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Tiegs getting Indiana State pitchers ready for rigors of 2019 season

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana State University opens its 2019 baseball season with a three-game series Feb. 15-17 at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.

Fifth-year Sycamores pitching coach Jordan Tiegs is getting ISU arms ready for the opener and beyond.

“We’re full-go,” says Tiegs. “We’re building guys now. Some are up to four innings. We’d like our starters to be able to go six innings that first weekend.”

The process has been happening with both both scrimmages and bullpen sessions. They train with overload and underload throwing balls.

“We want to get it as close to what it’s like during the season as possible,” says Tiegs. Pitchers generally pitch live in intrasquad games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday while there is more bullpen work on Monday through Thursday.

ISU’s online roster lists 17 pitchers. All three of the team’s weekend starters from 2018 when the Sycamores went 31-24 overall and 11-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference — senior left-hander Triston Polley (Brownsburg High School graduate), senior right-hander Tyler Ward (Heritage Hills) and junior left-hander Tristan Weaver — return.

Polley went 7-2, Ward 6-3 and Weaver 3-5 in 2018.

Redshirt junior right-hander Colin Liberatore, who pitched at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, is in the starting mix. Weekday starter Weston Rivers is not back.

While primary closer Ethan Larrison (25 appearances with nine saves) has moved on to professional baseball, 6-foot-5 junior left-hander Tyler Grauer (21 appearances with three saves) did some closing in 2018 and he’s back.

“We lost a lot of leads in sixth and seventh innings last year,” says Tiegs. “That will be a big emphasis this year.”

New pieces in the bullpen include right-handers Austin Cross, Zach Frey, Ross Kramer and Jake Ridgway and lefty Geremy Guerrero.

Cross, a 6-7 junior, is one of seven pitchers on the staff who were in junior college last season.

Tiegs calls junior Frey, also a JC transfer, a “competitive bulldog” who throws strikes.

Coming to Indiana State as a two-way player as a JC transfer, the Sycamores have decided to let junior Kramer focus on pitching.

“He may have the best arm on the staff,” says Tiegs.

Sophomore Ridgway impressed ISU coaches during a showcase camp and was made a full-time pitcher as a freshman.

Junior Guerrero is considered a “swing” man who could be used as a starter or in long or short relief.

Being tall with long limbs is helpful for a pitcher.

But size is not always the determining factor in success.

“In a perfect world, they could all be 6-3 and 215 (the average size of a big league starter),” says Tiegs. “But what about the 5-9 guy who throws in the low to mid 90’s and can really spin it and is really competitive?.

“We have a bit of a mix here,” says Tiegs, who has 6-9 junior left-hander Will Buraconak and 5-9 freshman righty Paul Wendling in the pitching corps. “Both are going to help us a lot.”

Of course the plan on paper in February is not always what unfolds by May.

But one thing is constant.

“We want guys who are going to compete for the right reasons and execute their game plan,” says Tiegs of his pitchers. “We want to generate as much weak contact as we can.

“For some guys play book is simple. For some, it’s more complicated. It’s what they can handle.”

When recruiting, Tiegs wants pitchers who have a feel for the game around them and not ones who “can win the 60-foot, 6-inch battle” only.

“These are the ones who can’t hold runners and can’t field their positions,” says Tiegs. “Guys don’t work on these days as much as they used to.

“You can forget that a whole game is being played.”

Tiegs works for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs.

“He’s a very smart baseball guy,” says Tiegs of Hannahs. “He knows what pitching means to a team. It can make or break your entire season.”

Hannahs gives his perspective while giving Tiegs the freedom to develop his staff his way.

“As a former infielder, he has a pretty good feel for what pitchers go through on the mental side,” says Tiegs.

The mental side of the game is something that is addressed daily by Tiegs in practice.

“We get them in the right frame of mind on the mind,” says Tiegs. “We want them to be in control of their thoughts and in the moment.

“They should keep things as simple as possible and not get the wheels spinning too much.”

