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Indiana State lefty Polley stays calm, keeps coming at hitters

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Triston Polley is the first weekend starting pitcher for the Indiana State University baseball team.

The senior left-hander knows what it means to face pressure situations and to perform in hostile environments when the Sycamores  go on the road.

At 22 and with 210 collegiate innings logged, Polley does his best to be the calm in the storm. Like the eye in the hurricane.

“We’ve played in some of the biggest ballparks in the country in my time here,” says Polley. “It’s the same everywhere you go.”

Polley, a 2015 Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, was in one of those stressful situations in his last start Friday, May 3 at Illinois State.

“It was one of his best outings in terms of competing and giving us a chance to win the game,” says Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs. “I was really impressed with what he did (in the game) with the composure and from a competing standpoint.”

The host Redbirds collected 12 hits against Polley, but he battled for six innings and gave up just three runs in a no-decision.

“There’s always going to be games that don’t go your way,” says Polley. “You have to be able to keep a calm mindset and stay aggressive throughout it all and not fold, which is what the other team wants.”

Polley says it would be easy to get rattled pitching in front of a loud crowd and opposing dugout.

“It almost feels like things can speed up on you,” says Polley. “There was one point in the game (at Illinois State), where I just had to take a step off of the mound, re-group, try to figure out what I was and go at the other team again.”

As Polley and Indiana State (34-11, 11-4) enter a Friday-Saturday-Sunday Missouri Valley Conference series at Dallas Baptist, he is 6-0 with a 2.23 earned run average in 12 starts and 80 2/3 innings. He has struck out 65 batters and walked 33. Opponents are hitting .203 against the southpaw.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Polley competes using a sinking fastball, cutter/slider, change-up and big breaking ball.

He credits Hannahs and pitching coach Jordan Tiegs for helping him to develop an aggressive mindset on the mound and to hit his spots.

During winter breaks, Polley has worked with Greg Vogt (founder and operator of PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind.) on things like pitch design.

“He’s a really good dude and nice resource that I have,” says Polley of Vogt. “I can pick his brain. He’s a very knowledgable guy.”

Polley has also spent much time on his own doing research online to find the philosophies and routine that works best for him.

“I stick with ti and got about it everyday,” says Polley.

Growing up in Avon, Ind., Polley took the mound in high school as a strong-armed lefty. He later learned the craft of pitching.

Polley credits the Indiana Bulls travel organization for giving him a chance to play NCAA Division I baseball at Indiana State.

He says he’s come a long way since arriving in Terre Haute.

“A lot of it has to do with mentally (maturing),” says Polley. “I was an off-the-wall freshman.

“Once I got here, I knew if I took a step mentally, because I knew I had the physical ability that everything was going to play up.”

For his ISU career to date, Polley is 16-4 in 57 mound appearances (30 as a starter) with a 3.51 ERA, 167 strikeouts and 98 walks.

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Triston Polley is a senior starting pitcher for Indiana State University. In 12 starts, he is 6-0 for a team that is 34-11 heading into a weekend series at Dallas Baptist. (Indiana State University Photo)

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Triston Polley has been aggressive and calm at the same time at the front of the Indiana State University baseball team’s pitching rotation. The ISU senior is a graduate of Brownsburg (Ind.) High School. (Indiana State University Photo)

 

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Purdue Fort Wayne’s Birely helps pitchers navigate a world of knowledge

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Blending various talents into a cohesive unit, helping them navigate a world of knowledge and encouraging a flow of ideas.

This is what Grant Birely gets to do as pitching coach at NCAA Division I Purdue Fort Wayne (formerly Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne).

Birely, 36, has been on the job since the 2009 season. The Mastodons are scheduled to open the 2019 campaign Feb. 15-17 with four games at Alabama A&M.

The Purdue Fort Wayne roster features 14 active pitchers with two who will likely be medical redshirts.

“I make an individual plan with each of them to become the best they can,” says Birely. “As they get older and go through the program, they take a lot of ownership of their own development and I become a consultant for them. With the young guys, it’s about teaching them what it takes to pitch at this level.”

Birely says the cornerstone of Mastodons pitching is throwing and learning to spin pitches.

“In some form or fashion, there is throwing each day,” says Birely. “It might be 60 feet one day just to get loose. It might be 350 feet if they’re going to long toss that day. I don’t put a distance restriction on them. We tell them to listen to their arm and see how it feels each day.”

The point is, collegiate pitchers are asked to throw a lot.

“There’s no better way to learn to throw than to throw,” says Birely. “We’re working on their craft every single day.”

Playing baseball at the college level, especially Division I, is a major commitment between school work and hours spend getting ready for and playing games.

