Jeeps best Pats in coaches reunion

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Former high school teammates Andy Fischer (left) and Luke Woolems (right) chat Friday before the game between Heritage Hills and Northeast Dubois, with Tucker Woolems, 9, standing next to his father. Woolems' Jeeps got the better of Fischer's Patriots, 14-7. Fischer graduated from Heritage Hills in 1998, and Woolems graduated from there in 1999. 

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

DUBOIS - They've known each other since way back when. From being around Chrisney's softball field as small children, to playing for Rockport Post 254, to winning a regional championship together - Andy Fischer and Luke Woolems have been through a lot together, and Friday was the latest meeting between the two of them coaching against each other.

Fischer's Heritage Hills squad traveled Friday to Northeast Dubois to take on the Woolems-led Jeeps. The Jeeps (1-0) got the best of the Patriots (0-1), 14-7, for their first win against them since 2008. It was also the first time Woolems got the better end of Fischer since both took over their respective programs, as the Pats got the better end of the Jeeps in 2018 and 2019. 

"I'm proud of our guys," Woolems said. "They did a nice job. Heritage Hills is a good program. So, being able to knock them off is special for us, but credit to our guys. They played a good game." 

Fischer graduated from Heritage Hills in 1998 and Woolems in 1999, and while they were each trying to beat the other, the memories came flowing back for both of them.

"Our dads (Brian Woolems and Allen Fischer) both played softball for Spencer County Beverage," Luke said. "We all just kind of grew up together following the softball guys around and being with our dads. There was a group of kids because our dads were all about the same age. So, there was a group of us that were together a lot.

"My mom (Dee Ann) still remembers - she said we'd be asleep in the car seat with dew on us because it'd be so late at night because they were still playing softball," he continued. "...Andy's just somebody that I've always known. I really couldn't go back and say, 'When did I meet him?' or anything like that. We've just known each other from the get-go."

The memories pre-high school came flowing back for Andy as well.

"We would be up at Chrisney's softball park, and we'd either be playing wiffle ball, or we'd have our big wheels and we'd be riding it down the hill - doing all kinds of stuff - playing on the monkey bars," Andy said. "We were together all the time all summer long."

That togetherness would later be fostered in trying to restore glory to Heritage Hills' baseball program. The Patriots won four sectional championships and a regional title in the 1980s, plus a sectional in 1992 before Luke and Andy got high school. However, they had their down times, too, such as going 7-16 in 1995.

Heritage Hills made it to the 1996 sectional championship when Andy was a sophomore, but the Pats dropped a 3-2 loss to Gibson Southern in the title game.

"They had had a stint of a lot of good players for a number of years in a row," Andy said of the Titans. "It was just a mentality there that they needed to do whatever they needed to in order to win."

Heritage Hills athletics had a lot to be proud of in 1996-97. The football squad came away with the first regional championship in program history, and the boys basketball team brought down the nets for the first time since 1989 with a sectional championship.

If success breeds success, Andy, Luke and the rest of the Pats wanted to keep that winning culture going on the baseball field.

"That senior class was one of the best classes that's ever come out of Heritage Hills as far as all three sports," Luke said. "You look at specific guys that contributed to that, I think they had good leadership, but they just had a certain quality to them, a certain competitiveness, that made them one very special class."

Both Luke and Andy had roles on the 1997 Heritage Hills baseball team. Andy was a key cog of the Pats' pitching staff with senior Beau Pund, while Luke joined varsity his sophomore year as an outfielder.

Andy hailed Luke for being a student of the game and very coachable back then.

"We talked about playing small ball, and he was in situations where he could put the ball in play and move runners around when we needed to," he said. "But defensively, he was pretty quick on his feet, but he also did a nice job before pitches were happening that he got himself in a good position to make plays."

The two future coaches helped Heritage Hills win the Pocket Athletic Conference championship with a 17-7 regular season record. Andy would go the distance with nine complete games, a 5-1 record and 2.14 ERA. Opposing batters couldn't get much off of him - as they whiffed 47 times against him, while only drawing five walks.

Yet, it was at the plate that Andy delivered one of the biggest moments of the season. The Pats had their opportunity for payback in the 1997 sectional championship when they took on the same Titans who had eliminated them in the same game one year prior. Andy stepped into the batter's box with the bases loaded, two outs, with Heritage Hills trailing, 4-3, in the sixth.

"I remember the first two pitches were balls," Andy said. "I went to a 2-0 count. So, I was looking for a fastball - I was just looking for a fastball to drive, and he threw a fastball - I didn't get all of it, but I got enough of it."

Two runs scored. Heritage Hills grabbed the lead and never looked back - downing the Titans, 9-4, to capture the sectional championship.

"Andy was a competitor," Luke said. "He certainly wasn't going to shy away from a big moment."

Heritage Hills wasn't finished with its revenge tour just yet. The Pats made it to the regional championship game after outlasting Evansville Central in 10 innings. There, they would see Vincennes Lincoln, who bounced them from the tournament in the basketball regional championship that year, but Andy and Luke got their payback by edging the Alices for a 4-3 win for just the second regional championship in program history, though they fell to Martinsville in semi-state, 5-1. 

Heritage Hills has built a culture with success across numerous sports. However, the Pats would not win another baseball sectional championship until 2011, and they haven't won one since.

"The competition in their sectional is very good," Luke said. "That's probably as much of it as anything. There's no way you can blame it on anything that Heritage Hills is doing. They're certainly doing everything right."

"Southern Indiana baseball's high quality," Andy said. "Especially in Class 3A baseball, there's a lot of really good programs. You throw your best pitchers, you can't live for the next game. You got to throw your best always, and you got to survive and move on. And sometimes, it takes a little luck. I always say, 'You got to be peaking at the right time, and you've got to have a little luck fall your way in order to win, and we just haven't had that lately."

Yet, that competitive spirit persists in both of them as they lead their respective programs now. Luke believes Andy is more fiery than he is, though he very much wants to win. Andy told the Herald that both of them coach very similarly as fundamental-oriented coaches. They might even have a little fun with each other when coaching against each other, too.

With this game behind them, Andy and Luke will be on their way with their teams for the rest of the season, as Heritage Hills is supposed to play Monday at South Knox, and Northeast Dubois Saturday at Clarksville, but they'll be sure to keep in touch, just like they always do.

"I'll tell him if he needs anything during the season, let me know, and he always does the same thing," Andy said. "We keep communicating throughout the season."

"We text every once in a while," Luke said. "If we have a common opponent, he might give me some insight. We lean on each other for scouting purposes, and we do that with our boys in third grade basketball. Both of our boys (Abner Fischer and Tucker Woolems) play third grade basketball. So, we have some common opponents in that as well, and he coaches his son's third grade team, and I coach my son's third grade team. We work together."




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