Tag Archives: Hoosier Conference

Hartman has West Lafayette Red Devils’ best interests at heart

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Justin Hartman is bringing a mix of old school and new school as the first-year head baseball coach at West Lafayette (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School.

Hartman comes to the Red Devils after two assistant coach stints totalling seven years at his high school alma mater — McCutcheon.

“Today, they talk about being a player’s coach,” says Hartman. “That’s important. You need vested in these kids not only on the field but off the field.

“You can be strict and have discipline and still be there from a personal standpoint. When they see that you have their best interests (at heart), that’s how you get the most out of them.”

As a Mavericks player and then an assistant, Hartman learned from Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jake Burton.

“I learned many things, like how to build the program from the bottom up, player personnel, coaching strategy and (fundraising),” says Hartman. “It was a little bit of everything.”

Hartman, who holds a Law and Society degree from Purdue University and is a patrolman for the Lafayette Police Department, appreciates the new IHSAA rules that allow periods of limited contact. During these periods, an unlimited number of players can receive instruction two days a week for two hours at a time.

“I like the change,” says Hartman. “I need as much time as I can with these kids to get ready for that opener in March.”

“A lot is accomplished in those two hours. We’re getting a lot of team stuff done now that wouldn’t be done before March (under the old rules).”

The Red Devils have been practicing in the Cumberland Elementary School gym. Coaches man up to six stations for drill work. After that, everything is cleared out for the team to go over defensive coverages.

Hartman’s varsity staff includes Dan Penale, Dan Walbaum, Brent Talcott, Steve Hartman and Joe Richardson. Former McCutcheon and Lafayette Central Catholic assistant Penale is the pitching coach. Former West Lafayette head coach Walbaum is the hitting coach. Talcott directs the defense. Steve Hartman, Justin’s father, helps with base running and player personal. Richardson is the bench coach.

Bryan Dispennett is the head junior varsity coach and Buck Nelson is the JV assistant. Dispennett has coached all around Tippecanoe County, including at Central Catholic and Lafayette Jeff. Nelson is a former McCutcheon assistant.

Senior catcher Owen Walbaum has committed to play at Purdue.

Upon taking the job, Hartman established West Lafayette travel teams for 9U, 11U, 12U and 14U. They will play in five or six tournaments during the summer — some at the Noblesville (Ind.) Field of Dreams.

“To be competitive and improve, you have to be in those travel leagues,” says Hartman.

These players plus some from West Lafayette Little League serve as the feeder system for the high school.

The Red Devils play home games at Bob Friend Field, which is located adjacent to Cumberland Elementary and West Lafayette Little League.

Hartman has gotten approval to have padding installed in front of both dugouts. A local turf group is improving the surface. An irrigation system is on the way.

Friend, who played at Purdue and pitched 16 seasons in the big leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees and New York Mets, attended West Lafayette graduate.

West Lafayette (enrollment around 770) is a member of the Hoosier Conference (with Benton Central, Hamilton Heights, Lafayette Central Catholic, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Rensselaer Central, Tipton, Twin Lakes and Western). Burton is now head coach at Twin Lakes.

Each conference team plays each other twice in a home-and-home series during the same week.

The Red Devils are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Benton Central, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru and Western. West Lafayette has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2011.

Justin and wife Megan have been married for 10 years. The couple has two children — daughter Chesney (9) and son Koen (8).

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Justin Hartman, a graduate of McCutcheon High School and Purdue University, is entering his first season as head baseball coach at West Lafayette (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School.

 

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Ward, Northwestern Tigers baseball enjoying ‘firsts’

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kokomo, Ind., touts itself as the “City of Firsts” with claims to America’s first commercially-produced automobile and more.

Northwestern High School is enjoying some its own “firsts.”

For the first time, the Tigers have artificial turf on three of their athletic fields — baseball, football and softball.

