Tag Archives: HCAC

For Anderson U. coach Bair, it’s about more than what happens on the field

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

Matt Bair has been head baseball coach at his alma mater — Anderson (Ind.) University — for four seasons.
Save 2020 in which the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the campaign to nine games, the Ravens have averaged 23 victories and qualified for the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) postseason each time with Bair in control.
Anderson produced the HCAC Pitcher of the Year (John Becker) in 2018 and HCAC Player of the Year (Joe Moran) in 2019.
The ’21 Ravens went 23-19 overall, 20-17 in the conference and 14-7 on Don Brandon Field.
Those are accomplishments, but it’s not what Bair (who earned his bachelor’s degree in Education at AU in 2001 and his Master’s degree in Athletic Administration from at Ball State University in 2005) hangs his hat on.
“More than anything you just want to instill a great culture and great chemistry into these guys and give them a unified vision that we can get behind as a program,” says Bair, who attended the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. “We try to give them some missions that they can focus on every single day. As much as anything, I just try to show them how much I love them beyond the field of play. I feel like we’ve been able to do that successfully within the program.
“At the same time we’ve been able to bring in some really talented recruits.”
Anderson opens the 2022 season Feb. 12 at Sewanee (Tenn.). Games are slated against Otterbein, Wittenberg and Concordia Chicago Feb. 25-26 at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. The first home game is to be March 5 against St. Norbert.
All the while the words of former Ravens coach — Dr. Don Brandon — echoes.
“The best is yet to come,” says Bair of the Hall of Famer’s motto. “We’ve got guys who believe the best is on the horizon. But they love where they are. They know they’re surrounded by people that love them and who think about them more than just baseball players.
“They’re in a great place where they can grow personally, professionally and as a player.”
There are 41 players on the current published roster and all but one has a hometown in Indiana. The backgrounds are varied and so is the knowledge.
“We want to bring guys into our program that don’t necessarily think just like we think,” says Bair. “We like to be challenged. We’re looking for recruits who fit the core skill sets of what we think can be a championship-caliber player.
“More importantly, they have the character that we’re looking for in an Anderson University baseball player. We want guys with really high competitive motors but, ultimately, they care as much about their teammates, the game and the love of the process that they’re going through as they do themselves.”
The Ravens are part of NCAA Division III.
“D-III is kind of a unique model,” says Bair. “We get them for a certain period of time in the fall. Then you don’t totally set them free, but you’re not having daily interactions with them. They’ll send you a text or a phone call, but you’re not coaching them for awhile.
That’s where self-motivators and some leaders come in, guiding the team until they get back together with coaches in January.
To help AU players prepare for this phase, they are in classroom sessions and learning about this mentality.
“When they do have some time that’s on their own they’re not lost and still feel that the time can be well-spent,” says Bair. “I think it’s important that the onus falls on them because that is life.
“When they leave Anderson University there’s not going to be a person standing there telling them why, where and how. They’re going to have to be able to go out and self-create and self-motivate, punch through the red tape at times to get what it is that they want.”
The goal is for the student-athlete to receive a degree in four years. It is a balancing act with time for classes and studying as well as games and practices.
“We work and collaborate academically and athletically,” says Bair. “I know they relationships I have with those professors and how hard they work to allow our guys flexibility in their day and in their schedule so that they don’t feel torn between the two.”
For the most part, classes are complete by 3 p.m., making way for team practice. But sometimes small groups for pitchers or hitters will meet in blocks during the day to get in work.
“We set it up that way to be done with practice in plenty of time for them to get on with their evening and — you know — enjoy campus life and be able to study, take care of their diet and nutrition, and get the rest they need.”

Anderson (Ind.) University head baseball coach Matt Reida at the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. (Steve Krah Photo)

