Khal Stephen was accustomed to being a baseball starting pitcher prior to arriving at Purdue University. The 2021 graduate of Seeger Memorial Junior-Senior High School in West Lebanon, Ind., was used exclusively out of the Boilermakers bullpen in 2022 with a team-leading 23 mound appearances. As a Purdue freshman, the right-hander went 3-4 with two saves, an 8.34 earned run average, 38 strikeouts and 18 walks in 33 2/3 innings. His WHIP (walks and hits per inning) was 1.69 and opponents hit .287 against him. In the summer of 2022, Khal (pronounced Cal) was with the Prospect League’s Danville (Ill.) Dans and earned the circuit’s Roland Hemond Pro Prospect of the Year Award after going 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA and 36 strikeouts vs. 19 hits in 26 2/3 innings. He started in three of five mound appearances. “It is crazy with your mental ability to approach a week with the knowledge that this is my day,” says Stephen. “Without a doubt a starting role is what I wanted to be in last year and where I always wanted to be. “I’m very blessed and happy with my situation now.” In 12 appearances (12 starts) in 2023, he is 7-2 with 3.93 ERA, 58 strikeouts and 24 walks in 66 1/3 innings. His WHIP is 1.19 and foes are hitting .224. His last outing came May 5 and he tied tied career- and season-high marks with eight strikeouts and went a career-best eight innings. “If starters go deep, especially on Fridays, it’ll set up your bullpen throughout the weekend so you’re not using three or four guys a game.” Stephen’s next start is scheduled for Friday, May 12 against Indiana University in Bloomington. The Boilers go into the three-game series at 23-23 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten. “It’ll be a fired-up for sure,” says Stephen. The 6-foot-4, 225 pound athlete throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider and change-up. The four-seamer tends to sit at 92 to 94 mph and touches 96. The two-seamer has more sink and is clocked at 91 to 93 mph. The slider has more downward than sweeping movement. Stephen’s “circle” change possesses arm-side action with depth. The former high school quarterback delivers these pitches from a high three-quarter arm slot. “That gives me more ride on my fastball and more deception to the hitter,” says Stephen. “Being at the stature I am I’m able to get that downward plane on a fastball and throw a slider off of it. It just plays really well.” Greg Goff is Purdue’s head coach. What Stephen values most about the Boilers’ field boss is his energy and enthusiasm. “He’s a voice you keep hearing that’s encouraging for everybody,” says Stephen. “That’s really nice. “He’s a coach that cares about every player as well as the whole team.” After Chris Marx leading hurlers in 2022, Boilers pitching coach duties this season are handled by Terry Rooney. “I love working with Coach Rooney,” says Stephen. “The way he carries himself and says things, he’s very professional. “He’s just a very ‘real’ coach. He’s not going to say your pitch is good when it’s not. I appreciate how true everything he says is.” Rooney is the one who builds the pitchers’ schedule so they will be ready to fulfill their respective roles. The summer before coming to Purdue, Stephen played in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. This summer plans call for him to join the Cape Cod League’s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Born in Danville, Ill., Stephen grew up on a farm near Williamsport, Ind., and close to Seeger. He took part in rec ball until he was about 12 and played travel ball for the Illinois-based Illiana Chiefs, Lafayette-based Northern Stars and Indiana Nitro. Tim Burns was his Nitro head coach. Like older brothers Kohle Stephen (Class of 2012) and Khayne Stephen (Class of 2019), Khal was on the football (QB, receiver and safety), basketball (power forward and post) and baseball (pitcher and shortstop) teams at Seeger. While he earned 11 varsity letters, his head coaches were Herb King on the gridiron, John Collins on the hardwood and Reed Foxworthy on the diamond. “He did not have a whole lot of words, but when he had something to say everyone had all eyes on him,” says Stephen of Foxworthy. “He led the team like manager should. Everyone had respect for him.” In the spring of 2021, Stephen posted a 1.35 ERA and collected 100 strikeouts and just seven walks in 51 2/3 innings and holding opponents to a .165 batting average. With a bat in his hands, Stephen hit .541 with 26 extra-base hits and 40 runs batted in. The 2021 Lafayette Journal & Courier Small School Area Player of the Year was named to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. The 2020 Journal & Courier’s Area Defensive Player of the Year was also picked for the 2021 Indiana Football Coaches Association North/South All-Star Game but was unable to play because of a schedule conflict. The COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 high school baseball season. In 2019, Stephen fanned 99 varsity batters. On the academic side, Stephen is a Finance major. Khal is the young of Mark and Kris Stephen’s three sons. “My parents are crazy supportive in a great way,” says Stephen. “I don’t think my mom’s missed any game — not just when I’m pitching. This dates back to when I’m 10. “My dad’s a farmer and this is a super-busy time. But every (start) my dad’s there.”
Dylan Stutsman worked with those who stand on the mound the past two baseball seasons. This season, he’ll do the same while also taking his turn toeing the rubber. A graduate of Bloomington (Ind.) High School North (2014) and the University of Indianapolis (2018 with a Business Management degree), Stutsman (pronounced Stoots-Man) pitched for the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers in 2018 and 2019, getting into 69 games (68 in relief) and going 7-5 with a 3.93 earned run average. In 100 2/3 innings, he struck out 111 and walked 32. “I go into at-bats trying to strike guys out,” says Stutsman. “Some guys don’t do that. The way I see it if I’m trying to strike someone out and I don’t put the ball in the exact place that I want it for a strikeout, the odds of getting weak contact is very high. “I used to be a strikeout pitcher. Who knows now? I guess we’ll see this year.” The 2020 season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stutsman hurt himself in spring training of 2021 and underwent Tommy John surgery that year. After that came a procedure to clean up scar tissue in his right elbow. While he went through rehabilitation, Schaumburg manager Jamie Bennett, who pitched in Indiana for the DuBois County Dragons and Gary SouthShore RailCats and became Schaumburg skipper in 2011, offered Stutsman a role as bullpen coach. “He’s the best manager I’ve seen and I’ve seen quite a few in my days,” says Stutsman of Bennett. “He’s incredibly smart about the game and how he manages his team. “He doesn’t take the game too seriously. He keeps a great clubhouse environment. He knows its a long season. The camaraderie rubs off on the players.” In 2022 came an opening at pitching coach and Stutsman was offered the job with the team in the Frontier League (an MLB partner league) and he will be that again in 2023. All the while he’s kept working at getting back to pitching himself. “Here I am now,” says Stutsman, 27. “It’s been a long journey.” Schaumburg’s season opener is Thursday, May 11 at the Windy City ThunderBolts. The Boomers’ home opener is slated for Friday, May 19. In four seasons at UIndy (2015-18), Stutsman made 85 mound appearances (81 in relief) and went 13-5 with 32 saves, a 3.13 ERA, 134 strikeouts and 34 walks in 141 innings. The difference between NCAA D-II and pro ball? “A lot of it has to do with hitters,” says Stutsman. “You’re facing the best of the best (at the pro level). It’s the discipline of the hitters. You’re not getting swings and misses on certain pitches that you would at the college level.” With the Boomers, Stutsman has faced former big leaguers and Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft first-rounders. “You can’t make a lot of mistakes with these guys,” says Stutsman. “Jamie wants you to give 100 percent every pitch. Once you’re tired and it looks like your pitches are starting to fall off a little bit he’s has good timing taking guys out and getting someone else in there.” Throwing from a three-quarter overhand arm slot, Stutsman employs a four-seam fastball (which was clocked at 91 to 93 mph pre-surgery and has been 90 to 92 during 2023 spring training), slider (which moves side-to-side) and change-up (which drops). Frontier League eligibility rules dictate that so many players are allowed per team classified as rookies, experienced or veterans. Stutsman is Experienced-1. Born and raised in Bloomington, Stutsman participated in rec ball until high school and then played for a travel team made up mostly of classmates. Stutsman’s head coach with the Bloomington North Cougars was Richard Hurt. “I love the guy,” says Stutsman. “He was a great coach. He was hard on you when he needed to be. “I was very reserved in high school. He understood that. He really brought out the best in his players.” Statesman says Hurt would “win a game by any means necessary whether it’s stealing bases or small ball. He usually has some pretty solid pitchers. He knows how to win baseball games. That’s for sure.” Stutsman was part of a large senior class and Hurt used those players as examples for the younger players. “It was a really great environment,” says Stutsman, who still stays in-touch with Hurt. After attending a camp at UIndy, Stutsman went to play for the Gary Vaught-coached Greyhounds. “He was hard on you,” says Stutsman of Vaught, whose last season at the school was 2018. “A lot of people compared him to (fiery former Indiana University basketball coach) Bob Knight. He was firm. A lot of guys can handle it and a lot of guys can’t. “You to listen to listen to what he’s saying and not how he’s saying it to you. He’s a great coach. He’s got his mind set on winning games. It was a great experience.” As his college career progressed, Stutsman became a leader, taking younger players under his wing. “I had a lot of older guys I looked up to when I was a freshman so I stepped into that role when they left,” says Stutsman. In the off-season, Dylan spends his time in Bloomington, working out and helping his parents — Steve and Bibbiana Stutsman — who own and operate the Artists Colony Inn & Restaurant in Nashville, Ind. Older sister Samantha Stutsman lives in Bloomington and works for the Indiana University Alumni Association.
