Brownstown Central — in its second season with Duane Higgs as head coach — has just won the third sectional baseball title in school history. The Braves beat Brown County 11-0, Milan 1-0 and Austin 4-2 to win the 2023 IHSAA Class 2A Austin Sectional. Junior Ethan Garland (6-2) was the winning pitcher against Brown County and Austin with the sectional title game being a two-hitter. In the semifinals against Milan, senior Carson Darlage (6-0) tossed a 15-strikeout one-hitter. As is BC athletics championship tradition, a fire truck ride and pep rally followed. “It was cool and the kids had a blast,” says Higgs, who is now preparing Brownstown Central (23-8) to meet Providence (25-3) in a one-game Class 2A regional at 11 a.m. ET Saturday, June 3 on the grass at Floyd Central. The winner moves on to semistate, where four teams will play three contests June 10 for the right to be in the 2A state championship game. Darlage (.481) plays center field and Garland (.402) shortstop when not on the mound. Others in the BC mix are senior Ethan Fultz at designated hitter, junior Trent Lowery at first base and pitcher, junior Quentin “Chick” Tiemeyer at second base, sophomore Dalton Reedy at catcher and pitcher, sophomore Pierson Wheeler at third base and a quartet of freshmen — catcher Grayson Cassidy, left fielder Preston Garrison, right fielder Lane Pendleton and utility man Jaxson Johnson. Recent BC graduates in college baseball include Ethan Davis (Marian University/Frontier Community College) and Jake Pauley (College of DuPage). Higgs says he sees collegiate potential for three-sport standout/left-hander Darlage (who plans to attend Purdue University), Garland and Lowery. Brownstown Central (enrollment around 480) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek). Besides Austin, Brown County and Milan, Hauser, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover) and Switzerland County is in the sectional group with Brownstown. The Braves’ previous sectional crowns came in 1982 and 2016. Former head coach Steve Schrink won 482 games. Higgs is a 2003 graduate of Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind., where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jim Hughes (who died in 2018) and Clark Sherwood. “Coach Hughes is in the Hall of Fame for a reason,” says Higgs, who remembers the discipline and accountability stressed by the coach. “He ran a great program. That baseball field (which now bears his name) was his baby. “(Sherwood) taught a lot about the game and fundamentals.” Higgs’ BC assistants are Kyle Williams, Austin Greene (Brownstown Central Class of 2016) and Nigel Myers (Class of 2015). Brownstown Central feeders include a middle school program for seventh and eighth graders plus Brownstown Baseball Association, the traveling Brownstown Impact and other travel organizations. Higgs earned a Kinesiology degree from Indiana University in 2009. He was a middle school Physical Education teacher in Bedford schools for nine years. In 2022-23, he taught Engineering, Business Math, Credit Recovery, Physical Education and Health. He is slated to teach Business Math, P.E. and Health in 2023-24. Prior to Brownstown Central, he was an assistant baseball coach at Bloomington South 2008-13, head coach at Paoli 2014-15 and assistant at Bedford North Lawrence 2016-21. He also coached in the Zach McClellan-led Demand Command travel ball organization 2011-21. Higgs and girlfriend Mackenzi have a son — Hatcher (3).
Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind., is less than two months away from its 2023 baseball season. While also assisting with the school’s varsity boys basketball team, Lincoln Jones is getting ready for his second season as head baseball coach. During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Jones had high school and junior high athletes in simulated game-like situations. He recorded things like first-to-time, stolen base and POP times and exit velocity off the tee. “We wanted to get measurable data points so we could see that growth or lack there of,” says Jones. “Sometimes it’s just as motivating to see a lack of growth compared to your peers as it is to see your numbers jump. “Numbers speak to the kids today. They resonate.” Eastern (enrollment around 420) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek). The Musketeers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Clarksville, Crawford County, Paoli and Providence. Eastern has won four sectional titles — the last in 2012. Eastern players began throwing Feb 2. A Limited Contact Period devoted an hour to throwing and an hour to hitting. Most of the weight training takes place during the school day. Jones, who teaches at EHS, says the participation across Eastern athletics is in a down cycle. The Musketeers wound up with 13 players in the program at the end of the 2022 baseball season and none of them were seniors. The only player gone from that group — Martin Lewen — transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It was not usual for four or five freshmen to be in the starting lineup. The bulk of the expected returnees for 2023 will be in the Class of 2025. “We’re spending some time down at our youth levels — the fifth through eighth grade ranks,” says Jones. “We’re trying to drive some interest there and get our numbers back to where you’d like to see them in the 24 range where you could split into a JV and varsity on a given night and send 12 both ways.” Jones has the Musketeers employing a “pressure offense.” “We’re probably not going to have a bunch of guys hitting the ball out of the yard and you can’t really rely on that year in and year out. I want to put pressure on the defense and put the ball in-play, bunt the ball, steal bases. We want to have high (Baseball) I.Q. guys who can read situations like dirt ball reads. You can really take advantage of the next 90 feet. “Defensively, you don’t have to make the flashy plays. If you field the ball that comes to you and catch the ball that’s in the air you’re going to have success. The metric that Jones tracks for moundsmen is 67 percent strikes. “My pitching philosophy has always been ‘9 vs. 1,’” says Jones. “There’s nine guys on defense vs. one hitter. You’re at an advantage if you can get it across the plate and give your defense a chance to do some work.” Faith plays a major part in why Jones is a coach. “Baseball is cool,” says Jones. “Ultimately, it’s an avenue to teach kids and have an impact. From a great picture, my biggest mission is to make Jesus known.” Jones’ 2023 assistants are Mike Lawson with volunteers Rick Snelling, Shane Miller and Landon Snelling. Eastern plays and practices on-campus on Larry Ingram Field. The facility is named after the longtime coach. Three years ago, the infield was resurfaced and leveled. A turf halo was placed around the plate area. “The field is kind of unique,” says Jones. “It’s cut into the side of a hill. People sit on the berm to watch the game. It drains pretty well.” There is a junior high baseball program in the Eastern community. Seventh and eighth graders play in the spring and summer. Younger players learn the game at East Washington Baseball/Softball Association. Recent Eastern graduates who went on to college baseball include the Class of 2020’s Rhett Pennington (Greenville University) and the Class of 2021’s Snyder Pennington (Franklin College) and Cauy Motsinger (Vincennes University). Jones is a 2011 graduate of North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., and played four years of baseball, four years of basketball and three years of tennis. The Cougars head baseball coach was former University of Southern Indiana player Gregg Oppel. “He instilled a work ethic in us that was second to none,” says Jones of Oppel. “He brought that old school grit. He was more discipline-oriented and wanted to make his presence known. He was an authority figure. “I learned a lot in my four years under him.” Bart Bigham coached Jones on the tennis court and was also his junior varsity basketball coach. “My coaching style probably mimics his more closely than anybody else,” says Jones. “I always appreciated the way he handled his business. He was very laid-back and mild-mannered. He expected you to get your work done. That’s the environment I work well under. I was going to push myself more so than any coach was going to push me.” Jones played baseball at Franklin (Ind.) College for head coach Lance Marshall. Grant Bellak (now head coach at Hanover, Ind., College) was an assistant. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Phil Webster was Grizzlies pitching coach Jones’ freshman year. Former Vanderbilt University/Libscomb University player Richie Goodenow was in that role for his sophomore through senior seasons. After earning a Business degree from Franklin in 2015, Jones worked for four years at his father’s shop — Jones Machine & Tool — while also coaching at North Harrison. He was with junior high basketball and baseball teams and then baseball squads at the high school. He earned transition to teaching certification online from Taylor University and taught and coached on former college roommate Brent Ingram’s staff at West Washington before going to Eastern and assisting Jeff Pennington for one season before taking over the Musketeers program. On the boys basketball side, Jones has coached the eighth grade and junior varsity and is now a varsity assistant to Ray Weatherford. Lincoln and wife Dallas (a University of South Carolina graduate) were wed in 2017 and had their daughter — Raleigh — in 2020. The couple met while she was doing an internship with the 2014 Louisville Bats. The Jones family has long been Louisville Redbirds/Bats season ticket holders.
Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports? Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State. In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships. Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98. There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward. Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008). A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system. These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:
Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
Who benefits the most from class baseball?
If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion. “The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s). “Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. “I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”
“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. “For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional. “The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period. “It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. “Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question. “Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely. “There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds. “It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it. “But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball. “The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into. “The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”
“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system. “All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting. “I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete. “We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament. “We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”
“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. “Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today. “High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be. “The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo). “There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more. “How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are. “Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level). “I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”
“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. “Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball). “I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down. “I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”
“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. “Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. “The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports. “I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes. The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. “I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A. “Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). “You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw. “Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach. “Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class. Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference. “(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc. “Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”
“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have. “(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size. “Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools. “As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting. I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”
“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class. “Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close. “Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students. “Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. “Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. “The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion. Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”
“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it. “It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools. “Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”
“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis. “Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. “Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. “The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. “As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field. “The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney. Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers. “We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up. “The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. “Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so. “The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most. “The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A. “(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”
“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes. “I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.” “It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.” “Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”
“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint. “Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament. I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals. “A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment. “Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300). “If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth. “At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth. In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”
There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class. “If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win. “At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game. “The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools). “In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up. “I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”
“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same. “Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes. “Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”
“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights. “There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game. “I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes. “For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”
“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part. “We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class. “That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships). “The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.” “There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”
“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. “Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’ We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team. It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area. “The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”
“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started. “Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament. “The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”
