When John Smith took over as head baseball coach at Morgan Township Middle/High School on the south side of Valparaiso, Ind., the Class of 2022 was in their freshmen year. Two members of that class — left fielder Nate Hudkins and shortstop Nate Lemmons — are now seniors and the Cherokees are coming off the program’s fifth sectional championship and first since 2018. “The guys are proud of the accomplishment,” says Smith. “They see the fruit of their labors.” University of Dubuque (Iowa)-bound Lemmons (.388 average, 22 runs batted in, 28 runs, 20 stolen bases) plus Hudkins (.355, 18 RBI, 28 runs, 17 stolen bases) are part of a Morgan Township offense that also features sophomore Keagen Holder (.426, 15 RBI, 15 runs, 10 stolen bases), junior Jayke Putz (.414, 26 RBI, 29 runs), junior Max Rakowski (.406, 16 RBI, 20 runs), sophomore Grant Cowger (.389), freshman Chase Rosenbaum (.379, 17 RBI, 19 runs), junior D.J. Hand (.310, 16 RBI, 19 runs) and sophomore Jack Wheeler (14 RBI, 18 runs, 12 stolen bases). The mound crew features Wheeler (5-1, 0.92 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 20 walks over 45 2/3 innings) and Putz (3-2, 3.67, 42 K’s, 20 BB, 34 1/3 IP). The current crop of sophomores were eighth graders when Smith took over the school’s fall middle school baseball program. “Getting those players at a young age has been beneficial for me,” says Smith, who teaches high school and middle school Health and Physical Education. “We get with them early in their baseball careers and establish the culture and the ideals with we strive for. “We give them that knowledge and get them used to me and how I coach.” After winning the 2022 IHSAA Class 1A Westville Sectional, Morgan Township is bound for the South Bend Washington Regional (which is being played Saturday, June 4 at South Bend Clay’s Jim Reinebold Field). The first semifinal features No. 4-ranked South Central (Union) Mills) and No. 9 Caston at 11 a.m. Eastern Time/10 a.m. Central Time followed by the 17-8 Cherokees against No. 10 Fremont around 1:30/12:30. Morgan Township (enrollment around 240) is a member of the Porter County Conference (with Boone Grove, Hebron, Kouts, LaCrosse, South Central of Union Mills, Washington Township and Westville). The Cherokees went 5-2 in the PCC in 2022, finishing third behind Boone Grove (7-0) and South Central (6-1). Besides the hosts and Morgan Township, the Westville Sectional included 21st Century Charter, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Kouts, Marquette Catholic and Washington Township. Smith is assisted by Boone Grove graduate and Morgan Township P.E./Health teacher Dean Hill and Washington Township alum Levi Oman. Hill is in charge of the junior varsity team. In 2022, the Cherokees finished the regular season with 24 players in the program. Morgan Township calls Curtis C. Casbon Field home. The diamond on the east side of the school has a backdrop of trees in left field. The facility is shared with Morgan Township Summer League 8U and 10U teams. Smith is a 2010 graduate of Shakamak Junior/Senior High School in Jasonville, Ind. Chip Sweet, who was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2017, came back for his second stint as Lakers head coach when Smith was a senior, following three years with Matt Fougerousse rowing the boat. “He was very knowledgeable guy about baseball and life and how to carry yourself off the field,” says Smith of Sweet. “It was about character and how they represent themselves, their community and their school. “Coach Fougerousse was an extension of Coach Sweet. He wanted that fire to win and lead and be great young men. It’s something that program stands for.” At Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Smith earned an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and a masters in Kinesiology and Exercise Science. John and wife Megan Smith have been married nearly three years. They do not have children.
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.”