Derek Simmons has spent more than a third of his life as an assistant college baseball coach. Simmons, who turns 37 on May 31, is in his fourth season on the staff at Indiana University. He wears multiple hats for the Hoosiers. He is the program’s recruiting coordinator and helps with hitters and infielders. On game days, he coaches third base. As recruiting coordinator, Simmons travels to high school games in the spring. “I try to get out and see our commits,” says Simmons of a group that ranges from the current senior class (2023) to freshmen (2026). He missed one IU game while traveling to watch a commit in California. “Then I see our top-priority guys who are uncommitted or we are trying to recruit.” Indiana hitters have an approach that centers on velocity. “You’ve always got to stay on fastball timing,” says Simmons. “For us it’s the fastball and then we try to adjust to anything else.” Each day in practice, the Hoosiers are seeing 92 to 95 mph off pitching machines. Simmons, who played mostly shortstop and second base in college and pro ball, preaches the fundamentals with his infielders. “But I give our guys a lot of freedom with one hand and outside of the funnel because 80 percent of the balls aren’t going to be hit right at you,” says Simmons. “They’re going to be hit either to your left or your right. It forces our guys to use their forward and their backhand.” Indiana plays many games on turf, where the ball tends to move faster. To get acclimated to a dirt infield, infielders will sometimes will go to IU’s softball diamond — Andy Mohr Field. It’s located next to Bart Kaufman Field. As third base coach, Simmons has a routine. “Before each and every game I always watch the other teams take infield-outfield,” says Simmons. “I get to know how the outfielders’ and infielders’ arms are and how they move in space. “I like to be very aggressive. I like going first to third and and first to home.” Simmons considers several factors when deciding to send a runner or hold them up at third base. There’s the number of outs, the strength of the outfielders’ arms and who’s the on-deck hitter. “Is it a guy who’s swinging the bat really well to where I can hold the (runner) up at third or is it a guy hitting lower in our lineup and I’m going to gamble and send this (runner),” says Simmons. Jeff Mercer is head coach of a Hoosiers staff that also features pitching coach Dustin Glant and volunteer Zach Weatherford plus director of player development Scott Rolen and director of baseball operations Denton Sagerman. Simmons describes Mercer as “very passionate.” “He’s a very humble guy,” says Simmons. “He is very workman-like in everything that he does. You always know what you’re gonna get. He’s very even-keel and doesn’t get too high and doesn’t get too low. “I’ve known him for over 12 or 13 years now. I love coming to work for guy like him. He is incredible.” Before landing in Bloomington, Simmons served two seasons at Kent (Ohio) State (2018-19), one at Alabama (2017), four at Kennesaw (Ga.) State (2013-16) and two at Central Michigan (2011-12) after the 2004 graduate of Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek, Ga. (near Duluth) played two seasons as an infielder at NCAA Division II University of Montevallo (Ala.), including a D-II World Series appearance in 2006, and two at Georgia State plus a stint with the independent professional Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, Ill.). Simmons was an assistant to Jeff Duncan at Kent State, Greg Goff at Alabama, Mike Sansing at Kennesaw State and Steve Jaska at Central Michigan and played for Goff at Montevallo and Greg Frady at Georgia State. Duncan is a former Purdue assistant. Goff is now Purdue’s head coach. In his career, Simmons has coached or recruited 53 all-conference honorees, a pair of conference “of the year” award winners, nine All-Americans and four Freshmen All-Americans. He was also named to Baseball America’s Coaches to Watch list in 2018 and 2019. He is also a part of the USA Baseball program, which includes stints with the 18U National Team and the 14U National Training Development Program. “Once I got done playing, you know, I just enjoyed the college game so much that I wanted to get into college coaching,” says Simmons. “I never wanted to leave college. “I’ve just been really fortunate enough to have a great support group. My wife (Erin, the mother of daughter Bella and son Braxton) has been incredible and I just love the college game. Absolutely love it.” Simmons and the Hoosiers (23-10, 7-2) go to Illinois April 14-16 for a three-game Big Ten series. IU sits atop the conference standings, just ahead Michigan State (20-10, 6-3) and Michigan (18-14, 6-3).
