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New Saint Francis Cougars head baseball coach Butcher committed to making history

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dustin Butcher wants baseball success for his alma mater.

The new head baseball coach at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., is committed to making the Cougars into a perennial championship contender — something already achieved by the school’s football and basketball programs.

“To do something special, you have to commit to it,” says Butcher, who takes over the program after the retirement of Greg Roberts. “We’re going to make history here at some point.

“I’m excited. I have a lot of pride in this university.”

Saint Francis is a member of the NAIA-affiliated Crossroads League (along with Bethel College, Goshen College, Grace College, Huntington University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Marian University, Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, Spring Arbor University and Taylor University). The Cougars are seeking their first regular-season or tournament title in baseball.

USF head football coach Kevin Donley is the winningest coach in NAIA history. Men’s basketball Chad LaCross has won over 70 percent of his games with two national runner-up teams. Coach Jason Ridge now leads a women’s basketball program that won a national title in 2014.

Butcher graduated from Heritage High School in Monroeville, Ind., and played baseball and soccer at Saint Francis, completing his undergraduate degree in 2001. He went on to earn a masters in sports and exercise psychology from Ball State University.

During his internship with USF’s soccer teams — men and women — Butcher got a chance to built the mental skill set of athletes.

Butcher played baseball for coach Dean Lehrman at Heritage. His USF coaches were Steve Kovacs and Doug Coate in baseball and Ken Nuber then Mitch Ellisen in soccer.

“I’m thankful,” says Butcher. “Coach Lehrman kind of saved me from myself. He was very honest. I wasn’t on the best path. I wasn’t living up to expectations.”

Butcher says he contributed to Cougars soccer for his willingness to be a grinder.

“I was good in high school, but at the collegiate level I wasn’t good enough,” says Butcher. “But I think I made everybody around me better because I would never stop.

“It made me realize that you need guys like that. I pushed guys in practice. They knew you couldn’t take a day off.”

Butcher’s first assistant college baseball coaching stop came at Marian in Indianapolis on the staff of Kurt Guldner and assistants Kip McWilliams and Toby Rogers.

Jessica Butcher, Dustin’s wife, is a family doctor with Lutheran Health Physicians. She did her residency in Fort Wayne and Dustin coached a season at Saint Francis and then went with head coach McWilliams at Indiana Tech. Butcher returned to Saint Francis to join Roberts in the fall of 2008 and remained until the present.

“I’m appreciative of Coach Guldner giving me my first job,” says Butcher. “Coach Mac is really the one that got me going to the (annual American Baseball Coaches Association national convention). If you love baseball and you’ve never been to an ABCA convention, you need to go. It’s mind-blowing.

“It’s such a cool culture of coaches. It’s a group of guys constantly trying to learn and share information. I love it.”

Butcher is grateful for Roberts, who allowed him to find his own way of implementing his philosophy.

“He allowed us to coach,” says Butcher, who also served alongside Miguel Tucker (who is now on McWilliams’ staff at Indiana Tech). “He gave us full autonomy. He allowed us to fail and succeed on his watch. He was just so good at teaching. He always had an angle that would make you think.

“I owe him a lot.”

As head coach, Butcher will emphasize the grinder mentality

“I want to challenge them to where they hit a wall physically and they have to figure out how to get to the other side,” says Butcher. “You’ve got to find something within yourself.”

To narrow the gap on the competition, Butcher expects his athletes to move some iron.

“I’m a big believer in the weight room — it allows you to compete at a higher level quicker.

“To win at the NAIA level, you see a lot of teams across the country in the World Series or Top 25 with transfers (Division I or junior college). We don’t have the luxury of being able to pluck any JC kid or get every Division I bounce-back. We don’t have the financial capability. To be able to compete, we’ve got to push in the weight room.

“To make history, we need to do more — we need to develop more, we need to take more swings outside of practice time. That’s something I’m going to ask our coaches to do.”

Former Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne player Kristian Gayday has been hired as a USF baseball assistant and a search is one for a second assistant. Gayday, who played for Mastodons and head coach Bobby Pierce, will lead Cougars hitters and help with infielders and outfielders.

Butcher is especially fond of the methods favored by strength and conditioning specialist Eric Cressey. Because they seem to be more in-line with baseball, the coach says his Cougars will front squat and deadlift.

Recruiting at Saint Francis focuses on a 50-mile radius around the school. Anyone from inside that ring can commute. By school policy, those outside that radius must live on campus and that adds to the cost.

The 2019 online roster includes 15 players from Allen or surrounding Indiana counties.

Using resources like FieldLevel and getting athletes to on-campus to experience the atmosphere of home football games, Butcher is wrapping up the 2018-19 recruiting class while also looking for 2019-20 commits.

Travel organizations that have been good to Saint Francis are the Fort Wayne Diamondbacks, Summit City Sluggers and Indiana Chargers.

“Those are three top programs,” says Butcher. “You want to make sure you see them in the summer because they always have kids to recruit.”

He expects his roster to hover between 30 and 40 players, which will take practices and a few scrimmages in the fall and a 55-game schedule in the spring. Some winter workouts will take place at The Diamond Baseball and Softball Academy. All home games will be played on the turf at the ASH Centre in Fort Wayne.

Dustin, the oldest of six children, is the son of Becki Beauchot and Steve Butcher. Dustin’s sisters are Abbi, Emily and Daisy with Sam and Jack (a senior-to-be at Heritage).

Living in Leo, Ind., Dustin and Jessica Butcher have two children — Nolan (9) and Ella (7). Ella was in Miguel Tucker’s wedding. Jessica has been the baby doctor for former USF players.

“That’s why you do it,” says Butcher of the bonds formed through baseball. “It’s a family. That’s hard to get through to coaches.

“I hope they understand it.”

DUSTINBUTCHER1

Alum and long-time assistant coach Dustin Butcher is now the head baseball coach at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

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IU, Purdue bow out in D-I regionals; Indiana’s 36 other college baseball teams wrap up 2018 season

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The state’s two Big Ten schools — Indiana University and Purdue University — both saw the 2018 college baseball season come to a close at the NCAA Regional level.

Minnesota and Ohio State were the other two conference schools to get an NCAA bid.

The Chris Lemonis-coached Hoosiers (40-19) went 2-2 at the Austin (Texas) Regional.

Coach Mark Wasikowski’s Boilermakers (38-21) went 1-2 at the Chapel Hill Regional.

Once again, Tracy Archuleta took the University of Southern Indiana (36-23) in the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. A national champion in 2010 and 2014, the Screaming Eagles went 0-2 in Cary, N.C., this time.

At the NCAA D-III level, Lance Marshall’s Franklin College team (39-5) and Jake Martin’s Wabash College (32-17) squad both advanced to regional tournaments before bowing out.

Five coaches — Kip McWilliams of Indiana Tech (44-21), Rich Benjamin of Indiana Wesleyan University (37-20), Ben Reel of Indiana University Southeast (41-14), Todd Bacon of Marian University (24-27) and Kyle Gould Taylor University (44-16) — took their teams to the NAIA Opening Round before they were eliminated from postseason play.

Gary Vaught retired after 24 seasons as head coach at the University of Indianapolis.

Indiana University Kokomo (coached by Matt Howard) and Ivy Tech Community College (coached by Lance Hershberger) had their first seasons.

Here is a 2018 wrap-up for all 38 college baseball programs in Indiana:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

2018

NCAA Division I

Ball State Cardinals (32-26, 17-10 Mid-American Conference): Head coach Rich Maloney (13th overall season).

BSU went 1-2 in the MAC tournament at Avon, Ohio.

Drey Jameson was named MAC Pitcher of the Year and an all-MAC first-teamer as well as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Pitcher John Baker, shortstop Noah Powell and outfielder Jeff Riedel made the all-MAC second team.