“We spend everyday with them and they spend so much time on it, they have to love baseball and showing up everyday and working on it,” says Birely. “One thing they’ll leave with is time management when they head into the real world.”

Purdue Fort Wayne pitchers do a hybrid training program that includes band work, stretching and some weighted-ball movements.

“We don’t dive straight into a full weight-ball program because these guys are competing the minute they get on-campus,” says Birely. “They never really have that down time to solely focus on velocity or anything like that. We’re always trying to work on command (of the strike zone) and commanding a second pitch.”

When the weather keeps the Mastodons off the frozen tundra, they do their throwing in a spacious fieldhouse large enough to make tosses of up to 250 or 260 feet.

“We’re very lucky to have that,” says Birely. “It’s just high enough so they can get a little bit of air under the baseball.”

The top two pitchers from 2018 in terms of innings pitched and victories are gone. Right-hander Brandon Phelps, a Fort Wayne Snider High School graduate, pitched 83 innings and won five games as a redshirt senior. Left-hander Damian Helm worked 73 1/3 innings with four victories in his senior season.

As the Mastodons head into the only four-game series of 2019, Birely says junior right-hander Chase Phelps (Brandon’s brother and also a Fort Wayne Snider graduate), junior right-hander Cameron Boyd (Fishers) and redshirt senior right-hander Shane Odzark will get the first opportunity to be starting pitchers.

The bullpen is being built with establishing strength in the late innings as a priority.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are excited to try to go and finish games,” says Birely, who counts freshman left-hander Justin Miller (Homestead), sophomore right-hander Sean Ferguson (New Haven) and freshman right-hander Jarrett Miller in the closer mix.

Other right-handers include sophomore Trevor Armstrong (Fort Wayne Snider), sophomore Nathan Hefle, freshman Garrett Hill (University), junior Tyler Kissinger, junior Duane Miller, sophomore Brian Skelton (Westfield) and redshirt freshman Cade Willard (Eastside).

Another lefty is sophomore Spencer Strobel (Avon).

Birely says two freshmen right-hander — Grant Johnston (Hamilton Southeastern) and Drew Pyle (Hagerstown) — have had injuries that will likely make them redshirts.

The pitching coach has learned that he is dealing with players who have different ways of learning. They might be visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners.

“We have some guys who like to see themselves on video and they can make adjustments based off that,” says Birely. “Some guys I have to put in a position kind of in a kinesthetic way so they can feel it.

“It’s definitely a challenge to figure out each guy.”

And figuring it out is key.

“Anyone who is teaching might be the smartest person in the world but if they can’t get that information to the players, it doesn’t really work and it doesn’t help,” says Birely. “It’s been fun finding different ways to teach and different ways to convey information that I have to them.”

Birely notes that the current generation — Generation Z — gets a bad rap for asking so many questions.

“They have all this information at their finger tips,” says Birely. “Some of it is good and some of it is not good.

“I’d rather have them ask me a question or to try to figure something out than to just go and do it on their own.”

Group chats are a way that information is exchanged.

A pitcher will see a video in social media and ask, “what do you think of this, Coach?.”

Birely asks his hurlers to identify their favorite major league pitcher.

“That gives me some insight of who they’re going to watch,” says Birely. “My favorite pitcher to watch growing up was Greg Maddux. I was never the big velocity guy. Watching him throw a baseball looked like watching a wiffleball.”

He also followed the fortunes of another future Hall of Famer. Roy Halladay went to high school just a few years before Birely in nearby Denver suburb of Arvada.

Birley is a graduate of Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colo. He played for current Purdue Fort Wayne head coach Bobby Pierce at Central Arizona College (the Vaqueros won the 2002 National Junior College Division I World Series) then finished his collegiate career at the University of New Orleans. That’s where he met his future wife, Bonnie. The two were living in the Big Easy when Hurricane Katrina hit and they moved closer to Grant’s family in Denver.

Retired as a player after one season of independent baseball with the Mesa Miners, Birley went into the business world when a friend asked him to help with freshmen tryouts at Regis Jesuit High School, figuring it would just be for a few hours on a Saturday.

“From the moment I walked out there, I was hooked,” says Birely, who spent two seasons at Regis Jesuit in Aurora, Colo. When Pierce became head coach at Metropolitan State University of Denver, he invited Birely to become Roadrunners pitching coach. When Pierce moved to Indiana to lead the IPFW Mastodons, he asked Birely to come with him.

“I wouldn’t have this opportunity without him,” says Birely of Pierce. “He’s been a mentor and a great person to learn from.

