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New baseball coach Woodruff looks for Ancilla Chargers to adapt and improve

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Personal experience has taught Chris Woodruff the value of junior college for a student-athlete and now he’s leading a baseball program at a two-year school.

Woodruff, 25, was named head coach at Ancilla College near Donaldson, Ind., in June and has been busy recruiting and working on the facility at the liberal arts institution of higher learning sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

Woodruff, who has been running events for Elite Baseball Tournaments on the weekends, sees recruiting as a “fun challenge.”

With only a few months to fill a roster, recruiting has really amped up for him.

“Once we begin our fall ball season, we can begin recruiting our 2019 season,” says Woodruff. “We do have a lot of quality guys that return. I’m getting close to my goal. I want to get 30 guys this year and next year, I want to get up to 40.

“The more guys I can have on the roster, the more intrasquads we can do and the more team work we can do here on the field and see what we have in front of us rather having to depend on going somewhere to play a scrimmage.”

Woodruff says he hopes to tap into local talent on the playing side and has already done that for coaching.

Jesse Zepeda, an Elkhart Central High School graduate who played the outfield at Bethel College, has joined Woodruff’s Ancilla coaching staff.

“He already knows what I’m trying to bring here,” says Woodruff of Zepeda. “He’ll back my methods and my ways.”

Woodruff has a couple other people in mind to add other assistants.

A 2011 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) John Adams High School, Woodruff played two seasons (2012 and 2013) for coaches  Keith Schreiber and Mike Marks at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich. — a Michigan Community College Athletic Association member along with Ancilla — and two (2014 and 2015) for coach Brian Blondell at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind.

In high school, Woodruff played travel baseball his last two summers for Blondell’s Michiana Scrappers.

One of his teammates at Holy Cross was Jake Lanning, who was selected in the 24th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Atlanta Braves and played in the minors that summer.

“I’ve seen and played with a lot of great guys,” says Woodruff.

Woodruff, who played football for coaches Frank Amato and Craig Redman and baseball for coach Adam Zache at Adams, hit .312 with two doubles, one triple, six runs batted in and 20 runs scored in his last season as a center fielder at Glen Oaks.

His final year at Holy Cross, the right fielder was selected first-team all-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference after hitting .331.

“I know what kind of junior college played for me — athletically and academically,” says Woodruff. “I can give players the opportunity to come here and play for two years at the college level. In two years, they can improve and develop and leave with their associate degree and go somewhere bigger and better.

“I’m looking for guys who want to come here and work day in and day out and if Ancilla is the right place for them, we can make it work baseball-wise as well.”

Ancilla offers 25 associate degrees and the professor-to-student ratio is low, making for more personal attention. The campus located next to Gilbert Lake and eight miles west of Plymouth.

Indiana has three junior college baseball programs — Ancilla, Vincennes University and Indiana Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne are the others.

Some players and families know how the junior college system works and others are being educated while also being told the merits of Ancilla.

“Each family is different,” says Woodruff. “I have to feed off of them and see where their mindset is.”

Woodruff began his coaching career as a football assistant to Redman at Adams while also finishing his degree in the fall/winter of 2015.

Woodruff then tried his hand at professional baseball in the 2016 California Winter League.

“It was a good experience,” says Woodruff. “All the coaches in that league were (independent pro baseball) coaches or ex-pros and I learned a lot picking their brains.”

In 2016-17, he was a football assistant to Redman at South Bend Clay and a volunteer baseball assistant to head coach Mike Huling at Indiana University South Bend then served as a volunteer on the staff of Seth Zartman at Bethel in Mishawaka, Ind., in 2017-18.

Huling was an hitting/outfield coach in Woodruff’s senior year at Holy Cross then brought him onto the IUSB staff.

“I was always a great outfielder and defender, but it was always just natural,” says Woodruff. “I never had anyone teach me. He was constantly getting us to improve on what we did yesterday.

“At IUSB, it was what were we doing as a team to get better that day. Each day, we’re going to improve a little bit.”

Woodruff always wants to get better as a coach and see his atheles make steady progress.

“As soon as you think you know it all, get out of baseball because it’s constantly improving and adapting,” says Woodruff. “There’s so much information out there. Try to just be a sponge.”

At Bethel, Woodruff saw the way Zartman and assistant Kiel Boynton went about their daily business.

“I try to take everything in and that’s what it’s been like this first two or three weeks at Ancilla,” says Woodruff. “I’m constantly learning.

“That’s the kind of team I want to have on the field year in and year out — one that wants to adapt and improve.”

Woodruff, who was hired to a part-time position at Ancilla by athletic director Brian Pearison, has been consulting with groundskeeping guru and longtime family friend Joel Reinebold about getting the Chargers’ playing facility in shape.

“He’s definitely someone I will lean on as I’m getting started and as I move forward,” says Woodruff of Reinebold.

John and Teri Woodruff both have coaching and athletic administration backgrounds but they never pressured their only child to participate in sports.

“They got it right the first time,” says Chris Woodruff. “They just wanted me to be doing something. They’ve definitely been great role models for me and they are the backbone of my support system.”

Growing up, Chris was always around for dad’s softball games in the spring and summer and helped his mother at football games (at Penn High School then Adams).

“I was always around athletics,” says Woodruff. “It’s something I’ve grown to love.”

Woodruff also appreciates all the community support.

There’s a whole village that helped me get to this point and I have been to thank,” says Woodruff. “I’m always adapting, improving, learning and growing.”

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Chris Woodruff, a South Bend John Adams High School graduate who played at Glen Oaks Community College and Holy Cross, is the new head baseball coach at Ancilla College near Donaldson, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

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New Ancilla College head baseball coach Chris Woodruff, 25, is working to fill his roster for 2018-19 while also improving the playing facility at the two-year school near Donaldson, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

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IU, Purdue bow out in D-I regionals; Indiana’s 36 other college baseball teams wrap up 2018 season

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The state’s two Big Ten schools — Indiana University and Purdue University — both saw the 2018 college baseball season come to a close at the NCAA Regional level.

Minnesota and Ohio State were the other two conference schools to get an NCAA bid.

The Chris Lemonis-coached Hoosiers (40-19) went 2-2 at the Austin (Texas) Regional.

Coach Mark Wasikowski’s Boilermakers (38-21) went 1-2 at the Chapel Hill Regional.

Once again, Tracy Archuleta took the University of Southern Indiana (36-23) in the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. A national champion in 2010 and 2014, the Screaming Eagles went 0-2 in Cary, N.C., this time.

At the NCAA D-III level, Lance Marshall’s Franklin College team (39-5) and Jake Martin’s Wabash College (32-17) squad both advanced to regional tournaments before bowing out.

