Tag Archives: Indians

Myszak imparting mental performance knowledge to Hebron Hawks

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

Jeff Myszak is teaching his Hebron (Ind.) High School baseball players about batting, fielding and pitching.
But the second-year Hawks head coach is also concentrating on building relationships and mental skills.
When Hebron met for IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions in the fall there was a lot of development including long toss. During field maintenance time, a new warning track was installed all around the diamond.
There was also a focus on intellectual achievement.
Myszak, who has been coaching baseball almost two decades, has Mental Performance Mastery Certification through Brian Cain, who counts the late sports psychology consultant Ken Ravizza as a mentor.
A veteran of 19 seasons with the Schererville (Ind.) Police Department, Myszak sees his next career.
“I would like to coach mental performance full-time,” says Myszak.
Hebron (enrollment around 350) is a member of the Porter County Conference (with Boone Grove, Kouts, Tri-Township, Morgan Township, South Central of Union Mills, Westville and Washington Township).
The Hawks are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with North Judson, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, North Newton and Whiting. Hebron has won four sectional titles — the last in 2017.
Teaching baseball skills while also helping make responsible young adults is also an aim for Myszak.
“I’m all about relationships,” says Myszak, who learned that trait from father and former Hammond (Ind.) policeman and Calumet College of Saint Joseph (Whiting, Ind.) head baseball coach Tony Myszak.
In 2022, 24 players came out for baseball and Myszak often led his varsity team solo and had help from junior varsity coach Wayne Straka when his team was not playing.
Myszak says there may be closer to 33 players in 2023. His coaching staff features Straka as head JV coach and varsity assistant and Adam Fulk as head varsity assistant. Fulk was an assistant at East Chicago Central High School the past few years. He was the starting left fielder on Lake Central High School’s 2012 IHSAA Class 4A champions coached by Jeff Sandor. Myszak was an assistant for that team.
A 1997 Lake Central graduate, Myszak played two years of varsity baseball for Indians coach Tom Hansen. He also played basketball at LC for Jim Black. Myszak is now a seventh grade boys basketball coach at Grimmer Middle School in Schererville, Ind. (part of the Lake Central system).
Myszak graduated from Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., in 2002. He credits Sandor and former Pumas head coach Rick O’Dette for much of what he knows about baseball.
Jeff served as hitting coach for his father at Calumet College.
There was a stint as team training coach at Parisi Speed School in Schererville. He also program director for Indiana Elite Baseball Softball Training Facility in Cedar Lake, Ind., (closing the doors in 2017) and spent a dozen years in various roles on the Lake Central baseball coaching staff.
Chad Patrick (Hebron Class of 2017) pitched at Purdue Northwest and was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fourth round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He got up to High-A and was in the Arizona Fall League in 2022.
Myszak counts three current Hebron players with college baseball aspirations — Class of 2023’s Tucker Patrick (Chad’s cousin) and Jackson Peeler and 2024’s Trever Roy.
Hebron has middle school baseball. The team plays games in the fall (August to October).
The coach wants to scale back the schedule and focus on training.
“We need to practice more than we play at that age,” says Myszak, who also wants to work with elementary school players.
A father of four, Jeff has Ethan (21), Amayah (19), Alexandra (14) and Emma (12).
Ethan Myszak (Lake Central Class of 2020) played baseball before high school and is now in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Amayah Myszak is a Lake Central senior. She is on the wrestling team. She was a cheerleader prior to being badly burned in 2017.
“It’s been a long road,” says Jeff Myszak. “We’ve still got work to do.”
Alexandra Myszak (Lake Central Class of 2026) plays basketball and softball.
Emma Myszak (Lake Central Class of 2028) is involved in volleyball, basketball and softball.

Jeff Myszak.

