IHSAA baseball practice has arrived and the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association has announced its Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year watch list for 2023. An email was sent out to the baseball coaches from Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Huntington, Wells and Whitley counties. These are the counties that the NEIBA covers when choosing their Hall of Fame members. Each coach was asked to nominate any player(s) that he feels could be in the running for such an honor. The watch list features 70 players. The list will be narrowed down in early May and finalists will be announced. The Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year will be honored May 24 to coincide with the start of the IHSAA state tournament. The Player of the Year will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game and at the June 11 Hall of Fame banquet. Past winners of the award include Grant Besser (South Adams) in 2019, Carter Mathison (Homestead) in 2021 and Dalton Wasson (Heritage) in 2022. The organization has honored local baseball players, personnel and ambassadors since 1961. For more information, contact Gary Rogers at email@example.com or Brett Windmiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jordan Turner was heading into his freshman year at Churubusco (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School when he saw an opportunity. The Eagles’ starting catcher the year before was a senior. Turner played other positions, but he began focusing on playing behind the plate on varsity and that’s what he did for four years, graduating in 2011. Mark Grove, who was in the midst of a very successful career as Churubusco head coach (he won 513 games with nine sectional titles, four regional crowns, a semistate runner-up finish and nine Northeast Corner Conference championships from 1985-2015), trusted Turner to call pitches and allowed him to manage a game. “I definitely learned a lot from Grove,” says Turner, who has been head coach at his alma mater since the 2018 season and is also a high school English teacher. “As a player you don’t think about everything that goes into games and practices. As a coach, I definitely lean on him all the time and whatever coaching information he can give to me. “Beyond that, it’s the role model Grove’s been as a teacher and another supportive figure in my life. I can’t say enough about the impact he’s had on me and how much help he’s provided to the program.” Turner began coaching while he still at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne) earning an English Education degree with a History minor. After serving as an assistant on Grove’s staff for two seasons and helping Jason Pierce for one, Turner took over the Eagles and Grove (a 2021 Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Fame inductee) has served as a volunteer on his staff. Though he is not listed as a 2023 assistant, Grove will help when he’s available. The staff features Dalton Blessing (Class of 2018) and Derek Bowyer (Class of 2016) as varsity assistants with Turtle Town community member Brian Jones leading the junior varsity with help from Seth Abel (Class of 2021). Bowyer played a few seasons at Trine University. Churubusco (enrollment around 400) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview). Hamilton is expected to play a JV schedule in 2023. The NECC tournament is April 24-29. The Whitley County-based Eagles are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Eastside, Prairie Heights, Westview and Whitko. Churubusco has 10 sectional titles — the last in 2015. Recent graduates moving on to college diamonds include Class of 2021’s Brayten Gordon (Indiana Tech) and Evan Snyder (Adrian, Mich., College) and 2022’s Cal Ostrowski (Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne). Churubusco Youth League “Where Eagles Grow” sponsors teams from T-ball to age 14 at Churubusco Community Park. The high school home field is located between the school and the park (there is a large turtle statue at the entrance off U.S. 33). For decades, games were played with no outfield fence. That was added early in the Grove era. Since Turner has been in charge, upgrades include a windscreen and concession stand.
