Tag Archives: Bronchos

Hall of Famer Kas heading into second season as Lafayette Jeff assistant

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

Dennis Kas has spent many a spring and summer on a baseball diamond.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer (Class of 2000) had no specific plans to do that in 2022.
It was while attending his grandsons’ basketball games in Lafayette in November 2021 that Kas ran into Clayton Richard, the former Indiana Mr. Baseball at McCutcheon High School who pitched against Kas’ Noblesville teams and went on to the big leagues and had been hired as head baseball coach at Lafayette Jeff.
That chance meeting led to an invitation for Kas to join Richard’s Jeff coaching staff.
Kas accepted and acted as bench coach and helped out in a variety of ways and is doing the same again in 2022-23.
“I worked offensively with the kids this fall,” says Kas, 70. “(Clayton) likes to lean on me a little bit during the course of games and ask my opinion about certain situations.”
Kas has developed a philosophy as a coach.
“In baseball, there’s so much in the game you can’t control,” says Kas. “You’d better be good at the things you can control.
“For me, that starts with your preparation. I cannot know what my opponents are doing with their time. I just have to be confident that we’re out-working them.
“It’s our discipline, our approach to things, our toughness, the character we show, our resiliency. They come to the forefront in baseball because those are things you can control in preparing your kids.”
It’s those principles that are being promoted by the Jeff staff.
“We want to do our part in developing quality young men,” says Kas. “We want to develop players. We expect to win games. In order to do that it takes a lot of time and commitment. We’re raising the demands.”
Kas says players often make defensive mistakes when they get caught by surprise because they are lacking in preparation.
“I never wanted to ask kid to do something in a game that I had not prepared him to do in practice,” says Kas. “That’s totally unfair.”
The coach is a proponent of hitters putting the ball in-play.
“Never underestimate the ability of your opponent to screw up,” says Kas. “In baseball, the best way to do that is the force the action. We had better be causing some havoc for the (opposing) defense.
“I’m a big believer in being resourceful offensively. You’ve got to be able to bunt the baseball. Use a little hit-and-run. It depends on our personnel. Let’s get hit by pitches if we have players who understand that concept and are willing to do it. Let’s find a way to get on-base.”
On defense, it comes down to executing every play. There is nothing “routine.”
“If we can control those kinds of things and be fundamentally sound defensively then I think we give ourselves the best chance to win,” says Kas. “It’s unfair to have to go to pitchers and say we’ve got to have you strike out 10 guys for us to have a chance.”
Kas notes that a successful formula for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros was the ability to rack up strikeouts by its pitching staff while limiting those as hitters.
“That was their secret to success,” says Kas. “They put the ball in-play — even at that level.”
The Astros fanned 160 of 498 batters faced and whiffed 118 times in 455 at-bats themselves during an 11-2 postseason run.
Prior to coaching at Jeff, Kas spent a couple of years assisting Andy Dudley at Frankfort.
Dudley was a teammate of Jade Kas — Dennis’ oldest son and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participant in 1995 — at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Dennis Kas spent 22 years as an Indiana high school head coach — five at Clinton Prairie and 17 at Noblesville — and amassed a 464-210 mark with five conference, seven sectional and one regional title.
He had 53 players receive baseball scholarships, five selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, 13 chosen IHSBCA Academic All-State, 12 pick as All-State and 12 named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
Kas served two terms as IHSBCA president and assisted the organization in many other ways. Recently he was in charge of conducting the Junior Showcase during All-Star weekend.
He spent a couple of years as a volunteer coach at Butler University and six as a paid assistant to Mike Frame at Huntington (Ind.) University while commuting from Noblesville.
Kas has also coached for the Indiana Bulls organization with sons Jade and Austan.
A 1970 graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and 1974 graduate of Anderson College (now Anderson University), Kas started teaching in 1974-75 and served in that capacity for 37 1/2 years in the Clinton Prairie (12), Noblesville (24) and Clinton Central (1 1/2) school systems.
Kas was coaxed out of retirement by a former teaching colleague Melissa Perry and Jeremy Rodibaugh, who played at Huntington University during the coach’s time with the Foresters and was now principal at Clinton Central Elementary School.
For the second semester of one school year and the whole next year, Kas taught Spanish before retiring from the classroom the second time.
He moved from Noblesville to Frankfort more than three years ago to be closer to family.
Catherine “Cathe” Kas died Dec. 9, 2021. She and Dennis had been married and remained great friends.
Dennis has three children — Jade, Austan and Cheyenne — and seven grandchildren (Brady, Sydnie, Charlie, Jacoby, Xyan, Jalen and Sloan).
Jade Kas (who is married to Crysta) lives in the McCutcheon school district and works for Eli Lily.
Former sports editor Austan Kas (Ashley) resides in Fort Wayne and is involved with fantasy sports websites. He played at Huntington U. when his dad coached there.
Cheyenne (Chris Taylor) lives in Frankort and directs the Clinton County Human Society.

Dennis Kas. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)
The Bronchos baseball staff of 2022. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)

Alum McTagertt keeps growing the game at Lafayette Jeff

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Scott McTagertt paid his dues before becoming head baseball coach at his alma mater.

A 1986 graduate of Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School, McTagertt was still a Purdue University student when he became a Jeff assistant for the 1988 season.

He has been bringing baseball knowledge to Bronchos ever since. 