Right-hander Evan Marquardt (Reds) was selected in 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Butler Bulldogs (34-20, 9-8 Big East Conference): Head coach Dave Schrage (second season).

The Dogs went 1-2 at the Big East tournament in Mason, Ohio.

Pitcher Ryan Pepiot, shortstop Michael Hartnagel and outfielder Gehrig Parker were chosen to the all-Big East first team with outfielder Tyler Houston and infielder/pitcher Garrett Christman on the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Evansville Purple Aces (12-39, 3-18 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Wes Carroll (eighth season).

UE went 0-2 at the MVC tournament in Dallas.

Outfielder Troy Beilsmith was chosen for the all-MVC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Fort Wayne Mastodons (11-37, 7-23 Summit League): Head coach Bobby Pierce (10th season).

Utility player Shannon Baker and first baseman Travis Upp were named to the all-Summit second team.

This summer, the school changes its name to Purdue Fort Wayne and the colors go from blue and white to black and gold.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Hoosiers (40-19, 14-9 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Chris Lemonis (fourth season).

IU went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Neb.

Outfielder Matt Gorski, starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever and utility player Matt Lloyd were named to the all-Big Ten first team. Starting pitcher Pauly Milto and designated hitter Scotty Bradley made the second team, outfielder Logan Sowers the third team and second baseman Drew Ashley the all-freshman team.

Stiever (White Sox), Sowers (White Sox), Tim Herrin (Indians) and Luke Miller (Phillies) were selected MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana State Sycamores (31-24, 11-10 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Mitch Hannahs (fifth season).

ISU went 2-2 in the MVC tournament.

Third baseman Jake Means was named to the all-MVC first team, first baseman Dane Giesler, starting pitcher Tyler Ward the second team and Means and second baseman Jarrod Watkins the all-defensive team.

Right-hander Ethan Larrison (Diamondbacks) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-30, 12-18 Atlantic Coast Conference): Head coach Mik Aoki (eighth season).

ND went 0-2 at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C.

Second baseman Nick Podkul and third baseman Matt Vierling was named to the all-ACC second team and outfielder Eric Gilgenbach the third team.

Podkul (Blue Jays), Vierling (Phillies) and shortstop Cole Daily (Nationals) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Boilermakers (38-21, 17-6 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Mark Wasikowski (second season).

The Boilers enjoyed 13-game win streak toward the end of the regular season and went 3-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Minnesota in the championship game.

Catcher Nick Dalesandro, first baseman Jacson McGowan, starting pitcher Tanner Andrews and relief pitcher Ross Learnard landed on the all-Big Ten third team and outfielder Ben Nisle and starting pitcher Trent Johnson on the all-freshman team.

Dalesandro (Diamondbacks), McGowan (Rays) and Andrews (Marlins) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Valparaiso Crusaders (19-34, 6-15 Horizon League): Head coach Brian Schmack (fifth season).

Valpo lost in an elimination game at the MVC tournament.

Outfielder Blake Billinger was chosen for the all-MVC first team while outfielder Giovanni Garbella and starting pitcher Jon Tieman earned honorable mention and Jayden Eggimann a spot on the all-defensive team.

Catcher Scott Kapers (Rangers) was selected in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis Greyhounds (31-23, 10-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Gary Vaught (24th season).

The Hounds went 3-2 at the GLVC tournament in Ozark, Mo., losing to Quincy in the championship game.

Designated hitter Dylan Jones, first baseman Storm Joop, outfielder Kyle Orloff and third baseman Hunter Waning were picked for the all-GLVC second team.

UIndy achieved their 16th 30-win season for Vaught, who retired after 24 seasons of leading the program. Assistant Al Ready was named as his replacement.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Oakland City Oaks (13-28): Head coach T-Ray Fletcher (24th season).

OCU played 25 games played in Indiana, including 17 at home.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles (36-23, 15-9 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Tracy Archuleta (12th season).

After winning the Midwest Regional at Springfield, Ill., USI dropped D-II Championship games to Florida Southern and Southern New Hampshire.

Outfielder Drake McNamara was named Player of the Year and Bryce Krizan Freshman of the Year by the GLVC.

Catcher Logan Brown and utility player Nick Gobert also made the first team while second baseman Jacob Fleming and outfielder Buddy Johnson were named to the second team.

McNamara was also honored as Region Player of the Year by several sources and as All-American by ABCA, D2CCA and NWBCA.

Brown (Braves) was taken in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NCAA Division III

Anderson Ravens (25-20, 11-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Matt Bair (first season).

AU finished 3-2 in the HCAC tournament, bowing to Franklin in the championship game.

John Becker was honored as HCAC Pitcher of the Year. Besides Becker, shortstop Nick Butcher first team and second baseman Nick Jones made the all-HCAC first team, third baseman Jonathan Willoughby second team and outfielder/infielder Tommy Parker honorable mention. Becker and Butcher were chosen all-region by different groups.

See IndianaRBI Story HERE.

DePauw Tigers (11-26, 9-9 North Coast Athletic Conference): Head coach Blake Allen (second season).

Outfielder Charlie Patrick was chosen as NCAC Newcomer of the Year and all-NCAC second team. Pitcher Grant Rademacher also was chosen for the second team while honorable mention went to third baseman Noah Salasky and outfielder Collin Einertson.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Earlham Quakers (23-14, 7-10 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Steve Sakosits (eighth season).

Catcher/utility player Danny Dopp, outfielder/utility player Addison Robertson and pitcher Walter Talcott made the all-HCC second team and infielder Dre Davis received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Franklin Grizzlies (39-5, 17-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Lance Marshall (21st season).

The Griz beat Anderson in the HCAC tournament championship game then went 1-2 in the D-III Central Regional in Sauget, Ill.

Outfielder Ryan Bixler was named MVP and Marshall Coach of the Year by the HCAC. Other all-conference players were pitcher Christian Sullivan, catcher Alex Mis, first baseman Drew Naumovich, shortstop Sam Claycamp, third baseman Frank Podkul, outfielders Ryan Erlandson and Jarrod Smith, designated hitter Nick Wright on the first team, second baseman Brandt Pawley on the second team and pitcher Mitchell Caster receiving honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Hanover Panthers (8-25, 5-12 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Shayne Stock (sixth season).

Pitcher Garrett Zorb was named to the all-HCC first team, infielder Josh Meszaros to the second team and infielder Jack Shine honorable mention.

Manchester Spartans (20-22, 9-8 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Rick Espeset (20th season).

Outfielder Tyler LaFollette was picked for the all-HCC first team, pitcher Taylor Kopplin and outfielder Eric Knepper the second team and outfield/infielder Braxton Riley received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers (20-23, 10-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Jeff Jenkins (29th season).

Rose came in third place in the HCAC tournament.

Luke Buehler, an all-region second-team selection, was named all-HCAC first team, outfielder David Burnside second team and catcher/DH Conner Helbling honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Trine Thunder (19-21, 13-15 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association): Head coach Greg Perschke (17th season).

Catcher Kevin O’Malley was chosen for the all-MIAA first team and infielder Jacob Heller the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Wabash Little Giants (32-17, 10-8 North Shore Athletic Conference): Head coach Jake Martin (second season).

After winning the NCAC tournament, Wabash lost the Mideast Regional championship game to Wooster.

Pitcher Bryan Roberts made the all-NCAC first team, catcher Bryce Aldridge, second baseman Sean Roginski the second team and first baseman Jackson Blevins, shortstop Eric Chavez, outfielder Jared Wolfe and pitcher Zach Moffett the honorable mention list.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NAIA

Bethel Pilots (17-28, 8-19 Crossroads League): Head coach Seth Zartman (15th season).