Gene Smith has been coaching baseball in the community for more than three decades. Now he’s the head coach at alma mater Prairie Heights Senior High School near LaGrange, Ind. A 1991 Prairie Heights graduate, Smith played for Craig Reece. “He was down-to-earth and he would teach you baseball,” says Smith of Reece. “He understood the game. “He’s a good friend and a good leader.” Reece instilled the desire in Smith to become a coach at Stroh Youth League at 18. He spent 28 years in that organization in various roles, including vice president. The high school feeder system consists of SYL, Ashley-Hudson Ball League, Orland Tigers Youth League and South Milford Little League. Smith was a junior varsity coach on T.J. Guthrie’s Prairie Heights staff in 2022 and was approved as head coach at the January school board meeting. While some athletes have been involved with wrestling and basketball, Smith has been able to work with some baseball players during the winter IHSAA Limited Contact Period. “They’re eager,” says Smith. “They’re really listening. They ask questions. “I’m pretty happy with it.” Prairie Heights (enrollment around 425) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, West Noble and Westview). Hamilton is expected to play a JV schedule in 2023. The NECC tournament is April 24-29. The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Westview and Whitko. Prairie Heights has won two sectional titles — 1977 and 1984. Smith’s staff in 2023 features pitching coach/varsity assistant Dave Priestly, junior varsity head coach Bodie Rice and JV assistant Reese Smith (Gene’s son and a 2018 Prairie Heights graduate). The Panthers play and practice on Kellet Field. A few years back, the field was overhauled while Prairie Heights played all its games on the road. “It’s one of the best playing surfaces in the NECC,” says Smith. “We would like to upgrade the dugouts.” In April, Smith will hit the 24-year mark working maintenance at maintenance at Cold Heading Company in Hudson, Ind. Gene and wife Stacy Smith have eight children between them. From oldest to youngest there’s Shayntel Smith, Reese Smith, Malachi Malone, Courtney Smith, Jerica Malone, Isaiah Malone and Cheyenne Smith (Prairie Heights Class of 2023). Elijah Malone is a junior on the men’s basketball team at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. Prairie Heights senior Isaiah Malone recently signed to play basketball at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
Waylon Richardson, who was named this week as head baseball at West Noble High School in Ligonier, Ind., has had most of his baseball experiences as a player. Born in Goshen, Richardson grew up around Ligonier, moved near Cromwell in high school (parents Franklin Jr., and Kimberly Richardson own about 220 acres of farmland) and got acquainted with the game early at Wawaka. At West Noble, he competed four years each in baseball and basketball and two of football. As a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher he appeared in 11 games as a senior in 2015 and went 6-1 with one save, a 1.61 earned run average, 85 strikeouts and 30 walks in 56 2/3 innings. As a junior, he pitched in eight games and went 1-3 with a 2.18 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 1/3 innings. Richardson scored 445 career points on the basketball court. In his senior football season of 2014, he passed for 1,236 yards and eight touchdowns. His head coaches were Doug Brown (baseball), Jim Best (basketball) and Monte Mawhorter (football). The trio always seemed to get their older players to take leadership roles. “They were hard-nosed coaches and role models,” says Richardson. “They got the most out of their group of players each and every year. I still reach out to each of them. I couldn’t have asked for three better high school coaches.” Richardson went to Kankakee (Ill.) Community College. In 2016, he made one start and experienced a shoulder separation and sat out the rest of the season. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, he was the Cavaliers closer. In 27 games, he went 2-0 with nine saves and an 0.30 ERA, 39 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 innings. KCC went to Enid, Okla., and won the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series. Richardson was named to all-region and all-World Series teams. That summer, he hurled for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms. He made 11 appearances (10 in relief) and went 2-4 with 4.91 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 14 2/3 innings. He also tore the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2017. In 2018, a trainer for the Chicago Cubs visited Kankakee and advised head coach Todd Post and pitching coach Bryce Shafer to shut