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Coronavirus measures cause abrupt end to ’20 college baseball season in Indiana

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Who saw this coming?

Because of concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic, most of the college baseball seasons in Indiana came to a premature end.

COVID-19 has caused campuses to shut down with many schools going to remote learning and social distancing practiced across the country. The NCAA, NAIA and National Junior College Athletic Association all decided to cancel their tournaments and baseball schedules have been wiped out.

“It’s been a learning curve for everybody,” says 17th-year Bethel University coach Seth Zartman. “Everything just happened so fast. It almost seems surreal.”

On Monday, March 13, the Mishawaka-based Pilots were 45 minutes from an intra-squad session when the NAIA made its announcement.

That’s when Zartman and his assistants had to inform players that the season was over.

“It’s one of the most not-fun meetings I’ve ever had to do with the team,” says Zartman, who saw his team conclude 2019-20 at 19-7, including 11-0 in the fall. “We helped them get prepared for online classes. On Tuesday, we had equipment check-in. That’s where we’re sitting at this point.

“We’ll savor what we were able to get done and accomplish and move on.”

Junior Cole Searles hit .395 (32-of-81) for Bethel. Senior Mike Wathier (Crown Point High School graduate) hit .337, belted four home runs and drove in 29 runs. Senior Kawambee Moss hit. 382 and stole 15 bases.

Senior right-handed pitcher Justin Rasmussen went 6-1 with a 2.59 earned run average and 37 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.

For a few years, Bethel has taken advantage of an NAIA rule which allows baseball and softball teams to scheduled counter games in the fall.

“It’s something we’ve come to appreciate,” says Zartman. “It brings a better focus to our fall season. It helps us come closer to the 55-game limit and there’s nicer weather to do it in (in the fall).”

The NCAA (D-I) and NAIA granted every current spring sport athlete an extra year of eligibility if they want to use it.

“That’s another process we’re going to have to navigate,” says Zartman. “I’m not sure how many will come back or take advantage of that at this point.”

The NCAA is expected to announce its decision on other levels by March 20.

The Bethel campus is still open, but many students including players, have decided to go home and continue course work via computer. For that reason, Zartman expects that any exit interviews he does will likely be done by phone.

Zartman, with his office away from many of the other BU employees, has been diving into paperwork he probably would not have tackled until May or June. Wife Antira is a teacher in the Jimtown system and goes in three days a week. The four Zartman children are staying home like the rest of their schoolmates.

“We’re hanging onto a new normal right now,” says Zartman.

Of the 38 college baseball programs in Indiana, 13 are in the NAIA. Besides Bethel, they include Calumet of Saint Joseph, Goshen, Grace, Huntington, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan, Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University South Bend, Indiana University Southeast, Marian, Saint Francis and Taylor.

When the season came to a halt, No. 12-ranked IU Southeast was 18-1. The New Albany-based Grenadiers’ last game was an 11-7 win against Lindsey Wilson in Columbia, Ky., on March 11. The only loss (6-5 in eight innings) came March 4 in the first game of a doubleheader at then-No. 25 Campbellsville (Ky.).

Sophomore Daunte Decello hit .519 (27-of-51) for the Grenadiers. Junior Clay Woeste (Lawrenceburg) hit .368, belted five homers, plated 25 runs and stole 15 bases.

Junior left-hander Hunter Kloke posted a 2.45 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.

Ben Reel, who has been IU Southeast’s head coach since 2009, is choosing to see the positives in the situation.

“I learned a lot during this time,” says Reel. “You think you’ve seen it all and done it all and you’re dead wrong.”

Reel recalls his high school psychology class and the five stages of grief and loss — denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In talking with his network of fellow coaches, including former Grenadiers assistant Andrew Dickson (now at Yale, where the Ivy League was among the first to shut down for 2020), Reel found a recurring theme.

“We weren’t really prepared to be the middle men between our universities and our players,” says Reel. “They’re confused. They’re upset.

“You’re the point person to make sense of everything.”

Reel’s focus throughout his coaching career is to recruit people he wants to be around everyday.

“That’s what hurts the most,” says Reel. “We’re prevented from being around the people we love and that’s our players.”

Another message that Reel has bought into and that’s to use this time without daily baseball for personal growth.

“I’m going to get better at something,” says Reel. “You have time to do whatever you want do and whatever you need to do.”

NAIA

Brian Nowakowski’s Calumet College of St. Joseph Crimson Wave finished 3-11.

Sophomore Noah Miller hit .389 (14-of-36) and stole seven bases. Sophomore right-hander Zach Verta slugged two homers and drove in 11 runs while also going 2-1 as a pitcher. Junior Jake Everaert (Hebron) had a 6.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 18 innings.

The Alex Childers-coached Goshen Maple Leafs finished 7-11.

Senior Ben Longacre hit .361 (22-of-61). Freshman Nate Lange knocked in 12 runs and stole four bases.

Senior right-hander Braedon Evans posted a 5.75 ERA. Freshman right-hander Landon Roth went 2-0 on the mound. Sophomore right-hander Kade Gorman (Noblesville) fanned 17 batters in 18 1/3 innings.

Ryan Roth’s Grace Lancers went 6-10.

Sophomore Chris Griffin hit .415 (22-of-53). Senior David Anderson hit .315 drove in 12 runs. Sophomore Sam Newkirk smacked three homers. Freshman Patrick Danforth (Monrovia) stole four bases

Freshman Nick Stoltzfus went 2-0 on the bump. Junior Houston Haney (Westview) went 1-2 and posted a 3.46 ERA. Freshman Tanner Clark (Columbia City) whiffed 19 batters in 19 1/3 innings.

Mike Frame’s Huntington Foresters wound up at 5-7.

Junior Daniel Lichty hit .432 (19-of-44) and plated nine runs. Sophomore Langston Ginder (Fort Wayne Carroll) popped two homers. Sophomore Satchell Wilson (Lapel) stole four bases.

Senior left-hander Alex McCutcheon (Huntington North) went 2-2 as a pitcher. Senior right-hander Mason Shinabery (Bellmont) went 1-1 and produced a 1.38 ERA and fanned 25 in 26 innings.

Rich Benamin’s Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats went 10-9.

Junior Denver Blinn hit .369 (24-of-65) with four homers and 22 RBIs. Senior Tanner Killian hit .284 and belted five homers. Freshman Colby Jenkins (New Palestine) stole six bases.

Senior right-hander Conner Cantrell (Center Grove) went 3-1 on the mound. Senior left-hander Austin Swift delivered a 0.32 ERA and struck out 22 in 19 innings.