The Dick Patterson Field at Jerry Jenkins Stadium inhabitants placed infielder/outfielder Luke Adams and outfielders Collin Affolder and Jesse Zepeda on the all-Crossroads honorable mention team and Zepeda and pitcher Josh King on the Gold Glove squad.

Calumet College of Saint Joseph Crimson Wave (13-41, 7-23 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Scott Nowakowski.

Goshen Maple Leafs (22-29, 12-15 Crossroads League): Head coach Alex Childers (sixth season).

A number of career and season record fell for the Leafs — Ryan Hartig (most games in a GC career with 210), Brad Stoltzfus (most career runs with 113 and tied for most career runs with 133), Ben Longacre (single-season highs of 49 runs and 22 doubles) and Colby Malson (10 saves).

Outfielders Hartig and Longacre and infielder/pitcher Malson were accorded honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team while infielder Stoltzfus was chosen for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Grace Lancers (9-33, 9-18 Crossroads League): Head coach Cam Screeton (second season).

After starting the season 0-17, Grace won four of its last six.

Pitcher David Anderson, infielder Austin Baker and third baseman Houston Haney received honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team.

Huntington Foresters (23-24, 16-10 Crossroads League): Head coach Mike Frame (34th season).

Outfielder Donovan Clark, second baseman Jamar Weaver and pitcher Connor West earned all-conference honorable mention Weaver was also selected for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana Tech Warriors (44-21, 24-4 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference): Head coach Kip McWilliams (11th season).

Tech lost the WHAC championship series to Madonna then went 2-2 in the Opening Round in Montgomery, Ala., losing to top-ranked Faulkner in the championship game.

First baseman Glen McClain was named Player of the Year and McWilliams Coach of the Year by the WHAC. Besides McClain, catcher Tighe Koehring made the first team while third baseman Matt Bandor and pitcher Jason Sterrett were selected for the second team.

McClain and Koehring were also chosen as NAIA second-team All-Americans.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (37-20, 20-6 Crossroads League): Head coach Rich Benjamin (third season).

IWU, the CL regular-season champions, went 0-2 in the Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga.

Outfielder Steven Busby, utility player Caleb Eder, pitcher Kyle Hall, catcher Brady West middle fielder Jordan Wharton and pitcher Jon Young made the all-conference first team, Wharton the Gold Glove team and pitchers Zee Breytenbach, David Corbin and Tim Olvaney honorable mention.

Benjamin was named CL Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Kokomo Cougars (31-21-1, 16-11 River States Conference): Head coach Matt Howard (first season).

In the first year of the program, IUK’s season concluded with a loss in the RSC tournament semifinals.

Renton Poole was named RSC Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Noah Etchison, outfielder Jared Heard and designated hitter Dalton Clarke made the second team and third baseman Caleb Matthews the Gold Glove team.

Honorable-mention NAIA All-American Poole (Rangers) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana University South Bend Titans (13-39, 8-22 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Doug Buysse (first season).

First baseman Tanner Wesp made the all-CCAC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Southeast Grenadiers (41-14, 23-4 River States Conference): Head coach Ben Reel (10th season).

IUS lost to Point Park in the RSC tournament championship game went 1-2 in the NAIA Opening Round in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Starting pitchers Brandon Nylin and Ryne Underwood, shortstop Richard Rodriguez, outfielder Nicholas Lugo and utility player Josh Beams were picked for the all-RSC first team, pitcher Andrew Yates the second team and Lugo, pitcher John Cecil and second baseman Reyni Olivero the Gold Glove team. Reel was named RSC Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Marian Knights (24-27, 14-12 Crossroads League): Head coach Todd Bacon (fifth season).

MU beat Huntington for the Crossroads League tournament title then went 0-2 in the NAIA Opening Round at Williamsburg, Ky.

Cody Earl was named CL Player of the Year and honorable-mention NAIA All-American. Infielder Maverick Bacon was also an all-Crossroads first-teamer while infielder Leo Lopez, pitcher/outfielder Zack St. Pierre and pitcher/infielder Reese Willis garnered honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Northwest Pride (18-25, 8-19 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Dave Griffin (second season).

Kyle Freel was selected GLIAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year while catcher Hunter Thorn and pitcher Chad Patrick earned all-conference honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Saint Francis Cougars (16-38, 9-17 Crossroads League): Head coach Greg Roberts (14th season).

Pitcher Noah Freimuth and infielders Tyler Prince and Keaton Sullivan earned all-Crossroads honorable mention.

Taylor Trojans (44-16, 20-7 Crossroads League): Head coach Kyle Gould (14th season).

An Opening Round host, Taylor went 1-2 in the event at Winterholter Field.

Pitcher Matt Patton was named CL Pitcher of the Year and an second-team NAIA All-American.

Besides Patton, all-Crossroads first-teamer were pitcher/first baseman Andrew Kennedy, infielder Josh Lane, infielder Nathan Targgart, pitcher Mitch Ubelhor, catcher/outfielder Tanner Watson and outfielder Wyatt Whitman with Watson, Whitman and pitcher/infielder Brett Lawson on the Gold Glove team and utility player Jared Adkins, pitcher Clay Riggins and outfielder Sam Wiese getting honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers (3-28, 2-22 Michigan Community College Athletic Association): Head coach Joe Yonto.

Ivy Tech Northeast Titans (25-18): Head coach Lance Hershberger (first season).

In the first year of the program, Ivy Tech finished the season with just 14 on the roster.

Catcher Tyler Rickert made the NJCAA Region 12 Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE, HERE & HERE.

Vincennes Trailblazers (19-27): Head coach Chris Barney (10th season).

After a 1-8 start, VU won three of its last five.

BASEBALLONDIRT

IU, Purdue bow out in D-I regionals; Indiana’s 36 other college baseball teams wrap up 2018 season

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The state’s two Big Ten schools — Indiana University and Purdue University — both saw the 2018 college baseball season come to a close at the NCAA Regional level.

Minnesota and Ohio State were the other two conference schools to get an NCAA bid.

The Chris Lemonis-coached Hoosiers (40-19) went 2-2 at the Austin (Texas) Regional.

Coach Mark Wasikowski’s Boilermakers (38-21) went 1-2 at the Chapel Hill Regional.

Once again, Tracy Archuleta took the University of Southern Indiana (36-23) in the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. A national champion in 2010 and 2014, the Screaming Eagles went 0-2 in Cary, N.C., this time.

At the NCAA D-III level, Lance Marshall’s Franklin College team (39-5) and Jake Martin’s Wabash College (32-17) squad both advanced to regional tournaments before bowing out.

Five coaches — Kip McWilliams of Indiana Tech (44-21), Rich Benjamin of Indiana Wesleyan University (37-20), Ben Reel of Indiana University Southeast (41-14), Todd Bacon of Marian University (24-27) and Kyle Gould Taylor University (44-16) — took their teams to the NAIA Opening Round before they were eliminated from postseason play.

Gary Vaught retired after 24 seasons as head coach at the University of Indianapolis.

Indiana University Kokomo (coached by Matt Howard) and Ivy Tech Community College (coached by Lance Hershberger) had their first seasons.

Here is a 2018 wrap-up for all 38 college baseball programs in Indiana:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

2018

NCAA Division I

Ball State Cardinals (32-26, 17-10 Mid-American Conference): Head coach Rich Maloney (13th overall season).

BSU went 1-2 in the MAC tournament at Avon, Ohio.

Drey Jameson was named MAC Pitcher of the Year and an all-MAC first-teamer as well as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Pitcher John Baker, shortstop Noah Powell and outfielder Jeff Riedel made the all-MAC second team.

Right-hander Evan Marquardt (Reds) was selected in 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Butler Bulldogs (34-20, 9-8 Big East Conference): Head coach Dave Schrage (second season).

The Dogs went 1-2 at the Big East tournament in Mason, Ohio.

