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Purdue grad Isom embraces independent pro baseball manager role, wins title with Joliet Slammers

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jeff Isom got to do something for the first time in nearly two decades as a professional baseball manager in 2018.

Isom got to hoist the championship trophy as the decision maker for the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers — his first title as a pro skipper.

“It only took me 18 years, but I finally got one,” says Isom, a 1990 Lafayette Jefferson High School and 1998 Purdue University graduate who still resides in West Lafayette, Ind. “A lot of teams made the finals and just came up short for one reason or another. Our pitching staff (at Joliet) was outstanding and did not lose guys to major league clubs like some teams did.”

Without Major League Baseball feeding them players, Isom and other independent ball managers go out and found their own players. The Slammers championship squad featured 14 that came from tryout camps.

“I love getting guys that have been overlooked by the draft for one reason or another,” says Isom of his attraction to independent baseball. “Scouting is not an exact science. We work with them and try to continue to make them better players.

“In independent baseball, most teams rely on the manager. I like it that way. I have the ultimate say in who is going to be on our club.

“I value those tryouts. I know the players are hungry if they’re going to a tryout camp.”

The Frontier League is considered a developmental circuit and the maximum age is 27. A couple of top pitchers from 2018 — Nate Antone and Liam O’Sullivan — will age out and Isom intends to help them make connections so they can keep playing either at the independent or affiliated level.

“Indy ball has been a great time for me,” says Isom, a three-time Frontier League Manager of the Year (2002, 2016 and 2018) who turned 46 on Sept. 22. “I loved every minute of it when I was a player and I’ve loved every minute of it as a manager.

“I’ve been fortunate to make a career out of this.”

Isom doesn’t see it as a job. He sees it as an opportunity to pass along what he knows about the game. He soaked up information from the folks in affiliated baseball and he has done the same thing in independent ball.

Besides his current job with the Slammers, Isom’s managing stops have taken him to the Canton (Ohio) Crocodiles, Washington (Pa.) Wild Things, Joliet JackHammers, Traverse City (Mich.) Beach Bums and Lake Erie (Ohio) Crushers.

In six seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers system, he managed the West Virginia Power, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Brevard County (Fla.) Manatees and Helena (Mont.) Brewers.

As a left-handed pitcher, Isom played for Tony Primavera at Lafayette Jeff then three seasons at Purdue (1991-93) — one for head coach Dave Alexander and two from Steve Green. Isom went 16-4 with five saves and a 3.72 earned run average over his last two Boiler seasons. In 149 1 /3 innings, he struck out 119 and walked 55.

Isom was born in Pullman, Wash., and wound up in West Lafayette when his father was hired at Purdue (Gary Isom is Professor Emeritus of Toxicology in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology).

The southpaw was an all-Big Ten Conference honoree in 1993 along with teammate and future major league Jermaine Allensworth. The Boilermakers were the only college to recruit Isom.

“As a player, (Alexander) instilled discipline in me,” says Isom of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “He taught time management skills and how to hold yourself accountable.

“I had to grow up quick.”

Green imparted wisdom and inspiration.

“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without Coach Green,” says Isom. “He’s probably the most influential person I’ve had in my baseball career.”

At age 14, Isom played for a Green-managed Pony League team.

“He taught me how to throw a split-finger fastball (forkball) and my career took off from there,” says Isom. “As a pitching coach/head coach, (Green) instilled a lot of confidence in me. He wanted me to have the baseball in my hand.

“I got drafted because of what he taught me.”

Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 18th round of the 1993 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Isom pitched three seasons in the Pirates and San Diego Padres organizations and then four more in indy ball.

While playing in indy ball, he met two managers — Doug Simunic and Andy McCauley — that helped him on what would lead to a career as a manager.

Isom played for Simunic with the independent Northern League’s Fargo-Moorhead (N.D.) RedHawks and was allowed to pick the skipper’s brain.

“I was just trying to learn and he took me under his wing,” says Isom of Simunic, who went on to become the first independent baseball manager to reach 1,000 wins. “I took best from all the managers I had.

“I’m learning everyday.”

MacCauley coached in Fargo-Moorhead and met up with Isom again with the Frontier League’s Kalamazoo (Mich.) Kodiaks.

Isom was released eight times during his pro playing career. After three starts and three losses for Kalamazoo, he cut himself from the team and headed home only to be called back by MacCauley to be pitching coach. The two men have bounced baseball ideas off each other ever since.

MacCauley has been the manager of the Frontier League’s Evansville (Ind.) Otters since 2010.

Isom’s best friend in baseball, MacCauley was in his wedding (Jeff and former Purdue volleyball player/current Klondike Middle School physical education/health teacher Lisa Isom have two children at Harrison High School in West Lafayette — senior volleyballer Samantha and freshman baseballer Will) and trades between Joliet and Evansville are common.

When school is out, Will travels with the Slammers and sees the effort that goes into being a pro player.

“In independent baseball, you’ve got to put up numbers or there’s going to be changes,” says Isom. “Hard work will pay off.”

When he’s not away managing professionals, Isom can be found back in West Lafayette spending time with his family and teaching private lessons at On Deck Baseball, a business owned by former pro player Josh Loggins.

“I want to see kids get quality coaching,” says Isom, who coached two seasons at Lafayette Central Catholic High School in the 1990s.

JEFFISOM

Jeff Isom, a graduate of Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., managed the Joliet (Ill.) Slammers to the championship of the independent Frontier League in 2018. (Joliet Slammers Photo)

 

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IU, Purdue bow out in D-I regionals; Indiana’s 36 other college baseball teams wrap up 2018 season

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The state’s two Big Ten schools — Indiana University and Purdue University — both saw the 2018 college baseball season come to a close at the NCAA Regional level.

Minnesota and Ohio State were the other two conference schools to get an NCAA bid.

The Chris Lemonis-coached Hoosiers (40-19) went 2-2 at the Austin (Texas) Regional.

