Rising Sun (Ind.) High School has raised a sectional baseball trophy eight times — all on head coach Kevin Wirsch’s watch. The Shiners have had Wirsch as head coach since the 2000 season and taken IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in 2002, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022. The most-recent championship came at the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (which featured Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy and Trinity Lutheran) and earned Rising Sun a place in the Morristown Regional on Saturday, June 4. The regional semifinals features 16-8 Rising Sun against Shakamak at 11 a.m., followed by Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran. The championship is slated for 8 p.m. All but Traders Point received votes in the final regular season Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. In 2013, the Shiners won a regional title and took part in the Plainfield Semistate, bowing to eventual 1A state runner-up Vincennes Rivet. Rising Sun (enrollment around 230) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Shawe Memorial, South Ripley, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County). The Shiners went 9-3 in the ORVC, finishing behind Southwestern (11-1). “We’re one of the smallest schools in the state,” says Wirsch, who has also been an English teacher at the school just blocks from the Ohio River since 1999-2000. “I had to work to get players this year.” Because of various factors, Wirsch expects to take 11 players to regional and one of those — senior center fielder Kendell Montgomery — has also qualified for the state track meet in Bloomington and will head there after the regional semifinal to compete in the long jump (his seed mark is 21 feet, 3 3/4 inches). “Believe it or not, we have four and five-sport athletes here,” says Wirsch. “All the coaches (at Rising Sun) know each other and work together. “That’s what makes it possible.” While participation numbers are often an issue, Wirsch has enjoyed success. “The kids that come out, buy in and work hard,” says Wirsch. “They do what we ask them to do. “We try to do the little things right — throw strikes and make plays.” The Shiners won the sectional with a 3-2 win against Hauser in 10 innings and 2-0 triumph against Jac-Cen-Del. Rising Sun is 5-2 in games decided by two runs or less and 1-3 in extra innings. Senior and Earlham College commit Jonathan Jimenez (.431, 3 home runs, 27 runs batted in, 20 runs, 20 stolen bases) leads the offense, which also features junior Peyton Merica (.384, 27 runs, 18 stolen bases), Montgomery (.297, 17 runs), senior third baseman Ashton McCarty (.277, 18 RBI) and junior catcher Brady Works (.267, 21 runs, 17 stolen bases). First baseman Peyton Creech has already joined the National Guard. Right-handers Merica (7-1, 0.53 earned run average with 98 strikeouts and 16 walks in 66 innings) and Jimenez (5-2, 1.83, 83 K’s, 29 walks, 49 2/3 IP) pace the Shiners pitching staff. Each generally takes turns at shortstop or is somewhere in the infield when not on the mound. Wirsch’s assistants include Steve Jimenez, Keith Works, Jason Merica and one of Wirsch’s former players — Brandon Turner. Rising Sun plays home games on its campus at Shiner Ballpark. “It’s a nice field,” says Wirsch. “It’s been upgraded since I’ve been there. We’ve got new dugouts and lights.” The school’s softball field is near the baseball diamond. The Shiners have won eight sectional softball titles. A junior high program at Rising Sun was established about seven years ago. This feeds the high school. Many core players who hone their skills in travel ball in Madison, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. Recent graduates to move on to college baseball include Class of 2018’s Brent Turner (Huntington University), 2019’s Brayden Bush (Kentucky Wesleyan College), 2020’s Steven Jimenez (Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati) and 2021’s Landon Cole (Franklin College). Wirsch is a 1993 graduate of East Central High School in St. Leon, Ind., where his baseball coach was Bob Benner. He played football and baseball for two years at the University of Evansville. Jim Brownlee was the Purple Aces baseball coach. When UE dropped football, he transferred to Northern Kentucky University, where he earned an English degree. Wirsch is also an assistant football coach at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School — where son Ashton (18) played and graduated last weekend — and has coached that sport at South Dearborn. Besides Ashton, Kevin and wife Amy Wirsch have a daughter named Alexandra (23).
