Tag Archives: Junior High Baseball

New head coach Aguilar sets sights high for Hanover Central Wildcats

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Sal Aguilar has been a part of baseball success as a player and an assistant coach.
He was the starting third baseman for the Hammond (Ind.) Chiefs that went to the Babe Ruth Baseball World Series.
The 1998 graduate of Griffith (Ind.) High School was on the coaching staff at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., as the 59ers won IHSAA Class 3A state championships in 2018 and 2019 — two of eight state titles on Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur’s watch.
Aguilar’s first year as an assistant at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind., was 2021 and the Wildcats finished as Class 3A state runners-up.
Ryan Bridges let his team know that the 2022 season would be his last as Hanover Central head coach since he was taking a job at the school as assistant athletic director to Kelly Bermes.
In June, Aguilar was hired to head the Wildcats baseball program.
“We have great kids and great community support,” says Aguilar. “We’re excited to embark on this new chapter of Hanover Central baseball. We have a very bright future
“We’re not going to shy away from the ultimate goal which is to win a state championship.”
Hanover Central (enrollment around 775) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Hammond Bishop Noll, Boone Grove, Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, South Central of Union Mills, Wheeler and Whiting).
The Wildcats were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Culver Military Academy, John Glenn, Kankakee Valley, Knox and River Forest. Hanover Central has won two sectional crowns — 2011 (2A) and 2021 (3A).
Players from the Class of 2021 included outfielder Jared Comia (now at the University of Illinois), 6-foot-9 right-handed pitcher Peyton Olejnik (who went to Triton College in River Grove, Ill., and is heading to the University of Oklahoma in 2022-23), left-hander/infielder Bret Matthys (Purdue Northwest) and infielder Blaze Cano (who is transferring from PNW to Calumet of St. Joseph in Whiting).
Three athletes in the Class of 2023 expected to play at the next level include shortstop/pitcher Zach Zykowski, pitcher Luka Zakman and two-sport standout Gannan Howes (who is getting attention in baseball and football).
Aguilar came to Hanover Central as a teacher in 2020-2 and is entering his 16th year in the classroom. He taught seven years in Texas, three in Illinois and this will be his sixth in Indiana.
He instructs HCHS freshmen in Integrated Chemistry and Physics (ICP).
Born in Munster, Ind., Aguilar spent his first nine years in East Chicago, Ind. After fourth grade, he moved to Griffith and attended St. Mary School then went to Griffith High School for four years.
He earned three baseball letters for the Todd Iwema-coached Panthers.
Aguilar played for the Hammond Seminoles in 1997 then for Dave Sutkowski’s Hammond Chiefs in 1998 and 1999.
“The kids call him Bush,” says Aguilar of Sutkowski. “I learned a lot from Dave as a young kid about building relationships with players.”
One way to do that at Hanover Central is through junior high baseball program.
Thirty players in grades 6-8 play and practice in the fall.
“That’s a huge asset for our program,” says Aguilar. “It’s all hands on deck here so varsity coaches are going to run that team. We’re going to be able install and implement our brands of offense and defense.
“We get to cultivate those lifelong relationships with those kids at a very young age.”
Aguilar’s coaching staff includes four Hanover Central graduates — Nic Sampognaro (Class of 2011) with the varsity, twins Sam Momcilovic (Class of 2019) and Evan Momcilovic (2019) with the junior varsity and Mike Biegel (Class of 2018) as freshman head coach.
Former Hammond Bishop Noll and Merrillville head coach Paul Wirtz lends his experience to the varsity staff. Jesse Forrester (Lowell Class of 2019) is a freshman assistant.
Aguilar finished his college degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2006. His teaching and coaching career began shortly after that.
He came back to Indiana and married Griffith alum Brittany Clark in 2016. Sal and Brittany Aguilar have two children — Luis (5) and Gianna (2).
“(Brittany) knows it’s not easy being a coach’s wife,” says Sal. “We’re lucky to have family around to help us out.”

Sal Aguilar

Sal and Brittany Aquilar with son with Luis and daughter Gianna.

