Rising Sun (Ind.) High School has raised a sectional baseball trophy eight times — all on head coach Kevin Wirsch’s watch. The Shiners have had Wirsch as head coach since the 2000 season and taken IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in 2002, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022. The most-recent championship came at the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (which featured Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy and Trinity Lutheran) and earned Rising Sun a place in the Morristown Regional on Saturday, June 4. The regional semifinals features 16-8 Rising Sun against Shakamak at 11 a.m., followed by Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran. The championship is slated for 8 p.m. All but Traders Point received votes in the final regular season Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. In 2013, the Shiners won a regional title and took part in the Plainfield Semistate, bowing to eventual 1A state runner-up Vincennes Rivet. Rising Sun (enrollment around 230) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Shawe Memorial, South Ripley, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County). The Shiners went 9-3 in the ORVC, finishing behind Southwestern (11-1). “We’re one of the smallest schools in the state,” says Wirsch, who has also been an English teacher at the school just blocks from the Ohio River since 1999-2000. “I had to work to get players this year.” Because of various factors, Wirsch expects to take 11 players to regional and one of those — senior center fielder Kendell Montgomery — has also qualified for the state track meet in Bloomington and will head there after the regional semifinal to compete in the long jump (his seed mark is 21 feet, 3 3/4 inches). “Believe it or not, we have four and five-sport athletes here,” says Wirsch. “All the coaches (at Rising Sun) know each other and work together. “That’s what makes it possible.” While participation numbers are often an issue, Wirsch has enjoyed success. “The kids that come out, buy in and work hard,” says Wirsch. “They do what we ask them to do. “We try to do the little things right — throw strikes and make plays.” The Shiners won the sectional with a 3-2 win against Hauser in 10 innings and 2-0 triumph against Jac-Cen-Del. Rising Sun is 5-2 in games decided by two runs or less and 1-3 in extra innings. Senior and Earlham College commit Jonathan Jimenez (.431, 3 home runs, 27 runs batted in, 20 runs, 20 stolen bases) leads the offense, which also features junior Peyton Merica (.384, 27 runs, 18 stolen bases), Montgomery (.297, 17 runs), senior third baseman Ashton McCarty (.277, 18 RBI) and junior catcher Brady Works (.267, 21 runs, 17 stolen bases). First baseman Peyton Creech has already joined the National Guard. Right-handers Merica (7-1, 0.53 earned run average with 98 strikeouts and 16 walks in 66 innings) and Jimenez (5-2, 1.83, 83 K’s, 29 walks, 49 2/3 IP) pace the Shiners pitching staff. Each generally takes turns at shortstop or is somewhere in the infield when not on the mound. Wirsch’s assistants include Steve Jimenez, Keith Works, Jason Merica and one of Wirsch’s former players — Brandon Turner. Rising Sun plays home games on its campus at Shiner Ballpark. “It’s a nice field,” says Wirsch. “It’s been upgraded since I’ve been there. We’ve got new dugouts and lights.” The school’s softball field is near the baseball diamond. The Shiners have won eight sectional softball titles. A junior high program at Rising Sun was established about seven years ago. This feeds the high school. Many core players who hone their skills in travel ball in Madison, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. Recent graduates to move on to college baseball include Class of 2018’s Brent Turner (Huntington University), 2019’s Brayden Bush (Kentucky Wesleyan College), 2020’s Steven Jimenez (Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati) and 2021’s Landon Cole (Franklin College). Wirsch is a 1993 graduate of East Central High School in St. Leon, Ind., where his baseball coach was Bob Benner. He played football and baseball for two years at the University of Evansville. Jim Brownlee was the Purple Aces baseball coach. When UE dropped football, he transferred to Northern Kentucky University, where he earned an English degree. Wirsch is also an assistant football coach at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School — where son Ashton (18) played and graduated last weekend — and has coached that sport at South Dearborn. Besides Ashton, Kevin and wife Amy Wirsch have a daughter named Alexandra (23).