2021 IHSBCA ALL-STATE TEAM Class 4A Pitchers: Grant Stratton (Jasper), Nate Dohm (Zionsville). C: Hunter Dobbins (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 1B: Kaleb Kolpien (Homestead). 2B: Joel Walton (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 3B: Connor Foley (Jasper). SS: Tucker Biven (New Albany). OF: Carter Mathison (Homestead), Max Clark (Franklin), Tommy O’Connor (Mooresville). Honorable Mention: Evan Waggoner (Bedford North Lawrence); Austin Bode (Columbus North); Jaden Deel (Hobart); Andrew Wallace (Jasper); Jackson Micheels (Carmel); Breenen Weigert (Homestead); Jack Braun (Fishers); Tyler Walkup (Lawrence North); Quentin Markle (Westfield); Joe Huffman (Avon); Nick Mitchell (Carmel); Brad White (Andrean); Blake Herrmann (Castle); Camden Jordan (Cathedral); Sam Gladd (Columbia City); Eli Hopf (Jasper); Brody Chrisman (Zionsville); J.D. Rogers (Carmel); Keaton Mahan (Westfield); Gage Standifer (Westfield); Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North); Chris Gallagher (Cathedral); Carter Doorn (Lake Central); Grant Comstock (Valparaiso); Tate Warner (Fishers); Carter Gilbert (Northridge).
Arsenal Indiana is expanding for the 2021-22 travel baseball season. The affiliate of Arsenal USA Baseball is to go with 12U, 13U, 14U and 15U squads in its third season. “Within two or three years I want to have teams from 12U through 17U,” says Arsenal Indiana director Jeff Cleckner. “I want to have one team at each age group and be very competitive. “I don’t want to water down the brand with seven 15U teams.” Cleckner, a graduate of Fremont (Ind.) High School (1989) and Purdue University living in Fishers, Ind., says the focus is on skill development at the younger levels and that the older ones grow their mental approach to the game as they prepare for college baseball. But first the current campaign where Arsenal is fielding a 17U team with Cleckner as head coach and Arsenal Indiana director and a 14U squad guided by Steve Smitherman. In 2020, 16U and 13U teams took the field for the organization. Playing six weekends of seven — starting with the first one in June — the 17U team has competed or will take part in events sponsored by Prep Baseball Report, Perfect Game and Bullpen Tournaments. The team placed second during the holiday weekend at the PBR Indiana State Games at Championship Park in Kokomo. The 17U’s were 22-9-1 through 30 games. The season wraps with the Perfect Game 17U BCS National Championship July 21-26 at Major League Baseball spring training fields in Fort Myers, Fla. All the other tournaments have been staged at Grand Park in Westfield. “It’s nice with Grand Park,” says Cleckner of the large complex in central Indiana. “Everyone comes to us.” High schools represented on the 17U roster include Avon, Fishers, Harrison (West Lafayette), Heritage Christian, Huntington North, Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis North Central, Noblesville, Penn, Plainfield, South Adams, Wapahani, Wawasee, Westfield and Zionsville in Indiana and Edwardsburg in Michigan. Since the older teams can play as many as seven games in five days, there are often a number of pitcher-only players (aka P.O.’s). “It’s nice to have P.O.’s,” says Cleckner. “We can supplement as needed with position players. “We’re mindful of arm care and arm health.” The 14U Arsenal Indiana team began in early April and will play until mid-July and could easily get in 60 games in 3 1/2 months. The 14U team plays in same types of tournaments that the 17U teams plays at Grand Park in Westfield. Arsenal Indiana tryouts are planned for late July or early August, likely at Grand Park. A fall season of four or five weekends features a trip to the Perfect Game WWBA 2022/2023 National Championship Oct. 7-11 in Jupiter, Fla., for the upperclassmen. “The goal of the fall season is getting a little more work going into the winter,” says Cleckner. “You have new kids who’ve joined your team and you’re creating some chemistry and camaraderie.” The fall also provides more college looks for older players. Arsenal Indiana trains in the off-season at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville. What is now Arsenal USA Baseball was began in 1995 by Joe Barth Jr. and son Bob Barth as the Tri-State Arsenal with players from southern New Jersey, Delaware and eastern Pennsylvania. Besides USA National in New Jersey, there are affiliate locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Many professionals and college players have come through the Arsenal program.
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.
Flemm is an alum of Veritas Christian Academy in Sparta, N.J., where he pitched for the Lions baseball team and graduated in 2015. He finished his course work at Cedarville (Ohio) University as a History major and double minor in International Studies and Bible in December and is planning to attend May 1 commencement.
He was contacted by former Veritas Christian administrator and current Elkhart Christian secondary principal Sean Bevier who informed him of the baseball coach opening. Flemm was working with the Sussex County Miners Travel Baseball 13U team. Besides coaching, he is substitute and study hall teacher at ECA.
Baker and Flemm, who are assisted by former Elkhart Christian players Mark Stevens and T.J. Tice, guide a group of 12 players that includes one senior (Matt Elmerick), no juniors and the rest sophomores and freshmen.
