Tag Archives: COVID-19

Frame takes over Huntington U. program from Hall of Famer father

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

The record shows that Thad Frame has been a baseball coach since 2009.
But the way the new Huntington (Ind.) University head coach sees it, his experience goes back much farther.
“I grew up in it,” says the 36-year-old Thad, who follows father and 38-season veteran Mike Frame. “I feel like I’ve been coaching my whole life.”
The oldest of Mike and Diane’s three children (there’s also Heath and Cora), Thad was a young boy when he began spending countless hours at the diamond or office with his father the Huntington Foresters head coach.
Frame got his first real taste of coaching in Clemson, S.C. He played for the Southern Collegiate League’s Carolina Chaos and on the urging of former Huntington and Chaos player Andrew Drummond (who holds several school records including career batting average at .408 and is tied in career runs batted in with 155) took an opportunity to coach with the team a few summers later.
“I was trying to find a new identity. It had always been just baseball,” says Frame, who took a gap year after his playing eligibility to complete Sports Management degree and seek his path. “I caught the coaching bug. Ever since it’s been my life.
“It feels like I never worked a day in my life.”
Before landing back at Huntington, Frame also spent a year at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) where Dan Simonds was head coach with Ben Bachmann (now athletic director at new Prairie High School) and Jeremy Ison as assistants and Brad Gschwind as graduate assistant.
Thad Frame was Huntington U.’s starting shortstop for four seasons (2005-08) after doing the same at Huntington North High School (2001-04). His head coaches were Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Sherman as a freshman and Chad Daugherty his last three prep seasons.
“When you’ve grown up in the coach world you see the impact a coach can have on young men (spiritually and athletically),” says Frame. “You’re absorbing that information.
“I’ve been beyond blessed to have been around some of the best in Indiana.”
Mike Frame (Huntington Class of 1983) is the member of four athletic halls of fame (Huntington U. in 2003, IHSBCA in 2009, Nettles Creek Schools/Hagerstown in 2017 and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association in 2019).
While going 920-754, his Forester teams won 17 conference regular-season or conference tournament titles and made four NAIA national tournament appearances. There were 13 NAIA All-American honors with 85 all-conference athletes and seven professional players. He has also served the school as associated director of athletics.
Mike Frame lost his right leg to COVID-19 but came back to coach.
Thad Frame counts his father, Dennis Kas and Donnie Scott as the men who have molded him most as a coach.
“My father has an old-school feel for baseball,” says Thad. “You’re going to have fun but it’s going to be intense.”
IHSBCA Hall of Famer Kas coached Frame on the Indiana Bulls travel team and as am HU assistant and Scott was the manager with Thad as an assistant on the summer collegiate Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers (2011) and Madison (Wis.) Mallards (2012).
With Brian Colopy (who is now owner of the Northern League’s Battle Creek Battle Jacks and Kalamazoo Growlers) as general manager, Frame spent two summers in Battle Creek. The 2010 team went 20-50 and finished in last place. The 2011 Scott-managed club went 43-26 and won the league championship while Frame was able to take a bigger role with recruiting.
“That was the most-important summer in my coaching experience,” says Frame. “We formed a team that was very athletic.”
In the summer of 2012, Frame followed former fielder coordinator for the Cincinnati Reds and manager for Midwest League’s Dayton (Ohio) Dragons Scott to Madison. He was there a short time before coming back to join his father’s staff full-time and hit the recruiting trail.
“The recruiting period in June and July is very heavy,” says Frame. “We are aggressive with our recruiting. There’s not a huge gap between NAIA and small NCAA. We go after guys on the fringe. We try to recruit some of the best guys in Indiana.
“Our style is known in (the Crossroads League). We recruit athletes. We play the game fearlessly. We try to play the game fast. We want four- and five-toolers who can bunt, run and hit the ball over the fence.”
Huntington led all NAIA program in stolen bases in 2022 with a single-season school record 134 (121 in 2021 had been the mark). The Foresters (27-23) also posted a .290 batting average, .397 on-base percentage, .491 slugging average, 65 home runs, 13 triples, 97 doubles, 175 extra-base hits, 777 total bases, 388 runs scored and 349 RBIs.
Single-season school marks were also set in home runs, triples, doubles, total bases, runs, RBIs and runs per game (7.76).
Huntington gets quite a few kick-backs from NCAA D-I. The current roster features middle infielder Langston Ginder (Ball State) and first baseman/pitcher Matt Wolff (Kentucky).
Will Coursen-Carr, Indiana Mr. Baseball in 2012 at Fort Wayne South Side High School, finished his college career at Huntington after playing at Indiana University. He is now head baseball coach at South Side.
Much of 2022’s squad is expected back in 2023.
“We’ll be able to swing it this year at an elite level,” says Frame.
There have been player-led workouts but the first official day of fall practice is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 6.
It has not yet been determined, but Frame says the team may go longer than usual now that there is infield turf at Forest Glen Park.
With Huntington University Board of Trustees member Tom Clounie (owner of Clounie Landscaping of Roanoke, Ind.) overseeing a $700,000 project, the field was also leveled and received a state-of-the-art irrigation system.
“The outfield plays very true,” says Frame, who notes there had been a steep grade one one side for the history of the field. The Foresters played on the new surface in 2022.
A major upgrade to The PLEX Fieldhouse is expected to be completed by November, according to the coach.
The 2023 season opens Feb. 10 vs. Indiana University-Purdue University in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In 2022, Huntington went to its branch campus in Peoria, Ariz., for two weeks, built relationships and played four games Jan. 20-22.
Thad Frame’s staff includes volunteer Mike Frame, pitching coach Brian Abbott (who is also the IHSBCA executive director) hitting coach Shea Beauchamp (who set school marks with 31 career home runs and is tied with Drummond with 62 single-season RBIs), fundraising coordinator Nate Perry and social media manager Andy Vaught.
Donovan Clark has accepted a position at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., but is expected to come up to help the Foresters with speed training.
Thad Frame is married to Dr. Krystle Frame.

