Craig provides punch for Evansville Purple Aces

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tanner Craig has provided a productive bat for the University of Evansville baseball team since the 2018 season.
The righty swinger sports a batting average of .294 (128-of-435) with 18 home runs, 28 doubles, 76 runs batted in, 60 runs scored and an .859 OPS (.372 on-base percentage plus 487 slugging average) in 116 games.
In 2021, the 6-foot, 220-pound first baseman played in 54 contests (all starts) and hit .299 (60-of-201) with 12 homers, 14 doubles, 47 RBIs, 31 runs and a .929 OPS (.382/.547).
Thanks to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility when the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 season — one in which he was named Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week after slugging four homers in a season-openojvng series at Tennessee Tech — Craig is back for a fifth season with the Purple Aces in 2022.
What title best fits Craig as an offensive player?
“I would say I’m a power hitter,” says Craig, 22. “It’s role I’ve played at Evansville and other teams I’ve been on.”
Aces head coach Wes Carroll tabbed Craig as his regular No. 3 hole hitter in 2021.
“I just try to hit the ball hard every time,” says Craig. “I look for a pitch in the part of the (strike) zone I know I can hit it well and swing hard.”
While Craig has seen some exit velocity data, it’s not how he and other UE players often gauge their swings.
“With turf we can get on the field anytime we want,” says Craig of German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium. “Ball flight — that tells you a lot about your swing.
“We played one game on (home) turf in the COVID year (then 34 in 2021). We’re very lucky to have it. That’s for sure.”
Craig appreciates Carroll for the way he tailors his approach to each player.
“He really cares for all of us as individuals,” says Craig. “He takes the time to learn how to coach us individually. He knows the best way to get to people.”
Carroll can be firmer with Craig because he knows he can hand it. Another player may need to be cajoled.”
Fall practice began Aug. 30, about a week after the first day of class. Individual work is about to wrap up. That will be followed by team practices and scrimmages. While there has been nothing formal, players have been keeping track of which color teams wins most.
The Aces are also slated to play exhibition games Oct, 9 against Western Kentucky University and Oct. 23 against Wabash Valley College — both at Evansville.
Last spring, Craig earned an Accounting degree and is now working toward a Masters of Leadership. He expects to finish the 18-month course in December 2022.
This summer, Craig played for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. In 26 games, he hit .386 (34-of-88) with 10 homers, seven doubles, 36 RBIs and 19 runs for a team managed by Michael Keeran. The team went a league-best 41-18 during the regular season and lost to the Cape Catfish in the best-of-three championship series.
“It was a great experience,” says Craig. “It’s a beautiful stadium (the new-look Loeb Stadium).
“It was really fun, my time up there.”
Craig was born in Florence, Ky., and grew up in Scottsburg, Ind., where he played Coach Pitch at what is now Scott County Youth League. He played travel ball for the Smithville (Ind.) Gators, Mark Peters-coached Ironmen (13U to 17U) and Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks (18U).
He began attending schools in Austin, Ind., in sixth grade and graduate from Austin High School in 2017. Craig was a shortstop, third baseman and pitcher for Eagles coach Matt Bayes.
“He’s just a good coach,” says Craig of Bayes. “He’s really good at teaching a lot of aspects of the game.”
One of Craig’s teammates was right-handed pitcher Drew Buhr (Austin Class of 2019), who went to Saint Louis University then transferred to Bellarmine University.
Tanner, who turns 23 in December, is the youngest of Samtec production supervisor Todd and Morgan Foods senior buyer Jennifer Craig.
“They’ve been a huge support for me since I’ve started,” says Tanner of his parents. “They’ve always found ways to get me whatever I need. I can count on one hand the number of games my dad has missed in my college career.
“It’s always nice to see a familiar face in the stands.”
Morgan Dillard, Tanner’s older sister lives in Indianapolis and is in management with CVS Health. She is married with a daughter.
Quintin Craig, Tanner’s older brother, is a project manager of Crown Castle and lives in Louisville with his wife and daughter.
Peyton Craig, Tanner’s younger brother, is a Scottsburg freshman involved in Future Farmers of America.

Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)
Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)
Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)
Tanner Craig (University of Evansville Photo)