Coach Mark Wasikowski’s Boilermakers (38-21) went 1-2 at the Chapel Hill Regional.

Once again, Tracy Archuleta took the University of Southern Indiana (36-23) in the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. A national champion in 2010 and 2014, the Screaming Eagles went 0-2 in Cary, N.C., this time.

At the NCAA D-III level, Lance Marshall’s Franklin College team (39-5) and Jake Martin’s Wabash College (32-17) squad both advanced to regional tournaments before bowing out.

Five coaches — Kip McWilliams of Indiana Tech (44-21), Rich Benjamin of Indiana Wesleyan University (37-20), Ben Reel of Indiana University Southeast (41-14), Todd Bacon of Marian University (24-27) and Kyle Gould Taylor University (44-16) — took their teams to the NAIA Opening Round before they were eliminated from postseason play.

Gary Vaught retired after 24 seasons as head coach at the University of Indianapolis.

Indiana University Kokomo (coached by Matt Howard) and Ivy Tech Community College (coached by Lance Hershberger) had their first seasons.

Here is a 2018 wrap-up for all 38 college baseball programs in Indiana:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

2018

NCAA Division I

Ball State Cardinals (32-26, 17-10 Mid-American Conference): Head coach Rich Maloney (13th overall season).

BSU went 1-2 in the MAC tournament at Avon, Ohio.

Drey Jameson was named MAC Pitcher of the Year and an all-MAC first-teamer as well as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Pitcher John Baker, shortstop Noah Powell and outfielder Jeff Riedel made the all-MAC second team.

Right-hander Evan Marquardt (Reds) was selected in 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Butler Bulldogs (34-20, 9-8 Big East Conference): Head coach Dave Schrage (second season).

The Dogs went 1-2 at the Big East tournament in Mason, Ohio.

Pitcher Ryan Pepiot, shortstop Michael Hartnagel and outfielder Gehrig Parker were chosen to the all-Big East first team with outfielder Tyler Houston and infielder/pitcher Garrett Christman on the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Evansville Purple Aces (12-39, 3-18 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Wes Carroll (eighth season).

UE went 0-2 at the MVC tournament in Dallas.

Outfielder Troy Beilsmith was chosen for the all-MVC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Fort Wayne Mastodons (11-37, 7-23 Summit League): Head coach Bobby Pierce (10th season).

Utility player Shannon Baker and first baseman Travis Upp were named to the all-Summit second team.

This summer, the school changes its name to Purdue Fort Wayne and the colors go from blue and white to black and gold.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Hoosiers (40-19, 14-9 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Chris Lemonis (fourth season).

IU went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Neb.

Outfielder Matt Gorski, starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever and utility player Matt Lloyd were named to the all-Big Ten first team. Starting pitcher Pauly Milto and designated hitter Scotty Bradley made the second team, outfielder Logan Sowers the third team and second baseman Drew Ashley the all-freshman team.

Stiever (White Sox), Sowers (White Sox), Tim Herrin (Indians) and Luke Miller (Phillies) were selected MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana State Sycamores (31-24, 11-10 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Mitch Hannahs (fifth season).

ISU went 2-2 in the MVC tournament.

Third baseman Jake Means was named to the all-MVC first team, first baseman Dane Giesler, starting pitcher Tyler Ward the second team and Means and second baseman Jarrod Watkins the all-defensive team.

Right-hander Ethan Larrison (Diamondbacks) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-30, 12-18 Atlantic Coast Conference): Head coach Mik Aoki (eighth season).

ND went 0-2 at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C.

Second baseman Nick Podkul and third baseman Matt Vierling was named to the all-ACC second team and outfielder Eric Gilgenbach the third team.

Podkul (Blue Jays), Vierling (Phillies) and shortstop Cole Daily (Nationals) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Boilermakers (38-21, 17-6 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Mark Wasikowski (second season).

The Boilers enjoyed 13-game win streak toward the end of the regular season and went 3-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Minnesota in the championship game.

Catcher Nick Dalesandro, first baseman Jacson McGowan, starting pitcher Tanner Andrews and relief pitcher Ross Learnard landed on the all-Big Ten third team and outfielder Ben Nisle and starting pitcher Trent Johnson on the all-freshman team.

Dalesandro (Diamondbacks), McGowan (Rays) and Andrews (Marlins) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Valparaiso Crusaders (19-34, 6-15 Horizon League): Head coach Brian Schmack (fifth season).

Valpo lost in an elimination game at the MVC tournament.

Outfielder Blake Billinger was chosen for the all-MVC first team while outfielder Giovanni Garbella and starting pitcher Jon Tieman earned honorable mention and Jayden Eggimann a spot on the all-defensive team.

Catcher Scott Kapers (Rangers) was selected in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis Greyhounds (31-23, 10-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Gary Vaught (24th season).

The Hounds went 3-2 at the GLVC tournament in Ozark, Mo., losing to Quincy in the championship game.

Designated hitter Dylan Jones, first baseman Storm Joop, outfielder Kyle Orloff and third baseman Hunter Waning were picked for the all-GLVC second team.

UIndy achieved their 16th 30-win season for Vaught, who retired after 24 seasons of leading the program. Assistant Al Ready was named as his replacement.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Oakland City Oaks (13-28): Head coach T-Ray Fletcher (24th season).

OCU played 25 games played in Indiana, including 17 at home.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles (36-23, 15-9 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Tracy Archuleta (12th season).

After winning the Midwest Regional at Springfield, Ill., USI dropped D-II Championship games to Florida Southern and Southern New Hampshire.

Outfielder Drake McNamara was named Player of the Year and Bryce Krizan Freshman of the Year by the GLVC.

Catcher Logan Brown and utility player Nick Gobert also made the first team while second baseman Jacob Fleming and outfielder Buddy Johnson were named to the second team.

McNamara was also honored as Region Player of the Year by several sources and as All-American by ABCA, D2CCA and NWBCA.

Brown (Braves) was taken in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NCAA Division III

Anderson Ravens (25-20, 11-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Matt Bair (first season).