Thad Frame. (Huntington University Image)
Mike Frame. (Huntington University Image)
Thad Frame (right). (Huntington University Photo)
Thad Frame. (Huntington University Photo)

Kolks follows Behlmer as second baseball head coach in Oldenburg Academy history

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

Patrick Kolks has given more than a third of his 31 years to Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy baseball and now he’s in charge of the Twisters.
Kolks, who was athletic director at his alma mater the past three years, was recently named as head baseball coach and facilities specialist.
A 2010 OA graduate, Kolks played four years for the man who founded the program and led it for 21 years — Doug Behlmer, who won 226 games and five sectional titles as Twisters head coach (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2021) after he aided Jeff Greiwe in coaching Milan to the IHSAA Class 1A state runner-up finish in 1999.
“He has had multiple players at the next level and a lot of them come back (to visit Oldenburg),” says Kolks. “We want to keep OA baseball on the map like it’s been for the last 20 years thanks to him.
“It was pretty impressive (the building the Oldenburg team that started out with no seniors). We competed every year when I played. We finally got over the hump and beat Jac-Cen-Del in the sectional.”
For two summers, Kolks played for the Behlmer-managed Batesville American Legion Post 271 team.
So far Kolks’ first baseball staff includes 2015 OA graduate Tyler Hogg as pitching coach as well as Behlmer.
“He’s not ready to give up baseball all together,” says Kolks, who joined Behlmer’s staff in 2015 after graduating from Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky., in 2014. He was a lefty-swinging catcher for the NAIA-member Saints.
OA alum Matt Bohman stepped away from the Twisters coaching staff to tend to his growing family.
Kolks says he hopes to have seven or eight not playing a fall sport at Oldenburg to come to activities during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period Aug. 29-Oct. 15.
“It’s great,” says Kolks. “I can start building that culture.”
Some players are involved in a fall baseball league.
Two members of the Class of 2023 — Cy Muckerheide and Jacob Stenger — have shown interest in pursuing college baseball.
Kolks notes that the 2021 senior class — which includes Hanover (Ind.) College baseball players Chris Hautman and Andrew Oesterling — never missed a beat going from sophomores in 2019, deprived of a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then winning the school’s first sectional title in 11 years.
As facilities specialist, Kolks is responsible for all athletic facilities and some cleaning. There are upgrades planned or underway for the private Catholic high school’s gym as well as the softball and soccer fields. Land is being sought for expansion.
The Twisters share a baseball diamond at Liberty Park in Batesville, Ind., with Batesville High School and also practices at The Plex in Batesville. The park and training facility are about seven miles from campus.
With Behlmer working a day job in Batesville, the Twisters often did not practice until 5:30 p.m. This gave players a chance to experience a gameday routine, catch up on studies and form relationships with younger teammates by giving them rides to the field.
Oldenburg Academy (enrollment around 170) is independent for athletics.
The Twisters were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2022 with Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Rising Sun and Trinity Lutheran.
Born in Cincinnati, Kolks grew up in Brookville, Ind., playing in the Cal Ripken League there and representing Franklin County in all-star tournaments.
He attended St. Michael Catholic School in Brookville through eighth grade and then went to Oldenburg Academy.
Patrick and wife Emily Kolks married in July 2016 and reside in Lawrencburg, Ind., which is about 30 miles from Oldenburg Academy.
The couple met at college. She is the sister of Thomas More teammate Sam Schmeltzer (who was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association first-team all-state third baseman for South Dearborn and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series player in 2007).
“She loves baseball,” says Patrick of Emily. “She knows what it’s going to entail.”
The Kolks are weekend season ticket holders for the Cincinnati Reds.
Patrick is also an avid University of Texas fan. He and Emily visited the campus for his 30th birthday. He appreciates the impact made on and off the field by former Longhorns head baseball coach Augie Garrido.

Patrick Kolks.
Emily and Patrick Kolks with the 2021 sectional baseball trophy earned by Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy.
Patrick and Emily Kolks at the University of Texas.
Patrick Kolks as an Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy player.
Matthew Bohman, Patrick Kolks and Trevor Stacy with the 2010 sectional baseball trophy won by Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy.

