Tag Archives: Greg Goff

Frankton graduate Weins embraces role as Purdue reliever

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Since Landon Weins has arrived on the Purdue University campus no one has pitched more innings out of the bullpen than the 6-foot-2 right-hander.
Going into the the April 14-16 series at Penn State (the April 12 game against Purdue has been postponed), Weins (rhymes with Wines) has taken the bump for the Boilermakers 28 times totaling 54 innings. This spring, the senior is 3-2 with a 2.48 earned run average, 27 strikeouts and nine walks for a squad that is 21-7.
The 2018 graduate of Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School embraces the relief role because he see it as the best way he can contribute to the team.
“A lot of times I’m coming in behind a guy like Jackson Smeltz who is pretty dominant and he can get us ahead as well,” says Weins, who pitched for head coach Rob Fournier at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., in 2019 and 2020. “I really enjoy (coming out of the bullpen). It gives me time to see the hitters and what they prefer and what they’re struggling with that day.”
Between in-game observation, video and scouting reports, Purdue pitchers have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an opposing offense.
Weins uses a three-pitch mix — fastball, slider and change-up.
“I made a really big adjustment in the off-season and my slider has become probably my best pitch this year,” says Weins. “Mine has like a gyro spin. It’ll come in straight and then go down and away from a right-handed hitter.
“It’s like a curveball, but it’s flat and usually harder.”
The slider can be thrown in any count.
“I feel pretty comfortable with all three of my pitches,” says Weins. “Anytime I’m out there I want to compete as hard as I can.”
Weins has been used in long relief with stints of 5 1/3 innings against Ohio State, 4 1/3 against South Dakota State and 4 against Bellarmine. Five other appearances have been for 2 to 2 2/3 frames.
Playing for Boilers head coach Greg Goff and pitching coach Chris Marx, words of advice have carried with Weins and kept him steady.
“They say remain the same,” says Weins. “Out on the mound, obviously there’s going to be days where you don’t have your best stuff. You’re going to be hit a little. You always keep your composure. If you’re going to carry around a swagger when you’re doing good, you always carry around that swagger when you’re not doing as good.
“It’s such a quick game that can humble you very fast. But just because you have one bad day doesn’t mean it needs to lead to more.”
There’s a rule after an outing — good or bad — that keeps players moving forward and not looking back.
“We says flush it at midnight,” says Weins.
The son of Scott and Angela Weins watched older brother Logan Weins (a 2014 Frankton graduate who pitched mostly in relief at Western Kentucky University 2015-17) on the diamond before him.
“He’s probably one of my biggest impacts in his game,” says Landon of Logan. “Growing up he was always someone I could look up to. He just did things the right way. He’s definitely been my No. 1 supporter. He pushed me the hardest and gave me the hardest criticism that I needed to hear.
(My parents) have always been a huge support system for me in no matter what I do or choose.”
Landon played in the Frankton Town & Country Baseball before moving into travel ball at 10. He was with the Indiana Bandits followed by Indiana Magic and Indiana Nitro. He spent his 17U summer with the Indiana Bulls.
Brad Douglas was — and still is — the head baseball coach at Frankton.
“He’s a great guy and always been one to have my back if I ever needed anything,” says Weins of Douglas. “I loved playing for him.
“He had a fire to him that I definitely didn’t like, especially when he was getting on me.
“I appreciated him a lot more when I got into college than I did in high school because I was able to look back and see he wanted what was best for me and our team. He just pushed us to be our best.”
As a Selling and Sales Management major at Purdue, Weins needs at least one more semester to get his bachelor’s degree.
He chose that field of study in part because it fits his personality.
“I definitely enjoy being a social person and talking,” says Weins. “I’ve met a lot of different people throughout the game of baseball. I’ve made many connections.”

Since 2021, Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School graduate Landon Weins has pitched a team-high 54 relief innings as part of the Purdue University staff. (Purdue University Photo)

After overcoming so much, Smeltz continues to shine on mound for Purdue

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jackson Smeltz has been through plenty of physical adversity in his athletic career.
The Purdue University left-handed pitcher earned the Brady Comeback Scholarship Award from Methodist Sports Medicine in 2021, recognizing his return from hip surgery in 2020 and Tommy John elbow surgery while at McCutcheon High School (Class of 2018). He was redshirted for the 2019 season.
Also while in high school, Smeltz had a noncancerous tumor removed from his brain. While in junior high, he suffered a severe groin injury.
On Saturday, April 9 at Alexander Field, redshirt junior Smeltz pitched eight one-hit innings and struck out a collegiate career-best 13 batters and walked three over 121 pitches as the Boilermakers topped arch rival Indiana 17-0. It was his eighth start of the season.
“First and foremost I just want to thank God for the opportunity to go out there and pitch still,” said Smeltz after the contest that pushed his 2022 record to 5-0 with a 2.66 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 20 walks in 44 innings for a 20-6 Purdue team. “All the glory to God.
“He’s put me through a lot, but I can’t thank God enough.”
A four-year letterwinner at McCutcheon, Smeltz played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jake Burton as well as Brian Eaton and Purdue alumnus Doug Schreiber with the Mavericks.
After going 3-1 with a 3.26 ERA in 13 appearances (11 in relief) for Purdue in 2021, he played for the College Summer League at Grand Park’s Bomb Squad and was one of eight Boilers named to the CSL All-Star Game.
Smeltz — the No. 1 starter in the Boilers weekend rotation who now has a 9-1 career mound mark with a 3.34 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings — got into a groove early against Hoosier hitters.
“I was staying aggressive in a quick tempo,” said Smeltz, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder and agribusiness major. “They were getting a little frustrated with it. That kind of fuels me. That gives me some extra motivation.
“I was able to get ahead (in ball-strike counts) and stay ahead.”
After Smeltz went to the dugout after eight frames, Purdue hitters came out and put up 10 runs.
“Our team is just resilient,” said Smeltz. “We’ve got the hardest workers in the country.
“They just don’t let up. I can’t say enough about those guys.”
Purdue head coach Greg Goff had a similar sentiment on Smeltz’s big day.
“You can’t say enough about Jackson Smeltz. He comes from a great family,” said Goff of the son of Robert and Shannon Smeltz and brother of siblings Zach, Darbie and Jed. “The things he’s had to overcome it makes it that much more special. He went out there and competed against a really good offensive team that hits the ball out of the park a lot.
“He located his fastball on both sides of the plate and was just in total control.”
Goff said Boiler hitters fed off Smeltz.
“Anytime you send a guy out there and he puts up zeroes like he did early that allows the offense to relax a little bit,” said Goff. “Our guys did a great job with that.”
Purdue is now 8-2 on its home diamond in 2022.
The rivalry series was to continue with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Sunday, April 10.

