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Indianapolis native Vittorio leading Wilmington Quakers with passion, energy

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tony Vittorio is 53 and has been a college baseball coach for three decades.

It was as a teenager on the south side of Indianapolis that he decided that would be his path in life.

Vittorio grew up the youngest of three children at 2925 Anniston Drive, directly across the street from Southport Little League.

“We woke up to the sound of the crowd on Saturdays and Sundays,” says Vittorio. “That’s where the whole love of it came.”

At 15, Tony made the senior league all-stars coached by Jeff Mercer Sr. It was after his first practice with Mercer — then a player at Marian College in Indianapolis and later the father of Indiana University head coach Jeff Mercer Jr.  — putting the all-stars through drills and game situations that Vittorio came home and exclaimed that coaching was for him.

“It was that one practice alone,” says Vittorio, who is heading into his second season as head coach at NCAA Division III Wilmington (Ohio) College, which is 35 miles southeast of Dayton.

Vittorio played for Richard Dwenger at Southport High School (Class of 1984) and Indiana High School Baseball Hall of Famer Dick Naylor at Hanover (Ind.) College (Class of 1988).

“We we became close friends through the years,” says Vittorio of mentor Naylor. “I was honored and humbled to do his eulogy at his funeral.”

While playing for Naylor’s Panthers (then an NAIA program), Vittorio pursued a double major in business administration and physical education.

Vittorio spent the 1990 season as a volunteer/graduate assistant at Indiana University under Bob Morgan.

“I always thank Coach Morgan for teaching me how to practice properly,” says Vittorio. “His practice organization was second to no one in the country.”

At 23, Vittorio became a head coach at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and went on to become known as a builder of programs.

“We do not complain about what you don’t have,” says Vittorio. “We just grind it out.”

Vittorio led Lincoln Trail — a junior college — for four seasons. After winning 20 games the first season (1991), the Statesmen won 39, 40 and 45 contests. The year before Vittorio came to town the team won just two games.

That was followed by two years as an assistant to Keith Madison at the University of Kentucky.

“He is as good of a person as I’ve ever met in my life,” says Vittorio of Madison, an American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and National Baseball Director for SCORE International. “Coach Madison has this thing figured out — spiritually, mentally.”

Vittorio spent three seasons (1997-99) at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, when the Mastodons were NCAA Division II. His teams won 80 games after IPFW had gone 9-37 the year before he arrived in the Summit City.

Counting Lance Hershberger as one of his dearest friends, Vittorio looks back fondly on the Fort Wayne diamond rivalry they had when he was at IPFW and Hershberger (now at Ivy Tech Northeast) led Indiana Tech.

“He’s a beautiful person,” says Vittorio of Hershberger.

Vittorio began an 18-year run at the University of Dayton in 2000. The program was 22-34 the year before his arrival and went on to 10 seasons of at least 25 victories and seven of at least 30 with the 2009 club winning 38.

His NCAA Division I Flyers won 463 games altogether. the 2012 team participated in the NCAA College Station Regional.

Two pitchers who played for Vittorio at UD are now in the big leagues — right-hander Craig Stammen and left-hander Jerry Blevins.

Three of Vittorio’s former players at Dayton are now coaching at the D-I level. C.J. Gilman is now the top assistant at the Air Force Academy. Jimmy Roesinger, an Indianapolis Cathedral High School graduate, is also on the Air Force staff. Jared Broughton, who went to Indianapolis Lutheran High School, is now an assistant at Clemson University.

Several other former Vittorio players and coaches are coaching are various levels.

After his days at Dayton, Vittorio helped coach his son (Nic Vittorio) in the summer with Dayton Thunderbirds, but was not really looking for another college job when Wilmington, a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference, came calling.

His first Quakers team went 8-29 in 2019 and he’s working toward steady improvement.

“I feel revised and amped up again to build a program at this level,” says Vittorio. “There’s a locker room word — culture. We’re looking to change the culture.

“That means implementing your own program of everyday core values — hard work, loyalty, hustle, sportsmanship and the biggest one — passion and energy on a daily basis. I’m a true believer you can’t go to where you want to go without passion and energy.”

Coming from the Division I world, Vittorio has learned to make adjustments in his approach.

Instead of 30 contact dates in the fall, D-III schools get 16. There are 40 regular-season games in the spring instead of 56. D-III does not offer athletic scholarships, but aid is based on academics and need.

“To me, that’s a lot of time lost,” says Vittorio. “But baseball is more pure (at the D-III level). You don’t have to hold the players’ hands on everything they do as you sometimes have to do in D-I.

“Players have a chance to develop leadership skills. They have to form captain/open field practices (when the coaching staff is away).”

Vittorio says the No. 1 job for he and his Wilmington assistants — Danny Thomas and former Richmond High School and Earlham College player Patrick Morrow — is recruiting.

“You can’t win without good players,” says Vittorio, who counts the Midwest as his recruiting base. “It’s more strenuous at this level. You have knock on 100 doors — instead of 50 doors — to get 10 guys.”