AU finished 3-2 in the HCAC tournament, bowing to Franklin in the championship game.

John Becker was honored as HCAC Pitcher of the Year. Besides Becker, shortstop Nick Butcher first team and second baseman Nick Jones made the all-HCAC first team, third baseman Jonathan Willoughby second team and outfielder/infielder Tommy Parker honorable mention. Becker and Butcher were chosen all-region by different groups.

See IndianaRBI Story HERE.

DePauw Tigers (11-26, 9-9 North Coast Athletic Conference): Head coach Blake Allen (second season).

Outfielder Charlie Patrick was chosen as NCAC Newcomer of the Year and all-NCAC second team. Pitcher Grant Rademacher also was chosen for the second team while honorable mention went to third baseman Noah Salasky and outfielder Collin Einertson.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Earlham Quakers (23-14, 7-10 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Steve Sakosits (eighth season).

Catcher/utility player Danny Dopp, outfielder/utility player Addison Robertson and pitcher Walter Talcott made the all-HCC second team and infielder Dre Davis received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Franklin Grizzlies (39-5, 17-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Lance Marshall (21st season).

The Griz beat Anderson in the HCAC tournament championship game then went 1-2 in the D-III Central Regional in Sauget, Ill.

Outfielder Ryan Bixler was named MVP and Marshall Coach of the Year by the HCAC. Other all-conference players were pitcher Christian Sullivan, catcher Alex Mis, first baseman Drew Naumovich, shortstop Sam Claycamp, third baseman Frank Podkul, outfielders Ryan Erlandson and Jarrod Smith, designated hitter Nick Wright on the first team, second baseman Brandt Pawley on the second team and pitcher Mitchell Caster receiving honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Hanover Panthers (8-25, 5-12 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Shayne Stock (sixth season).

Pitcher Garrett Zorb was named to the all-HCC first team, infielder Josh Meszaros to the second team and infielder Jack Shine honorable mention.

Manchester Spartans (20-22, 9-8 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Rick Espeset (20th season).

Outfielder Tyler LaFollette was picked for the all-HCC first team, pitcher Taylor Kopplin and outfielder Eric Knepper the second team and outfield/infielder Braxton Riley received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers (20-23, 10-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Jeff Jenkins (29th season).

Rose came in third place in the HCAC tournament.

Luke Buehler, an all-region second-team selection, was named all-HCAC first team, outfielder David Burnside second team and catcher/DH Conner Helbling honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Trine Thunder (19-21, 13-15 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association): Head coach Greg Perschke (17th season).

Catcher Kevin O’Malley was chosen for the all-MIAA first team and infielder Jacob Heller the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Wabash Little Giants (32-17, 10-8 North Shore Athletic Conference): Head coach Jake Martin (second season).

After winning the NCAC tournament, Wabash lost the Mideast Regional championship game to Wooster.

Pitcher Bryan Roberts made the all-NCAC first team, catcher Bryce Aldridge, second baseman Sean Roginski the second team and first baseman Jackson Blevins, shortstop Eric Chavez, outfielder Jared Wolfe and pitcher Zach Moffett the honorable mention list.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NAIA

Bethel Pilots (17-28, 8-19 Crossroads League): Head coach Seth Zartman (15th season).

The Dick Patterson Field at Jerry Jenkins Stadium inhabitants placed infielder/outfielder Luke Adams and outfielders Collin Affolder and Jesse Zepeda on the all-Crossroads honorable mention team and Zepeda and pitcher Josh King on the Gold Glove squad.

Calumet College of Saint Joseph Crimson Wave (13-41, 7-23 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Scott Nowakowski.

Goshen Maple Leafs (22-29, 12-15 Crossroads League): Head coach Alex Childers (sixth season).

A number of career and season record fell for the Leafs — Ryan Hartig (most games in a GC career with 210), Brad Stoltzfus (most career runs with 113 and tied for most career runs with 133), Ben Longacre (single-season highs of 49 runs and 22 doubles) and Colby Malson (10 saves).

Outfielders Hartig and Longacre and infielder/pitcher Malson were accorded honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team while infielder Stoltzfus was chosen for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Grace Lancers (9-33, 9-18 Crossroads League): Head coach Cam Screeton (second season).

After starting the season 0-17, Grace won four of its last six.

Pitcher David Anderson, infielder Austin Baker and third baseman Houston Haney received honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team.

Huntington Foresters (23-24, 16-10 Crossroads League): Head coach Mike Frame (34th season).

Outfielder Donovan Clark, second baseman Jamar Weaver and pitcher Connor West earned all-conference honorable mention Weaver was also selected for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana Tech Warriors (44-21, 24-4 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference): Head coach Kip McWilliams (11th season).

Tech lost the WHAC championship series to Madonna then went 2-2 in the Opening Round in Montgomery, Ala., losing to top-ranked Faulkner in the championship game.

First baseman Glen McClain was named Player of the Year and McWilliams Coach of the Year by the WHAC. Besides McClain, catcher Tighe Koehring made the first team while third baseman Matt Bandor and pitcher Jason Sterrett were selected for the second team.

McClain and Koehring were also chosen as NAIA second-team All-Americans.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (37-20, 20-6 Crossroads League): Head coach Rich Benjamin (third season).

IWU, the CL regular-season champions, went 0-2 in the Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga.

Outfielder Steven Busby, utility player Caleb Eder, pitcher Kyle Hall, catcher Brady West middle fielder Jordan Wharton and pitcher Jon Young made the all-conference first team, Wharton the Gold Glove team and pitchers Zee Breytenbach, David Corbin and Tim Olvaney honorable mention.

Benjamin was named CL Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Kokomo Cougars (31-21-1, 16-11 River States Conference): Head coach Matt Howard (first season).

In the first year of the program, IUK’s season concluded with a loss in the RSC tournament semifinals.