“The best thing about him is that he lets everybody in the organization from players to staff go do their job

he gives them the freedom and creativity to make the program better.”

Pierce promotes a spirit of working together for a common goal.

“He’s very positive,” says Birley. “He’s great to work for. He’s awesome to play for. He allows the players the freedom to exchange ideas.

“Let’s figure it out together.”

Grant and Bonnie Birely have figured out how to balance baseball and family life. The couple has two children — Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School senior Tyler (who is active in theater and show choir) and sixth grader Kaylee.

“Like everyday says you’ve got to have a very understand wife,” says Grant. “She’s on this journey with me. Otherwise, I couldn’t do this.

“She keeps the fort going at home.”

Purdue Fort Wayne plays in the Summit League (with North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and Western Illinois). That makes for a good deal of travel. When the Mastodons go to the Dakotas, they often leave campus on Wednesday night and return at noon Monday.

“(Players) do a great job of doing their schoolwork on the road,” says Birely. “It’s not uncommon to walk through a hotel lobby and there’s 25 or 30 guys doing their homework.

It’s not uncommon for players to ask for the movies to be turned off on the bus to study for an upcoming test.

“We’ve had guys who understand what it means to be a true student-athlete,” says Birely. “It goes back to time management. They have to rely on themselves a lot to make sure they’re getting their work done.”

Coaches will proctor tests for professors, who email the exam and set the time limit and have the coaches sent it back. Other take online classes to allow flexibility and no requirement to be in a classroom.

Christine Kuznar is Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics and meets with players each semester to them on-track toward getting their degree as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“She’s the rock star behind the whole thing,” says Birely.

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Purdue Fort Wayne was formerly known as Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. In its new branding, the Mastodons have adopted black and gold as school colors with a hint of blue as homage to the IPFW brand. (Purdue Fort Wayne Image)

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Grant Birely, the baseball pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne, is a native of Colorado who played and coached for Mastodons head coach Bobby Pierce before following him to Indiana. (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

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Grant Birely has been baseball pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne (formerly Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne) since the 2009 season. (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

 

 

Abrell values life lessons while leading Plainfield Quakers baseball program

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

As a coach and educator, Shane Abrell looks for teachable moments.

Abrell and his coaching staff got the opportunity to teach their players about dealing with failure and about momentum during Abrell’s first season in charge of the Plainfield (Ind.) High School baseball program.

“Life lessons are really important in coaching,” says Abrell. “If we’re not teaching them about life, we’re failing them.”

Facing a formidable schedule, the 2018 Quakers got off to a 2-9 start then went on an 8-3 run on the way to 12-16-1. Right-hander Sam Tackett (an Indiana University Kokomo commit for 2019-20) hooked up in a pitchers’ duel with Braydon Tucker (now at Indiana University) as Plainfield bowed to Northview 1-0 in nine innings in the first round of the IHSAA Class 4A Avon Sectional.

“Now they know they can play with those teams,” says Abrell. “It gives us a lot of mental toughness as time goes on.”

Abrell and his assistants spent much time talking about the team.

“We have some really great conversations,” says Abrell, who welcomes back varsity assistants Josh Morris, Noah Lane and Jaylen Cushenberry, junior varsity coach Brian Holsclaw and freshmen coach Mike Harper for 2019. “We demand a lot of time and effort. But hese guys don’t skip a beat. They make my job easy.”

The coaches were honest with their athletes and admitted when they made mistakes in 2018.

The lines of communication are kept open through that sincerity.

“Baseball is so mentally tough on people,” says Abrell. It’s not for everybody.

“Kids are more willing to come to us when they’re struggling. We’re seeing more players are consoling each other.”

Abrell, who teaches computer science at PHS, was a Plainfield assistant to Jeff McKeon (now head coach at South Putnam High School) for one season before taking over the program.

Prior coming to Hendricks County, Abrell was an assistant to Kyle Kraemer at Terre Haute South Vigo High School from 2001-14 and helped coach youth teams around Terre Haute including the Junior Sycamores and with the John Hayes-managed Wayne Newton American Legion Post 346 program.

Abrell played for Kraemer at South Vigo, graduating in 1998.

“Kyle is probably one of the most organized people I’ve come across in coaching,” says Abrell of Kraemer. “He is very meticulous. There was very little down time in practice. You were always moving.”

South Vigo has enjoyed continuity on the coaching staff with assistants like Brian Pickens, T.C. Clary, Todd Miles and Chad Chrisman serving for decades.

“(Kraemer’s) been a great mentor and friend to me,” says Abrell, who will take his Plainfield team to the 2019 Braves Bash at South Vigo. The event also features Munster and New Haven.

