Category Archives: High School

Reinebold, South Bend Clay Colonials celebrate 1,000 wins

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

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School got to celebrate its baseball past and present when the Colonials reached a milestone May 14 at Jim Reinebold Field.
The Colonials swept a doubleheader from visiting Bowman Leadership Academy. The first-game win marked the 1,000th since Clay joined South Bend Community School Corporation in 1964.
Jim Reinebold led the program to its first 503 victories from 1964-88. He helped found the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and was a member of its initial Hall of Fame induction class in 1979. He established the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp in 1993 and it the developmental camp is still an autumn tradition.
“He was the GOAT,” says Joel Reinebold, one of Jim’s sons and the head coach at Clay since the 2014 season.
There have been many family connections at Clay over the decades. That continues with Denny Grounds, who played for Jim Reinebold in 1964, and his grandson, Colin Monsma, who is on Joel Reinebold’s 2022 team.
“We’re very, very young and very, very inexperienced,” says Reinebold, who at times has had four freshmen and two first-time high school players in his starting lineup. “But they know about the tradition of program and what is expected of them. They got a big kick of getting 1,000 wins on their watch.
“We stress pride in the program, taking care of what we have and appreciating what you have.”
All this during a time when there is talk of school closures in South Bend, including Clay.
“We don’t know anything,” says Reinebold of the rumors. “We just take it day by day.
“It would be a crime to shut it down. It’s a great school.”
When Jim Reinebold started at Clay, the team played on a diamond located on the site of the current field.
Joel Reinebold remembers watching “No. 4” and his teams from the monkey bars.
The Colonials then played at Bendix (Kennedy) Park and then at Clay Park before landing at what is now Jim Reinebold Field (so named following J.R.’s death in 2017) while Chip O’Neil, who is also an IHSBCA Hall of Famer, was head coach.
Since coming back to Clay, Joel estimates that the program and its supporters have raised more than $50,000 for upgrades to the facility.
How many hours has Joel spent working on it?
“I wouldn’t even begin to guess,” says Reinebold. “I wish I had a dollar for every hour.”
Clay will host a Class 3A sectional (with Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Saint Joseph and South Bend Washington) May 25, 26 and 30 and a 1A regional (with regional winners from the South Central of Union Mills, Caston, Fremont and Westville sectionals) June 4.
“I want a semistate (in the future),” says Reinebold. “It’s more work for us, but I’m glad we host the sectional and regional and can show off the field a little bit.”
Reinebold, who was the original groundskeeper at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium in South Bend (now called Four Winds Field), cares for a field which sports athletic bluegrass with a Washington Ball Mix for the infield.
“I like the coloring and texture,” says Reinebold. “It drains very well.”
Reinebold is always partial to Pro’s Choice infield conditioner.
“It helps the playability of the field and its prevents it from getting too hard or too soft,” says Reinebold. “It’s the same stuff I used at the stadium.”
After graduating from Clay and playing at Mississippi College, Reinebold was an assistant to his father then Dan Kasper at Clay.
He then helped Brian Buckley at Hillsdale (Mich.) College, served as an assistant at Penn High School (the Kingsmen won their first state championship in 1994) followed by a head coaching stint at South Bend Adams (1995-2000), another assistant stretch at Penn (2001-2012) and finally leading the program at Clay.
His current coaching staff includes pitching coach Kasper and former Adams player Nate Meadimber.
The Colonials have won 12 sectional titles, including in the first two years of the IHSAA state tournament (1967 and 1968).
Since 1967, only South Bend Riley boys swimming (29) has earned more sectional champions among SBCSC schools.
Clay reigned as state baseball champions in 1970. Jay Parker and Bob Schell were captains on that team and are part of a group of Colonials who were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft out of high school or college.
Besides Parker (Chicago White Sox 1970) and Schell (Chicago Cubs 1970), there’s Roger Benko (Chicago White Sox 1967), Gary King (Cleveland Indians 1970), Kent Juday (Cleveland Indians 1972), Andy Replogle (St. Louis Cardinals 1975), Bret Mitchell (Kansas City Royals 1977), Tim Hudnall (Montreal Expos 2002), Mike Wolff (Baltimore Orioels 1994) and Aaron Bond (San Francisco Giants 2017). Replogle pitched in the majors.
Joel Reinebold helps youth players in Indiana and Jamaica through his efforts with Rounding Third, a a non-profit organization he helped start with former South Bend White Sox/Silver Hawks front office man John Baxter and others.

