Tag Archives: Darin Kauffman

IHSAA regionals will slice state tournament field from 64 to 16; preview of each site

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

Iliana Christian won its first Indiana High School Athletic Association sectional baseball title.
Jasper hoisted the sectional championship trophy for a state-leading 40th time.
Sixty-two other schools also reigned and moved on to regional play on Saturday, June 4.
The IHSAA Class 2A Carroll Flora Regional features four teams from the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 10 — No. 1 Carroll, No. 3 Wapahani, No. 4 Eastern (Greentown) and No. 9 Delphi.
The 2A Park Tudor Regional has No. 2 Cascade playing No. 7 Centerville in the first game followed by Parke Heritage and vote-getter Heritage Christian.
The 3A Griffith Regional includes No. 1 Andrean, No. 2 Western and No. 7 Glenn along with South Bend Saint Joseph.
The 3A Danville Regional includes No. 3 West Vigo and No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit in the opener followed by Lebanon and Beech Grove.
The 4A Jasper Regional features No. 2 Mooresville, No. 8 Jasper and vote-getter New Albany plus Columbus East.
The 4A Lafayette Jeff Regional opens with vote-getter Homestead against No. 6 Fort Wayne Carroll followed by Harrison against Zionsville.
In 1A, the Loogootee Regional has No. 1 Borden meeting No. 2 Barr-Reeve in Game 2 after vote-getter Tecumseh plays New Washington.

The 1A he South Bend Washington Regional has three Top 10 teams — No. 4 South Central (Union Mills), No. 9 Caston and No. 10 Fremont — plus Morgan Township.
The 1A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional features vote-getters Cowan and Rossville in Game 1 and No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic and No. 5 Union City in Game 2.
Three teams at the 1A Morristown Regional received votes in the final regular season poll — Indianapolis Lutheran, Rising Sun and Shakamak. Traders Point Christian is also in the field.
South Central of Union Mills (6), Indianapolis Cathedral (5), Silver Creek (5), South Bend Saint Joseph (5), Evansville Memorial (4), Shakamak (4) and Tecumseh (4) comes into regional play with the longest active sectional title streaks.
1A New Washington won its first sectional crown since 1998. It had been since 1999 that 2A’s Eastern (Greentown) and Winamac had won sectional titles.
By the time three-team regionals in four classes are complete, there will be 16 teams left in the field. Semistates are scheduled for Saturday, June 11 with the State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis Friday and Saturday, June 17-18.

2022 IHSAA REGIONALS
Saturday, June 4
(IHSBCA Ranking in Parentheses)
Class 4A
LaPorte Regional
Crown Point vs. Lake Central (Receiving Votes)
South Bend Adams vs. Penn
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Penn 10 (2017), Crown Point 9 (2011), Lake Central 7 (2014), South Bend Adams 3 (1979).

Highland Sectional (1) Championship — Lake Central 15, Highland 12.
Sectional titles through 2022: Highland (13) — Previous 2000. Trojans head coach: John Bogner.

Valparsaiso Sectional (2) Championship — Crown Point 12, Hobart 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Crown Point (22) — Previous 2019. Bulldogs head coach: Steve Strayer.

Plymouth Sectional (3) Championship — South Bend Adams 5, LaPorte 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Adams (10) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Mike Cass.

Penn Sectional (4) Championship — Penn 7, Northridge 5.
Sectional titles through 2022: Penn (23) — Previous 2018. Kingsmen head coach: Greg Dikos.

Lafayette Jeff Regional
Homestead (RV) vs. Carroll (6)
Harrison vs. Zionsville
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Carroll 5 (2011), Harrison 5 (1998), Zionsville 4 (2017), Homestead 3 (2015).

DeKalb Sectional (5) Championship — Carroll 7, Snider 6.
Sectional titles through 2022: Carroll (15) — Previous 2019. Chargers head coach: Dave Ginder.

Huntington North Sectional (6) Championship — Homestead 10, Wayne 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Homestead (16) — Previous 2021. Spartans head coach: Nick Byall.

Logansport Sectional (7) Championship — Harrison 5, McCutcheon 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Harrison (13) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Pat Lowrey.

Noblesville Sectional (8) Championship — Zionsville 6, Fishers 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Zionsville (15) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Jered Moore.

New Palestine Regional
Anderson vs. Indianapolis Cathedral
New Palestine vs. Brownsburg
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Indianapolis Cathedral 14 (2018), New Palestine 6 (2014), Brownsburg 5 (2005), Anderson 3 (1995).

Mt. Vernon Sectional (9) Championship — Anderson 13, Mt. Vernon (Fortville) 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: Anderson (8) — Previous 2012. Indians head coach: Adrian Heim.

Pike Sectional (10) Championship — Indianapolis Cathedral 10, Lawrence North 8.
Sectional titles through 2022: Cathedral (25; five straight) — Previous 2021. Fighting Irish coach Ed Freje.

Roncalli Sectional (11) Championship — New Palestine 12, Franklin Central 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Palestine (17) — Previous 2015. Dragons head coach: Shawn Lyons.

Terre Haute South Vigo Sectional (12) Championship — Brownsburg 13, Avon 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Brownsburg (15) — Previous 2013. Bulldogs head coach: Dan Roman.

Jasper Regional
New Albany (RV) vs. Jasper (8)
Columbus East vs. Mooresville (2)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Jasper 26 (2021), Columbus East 10 (2019), New Albany 6 (1995), Mooresville 4 (2004).

Center Grove Sectional (13) Championship — Mooresville 9, Martinsville 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Mooresville (11) — Previous 2004. Pioneers head coach: Eric McGaha.

Bloomington South Sectional (14) Championship — Bloomington South vs. Columbus East
Sectional titles through 2022: Columbus East (20) — Previous 2019. Olympians head coach Jon Gratz.

Jennings County Sectional (15) Championship — New Albany 4, Bedford North Lawrence 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Albany (23) — Previous 2016. Bulldogs head coach: Chris McIntyre.

Evansville Reitz Sectional (16) Championship — Jasper 5, Castle 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Jasper (40) — Previous 2021. Wildcats head coach: Terry Gobert.

Class 3A
Griffith Regional
Western (2) vs. Glenn (7)
Andrean (1) vs. South Bend Saint Joseph
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Andrean 14 (2019), Western 7 (2016), Saint Joseph 5 (2017), Glenn 3 (2006).

