Robbie Frank was a sophomore starter on Evansville (Ind.) Central High School’s IHSAA state runner-up baseball team in 1987. The 29-win Bears lost 4-1 to LaPorte in the championship game. The Slicers went to be named mythical national champions in that season. Frank started at shortstop for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul Griese as a junior and senior at Central and played one season as a utility player at Saint Louis University for Billikens head coach Bob Hughes. The Central Bears were ranked No. 1 during the 1988 season. Central lost to Memorial in the sectional championship in both 1988 and 1989 — 3-0 and 8-2. The Tigers lost in the first round of the semistate in 1988 and won the state crown in 1989. Energy and passion are two things Frank saw Griese bring to the diamond. “It was a great experience to play under him,” says Frank. “We were a very talent team 1987-89. It was a good time to be at Central.” In the summer of 1989, Frank played American Legion baseball for Evansville Funkhouser Post 8. Henry “Mac” LaRue was the manager and son Mark LaRue the head coach. Later on, Frank coached Highland Little League teams in Evansville, including a state runner-up squad when his players were 12 and state champion unit when they were 13. Bryce Frank, Robbie’s son, was on those teams. Robbie Frank has served as manager for Evansville Pate American Legion Post 265, guiding a junior squad to the state championship in 2021 and leading a senior team in 2022. He plans to do the same again in 2023, scheduling 30 to 35 games against the best competition he can find. Frank also spent the past 10 years as an Evansville Central assistant. After head coach Mike Goedde retired at the end of a 12-year run in 2022, Frank was elevated to head coach. “He’s an old school coach,” says Frank of Goedde. “He’s big on playing the game the right way. He gives a lot of responsibility to the kids — not only in baseball but in life.” Goedde expected his players to represent themselves, their families and their schools in an appropriate way. “You never know who’s watching or looking out,” says Frank. When Frank was hired as Central head coach he had one-on-one meetings with returning sophomores, juniors and seniors to discuss expectations. He plans to have IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices — twice a week for two hours — working around basketball which is also having LCP workouts. Among the recent Central graduates to move on to college baseball are the Class of 2022’s Aiden Esarey (Goshen College), Gavin Kelley (Grace College), Ben Kennedy (Taylor University), Ethan Lyke (Murray State University), Ethan Rothschild (University of Southern Indiana) and Kaiden Turner (Grace College), 2021’s Henry Brown (Indiana State University), Garrett Causey (University of Southern Indiana) and Mason Simon (Oakland City University), 2019’s Cory Bosecker (Butler University) and Kody Putnam (Southeastern Illinois College and transferred to Jacksonville State University), 2018’s Sean Becker (Indiana University-Kokomo and transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan College) and Mason White (Indiana University Southeast) and 2017’s Evan Kahre (University of Southern Indiana). Evansville Central (enrollment around 1,075) is a member of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville Memorial, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz, Jasper and Vincennes Lincoln). The Bears were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Castle, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Jasper. “It’s a dogfight every year,” says Frank. Central has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2017. The process of hiring Frank’s assistant coaches is in progress. The Bears play home games at Paul Griese Field. Goedde had Bermuda grass added to the infield a few years ago. Each spring, Cub Baseball in Evansville has eighth graders (and some seventh graders) competing on behalf of the high schools they are feeding. Robbie Frank, who is president of Frank Insurance Services Inc. (owned by father Gene Frank), has three children — Faith, Ellie and Bryce. Faith Frank (20) is a former Evansville Central basketball and track athlete now studying at Ivy Tech in Evansville. Ellie Frank (19) was a two-time first-team all-state lacrosse player for the Bears and is now a Murray (Ky.) State University freshman. Bryce Frank (17) is a junior baseball player at Evansville Central.
Indiana Wesleyan University will be at center stage when the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series is held Friday through Sunday, June 24-26. Practice is slated for Friday, June 24. The North works out from 1:30-3 p.m. and the South 3-4:30. The All-Star banquet is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, June 24 at Roseburg Event Center with former big league pitcher and 2008 Indiana Wesleyan alum Brandon Beachy as keynote speaker. A doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday, June 25. The three-game series concludes with a wood bat contest Sunday, June 26. The North leads 68-66 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 at IWU Wednesday, June 22. A doubleheader featuring four teams is scheduled to begin at noon.