Renton Poole was named RSC Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Noah Etchison, outfielder Jared Heard and designated hitter Dalton Clarke made the second team and third baseman Caleb Matthews the Gold Glove team.

Honorable-mention NAIA All-American Poole (Rangers) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana University South Bend Titans (13-39, 8-22 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Doug Buysse (first season).

First baseman Tanner Wesp made the all-CCAC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Southeast Grenadiers (41-14, 23-4 River States Conference): Head coach Ben Reel (10th season).

IUS lost to Point Park in the RSC tournament championship game went 1-2 in the NAIA Opening Round in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Starting pitchers Brandon Nylin and Ryne Underwood, shortstop Richard Rodriguez, outfielder Nicholas Lugo and utility player Josh Beams were picked for the all-RSC first team, pitcher Andrew Yates the second team and Lugo, pitcher John Cecil and second baseman Reyni Olivero the Gold Glove team. Reel was named RSC Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Marian Knights (24-27, 14-12 Crossroads League): Head coach Todd Bacon (fifth season).

MU beat Huntington for the Crossroads League tournament title then went 0-2 in the NAIA Opening Round at Williamsburg, Ky.

Cody Earl was named CL Player of the Year and honorable-mention NAIA All-American. Infielder Maverick Bacon was also an all-Crossroads first-teamer while infielder Leo Lopez, pitcher/outfielder Zack St. Pierre and pitcher/infielder Reese Willis garnered honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Northwest Pride (18-25, 8-19 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Dave Griffin (second season).

Kyle Freel was selected GLIAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year while catcher Hunter Thorn and pitcher Chad Patrick earned all-conference honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Saint Francis Cougars (16-38, 9-17 Crossroads League): Head coach Greg Roberts (14th season).

Pitcher Noah Freimuth and infielders Tyler Prince and Keaton Sullivan earned all-Crossroads honorable mention.

Taylor Trojans (44-16, 20-7 Crossroads League): Head coach Kyle Gould (14th season).

An Opening Round host, Taylor went 1-2 in the event at Winterholter Field.

Pitcher Matt Patton was named CL Pitcher of the Year and an second-team NAIA All-American.

Besides Patton, all-Crossroads first-teamer were pitcher/first baseman Andrew Kennedy, infielder Josh Lane, infielder Nathan Targgart, pitcher Mitch Ubelhor, catcher/outfielder Tanner Watson and outfielder Wyatt Whitman with Watson, Whitman and pitcher/infielder Brett Lawson on the Gold Glove team and utility player Jared Adkins, pitcher Clay Riggins and outfielder Sam Wiese getting honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers (3-28, 2-22 Michigan Community College Athletic Association): Head coach Joe Yonto.

Ivy Tech Northeast Titans (25-18): Head coach Lance Hershberger (first season).

In the first year of the program, Ivy Tech finished the season with just 14 on the roster.

Catcher Tyler Rickert made the NJCAA Region 12 Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE, HERE & HERE.

Vincennes Trailblazers (19-27): Head coach Chris Barney (10th season).

After a 1-8 start, VU won three of its last five.

BASEBALLONDIRT

IU, Purdue bow out in D-I regionals; Indiana’s 36 other college baseball teams wrap up 2018 season

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The state’s two Big Ten schools — Indiana University and Purdue University — both saw the 2018 college baseball season come to a close at the NCAA Regional level.

Minnesota and Ohio State were the other two conference schools to get an NCAA bid.

The Chris Lemonis-coached Hoosiers (40-19) went 2-2 at the Austin (Texas) Regional.

Coach Mark Wasikowski’s Boilermakers (38-21) went 1-2 at the Chapel Hill Regional.

Once again, Tracy Archuleta took the University of Southern Indiana (36-23) in the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. A national champion in 2010 and 2014, the Screaming Eagles went 0-2 in Cary, N.C., this time.

At the NCAA D-III level, Lance Marshall’s Franklin College team (39-5) and Jake Martin’s Wabash College (32-17) squad both advanced to regional tournaments before bowing out.

Five coaches — Kip McWilliams of Indiana Tech (44-21), Rich Benjamin of Indiana Wesleyan University (37-20), Ben Reel of Indiana University Southeast (41-14), Todd Bacon of Marian University (24-27) and Kyle Gould Taylor University (44-16) — took their teams to the NAIA Opening Round before they were eliminated from postseason play.

Gary Vaught retired after 24 seasons as head coach at the University of Indianapolis.

Indiana University Kokomo (coached by Matt Howard) and Ivy Tech Community College (coached by Lance Hershberger) had their first seasons.

Here is a 2018 wrap-up for all 38 college baseball programs in Indiana:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

2018

NCAA Division I

Ball State Cardinals (32-26, 17-10 Mid-American Conference): Head coach Rich Maloney (13th overall season).

BSU went 1-2 in the MAC tournament at Avon, Ohio.

Drey Jameson was named MAC Pitcher of the Year and an all-MAC first-teamer as well as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Pitcher John Baker, shortstop Noah Powell and outfielder Jeff Riedel made the all-MAC second team.

Right-hander Evan Marquardt (Reds) was selected in 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Butler Bulldogs (34-20, 9-8 Big East Conference): Head coach Dave Schrage (second season).

The Dogs went 1-2 at the Big East tournament in Mason, Ohio.

Pitcher Ryan Pepiot, shortstop Michael Hartnagel and outfielder Gehrig Parker were chosen to the all-Big East first team with outfielder Tyler Houston and infielder/pitcher Garrett Christman on the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Evansville Purple Aces (12-39, 3-18 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Wes Carroll (eighth season).

UE went 0-2 at the MVC tournament in Dallas.

Outfielder Troy Beilsmith was chosen for the all-MVC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Fort Wayne Mastodons (11-37, 7-23 Summit League): Head coach Bobby Pierce (10th season).

Utility player Shannon Baker and first baseman Travis Upp were named to the all-Summit second team.

This summer, the school changes its name to Purdue Fort Wayne and the colors go from blue and white to black and gold.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Hoosiers (40-19, 14-9 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Chris Lemonis (fourth season).

