Tag Archives: Great Lakes Valley Conference

UIndy’s Vaught finds home in NCAA D-II baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Gary Vaught is having an impact on baseball both in Indiana and nationwide.

Vaught, who won 588 games at the high school, NCAA Division I and junior college levels before coming to America’s Crossroads, just concluded his 23rd season as head coach at the University of Indianapolis.

His UIndy teams have added 777 more wins to his collegiate head coaching total pf 944. He has taken the Greyhounds to 10 NCAA Division II tournament appearances with two trips to the D-II College World Series (2000, 2012).

Indianapolis was ranked in the Top 10 during the 2017 season. Five key injuries led to a 27-23 record and missing the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament.

“That’s what I preach to these kids: One ball, one slide can end your career,” says Vaught. “But it doesn’t have anything to do with keeping you from getting your degree.”

The Norman, Okla., native who was a high school head coach for eight years before four at Connors State College in Warner, Okla., three at Kansas State University and three at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

Vaught, a University of Central Oklahoma product, was Big Eight Coach of the Year at KSU in 1985. He led ORU to the NCAA West Regional finals in 1987, bowing out to host and eventual national champion Stanford.

He went from coaching to athletic administration after the 1989 season then got called back into the dugout.

“I grew up playing the game,” says Vaught. “I missed it tremendously.”

He coached his first season at UIndy in 1995.

“I’ve been blessed enough to have coached at all these levels,” says Vaught, who serves the American Baseball Coaches Association as NCAA Division II chair. “At Division II, you are more involved with the student-athlete.

“They know they’re coming to get an education and baseball has helped them attain it.

“It’s very important that people care.”

Vaught said he certainly enjoys winning — his college head coaching win percentage is .595 — but gets even more satisfaction from seeing a player earn his degree.

“Great coaches are made by those who help kids reach their goals and sometimes those goals don’t have to do with baseball,” says Vaught. “When we ask players to play here, it’s a marriage. When I started in coaching, we saw how many people we could get into pro ball.

“That’s not what it’s all about.”

While Vaught has coached future big leaguers — Keith Lockhart among them — he knows those are few and far between.

Former players come back to campus years later — often with his family in tow — to reminisce about the good times he had as baseball-playing student.

That’s what energizes Vaught, who at 65 has no intentions of stepping away anytime soon.

Vaught notes that there is not that much difference between D-I and D-II. Both follow the same rules and calendar. It’s just that D-I offers 11.7 scholarships and limits rosters to 35 and D-II gives 9 scholarships and is not limited to the number of players it can have on the roster (though only 27 can be in uniform for tournament games).

“We get too hung up on the levels,” says Vaught. “Parents want their kid to walk around with a Division I label on his back. What’s important is that their son or daughter is happy.

“Alums of that school are able to give back to that school and the community.”

When Vaught began his college coaching career, he was one of the youngest in D-I, now has the most seniority in the Hounds athletic department and has and worked under four UIndy presidents (G. Benjamin Lantz, Jerry M. Israel, Beverly J. Pitts and Robert L. Manuel).

Former UIndy athlete and coach Dr. Sue Willey is the vice president for Intercollegiate Athletics for the Greyhounds. She oversees an expanding number of sports and facilities, including the 90,200-square foot Athletics & Recreation Center (ARC) and baseball’s Greyhound Park.

“Sue is as good a person as I’ve ever worked for,” says Vaught. “She cares for the student-athletes and cares for the coaches.

“It’s a family here. The coaching staff here all gets along. At a lot of D-I places, you’re on a island.

“Our community keeps getting stronger, stronger and stronger … I wouldn’t trade my experience at UIndy for anything.”

UIndy is proud of its retention rate, the ability to attract and keep students on campus through graduation.

“They come here and enjoy it,” says Vaught. “They realize that the professors care about them and they’re not just a number.

“Once a kid comes here, he’s not shopping and looking to go somewhere else in one year.”

Vaught is pleased to proclaim UIndy’s grade-point average is higher than 3.0 with a roster of nearly 50 players.

“My kids will get in more trouble for not going to class than missing a ground ball,” says Vaught. “That’s a known fact here.”

Vaught warns that unlike video games, hitting the “re-set button” in life is not that easy so he tries to get his athletes to understand that before they head down the wrong path.

To get players ready for the real world, Vaught insists they go through a drug test each August. The program also participates in community service projects.

