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Jarrett establishing his system for Notre Dame baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Link Jarrett has spent this fall putting in his team system as the new head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Jarrett, who was named to the position July 12, is bringing his Fighting Irish to the end of its first phase of the fall. After this weekend comes a month that is more individual-oriented.

“You’ve got to have a way you do your fly-ball communication, bunt defense, first-and-third, cutoffs and relays, pickoffs and rundowns,” says Jarrett from the dugout at ND’s Frank Eck Stadium. “Those require the whole team. We wanted to make sure on the front of team practice that we implemented those things and the guys understood it.

“As you put those team concepts in play, you start learning your personnel a little bit. We’re very close to really understanding all of that, which I wanted to do by the end of this week.”

Notre Dame plays an exhibition game Saturday, Oct. 19 against NCAA Division II Southern Indiana at historic Bosse Field in Evansville. The game will benefit the fight against Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that affects one in 50,000 people in the U.S.

Sam Archuleta, son of USI head coach Tracy Archuleta, has FA.

Many pitchers are not throwing live right now and won’t make the trip to Evansville. Others will give Jarrett and his assistants (Rich Wallace, Chuck Ristano, Scott Wingo plus director of baseball operations Steve Rosen) a chance to see the program’s culture grow.

“You learn your guys as you are around them,” says Jarrett. “The No. 1 component is how we perform together out here (on the field).

“But getting to know the individuals and trying to figure out personalities and what buttons to push comes through being around them. It comes through time and working at your relationship with them.”

Jarrett sees the relationship with each athlete as an organic thing that grows naturally.

“Learning what they need as players and trying to help them individually, that also helps your relationship building because they know you’re in it for them and for the right reason,” says Jarrett. “We’re trying to find a way to make the team better and win more games. That’s the bottom line.”

The rest of the fall and winter will also include looking at potential recruits from current high school sophomores (Class of 2023) and buttoning up travel budgets and equipment details.

“Once you get back (from Christmas break) and start preseason practice, you really don’t come back up for air until June,” says Jarrett.

A native of Tallahassee, Fla., Jarrett played at Florida State University for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Martin for four seasons (1991-94 with all but 1993 being College World Series teams) and then five in the Colorado Rockies organization (1994-98).

Jarrett was an assistant coach at Flagler College (1999-2001), Florida State (2003), Mercer University (2004-05), East Carolina University (2006-09) and Auburn University (2010-12) before serving as head coach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (2013-19).

Jarrett had an appreciation of Martin while playing and coaching for him and taps into that knowledge now.

“(Martin) gave me an opportunity because I can go on the field and function in his system. I could play the game,” says Jarrett. “I reflect on our (Florida State) teams and we were good, versatile baseball players. You can essentially keep yourself in most of the baseball games if you can pitch and play defense. It started there for us.

“(Martin) was a very good game tactician. I’d like to think I took some of that with me.

“You recognize when you’re around somebody who’s very special at what they do. I knew at one point that coaching was a possibility for me so I tried to soak in as much as I could.”

Jarrett says Martin had a knack for putting people in the right spot on the field, managing the game and putting guys on the mound who could function in college.

“It didn’t mean they had the best velocity or had the best draft potential necessarily,” says Jarrett. “But they were people he trusted to go out there and execute pitches and win college games with good baseball players behind them.

“That’s how we played. That’s how we won. I’m trying to do the same thing with our team here (at Notre Dame).

“We’ve got some arms that are experienced and talented. We have not played near good enough defense to compete consistently.

“You can look at the statistics and the ball in play wasn’t handled well here last year. We have to do better.”

As a former middle infielder, Jarrett tends to view the game through the lense of his shortstop and second baseman as well as his catcher and center fielder.

“I put a lot of pressure on our middle guys to run the game,” says Jarrett. “I expect that center fielder to run that entire outfield to take charge and lead.”

Jarrett is grateful to David Barnett (who has 952 career wins) for giving him his start in coaching. As athletic director and head baseball coach at Flagler, Barnett made Jarrett his first-ever full-time assistant and gave him plenty of responsibility with strength and conditioning to field maintenance.

“I learned how to run the entire operation,” says Jarrett. “He didn’t hire a coach. He gambled on hiring somebody who had some good experience as a player.

“(Barnett) taught me how to do some of the things you took for granted as a player. I’m very fortunate Dave gave me a chance to get into it at Flagler. Those were three great years in St. Augustine.”