Pruitt’s no-hitter helps Muncie Post 19 Chiefs win Indiana Senior Legion title

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

Right-hander Jacob Pruitt pitched a no-hitter Saturday, July 30 to help Muncie Post 19 defeat Terre Haute Post 346 by a 4-0 score in the championship of the 2022 Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Finals.
Pruitt threw 100 pitches with 11 strikeouts and two walks to helped the Post 19 Chiefs win the program’s first senior baseball state crown since 2008.
“My catcher Luke Willmann called a great game today,” said Pruitt. “He knew exactly what he wanted to me to throw and I was able to execute.”
Pruitt, a 2022 Yorktown High School graduate and Indiana State University recruit as well as an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant, mixed his four- and two-seam fastball and his breaking pitches to best Terre Haute for the second time during the State Finals.
The first time was not at Kokomo’s CFD Stadium at Highland Park.
The tournament began in Rockport Friday, July 22 and was moved to Kokomo because of excessive rain on what would have been the final day Tuesday, July 25. This also allowed all pitchers to be eligible under American Legion pitch count rest rules.
Muncie Post 19, Terre Haute Post 346 and Kokomo Post 6 came into Saturday’s action with 3-1 tourney records.
“I learned what their hitters are capable of doing,” said Pruitt of the July 22 game against Terre Haute. “They’re a very good team, obviously. But I was able to find some weaknesses in the off-speed where I could exploit.
“It the curveball the last time. It was the slider today. I was able to mix it up.”
Post 346 manager David Will explained why he thought Pruitt was so effective.
“He throws a 92 mph fastball and he’s got a slider that’s only five or six miles an hour slower,” said Will. “It looks like a fastball coming to the kids so they’re right out front and it makes them look silly.
“He’s a good pitcher.”
Post 19 Chiefs manager Ken Zvokel had Jerad Michael (who had two saves earlier in the State Finals) ready to go if Pruitt faltered. But that did not happen.
“(Pruitt) was on fire,” said Kvokel. He got it in his head that he was going to win this game and wasn’t going to give the ball up.”
With the championship, Muncie (19-11) advances to the Great Lakes Regional (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 3-7 in Midland, Mich. The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C.
“We were fired up,” said Zvokel of his team. “We’ve had a good roll here the last couple of weeks. We play good ball all the way — top to bottom. Every guy on the bench is ready to go.”
Terre Haute (25-8-1) was seeking its 15th overall state title and first since 2019. Post 346 topped Kokomo Post 6 by a 5-1 count in Saturday’s first game.
Muncie went up 4-0 with two runs in the fourth.
Hayden Carrow smacked a lead-off single and Isaac Jackson followed with a double.
Carrow scored on an error and Jackson later came home Cooper Roach’s sacrifice fly.
Post 19 tallied a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the third for a 2-0 lead.
Quinn Faulkner led off with a walk and Michael reached on a sacrifice and an error. A double by Willmann drove in Faulkner and Michael.
Right-hander Derek Lebron, a Rend Lake College recruit, pitched a complete game for Terre Haute. He allowed six hits while striking out five and walking two

Semifinal
Terre Haute Post 346 5,
Kokomo Post 6 1
Right-hander Cade Moore threw 100 pitches and went the distance as the winner for Post 346.
The right-hander who graduated from Terre Haute North Vigo High School in 2021 and was at Kentucky Wesleyan College in the spring scattered six hits, struck out five and walked none.
“Cade pitched really well,” said Will. “He was pounding the zone. He gave them some fits. On top of that we made some great plays in the infield that really helped him.”
Terre Haute took its lead up to 5-1 with one run in the top of the sixth inning.
Logan Nicoson singled and later crossed the plate on an infield hit by Tyler Will.
Kokomo right fielder Jacob Ward caught a fly and threw out a runner at the plate for the first two outs.
Post 6 cut the gap to 4-1 with one run in the bottom of the fourth.
Will McKinzie produced a lead-off single and later scored on Conner Boone’s sacrifice fly. McKinzie moved to second base on an error and third base on Levi Mavrick’s single.
Post 346 pushed its advantage to 4-0 with a solo home run by Pierson Barnes in the top of the fourth.
With one out, Barnes belted the first pitch he saw over the tall fence in right field.
Terre Haute took a 3-0 lead with two runs in the top of the third.
Ty Stultz drew a walk against Kokomo right-handed starter Owen Taylor. With one out, Moore doubled off Post 6 righty reliever Mavrick, who tossed the last five innings and gave up 10 hits with one strikeout and two walks.
An error on the play allowed Stultz and score. A single by Bryson Carpenter plated Moore from second base.
Post 346 scored one run in the top of the first.
Lead-off man Caden Mason walked and later scored on a wild pitch. He was advanced to second base by Moore’s sacrifice bunt and third base Carpenter’s fly-out.
Kokomo, which was seeking its first state crown since 1982, finished 2022 season at 23-10-2.
Because of a positive COVID-19 test, Post 6 was without 2022 Logansport High School graduate and Indiana University Kokomo commit Gavin Smith. He was selected as the A.D. Phillips Sportsmanship Award winner.
The five other participants in the 2022 State Finals were Newburgh Post 44, Jasper Post 147, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 and Rockport Post 254.

INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION
SENIOR STATE FINALS
(2022)
At Rockport
Friday, July 22
Newburgh 7, Jasper 3
Muncie 2, Terre Haute 1
Kokomo 4, South Bend 1
Rockport 5, South Haven 4
Saturday, July 23
Jasper 10, South Bend 7
Terre Haute 7, South Haven 0 (forfeit)
Kokomo 10, Newburgh 4
Muncie 4, Rockport 3
Sunday, July 24
Terre Haute 4, Newburgh 3
Rockport 11, Jasper 0 (5 inn.)
Muncie 10, Kokomo 0 (5 inn.)
Monday, July 25
Kokomo 3, Rockport 2
Terre Haute 15, Muncie 3
At Kokomo
Saturday, July 30
Terre Haute 5, Kokomo 1 (semifinal)
Muncie 4, Terre Haute 0 (championship)

The Muncie Post 19 Chiefs, 2022 Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball champions. (Steve Krah Photo)

Cardinal Ritter grad Malatestnic grateful for chance with Eastern Illinois U.

