Oakland City (Ind.) University won more baseball games in 2023 than in 2022 and that team set the single-season school record. The power blue-clad Mighty Oaks got off to an 8-0 start, mixed in another seven-game win streak and went 34-24 this spring after posting a mark of 31-23. “We did a really good job of the mound all year,” says third-year OCU head coach Andy Lasher. “We threw a lot of strikes.” The staff was bolstered by sophomore right-handers Gehrig Tenhumberg, Christian Burgrabe, Ben Simmons, Hunter Callahan, Owen Spears, Milan van der Breggen and freshman lefty Evan Price. Tenhumberg (Evansville Reitz Class of 2019) made 16 mound appearances (14 starts) and went 7-3 with 4.54 earned run average, 68 strikeouts and 18 walks, 83 1/3 innings. Burgrabe (Marion, Ill.) made 18 appearances (11 starts) and was 5-5 with one save, a 4.50 ERA, 36 strikeouts and nine walks in 64 innings. Simmons (Evansville Harrison Class of 2021) was in 15 games (all starts) and went 4-8 with a 4.72, 56 strikeouts and 26 walks in 74 1/3 innings. Callahan (Cisne, Ill.) made 16 appearances (10 in relief) and went 4-1 with a 3.58 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 18 walks in 37 2/3 innings. Spears (North Posey Class of 2021) was in 20 contests (17 in relief) and went 4-0 with a 3.91 ERA, 47 strikeouts and 14 walks in 48 1/3 innings. van der Breggen (Netherlands) made 13 appearances (all in relief) and went 3-0 with a 5.40, 10 strikeouts and three walks in 25 innings. Price (Rossville Class of 2021) was in 17 games (all in relief) and went 3-0 with five saves, a 3.00 ERA, 24 K’s and seven free passes in 21 innings. “We had an entirely new infield from last year,” says Lasher, who had senior Jared Kirkman at third base, sophomore Xander Willis at shortstop, junior Sam Pinckert at second base and senior Treven Madden at first base in 2023. “There was new faces. We were athletic. We were able to score runs without having to hit the ball over the wall every inning.” The Mighty Oaks stole 100 bases in 117 attempts. “We had some guys step up and play really well for us down the stretch,” says Lasher, whose club qualified for the River States Conference tournament and then turned attention to the National Christian College Athletic Association tourney. Oakland City went 3-1 in winning the NCCAA Mideast Regional in Wilmore, Ky. The ’23 season came to a close Monday, May 22 at the NCCAA World Series in Kansas City, Mo. Pinckert (Heritage Hills Class of 2018) hit .337 (70-of-208) with seven home runs, 38 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases. Freshman right fielder Garrett Causey (Evansville Central Class of 2021) posted marks of .309-5-37 with 36 runs. Junior left fielder Noah Baugher (Louisville, Ky.) went .302-1-33 with seven triples, 35 runs and 15 steals. Senior outfielder Victor Alvarez (Venezuela) chipped in .302-1-13 with 21 runs and 15 steals. Willis (Mt. Carmel, Ill.) produced a .289-7-45 line with 44 runs and 18 steals. Junior center fielder and lead-off man Aron Busick (Paoli Class of 2020) went .285-2-19 with 39 runs and 10 steals. Kirkman (Memphis, Tenn.) contributed .272-0-17 with 24 runs. Freshman catcher Oliver Hamilton (Gibson Southern Class of 2022) hit .265-2-18. Madden (Vincennes Lincoln Class of 2017) added .260-4-26 with 30 runs. Junior designated hitter/first baseman Conner Oxley (Southridge Class of 2020) tossed .214-2-28 with 26 runs into the offensive mix. There were a number of transfers on the 2023 Mighty Oaks. “We had to get them from anywhere and everywhere,” says Lasher. “It’s hard to win right away when you’re only freshmen though we have some younger guys who do play.” Alvarez came from Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and van der Breggen from Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa. A private school with less than 1,000 students, OCU’s recruiting base is generally southern Indiana, southern Illinois and western Kentucky. A 2009 graduate of Castle High School (Newburgh, Ind.) who played at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the University of Evansville, Lasher was an assistant at Olney Central, Eastern Illinois University and the University of Southern Indiana (Evansville) as well as manager of the summer wood-bat Dubois County Bombers at League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind., before taking over at Oakland City. Lasher, 32, took over the program in April 2020 as T-Ray Fletcher ended his 26-year run as head coach and became athletic director and the team went from NCAA D-II to NAIA. The 2020 season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic and that contributed to Lasher inheriting a roster of 18 players. True seniors Kirkman and Madden have used up their eligibility, but most of the teams is expected back in 2023-24. With renovations to Oakland City’s baseball stadium (formerly Pinnick Field), the Mighty Oaks played and practiced most of this spring at League Stadium, working around the needs of the Gene Mattingly-coached Southridge Raiders. Groundbreaking for Mathew and Lindsey Konkler Stadium took place in November 2022. When completed, the facility will have turf infield with dugouts, backstop, press box, lights, scoreboard and outfield fence. “We should be able to practice on it in the fall,” says Lasher. His 2023 coaching staff included second-year assistants Joey Drury, Jack Murphy and first-time coach Ben Wilcoxson. Drury (Center Grove Class of 2016) played for Lasher at Olney Central and then Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich.). Murphy is from the Chicago area and played at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and was an assistant at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill., before coming to Oakland City. Lexington, Ky., native Wilcoxson played at Kentucky Wesleyan University in Owensboro, Ky., and for Lasher’s Bombers. He was with OCU from August to May before going to play in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich.
