As Ethan Bates grew up in East Central Indiana, he played some outfield and stood on the mound. But it wasn’t until he was leaving Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in 2020 and getting ready for college baseball that Bates focused on a different way of pitching. The left-hander turned himself into a sidearmer/submariner and it’s helped him through two seasons at Jimmy Brenneman coached-Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill., and earned him a spot with NCAA Division I Grambling (La.) State University in the fall. It was while playing in a 2019 fall league in Pendleton, Ind., organized by Mike Shirley that Bates began dropping down with his delivery. He liked the results and kept at it. “I’ve been learning the past two years and trying to get better,” says Bates, who developed as a Frontier CC Bobcat. In 23 games (all in relief), he went 2-0 with 24 strikeouts and 22 walks in 24 innings. “The whole JUCO experience made a big impact on me as a player and a human,” says Bates, 20. “I got to grind in the middle of nowhere. You have to work really hard to get what you get in JUCO. “I embrace what it means to be a JUCO Bandit.” Twitter highlights posted of Bates posted by Frontier CC. That got the attention of Grambling State and he was contacted by Direct Message. He went for a visit and later signed with the Tigers in the fall of 2021. Grambling State — where Davin Pierre is the head coach — in located in the north central part of the state about 65 miles from Shreveport. “There’s lots to do,” says Bates. “I wanted wanted to play Down South where it’s warm.” The past two summers, Bates has pitched in the midday heat for the Palm Beach Xtreme of the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League (there was also two games for Trenton, N.J., Thunder of the 2021 MLB Draft League). His Florida connection was Miami resident and Frontier CC outfielder Nick Pompile. In his first 17 appearances for the Xtreme in 2022, he is 3-0 with seven saves, an 0.40 earned run average, 28 strikeouts and eight walks in 22 1/3 innings. Besides a sinking fastball, Bates uses a sweeping slider that moves in on a right-handed hitter and away from a lefty. His change-up drops. Born in Anderson, Ind., Bates went to middle school in the Pendleton Heights district then transferred to Frankton for high school, where he also play basketball for four years and football for one. He played recreation ball at Riverfield in Chesterfield, Ind. His first travel ball team was the Indiana Renegades. Bates spent several summers with the Indiana Bulls, including with head coach Sean Laird at 17U. One of his Bulls teammates was 2020 Mt. Vernon (Fortville) High School alum Nolan Bowser. He has also trained with Vanderbilt University commit Max Clark (Franklin Community Class of 2023) and Indiana University recruit Andrew Wiggins (Heritage Christian Class of 2023). A broken shoulder kept Bates from playing baseball as a Frankton freshman. He was with the varsity most of his sophomore year and all of his year season. The COVID-19 pandemic took away his senior slate. Brad Douglas was and still is the head coach of the Frankton Eagles. “He’s hard-nosed and a great competitor (just like Laird),” says Bates. “I love playing for coaches who are great competitors and have my back.” With an associate degree in Sciences & Arts earned at Frontier CC, Bates plans to major in Sports Management at Grambling State. Ethan, who turns 21 in November, is the son of Ryan Bates (Cami) and Karen Siek (Dan). His siblings are Lauryn Bates, Katie Shadoan and Seth Siek. Katie is the oldest, followed by Ethan, Lauryn and Seth.
Rosters have been established for the 2022 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game. The showcase for players with remaining high school eligibility is slated for Wednesday, June 22 on the turf at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion — site of the IHSBCA North/South Series June 24-26. Beginning at 9 a.m., Futures Game participants show their skills. Games are slated for noon (Navy vs. Gold) and 2 p.m. (Gray vs. Red).
Iliana Christian won its first Indiana High School Athletic Association sectional baseball title. Jasper hoisted the sectional championship trophy for a state-leading 40th time. Sixty-two other schools also reigned and moved on to regional play on Saturday, June 4. The IHSAA Class 2A Carroll Flora Regional features four teams from the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 10 — No. 1 Carroll, No. 3 Wapahani, No. 4 Eastern (Greentown) and No. 9 Delphi. The 2A Park Tudor Regional has No. 2 Cascade playing No. 7 Centerville in the first game followed by Parke Heritage and vote-getter Heritage Christian. The 3A Griffith Regional includes No. 1 Andrean, No. 2 Western and No. 7 Glenn along with South Bend Saint Joseph. The 3A Danville Regional includes No. 3 West Vigo and No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit in the opener followed by Lebanon and Beech Grove. The 4A Jasper Regional features No. 2 Mooresville, No. 8 Jasper and vote-getter New Albany plus Columbus East. The 4A Lafayette Jeff Regional opens with vote-getter Homestead against No. 6 Fort Wayne Carroll followed by Harrison against Zionsville. In 1A, the Loogootee Regional has No. 1 Borden meeting No. 2 Barr-Reeve in Game 2 after vote-getter Tecumseh plays New Washington.
