Tag Archives: Blue River Valley

Danner brings aggressive style as Monroe Central baseball coach

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

It’s an assertive brand of baseball that will be promoted by Tyler Danner, the new head coach at Monroe Central Junior/Senior High School in Parker City, Ind.
“I am very much an aggressive coach,” says Danner, who took over the Golden Bears program in mid-September and looks forward to a few IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices this month. “Our goal in 2023 is 100 stolen bases (at a success rate of 85 percent or higher). Anything that’s a 50-50 ball in the outfield, we’re going for it. Outfielders are expected to play aggressively and lay out for the baseball.”
Danner was the pitching coach at Indianapolis Lutheran the past three years and has coached travel ball for a decade — five years with the Delaware County-based Indiana Magic and the past five with Baseball Academics Midwest (BAM). He was with 12U through 16U teams with the Indiana Magic and 14U through 17U squads with BAM, including 15U this past summer.
The 2022 Lutheran Saints swiped 183 bases, won 22 games and advanced to a regional championship game.
As it was at his previous stop, “Attack the zone” will be Danner’s mantra with his MC pitchers. He insisted that his Lutheran hurlers were aggressive in the strike zone and this helped lower the team ERA and walk rate.
“Guys went deeper (into games) because the pitch count was not driven up by full counts,” says Danner. “You get to trust the gloves behind you.”
As for hitting approach, Danner will have each batter focus on their strengths and weaknesses. If they hit the inside pitch best, they may lay off the outside one before two strikes.
Danner wants his team to collect more free bases (errors, walks, overthrows etc.) than its gives up. The goal is to hold the opponent under 10 and to gather more than 12.
“You have a 75 percent win percentage when you do that,” says Danner.
Monroe Central (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del).
The Golden Bears were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Alexandria Monroe, Elwood, Frankton, Lapel, Muncie Burris, Wapahani and Winchester. Monroe Central has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2014.
After meeting players during a call-out and at home football games, Danner came away impressed.
“They were respectful,” says Danner. “They were all eye contact, all engaged and asking questions.
“These are guys who have played at a high level and expect to play well.”
It was as a toddler that Tyler first learned to think and talk the game with his father. Chuck Danner devoured baseball knowledge from books and the Internet and coached youth teams and as a hitting coach for Ed Jones at Muncie Burris.
Chuck Danner died in 2015 at 69.
At Yorktown (Ind.) High School, where he graduated in 2009, Tyler Danner was a pitcher, catcher and outfielder for Tigers head coach Mike Larrabee.
“He showed us the way to stay even-keeled,” says Danner of Larrabee. “It’s very easy in the heat of the moment to get too high or too low. That was not Coach.
“You need a guy that steers into the storm and never seems to panic.”
Yorktown won sectional titles in 2007 and 2008 and a regional crown in 2008.
The approach at BAM is for players to work through the approaches to the game and breaking it down on the field and in the classroom.
“They understand why they’re doing it at such a high level,” says Danner.
His Monroe Central assistants include Daleville graduates Ethan Pittsford (Class of 2019) and Drew Watson (Class of 2021). Daleville won state titles in 2016 and 2018. Watson was a volunteer assistant at Daleville in 2022.
There were 16 players in the Monroe Central program last spring. A similar number would mean a varsity-only schedule in 2023. Danner’s goal in the future is to have enough numbers for varsity and junior varsity.
The Golden Bears play on-campus.
“We have beautiful dugouts and a nice press box,” says Danner. “The field is in good condition. It was maintained by the previous coaching staff very, very well.
“Monroe Central truly believes in its sports program and makes sure everything is taken care of really, really nice.”
Monroe Central Athletic League has baseball teams from T-ball through 12U. Junior high baseball is conducted in June on the high school diamond.
Danner plans to be active with both feeder systems, volunteering with the MCAL (and asking his high school players to do that same) and overseeing the junior high.
Aidyn Coffey (Monroe Central Class of 2022) committed to Coastal Carolina University after the Golden Bears’ 20-win season.
Among players expected back are Blake Bogue (Class of 2023), Cole Luedike (Class of 2024) and Lane Wilson (Class of 2025).
Outside of coaching Danner, who attended Purdue University for three years, is single and works as a major account representative for a lending company.

Tyler Danner.

