Growing up on the southeast side of Indianapolis, James Robinson was drawn to sports. Robinson played baseball as a junior for Woodchucks coach Ed Ward and was a basketball student manager for his last three years at Harry E. Wood High School, where he graduated in 1966. When Robinson became an adult, he was attracted to officiating. After high school, he attended Indiana Business College in Indianapolis for two years, entered the working world and wound up in Kokomo, Ind., in the mid-1970s and began making calls. After a few years of umpiring slow pitch softball, Robinson became a Indiana High School Athletic Association-licensed baseball umpire and a basketball referee the same year. “Being involved in the game and being in-charge, I liked that idea,” says Robinson. “I could help the game and do the right thing.” Doing the right thing to Robinson meant making the right call. He also set a goal for himself. “I wanted to work the State Finals in the three sports I had licenses for (football, basketball and baseball),” says Robinson. “I did attain that.” Robinson, who was elected to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association‘s Hall of Fame in the Class of 2021 and will be honored Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 at the Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis along with the Class of 2022, began umpiring high school games in 1980. He worked for 35 years with 33 sectionals, 25 regionals, 14 semistates and six State Finals — the first in 1990 (LaPorte beat Bedford North Lawrence in the final and semifinalists were Logansport and Wes-Del with Robinson working a foul line and the bases) and the last in 2007 (Jarrod Parker and Norwell beat Evansville Mater Dei in the Class 3A title game and Robinson worked the plate). He umpired six IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and was voted IHSBCA Umpire of the Year five times. In 1994, Robinson was elected to the National Federation of State High School Associations Baseball Rules Committee and served from 1995-1998. In 2002, he was named IHSAA/ NFOA Baseball Official of the Year and he was named as the National Federation Distinguished Official of the Year. He coached Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball for 10 years. He has been a rules clinician at the IHSBCA State Clinic since the mid-1990s. Prior to the clinic, he attends National Federation rules meetings in Indianapolis and talks with IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens about rule changes. Robinson went far and wide to blow a basketball whistle for 30 years. “I tried to travel all over,” says Robinson. “I wanted to be seen by as many coaches as possible and rise in through the tournament structure.” He’d trek as far from Kokomo as East Chicago, South Bend or New Albany. He officiated the 2001 3A state championship boys basketball game between Muncie Southside and Evansville Mater Dei. He attends the biannual “Rosie’s Round-up” basketball dinner at Stookey’s Restaurant in Thorntown, Ind. His 33 years as a football official included the 1993 2A title contest between West Lafayette and Providence. In football, Robinson is now an IHSAA officials observer, Big Ten Conference replay official and back-up clock operator for the Indianapolis Colts. He worked six years in NCAA Division II and seven in the Mid-American Conference. He has also been a replay official for the MAC. He was a replay official for the 2014 National Championship game at the Rose Bowl between Florida State and Auburn. Robinson, who turned 73 in October, is very appreciative of the recognition by the IHSBCA. “It’s an honor,” says Robinson. “I’m very, very thrilled to be thought of with all the coaches and players who came through Indiana who played the great game of baseball and be known as an umpire where you’re supposed to be neutral.” Jame’s wife Nada is deceased. He has one daughter and grandson — Chiquita and Kameron — in Kokomo. One of seven children (four boys and three girls), James has two living sisters residing in Indianapolis.