Pitcher Ryan Pepiot, shortstop Michael Hartnagel and outfielder Gehrig Parker were chosen to the all-Big East first team with outfielder Tyler Houston and infielder/pitcher Garrett Christman on the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Evansville Purple Aces (12-39, 3-18 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Wes Carroll (eighth season).

UE went 0-2 at the MVC tournament in Dallas.

Outfielder Troy Beilsmith was chosen for the all-MVC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Fort Wayne Mastodons (11-37, 7-23 Summit League): Head coach Bobby Pierce (10th season).

Utility player Shannon Baker and first baseman Travis Upp were named to the all-Summit second team.

This summer, the school changes its name to Purdue Fort Wayne and the colors go from blue and white to black and gold.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Hoosiers (40-19, 14-9 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Chris Lemonis (fourth season).

IU went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Neb.

Outfielder Matt Gorski, starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever and utility player Matt Lloyd were named to the all-Big Ten first team. Starting pitcher Pauly Milto and designated hitter Scotty Bradley made the second team, outfielder Logan Sowers the third team and second baseman Drew Ashley the all-freshman team.

Stiever (White Sox), Sowers (White Sox), Tim Herrin (Indians) and Luke Miller (Phillies) were selected MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana State Sycamores (31-24, 11-10 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Mitch Hannahs (fifth season).

ISU went 2-2 in the MVC tournament.

Third baseman Jake Means was named to the all-MVC first team, first baseman Dane Giesler, starting pitcher Tyler Ward the second team and Means and second baseman Jarrod Watkins the all-defensive team.

Right-hander Ethan Larrison (Diamondbacks) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-30, 12-18 Atlantic Coast Conference): Head coach Mik Aoki (eighth season).

ND went 0-2 at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C.

Second baseman Nick Podkul and third baseman Matt Vierling was named to the all-ACC second team and outfielder Eric Gilgenbach the third team.

Podkul (Blue Jays), Vierling (Phillies) and shortstop Cole Daily (Nationals) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Boilermakers (38-21, 17-6 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Mark Wasikowski (second season).

The Boilers enjoyed 13-game win streak toward the end of the regular season and went 3-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Minnesota in the championship game.

Catcher Nick Dalesandro, first baseman Jacson McGowan, starting pitcher Tanner Andrews and relief pitcher Ross Learnard landed on the all-Big Ten third team and outfielder Ben Nisle and starting pitcher Trent Johnson on the all-freshman team.

Dalesandro (Diamondbacks), McGowan (Rays) and Andrews (Marlins) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Valparaiso Crusaders (19-34, 6-15 Horizon League): Head coach Brian Schmack (fifth season).

Valpo lost in an elimination game at the MVC tournament.

Outfielder Blake Billinger was chosen for the all-MVC first team while outfielder Giovanni Garbella and starting pitcher Jon Tieman earned honorable mention and Jayden Eggimann a spot on the all-defensive team.

Catcher Scott Kapers (Rangers) was selected in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis Greyhounds (31-23, 10-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Gary Vaught (24th season).

The Hounds went 3-2 at the GLVC tournament in Ozark, Mo., losing to Quincy in the championship game.

Designated hitter Dylan Jones, first baseman Storm Joop, outfielder Kyle Orloff and third baseman Hunter Waning were picked for the all-GLVC second team.

UIndy achieved their 16th 30-win season for Vaught, who retired after 24 seasons of leading the program. Assistant Al Ready was named as his replacement.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Oakland City Oaks (13-28): Head coach T-Ray Fletcher (24th season).

OCU played 25 games played in Indiana, including 17 at home.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles (36-23, 15-9 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Tracy Archuleta (12th season).

After winning the Midwest Regional at Springfield, Ill., USI dropped D-II Championship games to Florida Southern and Southern New Hampshire.

Outfielder Drake McNamara was named Player of the Year and Bryce Krizan Freshman of the Year by the GLVC.

Catcher Logan Brown and utility player Nick Gobert also made the first team while second baseman Jacob Fleming and outfielder Buddy Johnson were named to the second team.

McNamara was also honored as Region Player of the Year by several sources and as All-American by ABCA, D2CCA and NWBCA.

Brown (Braves) was taken in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NCAA Division III

Anderson Ravens (25-20, 11-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Matt Bair (first season).

AU finished 3-2 in the HCAC tournament, bowing to Franklin in the championship game.

John Becker was honored as HCAC Pitcher of the Year. Besides Becker, shortstop Nick Butcher first team and second baseman Nick Jones made the all-HCAC first team, third baseman Jonathan Willoughby second team and outfielder/infielder Tommy Parker honorable mention. Becker and Butcher were chosen all-region by different groups.

See IndianaRBI Story HERE.

DePauw Tigers (11-26, 9-9 North Coast Athletic Conference): Head coach Blake Allen (second season).

Outfielder Charlie Patrick was chosen as NCAC Newcomer of the Year and all-NCAC second team. Pitcher Grant Rademacher also was chosen for the second team while honorable mention went to third baseman Noah Salasky and outfielder Collin Einertson.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Earlham Quakers (23-14, 7-10 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Steve Sakosits (eighth season).

Catcher/utility player Danny Dopp, outfielder/utility player Addison Robertson and pitcher Walter Talcott made the all-HCC second team and infielder Dre Davis received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Franklin Grizzlies (39-5, 17-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Lance Marshall (21st season).

The Griz beat Anderson in the HCAC tournament championship game then went 1-2 in the D-III Central Regional in Sauget, Ill.

Outfielder Ryan Bixler was named MVP and Marshall Coach of the Year by the HCAC. Other all-conference players were pitcher Christian Sullivan, catcher Alex Mis, first baseman Drew Naumovich, shortstop Sam Claycamp, third baseman Frank Podkul, outfielders Ryan Erlandson and Jarrod Smith, designated hitter Nick Wright on the first team, second baseman Brandt Pawley on the second team and pitcher Mitchell Caster receiving honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Hanover Panthers (8-25, 5-12 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Shayne Stock (sixth season).

Pitcher Garrett Zorb was named to the all-HCC first team, infielder Josh Meszaros to the second team and infielder Jack Shine honorable mention.

Manchester Spartans (20-22, 9-8 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Rick Espeset (20th season).

Outfielder Tyler LaFollette was picked for the all-HCC first team, pitcher Taylor Kopplin and outfielder Eric Knepper the second team and outfield/infielder Braxton Riley received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers (20-23, 10-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Jeff Jenkins (29th season).

Rose came in third place in the HCAC tournament.

Luke Buehler, an all-region second-team selection, was named all-HCAC first team, outfielder David Burnside second team and catcher/DH Conner Helbling honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Trine Thunder (19-21, 13-15 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association): Head coach Greg Perschke (17th season).

Catcher Kevin O’Malley was chosen for the all-MIAA first team and infielder Jacob Heller the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Wabash Little Giants (32-17, 10-8 North Shore Athletic Conference): Head coach Jake Martin (second season).

After winning the NCAC tournament, Wabash lost the Mideast Regional championship game to Wooster.

Pitcher Bryan Roberts made the all-NCAC first team, catcher Bryce Aldridge, second baseman Sean Roginski the second team and first baseman Jackson Blevins, shortstop Eric Chavez, outfielder Jared Wolfe and pitcher Zach Moffett the honorable mention list.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NAIA

Bethel Pilots (17-28, 8-19 Crossroads League): Head coach Seth Zartman (15th season).

The Dick Patterson Field at Jerry Jenkins Stadium inhabitants placed infielder/outfielder Luke Adams and outfielders Collin Affolder and Jesse Zepeda on the all-Crossroads honorable mention team and Zepeda and pitcher Josh King on the Gold Glove squad.

Calumet College of Saint Joseph Crimson Wave (13-41, 7-23 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Scott Nowakowski.