Plainfield (enrollment around 1,700) is part of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian and Whiteland).

The MSC plays home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to crown its champion.

The Quakers are part of the IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Avon, Brownsburg, Mooresville, Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Plainfield has won eight sectional titles — the last in 1997.

While in Terre Haute, Abrell had the opportunity to coach A.J. Reed and become close T.J. Collett and his family while coaching his brother Doug with the Post 346 junior squad and then as North Vigo athletic director.

Both A.J. and T.J. were Indiana Mr. Baseball honorees — Reed at South Vigo in 2011 and Collett at North Vigo in 2016.   

A walk-on at Indiana State University, Abrell’s coach with the Sycamores was Mitch Hannahs.

Abrell graduated from ISU in 2003 with a B.S. degree in Management Information Systems/Computer Science and worked various jobs, including web designer for Clabber Girl and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Reserve Deputy for the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department.

“That was an eye opener,” says Abrell of the issues he saw some students dealing with that have nothing to do with a baseball drill or home work assignment.

He makes a point of getting his players to give back by volunteering in the community at a food pantry or with Riley’s Children’s Hospital.

Gratitude is another life lesson Abrell teaches.

“We talk to the kids about thanking their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents for all the time and money they spend,” Abrell.

He was a football, basketball and baseball coach at South Vigo. North Vigo, coached by Shawn Turner and Fay Spetter and featuring Collett, were 4A state runners-up in 2014 and 2015 with Abrell as AD.

Along the way, he attended Western Kentucky University (Master of Education & Kinesiology) and Indiana Wesleyan University (Education Administration).

Baseball has long been a big deal in the Abrell family.

Shane’s grandfather, the late John Abrell, was a long-time Connie Mack baseball coach and sponsor in Terre Haute.

Rick Abrell, Shane’s father, coached youth baseball at Prairie Creek, Prairieton and Riley and was president of Terre Haute Babe Ruth. He now tends to the baseball fields at both South Vigo and West Vigo.

The Abrells are close with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famers Bob Warn and Steve DeGroote. Warn was head coach at Indiana State from 1975-2006. DeGroote assisted Warn at ISU and then led the West Vigo program.

Abrell says he took something from all the baseball men in his life.

“To be a good coach, you have to accept you’re not going to create something new in baseball,” says Abrell. “You take what you learn and you mold them all together.”

A love of tending the field was ingrained in Abrell. Kraemer had his team spend 30 minutes after each practice and game wielding shovels and rakes and Abrell does the same with his Quakers.

And there’s lots of time spent mowing and edging in the summer and fall.

“For every two hours practicing, probably another two hours working on the field,” says Abrell. “It’s therapy for me.

“We’re blessed at Plainfield. We have a beautiful complex and support from the administration.”

Principal Melvin Siefert and Assistant Principal of Athletics Torrey Rodkey are both former coaches.

The Quakers feeder system includes Plainfield Pee Wee Association, Plainfield Optimist Baseball League and Plainfield Teenage Baseball League (a Babe Ruth League) as well as a locally-based travel organization — the Plainfield Havoc.

“We’re trying to keep travel ball in the community,” says Abrell. “When they play together their whole life is when you have some of the better teams.”

When Abrell took over the program, he contacted Plainfield graduate Jeremy Kehrt. The right-handed pitcher was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 47th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and pitched in independent ball in 2017.

“He stops by a lot,” says Abrell of Kehrt. “He works with our pitchers. When he shows up, their eyes get huge.”

Connor Mitchell, a left-hander who pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2018, also visits to work on arm maintenance. His younger brother, Jackson Mitchell, was the Plainfield’s shortstop in 2018 and is now at Earlham College.

“It means a lot to have alumni reaching out,” says Abrell.

Current Plainfield outfielder/first baseman Jacob Sims is drawing interest from college programs.

A wedding is planned for Shane Abrell and Shannon Bormann in the fall of 2019. Shannon is a nurse anesthetist at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette.

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T.C. Clary (left), Shannon Bormann, A.J. Reed and Shane Abrell meet at the 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. Clary was a baseball teammate and coached with Abrell at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. Bormann is engaged to Abrell. Reed played at South Vigo and was a Pacific Coast League all-star. Abrell is now head baseball coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School.

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Shane Abrell is heading into his second season as head baseball coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School. He is also a computer science teacher at PHS.

It’s about more than baseball for Gossel, Covenant Christian Warriors

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Covenant Christian High School baseball players hoisted a sectional trophy in 2018.

The Warriors reigned at the IHSAA Class 2A event at Speedway.

That was only part of what veteran head coach Andy Gossel wants his players to achieve.

