Illiana Christian was plenty successful on the baseball diamond when the high school was in Lansing, Ill. As recently as 2004 — with Dave Beezhold as head coach — the Vikings qualified for the Illinois state tournament and went 27-8. In 2018, Illiana Christian relocated from Lansing, where it was founded in 1945, to an incorporated area of Dyer, Ind. In 2020-21, it became a full Indiana High School Athletic Association member. The 2022 Vikings won the program’s first IHSAA sectional and regional titles and are one win away from the State Finals. In earning a date opposite No. 3-ranked Wapahani (24-4) in the 2A Kokomo Semistate at noon Central Time Saturday, June 11, Illiana Christian won the Whiting Sectional (Bowman Academy 19-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 3-1 and Wheeler 16-4) and Whiting Regional (Winamac 11-1 and Eastside 7-0). Alum and former Beezhold assistant Jeff VanderWoude’s first year leading the Vikings was 2019-20 — the season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Illiana Christian went 19-6 and lost 2-1 to Wheeler in the 2A Whiting Sectional championship game. VanderWoude sees the closeness of the players and a willingness to put others before themselves has been a formula for success. “We’ve been getting them to buy in and loving each other,” says VanderWoude. “We don’t have a ‘me’ person. “We are controlling the controllable. “They play as one really well. In the game against Eastside, we were competing one pitch at a time.” Emphasizing the mental side, VanderWoude has seen his players adjust when there is a temporary lack of focus. Illiana Christian (enrollment around 480) joined the Greater South Shore Conference (with baseball members Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, Wheeler and Whiting) in 2021. With the addition of the Vikings, the conference is broken into divisions with teams playing two games with their division and one against squads in the other division. Illiana Christian is paired with Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll and Hanover Central. The 2022 Vikings went 8-3 in the GSSC, finishing behind Hanover Central (10-1) and tying Griffith (8-3). Through 24 games, Illiana Christian was led offensively by junior pitcher Kevin Corcoran (.468 average, four home runs, 34 runs batted in, 11 stolen bases), senior center fielder Ivan VanBeek (.421, 18 RBI, 22 SB), senior second baseman Levi Hescott (.368), senior left fielder Tyler Barker (.339, 27 RBI), the coach’s son — sophomore shortstop Isaac VanderWoude (.333, 15 RBI, 19 SB) and junior first baseman Cody DeJong (.329, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB). The bulk of the pitching has been handled by left-hander Corcoran (3-1, 2.29 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 13 walks 39 2/3 innings), right-hander VanBeek (2-2, 1.58, 44 K’s, four walks, 31 IP) and senior lefty Austin Maslanka (3-0, 2.10, 34 K’s, 10 walks, 20 IP). Assistant coaches are Shane Zegarac, Dale Meyer, Kevin Corcoran, Caleb Jonkman, Greg Gierling and Bo Hofstra. “We are where we are because of those guys,” says VanderWoude. “They are salt of the earth people.” Zegarac pitched for Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., Eastern Kentucky University and in the Texas Rangers system plus independent ball. Corcoran is a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. Illiana Christian alum Meyer played at Southern Illinois University. Hofstra pitched for Illiana Christian and Purdue University. Jonkman, who has been National Wiffle@Ball Player of the Year more than once, and Gierling are also IC grads.
Others with Illiana Christian connections are grad Fletcher Bandstra at Calvin College (Grand Rapids), Carter Doorn (from IC to Lake Central to Purdue University) and former Vikings player D.J. Gladney (Chicago White Sox organization). The Vikings have on-campus diamond which is tended to by coaches and Dave Vermuelen (the father of former player Chris Vermuelen). “It’s a nice field,” says VanderWoude. “In Illinois, we used limestone. We have a fairway mower and put designs in the field. It gets constant water and treatment. “We’re taking pride in what we have.” After graduating from Illiana Christian in 1997, outfielder Jeff VanderWoude played for Cobras head coach Rod Lovett at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and then for Tigers head coach Beauford Sanders at Campellsville (Ky.) University. VanderWoude was on the Parkland coaching staff of Dave Seifert, who went on to be an assistant then head coach at the University of Evansville. As a Philadelphia Phillies regional cross-checker, he had VanderWoude working for him for about a decade. VanderWoude, runs Perm-A-Seal — an asphalt maintenance business in Lynwood, Ill. — with father Keith. Jeff and wife Jori have four children. Besides Isaac (16), there’s Lydia (15), Mya (13) and Hayvn (9). Lydia VanderWoude played varsity softball as an Illiana Christian freshman in 2022. Mya VanderWoude is heading into the eighth grade and Havyn VanderWoude fourth grade.