South Bend (Ind.) Clay High School celebrates the 1,000th win since Clay joined South Bend Community Schools in 1964. The milestone came May 14, 2022. (South Bend Clay Photo)

NEIBA names finalists for ’22 Dick Crumback Player of the Year

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

The 2022 high school baseball regular season is entering its last week.
The finalists for the Dick Crumback/Northeast Indiana Baseball Association High School Player of the Year Award have been determined and winner will be announced the week of IHSAA sectionals (May 25-30).
The list:

DICK CRUMBACK/NEIBA
HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Finalists
2022
Bishop Dwenger (Coach Jason Garrett)
So. Brayton Thomas
Sr. Xavier Aguirre
Bluffton (Coach Jason Pierce)
So. Braxton Betancourt
Carroll (Coach Dave Ginder)
Sr. Jordan Malott
Sr. Jaydan Duba
Jr. Cameron Saunders
Sr. Alex Smith
Jr. Andrew Sinish
Churubusco (Coach Jordan Turner)
Sr. Cal Ostrowski
East Noble (Coach Aaron Desmonds)
Sr. Brayden Risedorph
Garrett (Coach Jason Richards)
Sr. Trey Richards
So. Luke Holcomb
Heritage (Coach Dean Lehrman)
Sr. Dalton D. Wasson
Homestead (Coach Nick Byall)
Sr. Brennen Weigert
Leo (Coach Gary Rogers)
Sr. Cohden Brubaker
Sr. Donavin Massing
So. Kylar Decker
South Side (Coach Will Coursen-Carr)
Sr. Perry Stow

Numbers important to Bloomington North’s Hurt in classroom, on diamond

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

Richard Hurt teaches math in the classroom and baseball on the field.
At Bloomington (Ind.) High School North, Hurt leads second-Algebra students. He has taught the Indiana University Finite Math class for about 15 years.
“I’m not the kind of teacher that there’s only one way to do things,” says Hurt. “The kids I’ve had in class kind of make fun of me because I say, ‘how do you get from Bloomington North to the mall on the east side? Is there only one road that gets you there? No. There’s all sorts of roads.’ But you’ve got to show me your work. You’ve got to show me how you’re going.
“There’s all sorts of ways to solve math problems. But you need to show your work. You’ve got to prove what you’re doing. There’s that logical step-by-step approach to mathematics. I like that.
“Everybody talks about the book in baseball. I haven’t seen it yet. But there are certain things you tend to do in certain situations. If you can find a better way to do it, absolutely. If it works, that’s right. Baseball is a numbers game. I like dealing with numbers.”
Hurt was one of the first in his area to adopt arm band signals when went to them almost a decade ago.
“It opens up a lot more things because everything is on paper,” says Hurt of the numbers-based shorthand system. “It allows you to do more things with your signals.”
A 1977 graduate of Bloomington High School South, Hurt was double major in economics and mathematics at IU and earned a baseball letter for the Bob Lawrence-coached Hoosiers in 1980.
Hurt was an assistant baseball coach at both South and North and was head coach at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis for three seasons (1986-88). He led Bloomington North 1989-2002, stepped away for six years and came back to the Cougars as head coach in 2009. He has compiled close to 500 victories.
“I don’t live on wins and losses,” says Hurt. “They’re still important. You keep score.
“At the same time it’s working with kids trying to get them better. You see how they progress.”
Hurt has taught his player how to care for and maintain a field (that has changed a little since Bloomington North went to a turf diamond in 2021) and believes in the importance of fundamentals.
“My dad was very much that way,” says Hurt.
Warren Hurt, a graduate of Winslow High School (part of the Pike Central consolidation), played basketball with all-stater and future member of Branch McCracken’s Hurryin’ Hoosiers, Dick Farley. Hurt was a teacher and high school basketball coach (he guided Smithville High School for a time and later taught at Bloomington South) and also led youth baseball teams.
The same lessons that his father taught Richard were also absorbed by brother Mark Hurt who exhibits those traits as head girls basketball coach at Mooresville (Ind.) High School.
Hurt’s coaching has changed over the years. He saw the running at the end of practice was not vital and he no longer does that with his teams.
“Do we condition?,” says Hurt. “Yeah. Whenever we go from drill to drill, you better run. But that fits into baseball. You hit the ball. You run 90 feet. If you’re out you back to the dugout and rest for 10 or 15 minutes.
“You may get a double. You take a short break there.”
Not that running is completely out of the equation.
Recently, the Cougars had been striking out too much of Hurt’s liking so he came up with the “30 to 350” batting practice drill.
“I’m 30 feet away,” says Hurt. “I’m throwing the ball as hard as my 63-year-old arm will allow me which is probably about average for high school
“They have two strikes and if you strike out, you got to go to the 350 sign and back. The whole team does. You’ve got to dig in. You’ve got to battle. If you foul it off or put it in-play you’re good.”
Hurt has also noticed a change in his players on the artificial surface.
“Your fielders are much more confident now,” says Hurt. “They stay down on the ball and get true hops.”
Bloomington North (enrollment around 1,600) is a member of the Conference Indiana (with Bloomington South, Columbus North, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo).
There are five conference games.
The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Bloomington South (2022 host), Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central and Shelbyville. Bloomington North has won 17 sectional titles — the last in 2013.
Several of Hurt’s players have gone on to college and pro baseball. Will Klein (Class of 2017) is a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization. Gant Elmore (Class of 2007) was a second baseman in the Milwaukee Brewers system. Sam Klein (Class of 2020) is the closer at Ball State University.
Hurt’s assistants are Erik Pearson, Clay Keltner, Dr. Terry Greene, Drake Smith (JV head coach), A.J. Willis (JV assistant), Gary Stratten (freshmen head coach) and Eizlee Nixon (freshmen assistant). Pearson, Willis and Nixon played for Hurt.
The Cougars have about three dozen players for varsity, junior varsity and freshman/C-team squads.
Two of Hurt’s sons — Jim (Class of 2009) and Tyler (Class of 2012) — played for him at Bloomington North. Jim Hurt played baseball at the University of Dayton and Tyler Hurt at Cedarville (Ohio) University. Hurt’s stepson is Abe Carney.
Richard and Cinder Hurt have been married since 1988. She is a dental hygienist and a Bloomington native.

