Dave Griffin is heading into his 10th season of coaching college baseball in northwest Indiana in 2023. After six seasons in charge at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond (the Warriors won an IHSAA Class 2A state title in 2004 and were 2A state runner-up in 2006), Griffin established the Purdue Calumet program and coached the Peregrines for three seasons (2014-16). Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central merged to form Purdue Northwest and Griffin has led the Pride since the 2017 season. The first alumni game was played in October 2022. “Overall it’s gone pretty well,” says Griffin of the merger. “The big challenge was you had a couple of coaching staffs and a lot of players you had to mold into one. “Taking the program to (NCAA) Division II was another challenge.” The 2018 campaign marked PNW’s first in D-II after starting out as an NAIA member. The Pride are part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “If you’re an established program it won’t take as long, but we hadn’t been that long so it took a little time,” says Griffin of the level change. “It’s been a journey to say the least.” The 2017 team went 30-18. PNW posted a 18-25 mark in 2018, 21-24 in 2019, 4-5 in 2020 (a season shortened by COVID-19), 11-22 in 2021 and 21-23 in 2022. For 31 years, the coach has operated Dave Griffin Baseball School. The past 25 years it has been located in Griffith. The organization will field 11 travel ball squads — the Indiana Playmakers — in 2023. Griffin coaches the 17U/18U squad, which helps him with recruiting. “I get to go out and see kids play,” says Griffin. “That’s always been a good formula for me.” Griffin says when it comes to recruiting, there’s more to it than the numbers hyped on social media. “When you say velocity that doesn’t equate to being a good pitcher,” says Griffin. “When you say exit velocity that doesn’t equate to being a good hitter. At some point you’ve got to be able to play. “It think they tried the same thing in football at the (NFL) Combine. If he ran real well or lifted real well they drafted him high. A lot of times those didn’t work out too well. “Nobody cares about how they perform. What are their metrics? Don’t get me wrong. Metrics are good, but you’ve got to be able to perform. The challenge we all encounter is finding kids that have metrics that match the ability on the field.” Griffin notes that even professional scouts often get player evaluations wrong. “You try to do your homework on a kid as much as you can. We’re talking about scholarship kids,” says Griffin. “On walk-on kids you might take a flier. He might not be fully-mature physically. He might be a late bloomer. Those kids come along, too.” More 1,500 DGB alums have gone on to college baseball and over 70 have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, including Sean Manaea, Kody Hoese, Ryan Basham and Nick Podkul. Chad Patrick pitched for PNW and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. “I’ve put a lot of time into both jobs,” says Griffin. “I wake up early and I come home late. “It’s fun. I like watching the development of players.” Because of the talent in The Region and the low cost of education at the school where most student takes classes on the Hammond campus (there is a Westville site), PNW gets some bounce-backs from other institutions. “Kids see that we are starting to build a solid program here,” says Griffin. “It checks a lot of boxes for them.” The bulk of the current roster comes from Indiana and Illinois. There are players from Michigan, California, Iowa and Texas. D-II teams are allowed to give up to nine scholarships. PNW is short of that number. “We’re working our way up,” says Griffin, who currently has 47 players on his roster. Of that number, 35 will be on the travel squad. As well as overseeing the whole team, Griffin works primarily with hitters and defense. Hobart (Ind.) High School graduate and former University of South Carolina hurler Brandon Murray is the pitching coach. Former PNW player Anthony Agne is in charge of infielders and former Robert Morris University (Lansing, Ill.) assistant Adam Pasko outfielders. PNW plays its home games at Laborers’ Local 41 Field in Hammond’s Dowling Park. “I like the turf and the ambiance of it, being in a neighborhood,” says Griffin. “It’s a good place to play. The sight lines are tremendous.”
IHSBCA HALL OF FAME 2022 BALLOT Coaches Brian Jennings (Retired) A 1987 graduate of Whiting High School and 1991 graduate of Indiana State University, Jennings began his coaching career at Whiting in 1996 and moved to Griffith High School in 1999 (retiring in 2022). His teams won 14 sectional and four conference and made a trip to the state championship game in 2001, losing to Indianapolis Cathedral. During his 27 years as a varsity coach, he won 448 games. He is a four-time conference coach of the year and one-time district coach of the year. Forty players went on to play college baseball and four in pro ball, including 2019 first-rounder Kody Hoese (Los Angeles Dodgers), and seven were selected as North/South All-Stars. He was served on numerous IHSBCA committees, coached in the 2012 North/South All-Star Series in Jasper and organized the 2016 games in Whiting. He has announced the IHSAA State Finals for several years on the IHSAA Champions Network via radio and television. He is currently an assistant principal at Griffith and resides in Whiting with wife Luann. Brian has two stepchildren — Ashley and Steve.
Lea Selvey (Retired) A graduate of Redkey High School, University of Evansville (bachelor’s) and Ball State University (master’s), Selvey spent his entire career at Jay County — five years as an assistant and 34 as head coach (retiring in 2022) — and won 530 games with seven sectionals and three regionals. His teams have won five Olympic Conference titles and he was named OC Coach of the Year three time. He also has an Allen County Athletic Conference crown to his credit. Selvey was a District Coach of the Year in 2019. He has served the IHSBCA as president, a regional representative and been on numerous committees and been an All-Star assistant twice. He’s also been a Regional Coach of the Year. Selvey has coached 14 All-Stars and had numerous players go on to college baseball with two being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and two others playing independent pro ball and overseas pro baseball. He coached the 1992 NABF Topps Player of the Year. Selvey started the junior high program at Jay County and has been active with the Summit City Sluggers travel organization for nine years. He has also been involved with cross country, boys basketball and girls basketball over the years. Lea and wife Denise have three children (Josh, Kristen and Kyle (wife Leah) and currently teaches Science at Jay County High School.
Dean Lehrman (Active) A graduate of Heritage High School and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Lehrman was a four-year baseball letterman in high school and pitched four years in college. He has been a head baseball coach of 44 years — nine at Woodlan and 35 at Heritage (current). His teams have won 665 with 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles along with eight sectionals, three regionals and one semistate. There’s been three Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish (2007). He’s an eight-time ACAC Coach of the Year. He’s also been a District Coach of the Year and twice been on the All-Star coaching staff. He also coached football for 39 years, including six as head coach (40-26). Dean and wife Janice have three children (Camryn, Derek and Ryne) and four grandchildren. Dean retired from teaching math at Heritage High School in 2020.