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

Blake Malatestnic’s prep baseball ended with a flourish.
The right-handed pitcher helped Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter to the 2017 IHSAA Class 2A state championship by hurling a complete game in a 10-4 win against Wapahani.
Malatestnic went seven innings and threw 95 pitches while yielding nine hits and four runs (three earned), striking out four and walking one.
He finished the season at 12-1 and was also named as the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award recipient.
But at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, he received just one college baseball offer.
That came from Eastern Illinois University.
“Eastern was my only school,” says Malatestnic, 23. “They saw something in a 5-foot-9, 150-pound kid. I was a small kid, but I had quick arm and I competed. (EIU head coach Jason Anderson) took a chance on me.
“It’s something I’m forever thankful for.”
More than five years later — including a pandemic and a major medical procedure — Malatestnic is preparing for one last go-round with the Panthers in 2023.
Now up to a solid 175, Malatestic can look back on three competitive seasons so far. He pitched in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. The 2021 season was lost when he needed Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery.
In 55 games (35 in relief), the righty is 10-11 with four saves, 149 strikeouts and 72 walks in 169 innings.
During the 2022 season, he appeared in 16 games (10 starts) and was 4-4 with 6.09 earned run average, 51 strikeouts and 21 walks in 54 2/3 innings.
Malatestnic went to the summer collegiate wood-bat Northwoods League’s Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish and pitched in 13 games and 20 1/3 innings before reaching his limit of combined frames for the spring and summer.
“The surgeon and (Anderson) wanted me at about 75 (total innings),” says Malatestnic, who hurt himself doing velocity training just days before he was going to the Coastal Plains League to pitch for the Wilson High-Tobs in 2020 following a COVID-19-shortened EIU season in which he went 3-0 in four games (three in relief) with a 1.69 ERA, 23 strikeouts and six walks in 26 2/3 innings.
A 32-week rehab program began in October 2020 and concluded in April 2021.
“It was a roller coaster of feelings and situations,” says Malatestnic. “But I knew I could do it.”
The pitcher was with the 2021 Northwoods League’s Lakeshore Chinooks (Mequon, Wis.). He made seven rehab starts capped at about 65 pitches each. He worked 24 innings with 29 strikeouts and seven walks.
“Lakeshore was fantastic,” says Malatestnic. “They saw the long-term goal of why I was there in the first place.
“(Chinooks manager Travis Akre) was a great communicator with the whole process.”
Malatestnic pitched for the Prospect League‘s Danville (Ill.) Dans in the summers of 2018 and 2019
Over the years, Malatestnic’s relationship with Anderson has also grown.
“He has a real open office,” says Malatestnic. “He behind me on Tommy John and did what he could with the school being shut down and all this COVID compliance stuff.”
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Malatestnic uses a four-seam fastball (clocked as high as 94 mph when he was coming out of the bullpen at the end of the 2022 spring slate).
He also uses a slider and change-up and — this summer — developed a two-seam sinker.
“On the days when the slider’s sharp it has more of a cutter action,” says Malatestnic. “It moves more right to left without a ton of depth. I feel comfortable throwing it a lot. It plays off my fastball.
“My change-up goes down and to the arm-side. There are so many good hitters in the Ohio Valley Conference to get fastballs by them.”
Malatestnic credits Kenosha pitching coach Steve Andrade, who pitched in the majors and counts Indiana Tech among his coaching stops, for aiding him.
“He had me using classical mechanics and posture and staying over the rubber,” says Malatestic. “Those helped me finish my pitches with the right grip and a quick arm.”
Born in Indianapolis, Malatestnic grew up in Avon, Ind. He played T-ball through junior league at Ben Davis Little League. He was on a team that won district and went to the state tournament at 12.
He played travel ball from 13U to 15U with the Indy Predators — coached by his father (Dave Malatestnic) and Terrance Davis.
Going into his junior year of high school (16U), he was with the Indy Raiders. The next summer it was the Eric Osborn-coached Indiana Nitro.
Malatestnic dressed for selected varsity games as a Ritter freshman and and even made his first start as a shortstop against Indianapolis Cathedral. He was a varsity player his last three seasons. He was three-time all-Indiana Crossroads Conference, two-time all-city, all-city Player of the Year (2017), Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District L Player of the Year (2017), IHSBCA All-State and a North/South All-Star Series participant (2017) and a MaxPreps Small School All-American honoree (2017). He went a combined 15-5 on the mound his sophomore and junior seasons while helping Ritter to sectional titles.
“Coach (Dave) Scott gave me tests and little benchmarks and I passed those,” says Malatestnic. “He really had an attention to detail which was a really good foundation for success.
“He was a hard-nosed kind of guy. We were a pretty scrappy bunch.”
While there were not many future college players on the team, the 2017 Raiders hustled.
“We would run hard, put down bunts and were not afraid of being down two strikes,” says Malatestnic. “We were aggressively calm.”
Malatestnic still stays in-contact with Scott and makes it a point to look him up when he’s home from school.
“You see a lot of guys go back to Ritter after the fact,” says Malatestnic. “That says a lot about Coach Scott. He invested a lot into his players and gave them a lot of life advice or baseball advice.”
Malatestnic earned a degree in Elementary Education last winter then entered graduate school for Curriculum and Instruction.
He is taking one online class this summer and plans to finish up next spring.
Though he started out college on a Biology path, Malatestnic explains why he opted to pursue an education degree.
“I started thinking about all the teachers I had growing up,” says Malatestnic. “Then I had to decide on what level I wanted to teach.”
His senior year at Ritter he was a cadet teacher at St. Christopher School in Speedway with his fourth grade teacher, Miss Elizabeth Anderson.
“It was a crazy amount of fun,” says Malatestnic. “I really enjoyed it.”
Malatestnic did his student teaching the spring of 2021 while he was also rehabbing from his Tommy John.
He is grateful for the time put in my graduate assistant athletic trainer Maria Garcia (now Assistant Director of Sports Medicine at Eastern Kentucky University). The graduate of Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, Ind., and Purdue University often met him early in the morning before he began his student-teaching day.
Blake is the son of Dave (Karen) and Noelle Malatestnic. Dave Malatestnic works in IT at Hopebridge Autism Center. Noelle Malatestnic is an interior designed for Flaherty & Collins Properties.
Blake’s siblings are Brenna Malatestnic (25), Jarek Malatestnic (21), Maddie Griffith (21) and Mary Griffith (19). Former Marian University soccer player Brenna lives in Indy. Jarek is a former track athlete at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