Jim Brownlee built a long, successful baseball coaching career on the principles of fundamentals and discipline. Now 76, retired and living with wife of 51 years — Candy — in Gulf Breeze in the Florida Panhandle (the couple moved there in April 2021), Brownlee can look back on a run that includes 23 seasons as head coach at the University of Evansville (1980-2002), seven seasons at Illinois State University (2003-09) and one season as University of Iowa pitching coach (2013). He was also a longtime basketball official. “I learned the game of baseball from my college baseball coach Duffy Bass,” says Brownlee of the former Illinois State University head coach and American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “He was about as good at fundamentals of anybody I’ve been around — whether it was catching, hitting, bunting or pitching. I kind of patterned myself after him.” A 1963 graduate of Antioch (Ill.) Community High School, Brownlee played for Bass at Illinois State from 1967-70 and was a teammate of future major league pitcher Buzz Capra. The 1969 Collegiate Division National champions went 33-5 and ran the table in the postseason. “I learned the running game at a very young age,” says Brownlee. “We were very aggressive at Evansville. One year we had 202 stolen bases. “I had lesser talent at Evansville. We didn’t have the full amount of scholarships. We had guys we thought would get better and they did. We had guys never drafted out of high school that were drafted out of college. “I think college baseball has always been that way. (Development’s) at an all-time high. But we’re still behind the 8-ball with scholarships and dates. It used to be we had 120 games between fall and spring (at the NCAA D-I level and now it’s 56 games in the spring with 11.7 scholarships for a roster of 35). “College baseball keeps growing. It’s become a money-maker.” That money is bound to go even higher if the season was moved into the warmer months. Says Brownlee, “40 years ago I proposed we play in the summer.” Brownlee was “hard-nosed” as a coach. “Discipline is important to me as a retired Marine,” says Brownlee. After his playing days ended and having served a stint with the U.S. Marines, Brownlee became an assistant baseball coach at Illinois State (1975-76) and was as head coach for the Galesburg Pioneers in the Central Illinois Collegiate League (which later merged with the Prospect League), where he encountered Bloomington Bobcats pitcher Tim Stoddard. The 6-foot-7 right-hander from East Chicago, Ind., was on his way to an MLB career and is now an assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. Before UE, Brownlee coached at Princeton (Ill.) High School (1976-79). As Evansville coach, Brownlee won 701 games with four 40-win seasons and seven conference coach of the year honors. Among his players were future big leaguers Sal Fasano, Andy Benes and Jamey Carroll and Purple Aces head coach Wes Carroll. Benes and the Carroll brothers are Pocket City natives. The Purple Aces have retired Brownlee’s No. 6 and Benes’ No. 30. Brownlee has been inducted into the Illinois State University Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the Redbirds’ ’69 national champions, the University of Evansville Athletics Hall of Fame, the Lake County (Ill.) High Schools Sports Hall of Fame, the Bloomington-Normal Officials Association Wayne Meece Hall of Fame and is slated to go into the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame in Evansville in May. A founding member of the Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League, that group will honor Brownlee with its Legends Award Jan. 15. Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League supports amateur athletics around the Evansville area. It started as an effort to save Bosse Field, which was established in 1915 and for years was the home to high school baseball and football, American Legion baseball and the Triple-A Evansville Triplets before affiliated pro ball left town. The stadium, which now houses the independent pro Evansville Otters and was host to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in 2021, looked to be condemned and torn down back in the ‘80s. That’s when Brownlee — who had his UE teams playing home games there at the time — got together with former minor league relief pitcher and manager “Singin’ Ed” Nottle and Evansville Central High School coach Paul Gries and brought in folks like Indiana, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer and Rex Mundi High School graduate Bob Griese, former MLB all-star and Evansville Memorial alum Don Mattingly and former big league pitcher and Evansville Central High grad Benes to help raise funds. Since then, not only has Bosse Field been saved but local high school and college fields have been upgraded. “It’s about facilities and making it better and showing it’s an important sport,” says Brownlee. UE now plays on turf at German American Bank at Charles H. Braun Stadium. “It was a labor of love for all of us,” says Brownlee. “I’m really proud of what we’ve built with the baseball community there.” Brownlee had both his sons — Tim and Ryan — as UE players and then coached with both of them. Tim Brownlee was also on the Illinois State staff and employed his father for a decade with his Normal, Ill.-based baseball tournament company — Diamond Sports Promotions. Between Evansville and ISU, Tim assisted his father for 17 seasons. Ryan Brownlee was an assistant at Evansville (1998-99), James Madison University (2000-03) and Iowa (2004-12) and head coach at Western Illinois University (2013-19) and is now Assistant Executive Director and weekly podcast host for the Greensboro, N.C.- based ABCA. The ABCA Convention is Jan. 6-9 in Chicago. He plans to appear at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic Jan. 14-16 in Indianapolis. Jamey Carroll is to go into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame Jan. 15.