Franklin (Ind.) College enjoyed a 25-14 baseball season in 2021. The Grizzlies hit .299 as a team with 152 extra-base hits (45 home runs) and 87 stolen bases. Of the top eight players in at-bats, six were seniors. Franklin’s fall workouts included many newcomers. “We worked a lot on team offense and defense,” says Jake Sprinkle, who is in his second season as a Franklin assistant coach in 2021-22. “We have a lot of new faces and we want to get those guys acclimated. “We had a lot of scrimmages, letting pitchers and hitters show what they’ve got.” NCAA Division III rules restrict coach-player contact in the winter. “We don’t have individual time,” says Sprinkle. “Seniors and leaders are setting up hitting and throwing groups. They’re making velo and exit velocity jumps and getting stronger in the weight room.” Sprinkle, who works for head coach and associate director of athletics Lance Marshall, has been hitting the recruiting trail and getting plans in place and equipment ordered for the spring of 2022. The season is slated to begin Feb. 26 against Albion at Grizzly Park. “This time of year we’re getting a lot of kids on-campus,” says Sprinkle of recruiting. “We’re trying to get some guys bought-in. We’re still working on 2022 (recruiting) class and reaching out to some 2023’s we’ve seen in the past.” The Franklin website lists a 2021 roster of 45 with 40 of those hailing from Indiana. Sprinkle, who turns 26 on Dec. 28, was born and raised in the Franklin Township section of Indianapolis. He played tennis and baseball at Franklin Central High School. Twin brother Ben was his tennis doubles partner and a baseball teammate. The Flashes were coached on the diamond by John Rockey. “He was an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle of Rockey. “He brought a ton of energy to practice. He taught us what we needed to do at a younger age and prepared guys for college. “We wanted to show up and work every single day.” Jacob Wickliff (now head baseball coach at Beech Grove High School) was a Franklin Central teammate of the Sprinkle brothers. Sprinkle was a right-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis. As a UIndy freshman in 2015, Sprinkle went 8-2 with 2.97 earned run average. He struck out 32 and walked 11 in 63 2/3 inning. Tommy John arm surgery caused him to miss the 2016 season and he was granted a medical redshirt before pitching for the Greyhounds from 2017-19. For his four college seasons, he was 22-9 with 3.86 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240 innings. Sprinkle’s first four years were spent with Gary Vaught as head coach with Al Ready moving up to be head coach his fifth year. “(Coach Vaught) was so personable,” says Sprinkle. “He made everybody feel like they were special and created a personal bond. He would make sure people knew he was there for them. “(Coach Ready) is extremely dedicated and hard-working. He’s a guy who’s going to put his best foot forward, do his research and whatever he can to win.” Landon Hutchison was the Greyhounds pitching coach Sprinkle’s last few seasons. After his college playing days, Sprinkle was briefly in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in the summer of 2019 then spent a year as a UIndy graduate assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing/Information Systems and a master’s degree in Sports Management from UIndy. He joined Marshall’s Franklin coaching staff in September 2020. “(Coach Marshall) is an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle. “He’s extremely hard-working and does everything the right way. “He builds a championship culture — on and off the field.” Besides recruiting, Sprinkle is in charge of Grizzlies infielders and hitters and helps with pitchers. “With our infielders, we’re big on making the routine play,” says Sprinkle. “We re-set every play. It’s about being athletic. “The hitters’ approach is about being on-time and driving the baseball in the gap.” Last summer, Sprinkle coached a 17U travel team for Mike Chitwood’s Indiana Elite organization and will be leading a 17U squad for Chad Fowler’s Powerhouse Athletics group in the summer of 2022. “I thought that’s where my path would take me,” says Sprinkle of coaching. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.” Sprinkle comes from a baseball-loving family. He and his brother grew up being coached by their father, Tracy Sprinkle with support from mother Lori Sprinkle and sister Malorie Sprinkle (a former Franklin Central softball player who’s now a Butler University freshman). Ben Sprinkle began went to Kentucky Wesleyan College for baseball before transferring to Franklin.
As Ball State University develops baseball pitchers, one approach does not fit all. Each individual is assessed and brought along while keeping in mind what is best for them. “We’re not making a broad stroke,” says Larry Scully, the Cardinals pitching coach since August 2019. “Everyone is different in terms of their needs.” Scully, who began his coaching career in 1992 and has mentored 16 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections, uses the example of a freshman arriving on the Muncie, Ind., campus in the fall. That hurler is introduced to Bill Zenisek, Ball State’s baseball strength & conditioning coach. “He gets a measurement of movement for all the players,” says Scully. From this evaluation, which includes a TPI movement screening, specific exercises are prescribed that will help them become an efficient athlete. Players are introduced to proper nutrition and the weight room and learn that terminology. Rapsodo equipment is used during bullpen sessions and the motion-capture data is used for development as is Synergy slow-motion camera feedback. Then there’s the throwing program. “We get to see how the arm moves,” says Scully. As a part of that there is long toss. Some will go long and high and up to 300 feet the day after they throw and others will focus on mechanics and toss on a line for distance. Through it all, a pitcher’s delivery is checked for efficiency. How does he start? How does he drive down the mound? How does he finish? Since Scully is Driveline-certified, the Cardinals will use bands, PlyoCare Balls and mediBalls in training. Bullpen sessions may be geared toward refining a certain pitch or location. A pitcher’s