“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular. “In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland. Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases. “I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”
“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. “While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. “At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.
“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”
“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game. “I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit. “I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that. “Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”
“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools. To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money. “The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. “I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball. “I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”
“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state. “I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system. “If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four. “Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. “A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer. “One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist. “Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success. It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities. “I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs. “Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney. “The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success. “My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well. “IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball. “I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”
“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school. “If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’ “If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’” “If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools. “Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10! “I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success. “I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”
“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. “All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”
“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis. “The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success. “Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher. “In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”
“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits. “(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. “There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”
“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them. “The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes. The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all. “I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”
“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. “I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. “I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community. “With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”
“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board. “Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players. “I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”
“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships. “Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”
“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo). “The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.
“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”
“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved. The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. “The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.
“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”
“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs.
“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.
“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.
“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”
“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. “More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level. “(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. “There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”
Friday night starter Austin Peterson has been sitting batters down at a consistent pace so far in 2022. The 6-foot-6 senior right-handed pitcher has made four starts for the University of Connecticut and was 2-0 with 44 strikeouts and five walks in 24 2/3 innings heading into the Week of March 14-20. A 2018 Chesterton (Ind.) High School graduate, Peterson played at Purdue and Wabash Valley College before winding up at UConn. Peterson is more than one of 120 players from Indiana high schools (or hometowns) on NCAA Division I rosters outside the state. Many are key contributors. Freshman right-hander Casey Sorg (Floyd Central) sported a 1.59 ERA in five mound appearances for Bellarmine, a squad with nine Indiana products on a team led by Jeffersonville alum Larry Owens. Sophomore outfielder Carson Husmann (South Central of Union Mills) was hitting .318 with two home runs and 11 runs batted in for Bradley. Senior outfielder Damon Lux (Shelbyville) had driven in 12 runs for Duke. Redshirt junior right-hander Blake Malatestnic (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter) was 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings for Eastern Illinois. Sophomore second baseman Tim Borden II (Providence) was hitting .316 with four homers and 11 RBIs for Georgia Tech. Freshman outfielder Jared Comia (Hanover Central) was hitting .283 with two homers and eight RBIs for Illinois. Redshirt senior catcher/first baseman Nolan Metcalf (Penn) was hitting .306 with nine RBIs for Kansas. Senior right-hander Jack Myers (Indianapolis Cathedral) had 16 strikeouts in 19 innings for Kennesaw State. Sophomore left-hander Michael Dunkelberger (South Bend Saint Joseph) was 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA for Lipscomb. Senior right-hander Jared Poland (Indianapolis Cathedral) was 1-1 with 1.38 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings for Louisville. Redshirt sophomore J.J. Woolwine (Fishers) was hitting .439 with one homer and eight RBIs and freshman right-hander Luke Leverton (Seton Catholic) was 1-0 with 1.00 ERA and nine strikeouts in innings for Miami (Ohio). Senior shortstop Riley Bertram (ZIonsville Community) was hitting .293 with one homer and 11 RBIs for Michigan. Sophomore outfielder Roman Kuntz (New Prairie) was hitting .370 with three homers and 10 RBIs for Morehead State. Freshman right-hander Landon Kruer (Providence) was 1-0 with 1.59 ERA for Navy. Redshirt junior outfielder Trevyn Moss (Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran) was hitting .274 with one homer, one triple and 14 RBIs for Northern Kentucky. Redshirt junior shortstop Xavier Haendiges (Salem) was hitting .353 for Ohio. Junior right-hander Bayden Root (Kokomo) was 1.0 with a 2.61 ERA in six appearances for Oklahoma State. Senior right-hander Cameron Pferrer (Carmel) was 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings for Saint Louis. Freshman Nick Mitchell (Carmel) was hitting .357 with eight RBIs for Western Illinois. Junior infielder/outfielder Matthew Meyer (Westfield) was hitting .260 with one homer and 11 RBIs for Western Kentucky. Senior outfielder Ryan Missal (Lowell) was hitting .257 with four homers and 11 RBIs for Western Michigan. Sophomore first baseman Julian Greenwell (Columbus East) was hitting .310 with one homer and nine RBIs. There’s several more coaches with Indiana prep roots — head coach Billy Gernon (New Albany) and associate head coach Adam Piotrowicz (John Glenn) at Western Michigan, head coach Eric Wedge (Fort Wayne Northrop) at Wichita State and assistants Jared Broughton (Indianapolis Lutheran) at Clemson, Nick McIntyre (McCutcheon) at Toledo, Justin Parker (Fort Wayne Wayne) at South Carolina, Matt Reida (Western) at Alabama and Bobby Rinard (Mishwawaka Marian) at Dixie State.