NABF salutes Fort Wayne’s Rachlow as Umpire of the Year

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

Fort Wayne’s Bob Rachlow was named 2021 Umpire of the Year by the National Amateur Baseball Federation at the 107th NABF Major/Unlimited Division World Series in Battle Creek, Mich.
Rachlow has made many calls from Little League to college to men’s wood bat league to professional over the years.
It was as a Little League coach that spark ignited his start as an umpire.
Guiding his son’s team in a district game, he did not see eye-to-eye with the men making the calls that day. He said as much to the tournament director.
“I’ll expect to see you at our classes next winter” was the reply.
“I went in not knowing anything,” says Rachlow. “How much I did not know was scary.”
Rachlow closely studied the rules, started at the youth level and soon got recruited for high school ball.
“You have to know the rules cold,” says Rachlow. “I thought I knew the rules as a coach.
“As umpires, we have to know all the rules — and not just fair/foul, ball/strike.”
There’s also game management.
“A lot of people can do 90 percent of it, but to move up you must have a feel for the game,” says Rachlow. “You can’t umpire by the book. You have to umpire with the book.
“Sometimes it’s the spirit of the rule.”
By 2009, he was working a college baseball schedule.
An owner for nearly 19 years with Luminary Wealth (formerly Capstone Advisors) — a financial investment firm in Fort Wayne — Rachlow has a partner that allows him the flexibility to work games in the NAIA-affiliated Crossroads League, NCAA Division III’s Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, occasional NCAA Division I or as a minor league fill-in for the the High-A Central League’s Fort Wayne TinCaps.
“It’s unbelievably a neat thing to do,” says Rachlow of the pro experience. “If I’m in front of 1,000 people that’s a big crowd for my usual games. There’s the sounds and the cheering (at Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field). You take that all in and it’s all directed at the field of play. As a fan you’re on the other side.
“I’m very grateful to be able to do that.”
Many of his assignments come through the College Baseball Umpires Association.
Each February, Rachlow escape the Indiana cold and goes to Port Charlotte, Fla., to umpire in the Snowbird Baseball Classic — a series of games involving NCAA D-I and D-III teams. The event is to include Indiana State University in 2022.
“I get some games under my belt before the Indiana season,” says Rachlow. “I also use it as a family vacation. My wife (Darlene) and dog come down. I get to umpire. She gets to go on the beach. It’s kind of a win-win.”
Bob and Darlene have two sons — Aaron (who turns 29 Sunday) and Nathan (26). Both played high school baseball.
Fort Wayne Black Christian School and Cedarville (Ohio) University graduate Aaron Rachlow began umpiring 10-year-old girls softball when he was 12 and is now a Cincinnati-based college umpire with a wife and a toddler.
Nathan Rachlow played in Fort Wayne’s Wildcat Baseball League and graduated from Lakewood Park Christian School and Indiana Tech.
Bob Rachlow hails from Itasca, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago. He played baseball at Lake Park High School, where he graduated in 1979. He earned an Actuarial Science degree from the University of Iowa and went from Louisville to southern California and wound up to Fort Wayne in 1990.
Rachlow keeps a spreadsheet tracking his umpire assignments. He worked 124 games in 2021 and 114 in 2019. There was a dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of his spring games are of the college variety. In the summer, Rachlow umpires in the Fort Wayne Baseball Federation as well as the Indiana Summer Collegiate Summer Baseball League and Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
Rachlow recalls an unusual play in one of his collegiate games.
With a runner at first base, a batter hit a liner to shortstop, who guided the ball with his glove to the ground then picked it out of the dirt and threw to second second for a force and the second base relayed to first base for an apparent double play.
“I had read about this in the rule book but had never seen it happen in real life,” says Rachlow. “I was the base umpire, and when I turned to see the shortstop ‘drop the ball,’ I called time – called the batter-runner out and put the runner back on first base. Then I turned to the shortstop and said, ‘nice try!’ He just grinned and shrugged his shoulders.
“What I thought was interesting was when he got back to the dugout, the coach called him over and said, ‘that may work in Little League, but not here at the collegiate level. What you should have done instead was catch the ball and fire it over to first base to double off the runner as he was initially running when the ball was hit.’
“Good teaching moment!”

Bob Rachlow.

Darlene and Bob Rachlow, the 2021 National Baseball Federation Umpire of the Year at the 107th NABF Major/Unlimited Division World Series in Battle Creek, Mich.
Bob Rachlow, the 2021 National Baseball Federation Umpire of the Year, and umpire in chief Dan Eversole at the 107th NABF Major/Unlimited Division World Series in Battle Creek, Mich.

Notre Dame advances to Super Regional; slates close for ISU, IUS

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

Notre Dame powered its way to a South Bend Regional championship and now the Irish know they will play host and No. 7 national seed Mississippi State in the NCAA Division I tournament‘s Starkville Super Regional (the Bulldogs went unbeaten in winning the Starkville Regional, which wrapped Monday, June 7).
The winner of that best-of-3 super regional series June 11-14 at Dudy Noble Field/Polk-DeMent Stadium will advance to the eight-team College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Former Indiana University head coach Chris Lemonis is the bench boss for the MSU Bulldogs.
Link Jarrett is in his second season as head coach at Notre Dame (33-11).
The No. 10 seed Irish lashed 49 hits with 23 for extra bases and 15 home runs in beating Central Michigan 10-0, Connecticut 26-3 and Central Michigan 14-2 Friday through Sunday June 4-6 at Frank Eck Stadium in taking the South Bend Regional.
Irish senior first baseman Niko Kavadas (Penn High School graduate) belted two home runs and drove in four runs in the first win against CMU.
The lefty slugger that smacked two homers and drove in eight against UConn. In the second game against Central Michigan, Kavadas hit one homer (his school record-setting 21st of the season) with one RBI.
The other dingers rang off the bats of junior Carter Putz (4), senior Ryan Cole (3), junior Brooks Coetzee (2) and senior David LaManna.
Indiana State saw its season end at the Nashville Regional hosted by Vanderbilt. The Mitch Hannahs-coached Sycamores lost 7-6 to Georgia Tech, beat Presbyterian 9-2 and lost 9-0 to Georgia Tech.
Redshirt junior Jordan Schaffer (West Vigo High School) hit .367 with seven homers, one triple, 10 doubles, 34 runs batted in, 52 runs scored and 11 stolen bases for ISU (31-21).
Indiana University Southeast was greeted by a large crowd when it got back to New Albany after its first appearance in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
Playing May 28-June 1, Ben Reel’s Grenadiers (50-16) topped against Concordia (Neb) 4-2, lost 11-5 to Central Methodist (Mo.), bested Keiser (Fla.) 9-7 and lost 14-10 to Faulkner (Ala,).
For the season, senior Matt Monahan (who missed the World Series because of injury) hit .428, junior Brody Tanksley (Bedford North Lawrence High School) drove in 70 runs and junior Clay Woeste (Lawrenceburg High School) stole 38 bases.
Georgia Gwinnett — coached by former Saint Joseph’s College (Rensselaer, Ind.) assistant Jeremy Sheetinger — won the red banner as 2021 NAIA national champions. Sheets returned to coaching this season after serving with the American Baseball Coaches Association. He hosts the Dugout Chatter Podcast Powered by Stick & Ball TV.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through June 7
NCAA Division I
Ball State 38-18 (25-11 MAC)
Notre Dame 33-11 (25-10 ACC)
Evansville 28-27 (11-16 MVC)
Indiana State 31-21 (14-10 MVC)
Indiana 26-18 (26-18 Big Ten)
Purdue 14-25 (14-25 Big Ten)
Butler 14-23 (8-13 Big East)
Valparaiso 16-35 (9-19 MVC)
Purdue Fort Wayne 11-35 (8-28 HL)