Righty Ledbetter’s route leads to Indiana

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Collin Ledbetter was born and raised in Arizona, but the Midwest has also been pretty good to him as he has pursued higher levels of education and baseball.
In the summer of 2021, the right-handed pitcher experienced his first opportunity to play for pay in the United Shores Professional Baseball League.
The 25-year-old arrived this week back in his adopted hometown of Indianapolis where he will plot his future.
Ledbetter is a 2015 graduate of Northwest Christian School in Phoenix. He arrived at the same time as head baseball coach and former Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Rod Bair and was with the varsity for four years.
“We’re still great friends until this day,” says Ledbetter of Bair. “He had a great impact on me as a player and on my growth as a man as well.”
Starting out his college baseball journey in the Valley of the Sun, Ledbetter joined the Dave Grant-coached Glendale (Ariz.) Community College team and pitched for the Gauchos in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“(Glendale) has a great reputation — not only in Arizona — but around the country,” says Ledbetter. “I remember being intimidated going into the program. Coach Grant was a real encourager.
“He always gave guys a chance to prove themselves and was always there for help when you needed it.”
Ledbetter was recruited out of high school by Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. David Mitroff was the Golden Eagles head coach at the time. In Ledbetter’s second year at Glendale, Mitroff moved to Phoenix and became a reference for the pitcher’s next move.
Mitroff connected Ledbetter with coaching friend Rich Benjamin at Indiana Wesleyan University. After visiting the IWU campus in Marion, the player decided that it was the best fit for him and came to the Midwest.
“(Indiana Wesleyan) was an up-and-coming NAIA program looking to add pitching depth,” says Ledbetter. “It was the right place for me. It is Christian and a private school. My faith is very important to me.
“Coach Benjamin focused on creating an atmosphere where Jesus was first before baseball. Obviously, he wanted to win. He wanted us to use our talent to the best of our ability to God’s glory.”
Kris Holtzleiter was the Indiana Wesleyan pitching coach during Ledbetter’s time with the Wildcats.
“He’s one of the best encouragers I know,” says Ledbetter of Holtzleiter. “There’s nobody that doesn’t like him. He focuses on the positives, never the negatives.
“As someone who is hard on myself and expects a lot out of myself, I appreciated that.”
Ledbetter herniated a disc in his back that required surgery and redshirted in 2018 – his junior year — after playing in just six games.
At about the same time, Collin’s parents Paul and Deb and younger siblings Lauren and Carson moved from Arizona to Indianapolis to be closer to extended family.
Collin pitched for IWU — getting into eight games (five in relief) with a 0-2 record, 8.47 earned run average, 17 strikeouts and 10 walks in 17 innings – and received a bachelors degree in Sports Management in 2019.
Wishing to pursue a Masters in Sport Management on an accelerated timeline with cost in mind, Ledbetter opted to transfer to Campbellsville (Ky.) University and used his redshirt senior season with the NAIA Tigers in 2020.
“(Head coach Beauford Sanders and pitching coach Brett Neffendorf) loved to win more than anyone I’ve ever played for,” says Ledbetter, who pitched in three games and 2 2/3 innings with a 0.00 ERA during the truncated 2020 campaign. “That’s a great thing. That was important to me.”
Ledbetter said the coaches were no-nonsense and helped players focus on short-term and long-term goals.
After his time at Campbellsville was there more baseball for Ledbetter?
He sure hoped so.
“The goal was always to play professional baseball and keep playing as long as I can,” says Ledbetter.
But there was plenty of uncertainty. Minor League Baseball canceled its 2020 season and many independent leagues followed suit.
Ledbetter kept himself in shape and began training with Jay Lehr at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind.
“Jay really took me under his wing,” says Ledbetter, who had the chance to play catch with former big league pitcher Drew Storen and central Indiana minor leaguers like Parker Dunshee and Nolan Watson. “I saw a lot of development as a pitcher.
“I started showing signs of improvement and that I had the stuff to play at the next level.”
Ledbetter reached out to teams and leagues, including the four-team, Utica, Mich.-based USPBL (Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers, Utica Unicorns and Westside Woolly Mammoths).
It was only a matter of hours when director of operations Jason Orenduff replied to his email and he soon found himself headed to Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, about 25 miles north of Detroit.
Assigned to the Woolly Mammoths, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder Ledbetter was a relief pitcher for a team co-managed by John Dombrowski and Taylor Grzelakowski.
“They definitely had our best interests in mind at all times,” says Ledbetter. “It was a fun atmosphere at the field every day.”
USPBL games were played Thursday through Sunday. There was no practice on Mondays and it was an optional weight room day. There were practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“We were split into position groups,” says Ledbetter. “Pitchers went through an extensive stretching routine. As a reliever I had to be ready at all times. Tuesday was usually my bullpen days with 20-25 pitches and weights. Wednesdays I’d play catch and work on off-speed grips from 60 feet.”
Ledbetter said gameday routines were based on the individual needs of each player. Some recovered faster than others.
“We would hold each other accountable,” says Ledbetter, who made 21 mound appearances (20 in relief) with a 2-4 mark, three saves, 2.78 ERA, 23 K’s and 22 walks in 27 2/3 innings.
While Ledbetter has received an invitation to return to the USPBL in 2022, the league does have a two-year cap.
“Their goal is to push guys out of their as quickly as they can,” says Ledbetter. “They want everybody to be signed my an affiliated team.
“They saw a lot of growth in me as a player. They want the best for everyone. They’ve encouraged me to look at my other options.”
Taking a break to re-set physically and mentally, Ledbetter does not plan to begin throwing again for three or four weeks.
Meanwhile he will pursue a part-time job and may give private lessons.
He will also take the time to enjoy family. Paul Ledbetter is in the insurance business. Deb Ledbetter is a former flight attendant. Lauren Ledbetter (21) is a radiology technician. Carson Ledbetter (19) is attending trade school to become an electrician.
Collin is not related to twins Ryan and David Ledbetter, but he has formed a relationship with the former pitchers at Heritage Christian High School, Cedarville (Ohio) University and the Texas Rangers organization.
Ryan Ledbetter works for a company that has done business with Paul Ledbetter’s firm. Over time, Collin got to know both Ryan and David.
“We hit it off,” says Collin. “We’ve kept in-touch ever since.”