Five coaches — Kip McWilliams of Indiana Tech (44-21), Rich Benjamin of Indiana Wesleyan University (37-20), Ben Reel of Indiana University Southeast (41-14), Todd Bacon of Marian University (24-27) and Kyle Gould Taylor University (44-16) — took their teams to the NAIA Opening Round before they were eliminated from postseason play.

Gary Vaught retired after 24 seasons as head coach at the University of Indianapolis.

Indiana University Kokomo (coached by Matt Howard) and Ivy Tech Community College (coached by Lance Hershberger) had their first seasons.

Here is a 2018 wrap-up for all 38 college baseball programs in Indiana:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

2018

NCAA Division I

Ball State Cardinals (32-26, 17-10 Mid-American Conference): Head coach Rich Maloney (13th overall season).

BSU went 1-2 in the MAC tournament at Avon, Ohio.

Drey Jameson was named MAC Pitcher of the Year and an all-MAC first-teamer as well as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Pitcher John Baker, shortstop Noah Powell and outfielder Jeff Riedel made the all-MAC second team.

Right-hander Evan Marquardt (Reds) was selected in 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Butler Bulldogs (34-20, 9-8 Big East Conference): Head coach Dave Schrage (second season).

The Dogs went 1-2 at the Big East tournament in Mason, Ohio.

Pitcher Ryan Pepiot, shortstop Michael Hartnagel and outfielder Gehrig Parker were chosen to the all-Big East first team with outfielder Tyler Houston and infielder/pitcher Garrett Christman on the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Evansville Purple Aces (12-39, 3-18 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Wes Carroll (eighth season).

UE went 0-2 at the MVC tournament in Dallas.

Outfielder Troy Beilsmith was chosen for the all-MVC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Fort Wayne Mastodons (11-37, 7-23 Summit League): Head coach Bobby Pierce (10th season).

Utility player Shannon Baker and first baseman Travis Upp were named to the all-Summit second team.

This summer, the school changes its name to Purdue Fort Wayne and the colors go from blue and white to black and gold.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Hoosiers (40-19, 14-9 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Chris Lemonis (fourth season).

IU went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Neb.

Outfielder Matt Gorski, starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever and utility player Matt Lloyd were named to the all-Big Ten first team. Starting pitcher Pauly Milto and designated hitter Scotty Bradley made the second team, outfielder Logan Sowers the third team and second baseman Drew Ashley the all-freshman team.

Stiever (White Sox), Sowers (White Sox), Tim Herrin (Indians) and Luke Miller (Phillies) were selected MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana State Sycamores (31-24, 11-10 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Mitch Hannahs (fifth season).

ISU went 2-2 in the MVC tournament.

Third baseman Jake Means was named to the all-MVC first team, first baseman Dane Giesler, starting pitcher Tyler Ward the second team and Means and second baseman Jarrod Watkins the all-defensive team.

Right-hander Ethan Larrison (Diamondbacks) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-30, 12-18 Atlantic Coast Conference): Head coach Mik Aoki (eighth season).

ND went 0-2 at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C.

Second baseman Nick Podkul and third baseman Matt Vierling was named to the all-ACC second team and outfielder Eric Gilgenbach the third team.

Podkul (Blue Jays), Vierling (Phillies) and shortstop Cole Daily (Nationals) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Boilermakers (38-21, 17-6 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Mark Wasikowski (second season).

The Boilers enjoyed 13-game win streak toward the end of the regular season and went 3-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Minnesota in the championship game.

Catcher Nick Dalesandro, first baseman Jacson McGowan, starting pitcher Tanner Andrews and relief pitcher Ross Learnard landed on the all-Big Ten third team and outfielder Ben Nisle and starting pitcher Trent Johnson on the all-freshman team.

Dalesandro (Diamondbacks), McGowan (Rays) and Andrews (Marlins) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Valparaiso Crusaders (19-34, 6-15 Horizon League): Head coach Brian Schmack (fifth season).

Valpo lost in an elimination game at the MVC tournament.

Outfielder Blake Billinger was chosen for the all-MVC first team while outfielder Giovanni Garbella and starting pitcher Jon Tieman earned honorable mention and Jayden Eggimann a spot on the all-defensive team.

Catcher Scott Kapers (Rangers) was selected in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis Greyhounds (31-23, 10-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Gary Vaught (24th season).

The Hounds went 3-2 at the GLVC tournament in Ozark, Mo., losing to Quincy in the championship game.

Designated hitter Dylan Jones, first baseman Storm Joop, outfielder Kyle Orloff and third baseman Hunter Waning were picked for the all-GLVC second team.

UIndy achieved their 16th 30-win season for Vaught, who retired after 24 seasons of leading the program. Assistant Al Ready was named as his replacement.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Oakland City Oaks (13-28): Head coach T-Ray Fletcher (24th season).

OCU played 25 games played in Indiana, including 17 at home.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles (36-23, 15-9 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Tracy Archuleta (12th season).

After winning the Midwest Regional at Springfield, Ill., USI dropped D-II Championship games to Florida Southern and Southern New Hampshire.

Outfielder Drake McNamara was named Player of the Year and Bryce Krizan Freshman of the Year by the GLVC.

Catcher Logan Brown and utility player Nick Gobert also made the first team while second baseman Jacob Fleming and outfielder Buddy Johnson were named to the second team.

McNamara was also honored as Region Player of the Year by several sources and as All-American by ABCA, D2CCA and NWBCA.

Brown (Braves) was taken in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NCAA Division III

Anderson Ravens (25-20, 11-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Matt Bair (first season).

AU finished 3-2 in the HCAC tournament, bowing to Franklin in the championship game.

John Becker was honored as HCAC Pitcher of the Year. Besides Becker, shortstop Nick Butcher first team and second baseman Nick Jones made the all-HCAC first team, third baseman Jonathan Willoughby second team and outfielder/infielder Tommy Parker honorable mention. Becker and Butcher were chosen all-region by different groups.

See IndianaRBI Story HERE.

DePauw Tigers (11-26, 9-9 North Coast Athletic Conference): Head coach Blake Allen (second season).

Outfielder Charlie Patrick was chosen as NCAC Newcomer of the Year and all-NCAC second team. Pitcher Grant Rademacher also was chosen for the second team while honorable mention went to third baseman Noah Salasky and outfielder Collin Einertson.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Earlham Quakers (23-14, 7-10 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Steve Sakosits (eighth season).

Catcher/utility player Danny Dopp, outfielder/utility player Addison Robertson and pitcher Walter Talcott made the all-HCC second team and infielder Dre Davis received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Franklin Grizzlies (39-5, 17-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Lance Marshall (21st season).

The Griz beat Anderson in the HCAC tournament championship game then went 1-2 in the D-III Central Regional in Sauget, Ill.