Through March 19 NCAA D-I Tuesday, March 14 Kentucky 12, Indiana 2 (7 inn.) Notre Dame 6, Saint Joseph’s 3 Southern Indiana 10, Saint Louis 2
Wednesday, March 15 Evansville 14, Bellarmine 2 Indiana 6, Morehead State 5 (10 inn.) Indiana State 7, Illinois 3 Notre Dame 10, Saint Joseph’s 9 Purdue 14, Northern Illinois 5 Southern Illinois 16, Southern Indiana 9
Thursday, March 16 Indiana 23, Morehead State 5
Friday, March 17 Ball State 14, Toledo 2 Evansville 5, Purdue 2 Indiana 5, Morehead State 4 Purdue Fort Wayne 12, Wright State 10 Wright State 6, Purdue Fort Wayne 2 Murray State 15, Southern Indiana 1
Saturday, March 18 Wake Forest 4, Notre Dame 1 Wake Forest 12, Notre Dame 3 Murray State 11, Southern Indiana 4
Sunday, March 19 Ball State 19, Toledo 16 (13 inn.) Ball State 7, Toledo 4 Northwestern 5, Butler 1 Evansville 6, Purdue 4 Michigan State 8, Indiana State 2 Michigan State 10, Indiana State 7 Notre Dame 3, Wake Forest 1 Wright State 13, Purdue Fort Wayne 4 Murray State 13, Southern 3
NCAA D-II Tuesday, March 14 Saint Leo 8, Purdue Northwest 3 Eckerd 4, Purdue Northwest 3
NAIA Monday, March 13 Oakland City 14, Baptist Bible 13
Tuesday, March 14 Thomas More 14, IUPU-Columbus 3 Indiana Tech 7, Mid-America Christian 5
Wednesday, March 15 Calumet of St. Joseph 1, Trinity Christian 0 Trinity Christian 5, Calumet of St. Joseph 4 Grace 4, Taylor 1 Taylor 6, Grace 0 Mount Vernon Nazarene 7, Huntington 6 Huntington 9, Mount Vernon Nazarene 2 Indiana Wesleyan 16, IUPU-Columbus 5 IU-South Bend 9, Judson 5 (7 inn.) Judson 10, IU-South Bend 5 Baptist Bible 13, Oakland City 11
Thursday, March 16 Saint Francis 5, Bethel 4 Saint Francis 10, Bethel 3 (7 inn.) Indiana Wesleyan 14, Goshen 4 (8 inn.) Taylor 27, Grace 5 Taylor 13, Grace 0 Huntington 14, Mount Vernon Nazarene 13 Huntington 11, Mount Vernon Nazarene 0 IU-Kokomo 17, Alice Lloyd 5 IU-Kokomo 11, Alice Lloyd 0 Ohio Christian 7, IU Southeast 6 IU Southeast 4, Ohio Christian 2 Marian 8, Spring Arbor 7 Spring Arbor 11, Marian 8
Friday, March 17 IU Southeast 25, Ohio Christian 1
Sunday, March 19 Olivet Nazarene 16, Calumet of St. Joseph 6 Olivet Nazarene 9, Calumet of St. Joseph 5 Miami-Hamilton 5, IUPU-Columbus 4 Miami-Hamilton 19, IUPU-Columbus 4 IU-South Bend 5, Saint Xavier 1 Oakland City 9, Rio Grande 5 Oakland City 7, Rio Grando 1
Junior College Wednesday, March 15 Ivy Tech Northeast 15, Glen Oaks 9
Thursday, March 16 Kellogg 8, Ivy Tech Northeast 7
For the Dubois County Bombers of Huntingburg, Ind., it’s about serving the community and providing opportunities for college baseball players in the summer. A member of the summer collegiate wood bat Ohio Valley League, the Bombers play at League Stadium, where the movies “A League Of Their Own” (1992) and “Soul Of The Game” (1996) were filmed and where Southridge High School plays its home games in the spring. For the first film, the stadium was expanded from a capacity of 800 to 2,783 and given an antique look (the original grandstand dates back to 1894). In 2019, the Bombers drew 998 fans per game — among the highest attendance figures in the team OVL, which had nine teams at the time and now sports 10 (besides Dubois County, there’s Kentucky’s Hoptown Hoppers, Owensboro RiverDawgs, Madisonville Miners, Fulton Railroaders, Paducah Chiefs, Muhlenberg County Stallions, Henderson Flash, Franklin Duelers and Full County Rhythm). “We’re fortunate because Columbia Pictures left us a stadium that we can put that many fans into it,” says Mike Uebelhor, a Huntingburg native who is a principal owner and managing partner for a group that purchased the team in 2012. “We just wanted to make sure that the team stayed here in Dubois County.” The Bluff City Bombers of the Central Illinois Collegiate League moved to Huntingburg in 2005 and were renamed the Dubois County Bombers. The CICL then merged with the Prospect League. As the Prospect League has a larger geographical footprint, the Bombers moved to the Ohio Valley League as of the 2013 season. According to Uebelhor, the previous owner was planning on moving the team to another venue. “We just wanted to make sure this this stadium was not going to sit here and rot,” says Uebelhor. “And so that’s why we kept it here.” There are 33 season employees. Mike’s wife and daughter — Mary and Ashley — put the whole package together. Mick Uebelhor, a sophomore on Southridge’s IHSAA Class 3A state champions in 2021 is Mike and Mary’s son and a Bombers intern. “We all have our second separate job opportunities and job descriptions and it all works,” says Mike Uebelhor. There’s both an electronic and manual scoreboard. Bombers players where throwback-style uniforms and Peaches — a nod to the All-American Girls Baseball League’s Rockford Peaches — greet fans, help run on-field contests. There are “Musical Chairs” for kids and adults. The opposing teams participates in the “Dizzy Bat Spin.” Peaches and fans dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” in the fifth inning. Many little girls at the park don the same pink outfits as the Peaches. Girls can get eye pink and boys eye black. One youngster was heard to say after his blacking, “I’m a professional baseball player.” There’s a vintage bus parked in front of the stadium with Rockford Peaches on one side and Bombers on the other. Promotional dates include ’60s Night, Shark Night and Faith & Family Night. The regular season of fun began began June 4 and runs through July 24. “We’ve always promoted this as 50 percent baseball and 50 percent entertainment,” says Uebelhor. “Most folks would not remember tomorrow what the score was, but they remember they had a good time and they come back. And that’s how we grew up being able to grow our attendance along with a lot of corporate sponsors.” There is an outfield sign for set designer Harold Collins, who customarily destroys sets after use but agreed with Connie Kay Nass (Huntingburg mayor 1988-96) to keep the improvements to League Stadium. According to Uebelhor, Budweiser paid $1 million for its permanent sign. Coca-Cola paid $500,000.
