James Craig was honored in June by the Indiana High School Athletic Association and the National Federation of Interscholastic Officials Association as the top baseball umpire for 2022. Craig, a Fort Wayne resident, was selected for the award by a committee representing the 24 officials associations in Indiana. He is a member of the Northeastern Officials Association. The 57-year-old has been a licensed official for baseball since he was 19. He has worked 26 sectionals, 18 regionals, 11 semistate contests and eight State Finals. More than 10 times, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association has named Craig a district umpire of the year and he has worked a number of IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series, including 2022 at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. Craig has also officiated high school football for 22 years and serves as referee on a crew with Fort Wayne’s James Payne (line judge), Mark Herberger (back judge) and Mark Stultz (linesman) and Bluffton’s Mark Mettler (umpire). The group has worked three State Finals, including the 2021 IHSAA Class 6A game between Center Grove and Westfield. “You want to have friends and people you can communicate with and get along,” says Craig of the football crew dynamic. “You should see as much football as you possibly can. Friday should be perfect. See the goofy stuff on Monday and Thursday nights (in freshman and junior varsity games).” Craig prefers to see as many teams and classes as possible in the regular season to be ready for the postseason. A number of football officials are also baseball umpires. Taking regular-season baseball assignments from Fort Wayne Umpires Association, Craig does games around northeast Indiana with multiple partners in a two-man crew. “We switch things up,” says Craig of the decision of who works the plate or the bases. “It’s best for everybody involved. “If it’s a doubleheader and I’ve done the plate in the first game, I guarantee (my partner) will do the plate in the second game. “In the two-man you’ve got one friend on the baseball field and it’s that guy.” During the game, Craig has a rule that he follows. “At the end of the inning always go to the side of the diamond of the defensive team,” says Craig. “They are happy they got the third out. Don’t got to the offensive side ever.” In a typical high school baseball season, Craig umpires about 38 games — each week night and a doubleheader on Saturdays. He has cut back his summer ball schedule though he still does some travel ball tournaments. After all these years, Craig maintains the same philosophy. “See as many pitches, plays and scenarios as you possibly can,” says Craig. “You’re always learning. “I’d like to say I’ve seen everything on a baseball diamond. I haven’t.” When making calls, Craig uses a rule of thumb that includes common sense, fair play and the rules. “It’s my job as an official to interpret rules,” says Craig. “I will never show up a coach. I will never embarrass them. I expect the same thing coming back. Address me by my first name and we’re going to get along just fine. “I’m just out there to do a job and that’s it. I’m calling fairs and fouls, safes and outs. However, Craig knows how teams and players operate. “If you’re not cheating you’re not trying and it’s only cheating when you get caught,” says Craig. “That’s when rules and the reinterpretation comes in. Is it within the spirt of what we’re looking for?” Take the example of all the padding worn by players these days. “There’s more body army than we’ve had ever,” says Craig. “On an inside pitch, they stick that wing out there and — bam! — they’re going to trot down to first base. “Don’t award them a base on that.” Without the armor, players would not be so swift to get in the way of an inside pitch to “wear one.” On the subject of inside pitches. When Craig was 10 he was chosen out of thousands to speak at Bob Gibson’s retirement. Gibson was known for working to the hitter’s side of the plate and intimidating long before elbow pads were a thing. “You didn’t dig in against Bob Gibson,” says Craig. A point of emphasis during the 2022 Indiana high school season included the amount of eye black. “To me it’s a bad look,” says Craig. “It’s nothing but a fashion statement.” In Game 1 of the North/South All-Star Series, Craig was behind the plate when Westfield lefty swinger Keaton Mahan came up in the seventh inning and quickly handed his cell phone to the catcher to take a quick photo with the umpire. “During the regular season, I say ‘get that camera out of here,’” says Craig. “But this was for fun.” In the ninth inning, Ohio State commit Mahan smacked a game-winning grand slam that was estimated to have landed and rolled under a tree about 570 feet from home plate. “He clobbered that thing,” says Craig. “It hit off the house (behind the right field fence) fair.” As for the topic of epic bat flip that’s become so prevalent in baseball, it’s a judgement call on the part of the official when it’s gone too far. “When the bat goes up in the air it becomes a safety issues,” says Craig. “I don’t have a problem with a high school kid showing some enthusiasm. But level of enjoyment must be within the confinements of the rules.” There’s also the issue of sportsmanship, especially with spectators — often parents — who become self-appointed evaluators and are quick to criticize umpires. “Officiating is a thankless profession,” says Craig. “I guarantee somebody is leaving there upset and it’s my fault. “You’re asking for perfection. I’m expected to show up perfect and get better.” He has witnessed a difference between high school baseball and summer travel ball. “Not every kid is going to be the next Derek Jeter, but parents seem to think that and they take it out on officials,” says Craig. “It’s disheartening. “High school baseball and high school sports are taught by teachers who are coaches and there’s built-in respect. It’s not necessarily built-in for travel baseball. “It’s all about me, me, me in the summer as opposed to we, we, we in the spring. We have a set of standards we have to abide by on all sides set by the (National Federation of State High School Associations) and IHSAA. In the summer, it’s a free-for-all.” Not that he wants to paint with a broad brush. “Guys like (Javier DeJesus) and Mark DeLaGarza get it,” says Craig. “I appreciate the job they do for travel baseball.” Craig notes that there were nearly 500 IHSAA baseball games canceled at all levels in 2022 due to the lack of umpires and points to parent/spectator’s inclination to sharply voice their dissenting opinion as a big reason. “If you don’t temper your attitude there will be no officials,” says Craig. “The officials shortage is a nationwide disgrace and it’s not going to get better. “What scares me the most is that when I started the average age (of officials) was 25 or 30,” says Craig. “Now — in most sports — it’s like 50. We’re leaving and there’s nobody behind us.” While he intends to stay longer for football, Craig plans to do one more state tournament rotation for baseball then retire his mask and clicker. He can work as high as the semistate in 2023 and the State Finals in 2024. “That’s enough baseball,” says Craig. That doesn’t mean he regrets his decision to make the calls. “It’s something I treasure and I’m glad I got into it,” says Craig. “I’m not in it for the money. I’m not in it for the fame. “Officiating is wonderful.” Craig did not start his officiating journey in Indiana. He began high school in St. Louis and finished up in Bowling Green, Ky., when his father was transferred to the Corvette plant there. When he was 14 he started umpiring T-ball games. His American Legion coach said he had to do something to give back to the game and umpiring was the only option that paid. After pursuing an academic scholarship at the University of Kentucky, Craig finished college at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. He was IPFW student body president in 1988 and earned a Secondary Education degree but did not go into the classroom. Craig is now a supervisor at Fort Wayne’s at WaterFurnace International (makers of geothermal heating units), where he has worked the past 15 years. He has a 32-year-old daughter — Jocelyn. She graduated from Homestead High School and Indiana University and was chosen as 2009 National Big Brother Big Sister of the Year. She now works in dispatch for the Indiana State Police.
