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Ethan Larason named Peru Tribune Baseball Player of the Year

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Maconaquah senior Ethan Larason was the catalyst for a major turnaround as the Braves went from 3-19-1 in 2017 to 16-11 in 2018 and earned him the nod as Peru Tribune Player of the year. Larason picked up a 4-1 record on the mound with a 1.47 ERA, hitting .413 with 31 hits, 34 RBIs, six doubles, three triples, four home runs, 18 runs scored, a slugging percentage of .733 and a OPS of 1.222 in 24 outings.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com


A year of discontent in 2017 for Maconaquah’s baseball team was followed by a surge towards the top of the TRC baseball standings in 2018.


At the forefront of the charge was senior Ethan Larason, who helped a team that went 3-19-1 a year ago become a challenge for the conference title with a 16-11 record in 2018.


Larason’s efforts across the season earned him the nod as the Peru Tribune Baseball Player of the Year.


After a 2-6 junior year where Larason had a 4.04 ERA, giving up 38 total runs and 25 earned runs, the senior put the clamps on opposing offenses, going 4-1 with a 1.47 ERA, giving up only 16 runs and nine total earned runs while striking out 62 batters and only walking 21.


The senior credited a change in philosophy from the coaching staff for the results.


“We worked hard this offseason,” Larason said. “Coach (Eric) Isenberg made a point to have us throw more bullpens and focus more on pitching.

"We had several routines he would take us through and it really showed as our pitching staff was a step ahead of most teams with his program. Our staff was very good with Cody (Koebler), Bryce (Ward), Kolson (Silcox) and countless other pitchers and we all credit coach Isenberg for the transformation.”


Larason’s bat also came to life after a disappointing 2017, hitting .413 on the season with 31 hits, 34 RBIs, 18 runs scored, six doubles, three triples and three home runs, leading to an on-base rate of .489, a slugging percentage of .733 and an on-base-plus-slugging rate of 1.222.


A more relaxed approach at the plate was important for the uptick in performance according to Larason.


“This year, when I stepped into the box, I let my mind go free,” Larason said. “In past years, I was so worried about hitting the ball hard or in a certain spot and this year, I said I just need to hit the ball, no matter where or how hard.


“Because of that, I started hitting more line drives and being more consistent at the plate. It was a surprise to me how well I was hitting at the plate early on and it was because I calmed down, focused on hitting and stopped trying to crush the ball.”


Maconaquah head coach Dustin Hays said it was not just the production on the field that made Larason an important part of the lineup.


“As a senior, players come in with a different attitude as it’s their last time to play high school baseball,” Hays said. “Ethan was a leader among the team, even among the seniors, and would correct things when needed.


“There are two ways you can talk to someone about things like that, either in a way that helps them or alienates them, and he was a person who got the attention of others in the right way.”


Larason was used in the pitching rotation as a freshman, picking up three wins and getting innings Hays said was important for the future.


“As a freshman, he mostly pitched for us,” Hays said. “Coach (Mike) Moore worked with him as a freshman as, with his physique, he came in throwing the ball with a high velocity, always a good thing for a varsity pitcher.”


Though nervous at the star, Larason said the starts then and over the next two seasons gave him a platform to excel on in 2018.


“My freshman year they put me out there in starts and I was almost peeing down my leg nervous,” Larason said. “That said, I was honored to have the opportunity to show everyone what I had, throwing against some really good teams.


“I was more comfortable as a sophomore and junior. Junior year was interesting as we didn’t have any seniors and we didn’t get a lot of wins but it built up experience so that this season, when I was on the mound, I had a confident team behind me because they were confident I could take care of things on the mound.”


The experiences from 2017 were not always pleasant according to Larason but they were necessary in order for the team to grow.


“Obviously, as a junior, there are many experiences we had and we learned so much from the losses,” Larason pointed out. “Those experiences helped us turn it around this year because the whole team wanted it bad.


“As soon as we came out at the beginning of the year, it was a completely different team from the year before as we had experience from playing all of those games last year. We came back focused and it helped us to sculpt the year we had.”


Larason started seven games on the mound for the Braves this year, which Hays attributed more to the depth that was built up during the offseason, but noted Larason’s outings were among the most important of the year.