Eight former major league players have played at League Stadium — Buddy Blemker, Jim Rushford, Bob Coleman, Steve Cishek, Mitch Stetter, Scott Rolen, Alex Graman, Sean Manaea and Daniel Johnson. Blemker, a 1955 Huntingburg High School graduate, Huntingburg native Coleman and Rolen (Jasper Class of 1993) are in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A pitcher, Blemker played for the Kansas City Chiefs. Coleman played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians and managed the Detroit Tigers and Boston Braves. Third baseman Rolen played for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds. Catcher Rushford played for the Dubois County Dragons in 1996 and later with the Milwaukee Brewers. Pitcher Cishek was with the Bombers in 2006. He has played for the Florida/Miami Marlins, Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels. Southridge graduates Stetter (Brewers) and Graman (New York Yankees) pitched in the bigs. Oakland Athletics hurler Manaea was with the Bombers in 2011. An outfield with DC in 2015, Johnson was drafted by the Washington Nationals and has played for the MLB Indians. The 2021 Bombers roster features seven local players — pitcher Weston Allen (Asbury University), first baseman Connor Oxley (Oakland City University), outfielder/second baseman Tucker Schank (Indiana University) and catcher Chase Taylor (University of Evansville commit) of Huntingburg, outfielder Jared Sermersheim (West Virginia Tech) and pitcher Carter Stamm (University of Southern Indiana) of Jasper and infielder Simon Scherry (Heritage Hills High School of U. of Evansville) of Santa Claus — and the rest reside with 17 host families. There’s usually a waiting list to host players. Many in town have taken players in — Bombers or the independent Dubois County Dragons (1996-2002) — for years. Taylor, who helped Southridge to the 3A state title on Tuesday, June 22 (the same night that Jasper gave the county a second champion by reigning in Class 4A), was the starting catcher for the Bombers on June 24. In his debut, Taylor caught former Southridge teammate Allen and stroked a double and scored a run in his first at-bat. He threw out a would-be Franklin base-stealer in the fourth inning. Travis LaMar, an assistant coach for Southridge who played for the Bombers in 2007-09, has been on the DC coaching staff since 2017 and head coach since 2019. “It’s great for the community,” says LaMar of the Bombers experience. “The community really gets involved and really supports us. “You bring in these college kids and it gives them an opportunity to develop their skills and play the game every day and have a little bit of fun while they’re doing it.” LaMar is an Evansville Harrison High School graduate who was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 44th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. The 6-foot-6 right-hander opted to pitch for Olney (Ill.) Central College and then Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He then played independent pro ball for the Lake Erie Crushers and Evansville Otters and was an assistant coach at Harrison. Travis and Kate LaMar have been married since 2018 and have nine-month old son named Drake. The LaMars reside in Holland, Ind. Travis also teaches physical education at Caze Elementary in Evansville. LaMar pulled double-duty during Southridge’s state run, going with the Raiders at practices and games and letting his Bombers assistants run the show when there was an overlap. “I was stretched pretty thin but, you know, it kind of all worked out and it just kind of goes back to the kind of the family atmosphere that we have,” says LaMar. “A lot of these players are from around here and they they understand the league or they’ve been in the league before. “So you know I can kind of put a lot of trust in that I can put the trust to my coaches.” Willie Poe, who played for the Bombers’ 2015 and 2017 OVL championship teams, is in his first season on the DC coaching staff. The Lexington, Ky., native pitched at Bellarmine University. He coached at Iowa Wesleyan University and Indian Hills Community College before joining former Bombers head coach Andy Lasher’s staff at Oakland City U. Bryce Wilz returns as a DC assistant after pitching for the Bombers in 2013. He played at Southeastern Illinois College and Brescia University. He is currently the pitching coach at SIC. He has coached in the OVL with Muhlenberg County (2018) and was to be with Madisonville in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic took the season away. Mark Peters is in charge of player recruitment for the Bombers. The Huntingburg native has been connected to high school and college baseball for more than two decades as both a coach and recruiter. Bombers home games air of WITZ 104.7 FM with Hall of Famer Walt Ferber on play-by-play and Roger Stuckey on color commentary.
“This is too good of an opportunity to pass up,” says Lance Myers, who is now a utility player (he’s played every position as a pro except shortstop and center field) and the manager of the LPBL’s Indy Windstorm.
Myers worked his connections to put the roster together. One of his invitees is his brother.
Austin Myers, 25, is a right-handed pitcher playing baseball for the first time in seven years.
“I’m just glad being back on a ball field doing what I love to do,” says Austin Myers, who is working himself back into shape and rediscovering his mechanics while recuperating from injury.
As the 36-game regular season winds down, the Windstorm (21-8) is in first place, followed by the BaseballResume.com Bandits (16-14), California Dogecoin (13-17) and Indiana Barn Owls (9-20).
The Bandits are managed by Albert Gonzalez and owned by pitcher Sam Burton.
Dodgcoin skipper Brian Williams is the league commissioner.
