Tab Greenlee is trying to change the way baseball is perceived at Liberty Christian School in Anderson, Ind. “It’s all about culture change and getting them excited,” says Greenlee, who was hired before the 2020 season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic, finished the 2021 campaign with 14 players and is preparing now for 2022. “I have 100 percent buy-in from the parents and it’s amazing.” How much buy-in? A recent field day brought out 50 people. “It was the coolest thing to watch,” says Greenlee. Baseball began at the school in 2006 and the Lions have yet to post a record over .500 or win a sectional title. “There’s been no consistency in coaches throughout the years,” says Greenlee, who spent 2021 setting the tone for the Lions, presenting a detailed practice plan while insisting the players also achieve in the classroom. “You get an F, you don’t play,” says Greenlee, who had to let five go last spring because of grades. “If you can’t be excellent in the classroom, I can’t trust you to be excellent on my field.” Greenlee, who teaches high school biology and middle school math, gets players the help they need to excel in academics. While four Lions graduated last spring, Greenlee is seeing progress. “We will be a lot stronger this next spring,” says Greenlee. “We have a foundation on how we play this game. We’re understanding the why.” An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. Off-season workouts were drawing up to 13 and that’s with soccer and cross country going on this fall at Liberty Christian (enrollment around 130). The Lions are part of the Pioneer Conference (with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Bethesda Christian, Central Christian Academy, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Indianapolis Shortridge, International, Muncie Burris, Park Tudor, Seton Catholic and University). In 2021, host Liberty Christian was part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Prep, Cowan, Daleville, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. Greenlee, who is assisted by Jamie Woodyard, has two seniors who have been drawing interest from college baseball teams — Beckham Chappell and Tyler Houk. Both are three-sport athletes — soccer, basketball and baseball. “We encourage that,” says Greenlee. “Scouts want to know grades and they want to know if they play other sports. College sports in year-round.” At a school the size of Liberty Christian, multi-sport participation and cooperation is vital. “We are at each others’ games,” says Greenlee. “We’re there to support each other.” Besides boys soccer, boys and girls cross country and volleyball in the fall, LC has boys and girls basketball, boys and girls swimming and boys and girls archery in the winter and boys and girls track track and softball in addition to baseball in the spring. Liberty Christian plays its home games on a field rented from the city that’s adjacent to the Columbus Avenue campus where grades 7-12 meet. Preschool through Grade 6 meet in a building on Hillcrest Drive. To help feed the high school, Greenlee established a junior high baseball program at Liberty Christian last spring with 13 players – many of whom had never played the game. The plan is to add fifth and sixth graders this spring and third and fourth graders in the future. Greenlee, a 1985 Crawfordsville (Ind.) High School graduate who played baseball for Mike Klauka at Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Mich., was at Toledo (Ohio) Christian prior to coming back to Indiana to be closer to family and to be a pastor at Tri-County Christian Church in Middletown. In seven years at Toledo Christian, he was head baseball coach for five and football offensive coordinator for four. When he took over in baseball he was the fourth head coach for the seniors. That team went 21-7 and won sectional and district titles. The next year, the Eagles won 24 games and also took sectional and district championships. Tab and wife Heather have three children — Taylor (26), Zach (22) and Calyb (12). Taylor and husband Christian Beck have a daughter, Harper Grace. Calyb is a Liberty Christian sixth grader who plays soccer, basketball and baseball.
2021 IHSBCA ALL-STATE TEAM Class 4A Pitchers: Grant Stratton (Jasper), Nate Dohm (Zionsville). C: Hunter Dobbins (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 1B: Kaleb Kolpien (Homestead). 2B: Joel Walton (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 3B: Connor Foley (Jasper). SS: Tucker Biven (New Albany). OF: Carter Mathison (Homestead), Max Clark (Franklin), Tommy O’Connor (Mooresville). Honorable Mention: Evan Waggoner (Bedford North Lawrence); Austin Bode (Columbus North); Jaden Deel (Hobart); Andrew Wallace (Jasper); Jackson Micheels (Carmel); Breenen Weigert (Homestead); Jack Braun (Fishers); Tyler Walkup (Lawrence North); Quentin Markle (Westfield); Joe Huffman (Avon); Nick Mitchell (Carmel); Brad White (Andrean); Blake Herrmann (Castle); Camden Jordan (Cathedral); Sam Gladd (Columbia City); Eli Hopf (Jasper); Brody Chrisman (Zionsville); J.D. Rogers (Carmel); Keaton Mahan (Westfield); Gage Standifer (Westfield); Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North); Chris Gallagher (Cathedral); Carter Doorn (Lake Central); Grant Comstock (Valparaiso); Tate Warner (Fishers); Carter Gilbert (Northridge).
“Last year we didn’t get to play,” says Marker. “We’re very young this year.”
Louie Falcone, a Seton Catholic graduate, was a freshman on the baseball team at Hanover (Ind.) College this spring.
