After two baseball seasons at Saint Louis University, Nolan Bowser has opted to enter the Transfer Portal with two years of college eligibility. Is he nervous about where he’ll land? “A little bit, but at the same time I just have to keep playing and feel like teams will come scouting me,” says Bowser. “So nervousness? Yes. But also it’s a little bit of a calling to just play the game.” With the SLU Billikens, Bowser got into 40 games (10 as a starter) in 2021 and 2022 and hit .234 (11-of-47) with four runs batted in and 13 runs scored. His batting mark this past spring was .269 (7-of-26) and he produced a walk-off RBI single against Western Illinois on March 8. Bowser is listed as a lefty-swinging catcher, but has the versatility to play all over the infield or outfield as well. “I can play anywhere really,” says Bowser, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who played third base, shortstop and second base and a few games at catcher in high school and was a catcher and outfielder in travel ball. He was allowed to call pitches. What does catching do for him? “I know it may not seem like it sometimes, but I like being in-control,” says Bowser. “Keeping in-charge of the pitcher it just came easy to me.” Bowser is in his third go-round in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., about 25 miles from McCordsville. He was with the Screwballs in 2020, Tropics in 2021 and is now on the Bomb Squad in 2022. He had just graduated when he played during the CSL’s first season (2020). That year — with limited summer wood bat opportunities — the league was chock-full of D-I talent. “It was definitely a change going from high school to college ball,” says Bowser. “That’s for sure.” As a Criminal Justice major, Bowser sees himself pursuing a career in law enforcement. What made him decide on that path? “On my mom’s side of the family, her dad, grandpa and brother were all in the Marines,” says Bowser. “I played baseball so I really didn’t want to join the Marines. But I felt like I could give back to the community and the world (as a police officer or detective). It’s kind of not in a great place right now. “I feel like I can help change it just a little bit.” Bowser grew up in Lawrence, Ind., and moved into the Mt. Vernon district as high school approached. He played travel ball from 8U to 17U — first with the Oaklandon Bombers and then the Indiana Bulls. His father — Steve Bowser — was one of his Bombers coaches. With the Bulls, Nolan played for Tony Cookerly, Jeremy Honaker, Dan Held and Sean Laird. “Sean was very intense,” says Bowser. “I loved it though.” A 2020 graduate of Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., Bowser played on the freshman and junior varsity teams as a ninth grader. He played varsity as a sophomore and junior. His senior season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “(Then-Marauders head coach Ryan Carr) was great to me,” says Bowser. “I gave it my all every single time.” Bowser was selected all-Hancock County in 2018 and 2019 and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference in 2019. Steve and Dana Bowser have two children — Nolan (20) and Delaney (18). Steve Bowser is a vice president of a construction company. Dana Bowser is a dietician. A 2022 Mt. Vernon graduate, Delaney Bowser is to play volleyball for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
What drives Patrick Mills as a baseball player? “My passion for the game is definitely No. 1,” says Mills, a 22-year-old outfielder/first baseman for Indiana University-Kokomo. “Every day I get up out of bed the one thing I want to do is go play some baseball. “That’s the reason I keep playing. I enjoy the game. Everything else will follow. I will do everything I can to get better and keep playing it. It comes down to passion and discipline.” Mills, a 2018 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville, Ind., spent two years at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the past two years at IUK. He plans to use his extra year of COVID-19 eligibility with the Cougars in 2022-23 while completing his Computer Science degree. A lefty thrower and batter, Mills hit .374 (65-of-174) in 2022 while helping IUK go 26-22 overall and 16-7 in the NAIA River States Conference. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder belted 15 home runs, four triples and 16 doubles while driving in 44 runs and scoring 51 — all team-leading totals. His on-base percentage was .453. “I make sure I stay balanced in my body and my mind,” says Mills of his approach at the plate. “I learn what the pitcher is throwing and try to hit the ball hard. “When you hit the ball hard good things happen.” Mills has had many mentors besides father Eric. “It’s not just one person in particular,” says Mills. “It’s a collective of everybody I’ve met in the game. “It’s little bit of advice here and there. I’ve put it together like a puzzle.” Jeremy Honaker coached Cougar outfielders and hitters in 2022. Mills credits him with helping him with the mental side of the game and bringing out his full potential during games. “There were little snippets for me to think about during (batting practice),” says Mills. “They were more mental notes than actual physical cues.” A lot was achieved during the fall and winter. “All that work built up,” says Mills. “By the time the season came around it was second nature.” Mills has head coaches at IUK with different styles. Matt Howard was intense and Drew Brantley is more laid-back. “(Howard) lent a level of excitement and discipline,” says Mills of the man who is now a Kokomo police officer. “He wanted us to compete to the best of our abilities every single day. He wanted to make his players as tough as possible and he definitely did. “(Brantley) has created an environment where we’re not afraid to fail. If we can control what we need to control, the results