Todd Bacon’s Marian Knights finished 10-9.

Senior Shane Peisker hit .493 (34-of-69). Senior Evan Hickman (New Palestine) hit. 286 and drove in 16 runs. Four Knights — Hickman, sophomore Sean Dieppa, sophomore Caden Jones (Crawfordsville) and senior Caleb Myers (Lebanon) — rapped two homers each.

Freshman right-hander Trey Heidlage (Batesville) swiped five bases. Sophomore right-hander Ty Lautenschlager (West Vigo) went 3-0 as a pitcher. Junior right-hander Reese Wills (Hamilton Heights) fanned 28 in 18 2/3 innings.

The Saint Francis Cougars of Dustin Butcher concluded at 9-10.

Junior David Miller hit .308 (12-of-39) and stole seven bases. Senior Brady Harris (Cowan) hit .274 and collected 15 RBIs. Junior Mikhail McCowin (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers) smacked three homers. Senior Kyle DeKonick went 2-0 on the mound.

Senior left-hander Matt Fiorini (2-2) posted a 2.57 ERA and struck out 27 in 28 innings.

Kyle Gould’s Taylor Trojans went 13-5.

Sophomore Nick Rusche (New Palestine) hit .405 (30-of-74). Sophomore Ben Kalbaugh hit .379 and drove in 21 runs. Sophomore T.J. Bass (Greenwood Community) slammed six homers. Junior Jonathan Foster (Columbus East) stole six bases.

Junior right-hander Noah Huseman, senior right-hander Justin Pettit (Jennings County) and senior right-hander Tucker Waddups (Pioneer) are went 2-0 on the mound. Huseman produced a 3.00 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 21 innings.

Doug Buysse’s Indiana University South Bend Titans went 7-9.

Sophomore Logan Young (Shelbyville) hit .405 (17-of-42) with two homers and 13 RBIs. Sophomore Colin Mack (Morgan Township) stole 11 bases.

Senior left-hander Troy Cullen (Griffith) went 2-2 posted a 2.87 ERA. Freshman right-hander Robbie Berger (John Glenn) went 2-1 and fanned 19 in 18 innings.

Matt Howard’s Indiana University Kokomo Cougars finished 12-10.

Senior Austin Weiler hit .405 (30-of-74) with five homers. Sophomore Noah Hurlock (Kokomo High School) hit .344 with three homers and knocked in 19 runs. Junior Jared Heard (New Castle) hit .343 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Junior Bryce Lenz (Avon) purloined seven bases.

Junior left-hander Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern) went 3-2 and pitched to a 3.41 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings.

Kip McWilliams’ No. 11 Indiana Tech Warriors wrapped at 11-5.

Junior Mike Snyder (Fort Wayne Northrop) hit .400 (20-of-50) with 10 homers and drove in 26 runs. Sophomore Jacob Daftari (Hamilton Southeastern) hit .359 with three homers. Junior Ashtin Moxey stole three bases.

Senior left-hander Charles Dunavan went 3-0 on the mound with a 1.88 ERA. Sophomore Hayes Sturtsman (Manchester) pitched to a 1.13 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 16 innings.

NCAA D-I

The NCAA Division I College World Series — held each year since 1947 — has been called off for 2020.

The state has nine D-I baseball programs — Ball State, Butler, Evansville, Purdue, Purdue Fort Wayne, Indiana, Indiana State, Notre Dame and Valparaiso.

Rich Maloney’s RPI No. 210 Ball State Cardinals (7-9) were led offensively by sophomore Noah Navarro (Avon), who hit .377 (20-of-53) with one homer and seven stolen bases. Junior Trenton Quartermaine hit .366 (18-of-50) with 13 RBIs.

Freshman left-hander Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern) went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA. Junior right-hander Kyle Nicolas (0-1, 2.74) struck out 37 in 23 innings. Senior right-hander John Baker (1-2, 2.42) fanned 27 in 22 1/3 innings.

Dave Schrage’s RPI No. 231 Butler Bulldogs (8-7) were led at the plate by junior Nick Ortega, who hit .283 (13-of-46) with 11 RBIs.

On the mound, junior right-hander Jack Myers (Indianapolis Cathedral) went 2-2 with a 4.04 ERA and whiffed 34 batters in 24 2/3 innings. Junior right-hander Connor Schultz (2-1, 3.04) fanned 26 in 23 2/3 innings.

Wes Carroll’s RPI No. 195 Evansville Purple Aces (5-11) were paced at the plate by junior Mason Brinkley, who hit .359 (14-of-39), and junior Tanner Craig (Austin), who hit .345 (20-of-58) with seven homers and 19 RBIs. Senior Troy Beilsmith stolen six bases.

Sophomore right-hander Shane Gray (1-1, 3.57) struck out 19 in 22 2/3 innings. Senior left-hander Nathan Croner (1-1, 3.26) whiffed 18 in 19 1/3 innings. Senior right-hander David Ellis (Princeton Community) went 2-1 to lead the staff in victories.

Greg Goff’s RPI No. 134 Purdue Boilermakers (7-7) saw sophomore Evan Albrecht hit .364 (16-of-44) with 14 RBIs and three stolen bases, junior Ben Nisle (Lake Central) .320 (16-of-50), senior Skyler Hunter .315 (17-of-54) with 11 RBIs. Junior Miles Simington knocked in 10.

Freshman right-hander Jett Jackson (1-0, 1.89) with 13 strikeouts in 19 innings and wins leader and sophomore right-hander Cory Brooks (2-2, 5.12) with 16 K’s in 19 1/3 innings were among the pitching leaders.

Doug Schreiber’s RPI No. 262 Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (5-10) was guided in the batter’s box by sophomore Aaron Chapman, who hit .382 (26-of-68) with 11 RBIs and sophomore Dylan Stewart, who hit .381 (16-of-42) with five stolen bases.

Senior right-hander Cameron Boyd (Fishers) went 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA and struck out 21 in 23 innings. Sophomore left-hander Justin Miller (Homestead) went 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA and fanned 20 in 16 2/3 innings.

Jeff Mercer’s RPI No. 39 Indiana Hoosiers (9-7) were guided at bat by sophomore Grant Richardson (Fishers), who hit .424 (25-of-59) with five homers and 17 RBIs and junior Elijah Dunham (Evansville Reitz), who hit .390 (23-of-59). Junior Drew Ashley (Evansville Memorial) hit .288 with two homers and drove in 12 runs. Jordan Fucci (.283) blasted two homers and plated 14. Junior Cole Barr (Yorktown) also smacked two homers. Senior Jeremy Houston swiped a team-best three bases.