Sam Klein keeps getting more stingy as his college baseball career progresses. The Ball State University right-hander missed the first month of the 2023 season working out some soreness. He got into his first game March 19 and has worked stints of 4, 2 2/3, 3 2/3 and 3 1/3 innings. For a team that is 23-9 overall and 10-2 in the Mid-American Conference heading into a three-game MAC series Friday through Sunday at Central Michigan, Klein is 3-0 with one save an 0.66 earned run average. He has 16 strikeouts and five walks in 13 2/3 innings. Opponents have hit .196 with eight singles and two doubles. All 38 of Klein’s appearances for the Cardinals since 2021 have been out of the bullpen with the last two being BSU’s closer. That has caused him to develop a mindset. “You have to do your job or else you’re not going to win the game,” says Klein. “My job is to go out there and compete. “I use my natural competitive nature to help myself on the mound. I’ve only thrown the last four weeks. I’m getting back into the role.” Born in Tennessee, Klein grew up in Bloomington, Ind. He played his early baseball at Winslow Sports Complex and competed in the Monroe County Youth Football Association. As a teenager, he began travel baseball — first for Demand Command then Diamond Dynamics and the Troy Drosche-coached Indiana Bulls. A 2020 graduate of Bloomington High School North, Klein lost his senior prep season to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a junior, he went 6-0 with one save and a 1.31 ERA for the Richard Hurt-coached Cougars. He produced 51 strikeouts and nine walks in 32 innings. A shortstop when not pitching, Klein hit .333. In his first college season of 2021, Klein took the bump 11 times and posted a 1-0 mark with one save and a 5.52 ERA. He whiffed 12 and walked 11 in 14 2/3 innings. In 2022, Klein made 23 appearances and went 4-3 with 11 saves and a 3.18 ERA. He fanned 47 and walked 21 in 34 innings. Foes hit .179. His career WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is 1.32. Klein has become accustomed to how Ball State head coach Rich Maloney and pitching coach Larry Scully will use him. “Usually if it’s a close game in the seventh inning I’ll come down to the bullpen and start stretching out,” says Klein. “If (the game is) tied or it’s a save situation I’ll usually go in.” A 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, Klein uses three pitches from an over-the-top arm slot — a rising four-seam fastball clocked at 90 to 93 mph, a 12-to-6 slider that looks like a curveball and a change-up with drop and arm-side movement. Last summer Klein pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League, making five appearances (four as a reliever) with no decisions. “It was a great experience,” says Klein. “It was really good competition. The coaches and players all know what they’re doing.” In the summer of 2021, Klein took the mound seven times (all starts) for the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Hamilton (Ohio) Joes and went 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts and 15 walks in 44 innings. Klein, who turned 21 in January, is eligible for the 2023 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. But he is focused on the here and now. “If I do well out here that helps my chances,” says Klein. “I don’t tend to think about much about it while I’m playing.” Sam is the second of three children born to teachers Bill and Brittany Klein. Professional baseball player Will Klein (Bloomington North Class of 2017) is the oldest and prep softball/volleyball athlete Molly Klein (Bloomington North Class of 2025) the youngest. Will Klein, 6-foot-3, 230-pound right-hander, was a mound standout at Bloomington North and Eastern Illinois University and was taken in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. He was with Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2022 then pitched in the Arizona Fall League. The 23-year-old begins 2023 at Northwest Arkansas. “He’s a little stronger than me and throws harder,” says Sam Klein of Will. “He relies on (velocity) a little more than I do. I’d like to think I have a little more command than he does.” Like his brother, Sam is a Biology major. “It was my favorite thing in high school,” says Klein, who is considered a sophomore academically and athletically. “I stuck with it.”
Putting a spotlight on the Indiana University program is aim of the folks from Talking Hoosier Baseball — a podcast devoted to the sport at IU — along with its associated website (iubase.com). In alphabetical order, the THB team features Josh Bennett, Chris Feeny, Carl James and Cassady Palmer with help of student interns. “We say we are a fan site and we have a specific niche that we’re fulfilling,” says James. “When we (started) there was hardly anything. I have to say we’re in a golden age of media at least from an IU student perspective. “You’ve got some really great coverage from the Indiana Daily Student. IUSTV does good stuff. WIUX is now broadcasting games.” Using the tagline “Meet Me At the Bart,” the crew can be found sitting near the home dugout on the third base side at Bart Kauffman Field. The next home games on the 2023 schedule are slated for March 24-26 vs. Ohio State. Tailgating tends to happen on Saturdays. During games, Bennett’s young kids hawk foul balls and homers and have been able to give the spheres back to the players who planted them. “There’s not a bad seat in the house,” says Bennett, who grew up in Monrovia, Ind., where he played baseball. His father — a Bedford, Ind., native — was an adjunct professor at Indiana and the family followed Hoosier sports. His first IU memory was attending games at Sembower Field in the late 1980’s. Mickey Morandini was his counselor at a youth baseball camp staged in John Mellencamp Pavilion when Bennett was 8 or 9. Sembower was replaced in the spring of 2013 by Bart Kauffman Field. “I actually went to Purdue but rooted for IU up there and got kicked out of some places from time to time,” says Bennett. “I love IU sports and baseball especially.” In talking about the origin of the website, he noted that coverage for basketball and football was abundant but not nearly so for the Hoosiers on the diamond. “These kids in baseball and the other Olympic sports are paying to play at this university and represent this school,” says Bennett. “They don’t get their just due as far as we were concerned. “We wanted to branch out and have some other avenues to get some information out there. “We wanted to give them some exposure.” Bennett designed the first version of the site and it has been tweaked by James with his tech background. Day jobs have Bennett as an electronics technician at NWSC Division Crane Navy Base southwest of Bloomington, Feeny as a behavioral health technician at Indiana Center for Recovery in Bloomington, James as a digital media specialist at IU’s Kelley School of Business and Palmer as an epidemiologist for the Missouri Health Department. Feeny spent his early years in Massapequa, N.Y., on Long Island and moved to Brooklyn in his 20’s and is a major New York Mets fan. His brother attended IU so Chris knew about Sembower Field and Bloomington and made it his home in 2014. “I bought season tickets (for IU baseball) and jumped in with two feet pretty early,” says Feeny. “I was used to going to 40 or 50 Met games a year. Those trips took an hour on the subway and going to see the Hoosiers was a snap. “Before I knew anything about it I was in,” says Feeny. “I met a lot of cool people.” Feeny started a Facebook group and Twitter handle early in 2017. The website was created late that year. It was at a tailgate party that the idea of starting a podcast emerged out of a conversation between Feeny, James and Brian Tonsoni. Tonsoni had the crew doing the podcast live the first year. “It was a lot more nerve-wracking,” says Feeny. “We don’t do that any more.” Feeny is the one who gives out weekly awards for hitting, pitching and defense in the form of red belts. “The first year we did this we saw all these belts breaking on the field so the goof was it would be a good prize to win a red belt,” says Feeny. Last year, Big Ten pick ‘ems minus Indiana’s games were added to the mix. There are three B1G series this weekend — Purdue at Michigan State, Penn State at Michigan and Illinois at Nebraska. Palmer was 32-11 as the best picker on the team in 2022. “It does not apply to Basketball Bracketology — ever,” says Palmer. “My brackets always bust every year.” Weekly episodes are now recorded as the baseball schedule and the availability of the THB team dictates. “We’ve been lucky enough to get some player interviews the last few years,” says Bennett. “We’ve also had Bart Kauffman on.” Former IU player Kauffman is a member of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A preview of upcoming series is a weekly podcast staple. When possible, there is live-blogging during games. Recaps are posted on the site. The team has allowed THB to connect and there are now post-game wrap-ups featuring head coach Jeff Mercer’s comments. “We are blessed with that access,” says Bennett. “They are generous with their time,” says Feeny. “They really are.” A recent postgame allowed 29 minutes with the coach. “You get Jeff Mercer talking about baseball and he’ll just keep