (While sliding), I gave a little nudge with my arm on the (catcher’s) glove and the next thing you know the ball is out. I’m looking at the ball. All right, touch home, and we’re good.”
Schott, who batted a whopping .565 for the Academy, reached initially on an RBI single up the middle. He will play at Cypress Junior College in California next year. Berger is headed to Lincoln Trail Junior College in Illinois, but will most likely have to sit out his freshman baseball season.
Nixon will matriculate to Indiana University, but does not plan to play baseball.