After a season on Martin’s staff, Jarrett was hired by Craig Gibson at Mercer in Macon, Ga., where he was recruiting coordinator and helped with the field.

Randy Mazey brought Jarrett aboard at East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. But about a month into the job, Billy Godwin became his boss.

Jarrett describes Godwin as a hard-nosed baseball person.

“We worked very well together,” says Jarrett. “He’s a pitching coach by trade, but is adept at coaching a lot of different parts of the game.

“He gave me Gave me tremendous flexibility to do what I wanted to do with the offense and with the recruiting.

“In my four years, created a College World Series caliber team.”

After scouting for the New York Yankees, Godwin is now head coach at UNC Greensboro.

“I hope I left him a program that’s in good shape and he’ll enjoy coaching there, too,” says Jarrett.

After Eastern Carolina came the opportunity at Auburn, where John Pawlowski was head coach.

“J.P.’s a good guy,” says Jarrett of Pawlowski. “He’s a very organized leader. He’s very detailed in what he does. He gave me an opportunity to coach in the SEC and I’m very thankful for that.

“Navigating the draft was a tricky thing at Auburn. So many recruits were drafted every year. Sometimes we out-recruited getting them to campus.

“To win the (SEC) West and host a regional was phenomenal.”

Jarrett’s first head coaching gig at UNC Greensboro produced a 215-166 record in seven seasons, including 34 or more wins the past four seasons.

As a minor league player, Jarrett was a teammate of Todd Helton, who went on to play 17 big league seasons and hit .316 with 369 home runs, 1,175 runs batted in while striking out 1,175 times in 7,962 at-bats (or about 15 percent of the time).

“Pitch for pitch, he was the toughest out I’d ever seen,” says Jarrett of Helton. “He may not have been the biggest physically or had not the most power. But his ability to manage at-bats was phenomenal.

“I started to take some of what I watched him do and kind of filed it away knowing that these are things I need to teach as a coach. Some of it was swing stuff that he did, but it was based more on his approach to the at-bat and how he was being pitched.”

Jarrett says Helton had the ability to think through how he was being pitched really well and apply that knowledge during his at-bats.

“What separated him and made him a Hall of Fame-type hitter was his innate ability to pinpoint what he was looking for, focus on it and hit it or take it if it wasn’t within his approach,” says Jarrett. “Had he been less disciplined, he would have hit for less power. He gave himself a chance to get good pitches to hit.

“Putting the ball in play pressures people and Todd was obviously very good at it.”

The way Jarrett’s breaks down the count for hitters, there’s hitting with two strikes and less than two strikes.

“The goal when you get two strikes on you is not to strike out,” says Jarrett. “The goal with less than two strikes is to drive balls and hit balls really hard.

“The strikeout is the worst thing offensively that can happen to you. You’re not putting the ball in play. In the college game, it’s even worse than in the big leagues because the defense isn’t quite as skilled or positioned or talented.”

Link, 47, and Jennifer Jarrett have two children — J.T. and Dawson. J.T. Jarrett is a junior on the North Carolina State University baseball team. Like Notre Dame, the Wolfpack are in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

While on fall break, J.T. was able to see his father and attend the USC-Notre Dame football game this past weekend. Dawson Jarrett is finishing her senior year at Northern Guilford High School in Greensboro, N.C.

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Link Jarrett is the head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame. The Florida native comes to northern Indiana after serving as head coach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. (University of Notre Dame Photo)

 

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Buddies Quarles, Moralez to teach baseball in China

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jaylen Quarles welcomes new adventures in his life.

The Indianapolis native will soon experience new things and share his bat and ball knowledge on the other side of the globe.

“I’m ready to learn something different,” says Quarles, who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in sports management from the University of Southern Indiana (2017 and 2019), where he played baseball. “I would love to learn a second language.”

The former Screaming Eagles outfielder/designated hitter will get a chance to pick up a Mandarin dialect spoken in Tianjin, China.

Quarles and best friend Andrew Moralez are scheduled to leave Monday morning (Sept. 15) from Indianapolis for Toronto and then on to China and a year as instructors for Dallas-based D-BAT Baseball & Softball Academies.

After a week of training in Beijing, Lawrence Central High School graduate Quarles and Bishop Chatard High School and Kentucky Wesleyan College grad Moralez will move about 70 miles southeast to the metropolis of Tianjin. With the help of translators, they will teach players ages 3 to 18.

