Attracted by a talent pool and first-class place to play and train, Chad Gerard went after the head baseball coaching job at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind., and was hired this fall. His first official day was Oct. 2. “It’s (an IHSAA Class) 4A school,” says Gerard. “4A jobs don’t open up very often. Facilities available there are state-of-the-art. “Who wouldn’t want to have that (artificial turf) to play on everyday?” The 2021 season was the Raiders’ first on the D-Bat Elkhart Field at Jane Allen Athletic Complex rug. Northridge went 17-7 overall and 10-4 in the Northern Lakes Conference. The Raiders hosted a baseball sectional for the first time. Concord, Goshen, Elkhart, Penn and Warsaw completed the 4A tournament field. Northridge (enrollment around 1,500) is in the NLC with Concord, Goshen, 4A Mishawaka, 3A NorthWood, 4A Plymouth, Warsaw and 3A Wawasee. The Raiders have won seven sectional titles — the last in 2019. Gerard was the head coach at 2A Bremen 2017-21. The Lions are in the Northern Indiana Conference with Elkhart, 3A Mishawaka Marian, 3A New Prairie, Penn, 4A South Bend Adams and 3A South Bend Saint Joseph in one division and Bremen, 3A Glenn, 3A Jimtown, 3A South Bend Clay, 4A South Bend Riley and 3A South Bend Washington in the other. The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period ended Oct. 16. Gerard a chance to have one introductory workout and another batting practice on the field. “Then I said, ‘See you in December’ (for the next Limited Contact Period),” says Gerard, who has had 32 players — not including freshmen — indicate interest in going out for 2022. “I’m hoping to be in the mid-40’s range (for three teams in the spring). We’ll be hitting hard in January through mid-March and start of the season.” Gerard has hired three of six assistant coaches – Mark Bell (pitching coach/first base), Jim Morris (hitting/bench) and Andy Ross (head junior varsity). Vacancies to be filled are JV assistant and both head and assistant C-team. Bell was with Gerard on the Mishawaka High School staff. Gerard, a former catcher and 1998 Mishawaka High School graduate who played for Gregg Minegar at MHS and Glenn Johnson at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., spent 10 years as an assistant to Cavemen head coach John Huemmer. With shipping delays in mind, Gerard has started ordering equipment like hats, catcher’s gear, batting helmets and other practice items. He’s also began planning a fundraiser that Northridge baseball and softball share. Gerard has also set up communication channels with players and parents, using an app called Remind and started indoor practice plans. The Raiders have a large a fieldhouse. Like his other coaching stops, Gerard will put an emphasis on servant leadership. “These players will be husbands, fathers, employees and citizens of the community,” says Gerard. “We’re teaching these kids how to deal with tough situations, how to be on a team and how to deal with losing. That’s our focus. “God put leaders on this earth to better others — not themselves. The side effect is better baseball players.” This fall, Gerard was an instructor in the Jim Reinebold Fall Baseball Camp. Away from coaching, Gerard provides on-site Information Technology service for Acruity in Goshen, Ind. Chad and wife of 13 years, Amanda, reside in Oceola, Ind., with daughter Kaitlyn (10), a fifth grader at Bittersweet Elementary School in the Penn-Harris-Madison system.