Sophomore right-hander Gabe Bierman (Jeffersonville) went 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA and struck out 24 in 22 innings. Junior left-hander Tommy Sommer (Carmel) went 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and fanned 17 in 20 2/3 innings. Sophomore right-hander Brayden Tucker (Northview) went 2-1 with a 4.58 ERA and whiffed 10 in 19 2/3 innings.

Mitch Hannahs’ RPI No. 100 Indiana State Sycamores (8-6) were led offensively by freshman Dominic Cusumano, who hit .341 (14-of-41) and junior Jordan Schaffer (West Vigo), who hit .321 (17-of-53) with two stolen bases. Junior Miguel Rivera (.261) knocked in 11 runs and junior Brian Fuentes (.245) plated 10. Fuentes and freshman Diego Gines both belted two homers.

Freshman left-hander Cameron Edmonson (2-1, 1.96) struck out 25 in 18 1/3 innings. Senior right-hander Collin Liberatore (2-1, 4.95) whiffed 10 in 20 innings. Junior left-hander Tristan Weaver (1-1, 1.85) fanned 34 in 24 1/3 innings. Senior left-hander Tyler Grauer (0-1, 1.59) collected five saves and struck out 23 in 11 1/3 innings.

Link Jarrett’s RPI No. 31 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-2) were led at bat by junior Spencer Myers, who hit .431 (25-of-58) with 15 stolen bases and graduate student Eric Gilgenbach, who hit .370 (10-of-27). Junior Niko Kavadas (Penn) drove in 17 runs, freshman Jack Brannigan 11, Gilgenbach 10, sophomore Carter Putz 10 and junior Jared Miller 10.

Junior left-hander Tommy Vail (3-0, 2.08) produced 24 strikeouts with 17 1/3 innings while junior left-hander Tommy Sheehan (3-0, 2.70) whiffed 22 in 23 1/3 innings.

Brian Schmack’s RPI No. 152 Valparaiso Crusaders (2-10) saw senior Riley Dent hit .311 (19-of-61) with one homer and seven RBI. Juniors Troy Jones and Jonathan Temple also plated seven runs apiece. Freshman Nolan Tucker (Hanover Central) swiped four bases.

Senior right-hander Easton Rhodehouse (1-2, 3.45) struck out 20 in 15 2/3 innings.

NCAA D-II

Al Ready’s Indianapolis Greyhounds finished 12-3.

Senior and Center Grove product Will Smithey (8-of-20) and sophomore Ty Williams (10-of-25) both hit .400. Smithey has four homers, 16 RBIs and three stolen bases.

Senior left-hander Myc Witty (Lawrence North) and senior right-hander Reid Werner (Greenwood Community) were both 3-0 on the mound. Witty has a 1.59 ERA. Senior left-hander Corey Bates (1-1) has fanned 30 batters in 18 1/3 innings.

Tracy Archuleta’s Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles finished 6-8.

Senior Manny Lopez hit .356 (16-of-45) with two homers and 12 RBIs. Sophomore Lucas McNew (Borden) hit .327 with two homers and 12 RBIs. Junior Ethan Hunter (Terre Haute South Vigo) and junior Bryce Krizan (Mount Vernon of Posey) had three stolen bases apiece.

On the mound, senior right-hander Tyler Hagedorn (Evansville North) went 2-0 and senior right-hander Jacob Bowles was 2-1. Sophomore left-hander Sammy Barnett (Silver Creek) struck out 16 in 14 innings.

T-Ray Fletcher’s Oakland City Mighty Oaks finished 4-9.

Senior Devan Franz (Boonville) hit .375 (15-of-40) with a homer and 10 RBIs.

Senior right-hander Tristan Cummings (Tecumseh) went 2-2 on the mound with a 2.28 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings.

Dave Griffin’s Purdue Northwest Pride wound up 4-5.

Senior Danny Schneberger hit .308 (4-of-13). Senior Hunter Thorn (Portage) hit a homer and drove in five runs. Junior Jacob Soules stole three bases.

Freshman right-hander Hunter Robinson (New Prairie) went 2-0 on the hill. Freshman right-hander Tristan Baker (Fishers) posted a 1.50 ERA. Junior right-hander Chad Patrick (Hebron) racked up 12 strikeouts in 10 innings.

NCAA D-III

Matt Bair’s Anderson Ravens finished 6-3.

Junior Joe Moran (Anderson High School) hit .563 (18-of-32) with one homer and six stolen bases. As a right-handed pitcher, he was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 20 innings. He is slated to be the Heartland College Athletic Conference’s first player in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer.

Freshman Justin Reed (Martinsville) hit .286 with nine RBIs. Senior Branton Sanders (Whiteland) swiped eight bases. Junior left-hander Kasey Henderson (Cowan) was also 2-0 on the bump.

Blake Allen’s DePauw Tigers went 4-4 with sophomore Evan Barnes hitting .444 (8-of-18), freshman Kyle Boyer .375 (9-of-24) with two homers, junior Jackson Williams (Brebeuf Jesuit) .344 (11-of-32) and sophomore Kyle Callahan (Zionsville) .324 (11-of-32) with two homers and 18 RBIs.

Senior right-hander Tom Giella went 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA and nine strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

The Earlham Quakers of Steve Sakosits wound up at 7-3.

Junior Brian Pincura hit .346 (9-of-26) and junior Marc Gendreau .341 (15-of-44). Senior Danny Dopp homered twice and knocked in 13 runs. Senior Isaiah Shake (Bloomington South) stole nine bases.

Sophomore right-hander Aidan Talarek went 2-0 with an 0.00 ERA on the hill. Senior right-hander Kyle Gorman fanned 19 batters in 16 1/3 innings.

The Franklin Grizzlies of Lance Marshall went 5-3.

Junior Logan Demkovich (Munster) hit .500 (10-of-20) with 12 RBIs. Senior Jarrod Smith (Frankfort) batted .400 with two homers. Seniors Ryan Bixler (Lewis Cass), Brandt Pawley and Quenton Wellington (Indianapolis Bishop Chatard) had stolen three bases each.

On the mound, junior right-hander Mitch Merica (North Montgomery) finished 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 14 innings.

Grant Bellak’s Hanover Panthers went 7-7.