workload — heavy or light in terms of innings or the number or intensity pitches — will also play into training. Fall ball began at Ball State the first week of September and just recently concluded. Pitchers worked alone the first two weeks and were then incorporated into team practices and scrimmages. Then adjustments were made during individual work. Until Dec. 3, pitchers will work eight hours a week, including strength sessions and 45 minutes a day Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with their pitching coach. “We’ll try to maintain what they do well and get better to help us win,” says Scully. Before coming to Ball State, Scully spent five seasons at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., where he worked with Braves head coach Elvis Dominguez. “We were one of the top academic schools in the Missouri Valley Conference,” says Scully, who also served as Bradley’s recruiting coordinator. the 2019 Braves led the MVC in earned run average (3.37), fewest hits allowed per game (7.21) and WHIP (1.27). What drew Scully to the Cardinals? “Ball State has a rich tradition in winning and developing pitchers,” says Scully. At BSU, Scully joined head coach Rich Maloney, who became the 27th active NCAA Division I coach to earn his 800th career coaching win in 2019. To date, Maloney is 877-581-1 (546-337-1 in his second stint with Ball State) in 26 seasons. He has coached 65 players who were drafted 72 times. He’s coached six first-rounders with only one being drafted out of high school. The most-recent is right-hander Drey Jameson (34th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019). Maloney paid Scully a compliment during the interview process. “Everywhere you’ve been the pitching staff has gotten a bump,” says Scully of Maloney’s words. The 2021 MLB Draft was very satisfying for Scully. Three pitchers who the coach helped hone his craft were taken in the first seven rounds — Ball State’s Chayce McDermott (fourth round by the Houston Astros) and Bradley’s Brooks Gosswein (fourth round by the Chicago White Sox) and Theron Denlinger (seventh round by the White Sox). When looking at pitching potential, Ball State recruiting coordinator Blake Beemer is often drawn to athletes of a certain build. “They are long and lean with loose arm action,” says Scully. “Others might not be that, but they may be left-handed and can get left-handers out. “Blake does a good job of finding low-lying fruit. Here’s something we can probably fix (about the pitcher’s mechanics or pitch selection). “There’s a lot of moving parts. Everyone sees the final product, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.” Prior to Bradley, Scully was pitching coach at Murray (Ky.) State University (2014), Lamar (Colo.) Community College (2010-13), assistant at Saint Louis University (2007), head coach at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. (2000-06) and assistant at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa (1999) and Indiana Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa (1992-96). Dan Skirka was a Murray State assistant when Scully was there and is now the Racers head coach. Scully was born in Toronto and played at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in 1986. His head coach was Jim Ridley, who was later inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Ridley twins — Jeremy and Shayne — were teammates who wound up playing at Ball State and were both drafted in 2000 (Jeremy Ridley by the Toronto Blue Jays and Shayne Ridley by the Baltimore Orioles.). “Jim was a tremendous influence on me,” says Scully. “He was a terrific coach and a terrific person. “Some are just very lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very good baseball people.” A left-handed pitcher, Scully competed in the Junior Olympics at 18U and then played for and coached with Rick Mathews (now in the Colorado Rockies organization) at Indian Hills and played for Joel Murrie (now with the Los Angeles Angels) at Western Kentucky University. Scully earned an English Literature from WKU in 1992 and master’s degree in Sports Administration from the United State Sports Academy in 1994. “It was my intent to be an English teacher and baseball coach,” says Scully. “I learned that’s tough gig. Both require a lot of time. Now I’m helping daughter now with her grammar.” Larry and wife Shari have six children from 30 down to eighth-grader Ava. Shari Scully has taught for nearly 30 years and is employed as a sixth grade Language Arts teacher at Tremont (Ill.) Middle School.
Cade’s mother, Amanda Moore (South Vigo Class of 1992), is Kyle’s sister. Amanda is married to Scott Moore (North Vigo Class of 1990), who began his teaching and coaching career at South Vigo and is now an administrator at North Vigo. Scott’s parents are Steve and Diane Moore.
Steve Moore (Terre Haute Garfield Class of 1962) was North Vigo head coach when his son played for the Patriots. Diane graduated from Garfield in 1964.
Kyle’s parents are Bob and Kelly Dumas. They once rooted for another grandson in former South Vigo Braves and Indiana State University standout Koby Kraemer (Class of 2008), son of Kyle. Father coached son.
Bob Dumas is a Massachusetts native who came to Terre Haute to attend Indiana State University and met Kelly (Terre Haute Gerstmeyer Tech Class of 1965).
A retired heating and cooling man, Bob Dumas is not hard to spot at at North Vigo-South Vigo game. He’s the one with the shirt that’s half blue with an “N” and red with an “S.” He had it made at an embroidery business in town.
“We’ve been South fans every since Kyle went to high school,” says Bob. “It’s been kind of a twisted year with Cade at North.
“There will be more favoritism to Cade because he’s actually playing.”
Says Kelly Dumas, “It’s a whole range of emotions. We’ve never been North fans.”
“I was a big fan of South watching (Koby) play as a little kid,” says Cade, who has taken hitting lessons from Koby and Kyle.”
What advice does Cade take from grandfather Steve Moore?
“Keep my head in the game and focus on making the right play,” says Cade, 18. “Be a leader and be a teammate. I’ve always been one to have a teammates’ back. Stick with a program. It’s been instilled from grandparents and parents. If you see a teammate knocked over you go help them up.