Indiana Tech bested NAIA No. 1 Southeastern (Fla.) 11-8 Thursday, March 10, ending the Fire’s season-opening 26-game college baseball win streak. The Warriors took a 8-3 lead after four innings and held on for the victory. The contest played in Lakeland, Fla., featured seven home runs, including those by Tech’s Tristan Osika, Ashtin Moxey and Jayden Reed. Other highlights from around the state for the week of March 7-13 include Taylor right-hander/Mishawaka High School graduate Luke Shivey pitching a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts and one walk in nine innings against visiting NAIA foe Huntington March 10. The Foresters’ lone hit was a one-hit single by Langston Ginder (Fort Wayne Carroll) in the seventh inning. Shively threw 116 pitches in the 6-0 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader. NAIA Oakland City beat No. 25 Point Park 8-6 in Game 3 of a series played at the Mighty Oaks’ Pinnick Field. OCU scored two runs in the seventh inning and held on to top the Pioneers. Alec Pruitt plated four runs for Oakland City. The Pride of Purdue Northwest (8-1) has roared out to quite a start in 2022. The NAIA club enjoyed 5-0 week, beating Minot State three times and Upper Iowa twice at Dowling Park in Hammond. Lake Central graduate Ray Hilbrich (.467) as well as Luke Montgomery (.346) are PNW’s top hitters. Joe Sullivan (2-0, 1.04) and Mishawaka alum Sam Shively (2-0, 3.46) are among the leading pitchers. NAIA Indiana University Kokomo (12-7) finds itself at 6-0 in the River States Conference. NCAA Division I Purdue (14-0) keeps adding to its best-ever start. With a 2-0 series against Bellarmine, the Boilermakers upped their stolen base mark to 44-of-51. Curtis Washington Jr. (9-of-9) and Mike Bolton Jr. (9-of-12) lead the club. Left-hander/McCutcheon graduate Jackson Smeltz (4-0, 2.11, 38 K’s, 7 BB, 21 1/3 IP) has been super on the mound for the nation’s last unbeaten D-I team. Evansville (6-10) swept three games at Top 20-ranked Tulane. Starters Shane Gray, Nick Smith (Boonville) and Shane Harris (North Posey) picked up victories for the Purple Aces. Notre Dame (11-1) won its first two Atlantic Coast Conference games at No. 17 North Carolina. The Irish carry a 1.71 team earned run average — among the D-I’s best. Right-hander Sam Klein (Bloomington North) picked up his third and fourth saves of the season as D-I Ball State swept a March 13 Mid-American Conference doubleheader from Eastern Michigan. Mitchell Spencer, Rex Stills (Wheeler) and Jacob Myer combined to hold Saint Louis to five hits in D-I Purdue Fort Wayne’s 4-1 win in Game 2 of a three-game series on the Billikens’ field. With two wins against Principia, NCAA Division III Earlham moved to 7-1. Christian Lancianese (.482), Leo graduate Easton Embry (.462), Cameron McCabe (.448) and Andrew Bradley (.429) are the top hitters for the Quakers. Franklin (8-3) beat Alma four times. Munster alum Logan Demkovich (.568) paces Grizzlies hitters on the season. Including March 6 games, D-III Wabash (7-2) went 5-2 in Tucson, Ariz. The Little Giants are led offensively by Highland graduate A.J. Reid (.500) and Warsaw alum Liam Patton (.424). Tavic Simmons (Carmel) is 2-0 on the bump. D-III Trine (5-6) went 4-5 in Florida. Avery Fulford (.400), Jack Kletzly (.400) and Brenden Warner (.364) guide the Thunder in hitting and New Prairie alum Noah Bretin (1-0, 1.50) in pitching. D-III Manchester scored 30 runs in a doubleheader sweep at Berea. Griffin Garwood (Mt. Vernon of Fortville) and Aidan Stevens (Rensselaer Central) drove in five runs each and and Zach White (Logansport) scored six for the Spartans (2-7).
Sunday, March 13 Ball State 2, Eastern Michigan vs. Ball State 1 Ball State 6, Eastern Michigan 4 Butler 8, Western Illinois 5 Butler 9, Western Illinois 5 Evansville 15, Tulane 1 Troy 6, Indiana 4 Troy 7, Indiana 4 Wright State 11, Indiana State 10 Notre Dame 11, North Carolina State 4 Purdue 7, Bellarmine 4 Purdue Fort Wayne 4, Saint Louis 1 Saint Louis 5, Purdue Fort Wayne 2 Southeast Missouri 10, Valparaiso 8
NCAA D-II Tuesday, March 8 Purdue Northwest 15, Minot State 13 Southern Indiana 6, West Florida 1 West Florida 1, Southern Indiana 0
Wednesday, March 9 Purdue Northwest 3, Minot State 2 Purdue Northwest 3, Minot State 1
Sunday, March 13 Lake Erie vs. Indianapolis Lake Erie vs. Indianapolis Upper Iowa vs. Purdue Northwest Upper Iowa vs. Purdue Northwest Davenport 12, Southern Indiana 4
Thursday, March 10 Wilmington 11, Franklin 4 Trine 7, Fontbonne 5 Wabash 3, Bemidji State 2
Friday, March 11 Westfield State 10, Anderson 5 Anderson 12, Westfield State 0 Franklin 6, Alma 2 Franklin 15, Alma 7 Manchester 16, Berea 5 Manchester vs. Berea Trine 3, Mt. St. Joseph 2 Mt. St. Joseph 15, Trine 1 Wabash 12, Bethany Lutheran 4 Buena Vista 11, Wabash 5
Sunday, March 13 Amherst 13, Anderson 0 Farmingdale State 10, Anderson 0 DePauw vs. Hanover DePauw vs. Hanover Franklin 11, Alma 9 Franklin 12, Alma 2
NAIA Monday, March 7 Grand View 12, Calumet of St. Joseph 5 Siena Heights 9, Calumet of St. Joseph 7 Southeastern 13, Indiana Tech 7 IU Kokomo 6, Georgetown (Ky.) 5
Tuesday, March 8 St. Thomas (Fla). 17, Indiana Tech 2 St. Thomas (Fla.) 7, Indiana Tech 1 Madonna 5, IU Kokomo 4 Northwestern (Iowa) 16, IU South Bend 3 Lindsey Wilson 10, Oakland City 7 Taylor 9, Defiance 2
Wednesday, March 9 Thomas (Ga.) 8, IU South Bend 7 (10 inn.)