Derrick Pyles, a long-time indy ball player and hitting instructor formerly based in Avon, Ind., manages the Barn Owls.
Ray Ortega, a coach in the San Francisco Giants system, is also involved.
While Evansville is only 60 miles from Huntingburg, the Myers boys often stay with their aunt. Tina Dearing lives on First Street — two blocks from League Stadium.
Attendance at LPBL games has been hit-or-miss.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re here,” says Lance Myers. “But it is a good sports community (that supports Heritage Hills High School) and they’ve showed us a lot of love in the town when we go out to eat.”
Current plans call for the playoffs to begin Oct. 15. The No. 1 seed meets No. 4 and No. 2 takes on No. 3 in one game to advance to the best-of-3 finals.
Lance Myers, who was hitting .340 (32-of-94) in his first 22 games, wants to change the format. His plan would give the No. 1 seed a bye to the finals.
After taking off a year, he played 111 games in two seasons at Vincennes U. for Chris Barney (earning all-National Junior College Athletic Association Region 12 honors in 2015) and two seasons at NCAA Division II Ashland (Ohio) University for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Schaly.
“I loved Chris Barney,” says Lance, “He was definitely a good coach. I really enjoyed playing for him.
“He had an open door in his office and he or assistant Cole Vicars was always there if I wanted extra ground balls or batting practice. (Barney) definitely left a good impact on me. I want to give back to the guys playing for me now and in the future.”
Schaly has a career record of 1,180-645-7 amassed at Berry College (Ga.), Saint Leo (Fla.) University and Ashland U.
Lance Myers is impressed about how the coach still takes the time to stay in-touch.
“I get a call once or twice a year asking me how I’m doing or how my family is doing,” says Lance. “He still cares enough about me as an individual to take the time.”
Parents Wayne and Lisa Myers made the 410-mile trek from Evansville to Ashland for every home game. They can also be found with Austin’s three children — daughter Bristyl and sons Stetson and Remington — cheering on Lance, Austin and the Windstorm in Huntingburg.
Lance and Austin have three siblings — Ashley Bush (29), Zach Martin (24) and Amber Myers (23).
Lance Myers has been offered a couple of baseball coaching positions.
“My heart is not ready to be done playing yet,” says Lance. “And I’m playing well. I’m near the top of the league in offense and playing really good defense as well.”
Austin Myers plans to be ready if any pro tryouts come along for 2021.
“Meanwhile I’ll keep working out, working on mechanics and being the best I can be,” says Austin, who pitched 2/3 of an inning and has a single in his only at-bat.
The four-team circuit staged its first game at League Stadium Aug. 7 and the schedule is slated to go through Oct. 18.
In the mix is independent baseball veteran Derrick Pyles. The 37-year-old outfielder is in his 11th season of indy ball. The former Avon, Ind., resident now has experience in 10 different leagues.
Pyles has been acting as a player-manager in the Liberation, which when it gets up to speed will have four full squads — Indiana Barn Owls, Indy Wind Storm, BaseballResume.com Bandits and California Dogecoin.
The league features players with professional experience and those looking to get some. Former major leaguer Johnny Barbato pitched in the first game and is now in the Atlantic League-satellite Constellation Energy League with four teams playing in Sugarland, Texas. The Atlantic — independent pro ball’s top circuit — is not operating in 2020.
The Liberation came to Indiana thanks to owner Brian Williams. He was ready to go in the Pacific Association when that league was shut down because of the coronavirus.
“Brian pounded on doors all over the country,” says Pyles, who is leading players in the new league along with Ray Ortega and Lance Myers.
Huntingburg answered the knock.
“It’s better than 90 percent better of the other places we could have went,” says Pyles. “It’s a wonderful place to play.”
It happened very quick. It was less than two weeks ago that Pyles first heard about the league, which is the only pro loop operating in Indiana this year.
“There was zero advertisement,” says Pyles. “It’s literally come out of the woodwork.
“If people give us a shot, I think they’ll enjoy it. This is a legit professional baseball league taking part inside their city.”
There is a plan to meet with the community this week with the hopes of picking up a few more host families. Some players are staying at nearby hotels.
Pyles commutes to his in-laws in Mooresville, Ind.
While it’s too early to say what level the Liberation will equate to in affiliated baseball, Pyles and the rest are hopeful.
“There’s just so much talent,” says Pyles. “Guys are hungry for opportunities.”
But indy ball is not the same as being tied to a major league organization.
“Independent ball can be extremely cut throat,” says Pyles. “It’s way more about winning.
“In affiliated ball you’re getting prepped for the big leagues.”
Pyles, who bats and throws right-handed, has been a player-coach or player-manager the past few seasons. He hopes to get back to a higher league such as the Atlantic (he played for Sugarland and Long Island in 2017) would like to play until he’s 40.
After the 2019 season, he moved from Avon to Goodyear, Ariz., where it’s easier to stay in shape with the warm weather. He still comes back to train players in central Indiana.
“I love the people in Avon,” says Pyles. “Indiana definitely feels like home to me.”
He started with Zyon Avery (a Ben Davis High School graduate who is now at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill.) and Allbry Major (an Indianapolis North Central grad who plays at Xavier University) when they were young.
Matt Moore, an Avon High School graduate, was a hitting Pyles hitting pupil who became a hard-throwing pitcher. The Purdue University left-hander is a MLB draft prospect.
“I love to train players that are very motivated,” says Pyles. “I’m 100 percent confident I can help the top players get better.
“The road has been so hard for me I really had to figure out the best stuff.”
Melton was 21 when the corner infielder and outfielder came to Evansville in 1967 and hit nine home runs and drove in 72 runs. He made his Major League Baseball debut with Chicago in 1968 and led the American League in home runs in 1971 with 33.
Herrmann was a 19-year-old catcher in 1966 and was with Chicago briefly in 1967 before coming back to Evansville in 1967 and 1968. He stuck with the parent White Sox in 1969.
