Chris Geeser is entering his eighth season as a baseball coach at North Putnam High School in Roachdale, Ind. The 2023 season will mark his fourth in charge of the Cougars program. It’s is Geeser’s desire to put a “well-organized, hard-nose competitive team” on the field. “We’re going to play the game hard,” says Geeser. “We’ll run out ground balls and give it our best effort.” Geeser, 31, promotes sportsmanship and sees no room for showboating and bat flipping in baseball. “I’d rather see the passion than the flashiness,” says Geeser. A true-blue Chicago Cubs fan, Geeser counts former North Side pitcher Carlos Zambrano among his favorites. “He was so passionate,” says Geeser of a player who won 125 games and socked 24 home runs in 11 seasons with the Cubs. Geeser was born in Rockford, Ill., and moved to Martinsville, Ind., as a fourth grader. He played four years of baseball for the Martinsville High School. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Tutterow led the Artesians in Geeser’s freshman year. Luke Moscrip was head coach the next season and Mike Swartzentruber (now a Lake Central) in 2009 and 2010. “I was a big fan,” says Geeser of Swartzentruber. “We had a lot of talent my junior and senior year. He was very detailed and very intense.” Geeser graduated from Indiana State University in 2015 and was hired to teach Business at North Putnam about a week before school began in 2015-16. North Putnam (enrollment around 445) is a member of the Western Indiana Conference (with Class 2A Brown County, 2A Cloverdale, 3A Edgewood, 2A Greencastle, 3A Indian Creek, 3A Northview, 3A Owen Valley, 2A South Putnam, 2A Sullivan and 3A West Vigo). Each WIC team meets one time during the season. The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Cloverdale, Greencastle, Parke Heritage, South Putnam and Southmont. North Putnam has won four sectional titles — the last in 2007. With many North Putnam athletes involved in football, soccer or cross country, Geeser held IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices once a week in the fall. Those attending got a chance to throw and work on defensive basics and take plenty of batting practice. “The skill that falls off faster than anything is hitting,” says Geeser. Since the winter Limited Contact Period began the Cougars are spending one day on bullpens and defensive drills and the other on hitting (in the cage or at stations around the gym). “There’s not a whole lot of standing around at my practices,” says Geeser. “We’d like to get 100-150 swings.” Sharing facilities with winter sports means coming in before school or going later in the evening. North Putnam offers basketball, wrestling and swimming in the winter. Winter workouts have had as many as 20 attendees, but the average is around 12. Since Geeser became head coach the Cougars have fielded varsity and junior varsity teams and he expects the same in 2023. He guesses there might be 24 or 25 players in the program in the spring. While there are no recent graduates in college baseball, Geeser sees that potential for junior right-handed pitcher Jaylen Windmiller, who struck out 27 and walked five in 22 2/3 innings for a 2022 team that went 13-13. Geeser’s assistant coaches include returnees Cameron Brothers and Jackson Kendall and newcomer Anthony Rossock. Brothers and Kendall are North Putnam graduates and Rossock, who played at Anderson University, is a Greencastle alum. All three are North Putnam teachers. North Putnam Middle School fields a team in the spring made up of seventh and eighth graders (and sometimes sixth graders). North Putnam Youth Baseball League sponsors teams from T-ball to 12U. Geeser is actively involved with the organization. A number of renovations to the school’s on-field diamond last summer, including rolling and re-building the infield, mound and home plate areas. “I think our field’s pretty nice,” says Geeser. “We have really good lights.” A Musco Lighting system can be controlled by a phone app. Chris andy Lacey Geeser celebrated four years of marriage in the summer of 2022.
