Category Archives: College

IHSBCA Hall of Fame to induct Weybright, Storen, Samardzija, Johnston, Johnson in ’23

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

Coach Kelby Weybright, players Drew Storen and Jeff Samarzija and veterans committee selections Lenny “Lefty” Johnston and Wayne Johnson make up the 2023 induction class of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Weybright is a graduate of North White High School. Following graduation, he attended and played baseball for three years at Blackburn College before earning his bachelor degree from Indiana University.
Following one season as an assistant at North White, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 seasons as the head coach at Norwell High School where he compiled a record of 243-93 with two NHC, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles with an IHSAA Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2006 and 3A state championships in 2003 and 2007 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball.
The 2007 team went 35-0 and finished ranked 10th nationally (Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports). The 2006 and 2007 squads went a combined 64-2.
Weybright coached 22 players that played collegiately with six IHSBCA North All-Stars and four Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections.
Two NHC Coach of the Year honors (2006 and 2007) came Weybright’s way as well as two IHSBCA Coach of the Year awards (2003 and 2007).
He was recognized as a National High School Baseball Coaches Association District and National Coach of the Year in 2007.
Weybright is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball program during its summer development period and occasionally during the season as time permits.

Storen is a 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School.
As a freshman, he was the No. 2 pitcher (3-0, 1.17 earned run average) behind Lance Lynn on the eventual 2004 state runner-up.
As a sophomore, right-hander Storen went 9-0 with 86 strikeouts in 57 innings and helped the Bulldogs to go 35-0 and win the 2005 state championship while earning a No. 2 ranking in the country from Baseball America.
The Indianapolis Star called that team, “The greatest high school team in Indiana history.”
For his career, Storen finished 28-2 with 270 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.61. At the plate, he hit .400 with 16 home runs.
He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2007, but attended Stanford University.
In two seasons with the Cardinal, he was named to three Freshman All-American teams and was twice chosen first team All-Pac 12. He got the win in Game 1 of the 2008 College World Series.
Storen led Stanford as a sophomore in saves, wins and appearances and was named team MVP for 2009.
He finished his collegiate career with a 12-4 record, 26 saves, 59 appearances and a 3.84 ERA.
As a draft-eligible sophomore, Storen was taken by the Washington Nationals as the 10th overall pick of the 2009 MLB Draft.
In eight seasons with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, he went 29-18 with 99 saves, a 3.45 ERA and 417 strikeouts. He made six postseason appearances for Washington in 2012 and 2014 with one win and one save.
Drew and his wife Brittani currently reside in Carmel and have two boys — Jace (6) and Pierce (2).

Samardzija is a 2003 Valparaiso High School graduate is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana history.
By his senior year, he was recognized as one of the state’s best football players and was the runner-up for the Indiana Mr. Football award. Samardzija was a three-time all-state player and was selected to the Indiana All-Star team.
In baseball, he was a runner-up for the Mr. Baseball award as a senior, a three-year varsity letterman and an All-State honoree as a center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior and .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs as a senior.
As one of the nation’s top football recruits, he chose Notre Dame where he was also invited to pitch for the baseball team.
Samardzija was a two-time All American wide receiver, a two-time All-American pitcher and a two-time runner up for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s best receiver.
Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick in the National Football League, Samardzija opted to play professional baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons.
The right-hander was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut for the Cubs in July 2008 and went on to pitch 13 full seasons.
In addition to the Cubs, Samardzija pitched for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-2020). He was named an All-Star in 2014.
Jeff and older brother Sam represent a rare achievement in VHS history with each being selected as All-State performers in both football and baseball.

Johnston graduated from Western Michigan University and was a minor league outfielder from 1952-67.
He played for the Indianapolis Indians from 1960-1966 and played in the
Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators organizations.
He was a career .286 hitter and had 525 stolen bases. He led his league in stolen bases six straight years (1953-58). He paced the International League in 1956 with 182.
Johnston was a minor league manager for nine years and was the with the Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., in an administrative role.
In 2020, he was inducted into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame. Johnston served as a scout, scouting supervisor, cross-checker and minor league coordinator roles before retiring in 2019. He currently resides in Nashville, Tenn.

Wayne Johnson spent 12 years as a varsity assistant to Greg Silver at Mooresville before spending two stints as the head coach at Brownsburg High School.
At the helm of the Bulldog program, he compiled 278 wins over 15 years.
During his first stint from (1987-2000), Johnson-led teams took home sectional championships in 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1996. The Bulldogs were also regional champions in 1996.
Then on short notice, Johnson was asked to return to coach Brownsburg in 2011 and won another sectional title.
While Johnson’s victories and championships are impressive, his contributions to Brownsburg baseball far exceed his won/loss record.
The 1990 Central Suburban Athletic Conference Coach of the Year was instrumental in the construction of Brownsburg’s home baseball field — Mary Beth Rose Park.
Johnson partnered with countless members of the community to design and build the stadium and it has served to host over a 1,000 games since the spring of 1988.
Rose Park is still considered a premier location to play baseball in Indiana.
Johnson was a big supporter of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and it fundraising efforts.
He also owned a business, Johnson Sports Collectibles in addition to teaching for 39 years at Mooresville and Brownsburg High Schools. Johnson impacted many lives through the game of baseball and his presence is sorely missed. He is being inducted posthumously as he passed away on Dec. 19, 2018.

