By STEVE KRAH
Salem (Ind.) High School is located on the northwest side of the county seat in Washington County. The city is about 40 miles northwest of Louisville, Ky.
On the boys side, Salem’s sports identity revolves around the gridiron.
“Salem has always been a football town,” says first-year Lions head baseball coach Jason Pepmeier. “Baseball’s never been a real important sport in our school.
“We’d like to put ourselves on the map.”
Pepmeier, a 1992 Salem graduate and former baseball assistant, wants the Lions to roar on the diamond.
“We put in a lot of work in the off-season and hope to reap the rewards down the road,” says Pepmeier. “We hope to get this thing rolling.
“There’s some good baseball in this area. I’d put our conference in (IHSAA Class) 3A up against anybody in the state. We hope to be competitive.”
Pepmeier says there are usually between 24 and 30 players for varsity and junior varsity teams. He and assistants Jerry Hickey, Gregg Oppel and Jeffrey Burch have been working with 29 this spring as the Lions prepare for the 2019 season.
While Xavier Haendiges graduated early and is now on the baseball roster at Ohio University, returnees include senior Brandon Pepmeier and sophomore Brody Pepmeier — the coach’s sons.
Salem (enrollment around 575) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).
Non-conference opponents include Crawford County, Madison, Mitchell, New Washington, Orleans, Paoli, Providence, South Central, Southwestern (Hanover), Springs Valley and West Washington
The Lions are part of a 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, North Harrison, Providence, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Salem has won three sectional titles — the last in 1996.
Besides Providence, which moved up from 2A because of the IHSAA tournament success factor, Salem and Brownstown Central (enrollment around 575) are the smallest schools in the sectional field. Silver Creek is around 880, Scottsburg 780, Corydon Central 700 and North Harrison 680.
“I’d like to see (the IHSAA) go to five or six classes,” says Pepmeier. “There are quite a few discrepancies (in school sizes with the current classes).
“I’m not sure if it will ever happen.”
Besides Salem Little League, there is a junior high club program with about a dozen players on both the seventh and eighth grade squads which compete in the spring on the high school diamond.
Travel ball options include the Smash, Southern Indiana Heat, Ironmen and Rawlings Tigers.
Pepmeier moved from Vincennes to Salem in 1986 and played four years of high school baseball for head coach Derek Smith.
“He still teaches at the school and is good friend of mine,” says Pepmeier of Smith. “He was a great players’ coach. He had good baseball mind and was very supportive of all of us when when went through school.”
When Pepmeier played right field for the Lions, he had to contend with a hill inside the ballpark. That problem was fixed about a decade ago.
“It’s in pretty good shape compete to what it used to be,” says Pepmeier, who indicates that he would like to see lights installed at the on-campus facility.
Pepmeier earned a business management degree from the University of Southern Indiana in 1996 and is married to 1994 Salem graduate Kandi. He is an agent with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance in Salem.
The Pepmeiers (clockwise from bottom left): Jason, Kandi, Brandon and Brody. Jason Pepmeier is the head baseball coach at Salem (Ind.) High School. Brandon and Brody are two of his players. Jason and Kandi are both Salem graduates.