UIndy’s 2017 roster included 30 players with Indiana hometowns. There are some years when many states and different countries are represented.

“We try to get the best kids in our backyard first and then we go nationwide,” says Vaught.

Since the regular season ended, Vaught has fielded many calls from players, including those at the D-I level, looking for a place to play in 2017-18.

Vaught’s coaching tree has many branches in his 35 years in the profession, with former assistants at many levels of the game. The 2017 staff included Al Ready (associate head coach), Mark Walther (pitching coach and recruiting coordinator), Colton White (assistant coach), Trevor Forde (graduate assistant) and John Wirtz (assistant coach and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer).

The Circle City will be the center of the college baseball coaching universe Jan. 4-7, 2018, when the ABCA national convention comes to Indianapolis for the first time. Given the location, Vaught said there could be as many as 10,000 in attendance. There are sure to be a few tours at UIndy and the NCAA headquarters in downtown Indianapolis.

“I’m looking forward to it,” says Vaught. “Every coach in the nation should be a member (of the ABCA). It’s our voice. Under (Executive Director) Craig Keilitz, the vision in baseball has grown in the communication area.

“I’m glad I’m a part of it.”

GARYVAUGHT

Gary Vaught just completed his 23rd season as head coach at the University of Indianapolis. He has more than 900 wins as a college head coach and serves as the American Baseball Coaches Association’s NCAA Division II chair. (UIndy Photo)

Archuleta, Southern Indiana back in NCAA D-II regional

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There’s a tradition of diamond excellence in Evansville.

For the seventh time in the 11 seasons, University of Southern Indiana baseball finds itself in regional play.

The 20th-ranked Screaming Eagles (32-19) are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional and will meet No. 7 Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) on Thursday afternoon. The event is slated for Thursday to Monday, May 18-22.

The field at Gerace Baseball Stadium in Midland, Mich., also features top seed and host Northwood (Mich.) (43-11), No. 3 Quincy (Ill.) (32-20), No. 4 Drury (Mo.) (36-18), No. 5 Bellarmine (Ky.) (34-19), No. 6 Wayne State (Mich.) (31-19) and No. 8 Kentucky Wesleyan (27-22). Northwood (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), Quincy (Great Lakes Valley Conference) and Kentucky Wesleyan (Great Midwest Athletic Conference) are automatic qualifiers and the others were awarded at-large berths.

Regional champions will advance to the double-elimination Division II College World Series May 27-June 3 at The Ballpark at Grand Prairie in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Why is USI in the title mix again?

“I don’t think there’s a magical secret,” says 11th-year Screaming Eagles coach Tracy Archuleta. “We’ve been fortunate to be around some good baseball players that have a common goal and they’re able to make a deep run into the postseason. Since 2007, we’ve built that tradition and that expectation to get the (College) World Series and compete at a high level.”

Archuleta took USI to the D-II CWS in 2007 and the Screaming Eagles won it all in 2010 and 2014.

The winning has helped attract players willing to work and do what its necessary keep that team success going. The 2017 roster features 26 players with Indiana hometowns.

“It’s those little intangible things you look for when you go out recruiting,” says Archuleta. ”We want to bring in the best players in the state of Indiana and our area.”

NCAA D-II is allowed to give nine scholarships. USI fully funds six.

“We work within our budget,” says Archuleta. “That’s the way it is.”

Archuleta, who has more than 550 victories in his 16th season as a college head coach, carries high expectations in the way the Eagles prepare.

“I’m a guy who demands a lot from my players as far as putting in the work,” says Archuleta. “I want our guys to be able to understand what we’re trying to do at practice so when we get to the game they’re going to be instinctive and be able to react to situations.

“I’m not a micro-manager once the game starts.”

Player development is a very important component of USI’s winning ways.

“As a staff, we really want to make that player better,” says Archuleta. “We focus on individual skills stuff.”

The 2017 coaching staff includes Jeremy Kuester, Ryan Bertram and Kevin Brown.

Kuester has been with Archulea since 2010. He is USI’s pitching coach.

Bertram played four years for Archuleta and is now a graduate assistant.

Former big leaguer and USI player Brown is a volunteer. Bertram and Brown work with hitters and catchers.

While playing at Northwood will be a new experience for Archuleta, going against Saint Joseph’s will not since the Eagles and Pumas are both in the GLVC. With Saint Joe closing its doors, the May 6-7 series in Rensselaer was USI’s last.

