Purdue’s Nisle getting chance to hone skills in College Summer League

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ben Nisle has been to Victory Field.

So far he has not gotten to play at the downtown Indianapolis baseball park.

That is set to change Thursday, July 13 when Purdue University righty-swinging outfielder Nisle suits up for the Blue squad in the College Summer League at Grand Park All-Star Game. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Boilermakers coaches were looking to find Nisle and other Purdue players a summer baseball home as the COVID-19 pandemic came along and shortened the college spring season and caused many summer leagues to cancel play for 2020.

Through a partnership of Bullpen Tournaments and Pro X Athlete Development at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., CSL sprouted as a developmental opportunity.

“Having a place to play is very nice,” says Nisle of the 12-team CSL. “It’s great competition.

“You’re seeing great (pitching) arms.

“I’m getting good at-bats and playing time.”

Nisle plays for the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers. 

Purdue outfielder Jack Firestone has also been chosen for the CSL All-Star Game.

A 2017 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., Nisle has played three seasons at Purdue.

In 91 games (86 as a starter), he hit .298 (89-of-299) with nine home runs, 57 runs batted in and 54 runs scored. The 2018 season saw Nisle garner Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American and Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors.

He did not play last summer while rehabbing a back injury that caused him to miss a portion of the 2019 Boiler season. He also took summer classes.

During the truncated 2020 season, Nisle started in all 14 games for the Boilers (7-7) as a corner outfielder and hit .320 (16-of-50) with one homer, six RBIs and 16 runs. 

“I have a simple approach,” says Nisle of his hitting philosophy. “Hit the ball hard and what happens from there happens.”

Ticking off his strengths as an athlete, Nisle cites his knowledge of the game and his physical tools.

“I was very blessed with all that stuff,” says Nisle, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder.

When the season was canceled the Boilers were practicing and about to leave for a series at the University of Evansville.

“It was pretty startling,” says Nisle. “I didn’t know how to feel.”

Before long, he was finishing the spring semester via technology.

“I’ve taken online classes before,” says Nisle, a Construction Management Technology major who was named Academic all-Big Ten Conference in the spring. “It wasn’t so bad.”

The 2020 season was Nisle’s first with Greg Goff as head coach after two campaigns with Mark Wasikowski (now at the University of Oregon).

“He’s a great person to be around everyday,” says Nisle of Goff. “He’s about being aggressive, upbeat and positive.

“(Wasikowski) is a very, very good coach. I learned a ton from him.”

Nisle was on the Lake Central varsity for four years — three with Jeff Sandor as head coach and his senior year with Mike Swartzentruber leading the Indians.

“(Sandor) was one of my favorite coaches for sure,” says Nisle. “He was an intense guy. He knew a ton about the game.

“(Swartzentruber) is a good person all-around. He knew what he was doing. He made you see different things.”

Nisle was an all-state player his final two seasons at Lake Central. He was the Duneland Athletic Conference MVP as a junior, hitting .470 with four homers and 36 RBIs. As a senior, he batted .380 with four homers and 38 RBIs and was again chosen all-DAC. As a freshman in 2014, he was LC’s rookie of the year with .474 average. The Indians won IHSAA Class 4A Munster Sectional titles in 2014 and 2017. They also won a LaPorte Regional crown in 2014.

Born in Munster, Ind., Nisle grew up in Schererville, Ind. He played for the Schererville Shock from age 7 to 15. Dan Bosold was the manager of that team with Dave Lopez, Ron Mihalic and Ben’s father, Gerry Nisle, as coaches.

For his 16U and 17U summers, Ben played for the Ryan Bunnell-coached Indiana Bulls

The summer leading into his freshman year at Purdue, Nisle did not play baseball. He went to campus early to take summer courses and work out.

Gerry Nisle (who works at Pepsi) and wife Michele (who is employed by Franciscan Alliance) have three children — Alex (24), Ben (21) and Mia (14). 

Gerry played football at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and Michele was a gymnast at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. Alex started his college baseball career at SJC. When the school was closed, he finished at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill. He was named to the all-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team in 2019. Mia plays soccer and basketball.

Ben Nisle, a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., has played three baseball seasons at Purdue University. He has been chosen for the College Summer League at Grand Park All-Star Game Thursday, July 16 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. (Purdue University Photo)

Southpaw Samuelson keeps racking up K’s as Braves minor leaguer

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Andy Samuelson has long had a knack for strikeouts.

Since he began pitching baseballs as a young boy living in LaPorte, Ind., and playing in the KVA youth league, the left-hander has been racking up K’s.

“I’ve missed bats my whole life,” says Samuelson, a 21-year-old who is now in the Atlanta Braves organization. “With my delivery, I hide the ball very well. It stays behind my body.”

Selected in the 12th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by Atlanta out of Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Ill., Samuelson made eight appearances (all in relief) with the Gulf Coast Braves last summer, going 1-1 with one save and a 6.39 earned run average. In 12 2/3 innings, he struck out 21 and walked six in a season cut short by Hurricane Dorian. That’s a rate of 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

The lefty played two seasons for National Junior College Athletic Association Division I powerhouse Wabash Valley, where Rob Fournier is head coach and Aaron Biddle the pitching coach/associate head coach.

In the spring of 2019, Samuelson was 1-0 with two saves and a 2.93. He got into 16 games (all in relief). In 15 1/3 innings, he fanned 29 and walked 13 for the 55-4 Warriors. That’s 16.6 K’s per nine innings.

As a freshman in 2018, Samuelson made 11 mound appearances (all in relief) and went 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA. He fanned 17 and walked seven in 9 1/3 innings as the WVC Warriors went 45-11-1. His K-per nine rate was 16.3.

Samuelson is a 2017 graduate of LaPorte High School. In his senior season with the Slicers he went 4-4 with one save and a 1.69 ERA. Playing for head coach Scott Upp and pitching coach Jeff DeMass, he whiffed 67 and walked 20 in 45 2/3 innings. That’s 10.2 strikeouts per seven innings.