Jackson Smeltz pitches for Purdue University against arch rival Indiana University. (Purdue University Photo)

Learnard’s transition from player to coach brings him back to Purdue

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Purdue University’s special 2018 baseball season was heading toward a conclusion when senior closer Ross Learnard began thinking about his future.
The Boilermakers were on their way to a 38-21 record that included 17-6 mark in the Big Ten Conference — second to Minnesota — and an NCAA Regional berth.
Learnard was finishing up his Agricultural Economics degree.
“After each game late down the stretch I’d be in the shower and thinking my last out is going to come here soon,” says Learnard, a 6-foot-2 left-hander went 2-2 with 15 saves, a 3.37 earned run average, 33 strikeouts and eight walks in 34 2/3 innings in 2018. “I just can’t see myself getting a 9-to-5 inside job.
“I decided at that point that I wanted to coach and began to pursue my options.”
Purdue pitching coach Steve Holm went to Illinois State University to become head coach and brought Learnard on as a graduate assistant (he earned a Master of Business Administration degree at ISU) and director of operations in the fall of 2018.
From there Learnard went to Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., where he had pitched in 2015 and 2016, and served as a recruiting coordinator and taught many parts of the game in helping Cobras head coach Jon Goebel.
Greg Goff, who was a Purdue volunteer assistant in 2018 and has been head coach since Mark Wasikowski left for the University of Oregon after the 2019 campaign, recently hired Learnard to handle Pitching Analytics & Team Operations.
High on Learnard’s list of duties is collaborating and communicating with pitching coach Chris Marx as it relates to player development.
“He sets the expectation and culture with the pitching staff and its my job to supplement that and to make it better.”
To do that means making sense of available numbers.
“The game is going towards being data-driven, especially with this generation we’re coaching now,” says Learnard. “(Players are) always on their phones.
“This era of baseball and player that we have is the most read up on the scientific aspect of how you pitcher, where it be biomechanics or ball-flight metrics (like horizontal and vertical break and Revolutions Per Minute aka RPMs).
“It’s insane what analytics can really tell you. ERA, hits allowed and WHIP (walks and hit per innings pitched) can only give you a small portion of the context. You have to pull back the layers and see where you’re getting your swings and misses, where you’re getting your weak contact,
“It’s just untapped potential.”
There are also students on campus who understand data analysis that give feedback to the baseball program.
Just three years removed from being a player, Learnard sees a difference.
“At least in my circle, it was not as data-driven,” says Learnard. “I try to be a lifelong learner as a coach. You can never be satisfied. It’s adapt or die.
I’m trying to read as much as I can about the new-school metrics, analytics and data.
“It’s very important to be well-versed in all things numbers and all the different modalities to train pitchers.”
Purdue uses a Rapsodo machine to read ball-flight metrics and determine things like spin axis, spin direction and spin efficiency.
“You can see the way the ball is moving in space,” says Learnard. “We also use a high-speed camera to see how guys are releasing the ball.
“We can give them mental cues to shape the pitch that we’re going for.”
Learnard, who turns 26 on Oct. 5, went to Catlin (Ill.) High School near Danville and graduated in 2014. A co-op with Jamaica High School (Sidell, Ill.) was called Salt Fork for sports.
The lefty made 21 mound appearances (12 in relief) and went 10-3 with 2.72 ERA, 105 strikeouts and 25 walks in 76 1/3 innings for Parkland in 2015 and 2016.
At Purdue in 2017 and 2018, Learnard got into 56 games (all in relief) and was 8-2 with 19 saves, a 1.78 ERA, 70 stakeouts and 18 walks in 81 innings.
As a senior, he was named a Collegiate Baseball Third Team All-American, Third Team all-Big Ten and was on the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Watch List. He was Big Ten Pitcher of the Week in April and Perfect Game National Pitcher of the Week in May. He was also Academic all-Big Ten.
Purdue’s 45-day window for 2021 fall workouts began Sept. 9 and plans call for it to wrap Oct. 23. Fall ball scrimmages are open to the public Sept. 29, Oct. 1, Oct. 3, Oct. 5, Oct. 8, Oct. 15 and Oct. 28. The Boilers host two 1 p.m. exhibition games with junior colleges — Oct. 9 against Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel, Ill.) and Oct. 16 against John A. Logan College (Carterville, Ill.). The Black and Gold World Series is slated for Oct. 21-23.
“Right now we’re in full team mode,” says Learnard. “We’re setting the expectations of what we want in the spring. We’re helping these (newcomers) perform at a high level and bring them up to the returner speed.
“We’re always trying to individualize (development). It’s not cookie cutter.”