Vittorio spends a lot of his time raising money for the baseball program and as director of athletic development, the rest of Wilmington’s athletic department (which includes 18 varsity sports for men and women).

As a coach, He is also working to inspire his players in the classroom, the community and on the baseball field. He is emphasizing player development and building a quality college baseball atmosphere.

“We’re all obsessed with winning and losing,” says Vittorio. “But this whole thing is about making young men the best they can be.”

Vittorio comes back to Indianapolis often. Just last Saturday, he was at Southport Athletic Booster Club Reverse Raffle. He counts Indiana University head men’s basketball coach Archie Miller as a friend from Miller’s six seasons as head coach. Vittorio grew up as a fan of Bob Knight’s IU teams and Notre Dame football.

“That’s the Indiana Italian Catholic in me,” says Vittorio. “I love the state of Indiana. I’m a Hoosier.”

Wilmington visits Franklin College and Vittorio’s friend Lance Marshall at 3 p.m. on March 11.

Tony and Heather Vittorio have two children. Taylor Vittorio (21) is a former volleyball player at Sinclair Community College in Dayton. Nic Vittorio is a senior baseball player at Kettering-Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio.

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Tony Vittorio, an Indianapolis native, is now the head baseball coach at Wilmington (Ohio) College. Prior to lead the Quakers, he was head coach at the University of Dayton, Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne and Lincoln Trail Community College. (Wilmington College Photo)

 

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Jarrett establishing his system for Notre Dame baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Link Jarrett has spent this fall putting in his team system as the new head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Jarrett, who was named to the position July 12, is bringing his Fighting Irish to the end of its first phase of the fall. After this weekend comes a month that is more individual-oriented.

“You’ve got to have a way you do your fly-ball communication, bunt defense, first-and-third, cutoffs and relays, pickoffs and rundowns,” says Jarrett from the dugout at ND’s Frank Eck Stadium. “Those require the whole team. We wanted to make sure on the front of team practice that we implemented those things and the guys understood it.

“As you put those team concepts in play, you start learning your personnel a little bit. We’re very close to really understanding all of that, which I wanted to do by the end of this week.”

Notre Dame plays an exhibition game Saturday, Oct. 19 against NCAA Division II Southern Indiana at historic Bosse Field in Evansville. The game will benefit the fight against Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that affects one in 50,000 people in the U.S.

Sam Archuleta, son of USI head coach Tracy Archuleta, has FA.

Many pitchers are not throwing live right now and won’t make the trip to Evansville. Others will give Jarrett and his assistants (Rich Wallace, Chuck Ristano, Scott Wingo plus director of baseball operations Steve Rosen) a chance to see the program’s culture grow.

“You learn your guys as you are around them,” says Jarrett. “The No. 1 component is how we perform together out here (on the field).

“But getting to know the individuals and trying to figure out personalities and what buttons to push comes through being around them. It comes through time and working at your relationship with them.”

Jarrett sees the relationship with each athlete as an organic thing that grows naturally.

“Learning what they need as players and trying to help them individually, that also helps your relationship building because they know you’re in it for them and for the right reason,” says Jarrett. “We’re trying to find a way to make the team better and win more games. That’s the bottom line.”

The rest of the fall and winter will also include looking at potential recruits from current high school sophomores (Class of 2023) and buttoning up travel budgets and equipment details.

“Once you get back (from Christmas break) and start preseason practice, you really don’t come back up for air until June,” says Jarrett.

A native of Tallahassee, Fla., Jarrett played at Florida State University for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Martin for four seasons (1991-94 with all but 1993 being College World Series teams) and then five in the Colorado Rockies organization (1994-98).

Jarrett was an assistant coach at Flagler College (1999-2001), Florida State (2003), Mercer University (2004-05), East Carolina University (2006-09) and Auburn University (2010-12) before serving as head coach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (2013-19).

Jarrett had an appreciation of Martin while playing and coaching for him and taps into that knowledge now.

“(Martin) gave me an opportunity because I can go on the field and function in his system. I could play the game,” says Jarrett. “I reflect on our (Florida State) teams and we were good, versatile baseball players. You can essentially keep yourself in most of the baseball games if you can pitch and play defense. It started there for us.

“(Martin) was a very good game tactician. I’d like to think I took some of that with me.

“You recognize when you’re around somebody who’s very special at what they do. I knew at one point that coaching was a possibility for me so I tried to soak in as much as I could.”

Jarrett says Martin had a knack for putting people in the right spot on the field, managing the game and putting guys on the mound who could function in college.

“It didn’t mean they had the best velocity or had the best draft potential necessarily,” says Jarrett. “But they were people he trusted to go out there and execute pitches and win college games with good baseball players behind them.

“That’s how we played. That’s how we won. I’m trying to do the same thing with our team here (at Notre Dame).

“We’ve got some arms that are experienced and talented. We have not played near good enough defense to compete consistently.

“You can look at the statistics and the ball in play wasn’t handled well here last year. We have to do better.”