will follow. Follow the process and try to get better everyday. That philosophy — in my opinion — worked very well. Next spring it will be even better.” Mills was born in Kokomo and got his formal baseball start at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League. He played travel ball with the Westfield-based Stonecutters then went with the Indiana Eagles for his 14U to 17U summers. “(Eagles coach) Jamie Roudebush gave us a platform to work on our skills and get better everyday during those years,” says Mills. At Western, Mills played two years each for Quentin Brown then Ryan Berryman. “(Brown) was all about passion when playing the game. He once jokingly said to me, ‘you care about this game too much. If you keep your passion like that you’ll go wherever you want to go.” Mills and the Western Panthers were 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up. “Playing for (Berryman) was a different experience from Brown,” says Mills. “He brought the intensity level, but also the technicalities of baseball. He challenged me to become better fundamentally. It was the mechanics and more than just the mental side.” Mike Shirley, who at the time was a Chicago White Sox area scout and is now that organization’s director of amateur scouting, ran a fall league for high schoolers in Pendleton, Ind., in which Mills participated. “He gave us a lot of information and where we need to improve,” says Mills of Shirley. “He was challenging us mentally and physically. It was a great experience.” Mills played for Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6 the summers before and after his first year of college. “He was always supported me since I played for him,” says Mills of Andrews. “He was very similar to how Drew Brantley goes about his business. He’s calm and collected. “Back then I was very intense and wild and wanted to do everything with one swing. He taught me how to handle my emotions. It went over my head then but I eventually learned from his teachings.” At Olney Central, Mills played for veteran coach Dennis Conley. “He definitely pushed his players to the limit and got the most out of them,” said Mills of Conley, who has been in charge of the Blue Knights program for 42 years and has a record of 1,530-773. “Junior college tests your love of the game. Do you really love the game or kind of like it?” Mills was with the Portland (Ind.) Rockets during the COVID summer of 2020. One of his teammates was former Yorktown High School, Lincoln Trail College, Wright State University and independent pro player Zach Tanner. “He took me under his wing and taught me about the mental game,” says Mills of Tanner. Last summer he played for the Prospect League’s West Virginia Miners and manager Tim Epling. The summer of 2022 sees Mills with the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks. The team is managed by Caleb Long. In 28 games with Battle Creek, Mills is hitting .360 (41-of-114) with two homers, 27 RBIs and 21 runs. Eric and Sundai Mills have three children — Jaymee (Mills) Birky (28), Hayley Mills (24) and Patrick. Jaymee is married and living in Madison, Wis. (where Battle Creek recently played the Madison Mallards), and competition in swimming, softball and track at Western. She also was part of a state championship marching band. Hayley nows teaches elementary school in Raleigh, N.C. She was in volleyball, basketball, swimming and softball during her school days.
Josh Pyne decided early in life that he wanted to play college baseball. And not just anywhere. Pyne desired to play at Indiana University, having been born in Bedford, Ind., and grown up near Bloomington in Linton, Ind. “We were a 25-minute drive away,” says Pyne, a 19-year-old freshman who has started all 31 games so far for the 2022 Hoosiers. “My dad a huge IU basketball fan and still is. I grew up an IU baseball fan.” Pyne verbally committed to IU his freshman year at Linton-Stockton High School when Chris Lemonis was Hoosiers head coach. Jared Pyne is a lineman superintendent for Greene County REMC. His wife, Brooke Pyne, works for a Navy contractor. Oldest son Jacob, 23, is a Daviess County REMC lineman. Daughter Adalyn, 17, is a Linton-Stockton junior involved in cheerleading and track and interested in animals. Middle child Josh followed Jacob into motocross as the family criss-crossed the country on that circuit. After Josh raced for a few years, along came baseball. He threw himself into the diamond sport, playing for the Smithville Scrappers at 9. Family friend Mike Vaughn coached that team and would be Pyne’s coach with the Indiana Nitro and Indiana Bulls through his 15U summer. “I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” says Pyne of Vaughn. Another summer with the Jeremy Honaker-coached Bulls was followed by a summer with Jay Hundley’s Canes Midwest team. In the fall of his junior year at Linton-Stockton, Pyne was with the Jeff Petty-coached Canes National squad. The next summer he played for Johnny Goodrich’s Orlando Scorpions. To help with the transition from high school to college, freshmen were brought on-campus last summer to take classes, get in the weight room and begin the bonding process. It’s a class that includes infielder Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden (Edgewood) and outfielder Carter Mathison (Homestead). The latter has started in 29 games and appeared in 31 this spring. Business Management major Pyne already had a relationship with one Hoosier, having played baseball and basketball with Kip Fougerousse (who was a 1,000-point scorer on the hardwood) at Linton-Stockton. Josh and sophomore catcher/infielder Kip hang out a lot at IU. “I go over to his house almost everyday,” says Pyne. “We play cards or get some food. We have a background like nobody else on the team.” Pyne say it was a big adjustment going from high school to college, but that has been eased