Gary Rogers (Active) A graduate of Merrillville High School and Huntington College, Rogers has been a head coach of 34 years — 32 at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and two at Leo (current) with 513 wins. His Luers teams won four sectionals, one regional, one semistate and one state championship (2008). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2008 and has twice been a District Coach of the Year. He has been on numerous IHSBCA committees and is very active in the Fort Wayne baseball community. He was a volunteer assistant at Indiana Tech for many seasons, worked the Wildcat League for 33 years and is on the board of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association (he is an NEIBA Hall of Famer).
Kelby Weybright (Retired) A graduate of North White High School, he played three years at Blackburn College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. Following one season as a North White assistant, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 as head coach at Norwell High School. There he compiled a record of 243-93 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball. His Norwell teams won two conference, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles. The Knights were Class 3A state champions in 2003 and 2007 and state runners-up in 2006. The 2006 and 2007 teams were a combined 64-2, including 35-0 in 2007 (the third unbeaten team during the IHSAA tournament era). That team finished No. 10 in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports. Weybright was IHSBCA 3A coach of the year in 2003 and 2007 and Northeast Eight Conference coach of the year in 2006 and 2007. Twenty-two players went on to college baseball with six North/South All-Star Series selection (he was head coach in 2007 and series co-chair in Fort Wayne in 2011). Four players were taken in the Major League Baseball draft with two making the big leagues. Weybright has been on the IHSBCA executive council and served as the group’s president (2012-13). He remains active as a 3A poll voter. He is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball team occasionally during the season and the summer developmental period. He resides in Bluffton with wife Lisa, a teacher at Norwell Middle School. The couple has three children (Garrett, 23, Jacob, 20, and Maria, 19).
Tim Terry (Active) A graduate of Clinton High School and Indiana State University (bachelor’s and masters), Terry has been a baseball coach for 43 years — 41 as head coach — with 620 wins and eight sectionals. His teams have won 20 or more games 10 times and he has been a conference Coach of the Year on nine occasions. He has twice been a District Coach of the Year, served as an IHSBCA All-Star coach twice and coaches several All-Staters and All-Stars. He’s been on many IHSBCA committees. Terry played football, basketball and baseball at Clinton and baseball and Indiana State before an injury sidelined him. He was a South Vermillion High School assistant in 1979 and 1981 and Turkey Run High School head coach in 1980. He became SVHS head coach in 1982. He has also coached many Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and travel ball teams. He’s been a varsity football coach for three years and girls basketball coach of 34. In three sports, he has 922 victories. Terry was an Industrial Arts and Physical Education teacher and has been South Vermillion athletic director for the past six years. Tim and wife Kim (an SVHS Science teacher) have four boys (T.J., Carlton, Cooper and Easton).
Kyle Kraemer (Active) A 1986 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, Kraemer was an IHSBCA first-team all-state selection as a senior and played in the North/South All-Star Series. He played four years at Purdue University under IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dave Alexander. As a senior, he was team captain and led the Boilermakers with 10 home runs. Kraemer will begin his 29th season as South Vigo in 2023. His record is 535-255-2. Coach K was also an assistant at Harrison (West Lafayette) in 1992 and South Vigo in 1993 and 1994. His first season leading the Braves was 1995. Seventy-five players have gone on to the next level, including eight professionals. There have been 64 all-conference selections (42 Metropolitation Interscholastic Conference and 22 Conference Indiana). Eight players have been on the IHSBCA Academic All-State Team, 12 in the North/South All-Star Series and five IHSBCA first-team all-state. He has coached teams to eight conference titles (six MIC and two CI) with 10 sectional and for regional crowns and two Final Four appearances. He was named MIC Coach of the Year six times and CI Coach of the Year twice. Kraemer is an active IHSBCA member. He has been District M representative for more than 20 years and acted as hosted of the 2006 North/South Series. He was an assistant for the 2008 series. He has been on the South All-Star selection committee on numerous occasions. He has served as a 4A poll panelist the past seven years. Kraemer teaches in the CTE department at South Vigo. Wife Valerie is a fourth grade teacher in Vigo County. The couple shares three children together — Koby Kramer (with wife Seyma), Ali Gonzalez (with husband Rigo) and Jacob Givens. There are also four grandchildren (Kali and Khali Kraemer and Liam and Leia Givens).
Dave Ginder (Active) A graduate of Carroll High School and Anderson University, Ginder is 426-147 in 20 seasons as Carroll head coach with seven Northeast Hoosier Conference, 11 sectional, four regional, two semistate and two state crowns (2010 and 2011). He was the State Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011, NHC Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 and 2013 and a District Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010 and 2001. Ginder is an active IHSBCA member, having served as an All-Star coach in 2011 and many years as a member of the 4A poll panel. He has also been involved in many local baseball camps and clinics and is member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Dave and wife Kristen reside in Fort Wayne and have three children (Langston, 23, Drezdan, 21, and Jantzyn, 18). Dave teaches mat at Carroll High School and Kristen is a Registered Nurse at Parkview.
Players/Contributors Wallace Johnson (Retired) A graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School (1975) and Indiana State University (1979), Wallace played for legendary coach Bob Warn at ISU and was co-captain on the Sycamores’ first Missouri Valley Conference championship team and first NCAA Tournament team. Johnson led the nation in hitting (.502) that season and hit .422 for his college career. He was inducted into the ISU Hall of Fame in 1985. Drafted in 1979 by the Montreal Expos, Johnson was a Florida State League MVP and helped Denver (1981) and Indianapolis (1986) and Triple-A championships. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1981 and became the team’s all-time leader in pinch hits (86). For his big league career, Johnson hit .255 with five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 428 games. After his playing career, he was third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons.
Drew Storen (Retired) A 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School, he played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Pat O’Neil and was a key member of the 2005 undefeated state championship team which the Indianapolis Star deemed “the greatest high school team in Indiana history.” He was the No. 2 pitcher behind Lance Lynn as the Bulldogs were also state runners-up in 2004. Storen was 26-2 in his high school career with a 1.61 earned run average and 270 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings. He was all-state, academic all-state, a South all-star and a 34th round pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He played at Stanford University and was a two-time all-PAC-10 selection, going 12-4 with a 3.64 ERA and 15 saves, throwing mostly in a relief role. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he was chosen 10th overall for the Washington Nationals in 2009. Storen enjoyed a nine-year career with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. He went 29-18 with 99 saves. In 440 1/3 innings (all in relief), he struck out 417 and posted a 3.45 ERA. He pitched in two postseason series. He was 1-1 with a save against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 and 0-1 vs. the San Francisco Giants in 2014. Drew and wife Brittani live in Indianapolis with two boys (Jace, 5, and Pierce, 2).