Lipscomb U. southpaw Dunkelberger earns right to call his own pitches

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

Michael Dunkelberger did something last spring that many college baseball pitchers do not get to do — call their own pitches.
The left-hander at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., says those decisions get made by coaches the overwhelming majority of the time.
Dunkelberger, a 2018 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph High School who turned 23 in August, was on a team full of older players thanks largely to the extra years of eligibility given because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
That extra time led to wisdom which helped lead to the ability make the right decisions under fire.
“It takes time to be able to call your own pitches,” says Dunkelberger, one of a handful on his staff given the chance to call pitches. “You have practice and bullpens and you talk through scouting reports.”
At the beginning of the year, he scored well on an online cognitive test.
“It showed how well you can instinctively learn and figure out what’s working well and what’s not,” says Dunkelberger, who credits Lipscomb pitching coach Matt Myers for helping him progress.
“He was very similar to me in college,” says Dunkelberger of Myers, who was a lefty pitcher at the University of Tennessee. “He taught me about the mental side and how to go deep in games.
“I was learning how to dissect the hitters swings and able to call my own game.”
It was the first time in his college career he got to call pitches. It had been since the end of his days at Saint Joseph when Indians head coach John Gumpf allowed Dunkelberger and catcher/classmate Luke Houin to make those decisions.
As a junior, Dunkelberger pitched a three-hitter as Saint Joseph beat Jasper 4-0 for the IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
The lefty struck out four, walked two and hit two batters in a seven-inning complete game.
“That junior year team was a lot of fun,” says Dunkelberger. “I grew up with those guys. We played together from 7 or 8 (on The Baseball Factory travel team) and went to the same high school.”
Beating John Glenn 9-7 in extra innings in the Griffith Regional was a highlight of the state title run.
“There were a lot of characters on the team,” says Dunkelberger. “(Coach Gumpf) he let us be ourselves and go out and play. We were a very talented team. A lot of guys on that team played college baseball.”
Taking stock of his best athletic qualities, Dunkelberger puts experience and pitchability at the top.
“There are guys that throw a lot harder than me,” says Dunkelberger. “I earned from an early age how to get guys out without having to throw hard.”
Coming from an arm slot that’s close to over-the-top, Dunkelberger throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider.
His four-seamer tops out at 92 mph. His two-seamer gets up to 90. His curve is of the 12-to-6 variety. His “split” change goes straight down. A new trend on the college scene is a “sweeper” slider and the southpaw throws one of those.
Strength training in college allowed the athlete to come up to 6-foot and 215 pounds.
Dunkelberger, who did not see action at Indiana University in 2019 and pitched at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Valley Community College in 2020 and 2021, made a splash in his first season with Lipscomb in 2022.
He made 15 appearances (13 as a starter) and went 7-3 with 3.45 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 18 walks in 78 1/3 innings while being named to second-team all-ASUN Conference.
Cody Piechocki was Dunkelberger’s head coach at KVCC and with the summer wood bat Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo Growlers/Mac Daddies from 2019-21 (because of his spring workload Dunkelberger did not play in the summer of 2022).
“He was great,” says Dunkelberger of Piechocki, who is also an associate scout for the Texas Rangers. “He helped me develop on the pitching side with command and velocity.
“He reminded me of Gumpf, letting me be me. Through my failures, he stuck by me.”
In nine starts at Kalamazoo Valley, Dunkelberger went 6-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 50 innings and was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
He was going to transfer to the University of Oregon. But COVID-19 changed his scholarship status and he decided to re-enter the recruiting process and he and KVCC roommate Collin Witzke wound up at Lipscomb.
The Bisons — with Jeff Forehand as head coach — went 35-23 in 2022 after an 18-29 ledger in 2021.
Dunkelberger has two more years of remaining eligibility and is getting ready for 2023 while he is on pace to earn a Business Management in the spring.
Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dunkelberger came to northern Indiana around 3 and grew up in Granger. He played youth baseball in Clay Township and was with a Chicago White Sox-sponsored travel team after The Baseball Factory.
Michael is the second-oldest of Scott and Laura Dunkelberger’s four children. Nick Boyd played football at South Bend Riley High School. Victoria Dunkelberger played softball at Penn High School. Penn junior Julianna Dunkelberger played volleyball as a freshman.
Scott Dunkelberger played baseball at Riley and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and is now a pharmaceutical sales representative. Laura Dunkelberger works for the State of Indiana, finding resources for special needs children.

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Lake Central alum Tomasic’s diamond path takes twists, turns

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

Circumstances have caused Conner Tomasic to build his baseball and academic careers in unique ways. 
The 2018 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., went to Purdue University in West Lafayette for two seasons (2019 and 2020), transferred to South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., for one (2021) and then came back to the Big Ten with Michigan State University (2022).
The right-handed pitcher has another year of college eligibility, but his next move might be as an independent pro.
This fall, Tomasic is a commuter student at Purdue Northwest in Hammond, Ind., while staying prepared for his diamond future. His major is Construction Engineering and Management Technology.
Tomasic entered college as a Kinesiology major. Having had Tommy John surgery in high school he had worked with plenty of physical therapists. A Biology course at Purdue made him decide that was not the path for him. He followed some teammates and went with construction.
“I like to see things in front of me and work with my hands,” says Tomasic. “It felt like a teamwork class. I felt comfortable with it.
“You learned how to deal with people and work a job site.
An associate degree was earned at South Suburban, a two-year school. But Tomasic also faced a bit of a curve. He had to switch his major at Michigan State to Psychology to stay eligible.
A 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, Tomasic took the mound 17 times (nine as a starter) for head coach Jake Boss Jr.’s MSU Spartans. He went 4-4 with a 5.40 earned run average, 41 strikeouts and 26 walks in 65 innings.
Because of the work load, Tomasic did not play summer ball, focusing on strength training. In July, he began traveling from Schererville, Ind., to PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., to work with Director of Player Development/Pitching Anthony Gomez. The two have known each other since Tomasic — who turned 23 in August — was an eighth or ninth grader and Gomez was coaching in northwest Indiana.
“We’ve always been close,” says Tomasic of Gomez. “It’s nice to work with someone who’s seen me grow up and develop.
“He knows my delivery almost as well as I do. He knows what I need at the end of the day.”
His PNW classes meet Monday through Thursday then Tomasic heads to central Indiana for workouts later that day or on Friday before returning to The Region.
Tomasic has three pitches — a four-seam fastball, slider and change-up.
His four-seamer was clocked at 92.9 mph this summer at 93 mph at South Suburban.
His slider — often thrown between 77 to 79 mph — has evolved.
“When I first started throwing it, it was a ‘gyro,’ says Tomasic of the pitch’s movement. “Now it’s getting mike more a ‘bullet’ slider. You can see the dot (as it rotates).
“My change-up, some people think it’s a splitter. It depends on what it’s doing that day. The majority of the time it’s going to sink and have arm-side run. But sometimes it dives straight down.”
Tomasic describes his delivery as “a little funky.”
The arm angle is about mid-three quarter overhand. But the delivery comes low.
“It’s something (opposing batters) don’t see that often,” says Tomasic. “My fastball plays up in the zone so it seems fast than it is.”
Tomasic sees determination and focus as two of his best athletic qualities.
“I’m a guy who know how to separate his sport from his daily life,” says Tomasic. “If I have a bad, I flush it. If I have a good day, I forget about it quick.
“You’ve got the day ahead of you in baseball.”
Born in Hammond and raised in Schererville, Conner is the oldest of Jerry and Dena Tomasic’s two children. Jennifer Tomasic (Lake Central Class of 2021) played basketball at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and Governors State University (University Park, Ill.).
Jerry Tomasic was born in Yugoslavia before that country split and moved to the U.S. around 2. He played baseball but not past junior high and went on to play basketball at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
Dena Tomasic works at Cheers Food & Drink in Munster, Ind.
Conner played for the Dyer team that finished runner-up to eventual Little League World Series qualifier New Castle in 2012.
When he was ready for a travel ball transition outside northwest Indiana at 15 to 16 he was unable to play for Top Tier because of his injured elbow.
Tomasic shined as a two-way player at Lake Central and got to swing the bat for head coaches Mark Wasikowski and Greg Goff at Purdue and Steve Ruzich at South Suburban.
As a three-year letterwinner and four-time scholar-athlete at LC, he played for head coaches Jeff Sandor and Mike Swartzentruber.
The Indians won sectional titles in baseball and basketball in 2018 and Tomasic played a part while earning LCHS Pride, Hustle and Desire in both sports. He also earned 2018 Perfect Game All-American and All-Region Team honors.
He was the Roger Maris MVP in leading Team Serbia to the title in the 2018 International Baseball Challenge Tournament in Whiting, Ind.
In two seasons at Purdue, he hit .250 (3-of-12) with a triple in three runs batted and made one putout and five assists in the field. He pitched in 19 games (all in relief) with an 0-1 record, 4.30 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 1/3 innings.
At South Suburban, the pitcher/middle infielder was an National Junior College Athletic Association all-region selection as he hit .392 with 60 hits, including eighth home runs, three triples and 12 doubles with 49 RBIs, 28 walks and 15 stolen bases. On the bump, he was 6-1 with a 4.64 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64 innings.
Tomasic played for the Northwoods League’s Bismarck (N.D.) Larks and Midwest Collegiate League’s (now Northern League’s) Northwest Indiana Oilmen in the summers of 2019 and 2020.
Along the way the focus became pitching rather than two-way player.
“I think I’m athletic enough,” says Tomasic. “I can pull it off.”