Richard Hurt (Steve Krah Photo)

New Snider head coach Clinkenbeard sees diamond as a place to learn about more than baseball

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

Josh Clinkenbeard knows the life lessons that can be learned through athetics.
He absorbed them as a baseball and football player at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider High School and continues to make it a focus as he has moved up from Panthers assistant to baseball head coach at his alma mater in 2022.
“One of the biggest messages we are trying to share with our guys is about being a good community member,” says Snider Class of 1999’s Clinkenbeard, a former outfielder, first baseman and pitcher for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andy Owen (Marc Skelton and Bruce Meyer were assistants; Skelton became head coach after Owen and both Skelton and Meyer retired from baseball coaching after 2021) and tight end for Indiana Football Hall of Famer Russ Isaacs. “As individuals, we will always be a part of some collective group.
“We remind ourselves to be good teammates. We also try to relate our sport to real life like dealing with adversity and working with others, for example.”
Clinkenbeard recalls lessons learned from Owen and company.
“One of the biggest things I remember that still rings true with me is how to handle physical mistakes versus mental mistakes as a coach,” says Clinkenbeard. “Dealing with the mental side of sports can be taught and modeled in practice.”
Snider (enrollment around 1,900) is a member of the Summit Athletic Conference (with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne and Homestead).
SAC teams play home-and-series in the same week against conference opponents.
The Panthers are in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Carroll, DeKalb (host), East Noble and Northrop. Snider has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2017. Clinkenbeard was part of that coaching staff.
With 31 players in 2022 for varsity and junior varsity squads, Clinkenbeard is assisted by Payton Bieker, Brandon Phelps, Chase Phelps, Tim McCrady and Jimmy Cunningham.
All but Cunningham are Snider graduates. Bieker (Class of 2008) played at Purdue University, Brandon Phelps (Class of 2013) and Chase Phelps (Class of 2016) at what is now Purdue Fort Wayne. McCrady (Class of 1983) is the JV head coach. Cunningham is a first-year coach.
The Panthers play on Hawley Field (a diamond four miles east of Snider named for former athletic director Michael Hawley who helped plan and build the complex). The facility has been upgraded with irrigation and improved drainage.
“The long-term goal is to have lock rooms on-site with indoor batting cages,” says Clinkenbeard. Snider baseball once played at Carrington Field. When the original was torn down to make room for Memorial Stadium (home of the Fort Wayne Wizards), a new Carrington Field was establish across Coliseum Boulevard. When Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (now PFW) purchsed the land, Snider went looking for a new home field.
“The unique part is that we are not on-site which creates many challenges, but because we are nestled among some housing additions it gives us a feeling of being part of a community.”
A 2003 graduate of Butler University with a degree in Biology with a teaching certificate, Clinkenbeard is in his 18th year as a middle school teacher.
Before a rotator cuff injury ended his career, the first baseman was a walk-on at Butler for head coach Steve Farley.
“Great coach who really showed me the details of the game,” says Clinkenbeard of Farley. “There are many drills we did in college that we incorporate in our team today.”
Jakob Byler (University of Saint Francis) and Trevor Newman (Franklin College) are college commits. Mac Hippenhammer (Class of 2017) went to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to play baseball and football.
Josh and wife Krisanne Clinkenbeard have three children — Olivia, Jase and Hayes.