Inductees will be honored during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The ceremony is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing. The clinic is Jan. 12-14.
For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899.
Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from McKeon on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

2023 IHSBCA Hall of Fame class. (Graphic by Dan Hardy Hill)

Cabana brings growth mindset to Marian U.’s Ancilla College

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

Kirk Cabana’s life path has been anything but a straight one.
“My journey is not orthodox,” says Cabana.
At 35, Cabana is the new head baseball coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College, a National Junior College Athletic Association and Michigan Community College Athletic Association member in Donaldson, Ind.
“It’s such a welcoming community,” says Cabana. “It met me right where I’m at in my growth and development.”
The MCCAA has three divisions: Northern (Alpena, Cay, Delta, Grand Rapids, Mid Michigan and Muskegon), Western (Glen Oaks, Kalamazoo Valley, Kellogg, Lake Michigan, Lansing and and Marian’s Ancilla) and Eastern (Henry Ford, Jackson, Macomb, Mott, Schoolcraft and St. Clair County).
Including 8-40 in 2022, the MUAC Chargers have won 67 games since 2013.
It wasn’t too many years ago that West Covina (Calif.) High School graduate Cabana worked in pest control more than a decade after going to Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., where he played football but neglected his studies.
“I ruined opportunities I had because I wouldn’t go to class,” says Cabana, who years later decided he wanted a change and went back to the same school, played baseball at age 30 and earned an associate in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Citrus in 2018.
That was followed by a General Studies bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University and a master’s degree in Positive Coaching and Athletic Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
He was a player then an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Carolina University in Winston-Salem, N.C. (the Bruins went to the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series in 2021 and 2022), from August 2019 until moving to Indiana for a chance to be a head coach and impact lives.
“I’ve fallen in love with this process,” says Cabana. “Making the sacrifices these last five years have been fun and rewarding.”
His coaching experience also includes head coach in the Puerto Rico Collegiate League, bench coach for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms and All-American Amateur Baseball Association’s Winston-Salem-based Carolina Disco Turkeys.
In September 2021, Cabana founded Pursuit 4 Purpose to help athletes with their struggles of trying to become their best and has released 33 P4P podcast episodes to date related to personal development.
“It’s a character-developing, goal-setting organization intended to take the principles, values and life lessons we learn from sports and take them and apply them to other areas of our lives,” says Cabana. “I want to encourage and implore students to be more than athletes so when your sport fails you and it will you’ll have something more to stand on.”
Renowned physical and mental skills trainer Alan Jaeger has been a frequent guest. His first guest was Jeremy Sheetinger, former assistant at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and College Division Liaison for the American Amateur Baseball Coaches Association who is now head coach at Georgia Gwinett College (the Grizzlies won the NAIA World Series in 2021).
Making himself a sponge, Cabana is soaking up the information while sharing it with others.
“I’m just doing my part to help athletes through the process,” says Cabana.
Kirk, wife Katie and sons Kooper (6) and Karson (infant) have settled near MUAC in Plymouth, Ind., while he goes about building his first Chargers team with about 25 players and the help of assistants Chuck Bowen, Josh Pitts and Matt Pitney. Bowen played and has coached at Ancilla. Pitts was on the Knox (Ind,) High School staff. The 2023 season is slated to open Feb. 11 against Southeastern Illinois College.
“We’re ready to attack the spring,” says Cabana.
That will be done while emphasizing team.
It’s the model of Mudita promoted by University of Alabama head softball coach Patrick Murphy.
“It’s vicarious joy through others’ success,” says Cabana. “What I’m trying to do for my guys is know that somebody else’s success does not mean less success for you.
“You have to be willing to move the team forward … There are so many roles on the team … You have to successful where you’re at.”
Cabana notes that during a 55-game season there will be chances for players to prove themselves.
“It’s a lot more than a baseball team,” says Cabana. “It’s a group of people learning to be their best.”

Kirk Cabana. (Marian University’s Ancilla College Photo)
The new logo of Marian’s University’s Ancilla College Chargers.