Dave Taylor (Active) A standout player at Southmont High School and Wabash College (where he was team captain), Taylor coached Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, AAU and American Legion ball. During an AAU coaching stint in Florida he realized the level of travel baseball and how Indiana was underrepresented in this arena. He formed the Indiana Bulls with the vision of providing Indiana high school players with the opportunity to pursue their college and MLB dreams. In 1992, the Bulls sponsored two games and Taylor coached the 18U squad with future big leaguers Scott Rolen and Todd Dunwoody. He coached the Bulls four more seasons, served as president for 10 and officer for 20 and has been director since 1992. More than 170 Bulls players have been drafted (12 in the first round) and over 300 have received NCAA Division I scholarships. The organization has 22 national titles and a professional staff that works 12 months a year. There are currently 25 teams ages 8U to 17U. Several are coached by former professionals who played for the Bulls. Taylor resides in Brownsburg and is a leading insurance defense trail attorney, He has served 20 years as a certified Major League Baseball Players Association agent and represented more than 100 pro players. He continues to represent former players in various legal matters.
Bryan Bullington (Retired) A graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, Bullington was a two-sport athlete (basketball and baseball). As a pitcher, he was 6-3 with 74 strikeouts as a sophomore in 1997, 10-1 with 1.69 earned run average and 65 strikeouts as a junior in 1998 and 15-0 with 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts as a senior in 1999. He threw a one-hitter in helping Madison win a state championship in 1999 and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball by Hoosier Diamond. He was MVP of the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and selected in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Bullington opted to attend Ball State University. In three seasons he was 29-11. He was Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002. When he left BSU, he held school records for single-season wins (11), career wins (29), single-season strikeouts (139) and career strikeout (357) and still holds MAC single-season and career strikeout marks. He was named to the BSU Hall of Fame in 2014. Bullington, a 2001 U.S. National Team pitcher in 2001, was the No. 1 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002. He’s just one of two Indiana players taken with the top pick. He logged 12 pro seasons (missing 2006 because of a torn labrum) with a 61-38 record, 3.68 ERA and 602 strikeouts in seven minor league campaigns. In five seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, he was 46-48 with a 3.25 ERA and 550 strikeouts. He pitched in 49 MLB games with the Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Royals. Bullington lives south of Chicago with his wife and three children and is a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jeff Samardzija (Retired) A 2003 graduate of Valparaiso High School, Samardzija is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana state history. He was runner-up for Indiana Mr. Football and a three-time all-stater and all-star in that sport. In baseball, he was runner-up for Mr. Baseball as a senior and was a three-year varsity letterman, an all-state honoree and center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior. As a senior, he hit .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs. Samardzija chose to play football at Notre Dame and was invited to pitch for the Irish. He was a two-time All-American wide receiver and two-time All-American pitcher. He was a two-time runner-up for the Biletnikoff Award as the the college football season’s outstanding FBS receiver. Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick by the NFL, he opted to play baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons. Samardzija was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft by the Chicago Cubs and made his MLB debut in July 2008. He alspo played for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-20). He was an American League all-star in 2014. His career record was 80-106 with a 4.15 ERA and 1,449 strikeouts. He pitched 13 full seasons at the MLB level. Jeff and brother Sam represent a rate achievement in VHS history as all-state performers in both football and baseball.
A.J. Reed (Retired) A 2011 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, where he played for Kyle Kraemer, Reed was a three-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree, first-team All-State (2010 and 2011) and Indiana High School Player of the Year (2011). He was also an IHSBCA South All-Star and the series MVP. He is listed in the IHSBCA record for walks in a season (first) and home runs in a season (sixth). Reed played three seasons at the University of Kentucky (2012-14). After his junior year, he earned the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Golden Spikes Award (for the nation’s top amateur player), Dick Howser Trophy and Player of the Year honors from ABCA and Baseball America as well as the John Olerud Trophy and several first-team All-America mentions and Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. In 2012, he was on several first-team Freshman All-America lists. The Houston Astros selected Reed in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft and he was an All-Star in Minor League Baseball in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He was a two-time recipient of the Joe Bauman Award for leading MiLB in homers and was Rookie of the Year and MVP at Lancaster of the California League in 2015. Reed retired from baseball in May 2020 and resides in Riley with Shelby and their two dogs. He plans to return to college to finish his bachelor’s degree.
Sean Cunningham is now in charge of the baseball program at Wheeler High School in Valparaiso, Ind., after two seasons as an assistant coach. Cunningham held a call-out meeting with the Bearcats Thursday, Sept. 1. About 20 attended with several more involved in fall sports. It is hoped that Wheeler will field varsity and junior varsity teams in 2023. “We have a lot of incoming freshmen,” says Cunningham. “It will depend on numbers in the spring.” Two points of emphasis for Cunningham as he gets Wheeler ready are off-season conditioning and pitching. “With our weight lifting and running, players got a little lackadaisical last year,” says Cunningham. “They were not pushing themselves very hard. In hotter games last year the guys dragged a little bit. “Pitching was a weak point for us last year. We have a lot of talent on the mound. I don’t think its been utilized yet.” To help with that, Cunningham has brought Paul Lipski in as pitching coach. Lipski and Cunningham served together on head coach Cory Mack’s staff at Morgan Township in 2017. The Cherokees registered several earned run averages below 3.00 and went 15-12 in 2017 and 20-6 in 2018, winning an IHSAA Class 2A sectional title in the latter season. Lipski, Mack and Wheeler graduate Alex Hutman (Class of 2021) make up Cunningham’s Bearcats staff. Cunningham coached three seasons with Jeff Rochowiak at Michigan City (2018-20). Jeff Enright (now athletic director at Wheeler) was head baseball coach with Cunningham as an assistant. “I liked his whole off-field philosophy and mindset,” says Cunningham of Enright’s approach. “We work as a team. I plan to continue that same exact kind of field in the locker room and in the dugout.” Wheeler alum Rex Stills (Class of 2021) pitched in 17 games as a Purdue Fort Wayne in 2022. Mason Leckrone (Class of 2023) is currently weighing his college options. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period began Aug. 29 and goes through Oct. 15. Wheeler (enrollment around 440) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, and Whiting). There are 12 GSSC games with some teams meeting twice and other once. The Bearcats were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bowman Leadership Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Whiting. Wheeler, which calls Richard Wendt Field home, has won six sectional titles — the last in 2021. Cunningham was born in Oak Lawn, Ill., and moved to Valparaiso at 5. He played baseball for four years at Valparaiso High School — two for Todd Coffin then two for Mickey Morandini. “Todd Coffin was a small-ball coach,” says Cunningham. “We learned how to play small ball the right way. “(Mickey Morandini) was a good person.” Cunningham graduated from Purdue North Central in 2014 and began teaching elementary school in Michigan City. He is now a sixth grade math teacher at Union Township Middle School. He has also been an instructor at Triple Crown Baseball and Softball Training Center in Valparaiso though he has not worked in a few months. Sean and wife Kristen Eleftheri-Cunningham had their first child — Oliver Eleftheri-Cunningham — in June.