going,” says James. “That’s been a positive.” Pro Ball Hoosiers is a Twitter page that tracks Indiana players in baseball, basketball and football. Through a suggestion from those people, interviews with Mercer or players are now posted as separate podcasts. Pro Ball Hoosiers, Jeremy Gray and THB collaborated on an IU baseball alumni draft early during COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Players from all eras were eligible. “I went back to 1884,” says James. “Sixty percent of my picks were before 1950.” Both of James’ parents are from Martinsville, Ind. His father was a catcher for the MHS Artesians and went into the U.S. Navy. Carl moved around as a “Navy brat” and the family ended up in Bloomington when his father retired from the service. James graduated from Bloomington North High School. “I was not an athlete,” says James. “I did play some baseball when I was really young. I’m a pretty small guy and was more of a theater person.” A retail career took him all over. When that ended he wound up back in Bloomington in 2013. “I was able to actually pay attention to sports again,” says James. “The first sporting event I went to was an IU baseball game. I pretty much got hooked.” He met up with the others on the THB team through social media. Along the way he got into Baseball Bracketology. His Facebook niche was speculating IU chances of making the NCAA Tournament. “You want to play teams that win games,” says James who compares D-I squads and their victories and losses. “Particularly NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI),” says James. “It’s a formula they cooked up specifically for basketball in the early ‘80s. It’s a simple formula. You take all the wins and losses of the team’s opponents (winning percentage) and that makes up 50 percent of it. You take the 25 percent of the opponents’ opponents and 25 percent is that team’s own winning percentage although there is an adjustor for that based on whether the game was played at home, away or neutral. “For baseball it’s like .7 for a home win and 1.3 points for a home win. It’s basically a bonus given to northern teams because they play more road games than southern teams do.” James says northern teams are punished by the fact they can’t consistently scrimmage outside in the winter months. “IU — now having a turf field and being far enough south to have decent weather — does pretty well,” says James. “They can actually schedule a couple of mid-week games in February. This year they’ve been able to play them.” At this writing, the Hoosiers at 11-0 in all 2023 games at Bart Kauffman Field. Both of Palmer’s parents are from Missouri. They moved to Bloomington at the time Indiana was winning an NCAA basketball national championship in 1987 and Cassady was born in Bloomington. Her father got a teaching degree and the family moved to Syracuse, Ind., and she graduated from Wawasee High School then attended IU. “I followed the (baseball) team quite a bit,” says Palmer. “I could watch practices from the top floor of Briscoe (Hall) when they were at Sembower. “Particularly in grad school I started really getting into data analysis,” says Palmer. “I started trying to apply some of the stuff I was learning a baseball data set. Except there aren’t really baseball data sets at the college level — not in the same way as basketball or football. “That means I need to make my own data set, which means I need to keep score. If I want percent of first-pitch strikes I have to know what all the first pitches are.” She began sharing her knowledge in Facebook groups and on Twitter and live-Tweeted at fall ball games and scrimmages. Palmer was quick to point out the sample size. She would give her findings then conclude with something like “we’re only five games in so take this with a big block of salt.” Palmer still tracks IU baseball data while residing in Missouri. “I do the in-game numbers,” says Palmer. “Carl does the across-games numbers.” The THB team has gone to season-opening series at Memphis (2019), Louisiana State (2020), Clemson (2022) and Auburn (2023). “All the Tigers,” says Palmer.
Varsity baseball on Indiana college campus gets the attention. But those teams aren’t the only ones taking to the diamond representing their schools in 2022-23. National Club Baseball Association — a division of Pittsburgh-based ColClubSports — features two squads at Indiana University (D-I and D-II) and one each at Ball State, Notre Dame and Purdue. These four plus Illinois and Illinois State belong to the NCBA Great Lakes South. Squads played one or two series in the fall. Most games are in March and April. The four-team NCBA D-I Great Lakes Regional is slated for May 12-14 at Ash Centre/World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne, Ind. The eight-team NCBA D-I World Series is May 26-June 2 in Alton, Ill. D-II regionals are May 5-7 at sites to be determined with the eight-team D-II World Series May 19-May 23 in Alton. Indiana-based teams are made up of players with high school and/or high level travel ball experience. The NCBA tracks rankings, statistics, standings and selects All-Americans. Notre Dame is No. 9 and Illinois State and Illinois are vote-getters in the D-I Week 16 poll. NCBA Great Lakes team previews can be found HERE.
Indiana IU club officers are president Garrett Larson (Lucas, Texas), secretary Spencer Puett (Eden Prairie, Minn.), treasurer Jacob Kortenber (New Haven, Ind., graduate) and social media chair Casey Fanelli (Westfield, Ind., alum). Brenden Schrage (Elmhurst, Ill.) is a future vice president. Games tend to be on Saturdays and Sundays. Indiana’s D-I team went 2-4 in the fall — 1-2 against both Illinois and Illinois State. Beginning the Week of March 13, the spring season sees IU play Eastern Kentucky, Marquette, Ohio State and Tennessee for single games. Ball State visits for three games and the Hoosiers play three-game sets at Notre Dame and Purdue. The D-II squad went 4-2 in the fall — 1-2 vs. Xavier and 3-0 vs. Eastern Kentucky. Beginning the Week of Feb. 27, the spring season includes a three-game home series against Michigan State, three at Akron and three at home against Ohio State. “The club experience is a great one not only for myself but a lot of other people because our club consists of mid- to high-level high school baseball players who could not make it at the next level or wanted to only play Division I college ball or go to a bigger school and get a better education,” says Larson, a junior Sports Media & Advertising co-major. “Club baseball is a way for us to keep playing the game we love.” At Indiana in 2022-23, 85 to 100 players tried out for 26 vacancies on two teams. There’s about 20 players on each squad. The club is responsible for securing playing fields and off-campus practice facilities, umpires and uniforms. Club dues and fundraising helps pay expenses. Bloomington North High School is Indiana’s home field. “We’re very appreciative for that opportunity,” says Larson. The club makes a donation to the school for the use of the Cougars’ diamond. In past seasons, the club played some games at Bedford North Lawrence High School. The club also supports the varsity Hoosiers when they play at Bart Kaufman Field aka The Bart. “We go to those games all the time,” says Larson. “A lot of our best players tried to walk on and came to play for us.” Club players tend to sit close to the home dugout and backstop and can be heard on TV and radio broadcasts. Kortenber, a sophomore Sports Marketing & Management major, played for Dave Bischoff at New Haven High School and explains his reason for playing club baseball. “I just really wanted to stay connected to the game and meet a bunch of new people,” says Kortenber, who considered being a manager for the varsity team. “Then I decided I could actually keep on playing.” A club sports fair during “Welcome Week” is a big recruiting tool. The club is open to anyone who wants to practice. Then there’s a travel roster. Both D-I and D-II teams at Indiana practice together. Schrage gives his “why.” “It gets me out of the house,’ says Schrage, who now calls Indianapolis home and is a sophomore Informatics major with a Business cognate. “I like to collaborate with different people. I enjoy baseball players. That was my crowd in high school. “I just want a competitive edge outside of doing lifting and homework. It’s nice to travel on the weekends and be part of a team.” Indiana’s Twitter handle is @ClubBaseball_IU. The Instagram address is iuclubbaseball. The D-I roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE. The D-II roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Ball State BSU club officers include president Ross Culy (Winchester, Ind., Community High School graduate), vice president Clay Hamm (Blue Valley alum) and social media manager Ben Carr (Zionsville Community graduate). Ball State lost three-game series to Notre Dame and Purdue in the fall. The spring slate begins the Week of March 20 and the Cardinals play a series at Indiana with home series against Illinois State and Illinois. Culy, a third-year senior on pace to graduate in the spring with a double major in Analytics and Economics, talks about what he gets from club baseball. “It definitely starts with a lot of friendships and relationships you make,” says Culy. “Relationships are