Some have played travel ball. Others have little baseball experience.
“It sounds cliche’, but we’re working on getting better each day,” says Baker. “We want them listening to what we tell them and trying to apply it on the field.”
Three — Elmerick and sophomores Jude Reynolds and Luke Schramm — split their time between baseball and the Eagles track and field team coached by Allen Lollis. With the help of athletic director Richelle Viront, game and practice schedules are coordinated to accommodate both spring programs.
Elkhart Christian Academy (enrollment around 160) is a member of the Hoosier Plains Conference (with IHSAA Class 1A schools Argos, Bethany Christian, Lakeland Christian Academy, South Bend Career Academy and Trinity at Greenlawn). Only ECA, Argos, Bethany have baseball teams this spring.
“We play a lot of these really big school,” says Flemm. “That’s going to set us up for success in the conference and a state tournament time.”
The Eagles are trying to develop pitchers and catchers on the fly. Many will get a turn on the mound.
“Everybody’s a pitcher until we figure out that’s not your forte’,” says Baker.
Something that was ingrained during Flemm’s travel and high school pitching career was the importance of control.
“Throwing strikes is the only way you’re going to succeed,” says Flemm. “Our second game (against LaVille) we had more strikes and that was awesome to see.
“It’ll just take a lot of refinement and more experience for the guys on the bump.”
Baker looks for ECA pitchers to develop a fastball and change-up and be able to hit their spots with it.
Flemm is upbeat about the future.
“We see a lot of potential,” says Flemm. “It’s been a blessing working with this group of guys.
“I’m excited for what’s coming and how we can develop these guys even more.”
As a private K-12 school, ECA does not always know who will be attending from year to year.
Flemm says there has been talk of starting a junior high baseball program. He has noticed interest in the game among students in those grades.
“It’s something, hopefully, Coach Baker and I can start.” says Flemm, who notes that he and Baker will lead a youth baseball camp ECA in early June. “We’ll get a chance to see what kind of talent we have coming in.”
The Elkhart Christian campus is located in an open area behind the school and next to the U.S. 20 By-Pass. A breeze seemingly never stops.
“We’re almost in a wind tunnel,” says Baker. “It can be difficult to hear (talk between players and coaches and players and other players).
“We need to work on communication and use our big-boy voices so people can hear.”
Those questions were answered as IHSAA Executive Committee minutes from Feb. 19 were released March 8.
According to the IHSAA website, Assistant Commissioner Robert Faulkens reported on the general format, sites and other preliminary plans for the 2020-21 Baseball Tournament Series.
Faulkens was notified by the Indianapolis Indians that their schedule is now set by Major League Baseball rather than the International League and has the team set for home games on the dates of this year’s IHSAA State Finals. The plan now will be to play this year’s state championship games on the following Monday and Tuesday (June 21-22).
The first IHSAA practice date is March 15. The first contest date is March 29.
Sectionals Class 4A 1. Merrillville (6): East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central, Merrillville, Munster. 2. Chesterton (7): Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell, Portage, Valparaiso. 3. Plymouth (6): LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Plymouth, South Bend Adams, South Bend Riley. 4. Northridge (6): Concord, Elkhart, Goshen, Northridge, Penn, Warsaw Community. 5. Carroll (Fort Wayne) (5): Carroll (Fort Wayne), DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider
6. Huntington North (6): Columbia City, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead, Huntington North. 7. Lafayette Jefferson (5): Harrison (West Lafayette), Kokomo, Lafayette Jefferson, Logansport, McCutcheon. 8. Westfield (6): Carmel, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield, Zionsville. 9. Pendleton Heights (6): Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central, Pendleton Heights, Richmond.
10. Ben Davis (7): Ben Davis, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, Indianapolis Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike 11. Warren Central (6): Franklin Central, New Palestine, Perry Meridian, , Roncalli, Southport, Warren Central. 12. Plainfield (6): Avon, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Plainfield, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo. 13. Mooresville (6): Center Grove, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Whiteland Community. 14. Bloomington North (6): Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central, Shelbyville. 15. New Albany (6): Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany, Seymour. 16. Evansville F.J. Reitz (6): Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Jasper.
Class 3A 17. Griffith (6): Calumet, Gary West Side, Griffith, Hammond, Hammond Clark, Hammond Gavit. 18. Kankakee Valley (6): Culver Academies, Glenn, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox, River Forest. 19. South Bend Clay (5): Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Clay, South Bend Saint Joseph, South Bend Washington. 20. Northwestern (7): Benton Central, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette, Western.
21. Wawasee (6): Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wawasee, West Noble. 22. Garrett (7): Angola, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Garrett, Leo, New Haven. 23. Bellmont (6): Bellmont, Heritage, Marion, Mississinewa, Norwell, Oak Hill. 24. Yorktown (6): Delta, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle, Yorktown. 25. North Montgomery (6): Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Northview, South Vermillion.
26. Brebeuf Jesuit (5): Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory, Danville Community, Greencastle, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Tri-West Hendricks. 27. Beech Grove (5): Beech Grove, Herron, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Indianapolis Emmerich Manual, Indianapolis Shortridge. 28. Owen Valley (6): Brown County, Edgewood, Indian Creek, Owen Valley, Sullivan, West Vigo. 29. Lawrenceburg (7): Batesville, Connersville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated, South Dearborn. 30. Silver Creek (8): Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg, Silver Creek. 31. Southridge (6): Gibson Southern, Pike Central, Princeton Community, Southridge, Vincennes Lincoln, Washington
Class 2A 33. Whiting (6): Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary Roosevelt, Hammond Bishop Noll, Lake Station Edison, Wheeler, Whiting.
34. Hebron (6): Boone Grove, Hebron, North Judson-San Pierre, North Newton, Rensselaer Central, Winamac Community. 35. Westview (6): Bremen, Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille, Prairie Heights, Westview. 36. Eastside (6): Adams Central, Bluffton, Churubusco, Eastside, South Adams, Woodlan. 37. Wabash (6): Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Manchester, Rochester Community, Wabash, Whitko. 38. Delphi (6): Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community, Fountain Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger, Western Boone. 39. Eastern (Greentown) (6): Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant, Taylor, Tipton. 40. Lapel (8): Alexandria Monroe, Elwood Community, Frankton, Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris, Wapahani, Winchester Community. 41. Centerville (5): Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah, Union County. 42. Heritage Christian (6): Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown, Triton Central. 43. Cascade (6): Cascade, Covenant Christian (Indpls), Monrovia, Park Tudor, Speedway, University. 44. Southmont (5): Cloverdale, North Putnam, Parke Heritage, South Putnam, Southmont. 45. South Ripley (6): Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover), Switzerland County. 46. Eastern (Pekin) (6): Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin), Henryville, Providence.
47. Mitchell (6): Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli, South Knox. 48. Tell City (6): Evansville Mater Dei, Forest Park, North Posey, Perry Central, South Spencer, Tell City.
Class 1A 49. Washington Township (8): 21st Century Charter-Gary, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Kouts, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township, Westville.
50. LaCrosse (7): Argos, Culver Community, LaCrosse, Oregon-Davis, South Bend Career Academy, South Central (Union Mills), Triton. 51. Fremont (7): Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont, Hamilton, Lakewood Park Christian 52. Caston (7): Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield, Pioneer, Southwood, West Central. 53. Riverton Parke (5): Attica, Covington, Faith Christian, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke. 54. Frontier (6): Clinton Central, Frontier, Rossville, Sheridan, South Newton, Tri-County. 55. Liberty Christian (7): Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central, Wes-Del. 56. Seton Catholic (6): Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Randolph Southern, Seton Catholic, Tri, Union City. 57. White River Valley (6): Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak, White River Valley 58. Bethesda Christian (6): Bethesda Christian, Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Providence Cristo Rey, Tindley, Traders Point Christian. 59. Morristown (6): Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown, Southwestern (Shelbyville), Waldron. 60. Jac-Cen-Del (6): Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy, Rising Sun, Trinity Lutheran. 61. South Central (Elizabeth) (5): Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Lanesville, Orleans, South Central (Elizabeth). 62. West Washington (4): Crothersville, New Washington, Shawe Memorial, West Washington. 63. North Daviess (5): Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Daviess, Shoals, Vincennes Rivet. 64. Northeast Dubois (5): Cannelton, Northeast Dubois, Springs Valley, Tecumseh, Wood Memorial.