by the bonding, the leadership or older players and the coaching staff led by Jeff Mercer. The biggest difference in high school and college baseball to Pyne is the pace of play. “I see how much faster everything is,” says Pyne. “Balls are balls hit harder. Pitches are quicker. You have less reaction time.” To adapt to this, the Hoosiers practice and train at game speed. “You have to go full speed and push yourself to get used to that pace of play,” says Pyne. “Some drills uncomfortable because it speeds us up. But you have to be uncomfortable to be better.” Pyne, who was a shortstop in high school and travel ball, has gotten used to “27 outs” when Mercer or assistant Derek Simmons laces balls all over the field and Pyne can get live reads off the bat at 100 mph or more. Mercer has plenty of praise for Pyne. “Josh is just an A ++ kid. I’m super proud of him,” says Mercer. “He’s a southern Indiana kid at IU playing his tail off. He’s an awesome dude. He’s very talented. He can have a great at-bat. He’s a great defender and baserunner and an awesome teammate. “He’s everything a Hoosier should be.” Pyne was a four-year letterwinner and four-time captain at Linton-Stockton playing for Miners baseball head coach Matt Fougerousse, Kip’s father. As a senior, Pyne was an all-state selection and the team MVP. He was all-Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference three times and set a single-season school record with 50 hits. As a basketball player for coach Joey Hart, Pyne was part of three IHSAA Class 2A sectional championships and played in the 2019 2A state championship game as a sophomore. “I played basketball to keep in shape and for the fun of it,” says Pyne. Josh recalls that Matt Fougerousse’s was always there for late-night batting practice after basketball games or practices. “He helped me for those four years,” says Pyne. “He even stayed and coached me for my senior year when he really didn’t have to.” Matt stepped away from coaching at the end of the 2021 season, giving himself more of a chance to see Indiana play. Going into a Big Ten Conference series April 15-17 at Rutgers, righty swinger Pyne is hitting .301 (37-of-103) with four home runs, seven doubles (tied for second on the team), 31 runs batted in (second on the team) and 19 runs scored. He carries an OPS of .820 (.365 on-base plus .455 slugging). Pyne produced a career highs three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored April 10 at Purdue. He rapped two doubles April 2 against Northwestern. Indiana 13-18 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are 3-5 in April. The team’s freshmen third baseman is confident IU will get rolling. “We just need to compete on the mound and at the plate,” says Pyne. “It will all fall into place. “We have the talent to do it.”
Nick Floyd played baseball at Ball State University for four years. The 2015 graduate of Jimtown High School in Elkhart, Ind., pitched for the Cardinals from 2016-19 then experienced independent professional ball with the American Association’s Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, The Battle of the Bourbon Trail’s Florence (Ky.) Y’alls (part of a COVID-19 pop-up circuit) and Pioneer League’s Idaho Falls Chukars. Now he’s seeing the college game from a coach’s perspective. Floyd, 24, leads pitchers for Indiana University-Kokomo. The Cougars are in the River States Conference (NAIA). He earned his Finance degree at Ball State in 2019, but was offered the opportunity to play pro ball then to coach when Drew Brantley was building his IUK staff and says it suits his temperament. “All the philosophies are still the same,” says Floyd, comparing his time as a college player and coach. “But now I better understand the little things that my college coaches tried to convey to us.” Floyd says he now appreciates those team rules set in place by Ball State head coach Rich Maloney. “Now I step back and look at the program as a whole and value the little things — like going about things the right way, being early to practice and everyone wearing the same thing on the road,” says Floyd. “Every player is supposed to get water only. Pop is not good for them. Everyone wearing the same color (at practice) is important for team unity. We want to be one cohesive unit instead of a bunch of individuals. “Not everyone’s the same. A little bit of individuality is totally fine. But it also needs to be structured and adding value to the group as a whole.” Maloney believes in building team culture. “That’s something he stresses a ton,” says Floyd. “He showed through his actions how I wanted to be as a coach.” As IUK pitching coach, Floyd reflects the two men who were his pitching coaches at BSU — Chris Fetter (now Detroit Tigers pitching coach) and Dustin Glant (now Indiana University pitching coach). Glant was head coach at Anderson (Ind.) University when Brantley was an assistant. “The No. 1 thing is attack,” says Floyd, who made 34 mound appearances (14 starts) for the Cardinals. “We want to pitch with the mentality of being the aggressor. I’m going to beat you on this pitch. It starts from the mental side of things. You have to have confidence in your own ability.” Floyd wants his pitchers to get ahead in ball-strike counts. He would rather they give up a bomb pounding the zone then walking the bases loaded and giving up a squib hit to score multiple runs. “We always go down in attack mode,” says Floyd. “Coach Glant taught me that.” Drey Jameson fanned a Ball State and Mid-American Conference-record 146 batters — 14.66 per nine innings — and was named MAC Pitcher of the Year before being selected in first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. “Drey definitely attacked,” says Floyd. “He knew he was better than you and he was going to go out and show it. “That kind of mentality filtered through everyone (on the Ball State pitching staff).” As