Tag Archives: Chris Rhodes

Lopez, North Vermillion baseball looking to feed off football, basketball success

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Success in one sport can lead to another.

That’s is the hope for baseball at North Vermillion Junior-Senior High School in Cayuga, Ind., after the school saw its football team make it to the state championship game last fall and its boys basketball team advance to the regional championship contest this winter.

Six starters on the football squad that finished as IHSAA Class 1A state runners-up are returning starters for the Falcons in baseball — senior two-way lineman/right fielder Derek Foncannon, junior quarterback/shortstop Brennan Ellis, junior running back/center fielder Wyatt Reynolds, junior center/catcher Kale Flynn, junior offensive tackle/inside linebacker/third baseman Josh Little, and junior wide receiver/left fielder Lucas Cook.

The Falcons’ top two pitchers — senior right-hander Alex Tallman and junior righty Luke Osborn — are also back for 2019.

Hank Lopez, who is defensive coordinator in football and the father of Derek Foncannon (a Vincennes, Ind., University baseball commit), returns for his fourth season as North Vermillion’s head baseball coach. His assistant coaches are Maris Clark and Paul Hamilton.

“We want to be mentally tough,” says Lopez of his team’s core values. “They’ve put in some adverse situations in practice that hopefully make the games a little easier.

“We have high expectations.”

Lopez says there are usually 18 or 19 players in the program for varsity and junior varsity teams. This year it should be 15. The Falcons have a large junior class, but just one sophomore.

Feeding the high school program is a seventh and eighth grade junior high club coordinated by Lopez which plays 12 to 14 games in the spring.

A North Vermillion Pony League squad for grades 7-10 plays about that many games plus an end-of-season tournament in the summer.

North Vermillion (enrollment around 240) is a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Attica, Covington, Fountain Central, Parke Heritage, Riverton Parke, Seeger and South Vermillion).

WRC teams meet once each twice to determine the conference champion, either in weekday home-and-home series or Saturday doubleheaders.

The Falcons are scheduled to open the season March 28 in a non-conference game against Eastern (Pekin) at Vincennes University.

North Vermillion is slated to meet Peru May 4 at Wabash College in Crawfordsville.

Among other non-conference foes are North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak and West Vigo along with Illinois teams Bismarck-Henning, Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman and Westville. Cayuga is less than five miles from the Indiana-Illinois state line.

The Falcons are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Attica, Covington, Parke Heritage (consolidation of Rockville and Turkey Run) and Riverton Parke. North Vermillion has won five sectional crowns — the last in 1997.

NV home games on-campus. Lopez says there has been discussions about re-working the infield and mound.

IHSAA official practice began March 11. During the limited contact period, Lopez had his team working out when they could find gym space.

“We threw in he gym whenever we could get it,” says Lopez. “If it was nice enough outside, we’d throw in the parking lot. We did conditioning in the hallways of the high school. We did baseball and flip drills in the weight room.

“We did a lot of conditioning, arm strengthening and working on swing technique and instilling the fundamentals. We wanted to hit the ground running when practice starts.”

Before going to North Vermillion, Lopez was assistant to Charlie Martin at Riverton Parke for one season then spent 10 years as Panthers head coach.

Lopez is a 1998 graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School, where Chris Rhodes was his head coach, and 2002 graduate of Indiana State University, where he earned a elementary education degree with a social studies endorsement.

“He was a hard-nosed, fundamental-type of coach,” says Lopez of Rhodes, who was also his seventh grade basketball coach. “He was very successful in Vincennes.”

The Rhodes-coached Alices won sectional titles in 1996 and 1997 and a regional championship in 1996. Rhodes later coached at DeKalb.

Katelyn Foncannon, daughter of Lopez, is a cheerleader at Vincennes University.

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HANKLOPEZ

Hank Lopez is the head baseball coach at North Vermillion Junior-Senior High School in Cayuga, Ind. He is also defensive coordinator for the football team.

 

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Alum Murdock makes sure DeKalb Barons respect the game

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tim Murdock grew up in a baseball-loving family and played for some demanding coaches.