As Phase 1 of a improvement campaign, a committee of administrators, teachers, parents and community members used grant money to make the upgrades. While not yet determined, a second phase could bring lighted fields and academic improvements.

Fourth-year head baseball coach Ryan Ward got a chance to send his baseball players on the carpet for the first time during fall workouts.

“If it’s warm enough, we can take some kids out there in January and February,” says Ward. “We have the best practice field in the state, especially a school our size (enrollment around 550).”

As the Tigers play their first season on the new-look field in 2018, Ward will continue to assert some other firsts — something he has done since taking over as head coach in 2015 after serving on Kyle Beachy’s staff for the IHSAA Class 3A Twin Lakes Sectional-winning 2014 season.

“We want to play an aggressive style of baseball,” says Ward. “For pitchers, we emphasize first-pitch strikes. As hitters, we look for to drive early in the counts. As baserunners, we will be aggressive. If we make mistakes, they are aggressive mistakes. That’s the brand of ball we’re trying to play.

Ward knows it’s not always easy teenagers to make the right catch, throw and tag in the heat of the moment, so he is going to have his players force the issue.

“We’ve got to keep empowering the kids on our team,” says Ward. “The more we can force our opponents to do, the better chance they are going to make mistakes and give ourselves a better chance to win.”

Ward graduated from Hickory High School in Hermitage, Pa. (about 75 miles northwest of Pittsburgh), in 2009.

Gary Hinkson was Ward’s high school coach. He saw the potential for Ward to go into the profession.

“He gave me that encouragement and motivation,” says Ward of Hinkson, who would win 301 games at Hickory from 1994-2015. “He treated us (players) like we were major leaguers. We carried on the expectations that he set for us.”

In Ward’s sophomore season (2007), the Hickory Hornets won their first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 10 title in 10 years, repeated the feat the next spring and lost in the district championship game in 2009.

At Northwestern, Ward prepares his Tigers for competition in the Hoosier Conference and athletic director and former Northwestern baseball coach Dan Armstrong schedules many other teams in the Kokomo and Lafayette areas.

The HC is split into two divisions — Northwestern, Cass, Hamilton Heights, Tipton and Western in the East and Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Rensselaer Central, Twin Lakes and West Lafayette in the West.

Teams play all the schools in their division in home-and-home series on Wednesdays and Thursdays with crossover games at the end. The top teams in each division square off the title with East Division No. 2 facing West Division No. 2 and so on.

Ward, who counts Jeff Trueblood and Dan Butcher as assistant coaches for 2018, gears his pitching staff toward conference games.

“We have our Wednesday starter and Thursday starter,” says Ward. “It helps pitchers get into a routine and guys are working to be a conference starters.”

In 2017, the IHSAA implemented pitch count rules (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“I love the intent of the rules,” says Ward. “It’s putting the focus on the health of the athlete. I’d like to see better communication on how we execute the rule between coaches, umpires and the IHSAA.

“Wow do we keep improving it?”

Northwestern doesn’t have to look far to see the future of its program since the Northwestern Youth Baseball League (T-ball through major baseball) is housed on school grounds and seventh and eighth grade teams play 15 to 20 games in the spring on the varsity field. Truebood, a Northwestern graduate who played college baseball, is NYBL president. Joel Downey and Bruce Smith are middle school coaches.

“From the time they’re 6, they think about wearing purple one day,” says Ward. “They are coming back as alumni. We’re putting the focus on the Northwestern school district and those relationships.”

Many high school-age Tigers play in the summer for travel teams or Kokomo American Legion Post 6.

Ward went to Butler University with the idea of playing baseball, but was cut in his freshman year. He still respects then-Bulldogs head coach Steve Farley as a mentor.

“He was honest with me,” says Ward, who earned a degree from Butler in 2013 and began teaching fifth grade at Northwestern Elementary that fall. Ryan and wife Katelyn, a 2008 Kokomo High School graduate and third grade teacher in Kokomo schools at Lafayette Park International Elementary, were wed in September 2016 and live in the Northwestern district.