Collin Ledbetter (USPBL Photo)
Collin Ledbetter (United Shores Professional Baseball League Photo)
Collin Ledbetter (United Shores Professional Baseball League Photo)

Wilkins wants ‘selfless’ players at Ivy Tech Northeast

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It’s a team-first concept that Connor Wilkins is emphasizing as the new head baseball coach at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Ind.
In June, Wilkins took over the Titans program started by Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Lance Hershberger.
“Be a selfless player and put your team ahead yourself,” says Wilkins, who turns 29 in October. “It’s a team approach. It’s never individual goals. Are you willing to do what is necessary for your team to succeed even if you fail?”
Wilkins has this in mind when looking for players to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II program.
“We are very strict about how we recruit,” says Wilkins. “We see how they interact with their parents and their teammates. We coach the entire person. The results on the ball field take care of themselves.”
With games and practices at Shoaff Park, Ivy Tech is currently engaged in fall ball. They have had six scrimmages and could wind up having as many as 28 — most of them on the road at such four-year schools as the University of Northwestern Ohio, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University.
The Titans went 1-0-1 in the recent Puma JUCO Classic — a Prep Baseball Report showcase at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
There are nearly 40 players honing fundamentals and getting down the details of Ivy Tech’s offensive and defensive systems.
“We start working on things now so that come spring time their mechanics and bodies are locked in,” says Wilkins, who is working toward a Masters in Exercise Science and Wellness with a concentration in Fitness and Performance through Liberty University.
Wilkins’ assistant coaches are Scott Bickel, Drew Buffenbarger, Javier DeJesus and Mark Flueckiger. Buffenbarger was Ivy Tech’s first baseball captain. DeJesus, who played for the Fort Wayne Wizards, is the Titans pitching coach. Flueckiger, who played at Huntington College (now Huntington University), has high school and college coaching experience.
A 2011 graduate of Concordia Lutheran High School, catcher Wilkins played for Steve Kleinschmidt as Cadets freshman and his last three seasons for Hershberger.
Wilkins went to Rick Smith-coached NJCAA member Jackson (Mich.) College then transferred to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, where an L5 (fifth Lumbar Vertabra) injury on top of a preexisting back issue ended his playing days in the fall of 2013.
His original career path was to follow grandfather Harry Wallace’s footsteps and become a chiropractor before he got the teaching and coaching bug. Wallace (who died in 2006) practiced for 60 years around Ligonier and Fort Wayne.
Wilkins transferred from Indiana Tech to Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and changed his major to Secondary Education through Indiana University.
In the spring of 2014, he was on the baseball staff of Fort Wayne Northrop High School head coach Matt Brumbaugh.
Before becoming head coach and an advisor at Ivy Tech, Wilkinson spent three years at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, where he taught History, Health Sciences and Strength & Conditioning.
Connor is the youngest of Dan and Beth Wilkins’ four children after Danielle Molter (36), Matthew Wilkins (34) and Brianna Kompara (32). Dan Wilkins is a retired IT specialist at GTE (now Verizon) and Beth Wilkins is in customer service at Parkview Hospital Randallia.
Connor and wife Alana will celebrate three years of marriage in October. Alana Wilkins is a Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School graduate and an insurance underwriter. The couple have a daughter — Rey (2).

The Wilkins family (from left): Rey, Alana and Connor.
The Wilkins family — Matt, Alana and little Rey.

Former Indiana University player McConnell leading baseball program at Barr-Reeve