“The contract is a full year,” says Quarles. “We get holidays off, but not enough time to come home.

“In the ninth or 10th month, we can negotiate for a second year.”

At 25, Moralez is also ready for adventure and getting himself experience toward his goal of coaching at the international level. He was recruited by D-BAT director of China Operations David Fisher and sent a resume and video montage.

“A lot of people don’t get to do this kind of stuff,” says Moralez. “I might as well take advantage of it.”

Quarles and Moralez have known each other since they were 9. Jaylen was playing for the Indiana Pony Express and Andrew, who moved to Indiana from Colorado at 6, the Westfield (Ind.) Indians. From 11 to 18, the two were summer mates with the Pony Express.

Jon Richardson was the leader of that travel organization.

“Jon was a really good influence on us when we were younger,” says Moralez, who later coached at 17U Pony Express team for Richardson. “He kept us accountable.

“I can’t being to explain how much he’s done for me and my career.”

Quarles is a 2012 graduate of Lawrence Central, where he lettered in baseball and football. He was honorable mention all-state, first team all-Conference Indiana and all-Marion County as a senior while hitting .463 with 20 runs batted in.

He was playing eighth grade football when coach Dan Roman fired a football into the air one day at practice and told Jaylen “make sure you call it.”

Roman, the head baseball coach at Lawrence Central at the time, knew that the youngster was familiar with the diamond.

But that was news to Quarles.

“I had no idea he knew I played baseball,” says Quarles. “I enjoyed playing for Dan Roman at LC.”

Besides the Pony Express, Quarles also played parts of two summers with Indianapolis RBI, playing in national tournaments in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

He went on to participate in two seasons of junior college baseball at Southeastern Illinois College. As a sophomore in 2014, the lefty-swinger hit .367 with 39 runs scored and team-best 26 RBIs.

After transferring to USI, Quarles played 33 games (22 starts) and hit .363 with 18 runs in 2015. After being a medical redshirt in 2016, he played 35 games (29 starts at designated hitter) in 2017 while hitting .310 with 14 runs and 14 RBIs.

Why degrees in sports management?

“Growing up all I wanted to do was play baseball,” says Quarles, who posted a 3.8 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale (in grad school). “I want to stay around the business.

“This is the type of job that I want. I’d eventually like to be a college coach at any level.”

Moralez was a three-year starter at Chatard, playing shortstop, second base, right field and pitching for Trojans head coach Mike Harmon. He was honorable all-Marion County in 2010.

What Moralez appreciates about Harmon is his ability to bring players together.

“He harped on family a lot with us,” says Moralez. “I look that into college and pro ball.”

“I wanted to want the team to be one and have good chemistry. I wanted to get everybody on board with one mission.”

The right-handed pitcher at Kentucky Wesleyan from 2013-16, making 39 mound appearances with nine victories for the Todd Lillpop-coached Panthers. He earned a degree in graphic design.

After college, Moralez took part in the California Winter League and then spring training with the independent Frontier League’s Evansville (Ind.) Otters in 2017.

Moralez landed with the Thoroughbred Mustangs of the independent Thoroughbred Baseball League in Lexington, Ky. With Scott Nathanson as manager, the Mustangs won the league championship.

Through BaseballJobsOverseas.com, Moralez was going to play in Austria when he developed bone spurs and instead stayed in the U.S. and took an office job.

While Moralez has been working in Indianapolis, Quarles has been living and working in the Evansville area. He got internship credit working for Kevin and Kate Brown at Kevin Brown Baseball & Softball School in Mount Vernon, Ind., and continued to give lessons and coach travel softball.

“I got really comfortable in Evansville,” says Quarles. “I gained and formed relationships.”

That includes USI head coach Tracy Archuleta, who he surprised recently by popping in at practice.

Quarles, 26, was offered the chance to join D-BAT in the spring through a Facebook message from former USI pitcher Dan Marcacci. But Jaylen was finishing his graduate degree and the softball season was about to begin.

“I had obligations,” says Quarles. “I’ve been all-in with these girls. I can’t leave them hanging.”

Fast forward to this week and Quarles has been in Indianapolis making preparations to travel to China, including getting shots and squaring away paperwork.

Jaylen is the son of Leonza and Crystle Quarles. He has a sister, Jazzemine.

Andrew is the youngest of Oscar and Julie Moralez. Jesse Moralez is the older brother.

