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Danner brings aggressive style as Monroe Central baseball coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

It’s an assertive brand of baseball that will be promoted by Tyler Danner, the new head coach at Monroe Central Junior/Senior High School in Parker City, Ind.
“I am very much an aggressive coach,” says Danner, who took over the Golden Bears program in mid-September and looks forward to a few IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices this month. “Our goal in 2023 is 100 stolen bases (at a success rate of 85 percent or higher). Anything that’s a 50-50 ball in the outfield, we’re going for it. Outfielders are expected to play aggressively and lay out for the baseball.”
Danner was the pitching coach at Indianapolis Lutheran the past three years and has coached travel ball for a decade — five years with the Delaware County-based Indiana Magic and the past five with Baseball Academics Midwest (BAM). He was with 12U through 16U teams with the Indiana Magic and 14U through 17U squads with BAM, including 15U this past summer.
The 2022 Lutheran Saints swiped 183 bases, won 22 games and advanced to a regional championship game.
As it was at his previous stop, “Attack the zone” will be Danner’s mantra with his MC pitchers. He insisted that his Lutheran hurlers were aggressive in the strike zone and this helped lower the team ERA and walk rate.
“Guys went deeper (into games) because the pitch count was not driven up by full counts,” says Danner. “You get to trust the gloves behind you.”
As for hitting approach, Danner will have each batter focus on their strengths and weaknesses. If they hit the inside pitch best, they may lay off the outside one before two strikes.
Danner wants his team to collect more free bases (errors, walks, overthrows etc.) than its gives up. The goal is to hold the opponent under 10 and to gather more than 12.
“You have a 75 percent win percentage when you do that,” says Danner.
Monroe Central (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del).
The Golden Bears were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Alexandria Monroe, Elwood, Frankton, Lapel, Muncie Burris, Wapahani and Winchester. Monroe Central has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2014.
After meeting players during a call-out and at home football games, Danner came away impressed.
“They were respectful,” says Danner. “They were all eye contact, all engaged and asking questions.
“These are guys who have played at a high level and expect to play well.”
It was as a toddler that Tyler first learned to think and talk the game with his father. Chuck Danner devoured baseball knowledge from books and the Internet and coached youth teams and as a hitting coach for Ed Jones at Muncie Burris.
Chuck Danner died in 2015 at 69.
At Yorktown (Ind.) High School, where he graduated in 2009, Tyler Danner was a pitcher, catcher and outfielder for Tigers head coach Mike Larrabee.
“He showed us the way to stay even-keeled,” says Danner of Larrabee. “It’s very easy in the heat of the moment to get too high or too low. That was not Coach.
“You need a guy that steers into the storm and never seems to panic.”
Yorktown won sectional titles in 2007 and 2008 and a regional crown in 2008.
The approach at BAM is for players to work through the approaches to the game and breaking it down on the field and in the classroom.
“They understand why they’re doing it at such a high level,” says Danner.
His Monroe Central assistants include Daleville graduates Ethan Pittsford (Class of 2019) and Drew Watson (Class of 2021). Daleville won state titles in 2016 and 2018. Watson was a volunteer assistant at Daleville in 2022.
There were 16 players in the Monroe Central program last spring. A similar number would mean a varsity-only schedule in 2023. Danner’s goal in the future is to have enough numbers for varsity and junior varsity.
The Golden Bears play on-campus.
“We have beautiful dugouts and a nice press box,” says Danner. “The field is in good condition. It was maintained by the previous coaching staff very, very well.
“Monroe Central truly believes in its sports program and makes sure everything is taken care of really, really nice.”
Monroe Central Athletic League has baseball teams from T-ball through 12U. Junior high baseball is conducted in June on the high school diamond.
Danner plans to be active with both feeder systems, volunteering with the MCAL (and asking his high school players to do that same) and overseeing the junior high.
Aidyn Coffey (Monroe Central Class of 2022) committed to Coastal Carolina University after the Golden Bears’ 20-win season.
Among players expected back are Blake Bogue (Class of 2023), Cole Luedike (Class of 2024) and Lane Wilson (Class of 2025).
Outside of coaching Danner, who attended Purdue University for three years, is single and works as a major account representative for a lending company.

Tyler Danner.