Thursday, March 10 Bethel 11, Indiana Wesleyan 0 Bethel 7, Indiana Wesleyan 3 Concordia (Neb.) 10, Calumet of St. Joseph 5 Calumet of St. Joseph 5, Siena Heights 2 Spring Arbor 6, Grace 4 Spring Arbor 4, Grace 2 Saint Francis 12, Goshen 6 Saint Francis 8, Goshen 0 Taylor 6, Huntington 0 Huntington 8, Taylor 7 Indiana Tech 9, Northwestern (Iowa) 2 Indiana Tech 11, Southeastern 8 IU Kokomo 12, Rio Grande 1 IU Southeast 3, Brescia 2 IU Southeast 12, Brescia 3 Mt Vernon Nazarene 6, Marian 2 Mt Vernon Nazarene 7, Marian 1 Point Park 6, Oakland City 4 Point Park 1, Oakland City 0
Friday, March 11 Lawrence Tech 11, Calumet of St. Joseph 5 Warner 14, Calumet of St. Joseph 1 IU Kokomo 12, Rio Grande 8 IU Kokomo 7, Rio Grande 1 IU Southeast 15, Brescia 2 Oakland City 8, Point Park 6
Saturday, March 12 Lawrence Tech 8, Calumet of St. Joseph 2 Indiana Tech 8, Thomas (Ga.) 4
Sunday, March 13 Indiana Tech 5, Thomas (Ga.) 2
Junior College Tuesday, March 8 Ivy Tech Northeast 9, Anderson JV 8 Marian’s Ancilla 4, Hibbing 3
Wednesday, March 9 Hagerstown 10, Marian’s Ancilla 0 Vincennes 4, Volunteer State 1
Thursday, March 10 Kellogg 7, Ivy Tech Northeast 5
Several players doubled down on power during the Indiana college baseball week of Feb. 28-March 6. NCAA Division III Hanover’s Alex Christie (Center Grove High School graduate) knocked five home runs for the week — two against Purchase and one each against Mary Washington, Kean and Neumann — in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It was Christie’s first five homers of the 2022 season. Also lofting five homers was NAIA Indiana Wesleyan’s Evan Salmon — two homers in Game 1 and one in Game 2 against Cleary and one apiece in Games 3 and 4 against Spring Arbor. IWU’s Zach Rabe clouted two in Game 1 against Cleary and two in Game 3 against Spring Arbor. Salmon has eight homers in ’22 and Rabe four. NCAA D-I’s Ball State’s Trenton Quartermaine socked four home runs for the week — one against Coastal Carolina, one in Game 1 against Florida A&M and two in Game 2 against Florida A&M. Quartermaine’s season total for circuit clouts is five. NAIA Indiana Southeast’s Trevor Campbell homered twice against Lindsey Wilson and once each in Games 1 and 3 against Northwestern Ohio. Ray Aponte smacked homers against Lindsey Wilson and Northwestern Ohio (Games 1 and 3). NCAA D-III Franklin’s Logan Demkovich (Munster) homered in all three games against Hope while Noah Wood (Indianapolis Lutheran) produced big flies in Games 1 and 2. Purdue’s Cam Thompson cracked a walk-off homer as Purdue (12-0) topped Longwood 6-5 in 11 innings in Game 3 of the series. The Boilermakers continue to enjoy the best start in program history. Thompson has two homers in ’22. Indiana’s Brock Tibbitts (New Albany) rapped two homers against Miami (Ohio) while teammates Matthew Ellis (Miami and Game 2 vs. Missouri State) and Homestead graduate Carter Mathison (Games 1 and 3 vs. Missouri State) also enjoyed two-homer weeks. Ellis has five dingers on the year while Tibbitts and Mathison (the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year) have two each. Butler’s Aaron Steinhart went deep twice against Northern Kentucky. The blasts were his first two of ’22. Evansville’s Tanner Craig (Austin) cranked homers against Kentucky, Ohio (Game 1) and Illinois-Chicago (Game 2). He has six homers on the season. At 5-3, Valparaiso is off to its best eight-game start since 1999. NCAA D-II University of Indianapolis third baseman Armen Torosian homered in Games 2 and 3 against Wayne State, raising his season total to three. Purdue Northwest finally opened its season and went 3-1 in a series at Southwest Baptist. Anderson’s Tyler Smitherman (Westfield) bashed two homers in Game 1 against St. Norbert, doubling his season HR tally. Earlham’s Christian Lancianese homered twice in Game 2 against Wilmington. Nathan Lancianese homered once in Game 3 of the series. They were the season’s first bombs for both players. Manchester’s Brady Perez (Rochester) ahieved lift-off in Games 2 and 4 against Kalamazoo, raising his season HR mark to five. Rose-Hulman’s Shane Garner (Sullivan) rapped his first two homers of ’22 in Game 1 against Saint Mary’s (Minn.) and Dubuque. NAIA Saint Francis freshman Sam Pesa (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) homered in Games 1 and 3 against Huntington. His grand slam in Game 1 was part of a 13-run fifth inning. Pesa has a team-best five homers in ’22. Goshen’s Peyton Smith (Daleville) homered in Games 3 and 4 against Grace. He has three homers on the season. It wasn’t all about slugging. NAIA Indiana University Kokomo posted three shutouts against visiting Ohio Christian — 5-0, 10-0 and 1-0. Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern), Lucas Letsinger (Hamilton Heights), Ben Harris (Northwestern), J.T. Holton (Clinton Central) and Ryan Beck (Mt. Vernon of Fortville) combined for 18 strikeouts and six walks over 23 innings. Indiana University South Bend beat Concordia (Neb. 1) 2-1 in Game 2 in Auburndale, Fla., without a hit. Nolan Unger’s second-inning groundout drove in Coby Campbell with the first run and Jake Dykstra (Lake Central) scored on a seventh-inning wild pitch. The Titans have won four straight. Crown Point graduate Josh Hoogewerf (9 K’s, 0 BB, 7 IP) and New Prairie alum Noah Brettin (2 K’s, 0 BB, 1 IP) combined on a 1-hitter as NCAA D-III Trine beat John Carroll 1-0 in the first game of a doubleheader in Lake Myrtle, Fla. Dalton Nikirk (Bedford North Lawrence) delivered the walk-off RBI single to plate Easton Rhodes (DeKalb) for the Thunder.
Friday, March 4 Indianapolis 5, Wayne State 3 Southwest Baptist 7, Purdue Northwest 4 Purdue Northwest 5, Southwest Baptist 0 Southern Indiana 11, Trevecca Nazarene 3
Saturday, March 5 Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 2 Wayne State 26, Indianapolis 11 Purdue Northwest 7, Southwest Baptist 2 Trevecca Nazarene 9, Southern Indiana 4 Trevecca Nazarene 15, Southern Indiana 3
Sunday, March 6 Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 3 Purdue Northwest 6, Southwest Baptist 5
Saturday, March 5 Earlham 19, Wilmington 9 Franklin 18, Hope 6 Hope 27, Franklin 7 Hanover 11, Neumann 3 Anderson 11, St. Norbert 4 Anderson 20, St. Norbert 11 Kalamazoo 19, Manchester 6 Kalamazoo 13, Manchester 5 DePauw 9, Hendrix 6 Hendrix 8, DePauw 6 Aurora 9, Wabash 8 (10 inn.) Wabash 16, Aurora 3
Sunday, March 6 Anderson 6, St. Norbert 2 Earlham 12, Wilmington 11 Kalamazoo 15, Manchester 1 Kalamazoo 8, Manchester 6 Trine 1, John Carroll 0 (8 inn.) John Carroll 15, Trine 0
NAIA Monday, Feb. 28 Spring Arbor 9, Goshen 2 Spring Arbor 3, Goshen 0
Tuesday, March 1 Calumet of St. Joseph 19, Lincoln Christian 1 Calumet of St. Joseph 8, Lincoln Christian 0 (suspended in 3rd to April 11) Grace 12, IU South Bend 7
Wednesday, March 2 Indiana Wesleyan 17, Cleary 8 Cleary 11, Indiana Wesleyan 2 IU Southeast 16, Lindsey Wilson 2
Friday, March 4 Brewton-Parker 20, Calumet of St. Joseph 4 Saint Francis 14, Huntington 9 Huntington 6, Saint Francis 1 Bethel 9, Mt. Vernon Nazarene 6 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 13, Bethel 0 Grace 6, Goshen 2 Goshen 1, Grace 0 Spring Arbor 2, Indiana Wesleyan 1 Indiana Wesleyan 7, Spring Arbor 6 Taylor 8, Marian 1 Taylor 5, Marian 1 IU Kokomo 5, Ohio Christian 0 Oakland City 4, West Virginia Tech 2
Saturday, March 5 Calumet of St. Joseph 6, Brewton-Parker 4 Brewton-Parker 12, Calumet of St. Joseph 11 Huntington 6, Saint Francis 5 Saint Francis 6, Huntington 1 Bethel 9, Mt. Nazarene 6 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 2 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 3 Grace 16, Goshen 12 Grace 13, Goshen 11 Indiana Wesleyan 26, Spring Arbor 1 Indiana Wesleyan 19, Spring Arbor 18 Marian 20, Taylor 10 (8 inn.) Taylor 12, Marian 10 IU Kokomo 10, Ohio Christian 0 IU Kokomo 1, Ohio Christian 0 Oakland 11, West Virginia Tech 10 (11 inn.) Oakland 7, West Virginia Tech 6 IU Southeast 26, Northwestern Ohio 12 Northwestern Ohio 3, IU Southeast 2 IU South Bend 20, Michigan-Dearborn 5 IU South Bend 13, Michigan-Dearborn 9
Sunday, March 6 IU Southeast 11, Northwestern Ohio 8 IU South Bend 8, Concorida (Neb.) 7 IU South Bend 2, Concorida (Neb.) 1 Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 2 Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 0
Junior College Monday, Feb. 28 Vincennes 7, Joliet 2
Friday, March 4 Ivy Tech Northeast 4, Anderson JV 3 Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0 Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7
Saturday, March 5 Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0 Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7 Miami-Hamilton 13, Marian’s Ancilla 8 Ivy Tech Northeast 13, Lincoln Trail 3 Lincoln Trail 8, Ivy Tech Northeast 6
Sunday, March 6 Lake County 1, Marian’s Ancilla 0 Lake County 16, Marian’s Ancilla 5 Lincoln Trail 12, Ivy Tech Northeast 5 Ivy Tech Northeast 6, Lincoln Trail 1
More Indiana college baseball teams got into the 2022 act this past week. Saint Francis won 8-4 and 9-3 at Bethel (Tenn.) Sunday, Feb. 6. Alec Brunson went 6-of-7 with a home run and four runs batted in on the day. Kaden Sullivan, David Miller and Tyler Prince also went deep for the Cougars. Grace went 3-1 Feb. 4-5 against Trinity International in Hoover, Ala., winning 22-1, 5-1 and 17-2 and losing 3-0. Chris Griffin (7-of-13 with three RBIs), Alex Rich (6-of-13 with five RBIs), Austin Carr (6-of-15 with a homer and six RBIs), Patrick Danforth (4-of-12 with four RBIs) and Sam Newkirk (4-of-12 with a homer and six RBIs) were among the hitting leaders for the Lancers. Indiana University-Kokomo opened its season by going 1-3 Feb. 5-6 in Shreveport, La., splitting two games with LSU Shreveport and dropping a pair to Loyola New Orleans. Oakland City edged Johnson University 11-10 Feb. 6 in Knoxville, Tenn. Bailey Falkenstien (2-for-5 with a homer and a double) and Treven Madden (1-fo-2 with a double) both knocked in three runs for the Mighty Oaks. Marian went 1-2 Feb, 4-5 against Truest-Mcconnell in Emerson, Ga. The Knights lost 5-2 and 9-4 and won 4-1. Bryce Davenport went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and two runs scored for Marian in the victory. Bethel’s games at Champion Christian in Hot Springs, Ark., and Vincennes U.’s contests at Motlow State (Tenn.), were canceled.
Two NAIA teams got a head start on the rest of the state’s 38 college baseball programs in starting the 2022 baseball season. Huntington University and Taylor University of the Crossroads League got going in Mesa, Ariz., the Foresters going 1-3 (HU beat Benedictine at Mesa 14-10 in 10 innings Feb. 20 and lost 19-4 to Arizona Christian and 13-9 to Benedictine at Mesa Feb. 21 and 15-3 to Arizona Christian Feb. 22 ) and the Trojans 2-2 (TU beat Kansas Wesleyan 6-2 Feb. 26 and San Diego Christian 20-8 Feb. 27 and lost 7-5 to Arizona Christian Feb. 28 and 10-8 to The Master’s Feb. 29). Oakland City, Bethel, Grace, Indiana University-Kokomo, Marian Saint Francis, are scheduled to lift the lid Friday, Feb. 4 and Vincennes Saturday, Feb. 5. For many other teams, the first game of 2022 is a few weeks away. See below:
INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL Records Through Jan. 30
NCAA D-I Ball State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Bucknell at Charleston, S.C. Butler (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Murray (Ky.) State. Evansville (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at North Carolina State. Indiana (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Clemson. Indiana State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Brigham Young at Port Charlotte, Fla. Notre Dame (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Manhattan at Deland, Fla. Purdue (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. South Dakota State at Sugar Land, Texas. Purdue Fort Wayne (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Georgia State. Valparaiso (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Memphis.
NCAA D-III Anderson (0-0) — Opens Feb. 12 at Sewanee (Tenn.). DePauw (0-0) — Opens Feb. 19 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Carbondale, Ill. Hanover (0-0) — Opens Feb. 22 at Centre (Ky.). Manchester (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park). Earlham (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Olivet (Mich.). Franklin (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Albion (Mich.) at Chillcothe, Ohio. Trine (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 at Asbury (Ky.). Wabash (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Heidelberg (Ohio) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park). Rose-Hulman (0-0) — Opens Feb. 27 vs. Northern Vermont-Lyndon at Auburndale, Fla.
Jared Broughton is heading into his ninth season as a college baseball coach in 2022. It will be his third as a volunteer assistant at Clemson (S.C.) University on the staff of Tigers head coach Monte Lee. Broughton, 32, is a 2008 graduate of Indianapolis Lutheran High School (where he played for uncle Dick Alter) and played at Vincennes (Ind.) University and University of Dayton. He began his coaching career at two NCAA Division III schools — first Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., then Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga. (2017-19). What’s the D-I volunteer life like? “I would say it’s great because I can really focus on just coaching the players,” says Broughton, who attended the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. “It’s kind of great to be at a place like Clemson being a volunteer because I just really show up and I’ve got some of the best players in the country to work with.” The Atlantic Coast Conference member went 25-27 overall and 17-11 in the ACC in 2021. The 2022 season is to open Feb. 18 at home against Indiana University. Clemson is to visit Notre Dame April 8-10. While Broughton does not directly involved in recruiting, he does help facilitate campus visits and shows them around the baseball facility which features Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Broughton coordinates baseball camps at Clemson (the next one begins Jan. 16) and that is the primary source of his income. As now structured, NCAA D-I baseball has three paid coaches — head coach and two assistants. Volunteers put in as many — if not more hours — than anyone on the staff. “The last few years there’s been some really big-time coaches that have spoken up about it and how we’re underfunded and that the (full-time) coach-to-player ratio is the lowest in any sport. “I think that with more conversation and more awareness for what volunteers out there do it’s going to help when legislation comes up again.” Having coached in the D-I and D-III worlds, what does Broughton see as the big differences? “It’s just what motivates a player,” says Broughton. “At the ACC level and a Clemson, our guys are very motivated by becoming professionals and their development is huge. Eventually, they have the ability and dream about becoming a Major League player. “In Division III, a lot of kids are there as a student because they want to go to that particular school. They’re there to play baseball for the love of the game.” Even with the differences, Broughton says players at Clemson face some of the same matters they do at Earlham or Piedmont. “They’re still 18 to 22 years old and they’re battling confidence issues and flaws in their game,” says Broughton. “At the D-I level, especially at a place like Clemson, we have an amazing budget and technology and there is the manpower. At the small college level, you wear a lot of hats within the program.” Besides a coaching staff of Lee, Broughton, Bradley LeCroy and Andrew See, Clemson’s baseball support staff includes a director of operations (Brad Owens), director of player development (Ben Paulsen), special assistant to the head coach (Matt Heath), athletic trainer (Travis Johnston), strength and conditioning coach (Rick Franzblau), director of equipment (Mike Wilson), bullpen catchers (Carter Fricks and Barrett Winter) and student managers (Tommy Tsimbinos, Bryson Gault, Jake Machado, Wilson Mullis and Bowen Gault). While these other folks can’t hit fungos, throw batting practice or do other coaching on the field, they are valuable. They’re like another set of eyes and help break down data for coaches and players. Time will tell, but Broughton does allow himself to peer into the future. “I definitely have aspirations to be a head coach,” says Broughton. “I want to stay at the Division I level right now. That’s kind of where it’s at. I really do love the competition. I love the caliber of players I get to work with. “I’m trying to take advantage of this great opportunity.”