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Andrew Moralez, a graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis and Kentucky Wesleyan College, delivers a 2017 pitch for the independent Thoroughbred Mustangs in Lexington, Ky.  He will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. They played travel ball together on the Pony Express. (Thoroughbred Baseball League Photo)

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Indianapolis native Jaylen Quarles bats for the University of Southern Indiana. The 2012 Lawrence Central High School graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. They played travel ball together on the Pony Express. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

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Andrew Moralez fires a pitch for Kentucky Wesleyan College. On this day, he hit the radar gun at 94 mph. The KWC and Bishop Chatard High School graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. (Kentucky Wesleyan College Photo)

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Jaylen Quarles prepares for the pitch while playing for the University of Southern Indiana. The USI and Lawrence Central High school graduate will soon be teaching baseball in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. (University of Southern Indiana)

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At Kentucky Wesleyan College baseball senior day in 2017, Andrew Moralez is surrounded by his family. From left, there’s big brother Jesse Moralez, mother Juile Moralez and father Oscar Moralez.

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Crystle and Leonza Quarles share a moment with son Jaylen Quarles during the latter’s baseball-playing days at the University of Southern Indiana.

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Andrew Moralez played baseball at Kentucky Wesleyan College and will soon be teaching the game in China with best friend Jaylen Quarles. He is a graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis (Kentucky Wesleyan University Photo)

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Jaylen Quarles played baseball at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville and will soon be teaching the game in China with best friend Andrew Moralez. He is a graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)

 

Mt. Vernon (Posey), Southern Indiana product Brown contributing in Braves system at bat, behind the plate

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Logan Brown takes pride in being a contributor on both offense and defense.

Take a recent game for the Florida Fire Frogs at the Daytona Tortugas.

The lefty-swinging Brown produced the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning and then went behind the plate in the bottom half to guide his pitcher and the team to victory.

“I got a change-up and doubled over the right fielder’s head and we went ahead 2-1,” says Brown. “We won with our closer (Daysbel Hernandez).

“It’s always nice to help the pitchers out. In the end of the day, they’re the one making the pitches. But I hope they feel comfortable throwing to me. That’s always a big priority to me.”

When his son was age 3 or 4, Kevin Brown noticed that the boy was turning into a lefty. Being a professional catcher himself (the elder Brown was a receiver for the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox between 1996-2002), he let his boy keep swinging from left side but changed him to a right-handed thrower.

Logan Brown, who was born in Evansville, Ind., grew up in nearby Mount Vernon and played Mount Vernon Youth Baseball and travel ball for the Mount Vernon Wildbats (coached by Dan McNamara and including future high school and college teammate Drake McNamara), Southern Indiana Sharks (coached by Kevin Brown, J.D. Mobley and Kevin Krizan and featuring teammates Cody Mobley and Austin Krizan) and Evansville Wolfepack (coached by former big league infielder Joe Lis) and for Mount Vernon (Posey) High School.

Along the way, he played some in the infield. But his primary position was catcher and his high school coach — Paul Quinzer — trusted him to call pitches.

“(Quinzer) was a great coach,” says Brown, who was an all-Southwest Indiana Conference performer after batting .384 as a senior. “He knows you have that kind of potential.”

The trend of letting him call pitches continued for Brown at the University of Southern Indiana, where Jeremy Kuester was the pitching coach and Tracy Archuleta the head coach.

“He’s a fantastic coach,” says Brown of Archuleta. “He wants what’s best for every single player. He knows how to run a program.

“If he knows you can do better, he’s going to let you know. He knows you have that potential. He’ll say things like ‘I know you have more in your tank.’”

Archuleta has led the USI to two NCAA Division II national championships. The Screaming Eagles went 106-63 during Brown’s time on the team (2016-18) as he hit .313, .276 and .338 with 127 starts. USI won regional titles in 2016 and 2018.

Brown notes that many of his minor league teammates and opponents played D-II baseball.

Selected in the 35th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Braves, Brown has continued calling pitches as a professional.

“It’s a lot of reading the hitters and things like that,” says Brown. “It’s more than just throwing pitches. You see how the hitters react to it. You see their swing path.”

The Kissimmee- based Fire Frogs play in the 12-team Advanced Class-A Florida State League. Seeing a team one time is enough for Brown to pick up on hitters’ strengths and weaknesses.

“You can’t get repetitive or they’ll sit on pitches,” says Brown. “It can’t be the same rhythm for every at-bat.