The way Devin Wilburn sees it, life is about timing. Just when he and his wife were looking to move closer to home and family for the arrival of their first child, a job opportunity opened up. Teacher Devin and nurse Maddie Wilburn were living in Florida when the chance to come to come back to the Muncie, Ind., area came as daughter Tatum was on the way. Tatum is now 2 months old and Devin (who turned 30 on Sept. 18) is the head baseball coach and a physical education teacher at Delta High School. Delta (enrollment around 800) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown). In 2021, the Eagles were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle and Yorktown. Delta has won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2016. The Wilburns reside in Selma, about 10 minutes from both sets of grandparents and in the same town where they graduated from Wapahani High School. Devin went 24-9 and struck out 309 batters while while walking 79 in 203 1/3 innings while playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Brian Dudley and graduating in 2010. “A lot of stuff fell in place,” says Devin Wilburn, who comes to the Eagles after spending the 2021 season as an assistant to head coach Kyle Gould at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., after one spring season (2020) as head coach at Countryside High School in Clearwater Fla. Wilburn, who holds a Sport Administration degree (2014) and Masters in Sport Administration (2016) from Ball State University, was an assistant to head coach Rich Maloney at BSU in Muncie in 2019 after spending the fall of 2018 on Matt Bair’s staff at Anderson (Ind.) University. He was the pitching coach at Taylor 2015-18. A left-handed pitcher, Wilburn played three seasons for head coaches Alex Marconi (2011 and 2012) and Maloney (2015). At 20, Wilburn had a colon procedure and spent the better part of two years recuperating then returned to the diamond with the Cardinals. “It was a cool ending to my career,” says Wilburn. “I working out with my best friend, Jon Keesling (who played at Wapahani then Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion). “My ball was moving pretty good. Maybe I’ll give (a comeback) a shot.” Wilburn made the team and in 27 mound appearances (26 in relief) went 4-2 for a 33-25 squad that played in the Mid-American Conference championship game in 2015. “That last year I got to play changed my life in so many ways,” says Wilburn. It was through Ball State volunteer assistant Rhett Goodmiller that he was connected with Taylor. The summer before joining the Trojans, Wilburn was the head coach of the Indiana Prospects 17U national travel team. The talented club featured future Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft first-round pick J.J. Bleday plus two others now in the minors — Gianluca Dalatri and Sean Mooney — with the help of father Bryan Wilburn. Wilburn has formed his coaching philosophy through the men he played for and coached with — Dudley, Maloney and Gould — and more. “Along the way you make it yours,” says Wilburn. “You learn from coaching conventions and podcasts and put your own spin on it. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some really good baseball teams and coaches. “Coach Dudley and I have a real good relationship. He just does things the right way. He was my first mentor. I learned so much from him. “He had such a high expectation for us. He let us shine with what we were good at.” Devin, the only child of Bryan and Missie Wilburn, moved from Muncie to Selma in the fourth grade and his first teacher was Jason Dudley, Brian’s son and a longtime Wapahani baseball assistant. “I was part of those good traditions that shape your life in so many ways,” says Wilburn, who counted three former Wapahani teammates in the wedding party when he married Maddie a little over three years ago. “I’m so grateful to go through that program. “I look back fondly on my high school days.” A youth baseball coach for several decades, Russell Wilburn had a field named in his honor in Muncie’s Chambers Park when Devin was a young boy. Bryan Wilburn and brother Dan both played baseball at Muncie Central High School and Bryan went on to the diamond life at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Dan to Valparaiso University. After being recruited by Greg Beals, playing for Marconi and then Maloney, the latter hired him as an assistant. “I wore many hats,” says Wilburn. “I got to work with catchers and some with outfielders. My end goal was to find a head coaching job at small college or high school. “I wanted to be a well-rounded coach.” Wilburn is appreciative of Blake Beemer, who was a Cardinals teammate and then a coaching colleague. “I’m grateful for his mentorship,” says Wilburn of Beemer. “I also coached with Dustin Glant. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard talk about pitching.” Gould gave Wilburn his first crack at college coaching. “He is probably the best mentor in my life,” says Wilburn. “I’ve learned so much from him from the baseball and the life perspective “He opened my eyes in so many different ways. I could not be more grateful for the time I spent over there learning from him. (Taylor) is a wonderful place.” It was at Taylor that Wilburn also got to be on staff with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson and Justin Barber. “Coach A forgot more about baseball than what I knew,” says Wilburn. “Justin and I had a good relationship when we recruited his players when he was with the Indiana Chargers.” At Delta, Wilburn has hired former Ball State teammate Scott Baker as his pitching coach with other assistant hires pending school board approval. The Eagles play on Veteran’s Field. “We’ve got a couple of projects,” says Wilburn, whose been assessing Delta’s baseball needs since taking the job. “We’ve got a nice facility and a real supportive booster club.” Feeders for Wilburn’s program include Delta Little League in Royerton and East Central Indiana junior high league run by Jason Dudley. Current senior left-hander Nick Crabtree has committed to Taylor. And Wilburn continues his love affair with the game. Says the coach, “Baseball is what keeps me sane in life and forget the daily stress.”