Seton Catholic (enrollment around 90) wrapped the 2021 regular season with a 7-6 win against Union County. Patriots head coach Jordan Ashbrook, a former Richmond assistant, helped get the game moved to Day Air Ballpark — home of the High-A Central League’s Dayton (Ohio) Dragons.
Seton Catholic, which has three buildings in downtown Richmond (elementary, middle school and high school), has added a middle school baseball program of grades 6-8 in 2021.
“There’s work to be done to grow the program,” says Marker.
Marker, who teaches K-5 physical education at Test Intermediate School and is in his 23rd years in Richmond Community Schools, was a baseball assistant to Shawn Turner for four seasons (2016-19) at Richmond High after 10 seasons as assistant to Red Devils softball coach Kyle Ingram. His assistants at Seton Catholic are Ingram, Robert Cornell and Brice Brown.
A few summers back, Marker coached for the Midwest Astros travel baseball organization.
A graduate of Randolph Southern Junior/Senior High School in Lynn, Ind., where father Larry was a longtime athletic director, Marker played for the Rebels and for the John Lebo-managed Richmond Post 65 state runner-up team.
“I’ve had some pretty good coaches who took me under my wing,” says Marker.
It was in March 1986 while Marker was away playing baseball that his hometown was rocked by a tornado.
“That was before cellphones,” says Marker. “For three days, I did not get ahold of mom and dad.”
When he got back to Lynn, his parents were fine.
After college, Marker had a few professional tryouts and hurt his arm. He played for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets and in fast pitch softball with K&G Sporting Goods (Seymour) and New Construction (Shelbyville).
Marker also teaches summer school P.E., umpires church league softball and likes to run haunted houses.
Whitehead is in his 19th season leading the Panthers program. He is also the Upper School athletic director at the private K-12 school (Grades K-5 in the Lower School, 6-8 in the Middle School and 9-12 in the Upper School – 9-12). The institution, which has about 375 in the Upper School, sports a 100 percent college placement rate.
“We’re big on education-based athletics and helping shape these young men and prepare them for their future,” says Whitehead. “It’s about having them learn lifelong lessons through baseball and what it means to be a good teammate, be focused, win and lose with grace and learn how to compete.
“Pretty soon they’ll have to compete in the game of life and it’s pretty tough out there.”
As far as the baseball part of the equation?
“We want to be fundamentally sound, have a high baseball I.Q., throw strikes (as pitchers) and make the right play,” says Whitehead. “We play fundamentally well and we execute.”
Park Tudor has 21 players in the program in 2021 and plays both a varsity and junior varsity schedule. That means players are asked to play multiple positions and many get a chance to pitch.
The baseball-playing schools see each other once each during the season.
The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Cascade (the 2021 host), Covenant Christian, Monrovia, Speedway and University. Park Tudor has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2013. A 1A state championship was earned in 1999 (Bob Hildebrand was head coach).
Micah Johnson, a 2009 Park Tudor graduate, was a standout at Indiana University and played in the majors for the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. He is now blossoming in the art world, frequently traveling back and forth from Indy to LA.
Current Panthers senior C.J. Richmond has committed to Western Illinois University. Whitehead says he expects that underclassmen will have a chance to play college baseball.
Park Tudor plays its home games on its campus located on College Avenue — about three miles northwest of Bishop Chatard High School and three miles northeast of Butler University.
A large backstop/net system was just installed at the Panthers’ field, which typically hosts IHSAA sectional and regional tournaments but with the construction of a new wellness center those events will be hosted in 2021 by Cascade.
In a non-COVID-19 year, Park Tudor will usually field a sixth grade team and a seventh/eighth grade squad that take on area independent and public middle schools.
“This is not a normal year,” says Whitehead. “(Grades 6-8) are practicing but not competing due to the pandemic.”
Whitehead is a 1996 graduate of Crawfordsville High School, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge and longtime assistant Rhett Welliever and was a teammate of current Athenians head coach Brett Motz.
“My four years we won a lot of ball games,” says Whitehead. “Coach Froedge was a big fundamentals guy. We were the start of Crawfordsville being really good.
“We went 30-3 and lost to Portage in semistate my junior year. That’s when there was one class.”
A celebration honoring Froedge was postponed in 2020 and is slated for Saturday, May 15 when Park Tudor plays at Crawfordsville. Bruce Whitehead, Courtney’s father, was Athenians AD for many years.
Courtney Whitehead played three seasons of college baseball — two at Indiana University Purdue University (IUPUI) for Bret Shambaugh and one at Goshen College for Todd Bacon.
As AD at Park Tudor, Whitehead oversees an athletic department that has 20 varsity teams, including baseball, boys golf, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, girls softball, girls tennis, boys track and field and girls track and field in the spring.
“I’ve got good people to help me to manage events and good set of coaches,” says Whitehead. “We communicate well.”