Speaking of spinning, Indiana State does keep tabs on spin rate, spin axis and rotation using Rapsodo technology.

Tiegs notes that the use of TrackMan is another way of getting analytic feedback.

This can help players “develop a better version of themselves.”

“We don’t want to overkill with it,” says Tiegs. “It’s just another tool.”

Tiegs is a 2005 graduate of Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada.

There was no high school baseball in his district. But he played on an elite travel team. The London Badgers played about 80 games a year from April to September with three or four tournaments in the U.S.

Tiegs also participated in volleyball, basketball, hockey and tennis and is definitely a believer in the concept of the multi-sport athlete.

“It can hurt your athletic growth if you eliminate things at a younger age,” says Tiegs. “Using different movements, it’s only going to help in baseball with agility and coordination.

“The more you can be exposed to that stuff is only going to benefit you. You’re going to get enough isolated work when you get to college.”

Tiegs wants his pitchers to be as athletic as possible.

“Pitchers can get a bad rap at being the non-athletes on the field,” says Tiegs, who has his ISU hurlers go through circuit training — strength and mobility — each day before they ever throw a baseball.

Tiegs was a pitcher and was selected selected in the 46th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, but played opted instead for college baseball. He played at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Ill., the College of Charleston in South Carolina and wound up at the University of Indianapolis.

The head coach at Sauk Valley was Al Ready, who is now head coach at UIndy.

Keith Hatfield, now head coach at Center Grove High School, was his pitching coach at UIndy.

“In 2009, we had a lot of talent on the mound,” says Tiegs. “We had to make sure guys were in the zone with their stuff. The only way we were going to get beat was with free bases.”

Tiegs delivers the same message to the Sycamores.

“We want our guys to constantly apply pressure and the pressure will be on them,” says Tiegs.

Before coming to ISU, Tiegs was the U of I Greyhounds pitching coach for three seasons on the staff of head coach Gary Vaught.

Having played and coached at the two levels, what is the main difference in NCAA Division I and II from a pitching perspective?

“It’s in the depth of lineups you see day in and day out,” says Tiegs. “You can get away with more mistakes (in D-II). With the better D-I teams, you need to be sharp for 7, 8, 9 guys in lineup. When they hit your mistakes, it’s usually louder.”

Jordan and wife Chelsea Tiegs are expecting their first child in late March.

In its preseason poll, Missouri Valley Conference head coaches have picked Indiana State to finish third behind Missouri State and Dallas Baptist and ahead of Bradley, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Valparaiso and Evansville.

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Jordan Tiegs was a player and pitching coach at the University of Indianapolis before going to Indiana State University as pitching coach. (University of Indianapolis Photo)

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Jordan Tiegs is the baseball pitching coach at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind. (Indiana State University Photo)

 

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Hard work, trust have McClain, teammates excelling for Indiana Tech

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Glen McClain’s baseball journey has taken him outside northeast Indiana and back.

Since returning, he has thrived on a culture of work and trust make a major impact at Indiana Institute of Technology.

“We have a really good group of guys who like to work,” says McClain, a redshirt junior first baseman/catcher who graduated from Fremont High School and went to NCAA Division I Xavier University in Cincinnati before transferring to NAIA Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. “It’s great when you can text someone and say ‘you want to go hit some ground balls’ and they’re down. I’d say that’s the greatest contributor.”

McClain expresses thanks for those around him.

“I have a great coaching staff behind me that’s always willing to put in extra work with me,” says McClain. “We have a really good group of guys who like to work.

“I have a really good support system. My mom (Debby) is always helping me out whenever I need something.”

With the Warriors, it’s a matter of believing in one another.

“We all just trust each other,” says McClain. “There’s never a doubt. If I make an error or have a bad at-bat, it’s never in the back of my mind that maybe my coaches or teammates are not going to me.

“I know if I mess up, the next person is going to get it done.”

On Tuesday, April 24 at Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne, the 22-year-old right-handed hitter got it done with his bat and legs. He went 2-for-5 with two runs scored in the Warriors’ 5-4 win against crosstown rival Saint Francis.