INDIANA D-I PLAYERS OUTSIDE STATE 2022 Alabama So. IF Bryce Eblin (Center Grove) Volunteer Assistant Coach Matt Reida (Western)
Henryville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School’s uniforms say “Hornets.” But first-year head baseball coach and alum Cody Reister wants “guys that have the dog in them.” “We want to be tough defensively and on the base paths — someone that executes all the time,” says Reister (Class of 2013). “That’s our focus. Everyone can hit to some extent, but not everyone can do the little things well.” Reister played for and coached with Jeff Schroeder who led the Henryville for 27 seasons. As a student and player at Hanover (Ind.) College — where pitched for Panthers coach Shayne Stock (the 6-foot-3 right-hander was 6-1 out of the bullpen as a senior) — Reister would help out Schroeder’s Henyrville teams when he could. Reister was born in Jeffersonville, Ind., and moved from Salem, Ind., to Henryville in second grade. He played American Legion baseball for Doc Boyd’s Scottsburg Post 234 team and later Ricky Romans’ Floyds Knobs Post 42 squad. After graduating HC in 2017 with a History degree, Reister came home and became a middle school science teacher and to coach in the boys basketball and baseball programs. As Henryville approaches the start of official practice March 14, Reister sees six or seven players with mound potential. During conditioning, his players have been throwing footballs to build up arm strength. A year ago, Reister worked almost exclusively with pitchers and catchers. “We threw a ton of fastballs and change-ups,” says Reister. “It’s just as effective as anything if you can do it correctly.” The competitor in Reister would not have been receptive to the 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) when he played. But the coach in him understands. “It puts you in-tune with development and what you’re guys can do,” says Reister. “I understand the reasoning for it.” Reister, who is assisted by Henrville classmate Bailey Hall as well as Tim Hawkins, expects have have 12 or 13 players in 2022. “We’re pretty light this year,” says Reister. “We have a bunch of kids in middle school. Hopefully we get them to continue on (with baseball).” As a feeder system, there is Henryville Youth Sports (wee-ball to 12U) and Henryville Elite (a teams for Grades 6-8 not affiliated with the school that plays in the spring and summer). The Hornets play on a diamond located on the west side of campus. “Our field is very, very nice,” says Reister of the facility with Bermuda grass in the infield. Henryville (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central (Elizabeth). Other non-conference foes include Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central, Providence, Rock Creek Academy, Salem, Seymour, Scottsburg, Silver Creek, Southwestern (Hanvover) and Trinity Lutheran. In 2021, the Hornets were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin) and Providence. Henryville has won six sectional titles — the last in 2008. March 2 marked 10 years since a EF4 tornado caused extensive damage to Henryville, killing one person and destroying the schools. Rise Above Mental Health/Illness is a podcast hosted by Henryville senior athletes Caleb Lehaceanu, J.D. Michael and Tyler Orberson. The latest episode was dedicated to the tornado. Senior Sam Gilles, who was inside the elementary on that unforgettable day in 2012, was a podcast guest. Reister is to be on the student-led podcast in the near future. To follow the Hornets, see the Henrville High School Baseball page on Facebook.
Eric Hilton is breaking baseball down to the basic elements as head coach at Crothersville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School. In his second year leading the Jackson County-based Tigers in 2021-22, Hilton wants his players throwing to the correct bases and knowing situations. “It’s basics and fundamentals,” says Hilton. “We’ve been working on it in the off-season. We are making progress in that area.” In 2020-21, Crothersville had just one athlete who had played any baseball in the last four years. To have enough players to field a team, there were 10 boys and four girls. There were too few girls for a softball squad. Crothersville (enrollment around 125) is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Henryville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central (Elizabeth). In 2021, the Tigers were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with New Washington (host), Shawe Memorial and West Washington. Crothersville has not yet won a sectional title. At such a small school, participation numbers have always been an issue. Then came the pandemic. “A lot of kids didn’t return to baseball after COVID (took away the 2020 season),” says Hilton. “They found other things to do.” But things are looking up for the spring of 2022. Fourteen different boys have participated in off-season activities and 21 signed up recently with the intention of coming out for baseball. “We have very decent numbers,” says Hilton, who counts Rita Fletcher as an assistant with another four or five possibles. Three players — senior catcher/pitcher/third baseman Matthew Clouse, sophomore catcher/pitcher/second baseman Logen O’Sullivan and sophomore shortstop/center fielder Lucas Hilton (the coach’s oldest son) — have indicated their desire to play college baseball. Junior high baseball, which is played in nearby communities like Austin, Brownstown, Seymour and Scottsburg, has not been present at Crothersville for a few years. Hilton hopes to bring that back in the next few years. Right now the Crothersville Youth League (T-ball to age 14) serves as a feeder program. Before taking the job at Crothersville, Hilton coached Lucas with travel ball teams, including the Southern Indiana Venom, Blazers and The Swings. A 1995 graduate of Seymour High School, Hilton played baseball for the Owls as a freshman and sophomore. He was also in football as a ninth grader and then went to soccer. He graduated at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus and graduated from Ashworth University in Peachtree Corners, Ga. He is in grocery merchandising with the Louisville division of the Kroger Co., working with 116 stores. Eric and Jennifer Hilton have been married 17 years. Lucas Hilton is 16 and Tyler Hilton 12.