Whitehead began his coaching career at Lowell (Ind.) High School, assisting Kirk Kennedy in football and Mike Magley in basketball.
He was then a football assistant to Sean Tomey at Lafayette Central Catholic High School in the same school year that he helped Jamie Sailors with Harrison High School (West Lafayette) baseball.
Assisting Whitehead at Park Tudor in 2021 are Toby Rogers, Fred Pinch and Madison Foster with the varsity and Brent Smith and Lane Waters with the JV. Rogers played high school ball at Bloomington South then at IUPUI for Shambaugh. Pinch is from the Washington D.C. area. Foster, a 2012 Park Tudor graduate, played for Whitehead and was on three consecutive semistate teams before playing at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.
Brent Smith is the father of former Whitehead player Calvin Smith. Harrison graduate Waters played baseball for the Raiders then basketball at Calvin University in Michigan.
Courtney and wife Beth have two sons and a daughter — all attending Park Tudor — freshman Nolan (as in Nolan Ryan), sixth grader Camden (as in Camden Yards in Baltimore) and second grader Addison (as in Clark and Addison, site of Wrigley Field in Chicago).
“My wife is a big sports and baseball person,” says Courtney Whitehead.
Many of Whitehead’s relatives are in the Nappanee/Bremen area.
A.J. Whitehead, who was a basketball standout at NorthWood High School in Nappanee and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., is associate director of strength and conditioning at Purdue.
“We want to play hard and fast,” says Cushenberrry. “It’s cool to see kids come out and want to be part of something special.”
The Knights are in an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bethesda Christian (the 2021 host site), Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Prep, Providence Cristo Rey and Tindley. Traders Point’s first year in the state tournament series was 2019.
Home baseball games this spring will be at Roundtripper Sports Academy or Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Cushenberry says a new turf field on the TPCS campus is expected by the end of this year.
“It’s going to be a very special time,” says Cushenberry. “The good Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to be part of something special.”
Traders Point added a high school program in 2008 and had its first graduating class in 2012. A junior high building was opened in 2020.
As a feeder for high school baseball, Grades 5-8 play on “A” and “B” junior high teams.
Jayden Cushenberry played recreational baseball at Warren Township Little League then travel ball from 10 to 13 with the Oaklandon Bombers and 14 to 17 with the Tom Caster-coached Irvington Rattlers.
“I coach exactly how I played,” says Cushenberry. “We’re going to be tough. We’re going to be gritty.
“We’re going to go after you every single inning.”
It’s all about hard work and dedication and reaping what you sew.
Cushenberry knows he’s one of the younger coaches on the scene. But he sees that as an advantage.
“I’ve always been called wise beyond my years,” says Cushenberry. “We’re in a time now where the young coaches do a better job of relating to their players.
“Everybody wants to know why. I can let them know why and still coach them hard. I believe they respond better to hard-nosed coaching. We’re preparing them for life and creating a family atmosphere.”
Jaylen comes from a large extended family. His mother, Donnice Cushenberry, is a former cheer and dance coach who instilled competitiveness and the willingness to understand people in her oldest son.
“I truly want to thank my family for engraving some core values that I live by,” says Cushenberrry, who is a brother to Jordan Cushenberry and stepson to Michael Howe.
When he’s not working at Zionsville or coaching at Traders Point, Cushenberry gives lessons at Roundtripper. He is heading into his fourth summer as a coach for the Indiana Mustangs. He leads a 17U squad.
“I want to thank (Roundtripper and Mustangs founder) Chris Estep,” says Cushenberry. “He believed in me when other people wouldn’t.
“He’s treated me like a son.”
Reid Andrews is Director of Baseball Operations at Roundtripper and coaches with the Mustangs and University.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” says Cushenberry of Andrews. “He’s a good source of information.
“I’m thankful to be colleagues with Reid.”
Cushenberrry was an assistant to Estep for two seasons at University, helping the Trailblazers win an IHSAA Class 1A state crown in 2019.
Those questions were answered as IHSAA Executive Committee minutes from Feb. 19 were released March 8.
According to the IHSAA website, Assistant Commissioner Robert Faulkens reported on the general format, sites and other preliminary plans for the 2020-21 Baseball Tournament Series.
Faulkens was notified by the Indianapolis Indians that their schedule is now set by Major League Baseball rather than the International League and has the team set for home games on the dates of this year’s IHSAA State Finals. The plan now will be to play this year’s state championship games on the following Monday and Tuesday (June 21-22).
The first IHSAA practice date is March 15. The first contest date is March 29.