“I’m hearing the same thing from my coaches.”
Steve Moore, who has taught science at North Vigo, Indiana State and South Vigo, was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Jennings then took over the Patriots for six years in the early 1990’s.
“My expertise was in teaching the game,” says Steve, who for 18 years was the only man to tend to the overall maintenance of the North Vigo diamond which would become known as Don Jennings Field. “You have to think the game. Some kids are not thinking like they should about the game.
“We stressed fundamentals. Know what to do when the ball comes to you. In practice, we would go over just about everything.”
One of the school clubs at North Vigo was Baseball. Members/players would talk about the game and expand their knowledge.
“They had to learn the rules of baseball,” says Steve. “I gave tests. It was all in fun.
“It was a way to teach the game from a different perspective.”
He appreciates what he sees on the field from his grandson.
“I told Cade not too long ago. ‘You’re better than your dad and a whole lot better than your Grandpa,” says Steve. “He’s constantly thinking.”
“I did not like to see Kyle come to the plate,” says Steve. “His technique was always good. He could hit the daylights out of that ball.”
Scott Moore, who is now assistant principal of building and grounds at North Vigo, takes over as Post 346 manager — a position long held by John Hayes and then Tim Hayes.
Of course, Cade gets pointers from his father.
“Take charge and keep your teammates in the game as well as yourself,” says Cade of that advice. He’s more of the fundamental type.
“He can break down my (right-handed) swing for me and help me make an adjustment.”
Says Scott, “I talk to Cade about how being a part of a team is important and working with other people for a common goal.
“It’s about setting goals and working hard. What could I have done differently? Those are life lessons.”
Scott Moore — and the rest of the family — have watched Cade excel on the tennis court. Cade and doubles partner and classmate Ethan Knott (a close friend that he’s known since they played youth baseball together) came within two wins of making the State Finals in the fall of 2019.
“Being involved in multiple sports helps the athlete all-around,” says Scott.
“I like the way he runs his program,” says Cade. “I’ll go there to play infield. I’ll be a two-way if he likes me on the mound.”
Cade has been mostly a shortstop and third baseman when not on the mound for North Vigo.
Both sets of grandparents have already scouted at KWC and the town and look forward to spending time there and the places where the Panthers play.
“(Kentucky Wesleyan) has same colors as Garfield,” says Diane Moore. “Steve and I felt right at home.”
Diane, who retired after 32 years at the Vigo County Library, was brought up in a baseball-loving family.
“Before I even met Steve my father was a big Chicago Cubs fan,” says Diane. “My mother was from St. Louis and a Cardinals fan.”
Steve, who lived across the alley from Diane’s grandparents, met his future bride in high school.
Cade grew up spending plenty of time at his grandparents’ house. When he was young, Woodrow Wilson teacher Amanda dropped him her son at Steve and Diane’s and his grandmother took him to DeVaney.
“(Cade) and Grandpa played I don’t know how much catch in our cul de sac,” says Diane.
Being part of a family filled with educators has not been lost on Cade.
“Not only has it helped me on the field but in the classroom as well,” says Cade.
It doesn’t hurt that he has ready access to facilities thanks to his dad’s job.
“Education has always been our focus,” says Amanda Moore. “You’re here to get an education first and then you can participate in extracurricular activities.
“Cade’s always been a pretty good student though it took a little bit of guidance in kindergarten and first grade.”
Says Scott, “Fortunately he had some good habits and worked through some things. (As an only child), my wife and I were able to focus on him. There was tough love. I wouldn’t say we spoiled him.”
Being six years younger than brother Kyle, Amanda tagged along or begged out when he had games when they were youngsters. She was a gymnast and then a diver at South Vigo.
“Not until Cade started playing baseball did I have any interest in it,” says Amanda. “One great thing about having Cade involved in baseball for so many years is the friendships. These people have become almost like family.
“Some of the parents are like an aunt and uncle to Cade and vice versa. We travel together. We’ve supported each other when one child has been injured.
“It’s been nice to develop those almost familial relationships with those other people and children.”
Amanda has watched her son learn life lessons through sports. While in junior high he was on the track team and did not like it. But there was no quitting the team.
“When you make a commitment you can not back out of that,” says Amanda. “Taking the easy way out is not going to teach you anything about life.
“My brother has shown that loyalty is an important value to have and develop even through the tough times.”
Amanda also sees similarities in her son and nephew and notices a similar dynamic between her husband and son and her brother and his son.
“I can see the competitive edge and desire to work hard,” says Amanda. “I can see that mirror in Koby and Cade. They want to win and are willing to work hard.
“Kyle and Scott walk that fine line between being a coach and dad and not showing any favoritism.
“Sometimes dad is tougher on their own child than they are on their own players.”
