BY STEVE KRAH
Varsity baseball on Indiana college campus gets the attention.
But those teams aren’t the only ones taking to the diamond representing their schools in 2022-23.
National Club Baseball Association — a division of Pittsburgh-based ColClubSports — features two squads at Indiana University (D-I and D-II) and one each at Ball State, Notre Dame and Purdue.
These four plus Illinois and Illinois State belong to the NCBA Great Lakes South. Squads played one or two series in the fall. Most games are in March and April.
The four-team NCBA D-I Great Lakes Regional is slated for May 12-14 at Ash Centre/World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne, Ind. The eight-team NCBA D-I World Series is May 26-June 2 in Alton, Ill.
D-II regionals are May 5-7 at sites to be determined with the eight-team D-II World Series May 19-May 23 in Alton.
Indiana-based teams are made up of players with high school and/or high level travel ball experience.
The NCBA tracks rankings, statistics, standings and selects All-Americans.
Notre Dame is No. 9 and Illinois State and Illinois are vote-getters in the D-I Week 16 poll.
NCBA Great Lakes team previews can be found HERE.
IU club officers are president Garrett Larson (Lucas, Texas), secretary Spencer Puett (Eden Prairie, Minn.), treasurer Jacob Kortenber (New Haven, Ind., graduate) and social media chair Casey Fanelli (Westfield, Ind., alum). Brenden Schrage (Elmhurst, Ill.) is a future vice president.
Games tend to be on Saturdays and Sundays.
Indiana’s D-I team went 2-4 in the fall — 1-2 against both Illinois and Illinois State. Beginning the Week of March 13, the spring season sees IU play Eastern Kentucky, Marquette, Ohio State and Tennessee for single games. Ball State visits for three games and the Hoosiers play three-game sets at Notre Dame and Purdue.
The D-II squad went 4-2 in the fall — 1-2 vs. Xavier and 3-0 vs. Eastern Kentucky.
Beginning the Week of Feb. 27, the spring season includes a three-game home series against Michigan State, three at Akron and three at home against Ohio State.
“The club experience is a great one not only for myself but a lot of other people because our club consists of mid- to high-level high school baseball players who could not make it at the next level or wanted to only play Division I college ball or go to a bigger school and get a better education,” says Larson, a junior Sports Media & Advertising co-major. “Club baseball is a way for us to keep playing the game we love.”
At Indiana in 2022-23, 85 to 100 players tried out for 26 vacancies on two teams. There’s about 20 players on each squad.
The club is responsible for securing playing fields and off-campus practice facilities, umpires and uniforms.
Club dues and fundraising helps pay expenses.
Bloomington North High School is Indiana’s home field.
“We’re very appreciative for that opportunity,” says Larson.
The club makes a donation to the school for the use of the Cougars’ diamond.
In past seasons, the club played some games at Bedford North Lawrence High School.
The club also supports the varsity Hoosiers when they play at Bart Kaufman Field aka The Bart.
“We go to those games all the time,” says Larson. “A lot of our best players tried to walk on and came to play for us.”
Club players tend to sit close to the home dugout and backstop and can be heard on TV and radio broadcasts.
Kortenber, a sophomore Sports Marketing & Management major, played for Dave Bischoff at New Haven High School and explains his reason for playing club baseball.
“I just really wanted to stay connected to the game and meet a bunch of new people,” says Kortenber, who considered being a manager for the varsity team. “Then I decided I could actually keep on playing.”
A club sports fair during “Welcome Week” is a big recruiting tool.
The club is open to anyone who wants to practice. Then there’s a travel roster.
Both D-I and D-II teams at Indiana practice together.
Schrage gives his “why.”
“It gets me out of the house,’ says Schrage, who now calls Indianapolis home and is a sophomore Informatics major with a Business cognate. “I like to collaborate with different people. I enjoy baseball players. That was my crowd in high school.
“I just want a competitive edge outside of doing lifting and homework. It’s nice to travel on the weekends and be part of a team.”
Indiana’s Twitter handle is @ClubBaseball_IU. The Instagram address is iuclubbaseball. The D-I roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE. The D-II roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
BSU club officers include president Ross Culy (Winchester, Ind., Community High School graduate), vice president Clay Hamm (Blue Valley alum) and social media manager Ben Carr (Zionsville Community graduate).
Ball State lost three-game series to Notre Dame and Purdue in the fall. The spring slate begins the Week of March 20 and the Cardinals play a series at Indiana with home series against Illinois State and Illinois.
Culy, a third-year senior on pace to graduate in the spring with a double major in Analytics and Economics, talks about what he gets from club baseball.
“It definitely starts with a lot of friendships and relationships you make,” says Culy. “Relationships are really important in life.