Fort Wayne Snider High School coaches gather around the 2017 IHSAA Class 4A DeKalb Sectional championship trophy. They are (from left): First row — Payton Bieker, Marc Skelton and Tim McCrady; Second row — Rob Hale, Bruce Meyer, Josh Clinkenbeard and Bruce Dohrn.

Pierce wants Bluffton Tigers to play with ‘controlled aggression’

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

Jason Pierce knows what kind of identity he wants for his Bluffton (Ind.) High School baseball team.
“Our motto is to control what we can control,” says Pierce, who asks his Tigers not to dwell on mistakes and to rally together. “We’re very much a family here. This sport has a lot of ups and down. We want our players to have controlled aggression and do the little things the best they possibly can.”
Pierce stresses life lessons, high academics and building maturity in young men.
“We want to productive members of society,” says Pierce, who took over the program before the 2020 season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic after seven seasons as head coach at Eastside Junior/Senior High School (Butler, Ind.) and two campaigns leading the Churubusco (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School program. “You learn that through team sports.”
Bluffton went 14-16-1 in 2021 with five on-run losses and a pair of one-run victories with a team featuring just one senior starter.
“We’re young on paper, but we’ve got a lot of experience on the field,” says Pierce in looking ahead to 2022. “We’ve got a lot of athletes. We’re in a really good spot with guys who can move around the field.
“As long as we can keep our heads I think we’re going to be a pretty dangerous baseball team.”
The 14 players on Bluffton’s MaxPreps.com roster (as of March 28) include six seniors — middle infielder/pitcher Brock Drayer, outfielder/catcher Lukas Hunt, outfielder/pitcher/first baseman Dylan King, outfielder/pitcher/shortstop Kyler Rolston, pitcher/first baseman Grant Thompson and pitcher/outfielder Kayden Vineyard plus four juniors in corner infielder/pitcher Curtis Ellis, catcher/outfielder Kayden King, pitcher/infielder/outfielder, outfielder/pitcher Austin Lewis, Andrew Onuegbu and outfielder/pitcher Drew Pressler and three sophomores in pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Braxton Betancourt, middle infielder/pitcher Eli Garrett and catcher/pitcher Brody Lewis.
Left-hander Betancourt (5-5, 1.43 earned run average, 97 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings) was the Tigers’ No. 1 pitcher in 2021 and Pierce expects him to have the same role in 2022. Bluffton is to open the season Tuesday, April 5 at New Haven.
On a team with as many as 10 players can be effective pitchers, Pierce looks at right-hander Ellis as his probable No. 2.
Kaleb Riley (Class of 2021) is now on the baseball team at Indiana University South Bend.
Bluffton (enrollment around 470) is a member of the Allen County Athletic Conference (with Adams Central, Heritage, Jay County, South Adams, Southern Wells and Woodlan).
The Tigers is scheduled play Adams Central and Southern Wells twice with the second game counting toward the ACAC standings. Bluffton is slated to meet Heritage, Jay County, South Adams and Woodlan one time each.
In 2021, the Tigers were runner-up in a IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Adams Central, Eastside (host and champion), Churubusco, South Adams and Woodlan. Bluffton has won five sectional crowns — the last in 2019.
Bluffton plays home games on Everett Scott Field. The facility on the north side of the campus is named after the Indiana Hall of Famer who played in a then-record 1,307 consecutive games for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees 1916-25.
Providing early diamond opportunities is Bluffton Youth Baseball (T-ball to age 15). Most high school players are with travel organizations, including the Indiana Bandits, Midwest Aces and Summit City Sluggers.
Pierce’s 2022 coaching staff features Tim Garrett, Marco Betancourt (pitching coach) and Doug Pressler with the varsity and Trae Jojola and Cody Harris with the junior varsity.
A 1993 graduate of St. Marys (Ohio) High School, Pierce played one season at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio, and then transferred to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. He got hurt in the fall and did not get to play for Lance Hershberger’s Warriors.
Pierce, who teaches seventh grade at Bluffton-Harrison Middle School, has two daughters — Leo sophomore Lillian (16) and Heritage grade schooler Harper (8).

Bluffton (Ind.) High School head baseball coach Jason Pierce (left) and Cameron Nestleroad (Greenbear Photography Photo).
Bluffton (Ind.) High School head baseball coach Jason Pierce (Greenbear Photography Photo).