Outfielder Ryan Bixler was named MVP and Marshall Coach of the Year by the HCAC. Other all-conference players were pitcher Christian Sullivan, catcher Alex Mis, first baseman Drew Naumovich, shortstop Sam Claycamp, third baseman Frank Podkul, outfielders Ryan Erlandson and Jarrod Smith, designated hitter Nick Wright on the first team, second baseman Brandt Pawley on the second team and pitcher Mitchell Caster receiving honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Hanover Panthers (8-25, 5-12 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Shayne Stock (sixth season).

Pitcher Garrett Zorb was named to the all-HCC first team, infielder Josh Meszaros to the second team and infielder Jack Shine honorable mention.

Manchester Spartans (20-22, 9-8 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Rick Espeset (20th season).

Outfielder Tyler LaFollette was picked for the all-HCC first team, pitcher Taylor Kopplin and outfielder Eric Knepper the second team and outfield/infielder Braxton Riley received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers (20-23, 10-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Jeff Jenkins (29th season).

Rose came in third place in the HCAC tournament.

Luke Buehler, an all-region second-team selection, was named all-HCAC first team, outfielder David Burnside second team and catcher/DH Conner Helbling honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Trine Thunder (19-21, 13-15 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association): Head coach Greg Perschke (17th season).

Catcher Kevin O’Malley was chosen for the all-MIAA first team and infielder Jacob Heller the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Wabash Little Giants (32-17, 10-8 North Shore Athletic Conference): Head coach Jake Martin (second season).

After winning the NCAC tournament, Wabash lost the Mideast Regional championship game to Wooster.

Pitcher Bryan Roberts made the all-NCAC first team, catcher Bryce Aldridge, second baseman Sean Roginski the second team and first baseman Jackson Blevins, shortstop Eric Chavez, outfielder Jared Wolfe and pitcher Zach Moffett the honorable mention list.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NAIA

Bethel Pilots (17-28, 8-19 Crossroads League): Head coach Seth Zartman (15th season).

The Dick Patterson Field at Jerry Jenkins Stadium inhabitants placed infielder/outfielder Luke Adams and outfielders Collin Affolder and Jesse Zepeda on the all-Crossroads honorable mention team and Zepeda and pitcher Josh King on the Gold Glove squad.

Calumet College of Saint Joseph Crimson Wave (13-41, 7-23 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Scott Nowakowski.

Goshen Maple Leafs (22-29, 12-15 Crossroads League): Head coach Alex Childers (sixth season).

A number of career and season record fell for the Leafs — Ryan Hartig (most games in a GC career with 210), Brad Stoltzfus (most career runs with 113 and tied for most career runs with 133), Ben Longacre (single-season highs of 49 runs and 22 doubles) and Colby Malson (10 saves).

Outfielders Hartig and Longacre and infielder/pitcher Malson were accorded honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team while infielder Stoltzfus was chosen for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Grace Lancers (9-33, 9-18 Crossroads League): Head coach Cam Screeton (second season).

After starting the season 0-17, Grace won four of its last six.

Pitcher David Anderson, infielder Austin Baker and third baseman Houston Haney received honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team.

Huntington Foresters (23-24, 16-10 Crossroads League): Head coach Mike Frame (34th season).

Outfielder Donovan Clark, second baseman Jamar Weaver and pitcher Connor West earned all-conference honorable mention Weaver was also selected for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana Tech Warriors (44-21, 24-4 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference): Head coach Kip McWilliams (11th season).

Tech lost the WHAC championship series to Madonna then went 2-2 in the Opening Round in Montgomery, Ala., losing to top-ranked Faulkner in the championship game.

First baseman Glen McClain was named Player of the Year and McWilliams Coach of the Year by the WHAC. Besides McClain, catcher Tighe Koehring made the first team while third baseman Matt Bandor and pitcher Jason Sterrett were selected for the second team.

McClain and Koehring were also chosen as NAIA second-team All-Americans.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (37-20, 20-6 Crossroads League): Head coach Rich Benjamin (third season).

IWU, the CL regular-season champions, went 0-2 in the Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga.

Outfielder Steven Busby, utility player Caleb Eder, pitcher Kyle Hall, catcher Brady West middle fielder Jordan Wharton and pitcher Jon Young made the all-conference first team, Wharton the Gold Glove team and pitchers Zee Breytenbach, David Corbin and Tim Olvaney honorable mention.

Benjamin was named CL Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Kokomo Cougars (31-21-1, 16-11 River States Conference): Head coach Matt Howard (first season).

In the first year of the program, IUK’s season concluded with a loss in the RSC tournament semifinals.

Renton Poole was named RSC Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Noah Etchison, outfielder Jared Heard and designated hitter Dalton Clarke made the second team and third baseman Caleb Matthews the Gold Glove team.

Honorable-mention NAIA All-American Poole (Rangers) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana University South Bend Titans (13-39, 8-22 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Doug Buysse (first season).

First baseman Tanner Wesp made the all-CCAC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Southeast Grenadiers (41-14, 23-4 River States Conference): Head coach Ben Reel (10th season).

IUS lost to Point Park in the RSC tournament championship game went 1-2 in the NAIA Opening Round in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Starting pitchers Brandon Nylin and Ryne Underwood, shortstop Richard Rodriguez, outfielder Nicholas Lugo and utility player Josh Beams were picked for the all-RSC first team, pitcher Andrew Yates the second team and Lugo, pitcher John Cecil and second baseman Reyni Olivero the Gold Glove team. Reel was named RSC Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Marian Knights (24-27, 14-12 Crossroads League): Head coach Todd Bacon (fifth season).

MU beat Huntington for the Crossroads League tournament title then went 0-2 in the NAIA Opening Round at Williamsburg, Ky.

Cody Earl was named CL Player of the Year and honorable-mention NAIA All-American. Infielder Maverick Bacon was also an all-Crossroads first-teamer while infielder Leo Lopez, pitcher/outfielder Zack St. Pierre and pitcher/infielder Reese Willis garnered honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Northwest Pride (18-25, 8-19 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Dave Griffin (second season).

Kyle Freel was selected GLIAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year while catcher Hunter Thorn and pitcher Chad Patrick earned all-conference honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Saint Francis Cougars (16-38, 9-17 Crossroads League): Head coach Greg Roberts (14th season).

Pitcher Noah Freimuth and infielders Tyler Prince and Keaton Sullivan earned all-Crossroads honorable mention.

Taylor Trojans (44-16, 20-7 Crossroads League): Head coach Kyle Gould (14th season).

An Opening Round host, Taylor went 1-2 in the event at Winterholter Field.

Pitcher Matt Patton was named CL Pitcher of the Year and an second-team NAIA All-American.

