Grant Besser’s habit of dodging bats with his pitches got him noticed during his prep days and it continues at the collegiate level. At South Adams High School in Berne, Ind., the left-hander and four-time first-team all-Allen County Athletic Conference selection whiffed 451 in 241 innings with a 1.27 earned run average. He also hit .397 with eight home runs and 58 runs batted in. As a senior, Besser fanned 130 in 54 frame and posted a 0.77 ERA and hit .426 with two homers and 17 RBIs for the Brad Buckingham-coached Starfires. He began working out that winter in Fort Wayne with Pittsburgh Pirates strength trainer Dru Scott. When not pitching, lefty Besser was the unorthodox choice for South Adams at shortstop his last three seasons. “I knew it looked silly, but I had been playing shortstop all my life,” says Besser. “I can throw from any arm angle. I had a great time doing it. “Besides I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it for long. I knew pitching is what I wanted to do.” Besser played in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison. He was honored as the 2019 Northeast Indiana Baseball Association/Dick Crumback Player of the Year. The 2021 recipient of the award — Carter Mathison (Homestead/Indiana University) is Besser’s teammate this summer with New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats. Mathison was also the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Besser shined on the mound at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers. In 36 appearances (10 starts), he went 6-4 with eight saves and a 2.66 earned run average as the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Buccaneers posted marks of 16-11 in 2020 (COVID-19 shortened), 44-16 in 2021 and 42-15 in 2022. He amassed 125 strikeouts and 42 walks in 94 2/3 innings. Besser played no summer ball in 2020 and dealt with an injury at the beginning of the 2021. He came back and hurled five innings in the state tournament and did not allow a baserunner. “I really saw a spike in all of my numbers for the good (in 2022),” says Besser. “I blew every category away from the previous years.” He was in 20 games in 2022 and went 3-2 with six saves, a 1.28 ERA, 61 K’s and 16 walks in 42 1/3 innings. Ben Bizier is head coach at Florida SouthWestern State. Derrick Conatser is Bucs pitching coach. “I like that toughness to he brings to the table,” says Besser of Bizier. In his exit interview with Bizier Besser was told that 18 Major League Baseball organizations have been following him as they prepare for the 2022 First-Year Player Draft (July 17-19 in Los Angeles). “He said there’s a really good chance it happens this year,” says Besser, who turns 22 in September. “Out of high school I had zero (college) offers. Coach Buckingham offered me to Florida JUCO’s. I earned a scholarship at FSW in the spring. “Money has never been the big thing for me. It’s opportunity and getting my foot in the door.” This is Besser’s second straight summer at Keene and he has had several meaningful chats with Swamp Bats president and general manager Kevin Watterson. So far, Besser has made four appearances (one start) and is 1-0 with an 0.87 ERA. In 10 1/3 innings, the southpaw has 10 strikeouts and one walk. The NECBL regular season ends July 30. Throughout his college experience, Besser has been used in multiple pitching roles, including starter, long reliever and a closer. “It doesn’t matter to me as long as we get a win,” says Besser. “I’m very versatile.” Besser has excelled with an ability to keep his head when things get tense. “It’s mental toughness. I preach it,” says Besser. “I can spot when somebody doesn’t have that mental toughness. “I’m ready for the situation. I’m consistent with all that I do. I work quick and throw strikes. Preparation and a steady mindset is key.” Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, Besser uses a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up and curveball. “My four-seamer has natural run and a high spin rate,” says Besser. “Up in the zone is where I get the most out of it. “This summer it’s been sitting 89 to 91 mph (it hit 92 at Florida SouthWestern State).” Besser’s two-seamer moves in to left-handed hitters and away from righties. His “circle” change-up break to his arm side and is usually clocked around 83 mph. “My curveball is more of a slurve,” says Besser of the pitch that’s often delivered at around 78 mph. “I mix and match. Sometimes it’s 12-to-6 and sometimes I sweep it. It depends on the situation.” Grant is the oldest of Mike and Katina Besser’s two sons. Adam Besser, a right-handed pitcher for Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, turns 20 in August. Mike Besser is a salesman for Moser Motor Sales. Katina Besser is chief financial officer at Swiss Village Retirement Community. The family moved from Geneva and Berne when Grant was in the fifth grade. Beginning at 9U, he played travel ball for the Muncie Longhorns and Indiana Bandits and then Summit City Sluggers founder Mark DeLaGarza reached out to him and he spent two summers with the 17U Sluggers, playing for head coaches Todd Armstrong and Brent Alwine. “My parents’ sacrifices let me do that,” says Grant. “The Sluggers gave me a lot of knowledge on baseball.”