Conner Tomasic. (Michigan State University)
Conner Tomasic. (Michigan State University)

Conner Tomasic. (Michigan State University)

Character counts with new Portage head coach Prance

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

Shane Prance is emphasizing the “Three C’s” as new head baseball coach at alma mater Portage (Ind.) High School. They are: Character, Community and Competition.
Prance (Class of 2008) says his No. 1 focus is work ethic.
“We want to control the controllables,” says Prance. “We’ll look at attitude, effort, body language, things like that.
“From there the baseball skills and talent will take over.”
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 29-Oct. 15 and Prance looks forward to having players take part two days a week for two hours.
His agenda has attendees concentrating on arm health and long toss, proper catch routine and learning fundamental drills at each position. After those things comes intrasquad games so he can evaluate players.
“We want to get a good baseline to see where they’re at,” says Prance.
The off-season will be dedicated to strength and conditioning.
Portage (enrollment around 2,400) is a member of the Duneland Athletic Conference (with Chesterton, Crown Point, Lake Central, LaPorte, Merrillville, Michigan City and Valparaiso).
The Indians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell and Valparaiso. Portage has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2013.
Prance is a Health and Physical Education teacher at PHS.
In four seasons at Portage (the last three on varsity), Prance played for head coach Tim Pirowski.
“He came in when I was a freshman,” says Prance. “I saw how he was building a foundation. There were classroom learning sessions and we were taught baseball. It made you think more in-depth. It’s the basics that sometimes get brushed over.”
Born in the south side of Chicago, Prance moved to Portage early in his elementary school days. He played at Portage Little League through high school. As a high schooler, he was with the traveling Indiana Breakers.
Prance was a position player and pitcher until blowing out his knee while swinging the bat as a Portage senior.
John Weber was Prance’s head coach at Purdue North Central in Westville, Ind.
“He had a huge influence on me,” says Prance of Weber. “He’s one of the reasons I wanted to coach.”
One of Weber’s strengths was managing the people.
“He wanted them to be good high-character people,” says Prance.
As a four-year PNC pitcher, right-hander Prance set single-season program records for wins (7), complete games (8), innings (84) and strikeouts (95) — all during his senior campaign of 2012.
That summer Prance joined the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg Boomers. He went 1-1 in eight appearances (four as a starter) for the Jamie Bennett-managed club and was released in August.
He went back to PNC to finish his degree and joined Weber’s coaching staff.
“I always knew I wanted to coach,” says Prance. “I became pitching coach at PNC. The rest is history.”
When Weber took an administrative position, Prance became head coach in the fall of 2013 and spent three years in that position.
When Purdue North Central and Purdue Calumet merged into Purdue Northwest, Dave Griffin was named head coach and Prance associate head coach.
He was later assistant athletic director at Saint Xavier University in Chicago and helped the baseball team.
Prance got his coaching feet wet with the Eric Blakeley-led Diamond Kings Fall Baseball League. Blakeley is also the founder of the Crossroads Baseball Series and High School Fall Baseball League.
There has also been one-on-one training and travel ball coaching with the Region Playmakers for Prance.
As a former college coach, Prance brings that knowledge and long list of contacts to his Portage athletes.
“I want to give guys a chance to go play in college,” says Prance. “We want to find the right fit for them to play at the next level.
“If baseball gets them in the door to a university event if they don’t play all four years, they’re likely to stay and finish the degree.”
Recent Portage graduates to move on to college diamonds include Class of 2020’s infielder Scottie Hansen (South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill.) and left-handed pitcher Xavier Rivas (who went to the University of Indianapolis to the University of Mississippi), Class of 2021’s infielder Danny Puplava (Kankakee Community College) and Class of 2022’s right-hander/corner infielder Joshua Ortiz (Purdue Northwest).
Prance and girlfriend Christina have a 2-year-old son named Levi. A daughter is due in October.

Shane Prance.