Hilton promotes fundamentals with Crothersville Tigers

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Eric Hilton is breaking baseball down to the basic elements as head coach at Crothersville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School.
In his second year leading the Jackson County-based Tigers in 2021-22, Hilton wants his players throwing to the correct bases and knowing situations.
“It’s basics and fundamentals,” says Hilton. “We’ve been working on it in the off-season. We are making progress in that area.”
In 2020-21, Crothersville had just one athlete who had played any baseball in the last four years. To have enough players to field a team, there were 10 boys and four girls. There were too few girls for a softball squad.
Crothersville (enrollment around 125) is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Henryville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central (Elizabeth).
In 2021, the Tigers were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with New Washington (host), Shawe Memorial and West Washington. Crothersville has not yet won a sectional title.
At such a small school, participation numbers have always been an issue. Then came the pandemic.
“A lot of kids didn’t return to baseball after COVID (took away the 2020 season),” says Hilton. “They found other things to do.”
But things are looking up for the spring of 2022. Fourteen different boys have participated in off-season activities and 21 signed up recently with the intention of coming out for baseball.
“We have very decent numbers,” says Hilton, who counts Rita Fletcher as an assistant with another four or five possibles.
Three players — senior catcher/pitcher/third baseman Matthew Clouse, sophomore catcher/pitcher/second baseman Logen O’Sullivan and sophomore shortstop/center fielder Lucas Hilton (the coach’s oldest son) — have indicated their desire to play college baseball.
Junior high baseball, which is played in nearby communities like Austin, Brownstown, Seymour and Scottsburg, has not been present at Crothersville for a few years. Hilton hopes to bring that back in the next few years.
Right now the Crothersville Youth League (T-ball to age 14) serves as a feeder program.
Before taking the job at Crothersville, Hilton coached Lucas with travel ball teams, including the Southern Indiana Venom, Blazers and The Swings.
A 1995 graduate of Seymour High School, Hilton played baseball for the Owls as a freshman and sophomore. He was also in football as a ninth grader and then went to soccer.
He graduated at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus and graduated from Ashworth University in Peachtree Corners, Ga. He is in grocery merchandising with the Louisville division of the Kroger Co., working with 116 stores.
Eric and Jennifer Hilton have been married 17 years. Lucas Hilton is 16 and Tyler Hilton 12.

Eric Hilton.

Kutch, North Central Thunderbirds enjoy competition

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Joe Kutch has long taken a leadership role in youth sports in and around Sullivan County, Ind.
Kutch (pronounced Kootch) is entering his eighth season as head baseball coach at North Central Junior/Senior High School in Farmersburg.
He was junior high coach for about five years before taking over the varsity Thunderbirds.
After years as an assistant, Kutch became North Central’s head football coach midway through the 2021 season. The Thunderbirds won their two sectional football titles with Kutch on the staff — 2018 as defensive coordinator and 2021 as head coach/offensive coordinator.
COVID-19 hit Kutch the first week of September and he was in the Intensive Care Unit for nine days and missed three football games. He is still on oxygen. But he still coaches, teaches Automotive classes at North Central (through a co-op with Ivy Tech in Terre Haute) and works for Sullivan Auto Group.
The Nashville (Tenn.) Auto-Diesel College graduate got his teacher’s license through Ball State University and began teaching eight years ago.
Kutch is an alum of Terre Haute North Vigo High School (Class of 1988). While still in high school he started organizing non-high school athletics.
As an adult, Kutch once ran the Northeast Youth League, Tri-Towers Softball League (which once had 500 players and was a pilot site for Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit & Run contest) and is still on the board of the Southwest Youth Football League (formerly Quad County).
Joe and Dianna Kutch have been married 28 years and have two sons — Austin Kutch (North Central Class of 2014) and Brayden Kutch (Class of 2017). Both played football and baseball for the Thunderbirds and graduated from college (Austin from Indiana State University and Brayden from Indiana University).
North Central (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley) for baseball and basketball.
Eastern Greene and Linton-Stockton have been IHSAA Class 2A schools on the diamond. Shakamak was a 1A state runner-up in 2021.
“I like the competition,” says Kutch, 52. “We take our sports serious. We compete every year in every sport.”
In 2021, the Thunderbirds were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, Shakamak and White River Valley (the 2021 host). North Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2011.
During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, North Central has 26 athletes who have indicated that they plan to play baseball in the spring.
“Most of my key players are playing basketball, like six of the starting nine,” says Kutch. “(Our numbers) will will drop when we get to mandatory practice (March 14).”
Kutch, pitching coach Andy Fuson and hitting coach Brian Raber make up the current Thunderbirds staff. A few volunteers when official preseason practice begins.
The Thunderbirds play home games on-campus. A ball over the right field fence could reach U.S. 41.
A few years ago, infield dirt was upgraded. The facility has a grass infield with brick dust running lanes. About a decade, a brick press box was installed.
The high school shares the field with the independent junior high program.
“You need junior high baseball,” says Kutch. “You need a feeder system to keep your program going.”
Connor Strain, a 2012 North Central graduate, pitched at the University of Evansville and in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.

North Central Thunderbirds.
Head coach Joe Kutch (left) and the North Central Thunderbirds.
Joe and Dianna Kutch.
Joe Kutch (foreground) with wife Dianna and sons Austin and Brayden.

‘Small ball’ is winning baseball to Jennings County’s Sigler

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

B.J. Sigler has a long association with baseball, coaching for many years at the youth level and serving as president/executive director for Ohio Valley Sports Productions — a travel tournament organization that runs events from mid-March to late October — and as Kentucky USSSA Baseball State Director.
He started coaching for the Indiana Bulls in 2015 and is now with an 11U group.
Add to all that head baseball coach at Jennings County High School in North Vernon, Ind. He was hired to lead the Panthers in July and 2022 will be his first season.
Sigler played for Ben Hornung at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind. (Class of 1994) and one season for Rick Parr at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Ind., before serving four years in the U.S. Air Force, graduating from the University of Houston and returning to Indiana in 2005.
He calls himself “pretty old school” when it comes to his diamond approach.
“It comes down to pitching and defense and we’ll be playing a little bit of ‘small ball.’’’ says Sigler. “That goes against the grain a little bit in this day and age, but it’s still winning baseball.”
Sigler, who lives in North Vernon, inherits a program that did not graduate a player in 2021. Among the returnees is Indiana University commit Jacob Vogel, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound right-handed pitcher in the Class of 2022 who is a three-sport athlete at Jennings County (tennis, basketball and baseball).
Another senior, Carson McNulty, is committed to Indiana Tech while a couple of others have not yet declared their college choice.
There were 26 players in the Jennings County program in 2021, but there could be well north of that number in 2022 and enough freshmen to play a C-team schedule.
“We’ll evaluate that in the spring,” says Sigler, did get to have high schoolers and middle schoolers in workouts during the recent IHSAA Limited Contact Period (Aug. 30-Oct. 16).
The Panthers have a home field with a turf infield and natural grass outfield.
“I absolutely love it,” says Sigler. “We may be able to come outside during the next Limited Contact Period and get some work in. It also helps with rain (in the spring).”
The junior high program is being jump-started in 2021-22. Other feeders include Panther Baseball Club teams and a local recreation league. High school players are part of several different travel organizations around Indiana.
Jennings County (enrollment around 1,200) is a member of the Hoosier Hills Conference (with Bedford North Lawrence, Columbus East, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, New Albany and Seymour).
Each HCC team meets once during the regular season. The champion of the seven-team circuit is determined during a tournament near the end of the season.
In 2021, the Panthers were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, New Albany and Seymour. Jennings County has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2006.