Kelly Dumas, a retired teacher who saw Kyle first play T-ball at age 3 and make tin-foil balls to throw around the house when it was too cold to go outside, has been to diamonds all over the place and made friendships with players and their families.
“We’ve enjoyed 50 years of baseball,” says Kelly. “I just like to watch all the different players come through and follow what they do afterward. It’s good to see both my grandsons be successful
“We’ve been so many places with Koby, especially when he played for the (Terre Haute) Rex (the summer collegiate team that will be managed in 2021 by former big league slugger and Kyle Kraemer player A.J. Reed). We went to little towns with old wooden stadiums.
“Cade’s been working very hard to be the best he can be.”
Koby Kraemer, who briefly played in the Toronto Blue Jays system after college, is now assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State University.
“We all love the game,” says Koby of the family’s affinity for baseball. “It plays a big part in our lives.
“The reason my dad has coached so long is because he loves it. The reason he’s successful is that he challenges people to be better.
“You get more out of them then they thought they had in them. That’s what makes good coaches.”
Besides April 30 (the Patriots won 8-5 at South Vigo) and May 7 at North Vigo, the rivals could meet three times this season. Both are in the IHSAA Class 4A Plainfield Sectional.
“We want to win in baseball, but we also want to be good people,” says Fessel, a 1996 North Harrison graduate. “I’m coaching young men to be husbands and fathers.
“Do what’s right even when no one’s watching.”
An assistant to Cody Johnson for three seasons, Fessel took over the Cougars program for the 2019 season.
Of course, the 2020 schedule was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was kind of heart-breaking,” says Fessel. “I contacted schools in Harrison and Crawford counties to see if they wanted to put together a Senior Day. We had a date set. Then there were more stipulations and no visitors were allowed on-campus.
“It was even more of a gut punch.”
A member of the North Harrison Class of 2020 — Dawson Howell — did go to Vincennes University to play baseball. Colin Higdon (Class of 2021) has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College.
Other Cougars to move on to college ball include 2019 grads Justin Deatrick (Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo.) and Jake Harley (Kentucky Wesleyan College) and 2018 grad Max Flock (Vincennes U.).
During fall and winter workouts, North Harrison players have worked on their glove work — back hands, forehands etc. There’s been plyo-ball and core work. They’ve also gotten into the school’s hitting facility to polish their mechanics.
“We got outside as much as we could,” says Fessel. “We did long toss and get our arm strength.
“With missing last year, I feel we got put behind the 8-ball.”
Once things opened up again in the summer, a few of Fessel’s players got to play travel ball. But the majority of them did not see game action on the diamond though there was some practice in July.
“It was just fun to be outside more than anything,” says Fessel. “We were getting re-connected. It felt like we couldn’t see them for the longest time.”
During the shutdown, Fessel and his players stayed in-touch through group chats. To keep the boys’ minds sharp, he coach offered scenarios from the baseball case book. He’d ask, “What’s the call on this?”
“I was testing their I.Q. and keeping them baseball-minded,” says Fessel. “We were trying to keep upbeat and stay ready during that COVID time. Then they shut it all down.
“A lot of (players) shut down themselves and I really worried about them.”
The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. North Harrison has won nine sectional championships — the last in 2015.
Fessel’s 2021 assistant coaches include Tony Waynescott (varsity), John Miller (junior varsity) and volunteers Chris Koutsoubos and Micah Napper.
North Harrison plays its games on campus on a field that’s dimensions are larger than many high school facilities — 320 feet down the foul lines, 365 in gaps and 390 to dead center field.
“We don’t see a lot of home runs,” says Fessel, who says baseballs used in 2021 will need to be approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
Fessel says the Cougars’ field is expected to see a new wind screen this spring.
A middle school club baseball team is part of North Harrison’s feeder program. Ideally, there are enough players for separate seventh and eighth grade teams who play in a league filled with Hoosier Hills Conference feeder schools.
Since the middle school shares the same field with the high school, there is a movement to get a Pony League diamond built at the North Harrison Cal Ripken complex. The youth league for Grades K-6 tends to have about 220 participants.
Fessel played baseball for Danny Schmidt and football for Chuck Walker — both still North Harrison teachers.
Both men set an example about work ethic.
“Danny was one of those guys who were there all the time,” says Fessel. “He worked hard. That stuck with me.
It was at Franklin that Fessel met Michelle Knoll. The couple will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July and have three children — Brody (16), Bryce (13) and Abigail (9).
North Harrison sophomore Brody Fessel is likely to be the Cougars’ starting catcher in 2021. He is also a varsity basketball player and football manager. Seventh grader Bryce Fessel plays football, basketball and is on the middle school baseball team. Third grader Abigail Fessel plays softball.
Since earning his History degree from Franklin and teaching certification at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Kevin has been an educator and football coach.
He taught for nine years at Highland Hills Middle Schools (part of the Floyd Central system) and is in his sixth year at North Harrison Middle School, where he teaches eighth grade U.S. History.