“I had a lot of fun playing high school baseball for the Slicers,” says Samuelson. “Coach Upp (an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer) is perfect mix of intense and making sure you have fun.

“He’s a really good coach. He knows what he’s doing.”

Samuelson played two years on the junior varsity and two years on varsity. At the start, he resisted developing a compliment to his fastball and curveball.

“When I was younger I refused to throw a change-up,” says Samuelson. “Coach DeMass is the only reason I have any semblance of a change-up at all.”

To this day, Samuelson uses his “circle” change sparingly. His “out” pitch is his curve. 

“It got me on the radar of college coaches and pro scouts,” says Samuelson of his bender. “It’s more of a sweeper, moving 10-to-4 or 10-to-5. It’s been my bread-and-butter pitch since I’ve been a pitcher. 

“There are games I might have thrown it more than my fastball.”

A four-seam fastball with natural movement comes out of the hand of the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder.

“There are days when my fastball runs arm-side a lot,” says Samuelson. “I don’t know why.”

Samuelson never hit 90 mph on the radar gun his freshmen year at Wabash Valley. But after a year of daily long toss and plenty of weight lifting, he was hitting that mark consistently as a sophomore.

“Playing at Wabash was quite an experience,” says Samuelson. “They’re so focused on getting better and winning games. Everyday we did something. There were no days off. It was an absolute grind.”

Samuelson calls Fournier one of the most intense coaches he’s ever seen.

“He got upset if we didn’t play up to our potential,” says Samuelson. “We were so talented. I’d put us up against a lot of (NCAA) Division I college teams. A lot of players turned down the (MLB) Draft or went to very good Division I programs. The talent level just pushes you to be better.”

Samuelson credits Biddle for tweaking his mechanics, but also instilling confidence.

“He was a big mindset guy,” says Samuelson of Biddle. “It takes a lot of mental fortitude to be a good pitcher.”

Samuelson, who earned an Arts, Media & Science associate degree at Wabash Valley, was headed to Division I baseball after his junior college experience, but opted to go pro instead.

“It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,” says Samuelson. “I was very close to going to North Carolina State. But I’ve always wanted to play professional baseball.”

Since being drafted, Major League Baseball has been talking about shrinking the minors and cut the draft from 40 to five rounds in 2020.

“Looking back, I’m very glad I did what I did,” says Samuelson.

The summer between his freshmen and sophomore collegiate seasons, the southpaw was with the Ohio Valley League’s Henderson (Ky.) Flash. Adam Hines was the head coach and Brandon Mattingly the pitching coach.

“(Mattingly) helped me a lot with straight mechanical stuff,” says Samuelson. “Like using my lower half and staying on-plane.”

After he spent a summer with the LaPorte Titans, Samuelson’s junior high and high school travel ball seasons were spent with the Scott Ellrich-coached Indiana Breakers.

“I credit him for a lot of the pitching I’ve learned,” says Samuelson, who still regularly converses with Ellrich.

Samuelson was at 2020 Braves spring training less than two weeks when it was shut down because of COVID-19 and he returned to LaPorte.

He had been working out since fall — lifting weights at the LaPorte County Family YMCA and throwing at at facility own by the Land family (LPHS Class of 2023’s Jackson Land was often his catcher).

He also worked as a substitute teacher at LaPorte Middle School.

During and after quarantine, Samuelson stayed in game shape. Recently, he found out there will be no Minor League Baseball season in 2020 and cut back on the intensity.

It was ferocity that helped Samuelson and his teammates to basketball success while playing for Tom Wells at LaPorte High.

“We were never the most athletic kids with the most skills,” says Samuelson. “Basketball was not our first sport. The other four starters were football players.

“(Wells) instill straight toughness. We played grittier and tougher than anybody else, that’s why we won a lot of games.”

Andy is the oldest of Greg and Becky Samuelson’s three children. Greg Samuelson is a seventh grade science teacher at LaPorte Middle School. Becky Samuelson is a sixth grade math teacher at Kesling Intermediate School). 

Emily Samuelson, who played softball at LPHS, just finished her freshman year at Purdue University where she is studying nursing. Tommy Samuelson was a LaPorte freshman in 2019-20, playing baseball and baseball.

“He’s already as tall as me,” says Andy of Tommy. “He has a chance to be better than I ever was.”

Andy Samuelson, a graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Ill., signs with the Atlanta Braves in 2019. He played with the Gulf Coast Braves in his first professional baseball season. The 2020 Minor League Baseball campaign was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manchester’s Pinarski enjoying diamond opportunity

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Michael Pinarski was not sure where baseball was going to take him in the summer of 2020.

When word came down that the remainder of the 2020 season had been canceled at NCAA Division III Manchester University because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pinarski and his teammates were coming off a 6-5 March 10 victory at Taylor University.

“It was a high note for us,” says Pinarski. “We were going into our Florida trip. That got cancelled and the rest of our season got cancelled.

“It was a bummer.”

After quarantine came the chance to play for the Nighthawks in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., where he is got to see many of his baseball friends.

“I like the availability they give us — the opportunity to come out here and show our skills, just have fun and play with other people,” says Pinarski of the CSL, a collaborative effort of Bullpen Tournaments and Pro X Athlete Development which is scheduled to conclude July 30.

Last summer, Pinarski played with the National Amateur Baseball Federation-affiliated Mishawaka Brewers and may have played for that squad again and pursued an internship (he is a double major in Sport Management and Marketing). But the pandemic took away the latter and the Grand Park league came along.

Most of Pinarski’s jobs have revolved around diamonds. He worked the last three summers at Riverview Park softball complex in Elkhart, getting fields ready for games.

Pinarski, a 2017 graduate of Goshen (Ind.) High School, has played three seasons at Manchester in North Manchester, Ind. He has two more years of eligibility. One was added by the NCAA because of the pandemic.

