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Cooper, New Castle Trojans in semistate for first time since 1996

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

Josh Cooper may have been appointed as head coach one week before the start of the 2022 New Castle (Ind.) High School baseball season, but he was already quite familiar with the players.
With the help of Rodney Scott, Cooper had coached or coached against many of the Trojans since they were 7 and saw them having success coming up through the ranks.
Eli Cooper, who is 18 and Josh’s son, is one of New Castle’s seniors.
“I know them very, very well,” says Josh Cooper of the Trojans. “It’s easy to read them. I always try to be honest and upfront with them.”
Cooper tells his players about the importance of being a good teammate. A player’s performance or game situation should not dictate that.
The players are very close. Each day after practice or a game, they spend more time together at a team members’ house or at a restaurant.
So when circumstances had the Trojans looking for someone to lead the program, 1998 New Castle graduate Cooper was encouraged to apply for the job.
That was mid-March. Flash forward to the present and the Trojans are in the semistate for the second time and first since 1996 (Josh Cooper was a sophomore on that team). Uncle Dennis Bolden was on the first semistate team in 1970 and later played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Cut from basketball in the seventh grade, Josh focused on baseball and played high school ball for New Castle alum Gary Brown.
“He was a pretty hard-nosed coach and a good guy,” says Cooper of Brown.
On Saturday, June 11, New Castle (18-5-1) takes on No. 1-ranked Andrean (29-4) in the IHSAA Class 3A Kokomo Semistate (following the 1 p.m. 2A game). New Castle will be out to win its first semistate crown.
New Castle (enrollment around 900) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown).
In winning the 2022 Yorktown Sectional, New Castle topped Hamilton Heights 4-3, Jay County 6-2 and Guerin Catholic 3-2. To prevail at the Oak Hill Regional, the Trojans bested Wawasee 9-0 (Indiana University commit Aydan Decker-Petty pitched a 16-strikeout one-hitter) and held off Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger 5-4 (behind the pitching of Eli Cooper and Corbin Malott). Dwenger scored all its runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“I put a lot of emphasis on pitching to contact and defense,” says Cooper. “But we also spend a lot of time working in hitting.”
Leading the offense is seniors Malott (.405 average, three home runs, 20 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases), Garrett Rusch (.324, 3 HR, 24 RBI), Bryce Jenkins (.296), Eli Cooper (.276, 3 HR, 23 RBI), Decker-Petty .262) and Jake Barber (.259, 22 RBI) and junior Max Upchurch (.239).
On the mound, the Trojans are guided by right-handers Decker-Petty 4-1, 2.64 earned run average, 91 strikeouts, 22 walks in 53 innings), Eli Cooper (5-1, 4.32, 66 K’s, 27 walks, 47 IP), senior Trighton Cummings 4-1, 5.32, 20 K’s, 17 walks, 25 IP) and Malott (2-2, 0.98, 34 K’s, 12 walks, 21 IP).
Josh Cooper says Decker-Petty has fastball that has touched 91 mph while Eli Cooper has gotten up to 88.
Malott is committed to Purdue University, Eli Cooper and Jenkins to Clark State College (Springfield, Ohio) and Rusch to Allen Community College (Iola, Kan.).
Nic Besecker (Class of 2020) was with Allen Community College in 2021 and Drew Barber (2019) was at Indiana University-Kokomo. The brother of Jake Barber intends to transfer to Indiana University South Bend.
Coaching New Castle’s pitchers is alum Trey Ball, who was the seventh overall selection in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Boston Red Sox. The 6-foot-5 lefty pitcher/batter had committed to the University of Texas before going pro.
“Trey Ball has been so great,” says Cooper. “He brings a lot of great information.”
Scott, Tyler Smith, Zak Kellogg are also New Castle assistants. Scott digs in on analytics and scouting.
“He did a great job against Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger,” says Cooper.
A Parks and Recreation employee for the City of New Castle, Josh Cooper had established a junior high program last winter (there were 22 seventh graders and 16 eighth graders playing this spring) and was working hard to turn Denny Bolden Field — named for his grandfather who coached Babe Ruth ball in town for 50 years — into the home for junior varsity and junior high baseball when he was called to his current baseball post, turning his attention to the high school facility — revamped Collin McAtee Memorial Field (formerly Sunnyside Field).
Fencing, dugouts and scoreboard are all new. Turf Dawgs put down a bluegrass hybrid.
“I’m very thankful and the city is thankful for it,” says Cooper.
Because of the wet weather in the spring and the renovation project in progress, New Castle played just five games on their home field in 2022. Practices were held at Denny Bolden Field and “home” games were contested near Middletown, Ind., at Shenandoah High School, which is 15 miles from New Castle High. The Raiders are coached by Ryan Painter.
“They were unbelievable about helping us,” says Cooper. “Coach Painter was so gracious.”
As a thank you, Cooper is helping Painter with a field project at Shenandoah.

The 2022 New Castle (Ind.) High School Trojans.
Eli (left) and father Josh Cooper after New Castle won a 2022 regional baseball championship.

Pearson wishes for competitive spirit, constant improvement from New Castle Trojans

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brad Pearson has a vision for what he wants for his program as he prepares his New Castle (Ind.) High School baseball team for its first season with him as head coach in 2020.

Pearson, who has been a high school assistant at Noblesville (2011), Carmel (2012-16) and Indianapolis Cathedral (2017-19), takes over the Trojans with the idea of helping his student-athletes achieve their goals.