As a former middle infielder, Jarrett tends to view the game through the lense of his shortstop and second baseman as well as his catcher and center fielder.

“I put a lot of pressure on our middle guys to run the game,” says Jarrett. “I expect that center fielder to run that entire outfield to take charge and lead.”

Jarrett is grateful to David Barnett (who has 952 career wins) for giving him his start in coaching. As athletic director and head baseball coach at Flagler, Barnett made Jarrett his first-ever full-time assistant and gave him plenty of responsibility with strength and conditioning to field maintenance.

“I learned how to run the entire operation,” says Jarrett. “He didn’t hire a coach. He gambled on hiring somebody who had some good experience as a player.

“(Barnett) taught me how to do some of the things you took for granted as a player. I’m very fortunate Dave gave me a chance to get into it at Flagler. Those were three great years in St. Augustine.”

After a season on Martin’s staff, Jarrett was hired by Craig Gibson at Mercer in Macon, Ga., where he was recruiting coordinator and helped with the field.

Randy Mazey brought Jarrett aboard at East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. But about a month into the job, Billy Godwin became his boss.

Jarrett describes Godwin as a hard-nosed baseball person.

“We worked very well together,” says Jarrett. “He’s a pitching coach by trade, but is adept at coaching a lot of different parts of the game.

“He gave me Gave me tremendous flexibility to do what I wanted to do with the offense and with the recruiting.

“In my four years, created a College World Series caliber team.”

After scouting for the New York Yankees, Godwin is now head coach at UNC Greensboro.

“I hope I left him a program that’s in good shape and he’ll enjoy coaching there, too,” says Jarrett.

After Eastern Carolina came the opportunity at Auburn, where John Pawlowski was head coach.

“J.P.’s a good guy,” says Jarrett of Pawlowski. “He’s a very organized leader. He’s very detailed in what he does. He gave me an opportunity to coach in the SEC and I’m very thankful for that.

“Navigating the draft was a tricky thing at Auburn. So many recruits were drafted every year. Sometimes we out-recruited getting them to campus.

“To win the (SEC) West and host a regional was phenomenal.”

Jarrett’s first head coaching gig at UNC Greensboro produced a 215-166 record in seven seasons, including 34 or more wins the past four seasons.

As a minor league player, Jarrett was a teammate of Todd Helton, who went on to play 17 big league seasons and hit .316 with 369 home runs, 1,175 runs batted in while striking out 1,175 times in 7,962 at-bats (or about 15 percent of the time).

“Pitch for pitch, he was the toughest out I’d ever seen,” says Jarrett of Helton. “He may not have been the biggest physically or had not the most power. But his ability to manage at-bats was phenomenal.

“I started to take some of what I watched him do and kind of filed it away knowing that these are things I need to teach as a coach. Some of it was swing stuff that he did, but it was based more on his approach to the at-bat and how he was being pitched.”

Jarrett says Helton had the ability to think through how he was being pitched really well and apply that knowledge during his at-bats.

“What separated him and made him a Hall of Fame-type hitter was his innate ability to pinpoint what he was looking for, focus on it and hit it or take it if it wasn’t within his approach,” says Jarrett. “Had he been less disciplined, he would have hit for less power. He gave himself a chance to get good pitches to hit.

“Putting the ball in play pressures people and Todd was obviously very good at it.”

The way Jarrett’s breaks down the count for hitters, there’s hitting with two strikes and less than two strikes.

“The goal when you get two strikes on you is not to strike out,” says Jarrett. “The goal with less than two strikes is to drive balls and hit balls really hard.

“The strikeout is the worst thing offensively that can happen to you. You’re not putting the ball in play. In the college game, it’s even worse than in the big leagues because the defense isn’t quite as skilled or positioned or talented.”

Link, 47, and Jennifer Jarrett have two children — J.T. and Dawson. J.T. Jarrett is a junior on the North Carolina State University baseball team. Like Notre Dame, the Wolfpack are in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

While on fall break, J.T. was able to see his father and attend the USC-Notre Dame football game this past weekend. Dawson Jarrett is finishing her senior year at Northern Guilford High School in Greensboro, N.C.

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Link Jarrett is the head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame. The Florida native comes to northern Indiana after serving as head coach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. (University of Notre Dame Photo)

 

Hanover’s Bellak simplifies hitting approach

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely is not an easy thing to do well.

Grant Bellak, who enters his second season as head baseball coach at NCAA Division III Hanover (Ind.) College in 2019-20, has his Panthers (15-19 during the 2019 season) following a simplified offensive approach that he first began to develop as an assistant at D-III Franklin (Ind.) College.

In 2018, the Grizzlies were national leaders in batting average, OPS (on-base plus slugging), runs per game, home runs and walks.

Bellak presented “Simplifying the Approach for High Output Offenses” during an American Baseball Coaches Association Barnstormers Clinics stop Sept. 8 at Butler University in Indianapolis.