“I was just getting them work out there.” That was the response of Ben Gregory when he was told that he had so many fly-ball outs behind him in tossing a three-hitter to help Penn (26-6) beat Indianapolis Cathedral 3-0 in a clash of unranked teams for the IHSAA Class 4A state baseball title Saturday, June 18 in the 2022 State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis. The senior right-hander got Fighting Irish batters to fly out nine times with seven strikeouts, one pop-up, one line-out and a groundout (the the 21st and final out). He faced 24 batters and threw 84 pitches. He retired the side in the seventh with a line-out, strikeout and groundout. “I was trying to keep them off-balance,” said Gregory, who helped the Kingsmen to their fifth state crown (1994, 1998, 2001, 2015, 2022). “I had curveball and change-up working most of the game and I was keeping the fastball higher in the (strike) zone so (Cathedral hitters) were getting under it a little bit.” Sophomore Patrick Mazur produced a one-hit single and sophomore J.T. Stiner was hit by a Gregory pitch with two outs before the Penn pitcher got a rally-squelching strikeout in the Irish first. “This is easily the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in my entire life,” said Gregory. “Being able to come off that little bit of adversity definitely calmed me down. “Once we scored in the bottom of the first I knew we were in control of the game.” Gregory, who had elbow surgery in the off-season, not only got to loft the state championship trophy Saturday. But he was named winner of the Bob Gardner Mental Attitude Award. “I’ve dealt with a lot,” said Gregory. “Nine months ago I had no idea if I’d ever play again. “Just being put up for that award means so much because my coached trusted me to be the recipient. I truly love the coaching staff.” Greg Dikos has been Penn’s head coach for 35 years and all of the state titles (and a runner-up finish in 2017). He talked about his hurler and his team. “One of (Gregoy’s) most-effective traits is changing speeds,” said Dikos. “Last year that was his bread and butter — that change-up. That would fool a lot of hitters and get them to pop up. It’s a wicked pitch. “I’m just so happy. I never thought in the world he was going to make it seven innings. He hasn’t pitched seven innings all year.” What’s championship No. 5 mean? “It’s different (with each one),” said Dikos. “One for the thumb. They’re all special. “It’s humbling. I watch the kids how they practice, develop that team chemistry and just work their butts off and start playing for one another.” Senior right-handed submariner Ben Gomez tossed all six innings for the Irish and gave up six singles with one strikeout and three walks over 76 pitches. “We didn’t exactly know what to expect from (Gomez),” said Dikos. “We tried to mimic (the delivery) at practice. “I preach that we’ve got to take what they give you. If they pitch outside you’ve got to scrap and grind and go the opposite way.” Penn went down in order in the sixth against Gomez with a strikeout and two fly-outs. A one-out single by junior Carson Johnson was followed by a strikeout and an inning-ending fielder’s choice in the Cathedral sixth. The Kingsmen left the bases loaded in a score-free fifth. The third out came when junior Irish shortstop Kyuss Gargett made a diving stop on a ball hit up the middle and beat the runner to the second base bag for a force-out. The Irish had two fly-outs and pop-up in going down in order in the fifth. Penn got one run in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. Junior Evan Tuesley led off with a single, moved to second base on junior Colton Hudnall’s sacrifice bunt and scored on senior Zach Hoskins’ two-out single. Cathedral (18-11-2) went down 1-2-3 in the fourth with fly-outs to center, right and left. Gomez coaxed the Kingsmen into three groundouts and were not hurt by an error in the bottom of the third. Cathedral went down on three fly-outs in the third, including a sprinting grab by right fielder Tuesley for the final out of the stanza. Penn’s edge moved to 2-0 with a run in the second. Gregory poked a lead-off single. Junior courtesy runner Mason Campbell stole second base, moved to third base on Hudnall’s single and crossed the plate on junior Cooper Hums’ groundout. The frame ended with the bases loaded. Gregory yielded a single to sophomore Chris Klug then picked him off first base for the first out of a score-free Irish second. Gregory fanned the next two hitters. Penn scored the game’s first run in its half the first for a 1-0 lead. Hoskins led off with a single, stole second base, moved to third base on a groundout and crossed the plate thanks to a passed ball. Cathedral left two runners in a scoreless first. “There were three or four ball that were hit really well but just right at somebody,” said sixth-year Cathedral coach Ed Freje of his team’s offensive night. “That’s baseball. They made some really good plays and we were beat by a really solid pitcher.” The Irish were going for a fourth state championship — the most-recent being a 4-3 win in eight innings against Penn in 2017. Cathedral now has six runner-up finishes.
Lafayette Central Catholic got on the scoreboard early and managed to work out of some jams in besting Tecumseh 4-1 in the IHSAA Class 1A baseball state championship Saturday, June 18 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. The No. 3-ranked Knights beat the unranked Braves at the 2022 State Finals for the program’s eighth 1A title (2004, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013). Lafayette Central Catholic scored two runs in the first inning and added markers in the fourth and fifth while Tecumseh tallied a fourth-inning run and finished the contest with nine runners left on base. “All year Owen Munn and Evan Dienhart kind of set the table for us,” said 27th-year Knights coach Tim Bordenet. “Ben (Mazur) has a knack of pitching out of trouble. He bears down when there’s traffic out there. “He did that today.” Junior Munn went 1-for-3 with two runs scored. Junior Dienhart was 2-of-2 with a run. Junior Mazur went 1-for-2 with an RBI. On the mound, he gave up five hits and one unearned run with six strikeouts and three walks for 119 pitches. Tecumseh junior center fielder Chase Jones took a hit away from junior T.J. Bell with a diving catch for the first out in the Lafayette Central Catholic sixth. A scoreless Braves sixth included a one-out walk by Jones and two-out walk by freshman Mason Gogel with a rally-ending caught-looking strikeout by Mazur. With on run in the fifth, the Knights went ahead 4-1. Munn reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to third base on an error and scored on a single by Mazur. Tecumseh left two runners and came up empty in the fifth following a one-out single by junior Conner Anglin and two-out single by junior Dax Bailey. Lafayette Central Catholic (27-6) took a 3-1 edge with one run in the fourth. Bell singled off the wall in right. Junior courtesy runner Nathan Bapst moved to second on a groundout and scored on a throwing error following a groundout for the second out of the inning. The Braves tallied one run in the fourth to pull within 2-1. Junior Brody Julian reached on an error, moved to second base on a wild pitch, third base on a single by Bailey (Tecumseh’s first hit of the game) and scored when junior Drew DuPont got on by error. The frame — that included three Knight defensive miscues — ended with the bases loaded. Mazur recorded two strikeouts and a coerced a fly-out. Lafayette Central Catholic stranded two runners in a scoreless third. Dienhart produced a two-out infield single Mazur walked (and was spelled by courtesy runner Bapst) before Braves right-hander Bailey coaxed an inning-ending groundout. Anglin lined a two-out single and was thrown on trying to steal second base — junior catcher Ryan Schummer to shortstop Dienhart in a score-free Tecumseh third. The Knight second ended on a Tecumseh double play — shortstop Julian tagging second base and firing to first baseman Drew DuPont, retiring junior runner Tyler Fox (who singled) and sophomore batter Kayden Minnich. The Braves went down in order against Mazur in the second with a line-out, fly-out and strikeout. Lafayette Central Catholic tallied two runs in its half of the first to go up 2-0. Munn smacked a lead-off double and scored on an error as Dienhart put down a bunt single and advanced to second base. Dienhart stole third base and beat the throw home on Schummer’s sacrifice fly to center. Tecumseh left a runner at third base in a scoreless first. Lead-off hitter Anglin drew a walk and moved around on a wild pitch and groundout but got no further against LCC’s Mazur. Bailey went all six innings on the mound for the Braves and gave up six hits and four runs (three earned) with six strikeouts and three walks over 95 pitches. Lafayette Central Catholic senior Justin Brady took home the Phil Gardner Mental Attitude Award. Tecumseh (19-13) was attempting to win the program’s second state title (the other came in 2003) and the Braves are now three-time state runners-up. There were no seniors and 11 freshmen on Tecumseh’s 20-man tournament roster. “If we don’t make those mistakes it’s really a 1-1 ballgame,” said fifth-year Braves coach Ted Thompson of Saturday’s contest. “You don’t know what happens at that point. “Today was just not our day.”