Sectionals Class 4A 1. Merrillville (6): East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central, Merrillville, Munster. 2. Chesterton (7): Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell, Portage, Valparaiso. 3. Plymouth (6): LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Plymouth, South Bend Adams, South Bend Riley. 4. Northridge (6): Concord, Elkhart, Goshen, Northridge, Penn, Warsaw Community. 5. Carroll (Fort Wayne) (5): Carroll (Fort Wayne), DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider
6. Huntington North (6): Columbia City, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead, Huntington North. 7. Lafayette Jefferson (5): Harrison (West Lafayette), Kokomo, Lafayette Jefferson, Logansport, McCutcheon. 8. Westfield (6): Carmel, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield, Zionsville. 9. Pendleton Heights (6): Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central, Pendleton Heights, Richmond.
10. Ben Davis (7): Ben Davis, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, Indianapolis Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike 11. Warren Central (6): Franklin Central, New Palestine, Perry Meridian, , Roncalli, Southport, Warren Central. 12. Plainfield (6): Avon, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Plainfield, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo. 13. Mooresville (6): Center Grove, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Whiteland Community. 14. Bloomington North (6): Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central, Shelbyville. 15. New Albany (6): Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany, Seymour. 16. Evansville F.J. Reitz (6): Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Jasper.
Class 3A 17. Griffith (6): Calumet, Gary West Side, Griffith, Hammond, Hammond Clark, Hammond Gavit. 18. Kankakee Valley (6): Culver Academies, Glenn, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox, River Forest. 19. South Bend Clay (5): Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Clay, South Bend Saint Joseph, South Bend Washington. 20. Northwestern (7): Benton Central, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette, Western.
21. Wawasee (6): Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wawasee, West Noble. 22. Garrett (7): Angola, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Garrett, Leo, New Haven. 23. Bellmont (6): Bellmont, Heritage, Marion, Mississinewa, Norwell, Oak Hill. 24. Yorktown (6): Delta, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle, Yorktown. 25. North Montgomery (6): Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Northview, South Vermillion.
26. Brebeuf Jesuit (5): Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory, Danville Community, Greencastle, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Tri-West Hendricks. 27. Beech Grove (5): Beech Grove, Herron, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Indianapolis Emmerich Manual, Indianapolis Shortridge. 28. Owen Valley (6): Brown County, Edgewood, Indian Creek, Owen Valley, Sullivan, West Vigo. 29. Lawrenceburg (7): Batesville, Connersville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated, South Dearborn. 30. Silver Creek (8): Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg, Silver Creek. 31. Southridge (6): Gibson Southern, Pike Central, Princeton Community, Southridge, Vincennes Lincoln, Washington
Class 2A 33. Whiting (6): Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary Roosevelt, Hammond Bishop Noll, Lake Station Edison, Wheeler, Whiting.
34. Hebron (6): Boone Grove, Hebron, North Judson-San Pierre, North Newton, Rensselaer Central, Winamac Community. 35. Westview (6): Bremen, Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille, Prairie Heights, Westview. 36. Eastside (6): Adams Central, Bluffton, Churubusco, Eastside, South Adams, Woodlan. 37. Wabash (6): Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Manchester, Rochester Community, Wabash, Whitko. 38. Delphi (6): Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community, Fountain Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger, Western Boone. 39. Eastern (Greentown) (6): Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant, Taylor, Tipton. 40. Lapel (8): Alexandria Monroe, Elwood Community, Frankton, Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris, Wapahani, Winchester Community. 41. Centerville (5): Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah, Union County. 42. Heritage Christian (6): Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown, Triton Central. 43. Cascade (6): Cascade, Covenant Christian (Indpls), Monrovia, Park Tudor, Speedway, University. 44. Southmont (5): Cloverdale, North Putnam, Parke Heritage, South Putnam, Southmont. 45. South Ripley (6): Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover), Switzerland County. 46. Eastern (Pekin) (6): Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin), Henryville, Providence.
47. Mitchell (6): Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli, South Knox. 48. Tell City (6): Evansville Mater Dei, Forest Park, North Posey, Perry Central, South Spencer, Tell City.
Class 1A 49. Washington Township (8): 21st Century Charter-Gary, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Kouts, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township, Westville.
50. LaCrosse (7): Argos, Culver Community, LaCrosse, Oregon-Davis, South Bend Career Academy, South Central (Union Mills), Triton. 51. Fremont (7): Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont, Hamilton, Lakewood Park Christian 52. Caston (7): Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield, Pioneer, Southwood, West Central. 53. Riverton Parke (5): Attica, Covington, Faith Christian, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke. 54. Frontier (6): Clinton Central, Frontier, Rossville, Sheridan, South Newton, Tri-County. 55. Liberty Christian (7): Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central, Wes-Del. 56. Seton Catholic (6): Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Randolph Southern, Seton Catholic, Tri, Union City. 57. White River Valley (6): Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak, White River Valley 58. Bethesda Christian (6): Bethesda Christian, Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Providence Cristo Rey, Tindley, Traders Point Christian. 59. Morristown (6): Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown, Southwestern (Shelbyville), Waldron. 60. Jac-Cen-Del (6): Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy, Rising Sun, Trinity Lutheran. 61. South Central (Elizabeth) (5): Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Lanesville, Orleans, South Central (Elizabeth). 62. West Washington (4): Crothersville, New Washington, Shawe Memorial, West Washington. 63. North Daviess (5): Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Daviess, Shoals, Vincennes Rivet. 64. Northeast Dubois (5): Cannelton, Northeast Dubois, Springs Valley, Tecumseh, Wood Memorial.