Richardson down after three appearances because he had come back from surgery too soon. The right-hander continued his rehabilitation and threw bullpens for professional scouts. Richardson committed to play at Saint Leo (Fla.) University for head coach Rick O’Dette (who played at coached at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind.), whose pitching philosophy went hand-in-hand with Shafer. Post congratulated Richardson when he was named as West Noble head coach. “He’s like a second father to me,” says Richardson of the veteran field boss. “He got me into that mental mindset that led me to bigger and better things. It got me drafted.” Post helped Richardson understand the importance of the little things in baseball. Those add up to big things. “It was a whole new perspective on baseball (for me),” says Richardson. When the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was held Richardson was selected in the 40th round by the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched in the minors in 2019. Various injuries limited him to three games and three innings. He was released in May 2020. The minor league season was canceled that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Richardson, who was getting old for a Class-A ballplayer, opted to retire. Waylon married the former Abby Richards of Churubusco in October 2020 and started working in construction as a remodeler and house flipper and flooring sub-contractor. Abby Richardson is a speech therapist and cheerleading coach at West Noble. Waylon Richardson, 25, was a varsity assistant to brother Aaron Coy (other siblings include Brittany Richardson and former all-state, Ball State University and Grace College basketball player Haley Richardson) during the 2022 West Noble baseball season. Coy is a 2006 West Noble alum who played baseball at Goshen College. As the man in charge of the Chargers, Richardson had from nine to 17 players participate in fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities. “We share to many athletes at our school,” says Richardson, who held optional open fields after football practice. “Without everyone there it’s hard to put in your philosophy.” He was able to critique the swings of newer players, getting them to use more of their lower half. He got the older players to take the younger ones under their wins and emphasized knowing where to throw the ball on defense. The winter Limited Contact Period is Dec. 5-Feb. 4. Richardson plans to have his twice-weekly sessions following basketball practice. “We want to get as many kids as possible,” says Richardson. Hitters will be asked to have an approach at the plate and not just be free swingers. A brand new outdoor batting cage was recently installed at the Chargers’ on-campus field. Richardson’s wish list includes a new scoreboard and a new or remodeled press box. “I’m excited,” says Richardson. “We lost eight seniors but return at least six everyday starters. We have a really good young freshman class. The ones showing up (at practices) are athletic and versatile.” Richardson says he sees college baseball potential in Class of 2023’s Elijah Bacon and Winston Deel. The coaching staff includes returnees Dave Shields, Mel Coyle and Jose Marmolejo. Shields was on the staff when Richardson was a player. “I respect his Baseball I.Q.,” says Richardson. “He’s like a father figure to the kids.” Coyle doubles as a junior varsity coach and groundskeeper. “He makes sure Charger baseball plays on a beautiful diamond,” says Richardson, who is also hoping to bring on two former college teammates. Richardson seeks pitchers who get ahead in the count. “We want to work low in the zone — inside and out,” says Richardson. “If you command two pitches, you can play around with a third and get hitters to chase.” Looking at his 2023 season opener, Richardson is considering letting pitchers go one inning each to see what they’ve got and doing the same thing in Game 2. “We want to figure out our rotation and relievers going into conference play and the end of the year,” says Richardson. West Noble (enrollment around 720) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights and Westview). The Chargers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with East Noble, Fairfield, Lakeland, NorthWood and Wawasee. West Noble has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2006. West Noble Little League (formerly Kimmel Baseball & Softball) prepares players for the high school. Greg Eash is WNLL board president for an organization which has traditionally fielded teams from T-Ball to 1/2 Pints (seventh and eighth graders). “Greg Eash great coach for our feeder system,” says Richardson. “I’ve told my coaches we need to get down there and show our face to the youth.”