Grant Jablonski had assumed that his baseball playing career was coming to an end with his couple of innings on the mound in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Stars Series in Madison, Ind. The Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate had not gotten any college baseball honors and had already enrolled as a student-only at Purdue University. “I had given up on baseball,” says Jablonski, who exited Mishawaka in 2019 as the school record holder in career pitching wins (20) and career stolen bases (63) and was part of three sectional championship teams on the diamond (2016, 2018, 2019). “I wanted to play at a bigger school, but I had nowhere to go after I graduated.” It turns out that two former Valparaiso (Ind.) University assistant coaches were going to help Jablonski turn things around. Nic Mishler, who was then on the staff at Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College, was scouting at a sectional game and reached out to Jablonski. “I owe him a lot,” says Jablonski of Westview High School graduate Mishler who is now head coach at DACC. Ben Wolgamot, a Western Kentucky University who had also been at Valpo, pulled some strings. It also helped Jablonski that VU head coach Brian Schmack was at the all-star series since his son, Kyle Schmack, was participating — and on his way to MVP. After a postgame conversation, Jablonski went to visit Coach Schmack on the Valpo campus and soon was starting his NCAA Division I baseball experience. “It’s crazy,” says Jablonski, who was 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds when he stepped on the campus. “I owe Coach Schmack a lot for giving me a chance. “I’m still trying to put weight on,” says right-hander Jablonski who is now up to 5-10 and 175. In two seasons (2020-21), he has appeared in six games (all in relief) and is 0-0 with a 6.24 earned run average with six strikeouts and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. In his second season in the College Summer League at Grand Park, Jablonski has been working a morning jobs and commuting to Westfield, Ind., on the days he starts. On July 20, the Moon Shots right-hander pitched 5 1/3 no-hit innings with one walk. The reason he came out of the game is that the team only had two pitchers available for a nine-inning game and Michael Brewer needed some mound time. Jablonski played for the A-Team when the CSL cropped up in 2020 as other summer collegiate leagues were shutting down during COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a really good league,” says Jablonski, noting that University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis (No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates) and Miami University fireballer and Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate Sam Bachman (No. 9 overall to the Los Angeles Angels) played at Grand Park in 2020. Former San Francisco Giants scout Kevin Christman has been Jablonski’s head coach in both his CSL seasons. “He’s a super good coach to have,” says Jablonski of Christman. “He’s a good source of baseball knowledge.” Throwing from the three-quarter overhand arm slot, Jablonski employs a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. His four-seamer sits about 86 to 89 mph. His curve moves end-over-end in a 12-to-6 fashion. His “circle” change has a low spin rate and drops. His slider — with more horizontal break — is somewhere between the fastball and change-up with its spin. “The fastball and change-up compliment each other well when its coming from the same (release point).” Jablonski says his fastball has spun at around 2300 rpm with the curve as high as about 2500. There are flat screens at Grand Park that prominently display spin rates and velocity. “It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Jablonski. “You don’t need to fire 95, 96, 97 to be a good college pitcher. “You need to threw multiple pitches in multiple counts for strikes and have command.” Jablonski saw Schmack employ an opener (right-hander Easton Rhodehouse) and followed him with a starter (righty Ryan Mintz) in Valpo’s weekend series and both were able to spot pitches well and pitch to weak contact. Left-hander Geremy Guerrero had a standout season for Missouri Valley Conference rival Indiana State University. “He is by no means overpowering,” says Jablonski of Guerrero. “But he throws all pitches for command in all counts.” One thing Jablonski appreciates about Schmack is the he makes small tweaks and does not overhaul a pitcher’s mechanics if it’s not necessary. “He doesn’t try to change you too much,” says Jablonski. “It’s smaller changes. “He knows what he’s talking about for sure.” Born and raised in Mishawaka, Grant played for the Landsharks and later the Mishawaka Mayhem (2011-13), coached by father Jason Jablonski and Mike Fisher. That was followed by the Mike Lee-coached Indiana Shredders (2014-17), Mike Logan-coached Michiana Scrappers (2017-18) and Jim Shively-coached Indiana Chargers (2018-19). Jablonski earned nine varsity letters at Mishawaka — four in baseball, three in basketball and two in football. His head coaches were John Huemmer in baseball, Ryan Watson and Ron Heclinski in basketball and Bart Curtis and Keith Kinder in football. “He’s a great coach,” says Jablonski of Huemmer. “We had such a senior-led team (in 2019). He let us work on our own.” The pitcher/middle infielder earned IHSBCA Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors in 2019 and was all-Northern Indiana Conference second team in 2017 and 2019. Jablonski, who turns 21 on Sept. 1, is a Business Analytics major and Supply Chain and Logistics Management minor at Valpo U. Grant’s parents are Jason and Kelley Jablonski. His siblings — both older — are Sydney Jablonski and Ryan Lewis. Jason Jablonski is administrative director at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Kelley Jablonski works at Beacon Health & Fitness. Sydney Jablosnki is heading into pharmacy school at Purdue. Ryan Lewis, who played baseball at Mishawaka High and Ancilla College, is employed by the City of Mishawaka.