Jacob Hunt was born and raised in Whiting, Ind. The 24-year-old is now a first-year baseball coach and teacher at Whiting Junior/Senior High School. “I wasn’t to give back to the community and keep the baseball tradition going,” says Hunt. He was approved as head coach of the Oilers program the second week of the 2022-23 school year. Hunt, a 2016 graduate of George Rogers Clark Junior/Senior High School in Whiting who teaches Physical Education and Health at WJSHS, has met a few players. Most are on the Oiler football team. He expects to see the rest in the winter. Multi-sport athletes are the norm at Whiting (enrollment around 450), which is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest and Wheeler). The Oilers were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bowman Leadership Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Wheeler. Whiting has won four sectional titles — the last in 2019. Hunt wants to instill a “winning culture” for Whiting baseball. “I want to get as many kids into college as a I can and make sure everyone is a hard worker,” says Hunt. “We want no laziness and for them to get good grades.” Hunt says he plans to put an emphasis on conditioning with plenty of running, agility work and weightlifting. Good friend Amir Wright, who played at Ball State University in the spring and with the Frederick (Md.) Keys of the MLB Draft League this summer, has offered to help Hunt with strength and conditioning training. Playing in a big ballpark like Oil City Stadium, Hunt wants players to be able to turn balls into the gap into triples and for outfielders to track down those balls hit by the opposition. Speed and cunning on the base paths can also help fuel the offense. “If we can lead the state of Indiana in steals we’ll do it,” says Hunt. “As hitters, we want to stay inside the ball. The body is all connected together.” And another thing. “We want to have fun,” says Hunt. “Enjoy yourself while you’re out here.” Hunt has asked best friend Zach Bucsko and father Jamie Hunt to be his assistant coaches. Bucsko is a 2016 Clark graduate who pitched at Glen Oaks Community College (Centerville, Mich.). Jacob’s mother is Christine Mickles. He has two older brothers — 37-year-old twins Buddy and Jesse Hunt. Lakeshore Cal Ripken Babe Ruth Baseball/Softball League in Hammond is where Hunt played his first ball. He played four years at Clark, first seeing some time on varsity as a sophomore. Jason Ochall was the Pioneers head coach. Ochall’s message: “Be yourself.” “I remember how he cared for all of us,” says Hunt. “He trusted all of us older guys.” Hunt also played travel baseball for the Northwest Indiana Pirates in 2016 and Chicago-based Satchel Paige in 2017. He was on the Brian Nowakowski-coached baseball team at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting through 2021. In the summer of 2019, he played for the Midwest Collegiate League’s Crestwood Panthers. To explore his options, Hunt did a teaching internship through the University of Evansville in 2021-22. “I wanted to get out of the area and get out of my comfort zone,” says Hunt. “I was willing to go anywhere to coach and teach in the state of Indiana.” He wound up back home at Whiting.
Chad Patrick is in his second professional baseball season in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. He turned 24 on Aug. 14 and recently joined the Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops of the High-A Northwest League. Patrick has been pitching more than half his life. The right-hander was an 11-year-old at DeMotte (Ind.) Little League when he first took the mound. For years, he got pitching lessons from Joe Plesac and continued to develop as he moved up through Little League, Crown Point (Ind.) Babe Ruth Baseball and into high school. Born in Crown Point, Patrick moved from Hebron, Ind., to DeMotte for grades 1-7. With a chance to play ball with his cousins and to be another generation of his family to be educated there he came back to Hebron. Chad Patrick and Tyler Patrick graduated there in 2017 and Travis Patrick got his diploma in 2018. The Hebron Hawks were coached by John Steinhilber. “I like John,” says Chad Patrick. “He’s always been good to me.” Hebron amassed double digits in victories in each of the four seasons Patrick was on the varsity, including 21 his junior year of 2016 and 29 in his senior season of 2017 with a pair of IHSAA Class 2A sectional and regional titles. Patrick was named all-conference, all-area and all-state. With a chance a consistent playing time and development, the son of Dan Patrick and Jackie Edwards stayed close to home for college and went to NCAA Division II Purdue Northwest, which has campuses in Hammond and Westville. As part of the the PNW Pride, Patrick played for head coach Dave Griffin and they became close. “I think of him as my second dad,” says Patrick of Griffin. “He took care of me there. He was there any time I had a question. “Right when I met him he told me I had the stuff to be a professional baseball player. He sold me on going to Purdue Northwest instead of D-I opportunities. “He gave me that confidence.” In four college seasons (2018-21), Patrick appeared in 32 games (27 starts) and went 12-12 with a 3.36 earned run average, 211 strikeouts and 64 walks over 166 innings. Patrick has about a year to go to complete a Business Management degree. Griffin, who runs Dave Griffin’s Baseball School (a training facility with travel teams in Griffith, Ind.), has that kind of diploma. “At some point I’d like to do that on the side,” says Patrick. “Not for the money but to give back to kids and whatnot.” His pitching coach at PNW was Shane Prance. “He’s