Blake Malatestnic (Eastern Illinois University Photo)
Blake Malatestnic (Eastern Illinois University Photo)

Summer sees Troxel mixing player, coach, intern roles

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

Ryan Troxel is splitting his time this summer between college pitcher, youth pitching coach banking intern.
He takes the mound for the wood bat Northern League’s Lake County CornDogs, which call Legacy Fields in Crown Point, Ind., home. On his off days, he guides arms for Valparaiso (Ind.) American Legion Post 94 Juniors (17U).
“I’ve missed a few (Legion) games because I had to pitch,” says Troxel. “Other than that, I’ve been there.
“I’ve been a busy man.”
Troxel, a 2019 graduate of Valparaiso High School, pitched a scoreless ninth inning with three strikeouts during the 2022 Northern League All-Star Game.
A Finance and Management double major at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Troxel is a summer intern for Centier Bank in Merrillville, Ind.
Troxel explains why he changed his academic path from Business to Finance.
“Finance gives you the options to help people know their (money) goals,” says Troxel. “I also coach baseball because I love helping people.”
On the diamond, the right-hander was on the winning side as the East topped the West 5-4 in 10 innings July 12 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind.
Troxel’s performance was fitting because the CornDogs right-hander has a regular-season scoreless streak of 12 innings covering last three outings.
In eight games (six in relief), he is 3-0 with a 0.65 earned run average. He has 35 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 2/3 innings. He was named Northern League Pitcher of the Week on July 5.
A 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, Troxel is coming off his second season at NAIA member Indiana Tech.
In seven games (all in relief), he was 0-4 with 14 strikeouts and 15 walks in 27 innings.
In his first season with the Warriors (2021), Troxel came out of the bullpen 11 times and was 8-3 with a 4.46 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 innings.
Kip McWilliams is Indiana Tech’s head coach and has also taken over pitching coach duties.
“He gives us a lot of latitude to do what we want to get ready,” says Troxel of McWilliams. “He’s (coached) for a long time. He knows a lot about the game.
“He’s definitely hard on guys. He expects a lot out of us. But — hey — we won a lot of games.”
Tech went 32-21 and lost two one-run games as Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference tournament runners-up in 2022. McWilliams earned his 500th coaching win in April.
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Troxel uses a four-seam fastball (which has reached 87 mph), curveball, slider (which is generally clocked around 75 mph) and change-up.
“I get most of my outs on off-speed pitches,” says Troxel. “I throw my change-up a lot more now. It’s really helped me against left-handers because left-handers have always killed me.”
Last weekend, Valpo Post 94 won a regional championship. This weekend, Post 94 is hosting the Indiana American Legion Junior State Tournament at VHS.
In 2020, Troxel played for Rocco Mossuto-coached Saint Xavier University (Chicago). In a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, he appeared in three games (one start) and was 0-0 with one save, a 4.50 ERA, eight strikeouts and eight walks in eight innings.
Troxel played for Todd Evans at Valparaiso High.
“He gave me a chance during my senior year to prove to him that I could be in the rotation,” says Troxel of Evans. “I think I had a pretty good senior year and he helped me a long the way.”
Troxel went 6-0 with a 1.97 ERA and was honorable mention all-state, all-Duneland Athletic Conference, all-area and team MVP in 2019.
Born in Elmhurst, Ill., Troxel was 1 when he moved to Valparaiso, where he played Little League then travel ball for the Chesterton Slammers, Triple Crown, Morris Chiefs and Valparaiso Post 94.
He is grateful Chiefs coach Dave Sutkowski for his support.
“He kept saying, ‘I believe in you,’” says Troxel of Sutkowski. “It was never about him. He was very influential in my choosing to play college baseball and also to move on and keep playing.”
Ryan is the oldest of Jeff and Michele Troxel. Brother Zach Troxel is heading into his sophomore year at Valpo. He is pitching this summer for the Indiana Bulls.
Jerry Troxel, Ryan and Zach’s grandfather who died in 2021, coached baseball for four decades at Gary Wirt. One of his players was Ron Kittle, who went on to be a major league slugger.
“I really do love (coaching),” says Ryan Troxel. “It’s in my blood. That’s definitely in the future for me.”

Ryan Troxel of the 2022 Northern League’s Lake County CornDogs (Steve Krah Photo)

