By STEVE KRAH
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.
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.