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A former Indiana University baseball player is sharing his experience and knowledge as head coach at Barr-Reeve Middle/High School in the tiny Daviess County town of Montgomery.
Trevor McConnell, who graduated from Bloomington (Ind.) High School South in 2005 and earned his IU degree in December 2008, enjoyed his first on-field season with Barr-Reeve in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic took away 2020. He was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Joe Rademacher during the 2019 season.
Before Barr-Reeve, McConnell spent five seasons as an assistant to Bloomington South head coach Phil Kluesner (2014-18) and five as head coach and athletic director at Eastern Greene (2009-13).
A center fielder in high school, McConnell played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Grier Werner at Bloomington South and was recruited to play at IU by Bob Morgan.
“(Werner) was an old-school guy,” says McConnell. “He had that football mentality. He wanted physical and mental toughness from his teams and pushed us to take on that mentality because baseball is a game of failure.”
By the time McConnell joined the Hoosiers, Tracy Smith was head coach. He saw action in 65 games from 2006-08 and counted future big leaguer Josh Phegley as a teammate. Michael Earley went on to be a college coach (he’s now at Texas A&M).
“I learned a ton from Coach Smith in my time around the IU program,” says McConnell, who picked up pointers in practice planning, strategy and all facets of running a baseball team. “(Werner and Smith) are responsible for molding my coaching mindset more than anybody.”
McConnell sustained a career-ending arm injury and served as a volunteer assistant to Smith in the fall of 2008.
By then, McConnell saw his path as a teacher and coach and took the job the Eastern Greene positions at 23.
McConnell played summer ball for Kluesner with the Bloomington Wizards and accepted an invitation to coach with him.
“He welcomed me with open arms,” says McConnell of Kluesner. “He’s one of my best friends.”
At Barr-Reeve, McConnell teaches junior high school education and has a coaching staff that features pitching coach Rademacher, varsity assistant/infield coach Nathan Lester and head junior varsity coach Joe Cummings. All three have been head coaches at the high school level — Rademacher in two stints at Barr-Reeve, Lester at Barr-Reeve and Cummings at Pike Central.
There’s also JV assistant Ryan Graber, who played for Rademacher and Lester, former Vincennes Lincoln and University of Southern Indiana national championship player Craig Heinz, Beau Sluder, Trevor Yoder and Kraig Knepp. Chris Winkler runs Barr-Reeve’s junior high baseball program (Grades 7 and 8).
“I appreciate having experienced guys with me in the dugout,” says McConnell, who works with Vikings hitters and outfielders. “I have no ego. Joe Rademacher has been a good mentor for me. He’s been super gracious.
“He told me has still has a fire for the game and would like to be around if you want me.”
The Vikings play on Joe Rademacher Field. An old agriculture building was recently converted into a hitting/training facility for Barr-Reeve baseball and softball.
“We have four full-length (batting) cages,” says McConnell. “We are spoiled.”
A T-ball league is hosted by Barr-Reeve. Coach Pitch leagues start at Chuck Harmon Little League in nearby Washington, Ind.
The Viking Baseball Club sponsors teams of local students from second grade through 12U.
“They play together as a group with ‘Barr Reeve’ across their chest,” says McConnell, who attends and runs some VBC practices in the winter to show players the way he does it at the high school. A three-week fall camp for Grades 2-6 ran by McConnell and his assistants and players just concluded.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. Starting after Labor Day, McConnell has been leading close to 20 baseball players two days a week. Those practices are on Mondays and Wednesdays and many also participate in basketball activities with Josh Thompson on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thompson guided Barr-Reeve to an IHSAA Class 1A state championship in 2020-21 and a state runner-up finished in 2018-19.
“I like the fact we can instruct and be more hands-on with our players,” says McConnell of the current off-season set-up. “There’s less quantity but the quality is a lot better.
“We can coach them up.”
Barr-Reeve (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Blue Chip Conference (with Loogootee, North Knox, Northeast Dubois, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial). In recent years, Washington Catholic has not fielded a baseball team.
In 2001, the Vikings were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Loogootee, North Daviess (host site), Shoals and Vincennes Rivet. Barr-Reeve has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2019 — Rademacher’s last season as head coach. A senior on that ’19 team — Gage Wilson — went on to Vincennes (Ind.) University for baseball.
The youngest child of former college football coach Bob McConnell and wife Barbara, Trevor was born in Amherst, Mass., when his father was on the staff at the University of Massachusetts.
About the time Trevor went into kindergarten, his family (including older brother Ryan) had moved to Nashville with Bob McConnell joining the football staff at Vanderbilt University.
From 1995-2001, the McConnells were in Baton Rouge, La., and Bob was coaching at Lousiana State University.
Trevor McConnell’s freshmen baseball season was spent as a varsity role player at Parkview Baptist High School, where Eagles head coach and Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee M.L. Woodruff was on the way to one of his 11 state championships. His 27-season record was 603-163-2.
“I learned a lot of fundamentals,” says McConnell of Woodruff. “He was super-organized and super-efficient.”
The McConnells wound up in Bloomington when Bob was hired by Hoosiers head football coach Gerry DiNardo, who also coached at Vandy and LSU.
After years of the gypsy lifestyle of a college football coach, Bob McConnell went into financial services and retired last fall. Barbara McConnell is a Muncie, Ind., native. Ryan McConnell (38) resides in Baton Rouge.
Trevor (35) and wife Jessica both went to Bloomington South and began dating at IU. They have been married since 2009. The couple have two children — second grader Nolan (who turns 8 in October) and kindergartener Lauren (5).

The McConnells (from left): Jessica, Trevor, Nolan and Lauren.
The McConnells (clockwise from upper left): Trevor, Jessica, Nolan and Lauren.
Trevor (left) and Ryan McConnell.
Trevor McConnell (30).
Trevor McConnell directs traffic.
Trevor McConnell swings the fungo.