Griffith Sectional (17) Championship — Andrean 18, Calumet New Tech 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Andrean (30) — Previous 2019. 59ers head coach: Dave Pishkur.

Kankakee Valley Sectional (18) Championship — Glenn 9, Hanover Central 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Glenn (10) — Previous 2017. Falcons head coach: John Nadolny.

South Bend Clay Sectional (19) Championship — South Saint Joseph 18, New Prairie 5.
Sectional titles through 2022: Saint Joseph (17; five straight) — Previous 2017. Indians head coach: John Smolinski.

Northwestern Sectional (20) Championship — Western 6, Northwestern 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Western (21) — Previous 2019. Panthers coach: Ryan Berryman.

Oak Hill Regional
Wawasee vs. New Castle (RV)
Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger vs. Norwell
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Norwell 7 (2021), Dwenger 2 (2014), New Castle 2 (1996), Wawasee 0.

Jimtown Sectional (21) Championship — Wawasee 9, NorthWood 5.
Sectional titles through 2022: Wawasee (8) — Previous 2021. Warriors head coach: Joe Salazar.

Angola Sectional (22) Championship — Bishop Dwenger 19, Leo 8.
Sectional titles through 2022: Dwenger (12) — Previous 2016. Saints head coach: Jason Garrett.

Bellmont Sectional (23) Championship — Norwell 12, Heritage 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Norwell (18) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Dave Goodmiller.

Yorktown Sectional (24) Championship — New Castle 3, Guerin Catholic 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Castle (14) — Previous 2014. Trojans head coach: Josh Cooper.

Danville Regional
West Vigo (3) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (4)
Lebanon vs. Beech Grove
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): West Vigo 7 (2015), Brebeuf 4 (2021), Beech Grove 3 (1990), Lebanon 0.

Crawfordsville Sectional (25) Championship — Lebanon 10, Northview 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Lebanon (12) — Previous 2014. Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray.

Danville Sectional (26) Championship — Brebeuf Jesuit 12, Tri-West Hendricks 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Brebeuf (16) — Previous 2014. Braves head coach: Jeff Scott.

Bishop Chatard Sectional (27) Championship — Beech Grove 4, Bishop Chatard 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Beech Grove (7) — Previous 2014. Hornets head coach: Jacob Wickliff.

Edgewood Sectional (28) Championship — West Vigo 4, Edgewood 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: West Vigo (15) — Previous 2018. Vikings head coach: Culley DeGroote.

Southridge Regional
Evansville Memorial vs. Vincennes Lincoln
Silver Creek (5) vs. Connersville
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Evansville Memorial 17 (2016), Connersville 6 (2006), Vincennes Lincoln 4 (2002), Silver Creek 2 (2019).

Rushville Sectional (29) Championship — Connersville 7, Franklin County 6.
Sectional titles through 2022: Connersville (19) — Previous 2010. Spartans head coach Michael Thompson.

Madison Sectional (30) Championship — Silver Creek vs. Corydon Central
Sectional titles through 2022: Silver Creek (11; five straight) — Previous 2021. Dragons head coach: Joe Decker.

Princeton Sectional (31) Championship — Vincennes Lincoln 7, Southridge 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Vincennes Lincoln (18) — Previous 2019. Alices head coach: Tim Hutchison.

Evansville Bosse Sectional (32) Championship — Evansville Memorial 9, Boonville 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Evansville Memorial (31; four straight) — Previous 2021. Tigers head coach: Rip Collins.

Class 2A
Whiting Regional
Eastside (RV) vs. Fairfield (RV)
Winamac vs. Illiana Christian
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Eastside 1 (2021), Fairfield 1 (2010), Illiana Christian 0, Winamac 0.

Whiting Sectional (33) Championship — Illiana Christian 16, Wheeler 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: — Illiana Christian (1) — Previous None. Vikings head coach Jeff VanderWoude.

Boone Grove Sectional (34) Championship — Winamac 8, Boone Grove 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: Winamac (4) — Previous 1999. Warriors head coach: Marcus Kay.

Westview Sectional (35) Championship — Fairfield 6, Westview 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Fairfield (7) — Previous 2010. Falcons head coach: Darin Kauffman.

Eastside Sectional (36) Championship — Eastside 5, Woodlan 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Eastside (7) — Previous 2021. Blazers head coach: Aaron Willard.

Carroll (Flora) Regional
Wapahani (3) vs. Eastern (Greentown) (4)
Delphi (9) vs. Carroll (Flora) (1)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Wapahani 7 (2017), Delphi 2 (2021), Eastern (Greentown) 1 (1999), Carroll (Flora) 0.

Wabash Sectional (37) Championship — Carroll (Flora) 9, Whitko 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Carroll (7) — Previous 2015. Cougar head coach: Camden Parkhurst.

Delphi Sectional (38) Championship — Delphi 9, Seeger 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: Delphi (7) — Previous 2021. Oracles head coach: Ryan Long.

Eastern (Greentown) Sectional (39) Championship — Eastern (Greentown) 13, Eastbrook 4
Sectional titles through 2022: Eastern (Greentown) (3) — Previous 1999. Comets head coach: Erik Hisner.

Frankton Sectional (40) Championship — Wapahani 15, Frankton 10.
Sectional titles through 2022: Wapahani (18) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Brian Dudley.

Park Tudor Regional
Cascade (2) vs. Centerville (7)
Parke Heritage vs. Heritage Christian (RV)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Heritage Christian 3 (2010), Cascade 0, Centerville 0, Parke Heritage 0.

Centerville Sectional (41) Championship — Centerville 14, Hagerstown 8.
Centerville (9) — Previous 2021. Bulldogs head coach: Tracey Crull.

Indianapolis Scecina Sectional (42) Championship — Heritage Christian 12, Indianapolis Scecina 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Heritage Christian (9) — Previous 2017. Eagles head coach: Dan Ambrose.

Park Tudor Sectional (43) Championship — Cascade 6, Covenant Christian 5
Sectional titles through 2022: Cascade (7) — Previous 2005. Cadets head coach: Ty Foster.

Parke Heritage Sectional (44) Championship — Parke Heritage 9, Southmont 8.
Sectional titles through 2022: Parke Heritage (2) — Previous 2021. Wolves head coach: Charlie Martin.