Attacking games and practices with passion. That’s what Trey Bickel expects as the new baseball head coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College in Donaldson, Ind. “It’s business out there,” says Bickel, 27. “In baseball you have to be 100 percent focused. “There has to be 100 percent intensity and focus or they’re wasting time.” Bickel, who came to the Chargers as an assistant in the fall of 2018, took over the three weeks ago when Chris Woodruff left to become Assistant Athletic Director/Compliance Director at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. At the moment, Bickel is a one-man show. He is seeking at least one assistant. “I have feelers out with buddies I played with,” says Bickel. “I want to make sure I get someone who fits in with our guys and gets us where we want to be.” Bickel relinquished his athletic groundskeeper duties when Marian University came into the picture and hired a company to handle that, leaving the coach free to focus on baseball. That includes recruiting. “If you’re not getting that offer from your dream school don’t shut down any other options,” says Bickel. “Junior college is the route to go for a majority of guys if you don’t have those dream schools calling.” There are currently 21 on the Marian University’s Ancilla College roster, including four pitcher-only players and a number of two-way players. Ideally, Bickel would like 25 to 30 athletes. “Next spring I hope to have 15 to 20 pitchers rostered,” says Bickel. Outside practices are now short and intense. When the team goes indoors its at the LifePlex in Plymouth. This fall, the school formally known as Ancilla College took to the diamond to play five games against outside competition with others cancelled for COVID-19 reasons. The Chargers were in 9-inning contests against Bethel University and Purdue Northwest and a doubleheader (two 7’s) against Indiana University South Bend. The spring portion of the schedule is to begin Feb. 12-13 for a four-game series at Southeastern Illinois College. The first on-campus game is slated for March 19 vs. Morton College. Marian University’s Ancilla College is a member of the Michigan Community College Athletic Association and National Junior College Athletic Association District 12. Bickel finished his playing career at IUSB in 2018. The 2012 Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate went to Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., of the fall of 2012. While he was not around the following spring then Cobras head coach Matt Kennedy (now a Butler University assistant) made an impression on him. ‘He’s a go-getter,” says Bickel of Kennedy, who he encountered again in the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. “He knows how to bring out intensity in his coaching. It shows in a (NJCAA) national championship (at Parkland in 2009 with a fifth-place finish in 2010). I definitely enjoyed the intensity he had as a coach. “He attacks it. That’s what I’m looking to do.” With a gap year mixed it, Bickel played two years at Holy Cross College for Brian Blondell before that program ceased and two at IUSB for Blondell, Mike Huling and Jon Koepf. “They all brought something to the table to help me,” says Bickel, who was a right-handed pitcher. He threw a no-hitter in the Titans’ first-ever home game in 2016. At Mishawaka, Bickel had John Huemmer as a head coach and Chadd Blasko as a pitching coach. “(Huemmer) is one of the most genuine people I know,” says Bickel. “He’s a very nice guy and he’s there for his players and building relationships. “He’s very good at that.” Bickel spent a couple of seasons picking the brain of Blasko, who was selected 36th overall in the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs out of Purdue University. Born in South Bend, Bickel spent parts of his elementary school years in Goshen, Elkhart and Mishawaka and was in the latter city from Grades 6-12. Trey is from a big family. He has two older brothers and one older sister plus one younger sister and one younger brother.
Grant Jablonski had assumed that his baseball playing career was coming to an end with his couple of innings on the mound in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Stars Series in Madison, Ind. The Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate had not gotten any college baseball honors and had already enrolled as a student-only at Purdue University. “I had given up on baseball,” says Jablonski, who exited Mishawaka in 2019 as the school record holder in career pitching wins (20) and career stolen bases (63) and was part of three sectional championship teams on the diamond (2016, 2018, 2019). “I wanted to play at a bigger school, but I had nowhere to go after I graduated.” It turns out that two former Valparaiso (Ind.) University assistant coaches were going to help Jablonski turn things around. Nic Mishler, who was then on the staff at Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College, was scouting at a sectional game and reached out to Jablonski. “I owe him a lot,” says Jablonski of Westview High School graduate Mishler who is now head coach at DACC. Ben Wolgamot, a Western Kentucky University who had also been at Valpo, pulled