Brian Wichman has helped Scottsburg (Ind.) High School to many baseball successes since taking over the Warriors program. When he came on board prior to the 2018 season, Scottsburg had not had not posted a record above .500 since 2004 and high school players were not involved in travel ball in the summer. “We had to get back to the basics and get people interested in ball,” says Wichman. “I’ve tried to really push kids toward travel ball.” Wichman’s Warriors went 15-13 in 2018, regressed to 9-19 in 2019 with a young squad (there were only two seniors and one junior), missed the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic then sported 19-10 mark in 2021 bolstered by the senior and sophomore classes. There were 22 players to take on varsity and junior varsity schedules. Scottsburg (enrollment around 770) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek). In 2021, the Warriors were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek (the 2021 host). Scottsburg has won six sectional crowns — the last in 1996. Scottsburg plays on Warrior Field, an on-campus facility that was laser-graded four years ago and has Bermuda grass. “It looks really good, especially when we get to May,” says Wichman. Feeder systems include Scott County Youth League (T-ball through 12U) and a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders that play schools in the MSC and Hoosier Hills Conference. Wichman, who teaches engineering and welding classes and is involved in Project Lead The Way at Scottsburg, has extensive coaching experiences at the high school and travel ball levels. His first season was as a Columbus (Ind.) East High School assistant in 1995 while he was doing his student teaching. Wichman graduated from Ball State University with an Industrial Technology degree. He played baseball for one season (1991) at Indiana University Southeast before transferring to BSU. Wichman served as an assistant at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., in 1996 and 1997 and helped at Columbus (Ind.) North High School in 2007. From 2004-14, he ran the Indiana Blazers travel organization and coached for the Indiana Prospects in 2015 and 2016. Brian and wife Cathy have four sons and all played for the Blazers and other travel teams, including the Indiana Prospects, Cincinnati Flames Evansville Razorbacks and Indiana Bulls, as well as at Columbus East. Left-handed pitcher Brian “B.T.” Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2013) was at Murray State University, Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Indianapolis. Peyton Gray, a 2014 Columbus East graduate now in the Kansas City Royals organization, was a high school and GCCC teammate. Defensive back/catcher Christian Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2014) went to Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., for football and baseball then transferred to play baseball at the University of West Georgia (Carrollton, Ga.). Defensive back Noah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2016) played football at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Infielder Jonah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2019) was on the baseball team at Butler University in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2021 and has transferred to St. Charles Community College (Cottleville, Mo.). The past two summers, Brian Wichman has been an assistant in the College Summer League at Grand Park — in 2020 with head coach Joe Thatcher’s Park Rangers and in 2021 with head coach Kevin Christman’s Moon Shots. A 1990 graduate of Seymour (Ind.) High School, Wichman played one varsity season for Owls coach Bob Bowman.
The Class of 2021 played a part in a 14-11 baseball season in 2018 — the first winning season in program history since 1976. The Spartans went 17-9 on the diamond in 2019 and lost the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’ve contributed so much to our school,” says Ingels, who heads into his eighth season as Southwestern head baseball coach this spring and is also a boys basketball assistant and head cross country coach at the school where he is also a Social Studies and Physical Education teacher. “They’re pretty special kids and great students.
“When you have really good players it makes the coach look smart.”
Of the Spartans’ six seniors (Anick Harstell, Christian DeArmitt, Ethan Wending, Chance Johnson, Blake Dunbar and Kirk Van Gorden), five played as sophomores with Hartsell, DeArnitt, Wending and Johnson in the starting lineup.
Two juniors (Aiden Hartsell and Jordan Jones) started as freshmen. Matthew Clements is a talented sophomore who grew up in the Indiana Bulls organization. Southwestern lost two players to graduation in 2020.
Ingels’ 2021 assistant is South Dearborn High School graduate and Franklin College senior Alex Smith.
The Spartans could see Triton Central in the Shelby County Tournament at Morristown on May 8.
There are 17 players in the Southwestern program. Ingels says a few junior varsity games will be sprinkled in to get younger players some playing experience.
The Spartans play home games on-campus at the Jeremy Wright Athletic Complex.
The high school program is fed by a junior high club. Seventh and eighth graders play some games in the spring then take part in the Babe Ruth League at Edinburgh during the summer.
“It’s really beneficial,” says Ingels.
Ingels, played tennis for Kevin Rockey, Rodney Klein and Pete Khensouri, basketball for Steve Todd and baseball for Derick Bright and Brian Ingels (his father) at Edinburgh High School and graduated in 2002.