“Our two team core covenants are to be relentless to be selfless,” says Gossel. “We emblazon them on everything. This is what we’re about.”

Gossel wants his athletes to see how this looks in the class room, weight room, on game days and in dealing with their parents — in all aspects of their lives.

“We want to win games and championships,” says Gossel. “But we’re passionate about helping kids develop and grow as men of God.

“We want to impact kids’ lives far above and beyond the baseball field. They’re going to spend a much greater amount of being fathers, husbands, employees and employers than baseball players.”

Each year, Gossel and his team pick a book or topic to focus on besides baseball. They have done Bible studies and delved into John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.

Gossel goes to the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention when its within driving distance.

“It’’s so phenomenal,” says Gossel. “Coaches at so many levels share what they do.

“They are so approachable.”

In attending the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis in January 2018, Gossel noticed that the subject of relational coaching kept coming up.

“I don’t know if it’s a bigger emphasis or more people are willing to talk about it, but it was like an ad hoc theme for the weekend,” says Gossel, who saw Sam Houston State University head coach Matt Deggs do a presentation on the big stage about going from a transactional to a transformational coach.

“When it gets down to the nitty gritty, kids are going to remember the relationship so much more,” says Gossel, a Buffalo, N.Y., native who played at and graduated from Bible Baptist College (now Clarks Summit University in Pennsylvania) in 1997, and is heading into his 22nd season as a head baseball coach in 2019.

Following six seasons at Arlington Baptist School in Baltimore, this will be his 16th at Covenant Christian on the west side of Indianapolis (the school is at 21st Street and Girls School Road just over a mile from Ben Davis High School).

Kingsway Christian in Avon, Ind., and Mooresville (Ind.) Christian Academy in Mooresville are considered feeder schools. But students come from all over to attend the school for grades 9-12.

Covenant Christian has played on-campus at Warrior Park since 2003. The school started its baseball program in 2000 with no facility to call their own. A fund was established to built a field in honor of long-time player and Covenant parent Scott Dobbs after he lost his battle with cancer in the fall of 2002.

Gossel, who is also the school’s athletic director, says Covenant is constantly looking to improve the field.

So far, Denis Schinderle returning to his varsity coaching staff. He has been with Gossel for most of his Covenant tenure and both his sons played for Gossel. Chris Stevenson is back to lead the junior varsity. A search is on for other coaches.

Covenant Christian (enrollment of about 365) is a member of the Circle City Conference (with Brebeuf Jesuit, Guerin Catholic, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard and Roncalli).

The CCC plays a home-and-home series, usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays to determine the regular-season conference champion. A year-end tournament is slated for May 17-18 at Roncalli.

“There’s no easy games in that conference,” says Gossel. “It’s really going to be a challenge for us.

“It prepared us for the state tournament. Every play was important. Every inning was important.”

The 2018 season in the Circle City was probationary for new member Covenant though the Warriors played all league teams twice but Roncalli.

The Warriors are in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Indianapolis Shortridge, Indianapolis Washington, Park Tudor, Speedway and Cascade. Covenant Christian won its fourth sectional title in 2018, reigning at the Speedway Sectional.

“We can be very competitive at the sectional level,” says Gossel. “We’ve never gotten out of the regional.”

Covenant currently has graduate Eric Murphy (Wabash College) playing baseball at the next level.

Andy and Laura Gossel met at college. They have been married more than 21 years and have three children. Ty Gossel (16) is a sophomore football and baseball player at Covenant. Jacob Gossel (14) is a freshman basketball and baseball athlete at Covenant. The youngest is daughter Elyssa Gossel (11).

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Andy Gossel is the athletic director and head baseball coach at Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis. (Covenant Christian Photo)

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Andy Gossel is heading into his 16th season as the head baseball coach at Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis in 2019. (Covenant Christian Photo)

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As head baseball coach at Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis, Andy Gossel and his Warriors constantly talk about the covenants of being relentless and selfless. (Covenant Christian Photo)

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Andy Gossel came to Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis in the fall of 2003 to be head baseball coach and athletic director. The Warriors won the IHSAA Class 2A Speedway Sectional in 2018. (Covenant Christian Photo)

New Martinsville Artesians coach Honaker stressing quality at-bats

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jeremy Honaker is selling an offensive philosophy and the new Martinsville (Ind.) High School head baseball coach expects a buy-in from his Artesians during the 2019 season.

Honaker, a varsity assistant and hitting coach the past seven seasons at Zionsville (Ind.) High School, is confident that Martinsville hitters can increase their production by following his keys.