Besides Patton, all-Crossroads first-teamer were pitcher/first baseman Andrew Kennedy, infielder Josh Lane, infielder Nathan Targgart, pitcher Mitch Ubelhor, catcher/outfielder Tanner Watson and outfielder Wyatt Whitman with Watson, Whitman and pitcher/infielder Brett Lawson on the Gold Glove team and utility player Jared Adkins, pitcher Clay Riggins and outfielder Sam Wiese getting honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers (3-28, 2-22 Michigan Community College Athletic Association): Head coach Joe Yonto.

Ivy Tech Northeast Titans (25-18): Head coach Lance Hershberger (first season).

In the first year of the program, Ivy Tech finished the season with just 14 on the roster.

Catcher Tyler Rickert made the NJCAA Region 12 Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE, HERE & HERE.

Vincennes Trailblazers (19-27): Head coach Chris Barney (10th season).

After a 1-8 start, VU won three of its last five.

BASEBALLONDIRT

IU, Purdue bow out in D-I regionals; Indiana’s 36 other college baseball teams wrap up 2018 season

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The state’s two Big Ten schools — Indiana University and Purdue University — both saw the 2018 college baseball season come to a close at the NCAA Regional level.

Minnesota and Ohio State were the other two conference schools to get an NCAA bid.

The Chris Lemonis-coached Hoosiers (40-19) went 2-2 at the Austin (Texas) Regional.

Coach Mark Wasikowski’s Boilermakers (38-21) went 1-2 at the Chapel Hill Regional.

Once again, Tracy Archuleta took the University of Southern Indiana (36-23) in the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament. A national champion in 2010 and 2014, the Screaming Eagles went 0-2 in Cary, N.C., this time.

At the NCAA D-III level, Lance Marshall’s Franklin College team (39-5) and Jake Martin’s Wabash College (32-17) squad both advanced to regional tournaments before bowing out.

Five coaches — Kip McWilliams of Indiana Tech (44-21), Rich Benjamin of Indiana Wesleyan University (37-20), Ben Reel of Indiana University Southeast (41-14), Todd Bacon of Marian University (24-27) and Kyle Gould Taylor University (44-16) — took their teams to the NAIA Opening Round before they were eliminated from postseason play.

Gary Vaught retired after 24 seasons as head coach at the University of Indianapolis.

Indiana University Kokomo (coached by Matt Howard) and Ivy Tech Community College (coached by Lance Hershberger) had their first seasons.

Here is a 2018 wrap-up for all 38 college baseball programs in Indiana:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

2018

NCAA Division I

Ball State Cardinals (32-26, 17-10 Mid-American Conference): Head coach Rich Maloney (13th overall season).

BSU went 1-2 in the MAC tournament at Avon, Ohio.

Drey Jameson was named MAC Pitcher of the Year and an all-MAC first-teamer as well as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Pitcher John Baker, shortstop Noah Powell and outfielder Jeff Riedel made the all-MAC second team.

Right-hander Evan Marquardt (Reds) was selected in 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Butler Bulldogs (34-20, 9-8 Big East Conference): Head coach Dave Schrage (second season).

The Dogs went 1-2 at the Big East tournament in Mason, Ohio.

Pitcher Ryan Pepiot, shortstop Michael Hartnagel and outfielder Gehrig Parker were chosen to the all-Big East first team with outfielder Tyler Houston and infielder/pitcher Garrett Christman on the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Evansville Purple Aces (12-39, 3-18 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Wes Carroll (eighth season).

UE went 0-2 at the MVC tournament in Dallas.

Outfielder Troy Beilsmith was chosen for the all-MVC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Fort Wayne Mastodons (11-37, 7-23 Summit League): Head coach Bobby Pierce (10th season).

Utility player Shannon Baker and first baseman Travis Upp were named to the all-Summit second team.

This summer, the school changes its name to Purdue Fort Wayne and the colors go from blue and white to black and gold.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Hoosiers (40-19, 14-9 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Chris Lemonis (fourth season).

IU went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Neb.

Outfielder Matt Gorski, starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever and utility player Matt Lloyd were named to the all-Big Ten first team. Starting pitcher Pauly Milto and designated hitter Scotty Bradley made the second team, outfielder Logan Sowers the third team and second baseman Drew Ashley the all-freshman team.

Stiever (White Sox), Sowers (White Sox), Tim Herrin (Indians) and Luke Miller (Phillies) were selected MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana State Sycamores (31-24, 11-10 Missouri Valley Conference): Head coach Mitch Hannahs (fifth season).

ISU went 2-2 in the MVC tournament.

Third baseman Jake Means was named to the all-MVC first team, first baseman Dane Giesler, starting pitcher Tyler Ward the second team and Means and second baseman Jarrod Watkins the all-defensive team.

Right-hander Ethan Larrison (Diamondbacks) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-30, 12-18 Atlantic Coast Conference): Head coach Mik Aoki (eighth season).

ND went 0-2 at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C.

Second baseman Nick Podkul and third baseman Matt Vierling was named to the all-ACC second team and outfielder Eric Gilgenbach the third team.

Podkul (Blue Jays), Vierling (Phillies) and shortstop Cole Daily (Nationals) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Boilermakers (38-21, 17-6 Big Ten Conference): Head coach Mark Wasikowski (second season).

The Boilers enjoyed 13-game win streak toward the end of the regular season and went 3-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Minnesota in the championship game.

Catcher Nick Dalesandro, first baseman Jacson McGowan, starting pitcher Tanner Andrews and relief pitcher Ross Learnard landed on the all-Big Ten third team and outfielder Ben Nisle and starting pitcher Trent Johnson on the all-freshman team.

Dalesandro (Diamondbacks), McGowan (Rays) and Andrews (Marlins) were chosen in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Valparaiso Crusaders (19-34, 6-15 Horizon League): Head coach Brian Schmack (fifth season).

Valpo lost in an elimination game at the MVC tournament.

Outfielder Blake Billinger was chosen for the all-MVC first team while outfielder Giovanni Garbella and starting pitcher Jon Tieman earned honorable mention and Jayden Eggimann a spot on the all-defensive team.

Catcher Scott Kapers (Rangers) was selected in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis Greyhounds (31-23, 10-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Gary Vaught (24th season).

The Hounds went 3-2 at the GLVC tournament in Ozark, Mo., losing to Quincy in the championship game.

Designated hitter Dylan Jones, first baseman Storm Joop, outfielder Kyle Orloff and third baseman Hunter Waning were picked for the all-GLVC second team.

UIndy achieved their 16th 30-win season for Vaught, who retired after 24 seasons of leading the program. Assistant Al Ready was named as his replacement.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Oakland City Oaks (13-28): Head coach T-Ray Fletcher (24th season).