With two years of eligibility remaining, has committed to NCAA Division I Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He signed with the Scarlet Knights over the winter. Why Rutgers? “What really attracting me was coming home to the Big Ten,” says Besser, who was born in Fort Wayne and grew up in Geneva and Berne. “It’s up-and-coming program and pretty hard-nosed.” With Steve Owens as head coach and Brendan Monaghan guiding pitchers, the Scarlet Knights posted an overall mark of 44-17 and Big Ten record of 17-7 in 2022. Rutgers played Michigan in the conference tournament championship game. After earning an Associate of Arts degree in Business Management at Florida SouthWestern State, Besser is considering a Labor and Relations major at Rutgers.
Notre Dame — the last college baseball team from Indiana left standing in 2022 — found out today (May 30) that the Irish will be in the Statesboro Regional for the 64-team NCAA Division I tournament. The No. 2-seeded Irish (35-14) play No. 3 Texas Tech (37-20) at 2 p.m. Friday, June 3. Site host and top-seeded Georgia Southern (40-18) plays No. UNC Greensboro (34-28) at 7 p.m. Friday. Notre Dame made it to the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Regionals continue through June 6 with super regionals June 10-13 and the College World Series June 17-27. Ball State made it to the “if necessary” Mid-American Conference tournament championship game against Central Michigan and lost 11-7 to wind up the season at 40-19 overall and 32-7 as MAC regular-season champions. Central Michigan earned an automatic NCAA tournament bid. Evansville (32-24, 14-6), Indiana State (26-22-1, 10-10-1) and Valparaiso (16-32, 5-15) bowed out in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Seasons came to a close for Purdue (29-21, 9-12) and Indiana (27-32, 10-14) at the Big Ten tournament. Purdue Fort Wayne (18-36, 13-15) finished up in the Horizon League tournament. In the past few weeks, conferences have handed out postseason awards at the NCAA D-I, D-II and D-III, NAIA and junior college levels and there is a list of those below.
Josh Pyne decided early in life that he wanted to play college baseball. And not just anywhere. Pyne desired to play at Indiana University, having been born in Bedford, Ind., and grown up near Bloomington in Linton, Ind. “We were a 25-minute drive away,” says Pyne, a 19-year-old freshman who has started all 31 games so far for the 2022 Hoosiers. “My dad a huge IU basketball fan and still is. I grew up an IU baseball fan.” Pyne verbally committed to IU his freshman year at Linton-Stockton High School when Chris Lemonis was Hoosiers head coach. Jared Pyne is a lineman superintendent for Greene County REMC. His wife, Brooke Pyne, works for a Navy contractor. Oldest son Jacob, 23, is a Daviess County REMC lineman. Daughter Adalyn, 17, is a Linton-Stockton junior involved in cheerleading and track and interested in animals. Middle child Josh followed Jacob into motocross as the family criss-crossed the country on that circuit. After Josh raced for a few years, along came baseball. He threw himself into the diamond sport, playing for the Smithville Scrappers at 9. Family friend Mike Vaughn coached that team and would be Pyne’s coach with the Indiana Nitro and Indiana Bulls through his 15U summer. “I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” says Pyne of Vaughn. Another summer with the Jeremy Honaker-coached Bulls was followed by a summer with Jay Hundley’s Canes Midwest team. In the fall of his junior year at Linton-Stockton, Pyne was with the Jeff Petty-coached Canes National squad. The next summer he played for Johnny Goodrich’s Orlando Scorpions. To help with the transition from high school to college, freshmen were brought on-campus last summer to take classes, get in the weight room and begin the bonding process. It’s a class that includes infielder Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden (Edgewood) and outfielder Carter Mathison (Homestead). The latter has started in 29 games and appeared in 31 this spring. Business Management major Pyne already had a relationship with one Hoosier, having played baseball and basketball with Kip Fougerousse (who was a 1,000-point scorer on the hardwood) at Linton-Stockton. Josh and