Peyton Nisch has a torn left shoulder that doesn’t allow him to effectively swing a bat. But Niskch (11-0) can pitch and held No. 4-ranked Brebeuf Jesuit in-check much of the time in helping No. 1 Andrean (31-4) to its eighth IHSAA state baseball championship in nine final appearances at the State Finals. The 59ers beat the Braves 5-1 Friday, June 17 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. “I changed up my tempo; I changed up my first pitch,” said Niksch, a 5-foot-11 senior right-hander who struck out eight, walked two and yielded three hits and one unearned run over seven innings and 112 pitches. “Sometimes it would be a fastball. Sometimes it would be a change-up. “I kept them off-balance and they knew it was coming.” Said Brebeuf coach Jeff Scott of Purdue Northwest-bound Niksch, “I thought we’d get a few more hits off him. He did a really good job. Our kids battled through it. We had a lot of adversity tonight.” Andrean opened the 2022 season with Tennessee trip. On the way back to northwest Indiana, the team bus went past The Vic. “We’re gonna be there,” said Niksch and several of his teammates, predicting a future that came true months later. All the coaches said that the way we played in Tennessee there’s no way. We proved them wrong. That’s all that matters.” Dave Pishkur concluded his 42nd season as 59ers coach with his eighth 3A state title — all won since 2005. Andrean was state runner-up in 2004. “We won the state championship because of the guy that we beat,” said Pishkur after the 59ers topped senior right-hander Andrew Dutkanych, who is committed to Vanderbilt University but could been selected high in the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. “We beat a stud today. That’s a feather in our cap. “So seven years down the road when he’s pitching in the major leagues, (we can say) we beat that kid or I got a hit off him.” L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award winner Dutkanych (8-1) went all six innings and gave up eight hits with eight strikeouts and one walk over 102 pitches. Four of the five runs scored against him were earned. “I’m so proud of these kids,” said Pishkur. “They’re tough kids and they’re athletic.” Andrean swiped seven bases — three for junior Caleb Smith and one each for senior Alonzo Paul, freshman Mason Barth, junior Drayk Bowen and senior Kyle Tyler — and diving catches were made by sophomore right fielder Moises Vazquez for the first out and senior center fielder Billy Jones for the 20th of 21. The 59ers took a 5-1 edge with a run in the fifth. Senior Jax Kalemba led off the frame with a single — one of his three on the day — and courtesy runner Smith later scored on a sacrifice fly by junior pinch-hitter Angel Ramirez — who came in with just three at-bats for 2022. Kalemba’s plate appearance was kept alive by a dropped foul pop-up. Andrean pushed across a run in the fourth for a 4-1 lead. Bowen drew a lead-off walk, stole second, went to third base on a wild pitch and scored on suicide squeeze bunt by Vazquez. Brebeuf (26-5) pulled to within 3-1 with an unearned run in the third. With two outs, senior Anthony Annee singled, moved to second base on an error, third base on junior Jayden Ohmer’s single and scored on an errant pick-off throw toward first base by Niksch. The 59ers strung together five straight hits and scored three runs — all with two outs — in the second inning. After two strikeouts, Jones doubled, Nisch bunted for a single (and was spelled by courtesy runner Tyler), Paul singled, Barth produced an infield single and Kalemba smacked a single. Jones and Tyler scored on Paul’s hit. Paul crossed the plate on Kalemba’s safety. Scott, who had announced that he’s stepping down after four years of leading the program, talked about Friday’s game. “We tip our caps to Andrean,” said Scott. “They had a really good game plan coming into this. “We knew they were going to (suicide squeeze). It’s just a difficult play to defend in baseball. It takes the perfect bunt and they got it down. “We had one heck of a season and will have nothing to hang our heads about when all this wears off.” In going 26-5, Brebeuf got to its second state finals (the Braves were 3A runners-up in 2012) by winning 15 straight and 19 of 20. “We had an unbelievable senior bunch to lead the path for these young guys here coming up through the program,” said Scott. “I came in with these guys when they were freshmen and watched a bunch of kids work their tails off. “It gives me a lot of joy that they set the tone of our program and our culture.” Brebeuf’s next head coach will be Wes Neese, who has been a Braves assistant.