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Ryan Ward and wife, Katelyn, are both elementary school teachers — Ryan in the Northwestern district, Katelyn in Kokomo. Ward is entering his fourth season as Northwestern High School head baseball coach in 2018.

 

Berryman getting Western ready for ‘next’ baseball move

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

They’ve got a good thing going at Western High School.

The Panthers have enjoyed plenty of baseball success, taking 18 sectionals, seven regionals, two semistates, one Class 3A state championship (2012) and one 3A state runner-up finish (2016).

Ty Calloway, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and Howard County Sports hall of famer, led the program for 36 seasons and Quentin Brown (now with Indiana Primetime Sports) for the past three.

Ryan Berryman is now the man in charge. As a 1994 Western graduate, former WHS athletic director and head coach at county rival Northwestern, he is very aware of the winning tradition in Russiaville.

“We’re a baseball community,” says Berryman. “The expectations are high.”

Berryman, who returned to the classroom after serving as AD from 2011-13, has continued to coach baseball in the summer with the Indiana Bulls travel organization (he will lead a 16U squad this summer).

In 11 seasons at Northwestern, Berryman’s teams won 226 games, four sectionals and took the Tigers to a 2005 Class 2A State Finals. Future big leaguer Brandon Beachy was part of that team.

At Western, Berryman is greeted by 15 returnees from the 2016 state runners-up.

“We’ve got a much deeper pitching staff,” says Berryman, a big believer in mound depth with two-thirds of the players in his program being able to pitch. “It’ll be disappointing for all these guys if they don’t make a run.”

Not that Berryman wants the Panthers to get ahead of themselves.

“We don’t get caught up in anything too small,” says Berryman. “We don’t get caught up in anything too big. We just focus in on play by play, pitch by pitch.

“We want to keep it as simple as possible. There’s nothing magical to the success I’ve had as a coach.”

Berryman, whose coaching staff features Cody Shipley, Colton Summers, Devon Eaker and Dwight Singer at the varsity level as well as Luke Waitt and Michael Rocchio with the junior varsity, wants his players to have that “next” mentality — Next at-bat. Next pitch. Next inning.

His daily request is to be on-time and work hard.

“I only have two hours a day with these guys,” says Berryman. “After that, it’s on them.

“It’s a tough game. Find a way to work through your mistakes and get better and don’t dwell on the negative things.”

After playing for Calloway at Western, Berryman took the field for Indiana Wesleyan University and Northern Kentucky University as did twin brother Scott. Ryan pitched for the Lafayette Leopards of the independent professional Heartland League in 1998.

Berryman, who was head coach for the IHSBCA North-South All-Star Series in 2011 and is a past association president, would like to see an increase in the time coaches can work with athletes out-of-season — a change that would help not only baseball but other high school sports.

“I realize that these kids are student-athletes and academics come first and there are coaches that want to be with the kids too much,” says Berryman. “But, at the same time, we shouldn’t take opportunities away for kids to fully develop.

“Now, they can’t work with their baseball coach until a certain date has passed. It’s about kids and opportunities.”

Western competes in the 10-team Hoosier Conference. Teams play Tuesday-Wednesday home-and-home series within their divisions with seeded crossover games at the end of the season. Western, Cass, Hamilton Heights , Northwestern and Tipton are in the East. Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Rensselaer Central, Twin Lakes and West Lafayette are in the West.

Feeder systems for Western baseball are Russiaville Youth Baseball League and the Russiaville Rams travel team.

High school players participating with several travel teams in the summer, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Mustangs, Indiana Nitro, Indiana Pony Express and Indiana Prospects.

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Ryan Berryman, a 1994 Western High School graduate, is in his first season as the Panthers head baseball coach. He coached Northwestern to the 2005 IHSAA Class 2A State Finals and is a summer coach with the Indiana Bulls travel organization.