IUK prepares for a non-conference doubleaheader against Shawnee State today (March 1) and a three-game RSC series against Ohio Christian, Floyd and graduate assistant Justin Reed (a former IUK player who is also Cougars catchers coach) are working with about 20 pitchers including a few two-way players. “Right now we’ve built up about four starters,” says Floyd. “Other guys in longer relief could potentially starts. “One mid-week starter could come out of the pen on the weekend.” Jeremy Honaker (a Connersville High School graduate who has coached at Zionsville and Martinsville high schools, the University of Indianapolis and in the Indiana Bulls and Canes travel baseball organizations) and student assistant Nate James (a Castle High alum who played at Kankakee Community College before transferring to IUK) are the team’s other coaches. The Cougars play home games at Kokomo Municipal Stadium — a downtown park it shares with the summer collegiate Kokomo Jackrabbits and Kokomo High School. “Not many NAIA teams have access to a facility like that,” says Floyd. “We try to get outside any time it is remotely close to being good weather. “Last week we were shoveling snow for two hours just to get outside.” When getting outside is not possible, the team can use Cougar Gym, located downtown. The weight room is at the on-campus Student Activities and Events Center. Floyd accepted the job last summer while he was pitching for Idaho Falls and learning from Chukars field staff of manager Billy Gardner Jr. (a pro manager since 1995), pitching coach Bob Milacki (who pitched in the big leagues) and hitting coach Billy Butler (who was also a major leaguer). A few days after the season, he was in Kokomo. A former NCAA Division I player, Floyd compares that level to NAIA. “There isn’t a huge difference,” says Floyd. “The top-end guys on each are pretty comparable. “Most D-I lineups and pitching staffs are deeper talent-wise.”
Just over a month after being named head baseball coach at Indiana University Kokomo, Drew Brantley is busy laying the foundation for the Cougars system. Classes began Aug. 23. Brantley is overseeing two weeks of open field workouts before fall practice officially begins Labor Day (Sept. 6). There will be sessions six days a week for eight weeks culminating Oct. 30. Then the NAIA member Cougars move into the weight room and begin the build-up to the spring. There will be no games against outside competition this fall. There will be three scrimmages per week at Kokomo Municipal Stadium. “It’ll be heavy on individual development as a baseball player,” says Brantley. “We’ll compete in a game-like situations.” As the Cougars ready themselves for the River States Conference race, they will open the 2022 season with trips to play Louisiana State University Shreveport and Truett McConnelll University (Cleveland, Ga.). Brantley, who has been on staff the past three seasons including the last two as associate head coach, knows what he desires in an IU Kokomo player. “I want to get good people into the program,” says Brantley, who turned 29 on Aug. 22. “We want them to have the total student-athlete experience — athletically, academically and socially.” The idea is to achieve on the field and in the classroom and build friendships and contacts that will last long beyond the college years. Brantley’s staff includes Jeremy Honaker, Nick Floyd and Justin Reed. Honaker, who was volunteer assistant at the University of Indianapolis in 2020-21, will serve as a positional coach and also help with hitting and baserunning. Former Ball State University and independent professional right-hander Floyd is the Cougars’ pitching coach. Former IU Kokomo player Reed is a graduate assistant and assistant pitching coach. He will work toward his Masters of Business Administration, help in athletic communications and with the baseball team. Prior to coming to IUK to serve on head coach Matt Howard’s staff, Brantley was an assistant to head coach Rich Benjamin at Indiana Wesleyan University. “I worked with infielders and baserunners and assisted with hitters,” says Brantley. “My time at Indiana Wesleyan was awesome. The integrity of the program is held very highly there. I learned how you hold people accountable and how things are supposed to be done.” Brantley assisted at his alma mater Anderson (Ind.) University for five seasons with a stint as interim coach. Medical issues mean that he was only able to play his freshmen season for David Pressley before becoming a student assistant. “He was an awesome guy and a great role model,” says Brantley of Pressley, who followed American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Brandon as the man in charge at AU. “A large part of my coaching philosophy comes from (Anderson).” Dustin Glant later took over a Anderson Ravens head coach and was helped by Brantley. “I was able to learn a lot under Dustin,” says Brantley. “He showed me the ropes and what its like to conduct yourself professionally. It’s not just about baseball. “A lot of the success I’ve had has been because of the things he’s showed me and the advice he’s given me.” Glant is now pitching coach at Indiana University. At 22, Brantley was named interim coach at Anderson, where he earned his Secondary Education and Teaching degree in 2015 and MBA in 2017. Says Brantley, “Everyday I was doing the best I knew how.” The same applies in his current position. “It’s pretty neat being in this seat,” says Brantley, who guides a program in the town where he was born. Brantley grew up in Russiaville, Ind., and played T-ball through age 12 at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League. After that came travel ball with the Central Indiana Kings then three summers with Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6. His coach at Western High School in Russiaville was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Ty