2021 IHSBCA ALL-STATE TEAM Class 4A Pitchers: Grant Stratton (Jasper), Nate Dohm (Zionsville). C: Hunter Dobbins (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 1B: Kaleb Kolpien (Homestead). 2B: Joel Walton (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 3B: Connor Foley (Jasper). SS: Tucker Biven (New Albany). OF: Carter Mathison (Homestead), Max Clark (Franklin), Tommy O’Connor (Mooresville). Honorable Mention: Evan Waggoner (Bedford North Lawrence); Austin Bode (Columbus North); Jaden Deel (Hobart); Andrew Wallace (Jasper); Jackson Micheels (Carmel); Breenen Weigert (Homestead); Jack Braun (Fishers); Tyler Walkup (Lawrence North); Quentin Markle (Westfield); Joe Huffman (Avon); Nick Mitchell (Carmel); Brad White (Andrean); Blake Herrmann (Castle); Camden Jordan (Cathedral); Sam Gladd (Columbia City); Eli Hopf (Jasper); Brody Chrisman (Zionsville); J.D. Rogers (Carmel); Keaton Mahan (Westfield); Gage Standifer (Westfield); Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North); Chris Gallagher (Cathedral); Carter Doorn (Lake Central); Grant Comstock (Valparaiso); Tate Warner (Fishers); Carter Gilbert (Northridge).
The same week the IHSAA crowns four state champions in Indianapolis, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will conduct its North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. State Finals are Monday and Tuesday, June 21-22 at Victory Field with the games to be set after semistates. The IHSBCA will hold its all-star game festivities Friday through Sunday, June 25-27 at the University of Evansville and historic Bosse Field. Practice is at U of E’s German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium (North workout at 3:15 p.m. Central Time, South workout at 5 Central) followed by the all-star banquet at Crescent Center at Milestones at 7 Central. A noon doubleheader is slated for Saturday at Braun Stadium with a wood-bat single game on Sunday at Bosse Field at 11 a.m. Central. Holiday Inn Express East, 220 Kirkwood Drive, is the team hotel. The North leads 68-63 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged in Evansville Wednesday, June 28.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members have voted and selected 16 district players of the year for 2021.
All-State and Indiana Player of the Year voting begins June 6.
The IHSAA state tournament series begins with sectionals May 26-31, followed by regionals June 5, semistates June 12 and the State Finals June 21-22. The IHSBCA Futures Games and North/South All-Star Series is slated for June 23-27 in Evansville.
Here’s a look at the 16 seniors chosen at Players of the Year in Districts A through P:
Says Swartzentruber: “Carter has been with us for two years following his transfer from Illiana Christian … Great kid, great student and great leader on our young team. One of my favorite players I have coached during my 24 years. … He has been a dominant player this year for us both on the mound and at the plate. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will do great things at Purdue and beyond. Great work ethic and very competitive young man.”
Lake Central is in the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional.
Says Evans: “He’s been a great pitcher for us, probably one of the more dominant pitchers in the (Duneland Athletic Conference). He’s a leader on and off the field. He also plays football and basketball. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Valparaiso is in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional.
Says Smolinski: “Kyle has been blessed with an amazing ability to excel in both athletics and academics. Along with Kyle’s great leadership skills, he’s an outstanding teammate who respects his coaches, teachers and family. He’s hard-working, motivated and driven in everything that he does. I’m so proud of Kyle and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him. I look forward to seeing him succeed on and off the field in the future … Kyle is the type of player where you wish you had nine of him on the field. He does everything you ask. He makes his teammates better.”
St. Joseph is in the Class 3A South Bend Clay Sectional.