NCAA Division II
Indianapolis 27-21 (19-13 GLVC)
Southern Indiana 24-20 (18-14 GLVC)
Purdue Northwest 11-22 (5-19 GLIAC)

NCAA Division III
Franklin 25-14 (23-12 HCAC)
Earlham 25-20 (21-18 HCAC)
Rose-Hulman 23-14 (23-12 HCAC)
Anderson 23-19 (20-17 HCAC)
Hanover 20-20 (20-18 HCAC)
Manchester 19-22 (19-20 HCAC)
Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC)
DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC)
Trine 6-28 (6-17 MIAA)

NAIA
Indiana University Southeast 50-16 (26-1 RSC)
Indiana Wesleyan 44-14 (28-4 CL)
Taylor 37-20 (24-12 CL)
Indiana Tech 35-27 (16-6 WHAC)
Saint Francis 34-22 (23-13 CL)
Huntington 33-16 (23-13 CL)
Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC)
Marian 25-29 (17-19 CL)
Indiana University South Bend 24-24 (19-11 CCAC)
Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC)
Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL)
Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL)
Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC)
Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL)

Junior College
Ivy Tech Northeast 31-25
Vincennes 24-31 (11-21 MWAC)
Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA)

Conferences
NCAA Division I
Big Ten
Atlantic Coast (ACC)
Big East
Horizon (HL)
Mid-American (MAC)
Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II
Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)
Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III
Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)
Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA
Crossroads League (CL)
Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)
Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)
River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College
Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)
Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Niko Kavadas (U. of Notre Dame Photo)

IU Southeast dodges elimination at NAIA World Series; Notre Dame, Indiana State get NCAA bids

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana University Southeast was a winner in its first-ever NAIA Baseball World Series game. 

The Grenadiers beat Concordia (Neb.) 4-2 Friday, May 28 in Lewiston, Idaho.

The next day IUS fell 11-5 to Central Methodist (Mo.) and played in an elimination game Monday, May 31 against Keiser (Fla.). 

IU Southeast (50-15) was a 9-7 winner in that one. The Grenadiers  face Faulkner (Ala.) today (June 1).

The NAIA Word Series continue until June 4.

Notre Dame and Indiana State are the teams from the state making the NCAA Division I tournament (the draw for the Road to Omaha was announced Monday).

After beating Virginia Tech 8-0 and losing to Virginia 14-1 at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., the Irish will host the South Bend Regional. It will be the first time postseason baseball has been at ND since 2004.

Each regional field features four teams, playing in a double-elimination format. All 16 regionals are scheduled to be conducted from Friday, June 4 to Monday, June 7 (if necessary).

Notre Dame (30-11) plays Central Michigan (40-16) at 1 p.m., followed by Connecticut (33-17) against Michigan (27-17) at 7. Irish head coach Link Jarrett was named the ACC Coach of the Year.

Indiana State went 3-2 at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in Carbondale, Ill. — beating Illinois State 5-2 and Southern Illinois 11-8, losing to Dallas Baptist 10-1, beating Southern Illinois 9-7 then losing to Dallas Baptist 12-8 (in 11 innings).

The Sycamores are in the Nashville Regional. Georgia Tech (29-23) plays Indiana State (30-19) at 1 p.m. Friday while Vanderbilt (40-15) takes on Presbyerian (22-21) at 7.

Indiana State earned its 11th NCAA postseason appearance in program history and the third under head coach Mitch Hannahs.

Ball State (38-18) swept a four-game Mid-American Conference home series with Miami (Ohio). The Cardinals did not hear their name called Monday.

Nor did Indiana (26-18). The Hoosiers went 1-2 in a Big Ten Conference series at Maryland.

Purdue (16-26) wrapped the season with one win against Penn State and a doubleheader split against Minnesota in a Big Ten pod weekend.

The 2021 season also closed at the MVC tournament for Valparaiso (16-35) and Evansville (28-27). Valpo went 2-2 and UE 1-1 in Carbondale.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 23

NCAA Division I

Ball State 38-18 (25-11 MAC) 

Notre Dame 30-11 (25-10 ACC) 

Evansville 28-27 (11-16 MVC) 

Indiana State 27-17 (14-10 MVC) 

Indiana 26-18 (26-18 Big Ten)

Purdue 14-25 (14-25 Big Ten) 

Butler 14-23 (8-13 Big East) 

Valparaiso 16-35 (9-19 MVC) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 11-35 (8-28 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 27-21 (19-13 GLVC) 

Southern Indiana 24-20 (18-14 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-22 (5-19 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 25-14 (23-12 HCAC) 

Earlham 25-20 (21-18 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 23-14 (23-12 HCAC)

Anderson 23-19 (20-17 HCAC) 

Hanover 20-20 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-22 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-28 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 50-15 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 44-14 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 37-20 (24-12 CL) 

Indiana Tech 35-27 (16-6 WHAC) 

Saint Francis 34-22 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-16 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-29 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-24 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 31-25 

Vincennes 24-31 (11-21 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East 

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Notre Dame top seed in ACC; Indiana State No. 2 in MVC

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Notre Dame (29-10, 25-10) has earned the No. 1 seed for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament

The event is slated for May 25-30 in Greensboro, N.C.

The Irish meet No. 12 seed Virginia Tech in Tuesday’s second game. ND’s current four-game win streak includes a three game weekend sweep at Virginia Tech.

Penn High School graduate and Notre Dame first baseman Niko Kavadas heads to Carolina with 16 home runs and 49 runs batted in.

Missouri Valley Conference tournament play begins and Indiana State (27-17, 14-10) goes in as the No. 2 seed while Evansville (28-26, 11-16) is No. 7 and Valparaiso (14-33, 9-19) No. 8.

Games will be played May 25-29 at Southern Illinois-Carbondale.

The Sycamores receive a first-round bye to Day 2 while UE (vs. Illinois State) and Valpo (vs. Missouri State) play on the first day.