New Richmond head coach Brankle combining Old School, New School

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Brankle is a familiar face in a different place on the Wayne County, Ind., baseball scene.
Brankle pitched at Earlham College and for the Richmond RiverRats and was head coach for the Richmond Jazz and Cambridge City Lincoln Middle/High School.
In July, the 28-year-old became head coach at Richmond High School.
With the Red Devils, Brankle is establishing a culture where Old School meets New School.
“I’m going to use a lot of the Old School strategies, but try to do it with a modern approach,” says Brankle. “That’s what our players have grown up with.
“We’re going to be disciplined in how we handle every moment of our day. I’m high on grades. We expect to miss zero assignments and have zero F’s. We’ll be 10 minutes early everywhere we go, including school. We’ll be dressed properly with shirts tucked in and hats forward.
“I know there’s a lot more to this life than baseball I’m going to try to teach them skills in baseball that will help them in those situations.”
Brankle has learned coaches he played for and applied it to his coaching style.
“I’ve taken the best of all of those and found a middle ground,” says Swinson.
Steve Swinson was his coach with the Kokomo (Ind.) Longhorns travel ball team.
“He never yelled,” says Brankle of Swinson. “He built a relationship with you that you respected.
“My high school coaches were more demanding, but also understood the New School mentality.”
Brankle played three years for Jeremy Luna and Brent Owens as a senior at Taylor High School in Kokomo.
(Luna) was hard-nosed — kind of a football style — and was upbeat all the time,” says Brankle, who played shortstop and third base when he was not pitching for the Titans. “(Owens) was even-keeled most of the time.”
At Earlham, Brankle’s head coach was Steve Sakosits.
“Coach was full of energy all the time — most of the time it was positive,” says Brankle of Sakosits. “He has one heckuva of a drive in him and it definitely leaks out to his players.”
Old School in his approach, Coach Sak’s Quakers were expected to be clean-shaven with short hair cuts.
At EC, Brankle was named Newcomer of the Year (2012), Pitcher of the Year (2013) and earned the All-Heartland Collegiate Conference Sportsmanship Award (2013), Captains Award (2015) and George Van Dyke Outstanding Athlete Award (2015). At the time of graduation, he was No. 1 in all-time strikeouts, No. 2 in career saves and innings and No. 3 in career mound appearances.
Brankle played for the RiverRats in the summers of 2013 and 2014. After graduating in 2015 with a Fine Arts degree, he played independent professional baseball with the Lake Erie Crushers.
He was the head coach for the Jazz in the summer of 2016 and assisted Patrick Flanagan at Eaton (Ohio) High School in the springs of 2016 and 2017.
Brankle was head coach at Cambridge City 2018-21. He taught at Richmond Community School’s Test Intermediate School for 2 1/2 years before Cambridge City and is now a Special Education teacher at Richmond’s Dennis Middle School.
In May 2021, Brankle completed a Masters in Education from Indiana University East and is now working on a Masters in Educational Leadership from American College of Education.
Richmond (enrollment around 1,375) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon and Muncie Central).
The NCC is split into two divisions with Richmond in the East.
In 2021, the Red Devils were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central and Pendleton Heights (2021 host). Richmond has won 29 sectional titles — the last in 2011.
Richmond plays home games on John Cate Field at Don McBride Stadium.
“The history is the best part,” says Brankle of a park built in the 1930s that has seen Bob Feller, Satchel Paige and many more diamond legends play there. “We don’t talk about it enough.
“Some of the kids don’t understand the significance.”

Matt and wife of seven years, Kelsey Brankle, have three children — daughters Amillia (5) and Abigail (3) and son Broden (1 1/2).

Matt Brankle (Richmond High School Photo)
The Brankle family (from left): Amillia, Abigail, Broden, Kelsey and Matt.
The Brankle family (from left): First row — Amillia and Abigail; Back row — Broden, Matt and Kelsey.

Smith makes throwing strikes a priority for ’22 Edinburgh Lancers

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dennis Smith has been head baseball coach at Edinburgh (Ind.) High School since the 2019.
He already knows a point of emphasis for 2022.
“Pitching,” says Smith. “Last year we won one game. In 17 gams, we had 148 walks.
“Throwing strikes will be crucial this (coming) year.”
Three pitchers — seniors Ian Buchanan and Riley Palmer and sophomore Gabe Bennett — return. Senior Travis Jones and junior Max Blanford are also expected to get a turn on the mound.
The 2021-22 school year is the first where Edinburgh athletes are allowed to participate in two sports during the game season. Smith says Blanford will split his time between golf and baseball.
Smith, who teaches eighth grade math at Edinburgh, was a Lancers assistant on the staff of Cole Zook in 2013-14 and helped Jason Burke one season prior to taking over the program.
A 2003 Edinburgh graduate, middle infielder Smith played for head coach Todd Tatlock as a senior and was a teammate of current Southwestern of Shelbyville coach Chris Ingels (Edinburgh Class of 2002).
“I still pick his brain,” says Smith of Tatlock, an Edinburgh alum who was an All-American at Indiana State University. “I still call him or get with him when I can.”
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. Smith says Edinburgh does not plan to start baseball activities until January.
“I can’t (practice in the fall),” says Smith, who works at a school with an enrollment around 235 and plenty of baseball players involved in fall sports. “We’ve got to share your kids as much as possible.”
Smith says he expects a few players to find the time to play in a Sunday fall baseball league in Columbus.
A feeder for the high school program is the Edinburgh Park and Recreation/Babe Ruth League.
Edinburgh is a member of the Mid-Hoosier Conference (with Hauser, Morristown, North Decatur, South Decatur, Southwestern of Shelbyville and Waldron).
In 2021, the Lancers were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown, Southwestern of Shelbyville and Waldron. Edinburgh has won four sectional titles — the last in 2017.
Lancer Field at Steve Hollenbeck Sports Complex is the home diamond for Edinburgh baseball.
Plans call for a new mound to be installed next week.
“We hope to put in four new loads of dirt in the infield,” says Smith.
Chris Hoffman and Coltan Henderson are assistant coaches. Smith says another may be added to the staff.
Dennis and wife Hannah have three children — daughters Reese (9) and Reagan (6) and son Ryan (who turns 2 in November).
When he’s not teaching or coaching, Dennis likes to compete in bass fishing tournaments.