The full presentation can be ordered through the ABCA Barnstormers Clinics Video Library.

“The coaching community has been really, really good to me,” says Bellak, who gave shout-outs to Ryan Brownlee (ABCA Assistant Executive Director of Coaching Outreach and former Western Illinois University head coach), Bill Kurich (Webster University head coach), Adam Smith (Benedictine University head coach) and Lance Marshall (Franklin College head coach).

The Barnstormers appearance was Bellak’s first time as a presenter at an ABCA clinic.

“We look at the approach to hitting as all-encompassing,” says Bellak.

He quoted ABCA Hall of Famer Jerry Weinstein’s 2014 statement that a big league pitcher only hits what he defines as his spot 24 percent of the time.

“For us as hitters, we need to be prepared to hit a lot of ‘mistake’ pitches,” says Bellak. “That’s what you’re going to get.

“To be a high level offense, we need to simplify our approach. At the same time — as (hitting and mental skills guru) Steve Springer says — you won’t hit anything if you’re trying to hit everything.”

Bellak has developed four absolutes for his hitters.

“No. 1, you have to be the best athletic version of yourself,” says Bellak. “It can be two completely different things from our shortstop to our first baseman.

“Secondly, your front foot has to leave the ground at some point.”

Bellak can only think of a few big leaguers — Ian Kinsler and Albert Pujols are two examples — who have had a lot of success keeping their foot on the ground the entire time.

“We teach front foot down on-time,” says Bellak of his third absolute. “We want to work on sequencing from the back side of our body.”

No. 4 involves the player knowing their identity and how they fit into team goals. Hanover’s offensive team goal is an .840 OPS (ideally around .420 on-base average and .420 slugging percentage).

“Our lead-off hitter will try to get to that .840 in a significantly different way than our No. 4 hitter,” says Bellak. “By identifying what category you fit into, you will have a defined set of measurable goals to strive for.

“Being honest with yourself and your abilities will allow you to achieve your goals and help this offense win games.”

Bellak puts offensive players into four categories — Sparks, Hybrid, Hybrid-Plus and Power.

Sparks have a high on-base average, lower slugging percentage and a high number of stolen bases. They generally strike out only once per 15 at-bats and produce less than two home runs, six or more doubles and 10 to 15 stolen bases.

Hybrid players provide a high on-base average and good slugging percentage. They strike out once per 10 at-bats with two or more homers, eight or more doubles and less than six stolen bases.

Hybrid-Plus entails high marks in on-base and slugging averages and the ability to steal bases consistently with one strikeout per 10 at-bats with four or more homers, 12 or more doubles and eight or more stolen bases.

Power hitters are above average in on-base average and excellent in slugging. They will not steal bases often (four or less) and have one strikeout per eight at-bats with five or more homers, 12 or more doubles.

Bellak and his coaching staff are very careful with verbal cues.

“Kids today are very literal,” says Bellak. “You see it all the time. You say, ‘get your front foot down early.’ Then he sits and he can’t sequence properly.

For instance, Hanover coaches will never say “Use your hands” but instead say “Get Turned.”

Instead of “Go oppo,” it’s “Use the backside.”

It’s not “Let it get deep,” but “Use the fat part of the field.”

Rather than “Get on top,” they say “Release the barrel out front.”

Instead of “Use your hands,” it’s “Get turned.”

Following the advice of mental performance expert Brian Cain, words that end with “not” or “‘nt” are not to be used as cues because those negatives stick in the player’s brains.

“We try to change those to ‘you can,’ ‘you will’ vs. ‘won’t,’ ‘don’t,’ ‘can’t.’”

Bellak wants his hitters to “hunt” pitches (aggressive) rather than thinking in terms of a passive word like “wait.”

Hitters ask themselves questions like “Where have I had success?,” “Where do function best?” or “Where am I hitting the ball the hardest and why would I come away from that?”

As a visual tool, Bellak has his players place a large ball (around the size of a basketball) and put it over the plate where they feel they will be most-successful at the plate.

“It’s a pitch they are looking for and they can touch it, see it and feel it,” says Bellak. “We tell them during BP that they’re not going to let any pitches touch their glass ball.”

There is freedom to move the ball around to suit the hitters’ strengths. Power hitters typically want pitches that are “middle-in.”

“Expect them to take more pitches in BP because they’ll say, ‘Coach, that was a little bit off my glass ball,” says Bellak. “But, all of a sudden, they become more refined in their approach and we create height, depth and location.

“It really focuses their approach. It’s simple. It doesn’t take long to explain. You’re getting them free to what they want to do at the plate as hitters.

“With the influx of data, most hitters these days are pretty honest with themselves. I know which pitch I’m going to hammer.”

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Grant Bellak is the head baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College. (Hanover College Photo)

 

Goff wants Purdue baseballers to sport ‘attitude of gratitude’

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Greg Goff wants his Purdue University baseball players to play the game well.

But there’s so much more the new head coach has in mind for the young men in his program.