“He only pitched 43 innings on the year but that only went to show how deep our pitching was this year as we had several guys who itched 20-30 innings,” Hays said. “It was helpful to have Ethan’s experience coming back as, when he stepped on the mound, he was already focused on what he had to do.


“The week we went 6-0 really changed our season and it started when Ethan threw an exceptional game against Peru. The guys saw what we had been working on was paying off and as the season went on, the team rallied behind him whenever he took to the mound.”


The winning streak helped Maconaquah get into the thick of the TRC baseball race, with Larason picking up wins over the Tigers, Tippecanoe Valley and Manchester before losing the de facto conference title game to Wabash.


Hays said the latter two games were signs of how far Larason had come as a pitcher, eating up innings to keep the team close.


“Manchester was a huge game for us, picking up a win after going down early and rallying back,” Hays said. “Ethan didn’t have his best stuff but he kept grinding and got the job done.


“We couldn’t ask much more of him in the Wabash game. He kept us in the game but we just couldn’t get the big hit and while it was a tough loss, it was a heck of a turnaround in the conference from the year before.”


Even if things weren’t always going well at the plate, Larason said he was able to keep his focus on the mound and not let a slump in one part of his game carry over to the next.


“I went into a pretty big slump late in the year and was starting to figure things out with my swing late in the season,” Larason said. “I told myself if I couldn’t do it at the plate, I needed to be able to take over on the mound and control what I could.


“I knew even if I missed someone else could get a hit in the next at-bat and to focus on what I was doing on the mound, keeping hitting and pitching separated in my mind.”


The game that summed up the season for Maconaquah was the sectional opener against Benton Central.


After shutting down the Bison for 6 2/3 innings, a series of events allowed Benton Central to take a 2-1 lead before an even more astonishing series of events allowed the Braves to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.


Larason said it was a surreal experience.


“I was speechless afterwards,” Larason said. “You never go into a game thinking that will happen but I’ll never forget the moment we got the walk-off and had a dogpile at home plate.


“In that moment, we got to celebrate as brothers and after the game, we were laughing all the way home, knowing we defeated a top-10 team in Class 3A. We knew we could do it going into the game and we got it done in an exciting way.”


Those same teammates were a group Larason enjoyed playing with from start to finish.


“This season, I couldn’t ask for a better team to compete with,” Larason said. “We were all in it together and it was amazing going out there with these guys.


“It was the most fun season I’ve had by far as we were like a family and the game brought us together. A lot of teams don’t get to learn that it’s not about the number of good players they had but the way they play together and looking at it that way, I can’t be more thankful for those around me.”


Though Larason was now a graduate of Maconaquah, Hays said his impact was one that, during his time as a Brave, was immeasurable.


“Stepping into big games as a freshman and getting his feet wet helped Ethan progress quickly but he continued to progress after that year,” Hays said. “While the wins weren’t there as a junior, he pitched exceptionally well, throwing several outstanding games.


“He kept us in games and he brought it every day whether it was a practice or a game. The kids on the team looked up to him as he was a good athlete in every sport, even those his own age, and he’s been a great role model for everyone at Maconaquah.”


Larason said he believed the team was still in good hands and was capable of continuing the success they found in 2018 going forward.


“We have countless guys out there that know what they’re doing and will be able to take leadership of the team,” Larason said. “I’m humbled to say I was a leader on the team but there was a lot of leadership from everyone that went out there to play.


“Different guys laid us through games and those that are returning already have quality experience under their belts. They’re also led by coach Hays, who was one of the best coaches I could ask for to be coached four years by.


“Playing under him, the guys will be getting more experience and are set to have a great season next year.”


Peru Tribune All-Miami County Baseball Team

POY: Ethan Larason (Maconaquah)

1B: Christian Gatliff (Peru)

2B: Kasey Comp (Peru)

SS: Daunte Majors (Peru)

3B: Blake Edwards (Peru)

OF: Hunter Hays (Maconaquah)

OF: Robert Cunningham (Peru)

OF: Braxton Gunter (North Miami)

P: Lucas McConahay (Peru)

C: Nathan Brimbury (Peru)

DH: Matt Stewart (North Miami)

Utility: Cody Koebler (Maconaquah)