Shenandoah grad Painter upbeat about Raiders for 2022

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

Shenandoah High School’s 2021 baseball season did not begin with the Raiders flying out of the gate.
But once they found their stride, there was plenty of success in what was alum Ryan Painter’s first on-field campaign.
The IHSAA Class 2A program in Middletown, Ind., started out 2-8 then won 16 of 20 with a 10-game win streak, a Henry County championship and a runner-up finish in the Centerville Sectional.
While seven seniors — including six starters — from that team graduated, Painter sees bright possibilities in 2022.
“We’re very optimistic,” says Painter, a 2004 Shenandoah graduate who played four years on the varsity for head coach Jack Lewis — two at second base and then two at catcher — and later was an assistant for six years on the staff of Bruce Stanley (who was a Raiders assistant when Painter was a player) before taking over the program prior to the 2020 season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were 24 players in the program in 2021 and the Raiders played a full junior varsity schedule.
One of the newcomers for 2022 is freshman middle infielder/pitcher Collin Osenbaugh, who has already made a verbal commitment to the University of Louisville.
Shenandoah (enrollment around 420) is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del).
Wes-Del head coach Daniel Hanson was a teammate of Painter’s at Shenandoah.
MEC games are played on Tuesdays and Thursdays with each team facing the others one time.
In 2021, the Raiders were in a sectional with Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern and Union County.
As a smallish school, Shenandoah has many multi-sport athletes.
This fall has been more about field maintenance and some strength training that baseball activities during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period (two days a week, two hours at a time).
“We went very heavy in the summer,” says Painter, who regularly saw 16 to 22 players at workouts. “Once football hit our numbers went down.
“I look forward to winter contact period (Dec. 6-Feb. 5 for all sports and until the start of official practice for spring sports). We’ll be flexible with morning and evening sessions. It’s important for us to build durability and make sure kids are agile and getting their arm care. We want complete full athletes. If we can find 9 to 11 true athletes we’re usually in pretty good shape.”
The Raiders’ on-campus diamond was recently aerated and seeded.
“The other coaches and I take pride in our facility,” says Painter. “We mow year-round. In the past 10 years we’ve had some nice renovations (including a brick backstop with netting and expanded dugouts). In the spring, we plan modifications to the mound and plate areas.”
Assistant coaches include Jamey White, Rusty Conner and Kris Harter. Anderson (Ind.) Highland High School White helps with hitters and infielders, Shenandoah alum Conner is the junior varsity coach and helps with outfielders, Painter’s former SHS classmate Harter serves as a mentor and fosters relationships with players.
Painter handles pitchers and catchers, but keeps his finger on the pulse of everything else.
“I don’t want to be a control freak, but I want to know where everybody stands,” says Painter.
Feeding the high school program are a junior high team (seventh and eighth graders playing in the East Central Indiana league), Shenandoah Boys Baseball (ages 4-12) in Middletown and several travel ball organizations catering to boys in grades 4-8.
Recent Shenandoah graduates on college baseball rosters include Maxwell McKee (Ball State University) and Cy Stanley (Taylor University).
Three 2021 graduates moved on for other sports — Blake Surface (Indiana State University) and Tanner Goff (Trine University) for football and Kaden McCollough (Hanover College) and Michael Howard (Hanover College) for basketball.
Painter is employed as a senior systems analyst at Fiserv in Fishers, Ind.
Ryan and wife Stephanie have a blended family with five children — Kesley Baker (20), Hunter Baker (18), Rylan Tubbs (16), Jayden Painter (12) and Nolan Painter (10). Kelsey is a junior at Indiana University in Bloomington. Senior Hunter, sophomore Rylan, seventh grader Jayden and fifth grader Nolan are all in Shenandoah schools.

Ryan Painter.
Shenandoah High School’s 2021 Henry County baseball champions.
Jayden and Ryan Painter.
Jayden, Ryan, Nolan and Stephanie Painter.
Nolan Painter (front), Jayden Painter, Rylan Tubbs, Kelsey Baker and Hunter Baker.