Evansville Mater Dei Regional
Linton-Stockton vs. North Decatur
Forest Park (8) vs. Providence
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Providence 7 (2021), Forest Park 1 (1976), Linton-Stockton 0, North Decatur 0.

South Ripley Sectional (45) Championship — North Decatur 5, Southwestern (Hanover) 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: North Decatur (2) — Previous 2011. Chargers head coach: Christian McKinney.

Providence Sectional (46) Championship — Providence 9, Austin 8.
Providence (20) — Previous 2021. Pioneers head coach: Scott Hutchins.

Mitchell Sectional (47) Championship — Linton-Stockton 8, Mitchell 7
Sectional titles through 2022: Linton-Stockton (11) — Previous 2021. Miners head coach: Jacob Harden.

Evansville Mater Dei Sectional (48) Championship — Forest Park 10, Tell City 0.
Forest Park (5) — Previous 2002. Rangers head coach: Jarred Howard.

Class 1A
South Bend Washington Regional
South Central (Union Mills) (4) vs. Caston (9)
Fremont (10) vs. Morgan Township
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): South Central 4 (2011), Fremont 2 (1999), Caston 0, Morgan Township 0.

Westville Sectional (49) Championship — Morgan Township 16, Marquette Catholic 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Morgan Township (5) — Previous 2018. Cherokees head coach: John Smith.

South Central (Union Mills) Sectional (50) Championship — South Central (Union Mills) 10, Oregon-Davis 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: South Central (18; six straight) — Previous 2021. Satellites head coach: Zach Coulter.

Fremont Sectional (51) Championship — Fremont 23, Bethany Christian 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Fremont (8) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Justin Bock.

Caston Sectional (52) Championship — Caston 3, North Miami 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Caston (2) — Previous 2012. Comets head coach: Blake Mollenkopf.

Lafayette Central Catholic Regional
Cowan (RV) vs. Rossville (RV)
Union City (5) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (3)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Lafayette Central Catholic 14 (2018), Cowan 4 (2021), Rossville 3 (2019), Union City 0.

Lafayette Central Catholic Sectional (53) Championship — Lafayette Central Catholic 10, Covington 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Lafayette Central Catholic (18) — Previous 2018. Knights head coach: Tim Bordenet.

Tri-County Sectional (54) Championship — Rossville 12, Clinton Central 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Rossville (7) — Previous 2019. Hornets head coach: Brad Scott.

Anderson Preparatory Sectional (55) Championship — Cowan 5, Wes-Del 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Cowan (8) — Previous 2021. Blackhawks head coach: Aaron Wells.

Seton Catholic Sectional (56) Championship — Union City 9, Blue River Valley 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Union City (4) — Previous 2021. Indians head coach: Jason Dowler.

Morristown Regional
Rising Sun (RV) vs. Shakamak (RV)
Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran (RV)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Shakamak 13 (2021), Indianapolis Lutheran 1 (2017), Rising Sun 1 (2013), Traders Point Christian 0.

Shakamak Sectional (57) Championship — Shakamak 14, White River Valley 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Shakamak (27; four straight) — Previous 2021. Lakers head coach: Jeremy Yeryar.

Indiana Deaf Sectional (58) Championship — Traders Point Christian 9, Bethesda Christian 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Traders Point Christian (2) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Jaylen Cushenberry.

Morristown Sectional (59) Championship — Indianapolis Lutheran 12, Edinburgh 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Indianapolis Lutheran (14) — Previous 2019. Saints head coach: Adam Gouker.

Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (60) Championship — Rising Sun 2, Jac-Cen-Del 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Rising Sun (8) — Previous 2019. Shiners head coach: Kevin Wirsch.

Loogootee Regional
New Washington vs. Tecumseh (RV)
Barr-Reeve (2) vs. Borden (1)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Tecumseh 10 (2019), Barr-Reeve 2 (1998), Borden 1 (2021), New Washington 0.

Lanesville Sectional (61) Championship — Borden 12, Lanesville 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Borden (6) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Eric Stotts.

Shawe Memorial Sectional (62) Championship — New Washington 8, West Washington 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Washington (2) — Previous 1998. Mustangs head coach: Jeremy Bower.

Loogootee Sectional (63) Championship — Barr-Reeve 9, North Daviess 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Barr-Reeve (13) — Previous 2019. Vikings head coach: Trevor McConnell.

Cannelton Sectional (64) Championship — Tecumseh 11, Springs Valley 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Tecumseh (17; four straight) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Ted Thompson.

Boys of Summer Baseball League underway for 2021

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A youth circuit with ties to various northern Indiana school communities has began its 2021 diamond season.

Boys of Summer Baseball League fields teams for 10U and 12U all-star recreation and junior high school squads. Teams play by modified IHSAA rules. 

The BSBL also sanctions a 54/80 junior high state tournament. Younger squads also participate in the Town & Country Baseball state tournament in July.

The following school districts are represented in 2021: Bethany Christian (junior high), Bremen (10U, 12U, junior high), Concord (12U, junior high), Fairfield (10U, 12U, 2 junior high teams), Goshen (junior high), Jimtown (J-Shock junior high), Northridge (10U), NorthWood (12U, junior high), Plymouth (2 10U teams, 2 12U teams), Rochester (12U), Tippecanoe Valley (10U, 12U) and Westview (12U). The latter team is coached by former big league pitcher Eric Stults.

Going into the Week of May 24, Fairfield (6-1) leads the 10U division, Plymouth Red (10-1) the 12U group and Fairfield White (5-1) the junior high league.

The BSBL was started by Tracy Farmwald then ran by Zach Benko. Kent Kauffman took over just before the 2020 season.

As commissioner, Kauffman has organized the loop and set up a website for the non-profit organization.

“It makes it easier for parents to see what’s going on,” says Kauffman. “(BSBL) is more of a developmental league. They get used to playing together and used to a system.”

Cost to enter the league is $225 per team. Host teams are responsible for baseballs and paying for umpires.

“We’re providing an economical option for good baseball,” says Kauffman. “We get some kids that have never played and they fall in love with baseball.”

Since the league has teams as part apart as LaGrange County and Rochester, Kauffman tries to accommodate distance when making out the schedule.

In the past, Wawasee and Whitko have fielded BSBL teams.

“My goal is that we are able to expand,” says Kauffman. “We will go to divisions if necessary.”

The BSBL was able to complete a 2020 schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting after July 4.

“We worked together to make sure it was safe for players and fans,” says Kauffman.