After a one-year hiatus, Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League’s premier event is scheduled to return in 2022. A non-profit organization organized in 1993 with more than 200 members, including Don Mattingly, Bob Griese, Andy Benes, Jamey Carroll, Clint Barmes, Marty Amsler, Evansville area high school and college baseball and softball coaches, area businessmen and community leaders, Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League provides financial assistance to youth organizations in baseball, softball, soccer, football, wrestling, basketball and youth ministry athletics. Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League has distributed more than $2 million to over 100 youth organizations and a partial four-year college scholarship has been given for at least one area high school senior who has shown himself to be an outstanding athlete, student and citizen. The primary fundraiser is the “Night of Memories.” It is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at the Carson Center on the campus of the University of Evansville. Featured guests include National Baseball Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage, former big league outfielder Andruw Jones, hometown favorites Benes, Aaron Barrett and Jerad Eickhoff, Evansville Reitz graduate and New York Yankees prospect Elijah Dunham and 2021 Southridge High School graduate and Chicago White Sox draft selection Colson Montgomery.Wayne Hagin will serve as emcee. Former University of Evansville head baseball coach Jim Brownlee will receive a Legend Award. An autograph session is from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Central Time and open to all ages. Children 12-and-under are admitted free but must be accompanied by an adult with a paid admission and autograph purchase. All items to be signed require autograph ticket (not available online, only sold at the door). Pricing per autograph varies by guest and will be posted at hotstoveleague.org when available. A separate chat session and auction for guests 21-and-older is slated in the Meeks Family Fieldhouse. Doors open at 5 with welcome/introductions at 6:15, presentation of awards at 6:30, chat session at 6:45 and live auction at 7:45. Admission to the main event is $25 per person. Admission tickets purchased for the autograph session will also grant entry into the main event as long as the guest is 21 or older. A golf outing was held in September at Cambridge Golf Club in Evansville which funds the Bob Coleman-Joe Unfried Scholarship Award. Recent winners include Henry Brown (Evansville Central High School and Indiana State University) in 2021, Adam Euler (Evansville Reitz High School and University of Evansville) in 2020, Cory Bosecker (Evansville Central High School and Butler University) in 2019 and Zach Messinger (Castle High School and University of Virginia) in 2018. Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League officers are president Ryan Berger, vice presidents Eric Millay, Tracy Archuleta and Cory Edwards, treasurer Steve Millay, historian Dave Johnson and secretary Steve Johnston.
Evansville Central outfielder Blake Hermann was chosen as MVP and the South beat the North 7-5 in Game 3 of the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series Sunday, June 27 at historic Bosse Field. The win gave the South a 3-0 sweep of ’21 games. The North now leads 68-66 in the all-time series. The righty-swinging Hermann smacked a two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth inning and also singled in the eighth Sunday. The sixth is when the South scored three runs and turned a 5-3 deficit into a 6-5 lead. The University of Evansville commit went 2-of-2 with a pair of doubles and an RBI in Game 1 Saturday and collected a single, walk and scored a runs in Game 2. Saturday’s contests were held at the UE with the South prevailing 5-3 and 7-6. “I came out here and I just had some fun,” said Hermann. “I was playing with the best players in Indiana and got to know them a little.” Hitters in Sunday’s game wore their high school uniforms and wielded wood bats. “I’m used to it,” said Hermann. “It’s one of my favorite bats to swing.” While Hermann will the turf at the University of Evansville home, he was plenty familiar with the confidences of Bosse Field. “I played here all throughout high school so it feels like home,” said Hermann, who will be playing travel ball this summer with the Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks. Columbus East’s Parker Harrison belted a two-run home run to left in the South third inning. Crown Point’s Cal Curiel lashed a two-run single for the North in the second inning. Zionsville’s Nate Dohm pitched three hitless innings — fourth, fifth and sixth — with seven strikeouts as the winning pitcher. Indianapolis Cathedral sidearmer Chris Gallagher pitched the last three innings and earned the save. Westfield’s Logan Nickel took the loss. Evansville was the all-star series host for the first time since 2009. The 2022 IHSBCA Futures Game and North/South All-Star Series is to be played at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion.
IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES (At Evansville) Game 3 (Wood Bat) SOUTH 7, NORTH 5 North 031 000 100 — 5 8 0 South 002 103 10x — 7 7 0 WP — Dohm. LP — Nickel. Save — Gallagher. Pitchers: North — Bryce Schaum (Munster; 3 innings, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 hits, 2 runs), Logan Nickel (Westfield; 3 innings, 0 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4 hits, 4 runs), Kyle Tupper (South Bend St. Joseph; 2 innings, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits, 1 run). South — Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North; 3 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 5 hits, 4 runs), Nate Dohm (Zionsville; 3 innings, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 hits, 0 runs), Chris Gallagher (Cathedral; 3 innings, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits, 1 run). North: Hits — Rocco Hanes (Norwell), Sergio Lira Ayala (NorthWood), Jacob Loftus (Peru), Cal Curiel (Crown Point), Carter Mathison (Homestead), Kameron Salazar (Wawasee), A.J., Bordenet (Lafayette Central Catholic), Garrett Harker (Lebanon). 3B — Mathison. RBI — Curiel 2. Runs — Lira Ayala, Loftus, Mathison, Salazar, Matthew Dobuck (Plymouth). LOB — 3. South: Hits — Blake Hermann (Evansville Central) 2, Parker Harrison (Columbus East), Ty Rumsey (Evansville North), Nick Sutherlin (Greencastle), Pierson Barnes (Riverton Parke), Eli Watson (Providence). HR — Harrison. 3B — Watson. 2B — Sutherlin, Rumsey. RBI — Harrison 2, Hermann 2, Sutherlin, Andrew Oesterling (Oldenburg Academy). Runs — Oesterling, Harrison, Sutherlin, Watson, Herman, Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), Henry Brown (Evansville Central). SB — Barnes. LOB — 6. T — 2:20. MVP: Blake Hermann (Evansville Central).
Adam Hines knew there was a history of kidney disease in his family. When Adam, a 1993 Evansville (Ind.) North High School graduate, was in college his father, Craig Hines, had a kidney transplant. When Adam was about 35, he began getting kidney scans. Now 46, the head baseball coach at Henderson (Ky.) High School is three months out from his own kidney transplant. “I was not diagnosed (with Polycystic Kidney Disease) until five or six years ago,” says Hines. “I knew in the back of my mind it was a possibility. “There’s no fixing it. You deteriorate over the years. Cysts form and there’s nothing you can do about it. “They have drugs now that can delay it. None of that was available when I was younger.” Hines continued to teach and coach, but over time, he became more tired and sick. Toxins were not being filtered from his blood and was vomiting to get rid of them. More than a year ago, wife Lindsay (the Hines will celebrate six years of marriage July 5) made an appeal for a donor on Facebook. About 10 people were tested and none were matches. Brother Josh — three years younger than Adam — has shown no kidney disease symptoms. Adam Hines went through Henderson County’s first few 2020-21 scrimmages. He went out to hit infield/outfield. “Halfway through I said, ‘I’m not going to make it,’” says Hines. “I was huffing and puffing. I got through hitting to the outfield and walked off the field and sat in a chair. “That’s when it hit just how bad it was.” Since kidneys also regulate body temperature, Hines was starting to have trouble in hot weather. Lindsay Hines made another online appeal. Then David Gustafson came into the picture. Gustafson had been a student of Adam’s mother, Carolyn Hines, when she taught at Evansville Bosse High School and kept in-touch over the years even when Gustafson and his family moved to New England. He proved to be a match and volunteered to be a donor. The surgery was done March 23 in the University of Louisville Health Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and his condition, Hines had been the lead virtual teacher at Henderson County and had been running software for students since August 2020. He came back to teaching about two weeks after his surgery and to coaching after about six weeks. “I still still struggled at the start stamina-wise,” says Hines. “I learned what I could and could not do. I still had a little bit of the pain. “I had to get used to the physical part of it.” The Henderson County Colonels went 22-15 in 2021. The team won a District 6 title and lost to Lyon County in the Region 2 championship. Kentucky does not have classes for baseball. Trinity of Louisville beat McCracken County of the state crown June 19 in Lexington. Hines was hired at Henderson County (enrollment of about 2,050 students in 2020-21) in the fall of 2017 after five seasons as head coach at Owensboro (Ky.) Catholic High School (2020-21 enrollment of about 450). He taught Family Consumer Science at Owensboro Catholic and moved to Henderson County where he would be closer to family in Evansville and be able to teach in his preferred area — Physical Education and Health. “It’s a better fit for me,” says Hines, who enjoyed his time at Owensboro Catholic and still stays in-contact with many former players. “And it was a chance to move to a bigger school (one of the biggest in Kentucky) and chance to work with more kids on a regular basis.” Because of its size and location, Henderson County played five games against Indiana schools this spring — Evansville Mater Dei, South Spencer, Castle, Evansville Reitz and Evansville Central. Hines counted 12 ranked teams on the 2021 schedule. “I really don’t care what our regular-season record is,” says Hines. “I like to play a tougher schedule (to prepare for the postseason). “(Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association) rankings don’t really matter since everyone makes the tournament. It’s all going to come out in the wash.” Kentucky High School Athletic Association has district, region and semistate leading up the eight-team State Finals, where the champion must win three games. That means depth is key. Practice seasons are open in the Bluegrass State. “We can coach year-round if we want to, but we don’t,” says Hines. “I will typically start sometime in September with fall workouts (typically for five weeks). We take a month off for Christmas and come back and get ready for tryouts.” This year, Hines had a few football players and one basketball player on his varsity team. “I have no problem with kids playing other sports,” says Hines. “It makes them well-rounded.” He says basketball players tend to take a little time to get into baseball shape since they run much of their weight off and don’t get the amount of throwing time in during the winter as other baseball players. Hines was a right-handed pitcher at Evansville North, where Dan Sparrow was his coach and Jeff McKeon was a teammate, and in college. He played the 1994 and 1995 seasons at Southeastern Illinois College (a junior college in Harrisburg, Ill.) and the 1996 and 1997 campaigns at Murray (Ky.) State University. His SIC coach was Jay Burch (now athletic director at Heritage Hills High School in Lincoln City, Ind.). “I love Coach Burch,” says Hines. “I’ve talked to him quite a few times over the years. “He’s a great leader and a great personality. He has a little bit of humor and a little bit of sarcasm. That fits my personality. I learned a lot from him.” Mike Thieke was head coach of the Murray State Racers when Hines was in the program. “He had a compassionate demeanor and was kind of soft-spoken,” says Hines. “That’s the way I am with coaching.” After his playing days, Hines became a graduate assistant at Murray State while beginning to pursue a masters degree in Education. Near the end of his college days, Hines talked with his parents (Craig Hines was a teacher at Oak Hill in Evansville) and decided that was the best path for him. After his GA stint at Murray State, he joined Burch’s staff at Southeastern Illinois and then became Falcons head coach for five years. When former Murray State assistant Bart Osborne took over the head coaching post at Union College (Barboursville, Ky.), he brought Hines in as pitching coach. That’s where Hines finished his masters degree. He was with the Bulldogs for eight years. “We had some good runs there,” says Hines. Union won a conference title and went to the NAIA World Series in 2008. Since the season ended at Henderson County, Hines has been focused on rest and relaxation and good lab numbers. “I feel like I need to completely rest before we go back to school,” says Hines. “We’ll go to see my wife’s family Alabama. We have not seen them because of COVID-19. “I’m going to go back into teaching. That’s what I love to do.”
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.