“Throw a throw a question mark in there to confuse them. A 3-2 curve ball is enough to get them guessing.”

Brown’s background in the infield also serves as catcher.

“It translates,” says Brown. “The pitcher may spike a curve ball or slider. You stay through it and pick it.”

With a bat in his bands, Brown looks to make adjustments.

“I know the movement on baseballs is a little better (each step up the minor league ladder),” says Brown. “I’m sticking to my approach. I like to think ‘drive the ball the other way.’ But it depends on what the pitcher is doing as the game and the at-bat goes on.

“To be a good hitter, you’ve got to make adjustments throughout the at-bat.”

Brown, who turns 23 on Sept. 14, began the 2019 season with the Low Class-A Rome (Ga.) Braves and played in 51 games, hitting .301 with one home run, 11 doubles and 26 runs batted in.

In his first 35 games with the Fire Frogs, Brown is hitting .272 with three homers, five doubles and 16 RBI. He his hitting .289 with six runs driven in over his last 10 games.

Brown says he likes to emphasize his strengths and work on what he understands to be his weaknesses during the off-season.

The next two stages in the Braves system are Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett (Ga.).

Though he is not yet sure what the Braves have in mind for him at season’s end, Brown says expects to be in Mount Vernon at some point and helping his father at the Kevin Brown Baseball & Softball School.

Kevin Brown played baseball at USI while Logan’s mother, Rachel (then Murray and now Daniel) played tennis (Logan also played the sport in high school). Logan’s parents have remarried and he has seventh brothers and sisters in the Mount Vernon/Evansville area, ranging from 2 to 20.

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Logan Brown, a Mount Vernon (Posey) High School graduate and former University of Southern Indiana player, is now a catcher in the Atlanta Braves system. (Florida Fire Frogs Photo)

 

‘Stubborn approach’ has Evansville’s Owen at Triple-A level with Pirates

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Hunter Owen was playing in his fifth game since being promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Evansville, Ind., native was facing a knuckleball pitcher for the first time.

After grounding into a fielder’s choice in his first plate appearance on Thursday, July 18, Owen belted the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the third inning from Syracuse right-hander Mickey Jannis for a two-run home run and the Indians went on to beat the Mets 9-1 at Victory Field.

“You can’t prepare for (the knuckleball),” says Owen. “You have to be willing to battle and stick to your stubborn approach.”

Owen, who swings from the right side, says that when he’s going good he looks for a pitch in a particular location and doesn’t miss it.

That kind of pitch recognition comes with repetition.

“The majority is experience — a lot of at-bats at each level,” says Owen. “The higher up you go, the better the stuff is.

“(Experience) allows you to progress as a hitter — visually and physically.”

Owen was selected out of Indiana State University in the 25th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He experienced 187 at-bats for the short-season West Virginia Black Bears in 2016. In 2017, he had 12 AB’s with the Black Bears, 291 with the Low Class-A West Virginia Power and 10 with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates.

There were 401 at-bats with the Advanced-A Bradenton (Fla.) Marauders in 2018. He opened 2019 with 235 more for the Double-A Altoona (Pa.) Curve.

Owen hit .257 with five homers and 34 runs batted in for 2016, .284 with 13 and 49 in 2017 and .262 with 18 and 60 in 2018.

At Altoona, his numbers were .298, 15 and 44 before his promotion.

The biggest difference between Double-A and Triple-A?

“The pitching,” says Owen. “Guys can throw three to four pitches wherever they want it.

“They have a better plan of how to attack you.”

Owen really learned how to play in attack mode from his head coach at Evansville Mater Dei High School and with Funkhouser American Legion Post 8Jeff Schulz (who played 40 games in the majors with the Pirates and Kansas City Royals).

“What sticks with me is the aggressiveness mentality,” says Owen. “You’re going up to the plate to do damage.

“You also want to be as much of a well-rounded player as a you can be.”

Growing up, Owen was mostly a shortstop. In high school, he was also used at second base and third base (and was also honorable mention all-state on the football field).

Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs told him to embrace versatility and Owen is comfortable in the infield, outfield or behind the plate.

“Any ability to crack the lineup and be versatile for my team,” says Owen. “(Hannahs) made me the ballplayer I am today — for sure.

“More than anything, he helped me grow mentally. He takes pride in having ballplayers with a lot of character that are good people.”

While he’s got 52 minor league homers, Owen does not classify himself as a pure home run hitter.