Indiana State overcame an 8-0 deficit to win 13-10 at Evansville Saturday to secure the No. 2 seed in the eight-team tourney behind Dallas Baptist (33-15).

Left-hander Geremy Guerrero is 9-1 with a 1.92 earned run average and catcher Max Wright has 14 homers and 37 RBIs for the Sycamores.

Ball State (34-18, 25-11) won its first two games then lost two in a Mid-American Conference series at Ohio. The Cardinals wrap the MAC season May 28-30 with four games against Miami (Ohio) in Muncie.

Nick Powell (.353) leads BSU in hitting. Right-hander John Baker (7-3, 2.45) has been the No. 1 starting pitcher.

Indiana (24-16, 24-16) has lost the first three games of its Big Ten Conference pod series, dropping two to Nebraska and one to Ohio State in Bloomington. The Hoosiers host the Buckeyes again today (May 24).

A 9-8 loss for Purdue (14-25, 14-25) at Minnesota Sunday kept the Boilermakers from a four-game sweep of the Golden Gophers. 

A three-team pod (Purdue, Penn State, Minnesota) in West Lafayette is slated for May 27-29.

The 2021 season came to a close for both Butler (14-23 overall, 8-13 in the Big East Conference) and Purdue Fort Wayne (11-35 overall and 8-28 in the Horizon League).

The five-team finals of the NCAA Division III Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament saw Transylvania emerge as champions.

Transy bested Earlham (25-20, 21-18) in the final game. Bluffton knocked out Anderson (23-19, 20-17). A loss to Anderson eliminated Franklin (25-14, 23-12).

Indiana Tech (35-27) and Indiana Wesleyan (44-14) both bowed out in NAIA Opening Round play in the Marion Bracket.

Vincennes (24-31) saw its slate finish in the junior college Mid-West Athletic Conference tournament.

Of the state’s 38 college baseball programs, eight are still playing. There’s seven in NCAA Division I and there’s one in NAIA.

Indiana University Southeast (48-14) earned its first trip to the NAIA College World Series, which is May 28-June 4 in Lewiston, Idaho.

More on the Grenadiers’ special season can be found here.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 23

NCAA Division I

Ball State 34-18 (25-11 MAC) 

Notre Dame 29-10 (25-10 ACC) 

Evansville 28-26 (11-16 MVC) 

Indiana State 27-17 (14-10 MVC) 

Indiana 24-16 (24-16 Big Ten)

Purdue 14-25 (14-25 Big Ten) 

Butler 14-23 (8-13 Big East) 

Valparaiso 14-33 (9-19 MVC) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 11-35 (8-28 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 27-21 (19-13 GLVC) 

Southern Indiana 24-20 (18-14 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-22 (5-19 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 25-14 (23-12 HCAC) 

Earlham 25-20 (21-18 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 23-14 (23-12 HCAC)

Anderson 23-19 (20-17 HCAC) 

Hanover 20-20 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-22 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-28 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 48-14 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 44-14 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 37-20 (24-12 CL) 

Indiana Tech 35-27 (16-6 WHAC) 

Saint Francis 34-22 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-16 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-29 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-24 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 31-25 

Vincennes 24-31 (11-21 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East 

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Tourney time here in NAIA, NCAA D-III; many teams close seasons

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The 2021 NAIA Opening Round baseball tournament begins Monday, May 17 and three Indiana teams will be involved.

No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan (43-12) and No. 5 Indiana Tech (31-25) are part of the five-team Marion (Ind.) Bracket at Indiana Wesleyan.

IWU, coached by Rich Benjamin, won the regular-season and tournament titles in the Crossroads League.

Indiana Tech, coached by Kip McWilliams, was the regular-season champion in the Wolverine-Hoosier Conference.

No. 2 seed Indiana University Southeast (45-14) will be one of five teams competing in the Kingsport (Tenn.) Bracket.

IU Southeast, coached by Ben Reel, was the regular season and tournament champion in the River States Conference.

The NAIA season has ended for Taylor (37-20), Saint Francis (34-22), Huntington (33-16), Indiana University-Kokomo (28-20), Marian (25-29), Indiana University South Bend (24-24), Oakland City (17-27), Bethel (15-39), Grace (12-31), Calumet of Saint Joseph (7-29) and Goshen (3-34).

The 34 wins is a single-season school record for Saint Francis and Panthers coach Dustin Butcher.

Franklin (25-12), Earlham (23-18) and Anderson ( 20-17) were among teams winning opening round series and making it to the five-team finals in the NCAA Division III Heartland Collegiate Conference tournament.

Transylvania and Bluffton will be the other two teams. The tourney is to conclude Sunday, May 23.

The 2021 season is over for Indiana’s other D-III programs — Rose-Hulman (23-14), Hanover (20-20), Manchester (19-22), Wabash (18-15), DePauw (15-21) and Trine (6-28).

NCAA D-III teams Indianapolis (27-21), Southern Indiana (24-20) and Purdue Northwest (11-22) have also seen their slates come to a close.

Ivy Tech Northwest (31-25) lost 2-1 to Kellogg in a three-game National Junior College Athletic Association Regional in Battle Creek, Mich., and wrapped its season.

Max Flock homered three times and collected five hits and six runs batted in as Vincennes swept a doubleheader from Spoon River and made the Mid-West Athletic Conference tournament May 20-23 in Normal, Ill.

NJCAA member Ancilla (6-29) has concluded its season.

NCAA Division I Notre Dame (26-10) was idle in Atlantic Coast Conference play and yet the Irish earned the program’s first regular season title since 2006 by winning the ACC Atlantic Division.

ND has one more ACC series May 20-22 at Virginia Tech before the conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C.