Riley Bertram is spending the last summer before his final college baseball season in the same town where he began playing the game as a boy. The 21-year-old switch-hitter has been leading off and playing shortstop for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators at new Loeb Stadium. Through 17 games for head coach/manager Michael Keeran’s Aviators, Bertram was hitting .273 (15-of-55) with two doubles, eight runs batted in, 12 runs and four stolen bases. Bertram, a 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate who has played three seasons (2019-21) at the University of Michigan (he started 31 of the 37 games in which he played in 2021 at second base), was born in Noblesville, Ind., and introduced to the game while father Vince Bertram was the principal at Lafayette Jefferson High School. “I’m a middle infielder,” says Riley. “I play both second base and shortstop — whatever position the team I’m on needs.” A year ago, Bertram was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Riley is the youngest of Project Lead The Way president and CEO Vince and Western Governors University advisor Jill Bertram’s four boys, behind Josh, Ryan and Drew. Josh Betram played basketball and baseball at Lafayette Jeff. Ryan Bertram played three baseball seasons at Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School and one at Zionsville Community. He was part of the University of Southern Indiana’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 2014 and later an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University and director of operations at Campbell University in Buis Creek, N.C. Drew Bertram played at Purdue and was a manager for the Boilermakers when Mark Wasikowski was head coach. Drew is a Purdue graduate and is going to graduate school at the West Lafayette school. It was in the back yard with his brothers that Riley first experimented with switch-hitting. He has been doing it in games since about 13. At Michigan, Bertram has played in 70 games (49 as a starter) and is hitting .236 (43-of-182) with 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. On defense, he has 95 putouts, 136 assists, five errors and a .979 fielding percentage. He led the team in stolen bases in 2021, swiping eight in nine attempts. Bertram has played three seasons for Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and assistant Nick Schnabel. Pitching coach Steve Merriman and volunteer coach Brandon Inge joined the staff for the 2021 slate. “I’m very fortunate to have this coaching staff,” says Bertram. “They know what they’re talking about. “Coach Bakich is awesome to play for. He is trying to find the best for you. He knows everything about your family. He has your back. He’s someone you could reach out if you need to get something off your chest. He does a good job of building a culture.” Schnabel works with Michigan infielders, including Bertram. “He knows the game at a higher level than a lot of people,” says Bertram of Schnabel. Merriman has made a point of bonding with all UM players and not just pitchers. “At the college level you need to have at least a baseline relationship with all players if you want to have a culture,” says Bertram. “Everytime Coach Inge talks you have to listen because whatever he’s going to say is going to beneficial to your performance. “He keeps things loose. He’s bought into the culture Coach Bakich and Coach Schnabel have built.” Bertram is on pace toward a Communication and Media degree from Michigan in the spring of 2022. He was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2021. Riley played Little League baseball in Evansville, Ind., when his father served as superintendent of schools. After the family moved to Zionsville, he played for Zionsville Baseball Club and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 15U to 18U, playing for teams with Dan Held, Sean Laird, Jered Moore and Jeremy Honaker as coaches. Bertram played four seasons for Moore at Zionsville Community and was part of IHSAA Class 4A sectional champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, regional winners in 2016 and 2017, a semistte title-taker in 2016 and state runner-up in 2016. In 2018, Bertram was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-State selection and IHSBCA North-South All-Star as a third baseman as well as a Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American. “I’ve always been close with Coach Moore and his family,” says Bertram. “Jered was not only was my coach, but I’ve reached out to him for many things. Last week I texted him about hitting facilities in (the Lafayette) area and he hooked me up. “It’s a really strong relationship.”