IU went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Neb.

Outfielder Matt Gorski, starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever and utility player Matt Lloyd were named to the all-Big Ten first team. Starting pitcher Pauly Milto and designated hitter Scotty Bradley made the second team, outfielder Logan Sowers the third team and second baseman Drew Ashley the all-freshman team.

Stiever (White Sox), Sowers (White Sox), Tim Herrin (Indians) and Luke Miller (Phillies) were selected MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana State Sycamores (31-24, 11-10 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Mitch Hannahs (fifth season).

ISU went 2-2 in the MVC tournament.

Third baseman Jake Means was named to the all-MVC first team, first baseman Dane Giesler, starting pitcher Tyler Ward the second team and Means and second baseman Jarrod Watkins the all-defensive team.

Right-hander Ethan Larrison (Diamondbacks) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-30, 12-18 Atlantic Coast Conference): Head coach Mik Aoki (eighth season).

ND went 0-2 at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C.

Second baseman Nick Podkul and third baseman Matt Vierling was named to the all-ACC second team and outfielder Eric Gilgenbach the third team.

Podkul (Blue Jays), Vierling (Phillies) and shortstop Cole Daily (Nationals) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Boilermakers (38-21, 17-6 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Mark Wasikowski (second season).

The Boilers enjoyed 13-game win streak toward the end of the regular season and went 3-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Minnesota in the championship game.

Catcher Nick Dalesandro, first baseman Jacson McGowan, starting pitcher Tanner Andrews and relief pitcher Ross Learnard landed on the all-Big Ten third team and outfielder Ben Nisle and starting pitcher Trent Johnson on the all-freshman team.

Dalesandro (Diamondbacks), McGowan (Rays) and Andrews (Marlins) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Valparaiso Crusaders (19-34, 6-15 Horizon League): Head coach Brian Schmack (fifth season).

Valpo lost in an elimination game at the MVC tournament.

Outfielder Blake Billinger was chosen for the all-MVC first team while outfielder Giovanni Garbella and starting pitcher Jon Tieman earned honorable mention and Jayden Eggimann a spot on the all-defensive team.

Catcher Scott Kapers (Rangers) was selected in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis Greyhounds (31-23, 10-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Gary Vaught (24th season).

The Hounds went 3-2 at the GLVC tournament in Ozark, Mo., losing to Quincy in the championship game.

Designated hitter Dylan Jones, first baseman Storm Joop, outfielder Kyle Orloff and third baseman Hunter Waning were picked for the all-GLVC second team.

UIndy achieved their 16th 30-win season for Vaught, who retired after 24 seasons of leading the program. Assistant Al Ready was named as his replacement.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Oakland City Oaks (13-28): Head coach T-Ray Fletcher (24th season).

OCU played 25 games played in Indiana, including 17 at home.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles (36-23, 15-9 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Tracy Archuleta (12th season).

After winning the Midwest Regional at Springfield, Ill., USI dropped D-II Championship games to Florida Southern and Southern New Hampshire.

Outfielder Drake McNamara was named Player of the Year and Bryce Krizan Freshman of the Year by the GLVC.

Catcher Logan Brown and utility player Nick Gobert also made the first team while second baseman Jacob Fleming and outfielder Buddy Johnson were named to the second team.

McNamara was also honored as Region Player of the Year by several sources and as All-American by ABCA, D2CCA and NWBCA.

Brown (Braves) was taken in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NCAA Division III

Anderson Ravens (25-20, 11-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Matt Bair (first season).

AU finished 3-2 in the HCAC tournament, bowing to Franklin in the championship game.

John Becker was honored as HCAC Pitcher of the Year. Besides Becker, shortstop Nick Butcher first team and second baseman Nick Jones made the all-HCAC first team, third baseman Jonathan Willoughby second team and outfielder/infielder Tommy Parker honorable mention. Becker and Butcher were chosen all-region by different groups.

See IndianaRBI Story HERE.

DePauw Tigers (11-26, 9-9 North Coast Athletic Conference): Head coach Blake Allen (second season).

Outfielder Charlie Patrick was chosen as NCAC Newcomer of the Year and all-NCAC second team. Pitcher Grant Rademacher also was chosen for the second team while honorable mention went to third baseman Noah Salasky and outfielder Collin Einertson.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Earlham Quakers (23-14, 7-10 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Steve Sakosits (eighth season).

Catcher/utility player Danny Dopp, outfielder/utility player Addison Robertson and pitcher Walter Talcott made the all-HCC second team and infielder Dre Davis received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Franklin Grizzlies (39-5, 17-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Lance Marshall (21st season).

The Griz beat Anderson in the HCAC tournament championship game then went 1-2 in the D-III Central Regional in Sauget, Ill.

Outfielder Ryan Bixler was named MVP and Marshall Coach of the Year by the HCAC. Other all-conference players were pitcher Christian Sullivan, catcher Alex Mis, first baseman Drew Naumovich, shortstop Sam Claycamp, third baseman Frank Podkul, outfielders Ryan Erlandson and Jarrod Smith, designated hitter Nick Wright on the first team, second baseman Brandt Pawley on the second team and pitcher Mitchell Caster receiving honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Hanover Panthers (8-25, 5-12 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Shayne Stock (sixth season).

Pitcher Garrett Zorb was named to the all-HCC first team, infielder Josh Meszaros to the second team and infielder Jack Shine honorable mention.

Manchester Spartans (20-22, 9-8 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Rick Espeset (20th season).

Outfielder Tyler LaFollette was picked for the all-HCC first team, pitcher Taylor Kopplin and outfielder Eric Knepper the second team and outfield/infielder Braxton Riley received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers (20-23, 10-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Jeff Jenkins (29th season).

Rose came in third place in the HCAC tournament.

Luke Buehler, an all-region second-team selection, was named all-HCAC first team, outfielder David Burnside second team and catcher/DH Conner Helbling honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Trine Thunder (19-21, 13-15 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association): Head coach Greg Perschke (17th season).