Purdue righty Doorn makes most of summer opportunity

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

Carter Doorn enjoyed a super season in his first summer since becoming a college baseball pitcher.
The right-hander saw limited action at Purdue University in the spring then turned heads with the 2022 Lima (Ohio) Locos of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
The 2021 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., made four mound appearances for the Boilermakers (all in relief) and went 0-0 with a 9.82 earned run average, five strikeouts and five walks over 3 2/3 innings.
Combining the regular season, a 1-2-3 frame in the July 12 GLSCL All-Star Game in Mason, Ohio, and the playoffs, Doorn pitched in 10 games (eight starts) representing the Locos and went 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA, 54 strikeouts and 23 walks over 48 innings.
During his award-taking summer, he was named the Lou Laslo Pitcher of the Year and Tony Lucadello Top Pitcher Prospect in the GLSCL’s North Division and was also chosen first-team all-league.
Doorn fanned 11 in six innings July 15 against the visiting Grand Lake Mariners (Celina, Ohio) and whiffed nine in six frames June 21 in a road game vs. the Muskegon (Mich.) Clippers.
In a one-inning stint in Game 3 of the league championship series July 31 against the Hamilton Joes, Doorn achieved a personal-best with a 96 mph four-seam fastball.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder landed in Lima thanks to a Purdue connection. Boilers volunteer assistant coach Daniel Furuto is a former Locos manager and is the brother of 2022 Lima manager Matt Furuto. Purdue infielder Ty Gill (Valparaiso High School Class of 2021) also played for the team this summer.
Doorn’s pitch selection has changed over time. With the Locos, he used the four-seamer (which sat 90 to 92 mph), sinker, slider, curveball and change-up. He went with the four-seamer, curve and slider in 3-2 counts.
When behind in the count, Doorn would often use his sinker (combination one- or two-seamer) that goes drops and gets on the hands of right-handed hitters.
His slider — thrown in the low 80s — is a mix of a cutter and traditional slider.
“It does not have much depth,” says Doorn, 19. “It moves a lot from right to left. It moves away from a right-hander.”
Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, his curve drops almost 12-to-6 on the clock face. It goes away from a righty and into a lefty.
“My curveball is my best breaking pitch,” says Doorn.
A “circle” change-up moves into a right and away from a lefty.
Born in Chicago, Doorn grew up in Schererville, Ind. His 11U summer was his last at Dyer (Ind.) Little League and his first in travel ball with Morris Baseball. He played for some other travel teams in tournaments, but was primarily with Morris. He spent his 17U summer with the Dave Sutkowski-coached 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs (formerly the Hammond/Morris Chiefs).
“Coach Bush is really, really wise,” says Doorn of Sutkowski. “When he says something you have to listen.”
Doorn, who committed to Purdue even before that summer leading into his senior year of high school, respects how Sutkowski takes a different group of 17-year-olds year after year and helps them find a college baseball home.
“He shows how much he cares for these kids’ development and the career they have ahead of them,” says Doorn.
Carter is the oldest of Karl and Carli Doorn’s two children. Carpenter/contractor Karl Doorn played baseball and football at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Ill., Veterans Administration nurse practitioner Carli Doorn played volleyball and basketball and Illiana Christian High School when it was located in Lansing, Ill. Indiana Wesleyan University-bound Mia Doorn (18) played four seasons of varsity volleyball at Illiana Christian, which is now located in Dyer.
Carter spent his first two prep years at Illiana Christian and his last two at Lake Central. His head baseball coaches were Darren DeBoer with the Vikings and Mike Swartzentruber with the Indians.
“He’s an awesome dude,” says Doorn of DeBoer. “He’s super, super caring for players and the program. Being athletic director and a coach shows his devotion.
“I never had a bad experience with him. He always knows what to say at the right time. He’s really good with words.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Doorn did get to experience Swartzentruber.
“He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met in my life,” says Doorn of Swartzentruber. “He always wants the best for whoever he associates himself with
“He’s a gritty coach and you can always ask him questions.”
In his one season for Lake Central (2021), Doorn was an all-Duneland Athletic Conference honoree, Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District A Player of the Year and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series selection.
The pitcher/corner infielder was also finalist for IHSBCA Player of the Year after posting strong pitching and hitting numbers. On the mound, he was 8-1 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.97 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and 94 strikeouts in 48 innings with a no-hitter. He struck out 12 and 14 in consecutive starts.
He also hit .406 with 47 runs batted in and a 1.212 OPS (.522 on-base percentage plus .690 slugging average) in 28 games.
Doorn spent the summer of 2021 living in central Indiana on weekdays training at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., and playing for the Greg Vogt-coached 18U Mambas on the weekend.
Deciding he wanted to throw a baseball harder, Doorn gave up basketball after his ninth grade year and hit the weights to put some muscle on what was then a 6-3, 135-pound frame.
His goal has been to develop year after year he got to work on becoming bigger, faster and stronger at PRP while continuing work with former Morris Chiefs coach Anthony Gomez.
Thinking he would pursue a path to become a dentist, Doorn entered Purdue as a Biology major. He has since changed to Construction Management Technology.
“I grew up on the construction scene on my dad’s job sites,” says Doorn for his decision to switch majors.
Doorn, who turns 20 on Aug. 24, plans to heads back to West Lafayette a week before that. A team meeting is planned for Aug. 21, followed by six weeks or so of individual work then full team practice.
With a number of graduations, transfers and pitchers being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Doorn expects Purdue pitching staff to look much different in 2023.
Gone are all three weekend starters — Jackson Smeltz (drafted in the 10th round by the San Diego Padres), Wyatt Wendell (signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks) and Troy Wansing (transferred to Texas A&M).

Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)
Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)
Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)

Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)

Carter Doorn (left) and Kyle Wade. (Purdue University Photo)

A thumbs-up from Carter Doorn. (Purdue University Photo)

Nelson returns to his roots with Portage Indians

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

Doug Nelson came home to teach and coach.
Following a stint at Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatland, Ind., Nelson is now teaching health and coaching freshmen boys basketball and is the new head baseball coach at Portage (Ind.) High School. He graduated from the school in 1992.
“I enjoyed Kankakee Valley,” says Nelson, who was making the 45-minute commute from Portage to KV. “Great people. Very good facilities. They’re growing.
“This is just home to me.”
Nelson played baseball at Portage for Tom Levandoski, who died Aug. 26, 2021.
“That touched home with me,” says Nelson. “He meant a lot to me.”
Nelson took the basketball job first when good friend Bryon Clouse was hired as Indians head coach in that sport.
The baseball opportunity came later and Nelson took it for a chance to coach with son Nathan Ramian. The 2011 Portage graduate played four years of baseball for the Indians and is now Web Coordinator for Portage Township Schools. He will coach varsity infielders.
Other Nelson assistants include varsity pitching coach John Selman, junior varsity head coach Mike Bruner, JV assistant Dallas Milligan, freshman head coach Derek Logsdon and freshman assistants Bryan Bernacki and Tommy Mosley.
Selman was on the previous Portage staff. Bruner is a Portage and Purdue Northwest grad.
Milligan went to Chesterton. He has a journalism degree with an emphasis in sports broadcasting from the University of Kansas. He has worked for the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs, ESPN and Fox Sports. He is a radio and video production teacher at the Porter Career Center while working toward a masters in communication at Purdue Northwest.
Logsdon brings four decades of experience in coaching youth baseball in northwest Indiana. He graduated from Hobart High School and played football at Franklin College.
Bernacki teaches Business at Portage and is schooled in analytics.
Mosley finished his college playing career at Calumet College of Saint Joseph in Whiting, Ind.
Doug is married to Ann Marie and has a younger son named Kale Nelson, who is a senior at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
Nelson, who has a career diamond record of 166-91, was able to work with the Indians on the diamond during the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period.
“I got to meet some of the guys and see them throw and hit,” says Nelson. “We had good numbers (35 to 40 at each session).”
And that’s not including athletes in fall sports.
When strength training sessions before school began, participation was also high.
“Quite a few of them have committed themselves to what we’re trying to do in the weight room — not just for baseball but for health reasons,” says Nelson. “This winter has been great (with 40 to 45 players per practice) and we’re beginning in the (batting) cage.
“Guys in college have come back to talk to guys about hitting or life after high school. Being a Portage grad myself, it’s gratifying to see that.”
Alums who went on to college baseball in recent years include Scottie Hansen at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., Danny Puplava at Kankakee (Ill.) Community College and Xavier Rivas at the University of Indianapolis.
Josh Ortiz (Class of 2022) recently committed to Purdue Northwest.
“We’re relatively young with a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” says Nelson.
Portage (enrollment around 2,400) is a member of the Duneland Athletic Conference (with Chesterton, Crown Point, Lake Central, LaPorte, Merrillville, Michigan City and Valparaiso).
DAC games are played as home-and-home series on back-to-back days — mostly Tuesday and Wednesday.
In 2021, the Indians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell and Valparaiso. Portage has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2013.
To re-establish a feeder system, Nelson plans to meet with leadership in Portage Township to establish a program.
“We’re going to make it happen,” says Nelson. “There’s too many people not playing in the summer.
“We’re going to get that corrected.”
Plans also call for a middle school program to play games in the fall. While there is no middle school baseball in the DAC, Porter County Conference schools do have it and are likely Portage opponents.
“We’re in a time where you have to recruit your kids to stay at your own school,” says Nelson. “We have to do a better job of keeping them here in Portage. That starts with middle school baseball.”
The program will allow players to get onto the bigger diamond and use drop-three bats while playing on the same team with other Portage students.
“We can show the parents that we care of (their child’s) development and well-being.”

Ann Marie and Doug Nelson.
Kale Nelson (left), Nathan Ramian and Doug Nelson.