Frankton graduate Weins embraces role as Purdue reliever

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Since Landon Weins has arrived on the Purdue University campus no one has pitched more innings out of the bullpen than the 6-foot-2 right-hander.
Going into the the April 14-16 series at Penn State (the April 12 game against Purdue has been postponed), Weins (rhymes with Wines) has taken the bump for the Boilermakers 28 times totaling 54 innings. This spring, the senior is 3-2 with a 2.48 earned run average, 27 strikeouts and nine walks for a squad that is 21-7.
The 2018 graduate of Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School embraces the relief role because he see it as the best way he can contribute to the team.
“A lot of times I’m coming in behind a guy like Jackson Smeltz who is pretty dominant and he can get us ahead as well,” says Weins, who pitched for head coach Rob Fournier at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., in 2019 and 2020. “I really enjoy (coming out of the bullpen). It gives me time to see the hitters and what they prefer and what they’re struggling with that day.”
Between in-game observation, video and scouting reports, Purdue pitchers have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an opposing offense.
Weins uses a three-pitch mix — fastball, slider and change-up.
“I made a really big adjustment in the off-season and my slider has become probably my best pitch this year,” says Weins. “Mine has like a gyro spin. It’ll come in straight and then go down and away from a right-handed hitter.
“It’s like a curveball, but it’s flat and usually harder.”
The slider can be thrown in any count.
“I feel pretty comfortable with all three of my pitches,” says Weins. “Anytime I’m out there I want to compete as hard as I can.”
Weins has been used in long relief with stints of 5 1/3 innings against Ohio State, 4 1/3 against South Dakota State and 4 against Bellarmine. Five other appearances have been for 2 to 2 2/3 frames.
Playing for Boilers head coach Greg Goff and pitching coach Chris Marx, words of advice have carried with Weins and kept him steady.
“They say remain the same,” says Weins. “Out on the mound, obviously there’s going to be days where you don’t have your best stuff. You’re going to be hit a little. You always keep your composure. If you’re going to carry around a swagger when you’re doing good, you always carry around that swagger when you’re not doing as good.
“It’s such a quick game that can humble you very fast. But just because you have one bad day doesn’t mean it needs to lead to more.”
There’s a rule after an outing — good or bad — that keeps players moving forward and not looking back.
“We says flush it at midnight,” says Weins.
The son of Scott and Angela Weins watched older brother Logan Weins (a 2014 Frankton graduate who pitched mostly in relief at Western Kentucky University 2015-17) on the diamond before him.
“He’s probably one of my biggest impacts in his game,” says Landon of Logan. “Growing up he was always someone I could look up to. He just did things the right way. He’s definitely been my No. 1 supporter. He pushed me the hardest and gave me the hardest criticism that I needed to hear.
(My parents) have always been a huge support system for me in no matter what I do or choose.”
Landon played in the Frankton Town & Country Baseball before moving into travel ball at 10. He was with the Indiana Bandits followed by Indiana Magic and Indiana Nitro. He spent his 17U summer with the Indiana Bulls.
Brad Douglas was — and still is — the head baseball coach at Frankton.
“He’s a great guy and always been one to have my back if I ever needed anything,” says Weins of Douglas. “I loved playing for him.
“He had a fire to him that I definitely didn’t like, especially when he was getting on me.
“I appreciated him a lot more when I got into college than I did in high school because I was able to look back and see he wanted what was best for me and our team. He just pushed us to be our best.”
As a Selling and Sales Management major at Purdue, Weins needs at least one more semester to get his bachelor’s degree.
He chose that field of study in part because it fits his personality.
“I definitely enjoy being a social person and talking,” says Weins. “I’ve met a lot of different people throughout the game of baseball. I’ve made many connections.”

Since 2021, Frankton (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School graduate Landon Weins has pitched a team-high 54 relief innings as part of the Purdue University staff. (Purdue University Photo)

