BY STEVE KRAH
Oakland City (Ind.) University is making a transition from NCAA Division I to NAIA and the Mighty Oaks baseball program has also changed its leadership.
Andy Lasher, who played at Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., Olney (Ill.) Central College and the University of Evansville and coached at Olney, the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville and for the Dubois County Bombers in Huntingburg, Ind., has been hired as OCU head coach.
T-Ray Fletcher, who was Oakland City head coach for 26 seasons, is still the school’s athletic director.
Since taking the job a few weeks ago, Lasher been concentrating on building up his roster.
“I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting though there are no games to watch,” says Lasher, referring to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic which has live baseball shut down at the moment. “There’s been a lot of calls and text messages.”
Lasher, who is tapping into his network of contacts, says he would like to have 35 players in the fall and 40 to 45 in the future so the Mighty Oaks can add a junior varsity program.
In moving from NCAA D-II to NAIA, Oakland City also goes from an independent to a member of the River States Conference, a circuit that also features baseball-playing schools Indiana University Kokomo and Indiana University Southeast.
That takes care of half the schedule. Lasher has the opportunity to fill in the rest of the games, choosing ones that are feasible and keeps players from missing too many classes.
It’s Lasher’s intent to schedule some contests in the fall.
Lasher’s assistants are Jacob Bedwell and Austen Bullington. Washington (Ind.) High School graduate Bedwell was on the OCU team last year. Castle grad Bullington played at Wabash Valley College and the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Lasher was hired by Southern Indiana last summer and spent much of his time assisting Screaming Eagles head coach Tracy Achuleta with hitters and position players.
“I also kept track of academic progress and a lot of little things that don’t happen on the baseball field,” says Lasher. “That’s a much bigger percentage of the job than people realize.
“At the college level, it’s a lot more than the bats and balls. It’s a full-time job for a reason.
“(Archuleta) is one of my favorite people. He’s alot of fun to be around and a really good baseball mind. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Lasher performed many of the same duties during the 2019 season as an assistant on Jason Anderson’s coaching staff at Eastern Illinois University.
He was an assistant to Dennis Conley at Olney Central from the 2014 season until the fall of 2018.
“It was a really good experience I wouldn’t trade for the world,” says Lasher, who helped the Blue Knights win 173 games in five seasons.
An outfielder, Lasher played two seasons at Olney (2010 and 2011) for Conley and two at Evansville (2012 and 2013) for Wes Carroll.
Going to Castle, Lasher had heard all about alums Wes and brother Jamey Carroll (who played in the big leagues).
“(Wes Carroll) was a real good player’s coach,” says Lasher. “We had some good teams.”
The Purple Aces won 56 games in Lasher’s two seasons at UE. He played with five players — left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland (Colorado Rockies), lefty-swinging outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski (New York Mets), righty-batting Eric Stamets (Rockies), righty pitcher Kyle Lloyd (San Diego Padres) and lefty hurler Phillip Diehl (Rockies) — who eventually made it to the majors.
For five summers, Lasher was with the Bombers — 2014 as an assistant coach and 2015-18 as manager.
He got to guide many talented players, including New Mexico State University’s Daniel Johnson in 2015, USI’s Logan Brown in 2016 and NMSU’s Nick Gonzales in 2018.
Lefty-hitting outfielder Johnson is now on the Cleveland Indians’ 40-man roster.
Brown is a catcher in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Lasher calls shortstop Gonzales, who was the 2019 NCAA Division I batting champion, the best player he’s ever coached and expects him to be taken about the top picks in the 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The atmosphere created by Dubois County ownership and fans at League Stadium made Lasher’s time with the Bombers very enjoyable.
“It’s a great place to watch a game,” says Lasher. “It’s a shame they’re not getting to do it this summer (due to COVID-19 causing cancelation of the Ohio Valley League season).”
Lasher graduated in 2009 from Castle, where he played for Curt Welch.
“He was very intense,” says Lasher of Welch, who has also been an assistant wrestling coach for the Knights. “We were probably in better shape physically as any team in the country.”
There was plenty of running and ab workouts.
“It was worth it,” says Welch. “No doubt about it. It got guys ready for the college stuff. You have to be mentally tough and physically in shape in college or you just aren’t going to make it.”
Besides head baseball coach, Lasher is also in charge of maintaining Oakland City athletic fields and is gameday coordinator for any on-campus sporting events. The Mighty Oaks sponsor teams in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer and tennis for men and women and softball and volleyball for women.
Lasher and girlfriend, former Orleans (Ind.) High School, Olney Central and Brescia University basketball player Shelbi Samsil, recently moved to the north side of Indianapolis to be closer to Oakland City.
Andy Lasher is the new head baseball coach at Oakland City (Ind.) University. He is a graduate of Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., and played at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the University of Evansville. He has coached at Olney, Eastern Illinois University, the University of Southern Indiana and with the summer collegiate Dubois County Bombers. (Oakland City University Photo)
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