BY STEVE KRAH
Baseball expectations have risen at Indian Creek High School.
After a sectional championship drought of 43 years, the Braves earned sectional crowns in 2016 and 2017 at Danville.
Indian Creek lost to eventual state champion Northview in the finals of the 2016 Crawfordsville Regional and Tri-West Hendricks in the semifinals of the 2017 Brebeuf Regional.
With a new head coach, new sectional site and seven returning starters, the Braves are aiming high in 2018.
“We have some lofty goals we want to accomplish when the state tournament rolls around,” says Steven Mirizzi, who takes over the Indian Creek program after five seasons as a Danville assistant. “We have a deep pitching staff. If we can get it going offensively, I really like our chances.
“We’re hungry for something bigger and better.”
Top Braves arms include junior right-handers Trevor Ankney, Dustin Sprong and Wyatt Phillips and senior right-hander Jared DeHart.
Ankney is a Purdue University commit. Sprong and Phillips are receiving attention from NCAA D-I schools. DeHart is one of the Braves’ captains. Junior Devin Parr is a soft-tossing left-hander.
Senior third baseman/right-hander Dawson Read is a Kalamazoo College commit.
Indian Creek, located in the Johnson County town of Trafalgar, moves to a 2018 IHSAA Class 3A sectional hosted by Bishop Chatard and also featuring Beech Grove, Herron, Indianapolis Broad Ripple and Indianapolis Manual.
The Braves lost to the Sullivan in the 2017 Western Indiana Conference crossover championship game.
A WIC title is on the IC 2018 goals list. The rotation goes back to the East Division this year, meaning the Braves would host the conference championship game if they get there.
Besides Indian Creek, the WIC East includes Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Edgewood and Owen Valley.
The WIC West consists of Greencastle, North Putnam, Northview, South Putnam, Sullivan and West Vigo.
The Braves are to open the season this weekend in Evansville with games against Martinsville, Evansville North and Decatur Central either at North or historic Bosse Field.
The Indian Creek slate also features a spot in the Northview Invitational. Depending on WIC crossovers, the Braves could play as many as 12 games against Class 4A opponents.
“That will benefit us later in the season and at tournament time,” says Mirizzi.
His last season at Danville, Mirizzi served on a staff led by Pat O’Neil.
“He’s a very knowledgable coach,” says Mirzzi of O’Neil, who played for and coached with 13-time Hall of Famer Ken Schreiber at LaPorte High School. “He’s really good with pitchers and very good with situational management
“He motivates you want to be better and do your game the right way.”
Before landing at Danville, Mirizzi spent two seasons on the coaching staff at Princeton Community. Austin Rhoads, who was an assistant at Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio, near Cincinnati, when Mirizzi played there, was head coach of the Tigers. Rhoads has since become athletic director at Springboro (Ohio) High School.
Mirizzi was a four-year starter at Lakota West, helping the Firebirds to the regional finals in his sophomore and senior seasons (2004 and 2006).
Lakota West, coached by former Cincinnati Reds minor league catcher Bill Dreisbach, won an Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I state championship in 2007.
A district split into two high schools in 1999 also saw Lakota East win a Division I state baseball crown in 2011.
Mirizzi remembers Dreisbach for his professionalism and ability to motivate.
“He wanted his guys to buy in and commit,” says Mirzzi. “He had a good way of getting that out of us.
“He pushed us to be better than we really were.”
In that 2004 season, Lakota West lost to what Dreisbach considered a lesser opponent and conducted a post-game practice that lasted well into the night. The Firebirds went on a 15-game win streak that took them into the regional.
“He got our attention,” says Mirizzi. “He knew we were better than we were playing.”
The 2004 Lakota West team lost to eventual state champion Cincinnati Moeller, a team featuring two future big league pitchers.
Right-hander Andrew Brackman was was Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft first-round selection by the New York Yankees in 2007 and left-hander Eric Surkamp a sixth-round choice of the San Francisco Giants in 2008.
Like Mirizzi — who treks daily from Avon to Trafalgar — Dreisbach way from the high school.
After high school, Mirizzi played two seasons each at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.
Mitch Hannahs, who is now head coach at Indiana State University, was leading the Lincoln Trail program when Mirizzi was there and taught the future coach about the mental side and how to manage a game.
Mirizzi has assembled a coaching staff of Curtis VanDeVenter and Craig Hoskins at the varsity level and Donovan Britt with the junior varsity. VanDeVenter, a former University of Indianapolis catcher, and Britt are Whiteland High School graduates. Hoskins went to Brown County.
There are 33 players in the program with 17 currently on the varsity roster. Mirizzi expects some to swing between varsity and JV depending upon need and performance.
Indian Creek plays its games on-campus.
While it is still in the planning stages, Mirizzi says upgrades to the athletic facilities could bring a new or renovated baseball field, new football field and a fieldhouse to the campus in the next few years.
First-year athletic director Derek Perry is in the middle of this process.
Mirizzi is very busy with baseball away from his duties at Indian Creek. He and former Danville assistant and personal trainer Nick Runiyon are partners at Hoosier Performance Factory in Indianapolis.
Based out of the facility is a travel baseball organization — the Indiana Braves. This year, they plan to field teams ages 12U through 18U.
Mirizzi and fiancee Tiffany Herr also do network marketing. The couple have two children — Jackson Mirzzi (4) and Mackenzie Mirizzi (15 months).
Steven Mirizzi is in his first season as head baseball coach at Indian Creek High School. Mirizzi went to high school in Ohio and played college baseball in Illinois and Arkansas. He comes to the Indians off an assistant stint at Danville. (Daily Journal Photo)