Sigler’s Jennings County assistants are Jason Maddox and Tyler Vogel with the varsity and Pete Manowitz and Doug Mills with the junior varsity.
Madison Consolidated High School graduate Jason Maddox is the son of Columbus North alum Parker Maddox (now at Iowa Western Community College).
Tyler Vogel is a 2017 JC graduate who played two years at Marian University and is the older brother of Jacob Vogel.
Manowitz prepped at Columbus East and Mills at Jennings County.
Besides Tyler Vogel, recent JC grads who went on to college baseball include Caleb Eder (Indiana Wesleyan University) and Bret Sawyer (Franklin College).
B.J., who has also served eight years as an assistant football coach, is married to 1995 Jennings County graduate, current Panthers head girls basketball and former Indiana University women’s basketball player Kristi (Green) Sigler. She was part of the 2020 Indiana basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Silver Anniversary Team.
The Siglers have two baseball-playing sons — sophomore Cole (16) and fifth grader Brycen (11). Players is the Class of 2024 were 6 when B.J. began coaching them.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Larry Sigler (Induction Class of 1993) is B.J.’s uncle.

B.J. Sigler.

Former Indiana University player McConnell leading baseball program at Barr-Reeve

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A former Indiana University baseball player is sharing his experience and knowledge as head coach at Barr-Reeve Middle/High School in the tiny Daviess County town of Montgomery.
Trevor McConnell, who graduated from Bloomington (Ind.) High School South in 2005 and earned his IU degree in December 2008, enjoyed his first on-field season with Barr-Reeve in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic took away 2020. He was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Joe Rademacher during the 2019 season.
Before Barr-Reeve, McConnell spent five seasons as an assistant to Bloomington South head coach Phil Kluesner (2014-18) and five as head coach and athletic director at Eastern Greene (2009-13).
A center fielder in high school, McConnell played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Grier Werner at Bloomington South and was recruited to play at IU by Bob Morgan.
“(Werner) was an old-school guy,” says McConnell. “He had that football mentality. He wanted physical and mental toughness from his teams and pushed us to take on that mentality because baseball is a game of failure.”
By the time McConnell joined the Hoosiers, Tracy Smith was head coach. He saw action in 65 games from 2006-08 and counted future big leaguer Josh Phegley as a teammate. Michael Earley went on to be a college coach (he’s now at Texas A&M).
“I learned a ton from Coach Smith in my time around the IU program,” says McConnell, who picked up pointers in practice planning, strategy and all facets of running a baseball team. “(Werner and Smith) are responsible for molding my coaching mindset more than anybody.”
McConnell sustained a career-ending arm injury and served as a volunteer assistant to Smith in the fall of 2008.
By then, McConnell saw his path as a teacher and coach and took the job the Eastern Greene positions at 23.
McConnell played summer ball for Kluesner with the Bloomington Wizards and accepted an invitation to coach with him.
“He welcomed me with open arms,” says McConnell of Kluesner. “He’s one of my best friends.”
At Barr-Reeve, McConnell teaches junior high school education and has a coaching staff that features pitching coach Rademacher, varsity assistant/infield coach Nathan Lester and head junior varsity coach Joe Cummings. All three have been head coaches at the high school level — Rademacher in two stints at Barr-Reeve, Lester at Barr-Reeve and Cummings at Pike Central.
There’s also JV assistant Ryan Graber, who played for Rademacher and Lester, former Vincennes Lincoln and University of Southern Indiana national championship player Craig Heinz, Beau Sluder, Trevor Yoder and Kraig Knepp. Chris Winkler runs Barr-Reeve’s junior high baseball program (Grades 7 and 8).
“I appreciate having experienced guys with me in the dugout,” says McConnell, who works with Vikings hitters and outfielders. “I have no ego. Joe Rademacher has been a good mentor for me. He’s been super gracious.
“He told me has still has a fire for the game and would like to be around if you want me.”
The Vikings play on Joe Rademacher Field. An old agriculture building was recently converted into a hitting/training facility for Barr-Reeve baseball and softball.
“We have four full-length (batting) cages,” says McConnell. “We are spoiled.”
A T-ball league is hosted by Barr-Reeve. Coach Pitch leagues start at Chuck Harmon Little League in nearby Washington, Ind.
The Viking Baseball Club sponsors teams of local students from second grade through 12U.
“They play together as a group with ‘Barr Reeve’ across their chest,” says McConnell, who attends and runs some VBC practices in the winter to show players the way he does it at the high school. A three-week fall camp for Grades 2-6 ran by McConnell and his assistants and players just concluded.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. Starting after Labor Day, McConnell has been leading close to 20 baseball players two days a week. Those practices are on Mondays and Wednesdays and many also participate in basketball activities with Josh Thompson on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thompson guided Barr-Reeve to an IHSAA Class 1A state championship in 2020-21 and a state runner-up finished in 2018-19.
“I like the fact we can instruct and be more hands-on with our players,” says McConnell of the current off-season set-up. “There’s less quantity but the quality is a lot better.
“We can coach them up.”
Barr-Reeve (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Blue Chip Conference (with Loogootee, North Knox, Northeast Dubois, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial). In recent years, Washington Catholic has not fielded a baseball team.
In 2001, the Vikings were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Loogootee, North Daviess (host site), Shoals and Vincennes Rivet. Barr-Reeve has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2019 — Rademacher’s last season as head coach. A senior on that ’19 team — Gage Wilson — went on to Vincennes (Ind.) University for baseball.
The youngest child of former college football coach Bob McConnell and wife Barbara, Trevor was born in Amherst, Mass., when his father was on the staff at the University of Massachusetts.
About the time Trevor went into kindergarten, his family (including older brother Ryan) had moved to Nashville with Bob McConnell joining the football staff at Vanderbilt University.
From 1995-2001, the McConnells were in Baton Rouge, La., and Bob was coaching at Lousiana State University.
Trevor McConnell’s freshmen baseball season was spent as a varsity role player at Parkview Baptist High School, where Eagles head coach and Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee M.L. Woodruff was on the way to one of his 11 state championships. His 27-season record was 603-163-2.
“I learned a lot of fundamentals,” says McConnell of Woodruff. “He was super-organized and super-efficient.”
The McConnells wound up in Bloomington when Bob was hired by Hoosiers head football coach Gerry DiNardo, who also coached at Vandy and LSU.
After years of the gypsy lifestyle of a college football coach, Bob McConnell went into financial services and retired last fall. Barbara McConnell is a Muncie, Ind., native. Ryan McConnell (38) resides in Baton Rouge.
Trevor (35) and wife Jessica both went to Bloomington South and began dating at IU. They have been married since 2009. The couple have two children — second grader Nolan (who turns 8 in October) and kindergartener Lauren (5).