Calloway. After becoming a coach himself, Brantley came to learn how Calloway “coached ‘em up the right way.” “As a player, he held us to a really high standard,” says Brantley. “He was always on us in practice. Whatever we were doing that day we were going to give our best effort.” Brantley played three seasons for the Panthers, sitting out his junior year to recuperate from cardiac arrest. In his senior year of 2011, he was an IHSBCA Class 3A first-team all-state second baseman. “I have an incredible support system,” says Drew, who is the son of Chrysler employee Ron and dental receptionist Angie and younger brother of Alaina. Ron Brantley has been coaching baseball since he was 20 and will help out this fall at IU Kokomo. Brantley’s first experience as a baseball coach came with a Howard County travel team called the Indiana Flyers. He was with that team from the fall of 2012 through the summer of 2015. There was also a stint working for Chris Estep as a hitting and defensive instructor at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield, Ind. “He gave me an opportunity to work with younger kids and allowed me to fail a lot,” says Brantley. “Being at RoundTripper was awesome.”
Riley Bertram is spending the last summer before his final college baseball season in the same town where he began playing the game as a boy. The 21-year-old switch-hitter has been leading off and playing shortstop for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators at new Loeb Stadium. Through 17 games for head coach/manager Michael Keeran’s Aviators, Bertram was hitting .273 (15-of-55) with two doubles, eight runs batted in, 12 runs and four stolen bases. Bertram, a 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate who has played three seasons (2019-21) at the University of Michigan (he started 31 of the 37 games in which he played in 2021 at second base), was born in Noblesville, Ind., and introduced to the game while father Vince Bertram was the principal at Lafayette Jefferson High School. “I’m a middle infielder,” says Riley. “I play both second base and shortstop — whatever position the team I’m on needs.” A year ago, Bertram was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Riley is the youngest of Project Lead The Way president and CEO Vince and Western Governors University advisor Jill Bertram’s four boys, behind Josh, Ryan and Drew. Josh Betram played basketball and baseball at Lafayette Jeff. Ryan Bertram played three baseball seasons at Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School and one at Zionsville Community. He was part of the University of Southern Indiana’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 2014 and later an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University and director of operations at Campbell University in Buis Creek, N.C. Drew Bertram played at Purdue and was a manager for the Boilermakers when Mark Wasikowski was head coach. Drew is a Purdue graduate and is going to graduate school at the West Lafayette school. It was in the back yard with his brothers that Riley first experimented with switch-hitting. He has been doing it in games since about 13. At Michigan, Bertram has played in 70 games (49 as a starter) and is hitting .236 (43-of-182) with 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. On defense, he has 95 putouts, 136 assists, five errors and a .979 fielding percentage. He led the team in stolen bases in 2021, swiping eight in nine attempts. Bertram has played three seasons for Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and assistant Nick Schnabel. Pitching coach Steve Merriman and volunteer coach Brandon Inge joined the staff for the 2021 slate. “I’m very fortunate to have this coaching staff,” says Bertram. “They know what they’re talking about. “Coach Bakich is awesome to play for. He is trying to find the best for you. He knows everything about your family. He has your back. He’s someone you could reach out if you need to get something off your chest. He does a good job of building a culture.” Schnabel works with Michigan infielders, including Bertram. “He knows the game at a higher level than a lot of people,” says Bertram of Schnabel. Merriman has made a point of bonding with all UM players and not just pitchers. “At the college level you need to have at least a baseline relationship with all players if you want to have a culture,” says Bertram. “Everytime Coach Inge talks you have to listen because whatever he’s going to say is going to beneficial to your performance. “He keeps things loose. He’s bought into the culture Coach Bakich and Coach Schnabel have built.” Bertram is on pace toward a Communication and Media degree from Michigan in the spring of 2022. He was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2021. Riley played Little League baseball in Evansville, Ind., when his father served as superintendent of schools. After the family moved to Zionsville, he played for Zionsville Baseball Club and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 15U to 18U, playing for teams with Dan Held, Sean Laird, Jered Moore and Jeremy Honaker as coaches. Bertram played four seasons for Moore at Zionsville Community and was part of IHSAA Class 4A sectional champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, regional winners in 2016 and 2017, a semistte title-taker in 2016 and state runner-up in 2016. In 2018, Bertram was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-State selection and IHSBCA North-South All-Star as a third baseman as well as a Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American. “I’ve always been close with Coach Moore and his family,” says Bertram. “Jered was not only was my coach, but I’ve reached out to him for many things. Last week I texted him about hitting facilities in (the Lafayette) area and he hooked me up. “It’s a really strong relationship.”