Indiana (24-12, 24-12) is second in the Big Ten Conference to Nebraska (25-11, 25-11). The Hoosiers have eight more conference games remaining. There will be no Big Ten tournament.

Ball State (32-16, 23-9) holds a slight lead on Central Michigan (32-17, 23-10) at the top of the Mid-American Conference standings. 

BSU has a May 21-23 road series against Ohio and May 28-30 home series with Miami (Ohio) before the postseason.

The eight-team Missouri Valley Conference tournament is scheduled for May 25-29 in Carbondale, Ill. Right now Dallas Baptist (31-13, 16-4) and Indiana State (25-15, 12-8) are the top two seeds with Evansville (26-24, 9-14) No. 6 and Valparaiso (14-29, 9-15) No. 7.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 16

NCAA Division I

Ball State 32-16 (23-9 MAC) 

Notre Dame 26-10 (22-10 ACC) 

Indiana State 25-15 (12-8 MVC) 

Evansville 26-24 (9-14 MVC) 

Indiana 24-12 (24-12 Big Ten) 

Valparaiso 14-29 (9-15 MVC) 

Purdue 11-24 (11-24 Big Ten) 

Butler 11-22 (5-12 Big East) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 10-32 (7-25 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 27-21 (19-13 GLVC) 

Southern Indiana 24-20 (18-14 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-22 (5-19 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 25-12 (23-12 HCAC)

Rose-Hulman 23-14 (23-12 HCAC)

Earlham 23-18 (21-18 HCAC)

Anderson 20-17 (20-17 HCAC)

Hanover 20-20 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-22 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-28 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 45-14 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 43-12 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 37-20 (24-12 CL) 

Saint Francis 34-22 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-16 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana Tech 31-25 (16-6 WHAC) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-29 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-24 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 31-25 

Vincennes 23-29 (11-21 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East 

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Ivy Tech gives Hershberger 10th postseason title; other tourneys under way

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ivy Tech Northeast (30-23) swept a National Junior College Athletic Association sub-regional series against Lakeland over the weekend.

The Great Lakes Region 12 tournament will be hosted by the highest seed.

In the second season of the program (2019), Ivy Tech went 33-14. For now, that is the school victory record.

The 2021 sub-regional win was also the 10th postseason championship of Titans boss Lance Hershberger’s college coaching career.

He had earned two NAIA independent sectionals (1996, 1998), one conference tournament title (2000), five consecutive NAIA regional crowns (1998-2002) and one NAIA super regional title (2001) at Indiana Tech prior to Saturday’s feat for Ivy Tech.

Hershberger’s 55 postseason victories is the most all-time among college baseball coaches in Indiana.

Indiana University Southeast (43-14) has made it to championship game of NAIA River States Conference tournament.

By going 3-1 Thursday through Saturday, the Grenadiers earned the right to meet Point Park Monday (May 10) for the right to move on to the NAIA Opening Round.

With a RSC tournament loss to IU Southeast, Indiana University Kokomo (28-20) saw its 2021 season come to a close. Point Park put out Oakland City (17-27).

The top six seeds — Indiana Wesleyan (41-12), Taylor (36-19), Huntington (33-14), Saint Francis (34-21), Mount Vernon Nazarene (29-18) and Marian (25-28) — are still alive in the NAIA Crossroads League tournament at IWU in Marion, Ind. 

Play began Friday and resumes Monday, May 10. The championship will be Tuesday, May 11 (Wednesday, May 12, if necessary). 

With each win, Saint Francis adds to its single-season school record for victories.

With a 10-inning Saturday loss to Saint Francis, Bethel (15-39) concluded its season.

Indiana Tech (31-25) went 1-2 in the NAIA Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference tournament and now awaits the NAIA Opening Round pairings.

Indiana University South Bend (24-23) went 1-1 in its first two games of the NAIA Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament and was slated to play again Monday, May 10 in Joliet, Ill.

Next up for NCAA Division II Indianapolis (21-19) and Southern Indiana (22-18) is the eight-team Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament, slated for Thursday-Sunday, May 13-16 at Lindenwood in St. Charles, Mo.

The first part of the two-tier NCAA Division IIII Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament has been set.

Best-of-3 series are slated for Friday-Saturday, May 14-15 with No. 10 seed Defiance (6-31) at No. 1 Transylvania (26-10), No. 9 Mount Saint Joseph (12-26) at No. 2 Franklin (23-12), No. 8 Bluffton (16-22) at No. 3 Rose-Hulman (23-12), No. 7 Manchester (19-20) at No. 4 Earlham (21-18) and No. 6 Hanover (20-18) at No. 5 Anderson (20-17).

A five-team double-elimination tournament will follow May 20-23 at the best remaining seed after Round 1.

Fifth-year senior Danny Dopp is now the career hits leader at Earlham. His 194 — reached in Saturday’s doubleheader against Manchester — surpass the 192 of Nate Lynch, who played for the Quakers 2014-17. 

DePauw (15-21) saw its season wrap Saturday in non-conference D-III play against Washington University of St. Louis.

NCAA Division I Indiana (23-10, 23-10) went 2-0 against Rutgers and 1-1 against Nebraska in Piscataway, N.J., and hold a 1/2-game lead on Michigan for the lead in the Big Ten Conference standings. IU is slated to play three at Michigan Friday-Sunday, May 14-16.

Even with a 1-2 series against Florida State, Notre Dame (25-10, 22-10) is well ahead of Louisville (26-15, 16-10) for the lead in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

By splitting a four-game series at Central Michigan, Ball State (30-14, 21-7) remains 1 game behind first-place CMU in the Mid-American Conference standings.

Indiana State (24-12, 11-5) went 3-1 in a Missouri Valley Conference series at Missouri State. The Sycamores trail MVC front-runner Dallas Baptist by 2 games.