Fessel was on the varsity football staff at North Harrison 2000-08 — the last five assisting Jason Mullis. The 2009 season was spent with Brian Glesing at Floyd Central for coaching at Floyd Central Middle School 2010-14. In 2015, he returned to North Harrison. His primary responsibility on Mark Williamson’s staff is defensive line.
The Battle rages Aug. 1-Sept. 13 with games contested Wednesday through Sunday at Florence’s UC Health Stadium and Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Claycamp, who commuted from Columbus to begin the season, has made arrangements for an Airbnb in Lexington. When the Legends play in Florence, he stays with family friends in the Lawrenceburg/Sunman, Ind., area.
Ellis, a Jeffersonville High School graduate, played at the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. The third baseman plays home games only for the Legends and Leyengas.
Thompson (Floyd Central) is a 6-6 right-hander who was at Louisville and in the Detroit Tigers organization. He was in indy ball at Sussex County in 2019.
Right-hander Talcott (McCutcheon) last pitched for Earlham College in 2019.
Outfielder Baker played at Ball State University and was in independent ball in the American Association in 2019 (Texas and Kansas City).
Righty Dougherty (Morgan Township) pitched for Grace College before taking the mound in the United Shores Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich.
Floyd (Jimtown) was at Ball State University and the righty hurled for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats in 2019.
While his primary position growing up and through college was shortstop, Claycamp has moved around the field.
“I’ve been a utility player my whole life,” says Claycamp.
At Columbus (Ind.) East High School, where he graduated in 2015, he was a shortstop as a freshman, shortstop and second baseman as a sophomore, third baseman as a junior and third baseman, shortstop and second baseman as a senior.
He played those same three spots in his one season at the University of Dayton (2016) and then was locked in at short in three campaigns at Franklin (2017-19). He helped the Grizzlies win back-to-back Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in his final two campaigns.
Claycamp was invited to pre-Major League Baseball Draft workouts by the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in, but was unable to attend with Franklin making the school’s deepest ever postseason run, reaching the regional final in Sequin, Texas.
After getting into eight games at NCAA Division I Dayton (two starts), Claycamp transferred to D-III Franklin and played in 128 contests for the Grizzlies. He hit .354 (174-of-491) with 20 home runs (tied for No. 9 in program history), 46 doubles (No. 5 all-time), 133 runs batted in (No. 6) and 143 runs scored (No. 4).
Right-handed pitcher Gray went on to Florida Gulf Coast University, the Colorado Rockies organization and is now in independent pro ball with the Milwaukee Milkmen.
Right-hander/outfielder Curry started at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When SJC school closed, he went to Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Anderson, a 6-foot-8 righty, pitched at Northern Illinois University.
Left-hander Brian Wichman was at Murray State University then hurled for the University of Indianapolis.
Catcher Christian Wichman played briefly at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., where he was also a football player.
Claycamp played in both Bartholomew County Little League (weekdays) and travel baseball (weekends) until he was in high school. Bartholomew County (now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County) won a state title when he was 12 and lost in the Great Lakes Regional championship. The winner went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Early travel ball teams were the Columbus Crush, Indiana Blazers and BCLL All-Stars. In high school, Claycamp donned the jerseys of the Indiana Redbirds, Indiana Outlaws and Johnson County/Indiana Jaguars.
Besides baseball, Sam played football until middle school. He was on the school basketball team through eighth grade then played intramural and church hoops.
His falls were dedicated to deer hunting.
David and Tammy Claycamp have two sons — Sam and Kobbe (22). David Claycamp is machine shop manager at Innovative Casting Technologies in Franklin. Tammy Claycamp is a teacher at Faith Lutheran Preschool in Columbus. Kobbe Claycamp played baseball and football at Columbus East. He was on the IHSAA Class 5A state championship team in 2017 and state runner-up squad in 2016. He also played club rugby in high school.
His first season leading the Screaming Eagles was 2007. Since then, USI has won nearly 500 games with a pair of NCAA Division II national championships (2010 and 2014).
Jeremy Kuester has been a part of much of it. The 2020 season — cut to 14 games by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic — was his 11th spring on the Southern Indiana coaching staff.
Kuester’s main responsibility?
“I make sure Coach Archuleta has everything in line,” says Kuester, who took the job in August 2009 after a playing career as an outfielder, first baseman and left-handed pitcher. “We both do everything. I work with pitchers 70 to 80 percent of the time. But he will go with the pitchers and I’ll go with the hitters.
“It’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes so we go back and forth — whatever we feel is most beneficial for the guys.”
Kuester has been asked many times what makes Archuleta a winner.
“What’s his secret sauce for success?,” says Kuester. “He connects with people really well. He can take a group of guys then pull the best out of each and every one of those guys.
“He’s a very intense, very driven individual with a lot of knowledge.”
Not that Archuleta won’t laugh on the diamond. He does like to do that on occasion.