Hanson emphasizing arm strength, offense for ’22 Wes-Del Warriors

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

Wes-Del went 20-8-1 and reached the semifinals of the IHSAA Class 1A Liberty Christian Sectional in Daniel Hanson’s first season as head baseball coach in 2021.
That squad had no seniors.
“We bring everybody back,” says Hanson. Among the returnees is right-handed pitcher and Indiana Wesleyan University commit Zack Todd (Class of 2022), son of former Wes-Del head coach and current assistant Bob Todd.
Besides Todd, Hanson’s Wes-Del’s staff includes Mason Whitted, Ben Krider and Ed Dennis.
With 22 players in the program last year, there was a limited junior varsity schedule.
As the Warriors prep for ’22 during the current Limited Contact Period window Hanson has two points of emphasis in twice-weekly sessions: Growing arm strength for all players and hitting.
“We had good defense and pitching, says Hanson of ’21. “Our lineup needed to be better.
“We’re breaking down swings and working in weight room (this fall). We want to hit with more power next spring.”
Hanson saw his Wes-Del players buy into his philosophy.
“We were able to win ugly at times with small ball and baserunning,” says Hanson. I believe you have to coach to what you have and figure out ways to win with what we have. That (2021) group maximized and played to its strengths really well.
“We were very focused on the details in all the phases. But baseball’s about putting balls in the gap. Being good offensively really helps.”
Wes-Del (enrollment around 290) is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc and Waphani).
In 2021, the Warriors were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Tri-Central. Wes-Del has won five sectional titles — the last in 2011.
The Warriors play on-campus on a field that received new batting cages and an inning-by-inning scoreboard last year. The bullpen mounds were also upgraded. On the radar are new dugouts and press box.
Wes-Del’s feeder system includes a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders in the East Central Indiana league plus recreation leagues in Gaston and Muncie and area travel teams.
Hanson is both at coach and an administrator at Wes-Del Middle/High School near the Delaware County town of Gaston, Ind., also holding the title of assistant principal.
“I enjoy it,” says Hanson of the two roles. “They bring different relationships with students. (As assistant principal) you’re involved with he whole school. (As coach) I love taking care of the field.
“It does present its challenges with time management. And then I’m a father and a husband as well.”
Daniel and wife of seven years, Alicia, reside in Anderson, Ind., with their two daughters – first grader Paisley (6) and pre-schooler Avery (3). Alicia Hanson runs Sweet Pea’s Child Care out of their home.
Before coming to Wes-Del, Daniel Hanson was at Daleville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School. He was head baseball coach prior to Terry Turner and also served as athletic director and head boys basketball coach during his time with the Broncos.
Hanson is a 2005 graduate of Shenandoah High School near Middletown, Ind., where he played football, basketball and baseball — the latter for Raiders head coach Jack Lewis.
“I learned a lot from Jack,” says Hanson of Lewis. “I played for him then coached with him (at Liberty Christian with each man taking turns as head coach). He had passion, which is something I try to instill in my players. He wanted to compete at a high level and had an attention to detail.”
Hanson started coaching when he was still a student at Ball State University, where he earned an Elementary Education degree and began teaching middle school math at Daleville. He later got a Masters in Administration at Indiana Wesleyan.

Daniel Hanson.
Daniel Hanson.
The Hansons (clockwise from upper left): Alicia, Daniel, Paisley and Avery.
Daniel Hanson with wife Alicia and daughters Paisley and Avery.