Illiana Christian announced its presence on the state baseball scene with authority Friday, June 17 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. In just the second year of IHSAA tournament eligibility and third year since the school moved from Lansing, Ill., to Dyer, Ind., the unranked Vikings topped No. 7 Centerville 10-1 for the Class 2A state title at the State Finals. It is Illiana Christian’s first IHSAA state championship in any sport. Centerville, who first belonged to the IHSAA in 1912, was going for the same distinction. “We stuck together as a team,” said Vikings coach Jeff VanderWoude, who saw his squad get a run batted, hit or run scored in from 10 different players. “It’s a whole team. It’s a family. I’m just so proud of these guys.” Pacing Illiana Christian (22-7) in RBIs was senior Gabe VanRoekel (2), freshman Gavin Meyer (2), junior Kevin Corcoran (1), senior Adam Walters (1) and senior Tyler Barker (1). Six different Vikings had one hit — VanRoekel, Meyer, Corcoran, Walters, senior Ian VanBeek and senior Austin Maslanka. Junior Cody DeJong (3), VanRoekel (2), junior Josh Vis (2), VanBeek (1), Walters (1) and sophomore Isaac VanderWoude (1) scored the runs. “We competed one pitch at a time,” said Jeff VanderWoude. “Win that one pitch. Don’t worry about anything else. We did that.” Corcoran (5-1) went the distance on the mound. The left-hander gave up two hits and one earned run to go with 10 strikeouts and three walks over 98 pitches. Centerville (21-6) scored its run in the top of the first inning and Illiana Christian responded with four in its half of the stanza. “Corcoran was a little nervous,” said VanderWoude. “He settled down.” Said Bulldogs coach Tracey Crull, “This is not the way we wanted to play. But sometimes that happens in baseball. This just wasn’t our night.” The Bulldogs turned an inning-ending double play in the sixth as senior shortstop and L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award winner Keegan Schlotterbeck gobbled up a grounder and fired to senior first baseman Zach Thompson, retiring runner Maslanka (single) and hitter Meyer. Illiana Christian took an 10-1 lead with four two-out runs in the fourth. VanBeek cracked a one-out single and scored on Corcoran’s two-out single. Courtesy runner Vis (running for Corcoran) scored on an error that allowed DeJong to reach base. VanRoekel singled in DeJong. Barker’s bases-loaded walk forced home VanRoekel. The Vikings scored twice in the third inning for a 6-1 advantage. After putting two runners on against senior right-hander Logan Drook — DeJong (hit by pitch) and VanRoekel (walk), junior righty Jacob Crowe was brought in to pitch for Centerville. Drook (5-1) gave up six runs (two earned) and one hit with four walks over two innings and 54 pitches. Crowe pitched four innings and 76 pitching, giving up five hits, four runs (one) and striking out two and walking three. “(Drook and Crowe) had been amazing all year,” said Crull. “That is very uncharacteristic. We had some control issues early and hit a couple batters. I wasn’t concerned because I knew these kids would keep battling through a 4-1.” Walters got on by fielder’s choice. When Meyer lofted a sacrifce fly deep to right field both DeJong and Walters scored on the play. Illiana Christian went down in order in the bottom of the second as did Centerville in the top of the third. The Vikings turned a double play for the first two outs in the Centerville second. Crowe led off the frame by being plunked by a pitch. He was doubled up when junior Collin Clark hit a line drive to senior second baseman Levi Hescott who flipped to first baseman DeJong. Illiana Christian tallied four runs in the bottom of the first inning for a 4-1 lead. Isaac VanderWoude drew a one-out walk, Corcoran reached on an error and was spelled by courtesy runner Vis and DeJong walked to load the bases VanderWoude scored when VanRoekel was hit by a pitch. Vis scored on a wild pitch. Walters’ groundout plated DeJong. Meyer’s single drove in VanRoekel Centerville went up 1-0 with a run in the top of the first inning. Drook rapped a one-out single, moved to second and third on pitches in the dirt and scored on senior Jamari Pamplin’s two-out triple. The Bulldogs were playing with caps that had “Emma’s Light” emblazoned on the back — a design by senior players. Emma Ulm, a volleyball and basketball player who would have been in the Class of 2022, was killed in a 2020 worksite accident at 16. “(The seniors) wanted to make sure she was recognized throughout the year,” said Crull. “It was critical.”
The 55th IHSAA State Finals for baseball is returning to a Friday-Saturday format with two games each day at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. On Friday, June 17, the Class 2A game pits No. 7-ranked Centerville (21-5) against unranked Illiana Christian (21-7) at 5:30 p.m. ET/4:30 CT. Both teams are making their first State Finals appearance. Centerville has outscored opponents 38-20 in five postseason games. Illiana Christian has a run differential of 62-6 in six games. The 3A game features No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit (26-4) against No. 1 Andrean (30-4) at 8 ET/7 CT. The Braves have earned one state runner-up finish in 3A (2012), the 59ers seven state titles (2005, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) and one runner-up (2003). Tournament run differential — Brebeuf 47-5 in six games, Andrean 49-6 in five games. On Saturday, June 18, the 1A title contest is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 CT and includes vote-getter Tecumseh (19-12) and No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic (26-6). The Braves won it all in 1A in 2003 while the Knights have carted off the state trophy on seven occasions (2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). Tournament run differential — Tecumseh 58-15 in six games, Lafayette Central Catholic 62-7 in five games. The 4A championship is slated for 8 ET/7 CT and pits a pair of unranked clubs — Indianapolis Cathedral (18-10-2) against Penn (25-6). The Irish have reigned three times (2001 in 3A, 2007 and 2017 in 4A) with five runner-up finishes (2006, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2018). The Kingsmen have four state crowns to their credit (1994 in the pre-class era, 1998, 2001 and 2015 in 4A) with one runner-up (2017). Tournament run differential — Cathedral 59-27 in five games, Penn 33-12 in six games. Andrean’s Dave Pishkur, Lafayette Central Catholic’s Tim Bordenet, Penn’s Greg Dikos are all members of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A capsule look at the finalists:
Class 4A Indianapolis Cathedral Top hitters: Jr. Kyuss Gargett (.395 average, 3 home runs, 18 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases), So. Carson Johnson (.389, 20 RBI, 12 SB), So. J.T. Stiner (.364, 2 HR, 30 RBI), Sr. Ben Gomez (.342, 2 HR), So. Patrick Mazur (.341, 21 RBI), 13 SB, Jr. David Ayers (.247, 18 RBI, 16 SB), Sr. Connor Hall (15 SB). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Ben Gomez (5-1, 36 strikeouts, 15 walks, 3.55 earned run average, 51 1/3 IP), Sr. RHP Dylan Haslett (3-3, 3.58, 56 K’s, 25 walks, 43 IP). Cathedral won the Pike Sectional (Pike 11-1, Lawrence North 10-8), New Palestine Regional (Anderson 14-4, New Palestine 11-7) and Mooresville Semistate (Columbus East 13-7). The Fighting Irish have won a season-best seven in a row. Saturday’s game against Penn recalls the 2017 4A championship game (a 4-3 Cathedral victory). Bishop Chatard bested the Irish in the 2022 city championship game May 10 at Victory Field. Cathedral head coach Ed Freje (Sixth season, 113-32-5) says: “We’ve struggled early and throughout to kind of find our identity on the mound and some pieces that worked offensively for us. We had some bad losses. We had some good wins. It was kind of an up-and-down year … Ben Gomez threw a great game, a complete game (in a 3-2 Senior Night win May 16 against Mooresville). I don’t know if that was a turning point, but I think it definitely gave the guys confidence to beat a good opponent. It was some momentum to build on going into the postseason … We make it a priority (to play a competitive schedule). We definitely want to play and see good teams to see where we’re at early and throughout the season — most importantly to see good pitching and challenge ourselves … We can learn from our wins and learn from our losses and grow through the season … Hopefully — along the way — we’re winning some games. Losing is something we try not to settle in too much in the program … We try to go out and compete everyday to win so you know the losses we took throughout weren’t easy, especially some of the lopsided ones (including 11-1 to Homestead, 17-1 to Center Grove and 18-8 to Franklin Community) … We’ve had games where we’ve had to battle and win in some ugly ways … One of the staples of the program when I was an assistant to Coach (Rich) Andriole was pitching and defense and holding opponents to low-scoring games and that — quite frankly — hasn’t been how we’ve won this year. We’ve been kind of fortunate to find some offense and find our bats here lately … Each team kind of takes its own identity and this isn’t the team from 2017 and it’s not the team from 2018 (which lost 4-3 to Fishers for the 4A title). This team is its own team. I’m proud of the way we’ve stuck together … It’s a special opportunity (to play at Victory Field). We try to tell our players it’s nothing to take for granted … It provides a little bit of reassurance the fact that we’ve been there.”