Jack Firestone is getting his cuts and hitting his cut-off man while preparing for his next college baseball season. A lefty-swinging outfielder, Firestone is playing for the Patrick Morey-coached Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and works on his swing at The Barn in Lapel, Ind., with Mike Shirley and Scott French and with current Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School head coach Jered Moore and former ZCHS assistant and current University of Indianapolis volunteer coachJeremy Honaker and lifts weights with Laird Training’s Sean Laird. “I’ve always believed in those guys and they’ve always been there for me,” says Firestone of Moore and Honaker. Firestone smacked a home run and rapped two singles in a CSL game this past week. “I’m just trying to put the bat on the ball the best I can — just put the ball on the ball,” says Firestone. “If it gets out, it gets out.” Firestone was a redshirt freshman at Purdue University in the spring of 2021 and got into 24 games (four as a starter) on a team that had three seniors starting in the outfield — Ben Nisle in left, fifth-year Skyler Hunter in center and Miles Simington in right. “It was a waiting year for me,” says Firestone, a Financial Counseling and Planning major and Management minor. “Just be patient for next year.” Firestone did not see action during the 2020 Boilermakers season that was abbreviated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Greg Goff is Purdue’s head coach. “I love playing for him,” says Firestone. “He’s high energy. I love him. He knows what he’s doing.” He did play in the inaugural CSL season for the Joe Thatcher-coached Park Rangers and was named to the all-star team. While at Zionsville, where he graduated in 2019, Firestone earned three baseball letters playing for Moore. Firestone was named offensive player of the year as a senior. The Eagles won sectional titles in 2017 and 2018 and regional crown in 2017. That was year the year he was named junior varsity MVP. He was the freshmen squad MVP at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., before his family moved to Zionsville. Born in Warsaw, Ind., to golf pro Todd and Purdue alum Jennie, Jack went to Fort Wayne while in kindergarten and played his first organized baseball in Don Ayres Little League. He played travel ball for the Summit City Spartans, Leo Lions and Fort Wayne Diamondbacks then — after moving to Boone County — the Indiana Mustangs. He also played fall ball for the San Francisco Giants scout team. Todd Firestone, the son of Tom Firestone, played golf and basketball at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., served as head golf pro at Tippecanoe Lake Country Club in Milford, Ind., and Fort Wayne Country Club before taking that post at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis at the start of 2016. Tom Firestone is in the Kosciusko County Basketball and Bethel University Athletic halls of fame and was athletic director at Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial High School. Trey Firestone, Jack’s little brother and a senior at Zionsville Community in 2022, is a football wide receiver getting NCAA Division I offers.
With lasting influences from two coaches, John Zangrilli decided that education and coaching were for him when he was still a teenager.
It was while learning and playing for Jeff Massey (baseball) and Ken Randle (basketball) that Zangrilli saw his career path. Massey was the head baseball coach for Zangrilli’s last three years at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, following Steve Goeglein. Randle was a freshmen/assistant coach, teacher and mentor.
Since graduating from Lawrence Central in 1994, Zangrilli has enjoyed many baseball experiences and encounters with successful diamond minds.
Zangrilli — aka Z or Coach Z since his father (Papa Z) and son (Little Z) are also named John — has coached in three central Indiana high school programs (two assistant stints at Carmel and head coaching tenures at Brebeuf Jesuit and Zionsville).
As a head coach, Coach Z-led teams went 247-81 with six sectional championships (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), three regional crowns (2005 and 2009 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), one Final Four appearance (2012 at Zionsville), two Hoosier Crossroads Conference titles (2011 and 2012 at Zionsville) and one Marion County crown (2010 at Brebeuf in a an extra-inning game against Lawrence Central at Victory Field that Zangrilli calls the best game he’s ever seen).