Earley keeps busy on diamond, court with Daleville Broncos

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

Austin Earley is going to be busy in 2021-22 as a varsity coach in two sports, a teacher, husband and father.
Earley was hired in June as head baseball coach at Daleville (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School. He was junior varsity coach for the Broncos in 2018 and 2019, would have been a varsity assistant in 2020 (a season taken away by COVID-19) and did serve in that position in 2021 on the staff of Terry Turner, who retired after that campaign.
Daleville won IHSAA Class 1A state championships on Turner’s watch in 2016 and 2018.
“Coach Turner is definitely a baseball enthusiast and he loved being part of the high school game and having relationships with the kids,” says Earley. “He related things to life. A lot of things he did we’re going to continue to do.”
Earley expects to field varsity and junior varsity teams in 2022.
“We lost eight seniors and are bringing in eight or nine freshmen,” says Earley. “It’s a balancing act with total innings.”
The winter of 2020-21 marked Earley’s first season as head girls basketball coach at Daleville. He was junior varsity boys basketball coach under Broncos head coach Tyler Stoller from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
With Bryce Drew as head coach, Earley served as head manager for the Valparaiso (Ind.) University men’s basketball team, graduating from VU in 2015.
Earley credits the experience in shaping him as a coach and person.
“It instilled the philosophy of servant leadership,” says Earley. “I try to convey that to all my kids. Even as the head coach I don’t consider myself to be above anybody.
“You never know who’s watching.”
He played one season of baseball at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. (2012), then transferred to Valpo U.
During the school day, Earley teaches physical education for Grades 7-12.
Austin and wife of seven years, Ellie, have an adopted son named Dukane (who turns 4 in October).
Austin is a 2011 graduate of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School, where he was a four-year outfielder for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Stoudt.
“Coach Stoudt — to this day — is a big mentor for me,” says Earley. “He’s one of the first persons I talked to when I got (the job as Daleville head baseball coach). He’s a lifelong friend and lifelong mentor.”
Earley appreciates the discipline and organization Stoudt brought to Arabians baseball.
“Down to the smallest detail he had a plan mapped out,” says Earley.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16 and Earley has been leading baseball players two times a week.
“We’re doing the best we can,” says Earley, who coaches at a school with an enrollment around 275. “We’ve got quite a few shared athletes and we started soccer (at Daleville) this year.”
High school and junior high players have been at fall baseball activities. Spring baseball for Grades 6-8 was started at the school in 2019.
“We’re trying to continue and build the legacy of Daleville baseball,” says Earley, who is assisted by Jake Sorenson, Curtis Wilson and Elliott Jackson.
Daleville is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del).
In 2021, the Broncos were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. Daleville has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2019.
Recent Daleville graduates to move on to college baseball include Evan Etchison (Grace College), Cayden Gothrup (Ball State University), Ryan Hale (Huntington University), Josh Price (Anderson University), Peyton Smith (Goshen College), Max Stecher (Indiana University Southeast), Jared Waltermire (Crown College in Saint Bonifacius, Minn.) and Ayden Wilson (Indiana Wesleyan University).

The Earley family — Ellie, Dukane and Austin.
The Earley family — Ellie, Dukane and Austin.

Dowler sees first Union City team win sectional title

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jason Dowler may be a “rookie” as first-year head coach of the Union City (Ind.) Community Junior-Senior High School baseball team.

But his relationship with many Union City players goes back to when they were little boys.

Freshmen Owen Dowler (Jason’s son), Zack Fulk and Corbin Richards and sophomore Jude Connor all played together on Dylan’s Dawgs — a team named in honor of Dylan Williams who was killed during an 8U all-star practice in 2013. Owen Dowler was Dylan’s rec ball teammate.

Dylan Williams would have been a sophomore in 2021.

Having coached and observed them for years, Jason Dowler knew those younger players very well.

“My job was to figure everybody else out,” says Dowler, who saw the Indians win the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional and punch their ticket to the Carroll (Flora) Regional on Saturday, June 5.

In winning the program’s third sectional title — and first since 2018 — Union City bested Tri, Seton Catholic and Blue River Valley by a combined 27-0 at Don McBride Stadium in Richmond.

Senior Hunter Reagan started on the mound and Owen Dowler finished against Tri. The Seton Catholic game began Friday and was postponed to Saturday because of rain. Sophomore Camden LaFuze started it Friday and Reagan finished it Saturday.

The postponement also meant that Seton, which beat Randolph Southern with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District H Player of the Year and Miami (Ohio) University commit Luke Leverton, was able to go back to the hard-throwing right-hander at the beginning of Saturday’s game. 

As Leverton left the mound after three innings, Union City was up 1-0. When Leverton came to the plate in a key spot late in the game, Dowler had him intentionally walked and UC went on to a 5-0 triumph and the sectional championship game on Monday, which was pitched by LaFuze. The Indians blanked Blue River Valley 6-0.

“We’ve been dominant on the mound and our defense is playing very well right now,” says Dowler. “A lot of games we lost we beat ourselves (with errors and too many walks by the pitching staff).”

The Indians were 2-7 in the nine games heading into the tournament.

Dowler says there was a team meeting that turned things around.

“We said we can beat ourselves or start playing some good Indian baseball,” says Dowler. “It’s a very simple sport. We as players and coaches overthink it.

“We can make it difficult or we can make it easy on ourselves. We’ve tried to work smarter and not harder.”

Union City has operated by a motto: “Just compete, man.”