“We want to focus on quality at-bats, put pressure on the defense and compete every pitch,” says Honker, who helped Zionsville win more than 130 games the past five seasons while competing in the strong Hoosier Crossroads Conference with 2018 IHSAA Class 4A state champion Fishers plus Avon, Brownsburg, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville and Westfield. “strikeouts don’t pressure the defense. I want line drives to all parts of the field.

“I’ll never talk about launch angle or exit velocity. I’ll talk about having great at-bats and approach.”

Honaker, who was hired in September, wants his hitters to concentrate on hitting the ball back up the middle or to the opposite field and values doubles.

Some call 0-2 a pitcher’s count.

Honaker has a different label.

“I call it a team count,” says Honker. “What are you going to do to help your team when you get two strikes?.”

From 2014-18 — with Jered Moore as Zionsville head coach and Honaker leading the hitters — the Eagles earned a Class 4A state runner-up finish (2016), three sectional crowns (2016, 2017 and 2018), two regional titles (2017 and 2018) and one semistate championship (2016).

Honaker notes that the Artesians (15-14) played a number of one- and two-run games in 2018. He says if the team sprinkled in some more quality at-bats, it might have won the Mid-State Conference (Whiteland finished atop the MSC which also features Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood, Mooresville and Plainfield).

“Martinsville needs some offensive improvement — big time,” says Honaker. “We’ve got to score more runs.”

The Artesians are in a 4A sectional grouping with Center Grove, Franklin Central, Greenwood and Whiteland. Martinsville last won a sectional title in 2017.

Honaker expects have 40 to 45 players for varsity, junior and freshmen teams in the spring.

So far, his coaching staff includes Jerry Koller and Jarrett Johnson at the varsity level with Reid Fawcett leading the JV and Kenny Geiresbach heading up the freshmen.

Koller is a former Martinsville assistant and will serve as pitching coach. Johnson comes from the Zionsville staff.

Fawcett, a Huntington North High School graduate, returns and is expected to have an assistant as will Geiresbach.

Honaker was born and raised in Connersville, Ind. He played football, basketball and baseball at Connersville High School, graduating in 1996.

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Tom Gable mentored Honker the Spartans on the diamond.

“He was — hands down — my favorite coach,” says Honaker. “I didn’t realize at the time, but he taught me how to communicate with kids and how a proper organized practice should go.

“But the biggest thing he taught is that you have to build and earn respect if you want the kids to play for you.

“You must have an open line of communication if you kids to give it their all. They will trust you when they know you have their back. You need to show them you care about them.”

Honaker’s high school summers were spent with the Connersville American Legion Post 1 baseball team.

After one season at the University of Southern Indiana, the third baseman and corner outfielder transferred to Indiana University East in Richmond, where he did not play baseball. He also spent a season as a volunteer assistant to Gable.

Honaker was an assistant to John Zangrilli (now assistant at Carmel High School) for two seasons at Zionsville before Moore took over as head coach.

For the past seven summers, Honaker has coached with the Indiana Bulls travel organization, mostly with the 15U Black squad.

He is also providing hitting and infield instruction for Pro X Athlete in Westfield, Ind.

The Honakers — Jeremy and Misha — live in Noblesville. When Misha’s job took her to the East Coast, Jeremy played for the Philadelphia Comets and was team MVP and Greater Philadelphia Men’s Adult Baseball League batting champion in 2008.

Jeremy’s parents are Ted Kalkhoff Sr. and Cindy Williams (married to Butch). He is the second-oldest of four brothers — behind Danny Honaker and before Ted Kalkhoff Jr. and Tim Kalkhoff.

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Jeremy Honaker is the new head baseball coach at Martinsville (Ind.) High School. He was an assistant at Zionsville (Ind.) High School the past seven seasons.

Hartnagel living a legacy, enjoying baseball friendships

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A young man with a head for business continues in what has been part of the family biz for generations.

Michael Hartnagel graduated with a marketing degree from Butler University in 2017 and began work on his Masters of Business Administration.

Like his grandfather, Ralph Hartnagel Jr., and father, Ralph Hartnagel III, as well as uncles, aunts and cousins, Michael has continued to pursue athletics.

Also a tennis player while at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School, Michael Hartnagel’s latest athletic endeavors have centered around baseball.

After a season at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., he played three campaigns for Butler University in Indianapolis (2016-18) and has extended that fun since early July to the professional ranks with the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers of the independent Frontier League.

While working on his MBA, Hartnagel played in 51 games and hit .293 with one home run, 16 doubles, 26 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases for Butler in 2018.