As part of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan’s coaching staff at Munster High School, Mike Mikolajczyk saw the importance of keeping the sport fun for players. “You’ve got to be loose,” says Mikolacjzyk, who enters his 24th year in the program and first as head coach in 2022. Only IHSBCA Hall of Famer Mike Niksic and Shinkan have held that title before Mikolajczyk, who was Mustangs freshmen coach for 20 seasons and varsity assistant for three. He is a 1989 graduate of Bremen High School in Midlothian, Ill., where he played four years of baseball for Braves coach Tom Johnson and earned all-conference and all-area honors as a junior and senior and was a team captain. He spent a half year with the baseball team at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in Teaching from Purdue University Calumet and a master’s degree in Arts and Language Arts from Governors State University. Mikolajczyk (Mick-O-Lie-Check) teaches sixth grade Reading and Language Arts at Wilbur Wright Middle School in Munster. In 2021, the Mustangs were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central and Merrillville (host). Munster won its 13th sectional title — the first since 2016. “We have 11 guys coming back from last year’s team,” says Mikolajczyk. “We will be pretty senior strong.” The Class of 2022 includes right-hander Brady Ginaven (Indiana State University commit), left-hander Jake Thometz (uncommitted) and right-hander Will Moell (Johns Hopkins University commit) at the top of the mound rotation. “I’m pretty excited about our top three pitchers,” says Mikolajczyk. “I could put those guys against anybody in northwest Indiana and we’ll be competitive.” Another key senior is outfielder/first baseman Tyler Lukowski. Juniors drawing D-I attention are outfielder Kozy Denham and outfielder/shortstop Kevin Hall. Recent graduates moving on to college ball include 2020 graduates in right-hander Costa Sirounis (Indiana University), right-hander Will Melby (Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs) and infielder Ronnie Nowak (Marshalltown, Iowa, Community College). From 2021, there’s right-hander/third baseman and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Bryce Schaum (Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.), second baseman/catcher Ben Greiner (DePauw University) and middle infielder/outfielder Derrick Wiening (Purdue Northwest). Munster (enrollment around 1,600) is located in Lake County and a member of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (with Andrean, Highland, Hobart, Kankakee Valley and Lowell). The Mustangs plan to field three teams — varsity, junior varsity and freshmen — in 2022 — and Mikolajczyk estimates there will be 45 to 50 in the program. The first time Munster had paid assistants was four years ago. Mikolajczyk’s assistants include Matt Backs, volunteers Brian Boliek and Adam Musielak with the varsity, Mark Dye with the JV and an as-yet-to-be-named freshmen coach. Backs, who coached one year at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, Ill., and 27 years as Munster JV coach, will handle infielders and outfielders and coach first base. The Illinois State University graduate is a Project Lead The Way teacher at Wilbur Wright. Boilek, who enters his fifth year on the staff who has more than two decades experience of coaching travel and American Legion ball, is a bench coach and handles strength and conditioning. He works in banking and finance. Musielak was head coach for six years at Whiting (Ind.) High School and took the Oilers to the IHSAA Class 2A Final Four in 2019. He has 10 years of coaching experience for baseball, basketball and football. The Indiana University alum teaches Physical Education at Munster. Dye is a Munster graduate who played at Earlham College In Richmond, Ind., and served a freshmen coach at Portage (Ind.) High School for six years. He teaches Social Studies at Munster. Infielders and catchers will be part of Mikolajczyk’s responsbilities. Munster had 10 IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions in September and early October with nearly 60 participants (not involved in fall sports). There were open fields and gyms with activity on Mike Niksic Field (which has a turf infield and grass outfielder), diamonds at Community Park, located next to the school and the home to Munster Little League and Munster Babe Ruth or the turfed football field. “In fall workouts, we get an idea of who’s really dedicated to you and who’s not,” says Mikolajczyk. An off-season weight program is baseball-specific and is geared toward flexibility and mobility. “What we’re trying to emphasize is bigger, faster, stronger,” says Mikolajczyk. “We’re not trying to bulk up. It’s about maintenance and an injury-prevention type of thing.” For the first time in program history, a 500-pound club (total for bench press, clean and jerk and deadlift) has been established to promote bonding and buy-in. Just before break, all 13 who attempted to qualify for a club made it and got a T-shirt. Qualifying is planned again in January and February. Mikolajczyk says strength and conditioning training has drawn 30 to 35 participants each time without freshmen. Little League (T-ball to age 12) and Babe Ruth (13-15) feed players to Munster High School. Several players are in travel ball with Morris Baseball, which is run by alum Bobby Morris. Hal Morris, Bobby’s brother, is a Munster graduate who made it to the big leagues primarily as a first baseman (1988-2000) and is also in the IHSBCA Hall of Fame. More recently, outfielder Craig Dedelow played at Indiana University (2014-17) and is now in the Chicago White Sox organization. The Manous brothers — right-hander Connor (Class of 2016) and outfielder Garrett (Class of 2019 — were both on the IU roster in 2021. An avid golfer, Mikolajczyk is a 7-handicap on the links. He also enjoys hunting. He lives in Frankfort, Ill., with significant other Maribel Soto Piccinini. She has a son named Troy (26). Tanya Mikolajczyk, who was married to Mike, died of colon cancer in 2019.
Matt Brankle is a familiar face in a different place on the Wayne County, Ind., baseball scene. Brankle pitched at Earlham College and for the Richmond RiverRats and was head coach for the Richmond Jazz and Cambridge City Lincoln Middle/High School. In July, the 28-year-old became head coach at Richmond High School. With the Red Devils, Brankle is establishing a culture where Old School meets New School. “I’m going to use a lot of the Old School strategies, but try to do it with a modern approach,” says Brankle. “That’s what our players have grown up with. “We’re going to be disciplined in how we handle every moment of our day. I’m high on grades. We expect to miss zero assignments and have zero F’s. We’ll be 10 minutes early everywhere we go, including school. We’ll be dressed properly with shirts tucked in and hats forward. “I know there’s a lot more to this life than baseball I’m going to try to teach them skills in baseball that will help them in those situations.” Brankle has learned coaches he played for and applied it to his coaching style. “I’ve taken the best of all of those and found a middle ground,” says Swinson. Steve Swinson was his coach with the Kokomo (Ind.) Longhorns travel ball team. “He never yelled,” says Brankle of Swinson. “He built a relationship with you that you respected. “My high school coaches were more demanding, but also understood the New School mentality.” Brankle played three years for Jeremy Luna and Brent Owens as a senior at Taylor High School in Kokomo. (Luna) was hard-nosed — kind of a football style — and was upbeat all the time,” says Brankle, who played shortstop and third base when he was not pitching for the Titans. “(Owens) was even-keeled most of the time.” At Earlham, Brankle’s head coach was Steve Sakosits. “Coach was full of energy all the time — most of the time it was positive,” says Brankle of Sakosits. “He has one heckuva of a drive in him and it definitely leaks out to his players.” Old School in his approach, Coach Sak’s Quakers were expected to be clean-shaven with short hair cuts. At EC, Brankle was named Newcomer of the Year (2012), Pitcher of the Year (2013) and earned the All-Heartland Collegiate Conference Sportsmanship Award (2013), Captains Award (2015) and George Van Dyke Outstanding Athlete Award (2015). At the time of graduation, he was No. 1 in all-time strikeouts, No. 2 in career saves and innings and No. 3 in career mound appearances. Brankle played for the RiverRats in the summers of 2013 and 2014. After graduating in 2015 with a Fine Arts degree, he played independent professional baseball with the Lake Erie Crushers. He was the head coach for the Jazz in the summer of 2016 and assisted Patrick Flanagan at Eaton (Ohio) High School in the springs of 2016 and 2017. Brankle was head coach at Cambridge City 2018-21. He taught at Richmond Community School’s Test Intermediate School for 2 1/2 years before Cambridge City and is now a Special Education teacher at Richmond’s Dennis Middle School. In May 2021, Brankle completed a Masters in Education from Indiana University East and is now working on a Masters in Educational Leadership from American College of Education. Richmond (enrollment around 1,375) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon and Muncie Central). The NCC is split into two divisions with Richmond in the East. In 2021, the Red Devils were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central and Pendleton Heights (2021 host). Richmond has won 29 sectional titles — the last in 2011. Richmond plays home games on John Cate Field at Don McBride Stadium. “The history is the best part,” says Brankle of a park built in the 1930s that has seen Bob Feller, Satchel Paige and many more diamond legends play there. “We don’t talk about it enough. “Some of the kids don’t understand the significance.”
Matt and wife of seven years, Kelsey Brankle, have three children — daughters Amillia (5) and Abigail (3) and son Broden (1 1/2).
Alex Reinoehl just wanted to get a chance to play. With so many talented players on the Franklin (Ind.) College squad, it didn’t look like Reinoehl would be able to crack the Grizzlies lineup at his favorite position — third base. In the fall of his freshman year (2017), Franklin head coach Lance Marshall approached Reinoehl and asked him if he could pitch. He threw some from a three-quarter overhand arm slot but really got movement when he dropped down sidearm — something he had done while playing with his buddies. Reinoehl pitched in a scrimmage against Vincennes University with his sidearm delivery. “It was moving a ton,” says Reinoehl. “Guys were not hitting it.” That’s when he became a college baseball regular — as a pitcher. In four seasons at NCAA Division III Franklin (2018-21), Reinoehl has made 42 appearances (all as a reliever) and is 12-3 with three saves and a 3.74 earned run average. He has 67 strikeouts and 21 walks in 84 1/3 innings. In 2021, red-haired righty got into 18 games (16 in relief) with 3-0 record, four saves and 3.50 ERA. He fanned 32 and walked 12 in 36 innings. He had five K’s and one walk in four bullpen innings March 27 against Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Earlham College. Reinoehl, who turns 23 on Sept. 25, graduated in May with a degree in Criminal Justice and minor in Spanish from Franklin and plans to complete a Psychology minor while using his extra COVID-19 year of eligibility in 2021-22. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder uses a sinking fastball that has been clocked at 84 mph with a slider and change-up. “(Speed) is not what I’m all about,” says Reinoehl. “It’s more sink.” He’d like to get a little more velocity, but he also knows if they get too much they could flatten out and not get as much desired dive. He has fed his knowledge by listening to Coach Marshall, Franklin assistant and former Franklin Central High School and University of Indianapolis right-hander Jake Sprinkle, other pitchers and online information. Former big league submariner Brad Ziegler and SidearmNation.com are two of his resources. Reinoehl is 2017 graduate of Northview High School in Brazil, Ind., where his head coach was Craig Trout. As a junior, Reinoehl started at third base and scored the decisive run in the Knights’ 2-1 win against Western in the 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state championship game. Born in Houston, Texas, Reinoehl moved to Brazil — father Jon’s hometown — at 8 and played for league and all-star teams in what is now Clay Youth League Baseball through his freshmen year of high school. His lone travel ball year was as an eighth grader with the Terre Haute Junior Rex. In high school, Reinoehl played American Legion ball for Kris Lawson-managed Clinton Post 140 for one summer and Eric France-managed Brazil Post 2 for two. Reinoehl has pitched for three summer collegiate teams — the Midwest Prospect Baseball League’s Franklin (Ind.) Cougars in 2019, the College Summer League at Grand Park’s Juice in 2020 and the Prospect League’s Terre Haute Rex in 2021. Richmond, Ind., native and former Wright State University and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league infielder Matt Morrow was head coach of the CSL‘s Juice. A.J. Reed, who socked 140 professional home runs (four in the big leagues), is head coach for the Rex. Jacob Harden, who was recently named head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School, is an assistant. Jon, who played football and basketball at Northview, and Anna Reinoehl have five children — sons Steven, Alex, Isaac, Peyton and daughter Emma. Indiana University graduate Steven Reinoehl played soccer at Northview. Ball State University student Isaac Reinoehl played basketball for the Knights. Peyton Reinoehl (Northview Class of 2022) is also a basketball player. Emma Reinoehl is about to turn 14 and will be a Northview freshman in the fall. Grandfather Steve Reinoehl played baseball at Van Buren High School, which is part of the Northview consolidation.
Antonio “Tony” Cruz Jr., came close to losing his life and the sport that occupies much of thoughts. The COVID-19 virus struck the husband and father of three in the first half of 2020 and he spent 25 days of May in Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. — nine in the Intensive Care Unit. His oxygen level dropped to 55 and twice was not expected to make it. One night he was visited by a doctor and nurse. Cruz recalls the doctor’s words: “Well, we’re not going to sugar-coat it. We’re going to be honest with you. You might die tonight. We’ve got a yellow legal pad right here. If there’s anything you might want to write to anybody, now’s the time.” There was also plenty of support of his family — wife Ilka, sons Carlos and Santana and daughter Neveah and Amiyah, father Antonio Sr. (who also in the hospital with COVID but released before his son) and mother Lucy. “It wasn’t your time,” is what Lucy Cruz told her son of why he survived and recovered. Baseball also played a big part. “Legion was always on my mind,” says Cruz, the manager of the South Bend American Legion Post 151 senior baseball team. “It gave me a reason to keep fighting and get out of there.” Drawing strength from messages sent by coaching friends including John Kehoe, Joel Reinebold, Tom Washburn and Dennis Ryans. “You don’t forget that stuff,” says Cruz. “It means a lot to me.” While the pandemic caused American Legion Baseball to cancel its state, regional and national tournaments in 2020, Indiana teams were allowed to play games if they could provide their own insurance. Cruz got out of the hospital and with air bottle in tow came to the place he considers his home away from home — the baseball field. Jim Reinebold Field — named for the late Indiana High School Baaeball Coaches Association Hall of Famer — is where the South Bend Clay High School Colonials play and Cruz serves as an assistant coach and home to Post 151, though COVID caused cancellation of the high school season and had the Legion team playing home games at South Bend’s Boland Park in 2020. For his baseball foundation, Cruz looks back to his days at Maurice Matthys Little League, where his coach from 12 to 16 was Terry Cline. “He is who I pattern my coaching style after,” says Cruz of Cline. “He was about caring and giving back.” As a player at South Bend LaSalle High School, where he graduate in 1997, Cruz played for Lions head coach Scott Sill. Cruz was a coach on Kehoe’s staff at South Bend Washington High School and also led the baseball program at Dickinson Middle School — going 23-1 in two seasons — then joined Joel Reinebold at Clay. “Joel is so supportive,” says Cruz. “I’ve been blessed to be around him for so many years.” Carlos Cruz (now 23) and Santana Cruz (21) both played for the Colonials, graduating in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Carlos attended Indiana State University for three years. Santana also played at Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind. Neveah Cruz (who turned 19 July 12) has been around Clay baseball from seventh grade until the present and has been a student manager, director of operations and coach. This summer, 2020 Clay grad and Sport and Recreation major at Trine University in Angola, Ind., is Post 51 Juniors (17U) team manager and assistant coach to her father with the Post 51 Seniors (19U). “It’s a good bonding experience with my dad,” says Neveah. “I’ve met a lot of good people through baseball — role models.” Being around teams has given Neveah something more. “I have a lot of older brothers now,” says Neveah. Youngest daughter Amiyah is 11. This is the sixth year Tony Cruz has coached American Legion ball. When Lenny Kuespert was no longer able to manage South Bend Post 50, Cruz started Post 357. He was 357 manager for two summers and after guidance from former Bristol Post manager Jim Treadway and Legion baseball organizer Joe Kusiak and consulting with post commander Mike Vargo has led Post 151 since the 2018 season. “Legion ball is good for families who can’t afford to play travel ball, which can be salty,” says Cruz. Post 151 baseball is supported through $650 registration fees and fundraisers to cover things like insurance, uniforms, hat, socks, field rental, umpires and, in the advent of rain, field conditioner. If there’s any money left over, Cruz use it to buy Legion shirts etc. for his players. “I always give back to the kids,” says Cruz. “It’s not about me.” Custom COVID masks were purchased as well a Post 151 visors for players’ mothers. Believing that Legion baseball is also a tribute to veterans and patriotism, Cruz outfits his squads in red, white and blue uniforms. American Legion teams are allowed to roster 18 players for the postseason. There is a total enrollment limit of 6,000 in the top three grades for the high schools that provide players. Besides Santana Cruz at Ancilla, athletes who have played for Cruz and gone on to college baseball include Hunter Aker at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., Robbie Berger, J.P. Kehoe, Mason Ryans and Andrew Washburn at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., Tyler Bortone at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Tyler Cuma at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, Gabe Galvan at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Nathaniel Garcia at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Chris Gault, Cooper Lee, A.J. Klimek, Andy Migas and Lee Timmons at Trine, Colin Greve at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., Dylan Hensley at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Roman Kuntz and Bryce Lesher at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich., Michael Payne at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., Hunter Robinson at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, Ind., Cole Steveken at Ancilla, Chantz Stover at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich., Tony Valle at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind., Cameron Waters at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Community College and Gabe Yonto at BCA College Post Grad in Knoxville, Tenn. Both 151 teams played about a dozen regular-season weekday games in 2021. Thursday, July 15 at 5 p.m. and following and Friday, July 16 at 5 (if necessary), South Bend Post 151 hosts Bristol Post 143 in best-of-3 Regional 3 at Jim Reinebold Field for a berth in the eight-team State Finals Friday through Tuesday, July 23-27 at Highland Park in Kokomo. Other feeder regionals are slated at Highland Post 180 Regional 1-2 (with Valparaiso Post 94, East Chicago Post 369/Lake Station Post 100 Region Legion Expos and South Haven Post 502), Regional 4 at Kokomo Post 6 (with Lafayette Post 11 and Muncie Post 19), Regional 5 at Terre Haute Post 346 (with Crawfordsville Post 72 and Sullivan Post 139), Regional 6 at Jasper Post 147 (with Washington Post 121) and Regional 7 at Rockport Post 254 (with Newburgh Post 44 and Boonville Post 200). As State Finals host, Kokomo will represent Regional 4 with the other highest finisher also advancing. The top two at Highland and the winner at the other sites will move on. Vera Cruz Tree Service has tended to customers in the South Bend, Ind., area for four decades. Recently, Tony Jr. took over the running of the family business from his father. Not long after the Legion season ends comes the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp (the instructional league is heading into its 27th year). Between seasons and conditioning, Cruz is involved with baseball about 10 months a year. The diamond — and what it represents — is his passion.