Ross Learnard (Purdue University Photo)

Purdue’s Firestone using summer to get better

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jack Firestone is getting his cuts and hitting his cut-off man while preparing for his next college baseball season.
A lefty-swinging outfielder, Firestone is playing for the Patrick Morey-coached Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and works on his swing at The Barn in Lapel, Ind., with Mike Shirley and Scott French and with current Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School head coach Jered Moore and former ZCHS assistant and current University of Indianapolis volunteer coach Jeremy Honaker and lifts weights with Laird Training’s Sean Laird.
“I’ve always believed in those guys and they’ve always been there for me,” says Firestone of Moore and Honaker.
Firestone smacked a home run and rapped two singles in a CSL game this past week.
“I’m just trying to put the bat on the ball the best I can — just put the ball on the ball,” says Firestone. “If it gets out, it gets out.”
Firestone was a redshirt freshman at Purdue University in the spring of 2021 and got into 24 games (four as a starter) on a team that had three seniors starting in the outfield — Ben Nisle in left, fifth-year Skyler Hunter in center and Miles Simington in right.
“It was a waiting year for me,” says Firestone, a Financial Counseling and Planning major and Management minor. “Just be patient for next year.”
Firestone did not see action during the 2020 Boilermakers season that was abbreviated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greg Goff is Purdue’s head coach.
“I love playing for him,” says Firestone. “He’s high energy. I love him. He knows what he’s doing.”
He did play in the inaugural CSL season for the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers and was named to the all-star team.
While at Zionsville, where he graduated in 2019, Firestone earned three baseball letters playing for Moore.
Firestone was named offensive player of the year as a senior. The Eagles won sectional titles in 2017 and 2018 and regional crown in 2017. That was year the year he was named junior varsity MVP. He was the freshmen squad MVP at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., before his family moved to Zionsville.
Born in Warsaw, Ind., to golf pro Todd and Purdue alum Jennie, Jack went to Fort Wayne while in kindergarten and played his first organized baseball in Don Ayres Little League. He played travel ball for the Summit City Spartans, Leo Lions and Fort Wayne Diamondbacks then — after moving to Boone County — the Indiana Mustangs. He also played fall ball for the San Francisco Giants scout team.
Todd Firestone, the son of Tom Firestone, played golf and basketball at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., served as head golf pro at Tippecanoe Lake Country Club in Milford, Ind., and Fort Wayne Country Club before taking that post at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis at the start of 2016. Tom Firestone is in the Kosciusko County Basketball and Bethel University Athletic halls of fame and was athletic director at Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School.
Trey Firestone, Jack’s little brother and a senior at Zionsville Community in 2022, is a football wide receiver getting NCAA Division I offers.

Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)
Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)
Jack Firestone (Purdue University Photo)

Indiana’s college baseball teams take to the diamond for ’21

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Cabin fever and cold temperatures have been a reality in Indiana this winter.

But it’s beginning to thaw in many places. College baseball games have been played in the state and institutions from the state have traveled to open the 2021 season.

There are 38 college baseball programs in Indiana — Ball State (Head coach Rich Maloney), Butler (Dave Schrage), Evansville (Wes Carroll), Notre Dame (Link Jarrett), Purdue (Greg Goff), Purdue Fort Wayne (Doug Schreiber), Indiana (Jeff Mercer), Indiana State (Mitch Hannahs) and Valparaiso (Brian Schmack) in NCAA Division I, Indianapolis (Al Ready), Purdue Northwest (Dave Griffin) and Southern Indiana (Tracy Archuleta) in NCAA Division II, Anderson (Matt Bair), DePauw (Blake Allen), Earlham (Steve Sakosits), Franklin (Lance Marshall), Hanover (Grant Bellak), Manchester (Rick Espeset), Rose-Hulman (Jeff Jenkins), Trine (Greg Perschke) and Wabash (Jake Martin) in NCAA Division III, Bethel (Seth Zartman), Calumet of Saint Joseph (Brian Nowakowski), Goshen (Alex Childers), Grace (Ryan Roth), Huntington (Mike Frame), Marian (Todd Bacon), Oakland City (Andy Lasher), Taylor (Kyle Gould), Indiana University-Kokomo (Matt Howard), Indiana University South Bend (Doug Buysse), Indiana University Southeast (Ben Reel), Indiana Tech (Kip McWilliams), Indiana Wesleyan (Rich Benjamin) and Saint Francis (Dustin Butcher) in NAIA and Ancilla (Chris Woodruff), Ivy Tech Northeast (Lance Hershberger) and Vincennes (Chris Barney) in NJCAA — and 26 have already heard “Play Ball!”

Where they’ve been allowed, fans have been in the stands. Others have followed on internet streams.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have altered traditional schedules. Many have gone to longer series to limit travel.

So who’s off to the hottest starts?

Coming off a four-game series sweep against IU Southeast, Huntington is 7-0.

Taylor got the earliest start of any college team in the start, opening its season Jan. 22 in Arizona. The Trojans are 11-6.

Ball State leads D-I clubs at 4-3. The Cardinals split a season-opening series at Arizona.

The Big Ten opted to play conference games only in ’21. Indiana opens March 5 in Minneapolis and will play games against Minnesota and Rutgers.

Meanwhile, Purdue will also open a four-game series against Nebraska in Round Rock, Texas, on March 5.

Purdue Northwest is also scheduled to get going March 5.

Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference teams Earlham, Franklin, Hanover and Manchester open up March 6. Anderson and Rose-Hulman get into the act March 7.

Trine’s lid-lifter is slated for March 13.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through Feb. 28

NCAA Division I

Ball State 4-3

Evansville 3-3

Indiana State 3-4

Notre Dame 2-1

Purdue Fort Wayne 1-3

Valparaiso 1-5 

Butler 0-0

Indiana 0-0

Purdue 0-0

NCAA Division II

Southern Indiana 2-1

Indianapolis 1-5

Purdue Northwest 0-0

NCAA Division III

DePauw 1-1

Wabash 1-1

Anderson 0-0

Earlham 0-0

Franklin 0-0

Hanover 0-0

Manchester 0-0

Rose-Hulman 0-0

Trine 0-0

NAIA

Taylor 11-6

Huntington 7-0

Oakland City 6-4

Saint Francis 6-5

Marian 6-6

Indiana University Southeast 5-10

Indiana Wesleyan 4-7

Indiana University-Kokomo 3-4

Bethel 2-8

Grace 1-3

Goshen 0-2

Indiana University South Bend 0-4 

Indiana Tech 0-7

Calumet of Saint Joseph 0-0

Junior College

Vincennes 2-6

Ancilla 2-6

Ivy Tech Northeast 0-1

Madia helps manage many moving parts for Purdue baseball

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

John Madia sees a vibrant future for college baseball in general and Purdue University baseball in particular.

