Ben McDaniel knew from the sound of the collision it wasn’t good news for two of his Columbus North baseball players.

Second basemanTyler Finke and center fielder Canaan Baum were chasing a pop fly during last year’s game at Cathedral when they collided with each other.

Baum, who was then a senior, was taken to an Indianapolis hospital, but was released that night and returned to action the next week. Finke wasn’t quite as fortunate.

Finke thought he had sustained only a concussion. But on the ride back to Columbus with his parents, he began vomiting blood, and they took him to the emergency room at Columbus Regional Health.

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Doctors discovered two fractures in Finke’s sinus cavity above and behind his right eye. Although he didn’t need surgery, he missed more than two weeks of school.

His sophomore baseball season appeared to be over.

“Initially, I didn’t think it was that bad,” McDaniel said. “After the hospital stay and the doctor visit the next day, and we found out the extent of Tyler’s injuries, we didn’t think there was a chance at all he’d be back to finish the season. He was in a great deal of pain for a good bit of time.”

But on May 27, less than four weeks after his injury, Finke went to the doctor and was cleared to return to action.

That night, Finke was back in the Bull Dogs lineup for their sectional opener against Shelbyville. True to form, he led off the game with a hit to spark North to a 12-1 victory.

“It was exhilarating,” Finke said. “You definitely felt a little bit of pressure, but you definitely felt the excitement from my team and our fans. After my injury and after initially hearing that I couldn’t finish the season last year, it really put into perspective how much baseball means to me and how much I love to play the game.”

Finke led the Bull Dogs with a .419 batting average as a freshman. He increased that to a team-best .426 last season.

This spring, Finke was hitting .491 a little more than a week ago. He dipped down around .400, but with a 3 for 5 performance in Saturday’s doubleheader against North Central, is at .408.

“I feel like I’m seeing it well,” Finke said. “My swing hasn’t been good as of late, but it’s getting better. I’ve always had the same approach — just hit the ball hard and put it in play somewhere.”

On the basepaths, Finke has broken North’s single-season record with 34 stolen bases. With 62 career steals, the junior is within reach of Devin Mann’s all-time record of 92.

Finke also leads the team with 26 runs scored.

“He’s just a tough out,” McDaniel said. “He has very good plate discipline. His speed helps him a lot. Even on balls he might slightly miss, he’s able to get on base via infield hit. He’s a bulldog in the box.”

And a Bull Dog in spirit. Prior to the season, Finke was voted captain, along with seniors Cooper Trinkle and Wade Rankin, by his teammates.

McDaniel said he thinks that speaks volumes for what Finke means to the North baseball program.

“He said himself that the injury put things in perspective, and Tyler is pretty much a no-nonsense type of kid, and he just loves that game and that rubs off on his peers on this team,” McDaniel said. “The sound of the collision kind of explains the extent of the injuries that Tyler had suffered, and when you put that all in perspective, it’s really pretty amazing that he was able to make it back for the end of the season last year.”

Finke, who played for the Indiana Outlaws travel team last summer, went to Snead State (Alabama) early in the fall to play in a doubleheader against the school’s team, which included his brother, Evan. After that, the Snead State coaches offered Tyler a scholarship, and he committed.

Evan, who is a sophomore at the junior college, is looking at a couple schools in Alabama and also IPFW to continue his baseball career.

“After hearing what great things Evan had to say about (Snead State), it seemed like a good fit,” Tyler said.

This week, Tyler will help lead the Bull Dogs into the Bloomington North Sectional. Columbus North (12-12) faces East Central at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the opener.

The winner will face Columbus East or Shelbyville at 6 p.m. Friday. The sectional championship is at 6 p.m. May 29.

“I think we have a good chance,” Tyler Finke said. “Our pitching staff definitely has the capability of getting us through these games, so if we scratch across four or five runs, that’s definitely enough to hold them.”

If you go

Bloomington North Sectional

Wednesday

6 p.m.: Columbus North vs. East Central

8 p.m.: Columbus East vs. Shelbyville

Friday

6 p.m.: Wednesday’s winners

8 p.m.: Bloomington North vs. Bloomington South

May 29

6 p.m.: Championship

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.