some strings. It also helped Jablonski that VU head coach Brian Schmack was at the all-star series since his son, Kyle Schmack, was participating — and on his way to MVP. After a postgame conversation, Jablonski went to visit Coach Schmack on the Valpo campus and soon was starting his NCAA Division I baseball experience. “It’s crazy,” says Jablonski, who was 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds when he stepped on the campus. “I owe Coach Schmack a lot for giving me a chance. “I’m still trying to put weight on,” says right-hander Jablonski who is now up to 5-10 and 175. In two seasons (2020-21), he has appeared in six games (all in relief) and is 0-0 with a 6.24 earned run average with six strikeouts and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. In his second season in the College Summer League at Grand Park, Jablonski has been working a morning jobs and commuting to Westfield, Ind., on the days he starts. On July 20, the Moon Shots right-hander pitched 5 1/3 no-hit innings with one walk. The reason he came out of the game is that the team only had two pitchers available for a nine-inning game and Michael Brewer needed some mound time. Jablonski played for the A-Team when the CSL cropped up in 2020 as other summer collegiate leagues were shutting down during COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a really good league,” says Jablonski, noting that University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis (No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates) and Miami University fireballer and Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate Sam Bachman (No. 9 overall to the Los Angeles Angels) played at Grand Park in 2020. Former San Francisco Giants scout Kevin Christman has been Jablonski’s head coach in both his CSL seasons. “He’s a super good coach to have,” says Jablonski of Christman. “He’s a good source of baseball knowledge.” Throwing from the three-quarter overhand arm slot, Jablonski employs a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. His four-seamer sits about 86 to 89 mph. His curve moves end-over-end in a 12-to-6 fashion. His “circle” change has a low spin rate and drops. His slider — with more horizontal break — is somewhere between the fastball and change-up with its spin. “The fastball and change-up compliment each other well when its coming from the same (release point).” Jablonski says his fastball has spun at around 2300 rpm with the curve as high as about 2500. There are flat screens at Grand Park that prominently display spin rates and velocity. “It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Jablonski. “You don’t need to fire 95, 96, 97 to be a good college pitcher. “You need to threw multiple pitches in multiple counts for strikes and have command.” Jablonski saw Schmack employ an opener (right-hander Easton Rhodehouse) and followed him with a starter (righty Ryan Mintz) in Valpo’s weekend series and both were able to spot pitches well and pitch to weak contact. Left-hander Geremy Guerrero had a standout season for Missouri Valley Conference rival Indiana State University. “He is by no means overpowering,” says Jablonski of Guerrero. “But he throws all pitches for command in all counts.” One thing Jablonski appreciates about Schmack is the he makes small tweaks and does not overhaul a pitcher’s mechanics if it’s not necessary. “He doesn’t try to change you too much,” says Jablonski. “It’s smaller changes. “He knows what he’s talking about for sure.” Born and raised in Mishawaka, Grant played for the Landsharks and later the Mishawaka Mayhem (2011-13), coached by father Jason Jablonski and Mike Fisher. That was followed by the Mike Lee-coached Indiana Shredders (2014-17), Mike Logan-coached Michiana Scrappers (2017-18) and Jim Shively-coached Indiana Chargers (2018-19). Jablonski earned nine varsity letters at Mishawaka — four in baseball, three in basketball and two in football. His head coaches were John Huemmer in baseball, Ryan Watson and Ron Heclinski in basketball and Bart Curtis and Keith Kinder in football. “He’s a great coach,” says Jablonski of Huemmer. “We had such a senior-led team (in 2019). He let us work on our own.” The pitcher/middle infielder earned IHSBCA Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors in 2019 and was all-Northern Indiana Conference second team in 2017 and 2019. Jablonski, who turns 21 on Sept. 1, is a Business Analytics major and Supply Chain and Logistics Management minor at Valpo U. Grant’s parents are Jason and Kelley Jablonski. His siblings — both older — are Sydney Jablonski and Ryan Lewis. Jason Jablonski is administrative director at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Kelley Jablonski works at Beacon Health & Fitness. Sydney Jablosnki is heading into pharmacy school at Purdue. Ryan Lewis, who played baseball at Mishawaka High and Ancilla College, is employed by the City of Mishawaka.
“They built that relationship with me,” says Hannon, who is heading into his sixth season as head baseball coach at Paoli (Ind.) High School in Orange County and is also the defensive coordinator for Rams football. “All three are examples of people who are building people and not just players.