“The sport — to me — is on a similar trajectory as college basketball,” says Madia, the director of player development for the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind. — a role created for the 2020 season. “The lights are getting brighter. The stage is getter bigger.

“College baseball has a very good chance to be a healthy revenue generator for universities.”

Madia sees momentum building for the idea of starting the season — at least at the NCAA Division I level — later and playing into July.

“We’re in total favor of that,” says Madia, who earned baseball letters at Purdue in 1975, 1976 and 1978 and came the Boilers to take the new position of director of baseball operations in 2015. “Team would playing in better weather in north and it would level the playing field. We’d have a better chance of keeping top talent in-state.

“It would not surprise me if 6,000 to 8,000 a game at Alexander Field with that model. People in the community to can go out to nice venue at a reasonable price. Purdue is very well-placed. Our ability to add seating is easy. We have very generous concourse areas and room for more seating down the left field line.”

That’s the future. In the present, Madia is helping the program maximize its potential while getting ahead of challenges.

Madia’ efforts complement those of Boilers head coach Greg Goff, assistants Cooper Fouts, Chris Marx and Harry Shipley and supervisor of operations Tim Sarhage.

There’s a planning meeting each morning because there are a lot of moving parts.

“As much as possible we want to anticipate as many scenarios as we can

proactive rather than reactive,” says Madia. “When we’e prepared it takes the stress off our program and student-athletes.

“We want to make sure everyone knows their role and how it can help us be successful on the field, classroom and community.”

In D-I baseball, besides areas like strategic and practice planning, training and travel, there are other things to navigate like NCAA regulations, compliance, player needs and alumni.

“We always boil it down to this: We have to do a great job with our student-athletes,” says Madia. “We them to look back and say I had a great student-athlete experience at Purdue. That’s going to bode well for our future.”

To achieve this goal, the school has assembled high baseball I.Q. personnel and added many resources — academic, cultural, time management and medical (which addresses physical and mental well-being). 

Of course right now, COVID-19 protocols are a major issue. The virus halted the 2020 season after 14 games (the Boilers went 7-7).

“These kids have ever been exposed to anything like that,” says Madia. “Players have had relatives with virus.”

NCAA D-I rules allow a 45-day window for fall practice. Purdue started in September ended in late October. 

“We were plowing new ground,” say Madia. “We never had to plan a fall around a COVID world.

“Following strict guidelines put in place by the university, players are tested every week.

“If there’s an exposure, there’s a very aggressive protocol to get them out of the bubble,” says Madia. “We spent a lot of time as a staff to build natural bubbles within the program/ The ame guys with each other everyday.

“We had to single out baseballs for them. Equipment was wiped down. It was a lot of work and planning but it kept us safe.

“We got through entire fall without any major disruptions.”

Moving back to the individual phase, they’ve gone from 20 hours a week of practice with athletes to eight.

The Boilers have a relatively large number of newcomers. It’s been a challenge to build camaraderie while social distancing.

“Coach Goff really likes to do a lot of team activities and build that rapport and culture of family,” says Madia.

Purdue goes virtual after Thanksgiving. Most students will leave campus next Wednesday and not return until January. 

Madia says they must test negative for COVID before being allowed back on-campus.

“In-season we’ll probably be testing our guys everyday,” says Madia. “It looks like the Big Ten (Conference) will not allow non-conference games. The protocol is same for all conference schools.”

If there are more Big Ten games than usual — say four-game weekend schedules instead of three — Madia wonders if teams will be allowed more than the usual 27-man travel roster.

Prior to returning to Purdue in his operations role, Madia worked in industry as an executive with Dow Chemical and CH2M as a global business and HR leader. 

He has long been on the Purdue Athletic Advisory Board and held various advisory roles to the College of Agriculture. 

He has coached amateur baseball and served on the board of the Indiana Bulls travel organization. He was an associate scout for the Baltimore Orioles.

Former Purdue head coach Doug Schreiber brought Madia on as director of operations. In that role, he was responsible for alumni outreach, player and staff professional/career development and other general marketing/operations duties to advance the program.

“I always viewed Purdue as one of the best decisions I made in my life,” says Madia. “Coming out of Purdue University can definitely open doors for you. It’s up to you to kick them in.

“I’ve always maintained good relationships with coaches and players. This is one way of giving back and staying involved.

“I’ve had a ball with it. With a new position you get to determine what that looks like when you stand it up.”

A lefty swinger and thrower, Utica, N.Y., native Madia played first base for Joe Sexson and Dave Alexander when the Boilers played across campus at Lambert Field. He missed the 1977 season with injury.

“Coach Sexson would make a great mayor,” says Madia. “He knew everybody. He had a great way of communicating with each player as an individual.

“He was a fun guy to be around. He was also ultra-competitive.”

Alexander, who died Feb. 26, 2020 at 79, was the coach for Madia’s last two Purdue seasons and two became close friends after that.

“He took the whole game of baseball to another baseball with his knowledge and I.Q.,” says Madia of Alexander. “He taught you how important it was to appreciate and honor the game.”

Alexander brought intensity to the diamond.

“If you were meek and didn’t want to bring it everyday you weren’t going to be very successful around Coach Alexander,” says Madia. “Everybody saw that side of Alex. the side they didn’t see was how loyal he was to the guys that played for him. He would do anything for you. When you were done playing for hm was the time to build that friendship.”

With Madia’s input, Alexander began recruiting in upstate New York. Many good players come from that area to this day.

“With Dave Alexander there was no gray. It was black and white. If he trusted you, he was with you,” says Madia. “He was very, very passionate about politics and history. I stayed in close contact with him all the way up to the end. He had a big impact on my life.”

Madia was named Distinguished Alumnus by the School of Animal Sciences and the College of Agriculture in 2006 and 2007, respectively, and a Purdue Old Master in 2014.

John and Jean, also a Purdue graduate, have four children and Boiler grads — Megan (2005), Katie (2007), former Purdue baseball player Drew (2010) and Dan (2011).

