By STEVE KRAH
Luke Woolems has coached at multiple Indiana high schools and in youth baseball.
His goal is always the same.
“We try to win a lot of baseball games, but ultimately it comes down to what kind of men we’re turning out,” says Woolems, who has been head coach at Northeast Dubois Junior/Senior High School in Dubois, Ind., since the 2018 season. “We’re trying to make quality young men. We want them to become better fathers, husbands and members of the community.”
Woolems is a 1999 graduate of Heritage Hills High School in Lincoln City, Ind., where he played baseball for Brian Kirchoff and was later a student teacher and assistant coach for one season. He was Kirchoff’s assistant at Northeast Dubois in 2017 before taking over the Jeeps program.
Prior to that Woolems was head baseball coach at Loogootee (Ind.) High School for two seasons and head softball coach at Mitchell (Ind.) High School for five. Before his stint at Heritage Hills, he was head baseball coach at Paoli (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School right after graduating from Indiana University-Bloomington.
Woolems was a teacher for 12 years and is now human resources manager at Patoka Lake Regional Water & Sewer District in Dubois County.
Northeast Dubois (enrollment around 275) is a member of the Blue Chip Conference (with baseball-playing schools Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Knox, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet and Wood Memorial).
BCC teams played each other one time.
The Jeeps are to be part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2023. Northeast Dubois has won 10 sectional titles — the last in 2017.
Tecumseh was the 2022 Class 1A state runner-up. The Braves beat Northeast Dubois 9-8 in the first round of the Cannelton Sectional.
“We’ve had some battles the last few years,” says Woolems of the Jeeps and Tecumseh.
The 2022 season saw Northeast Dubois go 10-11. There were 21 players in the program, including several seniors. One of those — Colby Pieper — moved on to Brescia University (Owensboro, Ky.).
Reece Bauer (Class of 2020) is at Wabash (Ind.) College.
One of the top returnees is Class of 2023’s Ty Kalb. A lead-off hitter, catcher, shortstop and pitcher, he paced the 2022 team in batting average (.403), doubles (11), runs scored (21), pitching victories (3) and earned run average (0.97) while tying for lead in runs batted in (17).
Like Woolems did as a high schooler, Kalb plays for Rockport American Legion Post 254 and manager Jim Haaff.
Woolems expects to gain five freshmen at Northeast Dubois in 2023.
His varsity assistant is Ian Denu, a U.S. Marines veteran who has helped Woolems coach at the youth level. Harold Bleemal is head junior varsity coach and Andrew Matheis is his assistant.
The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period saw five or six players participate in twice-a-week activities with many others in fall sports.
“We try to make the most of it and get them as many defensive and offensive reps as possible,” says Woolems of the players that did practice. “It was very individual-based.”
Pitchers tossed bullpens and were throwing live to hitters by the end of the period.
Northeast Dubois plays on-campus on the field known as “The Hill.”
“It’s very nice and something the community is very proud of,” says Woolems. “The kids take very good care of it.”
Junior high baseball is popular in the area around Northeast Dubois.
The Jeeps field a team of seventh and eighth graders (and sometimes sixth graders). The spring schedule parallels the varsity season.
“It’s been a focus on mine,” says Woolems. “Junior high baseball is so important. It’s critical for our program.”
Players get to wear nice uniforms and get what they need to succeed.
“We want to make sure those kids are having a positive experience,” says Woolems. “We want to make them able to compete.”
The coach also serves on the board of Northeast Dubois Little League (which changed from Little League to United States Speciality Sports Association affiliation after the 2022 season) which has teams from T-ball through age 12. Eighty players participated in the fall league.
Luke and Emily Woolems have two children — son Tucker (11) and daughter Brynley (8). Tucker is a batboy for the Jeeps.