With high school head coaches Darin Kauffman (Fairfield), Jim Kraft (Bethany Christian), A.J. Risedorph (NorthWood) and J.J. DuBois (Goshen) leading the way, a junior high division was added.

“There was nothing for that age group between sixth grade and high school,” says Kauffman. “The coaches wanted to keep the boys together playing as a team and to have more oversight.”

Game locations include Sunnyside Park in Bremen, Concord Little League in Goshen, Hoover Field in New Paris, Cook Station Park in Millersburg, Jimtown Park in Elkhart, Middlebury Little League, Stauffer Park in Nappanee, Ed Hess Park in Plymouth, City Park in Rochester, Mentone Little League, Akron Little League and NISCO Field in Topeka.

The end-of-season junior high tournament is slated for June 22-25 with the 12U tourney June 24-26 and 10U event June 25-26.

Hughes imparting life lessons with Concord Minutemen

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Head coach Greg Hughes wants to know what his Concord High School baseball team can do between the white lines.

But that’s not all.

Hughes values the relationships he forms with his players.

A former head coach at Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School (2009-2013) and assistant at Fairfield (2018) in Benton, Ind., and Concord (2019) in Dunlap, Ind., Hughes encourages his assistants — Perry Haimes, Cody Hilligoss, Tony Driver and Billy Pendlen — to spend five minutes each practice talking with a different kid and not about baseball.

“Get to know them on a personal level,” says Hughes, who was hired to lead the Minutemen program in January 2020. “It really matters to kids when you care about them beyond the field.”

During his time coaching at Frankton, where he graduated in 1990, Hughes had a player who was experiencing trouble with his father.

The coach and the young man had long discussions that had nothing to do with baseball. They read scripture and spent hours on Hughes’ front porch talking about life. That player ended up going into the military.

“Kids need that role model,” says Hughes. “Some just need someone to listen to them.

“We have four years to make an impact on young men’s lives — positive or negative. You can teach life lessons through baseball. For those who want to go, you can help them go to college.”

Hughes stays in contact with the Concord athletic office to help players stay on top of their grades.

“You’re a student first then an athlete,” says Hughes.

Senior Dalton Swinehart has committed to continue his academic and baseball careers at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.

With the idea of building a feeder system and having an impact even earlier, Hughes has established a Boys of Summer team for grades 6-8 that will play games. These players learn how things are done at the high school level. 

“That’s one of the ways we want to turn the program around,” says Hughes. “Eighth graders can come to our (high school) workouts. 

“We want to keep them involved and keep them interested.”

There were 42 players working out last fall. Of that number, 17 not already on a travel team for 2021 were picked for the Boys of Summer. Another 15 with travel teams will be a part of separate workouts.

During the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period, Concord players took batting practice and learned about situational defense while developing a sense of pride in the facility.

Hughes volunteered at Fairfield during head coach Darin Kauffman’s first season then served a junior varsity coach on Pat Doherty’s Concord staff. 

He was hired in January 2020 as Concord head coach. The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season.

Much of the time without games was spent sprucing up the Concord field. Last summer, Hughes and Haimes put in more than 100 hours apiece. There was plenty to do like edging, filling low spots, power washing batting cages, fixing the portable hitting tunnel and overhauling the home plate area and bullpens.

The pitcher’s mound was professionally rebuilt by Marchand’s Athletic Field Service.

“People are buying in because they saw were were serious about it,” says Hughes, who expects to have a new press box with concession stand and restrooms installed after Memorial Day.

At Frankton, Hughes had three head coaches — Dave Hicks (freshmen year), Steve Sharpee (sophomore and junior years) and Kyle Campbell (senior year).

Hughes played at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., where he was named Mid-Central Conference (now the Crossroads League) Player of the Year in 1994. By that time, Hicks was an assistant at MCC rival Bethel College.

In the summer, Hughes played baseball for Athletes in Action in South Africa against Olympic and National Teams.  He also played three seasons with the semi-pro CFD Kokomo Saints.

IWU was led by Jim Hazen in Hughes’ first two seasons and Bill Barr in his last two. While he finished up a Criminal Justice degree, Hughes took his first coaching position as an assistant to Barr.

Years later, he coached his own children in youth leagues then the job opened up at Frankton. He led the Eagles for five seasons and later moved to Millersburg, Ind., and eventually took a job with the Goshen Street Department.

Greg and wife Phoebe Hughes enjoy fishing together. She was the one who nudged him to get back into coaching. Hughes’ stepsons are Fairfield freshman Trenton and Benton Elementary third grader Carter. Trenton plays basketball and shows pigs in 4-H. Carter plays baseball, basketball and flag football. 

Hughes, who also offers baseball lessons, will help with Carter and the 10U Fairfield Dukes.

“I just enjoy coaching kids,” says Hughes.

Kyle, Zac, Aubree and Ryan are Greg’s four children from a previous marriage. Kyle is a senior at Ball State University and is engaged to be married in May. Zac graduated from Ball State last May. Aubree is a BSU sophomore. Zac is an eighth grade at Pendleton Heights.

Concord (enrollment around 1,700) is a member of the Northern Lakes Conference (with Goshen, Mishawaka, Northridge, NorthWood, Plymouth, Warsaw and Wawasee).

The Minutemen are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Elkhart, Goshen, Northridge, Penn and Warsaw. Concord has won four sectional titles — the last in 2014.

“Before” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“Before” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“Before” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“Before” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“Before” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“Before” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“Before” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
“After” view at Concord High School baseball field.
Greg Hughes is the head baseball coach at Concord High School in Dunlap, Ind. He was hired in January 2020.

Prep baseball coaches try to lift seniors’ spirits

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY JIM PETERS

For http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t … don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40, but we’re all told.” — Moneyball

One of the famous quotes from the movie about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane has hit home for many high school seniors whose playing days weren’t ended by the standard baseball career markers — graduation, injury, a roster cut or retirement — but by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know how big it was for me,” South Bend Clay coach Joel Reinebold said of his last prep game. “I was playing for my dad (Jim Reinebold). I stood out in the outfield and cried that it was over.”

The moment is etched in time for Reinebold, who went on to play at Mississippi College. In retrospect, he hurts for the seniors who are not getting any such closure this spring.

“It’s a tough way to end your career,” he said. “I can’t imagine.”

Reinebold and other coaches across Indiana are doing a variety of things to try to ease the disappointment of the lost 2020 season for their final-year players.

One of Reinebold’s endeavors is having individual signs made for his seniors and placing them on the infield with their jerseys under the lights of the diamond, which is named after his father.

“Just give them a little salute, hey, we’re sorry you don’t get to play, but thank you for everything you’ve done for three years,” he said.

Clay expected to have nine seniors this spring, four of whom are first-year players. Catcher-outfielder Mark Williams and outfielder-pitcher Jackson Jones would have been in their fourth year on varsity and Hunter Aker in his third. Other veterans were Miguel Penaloza and Tyler Williams. Aker, a first baseman-shortstop-pitcher, will go on to play at Manchester University, while Bethel University is looking at Jones, an outfielder-pitcher.

“Some are going on to college, some are done and it’s time to figure out something else to do, and some may realize with time that they’re not ready to get out,” Reinebold said.

The team last met on the final day of February for a conditioning session. After an initial two-week shutdown, there was hope for a return March 15. When it was bumped back again, teams held on to the prospect of an abbreviated season until that glimmer was snuffed out with the state’s shutdown for the rest of the school year.

“We can’t even meet,” said Reinebold, who is doing all correspondence via text. “We can’t do anything as a group. We can’t make them work out. I was trying to think of the last time we were together. It seems like forever.”

***

Hope springs eternal in March, when everybody is 0-0 with aspirations for greatness. With a whopping 11 seniors, Jimtown had high expectations for the season, led by shortstop Dustin Whitman, a four-year starter, three-year catcher Sammy Schwartz and outfielder-pitcher Brandon Coble.

“Most coaches are saying that now, but we really had our eyes set on moving the program forward,” Jimmies coach Cory Stoner said. “They’ve worked hard. They practice on their own. We don’t have to tell them what to do. It’s a tribute to them for taking charge. It’s a really close group that gets along. They’ve spent a lot of time together growing up.”

The day after the season was officially cancelled, assistant coach Jim Fredwell approached Stoner with the suggestion of turning on the stadium lights, piggybacking on a idea that has been done across the country as a symbolic tip of the cap to seniors.

“We both have little kids, so it seemed like a fun thing,” Stoner said. “A couple people stopped by (Booster Field). My college coach (Seth Zartman) lives down the road and he came down. It was pretty cool to see.”

Given the opportunity, Stoner hopes to do something more extensive this summer, kicking around the idea of a mock senior night with a cookout or, should the social distancing restrictions be eased back by then, possibly an intra-squad scrimmage.

“We’ve got a great group of seniors and we want to honor them in the right way,” Stoner said. “It’s just hard right now to plan much of anything.”

Stoner recently organized a virtual team meeting during which he let each of the seniors talk and their words warmed his heart.

“Clay Campbell was talking about how devastating this is, but we have to look at the big picture, that there are people who are hurting far worse,” Stoner said. “We try to preach selfless leadership, putting others first, and he’s one who really gets it. It was cool to hear.”

***

Goshen‘s five-player senior class will always hold a special place for RedHawks coach J.J. DuBois, now even more so due to the circumstances.

“I coached them on JV before varsity,” DuBois said. “This was my first group that I’ve had since they were freshmen. It’s a great group of kids, the perfect program guys. Goshen baseball doesn’t have a great history of success. We haven’t won a sectional since 2008. This was our best shot to sneak up on people like Northridge and Penn. We didn’t have a ton of varsity experience, but we have good talent. It was the perfect team for this year.”

DuBois is going to great lengths to honor his seniors in light of them missing out on the chance to fulfill their on-field aspirations. Among them, pitcher-shortstop Skylar Reyes, last season’s MVP, will play at Manchester, and Tommy Cartagena Garcia, who came to the school from Puerto Rico as a sophomore, is also looking at a couple schools.

“Losing their season, they’re so disappointed they don’t get to wear the RedHawks jersey one more time,” he said. “You want to give them things to remember, not just the wins and losses, but something special, fun things like dinner with the guys.”

It started with 20-minute Zoom interviews with each player in which they answered a variety of questions, both related and not related to baseball. Preview clips were posted on the Goshen baseball Twitter account with the full segments available on YouTube.

“They got to tell some cool stories that got them laughing,” DuBois said. “It was a good time.”

Borrowing an idea from basketball coach Michael Wohlford, who had posters done for his players, DuBois is in the process of having replica jerseys put in frames for each seniors. His hope is to hold a ceremony where they can gather the seniors and their parents to recognize them.

“Who knows with the timing,” he said. “We certainly have the room (to spread out) on a baseball field.”

***

NorthWood coach A.J. Risedorph has five players in his senior class — third-year regulars Jaden Miller and Cooper Davis, Josh Stratford, Jack Wysong and Kyler Germann all of whom have been in the program since they were freshmen. Among them, only Miller (Danville Area Community College) is signed to play at the collegiate level, though Wysong is headed to DePauw University for tennis.

“We graduated a pretty good class, so I was more excited about the competition, the young guys who were going to step up,” Risedorph said. “That’s what sports is all about. They put in all the time and have been ready from day one. It’s very unfortunate. A lot of guys are struggling. We want to make sure they’re all right.”

With that in mind, Risedorph has a few projects in the works, starting off with social media posts. After doing some online searching, he’s looking into having personalized bats and replica jerseys done as senior gifts.

“My wife (Jenna) was talking about driving around to the homes and dropping them off,” he said.

The school’s baseball field doesn’t have lights, but Risedorph is thinking about getting the site game ready with bases, batter’s boxes and base lines, then painting the players’ numbers on the grass with the stencils used for football.

“Maybe we can do a drone shot,” he said. “We’d like to get them back out again. It kind of all depends on how long we’re shut down, as we get more information from the state.”

The missed season isn’t impactful on the seniors alone. Risedorph shared the story of junior Sergio Lira Ayala, who came to the school from Puerto Rico during his freshman year.

“He lives and breathes baseball, it’s all he cares about,” Risedorph said. “It’s his escape, with everything he’s dealt with. He just wants to be able to compete. I tell the juniors, you’re the seniors now. The standard of expectations is on their shoulders now.”

***

There’s no protocol, no manual, no reference for coaches on how to tell their seniors they don’t get to play their final season.

“There are guys who like to play and guys who love to play,” Fairfield coach Darin Kauffman said. “I have three of them it was really tough for. I felt awful for calling and leaving a message that we were done for the season. How do you do that? As coaches, it stinks, we want to play, too, but next year, we’ll be at it again. For the seniors, they don’t know if they’ll ever be on a field again and play.”

Of his seniors, just one, Felipe Arevalo, has a possibility of playing in college.

“He’d be really good for a JUCO for two years and go (to a four-year school) from there,” Kauffman said. “He called me right after (the season was cancelled). He was crying. He just loves the game. It was devastating to him. I felt bad. We were talking to colleges and they were planning on seeing him. Now they won’t be able to set up something.”

Kauffman has taken to doing social media posts with pictures of his seniors with write-ups that are going up one a day on the team page, as well as on the athletic department account, which is doing the same for the other spring sports.

“I’d like to have a thing, if we’re allowed to do it, on a nice day, in July even, where we could all meet at the field and recognize all the seniors for everything they’ve done, say some final words,” he said. “They worked hard in the winter. The guys were all for it.”

Fairfield didn’t bring back a great deal of experience after graduating 11 seniors last year, so it will now be in the same boat next season.

“I’m hoping the underclassmen can play at least a couple games,” Kauffman said. “If not, it’ll be almost two years. I don’t know what we’ll do. We won’t have a lot of seniors and it’ll be like really having two freshman classes. We have some young kids who wanted to travel.”

Kauffman has been staying busy with free online clinics and webinars.

“I sent out some things I want them to do, to try to keep their arms in shape,” he said. “Some kids have a back yard big enough to at least go out and do something, but everybody has a different dilemma. We’re all in the same boat on this.”

Follow Jim Peters on Twitter — @JP8185

BOOSTERFIELDLIGHTS

The lights on Booster Field were illuminated to honor Jimtown High School’s Class of 2020, which did not get to play at senior season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams all over Indiana are finding ways to say thanks to the seniors. (Jimtown Baseball Photo)

 

NECC Home Run Derby promotes baseball, cancer awareness

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

As a way of promoting baseball and helping the community, two senior ballplayers at Lakeland Junior/Senior High School in LaGrange, Ind., came up with an idea.

Jayce Riegling and Braden Yoder decided to organize a home run derby and invited other players from the Northeast Corner Conference to participate.

Sixteen hitters representing nine of the conference’s 12 schools — Angola (where Roger Roddy is head coach), Central Noble (Tyler Graybeal), Fairfield (Darin Kauffman), Fremont (Justin Bock), Garrett (Jason Richards), Lakeland (Michael Isaacs), Prairie Heights (T.J. Guthrie), West Noble (Doug Brown), and Westview (Jason Rahn) — are slated to slug it out, beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3 on the Lakeland diamond.

There will be four rounds with batters seeing how many homers they can hit in three minutes.

All proceeds from the event, which has 48 corporate sponsors, will be going to Hello Gorgeous!, a non-profit organization that provides complimentary, professional makeovers and cosmetic education to all women battling all cancers. Organizers says that more than $5,000 has already been raised.

Tickets will be on sale the day of the event for $3. T-shirts will also be sold. To keep spectators fed, the MADD Chef Creationz food truck will be there, too.

Why an NECC Home Run Derby?

“Everyone loves home runs,” says Riegling. “I want to be an agent. I was talking to some (sports) agents. They told me to come up with baseball projects.”

After batting around a few ideas, they settled on bringing in players with the pitcher of their choice for a home run derby.

“It helps the community better,” says Riesling. “It gets us closer.”

Yoder, who is considering a career in engineering, sees his role in the project as the proof reader and aesthetic editor.

“I try to make everything look nice,” says Yoder. “I’m more behind the scenes. I keep things straight.

“This is going to be a fun event. I’m excited. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. So far it’s turned out perfectly.”

Yoder says permission forms need to be finalized, but they will welcome participation by younger kids to shag balls.

The event was originally scheduled for May 2020, but the IHSAA informed the organizers that players could not participate in-season so the date was changed.

If the weather does not cooperate Sunday, back-up dates are Nov. 9 and 10. Updates will be placed on the project’s Twitter page — @NECC_HRD.

Most of the participants came to a media day sponsored by Shipshewana Trading Place.

Here’s what the many of the hitters had to say:

Felipe Arevalo (Fairfield): “This is a very nice project … We all love baseball. This will be my first home run derby. It’s going to be fun … (Coach Kauffman) talks about hitting the ball hard.”

Brayden Bontrager (Lakeland): “I just love the game. Baseball is a fun sport to play. I always like to hit home runs … Home runs are the best part of the game. It rallies the team … (Coach Isaacs) is more of a contact guy, get guys on-base … The ball travels here in left field. There’s a cornfield out there.”

Nathan Burr (Central Noble): “I’ve never heard about anything else like this in high school. I thought it would be fun to be part of the first one … This is a great cause — cancer awareness. I’m real excited.”

Tyler Curtis (Prairie Heights): “I like hitting dingers. I like the competition … Last year I had one (homer) on varsity … Rotational hitting (which I learned at Hitters Edge in Sturgis, Mich.) is a big thing. A big shoutout to Mike Marks and Robert Riley … Stamina is a big thing we don’t focus on (in a home run contest). You have to control your breathing.”

Camden “Bodhi” Hall (Prairie Heights): “(Bodhi) comes from a movie called Point Break with Patrick Swayze. My dad just wanted to name me that. He still calls me Bodhi … Tyler Curtis and I wanted to represent our school and show them what we’ve got as sophomores … Tyler and I were in a home run derby together while with the Hitter’s Edge. He was first and I second one year … (Hitter’s Edge coach Mike Marks) is great. You go up there, you’ll learn something.”

Camden Harris (Garrett): “I had four (home runs) last spring (behind senior Kobe Lucarelli’s six) … This will be my third (home run contest). I was in seventh grade and we were in Kentucky for nationals (in travel ball) and I got second place. As a freshman or sophomore, I was down in Florida and got first place.”

Connor Kreis (Fremont): “I heard about a slogan like ‘Swinging for Cancer’ or something like that. I figured it was going for a good cause. It’s just cool to get out here and see these other athletes that I’ve played against since I was a freshman.”

Owen Miller (Fairfield): “I hit two home runs last year. One was a grand slam (at Lakeland) … You have to have a good pitcher (Owen’s father, Tim Miller, will pitch to him) and you need to be confident.”

Nick Mortrud (Westview): “I thought it would be fun to do something to bring the schools together … In a way, this helps the school kind of showcase what they’ve got … We’re bringing the community here, too … I was in a home run contest in travel ball at around 10 (in Columbus, Ohio) at ended up winning it … I’m going to be thinking don’t take too many wasted swings. After each swing kind of analyze what you’re doing. Focus on what you’re body’s doing as you take the swing.”

Hunter Saggars (West Noble): “(Jayce) and I go way back. We used to play ball together … I’ve never seen anything like this before so I figured it would be cool to be a part of the first one … I’m not going into this thing thinking I’m going to win it. We’ve got some big boys. I just want to be a part of it … (2019 West Noble graduate) Jorge Villanueva will be throwing to me.”

Takota Sharick (Westview): “My Grandma has cancer so this is really important to me … I’m not necessarily a power hitter, but if I focus on it I can be alright … We use Blast Motion and (Coach Rahn) tells us when we’ve had good launch angle and bat speed.”

Gage Smith (Garrett): “We’ve got three (derby competitors) looking pretty sharp, honestly … I would honestly consider myself a power hitter (with four homers for the Railroaders last spring) … A Garrett cop (Kylan LaMotte) will be throwing to us.”

Evan Snyder (Churubusco): “I was in a home run derby a long time ago in Cooperstown. I hit one … It’s a good thing they’re doing this for, the charity.”

Tristan Taylor (Garrett): “We’re all a tight-knit group (at Garrett). All three of us are chatting and having a competition amongst ourselves. It’ll be fun … It’s a really good opportunity to support this charity. It’s a really good organization … Everything about this is great.”

NECC HR DERBY

At Lakeland

Sunday, Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m.

Bracket 1

First Round

Nick Mortrud (Westview jr.) vs. Brayden Bontrager (Lakeland jr.)

Gage Smith (Garrett jr.) vs. Dylan Eggl (Central Noble jr.)

Camden Harris (Garrett sr.) vs. Camden “Bodhi” Hall (Prairie Heights so.)

Owen Miller (Fairfield so.) vs. Connor Kreis (Fremont sr.)

Bracket 2

First Round

Tyler Curtis (Prairie Heights so.) vs. Evan Snyder (Churubusco jr.)

Nathan Burr (Central Noble sr.) vs. Kolton Taylor (Lakeland sr.)

Tristan Taylor (Garrett sr.) vs. Felipe Arevalo (Fairfield sr.)

Hunter Saggars (West Noble sr.) vs. Takota Sharick (Westview jr.)

NECCHRDERBYBRACKETS

The NECC Home Run Derby brackets for 2019. (Steve Krah Photo)

NECCHRDERBYLOGO

The Northeast Corner Conference Home Run Derby with proceeds to benefit Hello Gorgeous! is slated for Sunday, Nov. 3 at Lakeland Junior/Senior High School in LaGrange, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Thompson brings NG3 values of character, community and change to Indiana

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Coaches and educators are busy people.

They are balancing practice schedules, lineups, game strategy, lesson plans and more.

Lending a helping hand in the areas of character development, servant leadership and other positive behaviors is where NG3 — headquartered in Atlanta — comes in.

The “NG” stands for Next Generation and the “3” stands for Character, Community and Change.

Jason Thompson, who has launched N3 in Indiana with Jimtown High School as the pilot in 2017-18 after spending a year learning the program while serving a school in Georgia, explains the C’s a little more.

“Character means do what you say,” says Thompson. “Community means serving others. Change means bring positive change wherever you go.”

A non-profit, faith-based organization, NG3 invests in the lives of high school students, spending time with them and teaching them valuable lessons while providing mentors in small gatherings known as “Huddle Groups.”

While Thompson and other volunteer mentors have been ever-present at Jimtown, he has also met with student-athletes at other schools in northern Indiana, including Fairfield and Goshen and has established partnerships with Jimtown, NorthWood and Triton for 2018-19.

“My hope is to add at least two schools a year moving forward,” says Thompson, a former football player at Concord High School and Anderson University who established a sports ministry at Nappanee Missionary Church. “We will have a person at each school we work with — people who are invested and embedded in those communities. Long-term, I’d like to see NG3 in every school in Indiana. That’s a big goal.

“NG3 is coming along at just the right time. I am passionate about helping people and teams reach their potential.

“We want to be present on school campuses on a weekly basis. A lot of students are probably skeptical at first. They have adults in their lives that are here and gone. It may be a parent or a coach.

“We don’t want to be a flash in the pan. We aim to be there for the long haul and model all those character traits for them.”

Thompson got involved at Jimtown through his relationship at NMC with former high school principal Jeff Ziegler and continues to work with current JHS principal Byron Sanders.

This spring, Thompson has been able to work closely with the Jimtown baseball program. He is at practice several times a week and makes it a point to be at home varsity and junior varsity contests. “We continue to build relationships. We are there be an encouragers.

“Coaches find that ‘other voice’ is beneficial to them.”

Thompson, who holds bachelor of education and master of ministries degrees from Bethel College, has helped coordinate service projects for Jimtown coach Darin Mast and other Jimmies teams and classes.

“We come in and serve,” says Thompson. “It’s about being available, being present.”

School-wide, Jimtown has about 50 kids involved in huddle groups.

These groups of generally 10 students or less meet once a week, usually in the home of one of the group’s members.

“You can get real,” says Mast of the small group. “You can do life.

“It builds much more community.”

Thompson says the goal is to get to the point that huddle groups can be offered to all students.

Mast has known Thompson for years from serving with him at NMC.

“He’s like a spiritual/mental athletic trainer so to speak,” says Mast of Thompson. “It means something to him.”

Mast continues to compliment NG3.

“I really like the concept of what they’re doing,” says Mast. “The whole point of a team anyway is bringing that togetherness.”

Mast likes taking time to build character and addressing concepts like integrity, commitment, honesty, social media, family, trust, loyalty, perseverance, teamwork and excellence and having the students define those traits and what it means when they add or subtract those from their lives. “So much time is spent with X’s and O’s and the ins and outs of the sport.

“I felt like it was something that needed to be addressed and now we have an avenue to do that.”

Mast said that coaches are ultimately graded on their won-loss record.

“That’s the No. 1 priority,” says Mast. “But I’ve failed them as a coach if I haven’t helped them become productive members of society — great workers, husbands and dads.

“It’s all that stuff goes into character development and leadership with NG3.”