“Coach Farley and Coach Morgan couldn’t be any more different in terms of their personalities
Intense,” says Zangrilli, describing Morgan as intense and Farley possessing an even-keel temperament. “Coach Morgan was extremely detail-oriented. Every moment of every day was organized. It’s the first time I was introduced to something like that. It was about understanding your role on the team. As a coach, I drew on that a little bit.
“I really enjoyed the way Coach Farley created a calm atmosphere for his athletes to relax and take what they had been taught and then go out and play the game.”
Zangrilli earned an Elementary Education degree with an endorsement in Physical Education and Health from Butler in 1998. He has worked in Carmel schools for 22 years and is now a Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook Elementary School.
His first high school coaching gig was a three-year stint on the coaching staff of Carmel Greyhounds head coach Tom Linkmeyer in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Carmel lost 1-0 in 11 innings to eventual state runner-up Evansville Harrison in the 2000 State semifinals.
Born in central Pennsylvania, Zangrilli roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Penn State University. He came to Indiana early in his elementary school years.
At 14, Zangrilli worked for Jeff Mercer Sr., at Mercer’s Sports Center on the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
One of the first players to log more than one summer with the Indiana Bulls, Z was with the elite organization 1992-94. Mike Stein was head coach that first year. The next two years, Dennis Kas was head coach and was helped by Kevin Stephenson, Brent Mewhinney and Linkmeyer, who was also the Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook prior to Zangrilli.
“They were imparting all this baseball knowledge on us,” says Zangrilli. “It was eye-opening. It was the intersection of talent and instruction and we took off. We had a great deal of success.
“Dennie Kas was the first guy I played for who instilled an appreciation for preparation,” says Zangrilli. “He had a real knack for reading the pulse of his team.
“He could walk in the dugout and know if they needed to be calm or pick up the energy.”
Zangrilli was head coach at Brebeuf for seven campaigns (2004-10) and Zionsville for three (2011-13).
“Between my years at Brebeuf and Zionsville it was an embarrassment of riches,” says Coach Z.
Among his assistants at Brebeuf were Andy McClain (former player and assistant under IHSBCA of Famer Bill Tutterow at Martinsville and head coach at LaVille and Arlington who went on to be head coach at Brebeuf, Norwell and Lawrence Central) and Tim Phares (son of IHSBCA Hall of Famer George Phares).
Standout Braves players included catcher Radley Haddad (Western Carolina University, Butler University, player and coach in New York Yankees system), outfielder Jack Dillon (Butler University), Tres Eberhardt (Xavier University), outfielder Nathan Koontz (Ball State University), catcher Mitch Overley (Ball State University, Wabash College), infielder/outfielder Ty Adams (University of Notre Dame), outfielder Kevin Simms (University of Dayton, Wright State University), outfielder Stevie Eberhardt-Gipson (Northern Kentucky University) and right-handed pitcher/catcher John Krasich (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology).
Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest University, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder/outfielder Max Kuhn (University of Kentucky, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder Troy Kuhn (Ohio State University), third baseman Ben Kocher (Belmont University), outfielder Drew Small (Butler University), left-hander Alex Westrick (Xavier University) and outfielder Nick Barrientos (Wabash Valley College, Northwood University) are part of a long line of Eagles players who went on to college and/or professional baseball.
John and wife Jackie have two children. After the 2013 season, Z turned his focus to teaching as well as coaching Little Z and daughter Olivia (a travel volleyball player).
When former Butler teammate Matt Buczkowski (son of IHBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski) became head coach at he — and all the returning Carmel talent — lured Zangrilli back into high school coaching.
Coach Z remembers Buczkowski’s request going something like this: “I’ve got a Ferrari of pitching staff. I need to have somebody help me drive it.”
Buczkowski inherited a stable of arms developed by former Carmel pitching coach Jay Lehr.
The spring of 2021 will be Coach Z’s fifth since returning to the Carmel dugout.
Zangrilli, Buczkowski and former Westfield and Carmel field boss and current hitting coach Eric Lentz represent more than 500 head coaching victories on a Hounds staff. Pitching coach Fred Moses came to Carmel from Lawrence Central with Buczkowski.
“My role is whatever they need as any given day,” says Zangrilli, who has been a pitching coach, first base coach and a camp coordinator. The past five years, he helped oversee the Carmel Pups.
Kyle Wade got the chance to be an athletic leader at a young age.
He was an eighth grader in Kokomo, Ind., and attending football workouts when Kokomo High School head coach Brett Colby let him know the expectations of the program and the community.