really important in life. “Being president has developed my leadership abilities and people skills.” The club is hoping to play one home series on the varsity field (Ball Diamond) and will play the other at a local high school or perhaps Gainbridge Field at McCulloch Park in Muncie. Fall home games are played at Ball Diamond. Club dues are $350 for the year or $175 per semester and pay for jerseys, travel, umpires etc. “We try to keep our costs as low as possible and keep guys in the club,” says Culy. The club had to disband during the COVID-19 pandemic and came back in 2021-22. “We’re accepting anybody who wants to play,” says Culy. “We have from former college players and high-level high school to kids who never played before. “We don’t currently have enough to make cuts. This year we had huge growth. We have 30-ish guys which is a big improvement from last year. Most recruiting was done at the club fair at the beginning of the school year. “A lot of it is just getting our name out there and getting the players who have the talent and interest,” says Culy. Three member of Ball State’s swimming and diving program — Michael Burns (South Bend, Ind., Riley High School graduate), Erkan Ozgen (Burr Ridge, Ill.) and Porter Brovont (Eastern of Greentown alum) — have indicated they will join the baseball club at the conclusion of their season. Hamm, a sophomore Sport Administration major, split his high school days between New Castle and Blue River Valley before playing one season at the University of Northwestern Ohio and transferring to Ball State and joining the club. “I just wanted to get back into baseball,” says Hamm. “It’s a lot of fun. Everybody wants to be there and wants to play.” Carr, a freshman Sports Administration major and Marketing minor, tells why he’s involved. “I love baseball,” says Carr. “I played it all my life. I played throughout high school and had some opportunities to play (intercollegiate ball). Ball State was the best first for me. “I got involved (in club baseball) and it’s a blast.” As an Indiana Expos travel ball player, Carr was coached by former Indiana club member Leo Tobasco. Carr is a submarine pitcher. He was throwing from a three-quarter arm slot as a high school junior and looking to see how he could help on a staff of fireballers. “One of my coaches suggested that I try to see if I could throw sidearm or lower,” says Carr. “I kept messing with it and kept messing with it. I became an effective groundball pitcher.” As social media manager, Carr has been able to tap into skill he learned from his father who is a graphic designer and get his friend who is a photographer to provide compelling shots. “I’ve edits for our schedule on Instagram that I’m pretty proud of,” says Carr. Cooper Roach, a Delta High School graduate and freshman Data Analytics major, was smitten by baseball growing up in Muncie. “There’s something different about it I love,” says Roach. “I don’t think I can ever get away from baseball because of it.” Ball State’s club fair is how he found out about the opportunity to keep playing in college. “I’d like to see the club aspect pushed a little more,” says Roach of club sports overall. Ball State’s Instagram address is ballstatebaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Notre Dame ND club officers are president Josh Dippold (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers graduate), interim vice president Sam Sikkink (Minnetonka, Minn., and serving for Lafayette, La.’s Jacob Tate who is studying abroad), secretary Chris Ayres (Malvern, Pa.) and treasurer Brady LaBahn (Apple Valley, Minn.). Players pay $315 per semester to pay for travel, umpires, league, registration etc. Donation also come in from alumni and family during “ND Day.” The Irish won the 8th annual Battle Creek Blast in the fall as the wild card, besting Illinois State B 11-1 and Michigan-Flint 21-1 and losing 5-4 to Michigan in pool play before topping Michigan 11-4 and Illinois 18-1 in the single-elimination bracket. Besides taking that 12-team event at C.O. Brown Stadium, Notre Dame also swept a three-game conference series against Ball State. The spring began this past weekend with a three-game sweep at Kentucky. Next is a series at Illinois then home series vs. Indiana, Illinois State and Purdue. South Bend Clay High School has been a home field for Notre Dame. The club is hoping to play some games on-campus at Frank Eck Stadium — home to the varsity Irish. Notre Dame lost to Michigan in 2022 regional championship. “It was nice to see them this fall in Battle Creek,” says Dippold, who played his home games while at Bishop Luers at the Ash Centre. He grew up playing travel ball around Fort Wayne, including with the Summit City Sluggers and Lance Hershberger-led Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana Buzz. Dippold, a senior Theology major with a Pre-Health supplemental major and Latino Studies minor, intends to go to medical school. The club president says about 50 players try out in the fall. There are currently 29 on the roster (33 is the maximum). “I love baseball and the leadership that comes with being around so many ballplayers and friends,” says Dippold. “It’s for the love of the game and you need to be heads-up to be a good ballplayer. It’s America’s Pastime to me. “I see the freshmen and sophomores on our team and I want to give back to the game. When I’m older I know I will be a coach of some sort. “I’m incredibly grateful that God has bestowed this opportunity for me to still be playing the game as a senior in college. This year I feel like we have something left in the tank and some unfinished business. “I’ve always been a competitor. I look forward to being something more than an academic competitor and let it loose on the baseball field.” Jake Fuehrmeyer, a graduate of Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Ind., and a senior Science Pre-Professional (Pre-Med) major, decided to attend Notre Dame rather than play varsity baseball and study at a smaller school in Illinois. He expresses his appreciation for club ball. “It’s been everything to be college experience-wise,” says Fuehrmeyer. “I never would have thought I’d still get to play ball once I got to Notre Dame. “It’s allowed me the opportunity to continue to compete at a high level. My favorite thing to do is play baseball. “All of the guys on the team are such great dudes. I look forward to going to practice. I look forward to competing in games. It’s given me a ton of new friends.” While vans were to be used to travel to the Kentucky series, players typically car-pool to away games. “It’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make,” says Fuehrmeyer. “We’ll go wherever the baseball is.” In-season, Notre Dame tends to practice twice a week for 90 minutes. Outside of practice, Fuehrmeyer seeks time to get in swings on his own or long toss with a friend. There is an on-campus practice space. RBIs Unlimited in Mishawaka offers an off-campus training option. While he’s got a full plate, Fuehrmeyer does carve out time to follow the varsity Irish. “College baseball is some of the most-exciting baseball you can watch,” says Fuehrmeyer. “It’s evolving at a rapid pace. We’re seeing some outstanding talent come through Notre Dame. “We’ve got some serious talent on the varsity team and it’s reflected in how good our club team is. “I look at some guys and say, “Wow! Why aren’t you playing (NCAA) Division I baseball somewhere?” Notre Dame’s Twitter handle is @NDclubbaseball. The Instagram address is ndclubbaseball. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Purdue PU club officers are president Daniel Stephen (Fort Wayne, Ind., Northrop High School graduate), vice president Ross Ostrager (Plainview, N.Y.), treasurer Jacob Knaust (O’Fallon, Ill.), fundraising officer Jeremy VanTryon (Plainfield, Ind., High School alum), community service officer Joe Patton (Kansas City, Kan.) and safety officer Kyle Goff (Fort Wayne, Ind., Carroll graduate). Dr. Howard Zelanik is advisor. Purdue went 6-5 in the fall — 3-0 vs. Ball State, 2-1 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 0-3 vs. Illinois State and 1-1 vs. Miami (Ohio). Beginning the Week of March 13, an 11-game spring includes contests against Ohio, Tennessee, Ohio State, Iowa and Wyoming in Panama City Beach, Fla., before a three-game series at Illinois, three at home against Indiana and three at Notre Dame. Purdue senior James Ham, a Lafayette (Ind.) Harrison High School alum, pitched a no-hitter Oct. 1, 2022 against Ball State with 15 strikeouts in seven innings. The no-no was caught by junior Ostrager. The club was present at the B-Involved Fair and had callouts last August. Tryouts were last September at the Purdue Intramural Fields. Home games are played at Crawfordsville (Ind.) High School. The team has a set of bats, helmets, and catchers gear. Hats, jerseys, black pants, gold stirrups and a gold belt are provided. Players must have their own glove, cleats, white baseball pants, gray baseball pants, black socks and black belt. Semester dues can vary depending on expected club expenses. They are typically around $300 for returning members and $350 for new members. The Twitter handle is @PUBaseballClub. The Instagram address is pubaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and the schedule HERE.