Dennis Smith and the Edinburgh (Ind.) High School Lancers.
The Smith family (clockwise from upper left): Hannah, Ryan, Dennis, Reese and Reagan.

Vosburgh guiding storied Pendleton Heights program

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Vosburgh is now the man in charge of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School baseball and he considers it a privilege.
Vosburgh enters his 11th year in the program in 2022. He has been Arabians head coach since before the 2020 season that was canceled because of COVID-19.
After graduating from Purdue University with a Social Studies Education degree in 2011 and taking a teaching job at Pendleton Heights Middle School, Vosburgh reached out to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and longtime PH head baseball coach Bill Stoudt.
“He told me to come on out and gave me all the opportunity in the world to be part of something special at Pendleton Heights,” says Vosburgh, a 2006 graduate of Tri-County Junior-Senior High School in White County town of Wolcott, Ind. “I wanted his blessing more than anything else. (Coach Stoudt) is still very much a part of the program. He cares more about the program than anybody else.”
Vosburgh, who was a junior varsity assistant in 2012, quickly saw Stoudt’s love for the game and his players. The school corporation returned the love by naming the place where the Arabians’ diamond Bill Stoudt Field.
From 2013-19, Vosburgh was head JV coach on the staff of Travis Keesling. He stepped away to watch his children in their sports and activities, but is still involved with the baseball program at his alma mater.
“He understands family priorities,” says Vosburgh of Keesling. “He told me, ‘I understand the rigors of being the head coach in this program. I’ll come out and mow (so you can spend time with family.
“People have no idea how hard he worked for the program. He did so many things behind the scenes.”
Vosburgh and wife of eight years, Claire, have three kids — kindergartener Elizabeth (5), pre-K student Evelyn (4) and David (2).
Matt Vosburgh is in his second year as eLearning specialist for South Madison Community School Corporation. He started at Purdue as a History major with a Pre-Law minor. A summer spent teaching English in rural Thailand ignited a passion for education and he changed his path.
“It opened my eyes,” says Vosburgh.
Right now his baseball vision has been focused on athletes participating in fall workouts. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. The Arabians have been doing baseball activities two days a week and speed and agility work a third day.
“We’ve had good numbers so far,” says Vosburgh. “We don’t have a lot of fall athletes, but are getting 24 to 26. We expect that number to double at minimum in the spring.”
Beginning Sept. 9, Thursdays will be for a two-hour Green-White game with Tuesdays being for practice and another for speed and agility. After the Limited Contact Period ends, conditioning work will continue.
Vosburgh’s coaching staff includes first base/infield coach Rene Casas, pitching coach Brad Schnepp, JV coach Ryan Jones, Freshmen coach Eric Pierzchala plus Austin Price and Shane Cox.
Pendleton Heights (enrollment around 1,430) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Shelbyville and Yorktown).
In 2021, the Arabians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, Muncie Central and Richmond. Pendleton Heights has won 17 sectional crowns — the last in 2018.
Pendleton Junior Baseball — with Todd Miller as president — helps prepare future PHHS players as does the Indiana Arabians travel team and other travel teams in the community.
“It’s a such a huge asset,” says Vosburgh. “Those people work really, really hard.
“Baseball is such an important part of Pendleton. People take a lot of pride in that.”
While no current Pendleton Heights players have made college baseball commitments, there are several recent graduates who have taken that route, including right-handed pitcher Chayce McDermott (2017 PHHS graduate who played at Ball State University and was selected in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Houston Astros).
There’s also Arturo Casas (Manchester University), Rene Casas Jr. (Anderson University), Mitchell Cobb (Manchester University), Corbin Cox (Heartland Community College and University of Indianapolis), Evan Douglas (Ivy Tech Northeast), Wyatt Douglas (Ivy Tech Northeast and Taylor University), Kamden Earley (Wabash College), Jake Harris (Danville Area Community College), Philip Lawson (Anderson University), Maverik Mollemkopf (Manchester University), Ben Richards (Texas Post Grad), Eston Stull (Indiana University Kokomo and Southeastern University), Walker Stull (Anderson University), Matt Vetor (Hanover College) and C.J. Williams (Manchester University).
Vosburgh played two varsity season for coach Jeff LeBeau at Tri-County.
“He took as much pride in the field as anybody and instilled a work ethic and discipline,” says Vosburgh of LeBeau. “We had high standards and still had fun while we were playing.”

Matt Vosburgh (Cam Pippin Photography).