“Being president has developed my leadership abilities and people skills.”
The club is hoping to play one home series on the varsity field (Ball Diamond) and will play the other at a local high school or perhaps Gainbridge Field at McCulloch Park in Muncie.
Fall home games are played at Ball Diamond.
Club dues are $350 for the year or $175 per semester and pay for jerseys, travel, umpires etc.
“We try to keep our costs as low as possible and keep guys in the club,” says Culy.
The club had to disband during the COVID-19 pandemic and came back in 2021-22.
“We’re accepting anybody who wants to play,” says Culy. “We have from former college players and high-level high school to kids who never played before.
“We don’t currently have enough to make cuts. This year we had huge growth. We have 30-ish guys which is a big improvement from last year.
Most recruiting was done at the club fair at the beginning of the school year.
“A lot of it is just getting our name out there and getting the players who have the talent and interest,” says Culy.
Three member of Ball State’s swimming and diving program — Michael Burns (South Bend, Ind., Riley High School graduate), Erkan Ozgen (Burr Ridge, Ill.) and Porter Brovont (Eastern of Greentown alum) — have indicated they will join the baseball club at the conclusion of their season.
Hamm, a sophomore Sport Administration major, split his high school days between New Castle and Blue River Valley before playing one season at the University of Northwestern Ohio and transferring to Ball State and joining the club.
“I just wanted to get back into baseball,” says Hamm. “It’s a lot of fun. Everybody wants to be there and wants to play.”
Carr, a freshman Sports Administration major and Marketing minor, tells why he’s involved.
“I love baseball,” says Carr. “I played it all my life. I played throughout high school and had some opportunities to play (intercollegiate ball). Ball State was the best first for me.
“I got involved (in club baseball) and it’s a blast.”
As an Indiana Expos travel ball player, Carr was coached by former Indiana club member Leo Tobasco.
Carr is a submarine pitcher. He was throwing from a three-quarter arm slot as a high school junior and looking to see how he could help on a staff of fireballers.
“One of my coaches suggested that I try to see if I could throw sidearm or lower,” says Carr. “I kept messing with it and kept messing with it. I became an effective groundball pitcher.”
As social media manager, Carr has been able to tap into skill he learned from his father who is a graphic designer and get his friend who is a photographer to provide compelling shots.
“I’ve edits for our schedule on Instagram that I’m pretty proud of,” says Carr.
Cooper Roach, a Delta High School graduate and freshman Data Analytics major, was smitten by baseball growing up in Muncie.
“There’s something different about it I love,” says Roach. “I don’t think I can ever get away from baseball because of it.”
Ball State’s club fair is how he found out about the opportunity to keep playing in college.
“I’d like to see the club aspect pushed a little more,” says Roach of club sports overall.
Ball State’s Instagram address is ballstatebaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
ND club officers are president Josh Dippold (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers graduate), interim vice president Sam Sikkink (Minnetonka, Minn., and serving for Lafayette, La.’s Jacob Tate who is studying abroad), secretary Chris Ayres (Malvern, Pa.) and treasurer Brady LaBahn (Apple Valley, Minn.).
Players pay $315 per semester to pay for travel, umpires, league, registration etc. Donation also come in from alumni and family during “ND Day.”
The Irish won the 8th annual Battle Creek Blast in the fall as the wild card, besting Illinois State B 11-1 and Michigan-Flint 21-1 and losing 5-4 to Michigan in pool play before topping Michigan 11-4 and Illinois 18-1 in the single-elimination bracket.
Besides taking that 12-team event at C.O. Brown Stadium, Notre Dame also swept a three-game conference series against Ball State.
The spring began this past weekend with a three-game sweep at Kentucky. Next is a series at Illinois then home series vs. Indiana, Illinois State and Purdue.
South Bend Clay High School has been a home field for Notre Dame. The club is hoping to play some games on-campus at Frank Eck Stadium — home to the varsity Irish.
Notre Dame lost to Michigan in 2022 regional championship.
“It was nice to see them this fall in Battle Creek,” says Dippold, who played his home games while at Bishop Luers at the Ash Centre.
He grew up playing travel ball around Fort Wayne, including with the Summit City Sluggers and Lance Hershberger-led Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana Buzz.
Dippold, a senior Theology major with a Pre-Health supplemental major and Latino Studies minor, intends to go to medical school.
The club president says about 50 players try out in the fall. There are currently 29 on the roster (33 is the maximum).
“I love baseball and the leadership that comes with being around so many ballplayers and friends,” says Dippold. “It’s for the love of the game and you need to be heads-up to be a good ballplayer. It’s America’s Pastime to me.
