By STEVE KRAH
Rising Sun (Ind.) High School has raised a sectional baseball trophy eight times — all on head coach Kevin Wirsch’s watch.
The Shiners have had Wirsch as head coach since the 2000 season and taken IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in 2002, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022.
The most-recent championship came at the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (which featured Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy and Trinity Lutheran) and earned Rising Sun a place in the Morristown Regional on Saturday, June 4.
The regional semifinals features 16-8 Rising Sun against Shakamak at 11 a.m., followed by Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran. The championship is slated for 8 p.m. All but Traders Point received votes in the final regular season Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association poll.
In 2013, the Shiners won a regional title and took part in the Plainfield Semistate, bowing to eventual 1A state runner-up Vincennes Rivet.
Rising Sun (enrollment around 230) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Shawe Memorial, South Ripley, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County). The Shiners went 9-3 in the ORVC, finishing behind Southwestern (11-1).
“We’re one of the smallest schools in the state,” says Wirsch, who has also been an English teacher at the school just blocks from the Ohio River since 1999-2000. “I had to work to get players this year.”
Because of various factors, Wirsch expects to take 11 players to regional and one of those — senior center fielder Kendell Montgomery — has also qualified for the state track meet in Bloomington and will head there after the regional semifinal to compete in the long jump (his seed mark is 21 feet, 3 3/4 inches).
“Believe it or not, we have four and five-sport athletes here,” says Wirsch. “All the coaches (at Rising Sun) know each other and work together.
“That’s what makes it possible.”
While participation numbers are often an issue, Wirsch has enjoyed success.
“The kids that come out, buy in and work hard,” says Wirsch. “They do what we ask them to do.
“We try to do the little things right — throw strikes and make plays.”
The Shiners won the sectional with a 3-2 win against Hauser in 10 innings and 2-0 triumph against Jac-Cen-Del. Rising Sun is 5-2 in games decided by two runs or less and 1-3 in extra innings.
Senior and Earlham College commit Jonathan Jimenez (.431, 3 home runs, 27 runs batted in, 20 runs, 20 stolen bases) leads the offense, which also features junior Peyton Merica (.384, 27 runs, 18 stolen bases), Montgomery (.297, 17 runs), senior third baseman Ashton McCarty (.277, 18 RBI) and junior catcher Brady Works (.267, 21 runs, 17 stolen bases). First baseman Peyton Creech has already joined the National Guard.
Right-handers Merica (7-1, 0.53 earned run average with 98 strikeouts and 16 walks in 66 innings) and Jimenez (5-2, 1.83, 83 K’s, 29 walks, 49 2/3 IP) pace the Shiners pitching staff. Each generally takes turns at shortstop or is somewhere in the infield when not on the mound.
Wirsch’s assistants include Steve Jimenez, Keith Works, Jason Merica and one of Wirsch’s former players — Brandon Turner.
Rising Sun plays home games on its campus at Shiner Ballpark.
“It’s a nice field,” says Wirsch. “It’s been upgraded since I’ve been there. We’ve got new dugouts and lights.”
The school’s softball field is near the baseball diamond. The Shiners have won eight sectional softball titles.
A junior high program at Rising Sun was established about seven years ago. This feeds the high school. Many core players who hone their skills in travel ball in Madison, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
Recent graduates to move on to college baseball include Class of 2018’s Brent Turner (Huntington University), 2019’s Brayden Bush (Kentucky Wesleyan College), 2020’s Steven Jimenez (Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati) and 2021’s Landon Cole (Franklin College).
Wirsch is a 1993 graduate of East Central High School in St. Leon, Ind., where his baseball coach was Bob Benner.
He played football and baseball for two years at the University of Evansville. Jim Brownlee was the Purple Aces baseball coach. When UE dropped football, he transferred to Northern Kentucky University, where he earned an English degree.
Wirsch is also an assistant football coach at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School — where son Ashton (18) played and graduated last weekend — and has coached that sport at South Dearborn.
Besides Ashton, Kevin and wife Amy Wirsch have a daughter named Alexandra (23).