Says Byall: “He has been a phenomenal player for us for four years. He is extremely talented, but has also worked extremely hard to transform his body and skills to an elite level … He is phenomenal to coach because you know he’s going to work hard and go about his business the right way every single day. He has been phenomenal for us this year, performing at such a high level, and by working hard everyday. He has a really bright future.”
Homestead is in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional.
E — Jacob Loftus (Peru). A righty-swinging catcher for Tigers coach Chuck Brimbury, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Loftus has not yet made his college commitment. He plans to major in Secondary Math Education.
Say Brimbury: “Jacob is the best high school player I have coached at Peru High School in my two-plus decades. Hard worker, captain, tough, talented, and a model of ‘team first’ guy. We have have had two drafts, dozens of college players and several D-1 players from our program. Jacob ‘Yogi’ Loftus is our best to play here.”
Says King: “Hunter is a very talented player — one of the best I’ve had. Hunter is probably the best all-around hitter I’ve ever had. He’s definitely a five-tool player. He has the ability to play not only at the collegiate level but the professional level … He’s a good leader (for the program’s first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship). He talks hitting and situations all the time with our guys.”
Mount Vernon is in the Class 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional.
Says Marker: “I don’t think there’s another player in the state of Indiana that means more to his team than Luke means to ours. He strikes out between 15 and 21 guys (per game) … He’s had 11 strikeouts in four innings (a couple of times) … At the 1A level he strikes fear into the hearts of hitters … He’s got six pitches. He’ll have to whittle that down at the next level.”
Seton Catholic is in the Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional.
Says Doty: “Kameron is the kind of player every coach hopes they will have the opportunity to coach — hard-working, dedicated, coachable, but most importantly a leader! Add it in the athletic ability and that describes Kameron Salazar. He has the ability to hit any pitch in any count to all fields. He is one of the best pure hitters I have had the opportunity to coach … His quick hands aid him both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. He will use all fields offensively and has significant range in the middle of the infield … All of those abilities — as great as they are — of course don’t come even close to describing his character! He is one of the nicest young men you would ever meet and terrific teammate! He has been (would have been) a four-year starter for us at shortstop if not for COVID. He has been the heart and soul of our program for the past four years and he will be great missed as he moves on to Marian next year. It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach him these past four years.”
Says Koeppen: “He’s by far one of the most enjoyable kids I’ve ever coached. He works as hard as anybody at practice. He does things the right way all the time … It’s been fun to sit back and watch him play this year.”
Lafayette Jeff is in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Says Cosgray: “Garrett is just a very well-rounded player. He’s an exceptional right-handed pitcher, topping out at 95 mph with good command of his curveball, slider and change-up … Defensively at shortstop, he’s very sound. He makes the routine play but also has the ability to make the spectacular play when necessary … He hits in the 3-hole for us. He can hit for power. He’s a gap-to-gap approach hitter, hitting over .500. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded player than him.”
Lebanon is in the Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional.
Says Freje: “He’s been a lead-off hitter and the top arm we go to … Chris is comfortable (as a sidearmer). He’s taken that role and run with it … He’s been incredibly impactful on the bases. He’s a gamer. He’s embraced all the roles he’s been given. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Says Jones: “He throws 92 mph-plus and he mixes his pitches real well. He gets a lot of strikeouts. He’s able to throw the ball up, throw the ball down and hit the corners … He hits well. He’s well over 400. He’s just a consistent guy.”
Edgewood is in the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional.
Says Decker: “He’s had a really good senior year. He’s been good on the mound and at the plate for us. He probably could have gone some places to be a two-way (having played all over the field). He’s one of the better athletes I’ve got to coach … Stuff comes really easy to him.”
Silver Creek is in the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
Says Mattingly: “He’s one of those kids who’s humble, hard-working and he competes. He want to be the best and he goes about his business to be the best … I’ve been around him a long time and he’s just a good kid.”
Southridge is in the Class 3A Southridge Sectional.
Says Goedde: “He’s been our most-consistent player all year. He’s in the middle of a good season. He’s had minimal slumps …. He’s versatile enough that he can play just about anywhere. Henry moves very well. He’s got a good, athletic body.”
Evansville Central is in the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional.
IHSBCA 2021 District Players of the Year (School/Head Coach)