By STEVE KRAH
Anticipation is growing around the baseball program at East Noble High School in Kendallville, Ind.
Knights Field is getting a new brick and net backstop and a storage building complete with restrooms. There’s also new fencing all around.
“They’re doing a lot,” says East Noble head coach Aaron Desmonds. “It’s exciting.”
Desmonds, a 2004 East Noble graduate who earned four baseball letters (Bill Cain was head coach), is going into his sixth season on the Knights coaching staff and third in charge in 2019.
As an assistant to Cory Jacquay, Desmonds promoted an offensive approach that put pressure on opposing defenses with bunts and delayed steals.
That aggressiveness has continued since Desmonds took over the program. His 2019 coaching staff features Nathan Jones (varsity), Larry Leighty (junior varsity head coach) and Jason Meade (JV assistant).
In 2018, East Noble had 40 players in the program (20 varsity, 20 JV) and Desmonds says he expects similar numbers in 2019.
There are nearly 30 freshmen vying for a spot in the program.
Seven seniors graduated last year.
“We’ll be fairly young,” says Desmonds. “There will be opportunities for kids to step up.”
While it may not happen this season, Desmonds can see the need for adding a few C-team games to the Knights schedule in the future to provide game experience for younger players.
Official IHSAA practice began Monday, March 11. During limited contact time, the Knights met and got in as much time as sharing gym time would allow.
“We did not get in two full hours,” says Desmonds. “Our basketball coach (Ryan Eakins) played baseball in college and understands we need get arms ready).”
Jones is East Noble’s pitching coach and oversees a staff that works within the IHSAA 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).
“I like it,” says Desmonds of the rule. “We haven’t had any arm issues. We’ve been able to manage their workload.
“They don’t throw a lot the day after they’ve thrown a lot of pitches.”
Recent East Noble graduates Zachary Lane (Anderson University), Zach Haefer (Ivy Tech Northeast and Davenport University) and Joe Kovets (Ivy Tech Northeast) have gone on the collegiate baseball.
Senior third baseman Rhett Norris, a Northeast Eight Conference second-teamer in 2018, is among the Knights’ top returnees.
Opponents for East Noble (enrollment around 1,200 in the NE8 are Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, Huntington North, Leo, New Haven and Norwell.
Conference teams meet each other once with games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. An exception will be Wednesday, May 8 when East Noble meets Huntington North at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne.
Non-conference opponents include Angola, Central Noble, Eastside, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne Snider, Garrett, Goshen, Lakeland, Wawasee, West Noble and Westview.
The Knights are scheduled to play a scrimmage game with NorthWood, which is coached by former Desmonds East Noble teammate A.J. Risedorph.
The Knights are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Fort Wayne Carroll, DeKalb, Fort Wayne Northrop and Fort Wayne Snider. East Noble has won 15 sectional crowns — the last in 1995.
Home games are played on a field located on the East Noble campus.
A feeder system includes youth leagues in Rome City, Avila and Kendallville (East Noble Youth Baseball). The latter serves ages 7 to 15 and has eight diamonds and hosts many tournaments during the summer.
There is also a Kendallville Titans travel organization.
This year, an eighth grade club team that Desmonds oversees — Knights Baseball — will play in the spring and summer.
“We wanted to get more of our kids to play together,” says Desmonds of the reason to form the eighth grade squad.
Besides coaching baseball, Desmonds is online salesmen for Antiques and More Kendallville. The company is owned by his parents, Kevin and Jennifer Sabrosky.
Desmond graduated from Purdue University with a business degree.
East Noble graduate Ben Van Ryn played in The Show.
The left-hander was selected in the first round of the 1990 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Montreal Expos and went on to pitch 26 games in the majors with the California Angels, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays.