Tag Archives: Dave Schrage

Former Notre Dame captain Chase returns to area, will help South Bend Cubs Foundation, 1st Source Bank Performance Center

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tommy Chase knew he wanted to play baseball at the University of Notre Dame since age 5.

He grew up going to Notre Dame camps when Paul Mainieri led the Fighting Irish. Father Mark Chase (Class of 1978) and sister Jacqueline (2009) Notre Dame graduates.

After graduating from Boston College High School in 2008, Cohasset, Mass., native Tommy Chase did take to the diamond and the classroom at ND

Chase started his Irish career with Dave Schrage as head coach, finished with Mik Aoki and served as a team co-captain with Will Hudgins as senior and was on the academic all-district team in 2012. 

Notre Dame degrees were earned by Chase in both Accounting and Psychology.

After graduation, Chase served as video coordinator at the University of California at San Barbara then was an assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy), Southern New Hampshire University, the U.S. Military Academy (Army) and the University of Dayton.

He is now back in northern Indiana to start a new job at Lippert Components in Goshen, Ind., where he will work with former Elkhart Memorial High School and Purdue University catcher and baseball coach at Knightstown, Mount Vernon (Fortville) and Concord high schools Eric Nielsen, and will put his baseball knowledge to use with the South Bend Cubs Foundation travel board and 1st Source Bank Performance Center at Four Winds Field.

In that role, Chase will be working closely with foundation executive director and Performance Center general manager Mark Haley.

“Hales and I connected and, honestly, I just want to help in whatever way that I can,” says Chase. “I’ve had some experiences — both in my playing career and coaching career. 

“(On the) player development side, I think I can add some value. On the recruiting side, I can help some of the older guys — 15- 16-, 17-year-old guys looking to play in college and get them to understand what the recruiting process is like. It can seem very confusing a lot of times, especially to families who haven’t gone through it. I would just love to provide some clarity with that.”

Chase also has many connections in college baseball and knows where the opportunities lie.

“I really like working with young kids,” says Chase. “Baseball is such a great game from the relationships that you have to the friends that you meet and learning lessons from the game itself.”

Throughout all his coaching stops, Chase has worked with hitters, infielders and outfielders. He was an infielder at Notre Dame. He will help with instruction at the Performance Center, as an advisor in the recruiting process and be a second set of eyes for Haley when it comes to talent evaluation and other matters.

At Dayton, Chase was recruiting coordinator for Flyers head coach Jayson King, who is also a Massachusetts native.

“We went into a program that we both thought had a lot of promise,” says Chase. “There were a lot of positive things. It was a high academic school. The campus was beautiful. A lot of things you can sell to high school kids.

“We really worked hard at it and were able to get Dayton to where we felt it should be — a competitive school in the Athletic 10 (Conference) and getting good players from that area.”

Chase and King had been together as assistants on the Army staff. It was King who brought Chase to West Point, N.Y., having known about him while at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. Chase and coordinator King shared recruiting duties. The Black Knights head coach was — and still is — Jim Foster.

“Coach Foster is a baseball savant. He played many years in the minor leagues as a catcher and he has that kind of brain. He really understands the game. He’s very good at teaching the game to the players.”

Chase says he knew intricacies of the game, but Foster “took it to a whole different level.”

Jacob Hurtubise, a Zionsville High School graduate now in the Cincinnati Reds organization, played at Army when Chase was there.

Scott Loiseau is head coach of the Southern New Hampshire Pennmen. 

“Scott’s one of the best coaches I’ve been around in terms of working with his players and getting them to play at their highest level,” says Chase. “His ability to develop relationships with guys is to the point where the team wants to run through a wall with that guy.

“He really, really cares about his players and his coaches. He allows coaches to develop. He gave me a lot of responsibility when I stepped on-campus as a young kid. He was a great mentor for me.

“Most guys are coaching college baseball out of the passion that they have either for the game or the people that they’re around and — a lot of time — it’s both. There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice to be a college baseball coach.”

Chase was a graduate assistant at SNHU and began work on a Masters of Business Administration with a  concentration in Sport Management.

As a volunteer assistant at Navy, Chase first learned about what it means to coach baseball at a military school by Midshipmen head coach a baseball lifer Paul Kostacopoulos, who was assistant and head coach at Providence (R.I.) College and head coach at the University of Maine before landing at Navy in Annapolis, Md.

“He’s been very successful for a very long time,” says Chase for Kostacopoulos. “He took over at Navy and really turned a program around that had been relatively mediocre in the past, but had a great history. He brought it to being consistently competitive and at the top of the Patriot League every single year and winning 30-plus games.

“That’s a hard job. There’s a lot of things at a military academy you need to uphold. It’s not just winning on the field. It goes beyond that. It goes to understanding what the cadet life is being able to foster both commitments to baseball, academics and their military requirements. He does a great job to do all those things.”

Chase says that players at military academies may not have the time to devote to baseball that other schools do. But they bring a resilient, hard-nosed mentality to the field because they compete in everything they do.

UC-Santa Barbara head coach Andrew Checketts gave Chase his first college baseball job as the Gauchos video coordinator.

“I learned what a College World Series program looks like in the inside from the time commitment to the culture to the player development,” says Chase. “As a kid just coming out of college you don’t see what the coaches do off the field.”

Chase still maintains relationships with former Notre Dame bosses Schrage and Aoki.

Chase played three seasons for the Irish. He appeared in six games (all at second base) as a freshman in 2009 and missed the 2010 season following knee surgery with Schrage as head coach. 

“Coach Schrage gave me a chance to live my dream of going to Notre Dame and playing baseball there,” says Chase. “He was a very personable guy and really cared about the well-being of his players.

“He was always a positive person. He was not a cutthroat-type coach. There’s a lot to be said for that.”

Aoki took over for 2011 and Chase got into 11 games (one as a starter). 

“He’s a New England guy through and through,” says Chase of Aoki. “He allowed me to work my way to a chance to compete on the field and contribute to the team.”

At the end of 2011 season, his teammates thought enough of him to choose him as one of the captains for 2012 as he played in 17 games (four starts).

“It was a great honor,” says Chase of being chosen as a captain. “I enjoyed having a voice to lead the other guys and help them. When you’re a coach, you’re implementing your culture and you’re talking about the things that are important. A lot of times, the thing that’s most important is the leaders on the team saying the same message. 

“A lot of times it’s not what the coaches say, it’s what the leaders among the players say to each other. The players have so much influence over the where the team’s headed and the culture of the team.”

Leaders can handle issues like players coming late to the weight room before it ever becomes big and has to be addressed by the coaching staff.

Chase grew up in Cohasset a few years ahead of Mike Monaco, who went on to Notre Dame and served as a broadcaster for the South Bend Cubs and now counts and has called games for the Triple-A Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox and the big-league Boston Red Sox.

Tommy and Teresa Chase have three sons — David (2 1/2), Peter (1) and Patrick (5 weeks). They are in the process of buying a home in Granger, Ind. Many friends from Tommy’s Notre Dame days still live in the South Bend area.

Tommy Chase was a Notre Dame baseball co-captain in his senior season of 2012. (Notre Dame Video)
Tommy Chase has joined the South Bend Cubs Foundation travel board and will be an instructor at the 1st Source Bank Performance Center. He is a former baseball co-captain at the University of Notre Dame and has extensive experience as a college coach.

Confidence grows for Butler left-hander Graziano

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Joe Graziano has learned lessons in confidence during his baseball career.

The left-handed pitcher built up a sense of determination that took him to weekend starter in his third season at Butler University in Indianapolis.

Years before, a surge of assurance had helped Graziano make the transition from the freshmen team to varsity as sophomore at Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind.

Graziano credits Butler head coach Dave Schrage for giving him the courage to advance as a Bulldog.

“He wants to get the best out of you,” says Graziano of Schrage. “He definitely helped me settle in by instilling that confidence in me. 

“I feel like I was ready to throw pretty well.”

As a Butler freshman in 2018, Graziano made 13 mound appearances (four starts) and went 3-0 with a 4.70 earned run average, 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 innings.

Primarily a mid-week starter in 2019, the lefty appeared in 15 games (seven starts) and went 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 17 walks in 44 innings.

The Bulldogs were 8-7 and coming off a March 11 victory against Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) in Port Charlotte, Fla., when the team found out the 2020 season had been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were sitting at the pool,” says Graziano. “We thought we were coming back in two weeks.

“We were optimistic.”

It soon turned out that the rest of the campaign was canceled and student-athletes were sent home.

Graziano went back to northwest Indiana having gotten into four games (all as a starter) and went 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA, 15 strikeouts and 10 walks in 17 1/3 innings. His first start was on a Saturday and the rest came on Sunday.

“I worked all fall to get there,” says Graziano of his role. “I finally got it. I really liked pitching on the weekend.

“Everyone’s locked in and there’s a little bit of pressure.”

When the 2020 shutdown happened, Graziano had already secured an internship and was looking to find a baseball team for the summer.

A double major in Finance and Risk Management, Graziano is doing his internship with Chicago-based Aon and pitching on weekends with the Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen.

Butler business school requires two internships,” says Graziano. “That’s 240 hours. You also take a class, write a paper and do interviews.

“It’s kind of a lot.”

For his first internship, Joe is on the clock online at his house in Schererville, Ind., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. He is upstairs while his mother, Roxanna, does her sales job with U.S. Steel, is in the basement. 

When Joe is done with his internship duties, he does his band and weighted ball work and heads across the street to Autumn Creek Park to play catch with younger brother Joshua. 

At 21, Joe is two years older than his brother. Joshua is enrolled at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis. Their father, Joseph, is a manager at the BP Whiting Refinery, which is very near where Joe is in his second stint with the Oilmen.

The summer right after he graduated from Lake Central in 2017, Joe appeared in seven Northwest Indiana games (five starts) and went 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA, 39 strikeouts and six walks in 31 innings.

“It was the first time I faced college hitters,” says Graziano. “I was playing with kids out of The Region. We were  finally on a friendly surface and can be teammates.

Manager Adam Enright, a Munster (Ind.) High School and University of Southern Indiana graduate, also worked closely with Oilmen pitchers.

In 2020, he is being used strictly as a reliever.

“I didn’t want to rush back into it,” says Graziano. “I’m pitching 2-3 innings at a time. I want to build my stamina and pitch count back up.”

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound southpaw took off about a week off when the 2020 spring season shut down then began training, lifting weights and throwing while reaching out to the Oilmen.

“I want to keep my spot when I get back to Butler,” says Graziano.

The Oilmen are managed by Chris Cunningham. Graziano spends most of his time with pitching coach Matt Pobereyko.

“I’ve been trying to take in as much information as possible,” says Graziano. “He’s been teaching me this forkball/splitter. I have pretty big hands.

“I like how (Pobereyko) thinks on the mound. You’re better than the hitter. Never lose confidence. I definitely like Po’s mentality.”

In the summer of 2019, Graziano pitched for the Coastal Plain League’s Fayetteville (N.C.) SwampDogs

It was a struggle at first.

“I started doing well toward the end,” says Graziano. “I got a lot better out there. I had a little adversity and I battled through it.”

Fayetteville was managed by David Anderson

Lefty Graziano was with the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators in 2018. There, he enjoyed living with a host family and got to play with Butler teammate Connor Schultz.

“You make a lot of new friends in summer ball,” says Graziano, who played for a Lafayette team managed by Will Arnold. Future Butler assistant Jake Ratz was also on the Aviators coaching staff.

Ben Norton is Butler’s pitching coach. He has taught Graziano a slider and helped instill confidence.

“He’s helped me develop into a great pitcher,” says Graziano of Norton. “He helps everyone

“If you struggle, he’s not going to give up on you.”

At Lake Central, three-year letterman Graziano went 20-7 (with a pair of perfect games), including 8-4 against Duneland Athletic Conference opponents. As a senior, he went 6-3 with a 2.11 ERA, 84 strikeouts and 13 walks in 60 innings and helped the Indians to an IHSAA Class 4A Munster Sectional title

He was all-DAC, all-area (Northwest Indiana Times) and Academic All-State.

Jeff Sandor was LC’s head coach for Graziano’s sophomore and junior seasons. Mike Swartzentruber took over the program in his senior year.

“(Sandor) is the craziest coach I’ve played for and one of the best coaches I’ve played for,” says Graziano. “He was tough on guys. But he had to be be. He demanded that level of play.

“You knew what you had to bring to the table.”

Graziano says Swartzentruber’s strength came in team building.

“Swartz was more calm than Sandor,” says Graziano. “We all knew what we wanted to do. We had a lot of good players. Swartz did a good job of bringing the team together.”

At Lake Central — a school with about 3,300 students — it is not uncommon for close to 100 players to try out for baseball. The high school is fed by three middle schools — Clark, Grimmer and Kahler].

“There’s a lot of competition,” says Graziano, who came through Grimmer. “You feel bad when your friends don’t make the team. The school is so big.”

While the rivalries among the middle schools is fierce, they become one team at LC.

While at Lake Central, southpaw Graziano used a curve ball that was “a little loopy and slow” that fooled many high school hitters.

When he got to Butler, he left the curve for a slider that has a tighter spin and has more horizontal than vertical break.

From his three-quarter overhand arm slot, Graziano also throws a tailing four-seam fastball and a “circle” change-up.

“It’s really good against righties,” says Graziano. “It has depth and tails away.”

Born in Munster, Ind., Graziano spent the early part of his life in nearby Hammond before settling in Schererville.

While playing for the Schererville Shock — coached by Dan Bosold and Dave Lopez — he made close friends. Among those are current Purdue players Ben Nisle and Bo Hofstra as well as Jarrett Lopez (who went to Purdue Northwest).

Grazing played for Apex Baseball in the summers leading into his last two years in high school. Marc Escobedo was the head coach. Brett Summers was his pitching coach/instructor.

“(Summers) always helped me,” says Graziano. “He was always patient.”

Graziano also enjoyed his time on the basketball court. At Lake Central, he played for head coach Dave Milausnic whom he salutes for getting the Indians ready for their demanding schedule.

“Our senior year, we didn’t have a big superstar,” says Graziano. “(Milausnic) had us prepared for every game. 

“I was the point guard as a senior. I was calling the plays and handling the ball a lot.”

Joe Graziano, a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., has pitched three baseball seasons for Butler University in Indianapolis (2018-20). The left-hander was a weekend starter during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign. (Butler University Photo)
The summer of 2020 is the second for Joe Graziano on the Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Olimen. He played for the Whiting, Ind.-based team in 2017, right after his senior year at Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. He has pitched three seasons at Butler University in Indianapolis. (Northwest Indiana Oilmen Photo)
Joe Graziano, a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., has pitched three baseball seasons at Butler University in Indianapolis. The left-hander was a weekend starter in 2020. (Butler University Photo)

Assistant Kuester contributes to Southern Indiana diamond success

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

University of Southern Indiana baseball has enjoyed plenty of success since Tracy Archuleta stepped on campus at the Evansville school.

His first season leading the Screaming Eagles was 2007. Since then, USI has won nearly 500 games with a pair of NCAA Division II national championships (2010 and 2014).

Jeremy Kuester has been a part of much of it. The 2020 season — cut to 14 games by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic — was his 11th spring on the Southern Indiana coaching staff.

Kuester’s main responsibility?

“I make sure Coach Archuleta has everything in line,” says Kuester, who took the job in August 2009 after a playing career as an outfielder, first baseman and left-handed pitcher. “We both do everything. I work with pitchers 70 to 80 percent of the time. But he will go with the pitchers and I’ll go with the hitters.

“It’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes so we go back and forth — whatever we feel is most beneficial for the guys.”

Kuester has been asked many times what makes Archuleta a winner.

“What’s his secret sauce for success?,” says Kuester. “He connects with people really well. He can take a group of guys then pull the best out of each and every one of those guys.

“He’s a very intense, very driven individual with a lot of knowledge.”

Not that Archuleta won’t laugh on the diamond. He does like to do that on occasion.

“He knows when it’s time to joke around and time to be serious,” says Kuester.

The Screaming Eagles coaching staff, which also includes Andy Lasher and volunteer Kevin Brown, sets the expectations high. Lasher was recently named head coach at Oakland City (Ind.) University.

“We make sure they’re aware of what they need to accomplish every single day,” says Kuester.

As recruiting coordinator, Kuester looks to bring as much talent to the program as possible.

He says the difference between D-II and D-I often comes down to depth. D-I tends to have more of it. Plus, D-I can give 11.7 scholarships per year and D-II can grant 9. Not fully-funded, USI tends to bestow between 6 and 7.

From a player’s’ perspective, he might also crack the lineup sooner at a D-II school.

“That’s biggest recruiting sell when going after junior college guys,” says Kuester. “Competition (for playing time) is less because the depth isn’t quite there.”

Kuester is not wishy-washy in his player evaluations.

“I’m not the kind of recruiter that leaves question marks,” says Kuester. “I’m blunt. I’m straight to the point. I tell them exactly what I think.”

The pandemic has made planning for the future less cut-and-dried.

When it looked like the season would be at least be put on hold, Southern Indiana (6-8) was coming off a pair of games in Pensacola, Fla. Coaches would try to sort through contingencies and scenarios, which seemed to change daily.

“Nobody was prepared for this,” says Kuester. “The hardest part for us is communicating things with our guys. They see things online before its official. Administrators don’t have the answers either.

“Finally, we (as coaches) decided to sit back and wait. It’s out of our control right now.”

Kuester says the majority of returning players were hoping to play summer baseball. With some leagues canceling (about 10 USI leagues were going to play in the Ohio Valley League), they have been looking for opportunities. Leagues are expected to form at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and in Louisville.

“We want them to find some place where they can play the game a little bit,” says Kuester. “A lot of our guys have went and got jobs for the summer.”

Southern Indiana coaches have suggested for nearly 40 players to keep active and make the best of their situation.

“But we don’t know what they’ve done for the past two months,” says Kuester. “That’s the scariest thing. We want to make sure these guys are going to be healthy. It’s more risky for pitchers than position players.”

The last day of classes for USI was Wednesday, May 6. The term ended with weeks of online instruction.

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world,” says Kuester. “And I was only teaching one class this eight weeks.”

Besides coaching, Kuester is on the faculty and has taught introduction to kinesiology or an activity class (hiking, badminton etc.). He earned a masters degree in Public Administration from Southern Indiana in 2012.

Jeremy and Ashley Kuester were wed in September 2009. She is a nurse practitioner with in Evansville. The couple has three children — first-grader Bryce (7), kindergartener Alli (5) and Colton (3). At their Rockport house, built in 2017, internet access is spotty, making eLearning with Bryce a challenge.

Jeremy slowly downloads YouTube videos for his son to watch and helps him with his homework. When completed, they take a picture with the school-supplied iPad and upload it.

Kuester is a 2005 graduate of South Spencer High School in Rockport, Ind., about 40 miles east of the USI campus.

Jeremy’s father — Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Brian Kuester — is the Rebels head coach.

“I never thought about him as my dad,” says Jeremy of the time spent playing for Brian. “He never coached me growing up. Whatever the coach says is what you do. When we were on the field I called him Coach.

“It was coach-player relationship at home even during those four years.”

Baseball discussions did happen away from the diamond.

“He’s say you need to improve on this — not in a negative way, just trying to get better.”

Jeremy recalls his last high school game while teammates were sitting around and lamenting the end of the season.

“Dad gave me a big hug and said I’m proud of you,” says Jeremy. “I’ll never forget that.”

Brian Kuester and his father, Ivan, had also been assistant coaches at USI. That’s when Larry Shown was head coach.

Brian and Debbie Kuester’s four children are Jeremy, Shawn, Nathan and Katie. Shawn played baseball at the University of Evansville and Nathan at USI. Katie played softball at Olney Central College.

Jeremy Kuester played his college baseball at the Evansville (2006 for Dave Schrage and 2007 for Dave Seifert) and Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro (2008 and 2009 for head coach Todd Lillpop).

While 2020 was Lillipop’s 19th as KWC head coach, he was a young in the profession when Kuester played for him.

“You could tell was still trying to figure out how he was going to be as a coach,” says Kuester. “He’s done at real good job of maturing as a coach over the years.

“He’s a really good, genuine person.”

Kuester first met Lillpop when another South Spencer graduate played for the Panthers. Kuester opted to transfer there to continue being a two-way player.

He earned a Sports Studies degree from Kentucky Wesleyan.

JEREMYKUESTERFAMILY

The Kuester family of Rockport, Ind., includes father Jeremy, mother Ashley and (clockwise from left) Bryce, Alli and Colton. Jeremy Kuester is an assistant baseball coach and faculty member at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.

JEREMYKUESTER1

University of Southern Indiana baseball assistant coach Jeremy Kuester (center) makes a mound visit. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

JEREMYKUESTER2

Jeremy Kuester (center) has been on the University of Southern Indiana baseball coaching staff of Tracy Archuleta (left) since August 2009. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

JEREMYKUESTER3

Jeremy Kuester has been an assistant baseball coach at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville since the 2010 season. He is also on the USI faculty and has a master’s degree from the school. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

 

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)

 

Kennedy joins Butler Bulldogs coaching staff

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Kennedy is back home again in Indiana after spending a few years coaching baseball in Florida.

The Lafayette native joined the staff at Butler University in Indianapolis in January. He is instructing catchers, infielders and hitters, helping pitching coach Ben Norton with recruiting, assisting with camps and clinics and office duties.

“It’s a group effort here,” says Kennedy. “We make sure we are all on the same page.”

Head coach Dave Schrage’s Bulldogs open the 2020 season Feb. 14-16 in Lexington, S.C., with two games each against North Carolina A&T and George Mason. Butler is a member of the Big East Conference.

Kennedy appreciates that Schrage values player development and promotes a family atmosphere.

“It’s about getting guys better and fundamentals,” says Kennedy of Schrage. “He’s a pitching and defense guy and believes in attention to details. He emphasizes base running, which a little bit of a lost art.

“We have a family feel within our clubhouse. He wants to make sure you get home and spend time with your kids. He knows how important that is, especially with the season right around the corner.”

Kennedy has has three children in West Lafayette. Son Karson Kennedy (16) is a junior catcher at Harrison High School, where Pat Lowrey is head coach. Daughter Emilyne (13) is a gymnast and a seventh grader at Battle Ground Middle School. Daughter Jolee (9) is a third grader at Battle Ground Elementary.

The 2018 and 2019 seasons saw Kennedy on the staff of Rick O’Dette at Saint Leo (Fla.) University. He had served three different stints with O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. ((2005, 2007-08, 2016-17). The school closed its doors after the 2017 season.

“Rick is phenomenal,” says Kennedy. “He believes in the importance of work ethic and that blue collar feel.

“It’s made (going to Butler) an easy transition for me. (O’Dette) was so family-oriented with the team. Players were caring for each other playing for each other. He knew the importance of team and not the ‘I’ factor. He demanded a lot, but you see the rewards of that.”

That’s the way it was at Saint Joseph’s, where alum O’Dette was head coach for 17 years.

When Kentucky Wesleyan College graduate Kennedy came to the Pumas, there was immediate acceptance.

“I’m one of them,” says Kennedy. “(O’Dette) is instilling that culture down at Saint Leo.”

Kennedy began his high school baseball career at Lafayette Central Catholic High School. He was bumped up from the junior varsity to the varsity, took a baseball to the face which required reconstructive surgery and ended his freshmen season early.

He landed a McCutcheon High School. As a senior second baseman, Kennedy was part of coach Jake Burton’s 1999 IHSAA Class 4A state championship team.

The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Assocation Hall of Famer’s expectations were high for Kennedy and the rest of the Mavericks.

“He saw a lot more in me in what I thought I could do — both as a person and a player,” says Kennedy of Burton. “Jake was great for me. I owe that man a lot. Without his influence, I definitely wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.”

Kennedy learned to never be truly satisfied as a player and has carried that into his coaching career, holding himself and his athletes to a high standard.

“You can always learn, always get better,” says Kennedy. “You see there’s little more in there (with players). You have to figure out a way to get them out of them.”

Burton expected his players to work hard, be good people, follow the rules and be accountable for themselves and their actions. They had to make good decisions or they couldn’t be a part of the McCutcheon program.

“That put me in the right direction,” says Kennedy. “It put me with a good group of friends that I still talk to today.”

Kennedy played one season for coach Todd Post at Kankakee (Ill.) Community College and three at Kentucky Wesleyan — one for Greg McVey and two for Todd Lillpop.

McVey demanded much from his players and kept them on-task.

“He was a planner,” says Kennedy, who is among the Kentucky Wesleyan career leaders in fielding percentage and assists. “We knew everyday what we were doing. These are the goals of the day and this is what we want to accomplish.”

Like O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s, Lillpop became a college head coach at a young age and learned on the fly.

“He stressed the importance of working everyday and improving,” says Kennedy of Lillpop. “As a team, we had some success.”

The Owensboro-based KWC Panthers made their conference tournament for the first time in well over a decade and turned the program around.

Kennedy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Kentucky Wesleyan in 2003. He began his coaching career as a KWC assistant in 2004.

After his first stop at Saint Joseph’s, he was an assistant to Bob Warn in the Hall of Famer’s last season leading the Indiana State University program.

“He cared so much for that place,” says Kennedy of Warn. “Everything he did was for the good of Indiana State baseball. His legacy there is going to be forever. Guys played hard for him and he was great to work for.

“As a young coach, you think you know more than you do. It’s good to keep your mouth shut and your ears open and you’re going to learn a lot more. (Warn) opened my eyes. There are a lot of different ways to do things.”

After his second tenure at Saint Joseph’s, Kennedy took over the reins at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill. (2009-13). His first four teams went 49-9, 50-13, 43-11 and 40-20. The 2009 Cobras, featuring future Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Divison II World Series.

Kiermaier was primarily a shortstop when he came to Parkland. Kennedy, wishing to get some more repetitions for his infielders, asked Kiemaier to move to center field during a fall game. He later told him his path to the next level would be at that position.

Before being selected in the 31st round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Kiemaier was a two-time NJCAA All-American.

“His athleticism was unmatched,” says Kennedy of Kiermaier. “It was fun to watch him out there.”

From spring to fall of 2013, Kennedy was briefly an assistant at High Point (N.C.) University for head coach Chris Cozart.

With his parents in declining health, he decided to move back to the Midwest.

Kennedy knew Jeff Isom through Lafayette baseball circles and was introduced by Bobby Bell.

When Isom became manager of the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers, he invited Kennedy to be his hitting coach. He served in that role during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

“Pro ball is something that always intrigued me a little bit,” says Kennedy. “I checked it out for a couple years.

“I missed the college end of things.”

So he went back with O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s.

And now he’s back in Indiana, doing his best to develop players at Butler.

MATTKENNEDYBUTLER

Matt Kennedy, a Lafayette, Ind., native, has joined the baseball coaching staff at Butler University in Indianapolis. His previous job was as an assistant at Saint Leo (Fla.) University. (Butler University Photo)

 

Meyer uses many tools to assess Butler hitters

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brian Meyer coaches hitters at Butler University.

The NCAA Division I program trains and plays at Bulldog Park, which is less than eight miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Meyer uses auto racing metaphors when explaining the way he develops Dawgs hitters.

Like racing owners put their money in the car, baseball coaches are invested in the players.

Meyer says goal in player development is to make the athletes the best they can be within the framework of the team. Assessments are done to know the strengths of each player. One player might be known for his power and another his speed.

“We want to know the tools we’re working with,” says Meyer. who shared some developmental concepts at the American Baseball Coaches Association Barnstormers Clinics stop Sept. 8 at Butler. “It’s our responsibility to assesses and know what their strengths and weaknesses are and then to read the dashboard as to what’s going on with them. If it’s a mechanical problem, we go back to their movement screening. Maybe they’re mentally clouded.”

There’s schoolwork. On the baseball side, there’s personal instructors, high school and travel coaches and even family members putting in their two cents worth.

“There are a lot of people in these guys’ heads,” says Meyer. “It’s our job as coaches to de-clutter.

“We want to simplify and get the entire pit crew on the same page. We’re all invested to make these guys better. If it takes a call from me to (a given player’s) coach back home who he worked with all summer to get a better understanding of the things they worked on, that’s fine by me.”

Meyer says it’s important let players’ talents shine through and not try to change everything about them.

“You guys kept guys on your team for a reason,” says Meyer. “It’s OK to let them fail because then they’ll come crawling to us looking for help.

“Everybody is on the same page and there is a trust that is built into that.”

Certified by OnBase University — an educational organization dedicated to the study of how the human body functions in relation to baseball and softball — Meyer puts his hitters through a battery of tests to learn their movement patterns.

These tests determine an individual’s deficiencies and strengths.

“If I know how his body works, I can coach him better,” says Meyer. “I can give him exercises to improves his deficiency or I can coach around it.

Meyer is currently in the process of putting together individualized hitting plans based upon physical abilities and limitations.

Players also have their vision tested by Dr. Joe LaPlaca of Ares Elite Sports Vision.

“We all know how important eyes are to hitting a baseball,” says Meyer. “(A player) may not be able to pick up a breaking ball because his depth perception or convergence isn’t as good as some other guys.”

A test for power that correlates to exit velocity involves the scores from doing vertical jump, seated chest pass and a lying overhead medicine ball throw. Borrowed from golf, Meyer says this kind of testing is just coming to baseball.

Butler uses Blast Motion, Rapsodo and other devices to assess players.

“With technology, it forces us as coaches to think a little bit differently,” says Meyer. “We have to truly understand what each individual player needs.

“But if we don’t understand how their body moves, all this data doesn’t do us any good.”

The Bulldogs also go through a VARK assessment for athletes. This tells how they learn the best — Visual, Aural, Read/White or Kinesthetic.

“It’s important for us to know how these guys learn,” says Meyer. “(Player A) learns differently from (Player B) who learns differently from (Player C).”

Knowing this, gives coaches different avenues to reach players.

“With some guys it may be beneficial for us to just talk one-on-one,” says Meyer. “Some of them have to see a video. Some of them would rather read it.

“The more we can reach our players individually, the better chance they have to develop.”

Individual swing goals involve activating the kinetic chain as considering hip and spin activation as well as core stability, rotation and anti-rotation. The idea is to move efficiently.

Butler hitters go through a series of exercises and drills, including banded load, PVC series, fungo hit, tee work, front toss and live focus.

An example of a focus of the day would be the 3-plate drill (plates set up at varying distances from the mound of pitching machine) for rhythm and timing and a 2-plate off-speed drill for pitch recognition.

The offensive goal at Butler, which plays Illinois at Grand Park in Westfield at 5:05 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, is to become a team of run producers.

A formula gauge this production is total at-bats over runs scored plus runs batted in minus home runs. In 2019, Butler’s rate was 2.9.

Meyer says there must be selflessness up and down the lineup to help the team win.

Meyer is a volunteer assistant at Butler (the NCAA currently only allows for two paid assistants at the Division I level and will soon be voting on adding a third paid position).

The summer of 2016 is when Meyer joined head coach Dave Schrage’s staff at Butler. Before that Meyer was director of baseball operations for five seasons at Tulane University in New Orleans. He also coached at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and Otterbein (Ohio) College, where he was a three-year starter at second base. He is a native of North Royalton, Ohio.

Brian and Ashley Meyer have a son named Walker.

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Butler University hitting coach Brian Meyer (left) talks with Harrison Freed during the 2019 baseball season. (Butler University Photo)

BRIANMEYER1Brian Meyer is the hitting coach for the Butler University baseball program in Indianapolis. Meyer employs many tools help the Bulldogs. (Butler University Photo)

 

Right-hander Pepiot brings competitive spirit to Dodgers system

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ryan Pepiot enjoyed visiting Midwest League baseball parks as a kid.

He went to see minor leaguers in South Bend, Fort Wayne and Dayton.

“Now, I’m playing here and it’s pretty cool,” says Pepiot, a first-year pro in the Los Angeles Dodgers system.

A hard-throwing 21-year-old right-handed pitcher, Pepiot is with the Midland, Mich.-based Great Lakes Loons.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder throws from a high three-quarter arm slot and sports a four-seam fastball that ranges from 93 to 96 mph and a “circle” change-up with depth and fade that moves at 83 to 85 mph to go with a sweeping slider and “1 to 7” curveball.

Pepiot (pronounced Pep-E-Oh) was selected in the third round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers out of Butler University in Indianapolis.

LA’s first-rounder — Griffith (Ind.) High School graduate and former Tulane University slugger — Kody Hoese — is now Pepiot’s Great Lakes teammate.

After four appearances and five innings in the Arizona League, 2016 Westfield (Ind.) High School graduate Pepiot was sent back to the Midwest, where the weather is not as hot and he’s closer to family and friends.

The son of Mike and Christine Pepiot and older brother of Kyle Pepiot has hurled a pair of two-inning stints with Great Lakes — the last on July 25 — and sports a 2.00 ERA, combining the AZL and MWL. He’s currently on a limit of about two innings per outing.

Asked about his best qualities as an athlete and Pepiot is quick to answer.

“I’m a great teammate, a big time competitor and very hard-working,” says Pepiot, who played for head coach Ryan Bunnell as a Westfield Shamrock.

“I like Coach Bunnell,” says Pepiot. “He’s really personable. He knows the system and knows the guys. He’s doing a fine job over there in a really tough (Hoosier Crossroads) Conference.”

Pepiot learned much from travel ball coaches Chris Estep and Scott Shirley in a long tenure with the Indiana Mustangs (9U through 17U) and competed for the Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays prior to his freshman year at Butler.

Recruited to the Bulldogs by Steve Farley, Pepiot adjusted when Dave Schrage took over the Butler program prior to his arrival on campus.

“I went into it with an open mind,” says Pepiot of the change. “I looked at it as a clean slate and a chance to impress coaches.

“I wanted to make way into the starting rotation and I did that as freshman.”

Pepiot honed his craft in the New England Collegiate League with the Keene (N.H.. Swamp Bats) and in the Cape Cod League with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks in the summers following his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I checked all the the boxes at Butler,” says Pepiot.

As a freshman in 2017, he led the team in starts with 13 and went 4-4 with a 4.39 earned run average and 79 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.

He followed that up as a sophomore in 2018, by going 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings in 15 games (12 starts).

Pepiot’s junior campaign in 2019 saw him post a 4-4 record, 3.92 ERA and 126 K’s and 78 frames in 14 contests (all starts).

Always an aggressive pitcher, Pepiot says he appreciates how the Dodgers emphasize throwing strikes.

“Some pitchers throw around the zone,” says Pepiot. “The strike zone is our friend.

“We want to win the race to two strikes.”

Great Lakes won the Eastern Division title in the Midwest League’s first half and is guaranteed a playoff berth. The regular season concludes Sept. 2 (Labor Day).

When the season is over, Pepiot is slated for a month back in Arizona for the instructional league. He is not sure yet where he will train during the off-season.

The next steps on the Dodgers organization ladder above Great Lakes are Advanced Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Though he won’t be able to do it it this year, Pepiot does plan to go back to Butler to finish his degree. He is 21 credits shy as a finance/marketing double major.

Mike Pepiot is is in automotive sales. Christine Pepiot is is a special education teacher at the elementary level.

Outfielder/right-handed pitcher Kyle Pepiot was part of the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series and is heading into his freshman year at Butler.

The Pepiot brothers were teammates for one season at Westfield. The younger brother has also picked his older brother’s brain about the next level and taken live batting practice against him.

“He’s a quiet kid,” says Ryan of Kyle. “But he is one of the hardest-working kids I know.

“He’s going to do some big things at Butler and really surprise some people.”

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Ryan Pepiot, a Westfield (Ind.) High School graduate who played at Butler University, is now a pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. (Great Lakes Loons Photo)

 

Pascoe provides Butler Bulldogs hitters with knowledge, tools

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Butler University batsmen have been putting up better power numbers since Andy Pascoe arrived on campus as hitting coach on head coach Dave Schrage’s staff prior to the 2017 season.

In 2019, the Bulldogs hit .261 with 463 runs scored, 39 home runs and 95 doubles.

Harrison Freed, a right-handed-swinging junior outfielder and Westfield (Ind.) High School graduate, hit .376 with 17 homers, 10 doubles, 73 runs batted in.

In 2018, BU hit .272 with 324 runs, 20 homers and 107 doubles.

Lefty-swinging senior outfielder Gehrig Parker paced the Bulldogs by hitting .336 with seven homers, 15 doubles and 37 RBIs.

In 2017, those totals were . 256 average, 256 runs, 35 homers and 71 doubles.

Tyler Houston, then a righty-swinging junior outfielder and Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, hit. 287 and led the team with 12 homers to go with 13 doubles and 38 RBIs.

In 2016 — the year prior to Pascoe landing in Indianapolis — Butler hit .246 with 225 runs, 11 homers and 90 doubles.

Pascoe, a graduate of Traverse City (Mich.) Central High School, worked as the Director of Scouting for Prep Baseball Report Michigan before arriving at Butler. Before that he was the assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, the University of Evansville and holds a degree in exercise science.

Not all hitters are the same, but what are Pascoe’s points of emphasis?

“Being on time with the barrel, staying athletic in the box and working their bodies properly to get the most out of their swing,” says Pascoe. “A hitter’s approach is largely dictated on the situation as to where they are at in the count, who is on the mound, where runners are, and how they have been pitched by a team or pitcher.”

Butler hitters have a routine as they go through fall, winter and spring.

“We try to hit on the field as much as possible throughout the year so they are able to see the flight of the ball, which can give the hitter good feedback,” says Pascoe. “We go through a lot of drills as well early on to get them to feel their body moving properly – this will be done in the fall and preseason daily in the cages.

“When we get on the field we look more to situational hitting and hitting high velocity and breaking balls.

“Another component is also giving them more tools as a hitter – working on base hit bunting is big for a large majority of our guys. “While we talk about approach the entire year, the regular season is where we mainly focus on that so they do not get bogged down by mechanics and they can just be athletic and let everything work.”

Video and pitching machines are used often in training for Bulldog hitters.

“This past year was the first year that we used the hitting Rapsodo, which is a great tool to use in the cages when we can not get outside on the field,” says Pasceo. “Weighted bats have also been a big tool we have used at Butler.”

Launch angle and exit velocity are also a part of the equation.

“LA and EV can be useful data when tracking progress and what range for those works best for each hitter,” says Pascoe. “Certain guys are better with higher LA while others are better at lower LA. “EV can be good to give a hitter feedback to progress with getting stronger or gaining bat speed as well as just overall ability to square the ball up.

“When it comes to game time, we try to not chase these numbers so much and just look to get in there and compete.”

Analytics has become a big part of the collegiate game and it’s no different at Butler.

“Analytics do come into play quite a bit as we look at how to play certain hitters, shifting our infielders and outfielders around,” says Pascoe. “We also use analytics to determine certain matchups from both and offensive and defensive standpoint.”

Pascoe sees several outstanding qualities in Schrage as a coach.

“Coach Schrage has a lot of knowledge about the game of baseball, but he also has the drive to continue to learn more and grow as a coach,” says Pascoe. “He is very good at developing and maintaining a strong culture in programs – a lot of which attributes to his strong communication skills, his passion for the game as well as his players, and how he holds players and coaches accountable.”

Schrage, Pascoe and pitching coach Ben Norton all share in recruiting duties, but it is Pascoe that is typically on the road a little more during fall and spring practices.

Pascoe, an infielder and catcher, played at Evansville for head coach Wes Carroll from 2007-10. As a junior he was on the all-Missouri Valley Conference second team at designated hitter, leading the Purple Aces in hitting at .331.

“I enjoyed my time playing for Wes,” says Pascoe. “He always pushed me to be a good ball player and a good person while holding me accountable.

“Playing for him, he brought a lot of energy and passion for the Evansville program. For me, it was easy to play for him because I knew he cared about me and had a lot of pride for the program while also teaching me about the game of baseball.”

After his playing career was over, Pascoe joined Carroll’s coaching staff and spent five seasons (2011-15) learning the craft.

“Coaching for him provided me with a lot of experience early because he gave me the freedom as a coach to work with hitters and catchers a lot, while also giving me many responsibilities with recruiting,” says Pascoe.

One of the Aces was Kevin Kaczmarski, who played his last season in Evansville in 2015 and made his Major League Baseball debut with the New York Mets in 2018.

“We really worked with Kevin on getting rhythm to his swing, especially early in his college career,” says Pascoe. “He came in with an extreme amount of athleticism but was a little stiff with his swing so once he learned to loosen up, have some rhythm and load up on time, he really took off.

“Once he gained some rhythm to himself and to his swing, we got him to use the whole field with authority. All of this was done because he wanted to learn it and he put in a lot of work to do it.”

Pascoe has several men he considers leaders in his life, including father Paul, Schrage, Carroll, high school coach Ian Hearn (now head coach at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern High School), former Evansville assistant Marc Wagner and former Traverse City Central, Western Michigan University and Detroit Tigers organization player and college coach Sam Flamont.

“All of them have taught me about the game of baseball and the intricacies, but also how to handle different players and their personalities and to enjoy the process that goes into everyday coaching,” says Pascoe. “(Flamont) has also been a major role model and mentor for me – he is the biggest reason why am where I am at in my life.”

Pascoe, who is single, will keep busy this summer, running tournament games on-campus and recruiting.

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Andy Pascoe, a graduate of Traverse City (Mich.) Central High School and the University of Evansville, is an assistant coach at Butler University. Among his responsibilities, he leads the hitters and helps with recruiting. (Butler University Photo)

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Andy Pascoe (left) has seen offensive numbers improve since taking over as Butler University hitting coach for the 2017 season. (Butler University Photo)

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Andy Pascoe just completed his third season as hitting coach at Butler University in 2019. Before arriving in Indianapolis, he played and coached at the University of Evansville. (Butler University Photo)

 

Norton looks for Butler Bulldogs pitchers to be aggressive

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ben Norton wants his Butler University arms to go after hitters.

The third-year baseball pitching coach is not interested in nibbling at the corners of the plate.

“The whole staff has to buy into throwing strikes,” says Norton. “We want to to get (hitters) out in four pitches or less, always be aggressive and have the utmost confidence in yourself.

“If you don’t think you’re better than the hitter, you might as well get off the mound.”

As the NCAA Division I Bulldogs get ready to open the 2019 season Feb. 15 against Rider in Lexington, S.C., there are 17 pitchers on the roster. That number includes right-handers Ryan Pepiot (who went 6-0 with 12 starts in 2018 and is a preseason all-Big East Conference honoree in 2019), Jack Pilcher (10 saves and 20 relief appearances), Sam Hubbe (15 games, including eight starts) and Connor Schultz (16 games with three wins and one start) and left-hander Joe Graziano (13 games with three wins and four starts).

With Norton in charge, Butler had 405 strikeouts and 209 walks in 451 2/3 innings 2017. There were 454 K’s and 211 free passes in 481 innings in 2018.

Ideally, Norton would like to see his starters go deep into games and have one or two relievers finish it off.

“I want the best pitcher on the mound,” says Norton. “We have to be creative with match-ups. Sometimes we might us a right-hander who has a great change-up vs. a lefty.”

Pitchers at the bottom of the depth chart may not rack up a lot of innings, but they are given a chance of developing so they can help the team in the future.

When Norton greeted his pitchers during fall workouts, the emphasis the first three or four weeks was getting arms in shape with consideration about how much they might have been used in the summer.

“It’s always good to have the blood flowing to the muscles and ligaments so they don’t tighten up,” says Norton. “It’s getting everything to fire.”

After early weeks of the fall came intrasquad games plus two contests against outside competition now allowed by the NCAA at the D-I level (Butler played the Great Lakes Canadians and Indiana University Kokomo).

“We were competing for jobs,” says Norton. “After the fall, we went into individual work.”

Some pitchers looked to add a third or fourth pitch to their repertoire.

Players were away for five weeks during the holiday break and were scheduled to pitch their first pre-season bullpen sessions Tuesday, Jan. 15.

“Right now I want them to be healthy — first and foremost,” says Norton. “We don’t want to pitch them too much too early.

“It is a long season.”

The goal is to build up arm strength so that starters can pitch 60 to 70 pitches live the weekend before the opener and be able to go five or six innings in a game. Relievers are trying to progress so they can recover and pitch every other day.

Norton expects his pitchers to throw five times a week this week and next and then five or six times a week depending on who they are.

“Older guys have more freedom to not do as much throwing,” says Norton. “They understand their body a little bit better.”

Norton wants all pitchers to have an understanding of how they move as the deliver the baseball.

“You don’t have to know biomechanics, you need to know how your body works,” says Norton. “I ask a lot of questions about how they feel.

“I want them to make adjustments as they go instead of overhauling.”

Besides guiding the pitchers, Norton participates in recruiting. Those duties are shared by head coach Dave Schrage, assistant Andy Pascoe and Norton (Brian Meyer is a volunteer assistant).

“I recruit all positions,” says Norton. “I try to see every pitcher we recruit — on film or live games. I evaluate how they fit into the program and also what their potential could be.”

Norton says Butler’s recruiting philosophy is to start local and work their way out, meaning go for Indiana players if possible but go where there are players who fit the program.

Besides the Bulldogs, the Big East’s baseball-playing members are Creighton, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova and Xavier.

A former right-handed pitcher, Norton played for coach Larry Windmiller at Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, graduating in 2003. His older brother David Norton (Dwenger Class of 1999) also played for Windmiller.

“He was a great coach,” says Norton. “He built that field (at Shoaff Park). He was well-rounded in the game of baseball.”

He played at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., for coach Rob Fournier then at the University of Evansville for Schrage. He won nine games each in 2006 and 2007 and was selected in the 24th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He pitched one season in the Royals system before suffering a career-ending shoulder injury.

“I enjoyed playing for (Fournier),” says Norton. “He’s high intensity. He wants the best for everybody and pushes them hard. He has connections throughout the baseball community.”

His career has intersected several times with current Butler head coach Schrage. Norton played for and later coached for Schrage at Evansville and was on his staff at South Dakota State University.

Playing for him was great,” says Norton of Schrage. “He always cared about you on and off the field. Coaching for him, I have a lot of freedom with the pitching staff

“He’s been a mentor. He’s taught me to keep positive throughout the year as the season goes up and down.”

It was Schrage and Jackrabbits bus driver Rod Josephsen that introduced Norton to the woman that is now his wife. Nicole Norton is Josephsen’s daughter.

Norton began his coaching career at Evansville, spending the fall of 2008 as an assistant with the Purple Aces. He was an assistant at Indiana Tech in the spring of 2009. He moved on to the University of Illinois-Springfield for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, serving as an assistant the first spring and interim head coach for the second. He moved on to Lincoln (Ill.) College as an assistant for 2012 then went to South Dakota State as an assistant for four seasons (2013-16).

Norton was on the staffs of Kip McWilliams at Indiana Tech, former South Dakota State assistant Brian Grunzke at Illinois-Springfield and Tony Thomas at Lincoln.

“(McWilliams) is knowledgable about every position,” says Norton. “He allowed me to take over the pitching staff. He’s always on the phone trying to get players and get better.

“(Grunzke) is a high-energy guy. He’s always willing to work with guys and very personable. With recruiting, he does his dilligence on the phone and scouting on the road. It was good for me to learn from him as a young coach.

“(Thomas) does a good job of coaching guys up. It was a unique situation (when I went to Lincoln). I was was looking for a place to coach. I came in the middle of the season and took over the pitching staff.”

Fort Wayne’s Jim and Joan Norton have three children — David, Kyle and Ben.

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Butler University baseball versus Valparaiso University March 23, 2017.

Ben Norton is the pitching coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. (Butler University Photo)

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Ben Norton, the pitching coach at Butler University in Indianapolis, played at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger High School, Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., the University of Evansville and in the Kansas City Royals organization. (Butler University Photo)

 

Confidence carries Plainfield, Butler grad Mitchell into pro baseball with Dodgers system

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Applying advice provided by two of his college coaches, Connor Mitchell earned the right to play professional baseball in 2018.

Mitchell, a left-handed pitcher, finished up a four-year diamond career at Butler University in Indianapolis in 2018.

Dave Schrage has been the Bulldogs head coach and Ben Norton the pitching coach since the 2017 season.

Mitchell credits both men for helping him as a collegian and in getting selected in the 27th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“The biggest thing I took away from Coach Schrage is that everything matters — on the field and off the field,” says Mitchell. “All the little things play a role in whether you have success. If you’re doing every thing right way in the classroom and the weight room, all of it makes a difference.”

Norton helped implant a confident mindset.

“He told me to go after hitters and never be hesitant,” says Mitchell of Norton. “Pick a pitch you have conviction with and just throw it.”

Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Mitchell delivered four-team and two-seam fastballs that typically traveled at 88 to 92 mph. He also used an adapted “circle” change-up, slider and cut fastball.

In his final Butler campaign, Mitchell made 14 mound appearances (all stars) and went 3-4 with a 4.85 ERA. In 68 2/3 innings, he racked up 80 strikeouts with 19 walks.

For his college career, the southpaw pitched in 41 games (32 starts) with a 8-10 record and 4.74 earned run average. In 160 innings, Mitchell struck out 149 and walked 66. He was a medical redshirt his sophomore year when he had to have an ulnar nerve transposition procedure.

“I had some discomfort when I threw and tingling in my fingers,” says Mitchell. “There have been no issues since then.”

After being drafted in June, the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder worked in 17 games (all in relief) for the rookie-level Ogden (Utah) Raptors. In 29 2/3 innings, the lefty went 4-0 with a 6.67 earned run average, 20 strikeouts and six walks.

Dodgers minor league stops after Ogden are the Low Class-A Great Lakes (Mich.) Loons, High-A Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Quakes, Double-A Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers and Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.

Mitchell enjoyed his first pro season.

“I liked how efficient and focused everything was,” says Mitchell. “It streamlined. Everybody knew what they needed to do.”

After a week back home in Plainfield, Ind., Mitchell went to Arizona in mid-September and is to spend a month at Camelback Ranch in Glendale for the Dodgers instructional league.

“We’ve been doing a variety of things from pitch design to defense work,” says Mitchell. “It’s been good so far.

“(The Dodgers) give us a lot of freedom, but the expectation for all of us is very high. It feels like a family.”

Support from his actual family comes from father, mother and younger brother — Brooks, Laura and Jackson. His parents own a small drywall sales business in Plainfield. His brother is a freshman baseball player at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.

Connor Mitchell is a 2014 Plainfield High School graduate. fanned a combined 90 batters in 55 innings during his sophomore and junior seasons for the Quakers, who were then coached by Jeff McKeon.

In the spring of his senior year, Mitchell competed in the Perfect Game Iowa Spring League, where he was named to the Top Prospect Team. He traveled from Indiana to meet his team on days he was scheduled to pitch.

“That league was awesome,” says Mitchell. “There’s a ton of good players in Iowa and the surrounding states.”

Born in Indianapolis, Mitchell spent his early years in Reelsville, Ind., in Putnam County. After moving to central Indiana, he played travel baseball for the Avon Attack, USAthletic and two stints with the Indiana Mustangs, where he formed a friendship with future Butler teammate Garrett Christman.

Mitchell and Christman were roommates throughout college and both graduated in May with degrees in Human Movement and Health Science.

He’s a great player,” says Mitchell of Christman, who was both a shortstop and pitcher at Butler and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants this year. “He does it all.

“He really came on as a pitcher. He eats innings and gets a lot of ground balls. I’m excited to see what he does professionally.”

Mitchell and Christman played for former pro outfielder Chris Estep with the Mustangs.

“He was a big influence on me growing up, developing as me as a player and a person,” says Mitchell of Estep. “He taught me how to handle failure. He’s also fun to be around.”

Brother Jackson also played for the Mustangs.

The Mitchell boys were born four years apart — Connor (23) on Sept. 11 and Jackson (19) on Sept. 10.

Connor was 6 and Jackson 2 on the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“When it happened, I could tell something bad had happened,” says Connor. “It’s definitely a somber day, knowing what that day means to our country.”

Over the years, the brothers and their family have celebrated their birthdays together.

“We enjoy the day and enjoy being together,” says Connor, who plans to enjoy his time back in Indiana this winter by working out and maybe giving back to younger players through private lessons.

Then it’s back to Arizona for spring training to resume his pro baseball career.

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Connor Mitchell made his professional baseball debut in 2018 with the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. He is a graduate of Plainfield (Ind.) High and Butler University in Indianapolis.

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Garrett Christman (left) and Connor Mitchell both graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis in the spring of 2018. They were travel ball teammates for the Indiana Mustangs then baseball teammates and roommates at Butler. Noblesville High School graduate Christman is now in the San Francisco Giants organization and Mitchell the Los Angeles Dodgers system.

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Butler University baseball teammates Josh Walker (left) and Connor Mitchell were both pitchers for the Bulldogs.

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Connor Mitchell, a graduate of Plainfield (Ind.) High School and Butler University in Indianapolis, stares in for the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. (Kevin Johnson Photo)

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Connor Mitchell, a graduate of Plainfield (Ind.) High School and Butler University in Indianapolis, lets go for the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. (Kevin Johnson Photo)

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Connor Mitchell, a graduate of Plainfield (Ind.) High School and Butler University in Indianapolis, winds up for the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. (Kevin Johnson Photo)

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Connor Mitchell, a graduate of Plainfield (Ind.) High School and Butler University in Indianapolis, delivers a pitch in 2018 for the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. (Kevin Johnson Photo)