become a really good friend of mine,” says Patrick of Prance (who is now head baseball coach at Portage High School). “He helped me out last off-season and will probably help me this off-season. It depends if I spend it in Arizona or Indiana.” The righty spent the summer of 2018 with the Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen (Whiting, Ind.) and the summers of 2019 and 2020 with the Northwoods League’s Traverse City (Mich.) Pit Spitters. Patrick was selected by the Diamondbacks in the fourth round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He got into two games with the Low-A California League’s Visalia (Calif.) Rawhide and went 0-0 with 4.76 ERA, six strikeouts and one walk over 5 2/3 innings. Spring training for 2022 in Scottsdale, Ariz., saw Patrick break his right wrist. He was a part of pitchers’ fielding practice on a half field when he fell on concrete. He did a rehab stint with the Arizona Complex League’s Diamondbacks Black then moved on to Visalia and then Hillsboro. For the season, he had made eight appearances (five) and is 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA, 31 strikeouts and nine walks over 21 2/3 innings. Patrick is part of a five-man rotation. “I’ve got a routine now,” says Patrick, who does interval training and some light running or biking on the day after a start, long toss and a bullpen session on Day 2 and then does lifting and works on his pitches leading up to the next start and a chance to compete. “That’s my greatest asset,” says Patrick of his competitiveness. “I’m going to have my best stuff. Nobody likes to lose at what they’re good at. “What I’ve learned about myself (as a pro) is that it’s a grind and I have the will to work hard everyday. I show up everyday with a good attitude. It comes pretty easy to me. “If you love what you do you’re not working.” The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder uses three pitches form a three-quarter arm slot — slider, four-seam fastball and change-up. His slider runs away from a right-handed hitter. His four-seamer gets up to 94 mph. “My change-up, I just learned in it Visalia,” says Patrick. “It’s probably my best pitch right now. It just dives.” Dan Patrick works for Area Sheet Metal in Hobart. Jackie Edwards is a Registered Nurse. Chad has three older sisters (Katrice, Taylor and Shanan) and a younger brother (Cole). The girls were in various sports at Kankakee Valley. Cole participated in swimming and track and spent two years each at Kankakee Valley and Hebron.
Jeff Rutherford takes over as head coach at Griffith (Ind.) High School with plans to have the same kind of emphasis he has put forth throughout his coaching career. “I like the offensive side,” says Rutherford, who takes over for Brian Jennings who retired at the end of the 2022 season. “I like to run a lot, hit-and-run and bunt-and-run. “We’ve always been offensive-minded. We get a guy on and we’re going to do what we can to get him over.” Rutherford was on the Griffith staff in 2019 and has also assisted Dave Griffin at Purdue Calumet and Purdue Northwest and coached travel ball with the Indiana Playmakers and a Cal Ripken all-star team. The 45-year-old played baseball for East Chicago (Ind.) American Legion Post 266 and graduated from Hammond (Ind.) High School. Two sons — Julian Rutherford (Class of 2018) and Jaylen Rutherford (Class of 2025) — have played baseball for Jennings at Griffith. “What Jennings has done there has been great,” says Rutherford. “He’s been a big staple at Griffith. It was hard to see him leave (the baseball post). I watched him coach both of my kids and couldn’t be happier with the coaching he’s done. “Jennings always been a great guy. I wish him all the best.” Julian Rutherford played at Wabash (Ind.) College and is now employed by U.S. Foods. Jaylen Rutherford was on the Panthers varsity as a freshman outfielder and sometimes lead-off hitter and is one of the few non-upperclassmen expected to represent the program in 2023. Griffith (enrollment around 600) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Boone Grove, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central,Lake Station Edison, River Forest, South Central of Union Mills, Wheeler and Whiting). The Panthers were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional in 2022 grouping with Andrean, Calumet New Tech and Gary West Side Leadership Academy. Griffith has won 18 sectional titles — the last in 2021. “It’s a great opportunity and I look forward to continuing the tradition of success,” says Rutherford. “I can’t wait to get started.” He is looking to build his coaching staff, tapping into some of his younger former players. He also hopes to have players come to IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities Aug. 29-Oct. 15. “I plan on some long toss,” says Rutherford. “We can get a few of the players familiar with each other. Most of the (2022) team comes back. Quite a few starters are playing another sport.” Rutherford believes in the multi-sport athlete. “I think they should play as much as they can,” says Rutherford. “Holding them to one sport doesn’t benefit them.” Recent graduates Bubba Davenport (Calumet College of Saint Joseph) and Kyle Iwinski (Kankakee Community College and headed to Purdue University) are playing college baseball. Rutherford says he wants to have camps for Griffith Youth Baseball players. “(GBL) is basically the only feeder system,” says Rutherford. “We have to pull from our own town.” Outside of coaching, Rutherford is a public works supervisor for the City of Hammond. Besides sons Julian (22) and Jaylen (15), he and wife Heather have a daughter Jaesela (11).