Catcher Kevin O’Malley was chosen for the all-MIAA first team and infielder Jacob Heller the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Wabash Little Giants (32-17, 10-8 North Shore Athletic Conference): Head coach Jake Martin (second season).

After winning the NCAC tournament, Wabash lost the Mideast Regional championship game to Wooster.

Pitcher Bryan Roberts made the all-NCAC first team, catcher Bryce Aldridge, second baseman Sean Roginski the second team and first baseman Jackson Blevins, shortstop Eric Chavez, outfielder Jared Wolfe and pitcher Zach Moffett the honorable mention list.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NAIA

Bethel Pilots (17-28, 8-19 Crossroads League): Head coach Seth Zartman (15th season).

The Dick Patterson Field at Jerry Jenkins Stadium inhabitants placed infielder/outfielder Luke Adams and outfielders Collin Affolder and Jesse Zepeda on the all-Crossroads honorable mention team and Zepeda and pitcher Josh King on the Gold Glove squad.

Calumet College of Saint Joseph Crimson Wave (13-41, 7-23 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Scott Nowakowski.

Goshen Maple Leafs (22-29, 12-15 Crossroads League): Head coach Alex Childers (sixth season).

A number of career and season record fell for the Leafs — Ryan Hartig (most games in a GC career with 210), Brad Stoltzfus (most career runs with 113 and tied for most career runs with 133), Ben Longacre (single-season highs of 49 runs and 22 doubles) and Colby Malson (10 saves).

Outfielders Hartig and Longacre and infielder/pitcher Malson were accorded honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team while infielder Stoltzfus was chosen for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Grace Lancers (9-33, 9-18 Crossroads League): Head coach Cam Screeton (second season).

After starting the season 0-17, Grace won four of its last six.

Pitcher David Anderson, infielder Austin Baker and third baseman Houston Haney received honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team.

Huntington Foresters (23-24, 16-10 Crossroads League): Head coach Mike Frame (34th season).

Outfielder Donovan Clark, second baseman Jamar Weaver and pitcher Connor West earned all-conference honorable mention Weaver was also selected for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana Tech Warriors (44-21, 24-4 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference): Head coach Kip McWilliams (11th season).

Tech lost the WHAC championship series to Madonna then went 2-2 in the Opening Round in Montgomery, Ala., losing to top-ranked Faulkner in the championship game.

First baseman Glen McClain was named Player of the Year and McWilliams Coach of the Year by the WHAC. Besides McClain, catcher Tighe Koehring made the first team while third baseman Matt Bandor and pitcher Jason Sterrett were selected for the second team.

McClain and Koehring were also chosen as NAIA second-team All-Americans.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (37-20, 20-6 Crossroads League): Head coach Rich Benjamin (third season).

IWU, the CL regular-season champions, went 0-2 in the Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga.

Outfielder Steven Busby, utility player Caleb Eder, pitcher Kyle Hall, catcher Brady West middle fielder Jordan Wharton and pitcher Jon Young made the all-conference first team, Wharton the Gold Glove team and pitchers Zee Breytenbach, David Corbin and Tim Olvaney honorable mention.

Benjamin was named CL Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Kokomo Cougars (31-21-1, 16-11 River States Conference): Head coach Matt Howard (first season).

In the first year of the program, IUK’s season concluded with a loss in the RSC tournament semifinals.

Renton Poole was named RSC Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Noah Etchison, outfielder Jared Heard and designated hitter Dalton Clarke made the second team and third baseman Caleb Matthews the Gold Glove team.

Honorable-mention NAIA All-American Poole (Rangers) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana University South Bend Titans (13-39, 8-22 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Doug Buysse (first season).

First baseman Tanner Wesp made the all-CCAC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Southeast Grenadiers (41-14, 23-4 River States Conference): Head coach Ben Reel (10th season).

IUS lost to Point Park in the RSC tournament championship game went 1-2 in the NAIA Opening Round in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Starting pitchers Brandon Nylin and Ryne Underwood, shortstop Richard Rodriguez, outfielder Nicholas Lugo and utility player Josh Beams were picked for the all-RSC first team, pitcher Andrew Yates the second team and Lugo, pitcher John Cecil and second baseman Reyni Olivero the Gold Glove team. Reel was named RSC Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Marian Knights (24-27, 14-12 Crossroads League): Head coach Todd Bacon (fifth season).

MU beat Huntington for the Crossroads League tournament title then went 0-2 in the NAIA Opening Round at Williamsburg, Ky.

Cody Earl was named CL Player of the Year and honorable-mention NAIA All-American. Infielder Maverick Bacon was also an all-Crossroads first-teamer while infielder Leo Lopez, pitcher/outfielder Zack St. Pierre and pitcher/infielder Reese Willis garnered honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Northwest Pride (18-25, 8-19 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Dave Griffin (second season).

Kyle Freel was selected GLIAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year while catcher Hunter Thorn and pitcher Chad Patrick earned all-conference honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Saint Francis Cougars (16-38, 9-17 Crossroads League): Head coach Greg Roberts (14th season).

Pitcher Noah Freimuth and infielders Tyler Prince and Keaton Sullivan earned all-Crossroads honorable mention.

Taylor Trojans (44-16, 20-7 Crossroads League): Head coach Kyle Gould (14th season).

An Opening Round host, Taylor went 1-2 in the event at Winterholter Field.

Pitcher Matt Patton was named CL Pitcher of the Year and an second-team NAIA All-American.

Besides Patton, all-Crossroads first-teamer were pitcher/first baseman Andrew Kennedy, infielder Josh Lane, infielder Nathan Targgart, pitcher Mitch Ubelhor, catcher/outfielder Tanner Watson and outfielder Wyatt Whitman with Watson, Whitman and pitcher/infielder Brett Lawson on the Gold Glove team and utility player Jared Adkins, pitcher Clay Riggins and outfielder Sam Wiese getting honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers (3-28, 2-22 Michigan Community College Athletic Association): Head coach Joe Yonto.