Saskatchewan native Komonosky leading catchers as Indiana State assistant

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

Ben Komonosky was a catcher at the NCAA Division I level and now he coaches them.
Plenty of times, he has been asked to “be a wall” behind the plate.
Komonosky, who played at the University of Evansville and is in his first year as a volunteer assistant at Indiana State University (also a member of the Missouri Valley Conference), says that’s the wrong mental picture.
The idea is to stop the flying object and keep it in front of you.
“Be a pillow,” says Komonosky. “Walls are bouncy and we don’t like that.
“It’s like being a goalie in hockey. You don’t want pucks bouncing off you.”
Ben is the son of Ward and Cindy Komonosky. Ward Komonosky played goaltender for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Regina Blue Pats, Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders and Atlantic Coast Hockey League’s New York Slapshots.
Ward Komonosky won 30 games and Prince Albert took the Memorial Cup in 1985. New York was coached by Dave Schultz, who helped the “Broad Street Bullies” Philadelphia Flyers win the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975.
Besides leading drills for ISU catchers (receiving, blocking and throwing form various angles) for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs, Ben Komonosky also coordinates camps. There was an instructional/showcase event in October and another is scheduled for January.
Komonosky, who turned 25 in September, says he has settled in to living in Terre Haute, Ind.
“There are a lot of friendly people,” says Komonosky, who is from Regina, Sask., where he played baseball, football, basketball and volleyball at Vauxhall High School in Alberta. He was with the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball as a senior in 2015.
He spent the fall semester at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas.
“It was not the right fit and I went back home (to Canada) for a bit,” says Komonosky. “That spring I took time off. I was falling out of love with baseball.
“But then I felt I was missing something in my life and started training again.”
The backstop landed at North Iowa Area Community College, where he played for Trojans head coach Travis Hergert in 2017 and 2018.
“It was a great two years there,” says Komonosky. “I needed time to grow into the player I needed to be. I was able to get stronger and better in every part of the game.”
Though North Iowa — based in Mason City — was not as hard-nosed a some junior college programs, Komonosky understands what it means to be a “JUCO Bandit.”
“The majority of (junior colleges) are blue collar with a bunch of grinders,” says Komonosky, who notes the emphasis on development. “Half of their job is sending guys on to the next level.”
Komonosky played in 111 games for NIACC in 2017 and 2018 and hit .282 with 11 home runs and 76 runs batted in.
Jake Mahon, then an Evansville assistant coach, saw Komonosky at a North Iowa scrimmage and invited him to visit to UE campus. He went on to play in 88 games (81 starts) for the Wes Carroll-coached Purple Aces from 2019 to 2021 and graduated with a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Sports Management.
“I knew I wanted to stay around the game when my playing days were done,” says Komonosky, who spent the summer after graduating scouting for Perfect Game in Florida.
In 2021-22, Komonosky was on the Jimmy Brenneman-led coaching staff at Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill. The Bobcats are a National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division I program.
“I loved it there,” says Komonosky. “It was really good baseball. Junior college is a really good route for a lot of guys. There’s extra development.”
Komonosky specialized working with Frontier catchers while also assisting the hitters, recruiting, and strength and conditioning.
In the summer of 2022, Komonosky served as manager of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Michigan Monarchs. The team, based in Adrian, Mich., won the North Division and advanced to the playoffs and Komonosky was selected as GLSCL Manager of the Year.
Komonosky played for the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Swift Current 57s in 2018 and the WCBL’s Regina Red Sox in 2019. He did not play in the COVID-19 summer of 2020.
He was recently named as Regina Red Sox manager for the summer of 2023. Komonosky has been an assistant coach at 2SK Performance and with the Inside Pitch Baseball Academy — both in Regina.
Ben’s family athletic roots in Indiana precede him. Grandfather Glenn Young, who went to Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Ill., played football at Purdue University and was a defensive back for the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers (1956).

Ben Komonosky. (Indiana State University Photo)

Hall of Famer Kas heading into second season as Lafayette Jeff assistant

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

Dennis Kas has spent many a spring and summer on a baseball diamond.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer (Class of 2000) had no specific plans to do that in 2022.
It was while attending his grandsons’ basketball games in Lafayette in November 2021 that Kas ran into Clayton Richard, the former Indiana Mr. Baseball at McCutcheon High School who pitched against Kas’ Noblesville teams and went on to the big leagues and had been hired as head baseball coach at Lafayette Jeff.
That chance meeting led to an invitation for Kas to join Richard’s Jeff coaching staff.
Kas accepted and acted as bench coach and helped out in a variety of ways and is doing the same again in 2022-23.
“I worked offensively with the kids this fall,” says Kas, 70. “(Clayton) likes to lean on me a little bit during the course of games and ask my opinion about certain situations.”
Kas has developed a philosophy as a coach.
“In baseball, there’s so much in the game you can’t control,” says Kas. “You’d better be good at the things you can control.
“For me, that starts with your preparation. I cannot know what my opponents are doing with their time. I just have to be confident that we’re out-working them.
“It’s our discipline, our approach to things, our toughness, the character we show, our resiliency. They come to the forefront in baseball because those are things you can control in preparing your kids.”
It’s those principles that are being promoted by the Jeff staff.
“We want to do our part in developing quality young men,” says Kas. “We want to develop players. We expect to win games. In order to do that it takes a lot of time and commitment. We’re raising the demands.”
Kas says players often make defensive mistakes when they get caught by surprise because they are lacking in preparation.
“I never wanted to ask kid to do something in a game that I had not prepared him to do in practice,” says Kas. “That’s totally unfair.”
The coach is a proponent of hitters putting the ball in-play.
“Never underestimate the ability of your opponent to screw up,” says Kas. “In baseball, the best way to do that is the force the action. We had better be causing some havoc for the (opposing) defense.
“I’m a big believer in being resourceful offensively. You’ve got to be able to bunt the baseball. Use a little hit-and-run. It depends on our personnel. Let’s get hit by pitches if we have players who understand that concept and are willing to do it. Let’s find a way to get on-base.”
On defense, it comes down to executing every play. There is nothing “routine.”
“If we can control those kinds of things and be fundamentally sound defensively then I think we give ourselves the best chance to win,” says Kas. “It’s unfair to have to go to pitchers and say we’ve got to have you strike out 10 guys for us to have a chance.”
Kas notes that a successful formula for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros was the ability to rack up strikeouts by its pitching staff while limiting those as hitters.
“That was their secret to success,” says Kas. “They put the ball in-play — even at that level.”
The Astros fanned 160 of 498 batters faced and whiffed 118 times in 455 at-bats themselves during an 11-2 postseason run.
Prior to coaching at Jeff, Kas spent a couple of years assisting Andy Dudley at Frankfort.
Dudley was a teammate of Jade Kas — Dennis’ oldest son and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participant in 1995 — at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Dennis Kas spent 22 years as an Indiana high school head coach — five at Clinton Prairie and 17 at Noblesville — and amassed a 464-210 mark with five conference, seven sectional and one regional title.
He had 53 players receive baseball scholarships, five selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, 13 chosen IHSBCA Academic All-State, 12 pick as All-State and 12 named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
Kas served two terms as IHSBCA president and assisted the organization in many other ways. Recently he was in charge of conducting the Junior Showcase during All-Star weekend.
He spent a couple of years as a volunteer coach at Butler University and six as a paid assistant to Mike Frame at Huntington (Ind.) University while commuting from Noblesville.
Kas has also coached for the Indiana Bulls organization with sons Jade and Austan.
A 1970 graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and 1974 graduate of Anderson College (now Anderson University), Kas started teaching in 1974-75 and served in that capacity for 37 1/2 years in the Clinton Prairie (12), Noblesville (24) and Clinton Central (1 1/2) school systems.
Kas was coaxed out of retirement by a former teaching colleague Melissa Perry and Jeremy Rodibaugh, who played at Huntington University during the coach’s time with the Foresters and was now principal at Clinton Central Elementary School.
For the second semester of one school year and the whole next year, Kas taught Spanish before retiring from the classroom the second time.
He moved from Noblesville to Frankfort more than three years ago to be closer to family.
Catherine “Cathe” Kas died Dec. 9, 2021. She and Dennis had been married and remained great friends.
Dennis has three children — Jade, Austan and Cheyenne — and seven grandchildren (Brady, Sydnie, Charlie, Jacoby, Xyan, Jalen and Sloan).
Jade Kas (who is married to Crysta) lives in the McCutcheon school district and works for Eli Lily.
Former sports editor Austan Kas (Ashley) resides in Fort Wayne and is involved with fantasy sports websites. He played at Huntington U. when his dad coached there.
Cheyenne (Chris Taylor) lives in Frankort and directs the Clinton County Human Society.