Sal Aguilar has been a part of baseball success as a player and an assistant coach. He was the starting third baseman for the Hammond (Ind.) Chiefs that went to the Babe Ruth Baseball World Series. The 1998 graduate of Griffith (Ind.) High School was on the coaching staff at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., as the 59ers won IHSAA Class 3A state championships in 2018 and 2019 — two of eight state titles on Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur’s watch. Aguilar’s first year as an assistant at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind., was 2021 and the Wildcats finished as Class 3A state runners-up. Ryan Bridges let his team know that the 2022 season would be his last as Hanover Central head coach since he was taking a job at the school as assistant athletic director to Kelly Bermes. In June, Aguilar was hired to head the Wildcats baseball program. “We have great kids and great community support,” says Aguilar. “We’re excited to embark on this new chapter of Hanover Central baseball. We have a very bright future “We’re not going to shy away from the ultimate goal which is to win a state championship.” Hanover Central (enrollment around 775) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Hammond Bishop Noll, Boone Grove, Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, South Central of Union Mills, Wheeler and Whiting). The Wildcats were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Culver Military Academy, John Glenn, Kankakee Valley, Knox and River Forest. Hanover Central has won two sectional crowns — 2011 (2A) and 2021 (3A). Players from the Class of 2021 included outfielder Jared Comia (now at the University of Illinois), 6-foot-9 right-handed pitcher Peyton Olejnik (who went to Triton College in River Grove, Ill., and is heading to the University of Oklahoma in 2022-23), left-hander/infielder Bret Matthys (Purdue Northwest) and infielder Blaze Cano (who is transferring from PNW to Calumet of St. Joseph in Whiting). Three athletes in the Class of 2023 expected to play at the next level include shortstop/pitcher Zach Zykowski, pitcher Luka Zakman and two-sport standout Gannan Howes (who is getting attention in baseball and football). Aguilar came to Hanover Central as a teacher in 2020-2 and is entering his 16th year in the classroom. He taught seven years in Texas, three in Illinois and this will be his sixth in Indiana. He instructs HCHS freshmen in Integrated Chemistry and Physics (ICP). Born in Munster, Ind., Aguilar spent his first nine years in East Chicago, Ind. After fourth grade, he moved to Griffith and attended St. Mary School then went to Griffith High School for four years. He earned three baseball letters for the Todd Iwema-coached Panthers. Aguilar played for the Hammond Seminoles in 1997 then for Dave Sutkowski’s Hammond Chiefs in 1998 and 1999. “The kids call him Bush,” says Aguilar of Sutkowski. “I learned a lot from Dave as a young kid about building relationships with players.” One way to do that at Hanover Central is through junior high baseball program. Thirty players in grades 6-8 play and practice in the fall. “That’s a huge asset for our program,” says Aguilar. “It’s all hands on deck here so varsity coaches are going to run that team. We’re going to be able install and implement our brands of offense and defense. “We get to cultivate those lifelong relationships with those kids at a very young age.” Aguilar’s coaching staff includes four Hanover Central graduates — Nic Sampognaro (Class of 2011) with the varsity, twins Sam Momcilovic (Class of 2019) and Evan Momcilovic (2019) with the junior varsity and Mike Biegel (Class of 2018) as freshman head coach. Former Hammond Bishop Noll and Merrillville head coach Paul Wirtz lends his experience to the varsity staff. Jesse Forrester (Lowell Class of 2019) is a freshman assistant. Aguilar finished his college degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2006. His teaching and coaching career began shortly after that. He came back to Indiana and married Griffith alum Brittany Clark in 2016. Sal and Brittany Aguilar have two children — Luis (5) and Gianna (2). “(Brittany) knows it’s not easy being a coach’s wife,” says Sal. “We’re lucky to have family around to help us out.”
Johnny Maynard is not yet sure where he’ll throw his next regular-season collegiate pitch. But he is certain how he will approach baseball. The way he always has — with a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality. “It’s how I raised by my parents,” says Maynard, who turns 22 today (June 30). “Whatever you start you have to finish. I never quit anything ever. Always go full-out. “I really don’t care who I’m competing against, I know they’re not going to beat me. I’m a 5-foot-10 right-handed pitcher. I’m usually one of the smaller guys on the team. I have to work harder to the get the results and earn respect.” Maynard (rhymes with Play Hard), a 2019 Griffith (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School graduate who is now in the Transfer Portal after two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., (2020 and 2021) and one at NCAA Division I Radford (Va.) University. The Sports Management and Marketing major hurled 5 1/3 innings in six appearances for the 2022 Highlanders. Alex Guerra was hired as Radford head coach after the season. This summer, Maynard is pitching for the Coastal Plain League’s Jeremy Knight-coached Asheboro (N.C.) ZooKeepers. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Maynard uses on four-seam fastball, one-seamer, curveball and change-up. The four-seam sits 87 to 89 mph and has been up to 92. “The one-seamer (finger on just one seam) I learned this year,” says Maynard. “My two-seamer was not moving the way I wanted it to. (The one-seamer) gets pretty good movement away from a lefty and has pretty good sink to it. It works off my (circle) change-up (which is generally thrown 82 to 84 mph.” Maynard employs a curve that is 1-to-7 on the clock face. “It drops off the table pretty well,” says Maynard. Born in Munster, Ind., Maynard moved to Griffith as a sixth grader. He played in Munster and Griffith youth leagues then went into travel ball and suited up for the Northwest Indiana Shockers, Steelheads, Cobras, Slammers, Hammond Chiefs and 18U Midwest Irish. At Griffith High, Maynard played four years for Panthers coach coach Brian Jennings, starting as a freshman. “He’s a great guy,” says Maynard of Jennings, who retired after the 2022 season. Lincoln Trail coach Kevin Bowers allowed the righty got to close some games for the Statesman. One of his highlights is slamming the door on highly-ranked John A. Logan during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Maynard split the summer of 2019 between the Irish and Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen. He also got in a few innings with that Whiting-based team in 2020. He was with the Tropics of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2021, which allowed him to work at home and then commute two-plus hours to games. Johnny’s mother, Jen Maynard, is a cardiac tech in northwest Indiana. Father Mike Maynard is recently-retired and living in Florida. Sister Lauren Maynard played and coached softball at Purdue Northwest and is now in nursing school.
Left-handed pitcher Zack Thompson, who was a star at Wapahani High School in Selma, Ind., and the University of Kentucky, made his Major League Baseball debut when he earned a four-inning save for the St. Louis Cardinals June 3 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Thompson, 24, has made 10 starts for the Triple-A Memphis (Tenn.) Redbirds in 2022 and is 2-2 with a 4.67 earned run average. Zach McKinstry (Fort Wayne North Side/Central Michigan) has split his time between the minors and the big-league Los Angeles Dodgers and the lefty-swinging infielder is currently on the active roster with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. He made his big league debut in 2020. McKinstry, 27, is hitting .335 with three home runs and 20 runs batted in over 164 MiLB at-bats and is 1-for-5 with LA — the hit being a June 3 two-run home run off New York Mets right-hander Chris Bassitt. Right-hander Ryan Pepiot (Westfield/Butler) had made his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 11. He is back with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. Pepiot, 24, is 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA in nine appearances for OKC and 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three games (11 1/3 innings) in the big leagues. Many other players are also on active rosters in the minors. Right-hander Luke Albright (Fishers/Kent State) is with the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Albright, 22, is 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in 10 starts. Third baseman Cole Barr (Yorktown/Indiana University) plays for the High-A Everett (Wash.) AquaSox (Seattle Mariners). Barr, 24, is hitting .172 with three homers and 17 RBIs. Right-hander Gabe Bierman (Jeffersonville/Indiana) toes the rubber for the Low-A Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads (Miami Marlins). Bierman, 22, is 2-2 with a 4.28 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts). Right-hander Garrett Burhenn (Lawrence North/Ohio State) takes the bump for the Low-A Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers (Detroit Tigers). Burhenn, 22, is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts. Lefty-swinging outfielder Zach Britton (Batesville/Louisville) is with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays). Britton, 23, is hitting .206 with four homers and 11 RBIs. Right-hander Zack Brown (Seymour/Kentucky) is one step from the majors with the Triple-A Nashville (Tenn.) Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers). Brown, 27, is 1-0 with two saves and a 3.54 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Outfielder Drew Campbell (Jeffersonville/Louisville) swings from the left side for the High-A Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves). Campbell, 24, is hitting .266 with one homer and 22 RBIs. Left-hander Jacob Cantleberry (Center Grove/Missouri/San Jacinto) is with the High-A Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers) in Midland, Mich. Cantleberry, 24, is 2-1 with one save and a 6.10 ERA in 13 games out of the bullpen.