OCU played 25 games played in Indiana, including 17 at home.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles (36-23, 15-9 Great Lakes Valley Conference): Head coach Tracy Archuleta (12th season).

After winning the Midwest Regional at Springfield, Ill., USI dropped D-II Championship games to Florida Southern and Southern New Hampshire.

Outfielder Drake McNamara was named Player of the Year and Bryce Krizan Freshman of the Year by the GLVC.

Catcher Logan Brown and utility player Nick Gobert also made the first team while second baseman Jacob Fleming and outfielder Buddy Johnson were named to the second team.

McNamara was also honored as Region Player of the Year by several sources and as All-American by ABCA, D2CCA and NWBCA.

Brown (Braves) was taken in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NCAA Division III

Anderson Ravens (25-20, 11-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Matt Bair (first season).

AU finished 3-2 in the HCAC tournament, bowing to Franklin in the championship game.

John Becker was honored as HCAC Pitcher of the Year. Besides Becker, shortstop Nick Butcher first team and second baseman Nick Jones made the all-HCAC first team, third baseman Jonathan Willoughby second team and outfielder/infielder Tommy Parker honorable mention. Becker and Butcher were chosen all-region by different groups.

See IndianaRBI Story HERE.

DePauw Tigers (11-26, 9-9 North Coast Athletic Conference): Head coach Blake Allen (second season).

Outfielder Charlie Patrick was chosen as NCAC Newcomer of the Year and all-NCAC second team. Pitcher Grant Rademacher also was chosen for the second team while honorable mention went to third baseman Noah Salasky and outfielder Collin Einertson.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Earlham Quakers (23-14, 7-10 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Steve Sakosits (eighth season).

Catcher/utility player Danny Dopp, outfielder/utility player Addison Robertson and pitcher Walter Talcott made the all-HCC second team and infielder Dre Davis received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Franklin Grizzlies (39-5, 17-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Lance Marshall (21st season).

The Griz beat Anderson in the HCAC tournament championship game then went 1-2 in the D-III Central Regional in Sauget, Ill.

Outfielder Ryan Bixler was named MVP and Marshall Coach of the Year by the HCAC. Other all-conference players were pitcher Christian Sullivan, catcher Alex Mis, first baseman Drew Naumovich, shortstop Sam Claycamp, third baseman Frank Podkul, outfielders Ryan Erlandson and Jarrod Smith, designated hitter Nick Wright on the first team, second baseman Brandt Pawley on the second team and pitcher Mitchell Caster receiving honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Hanover Panthers (8-25, 5-12 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Shayne Stock (sixth season).

Pitcher Garrett Zorb was named to the all-HCC first team, infielder Josh Meszaros to the second team and infielder Jack Shine honorable mention.

Manchester Spartans (20-22, 9-8 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Rick Espeset (20th season).

Outfielder Tyler LaFollette was picked for the all-HCC first team, pitcher Taylor Kopplin and outfielder Eric Knepper the second team and outfield/infielder Braxton Riley received honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers (20-23, 10-7 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Jeff Jenkins (29th season).

Rose came in third place in the HCAC tournament.

Luke Buehler, an all-region second-team selection, was named all-HCAC first team, outfielder David Burnside second team and catcher/DH Conner Helbling honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Trine Thunder (19-21, 13-15 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association): Head coach Greg Perschke (17th season).

Catcher Kevin O’Malley was chosen for the all-MIAA first team and infielder Jacob Heller the second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Wabash Little Giants (32-17, 10-8 North Shore Athletic Conference): Head coach Jake Martin (second season).

After winning the NCAC tournament, Wabash lost the Mideast Regional championship game to Wooster.

Pitcher Bryan Roberts made the all-NCAC first team, catcher Bryce Aldridge, second baseman Sean Roginski the second team and first baseman Jackson Blevins, shortstop Eric Chavez, outfielder Jared Wolfe and pitcher Zach Moffett the honorable mention list.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

NAIA

Bethel Pilots (17-28, 8-19 Crossroads League): Head coach Seth Zartman (15th season).

The Dick Patterson Field at Jerry Jenkins Stadium inhabitants placed infielder/outfielder Luke Adams and outfielders Collin Affolder and Jesse Zepeda on the all-Crossroads honorable mention team and Zepeda and pitcher Josh King on the Gold Glove squad.

Calumet College of Saint Joseph Crimson Wave (13-41, 7-23 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Scott Nowakowski.

Goshen Maple Leafs (22-29, 12-15 Crossroads League): Head coach Alex Childers (sixth season).

A number of career and season record fell for the Leafs — Ryan Hartig (most games in a GC career with 210), Brad Stoltzfus (most career runs with 113 and tied for most career runs with 133), Ben Longacre (single-season highs of 49 runs and 22 doubles) and Colby Malson (10 saves).

Outfielders Hartig and Longacre and infielder/pitcher Malson were accorded honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team while infielder Stoltzfus was chosen for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Grace Lancers (9-33, 9-18 Crossroads League): Head coach Cam Screeton (second season).

After starting the season 0-17, Grace won four of its last six.

Pitcher David Anderson, infielder Austin Baker and third baseman Houston Haney received honorable mention on the all-Crossroads team.

Huntington Foresters (23-24, 16-10 Crossroads League): Head coach Mike Frame (34th season).

Outfielder Donovan Clark, second baseman Jamar Weaver and pitcher Connor West earned all-conference honorable mention Weaver was also selected for the Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana Tech Warriors (44-21, 24-4 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference): Head coach Kip McWilliams (11th season).

Tech lost the WHAC championship series to Madonna then went 2-2 in the Opening Round in Montgomery, Ala., losing to top-ranked Faulkner in the championship game.

First baseman Glen McClain was named Player of the Year and McWilliams Coach of the Year by the WHAC. Besides McClain, catcher Tighe Koehring made the first team while third baseman Matt Bandor and pitcher Jason Sterrett were selected for the second team.

McClain and Koehring were also chosen as NAIA second-team All-Americans.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (37-20, 20-6 Crossroads League): Head coach Rich Benjamin (third season).

IWU, the CL regular-season champions, went 0-2 in the Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga.

Outfielder Steven Busby, utility player Caleb Eder, pitcher Kyle Hall, catcher Brady West middle fielder Jordan Wharton and pitcher Jon Young made the all-conference first team, Wharton the Gold Glove team and pitchers Zee Breytenbach, David Corbin and Tim Olvaney honorable mention.

Benjamin was named CL Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Kokomo Cougars (31-21-1, 16-11 River States Conference): Head coach Matt Howard (first season).

In the first year of the program, IUK’s season concluded with a loss in the RSC tournament semifinals.

Renton Poole was named RSC Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Noah Etchison, outfielder Jared Heard and designated hitter Dalton Clarke made the second team and third baseman Caleb Matthews the Gold Glove team.