Eastside Junior/Senior High School athletics has been a big part of Cade Willard’s world all of his 23 years. His parents — Aaron and Kerri Willard — have both been employed by DeKalb Eastern Community School District. Cade played baseball and basketball for the Butler, Ind.-based Eastside Blazers — Jason Pierce for the first two years (2014 and 2015) and his father for the last two (2016 and 2017) on the diamond and Ryan Abbott on the hardwood. A right-handed pitcher, Willard played three seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne (2019-21). He redshirted in 2018. He appeared in 92 games (all in relief) for the Mastodons. His head coach the last two seasons was Doug Schreiber. “Throughout my career I’ve been blessed with good coaches,” says Willard. Graduating in 2021 as a Business Management major and Marketing minor, Willard went to work at Eastside teaching Business and Computer Science and joined his father’s baseball coaching staff. After an IHSAA Class 2A state runner-up finish in 2021, Eastside won another sectional title in 2022. The Kelly Green & White went 26-7 in ’21 and 21-8 in ’22. Eastside (enrollment around 380) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview). The Blazers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Prairie Heights, Westview and Whitko. Eastside has won seven sectional titles. Aaron Willard was a North coach and Owen Willard — little brother of former volleyball/softball athlete Madison (Willard) Shelter (Class of 2014) and Cade — was the MVP at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. At the end of the season, Aaron Willard kept his athletic director tag but passed the head coaching baton to Cade. His decision to pursue business or education and coaching was made during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I grew up around Eastside my whole life,” says Cade. “It seemed right. “It makes it more special being in your hometown.” Aaron and elementary P.E. teacher Kerri now have more time to see right-hander Owen pitch at PFW. Cade is also an assistant to Ed Bentley on the Blazers varsity boys basketball staff. Willard found time to lead IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities (two days a week for two hours) in the fall and will do so again in the winter, beginning Dec. 5. He will roll right from basketball to baseball on some days. “In the fall, we got better, got in a routine and got our hitting philosophies down,” says Willard, who had eight to 10 high schoolers at each session along with a handful of junior high players. “On paper, we had our starting infield out there. “It’s important to get kids in before the holidays. We can see what numbers we have.” Cade wants the ones who are able to attend to get used to his practice structure. “The past few years we’ve been successful,” says Willard. “It’s about keeping the tradition alive. ““We’re always a scrappy team. I want to get our guys ready to compete. We have a few spots to fill. We were super senior-heavy last year. “For some it will be the first time playing varsity baseball. Toward the end of the season we’ll be alright.” Besides Owen Willard, Class of 2022’s Nick Snyder moved on to college baseball at Indiana University Southeast. Willard has a mixture of seasoned and younger assistant coaches. “I think it’s important to bring on experienced guys who know what to do in different situations,” says Willard. Eastern graduate Tony Emenhiser — who coached with Pierce and Aaron Willard — is back. Alum Gary Kaiser was also on Pierce’s staff. Conner Dove is junior varsity head coach and is assisted by Mike Gustin. Dove was an Eastside classmate of Willard. He was a teammate of Prairie Heights graduate Gustin at Trine University (Angola, Ind.). Willard expects to have around two dozen players for varsity and JV squads. Among returnees is Class of 2024’s Loden Johnson and Ryder Reed and Class of 2025’s Jace Mayberry. Pitchers will be asked to throw strikes and keep the ball low and away from he middle of the plate. “Free bases hurt,” says Willard. “You can throw two pitches for strikes and get away with it and be effective with three. “In our non-conference games we’ll see who can throw and who cannot throw. It’ll get us ready for rather get ready for conference in the later weeks. There will be a lot of juggling (of positions) this year for sure. We want to put the best lineup out there for conference.” Eastside plays home contests on-campus at Michael D. Fieldler Field. The diamond played host to a fall league and has had its dugouts upgraded with other projects in the works. Bobcat Youth League locations at Butler and Riverdale-St. Joe develop players that end up at Eastside. Fifth and sixth graders travel to play area teams, including in Hicksville, Ohio. Butler is about four miles from the Indiana-Ohio line. The non-conference high school season tends to include Ohio opponents like Archbold, Edgerton and Fairview. A youth camp is planned at Eastside for the spring. “It is important to get youth kids enjoying and playing baseball doing it the right way,” says Willard. “Dad — being AD — says that’s an area you could blossom in with time over the long run.”
With a roster featuring college players and those as old as 42, the Fort Wayne-based Jackers are winding down their 2022 regular season. Members of men’s wood bat baseball league in both Fort Wayne (Red Carrington League) and South Bend, the Jackers swept the South Bend Royals Saturday, June 9 and Boehm Park in South Bend and dropped both games of a doubleheader to the Michiana Brewers Sunday, June 10 at Bethel University in Mishawaka. Having already clinched the Carrington League crown, the league season is to conclude for the Jackers (15-6) Tuesday, June 11 against the Blues (7-8) at Carrington Field in Fort Wayne. A National Amateur Baseball Federation regional at both Carrington Field and Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne is slated for Thursday through Saturday, July 28-30. The eight-team event features pool play the first two days. Seeded bracket play begins on Saturday. The field will feature the Jackers, Michiana Brewers, South Bend Royals, Portland (Ind.) Rockets, another Fort Wayne team (Blues or Renegades) and three squads from Michigan. The top two regional finishers move on to the the 16-team NABF World Series is Aug. 2-5 in Battle Creek, Mich. The Jackers made it to the World Series in 2016, 2018 and 2019. In 2021, the South Bend Royals were the round-robin winner from a four-team regional and a World Series qualifier. The Berea Blue Sox (Strongsville, Ohio) came away with the championship trophy. Tom Davidson is in his third season as Jackers manager. A 6-foot-7, right-handed pitcher, Davidson played at Garrett (Ind.) High School (Class of 1998) and what is now known as Manchester University (Class of 2003) and briefly in pro ball. Why does Davidson stay involved? “I just love it,” says Davidson, a retirement planning software salesman. “It gives me a reason to stay in the dugout. “It’s a good chance to be around the guys.” The Jackers typically play 30 to 35 games a summer with most this year coming in the form of a single game on Thursday and a doubleheader on Saturday or Sunday. All players have college baseball experience. Most of the ones who still have eligibility are at Indiana Tech of the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
Gage Smith grew up in the small town of Garrett, Ind. The third baseman/right-handed pitcher is playing in another bantam burg this summer while playing for the Wellington Heat in Kansas Collegiate League Baseball. “The community is close-knit and we have great group of guys here,” says Smith, a 2021 graduate of Garrett High School who has completed one season of college ball for the Connor Wilkins-coached Ivy Tech Northeast Titans in Fort Wayne. Heat home games are played under the lights at Hibbs-Hooten Stadium in the seat of Summer County — Wellington. Road trips in the KCBL are as short as 30 minutes and as long as 1 hour, 40 minutes. Wellington won the National Baseball Congress title in 2007 and were NBC World Series runners-up in 2013. In his first eight games with the 2022 Heat, Smith is hitting .238 (5-of-21) with two home runs, four runs batted in and five runs scored. He has pitched in five games (all in relief) and is 0-0 with one save, a 2.70 earned run average, 11 strikeouts and two walks for 6 2/3 innings. In 26 games at Ivy Tech in the spring, Smith hit .341 (29-of-85) with one homer, four triples, six doubles,15 RBIs and a .952 OPS (.411 on-base percentage plus .541 slugging average). The righty batter has also scored 16 runs and swiped 10 bases. In four mound appearances (one start), Smith was 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA, nine strikeouts and four walks over 7 1/3 innings. Smith does not wish to choose between infielder/hitter and pitcher as his favorite. “I love both equally,” says Smith, 19. “I’d like to be a two-way for my whole career. I try to balance out the work with both positions. “As a fielder my strength is putting it all on the line while backing my pitchers. At the plate, I try to spray it anywhere and be a tough out.” While working with Ivy Tech pitching coach Javier DeJesus, Smith took the velocity on the four-seam fastball from 83 mph to 88 mph from the fall to the spring. But Smith does not focus on speed. “I try to be dominant on the mound,” says Smith. “I’m pitching in the (strike) zone and attacking hitters with their weaknesses. “Every hitter has a tell about what he’s going to chase. The catcher will also help you