“This is your team next year” says Wade, recalling the words Colby said to the varsity Wildkats’ heir apparent at quarterback as a freshman in the fall of 2014. “On our first thud (in practice), I think I stuttered the words and dropped the ball.
“(Colby) told me, ‘you can’t show weakness to your teammates’ and ‘never act like you can’t.’ I took that to heart.”
“Coach Swan was positive, but he wasn’t afraid to get on us,” says Wade of his high school baseball experience. “(Swan) trusted us.
“We were an older team with a lot of guys who would go on to Power 5 (college) baseball (including Class of 2018’s Jack Perkins to Louisville and Bayden Root to Ohio State and Class of 2020’s Charez Butcher to Tennessee).”
Wade appreciates Moore for his organization skills and discipline.
“His scouting reports were next level,” says Wade. “Coach Wonnell won a state tournament (Class 1A at Tindley in 2017). He asked me about playing again (as a senior). He wanted a leader. He helped keep me in shape (Wade was 235 pounds at the end of his senior football season and 216 at the close of the basketball season).”
A combination of physicality, basketball I.Q. gained from having a father as a former Kokomo head coach (2000-05), he played on the front line — even guarding 7-footers.
“I had to mature. I’ve led by by example, pushing guys to get better and motivated to play. I’ve had to have mental toughness. I’ve never been one of the most talented guys on my teams.”
But Wade showed enough talent that he had college offers in football and baseball. He chose the diamond and accepted then-head coach Mark Wasikowski’s invitation to play at Purdue University.
“As a freshman coming into a Big Ten program, I had older guys who helped get me going and taught me about work ethic,” says Wade. “He have a lot of new guys (in 2020-21). As a junior, I’m in that position this year and doing it to the best of my ability.”
The COVID-19-shortened 2020 season was his second as a right-handed pitcher for the Boilermakers.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder appeared in five games (all in relief) and went 1-0 with a 4.05 earned run average. In 6 2/3 innings, he struck out two and walked one.
As a freshman in 2019, Wade got into 15 games (two as a starter) and went 2-2 with a 5.18 ERA. In 40 innings, he struck out 27 and walked 11.
“I look at statistics when I can for myself and my teammates, but I’m not a big numbers guy from a baseball standpoint,” says Edgell. “It’s fun to talk about (exit velocity and other baseball metrics) and try to get those up as high as you can, but when it comes to game time, I’d rather hit an 80 mph base hit and score a run than a 100 mph line-out.”
Playing for Zionsville head coach Jered Moore, Edgell was used as a first baseman most of the time.
When he reached Otterbein, were George Powell is the head coach, there was an established at first base so he was used in other capacities.
“They wanted to get my bat in the lineup so they moved me to the outfield,” says Edgell. “The best part of my game is the offensive side of it. I’ve been a strong hitter for a long time.
“That’s what I love about baseball — going out and working on my swing and getting in as many swings as a I can.”
Edgell, a left-handed batter, is looking to “barrel” pitches.
“The approach we use at Otterbein is to stay inside the baseball and hit line drives,” says Edgell. “If those line drives carry over the fence, that’s great.
“But we’re going to put people on-base and we’re going to score runs through that.”
During the COVID-19-abridged 2020 season, Edgell started all 13 games in right field and hit .358 (19-of-53) with three home runs, 12 runs batted in, 10 runs scored and four walks. He was usually the Cardinals’ clean-up hitter.
Otterbein was coming off a March 10 win at Denison and the team got some news.
“We were on the bus and learned classes had been canceled for a month,” says Edgell. “We were all excited about that. One of my buddies — Luke Barber — said I hope this doesn’t mess with our baseball season. At the time, I was very incredulous. I thought, there’s no way this will mess with our season. I thought it was kind going to come and go.”
The next day, the Cardinals practiced while officials were in a meeting. By the end of workout, the season was canceled.
“It moved a lot faster than people were expecting,” says Edgell. “It was pretty disappointing to everybody.”
As a freshman in 2019, Edgell started in all 45 games (mostly as a designated hitter) and hit .306 (52-of-170) with no home runs, 26 runs batted in, 31 runs scored and 21 walks. He enjoyed 18 multi-hit games and a 10-game hit streak.
“This league’s been awesome,” says Edgell, who has been picked to play for the Blue team in the CSL All-Star Game Thursday, July 16 at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. “The competition has been amazing. It really makes you better facing guys who are throwing 90 to 94 with good off-speed pitches.”
Sam was born in Carmel, Ind., and lived in London when his father Eric’s job at Eli Lily sent the family to England. The Edgells and moved back to Zionsville when Sam was around age 3. Eric and Andra Edgell have three children — Rebekah, Abigail and Sam.