1. LaPorte Feeder Sectionals: Chesterton, LaPorte, Merrillville, Northridge. 2. Kokomo Feeder Sectionals: DeKalb, Huntington North, Lafayette Jefferson, Westfield. 3. Plainfield Feeder Sectionals: Ben Davis Pendleton Heights, Terre Haute South Vigo, Warren Central. 4. Jasper Feeder Sectionals: Bloomington North, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Jennings County, Mooresville.
5. Griffith Feeder Sectionals: Griffith, Kankakee Valley, South Bend Clay, Northwestern. 6. Bellmont Feeder Sectionals: Wawasee, Garrett, Bellmont, Yorktown. 7. Danville Feeder Sectionals: Beech Grove, Brebeuf Jesuit, North Montgomery, Owen Valley. 8. Southridge Feeder Sectionals: Evansville Bosse, Lawrenceburg, Silver Creek, Southridge.
10. Lafayette Central Catholic Feeder Sectionals: Delphi, Eastern (Greentown), Lapel, Wabash. 11. Park Tudor/Cascade Feeder Sectionals: Cascade, Centerville, Heritage Christian, Southmont. 12. Evansville Mater Dei (Bosse Field) Feeder Sectionals: Eastern (Pekin), Mitchell, South Ripley, Tell City.
13. South Bend Washington Feeder Sectionals: Caston, Fremont, LaCrosse, Washington Township. 14. Carroll (Flora) Feeder Sectionals: Frontier, Liberty Christian, Riverton Parke, Seton Catholic. 15. Morristown Feeder Sectionals: Bethesda Christian, Jac-Cen-Del, Morristown, White River Valley. 16. Lanesville Feeder Sectionals: North Daviess, Northeast Dubois, South Central (Elizabeth), West Washington.
1. LaPorte 2. Kokomo 3. Mooresville
Victory Field (Indianapolis), 501 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis The eight (8) winning teams of the semi-state tourneys shall constitute the participants in the state tourney.
Stevens took over the Patriots just a few months before the 2019 campaign, got through a year without games because of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) and expects up to 20 players in 2021 at a private school of about 85 students.
“I’m trying to make this program relevant again,” says Stevens. “Baseball has been an afterthought for awhile.”
Bethesda Christian’s junior high baseball coach for a few seasons, Stevens was asked to head up the varsity in January 2019.
“We had to circle the wagons and get some practices going,” says Stevens. “We had no equipment and no set routine for the varsity schedule.
“We started building it basically from scratch.”
The school has replaced its rickety press box and Stevens would like to get a new backstop.
The Patriots began workouts for 2020-21 in October and just finished the latest IHSAA Limited Contact Period for bat-and-ball activities. Players are now using a speed and agility routine devised by strength and conditioning expert Zach Dechant and a throwing strength training course put together by Jason Taulman, a former college coach who runs the Indy Sharks travel organization.
“I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in the speed on my baseball team,” says Stevens of Dechant’s system. “It really works.
“I use (the throwing program) with the entire team. We use med balls and J-bands and do core work.”
With Bethesda’s basketball teams getting first priority on gym time in February, a handful of baseball players were at the school a 6 a.m. Friday workout.
Stevens’ assistant coach is Bethesda Christian graduate Josh Stroud.
Besides the junior high team, Stevens would like to establish a feeder system at the elementary level.
“I want to get them younger if I can,” says Stevens. “You have to build a program from the bottom up.”
“Before that Southmont played Crawfordsville and North Montgomery (school system players) and that was it,” says Stevens, who helped the league branch out to find a variety of competition around Indianapolis.
Tom and wife Christy’s daughter, Madi, transferred to Bethesda when she was a ninth grader. She’s now an elementary education major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
When their sister changed schools, brothers Garrett and Wyatt — who began playing T-ball at Southmont — decided to also make the switch.
Garrett Stevens is now a Bethesda senior. Bethesda is preparing to put stage “Beauty and The Beast” in March and Garrett is to play The Beast.
The Patriots’ top pitcher touches 90 mph on the radar gun, Garrett will be a teammate of freshman Wyatt.
Garrett is committed to play baseball at Anderson (Ind.) University.
“(Ravens head) Coach (Matt) Bair knows baseball, but he’s a good mentor and cares about the boys,” says Stevens. “I’m more interested in these boys become good young men and that they become all-stars at leaders in their communities and their families.”