Evansville Central outfielder Blake Hermann was chosen as MVP and the South beat the North 7-5 in Game 3 of the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series Sunday, June 27 at historic Bosse Field. The win gave the South a 3-0 sweep of ’21 games. The North now leads 68-66 in the all-time series. The righty-swinging Hermann smacked a two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth inning and also singled in the eighth Sunday. The sixth is when the South scored three runs and turned a 5-3 deficit into a 6-5 lead. The University of Evansville commit went 2-of-2 with a pair of doubles and an RBI in Game 1 Saturday and collected a single, walk and scored a runs in Game 2. Saturday’s contests were held at the UE with the South prevailing 5-3 and 7-6. “I came out here and I just had some fun,” said Hermann. “I was playing with the best players in Indiana and got to know them a little.” Hitters in Sunday’s game wore their high school uniforms and wielded wood bats. “I’m used to it,” said Hermann. “It’s one of my favorite bats to swing.” While Hermann will the turf at the University of Evansville home, he was plenty familiar with the confidences of Bosse Field. “I played here all throughout high school so it feels like home,” said Hermann, who will be playing travel ball this summer with the Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks. Columbus East’s Parker Harrison belted a two-run home run to left in the South third inning. Crown Point’s Cal Curiel lashed a two-run single for the North in the second inning. Zionsville’s Nate Dohm pitched three hitless innings — fourth, fifth and sixth — with seven strikeouts as the winning pitcher. Indianapolis Cathedral sidearmer Chris Gallagher pitched the last three innings and earned the save. Westfield’s Logan Nickel took the loss. Evansville was the all-star series host for the first time since 2009. The 2022 IHSBCA Futures Game and North/South All-Star Series is to be played at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion.
IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH ALL-STAR SERIES (At Evansville) Game 3 (Wood Bat) SOUTH 7, NORTH 5 North 031 000 100 — 5 8 0 South 002 103 10x — 7 7 0 WP — Dohm. LP — Nickel. Save — Gallagher. Pitchers: North — Bryce Schaum (Munster; 3 innings, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 hits, 2 runs), Logan Nickel (Westfield; 3 innings, 0 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4 hits, 4 runs), Kyle Tupper (South Bend St. Joseph; 2 innings, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits, 1 run). South — Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North; 3 innings, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 5 hits, 4 runs), Nate Dohm (Zionsville; 3 innings, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 hits, 0 runs), Chris Gallagher (Cathedral; 3 innings, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits, 1 run). North: Hits — Rocco Hanes (Norwell), Sergio Lira Ayala (NorthWood), Jacob Loftus (Peru), Cal Curiel (Crown Point), Carter Mathison (Homestead), Kameron Salazar (Wawasee), A.J., Bordenet (Lafayette Central Catholic), Garrett Harker (Lebanon). 3B — Mathison. RBI — Curiel 2. Runs — Lira Ayala, Loftus, Mathison, Salazar, Matthew Dobuck (Plymouth). LOB — 3. South: Hits — Blake Hermann (Evansville Central) 2, Parker Harrison (Columbus East), Ty Rumsey (Evansville North), Nick Sutherlin (Greencastle), Pierson Barnes (Riverton Parke), Eli Watson (Providence). HR — Harrison. 3B — Watson. 2B — Sutherlin, Rumsey. RBI — Harrison 2, Hermann 2, Sutherlin, Andrew Oesterling (Oldenburg Academy). Runs — Oesterling, Harrison, Sutherlin, Watson, Herman, Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), Henry Brown (Evansville Central). SB — Barnes. LOB — 6. T — 2:20. MVP: Blake Hermann (Evansville Central).