Sophomore Charlie Burton (Columbus East) hit .353 (18-of-51) with three homers and 12 RBIs and sophomore Jake Schaefer .350 (14-of-40) with five stolen bases.

Sophomore left-hander Andrew Littlefield went 2-1 on the mound with a 3.32 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 19 innings. Junior right-hander Justin Pope (Fishers) whiffed 14 in 10 2/3 innings.

Rick Espeset’s Manchester Spartans wrapped at 2-5.

Junior Joe Henschel (Fort Wayne Carroll) hit .409 (9-of-22) with two homers and eight RBIs.

Senior right-hander Nick Rush (Terre Haute North Vigo) went 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA and had nine strikeouts in nine innings. Sophomore right-hander Zach White (Logansport) went 1-0, 1.13) and fanned eight in eight innings.

Rose-Hulman’s Jeff Jenkins earned his 800th career coaching victory March 3 against Saint Joseph’s (Maine) in Florida. His Fightin’ Engineers finished 4-3.

Freshman Andy Krajecki hit. 438 (7-of-16), sophomore Josh Mesenbrink .417 (10-of-24) and junior Luke Kluemper (Monrovia) .409 (9-of-22). Junior Shaine Mitchell (Brebeuf Jesuit) stole three bases.

Senior left-hander Luke Buehler (Guerin Catholic) went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA and was among the pitching leaders. Sophomore right-hander Matthew Rouse racked up 12 strikeouts in 10 innings

The Trine Thunder wrapped at 9-2 under coach Greg Perschke.

Junior A.J. Mitchell hit .375 (15-of-40), Jake Conley .333 with 11 RBIs and Shayne Devine (Portage) hit .364 with 10 RBIs. Senior Nick Ricci (Crown Point) cracked the lone homer.

Junior left-hander Kyle Robinson (2-0, 0.00), sophomore right-hander Bryce Bloode (2-0, 2.93) and junior right-hander Drew Cebulak (1-0, 1.50) with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings were among the mound leaders. Robinson prepped at Crown Point and Bloode at New Prairie.

Jake Martin’s Wabash Little Giants finished 6-2.

Senior Jackson Blevins (Plainfield) hit .500 (15-of-30). Junior Andrew Jumonville (Munster) drove in nine runs. Junior Sean Smith (Peru) hit both of the team’s homers and was 2-0 on the mound. Sophomore Austin Simmers (Jasper) stole three bases.

Junior Tyler Dearing (McCutcheon) went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and whiffed 16 in 11 innings.

JUNIOR COLLEGE

Chris Woodruff’s Ancilla Chargers wound up 5-10.

Freshman Daniel Wright (Western) hit .350 (7-of-20). Emitt Zimmerman (Carroll of Flora) knocked in nine runs. Freshman Bryce Huntley (New Castle) swiped four bases.

Freshman left-hander Weston Record (Logansport) was the pitching workhorse, going 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.

The Ivy Tech Northeast Titans finished 6-5 under coach Lance Hershberger.

Sophomore Eric Doyle (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) hit .553 (21-of-38) with 11 stolen bases and freshman Robert Irgang (Wabash) .529 (9-of-17) with 10 RBIs.

Sophomore Brandon Bultemeier (Adams Central) went 2-0, 1.46 and sophomore Matt Jindra (Valparaiso) 0-0, 2.25 with 14 strikeouts in 16 innings as pitching stalwarts.

Chris Barney’s Vincennes Trailblazers went 10-5.

Sophomore Ryan Robison (New Albany) hit .404 (19-of-47) with three homers and 21 RBIs and freshman Landen Freestone (Shenandoah) .400 (12-of-30). Sophomore Jared Sermerheim (Jasper) stole eight bases.

Sophomore right-hander Nate Toone (3-0, 3.48) struck out 19 in 20 2/2 innings while left-hander Robison (2-0, 0.89) fanned 20 in 20 1/3 innings.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Final 2020 Records

NCAA Division I

Ball State 7-9 (0-0 Mid-American)

Butler 8-7 (0-0 Big East)

Evansville 5-11 (0-0 Missouri Valley)

Indiana 9-6 (0-0 Big Ten)

Indiana State  8-6 (0-0 Missouri Valley)

Notre Dame 11-2 (3-0 Atlantic Coast)

Purdue 7-7 (0-0 Big Ten)

Purdue Fort Wayne 5-10 (0-0 Summit)

Valparaiso 2-14 (0-0 Missouri Valley)

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 12-3 (2-1 Great Lakes Valley)

Oakland City 4-9

Purdue Northwest 4-5 (0-0 Great Lakes Intercollegiate)

Southern Indiana 6-8 (1-1 Great Lakes Valley)

NCAA Division III

Anderson 6-3 (0-0 Heartland)

DePauw 4-4 (0-0 North Coast)

Earlham 7-3 (0-0 Heartland)

Franklin 5-3 (0-0 Heartland)

Hanover 7-7 (0-0 Heartland)

Manchester 2-5 (0-0 Heartland)

Rose-Hulman 4-3 (0-0 Heartland)

Trine 9-2 (0-0 Michigan Intercollegiate)

Wabash 6-2 (0-0 North Coast)

NAIA

Bethel 19-7 (2-1 Crossroads)

Calumet of Saint Joseph 3-11 (0-0 Chicagoland)

Goshen 7-11 (2-1 Crossroads)

Grace 6-10 (1-3 Crossroads)

Huntington 5-7 (3-0 Crossroads)

Indiana Tech 11-5 (0-0 Wolverine-Hoosier)

Indiana Wesleyan 10-9 (3-0 Crossroads)

Indiana University-Kokomo 12-10 (5-1 River States)

Indiana University South Bend 7-9 (0-0 Chicagoland)

Indiana University Southeast 18-1 (6-0 River States)

Marian 10-9 (0-3 Crossroads)

Saint Francis 9-10 (0-3 Crossroads)

Taylor 13-5 (1-2 Crossroads)

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers 5-10 (0-0 Michigan Community)

Ivy Tech Northeast 6-5

Vincennes 10-5 (0-0 Mid-West)

CLAYWOESTEIUS20

Clay Woeste makes a throw for the 2020 Indiana Univesity Southeast baseball team. The New Albany-based Grenadiers were 18-1 when the season came to a sudden halt because of concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). (Indiana University Southeast Photo)

BETHELUNIVERSITYBASEBALL2020

Bethel University (Mishawaka, Ind.) celebrates one of its 2020 baseball victories. The Pilots went 19-7 in 2019-20. The season was shortened when the NAIA shut down because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Bethel University Photo)

 

Giving back to community important to Arnold, Tri-Central Trojans

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Already established on the coaching scene at Tri-Central Middle/High School in Sharpsville, Ind., Shane Arnold has added head baseball coach to his list of roles and he has goals for that group of Trojans.

