By STEVE KRAH
Placing a premium on fundamentals, Columbus East finds itself playing in an IHSAA baseball regional in 2018.
Under the direction of seventh-year head coach Jon Gratz, the Olympians beat Columbus North 7-6 Monday, May 28 to win the Class 4A Shelbyville Sectional and are headed to the Evansville Reitz Regional at Bosse Field on Saturday, June 2.
Columbus East (20-7) plays Castle at 10 a.m. CST, followed by Franklin Central vs. Jeffersonville. The regional final is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.
Gratz, who was a junior varsity and freshman coach for the Olympians for five years before taking over the program, is a 2001 Manchester High School graduate.
At Manchester, he gained an affinity for “playing the game the right way” from Squires head coach Jack Rupley.
“He believed in playing hard and taking care of the little things,” says Gratz. “We’ve had great pitching all year long and very good defense. We’re not necessarily the fastest team, but we run the bases well.
“We had a dry spell early in the season, but we’re starting to hit the ball really well.”
Gratz, who teaches math at Columbus East, played his college baseball at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.
The Olympians’ top pitchers are junior left-hander Julian Greenwell, sophomore right-hander Cole Gilley, and senior right-handers Alec Burnett and Drew Hasson. When not pitching, Greenwell plays in right field, Gilley at third base, Burnett in left field and Hasson at first base.
The leading hitters are sophomore catcher Dalton Back, Gilley, Greenwell, Hasson and junior shortstop/lead-off man Jonah Wichman.
Greenwell and Gilley have committed to Indiana University, Hasson to Northern Illinois University and Wichman to Murray State University.
The Class of 2017 sent Jon Crawford to the University of Indianapolis, Jonathan Foster to Taylor University and Luke Hostetler to Jackson College in Jackson County, Mich.
Gratz, who teaches math at Columbus East, is assisted by John Major, Andrew Golinvaux (pitching coach), Jerry Schoen and Chris Fox at the varsity level with Levi Pollert and Nathen Swafford guiding the junior varsity.
Columbus East won its 18th all-time sectional this spring and first since 1999.
“We don’t really talk about that here,” says Gratz. “We’re concerned with this team, this year.”
For the record the other sectional titles came in 1973, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1997.
The Olympians will have a chance at the program’s 10th regional title Saturday, having won at that stage in 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1993 with semistate crowns earned in 1979, 1987 and 1989.
Columbus East has also won three semistates and appeared in the State Finals, bowing in the semifinals all three times (1979, 1987 and 1989).
The Olympians belong to the Hoosier Hills Conference. They finished as runner-up in 2018 to Jeffersonville. Other HHC members are Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jennings County, Madison Consolidated, New Albany and Seymour.
Columbus East plays its games on-campus. Gratz says he is hopeful that the facility will get a new scoreboard this summer.
Jon and Kathleen Gratz have two children — daughter Morgan (5) and son Michael (2).
Columbus East High School head baseball coach Jon Gratz celebrates a 2018 sectional title with his family. Above is the seventh-year Olympians leader with daughter Morgan and son Michael. Below, Jon and wife Kathleen and kids mug with the trophy.
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