“He knows when it’s time to joke around and time to be serious,” says Kuester.
“We make sure they’re aware of what they need to accomplish every single day,” says Kuester.
As recruiting coordinator, Kuester looks to bring as much talent to the program as possible.
He says the difference between D-II and D-I often comes down to depth. D-I tends to have more of it. Plus, D-I can give 11.7 scholarships per year and D-II can grant 9. Not fully-funded, USI tends to bestow between 6 and 7.
From a player’s’ perspective, he might also crack the lineup sooner at a D-II school.
“That’s biggest recruiting sell when going after junior college guys,” says Kuester. “Competition (for playing time) is less because the depth isn’t quite there.”
Kuester is not wishy-washy in his player evaluations.
“I’m not the kind of recruiter that leaves question marks,” says Kuester. “I’m blunt. I’m straight to the point. I tell them exactly what I think.”
The pandemic has made planning for the future less cut-and-dried.
When it looked like the season would be at least be put on hold, Southern Indiana (6-8) was coming off a pair of games in Pensacola, Fla. Coaches would try to sort through contingencies and scenarios, which seemed to change daily.
“Nobody was prepared for this,” says Kuester. “The hardest part for us is communicating things with our guys. They see things online before its official. Administrators don’t have the answers either.
“Finally, we (as coaches) decided to sit back and wait. It’s out of our control right now.”
Kuester says the majority of returning players were hoping to play summer baseball. With some leagues canceling (about 10 USI leagues were going to play in the Ohio Valley League), they have been looking for opportunities. Leagues are expected to form at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and in Louisville.
“We want them to find some place where they can play the game a little bit,” says Kuester. “A lot of our guys have went and got jobs for the summer.”
Southern Indiana coaches have suggested for nearly 40 players to keep active and make the best of their situation.
“But we don’t know what they’ve done for the past two months,” says Kuester. “That’s the scariest thing. We want to make sure these guys are going to be healthy. It’s more risky for pitchers than position players.”
The last day of classes for USI was Wednesday, May 6. The term ended with weeks of online instruction.
“It’s not the easiest thing in the world,” says Kuester. “And I was only teaching one class this eight weeks.”
Besides coaching, Kuester is on the faculty and has taught introduction to kinesiology or an activity class (hiking, badminton etc.). He earned a masters degree in Public Administration from Southern Indiana in 2012.
Jeremy and Ashley Kuester were wed in September 2009. She is a nurse practitioner with in Evansville. The couple has three children — first-grader Bryce (7), kindergartener Alli (5) and Colton (3). At their Rockport house, built in 2017, internet access is spotty, making eLearning with Bryce a challenge.
Jeremy slowly downloads YouTube videos for his son to watch and helps him with his homework. When completed, they take a picture with the school-supplied iPad and upload it.
Jeremy’s father — Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Brian Kuester — is the Rebels head coach.
“I never thought about him as my dad,” says Jeremy of the time spent playing for Brian. “He never coached me growing up. Whatever the coach says is what you do. When we were on the field I called him Coach.
“It was coach-player relationship at home even during those four years.”
Baseball discussions did happen away from the diamond.
“He’s say you need to improve on this — not in a negative way, just trying to get better.”
Jeremy recalls his last high school game while teammates were sitting around and lamenting the end of the season.
“Dad gave me a big hug and said I’m proud of you,” says Jeremy. “I’ll never forget that.”
Brian Kuester and his father, Ivan, had also been assistant coaches at USI. That’s when Larry Shown was head coach.
Brian and Debbie Kuester’s four children are Jeremy, Shawn, Nathan and Katie. Shawn played baseball at the University of Evansville and Nathan at USI. Katie played softball at Olney Central College.
While 2020 was Lillipop’s 19th as KWC head coach, he was a young in the profession when Kuester played for him.
“You could tell was still trying to figure out how he was going to be as a coach,” says Kuester. “He’s done at real good job of maturing as a coach over the years.
“He’s a really good, genuine person.”
Kuester first met Lillpop when another South Spencer graduate played for the Panthers. Kuester opted to transfer there to continue being a two-way player.
He earned a Sports Studies degree from Kentucky Wesleyan.
The Kuester family of Rockport, Ind., includes father Jeremy, mother Ashley and (clockwise from left) Bryce, Alli and Colton. Jeremy Kuester is an assistant baseball coach and faculty member at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.
University of Southern Indiana baseball assistant coach Jeremy Kuester (center) makes a mound visit. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)
Jeremy Kuester (center) has been on the University of Southern Indiana baseball coaching staff of Tracy Archuleta (left) since August 2009. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)
Jeremy Kuester has been an assistant baseball coach at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville since the 2010 season. He is also on the USI faculty and has a master’s degree from the school. (University of Southern Indiana Photo)
Born in Japan in 1992, Shawn is the son of Steven and Kimiko Kahre and the older brother of Ken Kahre (23). The family moved to Terre Haute when he was a toddler, went back to Japan then moved to Vincennes when Shawn was 7.
