By STEVE KRAH
Fremont (Ind.) High School chased down an elusive sectional baseball championship in 2018.
“We worked really hard to get that sectional trophy,” says Fremont head coach Justin Bock, who heads into his 22nd season in the program and 11th in charge in 2019.
Bock expects the 2019 Eagles to be young and talented. The coach anticipates he will have one senior, but four returning starters. A couple of freshmen could find their way into the lineup. There could be as many as 30 players in the program, including 12 ninth graders.
It’s anticipated that senior center fielder Ethan Marten will be back for his third season as a Fremont starter.
Junior left-hander Mick Laisure (0.99 earned run average in 36 1/3 innings in 2008) and right-hander/right fielder Connor Kreis are supposed to return in 2019 as is sophomore lead-off man and second baseman Kameron Colclasure. As a pitcher, he was 5-0 with a 0.88 ERA in more than 24 varsity innings in 2018. He hurled a shutout against Fairfield and earned a relief victory against DeKalb.
“He throws three pitches with great control,” says Bock of Colclasure, who was awarded varsity letters in three sports as a freshman (football, basketball and baseball). He is expected to move over to shortstop in 2019.
Fremont, located in Steuben County in northeast Indiana, is a member of the 12-team Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview).
Each team plays the other once. There is also a blind-draw conference tournament in the middle of the season.
“It gives the kids a taste of what sectional is like,” says Bock. “It has a one-and-done tournament feel.”
The Eagles are in an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Hamilton and Lakewood Park Christian. Fremont is on the 1A/2A border and could go back up with the next realignment in 2019-20.
Bock has Fremont in the early-season Coldwater (Mich.) Invitational, an event that has the Eagles playing three games in one day.
“Our hitters get to see great pitching early in the year,” says Bock. “It gets us ready to see conference pitching.”
It also means Fremont could use as many as nine pitchers. This puts an emphasis on building pitching depth.
“It has become routine for us,” says Bock. “If we have you going through workouts, you will be on the mound.
“We can win by pitching to contact and playing good defense.”
The 2019 season will be the third of the IHSAA pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days). Before that, pitchers were allowed 10 innings every three days.
“(The pitch count rule) has emphasized what we really believe,” says Bock, who used 11 different arms in varsity competition in 2018 with Evans has the most innings going into sectional play at 28, keeping him fresh. “We’re not afraid to throw guys.
“We have to work more on mixing pitches and pitching to contact. We can’t afford to walk people.”
This kind of approach to pitching has helped Bock and his coaching staff find some hidden gems over the years.
Bock’s 2019 assistants are Ron Colclasure, Dave Smith, Jim Burkhart and Chad Baker at the varsity level and Ian Burkhart with the junior varsity. Baker splits his time between Fremont and Glen Oaks, where his son Braxton Baker (the step-brother of Rhett Evans) went after Fremont.
Being a 1A school with about 300 students, Fremont is full of multi-sport athletes. This meant that many were busy during the fall practice window.
Bock says practice will begin in earnest in early January when pitchers and catchers report for pre-season workouts.
The high school program is fed by Fremont Youth League and a number of travel baseball organizations, including Hitters Edge, Kalamazoo Maroons, Michiana Scrappers and Indiana Sting. In the past, there have been players go with Fort Wayne-based Summit City Sluggers.
“A lot of our kids go north because of how close we are to Michigan,” says Bock.
A 1993 Fremont graduate after moving in from the Ann Arbor, Mich., area as a sophomore, Bock earned an English degree at Taylor University and master’s in education at Indiana Wesleyan University.
He spent 19 years at Fremont and is in his third year as an assistant professor and placement coordinator at Trine University in Angola, Ind.
Bock’s baseball coach at Fremont was Roger Probst, who led the Eagles on the diamond 1985-2007 and is now the school’s athletic director.
“He’s the most organized person I’ve ever been around,” says Bock of Probst. “He’s the best athletic director in the state and a clear communicator.”
Bock served as a Probst assistant for 11 seasons before taking over the baseball reins 2008.
A junior high football coach and varsity boys basketball assistant to Eagles head coach Craig Helfrich (as is Ron Colclasure), Bock says it makes sense for him to be a head coach in the spring.
“Baseball really suits my personality,” says Bock. “I enjoy the pace of the game and the time to reflect on how we want to respond to a situation.
“It’s much healthier for me to be a baseball coach.”
Justin and April Bock have two children — freshman Ethan and sixth grader Delaney. After 12 years at Angola Middle School, April Bock teaches sixth grade at Fremont Middle School, where Delaney Bock is a student. Ethan Bock is a tennis, basketball and baseball athlete at Fremont High School.
Fremont (Ind.) High School baseball coaches celebrate with the 2018 IHSAA Class 1A Fremont Sectional trophy. They are (from left) Chad Baker, Jim Burkhart, Ian Burkhart, Ryan Allman, head coach Justin Bock, Ron Colclasure and Dave Smith.
Fremont (Ind.) High School baseball seniors and head coach pose with the 2018 IHSAA Class 1A Fremont Sectional trophy. They are (from left) Zack Peele, Rhett Evans, head coach Justin Bock, Joe Molter, Seth McDowell and Evan Trusty.