Honorable-mention NAIA All-American Poole (Rangers) was picked in the MLB Draft.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE & HERE.

Indiana University South Bend Titans (13-39, 8-22 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Doug Buysse (first season).

First baseman Tanner Wesp made the all-CCAC second team.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Indiana University Southeast Grenadiers (41-14, 23-4 River States Conference): Head coach Ben Reel (10th season).

IUS lost to Point Park in the RSC tournament championship game went 1-2 in the NAIA Opening Round in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Starting pitchers Brandon Nylin and Ryne Underwood, shortstop Richard Rodriguez, outfielder Nicholas Lugo and utility player Josh Beams were picked for the all-RSC first team, pitcher Andrew Yates the second team and Lugo, pitcher John Cecil and second baseman Reyni Olivero the Gold Glove team. Reel was named RSC Coach of the Year.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Marian Knights (24-27, 14-12 Crossroads League): Head coach Todd Bacon (fifth season).

MU beat Huntington for the Crossroads League tournament title then went 0-2 in the NAIA Opening Round at Williamsburg, Ky.

Cody Earl was named CL Player of the Year and honorable-mention NAIA All-American. Infielder Maverick Bacon was also an all-Crossroads first-teamer while infielder Leo Lopez, pitcher/outfielder Zack St. Pierre and pitcher/infielder Reese Willis garnered honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Purdue Northwest Pride (18-25, 8-19 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Head coach Dave Griffin (second season).

Kyle Freel was selected GLIAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year while catcher Hunter Thorn and pitcher Chad Patrick earned all-conference honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Saint Francis Cougars (16-38, 9-17 Crossroads League): Head coach Greg Roberts (14th season).

Pitcher Noah Freimuth and infielders Tyler Prince and Keaton Sullivan earned all-Crossroads honorable mention.

Taylor Trojans (44-16, 20-7 Crossroads League): Head coach Kyle Gould (14th season).

An Opening Round host, Taylor went 1-2 in the event at Winterholter Field.

Pitcher Matt Patton was named CL Pitcher of the Year and an second-team NAIA All-American.

Besides Patton, all-Crossroads first-teamer were pitcher/first baseman Andrew Kennedy, infielder Josh Lane, infielder Nathan Targgart, pitcher Mitch Ubelhor, catcher/outfielder Tanner Watson and outfielder Wyatt Whitman with Watson, Whitman and pitcher/infielder Brett Lawson on the Gold Glove team and utility player Jared Adkins, pitcher Clay Riggins and outfielder Sam Wiese getting honorable mention.

See IndianaRBI story HERE.

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers (3-28, 2-22 Michigan Community College Athletic Association): Head coach Joe Yonto.

Ivy Tech Northeast Titans (25-18): Head coach Lance Hershberger (first season).

In the first year of the program, Ivy Tech finished the season with just 14 on the roster.

Catcher Tyler Rickert made the NJCAA Region 12 Gold Glove team.

See IndianaRBI stories HERE, HERE & HERE.

Vincennes Trailblazers (19-27): Head coach Chris Barney (10th season).

After a 1-8 start, VU won three of its last five.

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Success follows Eastside’s Willard from softball to baseball diamonds

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Aaron Willard enjoyed plenty of success in his time as head softball coach at Eastside High School in Butler, Ind.

In 23 seasons, he Blazers softballers won 13 sectional titles (three in the IHSAA single-class era and five each in Class 1A and 2A).

When Jason Pierce left the head baseball post at Eastside and Aaron’s oldest son, Cade Willard, was a junior, he decided to take over the program.

In his second season (2017), the Blazers won the 2A Westview Sectional. Eastside did it again in 2018, besting Westview in the title game and earning a berth in the 2A Whiting Regional.

The Blazers (18-8) face Boone Grove in the second semifinal around noon CST (Hammond Bishop Noll plays South Adams at 10 a.m. CST) at Oil City Stadium. The championship is slated for 6 p.m. CST.

“Last year, we were built around pitching,” says Willard, who sent right-handers Cade Willard (redshirt at Fort Wayne), Conner Dove (Trine University), Jackson White (Franklin College) and middle infielder/closer Zach Orn (Ivy Tech Northeast) on to college baseball. They were among nine seniors. “A lot of those guys had played a lot of baseball.”

This year, the Blazers are not as experienced on the mound but have gotten the job done.

The staff is led by senior Chris Ballentine and also features juniors McGuire Jacobs, Nick Shewman, Chase Franz and Joe White and freshman Wade Miller. All but lefty Miller, who plays center field, are right-handers.

White is the team’s No. 1 catcher and joins Ballentine and Franz among Eastside’s most-productive hitters. The squad’s only other senior is first baseman Riley Thompson.

“Our guys have done a great job on the mound,” says Willard. “We’ve been solid defensively for the most part. The top of our order has been pretty good and we’ve now got some guys hitting in the bottom part.”

Eastside is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference. The NECC was led in 2018 by Angola (9-2) and Lakeland (9-2), followed by Fairfield (8-3), Westview (7-4), Eastside (7-4), Garrett (6-5), Fremont (5-6), Churubusco (5-6), West Noble (4-7), Prairie Heights (3-8), Central Noble (3-8) and Hamilton (0-11).

Willard’s assistant coaches are Tony Emenhiser, Garth Fiedler, John Gravante and Bryce Yoder.

The Blazers play their home games on-campus. The field has a wooden outfield fence and a few years ago, a net backstop was installed for clearer viewing by spectators.

A 1984 Eastside graduate, Willard went on to play baseball for four seasons at Huntington College (now Huntington University). His freshmen year was also the first in charge for head coach Mike Frame.

After receiving a physical education degree in 1989, Willard returned to Eastside and began teaching. He became athletic director and assistant principal in 1999 — positions he has held ever since.

Aaron and Terri Willard have three children — Madison, Cade and Owen. Madison Willard graduated this spring from Ball State University and is to marry Dalton Shetler in June. Owen Willard is an eighth grader.

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Eastside celebrates its second straight IHSAA Class 2A Westview Sectional baseball championship in 2018. Assistant coach Tony Emenhiser, seniors Caleb Ballentine and Riley Thompson and head coach Aaron Willard pose with the trophy.

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Eastside High School head baseball coach Aaron Willard (25) gets the bucket treatment from his team after they won the 2018 IHSAA Class 2A Westview Sectional.

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The Eastside High School Blazers hoist the 2018 IHSAA Class 2A Westview Sectional baseball trophy as head coach Aaron Willard (right) takes in the moment.

Ivy Tech catcher Rickert earns ‘Gold Glove’ in NJCAA Region 12

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An ironman earned some gold.