New varsity head coach Nance growing game with Western Boone Stars

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

An investment has been made in the future of baseball at Western Boone Junior/Senior High School in Thorntown, Ind., and Michael Nance is part of it.
After coaching travel ball in the community, in the junior high program that feeds the high school and helping at the high school level, Nance was hired in July 2021 to guide the Webo Stars.
The junior high team has players in Grades 6-8 and plays 12 to 14 games in the spring.
Nance reached out to Western Boone Little League and a partnership was formed. The Western Boone Baseball Club offers instruction on Sundays to players age 9 to 12 not involved in travel ball.
“It’s an opportunity to get these kids more baseball reps all year,” says Nance.
Out of that came 12U and 10U club teams that offer additional games to the Little League schedule.
Knowing his current players and what’s in the pipeline, Nance is upbeat in leading a program which produced five varsity victories in 2019 and four in 2021.
“I think we can win,” says Nance. “I’m very excited about the next six or eight years from what I can see coming.”
Western Boone’s four seniors are Casey Baird, Will Barta, Evan Hine and Mitch Miller.
Baird, who has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College for football, will be called on to play multiple positions, including shortstop, second base, catcher and relief pitcher. Barta is a designated hitter. Georgetown (Ky.) College-bound Evan Hine (.325 average with a team-best .509 on-base percentage in 2021) is a third baseman. Miller, who led the Stars with .349 average last season, is a center fielder and lead-off hitter.
There’s also junior first baseman Andrew Foster, sophomore left-handed pitcher/right fielder Jackson Grimes, sophomore right-hander/left fielder Luke Jackson, sophomore righty/shortstop Bryce Kopriva, sophomore catcher and clean-up hitter Cole Wiley and freshman second baseman Gavin Hawkins.
Nance labels Kopriva, Jackson and Grimes as 1, 1A and 1B on his pitching staff. He points out that athletic Hawkins was the No. 1 singles player in tennis and played on the junior varsity team in basketball.
Former Marian University pitcher Gabe Westerfeld is a varsity assistant coach and the program’s pitching coordinator.
“We are really, really young on the mound,” says Nance. “Gabe has our young guys believing and there have been velocity increases.”
Eric Gubera is JV coach and is also in charge of outfielders and base runners. He has coached with Nance in the summer since their sons were 8. Two years ago, they became affiliated with the Indiana Braves. This summer, they will guide the 12U Indiana Yard Goats — a squad that includes six players from Western Boone, three from Avon and one from Brownsburg player.
Nance, who was a catcher at Lebanon (Ind.) High School, Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.) and MacMurray College (Jacksonsonville, Ill.), handles catchers, infielders and hitters.
There are 22 players in the program and all practice together.
Western Boone (enrollment around 510) is a member of the Sagamore Conference (with Crawfordsville, Danville Community, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Southmont and Tri-West Hendricks).
The Stars are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Clinton Prairie, Delphi (2022 host), Fountain Central and Seeger. Western Boone has won two sectional titles — 1982 and 1983.
Western Boone is scheduled to open the 2022 season with three games this weekend in Unionville, Tenn., south of Nashville. An optional part of the spring break trip is attending Sunday’s Tennessee at Vanderbilt college game.
The Stars play home contests on-campus with side-by-side varsity and JV diamonds north of the school building. This year, the Stars got new brick dust for the infield and new wind screens for the outfield as well as a Hack machine and new L screens. At the end of the season, lights will go up.
“It’s a really nice place to play,” says Nance.
A 2004 Lebanon graduate, Nance played for Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray.
“He demanded a lot but got more out kids than they knew they were capable,” says Nance. “You knew he really loved the game. He was always so upbeat and positive.
“I have nothing but admiration for Coach Cosgray. I try to run my program like him.”
Nance played for two head coaches at Ancilla — Rockie Dodds and Joe Yonto.
“(Yonto) had a profound impact on me,” says Nance. “He showed me how to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand (through eye-specific muscle training.”
In Nance’s last year at MacMurray, former high school coach Fred Curtis led the Highlanders.
“He just loved the game,” says Nance. “He said if you do the fundamentals right and not walk people, you can win ball games.”
Nance says he also appreciates the mentoring and assistance he’s received from men also leading high school programs — among them Matthew Cherry (Fishers), Troy Drosche (Avon) and Andy Dudley (Frankfort).
“There’s been such support from the coaching community,” says Nance. “They’ve been willing to help.”
Nance earned a Special Education degree at MacMurray and a masters in Criminal Justice from Xavier University in Cincinnati. This summer will mark 15 years with Boone County Community Corrections. After starting out as a probation officer, he is now executive director.
Michael and wife Emily (who played softball at Manchester University and MacMurray and now works in cancer research at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis) have a son and daughter attending Thorntown Elementary — Easton (12) and Harper (10). He enjoys tennis, baseball and duck hunting. She likes soccer and plays travel softball with the Indiana Magic.