Kurt Kyle took over as head baseball coach at South Putnam Middle/High School in Greencastle, Ind., for the 2022 season. As he gets his Eagles ready for 2023, there are a few things he sees as important. “We want to continue to have a (junior varsity) and go down to the (South Putnam Youth League) and build our program back up,” says Kyle. “We want to make the routine plays. You should look to better yourself every practice. “Don’t beat yourself up on errors. Let stuff go or it’s going to haunt you the rest of the game.” As Kyle sees it, pitchers “have a job to do.” “Don’t let batters or runners get in your head,” says Kyle. “We have defense behind you. “I want to win, but I want to see you guys progress throughout the season.” A fan of “small ball” — things like bunting and hitting behind the runner — Kyle wants his team to put that into their arsenal. “A lot of teams in (the Western Indiana Conference) do it,” says Kyle. “It’s a lost art around (Putnam County).” South Putnam (enrollment around 385) is a member of the WIC with Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Edgewood, Greencastle, Indian Creek, North Putnam, Northview, Owen Valley, Sullivan and West Vigo. Each conference foe meets once each. The Eagles were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Cloverdale, North Putnam, Parke Heritage and Southmont. South Putnam has won four sectional championships— the last in 2010. IHSAA Limited Contact Period activity began from the week of Labor Day and wrapped past week. With most baseball players in the school involved with football, Kyle had about eight at twice-a-week sessions. The Eagles play home games on Dalton Field, which is characterized by the short distance from home plate to the back stop (Kyle estimates 10 feet) and the left field fence (the coach guesses less than 300 feet). Bill Jackman is one assistant coach and Kyle says he hopes to bring in Mike Wolvin as the other. Gavin Eyster (Class of 2023) plays travel baseball. Kyle says he could play in college. As a feeder system, there is South Putnam Youth League (T-ball to 12U) and middle school club ball (grades 6-8) which plays its games at the high school. A 1994 graduate of Cloverdale (Ind.) High School, Kyle served as an assistant or middle school coach at his alma mater before taking over as head coach in 2019. He led the Clovers through 2021. Kyle played at Cloverdale for head coach Sonny Stolz. “He was old school an tough-nosed,” says Kyle. “He never let us get away with anything. “He was tough on me. I was a catcher all four years.” Kyle is employed by Crown Equipment Corporation in Greencastle, where he builds and repairs lift trucks. Kurt is married to Jessica. Between them they have four children (three girls) — Kendra (22), Kayla (20), Keenan (13) and Olive (9).
Fundamentals will be a priority as new head baseball coach Greg Taylor begins to make his imprint on the program at Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind. Taylor has been guiding the Braves on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the current IHSAA Limited Contact Period. “We’re establishing fundamentals from the very beginning and preparing them for off-season drills,” says Taylor, whose players will take part in weight training, arm conditioning and have a chance to hit in the “barn” as Indian Creek gets prepared for the 2023 season. “Our strength and conditioning coach (Bram Wood) is fantastic. (Strength training) gives them the advantage of being physically fit and it plays into health. The boys miss less (play and practice time) and are not hurt as often.” Taylor notes that Wood’s training is sports-specific, even geared to positions within sports. Three assistant coaches — Chris Steinway, Mark Ferguson and Craig Davis — were part of the IC staff a year ago. Tim Guyer is new to the program. The Braves look to field varsity and junior squads in 2023. Indian Creek (enrollment around 625) is a member of the Western Indiana Conference (with Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Edgewood, Greencastle, North Putnam, Northview, Owen Valley, South Putnam, Sullivan and West Vigo). The Braves were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Brown County, Edgewood, Owen Valley, Sullivan and West Vigo. Indian Creek has won six sectional titles — the last in 2019. A fieldhouse, which will be used by baseball and other teams, is under construction at Indian Creek. The location of the softball field has been moved. Turf was added to the football field for this fall and is available for baseball and other squads to practice on when their diamonds are too wet. There is a movement to establish a middle school baseball program that would play as a club sport in the spring. Meanwhile, the high school staff is working with local youth league and travel ball players. “We want them to engage in our program,” says Taylor. “That’s an important thing — getting a feeder program following the same philosophy, fundamentals as high school.” A volunteer years ago at Indian Creek when Brian Luse was head coach, Taylor followed Luse to Franklin Community. Recent Indian Creek graduates who moved on to college baseball include the Class of 2018’s Dylan Sprong (Franklin, Ind., College) and 2019’s Dustin Sprong (University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.) and Wyatt Phillips (University of Indianapolis). For several years, Taylor has coached travel baseball. The last four years have been with the Shelby County Cubs. A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Taylor is a 1992 graduate of Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, where he played four years for Spartans head coach Tom Muth. “We did a lot of fundamental work,” says Taylor, who was a shortstop. He played two years each for Indiana Baseball Hall of Famer Jerry Blemker at Vincennes (Ind.) University and Gary Hogan at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Taylor was selected in the 40th round of the 1996 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. The switch-hitting middle infielder played through 1998. Future National League MVP Jimmy Rollins was a teammate on the 1997 Piedmont Boll Weevils and 1998 Clearwater Phillies and the two sometime roomed together on the road. A senior director in medical affairs for pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Greg has been married to Kate for 25 years. Kate Taylor is in public relations and coaches diving at Indian Creek. The couple has two children — Ella (16) and Grayson (13). Ella Taylor is a junior diving and track athlete at IC. Indiana Creek seventh grader Grayson Taylor is in baseball, tennis, basketball, diving and track.
Harrison Pittsford is soaking up the knowledge of veterans while getting in his summer reps as a first-year player for the South Bend Royals, members of men’s wood bat leagues in both South Bend and Fort Wayne. At 20, Pittsford is younger than most of his Royals teammates. That includes 53-year-old Jayson Best. “It’s cool learning from guys like Bestie,” says Pittsford, who completed his second year at NCAA Division III Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., in the spring. “I see how they play the game. “It’s a great experience playing with those guys.” Best, who was born in Lafayette, Ind., played professional baseball from 1989-97. He ascended to Double-A in the Minnesota Twins organization as a pitcher and later was head baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) College. He pitched a no-hitter for the Royals in Mishawaka, Ind., on July 10. Pittsford, a 2020 graduate of Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Ind., comes up to play mostly weekend doubleheaders with former GC hitting star and current Eastern (Greentown) head coach Erik Hisner-managed Royals and Manchester teammate/roommate Hunter Aker (a South Bend Clay High School graduate). While he does some catching, Pittsford is getting playing time in the outfield since he expects to be there much of the time at Manchester. The Royals are to compete in a National Amateur Baseball Federation regional in Fort Wayne July 28-30. The top two finishers move on to the NABF World Series Aug. 2-5 in Battle Creek, Mich. Pittsford was named to the 2022 all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team at designated hitter. The righty swinger played in 30 games (28 starts) and hit .327 (33-of-101) with six home runs, eight doubles, 29 runs batted in, 27 runs scored and a 1.002 OPS (.418 on-base percentage plus .584 slugging average). Rick Espeset competed his 26th season as Manchester head coach in 2022. “Espy got my attention in the recruiting process,” says Pittsford. “His success and longevity eye-catching for me.” Espeset’s Spartans have won 619 games with six national tournament appearances, including two trips to the D-III World Series (2004 and 2013). As much as Pittsford appreciates all the knowledge that Espeset shares, he is also grateful for the insights on the mental approach. “We’re taking time to detach from baseball with breathing and mindfulness,” says Pittsford. As a D-III program, Manchester conducts four weeks of fall practice with the whole team and coaches. Players are then on their own for a few months until everyone reconvenes shortly before the start of the season. “Nothing’s really forced on us,” says Pittsford. “If guys want to get better they are going to get better. I get motivated seeing my teammates working out. “We have good leadership from underclassmen.” A Sport Management major, Pittsford was named Academic all-HCAC in 2022. “I want to stay involved in sports in some capacity,” says Pittsford of his post-college path. “That could be coaching, running a sports facility or being an athletic director. I want to be involved in sports and make a difference for kids and make sure the next generation has the same opportunities I had coming up. “Sports can teach you a lot of life lessons like building character and making friendships.” Born in Bloomington, Ind., and growing up in Ellettsville, Pittsford participated in baseball and basketball through Richland Bean Blossom Youth Sports and was also part of Monroe County Youth Football Association. He was in travel ball with the Ellettsville Explosion, Diamond Dynamics and then Tier Ten. It was with Diamond Dynamics that Pittsford met coach/instructor Tony Kestranek. “He was passionate about baseball,” says Pittsford of Kestranek. “He taught us when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.” At Edgewood, Pittsford played four years each of football and baseball and two of basketball. A special teams player as a freshman, he was the Mustangs’ starting center for three seasons. Brian Rosenburgh was defensive coordinator Pittsford’s freshman year then head coach for the last three. “I loved him as a person and a coach,” says Pittsford of Rosenburgh, who was also a Physical Education teacher at Edgewood. An football coach was Mychal Doering. “He’s an amazing guy,” says Pittsford of the father of classmate Izaiah Doering and JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) specialist at Edgewood. “He was high-energy and he motivated you. He was always checking on people outside of school and he taught me about life and handling the ups and down. “He’s going through chemo (for cancer). It’s cool to see how he’s battling through that.” Pittsford considered playing college football, but decided to go with his first love of baseball. Besides, at 6-foot, 230 pounds he is considered to be undersized for a college lineman. Bob Jones, who has been