Penn Top hitters: Zach Hoskins (.412, 1 HR, 14 RBI), Jr. Cam Dombrowski (.409, 21 RBI), Sr. Ben Gregory (.373, 30 RBI), Jr. Adam Lehmann (.366, 20 RBI), Jr. Cooper Hums (.333, 2 HR, 16 RBI), Sr. Zac David (.313, 27 RBI), Jr. Evan Tuesley (.219, 2 HR, 11 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Ben Gregory (3-1, 2.07, 37 K’s, 8 walks, 27 IP), Jr. RHP Brayden Schoetzow (10-0, 1.37, 62 K’s, 14 walks, 51 IP), Jr. RHP Adam Lehmann (3-1, 1.64, 49 K’s, 16 walks, 34 IP), So. RHP Joe Trennery (4-2, 3.30, 49 K’s, 18 walks, 36 IP). Penn won the Penn Sectional (Elkhart 7-0, Warsaw 3-1, Northridge 7-5), LaPorte Regional (South Bend Adams 11-0, Lake Central 5-4) and LaPorte Semistate (Zionsville 4-2). The Kingsmen are in the state championship game for the sixth time coming off an 11-game win streak. Penn has won 14 of its last 15. Penn head coach Greg Dikos (35th season, 793-281) says: “I think it’s going to be very good baseball … (Cathedral) is pounding the ball pretty good. That’s one of the things we have to stop. They score a lot of runs. They look to have some team speed … Like we did for Zionsville, we’re going working on holding runners and with our catchers getting rid of he ball. You know, making sure we don’t allow them any free bases … We want them to take a look around and enjoy the atmosphere because this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (for our players). I also want to make sure they understand the responsibility on their shoulders. The community is expecting a ‘W.’ … (Competing for championships) is the culture here at Penn … (Assistant coach Jim Kominkiewicz) has been involved for all six (State Finals) appearances. (Tom Stanton) has been involved since 2002. The kids see that we’re experienced (coaches) and I think that might take a little pressure off as well.”
Class 3A Brebeuf Jesuit Top hitters: Sr. Sam Reed (.444, 2 HR, 22 RBI), Sr. Will Schenkelberg (.426, 2 HR, 32 RBI), Sr. Luke Bauer (.413, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 19 SB), So. Will Loftus (.407, 3 HR, 32 RBI), Jr. Jayden Ohmer (.398, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 21 SB), Sr. Anthony Annee (.320, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 33 SB), Jr. Michael Finelli (.329, 22 RBI), Jr. Alex Cookerly (.241, 22 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Andrew Dutkanych (8-0, 106 K’s, 24 walks, 1.02, 48 IP), Sr. LHP Sam Reed (5-0, 1.17, 89 K’s, 15 walks, 54 IP). Brebeuf won the Danville Sectional (Greencastle 10-0, Danville 11-3, Tri-West Hendricks 12-2), Danville Regional (West Vigo 4-0, Beech Grove 8-0) and Jasper Semistate (Silver Creek 2-0). The Braves have won 15 straight. Their last loss was April 30 at Center Grove (9-8). Brebeuf won the Marion County tournament championship May 10 against Lawrence North (13-3) at Victory Field. Brebeuf head coach Jeff Scott (Fourth season at Brebeuf and 12th overall, 131-100-1) says: “We never really talked about the State Finals this year. We had a senior leadership meeting (in the winter and throughout the season). One of the things I talked about was ‘let’s enjoy this ride here and let’s take this thing day-by-day. Let’s go work hard and enjoy each day and see where we get when this thing’s over … This is my last year at Brebeuf. I’ve kept that under my hat. I didn’t want to take away our seniors or our team (Scott, who is in his fourth season leading the Braves, lives in the Center Grove district and makes a long daily commute to Brebeuf and wants to spent more time enjoying his children’s activities) … We knew we compete on that stage and compete with that team (after the loss to Center Grove). I think our mindset changed a little bit … Sam (Reed) gives you a great look on the left side. He really works down and keeps the ball down. Where (Friday’s starter) Andrew (Dutkanych) will rely on the breaking ball a little more, Sam relies on the change-up a little more. That’s probably the noticeable differences between those two pitchers … It’s a huge advantage (having played recently at Victory Field). You know we were there last year. The majority of the team has played on that field the last two years already. When you first play there No. 1 you’re a little awestruck. It’s a beautiful venue and unbelievable backdrop with the city of Indianapolis there. So you have that factor. It’s really big (320 feet down the lines, 418 to left-center, 326 to right-center and 402 to dead center). The foul territories are much bigger and the gaps are much bigger that your normal high school field. Positioning the outfielders is very difficult at Victory Field, especially if you haven’t been there. Communicating is extremely challenging out there for some reason … (Andrean) is going to be well-prepared to go pitch it well and defend it well. I’m certain they’ll have a good game plan to try to attack (Dutkanych) as well — just like Silver Creek did this past weekend.”
Andrean Top hitters: Sr. Jax Kalemba (.460, 5 HR, 38 RBI), Sr. Billy Jones (.435, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Sr. Alonzo Paul (.434, 17 RBI), Sr. Miguel Martinez (.429, 2 HR, 11 RBI), Sr. Peyton Niksch (.425, 2 HR, 33 RBI), Fr. Mason Barth (.406, 1 HR, 43 RBI), Sr. Owen Walkowiak (.395, 18 RBI), Jr. Drayk Bowen (.355, 2 HR, 30 RBI), Jr. Chris Koeppen (.282, 2 HR, 13 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Peyton Niksch (10-0, 0.22, 79 K’s, 15 walks, 62 2/3 IP), Sr. RHP Owen Walkowiak (5-2, 1.76, 59 K’s, 17 walks, 47 2/3 IP). Andrean won the Griffith Sectional (Griffith 10-2, Calumet New Tech 18-0), Griffith Regional (South Bend Saint Joseph 5-3, Glenn 4-0) and Kokomo Semistate (New Castle 12-1). The 59ers have won six in a row. The team reeled off 14 straight wins April 14-May 10. Andrean head coach Dave Pishkur (42nd season, 1,070-292) says: “The Penn game (a 4-3 win on April 29) might be the one that told me that we’re good enough to beat some of the really good teams. But we kept on getting better week after week (as the starting lineup from Day 1 evolved through the season as is typical at Andrean) … We went right by Victory Field (on the way came back from Louisville Ballard in late March). Our kids were saying ‘we’ll be there in two months.’ My son and I, we were kind of laughing like there’s no way we’re coming back there if we don’t get markedly better and we did. They prophesied that they were going to be there … This is a very athletic team. We put a premium on baserunning and putting the ball in-play … We’ve seen good pitching this year. The problem is Dukanych might be a step up from good pitching. He might be that elite generational type of talent … We’re fortunate at Andrean that we have a lot of good equipment (including a $14,000 iPitch machine which can deliver 97 mph fastballs, 76 mph breaking pitches and just about everything in-between) … With a good opposition (like Brebeuf) you expect good pitching. You expect good hitting. But, on the other side, they should expect the same out of us and you kind of hope it’s a well-played game.”