John Madia, a Purdue University graduate, is the Boilermakers baseball director of player development. (Purdue University Photo)
The Purdue University baseball family is guided by (from left): First row — assistant Chris Marx, director of baseball development John Madia and head coach Greg Goff; second row — assistants Harry Shipley and Cooper Fouts. (Purdue University Photo)
Leading the Purdue University baseball program are (from left): assistants Chris Marx and Cooper Fouts, head coach Greg Goff, director of player development and volunteer assistant Harry Shipley. (Purdue University Photo)
John Madia, a Purdue University graduate, is the Boilermakers director of baseball development. He came back to Purdue as director of baseball operations in 2015. (Purdue University Photo)

Wade takes leadership, mental toughness from Kokomo to Purdue

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kyle Wade got the chance to be an athletic leader at a young age.

He was an eighth grader in Kokomo, Ind., and attending football workouts when Kokomo High School head coach Brett Colby let him know the expectations of the program and the community.

“This is your team next year” says Wade, recalling the words Colby said to the varsity Wildkats’ heir apparent at quarterback as a freshman in the fall of 2014. “On our first thud (in practice), I think I stuttered the words and dropped the ball.

“(Colby) told me, ‘you can’t show weakness to your teammates’ and ‘never act like you can’t.’ I took that to heart.”

Wade went on to be a four-year starter and earned the IHSAA Class 5A Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award as Kokomo finished as state runners-up in 2017. He was also a four-year starter at shortstop in baseball for head coach Sean Wade and played three varsity basketball seasons — freshman and sophomore for Matt Moore and senior for Bob Wonnell.

“Coach Swan was positive, but he wasn’t afraid to get on us,” says Wade of his high school baseball experience. “(Swan) trusted us.

“We were an older team with a lot of guys who would go on to Power 5 (college) baseball (including Class of 2018’s Jack Perkins to Louisville and Bayden Root to Ohio State and Class of 2020’s Charez Butcher to Tennessee).”

Wade appreciates Moore for his organization skills and discipline. 

“His scouting reports were next level,” says Wade. “Coach Wonnell won a state tournament (Class 1A at Tindley in 2017). He asked me about playing again (as a senior). He wanted a leader. He helped keep me in shape (Wade was 235 pounds at the end of his senior football season and 216 at the close of the basketball season).”

A combination of physicality, basketball I.Q. gained from having a father as a former Kokomo head coach (2000-05), he played on the front line — even guarding 7-footers.

“Being in the (North Central Conference) as a undersized center is not for the weak-heated.

“I had to mature. I’ve led by by example, pushing guys to get better and motivated to play. I’ve had to have mental toughness. I’ve never been one of the most talented guys on my teams.”

But Wade showed enough talent that he had college offers in football and baseball. He chose the diamond and accepted then-head coach Mark Wasikowski’s invitation to play at Purdue University

“As a freshman coming into a Big Ten program, I had older guys who helped get me going and taught me about work ethic,” says Wade. “He have a lot of new guys (in 2020-21). As a junior, I’m in that position this year and doing it to the best of my ability.”

The COVID-19-shortened 2020 season was his second as a right-handed pitcher for the Boilermakers. 

The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder appeared in five games (all in relief) and went 1-0 with a 4.05 earned run average. In 6 2/3 innings, he struck out two and walked one.

As a freshman in 2019, Wade got into 15 games (two as a starter) and went 2-2 with a 5.18 ERA. In 40 innings, he struck out 27 and walked 11. 

Greg Goff took over as Purdue head coach and Chris Marx became pitching coach for 2020.

“I love Coach Goff,” says Wade. “I really enjoy playing for him. He’s so energetic and positive. 

“He’s a players’ coach. He will love you and get on you to make you better and then love you some more.”

Wade appreciates Marx for his knowledge and attention to detail.

“He wants everybody to succeed and is so organized in the bullpen.

“He has helped a lot of guys with mechanics and the mental game. He tells us to never be comfortable. There’s always something we can do better.”

The plan for 2020 called for Wade to pitch the whole spring then go to St. Louis in the summer for work on getting better at the P3 (Premier Pitching Performance) lab.

When the season was halted, many players stayed in town and continued to work out and stayed on their throwing programs. 

But there was a question.

“What’s next?,” says Wade. “Are we ever going to play baseball again?

“Once total lockdown happened, everybody went home.”

Wade went back to Kokomo then came the chance to compete and train less than an hour away in the 12-team College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

The righty was assigned to the Matt Kennedy-coached Snapping Turtles.

“It was a no-brainer to play there,” says Wade. “It was legit.

There were hitters who would expose you if you didn’t throw good pitches. 

“I really enjoyed the competition.”

Wade was used as a starter on Monday or Tuesday and could then recover and ramp up to his next start either at home or — if time allowed — at Pro X Athlete Development on the Grand Park campus.

In 14 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.45 ERA with 10 strikeouts and two walks.

Throwing over-the-top, Wade used a four-seam fastball that was clocked up to 89 mph in the spring and summer. He also used a slider and a change-up.

“The slider is like a slurve,” says Wade. “I throw it hard 12-to-6 but I get left-to-right run.

“The change-up is an ‘open circle.’ Like Trevor Bauer, I start pronating it in my glove. It’s thrown like a fastball. It’s working really good for me.”

In the past few weeks, Wade has been working on a two-seam cutter.

The Business Management major also took an online course this summer. This fall, all but one of his courses are in-person though class size is kept small to eliminate contact tracing.

In the summer of 2018, Wade went to Purdue to begin a throwing and lifting program as well as his studies.

The summer after his freshman season was spent with the Bend (Ore.) Elks of the West Coast Baseball League.

Wade has also worked with Greg Vogt of PRP Baseball at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind.

Born in Anderson, Ind., Wade was 1 when he moved with his family from Highland, Ind., where his father Mike was head boys basketball coach, to Kokomo. 