Columbus East grad Back enjoys ‘game within the game’ as baseball backstop

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

Dalton Back was a coach pitch player when he chose his favorite position on the baseball field — catcher.
“The thing that I love about it most now that older is that it’s like a game within a game — calling pitches and locations, keeping track of baserunners and whatnot,” says Back, 20 and the veteran of two college seasons. “What kept me in it when I was little was just being involved in every pitch. It’s the most active position on the field. That’s what I like most about it.”
Born and raised in Columbus, Ind., to Dwayne and Jennifer Back, Dalton played in was in now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County and was later part of two district championship and state tournament teams.
When it came time to play travel ball, Back went with the Blazers then the Evoshield Canes.
“They changed the way I saw baseball and how I played it,” says Back of Canes coaches Jay Hundley and Phillip Webb. “They turned me into the man and player I was back then and who I am now.
“They really grew the game for me. I appreciate that a lot.”
Back is a 2020 graduate of Columbus East High School. He earned three letters for Olympians head coach Jon Gratz.
“He’s very open-minded,” says Back of Gratz. “He did a lot of experimental stuff. He was very open and willing to learn. He didn’t see himself as a know-it-all in baseball.”
Columbus East went 25-5 and lost 3-2 to Hamilton Southeastern in the 2019 IHSAA Class 4A state championship.
Back, who batted No. 2 in the order and contributed a triple and two walks in that game, is convinced that Gratz’s inclination of listening to his players was a major contributing factor to the Olympians’ run.
“We would just brainstorm different ideas about what we could do better in certain areas like productivity in practice or how to hold each other accountable,” says Back, who was an all-stater in 2019 and all-Hoosier Hills Conference in 2018 and 2019 and missed his senior season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “(Gratz) allowed the players to lead which is very nice.”
At Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Back played 76 games (65 as a starter) and hit .224 with seven home runs, 16 doubles, 37 runs batted in and 39 runs scored. He homered four times and enjoyed a pair of three-RBI games in 2022.
Back, a 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, is now in the Transfer Portal with two years of eligibility. His next diamond destination is still to be determined.
“I’m trying to stay relaxed and calm about it,” says Back of making a decision of where to play and study next.
He has participated in each of the College Summer League at Grand Park’s three seasons — Local Legends in 2020, Turf Monsters in 2021 and Tropics in 2022.
The league based in Westfield, Ind., is attractive to Back because the schedule is not too rigorous and there are helpful amenities.
“There are not so many games a week where you’re killing your body,” says Back. “I have access to Pro X (Athlete Development on the Grand Park campus) to hit and lift all the time.
“Everything is close around here. It’s easy to manage your time.”
A righty swinger, Back describes his offensive approach.
“The main thing that helps me is to just keep reminding myself to swing 80 percent all the time,” says Back. “A lot of times I swing way too hard and I’m trying to do too much with the baseball.
“If I have a slow heart beat, go 80 percent and I’m nice and smooth with my swing, a lot of times I can let the bat do the work. Most of the time that’s how I have success at the plate.”
As a college student, Back has studied Kinesiology (the science of human movement) and can see himself as a physical therapist after his playing career.
“I’ve always been attracted to human physiology,” says Back. “I got real big into the weight room in high school. I loved it. I was fascinated with how everything works and how the body recovers. With physical therapy I’d be able to stay around athletics and help other athletes.”
Dalton has an older brother — Joey Back (24).

Dalton Back (Miami University Photo)

Dalton Back of the 2022 College Summer League at Grand Park’s Tropics (Steve Krah Photo)

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)

VanderWoude has second-year IHSAA member Illiana Christian in semistate

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

Illiana Christian was plenty successful on the baseball diamond when the high school was in Lansing, Ill.
As recently as 2004 — with Dave Beezhold as head coach — the Vikings qualified for the Illinois state tournament and went 27-8.
In 2018, Illiana Christian relocated from Lansing, where it was founded in 1945, to an incorporated area of Dyer, Ind. In 2020-21, it became a full Indiana High School Athletic Association member.
The 2022 Vikings won the program’s first IHSAA sectional and regional titles and are one win away from the State Finals.
In earning a date opposite No. 3-ranked Wapahani (24-4) in the 2A Kokomo Semistate at noon Central Time Saturday, June 11, Illiana Christian won the Whiting Sectional (Bowman Academy 19-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 3-1 and Wheeler 16-4) and Whiting Regional (Winamac 11-1 and Eastside 7-0).
Alum and former Beezhold assistant Jeff VanderWoude’s first year leading the Vikings was 2019-20 — the season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Illiana Christian went 19-6 and lost 2-1 to Wheeler in the 2A Whiting Sectional championship game.
VanderWoude sees the closeness of the players and a willingness to put others before themselves has been a formula for success.
“We’ve been getting them to buy in and loving each other,” says VanderWoude. “We don’t have a ‘me’ person.
“We are controlling the controllable.
“They play as one really well. In the game against Eastside, we were competing one pitch at a time.”
Emphasizing the mental side, VanderWoude has seen his players adjust when there is a temporary lack of focus.
Illiana Christian (enrollment around 480) joined the Greater South Shore Conference (with baseball members Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, Wheeler and Whiting) in 2021.
With the addition of the Vikings, the conference is broken into divisions with teams playing two games with their division and one against squads in the other division. Illiana Christian is paired with Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll and Hanover Central. The 2022 Vikings went 8-3 in the GSSC, finishing behind Hanover Central (10-1) and tying Griffith (8-3).
Through 24 games, Illiana Christian was led offensively by junior pitcher Kevin Corcoran (.468 average, four home runs, 34 runs batted in, 11 stolen bases), senior center fielder Ivan VanBeek (.421, 18 RBI, 22 SB), senior second baseman Levi Hescott (.368), senior left fielder Tyler Barker (.339, 27 RBI), the coach’s son — sophomore shortstop Isaac VanderWoude (.333, 15 RBI, 19 SB) and junior first baseman Cody DeJong (.329, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB).
The bulk of the pitching has been handled by left-hander Corcoran (3-1, 2.29 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 13 walks 39 2/3 innings), right-hander VanBeek (2-2, 1.58, 44 K’s, four walks, 31 IP) and senior lefty Austin Maslanka (3-0, 2.10, 34 K’s, 10 walks, 20 IP).
Assistant coaches are Shane Zegarac, Dale Meyer, Kevin Corcoran, Caleb Jonkman, Greg Gierling and Bo Hofstra.
“We are where we are because of those guys,” says VanderWoude. “They are salt of the earth people.”
Zegarac pitched for Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., Eastern Kentucky University and in the Texas Rangers system plus independent ball.
Corcoran is a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. Illiana Christian alum Meyer played at Southern Illinois University. Hofstra pitched for Illiana Christian and Purdue University. Jonkman, who has been National Wiffle@Ball Player of the Year more than once, and Gierling are also IC grads.