Right-hander Adysin Coffey (Delta/Wabash Valley) is on the Development List as a reliever with the Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox).
Coffey, 23, is 2-2 with two saves a 7.30 ERA in 13 games. Lefty-swinging outfielder Craig Dedelow (Munster/Indiana) takes his cuts for the Double-A Birmingham (Ala.) Barons (Chicago White Sox). Dedelow, 27, is hitting .226 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs. Lefty-swinging second baseman Clay Dungan (Yorktown/Indiana State) is with Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals). Dungan, 26, is hitting .204 with three homers and 18 RBIs. Outfielder Elijah Dunham (Evansville Reitz/Indiana) bats lefty for the Double-A Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees) in Bridgewater, N.J. Dunham, 24, is hitting .346 with seven homers and 27 RBIs. Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Zionsville/Wake Forest) is spinning pitches for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland Athletics). Dunshee, 27, is 1-5 with a 7.24 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).
Righty-swinging outfielder Matt Gorski (Hamilton Southeastern/Indiana) is with Double-A Altoona (Pa.) Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates).
Gorski, 24, is hitting .290 with 19 homers and 46 RBIs. Left-hander Timmy Herrin (Terre Haute South Vigo/Indiana) takes the mound for the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers (Cleveland Guardians). Herrin, 25, is 0-2 with one save and a 4.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Right-hander Bryan Hoeing (Batesville/Louisville) challenges hitters for the Triple-A Jacksonville (Fla.) Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins). Hoeing, 25, is 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts. Lefty-swinging outfielder Jacob Hurtubise (Zionsville/Army) is with the Double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds). Hurtubise, 24, is hitting .299 with no homers and five RBIs. He has spent some time on the IL. Right-hander Drey Jameson (Greenfield-Central/Ball State) fires it for the Triple-A Reno (Nev.) Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks). Jameson, 24, is 3-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). Catcher Hayden Jones (Carroll/Mississippi State/Illinois State) is also a lefty swinger and plays for the Low-A Daytona (Fla.) Tortugas (Cincinnati Reds). Jones, 22, is hitting .210 with one homer and eight RBIs. Righty-swinging catcher Scott Kapers (Mount Carmel, Ill./Valparaiso) is with the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers). Kapers, 25, is hitting .257 with five homers and 16 RBIs. Lefty-swinging first baseman Niko Kavadas (Penn/Notre Dame) competes for the Low-A Salem (Va.) Red Sox (Boston Red Sox). Kavadas, 23, is hitting .253 with seven homers and 31 RBIs. Right-hander Chayce McDermott (Pendleton Heights/Ball State) journeys around the circuit with the High-A Asheville (N.C.) Tourists (Houston Astros). McDermott, 23, is 5-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 12 games (six starts). First baseman Jacson McGowan (Brownsburg/Purdue) plies his trade with the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays). McGowan, 24, is hitting .276 with one homer and two RBIs. He has been on the IL in 2022. Right-hander Zach Messinger (Castle/Virginia) hurls for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees). Messinger, 22, is 0-4 with two saves and a 4.85 ERA in 18 games (15 in relief). Right-hander Evan Miller (LaPorte/Purdue Fort Wayne) works mostly out of the bullpen for the Triple-A El Paso (Texas) Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres). Miller, 27, is 1-2 with two saves and a 6.59 ERA in 21 games (19 in relief). Lefty-swinging shortstop Colson Montgomery (Southridge) is with the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox). Montgomery, 20, is hitting .295 with four homers and 23 RBIs. Righty-swinging infielder Nick Podkul (Andrean/Notre Dame) was with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays). Podkul, 25, is hitting .178 with two homers and nine RBIs. Left-hander Triston Polley (Brownsburg/Indiana State) has been a reliever for the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers). Polley, 25, is 6-2 with one save and a 5.67 ERA in 16 games (all out of the bullpen). Outfielder Grant Richardson (Fishers/Indiana) bats lefty for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees). Richardson, 22, is hitting .207 with two homers and 16 RBIs. Left-hander Andrew Saalfrank (Heritage/Indiana) is a reliever for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Saalfrank, 24, is 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in 17 bullpen games. Andy Samuelson (LaPorte/Wabash Valley) pitched for the Rookie-level Braves (Atlanta Braves) until retiring June 11. Samuelson, 23, pitched 1/3 of an inning in 2022. Right-hander Caleb Sampen (Brownsburg/Wright State) pours it in for the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays). Sampen, 25, is 1-12 with a 5.02 ERA in nine appearances (five starts). He has been on the IL in 2022. Right-hander Reid Schaller (Lebanon/Vanderbilt) is part of the bullpen for the Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators (Washington Nationals). Schaller, 25, is 2-0 with one save and a 2.89 ERA in 14 bullpen contests. Lefty-swinging outfielder Nick Schnell (Roncalli) is back on the field after a long injury-list stint. He plays for the Low-A Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs (Tampa Bay Rays). Schnell, 22, was activated May 31 and is hitting .333 with no homers and six RBIs. The “Diamonds in the Rough” podcast features Schnell and Cole Wilcox. Left-hander Garrett Schoenle (Fort Wayne Northrop/Cincinnati) mostly comes out of the bullpen for the High-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox). Schoenle, 23, is 3-1 with one save and a 1.39 ERA in 14 games (13 in relief). Left-hander Avery Short (Southport) has been starting for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks). Short, 21, is 0-4 with a 4.58 ERA in nine starts. Left-hander Tommy Sommer (Carmel/Indiana) is a starter for the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox). Sommer, 23, is 2-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 starts. Right-hander Skylar Szynski (Penn) was drafted in 2016 and has missed much time because of injury. He is Low-A Stockton (Calif.) Ports (Oakland Athletics). Szynski, 24, is 1-1 with a 12.66 ERA in 15 bullpen games. Right-hander Nolan Watson (Lawrence North) is mostly a reliever for the Double-A San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres). Watson, 25, is 1-2 with a 7.76 ERA in 14 appearances (12 in relief). Among those on the 7-day injury list are right-hander Sam Bachman (Hamilton Southeastern/Miami of Ohio) with the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas (Los Angeles Angels) in Madison, Ala., righty-swinging third baseman Kody Hoese (Griffith/Tulane) with the Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers), right-hander Michael McAvene (Roncalli/Louisville) with the High-A South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs) and righty-swinging third baseman Riley Tirotta (Mishawaka Marian/Dayton) with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays). Bachman, 22, is 0-0 with a 1.98 ERA in four starts. Hoese, 24, is hitting .284 with three homers and 21 RBIs. McAvene, 24, is 0-0 with a 40.50 ERA in one relief appearance. Tirotta, 23, is hitting .209 with three homers and 20 RBIs. Right-hander Tanner Andrews (Tippecanoe Valley/Purdue) with the Triple-A Sacramento (Calif.) River Cats (San Francisco Giants), right-hander Pauly Milto (Roncalli/Indiana) with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox) and righty-swinging third baseman Hunter Owen (Evansville Mater Dei/Indiana State) with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates) are on the 60-day IL. Andrews, 26, is 0-0 with an 11.12 ERA in four relief games. Milto, 25, is 0-0 with a 3.07 ERA in nine games (eight in relief). Owen, 28, is hitting .256 with no homers and five RBIs. He made his MLB debut in 2021.