The 1A he South Bend Washington Regional has three Top 10 teams — No. 4 South Central (Union Mills), No. 9 Caston and No. 10 Fremont — plus Morgan Township. The 1A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional features vote-getters Cowan and Rossville in Game 1 and No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic and No. 5 Union City in Game 2. Three teams at the 1A Morristown Regional received votes in the final regular season poll — Indianapolis Lutheran, Rising Sun and Shakamak. Traders Point Christian is also in the field. South Central of Union Mills (6), Indianapolis Cathedral (5), Silver Creek (5), South Bend Saint Joseph (5), Evansville Memorial (4), Shakamak (4) and Tecumseh (4) comes into regional play with the longest active sectional title streaks. 1A New Washington won its first sectional crown since 1998. It had been since 1999 that 2A’s Eastern (Greentown) and Winamac had won sectional titles. By the time three-team regionals in four classes are complete, there will be 16 teams left in the field. Semistates are scheduled for Saturday, June 11 with the State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis Friday and Saturday, June 17-18.
2022 IHSAA REGIONALS Saturday, June 4 (IHSBCA Ranking in Parentheses) Class 4A LaPorte Regional Crown Point vs. Lake Central (Receiving Votes) South Bend Adams vs. Penn Championship Regional titles (most recent): Penn 10 (2017), Crown Point 9 (2011), Lake Central 7 (2014), South Bend Adams 3 (1979).
Highland Sectional (1) Championship — Lake Central 15, Highland 12. Sectional titles through 2022: Highland (13) — Previous 2000. Trojans head coach: John Bogner.
Valparsaiso Sectional (2) Championship — Crown Point 12, Hobart 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Crown Point (22) — Previous 2019. Bulldogs head coach: Steve Strayer.
Plymouth Sectional (3) Championship — South Bend Adams 5, LaPorte 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Adams (10) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Mike Cass.
Penn Sectional (4) Championship — Penn 7, Northridge 5. Sectional titles through 2022: Penn (23) — Previous 2018. Kingsmen head coach: Greg Dikos.
Lafayette Jeff Regional Homestead (RV) vs. Carroll (6) Harrison vs. Zionsville Championship Regional titles (most recent): Carroll 5 (2011), Harrison 5 (1998), Zionsville 4 (2017), Homestead 3 (2015).
DeKalb Sectional (5) Championship — Carroll 7, Snider 6. Sectional titles through 2022: Carroll (15) — Previous 2019. Chargers head coach: Dave Ginder.
Huntington North Sectional (6) Championship — Homestead 10, Wayne 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Homestead (16) — Previous 2021. Spartans head coach: Nick Byall.
Logansport Sectional (7) Championship — Harrison 5, McCutcheon 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Harrison (13) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Pat Lowrey.
New Palestine Regional Anderson vs. Indianapolis Cathedral New Palestine vs. Brownsburg Championship Regional titles (most recent): Indianapolis Cathedral 14 (2018), New Palestine 6 (2014), Brownsburg 5 (2005), Anderson 3 (1995).
Mt. Vernon Sectional (9) Championship — Anderson 13, Mt. Vernon (Fortville) 7. Sectional titles through 2022: Anderson (8) — Previous 2012. Indians head coach: Adrian Heim.
Pike Sectional (10) Championship — Indianapolis Cathedral 10, Lawrence North 8. Sectional titles through 2022: Cathedral (25; five straight) — Previous 2021. Fighting Irish coach Ed Freje.
Roncalli Sectional (11) Championship — New Palestine 12, Franklin Central 2. Sectional titles through 2022: New Palestine (17) — Previous 2015. Dragons head coach: Shawn Lyons.
Terre Haute South Vigo Sectional (12) Championship — Brownsburg 13, Avon 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Brownsburg (15) — Previous 2013. Bulldogs head coach: Dan Roman.
Jasper Regional New Albany (RV) vs. Jasper (8) Columbus East vs. Mooresville (2) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Jasper 26 (2021), Columbus East 10 (2019), New Albany 6 (1995), Mooresville 4 (2004).
Center Grove Sectional (13) Championship — Mooresville 9, Martinsville 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Mooresville (11) — Previous 2004. Pioneers head coach: Eric McGaha.