With Hannon coaching football and many athletes involved in football, cross country and tennis in the fall, most off-season baseball team activities started after Christmas break.
Of 23 players in the program, one is a senior. With COVID-19 taking away the 2020 season, the last time three of those players appeared in a varsity game was as freshmen in 2019.
“We’ll have lots of competition and varying lineups to see what are best combination is,” says Hannon. “I’m excited. It’s been very fun group to worth with so far.”
Seven seniors graduated in 2020, including current Indiana Tech reserve squad player Aron Busick.
Aaron and wife Terri Hannon have four children — Michael (17), Tyler (13), Kalyn (11) and Beau (3). Michael Hannon is currently on the Paoli track team. Tyler Hannon plays junior high baseball. Kalyn is involved in elementary volleyball and then goes to youth softball. Beau Hannon is enjoying being a part of it all.
Aaron and Paoli graduate Terri met at Hanover, where she was on the softball team.
Aaron and wife Terri Hannon have four children — Michael (17), Tyler (13), Kalyn (11) and Beau (3). Michael Hannon is currently on the Paoli track team. Tyler Hannon plays junior high baseball. Kalyn is involved in elementary volleyball and then goes to youth softball. Beau Hannon is enjoying being a part of it all.
Aaron and 1999 Paoli graduate Terri met at Hanover, where she was on the softball team.
Many programs are planning to play a few games once restrictions are lifted July 1.
Teams will be using this opportunity to recognize the Class of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the entire IHSAA spring sports season, including baseball.
Regional tournaments would have been played Saturday (June 6).
Following is a sampling of some the salutes across Indiana.
Hornets head coach Roger Roddy says current plans call for Monday and Thursday practices and Friday intrasquad games the last two weeks in July with senior recognition July 30.
A family picnic is in the mix. Like many programs, Angola has been giving social media shout-outs via Twitter.
Greyhounds head coach Matt Buczkowski traveled to the homes of his seniors to present a commemorative bat.
Warriors coach Pat O’Neil made video wrap-ups after every games of a faux season. The Hall of Famer “saw” his team win a virtual state title.
Once the quarantine began but before the season was canceled, O’Neil asked his players to send him a 20-second video of them working on offensive and defensive skills. There was an award for the most dedicated player.
There was a parade of cars at the baseball field.
“One coach gave a letter certificate, one coach gave letters or chevrons, one coach gave new jerseys,” says O’Neil. “They took individual photos in center field with new jerseys.
“It was good to see them be enthusiastic.”
When July arrives, O’Neil is planning to have practices for junior varsity and varsity players, including seniors.
A scrimmage with a senior recognition that includes souvenir bats and a cookout is slated for July 6.
A youth camp is also planned at the end of July.
In the last year of the program before the merger of Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central, Crimson Chargers head coach Scott Rost conducted a Twitter tournament and voters selected their favorite jersey.
Rost was also hired to be head coach of the Elkhart High School Lions in 2020-21.
Tigers head coach Matt Cherry hopes his team will be able to play doubleheaders July 13-14 with seniors being saluted.
“It’s the craziest spring I’ve ever been a part of,” says Eagles head coach Brad Douglas. “I’ve tried to reach out to the boys the best we can following all the social distancing protocol.”
Gift baskets with sunflower seeds, Gatorade, bubble gum and a baseball painted by Brian Borumn was taken to the seniors.
Tributes were placed on Twitter and new jerseys were made available for photos.
“At least once, we want to put them on and get a team picture,” says Douglas. “I don’t want these boys to be forgotten just because we didn’t get to play this year.”
Panthers head coach Brian Jennings turned on the lights at his field at 9:20 p.m. as a tribute to the Class of 2020.
Trojans head coach John Bogner, who counted son Justin among his seniors, has done his best to acknowledge the Class of 2020.
Social media has been part of that.
Without games to play on what would have been Senior Day for the Vikings, head coach Mark Fluekiger spent 12 hours working on Viking Field.