New varsity head coach Nance growing game with Western Boone Stars

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

An investment has been made in the future of baseball at Western Boone Junior/Senior High School in Thorntown, Ind., and Michael Nance is part of it.
After coaching travel ball in the community, in the junior high program that feeds the high school and helping at the high school level, Nance was hired in July 2021 to guide the Webo Stars.
The junior high team has players in Grades 6-8 and plays 12 to 14 games in the spring.
Nance reached out to Western Boone Little League and a partnership was formed. The Western Boone Baseball Club offers instruction on Sundays to players age 9 to 12 not involved in travel ball.
“It’s an opportunity to get these kids more baseball reps all year,” says Nance.
Out of that came 12U and 10U club teams that offer additional games to the Little League schedule.
Knowing his current players and what’s in the pipeline, Nance is upbeat in leading a program which produced five varsity victories in 2019 and four in 2021.
“I think we can win,” says Nance. “I’m very excited about the next six or eight years from what I can see coming.”
Western Boone’s four seniors are Casey Baird, Will Barta, Evan Hine and Mitch Miller.
Baird, who has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College for football, will be called on to play multiple positions, including shortstop, second base, catcher and relief pitcher. Barta is a designated hitter. Georgetown (Ky.) College-bound Evan Hine (.325 average with a team-best .509 on-base percentage in 2021) is a third baseman. Miller, who led the Stars with .349 average last season, is a center fielder and lead-off hitter.
There’s also junior first baseman Andrew Foster, sophomore left-handed pitcher/right fielder Jackson Grimes, sophomore right-hander/left fielder Luke Jackson, sophomore righty/shortstop Bryce Kopriva, sophomore catcher and clean-up hitter Cole Wiley and freshman second baseman Gavin Hawkins.
Nance labels Kopriva, Jackson and Grimes as 1, 1A and 1B on his pitching staff. He points out that athletic Hawkins was the No. 1 singles player in tennis and played on the junior varsity team in basketball.
Former Marian University pitcher Gabe Westerfeld is a varsity assistant coach and the program’s pitching coordinator.
“We are really, really young on the mound,” says Nance. “Gabe has our young guys believing and there have been velocity increases.”
Eric Gubera is JV coach and is also in charge of outfielders and base runners. He has coached with Nance in the summer since their sons were 8. Two years ago, they became affiliated with the Indiana Braves. This summer, they will guide the 12U Indiana Yard Goats — a squad that includes six players from Western Boone, three from Avon and one from Brownsburg player.
Nance, who was a catcher at Lebanon (Ind.) High School, Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.) and MacMurray College (Jacksonsonville, Ill.), handles catchers, infielders and hitters.
There are 22 players in the program and all practice together.
Western Boone (enrollment around 510) is a member of the Sagamore Conference (with Crawfordsville, Danville Community, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Southmont and Tri-West Hendricks).
The Stars are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Clinton Prairie, Delphi (2022 host), Fountain Central and Seeger. Western Boone has won two sectional titles — 1982 and 1983.
Western Boone is scheduled to open the 2022 season with three games this weekend in Unionville, Tenn., south of Nashville. An optional part of the spring break trip is attending Sunday’s Tennessee at Vanderbilt college game.
The Stars play home contests on-campus with side-by-side varsity and JV diamonds north of the school building. This year, the Stars got new brick dust for the infield and new wind screens for the outfield as well as a Hack machine and new L screens. At the end of the season, lights will go up.
“It’s a really nice place to play,” says Nance.
A 2004 Lebanon graduate, Nance played for Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray.
“He demanded a lot but got more out kids than they knew they were capable,” says Nance. “You knew he really loved the game. He was always so upbeat and positive.
“I have nothing but admiration for Coach Cosgray. I try to run my program like him.”
Nance played for two head coaches at Ancilla — Rockie Dodds and Joe Yonto.
“(Yonto) had a profound impact on me,” says Nance. “He showed me how to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand (through eye-specific muscle training.”
In Nance’s last year at MacMurray, former high school coach Fred Curtis led the Highlanders.
“He just loved the game,” says Nance. “He said if you do the fundamentals right and not walk people, you can win ball games.”
Nance says he also appreciates the mentoring and assistance he’s received from men also leading high school programs — among them Matthew Cherry (Fishers), Troy Drosche (Avon) and Andy Dudley (Frankfort).
“There’s been such support from the coaching community,” says Nance. “They’ve been willing to help.”
Nance earned a Special Education degree at MacMurray and a masters in Criminal Justice from Xavier University in Cincinnati. This summer will mark 15 years with Boone County Community Corrections. After starting out as a probation officer, he is now executive director.
Michael and wife Emily (who played softball at Manchester University and MacMurray and now works in cancer research at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis) have a son and daughter attending Thorntown Elementary — Easton (12) and Harper (10). He enjoys tennis, baseball and duck hunting. She likes soccer and plays travel softball with the Indiana Magic.

Michael Nance.
Michael Nance.
Emily, Easton, Michael and Harper Nance.
Michael, Emily, Easton and Harper Nance.
Harper and Michael Nance.
Easton, Michael and Harper Nance.

Baseball, friendship has Leyva assisting Bair at Anderson U.

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Carlos Leyva’s baseball connection to Matt Bair goes back more than two decades.

Leyva and Bair were Babe Ruth teammates in Anderson, Ind., at 13, 14 and 15. Rudy Mannie was the head coach. Leyva was mostly an outfielder and Bair a middle infielder.

In high school ball, Leyva represented the Phil Nikirk-coached Madison Heights Pirates while Bair was nearby with Terry Turner’s Anderson Indians. Both players graduated in 1995.

Leyva, Bair and Mannie were reunited when Bair became the head coach at Anderson Highland High School with Leyva and Mannie as assistants.

“It was cool to see that come full circle,” says Leyva of he and Bair getting to coach with a boyhood mentor in Mannie. “He was a big influence in both our lives.”

Madison Heights and Highland have since been consolidated into Anderson High.