In 71 games — mostly at shortstop — he has hit .247 (54-of-219) with two home runs, 25 runs batted in and 44 runs scored.

In 12 pitching appearances (10 including four starts in 2019), the right-hander is 1-4 with four saves. In 37 innings, he has 28 strikeouts and eight walks.

As a sophomore in 2019, Pinarski was on the all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference first team after hitting .262 (27-of-103) with one hour, one triple and five doubles. His on-base percentage was .412. He also earned four saves on the mound.

In 2020, Pinarski hit .304 (7-of-23) in seven games. In one three-inning mound appearance with five strikeouts and one walk.

But those aren’t the biggest source of pride.

“My best quality is probably on the defensive side — being smooth and quick to the ball, getting rid of it and getting the ball there on time,” says Pinarski.

He’s done it all as a Type 1 Diabetic.

Michael is the third of Jim and Valerie Pinarski’s five children — Andrea and Stephen are older; Nathan and Lucas are younger. Andrea and Stephen went to Concord High School, where they were athletes.

Andrea Pinarski is now the Mintuemen’s head softball coach. Stephen Pinarski was a baseball standout for Manchester. His senior season was 2018. 

Michael and Nathan went to Goshen High School. Michael says Lucas looks to be headed to Concord.

Goshen Little League gave Michael his first organized baseball experiences.

“I fell in love with it,” says Pinarski. “I was there basically everyday I could be.”

When it was time for travel baseball, Pinarski went with the Goshen Dugout Club then the Michiana Scrappers.

During his high school summers, Pinarski played for the Jim Treadway-managed Bristol American Legion Post 143.

Josh Keister was Pinarski’s head coach at Goshen High.

Pinarski calls his coach at Manchester — Rick Espeset — “a man of few words.”

“I like him as a coach and as a person,” says Pinarski. “He’s pretty good.”

Michael Pinarski, a 2017 Goshen (Ind.) High School graduate, has played three baseball seasons at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. He is with the Nighthawks of the 2020 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. (Manchester University Photo)

Leadership shines through for UIndy lefty Witty

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Mychal Witty tries to set a good example — on and off the baseball field.

As a left-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis, he has gotten the attention of teammates with his willingness to work — with running, weight lifting and generally staying fit.

“They listen to the things that I say probably because of all the time that I’ve put in,” says Witty of his leadership role. “It reciprocates to them.”

Witty is a 5-foot-10, 153-pound redshirt senior with one year of eligibility remaining for the NCAA Division II Greyhounds. 

The 2015 graduate of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis played played two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill. (2016 and 2017).

Witty transferred to UIndy and threw 8 2/3 innings in 2018 with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, underwent Tommy John reconstruction surgery that summer and missed the 2019 season.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 season, Witty appeared in four games and went 3-0 with a 1.57 earned run average. In 23 innings, he struck out 20 and walked four.

Coming in the second inning, Witty pitched no-decision six innings in his final trip to the mound March 8 against Truman State in Kirksville, Mo. 

“We did an opener this year (a reliever pitching the first inning),” says Witty. “It gives the starter the chance to be in the game at the end.”

“It’s a blast (playing for Greyhounds head coach Al Ready). He really wants to change it up.”

Away from the diamond, Witty has achieved a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and will be working toward his masters in Applied Sociology when school resumes in the fall. He has been taking 4-plus-1 graduate courses since he began attending UIndy.

Why sociology?

“Coming from the east side of Indianapolis I endured a lot,” says Witty. “I want to be able to help troubled youth and maybe turn around a couple lives — if not all of them. 

“I want to work with kids and make sure they’re learning.”

Witty attended Warren Central High School and played for two years (freshmen and split his sophomore year between junior varsity and varsity) and spent his last two on varsity at Lawrence North, where he played for Wildcats head coach Richard Winzenread.

His introduction to organized baseball came at 4 in the Warren Little League.

Witty then played travel ball for the Indy Bats for a couple summers, took a few summers off and played in the Bob Haney-led Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Indianapolis program before coming back to the Adam Robertson-coached Indy Bats at 18U.

By then, Witty had already committed to Lincoln Trail, where Kevin Bowers is head coach.

“My favorite part about junior college was that there was a lot of guys from a lot of different places and you’ve got to learn how to be one unit,” says Witty. “It was a small town. You make fun with guys that you’ve got.”

Junior college baseball is about development and players are given the time to hone their skills.

“We’d get out of class anywhere from 12 to 1 and you’d be outside for the rest of the day until the sun went down,” says Witty of his time with LTC Statesmen. 

Witty throws a fastball, slider, curveball and a change-up from a three-quarter overhand arm slot.

“I spin my fastball pretty well so it runs a little bit,” says Witty, who works with pitching coach Landon Hutchison at UIndy. “(My best pitch) is that or the slider.”

Myc (pronounced Mike) is the son of Michael Witty and Stacy Landers.

The pitcher has three younger siblings — sister Neicy Persinger and brothers Mayson Smith and Merrick Smith.

Currently with the Screwballs in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Witty is enjoying his first summer collegiate baseball experience.

“There’s a lot of good guys just trying to get their work in,” says Witty. “I’ve only had (four) outings since March.”

Since UIndy played its last game on March 11, Witty has been throwing and trying to keep his arm in shape with band work.

Class work was finished exclusively online.

“It was a struggle to say the least,” says Witty. “There’s no face-to-face interaction. There’s a lot of quiet time.

“I feel for everyone who has a tough major. Mine is a lot of writing and making sure that you answer questions. I didn’t have to do a whole bunch of extra studying per se.”

Mychal Witty, a 2015 graduate of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, is a redshirt senior baseball player at the University of Indianapolis. He is currently with the Screwballs in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. (University of Indianapolis Photo)

Otterbein Cardinals’ Edgell always looking to ‘barrel’ baseballs

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Equations can be quite complex when you’re an Actuarial Science major.