Goff says he believes that “good things happen to good people” and makes that a priority for his squad.

“Having a program that the Boilermaker fan base and people are proud of, that’s really important for me,” says Goff. “I tell our guys all the time, we’ve got to have integrity.

“I want our guys to do things right. I want to be able to look people in the eye because my players are going to class. They’re getting their degrees. They’re being good citizens. We’re making an impact in the community.

“I want to be proud of our players. I want them to be men of service and have an attitude of gratitude. It’s such a privilege (to play college baseball). It goes by so far. This four- or five-year window these guys have can make such huge impact on others.”

Goff asks each Purdue player to contribute at least 10 hours of community service before the end of the fall term. So far, they’ve done things like share a meal with senior citizens and read to elementary students.

“It’s important for people to see our guys,” says Goff. “The more people can see the product that we have, hopefully they’ll come watch in the spring.”

Purdue has a 45-day window of fall training that started about 10 days ago and will run mid-October. By NCAA rule, the Boilers are allowed to train for 20 hours per week.

Three exhibition games are on the fall calendar. The Ontario Blue Jays came to Alexander Field on Sept. 13. There are home contests slated with Heartland Community College (Oct. 5) and Wabash Valley College (Oct. 11).

“The emphasis in the fall is to continue to instill the daily work habits I want,” says Goff. “For the two or three hours we have each day, really focus on that.

“I don’t think you can get better if you don’t really focus in and do those things.”

When the fall concludes, Purdue baseball will shut it down and then go into off-season speed and agility work and be restricted to eight hours of organized training time per week.

“I’ve been really, really pleased with our guys,” says Goff. “They have made such a tremendous commitment to what we’re asking them to do.”

Goff wants his athletes to grow and develop beyond the diamond.

“We want to help our guys understand the importance of making good decisions on a daily basis,” says Goff. “We tell them that when that alarm clock goes off, don’t hit that snooze.

“Let’s get up and make a great day out of it and make a difference in somebody’s life.”

Goff takes over the Boilermakers from Mark Wasikowski.

Waz left West Lafayette after three seasons to become head coach at the University of Oregon. Goff joined Purdue baseball as an assistant coach in July 2017 and was promoted to head coach in June 2019.

“Coach Wasikowski left the program in really good shape,” says Goff. “In all the places I’ve taken over, this is by far the best situation.”

Goff has previously served as a college head coach with stops at Campbell University (2008-14), Louisiana Tech University (2015-16) and the University of Alabama (2017) as well as NCAA Division II University of Montevallo (2004-07).

He was also pitching coach at the University of Kentucky (2000-03) and served as an assistant at Southeast Missouri State University (1998-99) and his alma mater Delta State University (1994-97).

Goff has coached several future professionals, including big league pitchers-to-be Brandon Webb and Joe Blanton at Kentucky.

Goff’s Purdue coaching staff features Cooper Fouts, Chris Marx, Harry Shipley and John Madia.

Growing up in Jackson, Tenn., the son of James and Cora Goff, Greg credits his mother for teaching him much about the game and about life.

“My mom had such great impact on me,” says Goff of his late mother. “She coached me. My dad had to work all the time.

“I learned how strong she was and had to fight for where she was.”

Goff went on to Delta State where he learned from Bill Marchant and Mike Kinnison at Delta State.

More lessons were taught by Mark Hogan at Southeast Missouri State and Keith Madison at Kentucky. Madison is an American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and Kinnison is to be inducted in January 2020.

“Those guys have had such huge impact on my life,” says Goff. “Hopefully, one day, I can impact players like they did.

“I learned so many life lessons with (Madison). He changed changed the direction of my life. I was so into this baseball. And I love baseball.

“He helped me put it in perspective. Wow, what a mentor he was for me.”

Greg and Tina Goff have four daughters — Kara, Kiley, Kolby and Kenzie. Kara plays softball at LSU.

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Greg Goff (right) wants to have the impact on players that many of the mentors during his long baseball path have had on him. Goff was named head baseball coach at Purdue University in June 2019. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff brings enthusiasm to his role as a baseball coach. After two seasons as a Purdue University assistant, he is now the Boilermakers head coach. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff (right) brings plenty of experience to his new role as head baseball coach at Purdue University. He has 14 seasons of head coaching and many more as an assistant to drew from when leading the Boilermakers. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff, now head baseball coach at Purdue University, looks to impact his players both on and off the diamond. He is stressing academics and service as well as athletic achievement. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff will be pointing the way for the Purdue University baseball coach as head coach. He was named to that position in June 2019 after serving two seasons under Mark Wasikowski. (Purdue University Photo)

GREGOFF1Greg Goff was named head baseball coach at Purdue University in June 2019. He has been on the Purdue staff since July 2017. He has been a college head coach for 14 seasons and spent several others as an assistant. (Purdue University Photo)

 

Southpaw Hougeson experiencing pro baseball with Gary SouthShore RailCats

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Seth Hougeson is always looking for a challenge.