Tyler Rickert, freshman catcher at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, caught in 40 of the first-year program’s 43 games and earned the “Gold Glove Award” at the position in National Junior College Athletic Association Region 12 (Indiana, Ohio and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan).

No other single player in the region was behind the plate for a larger percentage of his team’s games.

Rickert, who played at Leo High School for coach Dave Boyce, handled 243 defensive chances with 205 putouts, 22 assists and just four errors, fielding at a .983 clip. He was changed with four passed balls and threw out more than 30 percent of stolen base attempts.

“I am very proud of Tyler!,” says Ivy Tech coach Lance Hershberger of the son of Dave and Sharlyn Rickert of Fort Wayne. “He is very deserving of this award.

“With our small roster, and the season ending injury to our other catcher, Tyler was all we had behind the plate for over the last 20 games. Not only did he play all of those games in a row, but he played well in those games.”

Rickert played through a hairline fracture in his hand and battled back injuries.

“The other coaches in the region recognized his heroic and courageous performance,” says Hershberger, who led the fledgling Titans to a 25-18 mark in 2018.

Showing his creative side, Rickert also received a $250 scholarship from the Ivy Tech Foundation last fall for designing a baseball T-shirt.

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Tyler Rickert, an Ivy Tech Community College freshman catcher, earned an National Junior College Athletic Association Region 12 “Gold Glove” in 2018. His T-shirt designs for the first-year program (shown above) won the Leo High School graduate a $250 scholarship from the Ivy Tech Foundation. (Ivy Tech Community College Images)

 

Hershberger’s Ivy Tech Titans fight way to 25-18 in inaugural season

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nobody said it would be easy — particularly Lance Hershberger — but Ivy Tech Community College Northeast completed its inaugural season in 2018 at 25-18.

For various reasons, the Fort Wayne-based Titans wound up the season with a roster of 14 — Alec Agler (Fort Wayne Northrop), Nick Bradley (Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran), Trey Bruce (East Noble), Drew Buffenbarger (Churubusco), Andrew Carpenter (Lakewood Park Christian), Drew Dobbels (Bellmont), Turner Gentry (Lexington, Ky.), Zack Haefer (East Noble), Deven Hill (Richmond, Mich.), Brandon Jencks (Churubusco), Zach Orn (Eastside), Noah Parish (Fort Wayne Concordia), Tyler Rickert (Leo) and Alex Vela (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter) — and 12 able bodies.

There were no backups for position players. Rickert caught 18 straight games.

Head coach Hershberger, whose passion was captured by IndianaRBI.com last summer, calls them “The Dirty Dozen.”

“We fought tooth and nail and I give them all kinds of credit.,” says Hershberger. “They never made an excuse for it. I’d like to think that reflected the demands of their coaches. We didn’t cut them any slack.

“We were trying to get them to withstand all the things it was going to take to be successful with that few people.”

Ivy Tech, a two-year school, took the field as independents without conference affiliation.

Because of less-than-ideal meteorlogical conditions, Ivy Tech cobbled together a schedule that only slightly resembled the original 54-game sale.

“It wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on part way through the season because of the weather,” says Hershberger. “It got to the point that we’d play whoever. We had to go find people to play.”

The Titans wound up sending his squad against Kellogg (Battle Creek, Mich.) and Sinclair (Dayton, Ohio) — ranked Nos. 2 and 17, respectively, in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association Division II polls — a combined 10 times. “As the season went along, it got even tougher (to find games) because they found out we weren’t an easy win.”

Asked many times why they would choose to pick up games against the two toughest teams in Region 12, Hershberger had a ready answer.

“It was kind of house money because we can’t participate in the regional the first year,” says Hershberger. “But you can look across the diamond and see where you need to get to.

“When I was at Indiana Tech (1991-2002), we played as many (NCAA) D-I’s as would play us. That’s how you get better.”

It was a fun weekend for Hershberger. All but two of the players from the 1998 NAIA World Series runners-up came from all over the country to Fort Wayne for the Indiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame induction of the squad. The coach had the honor of introducing each of the Warriors.

“It was a great time,” says Hershberger.

He was back at Indiana Tech a few days later when Ivy Tech had a makeup game against Edison State (Piqua, Ohio) and Shoaff Park was occupied by Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School.

After the contest, Hershberger was admiring the championship banners his Indiana Tech teams had earned.

Then one of his Ivy Tech players came to the outfield to join him.

“He says, ‘Coach. Hey, I just want to tell you thanks for everything. I’d probably be dead if I wasn’t here playing for you.’ … He meant it. I could see it in his eyes. We started hugging and I started balling.

“I haven’t hugged and been told ‘I love you’ and said ‘I love you’ with so many grown men since the last couple of days.”

Full of emotion, Hershberger was so wound up after the final game that he and faithful dog Ryno just drove around town.

Hershberger had been coaching in high school and travel baseball with the Summit City Sluggers  the last few years, but had not coached college players since leaving Indiana Tech.

In his postgame remarks, Hershberger told his Titans, “I want to thank you for allowing me to get back into college baseball. That’s how I’m going to remember this group.

“I told (assistants Dru Sebastian and Benny Clark) that they’re young coaches and may coach another 30 years,” says Hershberger. But they may never get so much out of a team. We finished with 12 players.”

Connor Wilkins is also an assistant coach. Part-time help comes from Jim Cahill and Tony Georgi, mostly in the area of community outreach in the Urban Initiative Program that Hershberger and company run through Community Impact Zone/Strike Zone Training.

Hershberger had let those that were there at the beginning of the year know that the standards were set high.

Players reported three days at week at 6 a.m. for workouts at Optimum Performance Sports. There was practice every day after school and three nights of study table each week.

It was too much of a commitment for some and they didn’t stay.

“They said, wait a second. This isn’t LSU, it’s Ivy Tech,” says Hershberger. “But you’ve got to start the expectations.”

A history buff, Hershberger borrowed a page from Sam Houston and the line in the sand during the fight for Texas independence in the 1830’s.

Wielding a sword from the school mascot, Hershberger came to practice and drew his own line.

“Step across if you’re buying into this. If you’re not, get out of here,” says Hershberger of what he told his players that day. “We’re going to move forward with this.”

Hershberger knows that he can be polarizing and is unapologetically old school. He frequently quotes former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler: “Those who stay will be champions.”

“Difficult. Hard. Demanding. Being in good physical shape. No excuses,” says Hershberger. “Those aren’t bad words in our program.

“That’s not for everybody. I don’t think it’s antiquated either.

“I tell recruits that there isn’t a whole lot of gray area. It’s black-and-white. You either buy in or you don’t.

“The worst thing you can say about a coach is, ‘Oh, he’s OK.’ There are too many kids sleepwalking though life. You need to be passionate about what you’re doing. If they say ‘he’s a horse’s patoot’ at least he’s passionate about it.”