McClain produced a one-out double (moved to third base on an error) and scored the game-tying run in the fifth inning then stroked a two-out single, stole second base and scored the go-ahead run on senior catcher Tighe Koehring’s single in the seventh inning.

Heading into Wednesday’s scheduled home game against Manchester, McClain was leading Tech (32-17) in batting average (.423), runs batted in (43), hits (63) and triples (4), tied for first in runs scored (42) and was second in home runs (8) and doubles (10). In 149 at-bats, he only had 12 strikeouts. He was also fielding at a .987 clip with 274 putouts, 15 double plays and four errors.

In 2017, McClain started 58 times at first base and set a single-season school record with 101 hits while hitting .455 with nine homers, five triples, 17 doubles and 71 RBI. He was second-team NAIA All-American and Gold Glove winner and a CoSIDA Academic All-American.

In 2016, McClain started 59 games at first base and hit .334 with two homers, three triples, 12 doubles, 33 RBIs while earning honorable mention on the all-Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference team.

“Glen is an amazing player, a great teammate,” says Tech head coach Kip McWilliams. “He understands baseball and the approach. But I can’t speak enough about what kind of person he is. He’s got high character, he’s trustworthy, relatable and responsible. He holds himself accountable as well as his teammates.

“When he came to us three years ago, he was really mature for his age and carried himself with great poise on the field.”

McWilliams recruited McClain when the player was at Fremont. When McClain was released from his scholarship at Xavier, he came highly-recommended by former Musketeers coach and friend of McWilliams, Scott Googins.

“We called Scott and he said he’d be a great player for you,” says McWilliams. “We were very happy to have him.”

McClain went to Xavier as a catcher and wound up having surgery on his right knee, right shoulder and right wrist.

“My body kind of fell apart on me,” says McClain. “I lucked out. Tech was willing to give me an opportunity to kind of bounce back.”

McClain, who is in graduate school working toward his MBA in management after earning a business administration degree with a concentration in sports management, has one year of eligibility remaining.

If he is not selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June, McClain says he plans to return to Tech to play and complete his MBA.

McClain credits his coaches at Fremont — Eagles head coach Justin Bock and assistant Chad Baker — with their role in his development.

“They helped me understand my true ability,” says McClain. “I was pretty raw in high school. They really helped me refine.

“I couldn’t hit the ball the other way very well, then my sophomore, junior and senior year I was able to drive the ball the other way.”

Travel baseball experiences came with the Mike Hinga-coached Kalamazoo Maroons. Kalamazoo is only about 75 minutes from Fremont.

While Indiana is in the name of the school, Tech’s 2018 roster has players from a dozen different states plus Canada and The Bahamas.

“It’s actually really cool,” says McClain. “We have a lot of kids from California. They add their own swagger to the team. I love the way (San Francisco’s) Dante (Biagini) plays. He’s super intense. I’m different. I’m more of a relaxed kind of quiet. I’m going to keep my composure no matter what’s going on.”

At one point last season, McClain looked up and three-quarters of the infield was from “Cali.”

“I was looking around going, I’m the only Indiana kid on the infield right now,” says McClain. “It’s fun.”

The Warriors are coming down the home stretch of the 2018 regular season. After the Manchester game, there’s a big three-game series at Siena Heights Friday and Saturday, April 28-29 and a home game against Cleary Tuesday, May 1 before the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament May 3-8.

A sweep against Siena Heights gives Tech the regular-season WHAC title and an automatic NAIA tournament bid.

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Glen McClain, a Fremont High School graduate, is a redshirt junior first baseman and leader of the 2018 Indiana Tech baseball team. (Indiana Tech Photo)

 

Sidearm Nation helps hurlers get hitters out by changing arm angles

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

So you pitch and you come over the top or at three-quarter overhand and you’re not getting the results you want. How about changing arm angles and tossing the baseball as a sidearmer or submariner?