Kyle played at Southside Little League then went into travel ball with the Indiana Bulls for his 10U through 15U seasons. His last head coach with that organization was Jeremy Honaker

Wade joined the Trent Hanna-coached Cincinnati Spikes for his 16U and 17U summers.

Mike and Alison Wade have three children — Becca (25), Michaela (23) and Kyle (21). 

Former Kokomo athletic director Mike Wade is now Director of Human Resources and Operations for the Kokomo School Corporation. He played baseball and basketball at Hanover (Ind.) College).

Alison Wade is a first grade teacher at Sycamore International Elementary. She played field hockey at Hanover.

Both daughters are Indiana University graduates and nurses in Indianapolis — Becca at Riley Children’s Hospital and Michaela at IU Health University Hospital. 

Purdue right-hander Kyle Wade delivers a pitch at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind. (PRP Baseball Video)
Kyle Wade (center) celebrates with his Purdue University baseball teammates. The right-handed pitcher has played two seasons with the Boilermakers (2019 and 2020). (Purdue University Photo)
Kyle Wade, a Kokomo (Ind.) High School graduate, is a member of the pitching staff for the Purdue University baseball team. (Purdue University Photo)
Purdue University pitcher Kyle Wade releases the baseball from an over-the-top arm angle. He is a junior in 2020-21. (Purdue University Photo)
In the spring and summer of 2020, Purdue University pitcher Kyle Wade used a four-seam fastball, slider and curveball and has recently been working on a two-seam cutter. (Purdue University Photo)
Kyle Wade is a Business Management major and member of the baseball team at Purdue University. He was a four-year starter at shortstop and quarterback and also played basketball at Kokomo (Ind.) High School. (Purdue University Photo)

Purdue’s Nisle getting chance to hone skills in College Summer League

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ben Nisle has been to Victory Field.

So far he has not gotten to play at the downtown Indianapolis baseball park.

That is set to change Thursday, July 13 when Purdue University righty-swinging outfielder Nisle suits up for the Blue squad in the College Summer League at Grand Park All-Star Game. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Boilermakers coaches were looking to find Nisle and other Purdue players a summer baseball home as the COVID-19 pandemic came along and shortened the college spring season and caused many summer leagues to cancel play for 2020.

Through a partnership of Bullpen Tournaments and Pro X Athlete Development at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., CSL sprouted as a developmental opportunity.

“Having a place to play is very nice,” says Nisle of the 12-team CSL. “It’s great competition.

“You’re seeing great (pitching) arms.

“I’m getting good at-bats and playing time.”

Nisle plays for the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers. 

Purdue outfielder Jack Firestone has also been chosen for the CSL All-Star Game.

A 2017 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., Nisle has played three seasons at Purdue.

In 91 games (86 as a starter), he hit .298 (89-of-299) with nine home runs, 57 runs batted in and 54 runs scored. The 2018 season saw Nisle garner Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American and Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors.

He did not play last summer while rehabbing a back injury that caused him to miss a portion of the 2019 Boiler season. He also took summer classes.

During the truncated 2020 season, Nisle started in all 14 games for the Boilers (7-7) as a corner outfielder and hit .320 (16-of-50) with one homer, six RBIs and 16 runs. 

“I have a simple approach,” says Nisle of his hitting philosophy. “Hit the ball hard and what happens from there happens.”

Ticking off his strengths as an athlete, Nisle cites his knowledge of the game and his physical tools.

“I was very blessed with all that stuff,” says Nisle, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder.

When the season was canceled the Boilers were practicing and about to leave for a series at the University of Evansville.

“It was pretty startling,” says Nisle. “I didn’t know how to feel.”

Before long, he was finishing the spring semester via technology.

“I’ve taken online classes before,” says Nisle, a Construction Management Technology major who was named Academic all-Big Ten Conference in the spring. “It wasn’t so bad.”

The 2020 season was Nisle’s first with Greg Goff as head coach after two campaigns with Mark Wasikowski (now at the University of Oregon).

“He’s a great person to be around everyday,” says Nisle of Goff. “He’s about being aggressive, upbeat and positive.

“(Wasikowski) is a very, very good coach. I learned a ton from him.”

Nisle was on the Lake Central varsity for four years — three with Jeff Sandor as head coach and his senior year with Mike Swartzentruber leading the Indians.

“(Sandor) was one of my favorite coaches for sure,” says Nisle. “He was an intense guy. He knew a ton about the game.

“(Swartzentruber) is a good person all-around. He knew what he was doing. He made you see different things.”

Nisle was an all-state player his final two seasons at Lake Central. He was the Duneland Athletic Conference MVP as a junior, hitting .470 with four homers and 36 RBIs. As a senior, he batted .380 with four homers and 38 RBIs and was again chosen all-DAC. As a freshman in 2014, he was LC’s rookie of the year with .474 average. The Indians won IHSAA Class 4A Munster Sectional titles in 2014 and 2017. They also won a LaPorte Regional crown in 2014.

Born in Munster, Ind., Nisle grew up in Schererville, Ind. He played for the Schererville Shock from age 7 to 15. Dan Bosold was the manager of that team with Dave Lopez, Ron Mihalic and Ben’s father, Gerry Nisle, as coaches.

For his 16U and 17U summers, Ben played for the Ryan Bunnell-coached Indiana Bulls

The summer leading into his freshman year at Purdue, Nisle did not play baseball. He went to campus early to take summer courses and work out.

Gerry Nisle (who works at Pepsi) and wife Michele (who is employed by Franciscan Alliance) have three children — Alex (24), Ben (21) and Mia (14). 

Gerry played football at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and Michele was a gymnast at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. Alex started his college baseball career at SJC. When the school was closed, he finished at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill. He was named to the all-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team in 2019. Mia plays soccer and basketball.

Ben Nisle, a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., has played three baseball seasons at Purdue University. He has been chosen for the College Summer League at Grand Park All-Star Game Thursday, July 16 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. (Purdue University Photo)

Fouts, Purdue baseball adjusting to new recruiting norms

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A buzzword during the COVID-19 pandemic is “new normal.”