Bloomington South Sectional (14) Championship — Bloomington South vs. Columbus East Sectional titles through 2022: Columbus East (20) — Previous 2019. Olympians head coach Jon Gratz.
Jennings County Sectional (15) Championship — New Albany 4, Bedford North Lawrence 0. Sectional titles through 2022: New Albany (23) — Previous 2016. Bulldogs head coach: Chris McIntyre.
Evansville Reitz Sectional (16) Championship — Jasper 5, Castle 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Jasper (40) — Previous 2021. Wildcats head coach: Terry Gobert.
Class 3A Griffith Regional Western (2) vs. Glenn (7) Andrean (1) vs. South Bend Saint Joseph Championship Regional titles (most recent): Andrean 14 (2019), Western 7 (2016), Saint Joseph 5 (2017), Glenn 3 (2006).
Griffith Sectional (17) Championship — Andrean 18, Calumet New Tech 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Andrean (30) — Previous 2019. 59ers head coach: Dave Pishkur.
Kankakee Valley Sectional (18) Championship — Glenn 9, Hanover Central 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Glenn (10) — Previous 2017. Falcons head coach: John Nadolny.
South Bend Clay Sectional (19) Championship — South Saint Joseph 18, New Prairie 5. Sectional titles through 2022: Saint Joseph (17; five straight) — Previous 2017. Indians head coach: John Smolinski.
Northwestern Sectional (20) Championship — Western 6, Northwestern 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Western (21) — Previous 2019. Panthers coach: Ryan Berryman.
Oak Hill Regional Wawasee vs. New Castle (RV) Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger vs. Norwell Championship Regional titles (most recent): Norwell 7 (2021), Dwenger 2 (2014), New Castle 2 (1996), Wawasee 0.
Jimtown Sectional (21) Championship — Wawasee 9, NorthWood 5. Sectional titles through 2022: Wawasee (8) — Previous 2021. Warriors head coach: Joe Salazar.
Angola Sectional (22) Championship — Bishop Dwenger 19, Leo 8. Sectional titles through 2022: Dwenger (12) — Previous 2016. Saints head coach: Jason Garrett.
Bellmont Sectional (23) Championship — Norwell 12, Heritage 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Norwell (18) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Dave Goodmiller.
Yorktown Sectional (24) Championship — New Castle 3, Guerin Catholic 2. Sectional titles through 2022: New Castle (14) — Previous 2014. Trojans head coach: Josh Cooper.
Danville Regional West Vigo (3) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (4) Lebanon vs. Beech Grove Championship Regional titles (most recent): West Vigo 7 (2015), Brebeuf 4 (2021), Beech Grove 3 (1990), Lebanon 0.
Crawfordsville Sectional (25) Championship — Lebanon 10, Northview 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Lebanon (12) — Previous 2014. Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray.
Danville Sectional (26) Championship — Brebeuf Jesuit 12, Tri-West Hendricks 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Brebeuf (16) — Previous 2014. Braves head coach: Jeff Scott.
Bishop Chatard Sectional (27) Championship — Beech Grove 4, Bishop Chatard 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Beech Grove (7) — Previous 2014. Hornets head coach: Jacob Wickliff.
Edgewood Sectional (28) Championship — West Vigo 4, Edgewood 3. Sectional titles through 2022: West Vigo (15) — Previous 2018. Vikings head coach: Culley DeGroote.
Southridge Regional Evansville Memorial vs. Vincennes Lincoln Silver Creek (5) vs. Connersville Championship Regional titles (most recent): Evansville Memorial 17 (2016), Connersville 6 (2006), Vincennes Lincoln 4 (2002), Silver Creek 2 (2019).
Rushville Sectional (29) Championship — Connersville 7, Franklin County 6. Sectional titles through 2022: Connersville (19) — Previous 2010. Spartans head coach Michael Thompson.
Madison Sectional (30) Championship — Silver Creek vs. Corydon Central Sectional titles through 2022: Silver Creek (11; five straight) — Previous 2021. Dragons head coach: Joe Decker.
Princeton Sectional (31) Championship — Vincennes Lincoln 7, Southridge 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Vincennes Lincoln (18) — Previous 2019. Alices head coach: Tim Hutchison.
Evansville Bosse Sectional (32) Championship — Evansville Memorial 9, Boonville 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Evansville Memorial (31; four straight) — Previous 2021. Tigers head coach: Rip Collins.
Class 2A Whiting Regional Eastside (RV) vs. Fairfield (RV) Winamac vs. Illiana Christian Championship Regional titles (most recent): Eastside 1 (2021), Fairfield 1 (2010), Illiana Christian 0, Winamac 0.