The Indianapolis native grew up playing multiple sports, trying to become proficient in each of them.

He competed in soccer, football, tennis, bowling and volleyball and wound up being the best at baseball and that’s what took him to various collegiate levels and now has the left-hander pitching as a professional.

Hougeson (pronounced Ho-geh-sin) is in the starting rotation for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association. He is scheduled to take the ball today (Aug. 1) when Gary plays host to Winnipeg.

The youngest of Richard and Cara Hougeson’s three sons behind Japheth and Caleb, Seth attended Calvary Lutheran and Trinity Lutheran schools, where his mother was a teacher, before going to high school at Indianapolis Lutheran.

Seth could walk a few blocks from Calvary to participate at the Edgewood youth league on the south side. He later played travel ball for the Adam Robertson-coached Indy Bats.

“That’s where I learned and developed at an early age,” says Hougeson of the Bats. “(Robertson) brought out my competitive side. He was a very awesome coach.

“I owe a lot to him. We still stay in-touch.”

Hougeson says competitiveness is his No. 1 strength as an athlete.

“I never give up,” says Hougeson. “I’m always trying to complete that task in front of me.

“I’m hard-working and always doing the little things right. In college, I always prided myself on PFPs (Pitchers Fielding Practice drills).

“It was about fielding my position as a pitcher and being athletic enough to get off and field that bunt and throw it to first.”

Like a fifth infielder?

“Absolutely,” says Hougeson, who turned 22 on April 25.

Indianapolis Lutheran won four sectional titles with Honor Roll Student-Athlete Hougeson on the team and head coach Dick Alter leading the Saints.

“He expected a lot,” says Hougeson of Alter. “He wanted to push you until he got what he was looking for — the best out of your every single day.

“At first, I was a little standoffish. I didn’t know how to respond to it. But, as a I grew up and I matured, it’s just kind of clicked with me. He’s not against me. He’s for me and wants the very best for me.”

Hougeson came to appreciate Alter’s years of experience and it helped groom him for college and beyond.

“I’m always looking for the most competitive baseball and trying to better myself,” says Hougeson. “I continue to get better with the higher level of competition because it continues to push me to get to that next level.”

Concordia University Wisconsin is an NCAA Division III program. In his freshmen season (2016), Hougeson earned honorable mention on the all-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference and was on the NACC all-freshman year, going 3-3 in nine mound appearances (eight starts) with a 3.35 earned run average. In 40 1/3 innings, he struck out 38 and walked nine.

Next came Dyersburg (Tenn.) State Community College. In his one season with the Eagles (2017), Hougeson was named National Junior College (NJCAA) National Pitcher of the Year after going 14-1 with a 1.49 ERA. The southpaw struck out 107 and allowed just 74 hits and 35 walks in 92 1/3 innings.

Hougeson landed at NCAA Division II Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., for his final two college seasons.

As a junior in 2018, Hougeson went 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA in 12 games (eight starts) for a DSU team that went 42-11 and played in the NCAA Division II South Regional. In 35 1/3 innings, he fanned 39 and walked 22. As a senior in 2019, he made 14 appearances (10 starts) and went 9-0 with three complete games (one shutout) and a 2.44 ERA. In 59 innings, he whiffed 55 and walked 14. The Statesmen went 42-14 and played in the D-II South Super Regional.

Mike Kinnison retired as Delta State head coach at the end of the season and will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January 2020.

“He’s one of those old-school, hard-nosed coaches,” says Hougeson of Kinnison. “He’s not going to stop until he gets the best out of you.”

Hougeson began his 2019 summer with the Palm Springs Power in the Southern California Collegiate Baseball League.

“I went out there with no expectations,” says Hougeson. “I was just going to play the best baseball I could possibly do. If I was going to get signed by a team, I was going to be very, very grateful for that.

“If nothing happened out of the summer, I was just going to hang it up and say I gave it all I had.”

He is 15 credit hours plus an internship short of his sports management degree and plans to finish with online classes. He sees himself using his many baseball connections to get job in front office job in baseball which could lead to becoming a general manager.

Or he could follow a long family tradition and go into military service.

“I’d love to join the Air Force and become a fireman,” says Hougeson, noting that his father is currently active in the Air Force and serving overseas. Both brothers (including Caleb Hougeson, who was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 46th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft as an Indianapolis Lutheran third baseman) are in the Army. A grandfather and uncle served in the Marines and a cousin is currently with that service branch. An aunt is in the Air Force.

But sports management or military service are in the future. Hougeson’s present is focused on baseball.

The southpaw pitched in three Palm Springs games and signed with Gary on June 30. That same day, he made his pro debut, tossing four shutout innings while giving up two hits with one strikeout and one walk in a no-decision start against the Kansas City T-Bones.

Altogether, Hougeson has appeared in six RailCats games (five starts) and and is 1-1 with a 6.65 ERA. In 23 innings, he has racked up nine K’s and issued nine free passes.