For Purdue University baseball recruiting coordinator Cooper Fouts and the rest of the Boilermaker coaching staff, scouting and evaluating talent has changed during a time when recruits missed out on a 2020 high school season, others had their college campaigns cut short and traveling is discouraged.

“It’s taken a different turn,” says Fouts. “We’re really putting a emphasis on relationships.”

The NCAA recruiting calendar was changed and keeps changing.

“At first, it was we can’t recruit until April 15 and then get back on the road like normal,” says Fouts, 37. “But they kept pushing it back. That just didn’t happen.

“This is our normal right now.”

Fouts, who works for Boilers head coach Greg Goff after spending the 2019 season with Mark Wasikowski (now head coach at the University of Oregon), has been gathering as much information about players as possible.

“We look at video and honest video with some failures,” says Fouts, who also serves on a staff that includes Chris Marx, volunteer Harry Shipley, director of player development John Madia and supervisor of operations Tim Sarhage. “On our level, there’s more failure than they’e used to. They have to learn and make adjustments. Expectations are even higher.”

In many ways, coaches glean more from failure than success.

“We like to see what their body language looks like,” says Fouts. “When they’re struggling, you see a lot more truth.

“We’re cross-checking more and making more calls since we can’t see for (ourselves). We don’t get to see interactions. And we want to see the whole package. This makes you trust your gut more.”

Ninety minutes of Fouts’ morning in July 8 when spent in a FaceTime call with a player in Texas, talking about and showing them the facilities at Purdue.

There are plenty of conversations with high school and travel coaches, including the opponents of the player.

NCAA rules dictate that players do coaches and not the other way around.

“There’s a large amount of emphasis on how they communicate on the phone,” says Fouts. “I’ve never offered a kid we haven’t seen in-person. That’s a huge change.

“That virtual tour allows (recruits) to make the right decision. We do it multiple times every week.”

Fouts has been coaching since right after college graduation and has done his best to serve the interests of the man in charge. At Purdue, that’s been Wasikowski and Goff.

“It’s the preference of what those head coaches like and how they want to build a team,” says Fouts. “I’m a follower of their desires.”

With Goff, Fouts has a little more freedom with hitters and their day-to-day instruction and planning. 

Fouts has not seen players already on the Purdue roster in-person since March. The hope is that they will be reunited Aug. 24. That’s when the 2020-21 school year is scheduled to begin at Purdue.

The Boilers have players in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Midwest Collegiate League and had hopes of placing some in the Coastal Plain League.

Prior to coming to West Lafayette, Ind., Fouts spent the second of two stints at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. He was on the Waves staff 2011 and 2012 with head coach Steve Rodriguez (now head coach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas) and 2016-18 with Rick Hirtensteiner at the helm.

“He’s my biggest mentor,” says Fouts of Rodriguez. “he was so good at giving guys the freedom to play. 

“He wasn’t a micro-manager. Players were not paralyzed by a thought process. That allowed them to be successful. He does the same thing at Baylor. He knows what his players can and can’t do. They absolutely play loose.”

Hirtensteiner was an assistant to Rodriguez during Fouts’ first tenure at Pepperdine. 

“He’s an absolute great man of faith,” says Fouts of Hirtensteiner. “He treats his player so well. He gave me a ton of freedom on the coaching and recruiting side.

“He’s just a thoughtful individual. He’s not emotional. He was never overwhelmed by a situation.”

In between his seasons at Pepperdine, Fouts was on the staff of Eric Madsen at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah (2013-15). Madsen taught him much about the mechanics of hitting and more.

“He’s a really good offensive coach and a great human being,” says Fouts of Madsen. “He allowed me to make a lot of mistakes.”

In 2010, Fouts was an assistant at the College of Southern Nevada in North Las Vegas, where Tim Chambers was the head coach and Bryce Harper earned the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s best amateur baseball player. 

Harper graduated high school early so he could attend College of Southern Nevada and was selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Washington Nationals.

Fouts was 11 when he first met Chambers, a man who also coached him his first two years at Bishop Gorman High School in Summerlin, Nev., and for one year at CSN.

“(Chambers) was awesome,” says Fouts. “He’s one of the better managers of people I’ve ever been around.

“He let guys play aggressive and make mistakes.”

Fouts played his final two varsity seasons at Bishop Gorman for head coach Kenny White.

Originally committed to Auburn (Ala.) University, the righty-swinging catcher played three seasons Texas Tech University in Lubbock (2003-05), playing alongside older brother Nathan Fouts. Cooper appeared in 156 games, hitting .265 (114-of-431) with two home runs, 77 runs batted in and 76 runs for Red Raiders head coach Larry Hays.

Fouts remembers that Hays was pretty hands-off as a coach and led assistants tend to day-to-day details.

“He was a great mentor as a Christian man,” says Fouts of Hays, who concluded his Tech run in 2008. “Larry was beloved in that Lubbock community.”

Besides his brother, Fouts got to be teammates with Big 12 Conference Triple Crown winner Josh Brady, who also played at the College of Southern Nevada, and future big league pitcher Dallas Braden.

“(Braden) was one of the two best competitors I’ve ever been around in my life

(the other is Harper),” says Fouts, who still has occasional contact with the two players.

Fouts was drafted twice — the first time in the 26th round by the Oakland Athletics in 2001 — but decided a pro baseball playing career was not for him.

He picked up his diploma on a Saturday and began coaching on Brandon Gilliland’s staff at Lubbock Christian School two days later in 2006.

Fouts was born in Kokomo, Ind., in 1983. At 7, he moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he attended St. Thomas Aquinas School. 

After Cooper turned 11 in 1994, the Fouts family moved to Las Vegas and lived there through his high school days with the exception of a one-year stay in Memphis, Tenn.

Cooper and Bri Fouts are to celebrate 10 years of marriage July 24. The couple have three children — daughter Harper (who turns 8 July 29) and sons Emmit (who turns 6 on July 10), and Nash (who turns 4 on Aug. 18).