“I see the freshmen and sophomores on our team and I want to give back to the game. When I’m older I know I will be a coach of some sort.
“I’m incredibly grateful that God has bestowed this opportunity for me to still be playing the game as a senior in college. This year I feel like we have something left in the tank and some unfinished business.
“I’ve always been a competitor. I look forward to being something more than an academic competitor and let it loose on the baseball field.”
Jake Fuehrmeyer, a graduate of Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Ind., and a senior Science Pre-Professional (Pre-Med) major, decided to attend Notre Dame rather than play varsity baseball and study at a smaller school in Illinois.
He expresses his appreciation for club ball.
“It’s been everything to be college experience-wise,” says Fuehrmeyer. “I never would have thought I’d still get to play ball once I got to Notre Dame.
“It’s allowed me the opportunity to continue to compete at a high level. My favorite thing to do is play baseball.
“All of the guys on the team are such great dudes. I look forward to going to practice. I look forward to competing in games. It’s given me a ton of new friends.”
While vans were to be used to travel to the Kentucky series, players typically car-pool to away games.
“It’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make,” says Fuehrmeyer. “We’ll go wherever the baseball is.”
In-season, Notre Dame tends to practice twice a week for 90 minutes.
Outside of practice, Fuehrmeyer seeks time to get in swings on his own or long toss with a friend.
There is an on-campus practice space. RBIs Unlimited in Mishawaka offers an off-campus training option.
While he’s got a full plate, Fuehrmeyer does carve out time to follow the varsity Irish.
“College baseball is some of the most-exciting baseball you can watch,” says Fuehrmeyer. “It’s evolving at a rapid pace. We’re seeing some outstanding talent come through Notre Dame.
“We’ve got some serious talent on the varsity team and it’s reflected in how good our club team is.
“I look at some guys and say, “Wow! Why aren’t you playing (NCAA) Division I baseball somewhere?”
Notre Dame’s Twitter handle is @NDclubbaseball. The Instagram address is ndclubbaseball. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
PU club officers are president Daniel Stephen (Fort Wayne, Ind., Northrop High School graduate), vice president Ross Ostrager (Plainview, N.Y.), treasurer Jacob Knaust (O’Fallon, Ill.), fundraising officer Jeremy VanTryon (Plainfield, Ind., High School alum), community service officer Joe Patton (Kansas City, Kan.) and safety officer Kyle Goff (Fort Wayne, Ind., Carroll graduate). Dr. Howard Zelanik is advisor.
Purdue went 6-5 in the fall — 3-0 vs. Ball State, 2-1 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 0-3 vs. Illinois State and 1-1 vs. Miami (Ohio). Beginning the Week of March 13, an 11-game spring includes contests against Ohio, Tennessee, Ohio State, Iowa and Wyoming in Panama City Beach, Fla., before a three-game series at Illinois, three at home against Indiana and three at Notre Dame.
Purdue senior James Ham, a Lafayette (Ind.) Harrison High School alum, pitched a no-hitter Oct. 1, 2022 against Ball State with 15 strikeouts in seven innings.
The no-no was caught by junior Ostrager.
The club was present at the B-Involved Fair and had callouts last August. Tryouts were last September at the Purdue Intramural Fields.
Home games are played at Crawfordsville (Ind.) High School.
The team has a set of bats, helmets, and catchers gear. Hats, jerseys, black pants, gold stirrups and a gold belt are provided. Players must have their own glove, cleats, white baseball pants, gray baseball pants, black socks and black belt.
Semester dues can vary depending on expected club expenses. They are typically around $300 for returning members and $350 for new members.
The Twitter handle is @PUBaseballClub. The Instagram address is pubaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and the schedule HERE.
George Boardman is a pitcher on the Vanderbilt University club in Nashville, Tenn.
Boardman, of LaPorte, Ind., is a freshman Law History Society major.
After playing for coach Kurt Christiansen, he graduated from Culver (Ind.) Academies in 2021.
“I’m pretty serious about going to law school so playing for an actual college team was too much of a time commitment,” says Boardman. “I selected Vanderbilt for many other reasons, but (club baseball) was an added benefit.
“Most of the people on our team could have played (NCAA) D-III baseball.”
Like Boardman, they those Vandy for its academic rigor.
“Club baseball here at Vanderbilt is really, really balanced,” says Boardman. “We practice three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We usually play six or seven series (in the spring and fall) with three games each.
“Attendance at those series is completely optional. The flexibility is perfect. If you have a class or a ton of homework, just text your coach or (club) president and say, ‘I can’t make it.’
“You can pretty much make out of it what you want.”
The club plays many of its home games at nearby Belmont University though there is a contest scheduled April 9 against Georgia State at Hawkins Field — where the Vandy Boys varsity plays.