Whiting Sectional (33) Championship — Illiana Christian 16, Wheeler 4. Sectional titles through 2022: — Illiana Christian (1) — Previous None. Vikings head coach Jeff VanderWoude.
Boone Grove Sectional (34) Championship — Winamac 8, Boone Grove 7. Sectional titles through 2022: Winamac (4) — Previous 1999. Warriors head coach: Marcus Kay.
Delphi Sectional (38) Championship — Delphi 9, Seeger 7. Sectional titles through 2022: Delphi (7) — Previous 2021. Oracles head coach: Ryan Long.
Eastern (Greentown) Sectional (39) Championship — Eastern (Greentown) 13, Eastbrook 4 Sectional titles through 2022: Eastern (Greentown) (3) — Previous 1999. Comets head coach: Erik Hisner.
Frankton Sectional (40) Championship — Wapahani 15, Frankton 10. Sectional titles through 2022: Wapahani (18) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Brian Dudley.
Park Tudor Regional Cascade (2) vs. Centerville (7) Parke Heritage vs. Heritage Christian (RV) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Heritage Christian 3 (2010), Cascade 0, Centerville 0, Parke Heritage 0.
Indianapolis Scecina Sectional (42) Championship — Heritage Christian 12, Indianapolis Scecina 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Heritage Christian (9) — Previous 2017. Eagles head coach: Dan Ambrose.
Park Tudor Sectional (43) Championship — Cascade 6, Covenant Christian 5 Sectional titles through 2022: Cascade (7) — Previous 2005. Cadets head coach: Ty Foster.
Parke Heritage Sectional (44) Championship — Parke Heritage 9, Southmont 8. Sectional titles through 2022: Parke Heritage (2) — Previous 2021. Wolves head coach: Charlie Martin.
Evansville Mater Dei Regional Linton-Stockton vs. North Decatur Forest Park (8) vs. Providence Championship Regional titles (most recent): Providence 7 (2021), Forest Park 1 (1976), Linton-Stockton 0, North Decatur 0.
South Ripley Sectional (45) Championship — North Decatur 5, Southwestern (Hanover) 1. Sectional titles through 2022: North Decatur (2) — Previous 2011. Chargers head coach: Christian McKinney.
Providence Sectional (46) Championship — Providence 9, Austin 8. Providence (20) — Previous 2021. Pioneers head coach: Scott Hutchins.
Mitchell Sectional (47) Championship — Linton-Stockton 8, Mitchell 7 Sectional titles through 2022: Linton-Stockton (11) — Previous 2021. Miners head coach: Jacob Harden.
Evansville Mater Dei Sectional (48) Championship — Forest Park 10, Tell City 0. Forest Park (5) — Previous 2002. Rangers head coach: Jarred Howard.
Class 1A South Bend Washington Regional South Central (Union Mills) (4) vs. Caston (9) Fremont (10) vs. Morgan Township Championship Regional titles (most recent): South Central 4 (2011), Fremont 2 (1999), Caston 0, Morgan Township 0.
Westville Sectional (49) Championship — Morgan Township 16, Marquette Catholic 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Morgan Township (5) — Previous 2018. Cherokees head coach: John Smith.
South Central (Union Mills) Sectional (50) Championship — South Central (Union Mills) 10, Oregon-Davis 0. Sectional titles through 2022: South Central (18; six straight) — Previous 2021. Satellites head coach: Zach Coulter.
Fremont Sectional (51) Championship — Fremont 23, Bethany Christian 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Fremont (8) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Justin Bock.
Caston Sectional (52) Championship — Caston 3, North Miami 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Caston (2) — Previous 2012. Comets head coach: Blake Mollenkopf.
Lafayette Central Catholic Regional Cowan (RV) vs. Rossville (RV) Union City (5) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (3) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Lafayette Central Catholic 14 (2018), Cowan 4 (2021), Rossville 3 (2019), Union City 0.
Lafayette Central Catholic Sectional (53) Championship — Lafayette Central Catholic 10, Covington 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Lafayette Central Catholic (18) — Previous 2018. Knights head coach: Tim Bordenet.
Tri-County Sectional (54) Championship — Rossville 12, Clinton Central 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Rossville (7) — Previous 2019. Hornets head coach: Brad Scott.
Anderson Preparatory Sectional (55) Championship — Cowan 5, Wes-Del 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Cowan (8) — Previous 2021. Blackhawks head coach: Aaron Wells.
Seton Catholic Sectional (56) Championship — Union City 9, Blue River Valley 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Union City (4) — Previous 2021. Indians head coach: Jason Dowler.