Hershberger tells recruits and our players that the goal is to get to Enid, Okla., and win a national championship .

“That’s not hot air,” says Hershberger. “That’s what we want to do and that’s extremely difficult.

“The standard that they’re held to is the perfect game. You seek perfection and settle for greatness. The less mistakes you make, the better chance you have of winning a national championship.

“There’s going to be demands put upon you. You’re going to be challenged. That’s where we’re coming from.”

Hershberger doesn’t expect his teams to win every game, but he insists they play the game the right way.

“The selling point to me about junior college baseball is that you get to teach the game,” says Hershberger.

Looking to 2018-19, Ivy Tech has signed 17 new recruits to put with the 14 who intend to come back for their second and final season.

Ivy Tech could be independent again or find a home in the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference.

Fundraising efforts are needed to bring an on-campus stadium that would be shared with Dwenger. Hershberger says the Titans could go back to Shoaff Park or find a home at the Ash Centre.

Whatever happens with Ivy Tech with Hershberger in charge, one thing is certain:  It won’t be easy.

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Ivy Tech Community College Northeast in Fort Wayne finished its inaugural baseball season in 2018 with 14 on the roster and wound up 25-18. (Ivy Tech Photo)

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Ivy Tech baseball coaches from left: Head coach Lance Hershberger and assistants Benny Clark, Dru Sebastian and Connor Wilkins. The Fort Wayne-based Titans just concluded their first season with a 25-18 record. (Steve Krah Photo)

Oakland City’s Fletcher enjoys watching Mighty Oaks grow as ballplayers, students

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Drawn to a private Christian school in southern Indiana renowned for its education, Kentucky native T-Ray Fletcher went to Oakland City University in the early 1990’s as a student-athlete and never really left the campus in Gibson County.

After graduating in the spring 1995, Fletcher was named to the OCU baseball staff for the fall. By the spring, he was the Mighty Oaks head coach and 2018 will mark his 24th season.

“It was one of those right place at the right time situations,” says Fletcher, who was a catcher for the Oaks after playing at Madisonville North Hopkins High School. He was junior varsity as an eighth and ninth grader and varsity his last three years.

“(Oakland City) used to be known as the teacher/preacher school and it is still known for the School of Education and School of Business,” says Fletcher. “It’s a strong academic school.

“As a part of our core principles and values, we set the example of what other athletes should be on campus. We’re pretty adamant about class attendance. We give them resources to succeed academically. Drugs and alcohol are not going to be tolerated here.”

Fletcher, an Oakland City University Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, says communication is the key to making it all happen and most of his players have graduated and flourished in a structured environment.

“Kids still want to be coached and they still want discipline,” says Fletcher.

At one time, the coach had 16 former players coaching high school or travel baseball in the Indiana-Kentucky-Illinois tri-state area.

Among six players Fletcher has sent into professional baseball, the most recent is Eric Barnes, who was recently named head baseball coach at Boonville High School.

In 2017, Oakland City went 18-29 and made its 12th National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearance on Fletcher’s watch (the Oaks placed ninth after finishing third in 2016).

In 2016, Fletcher passed the 400-win plateau and has the most victories in the long history of the program.

Oakland City is also an NCAA Division II member — one of just three baseball-playing schools in Indiana. The others are the University of Indianapolis and the University of Southern Indiana. Saint Joseph’s College was D-II, but that school closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

By comparison, Indiana collegiate baseball boasts nine in NCAA D-I (Ball State, Butler, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Indiana State, Notre Dame, Purdue, Valparaiso), nine in NCAA D-III (Anderson, DePauw, Earlham, Franklin, Hanover, Manchester, Rose-Hulman, Trine, Wabash), 13 in NAIA (Bethel, Calumet of Saint Joseph, Goshen, Grace, Huntington, Indiana Tech, Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University South Bend, Indiana University Southeast, Marian, Purdue Northwest, Saint Francis, Taylor) and three in the National Junior College Athletic Association (Ancilla, Ivy Tech Northeast, Vincennes).

While there is no set number of athletic scholarships available, Fletcher says athletes at Oakland City can get scholarship money through a combination of academic and athletic performance and economic need. A dollar amount is divided among athletes.

“We do not offer full-ride scholarships to any athlete on campus,” says Fletcher. “We’re looking for a strong academic kid who can be supplemented from athletic money. You get a good package here.”

OCU typically has 450 to 500 students. The incoming freshmen class of 100 was the biggest in a decade. The 2010 census had nearly 2,500 folks living in the town of Oakland City, making it the third-largest in Gibson County behind Princeton and Fort Branch.

An independent with no conference affiliation, Oakland City does play several schools in the Great Lakes Valley Conference and Great Midwest Athletic Conference — both D-II leagues.

“My whole philosophy is to play the best competition we can play to challenge our athletes and also give us a chance to succeed,” says Fletcher, who typically carries a roster of 25 to 30 with only a varsity schedule.

Fletcher handles recruiting for the Oaks. Most most players come from Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois. But there have been some from Canada, Puerto Rico and Venezuela as well as New York and Ohio.

“We’re located in a good geographic area for baseball in my opinion,” says Fletcher.

Oakland City plays on-campus on Brooks C. Pinnick Memorial Field. The facility has been upgraded over the years. In 2014, the outfield grass and drainage system was re-done and the Oaks spent much of the season on the road.

Fletcher’s assistant coaches for 2018 are former OCC players Alex Portee’ (fourth season) and Zach Deutsch (second season). Washington (Ind.) High Schoolg graduate Portee’ is the Oaks pitching coach. Deutsch went to Evansville Harrison High School and played two seasons at Vincennes University and two at Oakland City.

Tommy Ray Fletcher II has gone by T-Ray since age 1. He was given that nickname when older brother Zane asked why there were two Tommy Ray’s in the household of Tommy Ray and Judy Fletcher.

“(Zane) was a big influence on me at an early age,” says T-Ray of the brother who died in 2015. “He was a big fan of the Big Red Machine (Cincinnati Reds of the 1970’s) and really got me introduced to baseball at an early age.”

T-Ray became a Chicago Cubs fan and tries to attend a game at Wrigley Field each year.

It’s not always easy with a busy schedule that includes coaching, serving at OCU as assistant athletic director as well as in Compliance and the School of Business (he teaches three classes each semester) while spending time with wife Maddie and their three daughters — Sophie (10), Avery (8) and Alaine (4).

The Fletchers reside in Evansville. T-Ray also has two younger siblings — Brandon and Chiara.

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T-Ray Fletcher, a 1995 Oakland City University graduate, has been the Mighty Oaks head baseball coach since the 1996 season and has more than 400 victories. OCU is a member of both the National Christian College Athletic Association and NCAA Division II. (Oakland City U. Photo)