“Our focus is to get back to the basics, be better fundamentally and get the numbers up,” says Arnold. “We want to make sure the kids are giving back to the community and be visible in the youth leagues.”

Arnold is in his second season as head football coach at Tri-Central after 14 years as a TC gridiron assistant. He spent the past two springs as the school’s head softball coach and had held that position at Taylor High School in Kokomo. He has been involved in youth baseball for decades.

A year ago, Tri-Central had 11 high school baseball players. The year before that, it was nine. Arnold says he would like to have enough players to field a varsity and junior varsity squad.

With Arnold coaching football, there was no Limited Contact practice at Tri-Central this fall, but the Trojans will be working in the winter to develop arms and and develop other skills.

“We’ll also bring in the youth and have high school kids work with them,” says Arnold. “It’s important for the high school kids to give back and be great role models and mentors.”

Arnold was involved when leaders of the Tri-Central Youth Baseball League decided a few years ago to start playing area schools in age division competition.

“We knew that in the future, the high school team will reap the benefits,” says Arnold. “We’re seeing better baseball and having to play at a higher level.”

Tri-Central (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Hoosier Heartland Conference (with Carroll of Flora, Clinton Central, Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community, Eastern of Greentown, Rossville, Sheridan and Taylor).

In recent seasons, HHC teams have played each other one time. In 2019, TC’s non-conference opponents were Elwood, Faith Christian, Northfield, Northwestern, Oak Hill and Tipton.

The Tipton County-based Trojans are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Wes-Del. Tri-Central has won three sectional titles — 1987, 2003 (1A) and 2004 (1A).

Arnold expects to have athletes splitting their time between track and baseball. Sharing athletes at a small school means cooperation among coaches.

“All get along and work together,” says Arnold. “Kids have to pitch which sport is their priority.”

Former Trojans pitcher Colby Malson is now a senior at Goshen College.

“There are several in next few years that could play at the next level,” says Arnold, who will be assisted by Scott Overley, Jason Dyer and volunteer Dean Muehller.

Tri-Central plays its game on campus. There are no planned updates to the field, but the Trojans are expected to get a new look.

“They used to have an all-white home uniform,” says Arnold. “We’re going to get away from that. We have a grass field with brick dust and it’s hard to get that stuff out.”

Consequently, Tri-Central will go with gold tops at home, blue tops on the road and gray pants.

Arnold is a 1988 Elwood (Ind.) Community High School graduate. He attended William Penn College (now William Penn University) in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and Indiana University Kokomo for one year each.

Shane and Kelly Arnold have been married for 28 years and have four children and three granddaughters. Son Shane Thomas Arnold is an Elwood High teacher and the Panthers new head baseball coach. Daughter Caitlyn is married for a Marine at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina named Jordan. Son Aiden is a Tri-Central senior football and baseball player. Son Brody is TC sixth grader who plays football, basketball and baseball.

“There’s no down season at our house,” says Arnold. “It’s football, basketball, baseball, something.”

SHANEARNOLDFAMILY

The Arnold family shares a moment at the football field. Tri-Central head coach Shane Arnold is with son Aiden Arnold, wife Kelly Arnold and son Brody Arnold. Shane is also the head baseball coach for the Sharpsville, Ind.-based Trojans.

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Shane Arnold, Kelly Arnold and Aiden Arnold enjoy a family moment. Shane is the head football and baseball coach at Tri-Central High School in Sharpsville, Ind.

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Kelly and Shane Arnold pause while on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Shane is the head football and baseball coach at Tri-Central High School in Sharpsville, Ind.

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Kelly and Shane Arnold have been married for 28 years. He is head baseball and football coach at Tri-Central High School. He has coached softball Tri-Central and Taylor High School and been involved in youth baseball for decades.

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Shane Arnold (left), the head baseball and football coach at Tri-Central High School in Sharpsville, Ind., stands with son Aiden, a senior on both teams in 2019-20.

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The two Shane Arnolds between games of a 2019 high school baseball doubleheader. The father (on the left) is head coach at Tri-Central High School. The son (at the right) was an assistant last spring and is to be the head coach at Elwood (Ind.) Community High School in 2020.

 

Todd entering second season in charge of Wes-Del Warriors baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Defense is a priority for head coach Bob Todd and his Wes-Del Middle/High School baseball team.

Entering his second season in 2019, Todd is emphasizing defensive communication and execution at the school in Gaston, Ind., northwest of Muncie.

“If you’re defense is bad, it’s hard to win even if you do hit,” says Todd. “We try to limit the free 90’s and win that battle every game.

“That gives us a chance to at least be in the game.”

During this IHSAA limited contact period, Todd’s Warriors have been in the small middle school gym on Wednesday or Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.

“We usually have stations for defensive reps or conditioning for an hour then do hitting and flat-mound bullpens for an hour,” says Todd. “We keep them working. Everybody is doing something. We don’t want anybody standing around. We’re getting a lot of things accomplished and getting better at all times.”

Todd counts himself as a proponent of the arm care program discussed by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

In the future, Wes-Del baseball may benefit from a new auxiliary gym in the works at the Delaware County school.

Wes-Del (enrollment around 280) is in the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union-Modoc and Wapahani).

MEC teams play each other once at various times during the spring to determine a conference champion.

Todd says it has been announced that beginning in 2021 conference games will be played every Tuesday and Thursday with schedules being laid out around those days.

Non-conference opponents include Alexandria-Monroe, Anderson Preparatory Academy, Blackford, Delta, Eastbrook, Elwood, Frankton, Liberty Christian, Madison-Grant, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic, Southern Wells, Union City and Yorktown. The Delaware County tournament is slated for May 7 and May 11.

The home field is located behind the school on North Yorktown-Gaston Pike (North 600 West).

The Warriors are in an IHSAA Class 1A grouping with Anderson Prep, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Tri-Central. Wes-Del last won a sectional title in 2011.

Todd is assisted by Ken Zvokel (varsity) and Zach Tanner (JV) with occasional help from other volunteers. Mary Helen Bink has been a scorekeeper for Wes-Del for more than three decades.

A year ago, Wes-Del had 20 players in the program. Nine of those have graduated and two others are not expected back. Based on call-out meetings, Todd says he may have as many as 24 this spring.