Ivy Tech Northeast Titans (25-18): Head coach Lance Hershberger (first season).

In the first year of the program, Ivy Tech finished the season with just 14 on the roster.

Catcher Tyler Rickert made the NJCAA Region 12 Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE, HERE & HERE.

Vincennes Trailblazers (19-27): Head coach Chris Barney (10th season).

After a 1-8 start, VU won three of its last five.

BASEBALLONDIRT

Brownsburg graduate McGowan has made huge leaps for Boilermakers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jacson McGowan has put up some power numbers for Purdue University baseball.

In 45 games (all starts), the junior first baseman has mashed for team highs in home runs (11), runs batted in (48) and slugging percentage (.588).

Yet it was a single that the Brownsburg High School graduate delivered on Tuesday, May 8 in a win against Fort Wayne that illustrates a positive change Boilermakers coach Mark Wasikowski has witnessed in the right-handed batter.

On an 0-1 pitch, clean-up hitter McGowan delivered a run-scoring single between the first baseman and second baseman in the second inning.

“Against the soft arm he’s able to sit back, get on top of the ball and shoot the opposite-side hole just to get an RBI,” says Wasikowski. “That’s the mature type of approach that he now has.”

Wasikowski came to the Boilers for the 2017 season. Since then he’s seen much improvement in McGowan.

“He’s a man at the plate — that’s for sure,” says Wasikowski of the 6-foot-2 1/2, 212-pounder. “He’s one of the few legit power threats I’ve seen in our conference and in the teams we’ve played.

“He’s really come a long way. He’s still not there yet. He’s a young guy that works really hard. He’s had huge leaps in the last year and a half.”

Wasikowski has seen McGowan up his mental toughness and physical strength while buying into an approach at the plate that works.

“Instead of being a youthful hitter, he’s maturing as a hitter,” says Wasikowski.

It’s a confidence thing.

“I know I’m better than what I betray sometimes,” says McGowan. “No matter who I’m matched up against, I have the advantage over the pitcher.”

McGowan explained his approach on Tuesday’s RBI single.

“It’s good situational hitting,” says McGowan. “If a team’s play a shift on you, you just hit it where they’r not. That’s the name of the game. You hit it where they are and it’s not very much fun. You’re not going to get many hits that way.

“Shorten up and go the other way and get yourself an RBI at the same time.”

With a victory Wednesday, May 8, Purdue has now won 13 in a row — matching the longest winning streak in program history and extending the nation’s longest active streak.

The Boilers (29-16 overall, 13-4 Big Ten) were 16-16 when the win streak began.

The reason for the surge?

“We’ve come together as a team,” says McGowan. “We’ve hit our stride and played the best baseball we’ve played in awhile.”

Wasikowski has his take.

“The team wanted to play baseball as a team,” says Wasikowski. “They were tired of being on the roller coaster ride. We were going through streaks of failures and streaks of successes this year. We started off 8-2 then we got onto a bumpy road. “We started coming on again and then we got onto another bumpy road.

The big thing is we stopped playing for ourselves and started playing for a bigger cause.”

Who lit the fuse?

“Initially, it probably came from the coaching staff,” says Wasikowski, who is assisted by Steve Holm, Wally Crancer, Greg Goff (volunteer) and John Madia (director of operations). “But it’s never going to get down until it comes from inside the locker room. There were some critical guys inside that locker room that ended up pushing the pendulum and the needle on that thing.”

McGowan talks about the culture that Wasikowski has established in the Purdue program.

“It’s awesome,” says McGowan. “His philosophy is ‘just got for it.’ If you go for it and mess up, it’s alright. If you don’t go for it, you’re playing timid.”

Academically, McGowan has enjoyed majoring in Technology, Innovation and Leadership.

“It’s business — just in an another school,” says McGowan. “Most of the classes are with athletes. There’s a lot of communication and working together so it’s pretty cool.”

Most athletes try to schedule their classes Monday through Thursday and in the morning so they can get away on the weekends (the Boilers have a Big Ten series May 11-13 at Ohio State) and get to practice on-time.

Jacson, the son of Steven and Tabitha McGowan and younger brother of Alex McGowan and Sam McGowan, played for Eric Mattingly at Brownsburg High.

Travel baseball came via the Indiana Outlaws (now Evoshield Canes Midwest).

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Jacson McGowan (27) celebrates with Purdue University baseball teammates. (Purdue University Photo)

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Purdue University baseball head coach Mark Wasikowski (left) exhanges high-fives with Jacson McGowan. (Purdue University Photo)

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Purdue University junior first baseman Jacson McGowan, a Brownsburg High School graduate, is a legitimate power threat in the No. 4 hole. (Purdue University Photo)

 

Return to college swing helps Mets catcher Plawecki

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Six seasons into his professional baseball career, Kevin Plawecki went back to his college days and it helped him finish strong at the plate in 2017.

For the year, the former Purdue University catcher hit .328 in 64 games at Triple-A Las Vegas and .260 in 37 games (.348 in his last 10 appearances) with the big-league New York Mets.

Plawecki wore a Boilermakers uniform for three seasons (2010-12) and credits assistant coach Jeff Duncan (now head coach at Kent State University) for guiding his offensive game.

“(Duncan) got my swing where it needed to be in college,” says Plawecki, a right-hander. “He’s one of the best hitting coaches I’ve ever worked with. “He’s very relatable and very good at explaining what he believes in. He had been hitting to the middle of the field and the right side. He had me staying under my legs (with a wide stance). I drifted quite a bit in college and got away with it (even in the minors) because my hands worked so well.

“In the majors, I got exposed. Over the years, my stance got narrow and my hands were moving a lot.”

So with the help of Mets hitting coach Kevin Long (who moved on after the 2017 season), Plawecki studied films of his Purdue at-bats.

