Tag Archives: Hawks

‘Name on the front’ important to Winkelseth, Decatur Central Hawks

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

One of the pillars of baseball at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis involves selflessness.
Hawks head coach Sean Winkelseth wants his young men to concern themselves more with the needs of others than themselves.
As the 2022 season approaches, Decatur Central players have already contributed nearly 200 hours of community service.
They’ve helped clean up the grounds at Decatur Central Little League (where Winkelseth and junior varsity coaches Jim Bushee and Todd Conn are on the board), worked at elementary school carnivals and more.
“There’s been a lot of volunteer efforts,” says Winkelseth, who was a Hawks assistant for one season prior to taking over the program in 2019-20. “We’re trying to be seen in the community as a positive.”
In playing as a catcher/utility infielder for Ryan Kelley at Wayne State University in Detroit Winkelseth was exposed to this mentality and the 2017 WSU graduate has adopted it.
“(Coach Kelley) is by far my biggest mentor for coaching,” says Winkelseth. “He just really instilled the importance of playing for the name on the front of the jersey. The team is is more important than an individual.”
Winkelseth says Kelley is focused on making leaders who became successful as husbands and father.
“He cared for us more than on the baseball field,” says Winkelseth, whose wife Madison went from Avon, Ind., to play volleyball at Wayne State and is now a speech language pathologist at Central Elementary School in the Beech Grove school district. The Winkelseths wed in August 2018.
Sean Winkelseth is a fifth grade teacher at Valley Mills Elementary School in Decatur Township.
A 2012 graduate of Ypisilanti (Mich.) High School, Winkelseth played his last three prep seasons for Chris Dessellier.
He admires the Grizzlies head coach for building relationships with players.
“He was getting to know guys and investing time,” says Winkelseth. “I still talk with him today.”
Winkelseth also coached for the Michigan Bulls travel organization the summers before and after his final season at Wayne State.
Decatur Central (enrollment around 1,800) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian, Plainfield and Whiteland).
The 14 MSC games are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as a home-and-home series.
In 2021, the Hawks were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Avon, Brownsburg, Plainfield (host), Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Decatur Central has won 16 sectional crowns — the last in 2019.
The Hawks play home games at Phil Webster Baseball Complex, named for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. Phil Webster is now back as an assistant at Pike with son Todd after a stint as Southport head coach.
Recent field upgrades at Decatur Central have been made the the bases, home plate area and infield skin.
Winkelseth’s varsity coaching staff in 2022 includes Alan Curry, Brandon Curry, Nick Jenkins and Noah Klick. Pitching coach Alan Curry is a longtime DC assistant. Brandon is Alan’s son. Jenkins is director of Armstrong Pavilion, Decatur Township’s health and fitness center. DCHS teacher and volunteer Klick played at Tiffin (Ohio) University.
Besides Decatur Central Little League (T-ball to age 12), the high school’s feeder system includes seventh grade and eighth grade teams at Decatur Central Middle School.
While current players are contemplating offers, Decatur Central has sent several recent graduates on to college baseball, including 2017 graduate Bradley Brehmer (Indiana University), 2018 grads/twins Alex Mitchell (Indiana Tech) and Austin Mitchell (Indiana Tech), 2020 alums Timmy Casteel (Manchester) and Brayden Hazelwood (Indiana University Southeast) and the Class of 2021’s Nico Avila (Marian University’s Ancilla College) and Bryce Woodruff (Marian University’s Ancilla College). Avila was an all-Marion County catcher in 2021.

Sean Winkelseth.
Decatur Central High School players do community service by cleaning up at Decatur Central Little League in Indianapolis.

