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Highland alum Ivetic getting ready for next baseball chapter

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dimitri Ivetic does not yet know where he will play college baseball in 2022-23.
But the right-handed pitcher has been in this position before and he’s not pushing the panic button.
Along his college baseball path, 2019 Highland (Ind.) High School graduate Ivetic has been at Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif., Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College and Danville (Ill.) Area Community College.
Ivetic (pronounced Eave-Uh-Titch) made the decision to attend each only a few weeks before going there.
“I think it helps me weigh my options and advice and make the decision that I think works best for me,” says Ivetic, 21.
Born in Dyer, Ind., and played in the Highland Babe Ruth League, then travel ball with Morris Chiefs (now 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs) coached by Matt Mamula and Dave Sutkowski and Florida Pokers.
His head coach at Highland High was John Bogner.
“He’s very adamant on the fundamentals,” says Ivetic of Bogner. “He was very big on arm healthy and keeping guys healthy. Those are the biggest things I’ve been able to carry over into college.
“We had a rough senior year, but my sophomore and junior years we won quite a few games.”
How did a kid from northwest Indiana end up on the West Coast?
“Ever since I was younger it was my dream to play college baseball,” says Ivetic. “My favorite school was UCLA. I always wanted to play there. I wasn’t good enough to go to UCLA so I decided to go to JUCO out in California.”
Through a friend, Ivetic met Palomar pitching coach Hayden Carter while the latter was managing the summer wood-bat Kokomo (Ind.) Jackrabbits.
After a visit and seeing the facilities and experiencing the weather, Ivetic joined the program. The righty got into five games totaling three innings for the 2020 Palomar Comets.
“I struggled with command a little bit,” says Ivetic. “Then the pandemic hit and we got shut down with mandates and restrictions. We are all like super-disappointed.
“During that time I was able to go throw at nearby fields. On one of the last days I strained my forearm. I felt something pull in there.
“That bugged me for the next couple months. I worked through it and made some mechanical adjustments which ended up paying off.”
Away from baseball, Ivetic went to the beach and on hikes with his roommates.
“We became a lot closer,” says Ivetic. “Those are some of my best friends to this day that I still talk to (regularly).”
In the summer of 2020, Ivetic did not play but trained at Randy Sullivan’s Florida Baseball ARMory in Lakeland.
“He’s a great guy,” says Ivetic of Sullivan. “He’s very innovative. He helped me a lot over the course of a couple years.”
When Ivetic learned that the pandemic was going to keep Palomar from baseball activities in the fall of 2020 he decided to transfer to Santa Barbara City College.
That turned out to be a tough situation with several COVID-19-related shutdowns and — eventually — no 2021 season.
He played for the Bomb Squad in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., then went back to Santa Barbara in the fall and it did not go well.
“My velocity was down and I struggled,” says Ivetic. “I made one little adjustment that kind of messed everything up.”
During his fall exit meeting, Ivetic was advised that if he wanted more playing time in 2022 he should transfer so he went back to the Midwest and Danville Area, where he pitched in 12 games (26 2/3 innings) and went 2-2 with two saves, 36 strikeouts and 12 walks.
“Danville was great,” says Ivetic. “The coaches were great. We struggled through some stuff, but overall it was decent.
“I definitely made some memories.”
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Ivetic uses a four-seam fastball (which has been clocked as high as 90 mph), curveball and sweeping slider.
“My slider is what I’ve been most comfortable with,” says Ivetic. “I can throw it for a strike in basically any count. It’s got more horizontal movement, but sometimes it will start to look more like my curveball.”
Ivetic says he could return to Danville Area in the fall, but has no plans to do so.
“It wouldn’t make much sense to go back to junior college at this point because — academically — it would just put me so far behind on how many credits would transfer,” says Ivetic, a Finance major who is in the Transfer Portal. “I’m not quite sure where I’m going. But we’re starting to get some idea of where I’d like to go.”
Ivetic is back with the CSL’s Bomb Squad and was named to the July 4 All-Star Game. He also trains with PRP Baseball at the Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, visiting there before games at Grand Park.
PRP Baseball, which was founded by Greg Vogt (now a rehab pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays organization), is under the day-to-day guidance of Anthony Gomez. He has coached Ivetic since he was 16.
Dimitri is of Serbian descent and the only child born to Zarko and Paula Ivetic. His father sells for Jack Tuchten Wholesale Produce in Chicago and his mother works at Nordstrom.

Dimitri Ivetic (Palomar College Photo)
Dimitri Ivetic of the College Summer League at Grand Park’s Bomb Squad (Steve Krah Photo)

Mollenkopf entering 14th season of leading Caston Comets

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball is a big deal at a small school in Fulton County, Ind.