Murdock brings those qualities to his position as head baseball coach at DeKalb High School in Waterloo, Ind. He just finished his fourth season as the leader of the program after six seasons as an assistant.

Tim is the youngest of three sons belonging to Jim and Carolyn Murdock.

“Dad was born and raised in Philadelphia and taught me the love of the game,” says Tim Murdock of his late father. “It was a great upbringing.”

Oldest son Mark Murdock is newspaper reporter, second son Matt  Murdock a college professor and Tim Murdock teaches English and Social Studies at DeKalb in addition to his baseball coaching duties.

A 1987 DeKalb graduate, Tim played for head coach Bill Jones, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association founder and Hall of Famer.

What was it like playing for Coach Jones?

“At the time, it was demanding,” says Murdock. “In hindsight, it was a very rewarding experience.

“He wanted us performing well under pressure and physical demands and playing with respect for the game.

“He’s major influence on the way I coach today.”

A few years ago, DeKalb retired the No. 24 worn for decades by Jones and is posted at Baron Field.

Steve Harp was a longtime Jones assistant and also made an impact on Murdock.

“He taught us about playing the game the right way and held kids accountable,” says Murdock, who also helped Harp coach the Barons junior varsity. “He had the communication skills and could relate to the players. His strategies and X’s and O’s were impeccable.”

Murdock coached with then replaced Chris Rhodes as the fifth head coach in Barons history.

“He was good at developing the whole player,” says Murdock of Rhodes, who is now DeKalb athletic director. “He believed in off-season weight room training and being mentally tough.

“He was always putting (players) in pressure situations in practice and not lowering any types of expectations.

“The players had to meet his expectations.”

Murdock does the same things with his DeKalb teams.

The Barons compete in the Northeast Eight Conference (along with Bellmont, Columbia City, East Noble, Huntington North, Leo, New Haven and Norwell). Conference teams play each other once during the regular season on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

DeKalb played in the IHSAA Class 4A Fort Wayne Carroll Sectional in 2018. Others in the five-team field were Carroll, East Noble, Fort Wayne Northrop and Fort Wayne Snider.

The Barons have won 19 sectional all-time — the last in 2002. DeKalb last took a regional crown in 1998. There were semistate trophies earned in 1977 and 1980. The 1977 team was a state finalist and the 1980 squad state champions.

Alec Brunson, a catcher on the 2018 team bound for Purdue Fort Wayne, played in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in South Bend.

Jimmy Long, who was an IHSBCA All-Star in 1998, is one of Murdock’s assistant coaches.

Two others from the DeKalb Class of 2018 — Dane Mettert (Bluffton University in Ohio) and Jackson Pyck-Hontz (North Central College in Illinois) — are also headed for college baseball. Other recent grads to go that route are Collin Bice (2015) and Quinton Rumsey (2016) at Manchester University.

Murdock gets involved in the recruiting process by pointing interested players toward websites like FieldLevel as well as showcases and camps.

“I do a lot of networking at the (IHSBCA) State Clinic in January,” says Murdock.

Prior to DeKalb, Murdock spent five years teaching and coaching baseball at Eastside High School in Butler, Ind. — the last four as head coach. He did not play baseball in college and went to both Indiana State University and Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne).

In 2017, the IHSAA adopted a pitch count rule (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).

Murdock says he rarely had a pitcher approach the top of the limit, but the rest requirements has sometimes caused “unintended consequences” for his team and for others.

When possible, teams are more likely to try to win by 10 runs in five innings to save pitches.

“Coaches who would normally go station-to-station will try to score as many rules as possible,” says Murdock. “In the old days that would be considered disrespecting the game.

“If you have a stretch of six games in seven days, to save pitching is a big deal.”

Auburn (Ind.) Little League develops future and current DeKalb players as well as a number of travel baseball organizations.

“Kids see quality competition and they’re playing a lot of games,” says Murdock of travel ball. “They’re showcase their talents as individuals.”

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DeKalb High School head baseball Tim Murdock (right) meets with Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian assistant after the Barons played the Braves.