As the sun was setting, he took photos and recorded a video tribute to seniors.
The Jimmies are looking forward to a unique doubleheader on July 11.
Early in the day comes delayed commencement. At 7:30 p.m., Jimtown plays Bristol Americn Legion Post 143 in a game at Booster Field.
Jimmies coach Cory Stoner says he expects that all 11 of his seniors will be able to play catch with their fathers prior to playing in the contest.
Stoner, who is also the JHS head football coach, also plans to have baseball practices in July.
Drive Main Street in Lanesville, Ind., and you’ll see banners on light poles for senior sports athletes — that includes 11 baseball seniors.
“They’ve meant a lot to our program,” says Swingin’ Eagles head coach Zach Payne. “They’e good kids and good leaders.”
Payne says there may be a joint event with Lanesville softball. There has also been talk about games in late July featuring Corydon Central, North Harrison, South Central (Elizabeth) and Crawford County.
Slicers head coach Scott Upp had Schreiber Field lit up at 8:20 p.m. as a nod to his seniors.
May 20 was supposed to be Senior Night for Mishawaka.
Cavemen head coach John Huemmer went to Freddie Fitzsimmons Field, hung nine senior jerseys on the backstop and turned on the lights.
A Senior Night dinner was being planned. An engraved gift bat will include the bats of seniors.
Huemmer is hopeful that there will be a few practices and games in July.
Bear Tolman Field had the numbers of New Prairie’s eight seniors painted on it and there’s drone photos to prove it.
Cougars head coach Mark Schellinger says its not likely that high school teams will practice or play this summer though his players have connected with their various travel organizations.
“We’re hoping to get together as a team to recognize team and seniors,” says Schellinger, who was the head coach for the North at the 2019 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in Madison (the 2020 series in Evansville was canceled). “(Seniors) made very big contributions to our program — on and off the field. They added to the culture and raised the expectations. They set examples for younger players.
“We still spent a lot of time together as a team and a group (in the preseason) — even though games didn’t start.”
Raiders head coach Andrew Brabender says his team gathered at a player’s house for a senior dinner.
Nothing is set in stone, but Brabender says he’d like to put together an alumni game in late July or early August to be staged at the new turfed athletic complex.
“It’s a little closure for seniors,” says Brabender. “They weren’t going to get to play on that field anyway.”
Knights coach Craig Trout has gotten banners and jerseys to his players for photo opportunities.
Senior numerals have been painted on the field.
Northview is hoping to have a wiffle ball game after July 4.
“It’s hard right now for (the players),” says Trout. “It’s hard for their parents.”
Panthers head coach A.J. Risedorph has filled his time not only with online teaching and helping with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Zoom meetings, he’s been dressing his diamond.
Senior numbers have been emblazoned on the field.
SOUTH BEND CLAY
Colonials head coach Joel Reinebold saw that uniforms were distributed for photos.
Twitter appreciation was spread on Twitter.
Yard signs were made as was a video to the tune of “Centerfield” by John Fogerty.
Clay assistant coach Tony Cruz, who recently was released from the hospital following COVID-19 treatment, has invited players to join his South Bend American Legion Post 151 team this summer.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody at all levels,” says Warriors head coach Jason Rahn. “First and foremost, everyone’s health and safety is the top priority.”
Westview lost several top players to graduation in 2019, but there was excitement for 2020.
“We thought we did a good job of re-loading,” says Rahn.
Seniors have been spotlighted on Twitter with vintage-looking baseball cards.
The Class of 2020 has been invited for a July 16 home game against Bristol American Legion Post 143. Westview looks to play at Lakeland July 20 and host another Northeast Corner Conference foe July 22.
While the local recreation season has been canceled with local parks just now opening, travel ball (8U to 14U) is on.
“We feel like we’re making the best of it,” says Rahn, who indicates a camp is being planned for rec ball players.
“We’re not going to settle for ‘good enough,” says Stoner, who has been with the Jimtown junior varsity the past five springs. “We want to push ourselves and get back to competing for sectional and conference championships.