Notre Dame’s Gumpf, Lynch together again with Bethesda Big Train

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

Brady Gumpf and Ryan Lynch were youngsters when they were first baseball teammates.
The two buddies played in the summers for the Granger (Ind.) Cubs with Chris Hickey as head coach and Greg Lynch (Ryan’s father and former University of Wisconsin baseball player) as an assistant. Then came the Jay Hundley-coadhed Indiana Outlaws. That travel organization became the Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest). Both have earned All-American and all-tournament honors from Perfect Game.
“We car-pooled down to Indianapolis every weekend,” says Lynch of the trips to meet up with the Outlaws or Canes. “It was always fun playing against him at school.”
Lynch and C.J. Kavadas tried to coax Gumpf to play with them at Penn High School. But Gumpf stayed at South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph where his father – John Gumpf — was Indians head coach.
When it came time for college ball, 2020 high school graduates Gumpf and Lynch both landed close to home at the University of Notre Dame. Because of depth and talent for head coach Link Jarrett’s Irish, Gumpf did not get into a game and Lynch pitched 2/3 of an inning in the spring of 2021. ND went 34-13, won the South Bend Regional and lost to eventual national champion Mississippi State in the Starkville Super Regional.
This summer, righty-swinging outfielder Gumpf and left-handed pitcher Lynch were again teammates with the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League-champion Bethesda (Md.) Big Train, where Sal Colangelo was manager, Sam Bender hitting coach and Craig Lopez pitching coach. They were placed there along with Irish mates Matt Bedford and Danny Neri by Notre Dame assistant Rich Wallace.
In 28 regular-season games, Gumpf hit .290 (20-of-69) with three home runs, one triple, one double, 13 runs batted in and 18 runs scored.
“At the beginning of summer I was struggling a little bit at the plate, but I turned it around pretty easily,” says Gumpf, whose last game action came in the fall of 2019 for Team Indiana, coached by Prep Baseball Report Indiana’s Phil Wade and Blake Hibler. “It was the first time playing in awhile. I was still able to grow as a player and improve. It was mostly just getting the reps.”
Gumpf, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, split his defensive time for Bethesda between right and left field and did make an appearance at third base.
A catcher/outfielder in high school, Gumpf has been mostly an outfielder at Notre Dame.
“With my overall athleticism, I made the transition to that pretty easily,” says Gumpf. “I can still catch.”
Brady played at what is now South Bend East Side Baseball Softball Association before joining the Granger Cubs.
At Saint Joe, he was on the roster as a freshman as the Indians won the IHSAA Class 3A state championship in 2017. There was another sectional title in 2018. The 2019 season ended in the final game of the Griffith Regional with a loss to eventual 3A state champion Andrean.
Gumpf was honorable mention all-state as a sophomore and junior and all-conference second team in 2018 and first team in 2019.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic there was no 2020 prep season. Gumpf was invited to play in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., but was advised by Notre Dame coaches to take the summer off and train on his own.
Gumpf has declared himself to be a Management Consulting major.
Brady’s mother, Deanna Gumpf, is head softball coach at Notre Dame. Deanna and John also have a daughter — Tatum.
Lynch, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, made regular-season mound appearances (seven in relief) for the 2021 Big Train and went 2-1 with a 5.54 earned run average. In 13 innings, the southpaw produced 22 strikeouts and eight walks.
“It was a good experience for me to get some innings in and to develop,” says Lynch, who pitched in mid-week scrimmages with ND substitutes last spring.
“I want to try to become a starter,” says Lynch. “I think I have the skill.
“We do have a lot of guys who started coming back and there are transfers that we picked up. I want to compete this fall and earn some kind of spot.”
Chuck Ristano is the Notre Dame pitching coach.
Lynch employs both a four-seam and two-seam fastball as well as a change-up, curveball and slider.
The lefty gets plenty of arm-side run on his fastballs. The four-seamer sat at 88 to 91 mph in the spring.
He tosses a “circle” change and gets his “12-to-6” curve to run in on lefties and drop a little bit.
The slider is harder than the curve — mid 80’s vs. about 75.
“One of my strengths is that all of my pitches look the same when they come out (of my hand),” says Lynch. “That’s good. That’s what I want — to keep the hitters off-balance.”
Lynch has decided on Finance as a major as he enters his sophomore year at Notre Dame. He moves back to campus this weekend and classes begin Monday, Aug. 23. Baseball activities are expected to begin shortly after that.
At Penn, Lynch was the 2020 Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year. Penn topped Saint Joe for the Northern Indiana Conference title in 2019.
The Greg Dikos-coached Kingsmen were Class 4A state runners-up in 2017 with freshman Lynch in center field. He pitched a no-hitter that same season.
Greg and Diana Lynch have three children — Kristina, Ryan and Brandon. Kristina Lynch plays soccer at Florida State University, where the Seminoles won a national title in 2018.

Brady Gumpf (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Ryan Lynch (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Brady Gumpf (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Ryan Lynch (University of Notre Dame Photo)
Brady Gumpf (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Ryan Lynch (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Brady Gumpf (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Ryan Lynch (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Brady Gumpf crosses the plate (Bethesda Big Train Photo)
Ryan Lynch (University of Notre Dame Photo)

Saint Joseph grad, Morehead State righty Rotkis knows confidence is key

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

Joe Rotkis got just eight outs in his first season as a college baseball pitcher.
Taking the mound for Morehead (Ky.) State University in 2020, the right-hander from South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph High School hurled 2 1/3 innings.
“It was the worst 2 1/3 innings I pitched in my entire life,” says Rotkis, who gave up 16 earned runs and 14 hits as an MSU freshman. “It was frustrating in the moment. I knew what I was capable of and I didn’t show it.”
That became the driving force for Rotkis through the rest of the COVID-19 spring and summer and into the 2021 season.
After the 2020 shutdown, Rotkis played for the Midwest Collegiate League’s Whiting-based Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
“That was awesome,” says Rotkis, who pitched well enough in his first two relief stints that he landed a spot in the Oilmen’s starting rotation.”
He also got to work with pitching coach Matt Pobereyko. He took to approach espoused by the former pro moundsman.
“He said I was just over-thinking things and to go out and do what I know I can do,” says Rotkis, 20. “I gained confidence last summer.
“Confidence is the best tool.”
Playing this spring at Morehead State, where Mik Aoki is the head coach and Brady Ward the pitching coach, Rotkis made 13 appearances (all out of the bullpen) and was 2-0 with a 4.05 earned run average. In 26 2/3 innings, he struck out 21 and walked 10.
Rotkis uses four pitches — a two-seam sinking fastball, a four-seam fastball, a “circle” change-up and a slider.
“It plays off the sinker and the same tunnel, working different sides of the plate,” says Rotkis, who throws from a mid-three-quarter overhand arm slot which helps with his sinker and touched 92 mph a few times in the spring while sitting in the high 80s. “I like to throw anything to anybody.
“I just throw what I think’s going to beat them at that point.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Rotkis went for an assessment at the P3 (Premier Pitching Performance) lab in St. Louis and is working this summer with Director of Remote Pitching Mitch Plassmeyer while following a structuring throwing and weightlifting plan near home in Granger, Ind.
“He knows what he’s talking about,” says Rotkis of Plassmeyer. “He filled my head with knowledge.”
In the third week of the program, Rotkis lifts four times a week — two upper body and two lower body. He does mobility moves before lifting and throwing.
Working out with former high school teammate Patrick Farrissee (now on the Clemson University club baseball team) on the practice football fields at Notre Dame, Rotkis long tosses 100 yards or more.
As a sophomore, Farrissee was the starting left fielder when Saint Joseph won the 2017 IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
Rotkis is a 2019 graduate of Saint Joseph, where he and buddies Farrissee, Mitchell Coleman, Nick Dolniak, Surf Sadowey, Michael Schroeder and Brady Gumpf (now at Notre Dame) played for former Indians head coach John Gumpf and former assistant and current bench boss John Smolinski.
“They made practice enjoyable to come to each day,” says Rotkis, who began to get some NCAA Division I offers through the Area Code Games trials at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
He was recruited by Morehead State when Mike McGuire was head coach and Kane Sweeney the pitching coach and then they both left for the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Aoki and Ward convinced Rotkis to still come play for the Eagles.
Born in Elkhart, Ind., Rotkis moved from Bristol, Ind., to Granger around age 5 with parents Mike and Jill and younger brother Andrew (a 2021 St. Joseph graduate bound for Purdue University).
Joe played at what is now Harris Baseball Softball and then Chet Waggoner Little League in South Bend which led to the Michiana Baseball Club travel team. As a high school, he was with the South Bend Cubs travel organization, spending two summers with South Bend Silver Hawks manager Mark Haley as coach.
“Mark Haley is one of the smartest and one of the most caring baseball guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to,” says Rotkis. “He’s awesome.
“We were learning the game, the ins and out and the little things.”