After serving four seasons (2004-07) as a Scots junior varsity coach on the staff of Highland head coach Jason Stecher (current to Turner at Daleville (Ind.) High School and son of long-time Highland head coach Bob Stecher, who retired with more than 500 victories), Leyva was a varsity assistant for three years with Bair (2008-10).

So it was a natural when Bair took over as head baseball coach at Anderson University that he’d reach out to his friend.

“We really hit it off (at Highland) then he asked me to come with him to AU,” says Leyva. “We were getting the band back together.”

The 2020 Anderson season – though it was shortened to nine games because of the COVID-19 pandemic — was the third on Leyva with the Ravens.

His duties include working with outfielders, base running and assisting Bair with hitters. He also coaches first base when AU is at the plate.

Leyva has keys for his outfielders.

“The most important thing we can do is re-direct the ball back to the infield,” says Leyva. “We can shut down the other team’s offense.

“We focus on three goals at all times — keep the double play in order, limit the offense to one base at a time and with balls in the ground we’re 100 percent (no errors).”

The stolen base is a major part of Ravens baseball.

“We got progressively better as we implemented our system,” says Leyva. “We take pride in our base running.

“In a game where the defense has the ball we can take some control back on offense. We’re constantly studying what the game is giving us to see where we can find an advantage.”

Anderson, a member of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, swiped 105 bases in 45 games in 2018. Once Leyva and Bair had their system in place, the team lost to one of the more prolific teams in NCAA Division III, pilfering 109 in 37 games in 2019 and heisting 42 in nine contests in 2020.

“As a rule of thumb, the entire team has the green light,” says Leyva. “We live on those opportunities we’re creating.”

Bair runs the overall hitting system, including small group work in practice. Leyva spends time on the offensive side the outfielders.

“Our staff at AU is affluent in the game of baseball,” says Leyva of a group that also features Brandon Schnepp, John Becker, Jeff Freeman, Zach Barnes and Nate McKeon. “We dip our toes into each other’s pools at times.

“We have a rather large staff for a college team. That’s a testament to Bair and local guys who love the game and know what’s going on. Opinions and input is always welcome.”

Prior to joining the Ravens, Leyva spent seven seasons as an an assistant at Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School (2011-17) under two Arabians head coaches — two years with Bill Stoudt and five with Travis Keesling. The PHHS program is now headed by Matt Vosburgh.

“That was awesome, spending time in the dugout with a Hall of Famer,” says Leyva of his experience with Indiana High school Baseball Coaches Association enshrinee Stoudt.

Leyva says Keesling’s ability to leverage the abilities of his coaching staff is one of his strengths.

“He had a football mentality with position coaches,” says Leyva. “He let the infield guy be the infield guy (and so on). He took over that managerial role of figuring out how to best put those pieces together.

“You see staffs being put together that way all over the country. He was early to that concept.”

Leyva fondly looks back on his days playing at Madison Heights for Nikirk (who is now secondary school principal at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis).

“He was really big on personal responsibility and accountability and was really fair,” says Leyva. “He gave the guys opportunities.

“Those are qualities I’ve carried forward in my coaching career.”

Leyva has also coached travel baseball. He was co-founder and a head coach of the Indiana Magic in 2011-12 and was an assistant to Ryan Bunnell with Indiana Bulls 16U in 2013, Mike Farrell with the Indiana Outlaws (an organization started by Jay Hundley which is now part of Evoshield Canes Midwest) in 2014 and Mike Hitt with the Indiana Blue Jays 2015-17.

The Magic was comprised of players from Madison and surrounding counties and won 60 games in two summers.

Besides leading a Bulls team, Bunnell is also head coach at Westfield (Ind.) High School.

Farrell, who played at Indiana State University, is a veteran instructor and a scouting supervisor for the Kansas City Royals.

“That may have been as much fun as I’ve had in baseball.” says Leyva of his time coaching the Blue Jays. “We were a single (18U) team. The roster was all guys committed to playing college baseball at a high level and there were no egos.

“We just had a blast playing really good baseball. We were like 60-5 in three years.”

Thomas Hall, Leyva’s nephew, was on each of those travel teams. The Pendleton Heights graduate was selected for the 2015 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Terre Haute and played at Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill.

After graduating from Madison Heights, Leyva attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., for two years then transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington. He majored in Computer Information Systems and is a 2000 graduate of IU’s Kelley School of Business and has worked since 2008 for IBM as a System Storage Enterprise Client Technical Specialist.

Carlos and Julie Leyva have three children — fourth grader Mia (10), second grader Izzy (8) and kindergartener Cruz (7). Julie is on the front lines of the pandemic as a nurse practitioner.

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Carlos Leyva has been an assistant baseball coach at Anderson (Ind.) University since the 2018 season. (Anderson University Photo)