The Comets of Caston Junior/Senior High School (an IHSAA Class 1A member with an enrollment of about 215 in the top four grades) take pride in their facility — known as the “The Crater” — and the ball that is played there near the town of Fulton.

The man in charge of program since the 2006 season is Blake Mollenkopf.

Since he arrived on-campus, Caston has overhauled its field, adding lights and a new press box, refurbishing the dugouts and upgrading the playing surface.

“It’s one of the better fields in this part of the state,” says Mollenkopf. “Our kids, school and community are very proud of it.”

The Comets hosted sectional and regional tournaments in 2018.

Caston is part of a sectional grouping with North Miami, North White, Northfield, South Newton, Southwood and West Central. The Comets won the first sectional crown in school history when Mollenkopf’s squad hoisted the trophy at Tri-County in 2012.

Caston is a member of the Hoosier North Athletic Conference (with Culver Community, Knox, LaVille, North Judson-San Pierre, Pioneer, Triton and Winamac). Each team plays the other twice to determine the champion. LaVille won the crown in 2018.

“It’s a very balanced conference,” says Mollenkopf.

HNAC’s 14 conference games are played with home-and-home series either on Monday or Tuesday or Thursday and Friday and a Saturday doubleheader, depending on the week.

Mollenkopf says participation numbers tend  to hover from 16 to 24 at the high school for varsity and junior varsity squads.

“It’s important to have a JV, especially at the 1A level to develop kids,” says Mollenkopf. “We try to play up (in class), especially at the JV level. We want to challenge them and prepare them for varsity baseball.”

The 2019 season will be the third for the IHSAA pitch count rule. This year, the parameters will be the same for varsity and JV (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).

“We’ve always stressed arm care here,” says Mollenkopf. “We do a lot in the fall and in January and February. At the varsity level, there’s very little influence. I’ve noticed it more on the JV level, where we’ve not had strike throwers all the way through.”

Mollenkopf says a focus on throwing strikes should be able to keep pitch counts down.

Assistant coaches are Adam Goller (14th year), Nick Stuber (ninth year), Matt Gibson (second year) and Brandon Kinser (first year). Stuber will run the JV team this spring.

Caston Athletic League (for ages 5-12) and a junior high club (for grades 7-8) are feeders for the high school program.

Though not affiliated with the school, the junior high team does play its games in the spring on the high school diamond.

In the summer, some Caston players take part in the Babe Ruth League in Logansport. There are others, including Gavin Mollenkopf (Blake’s oldest of two sons), who play travel ball for the Indiana Chargers.

There are some high school summer workouts and games and a team camp at Bethel College.

Caston graduate Seth Zartman is head baseball coach at Bethel. Ethan Zartman played at Caston for Mollenkopf, and then for big brother at Bethel.

Last summer, players from Plymouth and Rochester joined the Comets. In the past, South Adams and Tri-County have participated in the camp.

Mollenkopf is a graduate of Convoy Crestview High School, where he played for Jim Wharton, a member of the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association and ACME baseball halls of fame.

“He’s a great mentor,” says Mollenkopf of Wharton. “There’s so respect for him in that community. He’s still another ear to bend. He had a big impact on my life and my love for baseball.”

Mollenkopf played four seasons (2000-03) at Huntington University for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Frame.

Frame was known for his attention to detail, practice preparation and communication skills.

“I remember the Friday morning devotions,” says Mollenkopf. “He met with small groups of players. He tried to make an impact as future husbands, fathers and people.

“I went there to play baseball, but came out as a better man because of him, too.”

Mollenkopf received an elementary education degree at Huntington. Before coaching at Caston, he spent two seasons as an assistant to IHSBCA Hall of Famer George Phares at Taylor High School.

“He’s a special individual,” says Mollenkopf of Phares. “I learned how to interact with players, handling parent meetings and working with the administration

driving an hour back and forth.”

At the time, Mollenkopf was making the commute from Fulton County to Kokomo.

“There were so many meals and more he and (his wife) Martha provided for me.”

Mollenkopf is married to a Caston graduate. Blake and Stephanie have four children — eighth grader Kinzie (13), fifth grader Gavin (11), third grader Logan (9) and kindergartener Remy (6). All of them attend Caston schools.

After a few years on the job, Blake Mollenkopf resigned last May as Caston athletic director. Besides coaching baseball, he is an elementary physical education teacher and is involved with youth football and eighth grade girls basketball.

CASONCOMETS

mollenkopffamily

The Mollenkopfs (clockwise from upper left): Blake, Stephanie, Kinzie, Gavin, Remy and Logan. Blake Mollenkopf is head baseball coach at Caston Junior/Senior High School in Fulton, Ind.

blakemollenkopf

Blake Mollenkopf has been head baseball coach at Caston Junior/Senior High School in Fulton, Ind., since the 2006 season.