“If was sad day,” says Archuleta of that final Sunday. “Coach (Rick) O’Dette does a great job. He’s made that program have a lot of pride and tradition. I have tremendous respect for him and the institution.”

It’s the lasting strength of GLVC baseball that gives the Eagles confidence at postseason time.

“The conference over the years just continues to get better,” says Archuleta. “It definitely prepares us.”

Archuleta is a graduate of Caliche High School in Colorado. He played at NCAA Division II Metropolitan State of Denver 1993-96. Building up a network in the D-II baseball world, he was an assistant coach at D-II Wayne State (Neb.) and Central Missouri State before serving five seasons as head coach at D-II Wisconsin-Parkside. He took the Rangers to their first-ever NCAA tournament.

Then he landed at D-II USI and fell in love with the program, institution and city.

“It’s a great university and great community,” says Archuleta. “We really have a great backing. Evansville is a great place to raise a family.”

On the diamond, Archuleta and the Eagles hope to keep raising banners.

TRACYARCHULETA3

Tracy Archuleta is in his 11th season as head baseball coach at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. He has the Screaming Eagles in the NCAA Division II regional for the seventh time in those 11 years. (USI Photo)

School is closing, but Saint Joseph’s College looking to go out in style

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There’s a popular hashtag around Rensselaer, Ind.: #ForeverPumas.

It looks like this is the last spring Saint Joseph’s College will field a baseball team or any other team.

Because of monetary woes, SJC has decided to close at the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

The school, which was founded in 1889, went on financial probation by the Higher Learning Commission and then made the decision to cease operations — at least for the time being. Commencement is scheduled for May 6.

Rick O’Dette, a former Saint Joseph’s player and 17th-year head coach, has been in charge of the transition after the shocking news broke just before the season opener for this school with a history of diamond success.

“We’re going about it like it’s our last season,” O’Dette said Wednesday, March 29. “We’ve always had financial questions and concerns. But this all kind of hit us quickly.”

Dr. Robert Pastoor, SJC president, issued the following statement Feb. 2:

“At what is truly one of the most difficult points in the history of Saint Joseph’s College, when it seems that hope is lost and parties are divided, it is important to remember that our Community has made it through other difficult chapters, and that we all agree more than we disagree. We all want to find a way for SJC to overcome the present challenges and be resurrected with its mission intact. We need to pull together, rather than apart, during this transition period — students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and everyone who loves SJC.

“We wish the financial situation was different than it is, but it has been building over decades, and it will take time to work our way out of it. We regret that many people did not realize the financial situation we were in, and we are committed to sharing all relevant information with our Community, because through understanding we can develop solutions.

“With your prayers and support, you and we will help make Saint Joseph’s College strong again.”

O’Dette’s NCAA Division II No. 19-ranked Pumas (currently 16-6 overall and 2-2 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference) have gone about their on-field business while many of the players have looked to find a new collegiate home for next year.

“The process has been really difficult,” O’Dette said. “Our players have done a really good job from the standpoint of getting better and being of value to other programs.

“It’s a great place. It’s just a sad deal. We’re going to miss it for sure. These guys have bought in to making it the best opportunity they can.”

O’Dette’s coaching staff includes Matt Kennedy, Nic Sampognaro, Eric Bunnell and Dennis Khym. These men will also have to find new places, but the players have been top priority.

“Our first goal is to get these guys comfortable with what’s happening,” O’Dette said. “They don’t deserve this. It’s not their fault.

“We’ve done a good job of being out front with everything. We’ve made a ton of contacts so everybody who wants to play somewhere has an opportunity to play.”

O’Dette and his assistants have fielded hundreds of phone calls inquiring about player availability.

“The majority of our guys are already going somewhere,” O’Dette said. There were a few scouts at the doubleheader against Wayne State Wednesday, March 29 at SJC’s Gil Hodges Field/Rueth-Fitzgibbon Complex.

“A number of guys are going to (NCAA) Division I baseball,” O’Dette said. “We’ve got some guys who are going D-II, D-III, NAIA and a few will just end up going to school and finishing their degree.

“It’s tough to be done with their game and hand them over to another coach like we’re a junior college. It’s been a really difficult thing.”

O’Dette, who hails from Tinley Park, Ill., had concentrated much of his search for players in the Chicago area until those players became a little too costly to land. The recruiting trails has generally been a five-hour radius. But SJC has gone further.