The first official day of practice is March 11. Spring break for Wes-Del Community Schools is March 22-29. The baseball team is slated for open its season April 2 and have six games scheduled in the first eight days.

“Players have 10 practice to get before spring break,” says Todd, referring to the IHSAA rule for participation. “It’s imperative that they come to all practices.”

Wes-Del Youth Athletic Association provides baseball and softball for T-ball through age 12.

To provide baseball opportunities for middle schoolers, a team has been organized for Wes-Del boys that plays in the spring and summer.

Others Wes-Del athletes participate in the summer in the East Central Indiana League and in travel baseball.

Bob and Felicia Todd have two children — McKenzie (20) and Zack (15). Zack Todd is a freshman baseball player at Wes-Del and plays with the Indiana Nitro during the travel ball season.

Bob Todd is a 1996 graduate of Muncie South Side High School, where he played freshmen baseball when Larry Lewis was head coach.

Before taking the job at Wes-Del, Todd had coached in area travel ball organizations, including the Indiana Mojo.

Todd is employed as a general manager for American Pest Professionals, which has offices in Muncie and Marion.

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FELICIAZACKBOBMCKENZIETODDThe Todd family (from left): Felicia, Zack, Bob and McKenzie. Bob Todd is head baseball coach at Wes-Del High Sch

Stanley wants confidence, consistency for Shenandoah Raiders baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Confidence and consistency.

They are the foundation of the baseball program Bruce Stanley has built as head coach at Shenandoah High School in Middletown, Ind.

Taking a cue from Tug McGraw and Stanley’s last college coach, Rich Maloney, the Raiders carry the motto: Ya Gotta Believe!

“I’m big on consistency. Make the routine play. Throw strikes. It’s basic things of baseball like competing and believing in yourself,” says Stanley, who enters his fifth season as head coach in 2019. The 1993 Shenandoah graduate has also also served two stints as an assistant at his alma mater. “Everything you attack in life, you gotta believe you’re going to do it and do it well.”

Shenandoah (enrollment around 450) is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Union of Modoc and Wapahani).

MEC teams play each other one time to determine the conference champion. The Raiders joined the league in 2017-18. Stanley says plans call for conference games to be played on Tuesdays and Thursdays in 2021.

Among Shenandoah’s non-conference foes are Alexandra-Monroe, Anderson, Centerville, Frankton, Hagerstown, Jay County, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central, New Castle, Pendleton Heights, Richmond, Rushville and Wes-Del.

The Raiders are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Frankton, Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris and Wapahani. Shenandoah has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2006.

Stanley’s assistant coaches are Ryan Painter (varsity) and Rusty Conner (junior varsity). The Raiders normally have about 30 players in the program each spring.

Shenandoah plays home games on its campus at the Dale Green Field complex. In recent years, the facility has gotten new dugouts, a new backstop and fencing has been replaced. This spring will bring a new scoreboard.

The feeder system for the high school includes Little League and Babe Ruth program in Middletown and several travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Longhorns, Indiana Nitro, Indiana Premier, Indiana Prospects and Midwest Astros.

Stanley, who was chosen for the 1993 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series, was selected three times in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — 1993 by the Pittsburgh Pirates (41st round), 1996 by the Baltimore Orioles (11th round) and 1997 by the Kansas City Royals (18th round).

The right-handed pitcher says the first time he was drafted, he planned to go to college (he earned four letters at Ball State University). The second time the money wasn’t right and the third time he decided it was time to move on and start a family.

Bruce and Holly Stanley, who attended Shenandoah and Ball State together, have two children — Cy (18) and Meg (15). Cy Stanley is a freshman left-handed pitcher at Taylor University. Meg is a sophomore softball player at Shenandoah.

Other recent Raider player now in college baseball is shortstop-second baseman Max McKee (Indiana University Kokomo).

Current Shenandoah senior pitchers — left-hander Hadden Myers (Indiana Tech) and right-hander Gavin Patrick (Wabash College for baseball and football) — are also college-bound.

Pat Quinn was Ball State’s head coach when Stanley arrived in Muncie.

Stanley appreciates the way Quinn instilled work ethic and competitiveness.

“(Quinn) was a big influence,” says Stanley. “He showed me how to go about things in a professional way.

“He brought intensity to the game. It really helped me be successful.”

Stanley says Maloney was also intense and set expectations high.

“He was good at bringing about the family atmosphere,” says Stanley. “We were working for each other. He was a great mentor, leader and father figure.

“I’d have run through a wall for him repeatedly.”

Stanley has been a teacher for 20 years. He spent 14 years at South View Elementary in Muncie and is in his sixth year as a special education teacher at Shenandoah.

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Bruce Stanley (left) coached his son at Shenandoah High School in Middleton, Ind. Cy Stanley (right) now plays for Taylor University.

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Holly and Bruce Stanley both attended Shenandoah High School and Ball State University. The couple have two children — Cy and Meg. Bruce is head baseball coach and a special education teacher at Shenandoah.

 

Coughenour stresses life lessons, competition for Eastern Hancock Royals

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Teaching life lessons and emphasizing competition, Chad Coughenour is heading into his 13th season as head baseball coach at Eastern Hancock Junior/Senior High School near Charlottesville, Ind.

“My faith is a big part of who I am,” says Coughenour aka Coach Coke. “I try to teach the young men more about life than I do about baseball sometimes.

“We all live life.”

Coughenour talks his Royals about things like being on time, doing their job, learning from failures and successes, standing by their word and working hard.

“The things that make you a better man,” says Coughenour.

Recent Eastern Hancock graduate Clayton White is on the baseball team at Anderson University and other current Royals have college baseball aspirations. Coughenour is proud that he has sent more young men on to the military and to be policemen and firemen.

Among those going on to the service are Alan Clark (Army Reserves), Kris Cushing (Navy, Dwight Duzan (Navy), Dustin Pettit (Marines and Army), Steven Stunda (Army), Devon Wagoner (Army) and Pedro Wilkinson (Air Force)

Recent graduate Tyler Blattner (Charlottesville) and Easton Fields (Greenfield) are volunteer firefighters and going through fire school.

Jacob Low is a police officer in Terre Haute.

Coughenour graduated from the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown in 1996. Life lessons were taught to him by Mountain Cats head coach Ken Keiper.

“He was a very moral man,” says Coughenour of Keiper. “He made sure everybody had a fair chance. It didn’t matter if they were a freshman or a senior.

“He made sure everybody was a part. He treated everybody the same and give them the same opportunities.”