Michael Nance.
Michael Nance.
Emily, Easton, Michael and Harper Nance.
Michael, Emily, Easton and Harper Nance.
Harper and Michael Nance.
Easton, Michael and Harper Nance.

Enright emphasizes mental approach with Wheeler Bearcats

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

Jeff Enright sees baseball as more than just physical. There’s what goes on between the ears, too.
“Baseball is kind of a unique sport,” says Enright, the head coach at Wheeler (Ind.) High School since the summer of 2019. “There’s so much thought that goes into every position and every pitch.
“There’s the mental approach and how to overcome short-term adversity.”
Players will face a bad call by the umpire or have a sure hit robbed by a great catch, but they must move forward or it becomes a negative.
“That’s what I enjoy most about coaching baseball,” says Enright. “You try to put them in healthy stressful situations as much as you can during the off-season.
“You make them uncomfortable and failing and then you build them back up.”
Enright equates mental training with mental health.
“These kids are 14 to 18,” says Enright. “They are still growing emotionally. Their highs are too high and lows too low.”
The coach goes for even-keel.
“We say you’re never as bad or as good as you think you are,” says Enright. “We talk about it all the time.”
For every four practices on the baseball field, the Bearcats are in the class room going over the last few practices or games. Enright likes to do this debriefing on a rainy day.
Wheeling won the program’s sixth sectional title in 2021.
While right-handed pitcher Rex Stills (9-1, 1.37 earned run average, 100 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings) and infielder Sean Conroy have moved on — Stills to Purdue Fort Wayne and Conroy to Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif.
Returnees for 2022 include senior outfielder Nehemiah Parrish, senior catcher/outfielder Dylan Passauer, senior corner infielder/right-hander Kole Hutcheson, junior shortstop Kris Kingery, junior right-hander/outifleder Mason Leckrone, sophomore utility man Mark Johnson, sophomore right-hander Lucas McNamara and sophomore third baseman/designated hitter Jackson Smith.
Parrish, who plans to enter the U.S. Marines after graduation, hit .414 with 30 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases in 2021.
Passauer has committed to the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Kingery is expected to be the Bearcats’ lead-off hitter.
Leckrone and Hutcheson are likely the team’s top two starting pitchers.
Johnson (.317, 13 RBI) and Smith (.355, 19 RBI) are coming off solid offensive seasons.
Of the 21 players in the program, most are juniors and sophomores.
“For a (Class) 2A school we’re pretty deep this year,” says Enright.
Wheeler (enrollment around 450) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with baseball members Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest and Whiting).
With the addition of Illiana Christian, the conference is broken into divisions with teams playing two games with their division and one against squads in the other division. Wheeler is paired with Calumet New Tech, Lake Station Edision, River Forest and Whiting.
The Bearcats do not have a conference JV schedule but has scheduled JV games on days when the varsity does not play.
“I want to get the young guys some reps,” says Enright.
Wheeler is part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Bowman Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Whiting (host).
Enright’s varsity assistant is Joe Kennedy, who was a player for Enright at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. Enright was an assistant for the 2013 Class 4A Illinois state champions.
JV coaches are Union Township Middle School teacher Sean Cunningham and Alex Hutman (Wheeler Class of 2021).
Wheeler is due to get new baseball and softball fields with turf. First up is the turfing of the football field. The diamonds will be located on the other end of the property from their current locations.
“It may not be pure baseball in the traditional sense, but as soon as it stops raining you can play,” says Enright of playing on turf. “In our area of the country it’s tough to get a baseball season in in the spring.”
Wheeler is small incorporated Valparaiso community. The feeder system for the baseball program include Union Township Little League (T-ball through Senior League for middle schoolers).
Enright estimates that around 75 percent of players are with travel organizations, including Triple Crown Valparaiso, 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs and Cangelosi Sparks (Lockport, Ill.). Some also play American Legion ball for Post 502 Blaze coached by Bob Wineland.
An alum of Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill. (1995), Enright with a double major in History and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1999. He went to Chicago-Kent College of Law and practiced product liability law at Schiff Hardin LLC in Chicago.
It was while clerking for a judge during law school that he got the idea that he might one day want to go into education. He teaches History and U.S. Government at Wheeler.
Before landing with the Bearcats, Enright was head coach at Calumet Tech. The 11 years prior to that was spent at Mount Carmel. He moved up from freshmen coach to sophomore coach and varsity assistant while working with Caravan head coach Brian Hurry.
“I learned most about coaching from him,” says Enright of Hurry. “The biggest thing was how to have a personal relationship with each kid to try to maximize their potential.”
A member of the Chicago Catholic League, Mount Carmel players are recruited while in middle school.
“We get to know them in sixth and seventh grade as you’re trying to entice them to come to your school,” says Enright. “You hope you know how they tick.”
During his time at Mount Carmel, the baseball community rallied over a series of tragedies. Complications of a heart defect took Steven “Stevie” M. Bajenski in 2009 (the first Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Baseball Tournament was played in 2012). The Caravan also lost a coach to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and another player passed on July 4.
“It brought everybody closer together,” says Enright. “Everybody was reeling.”
Jeff and wife Kerry have three children in the Union Township School Corporation — junior Emily (16), eighth grader Sarah (14) and sixth grader Jack (11).