“There is a goldmine of talent here. We’ve just got to mine that gold a little bit.”
“Doing other things makes them better baseball players, too,” says Stoner. “It makes them better athletes all-around.”
For athletes not in a fall sport, Stoner just held a session to help some Jimtown baseball players get better. There was even a fall athlete who came to get in some extra work.
John Huemmer was Stoner’s head coach at Mishawaka High and has made an impact on his life.
“What a great role model,” says Stoner of Huemmer. “I remember how hard he worked for me. You could tell he was working for the kids.
“He worked so hard to get me into Bethel and improve my skills and talents. I really appreciated him as a role model and a figure and, hopefully, I can do that here at Jimtown.”
At Bethel, head coach Seth Zartman displayed a contagious zeal.
“He had a passion for the game,” says Stoner, who played all over the infield and some in the outfield for the Pilots. “Playing high school and college baseball are two different things and you find out quickly if you have a passion for the game. He brought that everyday.
“I really appreciated that from him.”
Stoner will be assisted at Jimtown by former Jimmies head coach Darin Mast, Luke Smith and some others to be determined. Smith will be the pitching coach.
“I want kids who have bought in and ready to work and get better,” says Stoner. “We want to dig into the whole character aspect and build young men who will be successful outside of baseball as well.
“I’m a big believer in the little things matter — staying mentally into games. That stuff carries over into life, too. That’s what I hope to relay to these guys and imprint on their lives.”
In order for a program to be successful, athletes must accept their roles and putting the team first.
Stoner says he’s seen that attitude so far in his years with the Jimmies and expects it to continue.
“This is a special place,” says Stoner of Baugo Community Schools. “I see that in these kids. They accept their roles, understand what it is and embrace and enjoy it.
“They want to get better in their roles because it’s about the team. That’s part of The Gold Standard — what can I do get us where we want to be?”
New IHSAA rules allow coaches to work with an unlimited number of players in the off-season, but only two times a week for up to two hours at a time.
“One of the big things that I want to focus on is getting into the weight room and growing physically,” says Stoner. “There are muscles for baseball that are different for other sports.
“And pitching is huge. We want to get that arm built up. There’s a reason pitchers and catchers come in early (for spring training) in the major leagues. You’ve got to get that arm strength built up. We’ll focus on that early.”
Stoner notes that even though rules limit off-season team activities to four times a week, that doesn’t prevent players from working on their own.
“Those are the kids that have that passion and can’t get enough of it,” says Stoner.
What changes has Stoner noticed in the education field?
“It’s crazy,” says Stoner. “Technology is huge now. We’re using (Google) Chromebooks in class and researching.
“(Technology) is also huge in baseball, too. We can get the iPad out and videotape a swing, slow it down and talk about certain points. There’s definitely connections there.”
Cory and wife Richele Stoner have two sons — Luke and Sam. Sam Stoner recently had his first birthday. Luke Stoner turns 3 in September. Cory and Richele are expecting a third boy — Cole — in December.
Kirby and Barb Stoner are Cory’s parents. Kirby Stoner is retired from the Mishawaka Police Department. Barb Stoner keeps busy babysitting her grandkids. Scott Stoner, Cory’s older brother and a social studies teacher at John Young Middle School in Mishawaka, is married with a daughter.
Cory Stoner is in his sixth year as a teacher and coach in Baugo Community Schools. After five seasons as an assistant, the graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) High School and Bethel College is now head baseball coach at Jimtown High School. (Steve Krah Photo)
The 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Series is in the books.
Despite wet weather in South Bend, Ind., many of the best players from around the state got a chance to show what they can do on the diamond — first with the annual Junior Showcase Friday, July 21 and then the recent graduates took to Four Winds Field for three games following a Friday night banquet featuring keynote speaker Greg Kloosterman and the announcement of Roncalli’s Nick Schnell as IHSBCA Player of the Year.