Cotton Nash, who had been a basketball All-American at the University of Kentucky and played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warrior and ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, was played with Evansville in 1967, 1968 and 1970, belting 33 homers in the first season of the Triplets.
In a group shot, left-handed pitcher Lester Clinkscales is in the middle of the frame. His son, Sherard Clinkscales, was a standout at Purdue who was selected in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals and is now athletic director at Indiana State University.
Wirthwein captures roughly the first century of Evansville baseball in a book published March 2, 2020.
Through library files, digitized publications and the resources of the Society for American Baseball Research, he uncovered details about teams and characters going back to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.
Bosse Field, which is now the third-oldest professional baseball park in use (behind Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field) came on the scene in 1915.
Growing up, Wirthwein played youth baseball and then plenty of slow pitch softball.
He graduated from Harrison High School in 1972. He earned a journalism degree at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1976 and took job at The Brownsburg (Ind.) Guide, where he covered everything from sports to the city council and was also a photographer.
After that, he covered trap shooting for Trap & Field Magazine and had a short stint as editor at the Zionsville (Ind.) Times.
Desiring more in his paycheck, Wirthwein went back to Butler and began preparing for his next chapter. He worked toward a Masters of Business Administration (which was completed in 1991) and worked a decade at AT&T and then more than 20 years managing several departments at CNO Financial Group (formerly Conseco) before retiring in June 2019.
“I got lost for 30-plus years,” says Wirthwein, who has returned to his writing roots.
About three years before his last day at CNO he began researching his Evansville baseball book.
“I slowly assembled and had a manuscript shortly before retirement,” says Wirthwein, who is married with four daughters and resides in Fishers, Ind.
When it came time to find someone to produce the book, he found The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing that specializes in regional history.
It took a bit of digging to unearth the treasures from the early years. He was amazed that little had been written about the pre-Bosse Field era.
He did find details on teams like Resolutes, Blues, Brewers, Hoosiers and Blackbirds — all of which seemed to have monetary difficulties and scandals swirling around them.
“The whole 1800’s was just a mess,” says Wirthwein. “Teams were coming and going. Financial failures were everywhere.”
Jumping contracts was very commonplace in 19th century baseball. They were often not worth the paper they were written on since a player could get an offer for more money and be on the next train to that city.
To try to combat this, Evansville joined the League Alliance in 1877. It was a group of major and minor league teams assembled to protect player contracts.
It always seemed to be about money.
The 1895 Evansville Blackbirds led the Class B Southern League for much of the season. But, being nearly destitute, the club began throwing games for a sum that Wirthwein discovered to be about $1,500.
The Atlanta Crackers were supposed to be the beneficiary of the blown ballgames, but it was the Nashville Seraphs who won the pennant. Evansville finished in third — 4 1/2 games back.
In 1901, catcher Frank Roth hit 36 home runs for the Evansville River Rats of the Three-I League.
“The Evansville paper thought that to be a world record,” says Wirthwein.
The wooden park on Louisiana, which was built in 1889 near the Evansville stockyards, was in disrepair by 1914 when it collapsed and injured 42 spectators.
Seeing an opportunity, Evansville mayor Benjamin Bosse sprang into action.
“The city had bought this big plot of land,” says Wirthwein. “(Bosse Field) was built in a matter of months.
“He was ready.”
Unusual for its time, Bosse Field was meant to be a multi-purpose facility from the beginning and became home not only to baseball, but football games, wrestling matches and more.
Wirthstein’s book tells the story of Evansville native Sylvester Simon, who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1923 and 1924.
In the fall of 1926, he lost three fingers on his left hand and part of his palm while working in a furniture factory.
He came back to baseball using a customized grip on his bat and with a glove that was repaired using a football protector and played for the Evansville Hubs in 1927 and had pro stops with the Central League’s Fort Wayne (Ind.) Chiefs in 1928 and 1930 and played his last season with the Three-I League’s Quincy (Ill.) Indians in 1932. His bat and glove are at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Hall of Famers Edd Roush (1912-13 Yankees/River Rats), Chuck Klein (1927 Hubs), Hank Greenberg (1931 Hubs) and Warren Spahn (1941 Bees) also spent time in Evansville. Roush is from Oakland City, Ind. Klein hails from Indianapolis.
Huntingburg native Bob Coleman played three seasons in the majors and managed 35 years in the minors, including stints in Evansville.
The Limestone League came to town thanks to travel restrictions during World War II. The Detroit Tigers conducted spring training in Evansville. Indiana also hosted teams in Bloomington (Cincinnati Reds), French Lick (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox), Lafayette (Cleveland Indians), Muncie (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Terre Haute (White Sox in 1945).
Wirthwein’s research found plenty about barnstorming black baseball teams in the early 1900’s.
In the 1920’s, the Reichert Giants represented Evansville in the Negro Southern League. The Reichert family was fanatic about baseball. Manson Reichert went on to be mayor (1943-48).
“(The Reichert Giants) played semipros when not playing league games,” says Wirthwein. “They lobbied hard to play at Bosse Field when the Class B (Hubs) were out of town, but they kept going turned down.
Games were played at the Louisiana Street park, Eagles Park or at Evansville’s all-black high school, Lincoln.
“They started playing games opposite the Hubs and outdrew them every single time. The Bosse Field people finally acquiesced.”
In the 1950’s, the Evansville Colored Braves were in the Negro Southern League and were rivals of an independent black team, the Evansville Dodgers. Games were played at Bosse Field and Lincoln High.
What about the “Global” disaster?
Evansville-based real estate tycoon Walter Dilbeck Jr. conceived of the Global Baseball League in 1966. It was to be a third major circuit to compete with the American League and National League. There would be teams all over globe, including the Tokyo Dragons from Japan, and the GBL was headquartered in Evansviile.