That’s because his grandparents — Don and Bonnie Barrett — lived in Princeton, Ind., and Don played American Legion ball with Hodges — who went on to fame with the Brooklyn Dodgers — in the early 1940’s. When Gil joined the team Don moved from shortstop to third base.
“He always had something for me to work on,” says Zach of his grandpa. “He knew the game really well.”
One of Zach’s cousin is Aaron Barrett. Before Don Barrett died he got to see Aaron pitch in the big leagues.
“He was super-proud of Aaron,” says Zach. “He would be super-proud to know I was hired at Princeton — his alma mater.”
Gil Hodges Field has a different look these days, including turf in the infield. Barrett’s players got a chance to get on the carpet for the first time just this week.
“The school corporation put a ton of money into it,” says Barrett. “There are all sorts of upgrades.”
Jason Engelbrecht was the head coach at Evansville Central High School when Zach’s cousins Aaron Barrett (who has come back from multiple injuries as a pro), Drew Barrett (a left-handed-hitting infielder who played two years at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and two at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky.) and Ryan Barrett were playing for the Bears.
Jason Barrett (Zach’s older brother who played at Ball State University) was a hitting star at Central for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul Gries. The Central facility is now known as Paul Gries Field.
Engelbrecht was later head coach at Princeton Community and is now Tigers athletic director. He brought Zach on as an assistant. With the cancellation of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is to be Barrett’s first one with games.
Princeton Community went 10-16 in 2019. A number of regulars remain from that team.
“We have a pretty good nucleus,” says Barrett.
The Tigers go in with a group that includes senior left-handed pitcher/outfielder Rhett Thompson, senior shortstop Lance Stuckey, senior corner infielder/right-handed pitcher Briar Christy and junior catcher/pitcher/third baseman Sean Stone.
The 6-foot-7 Thompson was the mound starter in the 2019 IHSAA Class 3A Vincennes Lincoln Sectional championship game against the host Alices.
Stone is already getting looks from college baseball programs.
Gerit Bock, a 2020 Princeton graduate, is now on the roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
With Barrett serving as an assistant on Princeton Community head football coach Jared Maners’ staff, there was no IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activity in the fall. Players began to get rolling in January.
Made up primarily of seventh and eighth graders with some sixth graders, that squad plays from March to May.
“We have good coaches at that level that understand the game,” says Barrett. “It’s not about wins and losses at that level. Are the kids having fun? Are they getting better? Are they part of the team?”
Barrett, who splits his work day between teaching high school Health and middle school Physical Education, will walk the halls to find athletes.
Thorough his own experience and observation, he realizes that what they are at 13 and 17 may be vastly different.
“I’ve played with kids absolute studs in middle school and barely played as seniors,” says Barrett. “On the other side, there are those (smallish or uncoordinated kids) who stick with it and become very good varsity players.
“You just never know. Kids mature differently.”
The Cub team practices and plays on Gil Hodges Field, which features lights.
“I want those kids to feel like they’re a part of us,” says Barrett. “In years past, they’ve worked out with our varsity guys.”
That’s given the older ones a chance to mentor the younger ones.
“They understand that they are the future,” says Barrett. “They put Princeton first.
“They’re not selfish.”
Barrett is a 2004 graduate of Reitz High School in Evansville, where the 6-foot-5 athlete was a standout in football, basketball and baseball. He played receiver and safety for John Hart on the gridiron, power forward or center for Michael Adams on the hardwood and pitcher, shortstop and center fielder for Steve Johnston on the diamond.
Hart, a member of the Reitz and Greater Evansville Football halls of fame, impressed Barrett with the way he went about his business and the relationships he built with his players. Unlike some coaches, Hart was not intimidating but approachable.
“He was like a second dad,” says Barrett. “I was able to talk with him.
“He was good about taking care of the small things and being disciplined. He was a very smart coach.”
Nick Hart, John’s son and head football coach at Gibson Southern, is a good friend of Barrett’s.
Barrett was all-city, all-SIAC and Indiana Football Coaches Association All-State as junior and senior, AP All-State and an Indiana Mr. Football Finalist as senior.
Adams, who is still on the bench at Reitz, got Barrett’s attention when he as attending basketball camps as an elementary school student.