Sam Edgell doesn’t tend to let numbers crowd his thinking on the baseball field, where the 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate has played two seasons at NCAA Division III Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.

“I look at statistics when I can for myself and my teammates, but I’m not a big numbers guy from a baseball standpoint,” says Edgell. “It’s fun to talk about (exit velocity and other baseball metrics) and try to get those up as high as you can, but when it comes to game time, I’d rather hit an 80 mph base hit and score a run than a 100 mph line-out.”

Playing for Zionsville head coach Jered Moore, Edgell was used as a first baseman most of the time. 

When he reached Otterbein, were George Powell is the head coach, there was an established at first base so he was used in other capacities. 

“They wanted to get my bat in the lineup so they moved me to the outfield,” says Edgell. “The best part of my game is the offensive side of it. I’ve been a strong hitter for a long time. 

“That’s what I love about baseball — going out and working on my swing and getting in as many swings as a I can.”

Edgell, a left-handed batter, is looking to “barrel” pitches.

“The approach we use at Otterbein is to stay inside the baseball and hit line drives,” says Edgell. “If those line drives carry over the fence, that’s great.

“But we’re going to put people on-base and we’re going to score runs through that.”

During the COVID-19-abridged 2020 season, Edgell started all 13 games in right field and hit .358 (19-of-53) with three home runs, 12 runs batted in, 10 runs scored and four walks. He was usually the Cardinals’ clean-up hitter.

Otterbein was coming off a March 10 win at Denison and the team got some news.

“We were on the bus and learned classes had been canceled for a month,” says Edgell. “We were all excited about that. One of my buddies — Luke Barber — said I hope this doesn’t mess with our baseball season. At the time, I was very incredulous. I thought, there’s no way this will mess with our season. I thought it was kind going to come and go.”

The next day, the Cardinals practiced while officials were in a meeting. By the end of workout, the season was canceled.

“It moved a lot faster than people were expecting,” says Edgell. “It was pretty disappointing to everybody.”

As a freshman in 2019, Edgell started in all 45 games (mostly as a designated hitter) and hit .306 (52-of-170) with no home runs, 26 runs batted in, 31 runs scored and 21 walks. He enjoyed 18 multi-hit games and a 10-game hit streak.

Edgell played for the Lebanon (Ind.) Merchants of the MidWest Prospect Baseball League in 2019 and was headed to the Xenia (Ohio) Scouts of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League before the 2020 season was canceled because of the pandemic. 

The College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., was put together and Edgell was placed with the Marksmen and is a teammate of Kyle Callahan, who he played with in high school. On Friday, July 10, the CSL played games at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.

“This league’s been awesome,” says Edgell, who has been picked to play for the Blue team in the CSL All-Star Game Thursday, July 16 at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. “The competition has been amazing. It really makes you better facing guys who are throwing 90 to 94 with good off-speed pitches.”

As a younger, Edgell played for the Zionsville Baseball Club. During his high school years, he got travel ball experience with the Indiana Bulls (15U and 16U for head coaches were Jeremy Honaker and Brett Andrzejewski) and Indiana Nitro (17U and 18U for Eric Osborn and Chris Poland).

Sam was born in Carmel, Ind., and lived in London when his father Eric’s job at Eli Lily sent the family to England. The Edgells and moved back to Zionsville when Sam was around age 3. Eric and Andra Edgell have three children — Rebekah, Abigail and Sam.

Sam Edgell, a 2018 graduate of Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School, has played two baseball seasons at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. (Otterbein University Photo)

Fouts, Purdue baseball adjusting to new recruiting norms

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A buzzword during the COVID-19 pandemic is “new normal.”

For Purdue University baseball recruiting coordinator Cooper Fouts and the rest of the Boilermaker coaching staff, scouting and evaluating talent has changed during a time when recruits missed out on a 2020 high school season, others had their college campaigns cut short and traveling is discouraged.

“It’s taken a different turn,” says Fouts. “We’re really putting a emphasis on relationships.”

The NCAA recruiting calendar was changed and keeps changing.

“At first, it was we can’t recruit until April 15 and then get back on the road like normal,” says Fouts, 37. “But they kept pushing it back. That just didn’t happen.

“This is our normal right now.”

Fouts, who works for Boilers head coach Greg Goff after spending the 2019 season with Mark Wasikowski (now head coach at the University of Oregon), has been gathering as much information about players as possible.

“We look at video and honest video with some failures,” says Fouts, who also serves on a staff that includes Chris Marx, volunteer Harry Shipley, director of player development John Madia and supervisor of operations Tim Sarhage. “On our level, there’s more failure than they’e used to. They have to learn and make adjustments. Expectations are even higher.”

In many ways, coaches glean more from failure than success.

“We like to see what their body language looks like,” says Fouts. “When they’re struggling, you see a lot more truth.

“We’re cross-checking more and making more calls since we can’t see for (ourselves). We don’t get to see interactions. And we want to see the whole package. This makes you trust your gut more.”

Ninety minutes of Fouts’ morning in July 8 when spent in a FaceTime call with a player in Texas, talking about and showing them the facilities at Purdue.

There are plenty of conversations with high school and travel coaches, including the opponents of the player.

NCAA rules dictate that players do coaches and not the other way around.

“There’s a large amount of emphasis on how they communicate on the phone,” says Fouts. “I’ve never offered a kid we haven’t seen in-person. That’s a huge change.

“That virtual tour allows (recruits) to make the right decision. We do it multiple times every week.”

Fouts has been coaching since right after college graduation and has done his best to serve the interests of the man in charge. At Purdue, that’s been Wasikowski and Goff.

“It’s the preference of what those head coaches like and how they want to build a team,” says Fouts. “I’m a follower of their desires.”

