Damien Wallace is finally getting to see what it’s like to be a college baseball pitcher again. The right-hander got to toe the rubber in the spring for Marian University in Indianapolis and competed this summer for the Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. The 6-foot-5, 175-pounder made 14 mound appearances (all starts) for the MU Knights and went 4-6 with a 6.92 earned run average, 72 strikeouts and 28 walks in 66 1/3 innings. Wallace was a once-a-week starter at Grand Park. Before his first outing on Feb. 4, 2022, Wallace had not thrown a gameday pitch since Feb. 8, 2020 at Bethel (Tenn.). Entering in relief in the third inning, Wallace got three outs including a pair of strikeouts. But 20 pitches in, he hurt his arm. He wound up having Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery in November 2020 and began throwing again in May 2021 while taking that season as a medical redshirt. “It was like (2022) was my first season of college baseball,” says Wallace, who turns 22 in September and will head back to Marian in August with three years of eligibility. Todd Bacon has been the Knights head coach since the 2014 season. The 2022 season was Jason Taulman’s second as pitching coach at the NAIA Crossroads League member school. “(Bacon) is a real hard-nosed guy,” says Wallace. “He wants you to keep yourself accountable out there. Somebody will always be watching and know if you did it or not. “(Taulman) is great with understanding the game of baseball. He knows that not every pitcher is the same. We have an open relationship with him. You get what you want to get out of the program from him.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Wallace uses a four-seam fastball (which got up to 92 mph in the spring), a two-seamer, slider and curveball. “My two-seamer has normal run action,” says Wallace. “It comes in on a right-handed batter (and away from a lefty). I have two separate grips for the slider — sweeping and a two-seam slider (which is thrown harder). My curveball is like 1-to-7 is a more vertical than my slider.” As a student, Wallace is about a year from completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Performance. After that he says he is leaning toward pursuing a Psychology degree. “Being hurt and going through the whole injury progression has brought to light the psychological part and understanding the mind of the athlete,” says Wallace. “I like being able to dive deep.” He has already taken psychology classes, Exercise and Sports among them. Born in Indianapolis, Wallace spent his early years in Normandy Farms around the Traders Point area. In elementary school, he moved to Richmond, Ind., for a few years and then back to Indy. He played at Eagle Creek Little League and was on teams that lost in the major state championship when he was 12 and won back-to-back junior state titles when he was 13 and 14. His travel ball experiences include the Indy Thrashers then the Chad Newhard-coached 17U Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 and occasional appearances with the 18U Indiana Astros in the summer of 2019. A 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter High School, Wallace was on varsity for three years including the 2017 season when the Raiders won the IHSAA Class 2A state championship. Senior Blake Malatestnic was the winning pitcher in the title game. Alex Vela, a 2017 Ritter graduate, went on to play at Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne and the University of Indianapolis, is an assistant this summer to Local Legends head coach/manager Adam Cornwell. Dave Scott was and still is Ritter’s head coach. “Hands down he is one of my favorite coaches,” says Wallace, who was chosen for the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. “He loves the game and loves teaching it right. “Making the game fun is one of his biggest things. Treating the game with respect is another thing.” Damien is the son of Sarah Dufek. His stepfather is Craig McIntyre. His mother helps run the family business, Andy’s Backflow Irrigation. Siblings are Layla Shoemaker (11), Liam Shoemaker (8) and Lachlan McIntyre (4).
Having already invested in three years at Army, the 2016 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate opted not to sign and resumed his regimented activities at the United States Military Academy while also sharing the field with some of the nation’s top players.
Hurtubise made a visit to West Point in mid-July of 2015. By month’s end, he had committed to Army, fulfilling his dreams of playing NCAA Division I baseball and pursuing a first-rate education and improving himself in the areas of hard work, patience and discipline.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time up here,” says Hurtubise, who is a operations research (applied mathematics) major and a center fielder for the Jim Foster-coached Black Knights. “It’s the relationships you form off the field with guys on the baseball team. You form strong bonds through military training.
“I want to make sure I am as prepared as possible for the future. It’s a degree people don’t look past.”
On the diamond, Hurtubise has gone from hitting .238 with two doubles, nine runs batted in, 32 runs scored, 22 walks and 18 stolen bases while starting 41 times as a freshman in 2017 breaking Army’s single-season steals and walks records with 42 and 50, respectively, in 2018. His 42 swipes led NCAA Division I.