Joe Rotkis (Morehead State University Photo)
Joe Rotkis (Morehead State University Photo)

Joe Rotkis (Morehead State University Photo)

Dowler sees first Union City team win sectional title

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jason Dowler may be a “rookie” as first-year head coach of the Union City (Ind.) Community Junior-Senior High School baseball team.

But his relationship with many Union City players goes back to when they were little boys.

Freshmen Owen Dowler (Jason’s son), Zack Fulk and Corbin Richards and sophomore Jude Connor all played together on Dylan’s Dawgs — a team named in honor of Dylan Williams who was killed during an 8U all-star practice in 2013. Owen Dowler was Dylan’s rec ball teammate.

Dylan Williams would have been a sophomore in 2021.

Having coached and observed them for years, Jason Dowler knew those younger players very well.

“My job was to figure everybody else out,” says Dowler, who saw the Indians win the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional and punch their ticket to the Carroll (Flora) Regional on Saturday, June 5.

In winning the program’s third sectional title — and first since 2018 — Union City bested Tri, Seton Catholic and Blue River Valley by a combined 27-0 at Don McBride Stadium in Richmond.

Senior Hunter Reagan started on the mound and Owen Dowler finished against Tri. The Seton Catholic game began Friday and was postponed to Saturday because of rain. Sophomore Camden LaFuze started it Friday and Reagan finished it Saturday.

The postponement also meant that Seton, which beat Randolph Southern with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District H Player of the Year and Miami (Ohio) University commit Luke Leverton, was able to go back to the hard-throwing right-hander at the beginning of Saturday’s game. 

As Leverton left the mound after three innings, Union City was up 1-0. When Leverton came to the plate in a key spot late in the game, Dowler had him intentionally walked and UC went on to a 5-0 triumph and the sectional championship game on Monday, which was pitched by LaFuze. The Indians blanked Blue River Valley 6-0.

“We’ve been dominant on the mound and our defense is playing very well right now,” says Dowler. “A lot of games we lost we beat ourselves (with errors and too many walks by the pitching staff).”

The Indians were 2-7 in the nine games heading into the tournament.

Dowler says there was a team meeting that turned things around.

“We said we can beat ourselves or start playing some good Indian baseball,” says Dowler. “It’s a very simple sport. We as players and coaches overthink it.

“We can make it difficult or we can make it easy on ourselves. We’ve tried to work smarter and not harder.”

Union City has operated by a motto: “Just compete, man.”

“If we lose, we lose,” says Dowler. “But we’re not going to beat ourselves.

“Go out there and compete and have fun.”

Dowler insists that his pitchers throw strikes and let their defense have the opportunity to get outs. 

Above all, he wants them to be bold.

“You are going to make errors and you are going to strike out,” says Dowler. “Baseball is a mindset. You have to be confident.”

There are 10 active players on the youthful Union City team. The starting lineup features freshmen Owen Dowler (first base), Fulk (second base) and Richards (catcher) and sophomores Connor (third base) and LaFuze (pitcher).

“It’s challenging mentally for these kids to walk up to a baseball field and other team is sporting 17 to 19 kids and we walk up with just enough to play,” says Dowler. “But we have a different mindset. We don’t let that effect us. It’s not your dream, but you deal with what you’ve got.”

Union City (10-13) takes on Cowan (13-13) at 10 a.m. Saturday. A win sends them into the 8 p.m. championship game against the winner of Riverton Parke (21-9) vs. Clinton Central (16-11). 

A wrinkle for the Indians is that graduation is at 3 p.m., so they would make the 2 1/2-hour trip each way from Flora to Union City and back — something that happened in 2018.

Union City (located on the Indiana-Ohio line with an enrollment around 240) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union County and Winchester).

With the latest trophy-taking, Union City has won three sectional titles. The previous championships came in 2012 and 2018.

Home games are played on the Union City campus. This year the team sold soap to raise funds to upgrade the facility.

Dowler says he wants to get the local Pony League thriving again.

“To be successful you have to have a feeder program,” says Dowler.

His assistant coaches at the high school are Rick Lacy, Kevin Lehman and Jacob Fulk. Lacy has been around Union City for about four decades in various capacities. Lehman keeps the scorebook for the Indians and was on South Adams’ state runner-up team in 1972. Fulk, the older brother of Zack, was on the 2018 sectional championship team and played one season and the University of Northwestern Ohio. He is Dowler’s pitching coach.