“I have gap-to-gap power,” says Owen, who is 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds. “I have the ability to drive the baseball over the wall (with a combination of bat speed and strength).”

Owen notes that every hitter has a launch angle — that’s just physics.

He sticks with the approach that’s more conducive to his swing.

“I’m hitting down through (the baseball),” says Owen, who also has 70 doubles and 12 triples in three-plus minor league seasons.

Owen, who resides in Fishers, Ind., in the off-season, began training last winter with Mike Robertson at Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFIT) to increase his mobility, overall strength and speed.

“They help you maximize your physical potential,” says Owen.

Now that he’s playing home games in Indianapolis, Owen has had many family and friends in the stands and expects to see more.

“It’s super humbling to have so many people reach out who are interested in my career,” says Owen, who turns 26 Sept. 22. “The big support system behind me makes it super special.”

The youngest of former University of Evansville baseball player Steve and wife Kena Owen’s five children (following Michael, Leslie, Tyler and Mandi), Hunter took advantage of the lessons that position afforded him.

“It was awesome,” says Hunter. “I really took hold to my two brothers.”

Tyler Owen played four years of NCAA Division I baseball at Murray (Ky.) State University.

“He helped me through my high school and college career,” says Hunter of Tyler. “Picking my brother’s brain was super helpful.”

Hunter attended St. Philip Catholic School through the eighth grade and played for the school teams as well as the Southern Indiana Bombers prior to high school. He played a summer with the Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks before heading off to ISU.

As a Sycamore, Owen was redshirted in 2013 then played from 2014-16. He hit .342 with nine homers and 59 RBIs, including .350, six and 47 as an all-Missouri Valley Conference outfielder in 2016.

At the time he began his pro baseball career, Owen was working toward and sport management degree and plans to complete it at some point.

Right now, he’s battling and being stubborn in his approach.

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Hunter Owen, an Evansville (Ind.) Mater Dei High School graduate who played at Indiana State University, is now with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. (Indianapolis Indians Photo)

 

Mental toughness key for Cubs minor league hurler Thompson

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Intellectual resolve helped Riley Thompson excel at high school and college baseball levels and he is hoping it will propel him as a professional.

Thompson, 21, is a 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher who played at Christian Academy of Louisville and the University of Louisville before being selected in the 11th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs.

He is now with the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs of the Low Class-A Midwest League.

Thompson was picked in two previous MLB drafts (2015 in the 37th round by the Cincinnati Reds and 2017 in the 25th by the New York Yankees), but opted to stay in school.

After redshirting in 2016, Thompson appeared in 25 games for Louisville in 2017 and 2018. He started seven of 11 games in 2018.

His head coach for the Cardinals was Dan McDonnell.

“Coach Mac really harps on mental toughness and all the qualities that go along with that,” says Thompson. “It really helped me develop as a man and be ready for pro ball.

“He’s a great motivator. He knows what to say.”

Thompson got into nine games (eight as a starter) and went 0-2 with an 2.84 earned run average for the rookie-level Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds in 2018. He struck out 25 and walked nine in 25 innings.

In his short time in the organization, he has come to appreciate the way the Cubs handle their players from the nutrition and strength staffs to the facilities and accommodations they find for them.

“They really do treat us well,” says Thompson. “For that, I’m really grateful.”

There’s also the mental skills training.

“They do a good job of training our minds and getting us ready for the season,” says Thompson. “For me, it’s the ability to slow down the game.”

Thompson has learned to take a deep breath and realize that he may be just one pitch from an out. The training helps simplify things when chaos could be the rule.

Born in Evansville, Ind., in 1996, Thompson moved to Louisville around age 5.

He was a two-time all-state selection in high school and also played first base when not pitching.

At the end of the his high school career, Thompson played two summers of the travel ball with the Ironmen Baseball Club.

He was named to the all-tournament team at the 2014 Perfect Game WWBA 17U National Championship and was the top-ranked player in Kentucky by Perfect Game in 2015.

Outside of the mental toughness, what are his best qualities as an athlete?

“I feel I’m a pretty athletic pitcher,” says Thompson. “I have a good fastball and a good feel for my off-speed.”

The South Bend Cubs were to play a seven-inning exhibition against Notre Dame at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 and open the season at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, April 4 against West Michigan. Both games are at Four Winds Field.

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Riley Thompson (South Bend Cubs Photo)

 

Collins keeps wins coming for Evansville Memorial Tigers

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt “Rip” Collins learned a winning system established from one of Indiana’s most successful baseball coaches and he is using many of those things to enjoy more accomplishments.