Earley keeps busy on diamond, court with Daleville Broncos

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Austin Earley is going to be busy in 2021-22 as a varsity coach in two sports, a teacher, husband and father.
Earley was hired in June as head baseball coach at Daleville (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School. He was junior varsity coach for the Broncos in 2018 and 2019, would have been a varsity assistant in 2020 (a season taken away by COVID-19) and did serve in that position in 2021 on the staff of Terry Turner, who retired after that campaign.
Daleville won IHSAA Class 1A state championships on Turner’s watch in 2016 and 2018.
“Coach Turner is definitely a baseball enthusiast and he loved being part of the high school game and having relationships with the kids,” says Earley. “He related things to life. A lot of things he did we’re going to continue to do.”
Earley expects to field varsity and junior varsity teams in 2022.
“We lost eight seniors and are bringing in eight or nine freshmen,” says Earley. “It’s a balancing act with total innings.”
The winter of 2020-21 marked Earley’s first season as head girls basketball coach at Daleville. He was junior varsity boys basketball coach under Broncos head coach Tyler Stoller from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
With Bryce Drew as head coach, Earley served as head manager for the Valparaiso (Ind.) University men’s basketball team, graduating from VU in 2015.
Earley credits the experience in shaping him as a coach and person.
“It instilled the philosophy of servant leadership,” says Earley. “I try to convey that to all my kids. Even as the head coach I don’t consider myself to be above anybody.
“You never know who’s watching.”
He played one season of baseball at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. (2012), then transferred to Valpo U.
During the school day, Earley teaches physical education for Grades 7-12.
Austin and wife of seven years, Ellie, have an adopted son named Dukane (who turns 4 in October).
Austin is a 2011 graduate of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School, where he was a four-year outfielder for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Stoudt.
“Coach Stoudt — to this day — is a big mentor for me,” says Earley. “He’s one of the first persons I talked to when I got (the job as Daleville head baseball coach). He’s a lifelong friend and lifelong mentor.”
Earley appreciates the discipline and organization Stoudt brought to Arabians baseball.
“Down to the smallest detail he had a plan mapped out,” says Earley.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16 and Earley has been leading baseball players two times a week.
“We’re doing the best we can,” says Earley, who coaches at a school with an enrollment around 275. “We’ve got quite a few shared athletes and we started soccer (at Daleville) this year.”
High school and junior high players have been at fall baseball activities. Spring baseball for Grades 6-8 was started at the school in 2019.
“We’re trying to continue and build the legacy of Daleville baseball,” says Earley, who is assisted by Jake Sorenson, Curtis Wilson and Elliott Jackson.
Daleville is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del).
In 2021, the Broncos were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. Daleville has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2019.
Recent Daleville graduates to move on to college baseball include Evan Etchison (Grace College), Cayden Gothrup (Ball State University), Ryan Hale (Huntington University), Josh Price (Anderson University), Peyton Smith (Goshen College), Max Stecher (Indiana University Southeast), Jared Waltermire (Crown College in Saint Bonifacius, Minn.) and Ayden Wilson (Indiana Wesleyan University).

The Earley family — Ellie, Dukane and Austin.
The Earley family — Ellie, Dukane and Austin.

Wichman raises interest, expectations for Scottsburg Warriors

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brian Wichman has helped Scottsburg (Ind.) High School to many baseball successes since taking over the Warriors program.
When he came on board prior to the 2018 season, Scottsburg had not had not posted a record above .500 since 2004 and high school players were not involved in travel ball in the summer.
“We had to get back to the basics and get people interested in ball,” says Wichman. “I’ve tried to really push kids toward travel ball.”
Wichman’s Warriors went 15-13 in 2018, regressed to 9-19 in 2019 with a young squad (there were only two seniors and one junior), missed the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic then sported 19-10 mark in 2021 bolstered by the senior and sophomore classes.
There were 22 players to take on varsity and junior varsity schedules.
Scottsburg (enrollment around 770) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek).
In 2021, the Warriors were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek (the 2021 host). Scottsburg has won six sectional crowns — the last in 1996.
Scottsburg plays on Warrior Field, an on-campus facility that was laser-graded four years ago and has Bermuda grass.
“It looks really good, especially when we get to May,” says Wichman.
Feeder systems include Scott County Youth League (T-ball through 12U) and a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders that play schools in the MSC and Hoosier Hills Conference.
Wichman, who teaches engineering and welding classes and is involved in Project Lead The Way at Scottsburg, has extensive coaching experiences at the high school and travel ball levels.
His first season was as a Columbus (Ind.) East High School assistant in 1995 while he was doing his student teaching. Wichman graduated from Ball State University with an Industrial Technology degree. He played baseball for one season (1991) at Indiana University Southeast before transferring to BSU.
Wichman served as an assistant at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., in 1996 and 1997 and helped at Columbus (Ind.) North High School in 2007.
From 2004-14, he ran the Indiana Blazers travel organization and coached for the Indiana Prospects in 2015 and 2016.
Brian and wife Cathy have four sons and all played for the Blazers and other travel teams, including the Indiana Prospects, Cincinnati Flames
Evansville Razorbacks and Indiana Bulls, as well as at Columbus East.
Left-handed pitcher Brian “B.T.” Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2013) was at Murray State University, Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Indianapolis. Peyton Gray, a 2014 Columbus East graduate now in the Kansas City Royals organization, was a high school and GCCC teammate.
Defensive back/catcher Christian Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2014) went to Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., for football and baseball then transferred to play baseball at the University of West Georgia (Carrollton, Ga.).
Defensive back Noah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2016) played football at Taylor University in Upland, Ind.
Infielder Jonah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2019) was on the baseball team at Butler University in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2021 and has transferred to St. Charles Community College (Cottleville, Mo.).
The past two summers, Brian Wichman has been an assistant in the College Summer League at Grand Park — in 2020 with head coach Joe Thatcher’s Park Rangers and in 2021 with head coach Kevin Christman’s Moon Shots.
A 1990 graduate of Seymour (Ind.) High School, Wichman played one varsity season for Owls coach Bob Bowman.