sophomore catcher/infielder Kip hang out a lot at IU. “I go over to his house almost everyday,” says Pyne. “We play cards or get some food. We have a background like nobody else on the team.” Pyne say it was a big adjustment going from high school to college, but that has been eased by the bonding, the leadership or older players and the coaching staff led by Jeff Mercer. The biggest difference in high school and college baseball to Pyne is the pace of play. “I see how much faster everything is,” says Pyne. “Balls are balls hit harder. Pitches are quicker. You have less reaction time.” To adapt to this, the Hoosiers practice and train at game speed. “You have to go full speed and push yourself to get used to that pace of play,” says Pyne. “Some drills uncomfortable because it speeds us up. But you have to be uncomfortable to be better.” Pyne, who was a shortstop in high school and travel ball, has gotten used to “27 outs” when Mercer or assistant Derek Simmons laces balls all over the field and Pyne can get live reads off the bat at 100 mph or more. Mercer has plenty of praise for Pyne. “Josh is just an A ++ kid. I’m super proud of him,” says Mercer. “He’s a southern Indiana kid at IU playing his tail off. He’s an awesome dude. He’s very talented. He can have a great at-bat. He’s a great defender and baserunner and an awesome teammate. “He’s everything a Hoosier should be.” Pyne was a four-year letterwinner and four-time captain at Linton-Stockton playing for Miners baseball head coach Matt Fougerousse, Kip’s father. As a senior, Pyne was an all-state selection and the team MVP. He was all-Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference three times and set a single-season school record with 50 hits. As a basketball player for coach Joey Hart, Pyne was part of three IHSAA Class 2A sectional championships and played in the 2019 2A state championship game as a sophomore. “I played basketball to keep in shape and for the fun of it,” says Pyne. Josh recalls that Matt Fougerousse’s was always there for late-night batting practice after basketball games or practices. “He helped me for those four years,” says Pyne. “He even stayed and coached me for my senior year when he really didn’t have to.” Matt stepped away from coaching at the end of the 2021 season, giving himself more of a chance to see Indiana play. Going into a Big Ten Conference series April 15-17 at Rutgers, righty swinger Pyne is hitting .301 (37-of-103) with four home runs, seven doubles (tied for second on the team), 31 runs batted in (second on the team) and 19 runs scored. He carries an OPS of .820 (.365 on-base plus .455 slugging). Pyne produced a career highs three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored April 10 at Purdue. He rapped two doubles April 2 against Northwestern. Indiana 13-18 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are 3-5 in April. The team’s freshmen third baseman is confident IU will get rolling. “We just need to compete on the mound and at the plate,” says Pyne. “It will all fall into place. “We have the talent to do it.”
With the beginning of IHSAA baseball practice, the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association has put out its Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year Watch List for 2022. An email was sent to baseball coaches in Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Huntington, Wells and Whitley counties. These are the counties that the NEIBA covers when choosing their Hall of Famers. Each coach was asked to nominated any player(s) that he feels could be in the running for such an honor. The list of 72 will be narrowed down in finalists in early May and the Dick Crumback/NEIBA Player of the Year will be announced May 25 to coincide with the beginning of the IHSAA baseball tournament series. The player of the year will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game in early June and at the NEIBA Hall of Fame banquet June 12. Homestead’s Carter Mathison was the 2021 honoree. The organization has honored local baseball players, personnel and ambassadors since 1961. For more information, contact Gary Rogers at email@example.com or Brett Windmiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DICK CRUMBACK/NEIBA HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST 2022 Adams Central (Coach Dave Neuenschwander) Sr. Alex Currie Jr. Ryan Black Sr. Jaron Hildebrand Sr. Blake Heyerly Bishop Dwenger (Coach Jason Garrett) So. Brayton Thomas Sr. Xavier Aguirre Sr. Jack Tippmann Bishop Luers (Coach Jeff Stanski) Jr. Cam Martinez Sr. Paul Birkmeier Carroll (Coach Dave Ginder) Sr. Alex Smith Sr. Jaydan Duba Sr. Jordan Malott Jr. Will Worrel Jr. Thomas Tratnyek Jr. Andrew Sinish Jr. Daniel Kirk So. Conner Barkel Central Noble (Coach Tyler Graybeal) Sr. Will Hoover Churubusco (Coach Jordan Turner) Sr. Keenan Hendricks Sr. Cal Ostrowski Columbia City (Coach Rob Bell) Sr. Sam Gladd Sr. Adin Miller Sr. Julian Osselaer DeKalb (Coach Collin Bice) Sr. Bryce Dobson Sr. Logan Jordan Jr. Eli Ehmke Jr. Tegan Irk Jr. Ethan Jordan Jr. Alex Leslie Jr. Logan Montoya Jr. Parker Smith Jr. Donnie Wiley East Noble (Coach Aaron Desmonds) Sr. Brayden Risedorph Eastside (Coach Aaron Willard) Sr. Jack Buchanan Sr. Nick Snyder Sr. Owen Willard Garrett (Coach Jason Richards) Sr. Graham Kelham Sr. Trey Richards Sr. Kail Baughman Jr. Luke Byers So. Luke Holcomb Heritage (Coach Dean Lehrman) Sr. Dalton D. Wasson Homestead (Coach Nick Byall) Sr. Brennen Weigert Sr. Nick Hockemeyer Sr. Caden Tarango Jr. Jake Goode Jr. Bryce Yoder Sr. Braydon Quintana Sr. Carter Dixon Sr. Jackson Todor Huntington North (Coach Jarod Hammel) Sr. Austin Oswalt Leo (Coach Gary Rogers) Sr. Cohden Brubaker Sr. Donavin Massing Jr. Jevon Walker So. Kylar Decker New Haven (Coach Dave Bischoff) Sr. Connor Cannon Northrop (Coach Matt Brumbaugh) Sr. Luke Siren So. Pernell Whitsett North Side (Coach Austin Mannan) Jr. Gabriel Oliva Snider (Coach Josh Clinkenbeard) Sr. Trevor Newman Sr. Cade Hinton Fr. Landen Fry Fr. Brandon Logan Sr. Aaron Fenn Sr. Domanic Moon Sr. Jakob Byler South Adams (Coach Brad Buckingham) Sr. A.J. Dull South Side (Coach Will Coursen-Carr) Sr. Perry Stow So. Evan Harl Southern Wells (Coach Blade Rheinhart) Sr. Branson Rheinhart Sr. Evan Reynolds Sr. Owen Vickrey
Several players doubled down on power during the Indiana college baseball week of Feb. 28-March 6. NCAA Division III Hanover’s Alex Christie (Center Grove High School graduate) knocked five home runs for the week — two against Purchase and one each against Mary Washington, Kean and Neumann — in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It was Christie’s first five homers of the 2022 season. Also lofting five homers was NAIA Indiana Wesleyan’s Evan Salmon — two homers in Game 1 and one in Game 2 against Cleary and one apiece in Games 3 and 4 against Spring Arbor. IWU’s Zach Rabe clouted two in Game 1 against Cleary and two in Game 3 against Spring Arbor. Salmon has eight homers in ’22 and Rabe four. NCAA D-I’s Ball State’s Trenton Quartermaine socked four home runs for the week — one against Coastal Carolina, one in Game 1 against Florida A&M and two in Game 2 against Florida A&M. Quartermaine’s season total for circuit clouts is five. NAIA Indiana Southeast’s Trevor Campbell homered twice against Lindsey Wilson and once each in Games 1 and 3 against Northwestern Ohio. Ray Aponte smacked homers against Lindsey Wilson and Northwestern Ohio (Games 1 and 3). NCAA D-III Franklin’s Logan Demkovich (Munster) homered in all three games against Hope while Noah Wood (Indianapolis Lutheran) produced big flies in Games 1 and 2. Purdue’s Cam Thompson cracked a walk-off homer as Purdue (12-0) topped Longwood 6-5 in 11 innings in Game 3 of the series. The Boilermakers continue to enjoy the best start in program history. Thompson has two homers in ’22. Indiana’s Brock Tibbitts (New Albany) rapped two homers against Miami (Ohio) while teammates Matthew Ellis (Miami and Game 2 vs. Missouri State) and Homestead graduate Carter Mathison (Games 1 and 3 vs. Missouri State) also enjoyed two-homer weeks. Ellis has five dingers on the year while Tibbitts and Mathison (the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year) have two each. Butler’s Aaron Steinhart went deep twice against Northern Kentucky. The blasts were his first two of ’22. Evansville’s Tanner Craig (Austin) cranked homers against Kentucky, Ohio (Game 1) and Illinois-Chicago (Game 2). He has six homers on the season. At 5-3, Valparaiso is off to its best eight-game start since 1999. NCAA