By STEVE KRAH
Eric Hilton is breaking baseball down to the basic elements as head coach at Crothersville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School.
In his second year leading the Jackson County-based Tigers in 2021-22, Hilton wants his players throwing to the correct bases and knowing situations.
“It’s basics and fundamentals,” says Hilton. “We’ve been working on it in the off-season. We are making progress in that area.”
In 2020-21, Crothersville had just one athlete who had played any baseball in the last four years. To have enough players to field a team, there were 10 boys and four girls. There were too few girls for a softball squad.
Crothersville (enrollment around 125) is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Henryville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central (Elizabeth).
In 2021, the Tigers were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with New Washington (host), Shawe Memorial and West Washington. Crothersville has not yet won a sectional title.
At such a small school, participation numbers have always been an issue. Then came the pandemic.
“A lot of kids didn’t return to baseball after COVID (took away the 2020 season),” says Hilton. “They found other things to do.”
But things are looking up for the spring of 2022. Fourteen different boys have participated in off-season activities and 21 signed up recently with the intention of coming out for baseball.
“We have very decent numbers,” says Hilton, who counts Rita Fletcher as an assistant with another four or five possibles.
Three players — senior catcher/pitcher/third baseman Matthew Clouse, sophomore catcher/pitcher/second baseman Logen O’Sullivan and sophomore shortstop/center fielder Lucas Hilton (the coach’s oldest son) — have indicated their desire to play college baseball.
Junior high baseball, which is played in nearby communities like Austin, Brownstown, Seymour and Scottsburg, has not been present at Crothersville for a few years. Hilton hopes to bring that back in the next few years.
Right now the Crothersville Youth League (T-ball to age 14) serves as a feeder program.
Before taking the job at Crothersville, Hilton coached Lucas with travel ball teams, including the Southern Indiana Venom, Blazers and The Swings.
A 1995 graduate of Seymour High School, Hilton played baseball for the Owls as a freshman and sophomore. He was also in football as a ninth grader and then went to soccer.
He graduated at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus and graduated from Ashworth University in Peachtree Corners, Ga. He is in grocery merchandising with the Louisville division of the Kroger Co., working with 116 stores.
Eric and Jennifer Hilton have been married 17 years. Lucas Hilton is 16 and Tyler Hilton 12.
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