Todd was the first to talk to Chris about coaching and gave him the opportunity to volunteer with the Lancers.
“(Bright) was a really good baseball coach,” says Ingels. “He changed the way we practiced. Everything was structured. In (batting practice), we’d have two-strike swings, hit-and-run swings, bunt, hit to the right side and swing away.”
Brian Ingels, who had been head football coach at Edinburgh when Chris was young and a longtime cross country and track coach at the school. He was Bright’s assistant before stepping in as head baseball coach for his son’s senior year. The Industrial Arts instructor is currently in his 43rd year of teaching at Edinburgh.
Ingels began coaching boys basketball before finishing at Franklin College in 2007 as an assistant to Edinburgh head coach Todd Tatlock.
After that, Ingels aided Kerry Brown then Toby Carrigan at South Dearborn before helping Brent Keck at Perry Meridian. He is on Brady Days’ staff at Southwestern.
Lance Marshall, the Franklin College head baseball coach, has let Ingels sit in on Grizzlies practice and has offered advice.
“He’s a great guy,” says Ingels.
Ingels values his relationships and connections to his young athletes.
“Through baseball you are dealing with a lot of failure and adversity,” says Ingels. “You’re trying to get kids to be able to handle that and push their way through it and succeed in the end.”
Ingels sees a lot of lessons in baseball.
“It starts with preparation and having to put a lot of work into each little part,” says Ingels. “That adds up in the end.”
The coach appreciates the team aspect of the sport and that you’re
“A lot of people think baseball is an individual sport on your own island at each position and getting your stats at the plate,” says Ingels. “It’s the ultimate team sport when it comes down to it.”
One player can’t carry the whole load.
On the offensive side, Ingels sees worth in batting average. But that doesn’t rank first in his eyes.
“On-base percentage is so much more important,” says Ingels. “We’ve got to get men on base.”
While the Spartans may not chart it in 2021, there will be discussions about quality at-bats.
“Sometimes a groundout to the right side can be productive,” says Ingels.
“We want to win in baseball, but we also want to be good people,” says Fessel, a 1996 North Harrison graduate. “I’m coaching young men to be husbands and fathers.
“Do what’s right even when no one’s watching.”
An assistant to Cody Johnson for three seasons, Fessel took over the Cougars program for the 2019 season.
Of course, the 2020 schedule was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was kind of heart-breaking,” says Fessel. “I contacted schools in Harrison and Crawford counties to see if they wanted to put together a Senior Day. We had a date set. Then there were more stipulations and no visitors were allowed on-campus.
“It was even more of a gut punch.”
A member of the North Harrison Class of 2020 — Dawson Howell — did go to Vincennes University to play baseball. Colin Higdon (Class of 2021) has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College.
Other Cougars to move on to college ball include 2019 grads Justin Deatrick (Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo.) and Jake Harley (Kentucky Wesleyan College) and 2018 grad Max Flock (Vincennes U.).
During fall and winter workouts, North Harrison players have worked on their glove work — back hands, forehands etc. There’s been plyo-ball and core work. They’ve also gotten into the school’s hitting facility to polish their mechanics.
“We got outside as much as we could,” says Fessel. “We did long toss and get our arm strength.
“With missing last year, I feel we got put behind the 8-ball.”
Once things opened up again in the summer, a few of Fessel’s players got to play travel ball. But the majority of them did not see game action on the diamond though there was some practice in July.
“It was just fun to be outside more than anything,” says Fessel. “We were getting re-connected. It felt like we couldn’t see them for the longest time.”
During the shutdown, Fessel and his players stayed in-touch through group chats. To keep the boys’ minds sharp, he coach offered scenarios from the baseball case book. He’d ask, “What’s the call on this?”
“I was testing their I.Q. and keeping them baseball-minded,” says Fessel. “We were trying to keep upbeat and stay ready during that COVID time. Then they shut it all down.
“A lot of (players) shut down themselves and I really worried about them.”
The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. North Harrison has won nine sectional championships — the last in 2015.
Fessel’s 2021 assistant coaches include Tony Waynescott (varsity), John Miller (junior varsity) and volunteers Chris Koutsoubos and Micah Napper.