The McConnells (from left): Jessica, Trevor, Nolan and Lauren.
The McConnells (clockwise from upper left): Trevor, Jessica, Nolan and Lauren.
Trevor (left) and Ryan McConnell.
Trevor McConnell (30).
Trevor McConnell directs traffic.
Trevor McConnell swings the fungo.

Alum Ashbrook teaching, coaching Union County Patriots

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jordan Ashbrook is invested in education and athletics in Union County, Ind.
The 2011 Union County High School graduate represents the third generation of his family to teach at Union County.
A physical education teacher, strengh and conditioning coach and head baseball coach at UCHS in Liberty, Jordan has a mother — Teresa Ashbrook — who teaches first grade at Liberty Elementary School.
Jordan’s grandfather — the late Norbert Bleill – was also a Union County teacher.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jordan moved to Oxford, Ohio, then to Union County as a preschooler. He played high school baseball then coached alongside Jeff Matthews and took over the Patriots program before the 2020 season canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ashbrook admires retired Navy Master Chief Matthews for his ability to motivate and to forge those with leadership leanings.
“You can talk about championships, but until you put in the work and effort to get there, it’s just talk,” says Ashbrook. “He really left it up to the guys he trusted in — his captains.”
A catcher and first baseman earlier in his prep career, three-year varsity player Ashbrook was an all-state second baseman as a senior.
At NCAA Division III Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Ashbrook was a corner infielder and designated hitter for head coach George Powell.
Coming to the Cardinals at 5-foot-10 and 180, Ashbrook was encouraged to add 20 pounds of muscle by the spring. He came close, getting up to 195.
The lefty swinger hit .287 with four home runs and 29 runs batted in as a sophomore in 2013 and .200 with two homers and 14 RBIs as a senior in 2015.
Ashbrook was a double major at Otterbein in Health Education and Physical Education.
“It’s good to bring knowledge from college and see the development we’ve been able to have in the last three years,” says Ashbrook the strength and conditioning coach for all Union County athletic teams. “I have pre and post data. We max out about every fourth week. It’s nice to see the steady increase throughout the year. You see the change in bodies from fall to spring.”
With an enrollment around 400, Union County is full of multi-sport performers.
“Sharing the athletes here is something we have to do if we want to be successful,” says Ashbrook. “I tell my (baseball players) to play at least one other sport and be an all-around athlete.”
Teacher Pat Tafelski handled strength and conditioning duties when Ashbrook attended Union County.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. For the final five weeks of the window, Ashbrook intends to have traditional baseball practices on Tuesdays and intraquad scrimmages on Thursdays. The past two weeks he was regularly getting 16 athletes at weight room sessions. He expects around 20 at LCP dates.
Union County is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City and Winchester). TEC games are generally played once a week.
In 2021, the Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern and Shenandoah. Union County has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2018.
Ashbrook is assisted by Union County teacher Daniel Taylor and longtime Pats assistant Ron Webb.
Union County plays on Bill Webb Field, which gives spectators, players and coaches a view of the Liberty water tower.
The varsity diamond is behind youth fields.
“It’s cool seeing all the kids you’re going to coach in the future playing alongside you,” says Ashbrook, who has ramped up to middle school baseball program at Union County and got 48 to come to a callout meeting last week. Those players are invited to participate in fall workouts with the high school.
Being a small school, Ashbrook says getting college exposure for his athletes calls for some grinding. He sends on profiles to help the process. Recent Union County graduates to move on to the next level include Mason Hornung (Wilmington College), Denton Shepler (University of Indianapolis) and Nate Webb (Ohio Northern University).
As a hitting and pitching instructor at the former Powerhouse Performance Training facility in Richmond, Ind. (now Morrow’s Yard), Ashbrook worked with several players who went on to play college ball.
Jordan and wife Shelby Ashbrook have a daughter — Mylee (16 months). Jerry Ashbrook is Jordan’s father. His younger sister is Taylor Ashbrook.

Jordan Ashbrook (Union County High School Photo)
Union County High (Liberty, Ind.) baseball.
Jordan Ashbrook (right) and Union County High School baseball players.
Feats of strength Union County High School (Liberty, Ind.) style.

Alum Steimel now pointing way for Sullivan Golden Arrows baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A man who has been leading at the developmental levels of community baseball is now the head coach at Sullivan High School.

Tony Steimel, a 1990 Sullivan graduate, has spent the past decade in charge of the recreational Sullivan Baseball League, which begins with 4-year-olds who swing against pitches from coaches and play in games where outs are counted.

“We want to get kids used to real baseball as young as possible,” says Steimel, the SBL president. “We don’t challenge kids enough. They can handle more than we give them credit for.”

For the last five years, the owner of Steimel Communications in Sullivan has been a volunteer, spending much of his time coaching seventh and eighth graders in games all around west central and southern Indiana.

“That’s as key and important as anything we’ve done around here,” says Steimel of a non-school affiliated group which plays as far north as South Vermillion territory, as far south as Barr-Reeve and as far east as Edgewood. “What they do going into high school is really critical to your program.”

Those teams played “A” and “B” five-inning doubleheaders while using up to 10 different pitchers with an eye on the future.

“Anybody who has the mental capacity and the desire should be put on the mound,” says Steimel. “That’s the same way it is at the junior varsity level.”

This spring, Sullivan has schedule 20 dates for its junior high-aged teams and Shawn McKinney will coach those kids when not working with the junior varsity or varsity squads at the high school.

“It’s in good hands,” says Steimel of the junior high program. “We’ll be on the same field. We’ll definitely be talking.”

