By STEVE KRAH
Chris Ingels has watched an exceptional group of athletes make their way through Southwestern Junior-Senior High School near Shelbyville, Ind.
The Class of 2021 played a part in a 14-11 baseball season in 2018 — the first winning season in program history since 1976. The Spartans went 17-9 on the diamond in 2019 and lost the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far in 2020-21, Southwestern has earned IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in boys soccer and boys basketball.
“They’ve contributed so much to our school,” says Ingels, who heads into his eighth season as Southwestern head baseball coach this spring and is also a boys basketball assistant and head cross country coach at the school where he is also a Social Studies and Physical Education teacher. “They’re pretty special kids and great students.
“When you have really good players it makes the coach look smart.”
Of the Spartans’ six seniors (Anick Harstell, Christian DeArmitt, Ethan Wending, Chance Johnson, Blake Dunbar and Kirk Van Gorden), five played as sophomores with Hartsell, DeArnitt, Wending and Johnson in the starting lineup.
Two juniors (Aiden Hartsell and Jordan Jones) started as freshmen. Matthew Clements is a talented sophomore who grew up in the Indiana Bulls organization. Southwestern lost two players to graduation in 2020.
Ingels’ 2021 assistant is South Dearborn High School graduate and Franklin College senior Alex Smith.
Located seven miles from Shelbyville and close to the community of Marietta, Southwestern (enrollment around 175) is a member of the Mid-Hoosier Conference (with Edinburgh, Hauser, Morristown, North Decatur, South Decatur and Waldron).
MHC games are played on consecutive days as home-and-home series.
“You have to have multiple pitchers, which I like,” says Ingels.
The Spartans are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown (the 2021 host) and Waldron. Southwestern won its lone sectional crown in 1999.
Southwestern is to open the 2021 season at home April 5 against Eminence.
Opponents not in the conference or sectional include Austin, Oldenburg Academy, Shelbyville, Brown County, Indiana School for the Deaf, Trinity Lutheran, Arsenal Tech and Herron.
The Spartans could see Triton Central in the Shelby County Tournament at Morristown on May 8.
There are 17 players in the Southwestern program. Ingels says a few junior varsity games will be sprinkled in to get younger players some playing experience.
The Spartans play home games on-campus at the Jeremy Wright Athletic Complex.
The high school program is fed by a junior high club. Seventh and eighth graders play some games in the spring then take part in the Babe Ruth League at Edinburgh during the summer.
“It’s really beneficial,” says Ingels.
Ingels, played tennis for Kevin Rockey, Rodney Klein and Pete Khensouri, basketball for Steve Todd and baseball for Derick Bright and Brian Ingels (his father) at Edinburgh High School and graduated in 2002.
Todd was the first to talk to Chris about coaching and gave him the opportunity to volunteer with the Lancers.
“(Bright) was a really good baseball coach,” says Ingels. “He changed the way we practiced. Everything was structured. In (batting practice), we’d have two-strike swings, hit-and-run swings, bunt, hit to the right side and swing away.”
Brian Ingels, who had been head football coach at Edinburgh when Chris was young and a longtime cross country and track coach at the school. He was Bright’s assistant before stepping in as head baseball coach for his son’s senior year. The Industrial Arts instructor is currently in his 43rd year of teaching at Edinburgh.
Ingels began coaching boys basketball before finishing at Franklin College in 2007 as an assistant to Edinburgh head coach Todd Tatlock.
After that, Ingels aided Kerry Brown then Toby Carrigan at South Dearborn before helping Brent Keck at Perry Meridian. He is on Brady Days’ staff at Southwestern.
Lance Marshall, the Franklin College head baseball coach, has let Ingels sit in on Grizzlies practice and has offered advice.
“He’s a great guy,” says Ingels.
Ingels values his relationships and connections to his young athletes.
“Through baseball you are dealing with a lot of failure and adversity,” says Ingels. “You’re trying to get kids to be able to handle that and push their way through it and succeed in the end.”
Ingels sees a lot of lessons in baseball.
“It starts with preparation and having to put a lot of work into each little part,” says Ingels. “That adds up in the end.”
The coach appreciates the team aspect of the sport and that you’re
“A lot of people think baseball is an individual sport on your own island at each position and getting your stats at the plate,” says Ingels. “It’s the ultimate team sport when it comes down to it.”
One player can’t carry the whole load.
On the offensive side, Ingels sees worth in batting average. But that doesn’t rank first in his eyes.
“On-base percentage is so much more important,” says Ingels. “We’ve got to get men on base.”
While the Spartans may not chart it in 2021, there will be discussions about quality at-bats.
“Sometimes a groundout to the right side can be productive,” says Ingels.