With a win in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Youngstown State, Purdue Fort Wayne gave Mastodons head coach Doug Schreiber the 500th win of his collegiate coaching career. 

Because of health concerns within the Northwestern program, the Northwestern at Purdue series was postponed.

Purdue has worked an arrangement with Ohio State to add a Tuesday, May 11 game at Alexander Field.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through May 9

NCAA Division I

Ball State 30-14 (21-7 MAC) 

Notre Dame 25-10 (22-10 ACC) 

Indiana State 24-12 (11-5 MVC) 

Evansville 23-23 (6-13 MVC) 

Indiana 23-10 (23-10 Big Ten) 

Valparaiso 13-25 (8-12 MVC) 

Purdue 11-20 (11-20 Big Ten) 

Butler 10-19 (4-9 Big East) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 10-28 (7-21 HL) 

NCAA Division II

Southern Indiana 22-18 (18-14 GLVC) 

Indianapolis 21-19 (19-13 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 11-21 (5-18 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Franklin 23-12 (23-12 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 23-12 (23-12 HCAC) 

Earlham 21-18 (21-18 HCAC) 

Anderson 20-17 (20-17 HCAC) 

Hanover 20-18 (20-18 HCAC) 

Manchester 19-20 (19-20 HCAC) 

Wabash 18-15 (9-6 NCAC) 

DePauw 15-21 (8-8 NCAC) 

Trine 6-26 (6-17 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana University Southeast 43-14 (26-1 RSC) 

Indiana Wesleyan 41-12 (28-4 CL) 

Taylor 36-19 (24-12 CL) 

Saint Francis 34-21 (23-13 CL) 

Huntington 33-14 (23-13 CL) 

Indiana Tech 31-25 (16-6 WHAC) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-20 (16-10 RSC) 

Marian 25-28 (17-19 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 24-23 (19-11 CCAC) 

Oakland City 17-27 (10-17 RSC) 

Bethel 15-39 (12-24 CL) 

Grace 12-31 (9-23 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-29 (7-20 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 30-23 

Vincennes 19-27 (7-19 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-29 (2-18 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Bixler providing power at or near top of Franklin College order

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ryan Bixler smacked two home runs in Franklin (Ind.) College’s win on Saturday, April 10 and was named Monday, April 12 as the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time in his college baseball career.

It wasn’t the first case of multiple-mashing for the Logansport, Ind., native.

The righty-swinging fifth-year senior right fielder lofted two dingers May 10, 2018 against Manchester, two April 17, 2018 against Rose-Hulman, three April 16, 2019 at Rose-Hulman and two March 1, 2020 against Heidelberg.

On April 3, 2021 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Franklin’s John P. McDowell Field against Hanover, Bixler’s eight-inning clout made the school’s all-time homer king.

The Grizzlies are 13-5 overall and in the HCAC heading into twin bills Saturday, April 17 vs. Rose-Hulman and Sunday, April 18 at Anderson.

The HCAC tournament (site to be determined) in May will include all 10 teams this year with the top five seeds serving as the home team in best-of-three series. A five-team finals will feature a double bye for the top seed. 

Bixler’s head-turning batting numbers so far for 2021 include a .449 (31-of-69) average with five homers, one triple, nine doubles, 25 runs batting, 31 runs scored and 5-of-6 in stolen bases. He owns a .576 on-base percentage and .826 slugging average.

“I look to do damage,” says Bixler of his offensive approach. “I just try to get the ball in the air or in the gap.”

While he has homered to center and right, he estimates that more than half of his long balls have gone out to left field.

During his Franklin days (Bixler played at Indiana Wesleyan in 2017 then transferred), he is hitting .354 (159-of-449) with 33 homers, nine triples, 34 doubles, 145 RBIs, 156 runs and is 32-of-38 in stolen bases. He sports a ..475 on-base percentage and .690 slugging average.

Bixler hit .321 with three homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs in eight games in 2020..

In 2019, he was first-team all-HCAC and third-team all-region by D3Baseball.

In 2018, he was the HCAC Offensive Player of the Year and conference tournament MVP. He was also honored as a third-team All-America pick by D3Baseball.com and was on the D3Baseball.com and American Baseball Coaches Association all-region.

Normally a 2-hole hitter, Bixler has been moved to the top of the Grizzlies order because of an injury to shortstop Quenton Welllington.

Bixler has had little trouble making the switch since he led off for four seasons at Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School in Walton, Ind. (2013-16).

Is there a difference between 1 and 2?

“Maybe to start the game,” says Bixler. “As lead-off see as many pitches as you can for your teammates.”

Franklin coach Lance Marshall recruited Bixler while the player was in high school and welcomed him when he decided to transfer.

“Everyone respects him,” says Bixler of Marshall, FC head coach since the fall of 1997. “He knows how to win games.

“It’s a fun culture to be around for sure. This was the best fit for me.”

Bixler grew up playing baseball in Logansport and transferred to Lewis Cass after his eighth grade year. With the Kings, he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Marschand.

“He’s huge role model,” says Bixler of Marchand. “He took me under his wing and taught me almost everything I know today about baseball.

“He truly cares for each player. He is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”

Bixler was supposed to graduate in 2020. When granted another year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to play another season and took a class while also working as a salesman for Warweg & Co., Irrigation in Franklin. He is slated to graduate this spring with a Public Relations degree and a minor in Business.

At 23, Ryan is the youngest of Brad and Kathy Bixler’s four sons. Josh is the oldest, followed by Justin and Brandon.

Ryan Bixler (Franklin College Photo)

Indiana teams early conference baseball leaders

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

March is about to give way to April and NCAA Division I’s Indiana and Ball State and NAIA’s Indiana University Southeast and Taylor sit atop their respective conference baseball standings.

Indiana is 11-3 overall and in the Big Ten Conference. The Hoosiers went 2-1 on the weekend at Michigan State.