“If we lose, we lose,” says Dowler. “But we’re not going to beat ourselves.

“Go out there and compete and have fun.”

Dowler insists that his pitchers throw strikes and let their defense have the opportunity to get outs. 

Above all, he wants them to be bold.

“You are going to make errors and you are going to strike out,” says Dowler. “Baseball is a mindset. You have to be confident.”

There are 10 active players on the youthful Union City team. The starting lineup features freshmen Owen Dowler (first base), Fulk (second base) and Richards (catcher) and sophomores Connor (third base) and LaFuze (pitcher).

“It’s challenging mentally for these kids to walk up to a baseball field and other team is sporting 17 to 19 kids and we walk up with just enough to play,” says Dowler. “But we have a different mindset. We don’t let that effect us. It’s not your dream, but you deal with what you’ve got.”

Union City (10-13) takes on Cowan (13-13) at 10 a.m. Saturday. A win sends them into the 8 p.m. championship game against the winner of Riverton Parke (21-9) vs. Clinton Central (16-11). 

A wrinkle for the Indians is that graduation is at 3 p.m., so they would make the 2 1/2-hour trip each way from Flora to Union City and back — something that happened in 2018.

Union City (located on the Indiana-Ohio line with an enrollment around 240) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union County and Winchester).

With the latest trophy-taking, Union City has won three sectional titles. The previous championships came in 2012 and 2018.

Home games are played on the Union City campus. This year the team sold soap to raise funds to upgrade the facility.

Dowler says he wants to get the local Pony League thriving again.

“To be successful you have to have a feeder program,” says Dowler.

His assistant coaches at the high school are Rick Lacy, Kevin Lehman and Jacob Fulk. Lacy has been around Union City for about four decades in various capacities. Lehman keeps the scorebook for the Indians and was on South Adams’ state runner-up team in 1972. Fulk, the older brother of Zack, was on the 2018 sectional championship team and played one season and the University of Northwestern Ohio. He is Dowler’s pitching coach.

Dowler played soccer at Union City and graduated in 1998. He owns his own heating and cooling business in town — Comfort Systems.

Jason and wife Amy Dowler have two children — Kahlee and Owen. Jason coached daughter Kahlee in softball and transitioned to baseball with son Owen. Kahlee Dowler, who will be a senior at Ball State University in the fall, was a three-sport athlete at Union City — cross country, basketball and softball. She was a junior on the Class 1A state runner-up girls basketball squad in 2017.

Union City won the 2021 IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional baseball title. At far right in the back row is first-year coach Jason Dowler.
Head coach Jason Dowler (far right in back row) and his Union City (Ind.) Indians. The team is 10-13 as it heads to the June 5 IHSAA Class 1A Carroll (Flora) Regional.
The Union City (Ind.) Indians gather around the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional baseball trophy they earned in 2021.

Marker looking to make mark with Seton Catholic Cardinals

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dave Marker made a mark on the record books as a college pitcher.

Decades later, he is looking to have an impact as first-year head baseball coach at tiny Seton Catholic School in Richmond, Ind.

The Cardinals are in the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional at Don McBride Stadium this week. Among the 14 on Seton Catholic’s roster is senior right-handed pitcher/second baseman/third baseman and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District H Player of the Year Luke Leverton (a Miami of Ohio commit). 

“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.

The Cardinals are a member of the Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference (with Anderson Prep, Bethesda Christian, Central Christian Academy, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Shortridge, International, Liberty Christian, Muncie Burris, Park Tudor and University). Each baseball-playing league team sees each other one time.

The Seton Catholic Sectional also includes Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Randolph Southern, Tri and Union City. The Cardinals have won three sectional titles — the last in 2014.

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.

Marker walked on at Anderson (Ind.) College (now Anderson University). 

From 1984-88, Marker went and went 27-10 in 63 mound appearances for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Brandon.

“He never recruited me,” says Marker. “But he redshirted me and taught me how to pitch.”

Marker also spent two summers with the Front Royal (Va.) Cardinals in the Valley League learning from Gary Gilmore, who went on to coach Coastal Carolina University to the College World Series title in 2016.

“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.

Dave Marker

Clark looking to build interest in the game at Union (Modoc)

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball has been an on-and-off activity at Union Junior & Senior High School Modoc, Ind.

