Tag Archives: Battle Creek Battle Jacks

Determination helps Sherwood enjoy college baseball success

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brycen Sherwood has followed moments of doubt with episodes of clout since leaving Elkhart (Ind.) Central High School.
The 2019 ECHS graduate, who was a standout for Blue Blazers head coach Steve Stutsman, struggled in his first days on the diamond at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan.
“I did really bad the fall of freshman year,” says Sherwood nearly three years later. “I said, ‘I don’t think I’m good enough to play college baseball.’”
After a talk with his father — former Anderson (Ind.) College (now Anderson University) player Chad Sherwood (who collected a school record-tying five hits in a 1996 game) — Brycen came to a decision.
“I was going to finish the year out and work really hard,” says Sherwood, 21. “If it doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t pan out.”
Sherwood was at MNU through a family connection. Uncle Craig Sherwood, a 1994 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant, played at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., with Pioneers head coach Ryan Thompson.
In the spring of 2020, Brycen got into eight games during a COVID-19 pandemic-shortened schedule.
“The last week of the season Coach T let me start in a midweek game at third base and I hit a home run,” says Sherwood of a two-run shot socked in the third inning of a March 11 contest against Olivet Nazarene. “I left (freshman year) on a high note.”
By going 7-of-15, lefty swinger Sherwood hit .467 in 2020 and his confidence grew.
With limited opportunities, he did not play that summer. But he worked on his game.
In 2021, Sherwood played in 52 games (51 starts) for MNU and hit .408 (64-of-157) with eight homers, 42 runs batted in, 53 runs scored, nine stolen bases and a 1.200 OPS (.518 on-base percentage plus .682 slugging average).
Sherwood, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder, made it a goal to get stronger.
“My swing has always been pretty good,” says Sherwood. “I really started dedicating myself to the weight room.
“Embracing the grind is probably the biggest reason I’m starting to hit balls out.”
Thompson put shortstop Sherwood in the No. 2 hole in his batting order in 2022 and he hit .333 (65-of-195) with 11 homers, 40 RBIs, 70 runs and five stolen bases in 57 games (all starts). He posted a 1.067 OPS (.457/.610).
MidAmerica Nazarene went 39-18 and wound up the season in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
“It’s such a great baseball environment,” says Sherwood. “(Harris Field) is right in a valley. The views are just beautiful. They have a grounds crew. The players are the grounds crew for our school.
“People in Lewiston love their Lewis-Clark State team. The games are televised and that is awesome. It’s a really neat opportunity to play for something bigger than yourself.”
This summer, Sherwood has been playing shortstop and third base as a second-half addition to the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks. He had appeared in 11 games through July 21.
Sherwood was going to play in the same circuit with the Mankato (Minn.) MoonDogs, but his contract was canceled with MidAmerica Nazarene’s march to the NAIA World Series.
There is familiarity in Battle Creek. Battle Jacks manager Caleb Lang is an assistant at Concordia University Nebraska, which also played in Lewiston. Lang reached out to Thompson about Sherwood’s availability.
The other Battle Creek shortstop is Robbie Merced. He plays for Central Methodist University, a Heart of America Athletic Conference rival for MNU.
In a league full of NCAA Division I players, the Battle Jacks have plenty of NAIA talent.
“You’re an underdog when we take the field (in the NAIA) so it brings you a little closer together,” says Sherwood.
With a COVID year added, Sherwood has two seasons of remaining eligibility. The Business Administration major says he might add another major or minor. He is interested in Computer Applications.
Born and raised in Elkhart in October of 2000, Sherwood took to shortstop at an early age.
“I had above average learning ability,” says Brycen. “My dad (Chad) and uncles (Craig and former Franklin County High School head coach Clark) knew how to play – they taught me a lot of things.”
At one point in ‘90s, all three Sherwood brothers played in the outfield at Anderson.
Brycen started organized baseball at Osolo Little League in Elkhart then was in travel ball with the Michiana Scrappers followed by a summer with Bristol American Legion Post 143.
Chad Sherwood recently retired after 25 years with the Indiana State Police. He was a master trooper detective.
Chad and wife April Sherwood (a librarian at Eastwood Elementary in Elkhart — Go Wildcats!) have two other children. Lauryn Sherwood is a nursing student at Indiana University Fort Wayne. Baseball player Brady Sherwood is heading into his sophomore year at Elkhart High School.
“I think he’s going to be the best of all of us,” says Brycen of little brother. “We will see.”