That sophomore season, Hurtubise also set a single-game mark with six stolen bases against Bucknell and was named all-Patriot League first team with two Patriot Player of the Week honors and a place on and all-academic team. He hit .278 with four doubles 22 RBIs, 56 runs in 61 starts (a school record for games played in a season).
In 2019, the lefty-swinging junior batted .375 with four triples, six two-baggers, 26 RBIs, 71 runs, 69 walks and 45 stolen bases (ranked third in NCAA D-I). His on-base percentage was .541.
In 21 games, Hurtubise hit .313 (20-of-64) with one triple, three doubles, two RBIs, 12 walks and six stolen bases. His on-base percentage was .429.
“I got more exposure and more consistent at-bats,” says Hurtubise of Orleans. “I faced some of the country’s best pitchers day in and day out.”
Hurtubise worked out each day on the Cape, but also found some time to go to the beach and hang out with his family, who he had not seen since January.
Jacob, 21, is the youngest son of Francois and Lisa Hurtubise. His older brother, Alec, is 24.
Many other players with ties to Indiana competed on the Cape this summer.
Right-handed pitcher Kyle Nicolas (who completed his sophomore season for Ball State University in 2019) helped the Cotuit Kettleers to the title, saving two games in the playoffs. During the regular season, the Massillon, Ohio, resident went 1-2 with four saves, a 6.28 ERA, 31 strikeouts and 21 walks in 24 1/3 innings.
Right-hander Bo Hofstra and left-hander Matt Moore also pitched for Cotuit. Hofstra wrapped his sophomore year and Moore his redshirt sophomore season at Purdue University in 2019.
Lefty swinger and Penn High School graduate Kavadas hit .252 with nine homers, six doubles and 30 RBIs during the regular season.
Boyle went 1-2 with, two saves a 1.92 ERA, 28 K’s and 12 walks in 14 regular-season frames. The 6-foot-7 hurler from Goshen, Ky., also saved one game in the playoffs.
Third baseman Riley Tirotta was also with Harwich. Coming off his sophomore season at the University of Dayton, the South Bend St. Joseph graduate hit .222 from the right side with 0 homers, two doubles and one RBI during the regular season.
Righty swinger Poland hit .271 with 0 homers, four doubles and seven RBIs and also went 3-1 with a 3.37 ERA, 18 K’s and four walks in 10 2/3 regular-season innings for the Bourne Braves. He was 1-0 during the playoffs.
Lefty batter Britton hit .286 with five homers, six doubles and 19 RBIs during the regular season for the Orleans Firebirds.
After finishing at West Point and completing officer training school, Hurtubise must serve two years as active military. It’s possible that if he goes into professional baseball that he can do it through the world-class athlete program and be a promotional tool while he is paid ballplayer.
Moore says Chad Garisek, a Zionsville junior in 2016, is hoping to play at Indiana University-Kokomo. Senior Nolan Elsbury went on to be a student at Purdue. Senior Stephen Damm is a student at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis and a member of Moore’s Zionsville coaching staff.
Hurtubise is now back at West Point going through organization week. The first day of class is Monday, Aug. 19. He will also be preparing for his final baseball season with the Black Knights.
Army left-handed hitter and center fielder Jacob Hurtubise was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2019, but opted to go back to the United States Military Academy for his final year. He is a graduate of Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School. (Army West Point Athletics Photo)
Through three seasons (2017-19), Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate has 101 stolen bases for the Army Black Knights. He paced NCAA Division I with 42 in 2018 and was third with 45 in 2019. (Army West Point Athletics Photo)
Jacob Hurtubise hit .375 with four triples, six two-baggers, 26 RBIs, 71 runs, 69 walks and 45 stolen bases (ranked third in NCAA D-I) for Army in 2019. The on-base percentage for the graduate of Zionsville (Ind.) Community High school was .541. (Army West Point Athletics Photo)
With his speed and batting eye, Jacob Hurtubise has been a threat at the top of the order for the Black Knights of Army baseball since 2017. (Army West Point Athletics Photo)
Jacob Hurtubise, a 2016 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate, played his third season of NCAA Division I baseball at Army in 2019 and was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He opted to stay in school and played in the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer. (Army West Point Athletics Photo)
“The MIC is the toughest conference in Indiana in my opinion,” says fourth-year Pike head baseball coach Todd Webster. “Our out-of-conference schedule is fairly tough, too.
“We we think it’s important that we stay positive. We have to tell the kids that they’re getting better.”
It’s about building them up and not beating them down.
Before landing at Pike, Webster was an assistant to Aaron Kroll at Ben Davis — a school fed by Little League programs like Ben Davis, Eagledale and Speedway.
“They had a treasure trove of kids who had skill and were real gutsy and scrappy,” says Webster. “At Pike High School, it’s a little different. Our kids come from a very small Little League (Eagle Creek) and need a lot of development.”
Webster, a 1982 North Central graduate, served several years as a coach and on the executive board at Westlane Delaware Trails Little League — the largest Little League in Washington Township. His board tenure includes time as president.
Something Webster witnessed many times was the formation of travel teams, taking the best players in a given Little League division and putting them on one squad. The fathers of these players would follow and that would reduce the pool of knowledgeable coaches.
Several players come to Pike as freshmen with very little baseball training.
Pike High School & Freshman Center, Pike Career Center and Pike Preparatory Academy serves the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, which also includes three middle schools (Guion Creek, Lincoln and New Augusta Public Academy North) and several elementary schools (Central, College Park, Deer Run, Eagle Creek, Eastbrook, Fishback Creek, Guion Creek, New Augusta South, Snacks Crossing and the Early Childhood Program).
Todd Webster, who saw the Red Devils win five games in 2017, has father Phil Webster, Mike Sloan and Andrew Lawrence on his coaching staff.
“We just kind of let him do his thing,” says Todd Webster of his father, who began his coaching career in the late ‘60s and joined his son last spring. “It’s an unbelievable wealth of knowledge that he brings.
“It’s just nice having him around. He throws batting practice. My dad’s 77 going on 50. Baseball will keep you young.”
Sloan is a former North Central assistant. Lawrence is a social studies teacher at Pike.
The Pike staff keeps looking for things to complement to build up their players and they just keep plugging.
“We have some very good baseball players at Pike High School,” says Todd Webster.
That group includes junior left-handed pitcher Damon Cox (a verbal commit to Northern Kentucky University), senior left-hander Chase Hug (an Olney Central College commit) and uncommitted seniors in center fielder/right fielder Jordan Garrett and catcher Malachi Hamblin. As a junior, Garrett received all-state votes and was on the all-MHIC and all-Marion County teams.
To get seen and signed by colleges, exposures is key.
“Kids these days put a lot of stock in travel baseball,” says Webster. “Certain organizations get a lot of exposure and certain organizations don’t. It’s really important if you have an upper-level baseball athlete that they choose their travel teams and summer programs very wisely.
“Showcases are also very important.”
Pike is proud to call Hildebrand Field home. The complex has two lighted diamonds with new infields and banners and permanent wind slats and toppers on the outfield fences .
“It’s really a beautiful, beautiful field,” says Webster. “I’ve had some college guys say this high school field is better than ours. Our outside facilities are almost second to none.”
When the Devils are inside, they share gym space with many other groups at Pike and have sometimes access to one drop-down batting cage.
“That’s one of the obstacles we have to try to overcome,” says Webster.
One other way Pike players get in some indoor swings is by borrowing a lobster from Pike’s tennis program. Hitters are able to hit tennis balls in the gym and a net is not necessary.
“You have to be as creative as you can,” says Webster.
A Little League player while growing up, Webster got involved with construction trades classes in high school and did not play baseball at North Central.
“We were building our own houses,” says Webster. “I went into the field right out of high school. Back then the money was too good to pass up. He now a general contractor and owns Webster Commercial Contracting and Webster Home Improvement.
Between general contracting and coaching baseball, Webster considers himself as a man with two full-time jobs.
How does he pull it off?
“I own the business and know the boss really, really well,” says Todd, who is also the son of Carolyn Webster and sibling to brother Channing and sister Grey. “The key to coaching baseball and having your own business is you have to surround yourself with good people. If you get yourself into a pickle, you have people there you can trust.
“My assistant coaches on the baseball team are really good, knowledge and reliable. It is not necessary to micro-manage at all.”
In program history, Pike has won 10 sectionals — the last in 2010 — and one regional (1968).
No fewer than three former Red Devils outfielders have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Jim Watkins in the fifth round by the Boston Red Sox in 1979, Dallas Williams in the 42nd round by the Red Sox in 2003 and Jordan Cheatham in the 43rd round by the Chicago White Sox in 2006. All three had brief minor league careers.
Todd Webster is heading into his fourth season as head baseball coach at Pike High School in Indianapolis in 2018. (Steve Krah Photo)