Class 2A Centerville Top hitters: Sr. Jamari Pamplin (.429, 6 HR, 28 RBI), Sr. Javontae Pamplin (.423, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 16 SB) , Sr. Keegan Schlotterbeck (.364, 2 HR, 27 RBI), Sr. Logan Drook (.361, 18 RBI), Jr. Jacob Crowe (.357, 1 HR, 26 RBI), Jr. Collin Clark (.338, 2 HR, 18 RBI), So. Kollyn Peed (.333, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Sr. Bryce Robertson (333, 18 RBI), Sr. Zach Thompson (.274, 1 HR, 14 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Jacob Crowe (10-3, 2.13, 87 K’s, 14 walks, 62 1/3 IP), Sr. RHP Logan Drook (5-0, 1.30, 66 K’s, 28 walks, 43 IP). Centerville won the Centerville Sectional (Shenandoah 4-2, Hagerstown 14-8), Park Tudor Regional (Cascade 6-3, Heritage Christian 8-2) and Mooresville Semistate (Linton-Stockton 6-5). The Bulldogs have won eight in a row — including the school’s first-ever regional and semistate titles — following a three-game losing skid. The team strung together 11 victories April 20-May 9. Centerville head coach Tracey Crull (10th season, 120-94) says: “It’s absolutely madness. It’s crazy (the excitement in the community) … We have a walk-off (RBI single by Jamari Pamplin against Linton-Stockton to punctuate a two-run seventh) and we’re in the state title game. My phone, email, text messages, all kinds of messages have been blowing. It’s not just the Centerville community. It’s the whole county … We had a really tough week in May where we played our rival Hagerstown twice (in Tri-Eastern Conference Wayne County tournament games). We lost both ball games by a run (2-1 and 3-2 sandwiching a 10-0 loss at Lapel). After that week we had some long conversations as a team. We talked about focus. We talked about accountability. We talked about how we react to adversity. We then went on a run … We’ve had a stretch where we’ve hit the ball really well … It could be (Jacob Crowe or Logan Drook starting on the mound Friday). Logan gave up only one unearned run all year. They are completely different pitchers. Logan (who was the semistate starter) is a little bit harder thrower. He doesn’t give up as many hits. Jake gives up a few more hits, but he’s really good at keeping runners and batters off-balance with his motion and his delivery. It depends on whoever is feeling the best and having the best match-up Friday … Our boys like to see really good pitching (which the Bulldogs have faced in tournament play). I think it will be a good ball game (against Illiana Christian).”
Illiana Christian Top hitters: Jr. Kevin Corcoran (.471, 4 HR, 37 RBI), Sr. Ian VanBeek (.446, 22 RBI), Sr. Adam Walters (.410, 12 RBI), Sr. Tyler Barker (.373, 29 RBI), Jr. Cody DeJong (.351, 2 HR, 22 RBI), So. Isaac VanderWoude (.338, 19 RBI), Sr. Levi Hescott (.300, 12 RBI), Sr. Gabe VanRoekel (.282, 17 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. LHP Kevin Corcoran (4-1, 2.194, 75 K’s, 13 walks, 44 2/3 IP), Sr. RHP Ian VanBeek (3-2, 1.474, 56 K’s, 6 walks, 38 IP). Illiana Christian won the Whiting Sectional (Bowman Academy 19-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 3-1, Wheeler 16-4), Whiting Regional (Winamac 11-1, Eastside 7-0) and Kokomo Semistate (Wapahani 6-0). The Vikings have won a season-best seven straight games. There was a stretch from April 25 to May 2 where Illiana Christian went 2-4 with two losses to Griffith and one each against Highland and Hanover Central. The team has triumphed in 13 of its last 14. Illiana Christian head coach Jeff VanderWoude (Third season, 40-13) says: “Last year we had a younger team. I thought we were pretty good. Last year we ran into Rex Stills of Wheeler and lost that game 2-1 in the (Whiting) Sectional final … This year our (Bible) verse is James 1:2-3. It’s basically saying consider it pure joy when you hit trials and tribulations because our faith has been strengthened … This team turned around when they started playing for each other and not themselves. Our team does that extremely well, I am 100-percent convinced that’s exactly whey we’re in this position … We try to play the bigger schools (around northwest Indiana) … Kevin Corcoran competes really well. He’s a very athletic kid.”
Class 1A Tecumseh Top hitters: Jr. Conner Anglin (.472, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 13 SB), Jr. Brody Julian (.383, 14 RBI), Jr. Drew Dupont (.341, 2 HR, 27 RBI), Jr. Dax Bailey (.387, 1 HR, 27 RBI), So. D.J. Dupont (.298, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 15 SB), Jr. Chase Jones (.263, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 11 SB), Fr. Mason Gogel (.256, 18 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Dax Bailey (5-4, 3.35, 39 K’s, 22 walks, 54 1/3 IP), Jr. RHP Conner Anglin (5-2, 1.13, 28 K’s, 10 walks, 31 IP), Jr. RHP Drew Dupont (5-1, 3.00, 47 K’s, 23 walks, 42 IP). Tecumseh won the Cannelton Sectional (Northeast Dubois 9-8, Wood Memorial 11-2, Springs Valley 11-0), Loogootee Regional (New Washington 11-1, Barr-Reeve 4-1) and Jasper Semistate (Shakamak 12-3). The Braves have won a season-high nine straight games. The team, which has no seniors and four freshmen in the starting lineup, started out 1-4 and entered May 6-9. Of the 12 losses, seven are by two runs or fewer. Tecumseh head coach Ted Thompson (Fifth season, 77-44) says: “We started out struggling a little bit. Our four freshmen (Mason Gogel, Wyatt Huddleston, Braydon Long and Thomas Pemberton) were just learning how to play it at the varsity level. I thought by the time we were going to do tournament we were going to be in good shape as far as being able to compete at a high level … About the month of May everything started to click … Everything just really started to work well with our four freshmen and our juniors provided great leadership … We’ve made one — maybe two errors — in the last three weeks. It’s been really good defensively and we’ve just really played well … We try to load up our schedule (with 4A and 3A schools including Evansville North and Gibson Southern) to try to be competitive. We try to do everything we can to provide an atmosphere for our guys to improve … The first two weeks of the season we only pitch our pitches for 35 to 40 pitches. The second two weeks, which ends April, we don’t even get our pitchers above 60 pitches (with freshmen pitching often in relief) … For our young guys to really get some innings is going to be valuable for us not only this year, but next year as well … (The State Finals) is a brand new environment for everyone. They’ve never faced it before. We feel like we do a great job of preparing our guys for big moments. We put a lot of pressure on them in practice. We really drill them on a lot of different situations … We’ll definitely be focused on the Tecumseh Braves. We have a great philosophy and I believe we have a great system. We’ll try to give the kids an idea of what to expect. Lafayette Central Catholic is going to be a formidable opponent. We know they’re going to come at us with a lot of different variations of the game. I can tell you our players will be prepared for those moments. It’s all about execution.”