“Hopefully, I will be able to help those who want to play at the next level get there,” says Pearson, who takes over at a school that has sent Drew Barber (Indiana University Kokomo), Jared Heard (Indiana University Kokomo), Nick Jones (Anderson University), Jordan May (Anderson University), Taylor Matthews (DePauw University) and Nathan Hacker (Franklin College) on to collegiate baseball in recent years. “The biggest way I think we do that is to establish a competitive culture.

“It has been awhile since New Castle has won a baseball sectional title (2014) and my guys are hungry! So far, they have been doing a great job of listening to instructions, and pushing each other to get better.

“They all have had the mindset that we have talked to them about since Day 1 and that is to get at least 1 percent better every day in whatever it is that they do — whether that is within the game of baseball or improving on being a better teammate.”

The IHSAA Limited Contact Period for fall (Sept. 2-Oct. 19) saw the Trojans get together to get better.

“At a smaller school like New Castle (about 940 students compared to 1,100 at Cathedral), a lot of our student-athletes play a fall sport,” says Pearson. “So our numbers are not as high as what I am used too, but with those that did come out they were able to learn a lot.

“Those that were able to be at fall workouts know what to expect from a practice standpoint under the new staff, on a baseball diamond. So, I envision them to be the leaders once we get back out there in the spring, being able to help teach what to do and when to do things when we transition from one drill to the next.”

What will the Trojans do until the next Limited Contact Period (which begins Dec. 9)?

“I like to give the players some time away and give them some time to rest,” says Pearson. “So all of November they will have off. Once we hit December, we will start getting into the weight room and working on conditioning.

“Then when we get back from winter break, we will continue in the weight room but start to add baseball back in the mix, getting our guys arms ready to go for the season, get in the cage, work on fundamental glove work, and position communication.”

New Castle’s coaching staff features varsity assistants Zak Kellogg, Tyler Smith and Matt Chernoff, junior varsity head coach Frank McMahon and JV assistant A.J. York. Kellogg will work with catchers and hitter, Smith with corner infielders and hitter, Chernoff with outfielders and baserunners and McMahon will be assistant pitching coach to Pearson.

Pearson was the pitching coach at Cathedral with Ed Freje as head coach. The Irish went 29-0 and won the IHSAA Class 4A state championship in 2017.

Pearson played for Eric Lentz at Carmel, graduating in 2006.

“One of the big things I got from Coach Lentz was how he as a coach would allow us players to just be us,” says Pearson. “He allowed us to just play the game and didn’t over coach us in any aspect.

“He knew that our group had been playing together for a very long time and I think he appreciated the cohesiveness that we had together.”

An arm injury in his senior season ended Pearson’s playing career. He graduated from Purdue University in 2011 with a degree in Physical Education.

Pearson served with Justin Keever at Noblesville then Dan Roman and Jay Lehr while on the Carmel coaching staff.

“Obviously, coaching under Ed Frieje, Dan Roman and Justin Keever has been huge for me,” says Pearson. “All three of them have won a state titles as head coaches.

“I have taken a lot from all three of them, both about the game of baseball and building positive relationships with players and families.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for guys like Jay Lehr. Jay was my pitching instructor as a kid and once I started coaching myself he took me under his wing and continued to teaching me new things about pitching.

“I’m also very lucky to have another coach in my family with my cousin Dave Scott. The year we won the state championship at Cathedral, Dave was also able to lead Cardinal Ritter to a state championship win.

“Him and I have a pretty close relationship, so he has taught me quite a bit about what it takes to be a head coach.

Pearson spends his summer coaching with Ryan Bunnell (head coach at Westfield High School) with the Indiana Bulls.

“He has been a lot of help in the short time period that we have known each other,” says Pearson of Bunnell. “Chris Truby (Philadelphia Phillies infield coordinator) has also been a mentor of mine. Having spent several winters in the batting cages with him teaching kids, I’ve been pretty lucky to pick up a lot of knowledge from him.

“I could probably go on and on, but I have definitely been blessed to have played for great coaches — in high school and through summer ball, and to have coached under some of the best coaches around.”

That being said, Brad’s biggest mentor is his father — Ron Pearson.

“My dad was the one who introduced me to the game that I love,” says Brad, who is Ron and Karen Pearson’s only child. “He was my first coach and the best coach a son could ask for!”

New Castle is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, Mount Vernon of Fortville, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown).

The Trojans are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Delta, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County and Yorktown. New Castle has won 13 sectional titles.

Pearson plans to be in close contact with his New Castle feeder programs.

“I am a sounding board for the Little League and Babe Ruth,” says Pearson. “They have had a lot of success in their own right and I want them to continue to have that success and build upon it.

“Anything they need from me I will be there to give my advice/opinion. I have told them that this isn’t MY program, it is OUR program. Yes, I may be the leader at the top, but we are all in this together!”

Pearson is hoping to get a lot of things done at the Trojans home diamond — Sunnyside Field.

“To be honest I have quite a wish list, but as we all know everything takes money and we are working to raise that money to help make Sunnyside Field, not only better for tomorrow but better for our future Trojans ways down the road,” says Pearson.

A P.E. and Health teacher at New Castle Middle School, Pearson is a bachelor.

BRADPEARSONDAVESCOTT

Cousins Brad Pearson (left) and Dave Scott were part of IHSAA state baseball champions in 2017 — Pearson as pitching coach at Indianapolis Cathedral and Scott as head coach at Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter.

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Brad Pearson, a graduate of Carmel (Ind.) High School and Purdue University, is now the head baseball coach at New Castle (Ind.) High School.

BRADPEARSON1After assistant stints at Indianapolis Cathedral, Carmel and Noblesville, Brad Pearson is now the head baseball coach at New Castle (Ind.) High School. The 2006 Carmel graduate also coaches in the summer with the Indiana Bulls.