“It’s a pretty remarkable story,” says Wirthwein. “The guy just wouldn’t give up.”
Happy Chandler, commissioner of baseball in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was brought in as GBL commissioner.
T-Ray Fletcher, who was Oakland City head coach for 26 seasons, is still the school’s athletic director.
Since taking the job a few weeks ago, Lasher been concentrating on building up his roster.
“I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting though there are no games to watch,” says Lasher, referring to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic which has live baseball shut down at the moment. “There’s been a lot of calls and text messages.”
Lasher, who is tapping into his network of contacts, says he would like to have 35 players in the fall and 40 to 45 in the future so the Mighty Oaks can add a junior varsity program.
That takes care of half the schedule. Lasher has the opportunity to fill in the rest of the games, choosing ones that are feasible and keeps players from missing too many classes.
It’s Lasher’s intent to schedule some contests in the fall.
Lasher’s assistants are Jacob Bedwell and Austen Bullington. Washington (Ind.) High School graduate Bedwell was on the OCU team last year. Castle grad Bullington played at Wabash Valley College and the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Lasher was hired by Southern Indianalast summer and spent much of his time assisting Screaming Eagles head coach Tracy Achuleta with hitters and position players.
“I also kept track of academic progress and a lot of little things that don’t happen on the baseball field,” says Lasher. “That’s a much bigger percentage of the job than people realize.
“At the college level, it’s a lot more than the bats and balls. It’s a full-time job for a reason.
“(Archuleta) is one of my favorite people. He’s alot of fun to be around and a really good baseball mind. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
He was an assistant to Dennis Conley at Olney Central from the 2014 season until the fall of 2018.
“It was a really good experience I wouldn’t trade for the world,” says Lasher, who helped the Blue Knights win 173 games in five seasons.
An outfielder, Lasher played two seasons at Olney (2010 and 2011) for Conley and two at Evansville (2012 and 2013) for Wes Carroll.
Going to Castle, Lasher had heard all about alums Wes and brother Jamey Carroll (who played in the big leagues).
“(Wes Carroll) was a real good player’s coach,” says Lasher. “We had some good teams.”
The Purple Aces won 56 games in Lasher’s two seasons at UE. He played with five players — left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland (Colorado Rockies), lefty-swinging outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski (New York Mets), righty-batting Eric Stamets (Rockies), righty pitcher Kyle Lloyd (San Diego Padres) and lefty hurler Phillip Diehl (Rockies) — who eventually made it to the majors.
For five summers, Lasher was with the Bombers — 2014 as an assistant coach and 2015-18 as manager.
Lefty-hitting outfielder Johnson is now on the Cleveland Indians’ 40-man roster.
Brown is a catcher in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Lasher calls shortstop Gonzales, who was the 2019 NCAA Division I batting champion, the best player he’s ever coached and expects him to be taken about the top picks in the 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The atmosphere created by Dubois County ownership and fans at League Stadium made Lasher’s time with the Bombers very enjoyable.
“It’s a great place to watch a game,” says Lasher. “It’s a shame they’re not getting to do it this summer (due to COVID-19 causing cancelation of the Ohio Valley League season).”
Lasher graduated in 2009 from Castle, where he played for Curt Welch.
“He was very intense,” says Lasher of Welch, who has also been an assistant wrestling coach for the Knights. “We were probably in better shape physically as any team in the country.”
There was plenty of running and ab workouts.
“It was worth it,” says Welch. “No doubt about it. It got guys ready for the college stuff. You have to be mentally tough and physically in shape in college or you just aren’t going to make it.”
Besides head baseball coach, Lasher is also in charge of maintaining Oakland City athletic fields and is gameday coordinator for any on-campus sporting events. The Mighty Oaks sponsor teams in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer and tennis for men and women and softball and volleyball for women.
Lasher and girlfriend, former Orleans (Ind.) High School, Olney Central and Brescia University basketball player Shelbi Samsil, recently moved to the north side of Indianapolis to be closer to Oakland City.
Andy Lasher is the new head baseball coach at Oakland City (Ind.) University. He is a graduate of Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., and played at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the University of Evansville. He has coached at Olney, Eastern Illinois University, the University of Southern Indiana and with the summer collegiate Dubois County Bombers. (Oakland City University Photo)
Indiana broadcaster Walt Ferber calls about 250 live sporting events a year.
He enjoys them all, but he especially appreciates baseball on the radio.
“It lets you use creativity,” says Ferber. “With football and basketball, you dot the i’s and cross the t’s. You get to paint a picture (with baseball).
“It’s my favorite sport because of that. You get a chance to tell a story.”
Ferber, program and sports director, on-air personality and account executive at WITZ AM/FM in Dubois County (the studio is located between Jasper and Huntingburg), is scheduled to do a little more painting as a statewide play-by-play voice at the State Finals for the third straight year on the IHSAA Champions Radio Network.
There are 29 affiliated stations across Indiana that will carry all or some of the four games (two each on Monday and Tuesday, June 17-18, beginning at 5:30 p.m.).
Ferber will be paired with analyst Bob Lovell for the first game (teams to be determined) on June 17 from Victory Field in Indianapolis. Ferber worked alongside Brian Jennings in 2018 and Rob Blackman in 2017.
“Victory Field at the State Finals is one of my favorite place to be,” says Ferber, who has made the trip to Indy often as the Jasper High School Wildcats have made nine appearances in the championship game with five state titles.
“I’ve been spoiled,” says Ferber. “Coach (Terry) Gobert does things the right way. He works very, very hard to get the best out of each of his players. He’s kind of an old school coach.
“(Players) take ownership of what they do. It’s something you learn from the time you’re born into the feeder system.”