Other Places George Boardman is a pitcher on the Vanderbilt University club in Nashville, Tenn. Boardman, of LaPorte, Ind., is a freshman Law History Society major. After playing for coach Kurt Christiansen, he graduated from Culver (Ind.) Academies in 2021. “I’m pretty serious about going to law school so playing for an actual college team was too much of a time commitment,” says Boardman. “I selected Vanderbilt for many other reasons, but (club baseball) was an added benefit. “Most of the people on our team could have played (NCAA) D-III baseball.” Like Boardman, they those Vandy for its academic rigor. “Club baseball here at Vanderbilt is really, really balanced,” says Boardman. “We practice three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We usually play six or seven series (in the spring and fall) with three games each. “Attendance at those series is completely optional. The flexibility is perfect. If you have a class or a ton of homework, just text your coach or (club) president and say, ‘I can’t make it.’ “You can pretty much make out of it what you want.” The club plays many of its home games at nearby Belmont University though there is a contest scheduled April 9 against Georgia State at Hawkins Field — where the Vandy Boys varsity plays.
Ty Neal is the new head baseball coach at Carmel (Ind.) High School. While transitioning his wife and three children from southwestern Ohio to central Indiana, Neal embraces the expectations that come with leading the Greyhounds and performing in a community that demands excellence. “This is the only high school job in the country I would have moved my family for,” says Neal, a former Indiana University assistant and University of Cincinnati head coach who is married to Christine and has sons Silas (14) and Beckett (12) and daughter Paisley (9). “I owe it to myself and my family to surround us with high-level people. “I’m excited because it’s going to bring out the best in all of us.” Both Neal boys were born in Bloomington. “I’ve built so many relationships in Indiana,” says Ty Neal. “This is a great opportunity for my family to get back to the great state of Indiana.” The competitive environment and lofty standards at his new school district suit Neal. “The reason people are so critical of Carmel they expect so much out of everyone,” says Neal, who was hired in July. “As a coach that’s all positive. “I want be held under a microscope and perform at a high level every single day of my life.” After serving as the Director of Pitching at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., November 2018 to October 2019, Neal led the baseball program at Loveland High School (enrollment around 525) in the Greater Cincinnati area in 2020 and 2021. The Tigers did not play any games in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carmel (enrollment around 5,225) is currently an athletic independent. The Greyhounds were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville. Those schools have combined for nine State Finals appearances — two each for Carmel (1997, 2000), Fishers (2018, 2021) and Westfield (1998, 2009) and one apiece for Hamilton Southeastern (2019), Noblesville (2014) and Zionsville (2016) with state titles in 2014, 2018 and 2019. Carmel has earned 13 sectional championships — the last in 2016. Neal intends to bring consistency as he builds the culture of his Greyhounds program. “That starts at the top,” says Neal. “These are 14- to 18-year-old young men that have so many moving parts in their lives. “I want to be consistent in my demeanor, expectations and standards for them. We show up everyday and there’s no surprises. We’re not going to get in mid-season and change the way we do things. We’re not going to panic. “There’s a comfort level that comes with consistency where — hopefully — you can bring out the best in everyone.” Neal, who has targeted potential assistant coaches, conducted a recent player-parent meeting to shake everyone’s hand and is planning to start IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Sept. 13. Carmel plays its home games on Hartman Field. “I think it’s awesome,” says Neal. “It’s a brand new turf field with lights that I can turn on and off with an app on my phone.” To serve a community that features the Carmel Dads Club, Carmel Pups travel baseball and teams at Carmel Clay Schools’ three middle schools — Carmel, Clay and Creekside — Neal plans a five-week middle school camp. “I want to build relationships with the middle school coaches,” says Neal. “We’ll have similar concepts so we’re not starting from scratch freshman year.” The Greyhounds routinely send players on to college baseball. Three alums — Ryan Campbell, Conrad Gregor and Tommy Sommer — are current or recent pros. Born in West Elkton, Ohio (Dayton area), former left-handed pitcher Neal is a 1995 graduate of Preble Shawnee Junior/Senior High School in Camden, Ohio. He earned four letters at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) 1996-99 and was team captain in 1999 and secured a Sport Management degree. Tracy Smith was his head coach. Neal served as Smith’s pitching coach at Miami in 2000 and 2005 and was an assistant to Dan Callahan for three seasons (2001-03) at Southern Illinois University while getting a Masters of Sport and Fitness Administration/Management. He was pitching coach for the Cape Cod Baseball League‘s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the summer of 2002. There was one season as an assistant at Cincinnati (2004) and four as head coach (2014-17). When Smith became head coach at Indiana, he brought Neal along and he was top assistant and recruiting coordinator for eight seasons (2006-13). He was also pitching coach for six of those campaigns and infield/third base coach for two. The Hoosiers went to the College World Series in 2013. “He gave me an opportunity to help the team,” says Neal of the coach-player relationship with Smith (who is now head coach at the University of Michigan). “I had to grow up a lot under him. “I learned from him to be agile and open to new things and learning. You change things when you need to.” Neal was Smith’s Quality Control Analyst at Arizona State University in 2018. While in Ohio, he created Serving Baseball Passion as a platform to share his knowledge with younger players. In addition to coaching, Neal teaches Special Education at Carmel High School.