Jamey Carroll stopped by his hometown to offer some advice to some of the state’s best young baseball players. “Go out and make some memories,” said Carroll, who was in Evansville Friday, June 25 at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series banquet. There are two games at noon CST Saturday, June 26 at the University of Evansville and one at 11 a.m. CST Sunday, June 27 at Bosse Field. Carroll talked to these young athletes about making an impression and being a good teammate. “Who are you in this game?,” says Carroll, who was an IHSBCA South All-Star representing Castle High School in 1992. “That’s ultimately the legacy you’re going leave. “There’s more than just getting in the box and grinding. There’s being a good teammate and hustling.” Carroll, who played seven years in the minors and 12 in the big leagues with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals after his days at Castle and the UE is now a roving defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Carroll named three of his favorite teammates: Todd Helton and Matt Holliday on the Rockies and Clayton Kershaw on the Dodgers. Helton was a superstar hitter and first baseman. But he didn’t take his talent for granted. “He worked his tail off,” says Carroll. “He showed me what it was like to continue to work hard.” Carroll, who started 510 games at second base, 202 at shortstop and 185 at third base during his career, was struck how Helton had the infielders going full bore from the beginning of spring training. Carroll, who spoke at the 2020 American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Nashville on “Guiding Gen-Z to Greatness,” says a good teammate holds others accountable. Teammates can makes sure their buddies are making the grades, appreciating practice, hustling and avoiding late nights and wasted time on social media. “Are they doing what they need to do?,” says Carroll. “Are you holding them accountable for that?” When Carroll’s mother passed away suddenly, Holliday would always ask, “How are you doing?” The slugger understood the importance of mom and was empathetic. “That is an awesome teammate,” says Carroll. “If anybody has their mom here, hug them.” Jamey and Kim Carroll have 13-year-old twins — Cole and Mackenzie. “Clayton Kershaw in an unbelievable pitcher, right?,” says Carroll. “He’s an even better teammate. He sent me a text asking me when my son’s playing. The last time he saw my son was when he was 2 and now he’s 13. “He cared about me and my family. I don’t care that he can only throw an 89 mph fastball now. He’s an unbelievable human.” This summer, Carroll’s twins are learning what it means to be a good roommate. “In four years, you’re going to be one,” says Carroll. “We’re going to give you a life skill and that means being a good roommate.” That translates to being a good teammate. At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Carroll is not imposing physically. “I’m the little guy that had to scrap and fight and find ways to win,” says Carroll, who got noticed by an Expos scout for his hustle. Carroll was playing for Evansville — where brother Wes Carroll is now Purple Aces head coach — and hit a groundball to the pitcher and a groundball to the shortstop. The scout later shared that Carroll ran the exact same time to first base. “I thought I’m gonna remember that, because a guy gave me my opportunity to live my dream by simply running hard,” says Carroll. “And we’ve heard it all the time — control the opportunity.” As an infield coordinator, count Carroll as one who does not care for the current trend of shifting. He says it takes away the instincts of the fielder when he can look at a card that tells him to play in a certain spot on the field. “I guess third basemen should be taking grounders at shortstop,” says Carroll of a shift to the right. Sometimes that third baseman even ends up in short right field.
Catrter Mathison made a lot of noise with his bat during the 2021 baseball season for Homestead High School in Fort Wayne. The lefty-swinging outfielder who is already enrolled at Indiana University hit .515 (51-of-99) with 16 home runs, six triples, 12 doubles, 53 runs batted in, 64 runs scored, 25 walks and 18 stolen bases in 18 attempts. His OPS was .1.863 (.621 on-base percentage plus 1.242 slugging average). The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder struck out just 15 times in 132 plate appearances for the 26-7 Nick Byall-coached Spartans. All that thunder earned Mathison the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year Award in a vote of members. “It’s been a big goal of mine this year,” says Mathison, who was presented with the honor at a banquet Friday, June 25 in Evansville and will wear the No. 1 jersey while playing for the North in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in two games Saturday, June 26 at the University of Evansville and one wood bat game Sunday, June 27 at Bosse Field. “I’m very blessed to receive this award.” Even though he swings a loud bat, Mathison talks about his quiet approach at the plate. “Just stay as calm as possible and be confident in yourself whenever you know you’re going to beat the pitcher,” says Mathison, one of 16 IHSBCA District Players of the Year. “My dad told me ever since I was young is always knowing you beat this pitcher. He tells me that all the time.” Sharing Carter’s moment this weekend are parents Craig and Mindy and younger sisters Abigail and Lilly. Byall, who is on the North coaching staff along with Homestead assistant Shawn Harkness, has advice that sticks with Mathison. “Just trust my instincts,” says Mathison. “And it’s paid off.” Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Mathison played 9U travel ball for the Summit City Spartans and then the River City Thunder. When he got older he was with the Indiana Mustangs and Indiana Bulls (2019 and 2020). Mathison, who was also named the Dick Crumback/Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Player of the Year, has been taking two summer courses at IU in Bloomington. He has not yet declared his major, but is leaning toward something related to business. A left-handed thrower, Mathison played first base when he was younger. With his speed, he was moved to the outfield and usually patrols center field.