A scheduled doubleheader Saturday became a rain-shortened game. That led to a 9 a.m. Sunday doubleheader.
Declaring, “This ones for you Grandpa!!” on Twitter, Fort Wayne Carroll’s Hayden Jones went out and took MVP honors for the North/South Series in memory of a Bill Jones.
The North coaching staff was head coach Steve Stutsman (Elkhart Central) plus assistants Steve Asbury (Elkhart Central), Shane Edwards (Oak Hill), John Huemmer (Mishawaka) and Lonnie Weatherholt (Elkhart Central).
Umpires were Tony Gaugler, Bob Lichtenberger, Jay Miller and Corey Stewart in Game 1, Mike Alberts, Terry Baker, Kevin Kirsch and Eric Erb in Game 2 and Laird Salmon, Zach Sliwa, Bob Schellinger and Steve Kajzer in Game 2.
The 45th North/South Series is planned for one week after the IHSAA State Finals in Madison, Ind.
Scorekeepers: Bill & Sue Forgey of Huntington, Ind.
Commemorative plague for founder Jim Reinebold at 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)
Commemorative plague for founder Ken Schreiber at 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)
Elkhart Central and North head coach Steve Stutsman makes his parting remarks at 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)
Making out the Game 3 lineup for Game 3 of the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend are (from left): New Palestine’s Shawn Lyons, Decatur Central’s Jacob Combs, Castle’s Curt Welch and Lanesville’s Zach Payne. (Steve Krah Photo)
A T-shirt to commemorate the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)
Activities are planned for Friday through Sunday, July 20-22 at Four Winds Field — home of the Midwest League’s South Bend Cubs. The stadium is at 501 W. South St.
On July 20, teams will practice at Four Winds (North 1:15 to 3 p.m. EST and South 3 to 4:45) and have a 7 p.m. banquet in the Great Room at Century Center featuring guest speaker Greg Kloosterman. Century Center is at 120 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
There will also be the annual IHSBCA Junior Showcase from 9 a.m. EST to 1 p.m.
The North and South clash in a doubleheader on July 21 and a single wood-bat game July 22.
On July 21, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to greet fans and players beginning at 11 a.m. EST. The IHSBCA will honor two founders — Jim Reinebold and Ken Schreiber — prior to first pitch around noon.
Martin’s Supermarkets will provide box lunches to the teams between games. After the second game, players will be treated to pizza but can eat elsewhere in the South Bend-Mishawaka area with their families.
Peggs in downtown South Bend will feed the players breakfast.
On July 22, the game is slated for noon EST with players wearing their high school uniforms.
Game admission is $5 each day and the banquet is $25 ($15 for 10-and-under) — all payable at the door.
Commemorative T-shirts will sell for $10 and $15 apiece depending on size.
The all-star rosters below reflect players who have accepted invitations. Some may not be able to play because of injury.
Elkhart Central’s Steve Stutsman will be head coach for the North squad.
The South’s coaching staff will be headed by New Palestine’s Shawn Lyons.
New Level Broadcasting plans to webcast throughout the all-star weekend with remotes at the Junior Showcase noon to 1 p.m., practice 1 to 2 p.m. and banquet 7 p.m. on July 20 and games 11 a.m. pregame on July 21 and 11:30 a.m. pregame on July 22. The broadcast team will be Bob Stambazze, Craig Wallen, Mark Lowry and Mike Ganger.
The Cavemen beat South Bend Clay 3-2 (nine innings), LaPorte 10-9 and Plymouth 5-1 to reign at the Class 4A South Bend Clay Sectional. It was Mishawaka’s first title since 1997.
“The most important thing is to stay positive,” says Huemmer, who enters his 13th season at the Northern Indiana Conference school in 2017. “It’s not good to beat down a kid. You want to raise them up. That makes a big difference. If you keep encouraging, you’re going to get the most out of a kid.
“That kid’s going to buy into what you’re saying and they’re going to give everything they’ve got — not just for the head coach but, more importantly, for their teammates. If the kid is giving effort, then you have nothing to complain about. Mistakes are going to happen.”