Harrison Pittsford is soaking up the knowledge of veterans while getting in his summer reps as a first-year player for the South Bend Royals, members of men’s wood bat leagues in both South Bend and Fort Wayne. At 20, Pittsford is younger than most of his Royals teammates. That includes 53-year-old Jayson Best. “It’s cool learning from guys like Bestie,” says Pittsford, who completed his second year at NCAA Division III Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., in the spring. “I see how they play the game. “It’s a great experience playing with those guys.” Best, who was born in Lafayette, Ind., played professional baseball from 1989-97. He ascended to Double-A in the Minnesota Twins organization as a pitcher and later was head baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) College. He pitched a no-hitter for the Royals in Mishawaka, Ind., on July 10. Pittsford, a 2020 graduate of Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Ind., comes up to play mostly weekend doubleheaders with former GC hitting star and current Eastern (Greentown) head coach Erik Hisner-managed Royals and Manchester teammate/roommate Hunter Aker (a South Bend Clay High School graduate). While he does some catching, Pittsford is getting playing time in the outfield since he expects to be there much of the time at Manchester. The Royals are to compete in a National Amateur Baseball Federation regional in Fort Wayne July 28-30. The top two finishers move on to the NABF World Series Aug. 2-5 in Battle Creek, Mich. Pittsford was named to the 2022 all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team at designated hitter. The righty swinger played in 30 games (28 starts) and hit .327 (33-of-101) with six home runs, eight doubles, 29 runs batted in, 27 runs scored and a 1.002 OPS (.418 on-base percentage plus .584 slugging average). Rick Espeset competed his 26th season as Manchester head coach in 2022. “Espy got my attention in the recruiting process,” says Pittsford. “His success and longevity eye-catching for me.” Espeset’s Spartans have won 619 games with six national tournament appearances, including two trips to the D-III World Series (2004 and 2013). As much as Pittsford appreciates all the knowledge that Espeset shares, he is also grateful for the insights on the mental approach. “We’re taking time to detach from baseball with breathing and mindfulness,” says Pittsford. As a D-III program, Manchester conducts four weeks of fall practice with the whole team and coaches. Players are then on their own for a few months until everyone reconvenes shortly before the start of the season. “Nothing’s really forced on us,” says Pittsford. “If guys want to get better they are going to get better. I get motivated seeing my teammates working out. “We have good leadership from underclassmen.” A Sport Management major, Pittsford was named Academic all-HCAC in 2022. “I want to stay involved in sports in some capacity,” says Pittsford of his post-college path. “That could be coaching, running a sports facility or being an athletic director. I want to be involved in sports and make a difference for kids and make sure the next generation has the same opportunities I had coming up. “Sports can teach you a lot of life lessons like building character and making friendships.” Born in Bloomington, Ind., and growing up in Ellettsville, Pittsford participated in baseball and basketball through Richland Bean Blossom Youth Sports and was also part of Monroe County Youth Football Association. He was in travel ball with the Ellettsville Explosion, Diamond Dynamics and then Tier Ten. It was with Diamond Dynamics that Pittsford met coach/instructor Tony Kestranek. “He was passionate about baseball,” says Pittsford of Kestranek. “He taught us when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.” At Edgewood, Pittsford played four years each of football and baseball and two of basketball. A special teams player as a freshman, he was the Mustangs’ starting center for three seasons. Brian Rosenburgh was defensive coordinator Pittsford’s freshman year then head coach for the last three. “I loved him as a person and a coach,” says Pittsford of Rosenburgh, who was also a Physical Education teacher at Edgewood. An football coach was Mychal Doering. “He’s an amazing guy,” says Pittsford of the father of classmate Izaiah Doering and JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) specialist at Edgewood. “He was high-energy and he motivated you. He was always checking on people outside of school and he taught me about life and handling the ups and down. “He’s going through chemo (for cancer). It’s cool to see how he’s battling through that.” Pittsford considered playing college football, but decided to go with his first love of baseball. Besides, at 6-foot, 230 pounds he is considered to be undersized for a college lineman. Bob Jones, who has been a Business teacher for more than 40 years and head baseball coach for 36, passed along many diamond lessons to Pittsford. “He knows a lot of baseball,” says Pittsford of Jones, who went into the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame last week. “It’s nice to learn from a guy who’s been around the game for so long.” One of Jones’ more than 500 victories came during the first game of 2019 — a season that ended with the Mustangs finishing as IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up. Playing in a tournament at Vincennes University, Edgewood fell behind 11-0 to Terre Haute North Vigo after four innings. The Mustangs chipped away and eventually won 20-18 in a game that was played in a steady drizzle. “It was a pretty crazy game,” says Pittsford, who started at catcher and batted No. 2 that day and drove in two runs. Later moved to the No. 9 hole, it was there that Pittsford smacked a walk-off home run against West Vigo in the semifinals of the Owen Valley Sectional. Several other Edgewood players wound up playing college baseball, including Class of 2019’s Joe Kido (Indiana State University), Ethan Vecrumba (Indiana University), Cooper Thacker (University of Southern Indiana) and Blake Deckard (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology), Class of 2020’s Pittsford and Sam Kido (Indiana University South Bend) and Class of 2021’s Luke Hayden (Indiana University). Satoshi Kido — father of Mac, Joe and Sam — was an Edgewood assistant in 2019 and has been Pittsford’s hitting coach since he was 7 or 8. “He’s helped me so much with my swing over the years,” says Pittsford. “He always knows how to fix my swing when I get in a slump.” Pittsford spent much of 2021 dealing with a torn right shoulder labrum. Harrison is the youngest of 1986 Edgewood alums Jay and Cheryl Pittsford’s two sons. Alex Pittsford (25) is a graduate of Edgewood (2016) and Wabash College (2020) and is now pursing his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame. He was in football and swimming in high school. Jay Pittsford taught English for 19 1/2 years and then served as an assistant principal. Cheryl Pittsford is an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Physician’s Assistant.
Josh Pyne decided early in life that he wanted to play college baseball. And not just anywhere. Pyne desired to play at Indiana University, having been born in Bedford, Ind., and grown up near Bloomington in Linton, Ind. “We were a 25-minute drive away,” says Pyne, a 19-year-old freshman who has started all 31 games so far for the 2022 Hoosiers. “My dad a huge IU basketball fan and still is. I grew up an IU baseball fan.” Pyne verbally committed to IU his freshman year at Linton-Stockton High School when Chris Lemonis was Hoosiers head coach. Jared Pyne is a lineman superintendent for Greene County REMC. His wife, Brooke Pyne, works for a Navy contractor. Oldest son Jacob, 23, is a Daviess County REMC lineman. Daughter Adalyn, 17, is a Linton-Stockton junior involved in cheerleading and track and interested in animals. Middle child Josh followed Jacob into motocross as the family criss-crossed the country on that circuit. After Josh raced for a few years, along came baseball. He threw himself into the diamond sport, playing for the Smithville Scrappers at 9. Family friend Mike Vaughn coached that team and would be Pyne’s coach with the Indiana Nitro and Indiana Bulls through his 15U summer. “I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” says Pyne of Vaughn. Another summer with the Jeremy Honaker-coached Bulls was followed by a summer with Jay Hundley’s Canes Midwest team. In the fall of his junior year at Linton-Stockton, Pyne was with the Jeff Petty-coached Canes National squad. The next summer he played for Johnny Goodrich’s Orlando Scorpions. To help with the transition from high school to college, freshmen were brought on-campus last summer to take classes, get in the weight room and begin the bonding process. It’s a class that includes infielder Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden (Edgewood) and outfielder Carter Mathison (Homestead). The latter has started in 29 games and appeared in 31 this spring. Business Management major Pyne already had a relationship with one Hoosier, having played baseball and basketball with Kip Fougerousse (who was a 1,000-point scorer on the hardwood) at Linton-Stockton. Josh and sophomore catcher/infielder Kip hang out a lot at IU. “I go over to his house almost everyday,” says Pyne. “We play cards or get some food. We have a background like nobody else on the team.” Pyne say it was a big adjustment going from high school to college, but that has been eased by the bonding, the leadership or older players and the coaching staff led by Jeff Mercer. The biggest difference in high school and college baseball to Pyne is the pace of play. “I see how much faster everything is,” says Pyne. “Balls are balls hit harder. Pitches are quicker. You have less reaction time.” To adapt to this, the Hoosiers practice and train at game speed. “You have to go full speed and push yourself to get used to that pace of play,” says Pyne. “Some drills uncomfortable because it speeds us up. But you have to be uncomfortable to be better.” Pyne, who was a shortstop in high school and travel ball, has gotten used to “27 outs” when Mercer or assistant Derek Simmons laces balls all over the field and Pyne can get live reads off the bat at 100 mph or more. Mercer has plenty of praise for Pyne. “Josh is just an A ++ kid. I’m super proud of him,” says Mercer. “He’s a southern Indiana kid at IU playing his tail off. He’s an awesome dude. He’s very talented. He can have a great at-bat. He’s a great defender and baserunner and an awesome teammate. “He’s everything a Hoosier should be.” Pyne was a four-year letterwinner and four-time captain at Linton-Stockton playing for Miners baseball head coach Matt Fougerousse, Kip’s father. As a senior, Pyne was an all-state selection and the team MVP. He was all-Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference three times and set a single-season school record with 50 hits. As a basketball player for coach Joey Hart, Pyne was part of three IHSAA Class 2A sectional championships and played in the 2019 2A state championship game as a sophomore. “I played basketball to keep in shape and for the fun of it,” says Pyne. Josh recalls that Matt Fougerousse’s was always there for late-night batting practice after basketball games or practices. “He helped me for those four years,” says Pyne. “He even stayed and coached me for my senior year when he really didn’t have to.” Matt stepped away from coaching at the end of the 2021 season, giving himself more of a chance to see Indiana play. Going into a Big Ten Conference series April 15-17 at Rutgers, righty swinger Pyne is hitting .301 (37-of-103) with four home runs, seven doubles (tied for second on the team), 31 runs batted in (second on the team) and 19 runs scored. He carries an OPS of .820 (.365 on-base plus .455 slugging). Pyne produced a career highs three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored April 10 at Purdue. He rapped two doubles April 2 against Northwestern. Indiana 13-18 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are 3-5 in April. The team’s freshmen third baseman is confident IU will get rolling. “We just need to compete on the mound and at the plate,” says Pyne. “It will all fall into place. “We have the talent to do it.”