Lafayette Central Catholic Top hitters: Jr. Evan Dienhart (.462, 18 RBI), Jr. Owen Munn (.366, 1HR, 23 RBI), Jr. Ryan Schummer (.354, 2 HR, 26 RBI), So. Kayden Minnich (.270, 21 RBI), Sr. Justin Brady (.250, 1 HR, 21 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Ben Mazur (8-1, 0.63, 96 K’s, 19 walks, 55 1/3 IP), So. RHP Brinn Robbins (8-1, 0.95, 61 K’s, 15 walks, 59 IP). Central Catholic won the Lafayette Central Sectional (Attica 13-1, Riverton Parke 8-0, Covington 10-0), Lafayette Central Regional (Union City 12-2, Rossville 10-0) and LaPorte Semistate (South Central of Union Mills 9-4 in 8 innings). The Knights have won a season-best 13 straight after a two-game losing streak. The team’s other setbacks came between April 1 and May 4. Knights head coach Tim Bordenet (27th season, 634-203) says: “We were kind of up-and-down until our (Hoosier) Conference championship against Western (a 6-1 victory on May 13 against University of Louisville pitching recruit Mitchell Dean). I think that was really the turning point. We had two games that week and were not playing that well. (Beating Western) proved to our guys that when we play the way we’re capable of we can compete and beat anybody … You’ve got to be able to get in a lot of hitters’ counts and put pressure on the opposing pitcher and opposing defense. Saturday (in the regional against South Central) we only had one hit for seven innings, but we did draw a lot of walks and hit by pitches and so we had a lot of traffic on the bases. I thought our approach at the plate was really good … We know we play a tough schedule and intentionally put ourselves in some adverse situations where we have to come back or hold on to a late lead in a close ballgame. Undoubtedly those situations have helped us here in the (state) tournament … We brought (junior right-hander) Evan Dienhart in (to pitch) with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in a tie game … He got a strikeout and fly out to get out of that inning … Our outfielders have to have good angles at balls in the gaps (at spacious Victory Field) and not let balls get past them. Fortunately for us, our outfield (senior Carter Johnson in left, Brinn Robbins in center and sophomore Kayden Minnich in right) is probably the strength of our team and has really good speed … Our kids are pretty savvy. The moments haven’t been too big for them to this point.”
Accountability, positivity, a spirt of competition and excellence are qualities Jacob Harden is looking to instill as the new head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School in Indiana’s Greene County. “I’m big on holding (players) accountable,” says Harden, who was hired to lead the Miners program in July. “I’ll be the first one to get on their tail when they’re doing something wrong, but I’ll be the first one to build them back up. All the coaches I’ve been around cared and still held me to realistic standards. “Positives need to outweigh the negatives.” Harden, who is also a Project Lead The Way computer science teacher at Linton-Stockton Middle School, had players conditioning shortly after the school year began and led players in grades 7-12 during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period in the fall and since the first week of December. “I want to be the program coach,” says Harden, 25. “I don’t want players to meet me for the first time when they’re freshmen.” Besides the middle school program for seventh and eighth graders, the Linton Youth League (T-ball though Grade 6) feeds the high school Miners. Recent graduates moving on to college ball are 2021 graduates Josh Pyne and Kip Fougerousse (son of former Linton-Stockton head coach Matt Fougerousse) to Indiana University. Bracey Breneman (Class of 2022) recently signed with Vincennes (Ind.) University. Harden did his best in the fall to simulate what spring practices will be like with position group work followed by team activity. He set the tone from Day 1. “I set the standard for how I expect things to go,” says Harden. “I mean business. I want us to win state championships. That means working hard. “We’re doing something every minute of our practices and everybody is going to get better.” Harden has players trying to beat one another in cut-off and bunt drills. “Scoop Tennis” — which promotes quick hands and feet and proper glove work — is both fun and competitive. “When guys compete with everything they do that’s going to transfer over to the game,” says Harden. “You want to be be a competitor and find ways to win. “It’s a competitive atmosphere and we’re paying attention to the fine details.” Fall World Series teams vied for the “Folger’s Cup” — an old coffee can found in a dugout. There’s also social media salutes to the “Grinder of the Week” complete with honoree pictured with a coal miner cap. Linton-Stockton baseball embraces the hashtag #PreparingForReign. “Everybody want to be the best they can be, but who’s going to prepare?,” says Harden, who also has his team breaking huddles with a chant of “618.” What’s significant about that number? June 18, 2022 is the date of the IHSAA State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis and that’s where the Miners want to be — #Destination618. Harden wants “The Miner Way” to be personified by players who are gritty with good attitudes. “It embodies what this town is all about,” says Harden. “These people have to work for a living. That’s how this community is. “These guys are starting to believe they can do it.” Linton-Stockton’s new uniforms will feature “MH” on the right shoulder to honor baseball backer Mark Hollingsworth, who died at the beginning of the school year. While he’s not on his staff, Harden has got plenty of support from former Miners head coach Bart Berns. Linton-Stockton (enrollment around 390) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley). In 2021, the Miners were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli and South Knox and beat North Knox 10-0 in the championship game. Linton-Stockton has won 10 sectional titles. Harden’s assistants are Mike Walters, Craig House and Brian Reel. Walters was a Harden teammate at Northview High School in Brazil, Ind. House is a longtime Linton-Stockton coach who is employed as a coal miner. Reel is the father of Indiana University Southeast head baseball coach Ben Reel. Harden graduated from Northview in 2015. Besides playing Knights head coaches Scott McDonald (2012 and 2013) and Craig Trout (2014 and 2015), he was in the Clay Youth League and was in travel ball as a middle schooler with the Indiana Redbirds and American Legion Baseball for Clinton Post 140 the summer before his senior year and Clay County Post 2 the summer after graduation. He played for Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany in the spring of 2016 and went back that fall. “I had a lot going on,” says Harden. “My grandpa passed away late that fall and one thing led to another. “I was led to step away and come back closer to home.” Harden, who is the son of Brazil’s Mark and Jaime Harden and older brother of sister Kennady Harden (now 19 and an Indiana State freshman) transferred to Vincennes U. “Coach (Chris) Barney took a chance on me,” says Harden, who went in as a walk-on in the fall of 2017 and left in the spring of 2018 as a scholarship player. He became a 4-2-4 player (four-year school, two-year school and four-year school) when he went to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs convinced him it was not worth the risk since Harden had open heart surgery at 16 in 2013 and he was a student manager the rest of the first semester for an ISU team that went on to win a Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship in 2019. Trout invited Harden to be an assistant at Northview and he helped at the varsity and junior varsity levels in 2019 and leading up to the COVID-19-canceled 2020 season. “I’d always known I wanted to coach,” says Harden. “That was the first time I got to put my imprint on something.” In 2021, Harden was an assistant to longtime Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology coach Jeff Jenkins in what turned out to be Jenkins’ final season at the Terre Haute school. Harden assisted manager A.J. Reed of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex in the summer and was on a bus heading to Champion City (Springfield, Ohio) when he got the call from Linton-Stockton asking him to join the Miners. We got to grow real close together,” says Harden of Reed. “He was fighting very hard for me. I got great references and guys on the team pulling for me. It felt so good. “I’ve met a lot of people along the way. I can’t think of too many 25-year-olds has the network I do. I’ve got to learn some much. It’s been a chaotic journey. But you have to have some chaos to get that goal accomplished.” The holder of an associate degree in General Studies from Vincennes and degree in Sports Management from Indiana State, Harden is working toward certification through the Indiana Teachers of Tomorrow program. This semester, his PLTW class is creating apps. Next semester, it will be computer science for innovators and makers. “It gives kids a moment to shine,” says Harden of the STEM students. “It makes them feel good.”