Right-hander Brehmer opts to transfer to Indiana University

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

Bradley Brehmer is another pitcher who has decided to conclude his collegiate baseball career at Indiana University after beginning it out-of-state.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound right-hander joins former University of Louisville righty Jack Perkins on the Hoosiers staff for 2021-22. Brehmer made the announcement July 12.
“I can develop a little more and be a better draft pick,” says Brehmer, 21. “I was a Hoosiers fan growing up and this a better opportunity for me.”
A 2018 graduate of Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis who was selected in the 23rd round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Baltimore Orioles but decided to go to college, Brehmer hurled the past three seasons (2019-21) for Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
In 32 games for the Alex Sogard-coached Raiders (29 starts), Brehmer went 15-8 with a 4.54 earned run average. In 168 1/3 innings, he racked up 136 strikeouts with 53 walks.
The 2021 season saw Brehmer make 14 starts and go 8-4 with a 4.11 ERA. He had 85 K’s and 25 walks in 76 2/3 innings. He fanned 11 batters in 6 2/3 innings April 23 at Northern Kentucky.
After entering the NCAA Transfer Portal and making a visit to Bloomington, Brehmer opted to transfer to IU.
Brehmer committed to Wright State as a high school junior when Jeff Mercer was the WSU head coach. Mercer moved to Indiana for the 2019 season.
“Mercer keeps it real,” says Brehmer. “He makes you work hard and I like that. I like to to be pushed.
“I work hard. I’m a leader when I’m around everybody. I’m confident in my ability on the field. I’m very positive.”
Brehmer was impressed that Hoosiers pitching coach Justin Parker had a plan set up for the right-hander.
The 2021 summer started with Brehmer making two starts for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League then shut it down and to get ready for the 20-round MLB Draft. Teams contacted him, but offers were too low and he was not selected.
Five pitches are in Brehmer’s arsenal — four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, change-up and curveball.
In the spring, he sat at 91 to 94 mph with his four-seamer, hitting 96 in his May 7 start against Milwaukee.
Brehmer says his slider is “like a gyro ball.”
“It spins and gravity takes in down,” says Brehmer. “It goes to the back foot of lefties.”
Dropping down a little from his high three-quarter arm slot, Brehmer throws a four-seam “circle” change.
His curve has a 12-to-6 action.
In the past year, he has learned new grips for his change-up, slider and curve.
At 6-6, Brehmer can use leverage to his advantage. He grew several inches in high school. He entered Decatur Central around 5-8 and a couple of years later he was 6-4. Jason Combs was his head coach with the Hawks. He won 19 games with a 1.88 ERA and 192 strikeouts in four years. In 2018, he was an all-stater and all-Marion County.
Brehmer also played two years each of football and basketball at Decatur Central before focusing on baseball.
Born in Greenwood, Ind., Brehmer moved to Camby, Ind., at age 5 and lived there until moving to Southport as a high school junior.
Growing up, Brehmer played shortstop, third base and a little first base and catcher in addition to pitcher. He played travel ball for the Decatur Hawks — coached by Dan Brehmer (his father) and Dave Harper — from 7U to 12U. He then spent a few summers with the Indiana Mustangs, one with the Indiana Prospects and his 17U and 18U seasons in 2017 and 2018 with the Indiana Braves, coached by Steven Mirizzi.
In the summer of 2020, Brehmer pitched for the Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. He also worked out at Pro X Athlete Development at Grand Park as well as Players Performance Factory in Mooresville, Ind.
With his workload for Wright State in the spring (72 innings), Brehmer did not play in the summer of 2019, but took classes and worked out.
Bradley has four siblings — half brother Blake, stepsisters Reese and Payton and stepbrother Logan. His mother is Cristen Brehmer. His stepmother is Jessica Brehmer.

An Organizational Leadership major at Wright State, Brehmer says he is considering a change to Sports Management at IU.

Bradley Brehmer (Indiana University Image)
Bradley Brehmer (Wright State University Photo)
Bradley Brehmer (Wright State University Photo)
Bradley Brehmer (Wright State University Photo)
Bradley Brehmer (Wright State University Photo)
Bradley Brehmer (Wright State University Photo)
Bradley Brehmer (Wright State University Photo)

West Lafayette native Bridge gets hot in final season with Southeastern Fire

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

After making three other college baseball stops, Carter Bridge is a productive player with a perennial NAIA powerhouse.

Bridge, a 2016 graduate of Harrison High School in West Lafayette, Ind., spent time with Western Michigan University, Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., and Indiana University has been at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., the past two seasons.

He has been introduced to a winning culture established by Fire head coach Adrian Dinkel and his staff.

“I didn’t know about Southeastern when I was getting recruited,” says Bridge, 22. “I just needed to find a school in Florida. I wanted to play down there.

I get here and find out they are a top five team in the country. They win 40-plus games every year. This team we have right year can go and compete with most (NCAA) D-I ’s.”

Bridge says the Fire’s first mission was to win the Sun Conference and then set its sights on the NAIA College World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.

No. 2-ranked Southeastern (47-7) host the five-team NAIA Opening Round Lakeland Bracket. SEU’s first game is tonight (May 17) against the USC-Beaufort (S.C)-Fisher (Mass.) winner in Winter Haven.

The righty-swinging Bridge is a utility player. As he grew up, Bridge played all over the infield. In college, he’s been in the infield and the outfield. Last year at Southeastern, he was in center field. Now he’s in right field.

In 47 games (30 starts) this spring, Bridge is hitting .357 (45-of-126) with seven home runs, eight doubles, 33 runs batted in, 39 runs scored, 7-of-9 in stolen bases and a .986 OPS (.399 on-base percentage plus .587 slugging average).

“The confidence I have in the (batter’s) box is unmatched right now,” says Bridge. “I get in there and I’m like, ‘throw me something I can hit.’

“I’ve always been a pretty good hitter. I’ve known that I can hit. It’s always like a mental thing for me.”

A pinch-hit home run April 17 against Florida Memorial led to a start in SEU’s next game and built Bridge’s confidence. 

“My mindset’s been a complete 180 (from the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021,” says Bridge, who is in his last year of college eligibility. “I stopped putting pressure on myself and starting playing the game like I did when I was a little kid. It’s fun. Enjoy it.”

In 2020 — a season that ended prematurely because of the COVID-19 pandemic — Bridge played in 26 games (21 starts) and hit .370 (27-of-73) with four homers, five doubles, 20 RBIs, 21 runs, 4-of-6 in stolen bases and a 1.056 OPS (.453 on-base percentage plus .603 slugging average).

Bridge completed an Executive Leadership undergraduate degree at Southeastern last year and is well into earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Executive Leadership.

“I’ve always focused on baseball,” says Bridge. “These degrees are definitely helping me further my knowledge in the business world. That’s what I want to do when I’m done with baseball.

“It’s also really helped with my leadership skills. I’m able to communicate better with people.”

Brian and Shanna Bridge have two children — daughter Hunter and son Carter. Dad works for Lafayette Masonry, Mom for State Farm Insurance and sister for Purdue University. Only Carter did not attend Purdue.

Bridge was at Western Michigan for the fall semester of his freshman year then transferred to Heartland, where he spent his freshman spring and all of his sophomore year.

With the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II member Hawks, he was able to build a brotherhood.

“I was able to build those relationships with those guys I knew absolutely nothing about,” says Bridge. “In my sophomore year (2018), we were the No. 2 team in the country. We were a really good team. That stemmed from the brotherhood that team had built.”

Bridge was recruited to Indiana by Chris Lemonis and Kyle Cheesebrough, but both coaches left for Mississippi State. Bridge got into three games with the 2019 Hoosiers and transferred to Southeastern. 

Bridge was born and grew up in the West Lafayette area. His first travel ball team — the Tippecanoe Wolfpack — was started by his father. 

Then came the Northern Baseball Club Stars and Indiana Bulls with head coach Dan Held.

Bridge played for Pat Lowrey at Harrison.

“He introduced me to what I should expect at the college level,” says Bridge, who was the Lafayette Journal & Courier Big School Player of the Year with the Raiders. “He’s also big on the little things — the fine little details of the game.

“That’s what makes him really good coach. He doesn’t let things slide. He’s really stern and he knows what he’s doing.”

Carter Bridge (Southeastern University Photo)

As first official practice approaches, Hensley heading up HAST Hawks

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There’s a place where a baseball can be pitched and struck in Indiana and land in Illinois.

That place is Hermits Park in the 4200 block of Dearborn Avenue on the north side of Hammond, Ind.