Cooper Fouts has been a Purdue University baseball assistant coach since the 2019 season. He is a native of Kokomo, Ind., and played high school and junior college baseball in Nevada and NCAA Division I baseball in Texas. (Purdue University Photo)

Purdue’s Marx feels at home leading hitters or pitchers

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Chris Marx prides himself on his versatility as a college baseball coach.

The Evansville, Ind., native has been in charge of hitters and — more recently — he has led pitchers.

“It was a seamless transition,” says Marx. “Hitting and pitching are extremely similar. Working from the ground up, you’re trying capture the most energy in your pitch or swing.”

The way Marx sees it, hitters and pitchers are both rotational athletes.

Marx, a graduate of Mater Dei High School (2003) and the University of Southern Indiana (bachelor’s degree in 2008 and master’s in 2010) in Evansville, was hired as the pitching coach at Purdue University in West Lafayette, bringing wife Niki (a Mater Dei graduate) and sons Clayton (5) and Maddox (3) back to Indiana. The Boilermakers were 7-7 when the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic brought the 2020 season to a premature end.

Marx presented “Pitching From the Ground Up” at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic in Indianapolis in January.

Marx asks his pitchers to establish some feel and command in the strike zone and develop an efficient delivery.

He also has them go through a physical assessment to see if the athletes can get into the necessary positions. They are checked for hip, ankle and T-Spine mobility as well as core stability.

When it comes to the motion, it’s important to “disassociate the hips from the shoulders.”

“We try to get the guys to feel the kinetic chain from the ground up,” says Marx. “We’re getting our lower half out of the way.

“We want to get to a hinge position (basic deadlift position where our butt is behind our heel). We want to sit back as opposed to sit down.”

The aim is for pitchers to get our hand to move toward the catcher’s glove and our target for as long as possible.

Marx shared a Tweet from New York Mets right-hander Marcus Stroman that sums up the desired approach: “For my young ones asking me about mechanics. This is the position I try to master. I feel unbelievably strong here. Ribs down, core engaged and glutes turned on. Upper body relaxed. Opposite of max effort. I want to be effortless. My arm is just along for the ride!”

Says Marx, “We say that just about everyday — ‘hips lead the hand’ or ‘arm just along for the ride.’

“This is what we want them to feel in their catch play and, ultimately, getting on the mound.”

Basic movements or check points that Marx stresses include getting to the top of the leg lift, the hinge position, getting the lower half to lead and staying closed on top.

When Purdue was in action, pitchers had two velocity days a week — one live and one bullpen. They threw medicine balls and work on creating a consistent delivery.

They were asked to go through their motion six or seven days a week to create muscle memory.

“We want to do it early,” says Marx. “We are dealing with rotational athletes that are sitting in class all day and not rotating. We want to wake up those muscles as soon as they get to the field. We want to set a really good movement pattern before we pick up a baseball.

“Hopefully we recognize when we’re outside that muscle memory and can make one-pitch adjustments to get back into the zone.”

On the mental side, pitchers were encouraged to find an aggressive, consistent thought process and to set their focus.

“We want to own our routines,” says Marx. “We use our breath to trigger our last thought. It helps us choose our last thought before we deliver our pitch.”

Positive self talk goes along with routines.

“Confidence is probably your most important thing when you’re out there standing on the mound,” says Marx. “We get into a lot of stressful situations. We want to get to the peak state of mind so our body is doing what it’s trained to do. We don’t have to think about anything, we can just compete and enjoy the moment.”

Before getting to Purdue, Marx was an assistant at Campbell University (2015) in Buis Creek, N.C., University of Arkansas-Little Rock (2012-14) and Southern Indiana (2008-11). As the necessity arose, Marx was both a pitching coach and hitting coach at Campbell and Little Rock as well as recruiting coordinator.

At USI, head coach Tracy Archuleta took over pitchers and let Marx lead Screaming Eagles hitters.

What is impressive about Arch is his ability to wear a bunch of different hats (and teach different) facets of the game,” says Marx. “He was extremely consistent. He was the same guy every single day.

“The moment was never seemingly too big because of that.”

Southern Indiana won an NCAA Division II national title with Marx on staff in 2010.

Middle infielder Marx played for Darin Knight at Mater Dei.

“He was an awesome guy,” says Marx of Knight, who guided the Wildcats to an IHSAA Class 2A state title in 1999 and is now MD’s principal. “He was a really good leader and extremely well-respected.

“He was a guy I really enjoyed playing for.”

Marx spent two seasons with head coach Dennis Conley at Olney (Ill.) Central College.

“He had the respect of everybody in the town,” says Marx of Conley. “It was like he was the mayor of Olney it seemed. I absolutely loved playing for him.”

One thing Marx appreciated about Conley was that he was steady.

“He was the same guy everyday,” says Marx.

He finished his eligibility with two seasons at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., where Scott Norwood was the Tigers head coach and Justin Haire was an assistant. Norwood hired Marx at Little Rock and Haire had Marx on his Campbell staff.

“Extremely passionate” is how Marx describes Norwood. “We were going to compete everyday. Practice was going to be difficult everyday. We knew he wanted to win.”

OBU won 50 games in 2007.

Playing for and coaching with Haire, who too to the diamond the University of Indianapolis for Gary Vaught, Marx got to experience his high energy.

Haire’s predecessor as Campbell head coach was Greg Goff, who is now head coach at Purdue.

What strikes Marx about Goff?

“His positive attitude is the biggest thing,” says Marx. “He has infectious energy around the office. Guys really enjoy going to field to work.

“He’s a lot of fun to be around.”

The Boilers staff also features pitching coach Cooper Fouts, volunteer Harry Shipley and director of player development John Madia.

Since the shutdown, coaches have been getting players to stay on top of their academics while also reflecting the season and looking ahead to the summer and fall. While there are no currently games to attend, Marx says coaches have been looking at potential recruits.

CHRISMARXPURDUE

Chris Marx, an Evansville, Ind., native, was hired as an assistant baseball coach at Purdue University in the summer of 2019. He has been in charge of the Boilermakers pitchers. (Purdue University Photo)