Goshen Maple Leafs (22-29, 12-15 Crossroads League): Head coach Alex Childers (sixth season).

A number of career and season record fell for the Leafs — Ryan Hartig (most games in a GC career with 210), Brad Stoltzfus (most career runs with 113 and tied for most career runs with 133), Ben Longacre (single-season highs of 49 runs and 22 doubles) and Colby Malson (10 saves).

Outfielders Hartig and Longacre and infielder/pitcher Malson were accorded honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team while infielder Stoltzfus was chosen for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Grace Lancers (9-33, 9-18 Crossroads League): Head coach Cam Screeton (second season).

After starting the season 0-17, Grace won four of its last six.

Pitcher David Anderson, infielder Austin Baker and third baseman Houston Haney received honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team.

Huntington Foresters (23-24, 16-10 Crossroads League): Head coach Mike Frame (34th season).

Outfielder Donovan Clark, second baseman Jamar Weaver and pitcher Connor West earned all-conference honorable mention Weaver was also selected for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana Tech Warriors (44-21, 24-4 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference): Head coach Kip McWilliams (11th season).

Tech lost the WHAC championship series to Madonna then went 2-2 in the Opening Round in Montgomery, Ala., losing to top-ranked Faulkner in the championship game.

First baseman Glen McClain was named Player of the Year and McWilliams Coach of the Year by the WHAC. Besides McClain, catcher Tighe Koehring made the first team while third baseman Matt Bandor and pitcher Jason Sterrett were selected for the second team.

McClain and Koehring were also chosen as NAIA second-team All-Americans.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (37-20, 20-6 Crossroads League): Head coach Rich Benjamin (third season).

IWU, the CL regular-season champions, went 0-2 in the Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga.

Outfielder Steven Busby, utility player Caleb Eder, pitcher Kyle Hall, catcher Brady West middle fielder Jordan Wharton and pitcher Jon Young made the all-conference first team, Wharton the Gold Glove team and pitchers Zee Breytenbach, David Corbin and Tim Olvaney honorable mention.

Benjamin was named CL Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Kokomo Cougars (31-21-1, 16-11 River States Conference): Head coach Matt Howard (first season).

In the first year of the program, IUK’s season concluded with a loss in the RSC tournament semifinals.

Renton Poole was named RSC Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Noah Etchison, outfielder Jared Heard and designated hitter Dalton Clarke made the second team and third baseman Caleb Matthews the Gold Glove team.

Honorable-mention NAIA All-American Poole (Rangers) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana University South Bend Titans (13-39, 8-22 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Doug Buysse (first season).

First baseman Tanner Wesp made the all-CCAC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Southeast Grenadiers (41-14, 23-4 River States Conference): Head coach Ben Reel (10th season).

IUS lost to Point Park in the RSC tournament championship game went 1-2 in the NAIA Opening Round in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Starting pitchers Brandon Nylin and Ryne Underwood, shortstop Richard Rodriguez, outfielder Nicholas Lugo and utility player Josh Beams were picked for the all-RSC first team, pitcher Andrew Yates the second team and Lugo, pitcher John Cecil and second baseman Reyni Olivero the Gold Glove team. Reel was named RSC Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Marian Knights (24-27, 14-12 Crossroads League): Head coach Todd Bacon (fifth season).

MU beat Huntington for the Crossroads League tournament title then went 0-2 in the NAIA Opening Round at Williamsburg, Ky.

Cody Earl was named CL Player of the Year and honorable-mention NAIA All-American. Infielder Maverick Bacon was also an all-Crossroads first-teamer while infielder Leo Lopez, pitcher/outfielder Zack St. Pierre and pitcher/infielder Reese Willis garnered honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Northwest Pride (18-25, 8-19 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Dave Griffin (second season).

Kyle Freel was selected GLIAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year while catcher Hunter Thorn and pitcher Chad Patrick earned all-conference honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Saint Francis Cougars (16-38, 9-17 Crossroads League): Head coach Greg Roberts (14th season).

Pitcher Noah Freimuth and infielders Tyler Prince and Keaton Sullivan earned all-Crossroads honorable mention.

Taylor Trojans (44-16, 20-7 Crossroads League): Head coach Kyle Gould (14th season).

An Opening Round host, Taylor went 1-2 in the event at Winterholter Field.

Pitcher Matt Patton was named CL Pitcher of the Year and an second-team NAIA All-American.

Besides Patton, all-Crossroads first-teamer were pitcher/first baseman Andrew Kennedy, infielder Josh Lane, infielder Nathan Targgart, pitcher Mitch Ubelhor, catcher/outfielder Tanner Watson and outfielder Wyatt Whitman with Watson, Whitman and pitcher/infielder Brett Lawson on the Gold Glove team and utility player Jared Adkins, pitcher Clay Riggins and outfielder Sam Wiese getting honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers (3-28, 2-22 Michigan Community College Athletic Association): Head coach Joe Yonto.

Ivy Tech Northeast Titans (25-18): Head coach Lance Hershberger (first season).

In the first year of the program, Ivy Tech finished the season with just 14 on the roster.

Catcher Tyler Rickert made the NJCAA Region 12 Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE, HERE & HERE.

Vincennes Trailblazers (19-27): Head coach Chris Barney (10th season).

After a 1-8 start, VU won three of its last five.

BASEBALLONDIRT

Organization, persistence help Buckingham, South Adams Starfires enjoy baseball success

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brad Buckingham sweats the details.

It is not unusual for the 11th-year head baseball coach at South Adams High School in Berne, Ind., to spend an hour crafting his practice plan.

Buckingham, a 1998 South Adams graduate, played for and later coached one season under former Starfires head coach and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dean Stahly.

Looking back, Buckingham sees how Stahly, who led South Adams from 1971-2008, had a knack for organization.

“It may sound crazy, but I want to make sure each of those players are on the move so they’re not bored and get the instruction they need so they can grow as a player,” says Buckingham. “With limited resources and limited coaches, you’ve got to be creative in that regard.”

South Adams had 33 players for varsity and junior varsity schedules this spring.

At Bluffton College (now Bluffton University) in Ohio, Buckingham played four years for Greg Brooks and gained an appreciation for persistence.

“In baseball, a lot of bad things happen and a lot of good things happen and you still keep going,” says Buckingham, who also was head coach at Frankton High School for five seasons in Madison County, Ind. The Eagles were 2A state runners-up in 2003. “You have to stay the course and keep going.”

Buckingham has taken that knowledge and applied it. This spring, it’s helped South Adams win a second straight IHSAA sectional title (the ninth in program history and second in a row) and earn a spot in the Class 2A Whiting Regional. The IHSBCA No. 2-ranked Starfires play Hammond Noll at 10 a.m. CST, followed by Eastside vs. Boone Grove. The regional final is slated for 6 p.m. CST.

At 27-2, the 2018 South Adams squad has already tied the 1982 state finalist team (27-6-1) for the school’s most single-season baseball victories ever. The school also produced a state runner-up in 1972.

The Starfires are led on the mound and at the plate by junior Grant Besser. The left-handed pitcher/shortstop has a 9-0 record with six saves to go along with a .511 batting average, six home runs, two triples and 16 doubles.

The South Adams mound staff also features sophomore left-hander Collin Shaffer (6-1), freshman right-hander Adam Besser (6-0), senior right-handers Austin Davidson (3-0, 3 saves) and Mark Cleary (3-1, 1 save).

When not pitching, Shaffer plays first base and Cleary is the team’s starting catcher.

Besides Besser, Cleary (.412) and senior second baseman Joe Stuber (.396) are the top offensive threats.

No current players have yet made college baseball commitments. South Adams graduates Collin Affolder (Bethel College) and Chandler Ingle (Goshen College) just finished their collegiate careers. Blake Fox (Bluffton University) wound up his in 2017.