Eastern Hancock players constantly get opportunities to compete — in practice and in games. There are thousands of chances during a school year.

Coughenour splits his team into small groups and has them compete for points in doing certain offensive or defensive skills. The group winner gets a piece of candy. Those with less points have to run.

The top three for a month get T-shirts — gold, silver and blue.

“The same kids don’t always win it,” says Coughenour.

The season champion receives a plaque.

The Royals averaged 16 to 17 players at fall practices, where they divided into teams and scrimmaged. Coughenour was the pitcher.

Some of the advantages to working as a team and not just the coach with a few players at a time is that things like bunt defenses and pick-off moves can be covered early and not just in the few weeks prior to the season opener.

In the off-season, there is school-wide conditioning program and also one that baseball players can use through a cell phone app.

“I give my boys off until after Christmas to hit the weight room,” says Coughenour.

In 2018, the Royals got off to a 1-7 start before finishing 13-15 and tied for second place in its first season as a Mid-Eastern Conference member. Eastern Hancock was the lone MEC school to beat champion Wapahani (1-0 in nine innings in Selma).

The rest of the MEC consists of Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc and Wes-Del. Union did not field a baseball team in 2018.

Before joining the MEC, Eastern Hancock spent a few years as an independent. Before that, the Royals were affiliated with the Mid-Hoosier Conference. Eastern Hancock was in the Big Blue River Conference when it split in 1989.

The Royals are in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina, Irvington Prep Academy, Knightstown and Triton Central. Eastern Hancock mugged with the sectional championship hardware for the only time in 1976.

With the help of athletic director Aaron Spaulding, Coughenour builds a strong non-conference schedule.

“We try to find the best competition around,” says Coughenour. “Our sectional is not an easy one.

“We’ve got to be ready for it.”

The Royals play Greenfield-Central, Heritage Christian and Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter during the regular season and participates in the John R. Howden Memorial Tournament at Mooresville, which has also featured Indianapolis North Central and Valparaiso. Coughenour gave lessons to John Howden’s son Riley when the latter was in high school.

Eastern Hancock graduated 10 players last spring. Coughenour expects to have 31 in the program for varsity and junior varsity teams for the 2019 season.

“We’ve been growing,” says Coughenour. “My first couple years, we had 23 or 24. In lean years, it was in the mid-teens. The last three years, we’ve had around 30 kids.”

There’s also a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders that play close to 20 games in the spring.

Varsity, JV and middle school squads share the same on-campus field that was christened in 2010. The Royals played all of their 2009 home games at the Bandits Yard in Greenfield, Ind. (now site of Midwest Astros Academy), while the facility was being completed.

Coughenour coached the Bandits 17U team for five summers. He now coaches an Eastern Hancock summer team that plays in the Greenfield-based Babe Ruth travel league.

Those kids play their home games on the same field they occupy with the high school and middle school teams in the spring.

“We teach kids at a young age how to maintain it,” says Coughenour. “Taking care of the field is a habit. They have ownership in it. High school kids help the junior high kids.

“It becomes pretty seamless. It goes back to the service and building the tradition.”

Chad, who works as chief surveyor for the Hancock County Surveyor’s Office, has been married to Tiffany for 20 years. The couple have three daughters — Josie (16), Abigail (14) and Paige (9). Sophomore Josie and eighth grader Abigail attend Greenfield schools. Paige is home-schooled.

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The Coughenours (from left): Paige, Chad, Tammy, Abigail and Josie.

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The Eastern Hancock Royals pray prior to a game a few high school baseball seasons ago.

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Eastern Hancock High School head baseball coach Chad Coughenour (left) gets xxx to slide into third base in a 2018 game against Cowan.

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A.J. Muegge (left) rounds third base as Eastern Hancock High School head baseball coach Chad Coughenour points him toward home during a 2017 game against Knightstown.

Former Delta, Indiana State, Louisville hurler Conway begins pro career in White Sox system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Gaining confidence and maturity have gone a long way in helping Austin Conway along his baseball journey, which has taken him into professional baseball as a right-handed pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Conway played for head coach Terry Summers at Delta High School near Muncie, Ind., where he graduated in 2013.

“He taught you how to carry yourself on the field and have a lot of composure,” says Conway of Summers. “I was very immature as a freshman. I had a lot of growing up to do. Having him around really helped.”

From Delta, where current Cowan High School head coach Ryan Conwell was an assistant, Conway took his talents to Terre Haute to play for Indiana State University. That’s where he got to work with Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs and pitching coach Jordan Tiegs.

“I was very raw coming out of high school,” says Conway. “I lacked at knowing the game. (Hannahs) was hard on me. But he wanted to get the most out of me.

“He helped me with the mental side. He made me grow up and become a much better baseball player.

Conway learned that college baseball moves at a faster clip than high school.

“(Hannahs) would take me to the side and slow me down,” says Conway. “He gave me tough love when I needed that, too.”

Conway figured out how to understand and control situations. He would figure out what was working for him that day and what was not.

He found out that sometimes the situation calls for finesse.

“You can’t blow it by everybody,” says Conway, 23.

Tiegs came on board for Conway’s sophomore season.

“He helped me on the confidence side,” says Conway of Tiegs. “The first bullpen he saw, I threw was really good. He was very relatable, easy to trust and get close to.

“He was really big on the health and mechanics side of pitching.”

Tiegs, who pitched at Sauk Valley Community College and the College of Charleston, implemented a weighted ball program/velocity program that helped develop mechanics and velocity.

Conway took to it and saw results.

“I started pounding the zone more,” says Conway, who played four seasons for ISU (2014-17) with the 2016 season shortened to six appearances and 15 2/3 innings because of a shoulder injury. He received a medical redshirt for the year.

The righty came back in 2017 and was named second team all-Missouri Valley Conference after going 2-1 with 12 saves, a 2.97 earned run average, 35 strikeouts and 11 walks over 33 1/3 innings and 28 appearances (all in relief). When he was done at ISU, he ranked No. 2 on the career saves list with 20.

When Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft offers did not meet Conway’s standards, he though he was done with baseball.

But his coach with the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod Baseball League — Harvey Shapiro — made a call to friend Dan McDonnell, head coach at the University of Louisville.

McDonnell extended an invitation to Conway, who was approved for a fifth year of eligibility.

He also enrolled in Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law.

Juggling law school and baseball, Conway posted a 3-1 record with two saves, a 2.21 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 24 innings and 20 appearances (all out of the bullpen) in 2018.