Bethesda Christian graduate Brayden Sayre is on the baseball roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
Stevens is a licensed electrician, but has not worked in that field for about five years. He had a home improvement company in Crawfordsville. For the past three years, he’s been an apprentice to his wife in Winding Creek Ranch, a Crawfordsville-based dog breeding business specializing in Goldendoodles and Labradoodles.
Stevens has coached travel ball, but he’s partial to the community leagues for younger players.
“Travel ball has no place for any kid below the junior high level and that’s pushing it,” says Stevens. “Let’s play ball locally.”
Caleb has picked up pointers from his father. But it hasn’t been too much.
When Caleb was getting started in the game, Bill was coaching his two older sons. Isaac and Sam played for the West Side Crusaders.
“I was just around,” says Caleb Sampen. “(My father) didn’t force any mechanics on me. He let me be an athlete.
“It wasn’t like I had a pitching lesson with him everyday.”
The elder Sampen decided when his older boys were reaching their teens that he would stop serving as a coach for their teams and he never coached any of Caleb’s squads.
“It was best for them to learn to play for other people,” says Bill Sampen, “I thought that was part of the process. I think that’s the best route for kids.
“I got to step back and just be a dad and enjoy watching them play.
“I just played coach when they asked me questions.”
In November, Samp’s Hack Shack baseball/softball training facilities will reach the ninth year in Brownsburg (5,200 square feet) and mark one year in Plainfield (7,500 square feet).
The Indiana Expos travel organization are in their second season and have seven teams in 2018. None of them have fathers coaching their own sons.
Bill Sampen says that policy for Expos coaches achieves a couple things.
“It allows us to be completely honest and give honest and objective feedback,” says Bill Sampen. “And they just get to watch their kid play.
“I know I enjoy the value of just sitting back and being a dad. The truth is they’re not going to play very long. Enjoy the journey. Don’t stress so much.”
Bill Sampen coaches the 16U National team, David Brewers the 16U American, Derek Hankins the 15U National, Nick Spence the 15U American, Isaac Sampen the 14U National, Leo Tobasco the 14U American, Tony Meyer the 13U National.
Calling the teams the Expos was not Bill’s call.
“My family decision informed that was what the name was,” says Bill Sampen. “You can see I have no clout.”
At Brownburg High, where Caleb graduated in 2015, his head coach was Eric Mattingly.
“He always talked about doing the little things right and an attention to detail,” says Caleb Sampen, who played shortstop when not pitching for the Bulldogs. “You take care of every little piece so you’re well-prepared.”
At Wright State, Sampen had Greg Lovelady as his head coach and Justin Parker his pitching coach his freshman year before both went to the University of Central Florida.
“(Parker) always talks about lower half and using your legs,” says Caleb Sampen.
(Sogard) didn’t try to change me a whole lot on the mound,” says Caleb Sampen. “He was pretty individualized, which I liked a lot.”
Recently, Mercer became head coach at Indiana University and Sogard was promoted to head coach at Wright State.
Sampen also got the chance this past year to learned from Diamyn Hall, NCAA Division I baseball’s first full-time mental skills coach.
“We worked on routines and being ready to go,” says Sampen of Hall. “He gets you in that mindset and having self awareness.”
In Caleb Sampen, Bill sees a cerebral kid.
“He’s got an idea,” says Bill Sampen. “I can’t take any credit for any successes he’s had.”
The father does see some similarities to himself.
Bill Sampen developed his abilities while playing baseball and basketball at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill.
“I see the way he moves and his athleticism,” says Bill Sampen of Caleb. “He has a long, loose arm and does things naturally.”
In two seasons at Wright State (2016 and 2018), Caleb went 14-4 in 26 games (21 as a starter) with a 2.92 earned run average, 90 strikeouts and 37 walks in 141 2/3 innings. He missed the 2017 season after having surgery on the ulnar nerve in his elbow.
On a pitch count because of the college workload in the spring of 2018, Caleb Sampen, 21, began his pro career with two relief appearances and a short starting stint. He was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA, seven strikeouts and one walk in 4 2/3 innings.
Caleb says he goes to the bump each time with an aggressiveness mindset.
“You’ve got to go out and attack with your strengths,” says Caleb Sampen, who uses a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, 12-to-6 curveball and cutter.
What about the change-up?
“It’s own own little mix I’ve perfected over the years,” says Caleb Sampen. “I use an off-set two-seam grip and throw it with my ring finger and middle finger. I keep my index finger off the ball as much as possible.”
Amy Sampen, a former Brownsburg teacher, is now an virtual educator and is the “boss” as co-owner of the Hack Shack, according to Bill.
Isaac Sampen (24) and Sam Sampen (23) both played at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill. Sam graduated highs school a semester early and joined his older brother.
Isaac Sampen went on to play at Eastern Illinois University and Sam Sampen at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Besides coaching and helping with the coordination of the Expos, Isaac now helps in many ways at the Shack. Sam has an outside job and also helps out at the training facilities.