Others with Illiana Christian connections are grad Fletcher Bandstra at Calvin College (Grand Rapids), Carter Doorn (from IC to Lake Central to Purdue University) and former Vikings player D.J. Gladney (Chicago White Sox organization).
The Vikings have on-campus diamond which is tended to by coaches and Dave Vermuelen (the father of former player Chris Vermuelen).
“It’s a nice field,” says VanderWoude. “In Illinois, we used limestone. We have a fairway mower and put designs in the field. It gets constant water and treatment.
“We’re taking pride in what we have.”
After graduating from Illiana Christian in 1997, outfielder Jeff VanderWoude played for Cobras head coach Rod Lovett at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and then for Tigers head coach Beauford Sanders at Campellsville (Ky.) University.
VanderWoude was on the Parkland coaching staff of Dave Seifert, who went on to be an assistant then head coach at the University of Evansville. As a Philadelphia Phillies regional cross-checker, he had VanderWoude working for him for about a decade.
VanderWoude, runs Perm-A-Seal — an asphalt maintenance business in Lynwood, Ill. — with father Keith. Jeff and wife Jori have four children. Besides Isaac (16), there’s Lydia (15), Mya (13) and Hayvn (9). Lydia VanderWoude played varsity softball as an Illiana Christian freshman in 2022. Mya VanderWoude is heading into the eighth grade and Havyn VanderWoude fourth grade.

The 2022 Illiana Christian Vikings earned sectional and regional titles at Whiting and are bound for the IHSAA Class 2A Kokomo Semistate.
Cody DeJong.

The wife and children of Illiana Christian High School head baseball coach Jeff VandWoude are (from left): First row — Havyn VanderWoude. Second row — Mya VanderWoude, Jori VanderWoude and Lydia VanderWoude. Third row — Isaac VanderWoude.

Valpo U.’s Tucker took it to another level in 2022

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

Nolan Tucker enjoyed a breakout collegiate baseball season at the plate in 2022.
The lefty-swinging Valparaiso (Ind.) University second baseman hit a team-best .365 (46-of-126) with one home run, one triple, 14 doubles 17 runs batted in and 21 runs scored for the NCAA Division I Beacons.
Tucker pinch hit for head coach Brian Schmack’s club in a March 15 game at Notre Dame became an everyday starter March 18 at Murray State. He was at the top of the batting order the last few games of the season.
He went 4-of-5 in the first game of a March 25 doubleheader vs. St. Bonaventure, 4-of-5 April 30 at Southern Illinois April 30, 4-of-4 May 20 at Evansville and was named to the Missouri Valley Conference first team. He was the first Valpo player since 2018 and second since the school joined the MVC to do that.
“This was years in the making,” says Tucker, 21. “I finally had a chance to showcase it.”
Prior to this spring, Tucker had only played in 20 college games. He made 16 appearances in 2020 before that season was shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also the president of his dormitory — Brandt Hall.
After playing four games in 2021, he suffered a season-ending injury. He did earn Valparaiso University Presidential Academic Honors and the MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award and was on the MVC Honor Roll.
While he rehabilitated, Tucker took a deep dive into what he could do to boost his batting.
“I wanted to figure this hitting thing out and take it to next level,” says Tucker. “I was looking at videos and comparing myself to big leaguers.”
Tucker saw hitting coach Trey Hannam on social media, liked his profile and reached out to him and was soon making the 180-mile trek from Cedar Lake, Ind., to work with him in Milan, Ill.
Current Valpo assistants Kory Winter and Mitchell Boe and former assistant Casey Fletcher also played a part in Tucker’s transformation.
A 2019 graduate of Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, where he played for Wildcats head coach Ryan Bridges, Tucker was ranked among Indiana’s best shortstops and was four-year letterwinner and three-time all-conference selection.
With strong shortstops on the squad (including Benton Central High School graduate Alex Thurston), Tucker made the switch to second base at Valpo to get on the field and has come to love the position.
Tucker began wrestling early in elementary school. In high school, his head coaches were Mike Drosias as a freshman and Joshua Rowinski. There were to conference titles and a sectional championship.
He was in the 132-pound class as a sophomore in 2016-17 when he went 35-5 and qualified for the semistate then decided to focus on baseball and getting bigger and stronger and did not wrestle as a junior or senior.
“It’s a tough sport,” says Tucker of wrestling. “It’s physically and mentally demanding.
“The lessons I’ve learned from that sport I’ll carry with me forever.”
Tucker was born in Munster, Ind., and grew up in Cedar Lake. He played town ball and then went into travel baseball. He played for the St. John All-Stars, Playmakers, Chiefs, Top Tier, National Pitching Association and then the Dave Sutkowski-coached Morris Chiefs for his 17U summer.
“He’s made huge impact on me,” says Tucker of Sutkowski. “He’s taught me a lot about the game, but more about life like being punctual, responsible and a leader.
“He was always there to reassure you and make you confident.
“It’s about the man you become.”
Tucker is scheduled to join the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators — managed by Chris Willsey — next Tuesday, May 7. He did not play in 2021 while rehabbing. He was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics of gthe College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020. He also got to play for the Jorge Hernandez-managed Independence in the College Summer Baseball Invitational in Bryan/College Station, Texas, where he met fellow Region native and CSBI Unity manager LaTroy Hawkins.
Nolan had never met the 21-year major leaguer and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer but got connected through cousin and former Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School and Morris Chiefs coach Jim Tucker.
In 2019, Nolan Tucker played for the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s St. Clair Green Giants in Windsor, Ont.
Tucker is a Business Management major. He is one year away from getting his undergraduate degree and has three more years of playing eligibility.
“I’ll definitely go two more,” says Tucker. “I’m on the bubble about the third year.”
Nolan is the oldest of Keith and Julie Tucker’s two children. Keith Tucker works for Team Industrial Services and Julie for Liveops. Daughter Kylin (18) is a 2022 Hanover Central graduate bound for Ball State University.

Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)

Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)

Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)

Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Nolan Tucker (Valparaiso University Photo)
Northwest Indiana natives LaTroy Hawkins and Nolan Tucker meet in Texas in 2020.