North Harrison plays its games on campus on a field that’s dimensions are larger than many high school facilities — 320 feet down the foul lines, 365 in gaps and 390 to dead center field.
“We don’t see a lot of home runs,” says Fessel, who says baseballs used in 2021 will need to be approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
Fessel says the Cougars’ field is expected to see a new wind screen this spring.
A middle school club baseball team is part of North Harrison’s feeder program. Ideally, there are enough players for separate seventh and eighth grade teams who play in a league filled with Hoosier Hills Conference feeder schools.
Since the middle school shares the same field with the high school, there is a movement to get a Pony League diamond built at the North Harrison Cal Ripken complex. The youth league for Grades K-6 tends to have about 220 participants.
Fessel played baseball for Danny Schmidt and football for Chuck Walker — both still North Harrison teachers.
Both men set an example about work ethic.
“Danny was one of those guys who were there all the time,” says Fessel. “He worked hard. That stuck with me.
It was at Franklin that Fessel met Michelle Knoll. The couple will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July and have three children — Brody (16), Bryce (13) and Abigail (9).
North Harrison sophomore Brody Fessel is likely to be the Cougars’ starting catcher in 2021. He is also a varsity basketball player and football manager. Seventh grader Bryce Fessel plays football, basketball and is on the middle school baseball team. Third grader Abigail Fessel plays softball.
Since earning his History degree from Franklin and teaching certification at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Kevin has been an educator and football coach.
He taught for nine years at Highland Hills Middle Schools (part of the Floyd Central system) and is in his sixth year at North Harrison Middle School, where he teaches eighth grade U.S. History.
Fessel was on the varsity football staff at North Harrison 2000-08 — the last five assisting Jason Mullis. The 2009 season was spent with Brian Glesing at Floyd Central for coaching at Floyd Central Middle School 2010-14. In 2015, he returned to North Harrison. His primary responsibility on Mark Williamson’s staff is defensive line.
“Larry is charismatic and has a contagious baseball mind,” says Hester.
Hester, who followed his baseball playing career, by traveling all over the country competing in top-flight slow pitch softball tournaments, has his Charlestown players competing during IHSAA Limited Contact Period winter workouts.
“We compete internally all the time,” says Hester. “I have a good group of (10) seniors who love hard work and competing.”
Hester has been getting his Pirates to understand what it means to have love and passion for the game and and enjoying being on the team.
“A lot of that comes from Larry Owens,” says Hester.
Expecting around 24 players in the program this spring, Hester and assistants Bryan Glover, Tony Kailen, George Roberts and Brady Hester will lead a program in varsity and junior varsity competition. Of the five coaches, only Kailen is not a Charlestown graduate.
The site of the Pirates baseball field is the same that Hester knew as a player, but the facility was totally overhauled almost a decade ago.
The former practice football field was turned into a softball field and now baseball and softball share not only a hitting building but a walkway and common area with a concession stand between the two diamonds.
“There’s great energy for our games,” says Hester.
The Pirates are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Charlestown has won two sectional titles — 1999 and 2009.
While Hester was a Charlestown assistant he helped establish middle school baseball. Not affiliated with the school system, games are played during the spring. This year, Hester expects one team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Recent Charlestown graduates on college baseball teams include right-handed pitchers Andrew Snider (Morehead, Ky., State University) and Drew Fifer (Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.).
Two current seniors — right-handed pitcher Eric Wigginton (Spalding University in Louisville) and utility infielder Matthew McCoy (Hanover, Ind., College) — have made college baseball commitments.
Two others from the Class of 2021 weighing their options are catcher Nathaniel Kimbrell and right-handed pitcher Jacob Glover.
Ronni Hester, Brian’s wife, is in retail management. Brian and Ronni have three sons — Brady (22), Dalton (18) and Boomer (13) plus one grandson. Dalton Hester is a Charlestown senior. Boomer Hester is a seventh grader who plays football, basketball, wrestling and baseball with the middle school team and the Rawlings Tigers.