BY STEVE KRAH
Derek Stang received more and more responsibility from the two previous head baseball coaches at Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind., and now he’s the man in charge.
After serving two seasons each on the staffs of Tony Windle and Dave Miley, 2007 FCHS graduate Stang is leading a Wildcats program that is used to success.
Franklin County has won 15 or more games in five of the past six seasons. The Wildcats have been consistent contenders in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference and earned seven sectional crowns — the last in 2013.
Stang played for Windle as a young boy and at FCHS.
“(Windle) always stressed relationships with kids,” says Stang. “He made them feel comfortable around the coaches. It’s their program. They respected him and enjoyed playing for him.”
Miley brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to Franklin County. He managed or coached many years in professional baseball, including 2003-05 as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
“Learning from him the last few years has been a great thing,” says Stang. “Dave had me coach third base the past two years. He gave me the freedom to do what I need to do.
“It won’t be a huge transition.”
Miley’s wife, Andrea, is from Franklin County and he is still local and in contact with Stang.
With his connections, Miley has helped bring Marty Brenneman, Tom Browning and Ron Oester to town for “A Night With A Legend” team fundraisers.
There is continuity on the staff since pitching coach Brett Rauch, junior varsity coach Scott Carie, freshmen coach Randy Bolos and volunteers Roger Miller and Gene Hodges are all returnees.
“That consistency is going to help a lot,” says Stang. “We know how we want to play.”
Stang plans to have his Wildcats playing a lively brand of baseball.
“We want to be aggressive — at the plate or on the bases,” says Stang. “We want to put pressure on the defense and make them make plays.”
When the other team is at the plate, he wants Franklin County fielders to make the the routine plays.
“We do not want to get too sped up on defense,” says Stang. “That starts with pitchers throwing strikes.”
Pitchers who can’t find the zone have a tendency to put their defense to sleep.
“Staying in the game is half the battle sometimes,” says Stang. “We also want to cut down on our number of strikeouts. Even the guys with the most RBI’s last year had too many strikeouts.”
During the current limited contact time when teams can practice two times a week for two hours, Stang and his coaching staff are trying to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s a challenge this year,” says Stang. “We’ve got varsity, JV and freshmen in a two-hour time period and trying to get pitchers to get their pitch counts up.”
Players spend half their time at hitting stations then rotate to an agility station.
When it comes to defensive work, players are grouped by position. Catchers do a progression drill that focuses on receiving the ball, a POP drill that emphasizes footwork and a blocking drill.
In the old Brookville High School gym, infielders concentrate on fundamentals and take some ground balls. Middle infielders get some double play reps and work on communication.
Outfielders do zig-zag and angle drills — the latter to help prevent a gapper from turning from a single into a double.
“We utilize every foot of that space,” says Stang. “We make the most of it and get done what we can get done.”
Stang expects to have program numbers in the high 30’s this year.
In recent years, the Wildcats have sent players on to college baseball. Joe Monroe, Blake Ripperger and Jake Fields went to Miami University Hamilton and Brennan Meyers to Wright State University-Lake Campus.
Many players take part in travel baseball while participate in the Franklin County Recreational Baseball League (T-ball through age 12) and Franklin County Babe Ruth League (ages 13-15).
Each June, Stang, Rauch and some FCHS players conduct a youth camp. The youngsters who look up to the high schoolers enjoy being taught by them. There is also a youth night during the spring where kids get into the game free by wearing their uniform and are recognized on the field.
Franklin County plays its home games on its campus. This year the facility will be named Jim Hughes Field in honor of the former coach and educator at Brookville and Franklin County. The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer died Nov. 12, 2018.
Franklin County (enrollment around 750) is part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Batesville, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Madison Consolidated, Rushville Consolidated and South Dearborn.
A member of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference, Franklin County competes with Batesville, Connersville, East Central, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated and South Dearborn. In 2018, the EIAC went to a format where each team played a home-and-home series against each other on Mondays and Thursdays and that will continue in 2019.
Stang also played basketball at Franklin County for coach Josh Johnson. He was an assistant coach at the high school the past four years and switched to eighth grade this winter.
He has also been a baseball and basketball assistant at Daleville High School and coached basketball at the AAU level for the Spiece program and at Zionsville Junior High.
A math teacher at FCHS, Stang attended Indiana University in Bloomington and received his degree from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.
Derek and Heather Stang have a daughter — Amelia. She turned 1 on Thursday, Feb. 7. Heather is a sixth grade teacher at Mt. Carmel Elementary in Cedar Grove, Ind.
Derek Stang is heading into his first season as head baseball coach at Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind. He is a 2007 FCHS graduate and has served the past four seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater.