By STEVE KRAH
Led by a fixture in Parke County, Ind., sports, the Panthers of Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School celebrated their first sectional baseball title in a decade and are preparing for regional.
Charlie Martin, who has been at Riverton Parke for 24 years with two stints as head baseball coach (1996-2005 and 2016-present), steered the pitching-rich Panthers to the IHSAA Class 1A Parke Heritage Sectional championship.
No. 10-ranked Riverton Parke (19-10) topped North Vermillion and Covington to hoist the trophy and earn a spot opposite No. 2 Rossville in the semifinals of the Carroll (Flora) Regional at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 1. The second semifinal features Blue River Valley vs. Daleville (the Broncos were 1A state champions in 2016 and 2018) with the championship at 7:30 p.m.
“Our biggest strength is pitching,” says Martin, who saw junior right-hander Garrett Lawson toss a complete game against North Vermillion and junior left-hander Logan Harrison hurl six innings and Lawson close out Covington.
“They’ve been varsity starters since they were freshmen,” says Martin of Lawson and Harrison. “Both have shown flashes of brilliance. This year, they’ve put it all together.
“They are workhorses on the mound.”
Lawson is 6-2 in 10 starts with four complete games and 79 strikeouts in 64 innings. Harrison is 7-1 in 10 starts with three complete games and 80 K’s and 54 innings.
Righty swinger Lawson is hitting .402 with 33 hits, 11 doubles, five home runs, 20 runs scored and 31 runs batted in. Sophomore catcher Pierson Barnes also swings the bat from the right side. He is hitting .430 with 40 hits, nine doubles, one triple, five homers, 21 runs scored and 29 driven in.
Martin is assisted by Chad Lawson, Ben Porter, B.J. Barnes and Travis Sutton. This spring, numbers were up with large freshmen and junior classes and there were 26 players for varsity and junior varsity squads.
Little Leaguers from Montezuma, Rosedale and Clinton feed into Riverton Parke.
Riverton Parke (enrollment around 310) is a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Attica, Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Parke Heritage, Seeger and South Vermillion).
The WRC plays a double round robin with home-and-home weekday series and Saturday doubleheaders. Covington and South Vermillion tied for first place at 11-3. Riverton Parke and Seeger tied for third at 9-5.
Located near Montezuma, Ind. The Riverton Parke Panthers play on a little land-locked on-campus diamond. It’s less than 300 feet down the foul lines and short of 350 feet to center field.
“It makes for some nerve-racking coaching,” says Martin of the cozy confines. “One walk and one swing and a two-run lead is gone in a hurry.”
Martin notes that many of the top run and home run seasons during the pre-BBCOR bat days were set by Riverton Parke teams.
“Home runs not quite as plentiful since we switched the bats,” says Martin.
To click off the runs that are tallied, a manual wooden scoreboard stands in right field.
Martin, who has been athletic director at Riverton Parke for 14 years and has served as the school’s head boys basketball coach as recently as 2014-15, was in the last graduating class of Montezuma High School in 1986. Montezuma consolidated with Rosedale to form Riverton Parke. Martin’s baseball coaches were Bob Kyle (currently head coach at Parke Heritage) and Scott Weis.
“I definitely learned a lot of baseball strategy from Coach Kyle as well as the competitive side of the game,” says Martin. “There’s never been a better competitor than Coach Kyle.”
Charlie and Angel Martin have been married for 26 years. They have two children — Jake (25) and Maggie (22).
An aerial view of the baseball field at Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School near Montezuma, Ind.
The manual baseball scoreboard at Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School near Montezuma, Ind.
Riverton Parke Junior/Senior High School baseball coaches celebrate a 2019 sectional championship (from left): assistants B.J. Barnes and Chad Lawson, head coach Charlie Martin and assistants Travis Sutton and Ben Porter.