That tradition has been reinforced on the air with his Ferber’s partner, Ray Howard. The former Jasper head coach who recently turned 80 will throw batting practice and then make his way to the press box.
“Ray brings a depth of information to the broadcast,” says Ferber. “The last nine year we’ve done this, I’ve learned a tremendous amount of baseball from him.”
There will be double duty at the 2019 State Finals for Ferber if Southridge beats South Vermillion to win the Jasper Semistate. He will be on the call for WITZ Saturday, June 8.
At 62, Ferber says he knows he will probably cut back his schedule as some point.
“I don’t see myself retiring altogether,” says Ferber. “I’m pretty lucky to do what I do.
“I’ve wanted to do it ever since I was 5 years old. I did whatever I could to make it happen.”
Ferber did his first work in radio at 14 and had his first play-by-play gig at 15.
He worked at WNAS and WREY in New Albany, becoming perhaps the youngest sports director in the state at the latter station in 1973. He graduated from New Albany High School in 1974 and earned a double major in Telecommunications and Marketing at Indiana University, graduating in 1978.
Ferber was at WTTS in Bloomington from 1974-79 and at WWWY in Columbus in 1979 before landing at WITZ in 1980.
Today, there are three entities and four frequencies — WITZ 104.7 FM, WQKZ 98.5 FM and Juan 99.1 FM and 990 AM (Spanish language station).
“My favorite player when I was a kid was Pete Rose,” says Ferber. “For obvious reasons, I’m a big fan of Scott Rolen. I got a chance to broadcast all of his games at Jasper High School.”
WQKZ became a St. Louis Cardinals station when Rolen was with that team and has remained a Cards affiliate ever since. Ferber is scheduled to throw out a first pitch when the Chicago Cubs visit Busch Stadium July 31.
Ferber has been married to the former Melanie Padgett since 1980.
“On those nights I’m home, I usually watch what she wants to watch,” says Ferber, who has two sons (Nathan and Jonathon) and two grandchildren.
Awards have come Ferber’s way aplenty, including Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2010, New Albany High School Hall of Fame in 2011 plus Associated Press Play by Play awards in 1995, 1996 and 1997, ISSA Marv Bates Indiana Sportscaster of the Year in 1996, Indiana Interscholastic Administrators Athletic Association Distinguished Service Award in 1997, Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Virgil Sweet Distinguished Service Award in 2005, Network Indiana Play by Play awards in 2007 and 2008, NI Sportscaster of the Year in 2008 and IHSAA Distinguished Service Media Award in 2011.
IHSAA STATE FINALS
Victory Field, Indianapolis
Indiana Champions Network
Monday, June 17
Radio: Game 1 (5:30 p.m.) — Walt Ferber (play-by-play); Bob Lovell (analyst). Game 2 (following) — Greg Rakestraw (play-by-play); Chris Walker (analyst).
TV: Games 1 & 2 — Mark Jaynes (play-by-play); Brian Jennings (analyst).
Tuesday, June 18
Radio: Game 3 (5:30 p.m.) — Scott McCauley (play-by-play); John Herrick (analyst). Game 4 (following) — Brian Jennings (play-by-play); Justin Keever (analyst).
TV: Games 3 & 4 — Greg Rakestraw (play-by-play); Rob Blackman (analyst).
Roger Stuckey (left) and Walt Ferber broadcast games for the Dubois County Bombers of the summer collegiate Ohio Valley Baseball League on WITZ 104.7 FM.
Walt Ferber (left) and Ray Howard are the broadcast team on Jasper (Ind.) High School baseball games on WITZ 104.7 FM. Ferber is scheduled to call the first game of the 2019 IHSAA State Finals for the IHSAA Champions Radio Network.
“Our kids grind. We’re not flashy,” says Mattingly. “I don’t have a lot of college recruiters or pro scouts attending our games.
“We just have a bunch of guys who play really, really hard and hate to lose.”
Besides that, it’s all about the team.
Mattingly also describes his players as “unselfish.”
“They don’t play for themselves,” says Mattingly. “That’s a testament to their character, their parents and the type of community they’re growing up in.”
That approach has Southridge (24-6) in the IHSAA Class 2A Jasper Semistate against Indianapolis Scecina on Saturday, June 9. A win there sends the Raiders to the 2A state championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“Our goal is to never take a pitch off, whether that’s offense or defense,” says Mattingly, a part-time assistant in the program for about a dozen years before taking over the reigns from Dave Schank in 2018. “Our mantra is to win every pitch. We grind out at-bats. We grind on the mound when we don’t have our best stuff.
“We don’t let up.”
Southridge, located in the Dubois County city of Huntingburg, Ind., is 5-4 in one-run games.
“We encourage multi-sport athletes,” says Mattingly. “We get in the weight room and get bigger, stronger faster.
“We can play good baseball, but we’re not necessarily baseball players. We buy into a system. We work on becoming really good athletes in the summer time. We don’t have a lot of flash, but we like to compete.”
Mattingly’s assistant coaches are Brian Craig (head assistant), Mark Peters, Joe Keusch (pitching coach), Andy McKeough and Casey Lindeman at the varsity level with Jace Merkel and Jason Barnett working with the junior varsity. Mattingly and McKeough were teammates at the University of Mobile (Ala.). Lindeman also coordinates the middle school baseball program.
His baseball coach at Mobile was Mike Jacobs, the man who built the Rams program from scratch.
Jacobs’ discipline, attention to detail and grinder approach rubbed off on Mattingly and he used it while coaching Little League and travel teams in Mississippi and in the Huntingburg area. He coached the Dubois County Crush and later the Dirtbags.
Gene and Traci Mattingly (a 1989 Southridge graduate and a health teacher at the school) also have a daughter — Southridge freshman-to-be Ella Mattingly (14). Older daughter Lexi Mattingly passed away April 20, 2017.