Illiana Christian was plenty successful on the baseball diamond when the high school was in Lansing, Ill. As recently as 2004 — with Dave Beezhold as head coach — the Vikings qualified for the Illinois state tournament and went 27-8. In 2018, Illiana Christian relocated from Lansing, where it was founded in 1945, to an incorporated area of Dyer, Ind. In 2020-21, it became a full Indiana High School Athletic Association member. The 2022 Vikings won the program’s first IHSAA sectional and regional titles and are one win away from the State Finals. In earning a date opposite No. 3-ranked Wapahani (24-4) in the 2A Kokomo Semistate at noon Central Time Saturday, June 11, Illiana Christian won the Whiting Sectional (Bowman Academy 19-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 3-1 and Wheeler 16-4) and Whiting Regional (Winamac 11-1 and Eastside 7-0). Alum and former Beezhold assistant Jeff VanderWoude’s first year leading the Vikings was 2019-20 — the season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Illiana Christian went 19-6 and lost 2-1 to Wheeler in the 2A Whiting Sectional championship game. VanderWoude sees the closeness of the players and a willingness to put others before themselves has been a formula for success. “We’ve been getting them to buy in and loving each other,” says VanderWoude. “We don’t have a ‘me’ person. “We are controlling the controllable. “They play as one really well. In the game against Eastside, we were competing one pitch at a time.” Emphasizing the mental side, VanderWoude has seen his players adjust when there is a temporary lack of focus. Illiana Christian (enrollment around 480) joined the Greater South Shore Conference (with baseball members Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, Wheeler and Whiting) in 2021. With the addition of the Vikings, the conference is broken into divisions with teams playing two games with their division and one against squads in the other division. Illiana Christian is paired with Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll and Hanover Central. The 2022 Vikings went 8-3 in the GSSC, finishing behind Hanover Central (10-1) and tying Griffith (8-3). Through 24 games, Illiana Christian was led offensively by junior pitcher Kevin Corcoran (.468 average, four home runs, 34 runs batted in, 11 stolen bases), senior center fielder Ivan VanBeek (.421, 18 RBI, 22 SB), senior second baseman Levi Hescott (.368), senior left fielder Tyler Barker (.339, 27 RBI), the coach’s son — sophomore shortstop Isaac VanderWoude (.333, 15 RBI, 19 SB) and junior first baseman Cody DeJong (.329, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB). The bulk of the pitching has been handled by left-hander Corcoran (3-1, 2.29 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 13 walks 39 2/3 innings), right-hander VanBeek (2-2, 1.58, 44 K’s, four walks, 31 IP) and senior lefty Austin Maslanka (3-0, 2.10, 34 K’s, 10 walks, 20 IP). Assistant coaches are Shane Zegarac, Dale Meyer, Kevin Corcoran, Caleb Jonkman, Greg Gierling and Bo Hofstra. “We are where we are because of those guys,” says VanderWoude. “They are salt of the earth people.” Zegarac pitched for Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., Eastern Kentucky University and in the Texas Rangers system plus independent ball. Corcoran is a graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. Illiana Christian alum Meyer played at Southern Illinois University. Hofstra pitched for Illiana Christian and Purdue University. Jonkman, who has been National Wiffle@Ball Player of the Year more than once, and Gierling are also IC grads.
Others with Illiana Christian connections are grad Fletcher Bandstra at Calvin College (Grand Rapids), Carter Doorn (from IC to Lake Central to Purdue University) and former Vikings player D.J. Gladney (Chicago White Sox organization). The Vikings have on-campus diamond which is tended to by coaches and Dave Vermuelen (the father of former player Chris Vermuelen). “It’s a nice field,” says VanderWoude. “In Illinois, we used limestone. We have a fairway mower and put designs in the field. It gets constant water and treatment. “We’re taking pride in what we have.” After graduating from Illiana Christian in 1997, outfielder Jeff VanderWoude played for Cobras head coach Rod Lovett at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and then for Tigers head coach Beauford Sanders at Campellsville (Ky.) University. VanderWoude was on the Parkland coaching staff of Dave Seifert, who went on to be an assistant then head coach at the University of Evansville. As a Philadelphia Phillies regional cross-checker, he had VanderWoude working for him for about a decade. VanderWoude, runs Perm-A-Seal — an asphalt maintenance business in Lynwood, Ill. — with father Keith. Jeff and wife Jori have four children. Besides Isaac (16), there’s Lydia (15), Mya (13) and Hayvn (9). Lydia VanderWoude played varsity softball as an Illiana Christian freshman in 2022. Mya VanderWoude is heading into the eighth grade and Havyn VanderWoude fourth grade.