By STEVE KRAH
Matt Bayes played on the team that made the deepest postseason run in school history.
Less than a decade later, he found himself as the head baseball coach of the Austin High School Eagles.
With Jeff Barrett as head coach, Austin (located in southeastern Indiana) earned its second-ever sectional crown in Bayes’ sophomore year (2006).
In his senior season, Bayes was part of the 2008 Austin squad that went 30-3 and won the school’s lone IHSAA Class 2A regional title to date and made its first semistate appearance.
The Eagles’ two regular-season losses came against 4A schools (Floyd Central and Seymour). The run ended with a 9-6 loss in 10 innings against Elwood. Austin was down 6-1 in the seventh inning before forging a tie and forcing extra frames.
“A lot of good memories were made,” says Bayes. “I’m going to get together with that group of guys over the holidays to celebrate 10-year anniversary of that (2008) team.”
Austin is located 35 miles north of Louisville.
Meggs (who is now head coach at the University of Washington) helped Bayes see the game at an in-depth level. Bunt defenses and the way of holding runners was more advanced as was the sign systems.
That has come in handy at Austin.
“We like to challenge our guys to have that high baseball I.Q.,” says Bayes, who also picked up more strategy from Spink while also observing his leadership style. “(Spink) was hard-nosed. He recruited the right kind of guys that wanted to play hard for him and for one another.”
Bayes appreciated the intensity that Tyner (now head coach at Townson University) and pitching coach Brandon Tormoehlen (now head coach at alma mater Brownstown Central High School) brought to the Bellarmine Knights.
“They had a lot of fire and passion,” says Bayes of Tyner and Tormoehlen. “For me, I like that side of it.”
Besides those traits, Bayes learned about the use of scouting reports.
Bayes joined the Barrett-led Austin coaching staff in 2012-13 and spent two campaigns as an assistant.
“I was very fortunate to inherit the program,” says Bayes. “(Barrett) laid a very solid foundation for Austin baseball. I can’t say enough of what he did for Austin.”
Since 2002, the Eagles have produced four Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series players — Shawn Barrett (2002), Matt Bayes (2008), Hunter Spencer (2014) and Tanner Craig (2017). At least one Austin player has signed or committed to play college baseball since 2014, including Craig with the University of Evansville.
“That’s pretty good for a 2A school,” says Bayes. “If guys want to play in college we want to help them get there.”
Austin (current enrollment just under 400) is a member of the Mid-South Conference (along with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).
Each of the 10 teams in the MSC play one another once with conference games on Mondays and Thursdays.
Bayes says there is a plan when plotting non-conference opponents.
“We’re lucky that our administration is very in-tune with what we want to do from a scheduling standpoint,” says Bayes. “We want to be a challenged, but we want to be competitive, too. We have to consider our pitching.”
The 2017 season marked the first with new IHSAA pitching 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).
“It definitely makes you develop a staff throughout the season,” says Bayes of the rule.
With postseason games coming so close together, Bayes says coaches must make some hard decisions when their pitchers get close to threshold.
On their way to a 2017 Austin Sectional title, right-hander Drew Buhr pitched an eight-inning perfect game in the Eagles’ tournament-opening 1-0 win against North Decatur. In so doing, he went over the 100-pitch mark and was not available the rest of the sectional.
Buhr (17 innings in 2017) is expected back for his junior season in 2018.
“We lost quite a bit from last year,” says Bayes, who had five or six seniors in the starting lineup much of the time last spring. “I like our group of guys this year. I’m confident they can have a good spring.”
Bayes is figuring out who will join him on the coaching staff. Last year was are in that Austin got to play a full junior varsity schedule.
The Eagles play on-campus on a field that includes a brick backstop with netting. A scoreboard was added a few years ago and the program has a indoor building with locker rooms, coach’s office and a concession stand. The efforts of the parents and booster club have made it possible.
“We’re pretty proud of our facility here,” says Bayes. “For a 2A school, we’re blessed with outstanding facilities.
“In our part of the state, a lot of schools have really started making an investment in their baseball facility. A lot of kids are interested in baseball.”
The baseball backers include Bayes’ family — father Gordon, mother Kathy and sister Mandy (who is married to Austin girls basketball coach Jared Petersen).
“My parents are huge supporters of me and Austin baseball,” says Bayes. “I have a vision of what I want to do and my dad makes it happen.”
Matt Bayes teaches computers to sixth, seventh and eighth graders and helps in the athletic department at Austin Junior High.
While not affiliated with the school, one of the feeder systems for Austin Eagles baseball is a program for kids in the junior high grades.
“It’s big for us to get kids playing and allowed us at the high school to see those kids,” says Bayes, who typically gets to help with development through kids camps in the summer and fall.
Junior high-aged players had been playing at Austin High School. Bayer said they may get to move to renovated city park in the spring.
Players are also involved in Scott County Little League or with various travel baseball organizations. There are more of those now than when Bayes was growing up.
He did play for the Hoosier South Eagles (based out of Seymour) and Tri-County Titans (based out of Henryville) before hooking on for two seasons each with the Indiana Bulls and USAthletic (both headquartered in the Indianapolis area) and then the Evansville Razorbacks.
Matt Bayes is the head baseball coach at Austin High School. Bayes was a senior on the Eagles team that went 30-3 and played in the semistate in 2008.