In the spring of 2021, the big diamond — where a home run to left field or deep center can clear the state line which cuts through the outfield — will be home to the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology (HAST) baseball program. The school’s softball team will also play at Hermits.

Dennis Hensley, who has been affiliated with the Hammond Hermits Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth League for 19 years and was with Robertsdale Youth Baseball before that, was just named HAST Hawks head coach.

“We started a partnership last year then COVID hit and everything stopped,” says Hensley. “We were one of the last (youth baseball/softball) associations to fold. We were down to only our high school level team that traveled.”

In the fall, Hermits Outlaws played in a fall league at the Ho Chunk Sports Complex in Lynwood, Ill., which is 12 miles southwest of Hermits Park.

Hensley, who is assisted by Travis McKimmey and Ryan Massey, held his last HAST baseball call-out meeting March 11 and has had 10 coming to conditioning sessions. There is hope that more will joint the team. The first IHSAA practice is Monday, March 15. 

“We have a real fresh batch,” says Hensley, noting there a a few players who’ve played high school baseball with others who have been away for years or are fairly new to the sport.

“We’ll start with new or younger guys,” says Hensley. “But we gladly accept that challenge.

“There might be more of a level playing field since everybody did not play last year.”

While the focus this spring will be on a varsity team, Hensley says he hopes to bring baseball to middle schoolers — at HAST and the surrounding area — through the partnership with Hermits.

Hammond Academy of Science and Technology (enrollment around 300) is an independent and not affiliated with the conference.

The Hawks are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with 21st Century Charter-Gary, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Kouts, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township and Westville

The IHSAA announced this week that Washington Township will be sectional host.

HAST’s first appearance in the state tournament series was in 2017. The Hawks have not won a sectional championship.

While changes continue to be made to the schedule, Hensley says he expects his club to have around 20 regular-season games.

HAST, which was established in 2010, is a charter school focused on both science and technology with a heavy emphasis on a small teacher-to-student ratio. It is both a high school and middle school with grades ranging from 6-12.

Not affiliated with HAST, School City of Hammond currently has four high schools — Hammond, Clark, Gavit and Morton — and will cut down to two. 

The district is scheduled in 2021-22 to have Hammond and Clark combine into the new Hammond Central with current Gavit students being divided between Hammond Central and Morton.

“It’s always sad to see a part of someone’s history go,” says Hensley, a 1988 Clark graduate. “But we’re looking for change and something new.”

Dennis and Gail Hensley have been married for 26 years. The couple has two adult children — Taylor (25) and Dennis (20). 

Gail Hensley works for the City of Hammond.

Taylor Hensley, who played volleyball and basketball at Whiting (Ind.) High School, graduated from Calumet College of St. Joseph and is with the Merrillville Police Department. 

Dennis Hensley, a five-year cancer survivor, played baseball at Whiting and now works at Wolf Lake Terminals. 

An aerial view of Hermits Park in Hammond, Ind., with the big diamond split by the Indiana-Illinois State Line in the foreground.
Dennis Hensley is the head baseball coach at Hammond (Ind.) Academy of Science and Technology. The Hawks first played in the IHSAA state tournament series in 2017.

Former Indiana Tech pitcher Kowalski coaching at Northland College

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Adam Kowalski is getting a chance to make his mark as a college baseball coach. He is months into his job as an assistant at NCAA Division III and Upper Midwest Athletic Conference member Northland College in Ashland, Wis. 

Working for head coach and Northland alum Jeremy Snow, Kowalski is in charge of the LumberJacks pitchers.

It’s a different path than Kowalski was on just a few years go when he stepped away from the college world as a player after a discouraging first experience. 

The pitcher from Arlington Heights, Ill., lost his passion.

And that doesn’t work for the 6-foot-4 right-hander.

“I’m not the kind of guy who does not want to do something unless I’m totally devoted to it,” says Kowalski, who spent his first year out of Buffalo Grove (Ill.) High School, where he played for Jeff Grybash and graduated in 2013, on the roster at North Park University in Chicago but did not get into a game. “It was a wake-up call at North Park that set the tone for me personally: You need to figure yourself out.”