a Business teacher for more than 40 years and head baseball coach for 36, passed along many diamond lessons to Pittsford. “He knows a lot of baseball,” says Pittsford of Jones, who went into the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame last week. “It’s nice to learn from a guy who’s been around the game for so long.” One of Jones’ more than 500 victories came during the first game of 2019 — a season that ended with the Mustangs finishing as IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up. Playing in a tournament at Vincennes University, Edgewood fell behind 11-0 to Terre Haute North Vigo after four innings. The Mustangs chipped away and eventually won 20-18 in a game that was played in a steady drizzle. “It was a pretty crazy game,” says Pittsford, who started at catcher and batted No. 2 that day and drove in two runs. Later moved to the No. 9 hole, it was there that Pittsford smacked a walk-off home run against West Vigo in the semifinals of the Owen Valley Sectional. Several other Edgewood players wound up playing college baseball, including Class of 2019’s Joe Kido (Indiana State University), Ethan Vecrumba (Indiana University), Cooper Thacker (University of Southern Indiana) and Blake Deckard (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology), Class of 2020’s Pittsford and Sam Kido (Indiana University South Bend) and Class of 2021’s Luke Hayden (Indiana University). Satoshi Kido — father of Mac, Joe and Sam — was an Edgewood assistant in 2019 and has been Pittsford’s hitting coach since he was 7 or 8. “He’s helped me so much with my swing over the years,” says Pittsford. “He always knows how to fix my swing when I get in a slump.” Pittsford spent much of 2021 dealing with a torn right shoulder labrum. Harrison is the youngest of 1986 Edgewood alums Jay and Cheryl Pittsford’s two sons. Alex Pittsford (25) is a graduate of Edgewood (2016) and Wabash College (2020) and is now pursing his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame. He was in football and swimming in high school. Jay Pittsford taught English for 19 1/2 years and then served as an assistant principal. Cheryl Pittsford is an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Physician’s Assistant.
Josh Pyne decided early in life that he wanted to play college baseball. And not just anywhere. Pyne desired to play at Indiana University, having been born in Bedford, Ind., and grown up near Bloomington in Linton, Ind. “We were a 25-minute drive away,” says Pyne, a 19-year-old freshman who has started all 31 games so far for the 2022 Hoosiers. “My dad a huge IU basketball fan and still is. I grew up an IU baseball fan.” Pyne verbally committed to IU his freshman year at Linton-Stockton High School when Chris Lemonis was Hoosiers head coach. Jared Pyne is a lineman superintendent for Greene County REMC. His wife, Brooke Pyne, works for a Navy contractor. Oldest son Jacob, 23, is a Daviess County REMC lineman. Daughter Adalyn, 17, is a Linton-Stockton junior involved in cheerleading and track and interested in animals. Middle child Josh followed Jacob into motocross as the family criss-crossed the country on that circuit. After Josh raced for a few years, along came baseball. He threw himself into the diamond sport, playing for the Smithville Scrappers at 9. Family friend Mike Vaughn coached that team and would be Pyne’s coach with the Indiana Nitro and Indiana Bulls through his 15U summer. “I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” says Pyne of Vaughn. Another summer with the Jeremy Honaker-coached Bulls was followed by a summer with Jay Hundley’s Canes Midwest team. In the fall of his junior year at Linton-Stockton, Pyne was with the Jeff Petty-coached Canes National squad. The next summer he played for Johnny Goodrich’s Orlando Scorpions. To help with the transition from high school to college, freshmen were brought on-campus last summer to take classes, get in the weight room and begin the bonding process. It’s a class that includes infielder Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden (Edgewood) and outfielder Carter Mathison (Homestead). The latter has started in 29 games and appeared in 31 this spring. Business Management major Pyne already had a relationship with one Hoosier, having played baseball and basketball with Kip Fougerousse (who was a 1,000-point scorer on the hardwood) at Linton-Stockton. Josh and sophomore catcher/infielder Kip hang out a lot at IU. “I go over to his house almost everyday,” says Pyne. “We play cards or get some food. We have a background like nobody else on the team.” Pyne say it was a big adjustment going from high school to college, but that has been eased by the bonding, the leadership or older players and the coaching staff led by Jeff Mercer. The biggest difference in high school and college baseball to Pyne is the pace of play. “I see how much faster everything is,” says Pyne. “Balls are balls hit harder. Pitches are quicker. You have less reaction time.” To adapt to this, the Hoosiers practice and train at game speed. “You have to go full speed and push yourself to get used to that pace of play,” says Pyne. “Some drills uncomfortable because it speeds us up. But you have to be uncomfortable to be better.” Pyne, who was a shortstop in high school and travel ball, has gotten used to “27 outs” when Mercer or assistant Derek Simmons laces balls all over the field and Pyne can get live reads off the bat at 100 mph or more. Mercer has plenty of praise for Pyne. “Josh is just an A ++ kid. I’m super proud of him,” says Mercer. “He’s a southern Indiana kid at IU playing his tail off. He’s an awesome dude. He’s very talented. He can have a great at-bat. He’s a great defender and baserunner and an awesome teammate. “He’s everything a Hoosier should be.” Pyne was a four-year letterwinner and four-time captain at Linton-Stockton playing for Miners baseball head coach Matt Fougerousse, Kip’s father. As a senior, Pyne was an all-state selection and the team MVP. He was all-Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference three times and set a single-season school record with 50 hits. As a basketball player for coach Joey Hart, Pyne was part of three IHSAA Class 2A sectional championships and played in the 2019 2A state championship game as a sophomore. “I played basketball to keep in shape and for the fun of it,” says Pyne. Josh recalls that Matt Fougerousse’s was always there for late-night batting practice after basketball games or practices. “He helped me for those four years,” says Pyne. “He even stayed and coached me for my senior year when he really didn’t have to.” Matt stepped away from coaching at the end of the 2021 season, giving himself more of a chance to see Indiana play. Going into a Big Ten Conference series April 15-17 at Rutgers, righty swinger Pyne is hitting .301 (37-of-103) with four home runs, seven doubles (tied for second on the team), 31 runs batted in (second on the team) and 19 runs scored. He carries an OPS of .820 (.365 on-base plus .455 slugging). Pyne produced a career highs three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored April 10 at Purdue. He rapped two doubles April 2 against Northwestern. Indiana 13-18 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are 3-5 in April. The team’s freshmen third baseman is confident IU will get rolling. “We just need to compete on the mound and at the plate,” says Pyne. “It will all fall into place. “We have the talent to do it.”
2021 IHSBCA ALL-STATE TEAM Class 4A Pitchers: Grant Stratton (Jasper), Nate Dohm (Zionsville). C: Hunter Dobbins (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 1B: Kaleb Kolpien (Homestead). 2B: Joel Walton (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 3B: Connor Foley (Jasper). SS: Tucker Biven (New Albany). OF: Carter Mathison (Homestead), Max Clark (Franklin), Tommy O’Connor (Mooresville). Honorable Mention: Evan Waggoner (Bedford North Lawrence); Austin Bode (Columbus North); Jaden Deel (Hobart); Andrew Wallace (Jasper); Jackson Micheels (Carmel); Breenen Weigert (Homestead); Jack Braun (Fishers); Tyler Walkup (Lawrence North); Quentin Markle (Westfield); Joe Huffman (Avon); Nick Mitchell (Carmel); Brad White (Andrean); Blake Herrmann (Castle); Camden Jordan (Cathedral); Sam Gladd (Columbia City); Eli Hopf (Jasper); Brody Chrisman (Zionsville); J.D. Rogers (Carmel); Keaton Mahan (Westfield); Gage Standifer (Westfield); Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North); Chris Gallagher (Cathedral); Carter Doorn (Lake Central); Grant Comstock (Valparaiso); Tate Warner (Fishers); Carter Gilbert (Northridge).
The South swept a pair of nine-inning games from the North Saturday, June 25 in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches North/South All-Star Series. With 5-3 and 7-6 wins at the University of Evansville, the South now trails 68-65 in the all-time series. South scored three runs in the second inning and one each in the third and seventh frames. Castle’s Blake Hermann rapped two doubles and five different players crossed the plate in support of winning pitcher Edgewood’s Luke Hayden (7 strikeouts). Seeger’s Khal Stephen took loss. In Game 2, Providence’s Eli Watson’s double drove in the go-ahead run after Bedford North Lawrence’s Evan Waggoner singled to plate the tying run in the seventh. Waggoner finished with two hits as did Wawasee’s Kameron Salazar for the North. Winning pitcher Holden Groher (Silver Creek) fanned four. Seton Catholic’s Luke Leverton pitched three innings of hitless relief with five strikeouts for the save. Leo’s Coley Stevens took the loss. The final game of the series is slated for 11 a.m. CST Sunday, July 27 at Bosse Field. It will be a wood-bat game with players wearing their high school uniforms.
IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES (At Evansville) Game 1 SOUTH 5, NORTH 3 North 000 100 002 — 3 3 2 South 031 000 10x — 5 8 1 WP — Hayden. LP — Stephen. Pitchers: North — Khal Stephen (Seeger; 2 innings, 2 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4 hits, 3 runs), Rex Stills (Wheeler; 3 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 1 run), Aric Ehmke (DeKalb; 2 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 1 run), Coley Stevens (Leo; 1 inning, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 hits, 0 runs). South — Luke Hayden (3 innings, 7 strikeouts, 5 walks, 0 hits, 0 runs), Coleman (3 innings, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 1 run), Young (3 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits, 2 runs). North: Hits — Jacob Loftus (Peru), Jared Comia (Hanover Central), Carter Mathison (Homestead). RBI — Karson Kennedy (Lafayette Harrison), Comia. Runs — Gavin Noble (Wapahani), Jaden Deel (Hobart), Kameron Salazar (Wawasee). SB — Comia 2, Loftus, Salazar, Deel, Drew Loy (McCutcheon). LOB — 8. South: Hits — Blake Hermann 2, Nick Sutherlin, C.J. Richmond, Evan Waggoner, Camden Gasser, Andrew Oesterling, Ty Rumsey. 2B — Hermann 2. RBI — Waggoner, Evan Goforth. Runs — Sutherlin, Richmond, Waggoner, Gasser, Rumsey. SB — Gasser. LOB — 7. T — 2:42.
The same week the IHSAA crowns four state champions in Indianapolis, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will conduct its North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. State Finals are Monday and Tuesday, June 21-22 at Victory Field with the games to be set after semistates. The IHSBCA will hold its all-star game festivities Friday through Sunday, June 25-27 at the University of Evansville and historic Bosse Field. Practice is at U of E’s German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium (North workout at 3:15 p.m. Central Time, South workout at 5 Central) followed by the all-star banquet at Crescent Center at Milestones at 7 Central. A noon doubleheader is slated for Saturday at Braun Stadium with a wood-bat single game on Sunday at Bosse Field at 11 a.m. Central. Holiday Inn Express East, 220 Kirkwood Drive, is the team hotel. The North leads 68-63 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged in Evansville Wednesday, June 28.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members have voted and selected 16 district players of the year for 2021.
All-State and Indiana Player of the Year voting begins June 6.
The IHSAA state tournament series begins with sectionals May 26-31, followed by regionals June 5, semistates June 12 and the State Finals June 21-22. The IHSBCA Futures Games and North/South All-Star Series is slated for June 23-27 in Evansville.
Here’s a look at the 16 seniors chosen at Players of the Year in Districts A through P:
Says Swartzentruber: “Carter has been with us for two years following his transfer from Illiana Christian … Great kid, great student and great leader on our young team. One of my favorite players I have coached during my 24 years. … He has been a dominant player this year for us both on the mound and at the plate. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will do great things at Purdue and beyond. Great work ethic and very competitive young man.”
Lake Central is in the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional.
Says Evans: “He’s been a great pitcher for us, probably one of the more dominant pitchers in the (Duneland Athletic Conference). He’s a leader on and off the field. He also plays football and basketball. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Valparaiso is in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional.
Says Smolinski: “Kyle has been blessed with an amazing ability to excel in both athletics and academics. Along with Kyle’s great leadership skills, he’s an outstanding teammate who respects his coaches, teachers and family. He’s hard-working, motivated and driven in everything that he does. I’m so proud of Kyle and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him. I look forward to seeing him succeed on and off the field in the future … Kyle is the type of player where you wish you had nine of him on the field. He does everything you ask. He makes his teammates better.”
St. Joseph is in the Class 3A South Bend Clay Sectional.
Says Byall: “He has been a phenomenal player for us for four years. He is extremely talented, but has also worked extremely hard to transform his body and skills to an elite level … He is phenomenal to coach because you know he’s going to work hard and go about his business the right way every single day. He has been phenomenal for us this year, performing at such a high level, and by working hard everyday. He has a really bright future.”
Homestead is in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional.
E — Jacob Loftus (Peru). A righty-swinging catcher for Tigers coach Chuck Brimbury, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Loftus has not yet made his college commitment. He plans to major in Secondary Math Education.
Say Brimbury: “Jacob is the best high school player I have coached at Peru High School in my two-plus decades. Hard worker, captain, tough, talented, and a model of ‘team first’ guy. We have have had two drafts, dozens of college players and several D-1 players from our program. Jacob ‘Yogi’ Loftus is our best to play here.”
Says King: “Hunter is a very talented player — one of the best I’ve had. Hunter is probably the best all-around hitter I’ve ever had. He’s definitely a five-tool player. He has the ability to play not only at the collegiate level but the professional level … He’s a good leader (for the program’s first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship). He talks hitting and situations all the time with our guys.”
Mount Vernon is in the Class 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional.
Says Marker: “I don’t think there’s another player in the state of Indiana that means more to his team than Luke means to ours. He strikes out between 15 and 21 guys (per game) … He’s had 11 strikeouts in four innings (a couple of times) … At the 1A level he strikes fear into the hearts of hitters … He’s got six pitches. He’ll have to whittle that down at the next level.”
Seton Catholic is in the Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional.
Says Doty: “Kameron is the kind of player every coach hopes they will have the opportunity to coach — hard-working, dedicated, coachable, but most importantly a leader! Add it in the athletic ability and that describes Kameron Salazar. He has the ability to hit any pitch in any count to all fields. He is one of the best pure hitters I have had the opportunity to coach … His quick hands aid him both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. He will use all fields offensively and has significant range in the middle of the infield … All of those abilities — as great as they are — of course don’t come even close to describing his character! He is one of the nicest young men you would ever meet and terrific teammate! He has been (would have been) a four-year starter for us at shortstop if not for COVID. He has been the heart and soul of our program for the past four years and he will be great missed as he moves on to Marian next year. It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach him these past four years.”
Says Koeppen: “He’s by far one of the most enjoyable kids I’ve ever coached. He works as hard as anybody at practice. He does things the right way all the time … It’s been fun to sit back and watch him play this year.”
Lafayette Jeff is in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Says Cosgray: “Garrett is just a very well-rounded player. He’s an exceptional right-handed pitcher, topping out at 95 mph with good command of his curveball, slider and change-up … Defensively at shortstop, he’s very sound. He makes the routine play but also has the ability to make the spectacular play when necessary … He hits in the 3-hole for us. He can hit for power. He’s a gap-to-gap approach hitter, hitting over .500. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded player than him.”
Lebanon is in the Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional.
Says Freje: “He’s been a lead-off hitter and the top arm we go to … Chris is comfortable (as a sidearmer). He’s taken that role and run with it … He’s been incredibly impactful on the bases. He’s a gamer. He’s embraced all the roles he’s been given. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Says Jones: “He throws 92 mph-plus and he mixes his pitches real well. He gets a lot of strikeouts. He’s able to throw the ball up, throw the ball down and hit the corners … He hits well. He’s well over 400. He’s just a consistent guy.”
Edgewood is in the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional.
Says Decker: “He’s had a really good senior year. He’s been good on the mound and at the plate for us. He probably could have gone some places to be a two-way (having played all over the field). He’s one of the better athletes I’ve got to coach … Stuff comes really easy to him.”
Silver Creek is in the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
Says Mattingly: “He’s one of those kids who’s humble, hard-working and he competes. He want to be the best and he goes about his business to be the best … I’ve been around him a long time and he’s just a good kid.”
Southridge is in the Class 3A Southridge Sectional.
Says Goedde: “He’s been our most-consistent player all year. He’s in the middle of a good season. He’s had minimal slumps …. He’s versatile enough that he can play just about anywhere. Henry moves very well. He’s got a good, athletic body.”
Evansville Central is in the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional.
IHSBCA 2021 District Players of the Year (School/Head Coach)
Through hills and valleys, the right-handed pitcher persisted and persevered until he finally stood on a major league mound at 28 and its those kind of lessons he passes along to the next generation with his baseball/softball business — Demand Command.
McClellan, who stands 6-foot-5, earned three letters at Indiana University (1998, 1999 and 2000). He pitched in 41 games, starting 22 with five complete games and one save. In 159 1/3 innings, he posted 111 strikeouts and a 4.58 earned run average while playing for Hoosiers head coach Bob Morgan — a man he credits as much for what he did in stressing education as what he did between the white lines.