Morristown Regional Rising Sun (RV) vs. Shakamak (RV) Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran (RV) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Shakamak 13 (2021), Indianapolis Lutheran 1 (2017), Rising Sun 1 (2013), Traders Point Christian 0.
Shakamak Sectional (57) Championship — Shakamak 14, White River Valley 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Shakamak (27; four straight) — Previous 2021. Lakers head coach: Jeremy Yeryar.
Indiana Deaf Sectional (58) Championship — Traders Point Christian 9, Bethesda Christian 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Traders Point Christian (2) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Jaylen Cushenberry.
Morristown Sectional (59) Championship — Indianapolis Lutheran 12, Edinburgh 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Indianapolis Lutheran (14) — Previous 2019. Saints head coach: Adam Gouker.
Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (60) Championship — Rising Sun 2, Jac-Cen-Del 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Rising Sun (8) — Previous 2019. Shiners head coach: Kevin Wirsch.
Loogootee Regional New Washington vs. Tecumseh (RV) Barr-Reeve (2) vs. Borden (1) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Tecumseh 10 (2019), Barr-Reeve 2 (1998), Borden 1 (2021), New Washington 0.
Lanesville Sectional (61) Championship — Borden 12, Lanesville 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Borden (6) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Eric Stotts.
Shawe Memorial Sectional (62) Championship — New Washington 8, West Washington 7. Sectional titles through 2022: New Washington (2) — Previous 1998. Mustangs head coach: Jeremy Bower.
Loogootee Sectional (63) Championship — Barr-Reeve 9, North Daviess 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Barr-Reeve (13) — Previous 2019. Vikings head coach: Trevor McConnell.
Cannelton Sectional (64) Championship — Tecumseh 11, Springs Valley 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Tecumseh (17; four straight) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Ted Thompson.
Always looking for ways to develop his players, Guthrie added Virtual Reality to the Panthers’ practice regimen by bringing in a WIN Reality system which helps hitters with things like pitch recognition. Athletes don a headset and get a fully-immersive experience, seeing realistic pitches in what looks like a professional stadium. “I’m constantly scouring the Internet and social media to see what is out there to better our kids,” says Guthrie, who introduced WIN Reality when players returned from winter break in January. “I like to mix up our training routines. “Some days we don’t get the gym with the batting cage and we can still get in live work. We’re getting that cognitive intuition we need on a much better scale.” With the WIN Reality, players go through graduated sequence of eight drills. The first is basic, recognizing fastball, curveball and change-up. They are also tracking the pitch. This is done by asking the hitter to point the controller to where the ball ended up in the strike zone. Later comes the “disappearing pitch” drill where the pitch might go away at 50 feet or less and hitters are still asked to recognize it. “It really starts to challenge guys,” says Guthrie. “They see their averages at the end (of drills) and the begin competing against each other.” Guthrie notes that the technology is not new and is used by numerous pro and college teams. Now it has come to Brushy Prairie, Ind. Using the VR trainer offers an efficient way to see more pitches in less time than would be possible with the traditional methods alone. “We’re certainly not taking away from the live BP,” says Guthrie. “We’re adding to it in a risk-free environment.” While identifying these WIN Reality pitches, no swings are taken. Hitters pull the trigger on the controller. The system tells them when they made that decision and if it was in the optimum window of when they could hit the pitch. “You’re not training your body,” says Guthrie of the VR work. “We’re using this to train the brain. “We’re using cage to train the body on the proper fundamentals.” WIN Reality does include an optional bat attachment and collects data on swings. Guthrie, a 2011 Fremont (Ind.) High School graduate who had his college career ended by injury, embraces tech. He uses smart baseballs that track spin rates, velocity and movement. There are Blast Motion sensors on his players’ bats to give feedback. “We’re getting video of guys all the time,” says Guthrie, who likes to shoot 4K at 60 frames-per-second. “We go frame-by-frame and make sure we’re not missing anything.” A phone app called Coach’s Eye allows for comparative side-by-side videos. It’s helpful for pitchers trying to make all their pitches look the same coming out of their hand. Guthrie says that pitch recognition training when he was a player involved a VCR. “We’d see a one-second clip of a ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand,” says Guthrie. “But it did not mix it up like the real pitcher does.” Guthrie has used YouTube videos for this purpose. There is also a phone app called GameSense Pitch-IQ. With Guthrie and varsity assistants Mike Gustin (pitching coach), Tyler Christman and Ryan Fulton, junior varsity coaches Gene Smith (head coach), Dave Priestley (pitching coach), Shane Richards and JV statistician Reese Smith, Prairie Heights is preparing to compete in the Northeast Corner Conference (which also includes Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, West Noble and Westview) and IHSAA Class 2A in 2022. “The NECC seems to be going in a high-velocity direction,” says Guthrie. “We’ve got a lot of great pitchers in this conference. It was bound to happen because of the push for travel ball. The kids want to get better day in and day out. “We need to know how we improve at the plate. You’ve got to score runs to win games. The velocity is one thing. It’s the curve balls, sliders and change-ups that are beating us. “Recognizing the pitch is half the battle.”