1. LaPorte Feeder Sectionals: Chesterton, LaPorte, Merrillville, Northridge. 2. Kokomo Feeder Sectionals: DeKalb, Huntington North, Lafayette Jefferson, Westfield. 3. Plainfield Feeder Sectionals: Ben Davis Pendleton Heights, Terre Haute South Vigo, Warren Central. 4. Jasper Feeder Sectionals: Bloomington North, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Jennings County, Mooresville.
5. Griffith Feeder Sectionals: Griffith, Kankakee Valley, South Bend Clay, Northwestern. 6. Bellmont Feeder Sectionals: Wawasee, Garrett, Bellmont, Yorktown. 7. Danville Feeder Sectionals: Beech Grove, Brebeuf Jesuit, North Montgomery, Owen Valley. 8. Southridge Feeder Sectionals: Evansville Bosse, Lawrenceburg, Silver Creek, Southridge.
10. Lafayette Central Catholic Feeder Sectionals: Delphi, Eastern (Greentown), Lapel, Wabash. 11. Park Tudor/Cascade Feeder Sectionals: Cascade, Centerville, Heritage Christian, Southmont. 12. Evansville Mater Dei (Bosse Field) Feeder Sectionals: Eastern (Pekin), Mitchell, South Ripley, Tell City.
13. South Bend Washington Feeder Sectionals: Caston, Fremont, LaCrosse, Washington Township. 14. Carroll (Flora) Feeder Sectionals: Frontier, Liberty Christian, Riverton Parke, Seton Catholic. 15. Morristown Feeder Sectionals: Bethesda Christian, Jac-Cen-Del, Morristown, White River Valley. 16. Lanesville Feeder Sectionals: North Daviess, Northeast Dubois, South Central (Elizabeth), West Washington.
1. LaPorte 2. Kokomo 3. Mooresville
Victory Field (Indianapolis), 501 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis The eight (8) winning teams of the semi-state tourneys shall constitute the participants in the state tourney.
As he goes into his fourth season leading the program at the tuition-free public charter school serving grades 6-12, Beasley is met with issues like getting enough players and retaining those.
The school, which opened in August 2011 with grades 7-9 before expanding, presented its first baseball team in 2014. The Trailblazers became eligible for IHSAA tournament play in 2017 — the year before Beasley became head coach.
“The first year we went into most games with 10 players,” says Beasley. “The second year, it was 13 or 14. Last year, we were in good shape with decent numbers then we did not play (because of the COVID-19 pandemic).”
As the 2021 slate approaches, Beasley has been getting a handful out for winter conditioning. He hopes that number will go up at the end of basketball season and when more students begin coming for in-person instruction.
One of the reasons participation is down is because some students take all their classes online and don’t appear at the campus on the northwest side of South Bend just below the Indiana Toll Road. The school has enrollees from all over the area.
“I don’t get to interact with those kids and that’s where a lot of the recruitment comes from,” says Beasley. “Losing the baseball season really hurt because (students and staff) are not talking about it.
“If doesn’t matter if you never played before. Come out and we’ll have some fun. I’m not going to force a kid to come out and do it.”
These novices — some who have never played or have not been on a diamond since Little League — face a varsity high school schedule with experienced opponents. Some of those will go on to play college baseball.
“Retention is hard,” says Beasley. “Many of them do not come back the next year.
“That’s our biggest hurdle.”
There is currently no feeder system for CASB baseball, though Beasley is hoping to develop a middle school team in the next couple years. Career Academy has a second South Bend campus — Success Academy — which serves grades K-5.
Beasley is a math teacher. This year he leads Algebra and Algebra Lab classes.
He grew up in North Liberty, Ind., and played baseball at John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., graduating in 2005. Beasley’s freshmen year was John Nadolny’s first at Falcons head coach.
“He was the coach who taught me the most about all aspects of the game as opposed to just the physical part,” says Beasley. “He had those instincts during the game. Being around baseball his whole life, he did what his gut told him to do and it’s worked out for him.”
Beasley credits “Nud” for teaching him how to look at baseball’s mental side.
“How far I can hit the ball or how hard I can throw is not always the most-important part,” says Beasley.
At Ball State University in Muncie, Beasley played four years of club baseball, serving as president his last two years.
The club played intrasquad games in the fall and then a National Club Baseball Association schedule in the spring. Ball State played in the Great Lakes South Conference with club teams from Indiana University, University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and SIU-Edwardsville.