With Goff, Fouts has a little more freedom with hitters and their day-to-day instruction and planning. 

Fouts has not seen players already on the Purdue roster in-person since March. The hope is that they will be reunited Aug. 24. That’s when the 2020-21 school year is scheduled to begin at Purdue.

The Boilers have players in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Midwest Collegiate League and had hopes of placing some in the Coastal Plain League.

Prior to coming to West Lafayette, Ind., Fouts spent the second of two stints at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. He was on the Waves staff 2011 and 2012 with head coach Steve Rodriguez (now head coach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas) and 2016-18 with Rick Hirtensteiner at the helm.

“He’s my biggest mentor,” says Fouts of Rodriguez. “he was so good at giving guys the freedom to play. 

“He wasn’t a micro-manager. Players were not paralyzed by a thought process. That allowed them to be successful. He does the same thing at Baylor. He knows what his players can and can’t do. They absolutely play loose.”

Hirtensteiner was an assistant to Rodriguez during Fouts’ first tenure at Pepperdine. 

“He’s an absolute great man of faith,” says Fouts of Hirtensteiner. “He treats his player so well. He gave me a ton of freedom on the coaching and recruiting side.

“He’s just a thoughtful individual. He’s not emotional. He was never overwhelmed by a situation.”

In between his seasons at Pepperdine, Fouts was on the staff of Eric Madsen at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah (2013-15). Madsen taught him much about the mechanics of hitting and more.

“He’s a really good offensive coach and a great human being,” says Fouts of Madsen. “He allowed me to make a lot of mistakes.”

In 2010, Fouts was an assistant at the College of Southern Nevada in North Las Vegas, where Tim Chambers was the head coach and Bryce Harper earned the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s best amateur baseball player. 

Harper graduated high school early so he could attend College of Southern Nevada and was selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Washington Nationals.

Fouts was 11 when he first met Chambers, a man who also coached him his first two years at Bishop Gorman High School in Summerlin, Nev., and for one year at CSN.

“(Chambers) was awesome,” says Fouts. “He’s one of the better managers of people I’ve ever been around.

“He let guys play aggressive and make mistakes.”

Fouts played his final two varsity seasons at Bishop Gorman for head coach Kenny White.

Originally committed to Auburn (Ala.) University, the righty-swinging catcher played three seasons Texas Tech University in Lubbock (2003-05), playing alongside older brother Nathan Fouts. Cooper appeared in 156 games, hitting .265 (114-of-431) with two home runs, 77 runs batted in and 76 runs for Red Raiders head coach Larry Hays.

Fouts remembers that Hays was pretty hands-off as a coach and led assistants tend to day-to-day details.

“He was a great mentor as a Christian man,” says Fouts of Hays, who concluded his Tech run in 2008. “Larry was beloved in that Lubbock community.”

Besides his brother, Fouts got to be teammates with Big 12 Conference Triple Crown winner Josh Brady, who also played at the College of Southern Nevada, and future big league pitcher Dallas Braden.

“(Braden) was one of the two best competitors I’ve ever been around in my life

(the other is Harper),” says Fouts, who still has occasional contact with the two players.

Fouts was drafted twice — the first time in the 26th round by the Oakland Athletics in 2001 — but decided a pro baseball playing career was not for him.

He picked up his diploma on a Saturday and began coaching on Brandon Gilliland’s staff at Lubbock Christian School two days later in 2006.

Fouts was born in Kokomo, Ind., in 1983. At 7, he moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he attended St. Thomas Aquinas School. 

After Cooper turned 11 in 1994, the Fouts family moved to Las Vegas and lived there through his high school days with the exception of a one-year stay in Memphis, Tenn.

Cooper and Bri Fouts are to celebrate 10 years of marriage July 24. The couple have three children — daughter Harper (who turns 8 July 29) and sons Emmit (who turns 6 on July 10), and Nash (who turns 4 on Aug. 18).

Cooper Fouts has been a Purdue University baseball assistant coach since the 2019 season. He is a native of Kokomo, Ind., and played high school and junior college baseball in Nevada and NCAA Division I baseball in Texas. (Purdue University Photo)

New Palestine grad Watson goes from Cornhusker to Sycamore

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Keegan Watson is back in his home state for college baseball.

After playing at the University of Nebraska in 2018 and 2019, transferring and sitting out the 2020 season, Watson is eager to shine as a two-way player at Indiana State University.

The 2017 graduate of New Palestine (Ind.) High School made five appearances (three starts) as a corner outfielder and pitched in relief in six games in 2018 and took the field as a position player 24 times (17 as a starter) in 2019 while earning two letters for the Cornhuskers

Batting and hurling right-handed, Watson collected 15 runs batted in and logged 5 1/3 innings on the mound and entered the NCAA transfer portal after the 2019 fall semester. 

The 6-foot-3, 198-pounder considered going to an NCAA Division II school so he would not have to sit out, but ended up staying in D-I and was required to miss only a half year while coming back to his state of residence. 

Recruited by Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs while at New Palestine, Watson reached out to the Sycamores for a chance and was given one.

After moving to Indiana State, he was not eligible to play in the spring, but will be able to participate with the Sycamores this fall. Watson has two years of eligibility remaining.

“I work hard and show up in the weight room and at practice,” says Watson of his baseball strengths. “I’m a pretty intense guy when it comes down to it.”

He says his he used to let his emotions get the best of him, but he’s learned to get that under control.

Since entering college Watson has changed his major to Psychology and says he has at least three semesters left toward his degree.

While he did not play last summer, Watson was with the Tim Brown-coached Lake Erie Monarchs of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League in 2018.

This summer, he is close to home as a member of the Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield. Entering play on July 6, the team coached by Ben Norton and Jake Ratz is 5-4-1. 

Watson was tipped off about the 12-team loop by former New Palestine teammate Jason Hall-Manley, who goes to Anderson University and plays for the CSL’s Juice.