Collins played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Quentin Merkel at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, graduating in 1990.

“I rode the coattails of those guys on the 1989 state championship team,” says Collins, referring to Tigers diamond stars like Pat Schulz who went on to play at the University of Evansville and in the Cleveland Indians organization.

Merkel racked up 941 victories, three IHSAA state championships (1978, 1989 and 1993), three state runner-up finishes (1970, 1979 and 2005) and 26 sectional titles in his 45 years at Memorial head coach.

The 1978 and 1979 squads were led by Don Mattingly, who went on to play for the New York Yankees, be inducted into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame and manage the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins.

Collins, who started his teaching career at Holy Rosary School then moved to Memorial (the Western Kentucky University graduate leads classes for physical education and driver’s education) and has coached football, basketball and baseball at Memorial over the course of more than 20 years, was a Merkel assistant in 2013 and took over the program the next season.

“He’s a man I’ve looked up to,” says Collins of Merkel. “I’ve instilled a lot of things he did, like his work ethic and overall approach to the game.

“We bought into it. That’s what we’ve tried to do on our staff.”

Collins’ assistants are Chris Schaefer (pitching coach) and Dan Durchholz with the varsity on gameday, Aaron Schmitt and Ethan Sauls with the junior varsity and Eric Chamberlain and Sam Mattingly with the freshmen.

It’s about consistency for Collins and his staff.

“Baseball hasn’t changed very much,” says Collins. “We try to keep it simple.

“We have a daily routine. Our drills might be monotonous, but we think it’s important.”

This repetition has helped the Tigers.

“You’re not surprised when good things happen,” says Collins. “Mentally, we can get through the tough times.”

With the IHSAA allowing courtesy runners for pitchers and catchers the past two years, there have been more playing opportunities for reserve players.

Collins asks his athletes to embrace their chance to contribute.

“Define your role and relish in that role regardless of what it is,” says Collins.

Memorial generally has about 40 players for its three teams, which keeps the Tigers hopping since their home diamond, Stone Field, does not have lights.

The facility, located behind Holy Rosary on South Green River Road, now sports new higher bleachers on the home and visiting sides.

With Collins in charge, Memorial is coming off a 2018 campaign in which the Tigers went 23-7 overall and 9-3 in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference. Memorial tied for the SIAC title and won city and Class 3A Evansville Bosse Sectional championships.

A 7-1 loss to eventual state runner-up Silver Creek in the Bosse Regional championship ended the Tigers’ season.

Senior Isaac Housman is committed to play baseball at the University of Southern Indiana. Branson Combs (Southern Illinois University) and Michael Lindauer (University of Cincinnati) are bound for collegiate football.

Recent Memorial graduates to are on college baseball rosters are Caleb Meeks (University of Evansville), Drew Ashley (Indiana University) and Luke Johnston (University of Southern Indiana).

Memorial (enrollment around 610) is a member of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Central, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville North and Evansville Reitz).

SIAC schools play each other twice in a same-week home-and-home series to determine the conference champion.

Non-conference foes for the Tigers include Boonville, Gibson Southern, Henderson (Ky.) County, Heritage Hills, Jasper, Mount Vernon (Posey), North Posey, Southridge, South Spencer, Vincennes Lincoln and Washington. The Tom Miles Invitational at Washington is slated for May 11.

The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Boonville, Bosse, Heritage Hills and Mount Vernon. Memorial has won 28 sectional titles — two with Collins as head coach (2016 and 2018).

Reitz Memorial operates under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville.

A Cub baseball team for seventh and eighth graders who have committed to attend Memorial plays in the spring. There are many travel baseball organizations for junior high and high school players.

“Rip” went into education like his father. Larry “Pops” Collins coached with James “Mojo” Hollowell at Henderson (Ky.) High School and picked up the habit of giving a nickname to each of his players in 40 years as an East Side Little League coach. He carried that over to his children and grandchildren.

Larry, who died in 2009, and Donna had four kids — Laurie (aka “Pumpkin”), Lainie (“Bird”), James Patrick (“Jock”) and Matthew Ryan (“Rip”).

The latter handle is a nod to former big leaguer Rip or Ripper Collins.

“Jock” gives nicknames to his players in the same league where his dad coached baseball.