After a few years off the diamond, the Rockets played a varsity schedule in 2015 with Brian Clark as coach and endured many “mercy rule” losses.

“We were not able to build some confidence,” says Clark. “We’d have three quick outs then be in the field for the next 30 minutes.”

Clark left the school for a few years and there was no team. When he came back, Union fielded a squad in 2019 and competed against a few varsity opponents and was planning on playing in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the season for all Indiana schools.

The aim in 2021 is for the Rockets to play a junior varsity schedule while building up interest in the sport at elementary and junior high ages to get those boys playing in youth leagues in Monroe City and Farmland. 

“A couple of guys from two years ago are still here,” says Clark. “We’ll be focusing on the fundamentals to make sure they can catch, throw and hit before we move on to anything else.

“It would be good to get something going (at younger levels).”

Union, located in Randolph County, is not expected to compete in the Mid-Eastern Conference (which also includes Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Wapahani and Wes-Del) pennant chase or in an IHSAA sectional this spring.

So far, Clark has had 13 sign up and he hopes to get some more. The first official IHSAA practice is March 15 and the first contest date is allowed March 29. Union’s first game is April 14.

“That’ll give us a decent amount of time to build up arms,” says Clark. “If they can throw the ball somewhat over the plate and not balk, I’ll put them on the mound.”

Pitch count rules (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) also come into play. 

With a lack of depth and the fact that some ballplayers will also be on the track or golf teams, the Rockets will not have a full baseball slate.

“We had to schedule a few less games than what we’d like,” says Clark. “We’ll have them specify what their main sport would be (in the case of conflicting dates).”

Among opponents Union has scheduled are Connersville, Daleville, Hagerstown, Union County and Purdue Polytechnic of Indianapolis.

Union plays its home game on-campus. With no games and no funds allotted to materials for field upkeep in 2020, Clark and company will be working to get the diamond ready.

Clark, who counts Kenny Ellis as his baseball assistant, wears many hats at Union, which has about 85 students in the top four grades. He teaches Food and Consumer Sciences and Physical Education for high schoolers and is also assistant athletic director, assistant volleyball coach, assistant boys basketball coach and junior class sponsor.

A 2011 graduate of New Palestine (Ind.) High School, Clark played four years of tennis, three years of baseball and two years of basketball for the Dragons.

Al Cooper was the baseball coach.

Clark recalls Cooper’s willingness to work and to push his players.

“There was always stuff in the fall and winter,” says Clark. “There was nothing that could come up in a game that we hadn’t practiced already.”

Clark and Lyndsea Burke have been in a relationship for seven years.

Brian Clark is the head baseball coach at Union Junior & Senior High School in Modoc, Ind.

Numbers up for Behlmer, Oldenburg Academy Twisters

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The Twisters of Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy enjoyed the highest number of participants and victories in a number of years in 2019.

The IHSAA Class 1A member in Franklin County near Batesville had 24 players in the program and followed up two straight five-win seasons by going 16-8-1.

The Twisters fell to Rising Sun in the championship game of the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional. The win total is two shy of single-season school record.

“We’re on the uptick with enrollment and with kids being interested (in baseball),” says Doug Behlmer, who just finished his 19th season as OA head coach (the private school went coed 19 years ago). “Hopefully, it keeps going.”

Drawing from area parter Catholic elementary and middle schools (St. Louis in Batesville, St. Nicholas in Sunman, St. Mary’s in Greensburg, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Aurora, St. Lawrence in Lawrenceburg, St. Michael in Brookville and St. John the Baptist in Harrison) and public schools in Indiana and Ohio, Oldenburg Academy (enrollment around 225) is an independent in baseball.

The Twisters’ schedule includes 1A’s Blue River Valley, Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Jac-Cen-Del, North Decatur, Rising Sun, Seton Catholic, Shawe Memorial, South Decatur, Trinity Lutheran and Waldron, 2A’s Centerville, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover), Switzerland County and Triton Central 2A, 3A’s Lawrenceburg and Rushville.

Besides Rising Sun and Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy is in sectional grouping with Hauser, North Decatur and South Decatur. The Twisters have won  four sectional titles (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010).

The Twisters play home games at Liberty Park in Batesville — the same facility used by Batesville High School.

With more than a dozen incoming freshmen indicating a desire to play baseball in 2020, Behlmer says the program could have an all-time high of more than 30 players and could even have to make cuts for the first time.