Dennis Kas. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)
The Bronchos baseball staff of 2022. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)

Sailors brings experience as new Lafayette Aviators manager

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

Jamie Sailors knows baseball aptitude.
He’s witnessed athletes with a knack for the game since he grew up in Logansport, Ind.
Sailors moved to Brookston in the ninth grade and ended up as a 1991 graduate of Frontier Junior/Senior High School in Chalmers. The left-handed pitcher was chosen that year to participate in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
Tom Potts was Sailors’ head baseball coach at Frontier.
“He was also a football coach and very organized in his approach to practice,” says Sailors of Potts. “He was very likable. He always seemed to have a smile on his face.”
Sailors got to appear in two Colt World Series at Lafayette’s old Loeb Stadium and had numerous other games at the stadium that was built in 1940 and replaced by the new Loeb (home of the Lafayette Aviators and Lafayette Jeff baseball) in 2021 in Legion ball.
“What I remember about the old park is that it was historic,” says Sailors. “There were signs on the wooden outfield wall and a manual scoreboard in center field.
“There was a light pole in-play in left-center when I played.”
At 15, Sailors spent the first of four summers playing for Eric Harmon-managed Monticello American Legion Post 81 and regularly competed against Lafayette Post 11.
Logansport won the 1991 IHSAA state championship. That team featured John Curl and Willie Hilton.
Both were selected in the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Curl by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Texas A&M and Hilton by the Oakland Athletics out of Eastern Illinois University.
Sailors was drafted in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., in 1992. He was with the Rod Lovett-coached Cobras for one season
“He was a very good recruiter,” says Sailors of Lovett, who had the most pitchers drafted at any collegiate level in 1992. Three of them — Juan Acevedo, Shayne Bennett and Mike Grzanich — made it to the majors.
That first professional summer, southpaw Sailors played for the Arizona Cardinals. In 1993, he was second in the Appalachian League in strikeouts, fanning 81 in 77 1/3 innings for the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals.
He split the 1994 season between the New York-Penn League’s New Jersey Cardinals and Midwest League’s Madison (Wis.) Hatters.
“I faced some really good players in the minor leagues,” says Sailors.
Along the way, the lefty played against future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Jim Thome, MLB standouts Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and long-time pro Ryan Jackson.
Joe Cunningham was Sailors’ manager at Arizona, Johnson City and Madison. Roy Silver was his skipper at New Jersey.
“I’ve been around really good players ever since I started,” says Sailors, who was recently named as manager of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Lafayette Aviators for the 2023 season.
“It helps to recognize talent and character.”
Sailors, 50, reached out to Aviators general manager David Krakower and then met with him and team ownership and was hired to lead in a diamond space where he is very familiar.
He spent four seasons managing in the same circuit with the Danville (Ill.) Dans (2005, 2006, 2012 and 2013). He split the job with Jason Watson the final summer. Danville went 41-19 in 2006.
Future major leaguers that played for the Dans when Sailors was in charge include Louis Coleman, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Roark and Danny Worth.
So what called him to the Aviators post?
“I just want to get on a baseball field again with college players,” says Sailors is responsible for recruiting much of the 32-man roster. He is doing it through coach recommendations and information gathered on the internet.
“They’re coming from everywhere,” says Sailors of the diverse Lafayette roster. “College coaches have a good gauge of knowing what we’re looking for.
“I’m lucky I have enough connections and my network has expanded in the past few weeks.”
While about two-thirds of players are signed, Sailors says he is looking for pitchers and might have to wait until spring to sign some of them based on their spring workload.
Sailors’ coaching staff includes Doug Gove (pitching), Tyler Brown (hitting), Andrew Pratt (hitting) and volunteer James Smith (pitching).
Beginning in 2008, Sailors coached and/or was on the board of the Northern Baseball Club before that travel organization shut down. Brooks Sailors — the second of Jamie and Sarah Sailors’ three children — played for the Northern Stars and graduated from Frontier in 2020.
All but one of the players in his final travel season went on to college baseball.
Brooks Sailors is a catcher/infielder at Purdue Fort Wayne. He took 2022 as a redshirt year and has three remaining seasons of eligibility.
Jamie Sailors was head baseball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for five campaigns (2002-06) and UWP football assistant for three (2001-03) and pitching coach at Purdue University for two (2007-08).
Doug Schreiber — who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne — then led the Purdue program.
“I learned a ton from him about how he thinks baseball and his managing of games and practices,” says Sailors of Schreiber.
One of Sailors’ Boilermaker arms was future big leaguer Josh Lindblom.
After leaving Purdue, Sailors served as strength coach at Delphi (Ind.) Community High School through the fall of 2015. He was the Oracles’ head football coach for three seasons (2009-11).
Sailors was head football coach at Frontier for six seasons (2013-18) and served as Falcons athletic director from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2018.
He is in his third year as a physical education teacher and strength coach at Logansport Junior High School. He is also on the high school football coaching staff. The Mike Johnson-led Berries went 8-3 this fall.
The Sailors now reside in Battle Ground, Ind., just outside Lafayette.
In a very sports-minded family, Sarah Sailors (formerly Laurent) went from Watseka, Ill., to earn volleyball letters at Eastern Carolina University in 1993 and 1994. She now works for the State of Indiana in Child Protective Services.
Oldest child Madisen Sailors (Frontier Class of 2017) played two volleyball seasons at UW-Platteville and is now teaching and coaching in Wisconsin while attending graduate school at UW-Madison.
Fifth grader Ryne Sailors is the youngest.