He again spread out his stance and his swing became shorter and more compact.

“It really allowed me to use my whole body, especially my legs,” says Plawecki, who turns 27 Feb. 26. “I had been getting more and more upright and it was causing more movement in my head, legs and hands. I was trying to be too perfect.”

It’s that swing he polished at Purdue that helped the 2009 Westfield High School graduate have a super 2012 campaign. That spring, he hit .359 with 47 runs batted in was second team All-America by Baseball America, Perfect Game USA and College Baseball Insider, finished as a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top collegiate catcher, semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy and became the Boilers’ first Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. He was also chosen as Most Outstanding Player in the Big Ten tournament and Purdue’s Male Athlete of the Year.

Plawecki struck out 29 times in 638 career at-bats with the Boilers.

The Mets made Plawecki a compensation pick in the first round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He was the third-highest Purdue player selected in program history. Only right-handed pitcher and Brebeuf Jesuit graduate Sherard Clinkscales (31st in 1992) and outfielder and Anderson Madison Heights graduate Jermaine Allensworth (34th in 1993) were picked earlier.

Plawecki was also Purdue’s highest draftee since 6-foot-6 right-hander and Mishawaka High School graduate Chadd Blasko was picked 36th overall in 2002.

The catcher made his MLB debut on April 21, 2015. He split time between the Mets and Triple-A in 2015, 2016 and 2017, playing a total of 158 games in the big leagues. He was on the Mets postseason roster for the National League Division Series, National League Championship Series and World Series, but did not see any game action.

In 2011 at Purdue, Plawecki hit .341 and drove in 39. He started 55 games — 45 at catcher, six at designated hitter and four at first base. The first-team all-Big Ten selection was a Johnny Bench Award semifinalist. That summer, played for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League

His first collegiate season (2010), Plawecki led the the Boilers in batting average (.343) and established a Purdue freshman record for RBIs (53). He played 54 games and started 52 times, primarily at catcher. He was named a Freshman All-American by both Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. His summer team was the Richmond (Ind.) RiverRats of the Prospect League.

Doug Schreiber was head coach at Purdue during Plawecki’s stay in West Lafayette.

“He was a hard-nosed guy,” says Plawecki of Schreiber (now head coach at McCutcheon High School). “He didn’t take a whole lot of crap from anybody. People respected him. He was always at the morning workouts with us. That goes a long way. He may not have been lifting, but he was up there grinding with us. He fought for us. He had our backs. That’s why we were so successful at Purdue.”

Plawecki grew up a Bolier fan. Several family members, including father Jeff (who was a member of the golf team), mother Lynne and brother Aaron, are Purdue graduates. Aaron is scheduled to complete graduate school at Northwestern University in December.

During Kevin’s freshmen year at Purdue, he met soccer player Tayler Francel and they married in 2015. The Plaweckis are spending their off-season in Arizona, where they are closer to her family in San Diego. He lifts weights four days a week and plans to begin throwing and hitting again in early January before heading to spring training with the Mets in Florida.

Plawecki, who was born in Hinsdale, Ill., and moved to central Indiana about the time he was beginning school, played travel baseball for the Westfield Indians in his early years then the Indiana Bulls and Indiana Dirt Bags before heading to Purdue.

He played many positions growing up, but settled in at catcher as a Westfield sophomore and got pointers from former Purdue backstop Mike Hansen, who is now on the Shamrocks coaching staff led by Ryan Bunnell.

“He helped me with drill work and set the foundation,” says Plawecki, who was part of Westfield’s IHSAA Class 4A state runner-up team in 2009. He was a two-time all-Indy North, all-Hoosiers Crossroads Conference and all-Hamilton County selection and earned four varsity letters in baseball at Westfield and was a team captain as a junior and senior. “I got bored everywhere else. I was not being very good anywhere else and a pretty good catcher. I like the involvement and challenge it brings.”

He gives many propers to his high school head coach.

“Burnell taught me ab out accountability,” says Plawecki. “I was just a young kid at the time, trying to find my way and stay out of trouble. That’s where my work ethic started. It started with those early-morning workouts. We were working hard and letting the results take care of themselves. I learned a lot from him — on and off the field.”

Now, Plawecki not only shares the field but catches some of the best pitchers in baseball. There’s Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo in the starting mix.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Plawecki of receiving the collection of aces. “It makes my job a lot easier. It also brings high expectations. Last year, we couldn’t stay healthy.”

Why all the injuries?

“It’s pretty crazy,” says Plawecki. I’ve never seen anything like it. If we could pin-point it as players or as trainers, we would have done it. Good thing is it’s just one year. We’ll learn from last year and be ready to go.”

Travis d’Arnaud, who played 112 games and hit .244 for the Mets in 2017, is ahead of Plawecki for the top spot on the The off-season MLB.com depth chart.

Can Plawecki win the starting job?

“I just try to go out and play and have fun,” says Plawecki. “I want to take advantage of the opportunity that given day. Leave that decision up to (the Mets).”

Mickey Calloway, who was pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians in 2017, is now the Mets manager. He has been quoted as saying he is considering letting starters go through the order twice before going to the bullpen. Some say this approach could tax the bullpen.

“He’s in-tune with pitching and what it takes to stay healthy,” says Plawecki. “If he thinks that’s the route to stay healthy then that’s what we’ll do. I don’t know if there is a perfect pitch count or innings limit. Everyone’s body is different.

“The success he had in Cleveland with those pitchers speaks volumes.”

Sabermetrics and analytics have become a big part of baseball. Data is used to decide where teams are going to position their defense against certain hitters.

“We don’t look at (the analytics) as much,” says Plawecki. “We’ve got a lot on our plates learning the weaknesses of the other players.”

Plawecki says the coaches are the ones who move the defenders. As a catcher, he calls the signals in stealing situations. Bunt coverages are called by the third baseman.

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Kevin Plawecki, a 2009 Westfield High School graduate and former Purdue University standout, is a catcher with the New York Mets. (New York Mets Photo)