Ryan Carpenter wants to win games as the new head baseball coach at his alma mater — Bremen (Ind.) High School. But there’s more to it than that. “I’m a competitive guy,” says Carpenter, a 2010 BHS graduate. “But I also want to make kids better people through baseball. High school athletics is a great way to do that.” Using accountability and taking a genuine interest in players, Carpenter wants to help build today’s students into citizens, husbands and fathers of the future. “When kids know you care about them on that level they are willing to listen and learn,” says Carpenter, who returns to the Lions coaching staff after two years away. He was head junior varsity coach in 2014 and 2015 and a varsity assistant 2016-19 before spending more time with his growing family. Ryan and Andrea Carpenter went to high school together and have been a couple for 14 years — the last seven as husband and wife. Their children are Hailee (who turns 3 next week) and Colton (8 months). One of the first things Carpenter did when he was hired was meet with the board of Bremen Youth Baseball, which starts at T-ball and goes through a 14U travel team. He wants to connect the youth and high school programs and establish the expectations at the upper level. He plans to invite the youngsters to workouts have Little League Days where those players get to share the field with high schoolers. “They idolize these guys,” says Carpenter. Carpenter played baseball for four years at Bremen — three on varsity. His head coach was Bo Hundt. “Bo had very high expectations,” says Carpenter. “His baseball knowledge is about as good as it gets.” Hundt (Class of 1993) was a three-sport start for the Lions and was selected in the 1995 Major League First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill. A switch-hitting outfielder and corner infielder, he played in the minors until 1998 and now runs Pirates Elite Travel Baseball. Carpenter began his coaching career on Hundt’s staff. “Coaching with him you appreciate some of his toughness,” says Carpenter, “You start to understand the why. “Bo has been very gracious in offering his assistance. He’s a good mentor for me going forward.” In Hundt’s last two seasons in charge (2015 and 2016), Bremen won back-to-back IHSAA Class 2A sectional titles. Carpenter also coached Lions boys basketball for four years (2016-19) — one as head freshmen coach and three as varsity assistant. His baseball coaching staff features Taylor Coquillard and Danny Hostetler with the varsity. Aaron Perch returns as JV coach. Home contests are played on a diamond a few blocks from the school. During the off-season, it has gotten new bullpens on the home and visitor sides. The game mound has been resurfaced and realigned. Infield lips have been fixed. In the works is a new batting cage near the first base (visitors) dugout. Bremen (enrollment around 510) is a member of the Northern Indiana Conference (with Elkhart, Jimtown, John Glenn, Mishawaka, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay, South Bend Riley, South Bend Saint Joseph and South Bend Washington). All NIC baseball teams see each other once during the regular season. Overall and division champions are crowned. In 2021, the Lions were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille, Prairie Heights and Westview. Bremen has earned 11 sectional crowns. Reece Willis, a 2020 Bremen graduate, played at Goshen College. A few current players — senior shortstop Micah Burkholder and junior pitcher Evan Lopez — have attracted interest from colleges. Carpenter earned a Sport Administration degree from Ball State University in 2014 and is now head of purchasing at Forest River Diesel in Elkhart.