Brycen Sherwood (MidAmerica Nazarene University Photo)
Brycen Sherwood (MidAmerica Nazarene University Photo)

Brycen Sherwood (MidAmerica Nazarene University Photo)

Brycen Sherwood (MidAmerica Nazarene University Photo)

Dogpile including Brycen Sherwood (MidAmerica Nazarene University Photo)

Left-hander Knust enjoys late-inning relief role

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

When it comes down to crunch time, that’s when Gavin Knust wants the baseball.
The left-handed pitcher likes to be called on in the latter innings to get out of a jam or nail down a victory.
He’s done it for the past two seasons at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.
“I enjoy being the guy the team relies on,” says Knust, 20. “I want to help the team in any way possible to win a ball game.”
In 2022, he made 22 relief appearances (16 of them scoreless) and went 4-0 with two saves, a 3.60 earned run average, 35 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings.
The Grenadiers finished the season 40-15 overall and 20-4 in the River States Conference. The campaign ended in the NAIA Opening Round.
As a true freshman in 2021, Knust came out of the bullpen 20 times and went 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 12 walks in 36 innings.
IUS (50-16, 26-1) earned its first trip to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, in 2021 and Knust appeared in three of four games.
Knust was 18 and pitching on one of college baseball’s biggest stages. And this after missing his senior season at Forest Park Junior/Senior High School in Ferdinand, Ind., because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 6 1/3 innings in Idaho, he yielded four hits and two runs while striking out nine and walking two.
Older guys like Daunte DeCello, Hunter Kloke, Marco Romero, Derek Wagner (a Tri-West Hendricks High School alum) and Clay Woeste (Lawrenceburg) pushed Knust to be his best.
“They were huge role models,” says Knust. “They took me under their wing and took care of me.”
All the while, the Grenadiers fed off the words of head coach Ben Reel.
“Coach Reel is a huge believer in ‘control the controllables’ — that’s all you can worry about. He tells us to play ‘our’ baseball. Don’t try to be anybody else.”
After a 5-10 start, that 2021 team went into the postseason at 40-13.
“We were the hottest team in the nation,” says Knust. “That’s all baseball is about — riding the hot streak.”
Brandon Mattingly was the pitching coach at IU Southeast in 2022.
“He’s a big believer in the mental aspect of baseball and breathing correctly,” says Knust of Mattingly. “He want you doing the same thing every pitch. Baseball is a game of repetition.
“It’s a game where you don’t want to make it more complicated that it really is.”
As a bullpen arm throwing between three-quarter and over-the-top, Knust relies mostly on a four-seam fastball, two-seamer and curveball. His four-seamer got up to 88 mph in the spring.
“(The two-seamer) runs away from the barrel,” says Knust. “The curveball is more like a slurve.”
After spending the summer of 2021 with the Ohio Valley League’s Madisonville (Ky.) Miners, Knust is now relieving for the 2022 Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks.
Through games of July 20, the southpaw had made 15 appearances (10 scoreless) and was 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 15 strikeouts and eight walks in 17 1/3 innings.
“It’s more about hitting my pitches, working on my spots and just becoming a better pitcher this summer,” says Knust of his in-game goals.
Caleb Lang, an assistant at Concordia University Nebraska is Battle Creek’s manager. IU Southeast faced Concordia in Lewiston in 2021.
Away from the diamond, there is also bonding and fun on a BC squad made up largely of NAIA players — including Concordia’s Joey Grabanski and Jacob Lycan and Indiana University-Kokomo’s Patrick Mills — with a few D-1’s sprinkled in.
“We’re almost getting to the point where we’re a big family now,” says Knust.
A few times, host families have allowed some of the Battle Jacks to use their boat to chill on the lake followed by cornhole and a cookout at their house.
Knust was born in Jasper, Ind., and grew up in nearby Saint Anthony.
He played T-ball at Pine Ridge Elementary in Birdseye. His only summer of travel ball came during high school with the Louisville-based Ironmen Prime.
At Forest Park, Knust played football for head coach Ross Fuhs and baseball for Jarred Howard.
“(Fuhs) was more of an understanding coach,” says Knust. “You could talk to him about anything in life. He’d always be there for you.
“(Howard) got the most out of every player and he tried to make you a better person.”
Knust, who has two years of playing eligibility left, is a Marketing major with a Professional Sales minor.
“An IU degree in marketing is one of the best you can get,” says Knust. “I enjoy talking and getting to know people.”
Gavin is the youngest of Steve and Melissa Knust’s three sons.
Ethan Knust (27) works for a concrete company. Eli Knust (25), who played baseball at Huntington (Ind.) University and against Gavin in 2021, works at Memorial Hospital in Jasper and assists Ethan with a concrete side business.
Steve Knust is a plumber. Melissa Knust is an oncology nurse at Memorial Hospital.