In his time around the game, Bill Sampen has seen an increase in research and scientific data related to throwing a baseball.
“It’s validated some things that should have been done all along,” says Bill Sampen. “It can be very valuable in preventing injury.
“It seems that injuries are still there in spite of new data and new science.”
The likely reason?
“It’s the intensity of weight training,” says Bill Sampen. “Velocity is based on arm speed and not body strength.
“There are big, physical guys that can’t throw hard.”
And yet 5-foot-11, 180-pounder Billy Wagner regularly hit 100 mph and won 47 games and saved 422 in the bigs.
Caleb Sampen, a 2015 Brownsburg High School graduate and former Wright State University pitcher, makes a delivery for the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. (Ogden Raptors Photo)
“The kids have bought into what we’re trying to do as a program,” says Estep, the head coach that has his Trailblazers (27-6) meetings Tecumseh (20-9) in the IHSAA Class 1A Plainfield Semistate at 1 p.m. EST Saturday, June 9. “When we run out on to the field we can play with anybody.”
What is the root that confidence?
“It’s how we’ve structured practices,” says Estep. “We make practices run faster.”
In practices — and games — University pushes the limits on offensive and defense.
“We want to be very, very aggressive,” says Estep. “The last thing we want to see is a kid afraid to make a mistake. The more aggressive you are, the more chance you’ll have to make aggressive plays.
“You can not expect a kid to make a great play if they don’t practice making great plays.”
Estep, who is supported by assistants Reid Andrews, Michael Thompson and Steve Nerney and athletic director John Walls, points to the regional to show how his players are prepared deal with misfortune on the diamond.
The Trailblazers were up 2-0 in the semifinals against Indianapolis Lutheran only to find themselves down 4-3 in the next inning. They came back with a 9-4 victory.
The championship game was tied 0-0 going into the seventh inning. Estep saw a pinch-hitter foul off pitches to get to a full count and University went on to score three runs in the top of the frame and then hold Hauser for a 3-0 win and the regional crown.
“If you can’t handle adversity, you can’t be a champion,” says Estep. “We put them into as many adverse situations as we can and ask them to go out and make a play.
“You never know when it’s going to be your time and you better be ready to answer the bell.”
The aim is to play as close to flawless as possible and make up for any mistakes that do happen.
“There’s really no such thing as a perfect game,” says Estep. “But if we try, we will give ourselves the opportunity to win.”
There are 18 players in the program in 2018.
University is a member of the Pioneer Conference (along with baseball-playing schools Anderson Preparatory Academy, Bethesda Christian in Brownsburg, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Shortridge, Liberty Christian in Anderson, Muncie Burris and Seton Catholic in Richmond). The Traliblazers went 7-0 this spring to win the conference title.
Hill, junior shortstop Dawson Estep (the coach’s son), Moore, freshman left fielder and senior center fielder Ryan Williams (committed to Morehouse College in Atlanta) are among the Trailblazers’ leading hitters.
Coach Estep calls No. 9 hitter Williams “a major catalyst” with “speed to burn.”
Estep watched junior catcher Kolton Stevens fight through hot conditions to shine in the regional.
“He caught best two games I’ve ever seen a kid catch,” says Estep. “I can’t tell you how balls he blocked.
“Nobody ever notices that position until there is a mistake.
“He was absolutely phenomenal.”
It’s phenomenal plays or games that earns players the right to wear the “U chain”.
“Miami’s ‘The U’ and we’re the ‘The U,’” says Estep. “It’s been (Andrews’) baby. He hangs the ‘U chain’ on the fence before games. He awards it to a kid and pictures are taken. Kids are excited for whoever gets the ‘U chain.’”
Also for the second year, the “U” took a southern trip at the beginning of the season. The Traliblazers played in Tennessee.
The squad got away and spent quality time together at the ballpark and the breakfast table.
“It’s really important for team camaraderie,” says Estep. “We went and played four games then released them to spring break. When they came back, we got back to work.”
Estep, 51, has been working as a baseball instructor for decades. His Roundtripper Sports Academy in Westfield is coming up in 25 years.
“It found me out more than I found it,” says Estep.
He grew up on the east side of Indianapolis and played wiffleball, basketball and football and, of course, baseball. Organized ball came at Christian Park, where he played for John Gannon.
“He was the greatest youth coach in the history of Little League,” says Estep of Gannon, who is expected to be at Saturday’s semistate. “He’s a legend. “He made sure we all stayed out of trouble. He was an unbelievable mentor to kids.”
While he was still a professional player, he was approached by a parent about giving lessons to one of their sons. They were impressed enough to bring another son to him. Before you knew it, Estep had a long list of students and less and less time to work out himself.
“Even though I didn’t hit very well, I understood the processes for hitting and defense,” says Estep, who now sees to the needs of many baseball and softball players. “The girls are quicker learners and they’ll do whatever they tell them. The boys will fight you on it.”