Jeff Enright

Caston establishing system in first year of Hammond Central Wolves

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

Hammond (Ind.) Central High School’s first baseball season in 2022 will come under the leadership of head coach Michael Caston.
The 1998 Hammond High graduate has set a path for the Wolves.
“We have a philosophy we’re going to follow,” says Caston. “You have to learn and buy into the philosophy to be successful.”
Caston, who was head coach at Hammond Gavit following stints as a Calumet College of St. Joseph assistant and assistant then head coach at Chicago State University, breaks his philosophy into offense, defense, pitching and base running.
“Early in the count we’re looking to drive fastballs in the strike zone,” says Caston of his hitting theory. “I believe in ‘back spin’ baseball.’ The ball travels father and we hit it into the gaps.
“We want to get front foot down early to create base. As the front foot gets down, you load your hands and transfer your weight to explode on the ball. We keep the barrel of the bat up and take the shortest path to the ball. That creates your launch angle.”
Knowing that there is a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) in high school, Caston expects an attack mentality.
“If you have a good fastball, throw fastballs early in the county,” says Caston. “We we’re not going to waste any pitches. Why throw curveballs when nobody has hit your fastball yet?
“We like to pound the zone with fastballs early.”
With a dozen juniors and seniors and a mix of right-handers and left-handers in a group of 26 players (varsity and junior varsity), Caston expects them to carry the load for the Wolves and that includes on the mound.
“Defensively, it’s very simple,” says Caston. “If you can catch it and throw it, you’re going to be very successful.”
He has been teaching his players backhand and glove-side techniques as well as situational defense.
He wants his defenders to know what to do with the ball when it’s put in-play and practice reflects that.
“In the game it becomes natural to them,” says Caston. “In our system everyone knows they have a job on every play.”
Caston wants his Wolves to play a “very exciting brand of baseball” and that includes aggressiveness on the base paths.
“I like to advance runners various ways,” says Caston. “We don’t move runners by bunting. I pride myself in having players reading balls in the dirt before they even hit the dirt. We like to utilize fake bunt-and-steal.
“We’re very aggressive on the base paths on hits to the outfield. We want to force the (opposing defense) to make a clean play.”
Caston has been pleased at his player’s eagerness to learn.
“It’s a total change for most of the kids I’m coaching,” says Caston. “They’re amazed at all the new things they’ve been learning. They’ve learned to change their old habits to the new philosophy.
“They’re catching on pretty quickly.”
Hammond Central assistant coaches are Albert Carpen and Erick Chavarria at the varsity level and Michael Korba with the JV. All three are graduates of Hammond Clark High School. Carpen played for Caston at Chicago State and Chavarria at MacMurray College. Carpen was among the top hitters in NCAA Division I in 2012 when he posted an average of .426 and on-base percentage of .522.
Hammond High was razed to make way for the new Hammond Central and Clark was also closed, leaving the School City of Hammond with two high schools — Central and Morton.
In 2022, Hammond Central will play baseball home games at Gavit. A new field is planned on the Central campus.
Hammond Central’s first college baseball commit is Anthony Huber to Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Ill.
Most Hammond Gavit players landed at Morton. Among those getting collegiate looks is Ryan Peppers.
The feeder system includes Lakeshore Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth, Hammond Optimist Youth Sports and Hessville Little League plus various travel ball organizations.
Hammond Central (enrollment around 1,950) is a member of the Great Lakes Athletic Conference (with East Chicago Central, Gary West Side and Hammond Morton).
Each GLAC team meets twice.
The Wolves are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland (2022 host), Lake Central, Merrillville and Munster.
Among opponents not in the GLAC or sectional are Bowman Academy, Calumet Christian, Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Hammond Bishop Noll, River Forest and Whiting.
Caston, a middle infielder growing up, played three seasons for George Malis and his senior year for Greg O’Donnell at Hammond High. He was a pitcher at Valparaiso (Ind.) University for head coach Paul Twenge.
“I was a young kid on a veteran team,” says Caston of his freshmen season at Hammond. “Coach Malis said ‘go out there and do your thing and focus on hitting the ball up the middle.’ I took those words to hear and executed what he told me.”
In his first year of college, famed pitching coach Tom House came in for a week and Caston adopted some of House’s ideas about mechanics.
Caston teaches Integrated Chemistry and Physics in his first year at Morton. He taught at Gavit for four.
Michael has been married to Tina Caston for five years and has three stepsons — Nathan (20), William (13) and Lukas (12). William plays football and baseball, Lukas soccer and baseball.