When the program began, there was just 13 freshmen and the Twisters played a junior varsity schedule. That moved toward a full varsity schedule in the next few years.

The 2019 team was led on the mound by sophomore right-handers Chris Hautman, Andrew Oesterling and Riley Schebler and in the batter’s box by Oesterling, Hautman, Schebler, sophomores Race Carle and Patrick Thompson and juniors Matt Sedler, Adam Huber and Michael Hoff.

Senior Hunter Sullivan has committed to play baseball for Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Behlmer’s coaching staff included former OA players Spencer Gommel, Patrick Kolks and Matt Bohman and pitching coach Jeff Ahaus (a Lawrenceburg eye doctor who had two sons play for the Twisters). Bohman is in charge of the junior varsity team.

Points of emphasis include dependability and hard work.

“If you say you’re going do something, make sure you do it,” says Behlmer. “Family, faith and academics all come in front of baseball.”

A 1988 graduate of Greensburg (Ind.) High School, Behlmer played for head coach Roger Cash.

“Coach Cash was an old school guy,” says Behlmer. “He believed in fundamentals and making the routine play. I’ve carried that over to our guys. Nothing too flashy. Be solid. Throw strikes. That sort of thing.”

Doug and Judy Behlmer have been married 21 years and have no children. He is employed by Hill-Rom in Batesville.

OLDENBURGACADEMYTWISTERS

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Martin leads Riverton Parke to first sectional title in a decade

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Led by a fixture in Parke County, Ind., sports, the Panthers of Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School celebrated their first sectional baseball title in a decade and are preparing for regional.

Charlie Martin, who has been at Riverton Parke for 24 years with two stints as head baseball coach (1996-2005 and 2016-present), steered the pitching-rich Panthers to the IHSAA Class 1A Parke Heritage Sectional championship.

No. 10-ranked Riverton Parke (19-10) topped North Vermillion and Covington to hoist the trophy and earn a spot opposite No. 2 Rossville in the semifinals of the Carroll (Flora) Regional at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 1. The second semifinal features Blue River Valley vs. Daleville (the Broncos were 1A state champions in 2016 and 2018) with the championship at 7:30 p.m.

“Our biggest strength is pitching,” says Martin, who saw junior right-hander Garrett Lawson toss a complete game against North Vermillion and junior left-hander Logan Harrison hurl six innings and Lawson close out Covington.

“They’ve been varsity starters since they were freshmen,” says Martin of Lawson and Harrison. “Both have shown flashes of brilliance. This year, they’ve put it all together.

“They are workhorses on the mound.”

Lawson is 6-2 in 10 starts with four complete games and 79 strikeouts in 64 innings. Harrison is 7-1 in 10 starts with three complete games and 80 K’s and 54 innings.

Righty swinger Lawson is hitting .402 with 33 hits, 11 doubles, five home runs, 20 runs scored and 31 runs batted in. Sophomore catcher Pierson Barnes also swings the bat from the right side. He is hitting .430 with 40 hits, nine doubles, one triple, five homers, 21 runs scored and 29 driven in.

Martin is assisted by Chad Lawson, Ben Porter, B.J. Barnes and Travis Sutton. This spring, numbers were up with large freshmen and junior classes and there were 26 players for varsity and junior varsity squads.

Little Leaguers from Montezuma, Rosedale and Clinton feed into Riverton Parke.

Riverton Parke (enrollment around 310) is a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Attica, Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Parke Heritage, Seeger and South Vermillion).

The WRC plays a double round robin with home-and-home weekday series and Saturday doubleheaders. Covington and South Vermillion tied for first place at 11-3. Riverton Parke and Seeger tied for third at 9-5.

Located near Montezuma, Ind. The Riverton Parke Panthers play on a little land-locked on-campus diamond. It’s less than 300 feet down the foul lines and short of 350 feet to center field.

“It makes for some nerve-racking coaching,” says Martin of the cozy confines. “One walk and one swing and a two-run lead is gone in a hurry.”

Martin notes that many of the top run and home run seasons during the pre-BBCOR bat days were set by Riverton Parke teams.

“Home runs not quite as plentiful since we switched the bats,” says Martin.

To click off the runs that are tallied, a manual wooden scoreboard stands in right field.