Geoff Freeborn, who pitched from the left side at Northern Kentucky University, North Idaho College as well as independent professional baseball and for Team Canada, has created Sidearm Nation to help hurlers with dropping down.

An Illinois Sidearm Nation Camp open to all ages and featuring former pro sidearmers/submariners Peter Sikaras, Kenny Long and Ken Raines is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. CST Aug. 19-20 at Pro Player Consultants, 5112 Prime Parkway, McHenry, Ill. All pitchers are welcome. Specialized coaching will be provided for sidearmers and submariners. Cost is $290 for both days and $150 for one. The camp will be limited to 40 participants.

For more information, email info@sidearmnation or visit http://www.sidearmnation.com.

Recently, Freeborn participated in an IndianaRBI Q&A session.

Q: Why do pitchers change their arm angle?

A: I guess most pitchers change their arm angle out of necessity. Either struggling with current arm angle and something needs to change or down on the depth chart, not pitching that much. Dropping down isn’t for everyone, if you’re pitching well, why change what’s working? But if you’re getting hit around pretty consistently then why not? You have nothing to lose. If you do drop down or are asked to drop down, you have to fully commit to it for it to work.

Q: What are the advantages of an arm angle change?

A: Overall it’s about deception from a lower angle. For the most part it’s not going to be about lighting up the radar gun. Movement is going to be the key from there.

Q: Is it about changing eye levels?

A: Hitters overall get used to seeing the same angle all the time from coaches in batting practice etc. Sidearm/submarine pitchers can mess that up.

Q: What are the disadvantages?

A: I think one of the disadvantages is that you can get pigeon-holed a little bit, that you can only get same-side hitters out. In pro ball for example I tended to just be a lefty-specialist. Would have been a fun job in the MLB but not necessarily for Indy ball. Guess you also tend to just be a reliever, but at same time that can be a pretty good change for some.

Q: Can anyone change their arm angle?

A: I think overall anyone can change their arm angle or at least give it a shot. It tends to be the pitchers that are tall and lanky that pick up on it quicker. Multi-sport athletes or multi-position players tend to pick up on it quicker than say someone that is just a pitcher only.

Q: Do you have favorite sidearmers?

A: I’d have to say current Blue Jays RHP Joe Smith. Also being a LHP I’d have to say Randy Johnson. I used to love watching him.

Q: What about favorite submariners?

A: I never really got to see him pitch but love watching highlights of Dan Quisenberry. Also enjoyed watching Japanese pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe.

Q: How many sidearmers/submariners would you say are in pro ball?

A: That’s a good question. I’d say pretty much at least every time in each level in the minors usually has 1-2 in their bullpen. I think more and more sidewinders are getting drafted now and MLB teams are realizing how important they are.

Q: What about in college baseball?

A: College baseball-wise almost every program probably has 1-2 also in their pen. More colleges are recruiting high school sidewinders instead of having to drop someone down that’s struggling in college.

Q: Do these players tend to be starters or relievers?

A: Most sidewinders do tend to be relievers, do tend to be more successful one time through the order.

Q: I’m guessing there aren’t that many coaches that are familiar with the mechanics of a submariner?

A: I think were there can be some problems is when a pitching coach suggest to a pitcher to drop down but then doesn’t know what to do. Sometimes they get left in the corner to figure it out on their own, which I guess can be a good and bad thing. That’s where hopefully Sidearm Nation can be of help. We have over 200 interviews with current/former pros, basically a free e-book and then we run 5-6 camps per year.

Q: Are the number of sidearmers/submariners on the rise, the decline or steady?

A: Like I mentioned previously I think they are definitely on the rise. More pitchers are realizing by dropping down that can be there ticket to say playing college baseball. Majority of the pitchers I’ve interviewed if didn’t drop down the weren’t going to make their high school or college team then after dropping down, ended up making it to AAA/MLB.

PETERSIKARAS

Peter Sikaras, who pitched with the South Bend Silver Hawks, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Team Greece and others, is to be an instructor at a SidearmNation camp Aug. 19-20 in McHenry, Ill.