Mast says the IHSAA’s InsideOut Initiative of leaving the “win-at-all-costs” culture goes hand-in-hand with the ideals of NG3.

Darin Kauffman first heard Thompson speak to the Fairfield girls basketball team during their run to the regional last winter. Darin’s wife, Lindsay, is an assistant to Falcons head coach Brodie Garber.

Kauffman, who is in his first season as head baseball coach at Fairfield, invited Thompson to address his players and plans to do it again.

“I have athletes who have not played baseball in awhile,” says Kauffman. “I wanted them to hear about being a great teammate and how we can mesh and play together. And hear it from someone outside

“(Thompson) is a great speaker. He talks at their level. I think the guys got a lot out of it.

“It’s a great program. I’m glad we have that in our area.”

Thompson sends a weekly email called “Coaches are Leaders” to a list of about 75 with tips and links to articles that reinforce the NG3 model.

“I want to find ways to serve coaches,” says Thompson.

Tim Dawson, an Indiana High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, was Thompson’s coach at Concord.

“He brought passion and excitement,” says Thompson of Dawson. “He used football to teach so many life lessons.”

As he headed off to college, Thompson thought he was going to be a teacher and coach.

“I’ve come full circle,” says Thompson. “This almost better than coaching. I get to work with athletes across teams.”

Helping his along the way is his family.

Jason and Rachael Thompson, who will be married 16 years in May, have two daughters Haley (11) and Natalie (7). The family resides in Nappanee. Rachael Thompson, a Goshen High School graduate, teaches at Prairie View Elementary School in Goshen.

NG3JIMTOWN1

Jason Thompson (second from left in back row) spends time in the dugout with the Jimtown High School baseball team. Thompson is the Indiana director for NG3 and has spent the 2017-18 school year embedded with Jimtown students.

NG3FAIRFIELD

NG3 Indiana director Jason Thompson addresses baseball players at Fairfield High School.

 

Kauffman to lead Fairfield program for ’18 season

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Fairfield High School is coming down the home stretch of the 2017 baseball season and heading into the postseason.

The Falcons hope to finish strong for head coach Keeton Zartman in his final campaign.

Zartman, a 2007 FHS graduate who is currently a math teacher at Fairfield, is changing jobs and getting married this summer.

The next man to lead the program is longtime high school assistant and junior high head coach Darin Kauffman. The 2005 Fairfield graduate was a left-handed pitcher for the Falcons.

Kauffman, a fifth grade teacher at West Noble Middle School who also coaches junior high boys basketball and has been a boys tennis assistant at Fairfield as well as keeping the scorebook for varsity and JV boys basketball, is anxious to get started. But he does not want to step on the toes of his friend and former teammate.

“I don’t want to disrespect (Zartman’s) program,” says Kauffman, who will continue to serve out his seventh season as junior varsity coach and be with the varsity when the JV is not in action. “I wish him the best on his new career and marriage. This is his team. We’re still focused on this year. We’re not done yet.”

Zartman, a former Falcon catcher who once helped Kauffman with the JV and later replaced Brodie Garber as head coach, made his intentions known at the start of this season. Then came the process of finding his replacement.

“It’s kind of weird timing,” says Kauffman, who met with athletic director Mark Hofer earlier in the spring and was approved for the new position by the school board last week. “But the board wasn’t going to meet again until June 8 and we’ve got summer camps coming up June 19-23.”

Kauffman played one season at Grace College before shoulder problems caused him to give up playing.

Garber, 1995 Fairfield graduate, approached Kauffman about coaching and he was on his staff for eight years before the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Famer and former Huntington University baseball and basketball player stepped down to concentrate on his head girls basketball coaching duties.

“I learned a lot from Brodie,” says Kauffman, who began coaching for him in the summer between his freshmen and sophomore years of college. “The biggest thing was (keeping up) team morale. He was good at getting guys to believe in what he was doing and we were very successful. He got kids to come out and play the game the right way and have fun while they were doing it.”

Fairfield has won six sectionals and one regional and all but one sectional came during Garber’s time as coach. The 2010 Falcons went 24-4 and lost to eventual state runner-up Delphi in the Class 2A Kokomo Semistate.

Kauffman says he is grateful he can still consult with Garber (who was in his first season as head baseball coach in Kauffman’s freshman year at Fairfield) and other Fairfield coaches and plans to keep that positive outlook in his role as head coach.

With his enthusiasm, Kauffman is hoping to attract some more talent back to the baseball program.

“We’re a couple of kids from getting to that next level, where we used to be,” says Kauffman. “We’re trying to get kids to play multiple sports and stick with it for all four years.”

Pierce Zent is Kauffman’s JV assistant in 2016-17 and plans call for him to be on Kauffman’s staff in 2017-18. Caleb Yoder has indicated an interest in coaching the JV.

“It’s hard in baseball to find a JV coach,” says Kauffman, noting that the JV plays away when the varsity is home and vice versa with just one diamond at Fairfield and many schools on the schedule. “The JV coach has got to be in charge of getting the field ready. He has to run his own practices. With most other sports, varsity and JV are together.”

Kauffman has already decided on the foundation of his program.

“We’ve got to increase our pitching depth for next year,” says Kauffman. “It all comes back to pitching and defense.

“If you can’t pitch and you can’t defend, you’re not going to win a sectional.”

Efficient mound work and strong defense is bound to keep pitch counts down and with the new rules governing pitch counts that’s more important than ever.

“The biggest factor (with pitch counts) is when are you going to play next?,” says Kauffman, who knows that a certain amount of pitches equates to a required number of days to rest. “One pitch can make a difference in a day.”

Here is the scale: 1 to 35 pitches (0 days); 36 to 60 (1 day); 61 to 80 (2 days); 81 to 100 (3 days); 101 to 120 (4 days).

As hitters, do you look to see more pitches just to rack up the count or stay aggressive?

Kauffman says the first pitch of an at-bat is often the most hittable one a batter will see.

“We’re going to take fastballs right down the middle and then we’re going to swing at sliders or curve balls that we can’t hit?,” says Kauffman.

Fairfield plays in the 12-team Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview) and is in the Class 3A NorthWood Sectional.

FAIRFIELDFALCONS

DARINKAUFFMAN

Darin Kauffman, a 2005 Fairfield High School graduate and longtime assistant coach, will be the Falcons’ head baseball coach for 2017-18.