D-II University of Indianapolis third baseman Armen Torosian homered in Games 2 and 3 against Wayne State, raising his season total to three. Purdue Northwest finally opened its season and went 3-1 in a series at Southwest Baptist. Anderson’s Tyler Smitherman (Westfield) bashed two homers in Game 1 against St. Norbert, doubling his season HR tally. Earlham’s Christian Lancianese homered twice in Game 2 against Wilmington. Nathan Lancianese homered once in Game 3 of the series. They were the season’s first bombs for both players. Manchester’s Brady Perez (Rochester) ahieved lift-off in Games 2 and 4 against Kalamazoo, raising his season HR mark to five. Rose-Hulman’s Shane Garner (Sullivan) rapped his first two homers of ’22 in Game 1 against Saint Mary’s (Minn.) and Dubuque. NAIA Saint Francis freshman Sam Pesa (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) homered in Games 1 and 3 against Huntington. His grand slam in Game 1 was part of a 13-run fifth inning. Pesa has a team-best five homers in ’22. Goshen’s Peyton Smith (Daleville) homered in Games 3 and 4 against Grace. He has three homers on the season. It wasn’t all about slugging. NAIA Indiana University Kokomo posted three shutouts against visiting Ohio Christian — 5-0, 10-0 and 1-0. Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern), Lucas Letsinger (Hamilton Heights), Ben Harris (Northwestern), J.T. Holton (Clinton Central) and Ryan Beck (Mt. Vernon of Fortville) combined for 18 strikeouts and six walks over 23 innings. Indiana University South Bend beat Concordia (Neb. 1) 2-1 in Game 2 in Auburndale, Fla., without a hit. Nolan Unger’s second-inning groundout drove in Coby Campbell with the first run and Jake Dykstra (Lake Central) scored on a seventh-inning wild pitch. The Titans have won four straight. Crown Point graduate Josh Hoogewerf (9 K’s, 0 BB, 7 IP) and New Prairie alum Noah Brettin (2 K’s, 0 BB, 1 IP) combined on a 1-hitter as NCAA D-III Trine beat John Carroll 1-0 in the first game of a doubleheader in Lake Myrtle, Fla. Dalton Nikirk (Bedford North Lawrence) delivered the walk-off RBI single to plate Easton Rhodes (DeKalb) for the Thunder.
Friday, March 4 Indianapolis 5, Wayne State 3 Southwest Baptist 7, Purdue Northwest 4 Purdue Northwest 5, Southwest Baptist 0 Southern Indiana 11, Trevecca Nazarene 3
Saturday, March 5 Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 2 Wayne State 26, Indianapolis 11 Purdue Northwest 7, Southwest Baptist 2 Trevecca Nazarene 9, Southern Indiana 4 Trevecca Nazarene 15, Southern Indiana 3
Sunday, March 6 Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 3 Purdue Northwest 6, Southwest Baptist 5
Saturday, March 5 Earlham 19, Wilmington 9 Franklin 18, Hope 6 Hope 27, Franklin 7 Hanover 11, Neumann 3 Anderson 11, St. Norbert 4 Anderson 20, St. Norbert 11 Kalamazoo 19, Manchester 6 Kalamazoo 13, Manchester 5 DePauw 9, Hendrix 6 Hendrix 8, DePauw 6 Aurora 9, Wabash 8 (10 inn.) Wabash 16, Aurora 3
Sunday, March 6 Anderson 6, St. Norbert 2 Earlham 12, Wilmington 11 Kalamazoo 15, Manchester 1 Kalamazoo 8, Manchester 6 Trine 1, John Carroll 0 (8 inn.) John Carroll 15, Trine 0
NAIA Monday, Feb. 28 Spring Arbor 9, Goshen 2 Spring Arbor 3, Goshen 0
Tuesday, March 1 Calumet of St. Joseph 19, Lincoln Christian 1 Calumet of St. Joseph 8, Lincoln Christian 0 (suspended in 3rd to April 11) Grace 12, IU South Bend 7
Wednesday, March 2 Indiana Wesleyan 17, Cleary 8 Cleary 11, Indiana Wesleyan 2 IU Southeast 16, Lindsey Wilson 2
Friday, March 4 Brewton-Parker 20, Calumet of St. Joseph 4 Saint Francis 14, Huntington 9 Huntington 6, Saint Francis 1 Bethel 9, Mt. Vernon Nazarene 6 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 13, Bethel 0 Grace 6, Goshen 2 Goshen 1, Grace 0 Spring Arbor 2, Indiana Wesleyan 1 Indiana Wesleyan 7, Spring Arbor 6 Taylor 8, Marian 1 Taylor 5, Marian 1 IU Kokomo 5, Ohio Christian 0 Oakland City 4, West Virginia Tech 2