with that.” Throwing over the top, Smith has a 12-to-6 curveball and “circle” change-up and he has been working on a two-seamer. Smith calls DeJesus “a pitching genius.” “He’s been moving the ball around in our hand to get the best break we can on (pitches),” says Smith. Another Titans hurler that has benefitted from working with DeJesus is Matt Peters, who is moving on to NCAA Division I Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). “It was awesome playing with him,” says Smith of Peters, who throws the ball in the high 90’s. “We got to face him in live (at-bats). “He made an impact on all of us.” Smith has three Ivy Tech teammates at Wellington — Joel Deakins, Coby Griffith and Noah Matheson. Deakins is an outfielder, Griffith a pitcher and Matheson an infielder. Another — Zach Green — plays for KCBL’s Park City Rangers as a catcher. Smith and Matheson are roomies with host family parents James and Jodie McCarthy. “They are some sweet people,” says Smith. “They are willing to have people live there and care for them. “It’s definitely more comfortable having (Ivy Tech mates) around.” At Ivy Tech — an National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II team — Smith has embraced the idea of a “JUCO Bandit.” “I means you have some sort of grit to you. You’re dirtbags,” says Smith. “You train hard and play the game hard. “That’s what a ‘JUCO Bandit’ means to me.” Smith is in Kansas this summer and plans to return to Ivy Tech in the fall as a General Studies major with the idea of attracting a four-year school who will give him the opportunity to continue his baseball career. Born in Fort Wayne, Smith grew up in Garrett and played about eight years at what is now Garrett Youth Baseball. The summers before and after his last high school season, he played for the Brett Ratcliffe-coached DeKalb County Thunder. Ratcliffe was head coach at Garrett High in Smith’s freshman and sophomore years with Jason Richards leading the Railroaders in 2019-20 (the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic) and 2020-21. “(Ratcliffe) was kind of an old school coach,” says Smith. “He taught me the basics of baseball and got me to where I wanted to play college baseball. “(Richards) coached me in football in middle school. He was a guy I knew really well and could trust and depend on him.” Gage’s parents are Pamela Smith and Chris Smith. He has a twin sister, Morgan Smith. Tori Smith is a few years older. Austin Carroll is second oldest sibling. Beau Carroll (who died in 2021 at 29) was the oldest.
With the beginning of IHSAA baseball practice, the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association has put out its Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year Watch List for 2022. An email was sent to baseball coaches in Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Huntington, Wells and Whitley counties. These are the counties that the NEIBA covers when choosing their Hall of Famers. Each coach was asked to nominated any player(s) that he feels could be in the running for such an honor. The list of 72 will be narrowed down in finalists in early May and the Dick Crumback/NEIBA Player of the Year will be announced May 25 to coincide with the beginning of the IHSAA baseball tournament series. The player of the year will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game in early June and at the NEIBA Hall of Fame banquet June 12. Homestead’s Carter Mathison was the 2021 honoree. The organization has honored local baseball players, personnel and ambassadors since 1961. For more information, contact Gary Rogers at email@example.com or Brett Windmiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DICK CRUMBACK/NEIBA HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST 2022 Adams Central (Coach Dave Neuenschwander) Sr. Alex Currie Jr. Ryan Black Sr. Jaron Hildebrand Sr. Blake Heyerly Bishop Dwenger (Coach Jason Garrett) So. Brayton Thomas Sr. Xavier Aguirre Sr. Jack Tippmann Bishop Luers (Coach Jeff Stanski) Jr. Cam Martinez Sr. Paul Birkmeier Carroll (Coach Dave Ginder) Sr. Alex Smith Sr. Jaydan Duba Sr. Jordan Malott Jr. Will Worrel Jr. Thomas Tratnyek Jr. Andrew Sinish Jr. Daniel Kirk So. Conner Barkel Central Noble (Coach Tyler Graybeal) Sr. Will Hoover Churubusco (Coach Jordan Turner) Sr. Keenan Hendricks Sr. Cal Ostrowski Columbia City (Coach Rob Bell) Sr. Sam Gladd Sr. Adin Miller Sr. Julian Osselaer DeKalb (Coach Collin Bice) Sr. Bryce Dobson Sr. Logan Jordan Jr. Eli Ehmke Jr. Tegan Irk Jr. Ethan Jordan Jr. Alex Leslie Jr. Logan Montoya Jr. Parker Smith Jr. Donnie Wiley East Noble (Coach Aaron Desmonds) Sr. Brayden Risedorph Eastside (Coach Aaron Willard) Sr. Jack Buchanan Sr. Nick Snyder Sr. Owen Willard Garrett (Coach Jason Richards) Sr. Graham Kelham Sr. Trey Richards Sr. Kail Baughman Jr. Luke Byers So. Luke Holcomb Heritage (Coach Dean Lehrman) Sr. Dalton D. Wasson Homestead (Coach Nick Byall) Sr. Brennen Weigert Sr. Nick Hockemeyer Sr. Caden Tarango Jr. Jake Goode Jr. Bryce Yoder Sr. Braydon Quintana Sr. Carter Dixon Sr. Jackson Todor Huntington North (Coach Jarod Hammel) Sr. Austin Oswalt Leo (Coach Gary Rogers) Sr. Cohden Brubaker Sr. Donavin Massing Jr. Jevon Walker So. Kylar Decker New Haven (Coach Dave Bischoff) Sr. Connor Cannon Northrop (Coach Matt Brumbaugh) Sr. Luke Siren So. Pernell Whitsett North Side (Coach Austin Mannan) Jr. Gabriel Oliva Snider (Coach Josh Clinkenbeard) Sr. Trevor Newman Sr. Cade Hinton Fr. Landen Fry Fr. Brandon Logan Sr. Aaron Fenn Sr. Domanic Moon Sr. Jakob Byler South Adams (Coach Brad Buckingham) Sr. A.J. Dull South Side (Coach Will Coursen-Carr) Sr. Perry Stow So. Evan Harl Southern Wells (Coach Blade Rheinhart) Sr. Branson Rheinhart Sr. Evan Reynolds Sr. Owen Vickrey
Northeast Indiana is moving toward a large sports facility and baseball will be part of the mix. Auburn Sports Group is bringing Auburn Sports Park — a $42 million 170-acre multi-sport complex plus 90 more acres for retail (restaurants, gas stations, hotels) — to land adjacent once owned by RM Auctions/RM Sotheby’s on the east side of I-69 .1 of a mile off Exit 11A. Auburn Sports Park will be located about 30 miles south of the Indiana-Michigan line on I-69; about 20 miles to the heart of Fort Wayne, Ind.; about 60 miles west of Napoleon, Ohio; about 50 miles northeast of Warsaw, Ind.; about 120 miles southwest of Lansing, Mich.; about 100 miles southeast of Kalamazoo, Mich.; about 130 miles northeast of Grand Park in Westfield, Ind Auburn Sports Group’s leadership team features co-owner Joe Fisher, president/co-order Rod Sinn, vice president/director of basketball Grant Sinn and director of operations/director of outdoor fields Cole Walker. Brett Ratcliffe, assistant baseball coach at Trine University in Angola, Ind., and former head coach at Garrett (Ind.) High School, is the director of baseball/softball. Auburn Sports Park is to have eight turf fields suitable for high school/college baseball and softball. “A multi-sport complete in northeast Indiana is something that’s needed,” says Ratcliffe of the place which has already had commitments to bring events to serve athletes from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and beyond. “This is another venue they can go to.” Existing buildings will be used and there will be construction and renovation to bring indoor basketball and volleyball courts and a multi-purpose field for football, soccer and lacrosse. One building will house seven batting cages. In addition, a 2-mile walking trail around the campus is planned as well as a splash pad. “We want to make sure it’s a great experience for kids and a good memory for people who come here,” says Ratcliffe, who expects some of the facility to be ready for events by late summer. Auburn Sports Park will be home to Prospect Select and Crossroads Baseball Series and the site of national championships. Eric Blakeley, who played baseball at Indiana University and in the Seattle Mariners organization, is Crossroads Baseball Series CEO. Jeremy Plexico, former pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Ball State University, is Prospect Select president. Travis Keesling, who played and coached at Pendleton Heights High School, is Crossroads Baseball Series executive vice president. Ratcliffe says entities like the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau have been supportive and other partnerships have been discussed with the World Baseball Academy, Indiana Collegiate Summer Baseball League and Empowered Sports Club —all based in Fort Wayne — plus the YMCA of DeKalb County in Auburn and Team Pineapple Volleyball Club/Ball Sports Academy of Angola. With its location, Ratcliffe says Auburn Sports Park will be a great place for teams from NCAA D-I, D-II and D-III to NAIA and National Junior College Athletic Association schools to recruit.