Buckingham’s coaching staff includes Craig McKean (former head coach at Southern Wells for 10 years before coming back to his alma mater), Jim Buckingham (Brad’s father), Branden Alberson, Chad Mitchell and Blade Rheinhart.

South Adams belongs to the Allen County Athletic Conference (along with Adams Central, Bluffton, Heritage, Jay County, Southern Wells and Woodlan).

South Adams plays its home games on-campus at Harry F. Anderson Field. The facility named for the school’s first athletic director and a former baseball coach just got new pro-style brick dugouts last year.

A fundraising campaign brought in around $90,000 for the project.

“They’re pretty neat,” says Buckingham. “We took a lot of measurements at Parkview Field (in Fort Wayne).”

The Starfires try to do projects each year to improve Anderson Field.

“That’s foundational in our prorgam,” says Buckingham. “We want to make it a hangout place for our players — something they want to come to. That’s something we have control over. We don’t have control over how much talent we have.”

The South Adams Youth League, which has a 12-person board that Buckingham and Starfires head softball coach Jessie O’Dell both sit on, is a feeder system for the high school.

Brad Buckingham is an eighth grade math teacher at the high school while wife Ashley Buckingham is a physical education instructor and head volleyball coach at the high school. The couple have four children (one boy and three girls) — Duke (8), Emmaline (6), Elizabeth (4) and Everly (who turns 2 next week).

THEBUCKINGHAMS

The Buckingham family celebrates a 2018 IHSAA sectional baseball championship for South Adams. Brad and Ashley are in the back. In the front (from left): Duke, Everly, Emmaline and Elizabeth. Brad Buckingham is in his 11th season as Starfires head coach.

Keister has Goshen RedHawks playing baseball with a purpose

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Josh Keister is entering his fifth season as head baseball coach at his alma mater — Goshen High School.

The 2000 GHS graduate has led the program to more victories in each season. The 2017 RedHawks went 21-9 overall and 9-5 in the Northern Lakes Conference.

Keister credits the success to a culture that insists players be engaged and intense and understand the thought process behind things.

“We want you to understand what you’re doing and why,” says Keister. “When guys engage and understand it, they are more likely to get it right and get it right for the right reasons as they encounter it again.

“It’s amazing to see the results you get from approaching things that way.”

Keister and his coaching staff want players to have positive energy.

“We look at things that take no talent — attitude, energy and hustle — and evaluate how we are with those before we do anything situational or mechanical,” says Keister.

The Elkhart County Sports Hall of Famer who earned eight varsity letters at GHS in soccer, basketball and baseball while receiving team MVP honors in each, says high school athletes don’t necessarily know all the different ways to play hard.

With that in mind, Goshen players must always run hard through first base every time; run hard all the way to second base on a fly ball to the outfield; sprint to the deepest part of their defensive position; have their stuff and be ready to get out of the dugout at the end of an inning; once the third out is made on defense, every player is to be across the foul line within eight seconds.

“The reason we do that is to maintain momentum or get it back when we don’t have it,” says Keister.

Goshen varsity assistant coaches are Clay Norris, Aaron Keister, Chad Collins and Tracy Farmwald. All have been with the program since Josh Keister took over and Farmwald was on GHS staffs before that.

Second-year assistant J.J. DuBois and first-year assistant Troy Pickard are coaching Goshen’s junior varsity.

“We are very fortunate to have an excellent staff,” says Josh Keister. “Continuity has been a key to our success. We have grown and gotten better together.”

GHS will field two teams in 2018 — varsity and JV.

Staff and players have worked hard to improve the playing surface at Phend Field, which turns 50 this spring.

RedHawks coaches want players to have a purpose and focus. That includes a great game of catch.

“We want you to hit a target every time you throw the baseball,” says Keister. “It’s not just pitchers. You should sell out to catch it. Not every throw is going to be a great throw and it’s not all on the thrower. Treat every throw as if the game-winning run is on third base and you can’t let it get past you.

“There’s so much cool stuff in baseball with all the analytics, it’s easy to lose sight of those easy, basic things. You do those things and it leads to success with everything else.”

Keister was a left-handed hitter who excelled in both high school and at Goshen College and later was head coach of the Maple Leafs (2006-10; 68-196).

In 2000, he hit .432 with just three strikeouts in 105 plate appearances and socked a walk-off home run to win the Elkhart Sectional.

At GC, Keister was a two-time all-Mid-Central Conference (now Crossroads League) selection and an honorable mention All-American. He established single-season records in batting average (.479), hits (65), runs batted in (50) and runs scored (42) and career marks for average (.412), runs (133) and doubles (44) and most of these GC marks still stand.

GHS coaches are very individualized in how they instruct hitters.

“We want them to all know their strengths and weaknesses and the role they need to excel at for us to be successful as a team,” says Keister. “What are you trying to do up there? We’re doing everything with a purpose.”

Much work has been put into players knowing their roles. One example from 2017 was Trenton Scott, who was often asked to be a pinch-hitter.

“We let him know how hard it is to mentally prepare yourself (for that role),” says Keister. “Against East Noble, he saw one pitch and hit a home run that helped us win the game.

“Everybody on our roster knew what their role was, knew it was important and embraced it. This led to an engaged dugout and team all year. Prior to last year, I took that for granted as a coach. I’m understanding the importance of that more and more.”

Keister says all the coaches he had in his prep and college days have helped him in some way. He played his first three GHS baseball seasons for Brian Eldridge (1989-99; 181-168-3) and the last for Matt Chupp (2000-05; 89-84). One of Chupp’s assistants was DeVon Hoffman (head coach at GHS 1972-87; 310-213; head coach at GC 1988-98; 189-215-1).

Keister’s college coach was Brent Hoober. Keister and Hoober now work for Yoder Insurance. Keister is a business risk advisor.

Feeding the GHS baseball program are Goshen Little League and various travel organizations, including the Indiana Chargers and Elkhart Titans.

“We encourage our kids to play somewhere (in the summer),” says Keister. “We don’t have anything here at Goshen High School. Our focus in the off-season is individual skill development. Once the season starts, we get into the team aspect of things.”

Besides Goshen, the Northern Lakes Conference includes Concord, Elkhart Memorial, Northridge, NorthWood, Plymouth, Warsaw and Wawasee. Teams play a 14-game double round robin schedule with games on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until the last week.

“I like it like that,” says Keister. “That’s the way it was when I played. I like the idea of seeing a team early and late (instead of twice in the same week as some conferences do).”

Goshen has reigned as NLC champions four times (1986, 1987, 1988, 1998).

The RedHawks (Goshen teams were known as the Redskins from 1922 to 2015) are grouped at IHSAA Class 4A sectional time with Concord, Elkhart Central, Elkhart Memorial, Northridge, Penn and Warsaw.

Goshen has won 17 sectionals (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2008) and two regionals (1969, 1981).

Coach Ken Mirer, who led the program 1966-71, had a career 14-0 record in sectional games with five sectional titles.

With a minimum of 120 at-bats, 1988 graduate Steve Cripe (.397) ranks No. 1 in career batting. Tied for second at .392 at 1989 graduate Rick Mirer and 2007 graduate Heath Taylor. The next two spots belong to 2006 graduate Jon Rolon (.391) and the Class of 2000’s Josh Keister (.383).

With 34, 1980 graduate Ed Swoveland tops the career pitching victory list.

Goshen graduates currently with college teams are Deric Haynes and Michael Pinarski at Manchester University. Current GHS seniors with college baseball commitments are Joey Peebles and Philip Wertz at Grace College and  Tyler Colpitts at Manchester.

JOSHKEISTER

Josh Keister, a 2000 Goshen High School graduate, is in his fifth season as head baseball coach at his alma mater in 2018. The 2017 RedHawks went 21-9.

