Tag Archives: Cass

Ward, Northwestern Tigers baseball enjoying ‘firsts’

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kokomo, Ind., touts itself as the “City of Firsts” with claims to America’s first commercially-produced automobile and more.

Northwestern High School is enjoying some its own “firsts.”

For the first time, the Tigers have artificial turf on three of their athletic fields — baseball, football and softball.

As Phase 1 of a improvement campaign, a committee of administrators, teachers, parents and community members used grant money to make the upgrades. While not yet determined, a second phase could bring lighted fields and academic improvements.

Fourth-year head baseball coach Ryan Ward got a chance to send his baseball players on the carpet for the first time during fall workouts.

“If it’s warm enough, we can take some kids out there in January and February,” says Ward. “We have the best practice field in the state, especially a school our size (enrollment around 550).”

As the Tigers play their first season on the new-look field in 2018, Ward will continue to assert some other firsts — something he has done since taking over as head coach in 2015 after serving on Kyle Beachy’s staff for the IHSAA Class 3A Twin Lakes Sectional-winning 2014 season.

“We want to play an aggressive style of baseball,” says Ward. “For pitchers, we emphasize first-pitch strikes. As hitters, we look for to drive early in the counts. As baserunners, we will be aggressive. If we make mistakes, they are aggressive mistakes. That’s the brand of ball we’re trying to play.

Ward knows it’s not always easy teenagers to make the right catch, throw and tag in the heat of the moment, so he is going to have his players force the issue.

“We’ve got to keep empowering the kids on our team,” says Ward. “The more we can force our opponents to do, the better chance they are going to make mistakes and give ourselves a better chance to win.”

Ward graduated from Hickory High School in Hermitage, Pa. (about 75 miles northwest of Pittsburgh), in 2009.

Gary Hinkson was Ward’s high school coach. He saw the potential for Ward to go into the profession.

“He gave me that encouragement and motivation,” says Ward of Hinkson, who would win 301 games at Hickory from 1994-2015. “He treated us (players) like we were major leaguers. We carried on the expectations that he set for us.”

In Ward’s sophomore season (2007), the Hickory Hornets won their first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 10 title in 10 years, repeated the feat the next spring and lost in the district championship game in 2009.

At Northwestern, Ward prepares his Tigers for competition in the Hoosier Conference and athletic director and former Northwestern baseball coach Dan Armstrong schedules many other teams in the Kokomo and Lafayette areas.

The HC is split into two divisions — Northwestern, Cass, Hamilton Heights, Tipton and Western in the East and Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Rensselaer Central, Twin Lakes and West Lafayette in the West.

Teams play all the schools in their division in home-and-home series on Wednesdays and Thursdays with crossover games at the end. The top teams in each division square off the title with East Division No. 2 facing West Division No. 2 and so on.

Ward, who counts Jeff Trueblood and Dan Butcher as assistant coaches for 2018, gears his pitching staff toward conference games.

“We have our Wednesday starter and Thursday starter,” says Ward. “It helps pitchers get into a routine and guys are working to be a conference starters.”

In 2017, the IHSAA implemented pitch count rules (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“I love the intent of the rules,” says Ward. “It’s putting the focus on the health of the athlete. I’d like to see better communication on how we execute the rule between coaches, umpires and the IHSAA.

“Wow do we keep improving it?”

Northwestern doesn’t have to look far to see the future of its program since the Northwestern Youth Baseball League (T-ball through major baseball) is housed on school grounds and seventh and eighth grade teams play 15 to 20 games in the spring on the varsity field. Truebood, a Northwestern graduate who played college baseball, is NYBL president. Joel Downey and Bruce Smith are middle school coaches.

“From the time they’re 6, they think about wearing purple one day,” says Ward. “They are coming back as alumni. We’re putting the focus on the Northwestern school district and those relationships.”

Many high school-age Tigers play in the summer for travel teams or Kokomo American Legion Post 6.

Ward went to Butler University with the idea of playing baseball, but was cut in his freshman year. He still respects then-Bulldogs head coach Steve Farley as a mentor.