“See ball – hit ball,” says Watson of his hitting approach this summer. “I’m just trying to see pitches and get live AB’s.

“For me, cage work is locking in mechanics. In the game, you can only focus on so many things and your swing isn’t one of those. You have to trust muscle memory.”

Watson, 21, was born in Jasper, Ind., and moved to Fountaintown near New Palestine as he was entering seventh grade. Keegan is the son of Dan and Amy and the younger brother of Callee. The family moved when his mother took a job in the Indianapolis area.

He split his freshmen season between the junior varsity and varsity and was up with head coach Shawn Lyons for his final three springs with the Dragons.

“He knows what he’s taking about,” says Watson of Lyons. “He’s intense. He’s good a reading people. He’s not afraid to let you know when he thinks you’re not giving your best effort.”

Prior to high school, Watson played four years of travel baseball for the Indiana D-I Hoosiers, which had players from the Bedford, Ind., area.

His 16U and 17U summers were spent with the Indiana Bulls, where he was coached by Sean Laird. Watson was with the Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays (18U) before heading to Nebraska.

Watson is hoping Indiana State can use him out of the bullpen like he did with the Cornhuskers.

“I’m pretty confident in all my stuff,” says Watson. “I could pitch backwards or normal. 

“Whatever got the job done.”

Keegan Watson, a New Palestine (Ind.) High School graduate, played two baseball seasons at the University of Nebraska and has transferred to Indiana State University for 2020-21. He is with the Local Legends in the 2020 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield. Ind. (University of Nebraska Photo)

Kansas Jayhawks’ Metcalf wearing Northern Michigan Dune Bears jersey this summer

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nolan Metcalf’s 2020 summer plans had him playing baseball in the Northwoods League with the Kokomo (Ind.) Jackrabbits.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the league was reconfigured and the two-year starting first baseman at the University of Kansas is in Traverse City, Mich., as part of a three-team regional pod.

Metcalf, a 2017 graduate of Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., has been assigned to the new Northern Michigan Dune Bears. That team plays games against established Traverse City Pit Spitters and new Great Lakes Resorters at at Turkey Creek Stadium. Players are being housed in cabins at Interlochen Center for the Arts, located between Duck, Geneva and Long lakes and close to Lake Michigan.

“We play every two days,” says Metcalf, who was the designated hitter during a season-opening victory Thursday, July 2 against the Pit Spitters. Former Jackrabbits hitting coach Alex O’Donnell, who played at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and is an assistant at Mercyhurst-North East was made a winner in his managing debut. “I’ve been to the beach a couple of times.”

Before the Kansas season was halted in March, Metcalf appeared in 15 games with 12 starts at first base and hit .244 (10-of-41 with two home runs, two doubles, six walks and 10 runs batted in. He belted his homers against Charleston Southern Feb. 22 and Indiana State March 7.

The Jayhawks, with Ritch Price as head coach and his son Ritchie Price as hitting/infield coach, recruiting coordinator and third base coach, were returning from a series March 10-11 at the University of Iowa when they learned that the Ivy League had canceled its season.

“We practiced the next day and the coaches told us it was not looking good,” says Metcalf. 

Soon after that, the season was canceled and campus was closed. Metcalf finished his spring semester classes via computer back in Granger, Ind.

“I was trying to learn accounting online,” says Metcalf, who is working toward a major in Sport Management with a minor in Business. “I got it done.”

The son of Dave and Leslie Metcalf and brother of Lexie Metcalf quarantined for about a month then began going to the Harris Township fields for daily batting practice with Penn classmate Niko Kavadas, who completed his third season at Notre Dame in 2020. 

Metcalf also resumed lessons with Mike Marks at his Hitters Edge training facility in Sturgis, Mich., and began mowing lawns with the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation. 

“I wasn’t super-confident about the summer (baseball season),” says Metcalf, who was told June 15 to report to Traverse City, which is about 250 miles due north of Granger. “Now I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.”

Metcalf expects to split his time with the Dune Bears between DH, first base and catcher.

Last summer he played for the Chillicothe (Mo.) Mudcats of the MINK (Missouri-Iowa-Nebraska-Kansas) Collegiate League. He was named to the all-star team and finished second in the home run derby at St. Joseph, Mo., even though he belted 32 total homers in three rounds.

At Kansas in 2019, Metcalf appeared in 44 games (27 starts) and hit .256 (30-of-117) with four homers, seven doubles and 23 RBIs.

The summer of 2018 had him in the Expedition League with the Western Nebraska Pioneers.

As a Jayhawk freshman, Metcalf got into 14 games (one as a starter) and hit .077 (1-for-14) with one RBI.

Playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos at Penn, Metcalf was a career .379 hitter while earning all-state and District Player of the Year recognition and being named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series as a senior. 

Metcalf was on the High Honor Roll four times. The Kingsmen won four Northern Indiana Conference and IHSAA sectional titles, three regionals, two semistates and a Class 4A state championship (he scored two runs in a 3-2 win against Terre Haute North Vigo in 2015). The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder also played football at Penn.

What’s the difference between high school and college baseball?

“It’s the faster pace,” says Metcalf. “It’s how good every single player is. You have to prepare for every single game like it’s a big game — even the mid-week ones. 

“It’s fun, but hard work.”

Metcalf, a righty swinger, sees his power and his ability to hit to all fields as his strengths as a hitter.

“Hitting veto — guys that throw in the low to mid-90’s — means having quick hands,” says Metcalf. “You need to have a short, steady stroke. (The pitcher) will provide the power.”

From his 7U to 14U summer, Metcalf played travel baseball for the Granger Cubs. Teammates included Kavadas, Trevor Waite, Matt Kominkiewicz and Tony Carmola.

He played for Penn’s summer team after his first two high school campaigns then one summer each with the Eric Osborn-coached Indiana Nitro (17U) and Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays (18U). Prior to his senior year, he played for the Kevin Christman-coached San Francisco Giants Fall Scout Team.