Benjamin finds his baseball fit at Indiana Wesleyan

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Rich Benjamin is not the same person who took up residence in Marion, Ind., as head baseball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University prior to the 2016 season.

“I didn’t realize — in a positive way — how much it would change me in two years,” says Benjamin. “I enjoy being around like-minded coaches who care more about the other coach in the room than their own sport.

“It’s been a great place to be a mentor, to be mentored and grow and develop in the profession.”

Benjamin came to IWU following eighth seasons at Judson University in Elgin, Ill., where his teams amassed 304 wins with three Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season titles, four CCAC tournament championships. The Eagles also earned five NAIA regional appearances and two National Christian College Athletic Association World Series berths. Near the end of his stay, Benjamin added athletic director to his Judson responsibilities.

He began his coaching career as a student assistant at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn. (He played his last two college seasons there following two at Milligan College in eastern Tennessee).

From Martin Methodist, Benjamin became an assistant Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., before landing at Judson. He has extensive experience in coaching summer teams and working at camps and clinics.

Faced with multiple opportunities, Benjamin weighed his options and asked himself some questions before leaving Judson.

“What is the best fit for how I’m wired? What is the best fit for my family?,” says Benjamin, who is married to Casey and has a 5-year-old son in Ty. “Professionally, you do not want your job to cost your family more than what they’re benefitting from it.

“That’s always a delicate balance in the coaching profession.”

He recalls his initial meeting with Indiana Wesleyan athletic director and former Wildcats head baseball coach Mark DeMichael.

“I was blown away with the uniqueness of the environment,” says Benjamin of the NAIA member school. “It is a faith-based institution. It is not Christian in name only. The athletic department is founded on the Philippians 2 vision which — in short — means to be selfless. That was really attractive.”

Benjamin calls DeMichael one of the most-impressive leaders he’s ever been around.

“He really understands people, excellence and humility,” says Benjamin. “All the (IWU) coaches end up in his office at some point to use him as a sounding board for some of the cultural challenges that we are going through with our teams.

“He never tells you what to do. He lets you talk out loud. He asks really healthy open-ended questions and helps you find the answer you feel is the best solution for your program.”

During the interview process, Benjamin also learned from DeMichael about an institution with high academic and competitive standards. Every sport on campus had a combined grade-point average above 3.0 and the department winning percentage was in the top 15 in the nation.

“Here is an athletic department winning championships and killing it academically and they’re focused on people-first,” says Benjamin. “This is paradigm-shifting in college athletics. I was really attracted and wanted to be a part of it.

“Indiana Wesleyan is not one of those places where you can sell out in a couple areas to win games. You have to consider the social, academic and athletic sides of the person.

“We say, ‘if you build the person, the player will follow.’ You bring in a person and put them in a high-motored environment and you see them over their first 24 months. It’s a fun process to watch unfold because you have to do that part well.”

It’s all a matter of the right fit.

“Wherever you’re at, you have to recruit to your culture and the identity of your school, your resources,” says Benjamin. “We’re not fully-funded program (at IWU). Having to stretch dollars is the most-challenging aspect of the job.

“It’s also why we go after high financial-need students because they’ll get some government assistance or we go after high-academic students because they’re going to get a lot of academic aid.”

While attending the 2018 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention Jan. 4-7 in Indianapolis, Benjamin took the time to write in his journal about how he had performed with the knowledge he had gained since his first ABCA convention in 2004.

“It was humbling,” says Benjamin, noting some years were very good and some were not.

With the help of assistant coaches Kris Holtzieter (pitching coach and recruiting coordinator) and Drew Brantley (former Anderson University head coach, base-running/infield coach and assistant recruiting coordinator), Benjamin is looking for his players to grow from the start of the school year until the finish.

NAIA rules allow teams to be full-go for 24 weeks with a dead period between fall workouts (IWU was outdoors for about two months) and preseason training that allows coaches to be present for conditioning, strength training and team development without being able to coach baseball activities.

“That’s really healthy,” says Benjamin of the dead period. “There has to be a moment in which the player has space to go and figure out for himself the concepts you’ve been unpacking

“I’ve never had a great player that didn’t have a high motor to go take a lot of swings on their own and to find answers to the questions that have been exposed.”

To Benjamin, a coach is defined by someone who can help someone learn about themselves and the coach-player relationship works best when the athlete owns the process.

Mental training is also a part of what the Wildcats do.

“We realize your person can get in the way of your player and part of your person is your mental game and it’s your character,” says Benjamin. “We’ve all been around people who play above their skill because of their character and we’ve been around people who play who their skill because of their character.”

There are team values and goals and each player is asked to list three to five character areas they want to focus on.

“We’re able to use their list to interact with them about how they’re handling the performance level,” says Benjamin. “One of areas might be competitiveness or being fearless.

“If they get in the (batter’s) box and they have an unhealthy amount of fear or they’re not competitive or passive, they’re already beat,” says Benjamin. “If we can put guys in these scenarios each day and then talk about their person — those character values they want to grow in — you’re doing mental training right there.”

Benjamin’s 2016 Wildcats went 37-25-1 overall and 14-14 in the Crossroads League and followed that up with 27-30 and 12-15 in 2017.

Senior center fielder Brandon Shaffer (Albuquerque, N.M.) hit .348 with home runs and 39 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases made the 2017 all-Crossroads team. Freshman catcher/first baseman Brady West (Rockford, Ill.) hit .350 with 10 homers and was named CL Newcomer of the Year.

Honorable mention selections on the all-league squad were sophomore catcher Andrew Breytenbach (Palatine, Ill.) who hit .326 with 10 homers and 61 RBIs, sophomore right-handed reliever Kyle Hall (Chatham, Ill.), who went 3-1 with a 3.86 earned run average, and freshman right-handed starting pitcher Jon Young (Batavia, Ill.), who went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA.

In addition, sophomore Caleb Eder (Jennings County High School graduate) hit .346 with eight homers and 40 runs driven in.

Indiana Wesleyan set four school records in 2017. The pitching staff racked up 379 strikeouts. On the offensive side, the Wildcats belted 68 home runs with 317 RBIs and a .478 slugging percentage.

The 2018 squad opens the season Feb. 9 against Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Benjamin considers Indiana and the adjoining states of Ohio and Michigan plus the Chicagoland area of Illinois to be fertile recruiting territory.

In comparing the two NAIA conferences where he has been a head coach — the Chicagoland Collegiate and Crossroads — Benjamin sees many similarities.

“Both conferences have a lot of coaches that coach for the right reason,” says Benjamin. “They are very professional in the way they interact with other teams, umpires, players and so forth. In a profession where you’re trying to build the person, it’s nice to be around other people who share the same vision.”

Besides Indiana Wesleyan, the Crossroads League features Bethel, Goshen, Grace, Huntington, Marian, Mt. Vernon Nazarene, Saint Francis, Spring Arbor and Taylor. All 10 schools are private.

Baseball-playing schools in the CCAC are Calumet of St. Joseph, Indiana University South Bend, Judson, Olivet Nazarene, Robert Morris, Roosevelt, St. Ambrose, St. Francis, Saint Xavier, Trinity Christian and Trinity International.

With IWU adding football (the first game is slated for Sept. 1, 2018 against Taylor), the whole athletic department has benefitted, including baseball. A $1.2 weight room has been added.

With the establishment of the football complex came a re-establishing of the dimensions and a brand new wall for the baseball field. A five-year plan includes other upgrades such as playing surface, backstop and fencing.

“Indiana Wesleyan has a vision for everything,” says Benjamin. “They are proactive. They think ahead.”

Looking back, Rich (who has a twin brother Bobby) grew up in Rhode Island and moved to Tennessee as he and his brother were turning 9.

Rich started playing baseball year-round.