For his three-year Bulldogs career, Hartnagel played in 156 games and hit .314 with three homers, 46 doubles, 70 RBIs and 15 stolen bases with five-hit games in 2016 against St. John’s and 2017 against Furman.

Through his first 22 games with Schaumburg, the righty-swinging shortstop was hitting . 264 with no homers, five doubles and five runs batted in.

“I’m living on that legacy of my grandfather and my dad,” says Michael, 23. “They pass that baseball tradition down in the Hartnagel family.”

The youngest of Ralph III and Chris Hartnagel’s three children (after Brett and Justin), Michael played is last two collegiate baseball seasons for head coach Dave Schrage.

“He changed the culture,” says Hartnagel of Schrage. “He helped me be level-headed and have a better approach on the field.

“The coaching staff at Butler helped tremendously with my game. There were a lot of small improvements I needed to make, both offensively and defensively. “

Hartnagel credits Schrage for helping him on both the mental and physical sides. With his offensive, he was able to gain some gap-to-gap power.

When Michael was at Brownsburg Little League (he played there from T-ball through age 12), his father coached and stressed fundamentals. The same approach was followed by for Butler assistant Brian Meyer in working with his infielders.

“We worked on some hand-eye coordination and footwork drills,” says Hartnagel. “That’s a huge part of defense — your hands, your eyes and your feet. If those three things can sync and coordinate, you can do a lot of great things out there.”

Last spring, Butler fielded at a .school-record 970 clip with 59 errors in 1,974 chances with 114 double plays.

Hartnagel was born in Indianapolis and raised in Brownsburg. He played travel baseball his first two high school summers for a team started and coached by his father — the Brownsburg Crusaders. Three Hartnagel brothers — Ralph, Gary and Jeff — played baseball at Ball State University. Ralph also played tennis at Concord High School and has coached the sport.

Michael Hartnagel was going to play for the Indiana Bulls in his junior summer, but a torn left labrum kept him off the diamond.

At Brownsburg High School, where Michael graduated in 2013, he played for head coach Eric Mattingly and recalls the lessons he taught him.

“He told us to enjoy it and have a lot of fun with our friends,” says Hartnagel. “We were to stay level-headed and consistent — not too many highs and not too many lows.

“He wanted to make us the best player he could — on and off the field.”

Besides playing for the family legacy, Hartnagel has relished the relationships he’s made in the game.

“What I enjoy most about baseball is the friendships I’ve made over the years,” says Hartnagel.

Friends made during Little League and high school are cherished as are those from high school and now pro ball.

“It’s a blessing that my road in baseball has led me to play at this level,” says Hartnagel. “In the Frontier League, a lot of these stadiums are really, really good and so is the competition. (Young fans) look up to you.

“Everyone’s friendly. We’ve been having a really good time.”

Since Schaumburg is about three hours from Brownsburg, Hartnagel has been able to have his family or girlfriend, University of Indianapolis student Maddison Hall, visit or go home on an day off. Justin Hartnagel is a salesman at CDW in nearby Chicago.

Brett Hartnagel is an engineer at Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis.

Ralph Hartnagel III is a business teacher at Avon High School and exchanges daily texts or calls of encouragement with Michael.

Chris Hartnagel teaches second grade at Stephen Decatur Elementary in Indianapolis.

Michael Hartnagel says he wants to extend his baseball experience, but does have an eye on the future.

“I would love to ride this out as long as a I can,” says Hartnagel. “Then I’ll find my next passion. I could see myself sales or maybe I’ll get my real estate license.”

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Michael Hartnagel (right) celebrates the scoring of a Schaumburg Boomers run.

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Michael Hartnagel (center) of the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers shares a moment with parents Ralph and Chris Hartnagel. Michael played at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School, DePauw University in Greencastle and Butler University in Indianapolis before professional baseball.

 

McGaha emphasizes running game, commitment for Mooresville Pioneers baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Eric McGaha wants a team that will keep moving on the baseball field will act right on it and off.

“We put a lot of guys in motion,” McGaha, who has been the head coach at Mooresville High School in Morgan County every year but two since 2002. “We’ve got more than 100 stolen bases. Our steal steal percentage a little over 90 percent.”

McGaha grew up a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, but he really enjoyed seeing speed on display with the St. Louis Cardinals of Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Lonnie Smith and Ozzie Smith.

“I want my team to be athletic and run,” says McGaha. “That’s the first thing we do.

“I can’t watch Major League Baseball now. It’s either an extra-base hit or a strikeout. It boggles my mind. What about drag bunting, push bunting or fake bunt and slash?”

McGaha will look at a player’s batting average, but he’s really concerned with things like on-base percentage and hitting the ball hard.