Steimel, who will also be assisted by newcomer Josh Wood and local baseball veterans Tom Hannon, Tom Hanks, Brian Pirtle and Brian Schulze, takes over a Golden Arrows high school program with a history of success.

Since 1985, Sullivan has gone 534-357-1 with 10 seasons of 20 wins or more.

Matt McLaren guided the Arrows for six seasons (2012-17) and went 110-62. The last three squads were 21-9, 20-9 and 21-6. He is now head baseball coach at Richland County High School in Olney, Ill.

Bob Mirkovich (1964 to 1981, 238-150-3) and Craig Grow (1995 to 2004 and 2010; 194-112-1) are two of the winningest Sullivan coaches over the years.

Current Sullivan athletic director Otto Clements was Steimel’s head coach in his senior season.

Mirkovich coached in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in 1976 and 1982 and Craig Grow coached the All-Stars in 2002.

Sullivan players in the series have been shortstop Jack Smith (1976), pitcher Charley Noble (1977), outfielder Greg Bender (1982), shortstop Greg Wood (1986), pitcher Jon Boothe (1987), shortstop Michael Rinck (1998), shortstop K.C. Grow (2001), pitcher Devin Jones (2002) and third baseman Korey Grow (2004).

Sullivan has won 16 sectionals (1970, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 2015), three regionals (1976, 1987, 1991) and one semistate (1976) and had one state runner-up finish (1976).

Thirteen times, the Arrows have reigned as conference baseball champions (1973, 1976, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1997, 1998  and 1999 in the old Tri-River Conference and 2017 in the Western Indiana Conference).

Sullivan is the WIC West Division with Greencastle, North Putnam, Northview, South Putnam and West Vigo.

The East Division features Brown County, Cascade, Cloverdale, Edgewood, Indian Creek and Owen Valley.

In 2018, WIC teams will again play a home-and-home series against divisional foes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with the first game counting toward conference standings. Crossover games will be played at the end with the top teams in each division meeting for the championship.

The Arrows are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brown County, Edgewood, Owen Valley and West Vigo.

Sullivan heads into the spring with a few familiar varsity faces and some new ones. There were around 24 players on the first day of practice Monday, March 12.

Some of those have less baseball experience than others. But Steimel welcomes them.

“There are teams that need players and players that need teams,” says Steimel. “We want to include kids that need to be part of something positive. There’s a lot of negative things kids can get into.

“It should set a good example for our star players as well.”

While graduation took six seniors in 2017 and five of nine position players and three of five starting pitchers are gone, the Arrows still have senior right-handed pitcher/shortstop Sam Steimel (a University of Evansville commit) and senior catcher Shane Garner. Both have been starters since they were freshmen.

Senior outfielder/left-hander Chris Taylor and junior corner infielder Jack Conner also returns.

“We’ve got a really young group,” says Tony Steimel. “Our sophomores are solid but unproven. Kids that played JV last year will be asked to step up this year.”

Sophomore right-hander Bray Foster slots in as Sullivan’s No. 1 pitcher behind Sam Steimel. Sophomore first baseman Max Mize is also in the mix.

While Sam Steimel has been playing for the Indiana Bulls, his father says many of his top players have played travel baseball with organizations based in Terre Haute, including the Indiana Havoc (a group Tony Steimel has coached) and Mad Dog. There’s also Sullivan American Legion Post 139.

Sullivan plays its games on-campus at a field that got new lights a few years ago. Plans have been drawn up and budgets made for upgrades in the next few years. That includes 35-foot high netting to replace the backstop and new handicap-accessible bleachers.

Tony and Alison Steimel, a Sullivan graduate, will be married 20 years in 2018. Besides Sam, they have another son. Freshman Eli is a left-handed pitcher and first baseman.

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ALISONTONYELISAMSTEIMEL

The Steimels (from left): Alison, Tony, Eli and Sam. Tony Steimel is the new head baseball coach at Sullivan High School. Sam Steimel is a senior and Eli a freshman for the Golden Arrows.