UPDATED: Steimel signs with Evansville
One of the most successful pitchers in the history of the Sullivan High School baseball program will have the opportunity to continue his baseball career.
Right-hander Sam Steimel, who has a 18-4 record in his first three seasons with the Golden Arrows signs today with the University of Evansville.
“This is like a dream come true,” said Steimel, who has struck out 183 and walked 47 in his 146 innings of work for Sullivan. “I really dialed it down and knew that I wanted to play college baseball when I was in the sixth grade and I never looked back.”
Steimel said that outgoing Sullivan coach Matt McLaren is the main reason that he ended up at Evansville.
“Coach McLaren has been huge in my career,” said Steimel. “Because of him, I had the chance to play for the Indiana Bulls travel team.
“He was the main reason I am getting to go to Evansville. He let me know what colleges were interested in me and a helped me get a chance to play for the Bulls, which allowed me to get college exposure. He helped with sending videos of me pitching to coach (Wes) Carroll, who offered me a scholarship. Coach McLaren is just as important as anyone has been in this process.”
McLaren said that Steimel was on his way long before he came to coach at SHS.
“Sam made the decision to pursue a career in baseball a long time before I moved to Sullivan,” said McLaren. “I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to coach him.
“He works very hard throughout the year to grow his game and prepare for his next opportunity.”
For the first time in history, Sullivan has won at least 20 games in three consecutive seasons (2015-17).
“Sam was a vocal leader for our team, but more importantly he helped set the tone for the program by doing the right things all the time in practice, in the weight room, on game days, and off the field,” said McLaren.
Steimel, the son of Tony and Alison Steimel, had an immediate impact on the program. As a freshman, Sam was 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA. He struck out 42 and walked 14 in his 35.1 innings of work.
He worked the most important seven innings of that 2015 season when he tossed a perfect game in the sectional championship game against Linton at Sportland Field.
“Evan (Conner) ended up pitching in the semifinals against Eastern Greene,” said Sam. “Coach told me I would be pitching in the championship game. I look at Shane (Garner, catcher) and said, ‘Hell yeah.’
“I felt awesome going into the game.”
As Steimel breezed through the Linton lineup, he said he wasn’t aware he was pitching a perfect game.
“I think it was the sixth inning when it dawned on me that I had not pitched out of the stretch,” he said. “It never clicked that I was pitching a perfect game.”
Steimel said he got a lot of help from his friends.
“John Cox made a diving catch in right field before he made a diving catch to end the game,” said Steimel. “Kade (Plummer) made a diving stop between first and second. I can still see the ball in his palm.
“I was jumping up and down when he made the play. We were so amped up and confident. We knew it was over. Those were not the only great plays the guys made in the field.”
The sectional championship ended a 22-year drought between the last one in 1993.
“It seemed like we never came down to earth,” said Steimel. “After we dogpiled, teammates were saying, ‘You just threw a perfect game.’
“I said, ‘We just won the sectional.’ We rode the fire truck. It is something I will never forget.”
Steimel went 7-2 with a 1.34 ERA as a sophomore and then was 6-2 with a 1.17 in 2017. He struck out 66 in 48 innings pitched and had just 13 walks last season as the Golden Arrows won the Western Indiana Conference championship., the first in 18 seasons.
“That is always one of our goals and it felt great to finally accomplish it,” he said.
The last two seasons for the Golden Arrows ended prematurely as Northview defeated Sullivan in the sectional as Steimel was the hard-luck loser in each game.
“I think we outhit them when I was a sophomore, but they had timely hits,” said Steimel. “Last year, I was not as sharp. I had four walks and it seemed like 20.
“One ball was hit up the middle and never made it to Trevor (Magill, in center field) and scored two runs. Braden Tucker (Northview pitcher) was really dealing. He had everything working. It happens.”
Steimel said he remembers playing first base when he first started playing T-ball at age 5 or 6.
“One of my first memories was when Nathan Queen was playing at short and I was at first,” he said. “They counted as we made 11 straight outs between us.
“I started pitching when I was seven. I never had trouble throwing strikes and getting people out. My mechanics were not great, but I always had a good time.”
Steimel, who said he throws 85 mph, said he always threw the ball with his dad.
“Every day, we would throw the ball when he got home from work,” said Steimel. “We would long toss and hit a tennis ball.
“We played with a foam ball in the living room. After breaking some glass, I am not sure that was a good idea.
“We had a hitting screen in the garage.”
Steimel, who said their goals are to win sectional, regional, semi-state and state this year, said that Evansville is perfect.
“I am far enough away but close to home,” he said. “My parents can come watch me play.
“It is a big school, but not too big. I love the program and am looking forward to making the most of this opportunity. I would like to thank my parents and all of teammates and coaches who helped me get here.”
Contributed photo: Sullivan senior Tony Steimel is all smiles after he signed a letter-of-intent to play baseball at the University of Evansville on Thursday. He is surrounded in the front row by his parents Tony and Alison Steimel. Also pictured are Sullivan baseball coach Matt McLaren, SHS athletic director Otto Clements and Sullivan trainer Tobie Steele.