“Rip” and wife Shelby have three kids — eighth grader Leo (“Cleat”), sixth grader Clara (“Filly”) and third grader Walt (“Colt”). All are involved in sports.

EVANSVILLEMEMORIALTIGERS

RIPCOLLINS

Matt “Rip” Collins enters his sixth season as head baseball coach at Evansville (Ind.) Reitz Memorial High School in 2019. He is a 1990 Memorial graduate.

 

Mount Vernon graduate Mobley learns to trust his stuff as pitcher in Mariners chain

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

For Cody Mobley, the key to pitching has become a matter of trust.

Rather than trying to blow hitters away, the right-hander in the Seattle Mariners organization has learned to rely on his ability to get hitters out by putting the baseball in the right part of the strike zone.

Mobley, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who was selected in the eighth round of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Mariners out of Mount Vernon (Ind.) High School, experienced a rough beginning to the 2018 season.

A starter throughout extended spring training, Mobley was used almost exclusively out of the bullpen for the Short Season Class-A Everett (Wash.) AquaSox. In his first game — a 2 1/3-inning stint on June 16 — he gave up five earned runs on three hits (one a home run) with four walks.

It got better from there and the righty wrapped the 2018 season on a high note. In his last 10 appearances, he was 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA. In 23 innings, he fanned 23 and walked 10.

“The whole year was a battle,” says Mobley, who made 16 appearances (15 in relief) and finished the season at 3-1 with a 5.09 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 1/3 innings. “I threw a whole lot better than my numbers show.

“I felt like I finished strong. I was limiting my walks more. Trusting myself was the main thing. I was trusting my stuff in the strike zone rather than trying to have people swing and miss.”

Mobley came to appreciate being a reliever.

“I would think too much between starts and that would hurt me,” says Mobley. “I could get in the bullpen, get hot and get in the game and that helped me.”

Delivering from a high three-quarter arm slot, Mobley employs a two-seam fastball, “12-6” curveball, slider and change-up.

His curve has been his best pitch going back to his amateur days. The slider developed into a put-away pitch this summer. He calls his slider a “show” pitch, which he seldom uses.

“It’s definitely the pitch that needs the most work,” says Mobley.

A 2015 Mount Vernon graduate, Mobley helped the Paul Quinzer-coached Wildcats win the IHSAA Class 3A Evansville Bosse Sectional in his senior year.

“(Quinzer) taught me how to compete,” says Mobley. “He was very winning-oriented.”

Mount Vernon, located in Posey County, lost to eventual 3A state runner-up Jasper in the finals of the 2015 Southridge Regional.

While he considered college right after high school and still has intentions of pursuing high education at some point, Mobley began his pro career in the summer of 2015 with nine appearances (three starts) for the Arizona League Mariners and went 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA, 19 strikeouts and 10 walks in 26 innings then polished things in the fall instructional league.

A partial tear in his elbow limited him to just one inning for the Arizona League Mariners in 2016. He wound up the 2017 season — also in the Arizona League — tired and with shoulder issues. He went back to instructional league and worked on becoming more consistent in the strike zone.

“I think it really paid off for me,” says Mobley, who turns 22 on Sept. 23.

In 35 minor league appearances (26 in relief), Mobley is 8-3 with a 4.81 earned run average. In 94 innings, he struck out 80 and walked 49.

His manager is Everett was Jose Moreno while Danieln Acevedo and Moises Hernandez shared pitching coach duties.

The next steps up the Mariners minor league ladder are Clinton (Low-A), Modesto (High-A), Arkansas (Double-A) and Tacoma (Triple-A).

Born in Evansville, Mobley has spent his life around Mount Vernon. He played in the summers for the Indiana Sharks and Indiana Spikes and then the Evansville Razorbacks when he reached high school.

Cody Mobley is the youngest child by 10 years in a family headed by waste water plant worker J.D. and nurse Nusha.

“I was blessed with really good parents that always supported me,” says Cody. “They’ve always had my back.”

Step-siblings are brothers Adam and Ryan and sisters Mariah and Kasey.

CODYMOBLEY

Cody Mobley, a 2015 Mount Vernon (Ind.) High School graduate, pitched in 2018 with the Everett (Wash.) AquaSox in the Seattle Mariners system. (Everett AquaSox Photo)

CODYMOBLEYMARINERS

Right-handed pitcher Cody Mobley, a Mount Vernon (Ind.) High School graduate, was selected in the eighth round of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Seattle Mariners. (Seattle Mariners Photo)