Brian Wichman (Eyes Of The Heart Photography)
The Wichman family (from left): Noah. B.T., Cathy, Brian, Christian and Jonah.
The Wichmans (from left): First row — Cathy and Brian; Second row — Noah, B.T., Jonah and Christian.
Cathy and Brian Wichman.
Brian and Cathy Wichman.
Cathy, B.T. and Brian Wichman.
Brian, Jonah and Cathy Wichman.

Greenlee establishing baseball culture at Liberty Christian

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tab Greenlee is trying to change the way baseball is perceived at Liberty Christian School in Anderson, Ind.
“It’s all about culture change and getting them excited,” says Greenlee, who was hired before the 2020 season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic, finished the 2021 campaign with 14 players and is preparing now for 2022. “I have 100 percent buy-in from the parents and it’s amazing.”
How much buy-in? A recent field day brought out 50 people.
“It was the coolest thing to watch,” says Greenlee.
Baseball began at the school in 2006 and the Lions have yet to post a record over .500 or win a sectional title.
“There’s been no consistency in coaches throughout the years,” says Greenlee, who spent 2021 setting the tone for the Lions, presenting a detailed practice plan while insisting the players also achieve in the classroom.
“You get an F, you don’t play,” says Greenlee, who had to let five go last spring because of grades. “If you can’t be excellent in the classroom, I can’t trust you to be excellent on my field.”
Greenlee, who teaches high school biology and middle school math, gets players the help they need to excel in academics.
While four Lions graduated last spring, Greenlee is seeing progress.
“We will be a lot stronger this next spring,” says Greenlee. “We have a foundation on how we play this game. We’re understanding the why.”
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16.
Off-season workouts were drawing up to 13 and that’s with soccer and cross country going on this fall at Liberty Christian (enrollment around 130).
The Lions are part of the Pioneer Conference (with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Bethesda Christian, Central Christian Academy, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Indianapolis Shortridge, International, Muncie Burris, Park Tudor, Seton Catholic and University).
In 2021, host Liberty Christian was part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Prep, Cowan, Daleville, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del.
Greenlee, who is assisted by Jamie Woodyard, has two seniors who have been drawing interest from college baseball teams — Beckham Chappell and Tyler Houk. Both are three-sport athletes — soccer, basketball and baseball.
“We encourage that,” says Greenlee. “Scouts want to know grades and they want to know if they play other sports. College sports in year-round.”
At a school the size of Liberty Christian, multi-sport participation and cooperation is vital.
“We are at each others’ games,” says Greenlee. “We’re there to support each other.”
Besides boys soccer, boys and girls cross country and volleyball in the fall, LC has boys and girls basketball, boys and girls swimming and boys and girls archery in the winter and boys and girls track track and softball in addition to baseball in the spring.
Liberty Christian plays its home games on a field rented from the city that’s adjacent to the Columbus Avenue campus where grades 7-12 meet. Preschool through Grade 6 meet in a building on Hillcrest Drive.
To help feed the high school, Greenlee established a junior high baseball program at Liberty Christian last spring with 13 players – many of whom had never played the game. The plan is to add fifth and sixth graders this spring and third and fourth graders in the future.
Greenlee, a 1985 Crawfordsville (Ind.) High School graduate who played baseball for Mike Klauka at Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Mich., was at Toledo (Ohio) Christian prior to coming back to Indiana to be closer to family and to be a pastor at Tri-County Christian Church in Middletown.
In seven years at Toledo Christian, he was head baseball coach for five and football offensive coordinator for four. When he took over in baseball he was the fourth head coach for the seniors. That team went 21-7 and won sectional and district titles. The next year, the Eagles won 24 games and also took sectional and district championships.
Tab and wife Heather have three children — Taylor (26), Zach (22) and Calyb (12).
Taylor and husband Christian Beck have a daughter, Harper Grace. Calyb is a Liberty Christian sixth grader who plays soccer, basketball and baseball.

The Greenlee family (from left): First row – Calyb Greenlee, Heather Greenlee and Taylor Beck; Second row — Tab Greenlee, Zach Greenlee, Zach’s girlfriend Lauren Reid and Christian Beck. The Becks also have a daughter, Harper Grace.