Nolan Metcalf, a 2017 graduate of Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., has spent three baseball seasons at the University of Kansas. This summer he is with the Northern Michigan Dune Bears of the Northwoods League, playing all his games in Traverse City, Mich. (University of Kansas Image)

DePauw’s Callahan juggles baseball, studying for health care career

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kyle Callahan’s future is pointed toward a career in health care.

His father (Mike Callahan) and uncle (Jim Callahan) are doctors. He has cousins who are doctors and dentists.

“That’s what I grew up with,” says Callahan, a Biochemistry major at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where he has been on the Tiger Pride Honor Roll for his first four semesters and is a member of the Future Medical Professionals club with his sights set on medical, dental or optometry school.

But that’s not all.

Callahan is a baseball player.

During the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, he hit .324 (11-of-34) with two home runs, 18 runs batted in and 10 runs scored in eight games. He started all eight as the Tigers’ designated hitter, batting in the No. 3 hole. After four losses to open the campaign, NCAA Division III DePauw ended with a four-game winning streak.

After sweeping Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders at Manchester University, players were told they could not shake hands with the opposition.

“We were told, ‘you’re not going to do this today.’ We had heard talks about the virus. We knew something was up.”

The team practiced for a few days and then found out the rest of the season was canceled.

“It was definitely a tough pill to swallow,” says Callahan. “Especially for the seniors. They played their last game as a DePauw Tiger.”

Callahan has played two years in the Black and Gold.

In his freshman campaign of 2019, he hit .296 (34-of-115) with four homers and 24 RBIs while scoring 41 runs and learning lessons from Tigers head coach Blake Allen.

“He came from Vanderbilt,” says Callahan of the DePauw graduate who served two stints on the Nashville-based NCAA Division I powerhouse (2004-08, 2015-16). “He definitely knows what he’s talking about.

“He teaches us how be a good player and how to behave off the field. He stresses how important that is after college to be a good person. We have meetings where we talk about that.”

The Tigers also talk about being a good teammate, competitive and displaying mental toughness.

“You’ve got to be mentally tough to play baseball,” says Callahan. “Seven out of 10 times you’re going to fail. You have to focus on your positives.

“You may have one tough day. But there’s always tomorrow. There always’s more AB’s.”

Callahan had a memorable at-bat Tuesday, June 23.

Making a transition from outfield to first base, he’s been playing that position this summer for the Mark Walther-coached Marksmen in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. 

In the first game of a doubleheader against the Woodchucks, righty-swinger Callahan faced DePauw teammate E.J. White and socked a homer that TrackMan Baseball data says traveled 416.96 feet (the CBL’s longest hit in Week 2). 

“It went right down the left field line,” says Callahan. “I pulled it. It kind of hooked around the pole.

“I was afraid the umpire was going to wave the ball foul.”

It’s not a long commute to Grand Park. Callahan is from Zionsvillle, Ind., in nearby Boone County. 

A 2018 graduate of Zionsville Community High School, Callahan was on junior varsity as a freshmen and a roster player when the Eagles were IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up in 2016. He started in the outfield in 2017 and 2018 for head coach Jered Moore.

“He was always a great coach,” says Callahan of Moore. “Coming in as a freshmen, I was intimidated by him. Our relationship evolved and he became a friend. He supported us on the field and taught us how to behave off the field.

“He was a great role model and mentor throughout high school.”

Callahan was born in Indianapolis. His father, who now works at St. Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, did a three-year fellowship in Boston and the family landed back in Zionsville when Kyle was 7.

Organized baseball began at Zionsville Little League. Kyle was on the first Zionsville Baseball Club travel teams at 12U and 13U. 

From 14U to 18U, Callahan played for the Indiana Bulls with head coaches Mike Wade, Jeremy Honaker, Dan Held, Troy Drosche and Matt Campbell.

These days, Wade’s son Kyle plays at Purdue University. Former Bulls executive director Held is on the Indiana University coaching staff. Honaker (Martinsville), Drosche (Avon) and Campbell (Lapel) are high school head coaches.

Honaker, Callahan’s 15U Bulls coach, went from Zionsville High assistant to the Artesians and has continued to work with Callahan on his hitting in the summer.

“He’s been an awesome part of my baseball career,” says Callahan.

Last summer when a chance to play for the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints in the Prospect League fell through, Callahan worked out with long-time friend Nick Nelson. They’ve known each other since middle school and were high school teammates and share the field at DePauw. Nelson was the Tigers’ starting center fielder in 2020.

“He’s short stocky guy,” says Callahan of Nelson. “He’s pretty jacked. He wants to do something in the health field as well, maybe Kinesiology or Physical Therapy school.”

Callahan has to balance the diamond and academics in college.

“It’s tough,” says Callahan. “There’s some hard moments when you feel swamped.

“The important thing is to manage your time wisely. You should really try to stay on top of your work so it doesn’t snowball on you all at once.

“We have great resources at DePauw with teacher assistants and tutoring hours — usually nightly.”

The Tiger Honor Roll was established by director of athletics and recreational sports Stevie Baker-Watson to recognize the top student-athletes. To get on the list, they must have semester grade-point average of 3.40 or higher.

As a D-III program, the Tigers work with coaches in the fall and then — about the end of September — coaches are not allowed to instruct players.

“We have senior- or upperclassmen-led practices,” says Callahan. “It’s important. It weeds out the guys who aren’t fully committed to making baseball a priority.

“It’s definitely a bonding experience.”

When Callahan has rare free time he sometimes works in St. Vincent’s operating rooms as a Patient Care Technician (PCT). He cleans up after a case and gets it ready for the next.

“It’s immersed me into the hospital setting,” says Callahan. “I’ve only worked one day since COVID started and there were no cases when I was there.”

While keeping his baseball skills sharp, Callahan has been studying to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) on Aug. 7. 