“We use a Quality At-Bat chart and that’s the deciding factor on how we evaluate players from an offensive standpoint,” says McGaha. “We reward a ’sting’ hit or a ‘sting’ out.”

A player with a QAB rating of 2 is average, 3 above average and 4 outstanding.

“We have several players above 4,” says McGaha. “Off the field, it’s about being the best human being and teammate you can be. We’re here to mold young men into adults. They have be able to handle failure and success with grace and dignity.

“You want to surround yourself with kids are willing to work hard and pay the price. They buy into what you’re selling 100 percent. Those are the kids you want.”

McGaha’s Pioneers went into the week at 15-8 overall and 6-4 in the super-competitive Mid-State Conference. Whiteland and Mooresville were 1-2 in the standings in a league that also features Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood, Martinsville and Plainfield.

Among the Pioneers’ 2018 non-conference opponents are Avon, Beech Grove, Bloomington North, Cascade, Covenant Christian, Eastern Hancock, Edinburgh, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Indianapolis North Central, Lebanon, Monrovia, Mount Vernon (Fortville), Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo and Tri-West Hendricks. Mooresville beat Eastern Hancock and lost to North Central Saturday, May 12 in Pioneers’ own John B. Howden Memorial Tournament.

“There’s no break in our schedule,” says McGaha. “All the teams we play are really respectable.

“We try to play as many quality teams as we can and try to prepare for the sectional.”

Mooresville is in the seven-team IHSAA Class 4A Avon Sectional with Avon, Brownsburg, Northview, Plainfield, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo.

Pioneers senior shortstop Tanner Haston has committed to Purdue University.

McGaha’s coaching staff features Kyle Davis (who played for McGaha), Joe Coughlan and David Rose (brother of Pete Rose) with the varsity, Toby Hennessy with the junior varsity and Dylan Johnson with the freshmen.

“It starts with good people,” says McGaha. “You surround yourself with good people that are pointed in the same direction. Those coaches are the voices of you. Make sure they’re following your philosophy.”

The program is fed by various travel programs plus the Mooresville Junior Baseball League, which serviced more than 500 kids in 2017.

With multiple teams and no room to expand, the school board voted to turf the entire baseball and softball fields at Mooresville. This spring marks the second season.

“I’d been asking for about a half dozen years,” says McGaha of his request to the school board. “They were very gracious.

“We are blessed and fortunate to have such a nice facility and we don’t every take it for granted.”

By using rakes and a LitterKat Synthetic Turf Sweeper, the team hopes to retain the life and longevity of the field.

In addition, metal spikes, sunflower seeds and chewing gum are all forbidden.

McGaha says the most expense in a turf field comes not from the turf but the drainage system.

“When it rains at our place, within 10 minutes it’s dry and you’re ready to go,” says McGaha.

The coach wants all his players ready to go and that includes seniors.

McGaha says only people who have coached a high school sport in the spring — like baseball — knows the challenges that accompany it.

Besides the diamond, players heads are filled with thoughts of spring break, prom, graduation, open houses and summer jobs. Many times, sectional games are played with players who are already out of the school building.

“Are they with you or have they mentally already checked out?,” says McGaha. “Unless you’ve experienced that you have no idea what it’s like. There are all these balls in the air and it’s a distraction.

“We try to play our best baseball at the end of the year. There have been years we haven’t done that. How committed are your seniors? We always say we have to have guys with two feet in. When a baseball player has senioritis it can kill the chemistry of a ball club.”

McGaha, who now teaches physical education at Northwood Elementary in Mooresville in addition to his coaching duties, is a 1991 graduate of Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, where he played for Indiana Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Foreman.

“Besides my stepfather, he had the biggest impact on my life,” says McGaha of the man who played at Indiana University for IHSBCA and Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Ernie Andres and then led the Warren Central program for 31 seasons.

McGaha played one season at Tri-State University (now Trine University) in Angola, Ind., then transferred to Purdue University North Central (now Purdue Northwest) in Westville, Ind.

“I knew I wanted to coach,” says McGaha, who was a relief pitcher who got a chance to lead and be a role model for coach Larry Blake. He earned his degree and began teaching and coaching in Mooresville around 2000.

Eric and Jan McGaha have been married close to 21 years and have three children — Brenna (13), Hanna (11) and Brody (9).

When Brody was very young, Jan went through a bout with cancer. She had her thyroid removed and went through radiation treatment.

“Thank the good Lord,” says Eric. “She’s been cancer free — knock on wood — for quite awhile.”

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Eric McGaha and wife Jan gather with their children (from left) Brenna, Brody and Hanna. Eric is the head baseball coach at Mooresville High School.