The same week the IHSAA crowns four state champions in Indianapolis, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will conduct its North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. State Finals are Monday and Tuesday, June 21-22 at Victory Field with the games to be set after semistates. The IHSBCA will hold its all-star game festivities Friday through Sunday, June 25-27 at the University of Evansville and historic Bosse Field. Practice is at U of E’s German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium (North workout at 3:15 p.m. Central Time, South workout at 5 Central) followed by the all-star banquet at Crescent Center at Milestones at 7 Central. A noon doubleheader is slated for Saturday at Braun Stadium with a wood-bat single game on Sunday at Bosse Field at 11 a.m. Central. Holiday Inn Express East, 220 Kirkwood Drive, is the team hotel. The North leads 68-63 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged in Evansville Wednesday, June 28.
“(Sharnowski) taught us to just be tough,” says Atwood, who is now in his second stint as head baseball coach at North Newton Junior-Senior High School in Morocco, Ind., where he was an assistant then a head coach in the mid-1980’s to the late-1990’s and is now also athletic director and dean of students. “You have to be mentally tough in baseball. You’ve got to be ready at all times.”
Atwood calls Urban “a heckuva a baseball guy.”
“Basics were key to everything,” says Atwood, who experienced an intense coach in Naylor.
“He was a pretty hard-nosed little character,” says Atwood. “(Brandon) was all of the kids.”
The 2020-21 school year is Atwood’s second back at North Newton, where he is now athletic director. The COVID-19 pandemic kept him from coaching the Spartans in the spring 2020. If the weather cooperates, North Newton could open the season Thursday, April 1 against Hebron. The team is slated to visit Harrison in West Lafayette Saturday, April 3.
With 24 players in the program, the Spartans will field varsity and junior varsity teams, playing home games on the campus located at the school.
Mike Atwood has three adult children — Michael (32), Brittney (30) and Braden (29).
Michael is in the U.S. Army serving in Kuwait. Britney works as a technician at a Lafayette, Ind., hospital.
Braden Atwood was a three-time placer at the IHSAA State Finals (fourth as a sophomore, fifth as a junior and second as a senior) at Delphi and went on to a be a four-time placer and NCAA Championship qualifier as well as a three-time team champion at Purdue University. He took part in the U.S. Team Trials and was later a volunteer assistant coach at West Point (Army). He is married and living in Connecticut and has a daughter.
Hired prior to 2020, there was much anticipation with a talented group coming back.
The Satellites won the Porter County Conference for just the third time (2009 and 2017 were the other title seasons) and the IHSAA Class 1A South Bend Career Academy Sectional before losing in the South Bend Regional championship to eventual state runner-up and fellow PCC member Washington Township in 2019.
Several key starters from that squad returned in 2020.
But the Satellites never took the field in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” says Coulter. “Like everyone else.”
Coulter and company now getting ready for 2021 with more high hopes.
“I think we’ll be a dark horse this year,” says Coulter. “We’ve revamped the entire program and internally changed our mindset.”
“We’re the sectional favorite or co-favorite almost every year,” says Coulter. “We don’t want winning sectional defining our season.”
When the Satellites break a huddle in practice, the chant is “138.”
That’s the number of miles from Satellite Field to Victory Field in Indianapolis — site of the IHSAA State Finals.
“We have a very talented group,” says Coulter. “It’s an exciting time to be a South Central baseball player.
“We’re more poised now to make a pretty deep (tournament) run.”
Last summer, South Central took part in five travel tournaments. No players were turned away. There were 32 taking part in games and workouts.
With the majority of the varsity lineup committed to other travel teams, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds played in 17U events.
With all the players together, a title was won at the On Turf Sports Classic in Columbia City, Ind., beating a team made up of Avon and Plainfield high school players for the championship. There was also a squad from Cincinnati and the Harris Storm (Penn High School players).
There are currently 38 identified with the program, including 18 freshmen. One member of the Class of 2024 — pitcher Bradley Ferrell — shined at a recent Perfect Game event in Florida.
Coulter is a 2009 LaPorte High School graduate. Other LPHS alums on his Satellite coaching staff include pitching coach Tony Ferrell (a member of the 1992 state champions and father of Bradley), Dave Santana and Garrett Kautz with the varsity. Alex Rochowiak is the JV head coach. Zach Lee is the JV pitching coach. Chesterton High School graduate Rochowiak played is the son of Michigan City High School head coach Jeff Rochowiak.
South Central has also gotten new uniforms for its varsity and junior teams and put a new windscreen completely around its home park.
The coaching staff donated their 2020 salaries to pay for infield playing mix, which helps with turnaround time on rain days.
The grass baseline have been replaced with dirt.
“It looks more like a baseball field now,” says Coulter.
Boone Grove won the IHSAA Class 2A state championship in 2018 with Washington Township making it to the Class 1A finale in 2019.
“It’s a pretty solid conference in baseball,” says Coulter. Currently the largest of Indiana’s 1A schools, South Central has yet to win a PCC tournament.
Recent South Central graduates now in NCAA Division I college baseball are Carson Husmann (Bradley University) and Kyle Schmack (Valparaiso University).
The Satellite Series — a competition among groups — was launched in November and will continue until tryouts in March. Upperclassmen drafted teams of underclassmen. Teams compete for weekly points based on attendance, Baseball I.Q. sessions, in-person hitting sessions and school grades.
“The kids have absolutely eaten it up,” says Coulter, who adds that they are vying for a letter jacket patch and a steak dinner grilled by the coaching staff.
South Central players build their Baseball I.Q. with Zoom sessions that have included guests like Evan Miller (a pitcher in the San Diego Padres system who starred at LaPorte High and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne) and Rob Younce (a Philadelphia Phillies scout and national travel coach with the Canes).
“It allows us to grow and stay current with the times,” says Coulter.
After playing football and lacrosse and a few seasons of basketball in high school, Coulter went to Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., where he pursued a Business Management degree and served as a student assistant football coach on the staff of Shannon Griffith.
After a season a junior varsity baseball coach at LaPorte, Coulter led the South Shore Smoke 13U travel team.
Coulter and partner Kevin Tran are Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance agents based in LaPorte.