By STEVE KRAH
Building team chemistry is among the priorities for Josh Ulery as he takes over as head baseball coach at his alma mater — Peru (Ind.) High School.
Hired in the fall to lead the Tigers program, the 1999 Peru graduate graduate has also been stressing fundamentals, conditioning and offensive approach while assessing his team’s strengths and weaknesses during IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities.
“We want to hit the fastball and be aggressive in the (batter’s) box,” says Ulery of his hitters. “We want to swing hard but have a controllable swing.”
This week, players were in the gym for Tuesday hitting. Fielding practice is slated for Saturday.
Ulery wants his team — which has most varsity players back from 2022 — to be “tip-top defensively.”
Thanks to moving to a new shift and role for the Peru Police Department (he went into police work at 25 and is now a detective) Ulrey is able to coach baseball in an expanded capacity. In the past he’s been a paid assistant and last year was a volunteer for Chuck Brimbury, who was his head coach when he was a standout right-handed pitcher/first baseman for the Tigers and offered a baseball scholarship to Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (which he did not pursue).
“A lot of my coaching comes through Chuck Brimbury,” says Ulrey.
A four-year varsity performer, Ulrey was with Dick Keller for the first two years and Brimbury the next two. Peru went 22-5 in 1999. With many of that team returning in 2000, the Tigers won their only IHSAA Class 3A regional title.
With an enrollment around 660, Peru is the largest school Three Rivers Conference (which also includes Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Rochester, Southwood, Tipppecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko).
TRC teams see each other once during conference play.
Peru is slated to begin the regular season April 7 against Bluffton in the Howard County Invitational. The slate also features at April 29 home doubleheader against South Bend Saint Joseph, a May 6 round robin at Western at May 13 Miami County Classic.
The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with Bellmont, Maconaquah, Mississinewa, Norwell and Oak Hill. Peru has won five sectional titles — the last in 2018.
Lief Astrup graduated in 2022. Returnees include several players who Ulery says have college baseball aspirations — Class of 2023’s Logan Gatliff and Fox Huppenthal, 2024’s Ian Potts, Matthew Roettger and Jackson Rogers and 2025’s Gavin Eldridge.
“We have an amazing freshman class,” says Ulery, who could see as many as 17 representing the Class of 2026. “Those guys are really competitive. I can image a few pushing for varsity positions.
“It should be an exciting and motivated year.”
There have been 36 players at various open fields and conditioning. Ulery says he expects to keep up to 28 in the spring.
His varsity assistants are Rob Hileman, Chris Beauchamp, Ron Potts, Adam Butt and Gary Loe with the varsity. Hillman works with hitters and fielders and coaches third base. Beauchamp is assistant hitting/outfielders coach. Potts is in charge of drill work. Butt and Loe do scorebook work for varsity and junior varsity.
Jacob Loftus is head JV/catching coach. Jody Beauchamp (brother of Chris) is program pitching/first baseman coach and JV assistant. Ron Whitney is a JV assistant and also works with outfielders.
Peru fields a junior high team of seventh and eighth graders that plays about a dozen contests in the spring. Jeff Dicken is the head coach. His assistant is Cody Hiles. Volunteers are Andre Ambrose and Joe Bockover.
Former head coach Mike Stewart is the public address announcer for Peru baseball. Bob DeWire coordinates field maintenance at Tiger Field.
Ulery says there is talk about a new field being put in — with turf and new lights — in 2024. But those details have not been set.
Josh and wife Becky (formerly Mannies) have been married for 17 years. The couple has three children (a girl and two boys) — junior Jordyn, eighth graders Lukas and kindergartener Blake. Jordyn Ulery is a varsity cheerleader. Her mother is Peru’s varsity cheer coach.