By STEVE KRAH
A number of factors have combined to get Centerville (Ind.) Senior High School baseball off to a strong start in 2021.
One of them is time.
“I think it’s maturity,” says Bulldogs head coach Tracey Crull as his team took 13-2 mark into its May 4 home game against Union City. “We started five freshmen and a sophomore two years ago and we took our lumps.
“Then we took a year off for COVID, but the boys kept playing travel ball.”
Centerville players also added muscle and athleticism.
“We’ve got amazing weight training program led by our football coach Kyle Padgett,” says Crull. “These boys have bought into it and become bigger and stronger.
“Our overall team speed is a strength.”
With that asset, the Class 2A No. 5-ranked Bulldogs often turn singles and walks into doubles and doubles become triples.
“We put pressure on other teams,” says Crull. “These kids hit the ball really well and we have some really good arms. We’ve got six kids who throw 82 (mph) plus. That’s a luxury at the high school level.”
Centerville owns a team batting average around .380 with a combined earned run average near 2.00.
“Those two combinations are pretty lethal,” says Crull, who has been the Bulldogs head coach since 2013 after 12 seasons as an assistant to Mike Baumer. “Coach B was very even-keeled. He never got bent out of shape.
“We kept everybody calm in difficult situations.”
Senior Cameron Newman has committed to continue his academic and baseball careers at NCAA Division III Elmhurst (Ill.) University.
A 1988 Centerville graduate, Crull played left field for Bill Richardson.
“He was absolutely no-nonsense,” says Crull. “He would say, ‘play the game’ (the way it’s supposed to be played).
“I say that to the boys a lot — just play the game.”
Assisting Tracey Crull this spring are brother Scott Crull plus Jason Searcy, Blake Babcock, Jeremy Blake, Steve Frye, Logan Moistner, Jason Martintoni.
Scott Crull played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Lloyd Michael at Hagerstown, where he graduated in 1995 and Tracey watched the Tigers play.
Searcy, Babcock, Blake and Moistner are all former Centerville players — the first three for Richardson and the last for Crull. Frye is a 1979 graduate of Frankfort High School in West Virginia. Martintoni played for a University of Indianapolis team that placed third at the NCAA Division II national tournament.
Born in Richmond, Ind., Tracey Crull grew up in Centerville, attended Indiana University-Bloomington and Indiana University East (Richmond) and earned a masters degree at Ball State University. He began teaching at Centerville 20 years ago. He is a business educator for the junior high and high school.
Located in Wayne County, Centerville (enrollment around 520) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City, Union County and Winchester Community). Each team plays each other one time.
The Bulldogs are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Hagerstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah and Union County. Centerville is a 2021 sectional host. The Bulldogs have won seven sectional titles— the last in 2011.
In 2021, there are 25 players for varsity and junior varsity games.
Centerville plays on a lighted on-campus diamond that received a brick and betting backstop and a 10-inning LED scoreboard a few years back.
Pre-COVID, the Bulldogs had a team in the East Central Indiana Junior High Baseball League ran by Wapahani’s Brian and Jason Dudley.
Also feeding the CSHS program are the Centerville Youth League (T-ball through seventh grade). All current varsity players are involved with travel ball.