Jamie Sailors.

Wherever he goes, Smith takes a big piece of Elkhart with him

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

Ron Smith’s career has taken him away from his hometown.
A 1974 graduate of Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School, he played baseball and basketball at Furman (S.C.) University, coached basketball at Miami University-Middletown (Ohio) and Middletown High School and was head baseball coach for 23 years at Furman, resigning after the 2016 season and still resides in the Palmetto State.
“I love South Carolina,” says Smith, who is in both the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame. “But Elkhart will always be my home.”
It was as a first grader that Smith began playing baseball at the City With A Heart’s Hawthorne Little League. He lived about two blocks away from Pierre Moran Park, wandered up one day and was on a team the next.
After that came Studebaker Park and Babe Ruth League at Elkhart FOP Park.
“We had good coaches throughout,” says Smith. “It was a great experience.
“I was so fortunate to grow up in Elkhart.”
It was also in elementary school that Smith learned from a coach that at his size he had better develop both hands as a basketball player.
“I really took that to heart,” says Smith, who shined on the court for head coaches Keith Dougherty (Elkhart), Jim Powers (Elkhart Memorial) and Joe Williams (Furman).”
The year before starting at Furman, Williams guided Jacksonville and Artis Gilmore to the NCAA championship game against UCLA.
On the prep diamond, Smith played three years for Dick Siler — one at Elkhart and two at Memorial.
“I took a little bit from all of those people,” says Smith. “Their influence was certainly impactful for me.”
Smith was the starting shortstop in his sophomore season of 1972. Steered Siler, Elkhart won the Elkhart Sectional and South Bend Regional and bowed 3-0 to eventual semistate champion Hammond Morton in the semifinals of the South Bend Semistate.
The following year Elkhart split into two schools.
“I think we would have been a state championship team the next year,” says Smith. “But instead we split. Central and Memorial had two pretty good teams. But they did not have the pitching depth to be really good.”
Smith says he would have loved playing as a teammate of Tom Calhoun instead of trying to fight through a Tom Eastman pick while guarding Calhoun in crosstown Memorial-Central rivalry basketball games.
Beginning with the fall of 2020, athletic teams in Elkhart began playing as one and were called the Lions. The town again has one high school.
“I was very happy to see a united Elkhart,” says Smith, who attended a few Lions football game with great nephew Quinn Rost (Class of 2025) as sophomore quarterback. “It’s really neat.”
Smith is uncle to Jacquie Rost, who is head volleyball coach and an athletic director at Elkhart and married to head baseball coach Scott Rost.
“I’m so proud of her and Scott,” says Smith. “(Class of 2021’s Dylan and Quinn) are the kind of boys I would love to have on my team.
“They are ‘team’ guys.”
Teachers — like Coe Strain — were also helpful to Smith along his journey.
An ardent follower of sports, Mrs. Strain got choir singer Smith involved in drama.
“I was probably the only athlete involved in the first musical,” says Smith. “But my senior year there were five or six.
“I developed an appreciation. The teamwork that is required for a drama production or a musical is very similar to that in the athletic endeavor.
“Everybody has to execute. Everybody has a part to play.”
Smith, a three-year letterwinner in tennis, basketball and baseball, earned the Tim Bringle Memorial Award as Elkhart’s top senior male athlete in 1974.
He was at Furman when he was selected in the ninth round of the 1977 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent parts of five seasons in the Phillies system, including five a Triple-A. The first few years he was still playing basketball at Furman during the winter.
After leaving college in his senior year, Smith went to spring training in Clearwater, Fla., with hopes of making the Double-A team in Reading, Pa.
“I had a good spring and felt good about things,” says Smith, who was one of 175 minor leaguers competing for 125 roster slots on five teams. “They called me in and said you really did but we like this Ryne Sandberg. I said, ‘Sandberg can’t make the play in the hole’ — which is true — but they moved him to second base and he had a Hall of Fame career.”
Smith also spent time playing behind future long-time major leaguer Julio Franco while also sitting near the manager when he was not in the game.
“I listened and learned,” says Smith.
When he was released as a player, Smith accepted an offer to manage the Phillies team in Helena, Mont., in 1982.
“I think I was the youngest manager in all of professional baseball,” says Smith.
When a new ownership/front office regime came to Philadelphia, Smith was among those to be let go.
“That was fine,” says Smith. “I was really into coaching basketball.
“I was ready to get out (of baseball).”
Then came the opportunity to possibly coach baseball at Furman.
Smith was enjoying his time at Middletown High when he was having a conversation with a mentor about his situation.
“He said — first of all what does your wife want to do?,” says Smith. “Then think about this: How many (NCAA) Division I baseball programs are there in the country? How many high school basketball jobs are there?”
In 23 seasons, he won 580 games with a Southern Conference championship in 2005.
This at a school with high tuition and far less than the limit of 11.7 scholarships.
“Furman is an expensive school,” says Smith. “It was hard to compete.
“But I feel like we got as much out of our players as anyone. As a coach, you want to see them improve individually. As a team, you want them to have that synergy — that something that allows them to achieve beyond the individual components that they have because of their working together.
“That is the most rewarding thing as a coach.”
Upon taking over the program, Smith had four goals: graduate on time, grow up (develop as a person), get better (improve on the field) and win championships.
“We faithfully stayed with that approach and as a result we had a tremendous graduation rate
anybody who stayed for four years graduated,” says Smith. “I’m so proud of the players that came out of the program — really fine young men, successful family men and good people.”
Ron’s wife — Elizabeth “Beth” Jordan Smith — died Oct. 25, 2021 at 58.
Forty five former players came from all over the country to Greenville to attend Beth Smith’s memorial service.
“It really meant a lot to me,” says Smith, 66. That validated my career in many ways.”
Since his wife’s passing, Smith has been taking some time for himself and has been able to travel and play golf with friends.
For the past three years, Smith has been a color commentator for Clemson (S.C.) University baseball home games shown on video
Smith’s approach is to comment on the game like he’s watching it on TV with a buddy
“It’s a lot of fun,” says Smith.
Not a rookie to broadcasting before the Clemson gig, Smith was a radio color commentator for Furman basketball for six years.
He’s also followed MLB.
“I’m glad they’re going to have a time clock for pitching,” says Smith. “The games have gotten too long.”
While he sees why some teams are based around power, there is more to the game than the three-run bomb.
“I really enjoy some of that small-ball stuff that maybe people don’t appreciate nowadays,” says Smith. “I don’t think there’s a better game than baseball when the ball is in-play. There’s a lot of down time.
“But when the ball is hit, it’s just a perfect game.
If you field it cleanly, the guy is out by a step at first base.
“What’s more exciting than seeing a guy hit a ball in the right-center gap and trying to stretch it into a triple? It’s great.”
In May 2020, Furman announced the elimination of its baseball program.
“It’s in a state of limbo now,” says Smith of Paladins baseball. “The field still intact and still pretty well maintained.
“I’m hoping that in the near future it will be reinstated.”