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.
Until recently, he ran his own strength and conditioning business.
Severa became a head baseball coach at the prep level for the third time when he was hired prior to 2020 at Argos (Ind.) Community Junior/Senior High School in Marshall County. Back issues caused him to step down and the pandemic kept him from coaching a game for the Dragons and Mishawaka alum Joe Kindig was hired as head coach for 2021.
Severa died May 19, 2021 at 64.
In his last coaching role, Severa established principles of success:
1. Make a commitment and honor it.
2. Develop a self-discipline work ethic.
“At some point they’ll be left to their own devices,” said Severa. “My eyes aren’t on them all the time.”
3. Accept and apply the coaching we’re offering to them.
4. Find a role on the team and develop it.
5. Develop that TEAM is greater than Me attitude.
“Get beyond the scholarship mentality and go with what’s best for the program,” said Severa.
6. Be accountable to themselves and their teammates.
Severa was a third baseman and pitcher while earning two baseball letters at Mishawaka for coach John Danaher. He was team MVP as a senior.
After taking it on the chin against LaPorte, Severa and a teammate went over to the home of the Slicers and sat on 10th Street, watching Schreiber lead his team through a two-hour practice. He would be an assistant at LaPorte for seven seasons through 1999 — the last year as head junior varsity and program pitching coach.
“There was a lot of pressure,” said Severa. “The JV was expected to win 20 games every year.
“That was the benchmark.”
Severa was a kicker and defensive lineman for Mishawaka coach Bill Doba on the football field.
Severa was a speaker and organizer at many clinics over the years, including the Chicago Catholic League, Bangor (Mich.) Youth Basseball Coaches, Tri-State Baseball Coaches (bringing in Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Lloyd McClendon as the featured speaker) and Cassopolis (Mich.) Youth Baseball Coaches.
“The premise of the story: A floundering modern-day former baseball MVP mysteriously was up playing for the St. Louis Cardinals Gas House Gang,” says Severa. “The rub is his competition: A cocky 22-year-old rookie who schools him in baseball and life — his grandfather.”
Frank and wife Cheryl Severa had two children — Erin Manering and Frank Severa — and four grandchildren. Erin and Chris Manering have two children as do Frank and Ashley Severa. Cheryl Severa has worked for LaPorte Community Schools.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members have voted and selected 16 district players of the year for 2021.
All-State and Indiana Player of the Year voting begins June 6.
The IHSAA state tournament series begins with sectionals May 26-31, followed by regionals June 5, semistates June 12 and the State Finals June 21-22. The IHSBCA Futures Games and North/South All-Star Series is slated for June 23-27 in Evansville.
Here’s a look at the 16 seniors chosen at Players of the Year in Districts A through P:
Says Swartzentruber: “Carter has been with us for two years following his transfer from Illiana Christian … Great kid, great student and great leader on our young team. One of my favorite players I have coached during my 24 years. … He has been a dominant player this year for us both on the mound and at the plate. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will do great things at Purdue and beyond. Great work ethic and very competitive young man.”
Lake Central is in the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional.
Says Evans: “He’s been a great pitcher for us, probably one of the more dominant pitchers in the (Duneland Athletic Conference). He’s a leader on and off the field. He also plays football and basketball. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Valparaiso is in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional.
Says Smolinski: “Kyle has been blessed with an amazing ability to excel in both athletics and academics. Along with Kyle’s great leadership skills, he’s an outstanding teammate who respects his coaches, teachers and family. He’s hard-working, motivated and driven in everything that he does. I’m so proud of Kyle and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him. I look forward to seeing him succeed on and off the field in the future … Kyle is the type of player where you wish you had nine of him on the field. He does everything you ask. He makes his teammates better.”
St. Joseph is in the Class 3A South Bend Clay Sectional.