Kolin Conner is doing his best to get Concordia University Chicago back to the lofty heights the Cougars baseball program had become accustomed. From 2008-19, CUC posted an average record of 35-11 including 40-15 in 2018 and 42-10 in 2019. Conner was the Cougars head assistant (2016-19) — years in which the school won four Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference regular-season titles and made NCAA Division III World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018. During the span, CUC was ranked No. 1 in the nation and Conner was named 2018 American Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year. A graduate of Indianapolis North Central High School (2009) and Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. (2013), Conner took over as head coach at the private school in River Forest, Ill., in the summer of 2019. The Cougars went 5-5 during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 11-25 in 2021. NCAA D-III rules allow for 19 total weeks of organized baseball activity — four in the fall and 15 in the spring. Concordia practiced four times a week during the fall. “We did a lot of teaching. developing and evaluating where our guys are on the depth chart,” says Conner. “After last year, there was a little bit of re-establishing priorities for us. “The work we put in now leads to success in the spring. It’s about holding everybody accountable. The overall success is much bigger than one individual.” Conner says the most-important time comes when players are away from coaches in between fall and spring and must motivate themselves and stay on top of their academics. “Here’s a 17-year-old freshman,” says Conner. “How’s he going to be when no one’s watching? That’s when good leaders and good people are made.” Conner and his coaching staff of head assistant/pitching coach Matt Smith, assistant Abe Paz Agudello, assistant Connor Nelson and graduate assistant Kevin Garcia are getting players to create lifelong habits that will transfer into their lives beyond college. “They get into the world world and (employers and co-workers) can trust these guys,” says Conner, who is currently busy recruiting, doing office work and getting ready for the return of players to practice after the Christmas break. CUC baseball earned an ABCA all-academic team certificate, sported seven players with a 4.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale last spring while posting a 3.2 team GPA — the best among the school’s nine male sports. The Cougars typically have 10 to 12 academic all-conference selections. The roster — currently at 36 — has 22 from the Chicagoland area plus Indiana’s Ben Collins (Chesterton), Elijah Hickman (Rensselaer Central), Brody Mariotti (Yorktown) and Westin Stutzman (Fairfield), six from Arizona (CUC recruits there each fall), two from California and one each from Colorado and Utah. “We get a lot of good and smart kids that don’t have schools to go to,” says Conner. “(Chicago recruits) are used to cold weather and facilities and proud of the city they’re from.” Conners says most players get some sort of aid — packages largely being dependent on grades and test scores — that takes away around half of the annual $42,000 tuition. “It’s important that we’re getting the good character kid who wants to work and wants to win,” says Conner. “Those type of kids are usually pretty good academically. “It’s no coincidence that are best players are usually are best students.” A typical recruiting class is 10 players and Conner says he likes to have five or six signees around Christmas. Conner played for Phil McIntyre at North Central, making varsity as a sophomore and representing the Panthers either as a catcher or outfielder and making long-time friendships. He credits assistant/teacher Andy Noble for helping him in the classroom. “He helped me find my way and who I was as a kid,” says Conner of Noble. Conner was a catcher and first baseman in college. He played two seasons at National Community College Athletic Association member Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., for Statesmen head coaches Mitch Hannahs (2010) and Kevin Bowers (2011). Hannahs, who is now head coach at Indiana State University. was “very, very good at getting you conditioned mentally and getting the most out of people as players.” Current LTC head coach Bowers brought Conner into the program. “He really, really cares about the kids,” says Conner of Bowers. “He’s got a strong relationship with everybody he recruits.” At Saint Joseph’s, Conner earned an Educational Studies degree with a Communications minor and played two seasons (2012 and 2013) for Pumas head coach Rick O’Dette. “He’s the greatest guy ever,” says Conner of O’Dette, who became head coach at Saint Leo University in Florida when SJC closed its doors after the 2017 season. “He’s the reason I have a job in college baseball. “He’s an unbelievable guy, a great mentor and cares about people.” Conner played two summers of independent professional baseball after college with the 2013 Mike Braymen-managed Joliet (Ill.) Slammers and 2014 Andy McCauley-managed Evansville (Ind.) Otters — both in the Frontier League. Kolin met future wife Lyndsey at Lincoln Trail. The Conners now have two children — son Leo (3) and daughter Layla (4 months).
A youth circuit with ties to various northern Indiana school communities has began its 2021 diamond season.
Boys of Summer Baseball League fields teams for 10U and 12U all-star recreation and junior high school squads. Teams play by modified IHSAA rules.
The BSBL also sanctions a 54/80 junior high state tournament. Younger squads also participate in the Town & Country Baseball state tournament in July.
The following school districts are represented in 2021: Bethany Christian (junior high), Bremen (10U, 12U, junior high), Concord (12U, junior high), Fairfield (10U, 12U, 2 junior high teams), Goshen (junior high), Jimtown (J-Shock junior high), Northridge (10U), NorthWood (12U, junior high), Plymouth (2 10U teams, 2 12U teams), Rochester (12U), Tippecanoe Valley (10U, 12U) and Westview (12U). The latter team is coached by former big league pitcher Eric Stults.
Going into the Week of May 24, Fairfield (6-1) leads the 10U division, Plymouth Red (10-1) the 12U group and Fairfield White (5-1) the junior high league.
The BSBL was started by Tracy Farmwald then ran by Zach Benko. Kent Kauffman took over just before the 2020 season.
As commissioner, Kauffman has organized the loop and set up a website for the non-profit organization.