Dowler played soccer at Union City and graduated in 1998. He owns his own heating and cooling business in town — Comfort Systems.

Jason and wife Amy Dowler have two children — Kahlee and Owen. Jason coached daughter Kahlee in softball and transitioned to baseball with son Owen. Kahlee Dowler, who will be a senior at Ball State University in the fall, was a three-sport athlete at Union City — cross country, basketball and softball. She was a junior on the Class 1A state runner-up girls basketball squad in 2017.

Union City won the 2021 IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional baseball title. At far right in the back row is first-year coach Jason Dowler.
Head coach Jason Dowler (far right in back row) and his Union City (Ind.) Indians. The team is 10-13 as it heads to the June 5 IHSAA Class 1A Carroll (Flora) Regional.
The Union City (Ind.) Indians gather around the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional baseball trophy they earned in 2021.

Kankakee Valley coach Nelson values discipline, accountability

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Doug Nelson came up in baseball surrounded by successful coaches. There were men who believed in discipline. 

He played for Tom Levandoski at Portage (Ind.) High School, graduating in 1992. The Indians were in the Duneland Athletic Conference with LaPorte, led by legend Ken Schreiber (seven state titles and 1,010 victories). 

Levandoski was a student manager under Hall of Famer Schreiber at LaPorte and emulated the esteemed coach.

“He was very hard core and no-nonsense,” says Nelson of Levandoski. “But he got a lot out of his guys.

“We beat LaPorte in the (1991 LaPorte) Regional final, 1-0. And we didn’t win there (often).”

Nelson knows about the way former McCutcheon and current Twin Lakes coach Jake Burton goes about his business and appreciates it.

“It got to see how Coach Schreiber carried himself,” says Nelson. “He would hold guys responsible and accountable with how they acted off the field and that carries on the field.

“That’s getting more and more challenging these days.”

Nelson, a former head coach at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind., and assistant at Portage and Washington Township Middle/High School in Valparaiso, Ind., took over as head baseball coach at Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatland, Ind., for the 2019 season.

He has also been a head girls basketball coach at Marquette Catholic in Michigan City, Hanover Central and River Forest before taking over at KV in 2018-19.

In the spring of 2019, the Kougars baseball team had eventual IHSAA Class 3A state champion Andrean down 7-3 in the seventh inning of the Kankakee Valley Sectional championship game before bowing 8-7.

“That’s how close we are to beating a good team,” says Nelson. “But you’ve got to get 21 outs.

“A lot of kids from that team that are back (two years later).”

The COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season.

“Boys are champing at the bit and ready to get back on the field,” says Nelson. “We have a mix of seniors doing a good job of being leaders with juniors following their lead and sophomores continuing that.

“I like our depth.”

In the fall, the Kougars held IHSAA Limited Contacted Period practices outside as often as possible with plenty of fungos to fielders and swings by hitters.

“Being out on the field again was awesome,” says Nelson. “We had 20-plus (participants) every time.”

Nelson expects 40 to 45 players in the spring to fill out varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams. 

Winter workouts have consisted of plenty of weight room and batting cage work. When the weather has allowed, KV players have gone outside and used the baseball field on turf football playing or practice fields.

“We have a pretty nice field,” says Nelson of the lighted facility that has served many times as a sectional host site. Beyond the right field fence is a corn field. In left there is woods.

Assistant coaches for 2021 are Jim Pint (varsity), Jordon VanWienen (varsity), Jeremy Rozhon (JV) and Steve Schmidt (freshmen).

DeMotte Little League and Wheatfield Little League feed the Kankakee Valley program. Though slowed down in 2020 by the pandemic, Nelson hopes to establish a junior high program.

Nolan McKim, a 2020 KV graduate, is on the baseball team at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. There are no college commitments yet from current Kougars.

Kankakee Valley (enrollment around 1,100) is a member of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (with Andrean, Highland, Hobart, Lowell and Munster).

The conference plays two-game home-and-away series on consecutive weekdays.

The Kougars are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Culver Academy, John Glenn, Hanover Central, Knox and River Forest. Kankakee Valley has won four sectional titles — the last in 1999.

During his stint at Portage, Nelson assisted Bob Dixon.

“He was just great for the kids — a players’ coach,” says Nelson. “He would give the shirt off his back for the boys. He had them playing hard for each other.

“Portage takes a blue-collar/us-against-the-world mentality. We stuck together and fought.”

Randy Roberts is the head coach at Washington Township. His 2019 Senators were Class 1A state runners-up.

“Randy Roberts is the best coach of any sport in northwest Indiana,” says Nelson. “He is very humble. The (Porter County Conference) is a very good small-school baseball conference.”

Nelson was introduced to Roberts by brother Dustin. Max Roberts, Randy’s son and a Valparaiso High graduate, has pitched in the Seattle Mariners organization.

At Hanover Central, Nelson took the Wildcats to the 2011 Class 2A championship game where they were topped 8-1 by South Spencer. HC ace Andy Wellwerts stuck out 128 batters in 73 innings that season. He went on to play in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Stars Series.

Jesse Wilkening, a 2015 Hanover Central graduate, set the state career record for hits (206) and went on to play at the University of Nebraska and in the Philadelphia Phillies system.

Nelson holds an elementary education degree with a physical education endorsement from Valparaiso University, where he played one season of baseball for Paul Twenge. Merel Nelson, Doug’s father, was VU’s athletic equipment manager.

A masters degree in administration was later earned by Nelson.

Doug is married to Ann Marie and has two sons — Nathan Ramian (28) and Kale Nelson (21). Nathan has coached freshman baseball and girls basketball at Portage and works in the IT department for Portage Township Schools). Kale is a junior at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.

Doug Nelson (left) enjoys time with wife Ann Marie. Doug is head baseball coach at Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatfield, Ind.