Gavin Knust (Indiana University Southeast Photo)

Gavin Knust (Indiana University Southeast Photo)

Gavin Knust (Indiana University Southeast Photo)

Gavin Knust (Indiana University Southeast Photo)

Driven Mills takes advice from many baseball mentors

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

What drives Patrick Mills as a baseball player?
“My passion for the game is definitely No. 1,” says Mills, a 22-year-old outfielder/first baseman for Indiana University-Kokomo. “Every day I get up out of bed the one thing I want to do is go play some baseball.
“That’s the reason I keep playing. I enjoy the game. Everything else will follow. I will do everything I can to get better and keep playing it. It comes down to passion and discipline.”
Mills, a 2018 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville, Ind., spent two years at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the past two years at IUK. He plans to use his extra year of COVID-19 eligibility with the Cougars in 2022-23 while completing his Computer Science degree.
A lefty thrower and batter, Mills hit .374 (65-of-174) in 2022 while helping IUK go 26-22 overall and 16-7 in the NAIA River States Conference. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder belted 15 home runs, four triples and 16 doubles while driving in 44 runs and scoring 51 — all team-leading totals. His on-base percentage was .453.
“I make sure I stay balanced in my body and my mind,” says Mills of his approach at the plate. “I learn what the pitcher is throwing and try to hit the ball hard.
“When you hit the ball hard good things happen.”
Mills has had many mentors besides father Eric.
“It’s not just one person in particular,” says Mills. “It’s a collective of everybody I’ve met in the game.
“It’s little bit of advice here and there. I’ve put it together like a puzzle.”
Jeremy Honaker coached Cougar outfielders and hitters in 2022.
Mills credits him with helping him with the mental side of the game and bringing out his full potential during games.
“There were little snippets for me to think about during (batting practice),” says Mills. “They were more mental notes than actual physical cues.”
A lot was achieved during the fall and winter.
“All that work built up,” says Mills. “By the time the season came around it was second nature.”
Mills has head coaches at IUK with different styles. Matt Howard was intense and Drew Brantley is more laid-back.
“(Howard) lent a level of excitement and discipline,” says Mills of the man who is now a Kokomo police officer. “He wanted us to compete to the best of our abilities every single day. He wanted to make his players as tough as possible and he definitely did.
“(Brantley) has created an environment where we’re not afraid to fail. If we can control what we need to control, the results will follow. Follow the process and try to get better everyday. That philosophy — in my opinion — worked very well. Next spring it will be even better.”
Mills was born in Kokomo and got his formal baseball start at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League.
He played travel ball with the Westfield-based Stonecutters then went with the Indiana Eagles for his 14U to 17U summers.
“(Eagles coach) Jamie Roudebush gave us a platform to work on our skills and get better everyday during those years,” says Mills.
At Western, Mills played two years each for Quentin Brown then Ryan Berryman.
“(Brown) was all about passion when playing the game. He once jokingly said to me, ‘you care about this game too much. If you keep your passion like that you’ll go wherever you want to go.”
Mills and the Western Panthers were 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up.
“Playing for (Berryman) was a different experience from Brown,” says Mills. “He brought the intensity level, but also the technicalities of baseball. He challenged me to become better fundamentally. It was the mechanics and more than just the mental side.”
Mike Shirley, who at the time was a Chicago White Sox area scout and is now that organization’s director of amateur scouting, ran a fall league for high schoolers in Pendleton, Ind., in which Mills participated.
“He gave us a lot of information and where we need to improve,” says Mills of Shirley. “He was challenging us mentally and physically. It was a great experience.”
Mills played for Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6 the summers before and after his first year of college.
“He was always supported me since I played for him,” says Mills of Andrews. “He was very similar to how Drew Brantley goes about his business. He’s calm and collected.
“Back then I was very intense and wild and wanted to do everything with one swing. He taught me how to handle my emotions. It went over my head then but I eventually learned from his teachings.”
At Olney Central, Mills played for veteran coach Dennis Conley.
“He definitely pushed his players to the limit and got the most out of them,” said Mills of Conley, who has been in charge of the Blue Knights program for 42 years and has a record of 1,530-773. “Junior college tests your love of the game. Do you really love the game or kind of like it?”
Mills was with the Portland (Ind.) Rockets during the COVID summer of 2020. One of his teammates was former Yorktown High School, Lincoln Trail College, Wright State University and independent pro player Zach Tanner.
“He took me under his wing and taught me about the mental game,” says Mills of Tanner.
Last summer he played for the Prospect League’s West Virginia Miners and manager Tim Epling.
The summer of 2022 sees Mills with the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks. The team is managed by Caleb Long.
In 28 games with Battle Creek, Mills is hitting .360 (41-of-114) with two homers, 27 RBIs and 21 runs.
Eric and Sundai Mills have three children — Jaymee (Mills) Birky (28), Hayley Mills (24) and Patrick.
Jaymee is married and living in Madison, Wis. (where Battle Creek recently played the Madison Mallards), and competition in swimming, softball and track at Western. She also was part of a state championship marching band. Hayley nows teaches elementary school in Raleigh, N.C. She was in volleyball, basketball, swimming and softball during her school days.

Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (15) (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)