Ball State is 12-9 in all games and 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals took three of four from visiting Toledo.

Riding a 11-game win streak, IU Southeast is 20-11 overall and 12-0 in the River States Conference. The Grenadiers swept a three-game set against Asbury at Koetter Sports Complex.

Winners of 17 straight, Taylor is 24-6 in all contests and 13-0 in the Crossroads League. The Trojans swept a four-game series at Huntington.

After splitting a Tuesday doubleheader against Trinity International and taking two from Calumet of Saint Joseph, NAIA Indiana University South Bend (9-13, 5-3) is 1.5 games Chicagoland Collegiate Conference leader Judson (7-9, 6-1). 

The Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference features Indiana Tech (12-14, 1-1).

NCAA D-I Notre Dame (11-4, 10-4) is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division. After topping visiting Valparaiso Tuesday, the Irish split a pair at home against visiting ACC foe and division leader Louisville (16-6, 8-3). The third game was not played because of inclement weather. 

D-I’s Indiana State (11-6) and Valparaiso (5-12) have yet to play their first Missouri Valley Conference games while Evansville (12-11) in 1-3 in the MVC. 

Butler (5-6) has not yet began Big East Conference play.

Purdue Fort Wayne is 7-12 overall and 4-8 in the Horizon League.

NCAA D-II Indianapolis (8-8, 6-2) is second in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Blue Division. Coming off a non-conference doubleheader split at Wayne State, the Greyhounds are behind GLVC division front-runner Lindenwood (12-0, 8-0).

Southern Indiana (7-11, 5-7) is also in the GLVC). Purdue Northwest (6-7, 0-7) is in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

NCAA D-III Hanover (9-5, 9-5) is second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Panthers are 1.5 games below first-place Transylvania (8-3, 8-3) after a home sweep of Bluffton and road split at Earlham.

Trine (0-11, 0-2) is part of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

National Junior College Athletic Association Division II’s Ivy Tech Northeast is 14-15-1 as an independent. Vincennes is 13-8 overall and in 3-3 in the Mid-West Athletic Conference. Ankle is 6-13 in all game sand 2-2 in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through March 28

NCAA Division I

Ball State 12-9 (6-2 MAC) 

Evansville 12-11 (1-3 MVC) 

Indiana 11-3 (11-3 Big Ten) 

Notre Dame 11-4 (10-4 ACC) 

Indiana State 11-6 (0-0 MVC) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 7-12 (4-8 HL) 

Butler 5-6 (0-0 Big East) 

Valparaiso 5-12 (0-0 MVC) 

Purdue 3-11 (2-9 Big Ten) 

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 8-8 (6-2 GLVC) 

Southern Indiana 7-11 (5-7 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 6-7 (0-7 GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Hanover 9-5 (9-5 HCAC) 

Anderson 9-6 (9-6 HCAC) 

Earlham 8-6 (8-6 HCAC) 

Franklin 7-4 (7-4 HCAC) 

DePauw 7-7 (0-0 NCAC) 

Wabash 7-7 (0-0 NCAC) 

Manchester 7-8 (7-8 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 6-5 (6-5 HCAC) 

Trine 0-11 (0-2 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana Wesleyan 25-9 (15-1 CL) 

Taylor 24-6 (13-0 CL) 

Indiana University Southeast 20-11 (12-0 RSC) 

Saint Francis 18-11 (10-6 CL) 

Marian 16-14 (9-7 CL) 

Huntington 15-6 (8-5 CL) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 13-13 (6-6 RSC) 

Indiana Tech 12-14 (1-1 WHAC) 

Oakland City 11-14 (4-6 RSC) 

Indiana University South Bend 9-13 (5-3 CCAC) 

Grace 9-16 (6-10 CL) 

Bethel 6-24 (3-13 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 2-14 (1-4 CCAC) 

Goshen 1-22 (0-16 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 14-15-1 

Vincennes 13-8 (3-3 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-13 (2-2 MCCAA) 

Communication key for Bullpen Tournaments VP Tucker

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Growing up playing sports in Zionsville, Ind., Michael Tucker knew what it was to be a teammate.

A center in basketball and catcher in baseball, Tulsa, Okla.-born Tucker played at Zionsville Community High School and graduated in 2008. Some of his closest friends to this day played on those squads.

“We had some great teams,” says Tucker, who played for head coaches Dave Ferrell and Shaun Busick in basketball and Darrell Osborne and Adam Metzler in baseball and counted Matt Miller as a mate on the court and the diamond. Miller went on to pitch at the University of Michigan and in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

Eric Charles went on to play baseball at Purdue University.

Ryan Price’s father Tom Price played baseball for Dr. Don Brandon at Anderson (Ind.) University and that’s one of the reasons Tucker ended up at the NCAA Division III school.

Tucker was a standout hitter while playing catcher and first base for the Ravens and the Hall of Famer they called “Bama” for his first two college seasons followed by two with David Pressley.

Brandon impressed Tucker with his memory.

“He can tell you the situation — who was on the mound and the count — (from most any game),” says Tucker. “He was really fun to learn from.”

Pressley was a first-time head coach at Anderson. Tucker credits him with lessons on and off the field.

“I learned how to be a man,” says Tucker. “(Pressley) is a huge man of faith.

“He taught a tremendous amount of life lessons.”

Tucker also gained knowledge from Brad Lantz, who was an AU senior receiver when he was a freshman and went on to be a high school head coach at Guerin Catholic and Lapel and is now coaching in the Indy Sharks travel organization.

“I learned so much about catching, counts and what to look for,” says Tucker. “I learned more from (Lantz) than anyone else.”

Tucker was named to D3baseball.com’s 2010s All-Decade Team.  During his career, Tucket hit .361 with 52 home runs, 50 doubles, 193 runs batted in and a .730 slugging percentage. He was a first-team All-America selection and the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference MVP in 2011.