A former Indiana University baseball player is sharing his experience and knowledge as head coach at Barr-Reeve Middle/High School in the tiny Daviess County town of Montgomery. Trevor McConnell, who graduated from Bloomington (Ind.) High School South in 2005 and earned his IU degree in December 2008, enjoyed his first on-field season with Barr-Reeve in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic took away 2020. He was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Joe Rademacher during the 2019 season. Before Barr-Reeve, McConnell spent five seasons as an assistant to Bloomington South head coach Phil Kluesner (2014-18) and five as head coach and athletic director at Eastern Greene (2009-13). A center fielder in high school, McConnell played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Grier Werner at Bloomington South and was recruited to play at IU by Bob Morgan. “(Werner) was an old-school guy,” says McConnell. “He had that football mentality. He wanted physical and mental toughness from his teams and pushed us to take on that mentality because baseball is a game of failure.” By the time McConnell joined the Hoosiers, Tracy Smith was head coach. He saw action in 65 games from 2006-08 and counted future big leaguer Josh Phegley as a teammate. Michael Earley went on to be a college coach (he’s now at Texas A&M). “I learned a ton from Coach Smith in my time around the IU program,” says McConnell, who picked up pointers in practice planning, strategy and all facets of running a baseball team. “(Werner and Smith) are responsible for molding my coaching mindset more than anybody.” McConnell sustained a career-ending arm injury and served as a volunteer assistant to Smith in the fall of 2008. By then, McConnell saw his path as a teacher and coach and took the job the Eastern Greene positions at 23. McConnell played summer ball for Kluesner with the Bloomington Wizards and accepted an invitation to coach with him. “He welcomed me with open arms,” says McConnell of Kluesner. “He’s one of my best friends.” At Barr-Reeve, McConnell teaches junior high school education and has a coaching staff that features pitching coach Rademacher, varsity assistant/infield coach Nathan Lester and head junior varsity coach Joe Cummings. All three have been head coaches at the high school level — Rademacher in two stints at Barr-Reeve, Lester at Barr-Reeve and Cummings at Pike Central. There’s also JV assistant Ryan Graber, who played for Rademacher and Lester, former Vincennes Lincoln and University of Southern Indiana national championship player Craig Heinz, Beau Sluder, Trevor Yoder and Kraig Knepp. Chris Winkler runs Barr-Reeve’s junior high baseball program (Grades 7 and 8). “I appreciate having experienced guys with me in the dugout,” says McConnell, who works with Vikings hitters and outfielders. “I have no ego. Joe Rademacher has been a good mentor for me. He’s been super gracious. “He told me has still has a fire for the game and would like to be around if you want me.” The Vikings play on Joe Rademacher Field. An old agriculture building was recently converted into a hitting/training facility for Barr-Reeve baseball and softball. “We have four full-length (batting) cages,” says McConnell. “We are spoiled.” A T-ball league is hosted by Barr-Reeve. Coach Pitch leagues start at Chuck Harmon Little League in nearby Washington, Ind. The Viking Baseball Club sponsors teams of local students from second grade through 12U. “They play together as a group with ‘Barr Reeve’ across their chest,” says McConnell, who attends and runs some VBC practices in the winter to show players the way he does it at the high school. A three-week fall camp for Grades 2-6 ran by McConnell and his assistants and players just concluded. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. Starting after Labor Day, McConnell has been leading close to 20 baseball players two days a week. Those practices are on Mondays and Wednesdays and many also participate in basketball activities with Josh Thompson on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thompson guided Barr-Reeve to an IHSAA Class 1A state championship in 2020-21 and a state runner-up finished in 2018-19. “I like the fact we can instruct and be more hands-on with our players,” says McConnell of the current off-season set-up. “There’s less quantity but the quality is a lot better. “We can coach them up.” Barr-Reeve (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Blue Chip Conference (with Loogootee, North Knox, Northeast Dubois, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial). In recent years, Washington Catholic has not fielded a baseball team. In 2001, the Vikings were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Loogootee, North Daviess (host site), Shoals and Vincennes Rivet. Barr-Reeve has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2019 — Rademacher’s last season as head coach. A senior on that ’19 team — Gage Wilson — went on to Vincennes (Ind.) University for baseball. The youngest child of former college football coach Bob McConnell and wife Barbara, Trevor was born in Amherst, Mass., when his father was on the staff at the University of Massachusetts. About the time Trevor went into kindergarten, his family (including older brother Ryan) had moved to Nashville with Bob McConnell joining the football staff at Vanderbilt University. From 1995-2001, the McConnells were in Baton Rouge, La., and Bob was coaching at Lousiana State University. Trevor McConnell’s freshmen baseball season was spent as a varsity role player at Parkview Baptist High School, where Eagles head coach and Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee M.L. Woodruff was on the way to one of his 11 state championships. His 27-season record was 603-163-2. “I learned a lot of fundamentals,” says McConnell of Woodruff. “He was super-organized and super-efficient.” The McConnells wound up in Bloomington when Bob was hired by Hoosiers head football coach Gerry DiNardo, who also coached at Vandy and LSU. After years of the gypsy lifestyle of a college football coach, Bob McConnell went into financial services and retired last fall. Barbara McConnell is a Muncie, Ind., native. Ryan McConnell (38) resides in Baton Rouge. Trevor (35) and wife Jessica both went to Bloomington South and began dating at IU. They have been married since 2009. The couple have two children — second grader Nolan (who turns 8 in October) and kindergartener Lauren (5).