Michael Caston.

Reynolds, Dugger Union Bulldogs eager for 2022 season

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

Creating confidence is major goal for Phillip Reynolds as head baseball coach for Dugger (Ind.) Union Junior/Senior High School.
“I don’t focus on the X’s and O’s as much as some coaches do,” says Reynolds, who has been in charge of the Bulldogs program since just before the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020 after a season as an assistant coach. “I buy into my players and give them the tools to build themselves. If they don’t believe in themselves it doesn’t matter.
“We’re getting kids to step out of their comfort zone. They’re going through skill training and learning how to move their feet. We’re showing them they can hit a baseball. We’re building from the ground up here.”
Dugger Union won three games in 2021. That’s the highest total in years.
“All of my boys are excited to be back and go again (for 2022),” says Reynolds, who hopes to have around around 21 players for a varsity-only schedule this spring. “The boys are really starting to buy into the program. Three years ago we had just 11 kids.”
Dugger was formerly in the Northeast School Corporation of Sullivan County. In December 2013, NESC voted to close Union High School and Dugger Elementary. The school became a Grace College-affiliated charter school and operates as Dugger Union Community Schools. There are about 200 students in the top four grades.
“Dugger has come a long way from where it used to be,” says Reynolds. “The administration pushes the students to be the best they can be.”
The 2022 season will mark the last of the Bulldogs’ probation from IHSAA tournament play.
Located about 25 miles from the Indiana-Illinois State Line, Dugger Union holds membership in athletic conferences in both states — the Southern Roads Conference (with Cannelton, Columbus Christian, Christian Academy of Madison, Lighthouse Christian Academy of Bloomington, Medora, Pleasant View Christian of Montgomery and Seven Oaks Classical of Ellettsville) in Indiana and the Little Okaw Valley Conference (with Martinsville, Oblong-Palestine-Hutsonville and Red Hill) in Illinois. In the SRC, only Dugger Union, Cannelton and Columbus Christian currently have baseball.
Reynolds was born in Texas and moved around as an “U.S. Army brat.” He played Little League while living in Oklahoma. The 2001 graduate of nearby Linton-Stockton High School retired after a 12 1/2-year hitch in the Army — which include time in Georgia where he was a Little League coach — and is a substitute teacher at Dugger Union. The father of four from a previous marriage also enjoys hunting and fishing.
Phillip’s wife Joanie (who has a daughter living at home) is an assistant coach. He is looking to recruit more help.
The Bulldogs play on a field a half mile from the school. It is a community-shared field with a skinned infield.
“It is very, very fast,” says Reynolds. “We understand our field. I tell them at away games (on grass infields) it’s not going to come to them as fast as it is on our field.”
A local youth league goes to age 12.
“The last two years we were getting freshmen that haven’t played in a couple years,” says Reynolds. “I think we have enough for an actual junior high team this year.
“It’s baby steps.”
Dugger Union is scheduled to open the season March 29 against visiting Martinsville (Ill.). The Bulldogs have been invited to return to a tournament hosted by Evansville Bosse May 21.
In between, there are scheduled dates with Bosse, Cannelton, Cloverdale, Columbus Christian, Crothersville, Eastern Greene, Greencastle, Lawrenceville (Ill.), North Central (Farmersburg), North Vermillion, Oblong, Red Hill, Robinson, Shoals, Vincennes Rivet and Wood Memorial.

Dugger Union Bulldogs.
Dugger (Ind.) Union Junior/Senior High School head baseball coach Phillip Reynolds (left) talks to Andrew Smith and Jacob Brewer. (Laina Stringer Photography)
The 2021 Phillip Reynolds-coached Dugger (Ind.) Union Junior/Senior High School baseball team. (Laina Stringer Photography)