Ron Smith. (Furman University Photo)

Lipscomb U. southpaw Dunkelberger earns right to call his own pitches

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

Michael Dunkelberger did something last spring that many college baseball pitchers do not get to do — call their own pitches.
The left-hander at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., says those decisions get made by coaches the overwhelming majority of the time.
Dunkelberger, a 2018 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph High School who turned 23 in August, was on a team full of older players thanks largely to the extra years of eligibility given because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
That extra time led to wisdom which helped lead to the ability make the right decisions under fire.
“It takes time to be able to call your own pitches,” says Dunkelberger, one of a handful on his staff given the chance to call pitches. “You have practice and bullpens and you talk through scouting reports.”
At the beginning of the year, he scored well on an online cognitive test.
“It showed how well you can instinctively learn and figure out what’s working well and what’s not,” says Dunkelberger, who credits Lipscomb pitching coach Matt Myers for helping him progress.
“He was very similar to me in college,” says Dunkelberger of Myers, who was a lefty pitcher at the University of Tennessee. “He taught me about the mental side and how to go deep in games.
“I was learning how to dissect the hitters swings and able to call my own game.”
It was the first time in his college career he got to call pitches. It had been since the end of his days at Saint Joseph when Indians head coach John Gumpf allowed Dunkelberger and catcher/classmate Luke Houin to make those decisions.
As a junior, Dunkelberger pitched a three-hitter as Saint Joseph beat Jasper 4-0 for the IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
The lefty struck out four, walked two and hit two batters in a seven-inning complete game.
“That junior year team was a lot of fun,” says Dunkelberger. “I grew up with those guys. We played together from 7 or 8 (on The Baseball Factory travel team) and went to the same high school.”
Beating John Glenn 9-7 in extra innings in the Griffith Regional was a highlight of the state title run.
“There were a lot of characters on the team,” says Dunkelberger. “(Coach Gumpf) he let us be ourselves and go out and play. We were a very talented team. A lot of guys on that team played college baseball.”
Taking stock of his best athletic qualities, Dunkelberger puts experience and pitchability at the top.
“There are guys that throw a lot harder than me,” says Dunkelberger. “I earned from an early age how to get guys out without having to throw hard.”
Coming from an arm slot that’s close to over-the-top, Dunkelberger throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider.
His four-seamer tops out at 92 mph. His two-seamer gets up to 90. His curve is of the 12-to-6 variety. His “split” change goes straight down. A new trend on the college scene is a “sweeper” slider and the southpaw throws one of those.
Strength training in college allowed the athlete to come up to 6-foot and 215 pounds.
Dunkelberger, who did not see action at Indiana University in 2019 and pitched at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Valley Community College in 2020 and 2021, made a splash in his first season with Lipscomb in 2022.
He made 15 appearances (13 as a starter) and went 7-3 with 3.45 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 18 walks in 78 1/3 innings while being named to second-team all-ASUN Conference.
Cody Piechocki was Dunkelberger’s head coach at KVCC and with the summer wood bat Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo Growlers/Mac Daddies from 2019-21 (because of his spring workload Dunkelberger did not play in the summer of 2022).
“He was great,” says Dunkelberger of Piechocki, who is also an associate scout for the Texas Rangers. “He helped me develop on the pitching side with command and velocity.
“He reminded me of Gumpf, letting me be me. Through my failures, he stuck by me.”
In nine starts at Kalamazoo Valley, Dunkelberger went 6-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 50 innings and was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
He was going to transfer to the University of Oregon. But COVID-19 changed his scholarship status and he decided to re-enter the recruiting process and he and KVCC roommate Collin Witzke wound up at Lipscomb.
The Bisons — with Jeff Forehand as head coach — went 35-23 in 2022 after an 18-29 ledger in 2021.
Dunkelberger has two more years of remaining eligibility and is getting ready for 2023 while he is on pace to earn a Business Management in the spring.
Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dunkelberger came to northern Indiana around 3 and grew up in Granger. He played youth baseball in Clay Township and was with a Chicago White Sox-sponsored travel team after The Baseball Factory.
Michael is the second-oldest of Scott and Laura Dunkelberger’s four children. Nick Boyd played football at South Bend Riley High School. Victoria Dunkelberger played softball at Penn High School. Penn junior Julianna Dunkelberger played volleyball as a freshman.
Scott Dunkelberger played baseball at Riley and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and is now a pharmaceutical sales representative. Laura Dunkelberger works for the State of Indiana, finding resources for special needs children.