Says Byall: “He has been a phenomenal player for us for four years. He is extremely talented, but has also worked extremely hard to transform his body and skills to an elite level … He is phenomenal to coach because you know he’s going to work hard and go about his business the right way every single day. He has been phenomenal for us this year, performing at such a high level, and by working hard everyday. He has a really bright future.”
Homestead is in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional.
E — Jacob Loftus (Peru). A righty-swinging catcher for Tigers coach Chuck Brimbury, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Loftus has not yet made his college commitment. He plans to major in Secondary Math Education.
Say Brimbury: “Jacob is the best high school player I have coached at Peru High School in my two-plus decades. Hard worker, captain, tough, talented, and a model of ‘team first’ guy. We have have had two drafts, dozens of college players and several D-1 players from our program. Jacob ‘Yogi’ Loftus is our best to play here.”
Says King: “Hunter is a very talented player — one of the best I’ve had. Hunter is probably the best all-around hitter I’ve ever had. He’s definitely a five-tool player. He has the ability to play not only at the collegiate level but the professional level … He’s a good leader (for the program’s first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship). He talks hitting and situations all the time with our guys.”
Mount Vernon is in the Class 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional.
Says Marker: “I don’t think there’s another player in the state of Indiana that means more to his team than Luke means to ours. He strikes out between 15 and 21 guys (per game) … He’s had 11 strikeouts in four innings (a couple of times) … At the 1A level he strikes fear into the hearts of hitters … He’s got six pitches. He’ll have to whittle that down at the next level.”
Seton Catholic is in the Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional.
Says Doty: “Kameron is the kind of player every coach hopes they will have the opportunity to coach — hard-working, dedicated, coachable, but most importantly a leader! Add it in the athletic ability and that describes Kameron Salazar. He has the ability to hit any pitch in any count to all fields. He is one of the best pure hitters I have had the opportunity to coach … His quick hands aid him both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. He will use all fields offensively and has significant range in the middle of the infield … All of those abilities — as great as they are — of course don’t come even close to describing his character! He is one of the nicest young men you would ever meet and terrific teammate! He has been (would have been) a four-year starter for us at shortstop if not for COVID. He has been the heart and soul of our program for the past four years and he will be great missed as he moves on to Marian next year. It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach him these past four years.”
Says Koeppen: “He’s by far one of the most enjoyable kids I’ve ever coached. He works as hard as anybody at practice. He does things the right way all the time … It’s been fun to sit back and watch him play this year.”
Lafayette Jeff is in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Says Cosgray: “Garrett is just a very well-rounded player. He’s an exceptional right-handed pitcher, topping out at 95 mph with good command of his curveball, slider and change-up … Defensively at shortstop, he’s very sound. He makes the routine play but also has the ability to make the spectacular play when necessary … He hits in the 3-hole for us. He can hit for power. He’s a gap-to-gap approach hitter, hitting over .500. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded player than him.”
Lebanon is in the Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional.
Says Freje: “He’s been a lead-off hitter and the top arm we go to … Chris is comfortable (as a sidearmer). He’s taken that role and run with it … He’s been incredibly impactful on the bases. He’s a gamer. He’s embraced all the roles he’s been given. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Says Jones: “He throws 92 mph-plus and he mixes his pitches real well. He gets a lot of strikeouts. He’s able to throw the ball up, throw the ball down and hit the corners … He hits well. He’s well over 400. He’s just a consistent guy.”
Edgewood is in the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional.
Says Decker: “He’s had a really good senior year. He’s been good on the mound and at the plate for us. He probably could have gone some places to be a two-way (having played all over the field). He’s one of the better athletes I’ve got to coach … Stuff comes really easy to him.”
Silver Creek is in the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
Says Mattingly: “He’s one of those kids who’s humble, hard-working and he competes. He want to be the best and he goes about his business to be the best … I’ve been around him a long time and he’s just a good kid.”
Southridge is in the Class 3A Southridge Sectional.
Says Goedde: “He’s been our most-consistent player all year. He’s in the middle of a good season. He’s had minimal slumps …. He’s versatile enough that he can play just about anywhere. Henry moves very well. He’s got a good, athletic body.”
Evansville Central is in the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional.
IHSBCA 2021 District Players of the Year (School/Head Coach)