He’s glad he lives near a testing site because the exam is slated for 6:30 a.m.

Mike and Mollie Callahan (a former Westfield Elementary teacher) have three children. Kyle (20) has a twin sister named Grace, who is studying Journalism at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Christian (10) is baseball and basketball player heading into fourth grade.

Kyle Callahan, a graduate of Zionsville (Ind.) High School, has played two baseball seasons at DePauw University where he is a Biochemistry major. This summer he is playing for the Marksmen in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

Tirotta stays close to home while gearing up for final season with Dayton Flyers

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Riley Tirotta is enjoying baseball and family life this summer.

Coming off an abbreviated junior season at the University of Dayton in Ohio because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tirotta spent the first month of quarantine at home in South Bend, Ind., and about a week in Bryan, Texas, where he participated in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational.

A 6-foot-3, 210-pound righty swinger who has started 109 games at Dayton (including 97 at third base the past two seasons with starts at designated hitter, right field, first base and second base as a freshmen in 2018), Tirotta did not get selected in the five-round 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Citing unfinished business, he decided not to sign a free agent contact with an MLB organization and he’s planning to come back for his senior season in 2021.

“We had a really good team at Dayton this year,” says Tirotta. “We can do a lot of special things. We have a lot of seniors returning. If I do some things individually and we win some games, I can put myself in an even better position (for professional baseball). 

“We want to finish what we started.”

As a sophomore, Tirotta led Dayton in hits (59), at-bats (227) and stolen bases (18 in 20 attempts) and tied for the team lead in RBIs (41). He enjoyed 16 multi-hit games. 

His freshmen year yielded 27 hits and seven stolen bases while he fielded at a .987 clip.

A past honoree on the dean’s and Atlantic 10 Conference commissioner’s academic lists, Tirotta is on track to earned his Finance degree at Dayton.

At the CSBI, Tirotta played on a team managed by former big league pitcher, Gary, Ind., native and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer LaTroy Hawkins and got to face former high school teammate Nate Thomas and college mate Cole Pletka.

Before joining the Matt Kennedy-coached Snapping Turtles of the College Summer League at Grand Park this week, Tirotta spent about 10 days training at Prospect Performance Academy in Aurora, Ohio — near Cleveland and Akron.

Tirotta has worked for more than a year with agent and PPA founder/owner Ben Simon.

“He’s helping me get ready for pro ball and reaching out to scouts,” says Tirotta of Simon. “We’re pretty good friends.”

The CSL plays its games on Monday and Tuesday (11 a.m. doubleheaders). Tirotta spends the rest of the time in South Bend, where he works out at the O’Brien Fitness Center and the 1st Source Bank Performance Center (home of the South Bend Cubs), where Mark Haley is the director.

Following workouts prescribed by trainers, including those at Dayton, Tirotta hits the gym five or six times a week. He goes through strength and conditioning moves and does sprint training.

“I use my speed as well as my power,” says Tirotta. “Just being at athlete on the baseball field is one of my biggest strengths.

“I like to use my athleticism a lot. I’m making plays and using my arm strength. I take extra bases when I can and get stolen bases. I’m hitting a few home runs here and there. I’m pretty well-rounded. I’m not a power-only guy.”

Dayton played just 14 games before the 2020 season was halted. Tirotta started cold and finished hot. He wound up hitting .228 (13-of-57) with one homer, one double, 15 RBIs, nine runs, four stolen bases.

He batted fourth in the Flyers’ final game on March 9 at Dayton swept a three-game series against Northern Kentucky. 

The previous day, Flyers head coach Jayson King inserted Tirotta in the 3-hole and he went 3-for-6 3-for-6 with a home run, double, three runs batted in and three runs scored.

“I was putting good barrel on the ball and going in a good direction,” says Tirotta. “Then COVID happened.

“(Coach King has) done everything for me. He’s gotten me into the Cape and a lot of good leagues. He gets us where we need to be.”

Tirotta hooked up with the CSL when other collegiate summer leagues were canceled or scaled back for 2020. 

He got into 28 games in the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2019 — 19 with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and nine with the Harwich Mariners. He signed a temporary contract with Y-D and finished with league runner-up Harwich. He supposed to go back to Harwich this summer, but the league canceled its schedule.

He knew he wanted to play summer ball. He was not sure where and then the opportunity came at Grand Park.

“There’s a lot of guys I grew up playing with and against,” says Tirotta, a 2017 graduate of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind., who played travel ball with the Indiana Bulls his 17U and 18U summers after being with the South Bend Silver Hawks for 15U and 16U and the Michiana Scrappers for 11U through 14U. Coached by his father, he started organized baseball at Southeast Little League in South Bend.

Playing summer ball two times a week in Indiana, Riley also gets to be around parents Mike and Stacy Tirotta and younger brother Jordan (a 2020 Marian graduate who plans to study dentistry at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis). 

Sunday nights are for dinners at grandpa Frank Tirotta’s house. It’s not unusual for 40 or more relatives and friends to gather for these weekly feasts or on holidays.

“I have a very close family,” says Tirotta. When pandemic hit that shut down meals with his grandfather — a widower — and visits were kept at a distance. “He was fed up with it and itching to see everybody again.”

Mike Marks has broken bread with the Tirottas. He runs the Hitters Edge training facility in Sturgis, Mich., and has been helping Riley with his swing since Marian coach Joe Turnock and son Josh Turnock recommended him during Tirotta’s freshmen year with the Knights.

“He’s the reason I am a college hitter,” says Tirotta. “I put in a lot of hours with him.

“He’s definitely part of the journey in my baseball career.”

Baseball gears back up again next week. Right now, Tirotta is getting ready to join family for some camping.

Riley Tirotta, a graduate of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind., has played three baseball seasons at the University of Dayton in Ohio. This summer he is playing in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. (University of Dayton Photo)