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Southern Indiana making transition to NCAA Division I

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

The University of Southern Indiana in Evansville has decided to raise its profile and athletics plays a major part.
The Screaming Eagles have moved from NCAA Division II to Division I and begin competing at that level in 2022-23.
“We’re not a secret anymore,” says Tracy Archuleta, USI’s head baseball coach since the 2007 season. “Once we make that jump to Division I we want everyone to know about it. We want everyone to know how good our nursing program is and how great the Romain business school is and our engineering program along with the great tradition of successful athletics.
“We’re trying to make a big impact across the nation and not just in the tri-state (Indiana-Illinois-Kentucky) area.”
It means that the Pocket City now has two D-I schools — Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville.
Archuleta has spent his whole college baseball career in D-II as a player and a coach. He led Southern Indiana to DII national championships in 2010 and 2014.
But he knows that D-I is at the top of the scale.
“The excitement comes from being able to hold our teams against the best in the country,” says Archuleta.
Part of the transition means hiring the staff to help student-athletes while gradually increasing the number of scholarships.
“We want to hire guys who are familiar with Division I baseball and have had success with it,” says Archuleta.
His current staff includes Nick Gobert, Seth LaRue, volunteer Brice Stuteville and director of player development Deron Spink.
Gobert and Stuteville played at USI. LaRue is a 2011 graduate of Evansville Mater Dei High School who coached at Texas A&M Corpus Christi 2020-22. Spink is a former head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville.
Southern Indiana is beginning a four-year probationary period. The Screaming Eagles will not be eligible for NCAA tournament play until 2026-27.
NCAA D-I allows for 11.7 baseball scholarships while D-II is capped at 9. USI typically had six to seven.
“Recruiting has a big impact in all sports,” says Archuleta. “You have to be able to sell the university and give the student-athlete an understanding of why USI is a great fit for them.
“The difference now in recruiting is that you see everyone out there working instead of a select few. When you call a kid they have six schools already on them.”
In looking at Southern Indiana’s current roster, Archuleta has a mix of junior college transfers and players right out of high school along with returnees.
Archuleta says the roster will have to be trimmed from 50 to 40 by the spring season.
“The biggest thing for our guys is that they have to be willing to meet the challenge,” says Archuleta. “Some guys will have to step it up a little bit.”
USI plays host to Kent State in a charity exhibition at 2 p.m. Central Time Saturday, Oct. 22.
“I’m excited about what’s ahead for us there,” says Archuleta. “We’ll see where we’re at.”
Formerly a part of the D-II Great Lakes Valley Conference, Southern Indiana now belongs to the Ohio Valley Conference (with Eastern Illinois University, Lindenwood University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Morehead State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and University of Tennessee at Martin).
“There’s tradition there,” says Archuleta of the OVC. “In baseball, the conference is up-and-coming.
“With us, there’s the proximity of all the schools. It’s going to be neat for USI to build up rivals. Fans will be able to travel to road games.”
All but Tennessee Tech (205), Morehead State (260) and Arkansas-Little Rock (409) are inside 200 miles from USI.
SEMO competed in the Louisville Regional in 2022.
D-II is allowed to play 50 games. In 2022, USI played 49 with 28 of those at home.
D-I allows 56 games. Archuleta says he expects the 2023 Screaming Eagles schedule to be released in mid-November.
“Two of our first four weekends are at home (against Oakland and Bellarmine),” says Archuleta. “We have some midweek games at home.
“I think we only have two non-Division I opponents on our schedule.”
USI Baseball Field became the permanent home of the Screaming Eagles in 1974.
The on-campus facility is tree-lined and has lights and seating for about 1,200 with a concession stand, picnic area, press box and restrooms.
There’s also a four-camera replay system — something many D-I school do not possess.
Dimensions are 355 feet down the lines, 375 in the power alleys and 380 to dead center field.
“Our facilities are unbelievable,” says Archuleta. “We have great people who work on it.”
Archuleta can see upgrades coming in the next five-plus years.
“We have a little bit of work to do, but we’re not far away,” says Archuleta.