“It makes it easier for parents to see what’s going on,” says Kauffman. “(BSBL) is more of a developmental league. They get used to playing together and used to a system.”
Cost to enter the league is $225 per team. Host teams are responsible for baseballs and paying for umpires.
“We’re providing an economical option for good baseball,” says Kauffman. “We get some kids that have never played and they fall in love with baseball.”
Since the league has teams as part apart as LaGrange County and Rochester, Kauffman tries to accommodate distance when making out the schedule.
In the past, Wawasee and Whitko have fielded BSBL teams.
“My goal is that we are able to expand,” says Kauffman. “We will go to divisions if necessary.”
The BSBL was able to complete a 2020 schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting after July 4.
“We worked together to make sure it was safe for players and fans,” says Kauffman.
Jim Kraft would like his baseball players at Bethany Christian High School to take the right approach at the plate, hit the cut-off man and throw strikes from the mound.
But’s that not the most-important thing to the man who has led the Bruins program since the 2018 season.
“No. 1 it’s about making better men,” says Kraft. “It starts with being a good teammate, work ethic and things like that.
“The baseball stuff kind of takes care of itself after that.”
Bethany, a school of about 140 in the top four grades with its campus in Waterford Mills, Ind. (south side of Goshen), has 13 players in 2021 and is playing a varsity-only schedule and got off to a 4-0 start through April 22.
“In a weird way (the COVID-19) pandemic probably benefited us a little bit with being small and not having a JV team,” says Kraft. “We only graduated a senior and junior from the team of two years ago.
“We really only had one player playing travel baseball (last summer). But other schools played less last year.
“We’re really looking forward to growing this year.”
Kraft is assisted this spring by former Fairfield High School players Jason Smith and Jared Christophel and former Bethany athlete Jared Schlabach.
Bethany plays home games at the Dan Bodiker Athletic Fields, located across the railroad tracks behind the school. Kraft says a capitol campaign is expected to bring upgrades to soccer, track and field, softball and baseball.
There are currently no Bethany graduates playing college baseball. Kraft says three of his seniors could play if they want to pursue that route.
The 2021 Boys of Summer Baseball League is expected to include a Bethany junior high team.
Kraft grew up on a dairy farm near Trufant, Mich., and was active in 4-H and Future Farmers of America. He is a1984 graduate of Lakeview (Mich.) High School and earned an engineering degree at Michigan State University.
He is employed at Brock Grain Systems in Milford, Ind., as a product director.
Jim and wife Tammy have a son, Logan, and live in New Paris, Ind. Logan played baseball at Fairfield and graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2020.
“Larry is charismatic and has a contagious baseball mind,” says Hester.
Hester, who followed his baseball playing career, by traveling all over the country competing in top-flight slow pitch softball tournaments, has his Charlestown players competing during IHSAA Limited Contact Period winter workouts.
“We compete internally all the time,” says Hester. “I have a good group of (10) seniors who love hard work and competing.”
Hester has been getting his Pirates to understand what it means to have love and passion for the game and and enjoying being on the team.
“A lot of that comes from Larry Owens,” says Hester.
Expecting around 24 players in the program this spring, Hester and assistants Bryan Glover, Tony Kailen, George Roberts and Brady Hester will lead a program in varsity and junior varsity competition. Of the five coaches, only Kailen is not a Charlestown graduate.
The site of the Pirates baseball field is the same that Hester knew as a player, but the facility was totally overhauled almost a decade ago.
The former practice football field was turned into a softball field and now baseball and softball share not only a hitting building but a walkway and common area with a concession stand between the two diamonds.
“There’s great energy for our games,” says Hester.
The Pirates are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Charlestown has won two sectional titles — 1999 and 2009.
While Hester was a Charlestown assistant he helped establish middle school baseball. Not affiliated with the school system, games are played during the spring. This year, Hester expects one team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Recent Charlestown graduates on college baseball teams include right-handed pitchers Andrew Snider (Morehead, Ky., State University) and Drew Fifer (Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.).
Two current seniors — right-handed pitcher Eric Wigginton (Spalding University in Louisville) and utility infielder Matthew McCoy (Hanover, Ind., College) — have made college baseball commitments.
Two others from the Class of 2021 weighing their options are catcher Nathaniel Kimbrell and right-handed pitcher Jacob Glover.
Ronni Hester, Brian’s wife, is in retail management. Brian and Ronni have three sons — Brady (22), Dalton (18) and Boomer (13) plus one grandson. Dalton Hester is a Charlestown senior. Boomer Hester is a seventh grader who plays football, basketball, wrestling and baseball with the middle school team and the Rawlings Tigers.