“It was my escape. It was fun,” says Benjamin. “I had more passion for it than anybody else in my family.”

When he was 12 and 13, he attended the Doyle Baseball School in Orlando, Fla., and recalls his parents taking extra jobs to pay for his week-long immersion in the game.

“The Doyles (Denny, Brian and Blake) are very professional faith-based people,” says Benjamin. “They were the first people to share Christ with me. It became a very defining moment in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. But looking back on it, it was certainly a game-changer.”

Bobby Benjamin is restaurant owner in Louisville, Ky. The twins have a stepsister named Kayla. Mother Janet is married to Gary Piper. Father Ben is married to Vicki.

With Casey’s parents, Ty can be spoiled by three sets of grandparents.

“As a 5-year-old boy in Indiana, he wants to be a farmer,” says Rich of Ty. “He’s a John Deere guy right now. That’s where his focus is. But he’ll pick up a bat. He’ll pick up a football. He enjoys jumping on this indoor trampoline.

“He certainly enjoys being around our team.”

RICHBENJAMINIWUBASEBALL

Rich Benjamin enters his third season as head baseball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., in 2018. (IWU Photo)

 

Jimtown’s Mast asks players to hone in on their strengths

rbilogosmall

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

What can you hang your hat on?

That’s the question that Darin Mast asks of his players and the team as a whole as head baseball coach at Jimtown High School.

“Find out what you can do and do it well,” says Mast, who enters his 11th overall season with the Jimmies in 2018 (he was JV coach for five years before taking over the varsity reigns in 2013). “Keep the game simple. Baseball is complicated enough.”

Mast got his first impression of organized baseball and how to the do things when he reached Goshen High School and first played on the junior varsity for coach Brian Eldridge. Mast was called up from the to the varsity as a sophomore in 1988 and got to experience the first of three straight GHS sectional championships. He was a letterman when the Redskins reigned in 1989 and 1990.

By that time, Eldridge had taken over as head coach from Elkhart County Sports Hall of Famer Devon Hoffman.

Taking what he learned from Eldridge, Mast went to Adrian (Mich.) College, where Craig Rainey was just getting started (2018 will be his 25th season). Before Mast got to the NCAA Division III school, Adrian had suffered through an 0-22 season.

What he witnessed early on were players who were undisciplined and did not know the fundamentals.

“I was so thankful to come from a (high school) program that did roll out the baseball and just play,” says Mast.

By Mast’s junior year, he was part of the first Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association-winner in school history.

It was the beginning of a winning tradition. The current pack of Bulldogs won a record ninth straight MIAA crown. Rainey 619 (427 in conference play). Adrian went the NCAA D-III championship eight straight times (2008-15).

“I remember back then (Rainey) told us that people want to play us now, but we won’t be a door mat for long,” says Mast. “It’s neat to see someone with that passion and drive succeed.”

Mast finished up his playing career in 1994. While he completed his degree, he got his first taste of coaching when he joined Rainey’s staff and helped with some of the pitchers in the spring of 1995.

A chance to “fly solo” came Mast’s way that summer when he led a Sylvania (Ohio) Mavericks travel team.

He spent some time as a substitute teacher then got hired by Goshen Community Schools in 1996. Mast coached baseball at his alma mater for four seasons — two with the junior varsity and two with the varsity. In the summers, he joined Eldridge in a lawn mowing business. Eldridge died in 2014.

After Goshen, Mast taught and did not coach at Garrett High School for a year before returning Elkhart County as a teacher at Jimtown Junior High. He spent five years as junior varsity baseball coach. When Mike Stout wrapped his 25-year career of leading the Jimmies program after the 2012 season, Mast was promoted to head coach.

“Very instrumental” is the way Mast describes Stout’s impact on his career as a coach and educator. Not only did he learn when he was on Stout’s coaching staff, he is still a teacher in the building where Stout is principal.

“I can pop into his office anytime and run stuff my him,” says Mast. “He is very cerebral.”

While game situations often called for a quick decision, Mast has come to appreciate Stout’s ability to step back and examine all the angles.

“I’ve learned from Mike to think things through,” says Mast. “He is never too quick to react to something. Things are not as bad as young initially perceive them. When I was younger, I would over-react.”

Mast is now one who likes to prepare for what might happen.

“I like to know the answer before the question is asked,” says Mast. “What do I do if a kid can’t (pitch) seven innings?”

Helping him this season will be returning varsity assistants Jordan Smith and Lee Mast (Darin’s father), varsity staff newcomer Kevin McMahon (formerly at Mishawaka Marian) and JV coach Cory Stoner.

Volunteer Lee Mast is a former softball coach at Goshen High School and Goshen College.

“He keeps me out of trouble,” says Darin of Lee. “He’s my sounding board.

“Not a lot of people have had the opportunity to coach with the dads. That’s priceless. We’ve had good times together.”

Goshen is an IHSAA Class 4A school. Jimtown is in 3A.

“We have to the play the cards we’re dealt,” says Mast. “Some classes we’re stacked with good players.”

Some are a work-in-progress.

“We’re going to be young and inexperienced this year,” says Mast. “That’s OK if we learn and get better every time out.”

Mast plans a call-out for 2018 before Christmas break. Pre-season workouts begin January.

Then comes the time that the coach dreads.

“I have one bad day a year — Cut Day,” says Mast. “It’s hard.”

Mast talks to everyone who tries out for his program whether they make the cut or not. He offers pointers to those who might want to work on their game and try out again the following season.

“That’s something I will not compromise on,” says Mast. “That’s the right thing to do.”

Mast tries to project candidates, especially freshmen, based on their coach ability and attitude. He also expects them to have a decent amount of baseball ability. There is not enough time to teach the game from scratch.

About 40 tried out for the 2017 Jimmies. While he has no hard and fast number that he keeps, he likes to have no more than 14 on the JV to allows players a good amount of repetitions.

Jimtown is part of the 13-team Northern Indiana Conference (along with 2A school Bremen, 3A schools John Glenn, Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend St. Joseph and South Bend Washington and 4A schools Elkhart Central, Mishawaka, Penn, South Bend Adams, South Bend Clay and South Bend Riley).

The non-conference schedule includes early-April and late-May dates with Goshen of the Northern Lakes Conference. RedHawks head coach Josh Keister was a player when Mast was on the GHS coaching staff.

Other NLC foes include Concord, Elkhart Memorial, Northridge and NorthWood. There’s also games with Northeast Corner Conference teams Fairfield and Westview, Hoosier North Athletic Conference member LaVille and independent Bethany Christian.

Jimtown plays its home contests at Booster Field, which debuted in 1976. The facility, which sports lights, has seen its share of sectional and regional games.

In order to get on the road quickly for away games, the Jimmies often use smaller buses so they can leave soon after dismissal.

No fewer than three of Mast’s former Jimtown players are now on college rosters. There’s Nick Floyd at Ball State University, Collin Gordon at Indiana University South Bend (transferred from Anderson University) and Blane Bender at Ancilla College.

Mast looks at Floyd as a measuring stick of what at D-I player looks like.

“Not everyone who comes through here is a college baseball player,” says Mast. “I owe it to the ones who can get to the next level to get them there.”

Mast notes that a college-bound player is one who is self-motivated to put in the extra work in baseball training and seeking out the program that fits them best.

With Mast, honesty is the best policy. Not looking to over-hype, he will tell it like it is when talking with players, their parents and college coaches.

He also has an open-door policy.

“If a player wants to know about playing time, I want him to come and ask me,” says Mast. “I’ll be honest. I’m not going to beat around bush.”

DARINMAST

Darin Mast, a graduate of Goshen High School and Adrian (Mich.) College, is entering his 11th season of coaching baseball at Jimtown High School in 2018 — his sixth as head coach. (Steve Krah Photo)