(University of Southern Indiana Image)

Brock grateful for opportunity to coach for Manchester, Espeset

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

Josh Brock is approaching two years as lead assistant baseball coach at Manchester University, an NCAA Division III program in North Manchester, Ind.
Brock, 40, came back to the Spartans full-time in January 2021. He had been an assistant a different times since 2013. He played for Manchester for four years (2001-04).
“I feel extremely fortunate to be around someone like Coach (Rick) Espeset,” says Brock of the longtime head coach and director of athletics.
Playing four seasons for Espeset and then being on his staff has impressed Brock about how the coach thinks the game.
“He has a level of baseball savvy,” says Brock. “He’s also preparing players for life after baseball.”
Putting it in football terms, Brock describes himself as the Spartans’ offensive coordinator while Espeset is defensive coordinator.
“I do the majority of the hitting and baserunning and work with outfielders since I played that position,” says Brock. “Espy works with the defense and makes all the strategic decisions.”
Brock also does the bulk of the recruiting.
The summer (roughly mid-May through August) is where Manchester coaches spent most of their time on the road. There’s also digital resources and the coaching network.
“There are alums and people in the baseball world who know and respect Coach Espeset (that recommend potential recruits),” says Brock.
Fall and winter is the time recruits are encouraged to visit the campus and to follow up on referrals.
The team conducts four weeks of fall practice (basically the month of September).
“We assess players and get the new guys acclimated,” says Brock. “Guys have a baseline they can use to transition into the off-season.”
At the end of the fall, players meet individually with coaches to receive an assessment and guidance on how they can develop.
NCAA Division III rules limit the contact time for coaches and players so there is no practice until it gets closer to the spring season.
What separates Manchester from some D-III program is that the offseason is truly “off.”
“We’re hands-off,” says Brock. “(Players) can just be a student and not worried about baseball obligations.
“Some of our guys are going to be in the weight room and the indoor cages all winter long. Some don’t pick up a baseball or bat again until (after Jan. 1). That’s their decision to make.”
Josh grew up close enough to Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., to have his father — Jerry Brock — take him to Generals’ batting cage on a regular basis.
There he met Wayne head coach Dave Fireoved.
“I was in awe of him,” says Brock. “He was always so good to us and a high-character guy. He loved the game and he loved his players.
“I couldn’t wait to get to high school to play for him.”
One of the coach’s sons — Mitch Fireoved — was the same age as Brock.
After four seasons at Wayne (1997-2000), outfielder Brock chose to play college baseball at Manchester.
There was a buzz around Espeset and his program after the Spartans won 70 games in his second through fourth seasons (1998-2000) with a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title in 1999.
Espeset and assistant Shawn Summe were regulars at Brock’s travel games. Two of his Fort Wayne Marlins teammates — Jared Kurtz (Fort Wayne South Side) and Brian Minix (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) — signed with the Spartans as did Ryan Carr (Norwell) and Eric Screeton (New Haven) of the rival Fort Wayne Indians.
Kurtz went on to play in the San Francisco Giants organization. Screeton became a coach, including leading the program at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
Brock’s last season as a player was 2004 — the year Manchester won a HCAC regular-season championship and advanced to the D-III World Series.
He earned a Business Administration and Management degree from Manchester in 2005 and entered the professional world.
Along the way, Brock decided to change career paths and got a Masters in English Literature from Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne as well as a Transition to Secondary Education and Teaching certificate from Taylor University in Upland, Ind., in 2013.
It was also 2013 that Brock was junior varsity baseball coach for Steve Sotir at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne.
When Espeset needed help at Manchester, Brock served as lead assistant in 2014 and 2015 and was a volunteer in 2016 while teaching at Summit Middle School, a part of Southwest Allen Schools as is Homestead High.
In two of the next three years, Brock was an Homestead assistant to Nick Byall while taking one year off to focus on his studies. He earned a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., in 2019.
“I’m grateful for my experiences and the accreditations I’ve been able to achieve,” says Brock.
He is hopeful his schooling makes him a better coach, educator and person.
Brock began teaching at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind., in the fall of 2019. He helped out with Manchester baseball in the spring of 2020 and taught at Norwell through the fall semester of 2020.
When a full-time position came up at Manchester, Brock went back to the school as a full-timer.
Always looking for new ideas and things that will help players, Brock appreciated going with Espeset to the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention (the 2023 event is Jan. 5-8 in Nashville).
“It’s Candyland for baseball coaches,” says Brock. “I enjoy talking to other coaches.
“The ABCA is very giving group. (Members) are very giving with their time.”
Last winter, Brock spoke about middle infield play for a coaches clinic hosted by the Summit City Sluggers.
Brock is not married and has no kids.
“I’m the cool uncle,” says Brock, whose niece and nephew live with older brother Jeremiah in Hawaii.
Their parents — Jerry and AeSun — live in Fort Wayne. AeSun Brock was born in South Korea.

Josh Brock. (Manchester University Photo)

Josh Brock (7). (Manchester University Photo)