If a player is striving to the best of his abilities, Huemmer tries not to dwell on a mistake. He just works to correct it and moves on.
The Cavemen were able to turn a negative in 2015 to a positive in 2016.
When Mishawaka bowed 9-8 to Plymouth in the semifinals of the ’15 Plymouth Sectional after letting momentum get away, Huemmer assembled his seniors-to-be and challenged them.
“What do you want for next year?,” says Huemmer in repeating a question he addressed to ballplayers in the Class of ’16. “I think that really set the tone for what we wanted to accomplish.
“Our record wasn’t what we wanted, but the pursuit of success and trying to win every game was there. The kids wholeheartedly wanted to do well last season. We came together at the right time and won the sectional.”
With his seniors leading the way, Huemmer hopes 2016 will feed 2017.
“We’re going to try to build on the momentum from last season,” says Huemmer, whose coaching staff includes Jim Shively as varsity assistant, Mark Bell and Andy Namisnak at the junior varsity level and Matt Went and Neal Hickle guiding the freshmen. “I wanted the guys to get a taste of what it’s like to win sectional. I knew if they got that taste, they’re going to want more.
“After we lost in the regional to Penn (4-3 in the semifinals), I heard ‘I want to do this again.’ That makes me feel great that they want to do it. Every year, I put the challenge on the seniors to do better than the previous year.”
Huemmer expects his seniors to be leaders, playing on their sense of urgency and reminding them that it is their final prep season.
“They’re the older kids,” says Huemmer. “They’re the ones that set the example. It goes with the thought: How do you want to be remembered at Mishawaka High School?”
The idea is that when seniors take ownership of the team, they want it more than being dictated to by the coaching staff.
“(The seniors of 2016) were just bound and determined to succeed,” says Huemmer. “To them, winning sectional proved everybody wrong.”
Huemmer and Reinebold spent three seasons together at Adams then both moved over to be on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Greg Dikos at Penn. Huemmer coached Kingsmen pitchers for four seasons (2001-04; the first was a Class 4A state championship year for Penn).
When Gregg Minegar resigned at Mishawaka, Huemmer interviewed for the head coach position and was hired.
He welcomed the opportunity to make final decisions and implement the program he wanted to run.
“The biggest challenge is to get everybody to buy in to what I as a head coach want to instill as values, what I believe is correct for behavior,” says Huemmer. “It’s important for us as coaches to communicate those expectations. Then you have to act on it.”
Huemmer is careful to send a consistent message and not play favorites. If any player — starter or reserve — is not hustling, he needs to check that behavior.
“If a kid comes to me asking why I haven’t addressed that with someone who’s doing the same thing (as them), that ruins my credibility,” says Huemmer.
Part of Huemmer’s coaching philosophy was also shaped by his coach at Marian — Ray Lentych.
“One of the main points of emphasis for Coach Lentych was do the little things,” says Huemmer. “The little things add up to big things. It’s not just the one big thing that happens but everything that goes on throughout the game.”
Simply hustling and putting the ball in play can make the difference between winning and losing.
“Proper pitching mechanics are important in preventing arm injuries,” says Huemmer. “Also, having the pitch count rule is important to allow pitchers the proper amount of time to recover after pitching. Some programs will struggle with the new rule because they will not have pitching depth.”
Teams will be required to record pitch count totals on MaxPreps.com so the IHSAA will have a record.
Huemmer notes that communicating with a pitcher about how they’re feeling during an outing is key. It’s also important to note that pitchers might be able to go deeper into games later in the season and that factors like adrenaline in tournament situations can’t be discounted.
Mishawaka has been tracking pitches all along, using a tendency chart for opposing batters and a feedback chart for pitchers that shows ball-strike percentage on each ball-strike count (ie. 65 percent of strikes on 0-2 count).
John Huemmer enters his 13th season as head baseball coach at Mishawaka High School in 2017.