The Pumas’ 53-man roster includes 11 seniors and 27 players from Indiana, 19 from Illinois, two from Puerto Rico and one each from Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin.

SJC seniors are Zachary Aring (Beecher, Ill.), Riley Benner (Tri-County High School), Kyle Estand (Evergreen, Ill.), Chase Fieldhouse (Lake Central High School), Joshua Handzik (Frankfort, Ill.), Ryan Keck (Edwardsville, Ill.), Martin Napleton (LaGrange, Ill.), Brenden Rivera (Temple Terrace, Fla.), David Schurr (Plainfield, Ill.), Kevin Sloat (Manteno, Ill.) and Tasker Strobel (Avon High School).

Benner, currently SJC’s leading hitter at .427, talked about the reason he chose to become a Puma.

“My dad (Mick) came here and always had good things to say about Saint Joe,” Benner said. “I took a visit and I loved everything about it. I just couldn’t wait to get on campus my freshman year.

“It’s been nothing short of awesome.”

How did the first baseman and business administration major take the news about the school closing, taking the baseball program with it?

“We speculated for awhile what was going to happen,” Benner said of the school of about 1,000 students (more than half being athletes). “But hearing they were not going to have students in the fall was in shock. It was utter sadness. I don’t no any better words to describe it.

“I can’t imagine some of the anxiety some of (my younger teammates) must have.”

Handzik, a third baseman and business administration/economics major hitting .329, expressed his feelings for his teammates.

“My first thought went to the younger guys — the freshmen, sophomores, juniors — all these guys that I’ve seen grow and how upset I was that I was not going to be able to see them finish here and have the full experience I had here,” Handzik said.

While the team does not have captains per se, there is a team-picked leadership group and Handzik is part of that.

“At the end of the fall, we went through an evaluation to rate people on the team who you think are leaders,” Handzik. “We make sure guys are on track off the field as well as on the field.”

Winning baseball is important. But that’s not the only objective at SJC.

“We want guys walking out of here as great people,” O’Dette said. “They care about each other. They care about this institution. They are about others in our community.”

To come to St. Joseph’s, they have to care about hitting the books as much as hitting a curve ball. The Pumas have a team grade-point average of 3.4 on a 4.0 scale with nine 4.0’s and 23 players with an average of 3.8 or higher.

“Our guys have done a really good job in the classroom,” O’Dette said. “We have to have a student-athlete here. This is not an easy academic institution.”

Strobel, a left-handed pitcher and business administration major who transferred from Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., to the University of the Illinois-Chicago to Saint Joe prior to the 2016 season, wants to Pumas to go out on top.

“Let’s go win it all. Why not make it a storybook ending?,” Strobel said. “Let’s make (an ESPN) ’30 for 30’ out of it. Why not us?

“We definitely have the talent to (win a championship). We have our iffy games. But if we put all through aspects together — running, pitching, hitting — we definitely have one of the best teams in the nation.”

O’Dette has that same mindset.

“Our guys deserve to go out on top,” O’Dette said. “Our alumni deserve to see that. We want success for everybody in this program.”

Napleton, a catcher and business administration major hitting .371, is more than pleased with his decision to attend SJC.

“I love it here,” Napleton said. “I’ve grown as a man — in my personal life and on the field as a baseball player.”

Napleton wishes nothing but the best to his younger teammates who will be wearing different uniforms in the coming seasons.

“It’s bittersweet that they don’t get to go here four years like I did,” Napleton said. “As a leader, I’ve got to be proud of my guys wherever they decide to go to school.”

Advice from O’Dette has stuck with Napleton. One stands out.

“Just do the little things right,” Napleton. “That’s so important in life. A lot of times if you’re doing the little things right, the breaks go your way. If you take care of business and the small details, life is a lot easier.”

Khym, an SJC volunteer coach since 1990, gave the main reasons he keeps making the trek from Monee, Ill.

“It’s the people,” Khym said. “Since I’ve been here, it’s the people more than baseball. There’s some special against Saint Joseph’s people. I didn’t go to school here, but they have adopted me so I’m almost like an alumni. They treat me with the utmost respect.

“There’s a lot of love at this school.”

17_team

With Saint Joseph’s College announcing its closing, the 2017 baseball season will be the last for the Pumas. SJC is currently 16-6 and ranked No. 19 in the NCAA Division II poll.