“It was incredible,” says Conway of his U of L experience. “It’s one of the best programs with one of the best head coaches in the country.

“(McDonnell) expects so much from his players and coaches. He’s very demanding.

“But he’ll respect you, if you respect him.”

Louisville pitching coach Roger Williams did not try to change much about the well-established Conway.

“He was more hands off with me as a fifth-year guy,” says Conway. “It was cool to see how he operated with the young guys.

“(With all pitchers,) he made sure the confidence was there.”

Conway was getting his four-seam fastball up to 95 mph with the Cardinals and regularly sat at 91 to 95. In pro ball, he was at 90 to 93. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, he also employs a “circle” change-up and “spiked” curveball (which looks more like a slurve).

The White Sox selected Conway in the 31st round of the 2018 draft and split his first pro campaign between the Arizona League White Sox and Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers.

Two other Indiana products — Logan Sowers and Michael McCormick — also played for Great Falls in 2018.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder was a combined 8-6 with two saves and a 3.00 ERA. In 46 games (all in relief) and 71 1/3 innings, he struck out 64 and walked 28.

Comparing NCAA Division I to rookie-level pro baseball, Conway saw parallels in talent. Though the minors is sprinkled with raw Latin players with loads of potential.

A double major in criminal justice and political science/legal studies at ISU, Conway completed his first year of law school at the U of L. He says his law studies will be on hold while he is pursuing his baseball career.

Born in Muncie, Conway played his early baseball around Albany, Ind., and Middletown, Ind. He was on the Shenandoah all-star team.

A football player, the only summer he really played travel baseball was with Muncie American League Post 19 Chiefs going into his senior year at Delta.

Austin’s father (Steve Conway) lives in Albany. His mother and stepfather (Brooke and James Runyon) are in Rockford, Ill. He has two stepbrothers (Jeff Dobbs and Josh Dunsmore) a half-brother (Dustin Runyon) and half-sister (Caitlin Runyon).

Using some of the exercises he learned from Tiegs at Indiana State, Austin plans to split time between Illinois and Indiana while working out and getting his arm ready to go to spring training in Arizona in early March.

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Austin Conway pitched at Indiana State University from 2014-17. (Indiana State University Photo)

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Austin Conway pitched at the University of Louisville in 2018. (University of Louisville Photo)

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Juggling law school and baseball, Delta High School graduate Austin Conway posted a 3-1 record with two saves, a 2.21 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 24 innings and 20 appearances (all out of the bullpen) in 2018. (University of Louisville Photo)

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Austin Conway, a graduate of Delta High School near Muncie, Ind., and Indiana State University in Terre Haute, played one season at the University of Louisville and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2018. (Great Falls Voyagers Photo)

 

Former Indiana Mr. Baseball, MLB first-rounder O’Conner lands with independent St. Paul Saints

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Justin O’Conner was a highly-touted professional baseball prospect when he wore the uniform of Cowan Junior/Senior High School.

As a sophmore at the Muncie, Ind., school, he helped the Camden Pankhurst-coached Blackhawks earn an IHSAA Class 2A state runners-up finish in 2008.

In 2009, O’Conner put up head-turning numbers as a shortstop and pitcher: .521 average, 19 home runs, 61 runs batted in, 7-0 record, 0.30 earned run average, 101 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings.

That summer, he won the Home Run Derby at the Perfect Game National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and was invited to the Perfect Game Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego.

In 2010, he was Indiana’s Mr. Baseball and selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays right out of Cowan.

As a pro, O’Conner became a catcher. He played 48 games with the Gulf Coast Rays in 2010.

In 2011, he played at rookie-level Princeton threw out 16 of 45 base stealers.

He helped Hudson Valley win the New York-Penn League championship in 2012.

O’Conner played at Low Class-A Bowling Green of the Midwest League in 2013.

That winter, he played for the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League.

“It was awesome,” says O’Conner of his time Down Under. “It was a chance to go to another country, live there for three months and get to see their culture and also get to play baseball.”

In 2014, O’Conner played at Charlotte and was an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star and Florida State League All-Star, FSL Post-Season and Baseball America High Class-A All-Star.

He played in the Arizona Fall League and was placed on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster in November.

O’Conner spent the entire 2015 season at Double-A Montgomery and led the Southern League in total chances (91) and threw out 29 of 60 base stealers.

“For me, it’s big part of the game,” says O’Conner. “Being able to control the running game can keep runners off of bases in scoring position and keep them from scoring runs. If the pitcher can give me a good time to the plate, mix his looks in.

“It’s really more on the pitcher and the infielder making a good tag along with me making a good throw. It’s just not me, it’s everybody involved.”

In 2016, he began the season in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League because of a back injury. He was promoted to Double-A in August.

It was discovered he had a herniated disk and he had two back surgeries in October and November and and was removed from the 40-man roster in December.

“I’m all good now,” says O’Conner of his procedures. “The back pain really wasn’t the issue, it was the sciatica down my leg. I needed to get it fixed.”

O’Conner started 2017 at Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A Durham in August. The Bulls won the Triple-A National Championship.

After the season, he was granted his free agency and signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants in November 2017. The Giants released him in April 2018 and he inked a deal with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association, a circuit which also features the Gary SouthShore RailCats.

The Saints got off to a 5-1 start and O’Conner is coming off a 3-for-3 game with two RBI and two runs scored Wednesday, May 23 at home against the Chicago Dogs.

He belted home runs May 18 at Gary and May 23 in St. Paul.

O’Conner quickly learned the difference between high school and professional baseball while with the Rays and Giants organizations and it holds true with St. Paul.

“It’s a grind,” says O’Conner, 26. “You’re playing baseball, but it’s also a job. You’ve got to come out and try to win everyday.

“You learn that right away. You’re playing every single day. It takes a toll on your body and it’s something you’ve got to get used to.”

O’Conner played for a number of travel baseball organizations growing up then spent two years while in high school with coaches Dan Held and Quinn Moore and the Indiana Bulls.

Justin is the son of Muncie’s Randy and Kim O’Conner and has an older brother and a younger sister.

Jacob O’Conner is in law school in Cincinnati. Kirsten O’Conner, a former Ball State University softball player, is a nutritionist in Illinois.

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Justin O’Conner, who was Indiana’s Mr. Baseball at Cowan Junior/Senior High School and a first-round draft selection of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, is now with the independent St. Paul Saints. Released by the San Francisco Giants organization, the catcher signed with the team shortly before the beginning of the 2018 season. (St. Paul Saints Photo)