Extra-busy giving lessons and running the Indiana Mustangs travel organization, Estep put up a fight when he was approached repeated by a former University administrator a decade ago.
“He would not leave me alone,” says Estep. “He said, ‘If you don’t do it, these kids can’t play.’ That got me. I called my wife and begged for forgiveness that I took on another job.
When we first started I couldn’t have weekend games because of the workload. The school made it work. Now we play every weekend. The program’s worth it. I’m willing to pay a little extra price — my family is, too, though my wife doesn’t like me very well.”
Besides Dawson, Chris and Sue Estep have an older son (Chandler, who plays football at Elon University in North Carolina) and a younger daughter (Jasmine, a talented athlete who is headed into the ninth grade).
For Estep to be close to his business, University began playing its home games at Roundtripper and still does.
His first team was overmatched. The first game was a 32-0 loss.
“They were the the kids that always got chosen last,” says Estep. “But that team set the standard. This is where we built from. This present team has an attitude that they’re going to fight you to the bitter end.
“It was a clerical/addition error,” says Estep. “(Scecina coaches) thought they were taking a kid out on 119 pitches for two games.
“There was no malice there. Now the kid is going to be penalized.”
If Estep had his way, pitch counts would be tracked in an official book in the press box and not with the home team. The scorekeeper would let the teams and umpires know how many pitches a player had going into the next game. When they got to 110, the coaches would be alerted.
“It should be a drop-dead (when the limit is reached),” says Estep. “You stop and make a pitching change.”
University High School head coach Chris Estep wears the “U chain” and assistant Reid Andrews holds the cake celebrating Estep’s 100th career win with the Trailblazers.
University High School won the IHSAA Class 1A University Sectional and Morristown Regional and will play Saturday, June 9 in the Plainfield Sectional. Chris Estep is the head coach of the Trailblazers.
Neal coached North Newton to 20- and 18-win seasons in his two seasons leading the program (2014 and 2015). The Spartans were put out of the IHSAA sectional both years by Lafayette Central Catholic.
In two seasons of guiding the Frontier Falcons, Neal saw the team win 15 and eight games.
As the Attica Ramblers get ready for the Class 1A Rockville Sectional, they look back on a 7-14 regular season. Attica and Rockville are paired in the first game of the sectional Wednesday, May 23. Other teams in the field are Covington, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke and Turkey Run.
Attica is in the Wabash River Conference (along with Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke, Seeger, South Vermillion and Turkey Run).
Neal grew up in Ladoga in Mongomery County. His earliest baseball experiences came at Ladoga Little League.
Between his eighth grade and freshmen year, he played for the traveling Montgomery County All-Stars and also for the Southmont High School summer team.
Neal learned fundamentals from Mounties coach Jerry Long and logged a few innings on the mound as a freshman, gleaning much from a senior catcher.
In 1998, Neal was part of a Southmont team that lost to eventual 2A state runner-up Evansville Mater Dei in the semifinals of the Richmond Semistate.
His last two high school years, Neal attended Bethesda Christian in Brownsburg. At the time, the school was not affiliated with the IHSAA.
But Neal picked up plenty of know-how from coach Bill Sampen, a former major league pitcher.
“He was a huge part of my growth in baseball,” says Neal of Sampen, who runs the Indiana Expos travel organization and Samp’s Hack Shack training facility. “He was real big on thinking the game of baseball. He’s just a smart guy.
The next summer, he switched to the Indiana Bulldogs and also played for the other two squads.
Leading into his junior year at Bethesda Christian, he again played for the Bulldogs.
He attended many camps before his senior year and wound up with a baseball scholarship to NCAA Division I Southeast Missouri State University. He was primarily a reserve second baseman in his one season in Cape Girardeau.
Mark Hogan was the Redhawks head coach. Neal credits SEMO assistant Scott Southard for teaching him the finer points of infield play.
“The coaches there were real supportive of a freshman in Division I baseball, where the speed of the game excelerates tenfold,” says Neal. “I learned to play at a higher pace and saw different kinds of pitching.”
“I learned perseverance and more on the spiritual side of things,” says Neal. “I learned how to handle myself on the field. It was a great experience.”
After his playing days, Neal spent a year gaining knowledge about the coaching profession as an IWU graduate assistant.
He then went into the work world for about seven or eight years, all the while teaching private lessons to stay involved in baseball.
Along the way, he got his teaching degree from Indiana Wesleyan, served three seasons as a Southmont assistant and then took his first head coaching gig at North Newton.
Kyle Neal, the head baseball coach at Attica Junior/Senior High School, shares a moment with sons Krew (9 months) and Carson (7).
The Neal family: Kyle and Christy with sons Carson (7) and Krew (9 months). Kyle Neal is in his first season as head baseball coach, physical eduction and strength training teacher at Attica Junior/Senior High School in Fountain County, Ind.