Martin, who has been athletic director at Riverton Parke for 14 years and has served as the school’s head boys basketball coach as recently as 2014-15, was in the last graduating class of Montezuma High School in 1986. Montezuma consolidated with Rosedale to form Riverton Parke. Martin’s baseball coaches were Bob Kyle (currently head coach at Parke Heritage) and Scott Weis.

“I definitely learned a lot of baseball strategy from Coach Kyle as well as the competitive side of the game,” says Martin. “There’s never been a better competitor than Coach Kyle.”

Charlie and Angel Martin have been married for 26 years. They have two children — Jake (25) and Maggie (22).

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An aerial view of the baseball field at Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School near Montezuma, Ind.

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The manual baseball scoreboard at Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School near Montezuma, Ind.

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Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School baseball coaches celebrate a 2019 sectional championship (from left): assistants B.J. Barnes and Chad Lawson, head coach Charlie Martin and assistants Travis Sutton and Ben Porter.

Todd entering second season in charge of Wes-Del Warriors baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Defense is a priority for head coach Bob Todd and his Wes-Del Middle/High School baseball team.

Entering his second season in 2019, Todd is emphasizing defensive communication and execution at the school in Gaston, Ind., northwest of Muncie.

“If you’re defense is bad, it’s hard to win even if you do hit,” says Todd. “We try to limit the free 90’s and win that battle every game.

“That gives us a chance to at least be in the game.”

During this IHSAA limited contact period, Todd’s Warriors have been in the small middle school gym on Wednesday or Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.

“We usually have stations for defensive reps or conditioning for an hour then do hitting and flat-mound bullpens for an hour,” says Todd. “We keep them working. Everybody is doing something. We don’t want anybody standing around. We’re getting a lot of things accomplished and getting better at all times.”

Todd counts himself as a proponent of the arm care program discussed by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

In the future, Wes-Del baseball may benefit from a new auxiliary gym in the works at the Delaware County school.

Wes-Del (enrollment around 280) is in the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union-Modoc and Wapahani).

MEC teams play each other once at various times during the spring to determine a conference champion.

Todd says it has been announced that beginning in 2021 conference games will be played every Tuesday and Thursday with schedules being laid out around those days.

Non-conference opponents include Alexandria-Monroe, Anderson Preparatory Academy, Blackford, Delta, Eastbrook, Elwood, Frankton, Liberty Christian, Madison-Grant, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic, Southern Wells, Union City and Yorktown. The Delaware County tournament is slated for May 7 and May 11.

The home field is located behind the school on North Yorktown-Gaston Pike (North 600 West).

The Warriors are in an IHSAA Class 1A grouping with Anderson Prep, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Tri-Central. Wes-Del last won a sectional title in 2011.

Todd is assisted by Ken Zvokel (varsity) and Zach Tanner (JV) with occasional help from other volunteers. Mary Helen Bink has been a scorekeeper for Wes-Del for more than three decades.

A year ago, Wes-Del had 20 players in the program. Nine of those have graduated and two others are not expected back. Based on call-out meetings, Todd says he may have as many as 24 this spring.

The first official day of practice is March 11. Spring break for Wes-Del Community Schools is March 22-29. The baseball team is slated for open its season April 2 and have six games scheduled in the first eight days.

“Players have 10 practice to get before spring break,” says Todd, referring to the IHSAA rule for participation. “It’s imperative that they come to all practices.”

Wes-Del Youth Athletic Association provides baseball and softball for T-ball through age 12.

To provide baseball opportunities for middle schoolers, a team has been organized for Wes-Del boys that plays in the spring and summer.

Others Wes-Del athletes participate in the summer in the East Central Indiana League and in travel baseball.

Bob and Felicia Todd have two children — McKenzie (20) and Zack (15). Zack Todd is a freshman baseball player at Wes-Del and plays with the Indiana Nitro during the travel ball season.

Bob Todd is a 1996 graduate of Muncie South Side High School, where he played freshmen baseball when Larry Lewis was head coach.

Before taking the job at Wes-Del, Todd had coached in area travel ball organizations, including the Indiana Mojo.

Todd is employed as a general manager for American Pest Professionals, which has offices in Muncie and Marion.

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FELICIAZACKBOBMCKENZIETODDThe Todd family (from left): Felicia, Zack, Bob and McKenzie. Bob Todd is head baseball coach at Wes-Del High Sch