 

Pro baseball vet Grube looks at 2017 as ‘tale of two tapes’

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A change of scenery can be just what a ballplayer needs.

Even if that scenery is familiar territory.

Jarrett Grube — traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Cleveland Indians organization in mid-June — is pushing the baseball re-fresh button in a return engagement with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.

Grube, who grew up in Corunna, Ind., and graduated from DeKalb High School (where he played for head coach Chris Rhodes) in 2000, was the Opening Day starter for the International League’s Buffalo Bisons and made 11 starts with that Toronto affiliate before becoming Cleveland property for the third time in his career.

The 6-foot-4 right-hander played for Columbus in 2015 after a stint with Quintana Roo in the Mexican League in 2015 and again in 2016 after time with the Pacific Coast League’s Tacoma Rainiers in the Seattle Mariners organization.

Going into a start Saturday, July 22, Grube was 3-5 overall with a 4.70 earned run average in 16 starts, including 1-2 and 1.69 in five starts for the Clippers. He came off the 7-day disabled list July 16 (right-hand discomfort).

“Things weren’t going my way for whatever reason,” says Grube. “I just call it the ’tale of two tapes.’ Now I’m back over here doing what I’ve always done.”

What Grube has done when successful is keep the opposition off-balance.

“I’m not even thinking about mechanics,” says Grube. “It all just happens fluidly and easily. I’m throwing a lot of strikes and mixing my pitches and keeping the hitters guessing on what’s coming in different counts.”

As a free agent veteran, the Indians brought Grube back because of his track record at the Triple-A level.

“They support you and give you info about the hitters so you can have success,” says Grube. “When you’ve been around for awhile, they let you keep doing your program. As long as you communicate, they support you.”

Between starts, Grube does a longer running session with stretching, some weightlifting and works with a trainer on Day 1. The second day includes long toss, a bullpen session and heavier total-body lifting with two days of recovery before the start. Day 3 is about stretching things out and getting rid of built-up lactic acid. Day 4 is devoted to rest and stretching.

Grube, who played at Vincennes University for head coach Jerry Blemker (who died in 2012) and at the University of Memphis for for head coach Dave Anderson, was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and made his lone MLB appearance with Los Angeles Angels in 2014 (he retired Josh Donaldson and gave up a three-run home run to Yoenis Cespedes).

One thing that’s kept Grube from being predictable is his ability to change arm angles.

It all just flows.

“When I’m at my best, I’m not really thinking about anything,” says Grube. “I’m throwing every pitch I want to throw in any count and getting a lot of weak contact, maybe strikeout an inning for however many innings I pitch.”

As a 14th-year professional, Grube has learned plenty.

“You learn to grow as a player,” says Grube. “Sometimes you have to take lumps and be able to turn the page pretty quick. You sit and dwell on things, I know that. There’s going to be a lot of things that are out of your control that.

“You just keep on with what you’ve got pictured in your mind that you want to accomplish.”

Grube has been a starting pitcher in Triple-A. If he gets called up to the big leagues, his role would likely be out of the bullpen.

“I’ve got the stuff to relieve, too, for sure,” says Grube.

Born in Fort Wayne (where he lives in the off-season with wife Alyssa and daughter Ensley), Grube’s early diamond days were spent in the Tri-County Little League and in AAU ball. He was a member of the Aboite Braves, coached by Brett Ratcliffe (who is now head coach at Garrett High School).

Grube credits Blemker helping to make him mentally tough, something that has helped him ever since.

“He’d say some things that would make you upset or frustrated,” says Grube, who won 12 games and struck out a then-school-record 172 batters in two seasons with the VU Trailblazers. “He was kind of like a drill sergeant. But he was doing it in a fatherly way. He was trying to get the best out of me. He was lying the foundation for me to go to D-I and then pro ball.”

Grube gained wisdom from Anderson, who played 10 MLB seasons including with the World Series-winning 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers and went on to coach and manage in pro baseball.

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Jarrett Grube, a 2000 DeKalb High School graduate, is in his 14th professional baseball season in 2017. (Columbus Clippers Photo)