Long before that McClellan started giving back. He started the Zach McClellan School of Pitching in Bloomington, Ind., in 2002.
Zach and future wife Sarah met at IU. She is from nearby Ellettsville, Ind., and a graduate of Edgewood High School.
During his pro off-seasons, Zach was a student teacher during the day and gave lessons at night during his off-season.
With the growth of the business, McClellan began looking for a new name and a suggestion came from one of his pupils who noted how he was constantly telling them, “Don’t just accept control, demand command.”
McClellan says the difference between control and command is that with control you can throw to a general area and command is being able to execute your pitches to the catcher.
The two main aspects of pitching as McClellan sees them are how hard you throw and can you locate it. In other words: Velocity and command.
“I try to marry those two things,” says McClellan, who notes that location becomes very important when it comes to getting good hitters out.
Believing that training should be fun and challenging, McClellan began getting his young pitchers to play H-O-R-S-E baseball style.
While in the basketball version, a player has to replicate a made shot or take a letter, McClellan’s baseball variation requires one pitcher to execute a pitch — say a fastball to the outside corner — and have the next one up replicate that or take a letter.
The first Demand Command T-shirts McClellan ever had made asked: “Can you play H-O-R-S-E on the mound?”
“It was an inside joke between the instructed kids, myself and their parents,” says McClellan. “People would ask the question about what it meant.
“We were doing something kind of unique and kids were actually executing pitches. What I’ve noticed through the years is that if they have to call the pitch, it’s even better. Now they’re not just throwing a ball in the generally vicinity.”
McClellan never wants training to be drudgery for his players.
“If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing it becomes more of a job,” says McClellan. “It’s not a job, it’s an opportunity. It’s fun. If you’re going to come to me it’s not going to feel like work.
“You have to make sure that the kids are enjoying what they’re doing, but learning at the same time.”
Since he began offering instruction, McClellan has preferred small-group lessons of three of four players.
“I say make sure kids aren’t just doing solo private lessons,” says McClellan. “A lot of parents want their kids to work one-on-one with a coach, but when they go on a field they have eight other teammates.
“At the end of the day there’s nobody behind the mound holding your hand and telling you how to correct yourself in a game. You have to have a feel on the adjustments you’re making.”
Every now and then, McClellan likes to match 17-year-old prospect with an 8-year-old learning how to pitch.
“The 17-year-old learns how to teach,” says McClellan. “The more you learn how to teach the better you get at your craft.
“(The teen is) learning how other people receive the information which makes them more receptive of the information.”
Now that he has been at it this long, another McClellan goal is coming to fruition.
“I’ve always wanted to create a community of baseball players that became future leaders,” says McClellan. “Kids that played for me or took lessons from me are now coming back to be coaches for me.”
Matt McClellan played at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., and pitched in the Toronto Blue Jays organization (Toronto selected the right-hander in the seventh round of the 1997 MLB Draft) and for the independent Newark (N.J.) Bears and Kansas City (Kan.) T-Bones.
The DC website states the mission: “Demand Command was built on the principles that baseball and softball are teaching mechanisms for more than just the games.
Baseball and Softball have many life lessons within the games. Some examples are leadership, hard work, determination, discipline, working together with many types of people, dealing with success and failure and good character.
“The goal is to teach people the value of Demand Command life principles through baseball and softball. Demand Command stands for much more than commanding pitches or at bats. Demand Command is a way of life.”
Numerous DC alums have gone on to college and pro baseball. Among them is Dylan Stutsman, who pitched at the University of Indianapolis and then pitched for the independent Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers.
Former Texas Rangers draft pick Renton Poole is now a senior pitcher at Indiana University Kokomo.
Zach and Sarah McClellan live in Columbus and have three athletic daughters — Mia (14), Miley (12) and Emery (10).
The McClellan brothers — Jeff (46), Matt (44) and Zach (42 on Nov. 25) — are the offspring of former college athletes.
Father Dave a basketball player at the University of Michigan and Mother Diane a track and field athlete at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University.
Jeff played baseball at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.
Zach’s nephew, Sebastian McClellan, is a freshman basketball guard at Lawrence Technical University in Southfield, Mich. Niece Mallory McClellan recently signed a letter of intent to play softball at Fordham University in New York.