McTagertt played for head coach Mark Strader and served on the staffs of Tony Primavera, Ed Gilliland and Kevin Maxwell before taking the reins of the Lafayette Jeff program for the 2008 season.

“(Strader) is probably the best athlete that ever came through Lafayette Jeff,” says McTagertt. “He was very demanding. We respected the guy because you knew what he knew in baseball.

“We put so much intensity into practice. (Strader) got (to play for and) coach with (Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul) “Spider” Fields. (Strader) brought some of that fire to us.”

A shortstop and pitcher at Jeff, McTagertt was on the Purdue team for one season behind future big leaguer Archi Cianfrocco while working toward what would be an Education degree from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI).

As a young coach, McTagertt marveled at Primavera’s game management skills.

“I don’t know if there was anybody better than him,” says McTagertt. “He knew everything in the game was going to happen before it happened.

“He was fun to learn from.”

Gilliland had played for and coached with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ken Schreiber at LaPorte High School.

“(Gilliland) was a disciplinarian,” says McTagertt. “This is the way we’re going to do it. He had set routines. The kids worked hard for him. 

“He liked to ride his top two pitchers a lot. It was the LaPorte Way.”

In a decade with Maxwell, McTagertt witnessed a strong organizer.

“(Maxwell) ran very structured practices,” says McTagertt. “Everything was written out. The kids had to know the practice plan.”

Along the way, McTagertt has continued to have a growth mindset. He has learned much about the game from networking, attending clinics and — in this pandemic year of 2020 — Zoom meetings and other online resources.

“We’re probably the most sharing group of coaches you’re going to find in any sport,” says McTagertt. “Tthere are so many ways to teach in baseball.

“You can always steal an idea or two.”

McTagertt was born in Greenwood, Ind., and came to Lafayette as a fourth grader. That first day in town he attended the Colt World Series at Loeb Stadium.

“It was a big place for my family,” says McTagertt, who started working at Loeb in 1988 and did so until the facility dedicated in 1940 was torn down to make way for the New Loeb Stadium.

Teaching fifth grade STEM at nearby Sunnyside Intermediate, McTagertt drops by regularly to see the progress of the ballpark adjacent to the Columbian Park Zoo that mimics Kokomo Municipal Stadium (home to Kokomo High School, Indiana University Kokomo and summer collegiate Kokomo Jackrabbits) and is oriented the other way from the old Loeb (left field faces the pool and right field is closet to the zoo).

“I didn’t know if I’d ever see this place,” says McTagertt. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

With construction of the new Loeb (also home to the summer collegiate Lafayette Aviators), Jeff was going to spend much of 2020 playing road games. But the COVID-19 pandemic took away the season. The Bronchos were just days away from tryouts when what became lockdown began. Individual workouts were distributed via computer. 

In fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period practice, the focus was on individual skills and position development.

“We put a premium on teaching since we lost a season,” says McTagertt, who sent the Bronchos from the World Series to the weight room until Dec. 22 and expects to resume activities Jan. 4.

McTagertt’s 2021 coaching staff features John Ripke, Alex Igo and Sean McDonald as varsity assistants. Kevin Igo is the JV Red head coach and is helped by Brian McDonald and Matthew Koeppen. Tim Whitaker is the JV Black (or C-team) head coach and is aided by Daniel Nelson.

The Bronchos tend to have around 40 players in the program. On days when all three squads are in action, there might be 13 to 15 with the varsity, 13 with JV Red and the rest with JV Black.

Jeff (enrollment around 2,080) is in the Northern Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison, Kokomo, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon, Muncie Central and Richmond).

The Bronchos are in an IHSAA Class 4A grouping with Harrison, Kokomo, Logansport and McCutcheon. Jeff won the last of its 17 sectional titles in 2013. The program has also claimed 12 regionals, four semistates, two state championships (1969 and 1973) and one state runner-up (1971).

Two recent Jeff players — brother Justin Walker Jr. (Purdue) and Jacob Walker (Parkland College in Champaign, Ill.) — have moved on to college diamonds. Current Bronchos Caleb Koeppen and Brady Preston have received college offers.

For years, Jeff and Lafayette Central Catholic developed young players through the Lafayette Lightning.

About eight years ago — wanting to get more Jeff-bound youngsters involved in competitive play — Junior Broncho Baseball was established. The group fielded 10U, 11U and 12U teams that first year and now has teams from 8U to 15U.

That first 12U team were freshmen in the spring of 2020.

The Junior Bronchos play often at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and Indianapolis Sports Park.

Elite players are encouraged to play for teams like the Indiana Bulls and Indiana Nitro.

“We take rest of the kids and run them through our practices and camps,” says McTagertt. “We get the best of both worlds.”

Utilizing diamonds at Armstrong Park and McCaw Park, Lafayette Youth Baseball is still going strong.

“There’s a wonderful working relationship city, parks department and baseball programs in Lafayette,” says McTagertt.

Scott and Fawn McTagertt (a McCutcheon High School teacher) have three children. Rileigh McTagertt is a junior Education major at Purdue who coaches tennis at Tecumseh Junior High School in Lafayette. She was in cheerleading, basketball and tennis at Jeff.  

Ashlynn McTagertt played golf, basketball and softball for the Bronchos and is now a freshmen softball player at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College. 

Drew McTagertt is a Tecumseh eighth grader who plays tennis, basketball and baseball.

Scott McTagertt is the head baseball coach at Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School — a position he’s held since the 2008 season. The 1986 Jeff graduated joined the Bronchos coaching staff in 1988.