Country Day shortstop Tyler Inge dazzles on diamond as he follows father’s footsteps

Detroit News

Detroit Country Day sophomore shortstop Tyler Inge doesn’t feel any pressure being the son of a former Major League Baseball All-Star, instead feeling blessed he had the opportunity to start his love for the game of baseball at an early age.

Inge recalls taking swings with his little bat at Comerica Park and slamming pitches over the fence while playing in the outfield with his father, former Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, more than a decade ago.

It was then that Inge’s love for the game began and has only grown with each passing day.

Inge is showing his talent at Country Day, showing his range on the field and his pop at the plate while also developing into a strong pitcher.

Inge entered this past week hitting .309 with two homers and a team-leading 29 RBIs to help Country Day to a 18-7 record. He was also 3-1 on the mound with a 1.90 ERA , limiting opponents to a .185 batting average, striking out 32 and walking eight in 21 innings of work.

“Tyler plays shortstop, and he’ll be the best I’ve ever coached when it’s all said and done, and I’ve been fortunate to coach some good ones,” said Steve Lepkowski, who is in his 20th year at Country Day, eighth as head coach. “He’s an extremely high-level shortstop, the best I’ve ever seen, and we’ve played some good teams, too.

“He’s still young at the plate, but as far as defense and on the mound he’s tough, really good on the mound. He has his father’s arm. He throws 88 on the mound and has a very high-level curveball that he can spot at any point. Tyler’s improvement from freshman to sophomore year, I don’t think I’ve seen it before. He is just a different kid and Brandon does an unbelievable job with him.

“He just works hard every day. He’s as humble as they come, and he just plays. He’s got a baseball IQ that is high level, and a lot of that is passed down from Brandon. You start to fast-forward two years from now, and then he gets to Michigan and after a couple of years there and he’s going to have a chance.”

Inge has silenced the bats of a couple of elite Division 1 programs, throwing a one-hitter against Grosse Pointe South, also shutting out Woodhaven 2-0 this season with a four-hitter.

“He can spot a curveball whenever he wants, I think against Woodhaven he might have had six or seven 2-0 curveballs and when you can do that and you’re mid to upper 80s, that’s pretty tough,” Lepkowski said. “He’s been a pleasant surprise on the mound, something we didn’t anticipate and when he’s on the mound he’s a bulldog.”

Comfortable at shortstop

Inge did get some innings in on the mound his freshman year, but now is part of Country Day’s 1-2 punch with 6-foot-4 senior Brandon Mann, who is a preferred walk-on at Michigan as a quarterback.

“My favorite position would have to be shortstop, I’ve played it all my life,” Inge said. “I started playing baseball ever since I’ve been able to walk almost, going to the field with my dad every morning, going to hit, playing whiffle ball.

“I remember my dad playing perfectly. I would go to his games since I was born. I remember going to the field with him one time and we went to the outfield and he would throw me some baseballs and I’d take like BP in the outfield, and I’d hit some home runs in the stands, it was a lot of fun.”

Inge has played travel ball since he was 8, playing shortstop and pitching as well.

“I’ve played shortstop and pitched my whole life, wasn’t really a primary pitcher but whenever my team would need a pitcher, I would always be glad to step in. Over the years I’ve been picking up new pitches and just getting information about it, so it’s grown on me a bit, I like it.”

Yes, this is Inge’s first year as a serious pitcher.

“This year has been my best year pitching-wise,” Inge said. “My curveball is my go-to other than the fastball. I’ve picked up a lot of velo over the summer going to 2SP (Sports Performance) a lot over the winter, really picked up a lot of arm strength, so coming into the season I definitely felt like I was going to be a strong pitcher this year, but definitely nothing to what I have been doing recently.”

Inge is now 6-foot and 165 pounds, feeling his strength is showing at the plate.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of success so far,” Inge said. “I’ve been doing a lot of mindset work, a lot of swing work, but mostly mindset, just working that outside pitch a lot, trying to stay for that one and adjust to anything else.”

Inge feels at home at shortstop.

“I definitely like how engaged I am, so I’m always talking, always trying to lift up my teammates, trying to remind everybody where to go,” he said. “I feel like I’m always involved in a play whether it’s a relay to third or second or home or I’m just covering a bag. It’s a position where I get to be involved with every pitch and every play.”

Inge is a big fan of Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, who left Cleveland for a mammoth 10-year, $341 million contract to join the Mets last season.

“I’ll watch Francisco Lindor, and I’ll go on YouTube and I’ll look him up and actually screen record videos of him and before each practice or game I’ll pre-watch each of his plays and how his footwork and how he just handles himself on the field, and I’ll try to recreate that and just have fun with it,” Inge said.

So, does Inge feel added pressure being the son of Brandon Inge?

“I feel there’s a bit of an advantage, not really pressure,” said Inge, whose father played 13 seasons in the majors, including 11-plus with the Tigers, from 2001-13. “I guess people could say you’re not as good as him, but I just try to stay with how I play the game. Sure, I look up to him and he’s my idol, but when I’m between those lines it’s just me playing my game.

“It’s a huge advantage to be his son because he’s played in the MLB, has the resources so he can help me with anything I’ve been struggling with on or off the field.”

Inge’s future set with Wolverines

Inge will be joining Michigan, along with a talented 2024 class which includes Grosse Pointe Liggett second baseman Reggie Sharpe, Liggett third baseman/pitcher Preston Barr and U-D Jesuit outfielder/first baseman Dylan Larkins.

Brandon Inge became a volunteer coach with the Wolverines last season.

“I think it’s great, Coach (Erik) Bakich and Coach (Nick) Schnabel are amazing and everything throughout my recruitment process was amazing,” Inge said. “They treated me so well, and my dad’s been coaching at Michigan, so I’ve also gotten the chance to meet them before I even committed. They just have awesome people there. It’s an awesome program, and the culture is amazing.”

Bakich is in his 10th year as Michigan head coach, guiding the Wolverines to the national championship series in 2019, losing to Vanderbilt.

“Coach Bakich is never negative, always positive towards his players, always trying to lift them up, not throw them down,” Inge said. “The one thing I love about him, is how he’s a lot with the mental side of the game where he talks about how you have to have a tough mentality. I’ve definitely picked that up from him.”

Inge feels Lepkowski is similar to Bakich in the way he supports his players.

“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Inge said of Lepkowski. “He’s a very good coach. He’s also like Coach Bakich where he’s never negative. He’s always picking you up after a strikeout or making sure that you know what you did wrong if you did something wrong.

“He also holds classroom meetings and I pick up a lot from those. He showed us a video one day of Kirk Gibson and he showed us how he’s in the box and he’s always attacking baseballs and he’s never just sitting there and watching balls go by, so I’ve picked up a lot from him.”

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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