Franklin (Ind.) College has long been a big HCAC rival for Anderson. Tucker recalls how Grizzlies head coach Lance Marshall sometimes used to bring in a fifth infielder when Tucker was at the plate. 

Not a Marshall fan at the time, Tucker has come to see the veteran coach as one of his favorites.

Tucker received a Management degree with a minor in Entrepreneurship from Anderson U. in 2012. 

His “internship” time was spent coaching (coaching with Cesar Barrientos and the Indiana Baseball Academy Storm while injured in 2009) or playing summer collegiate ball (Fort Mill, S.C., Stingers of the Southern Collegiate Baseball League in 2010 and Hannibal, Mo., Cavemen of the Prospect League in 2011 — a team owned at the time by former big leaguers Ryan Klesko and Woody Williams) and he saw a future related to the diamond. 

“I wanted to make baseball my job whether that was with an indoor facility, coaching, training or tournaments,” says Tucker. “I didn’t know what avenue.”

Tucker was a director at the Incrediplex on the northeast side of Indianapolis 2013-15 and coached for the Indiana Bulls travel organization 2012-16.

Since April 2015, Tucker has been part of a different team as vice president for Bullpen Tournaments, Prep Baseball Report Tournaments (with Rhett Goodmiller as director of tournaments) and Pro X Athlete Development (with former big league pitcher Joe Thatcher as co-founder and president) are tenants at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Bullpen, with Tucker as the director of day-to-day operations, is involved with Pro X and works with PBR Indiana and consults with PBR national, which operates LakePoint Sports campus in Emerson, Ga., and Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo.

Ground was recently broken for Championship Park in Kokomo, Ind., and that complex will also be used by Bullpen and PBR.

The 2021 summer will mark Tucker’s seventh with Bullpen Tournaments. 

Hired by BT president Blake Hibler, whom he knew from working Prep Baseball Report showcases, Tucker started at Bullpen in time to experience Grand Park’s first full summer.

“I did everything,” says Tucker. “I tried to be a sponge. Being in baseball your whole life is completely different from the tournament industry.

“There’s learning the business side and scheduling.”

While at the Incrediplex near Lawrence, Tucker had done scheduling on a smaller scale and had become comfortable with software.

Tucker appreciates that Hibler lets him seek out processes.

“If I can find a better mousetrap, he lets me run with it,” says Tucker.

Bullpen is a very large operation.

“We’re a different beast in a lot of ways,” says Tucker, who notes that on any given weekend the company may have as many as 45 fields under its control, including those on and off the Grand Park campus.

Tucker says the key is getting the word out to teams, families and recruiters.

“You have to be able to communicate,” says Tucker. “Half of scheduling is the communicating of the schedule.”

With Hibler having a large part in brainstorming and development, Bullpen first used the Tourney Machine app and now works with Playbook 365 while also helping develop PitchAware and ScoreHQ. 

Bullpen hires scorekeepers for every high school tournament game (15U to 18U) at Grand Park. In 2020, there was also video on six fields.

“It’s huge to have accurate data,” says Tucker. “We can overlay video with stats.

“(A college) coach can recruit from his office.”

But even though Bullpen is dealing with many moving parts, there are only a half dozen full-time employees.

“Guys are tasked to learn a lot of different things,” says Tucker. “But we never feel like this is something I can’t do. Our mentality is we’re going bust our butts and how do we solve this problem?

“Our guys do a tremendous job of being flexible.”

An example of teamwork and flexibility is the creation of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which came about when so many other leagues were canceling the 2020 summer season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team that made it happen include Hibler, Tucker, Thatcher, Phil Wade, Luke Dietz, Mark Walther, Matt Bowles, Logan Weins, Cam Eveland and Kevin Ricks. Thatcher and Walther are at Pro X. Weins splits his time between Bullpen Tournaments and PBR Tournaments.

With many players reaching out, Bullpen saw the need and went to work to put together what became a 12-team league with most games played at Grand Park with a few at Kokomo Municipal Stadium and Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis.

The league was constructed with safety, NCAA and recruiting regulations in mind. Players were placed, umpires were lined up and jerseys were distributed in a very short time frame.

“We had about seven days to do it,” says Tucker. “We’re excited for it to come back (in 2021).”

As a D-III alum, Tucker was especially pleased that the CSL allowed top-flight players like Joe Moran (who pitched for Anderson and has transferred to Taylor University) was able to compete against D-I talent.

While the pandemic slowed the start of the 2020 Bullpen season, Tucker estimates that there were upwards of 80 percent in games played as compared to a normal year.

The fall included more contests than ever.

“Teams couldn’t play in the spring and that baseball hunger was still there,” says Tucker. “They wanted to play a little longer.

“We had a great fall.”

Weather plays a part, but the first games each year at Grand Park with all its turf fields are collegiate in February. 

“If we get a warm-weather day our phone blows up,” says Tucker. 

Activity starts to ramp up in March with the first 8U to 14U contests the last weekend of that month.

Of course, the pandemic will have a say in what happens in 2021.

“With all the uncertainty it’s tough,” says Tucker. “It’s going to be an interesting spring.”

A perk of Tucker’s position and location is the relationships he gets to build with high school coaches. 

He sees the unique dynamic between between Noblesville’s Justin Keever, Westfield’s Ryan Bunnell, Zionsville’s Jered Moore and Fishers’ Matt Cherry of the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.

“They’re buddies,” says Tucker. “They go out to eat after the game.”

Michael and wife Dani Tucker live in Noblesville, Ind., with son Cole (5) and Cali (3).

The Tucker family (from left): Cali, Dani, Michael and Cole. Michael Tucker is vice president of Bullpen Tournaments is a tenant at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.