Southridge High School head baseball coach Gene Mattingly (left) talks with Jayce Harter. The Raiders are in the 2018 IHSAA Class 2A Jasper Semistate.
Southridge High School celebrates a sectional championship in the Raiders’ first season under head coach Gene Mattingly. Southridge also won a regional crown and advanced to the IHSAA Class 2A Jasper Semistate on Saturday, June 9.
Chuck Brimbury has enjoyed each stage of his professional life — from teacher and coach to assistant principal to principal to superintendent and then to athletic director along with a return to coach.
Brimbury is really basking in his second go-round as head baseball coach at Peru High School.
“I’ve loved every single job I’ve had in education,” says Brimbury, who also served 15 years as a football coach at Peru, including one as interim head coach. “The more you move up, the farther you seem to be from the kids and the daily guidance of them. I missed coaching. It was huge part of my life.
“I’ve been blessed to get back into it.”
After serving four years as superintendent of Peru Community Schools and helping to earn the district four-star status as one of the best-performing systems in Indiana, he opted in June 2014 to become AD and once again lead the Tigers on the diamond.
Beginning in 1998, Brimbury previously held the job for a decade.
“We had a really good run,” says Brimbury, whose teams were state-ranked in most seasons and had his 2000 squad reach the IHSAA Class 3A Final Four.
Brimbury borrowed methods he learned while serving as an assistant to Don Sherman at Huntington North High School.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer taught him all the intricacies of running a successful baseball operation.
“We believe in holding people to high standards,” says Brimbury. “We get off the bus all looking the same and we stay together. Our top players carry the water cooler. There’s no job too small.”
Peru baseballers wears “Program” on their shirts to remind themselves and everyone else that “the program is more important than any player or any coach.”
Brimbury also uses drills and teaching methods gleaned from Hall of Famers Bill Jones of DeKalb, Bill Nixon of Plymouth and Chris Stavreti of Fort Wayne Northrop as well as the man who won 1,010 games and seven state championships — Ken Schreiber of LaPorte.
It doesn’t have to be a Thursday for the Tigers to throwing it back.
“We’re throwbacks,” says Brimbury. “It’s an old-school approach and our kids thrive off it.
“If you resemble a lot of guys with blue rings you’ll get one for your community one day. If their kids can do it, we can do it. We believe that here. We use a lot of what works.”
In his first season back in charge (2015), Brimbury enjoyed Peru’s first sectional championship since 2000.
When the Mid-Indiana Conference dissolved at the end on the 2014-15 academic school year, the Tigers joined the Three Rivers Conference and have reigned in baseball in their first two seasons in the new league (2016 and 2017).
“It’s a really good small-school conference,” says Brimbury of a conference which also includes Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko. “I really enjoy the competition.”
Brimbury has also savored the ability to build a non-conference which has pitted the Tigers against the best competition from around the state and to a variety of venues.
Tiger Field will also be the site of 2018 Miami County Classic. Two of the three teams that visit Peru feature head coaches with close ties to Brimbury — former assistant Shane Edwards at Oak Hill and former player Troy Hudson at North Miami. Maconaquah rounds out the field for the May 12 all-day event.
“We have an old-time field,” says Brimbury. “It’s beautiful at night. It’s a really good atmosphere for home games.
“It’s one of the better small-school stadiums out there.”
Brimbury’s public address announcer at Tiger Field and assistant at Peru athletic events is Mike Stewart.
“(Stewart) was passionate about the game,” says Brimbury, who graduated from high school in 1988 and went on to play a little at Marian University in Indianapolis and receive various degrees from Indiana State.
Every Peru game and a weekly coach’s show has been on the radio (thanks to 101.9 FM and broadcasters Bob Stambazze and Doug Muzzillo) and many contests are shown on student-run Tiger TV.
Several players saw significant varsity action last spring, meaning Brimbury welcomes back 17 lettermen.
Among the senior returnees are catcher Nathan Brimbury (Chuck and Michelle’s son and a 2017 IHSBCA Junior Showcase invitee), right-hander Lucas McConahay (the top returning pitcher), outfielders Austin Caldwell and Robert Cunningham, second baseman Kasey Comp, first baseman Christian Gatliff and designated hitter Nathan Ramirez.
Juniors include third baseman Blake Edwards, outfielder D.J. Fuller, catcher Payton Honn and left-handers Chance Ogle and Zach Purcell.
Sophomores in the mix are right-hander/third baseman/shorstop Michael Chandler, outfielder Jonah Hoopenthal, outfielder/shortstop Daunte Majors, middle infielder Dmitry Reese and right-handers Jackson Green and Chase Tyler.
Hitting coach Rob Hileman has been with Brimbury in every season in both of his tenures except one. Jody Beauchamp is the Tigers pitching coach. Shawn Dwyer, Josh Ulrey, Brad Townsend, Gary Loe and strength coach complete the high school staff.
Sixth grader Madison Brimbury (Chuck and Michelle’s daughter) is a baseball student manager.
Michelle Brimbury, who is a special education teacher at PHS, is also team mom.
Feeders for the high school program include a Peru Junior High School team, which is expected to play 12 to 15 games in April and May.
“It’s fulfilling to see our kids playing at some level above high school and we try to keep (former players) a part of our program,” says Brimbury, who regularly welcomes baseball alums from his first Peru head coaching stint into his dugout and is now coaching the sons of some former players. “It’s a long history of former Tiger baseball players.
“We are totally vested in the success of our kids here.”
The Brimbury family celebrates Peru High School’s 2015 sectional baseball championship (from left): Michelle, Nathan, Nolan, Chuck and Madison. In 2018, Chuck is in the fourth season of his second tenure as head coach. Nathan is a senior catcher. Michelle is team mom. Madison is student manager. Nolan is now a redshirt sophomore at Indiana State University.