Saturday, March 5 Calumet of St. Joseph 6, Brewton-Parker 4 Brewton-Parker 12, Calumet of St. Joseph 11 Huntington 6, Saint Francis 5 Saint Francis 6, Huntington 1 Bethel 9, Mt. Nazarene 6 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 2 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 3 Grace 16, Goshen 12 Grace 13, Goshen 11 Indiana Wesleyan 26, Spring Arbor 1 Indiana Wesleyan 19, Spring Arbor 18 Marian 20, Taylor 10 (8 inn.) Taylor 12, Marian 10 IU Kokomo 10, Ohio Christian 0 IU Kokomo 1, Ohio Christian 0 Oakland 11, West Virginia Tech 10 (11 inn.) Oakland 7, West Virginia Tech 6 IU Southeast 26, Northwestern Ohio 12 Northwestern Ohio 3, IU Southeast 2 IU South Bend 20, Michigan-Dearborn 5 IU South Bend 13, Michigan-Dearborn 9
Sunday, March 6 IU Southeast 11, Northwestern Ohio 8 IU South Bend 8, Concorida (Neb.) 7 IU South Bend 2, Concorida (Neb.) 1 Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 2 Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 0
Junior College Monday, Feb. 28 Vincennes 7, Joliet 2
Friday, March 4 Ivy Tech Northeast 4, Anderson JV 3 Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0 Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7
Saturday, March 5 Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0 Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7 Miami-Hamilton 13, Marian’s Ancilla 8 Ivy Tech Northeast 13, Lincoln Trail 3 Lincoln Trail 8, Ivy Tech Northeast 6
Sunday, March 6 Lake County 1, Marian’s Ancilla 0 Lake County 16, Marian’s Ancilla 5 Lincoln Trail 12, Ivy Tech Northeast 5 Ivy Tech Northeast 6, Lincoln Trail 1
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).
Catrter Mathison made a lot of noise with his bat during the 2021 baseball season for Homestead High School in Fort Wayne. The lefty-swinging outfielder who is already enrolled at Indiana University hit .515 (51-of-99) with 16 home runs, six triples, 12 doubles, 53 runs batted in, 64 runs scored, 25 walks and 18 stolen bases in 18 attempts. His OPS was .1.863 (.621 on-base percentage plus 1.242 slugging average). The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder struck out just 15 times in 132 plate appearances for the 26-7 Nick Byall-coached Spartans. All that thunder earned Mathison the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year Award in a vote of members. “It’s been a big goal of mine this year,” says Mathison, who was presented with the honor at a banquet Friday, June 25 in Evansville and will wear the No. 1 jersey while playing for the North in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in two games Saturday, June 26 at the University of Evansville and one wood bat game Sunday, June 27 at Bosse Field. “I’m very blessed to receive this award.” Even though he swings a loud bat, Mathison talks about his quiet approach at the plate. “Just stay as calm as possible and be confident in yourself whenever you know you’re going to beat the pitcher,” says Mathison, one of 16 IHSBCA District Players of the Year. “My dad told me ever since I was young is always knowing you beat this pitcher. He tells me that all the time.” Sharing Carter’s moment this weekend are parents Craig and Mindy and younger sisters Abigail and Lilly. Byall, who is on the North coaching staff along with Homestead assistant Shawn Harkness, has advice that sticks with Mathison. “Just trust my instincts,” says Mathison. “And it’s paid off.” Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Mathison played 9U travel ball for the Summit City Spartans and then the River City Thunder. When he got older he was with the Indiana Mustangs and Indiana Bulls (2019 and 2020). Mathison, who was also named the Dick Crumback/Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Player of the Year, has been taking two summer courses at IU in Bloomington. He has not yet declared his major, but is leaning toward something related to business. A left-handed thrower, Mathison played first base when he was younger. With his speed, he was moved to the outfield and usually patrols center field.
The Homestead High School baseball program will also receive a $1,000 donation from the Crumback family and the Fort Wayne Baseball Federation in honor of Dick Crumback. Mathison will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game in June.
An Indiana University commit and lefty-swinging/throwing outfielder/pitcher for Spartans coach Nick Byall, Mathison is the second winner of this award following South Adams’ Grant Besser in 2019. The award was not given due to the cancellation of the 2020 IHSAA baseball season.
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)