“His attention to detail was apparent at that age,” says Barrett, who saw varsity minutes as a freshman and became a starter as a sophomore. “He was very strict but he knew how to relate to players.
“He was about as good an X’s and O’s coach as you’ll ever see. He would get you ready and prepared mentally and physically.
“I’m glad to see all the success he’s had lately.”
Barrett won four basketball letters at Reitz and paced the team in rebounding three times. He was all-SIAC as a junior and senior and honorable mention All-State as a senior.
Johnston gave Barrett the chance to experience varsity ball as a freshman and made him a starter the next spring.
“Everybody enjoy playing for him,” says Barrett of Johnston. “He had a good baseball mind.”
Barrett completed his Reitz baseball career second all-time in both hits (95) and slugging percentage (.576). He was named all-Southern Indiana Athletic Conference as a junior and Associated Press All-State as a senior when he was also selected in the 38th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins and chosen to play in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
“DC — we called him the ‘Mayor of Olney,’” says Barrett of veteran skipper Conley. “He was a mentor and taught you about doing things right. He wasn’t messing around. But he could flip the stitch and be able to relate to us.
“He obviously knew the game very well. He was tough to play for. He put a lot of pressure on you. You needed to come up big and handle situations. I had my share of butt-chewings. He got max effort out of all of us and we respected the heck out of him.”
Similar to Conley, Peterson was Old School in his approach. He believed in fundamentals and discipline.
“He was not afraid to run you and do things like that when he didn’t get the most of us,” says Barrett. “I learned a lot of life lessons from my high school and college coaches.”
Barrett uses drills in his high school practices that he learned from Conley and Peterson.
Barrett played in 116 games as a third baseman for the MTSU Blue Raiders. He hit .329 with 12 doubles and 32 runs batted in as a junior and . 383 with nine home runs, 16 doubles and 46 RBI’s in as a senior.
“He took care of his players,” says Dillman of Sparrow, who died in 2014. “He taught us a lot of life lessons.”
A 2008 North graduate who played for Sparrow, Dillman began coaching right after high school with one year as Huskies freshmen coach before moving up to junior varsity coach/varsity assistant. He was on the staff of Sparrow and then current North head coach Jeremy Jones.
“With Coach Jones, it’s about being on time, being a good teammate and always hustling,” says Dillman. “He’s a player’s coach.
“There’s never a time he doesn’t think about baseball. The attention to detail he puts into his practice plans like no other.”
Dillman, who works for Lamar Advertising in Evansville, has also coached for the former Ironmen (now part of the Louisville Legends) and Indiana Spikes travel organizations.
Hired at Harrison in October after the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period window, Dillman went about meeting his players and establishing his coaching staff.
Keith Ayers and Shane Holmes are varsity assistants. Harrison graduate and former University of Indianapolis and University of Southern Indiana player LaWan Rollins is junior varsity coach.
When the Limited Contact Period window re-opened in January, the Warriors worked on building their arms and conditioning while the new head coach got to know his athletes even better.
“They’re all new to me,” says Dillman. “It’s a fresh start. There’s a new guy and a new system.
While SIAC teams may play each other more than once during the regular season, only one designated game counts during the conference standings.
The Warriors are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Jasper. Harrison has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2016. The Andy Rice-coached Warriors were 4A state runners-up in 2000.
Rice poured much into the Harrison program, including the Warriors’ home field that is located two miles west of the school near the National Guard Armory, Roberts Park (former site of Roberts Stadium) and Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve.
In the spirit of taking responsibility, Dillman encourages players with a driver’s license to get players who don’t to practices and games at the field.
Besides Rollins, a recent Harrison graduate in college baseball is Aaron Beck who went to Olney (Ill.) Central College then committed to Indiana State University. Andrew Cope played for USI’s 2014 NCAA Division II national champions.
Getting attention at the collegiate level are junior catcher Zak York and senior middle infielder/pitcher Alex Griffin. Both have been varsity regulars since their respective freshmen years.
Evansville is scheduled to be the site of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game June 23 at USI and IHSBCA North/South Series June 26-27 to the University of Evansville — and perhaps — historic Bosse Field. That’s the week after the 2021 IHSAA State Finals in Indianapolis.