“He was honest with me,” says Ward, who earned a degree from Butler in 2013 and began teaching fifth grade at Northwestern Elementary that fall. Ryan and wife Katelyn, a 2008 Kokomo High School graduate and third grade teacher in Kokomo schools at Lafayette Park International Elementary, were wed in September 2016 and live in the Northwestern district.

NORTHWESTERNTIGERS

RYANWARD

Ryan Ward and wife, Katelyn, are both elementary school teachers — Ryan in the Northwestern district, Katelyn in Kokomo. Ward is entering his fourth season as Northwestern High School head baseball coach in 2018.

 

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Berryman getting Western ready for ‘next’ baseball move

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

They’ve got a good thing going at Western High School.

The Panthers have enjoyed plenty of baseball success, taking 18 sectionals, seven regionals, two semistates, one Class 3A state championship (2012) and one 3A state runner-up finish (2016).

Ty Calloway, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and Howard County Sports hall of famer, led the program for 36 seasons and Quentin Brown (now with Indiana Primetime Sports) for the past three.

Ryan Berryman is now the man in charge. As a 1994 Western graduate, former WHS athletic director and head coach at county rival Northwestern, he is very aware of the winning tradition in Russiaville.

“We’re a baseball community,” says Berryman. “The expectations are high.”

Berryman, who returned to the classroom after serving as AD from 2011-13, has continued to coach baseball in the summer with the Indiana Bulls travel organization (he will lead a 16U squad this summer).

In 11 seasons at Northwestern, Berryman’s teams won 226 games, four sectionals and took the Tigers to a 2005 Class 2A State Finals. Future big leaguer Brandon Beachy was part of that team.

At Western, Berryman is greeted by 15 returnees from the 2016 state runners-up.

“We’ve got a much deeper pitching staff,” says Berryman, a big believer in mound depth with two-thirds of the players in his program being able to pitch. “It’ll be disappointing for all these guys if they don’t make a run.”

Not that Berryman wants the Panthers to get ahead of themselves.

“We don’t get caught up in anything too small,” says Berryman. “We don’t get caught up in anything too big. We just focus in on play by play, pitch by pitch.

“We want to keep it as simple as possible. There’s nothing magical to the success I’ve had as a coach.”

Berryman, whose coaching staff features Cody Shipley, Colton Summers, Devon Eaker and Dwight Singer at the varsity level as well as Luke Waitt and Michael Rocchio with the junior varsity, wants his players to have that “next” mentality — Next at-bat. Next pitch. Next inning.

His daily request is to be on-time and work hard.

“I only have two hours a day with these guys,” says Berryman. “After that, it’s on them.

“It’s a tough game. Find a way to work through your mistakes and get better and don’t dwell on the negative things.”

After playing for Calloway at Western, Berryman took the field for Indiana Wesleyan University and Northern Kentucky University as did twin brother Scott. Ryan pitched for the Lafayette Leopards of the independent professional Heartland League in 1998.

Berryman, who was head coach for the IHSBCA North-South All-Star Series in 2011 and is a past association president, would like to see an increase in the time coaches can work with athletes out-of-season — a change that would help not only baseball but other high school sports.

“I realize that these kids are student-athletes and academics come first and there are coaches that want to be with the kids too much,” says Berryman. “But, at the same time, we shouldn’t take opportunities away for kids to fully develop.

“Now, they can’t work with their baseball coach until a certain date has passed. It’s about kids and opportunities.”

Western competes in the 10-team Hoosier Conference. Teams play Tuesday-Wednesday home-and-home series within their divisions with seeded crossover games at the end of the season. Western, Cass, Hamilton Heights , Northwestern and Tipton are in the East. Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Rensselaer Central, Twin Lakes and West Lafayette are in the West.

Feeder systems for Western baseball are Russiaville Youth Baseball League and the Russiaville Rams travel team.

High school players participating with several travel teams in the summer, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Mustangs, Indiana Nitro, Indiana Pony Express and Indiana Prospects.

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RYANBERRYMAN

Ryan Berryman, a 1994 Western High School graduate, is in his first season as the Panthers head baseball coach. He coached Northwestern to the 2005 IHSAA Class 2A State Finals and is a summer coach with the Indiana Bulls travel organization.