The student-run club was responsible for securing its own practice time and space — in the winter that meant 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. when the varsity teams weren’t using any of the BSU gyms.
Working with Muncie Parks & Recreation, the club played at Francis Lafferty Park. As president, Beasley had to lead fundraising efforts and put together a proposal to get financial help from the university. There was also making out the roster and other administrative duties that many don’t associate with coaching.
Before coaching at Career Academy South Bend, Beasley served as an assistant and junior varsity coach at South Bend Clay (2012-17). He got to work with baseball veterans like Colonials head coach Joel Reinebold and assistants Bill Schell, John Kehoe and Dan Kasper.
“It was very informative,” says Beasley. “(Reinebold) always had something that players could do to get better. I learned a lot from him.”
Beasley also learned how to run a team and craft a schedule.
“I do demand a lot from my players,” says Richards, who spent a decade of coaching in the Railroaders softball program then took over the baseball post prior to the 2020 season which was taken away by COVID-19. “At the same time, baseball has to still be fun for everybody.
“We want to still work hard for our goals.”
Richards was a softball assistant to Scott Bishop for eight seasons before leading the Garrett team in 2018 and 2019.
“(Bishop) demands perfection,” says Richards. “You’re only going to get that through hard work.”
Prior to Garrett, Richards was a baseball assistant at Central Noble for head coach Jim Sickafoose and baseball assistant Eastside for head coach Jason Pierce.
Richards says Sickafoose has an “old school” way of doing things.
“We had a good team,” says Richards, who helped the Cougars win an IHSAA Class 2A LaVille Sectional title and compete in the Whiting Regional in 2012. “(Coach Sickafoose) wanted to get the most out of everything you can do each day.
“(Coach Pierce) brought a fire for the game. He kept the kids on their toes, letting them know they can’t just go through the motions.”
“(Coach Grove) demanded perfection and hard work,” says Richards. “He was no-nonsense.”
Before class baseball, ‘Busco won Warsaw Sectional and Plymouth Regional crowns and competed in the Fort Wayne Semistate championship against eventual state runner-up Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Stadium in 1995.
Richards went on to be a student at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne, where he earned a Education degree with a focus on middle school Social Studies and Science and later gained a School Counseling masters from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.
An attendee of several coaching clinics, Richards likes to run an organized practice.
Everyday players show up they know everything is thought out and in a certain order.
“Anything after 2 1/2 hours and you start to see bad habits,” says Richards. “In 1 1/2 hours, we can get in there, word hard, get good habits formed and have fun.”
At its size, the multi-sport athlete is the norm at Garrett. Many baseball players are on the football team and Richards is an assistant in program led by Chris DePew. That means Garrett had just a few participate in practices during fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period for baseball.
Winter workouts — bat and ball activities plus speed and agility and weight work — have regularly been drawing about 17 with the others involved in winter sports. Richards expects to have around 30 players for varsity and junior varsity teams.
Last March, Garrett was two days away from its first official day of practice when the pandemic caused a shutdown and loss of the 2020 season.
“What a crazy year,” says Richards. “We had like four kids play travel ball last year and no (Garrett Youth Baseball for ages 5-16).
“COVID can really hurt a small program.”
A third year as a guidance counselor at Garrett Middle School (he was a science teacher prior to that), Richards gets to see student-athletes grow and mature for six years — grades 7-12.
“I build a relationship with them in middle school and earn that trust,” says Richards. “In high school, we get them what they need.”
Richards counts Rudy Fuentes as a varsity assistant coach for 2021. Other assistants are Clay Evans, Steve Orth, Bobby York and Cody Camp. Joe Fuentes (Rudy’s son) is GYB president.
The youth league will base its draft on performance at camps held at the high school in February.
“We work really well together,” says Richards of the accord between GHS and GYB.
Garrett graduate Tristan Taylor is a freshman on the baseball roster at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. Current Railroaders senior Gage Smith is expected to make a college baseball commitment and a number of juniors also have college diamond aspirations.
Jason and wife Emily Richards have three children — Kierra (19), Trey (16) and Brady (8). Kierra Richards is a softball player and Exercise Science major at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. Trey Richards is a junior football and baseball players at Garrett. Third grader Brady Richards, who tuns 9 next week, is involved in football, wrestling and baseball.