A 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, Hougeson possesses a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, “circle” change-up and curve ball. He usually has an over-the-top release, but sometimes drops down a little and gets arm-side run with his fastball.

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Seth Hougeson, an Indianapolis Lutheran High School graduate who played college baseball at Concord University Wisconsin, Dyersburg State Community College and Delta State University, is now with the independent professional Gary (Ind.) South Shore RailCats. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Malott has South Dearborn Knights playing ‘old school’ baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jay Malott comes from the “old school” when it comes to coaching baseball.

“We have the dirtiest uniforms,” says Malott, the head coach at South Dearborn High School in Aurora, Ind., and a South assistant for the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches North/South All-Star Series in Madison. “We’re sliding head first.

“We’re always intense. We don’t have a problem taking extra bases. We’ll bunt. We’ll do anything we can to win. Pitching-wise, we’ll throw inside and outside.

“The system seems to work and we just pass it down. People say I’m softer than I was when I first started.

“I think I’m doing the same thing.”

After assistant stints at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (with Craig Moore) and Brownstown Central High School, Malott has been coaching in the South Dearborn program for 34 years and is coming up on 25 years of leading the Knights.

Larry Hornbach (who died Dec. 16, 2018) and Mallot are the only head coaches in program history. Mallot has also been a linebackers coach for SD football.

South Dearborn (enrollment around 825) is a member of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Batesville, Connersville, East Central, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg and Rushville Consolidated).

In 2018-19, the Knights were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Batesville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Madison Consolidated and Rushville Consolidated. With 2019’s South Dearborn Sectional title, the Knights have won 12 sectional championships.

This spring produced a 21-8 mark, a co-championship in he EIAC and a Charlestown Invitational title. South Dearborn lost to Silver Creek in the semifinals of the Jasper Regional.

Malott is a 1977 graduate of Eastbrook High School in Marion, Ind., where his baseball coach was Tim Sumner.

“He was a heck of a coach,” says Malott of Sumner, who went on to assist American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ron Polk and coach future big leaguers Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Bobby Thigpen and Jeff Brantley at Mississippi State University.

What did Malott learn from Sumner?

“Probably about everything,” says Malott. “I became a social studies teacher because of him. I tried to coach like him, but personality’s different so it still comes out different.

“Your personality comes out in your players, too.”

Malott has coached several IHSBCA North/South All-Stars, including Jim Townsend (1986), Brad Tyler (1987), Mark Morris (1994), A.J. Gray (1996), Jared Cutter (1997), Korey Kirkpatrick (1999), Jeremy Legge (2000), Sam Schmeltzer (2007), Wyatt Schwing (2016) and Ethan Getz (2019).

The 2008 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series was held in Evansville and Malott was a South assistant.

“My favorite day is the one where they use the wooden bats and you can see all the kids’ (high school) uniforms,” says Malott. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I get to meet some of the other coaches and tell stories.”

Stepping back on Gary O’Neal Field at Madison brings fond memories to Malott. His South Dearborn team played the Cubs in the sectional championship game in 1999, the year Madison won the 3A state title.

“It was a close game (5-3),” says Malott. “They were better than us.

“We played these guys in football, basketball and baseball and six times in Legion ball (Malott coached with South Dearborn American Legion baseball for more than 25 years). I knew most of these kids’ families.”

Ben Reel, the head baseball coach at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany since the 2009 season, played at South Dearborn for Malott.

His assistant coaches in 2019 included, Adam Wheat, Dave Burress, Greg Hughes, Tim Studer and T.J. Schomber. Most of them played at SD for Malott and know the system and are able to pass it along to the high schoolers and those in the junior high program which is part of the Knights feeder system.

Youth baseball in Aurora, Dillsboro, Manchester and Moores Hill as well as select teams in the Cincinnati area (Aurora is 25 miles west of Cincy) help develop players for South Dearborn.

Highlander Park, located adjacent to the South Dearborn campus, is the Knights’ home field. In the past three years, the lighted facility has had a nine-inning scoreboard installed with new dugouts, press box and wind screens.

“We keep trying to update it,” says Malott.

Jay and Teresa Malott have one daughter — Ashley. She lives in Lafayette with her husband and three children.

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Jay Malott has been coaching baseball at South Dearborn High School in Aurora, Ind., for 34 years and is coming up his his 25th in charge of the Knights program. He was an assistant for the South in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

 

Culture of caring, accountability propels NAIA World Series-bound Indiana Tech

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana Tech’s baseball team has gotten strong pitching, timely hitting, well-placed bunts and taken plenty of extra bases during its 2019 postseason run.

The Warriors (41-14-1) have outscored opponents 30-16 in the Wolverine-Hoosier Conference tournament and 24-12 in the NAIA Opening Round.

Head coach Kip McWilliams says it’s team culture that has Tech in the program’s seventh NAIA World Series appearance and first since 2003. The squad was to leave for Lewiston, Idaho today (May 21) and face Bellevue (Neb.) at 11:30 a.m. EDT Friday (May 24).