UIndy ‘late bloomer’ Rivas grows into D-II Midwest Region Pitcher of the Year

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

University of Indianapolis sophomore left-hander Xavier Rivas was named 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings NCAA Division II Midwest Region Pitcher of the Year.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder in his second year in the Greyhounds starting rotation went 7-0 with a 2.24 earned run average, 128 strikeouts and 31 walks in 80 1/3 innings over 12 games. His WHIP (walks and hits allowed by innings pitched) was 0.98. Opponents hit .170 off the southpaw.
All this from someone who refers to himself as a “late bloomer.”
“The winter before my senior year I was throwing 78 to 82 mph, but I wanted to play (in college),” says Rivas, a 2020 Portage (Ind.) High School graduate. “I didn’t want to go and sit.
“I was a big kid but I hadn’t grown into my body.”
Rivas made a visit to UIndy, threw a bullpen for the coaches and was offered a spot on the team.
“The rest is history,” says Rivas, who credits several people for his ascension.
The winter before his junior year at Portage, Rivas began training with Joe Plesac (who was the pitching coach at Andrean High School Merrillville, Ind.).
“My dad go word of him through my strength coach in Valparaiso (Bub Pullins, whose son Gunnar Pullins was a senior first baseman on the Olivet Nazarene University team in 2022),” says Rivas.
At UIndy, Rivas has learned from head coach Al Ready and two pitching coaches — first Landon Hutchison and then Adam Cornwell. Trevor Forde is another Greyhounds assistant.
“He’s big on trust,” says Rivas of Ready. “He’s do anything for the players.
“It’s nice hearing his opinion. He was a real good hitter.”
Hutchison assisted the lefty with his mechanics and Cornwell with the mental side of things.
“When I came I had a real robotic back-side arm action,” says Rivas. “(Hutchison) was a big numbers guy. We used Rapsodo (cameras) and he taught me my slider.
“(Cornwell) played some pro ball and at UIndy. He’s taught me a lot. He’s helped me with some mechanical cues that added on a few miles per hour.”
Throwing from a three-quarter arm angle, Rivas employs a four-seam fastball, curve, slider and change-up.
During the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament with warm temperatures that the Greyhounds rarely saw in 2022 (he only pitched two times with the game-time thermometer reaching 60 and one start it was 17 with the wind chill), Rivas was above to get a sweat going on the mound and get his four-seamer up to 92 mph.
“We would have themes for bus rides,” says Rivas. “One time it a beach theme and we wore shorts and flip-flops. When we left Indianapolis it was in the 60s or 70s. It was in the 40s when we got there.
“That’s the nature of the beast in the Midwest. It’s bipolar weather.”
Rivas delivers his curve over the top close to 12-to-6 on the clock face.
In an attempt to “tunnel” his pitches, he wants them to look the same coming out of his hand and as they near the plate then they move in different ways.
Throwing his slider and change-up around the same speed — 80 to 84 mph — he tries to get the slider to dive down and to the right back foot of right-handed hitters. The change-up goes away from righties.
Rivas played one varsity season for Portage head coach Bob Dixon in 2019 (the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic).
“He was an older school guy and a nice guy,” says Rivas of Dixon.
The pitcher underwent knee surgery from a wrestling injury and played junior varsity ball as a Portage sophomore.
Wrestling is a big deal in Xavier’s family. His father Jeremy Rivas went to the IHSAA State Finals three times and was a state runner-up at 125 pounds as a Portage senior in 1993.
Jeremy coached at Hobart (Ind.) High School and helped Alex Ramos to a pair of state titles (1999 at 119 and 2000 at 125) and a fifth-place finish (1998 at 119).
Xavier Rivas wrestled from sixth through ninth grade for Portage (Leroy Vega was his high school coach). A torn meniscus as a sophomore put an end to his mat career.
“I knew baseball was my future,” says Rivas, who was coaxed by friends to play football as a senior. He was a wide receiver and tight end for the Indians in the fall of 2018.
Rivas did some powerlifting as early as high school freshman, but nothing was organized.
“When I got to college I saw how strong everyone was,” says Rivas. “I’m very competitive. I wanted to be the strongest one on the team.”
He got serious about lifting and began getting workouts from friend and competitive lifter Aaron Blake and went heavy with all his lifts when there was a two-month break at UIndy during the winter of 2020-21.
“I got up to 230 pounds,” says Rivas.
A Mechanical Engineering major, Rivas expects to graduate in five years. He is heading into his true junior year. He did not get an extra year of eligibility since he was not in college during the pandemic.
He took a heavy course load during his freshman season — 18 hours — and struggled while doing all online courses and being on the road frequently with the baseball team.
“I tried to study on the bus but that didn’t work,” says Rivas.
This year has been better with in-person classes and 17 hours in the fall and 15 in the spring.
“That was much better,” says Rivas, who mentors freshmen teammates so they don’t suffer the same as he did.
This summer, Rivas is with the Northwoods League’s Wisconsin Rapids Rafters.
Looking for innings, he spent part of the summer of 2021 playing American Legion ball for the South Haven Post 502 Blaze. He spent part of the previous summer with the Midwest Irish.
Born in Hobart, Rivas grew up in South Haven and moved to Portage in the middle of his sixth grad year.
He started at South Haven Little League at 4. He was playing there and in travel ball at 9. The Portage Tribe and Morris Chiefs were two of his other travel ball teams.
Xavier’s mother is Nina Rivas. Sister Mya Rivas (18) is a 2022 Portage graduate who is headed to Purdue University.

Xavier Rivas (University of Indianapolis Photo)
Xavier Rivas (University of Indianapolis Photo)
Xavier Rivas (University of Indianapolis Photo)
Xavier Rivas (University of Indianapolis Photo)