Kowalski was prepared for a life outside of baseball. Then found himself back on a diamond in men’s league and decided to give the college game another try. 

He spent 2015-16 at Harper College, a National Junior College Athletic Association Division III school in Palatine, Ill. He appeared in nine games (five starts) for Hawks head coach Cliff Brown with one win and three complete games.

Kowalski decided to transfer to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he spent his first season on the Tech developmental squad following a summer in the Indiana Summer Summer Collegiate League season with the Fort Wayne Kekiongas managed by then-Tech assistant Pat Collins-Bride.

The summer of 2018, Kowalski played with the Kyle Floyd-managed Saginaw (Mich.) Sugar Beets then the 2019 campaign with the Tech varsity and recently finished the course work for a Criminal Justice degree from school.

In the Summit City with the Kip McWilliams-coached Warriors, Kowalski’s baseball fire stoked. 

The big righty struck out 10 in 9 1/3 innings out of the bullpen and was an Ultimate Warrior nominee in 2019. Tech went to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. 

It’s that connection with McWilliams and others at Tech that helped him get on the coaching staff of Steve Jaksa at NCAA Division II Saginaw (Mich.) Valley State University in University Center, Mich., as a volunteer for 2019-20 and land his current role on the banks of Lake Superior. He arrived on-campus at Northland this fall.

“It’s not what you know or who you know, it’s who knows you,” says Kowalski, 25. “If not for my time of Indiana Tech and that period of growth, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It helps to have those types of guys in your corner and speaking for who you are and has seen you put in the work.

“There are people who made me realize who I am and what I can do. I’m very grateful for staff at Indiana Tech, my former teammates, the people I competed against. I now have chance to be a major part of changing a program.”

It’s not lost on Kowalski that he’s starting a coaching job in the middle of a global pandemic.

“It’s an interesting time,” says Kowalski. “I sincerely things will clear up and we can return back to the things we love to do.

“We got through a full fall season — with mainly instrasquads. We were just beginning our off-season training when everything shut down.

It started out with student-athletes in a hybrid — some online classes and some in-person — then only those with prior approval were allowed to stay on-campus.

Kowalski says the LumberJacks were beginning to develop a team identity when they were told to go home.

“It’s a day-to-day process and our guys have done a tremendous job every day we get to practice together,” says Kowalski. “These are smart players. We were teaching some of the bigger concepts and faster-moving practices were becoming ingrained.”

Like at Indiana Tech, Kowalski sees player development at Northland as a personalized experience.

“We’re not trying to create carbon copies,” says Kowalski. “We want everyone to maximize their strengths while improving their weaknesses.”

A Kinesthetic or hands-on learner, Kowalski uses YouTube videos and other resources to take in concepts that he passes on to his players.

He’s also using things he’s learned about Driveline and Ground Force Sports (makers of the King of the Hill training device) and using it to make his LumberJacks better.

While there are a few volunteers, much of the coaching load falls to Kowalski and Snow. The latter is a 2010 NC graduate and spent 2019-20 as an assistant at the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima after four seasons as head coach at Lourdes University in Sylvania. Both are NAIA members.

Snow and Kowalski have been busy with recruiting players to the school located 70 miles east of Duluth, Minn. and 260 miles northwest of Appleton, Wis. Ashland is a town of about 8,000 and fishing and hunting is popular with residents and Northland baseball players. When Snow was a player, they put a deer stand on a foul pole and brought down an animal with a bow.

Though he grew up in a metro environment and has never hunted, Kowalski has been taking a hunting safety course.

Adam Kowalski, who played baseball at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind., and has completed his course work toward at Criminal Justice degree from the school, started this fall as the pitching coach at NCAA Division III Northland College in Ashland, Wis. (Indiana Tech Photo)
Former Indiana Tech pitcher Adam Kowalski is now the pitching coach at Northland College in Ashland, Wis. Occasionally, the right-hander who went to Buffalo Grove (Ill.) High School, jumps on the mound to participate in a scrimmage. (Northland College Photo)