“These guys care about each other and hold each other accountable,” says McWilliams. “Culture is the most important thing.

“It starts with the seniors. It’s a great group of guys. They’ve helped molding our freshmen and underclassmen.”

Catcher Glen McClain, third baseman Brandon Dossen, second baseman Javier Castaneda, right-handed pitcher Nate McBroom are among the Warriors’ senior leaders.

McClain, a redshirt senior and graduate of Fremont (Ind.) High School, is Tech’s all-time hit leader with 337. He goes to Idaho hitting .431 with 17 home runs and 54 runs batted in.

Heritage High School graduate Dossen carries a .370 average with five homers and 49 RBIs.

Castaneda hails from Miami, Fla., has made 70 assists and participated in 11 double plays on defense.

Wichita, Kan., product McBroom is in the mix to start of relieve in Lewiston. He is 6-3 with a 3.58 earned run average. Tech’s other top pitchers include redshirt junior right-hander Seth Sorenson (9-1, 2.22), junior left-hander Charles Dunavan (9-3, 2.60) and freshman right-hander Hayes Sturtsman (4-1, 5.47).

Sorenson is from Payson, Utah, Dunavan from Sterling Heights, Mich., and Sturtsman is a Manchester High School graduate.

During the run up to the World Series, the lineup has featured junior right fielder Jacob Alvidrez (.315-3-30) at lead-off, followed by junior center fielder Reese Olden (.323-0-28), catcher McClain, third baseman Dossen, freshman first baseman Jake DeFries (.368-3-42), junior designated hitter Spenser McGhee (.338-3-17), second baseman Castaneda, redshirt junior shortstop Jake Ritson (.299-0-30) and junior left fielder Jashaun Simon (.209-1-11).

Alvidrez is from Sacramento, Calif., Olden from New Haven, Ind., DeFries from Crown Point, Ind., McGhee from Virginia Beach, Va., Ritson from Pittsburgh, Pa., and Simon from Kennewick, Wash. Kennewick is less than three hours from Lewiston.

McWilliams, who is in his 12th season at the Fort Wayne school, credits his assistant coaches who take the time to work with the athletes and build trust in the player/coach relationship.

Brent Alwine is in charge of infielders and is key to the Warriors’ defensive positioning.

Pat Collins-Bride works with hitters and helps with recruiting.

Marshall Oetting is the pitching coach and works closely with McWilliams on that aspect of the game.

Miguel Tucker leads the outfielders, helps with recruiting and puts together a scouting report for the rest of the coaching staff. McWilliams says the data helps with positioning and pitch calling and sequencing.

Gordon Turner also helps with infielders and recruiting and is the junior varsity coach.

Tech was one win away from getting back to the World Series in each of the past three seasons, but bowed out in the NAIA Opening Round.

The Warriors have used that as motivation for getting to the next level.

McWilliams, who has long used visualization in his training, has asked players to “close their eyes and remember the last game they played.”

Unless the season ended with a championship, they are know about the heartache of the last-game loss.

“When postseason baseball comes around, there’s only going to be one winner,” says McWilliams. “Even the incoming freshmen can take that feeling and feed off it, using it in their workouts.”

The coach also asks them to go back to their earliest days of baseball.

“Everyone was a star in Little League,” says McWilliams. “Just relax, go out there and have fun.”

It’s all about positivity.

“We have a question for them: What are they feeding their dog?,” says McWilliams. “Is it positive or negative?”

McWilliams was on the Marian University coaching staff the last time Tech made it to Lewiston, but he does maintain contact with former players.

“I’ve received several phone calls and texts,” says McWilliams. “I want them to know they are not forgotten.

“They’re the foundation of where we are today.”

McWilliams has brought in Ivy Tech Northeast head coach Lance Hershberger (who took the Warriors to the World Series in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003), former Indiana Tech athletic director Dan Kline and American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and current Grand Valley State University assistant Sam Riggleman to address the 2019 team.

Riggleman was a head coach for 40 years and won 1,023 games at Wesley College, Mt. Vernon Nazarene, Southern Illinois University, Bethel College, Dallas Baptist and Spring Arbor University.

As motivation, there’s also the images in McWilliams’ office.

Each time the Warriors has been fortunate enough to win a championship of some kind, a team photo has been taken.

“The poses are almost always the same,” says McWilliams. “They see (those photos) everyday. It’s hilarious. That’s a visual thing for them.”

It links everything together and helps feed the culture.

And culture is what it’s all about for the Indiana Tech Warriors.

 

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Javier Castanedia and the Indiana Tech Warriors are going to the 2019 NAIA World Series. (Indiana Tech Photo)

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Glen McClain and the Indiana Tech Warriors are going to the 2019 NAIA World Series. (Indiana Tech Photo)

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Head coach Kip McWilliams and the Indiana Tech Warriors are going to the 2019 NAIA World Series. (Indiana Tech Photo)

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Javier Castaneda and the Indiana Tech Warriors are going to the 2019 NAIA World Series. (Indiana Tech Photo)