Kahre ((pronounced CAR-ee) was a three-year starter in the outfielder for head coach Brandon Pfoff and assistant Tim Hutchison (who is now head coach) during his Lincoln playing days. He was the team MVP in 2010 and hit .423 as a senior. He pitched a little on the junior varsity as a sophomore.
“(Pfoff) was a good coach,” says Kahre of the man he led Vincennes to an IHSAA Class 3A state title in 2002. “He always pushed his players to be the best. He was always enthusiastic and made me a better player overall.”
After high school, Kahre played and coached for several teams.
As a righty-swinging 6-foot-4 outfielder, Kahre took the diamond in 2012 and 2013 for Vincennes University.
“(Trailblazers head coach Chris Barney) gave me the chance to play college baseball,” says Kahre. “He’s very positive and let me do my own thing.”
Ryan Anderson was VU’s assistant at the time as was also helpful to Kahre, who hit .270 as a Blazers freshman and .283 as a sophomore.
The summer of 2013 saw Kahre suit up for the Owensboro (Ky.) Oilers of the Ohio Valley League. The manager of the collegiate squad was Aaron Biddle (then head coach at Brescia University).
Near the end of the season, with the Oilers short on pitchers and Owensboro down by several runs, Biddle put Kahre into a game on the mound.
Now a college pitcher, he threw from different angles including submarine style and experimented with pitches.
“It’s something I developed,” says Kahre. “It started as a joke and turned into reality.”
“It got better with more repetition,” says Kahre. “I got to face a lot of great (NCAA) D-I hitters.”
Kahre was strictly a reliever in his senior year at Kentucky Wesleyan in 2015. He had six mound appearances in 2014 with a 4.70 earned run average and one strikeout in 7 2/3 innings. In 2015, he was 1-0 with 3.09 ERA with four K’s in 11 2/3 innings over seven games.
The Carolina Virginia Collegiate League was able to have a couple graduated seniors on each roster and Kahre (who earned a fitness and sports management degree at KWC) along with KWC teammate Matt Pobereyko pitched for the Catawba Valley Stars in the summer of 2015.
The spring of 2016 saw Kahre back in Charlotte, N.C., playing for College of Faith and coach Thomas Eaton. This postgraduate academy helped him stay in game shape for the summer.
Marvin Speaks, Catawba Valley’s manager and general manager of the independent Pecos League’s White Sands Pupfish, and was impressed enough with Kahre to invite him to play for club managed by his son, Mickey Speaks, in Alamogordo, N.M.
The Pecos League had pitchers released from affiliated minor league baseball that threw in the low to mid 90s. Playing by National League rules, pitchers got to hit and Kahre batted .417 (5-of-12) while pitching 20 innings and going 0-1.
Looking for his next baseball opportunity, Kahre went to the California Winter League in January and February of 2017. He did not get signed by a team and decided to retire as a player.
In the summer of 2017, Kahre became an assistant coach at Vincennes U., and served the Trailblazers as pitching coach during the 2018 season.
“Throw as much as possible,” says Kahre. “Every guy is different.”
Kahre favored long toss when he was a pitcher for how it helped him build arm strength.
In the fall of 2017, Kahre was hired as an associate scout with the New York Mets. In that role, he would file reports with an area scout if he ran across a player who he thought had pro potential.
Fabian (now a Cincinnati Reds area scout) also worked with the pitchers. Lawson (who played in the Seattle Mariners system and is now a Tampa Bay Rays area scout) and Davis (who played at Florida State University and in the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres organizations) share hitting coach duties.
Kahre kept track of pitches and bullpen sessions and monitored the programs that hurlers had been assigned by their respective schools.
Travis Akre was manager of the Northwoods League’s Lakeshore Chinooks (Mequon, Wis.) in 2018. Also head coach at Ellsworth Community College (Iowa Falls, Iowa), Akre hired Kahre to be the Panthers pitching coach for the 2019 season.
When Akre left Ellsworth, Kahre came back to Vincennes, got a full-time job at Toyota in Princeton, Ind., and became an assistant to Hutchison at Lincoln.
“(Hutchison) also saw potential in me,” says Kahre. “He is another guy who gave me confidence. He’s a hard worker. He’s always studying the game.
“I’m looking forward to next season.”
The 2020 season was wiped out by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
While there are no live games to see, Kahre has used the quarantine time to get better as a scout.
“I’m working on making my reports better,” says Kahre, who sends his findings to area scout Mike Medici. “I’m getting more organized and changing my format. I’m learning better terminology when describing players.”
Kahre is viewing video and finding out about different types of players.
Shawn Kahre delivers a pitch for the Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex during Prospect League play in the summer of 2014. Kahre is a graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School, Vincennes University and Kentucky Wesleyan University and now an assistant baseball coach at Lincoln and an associate scout for the Texas Rangers. (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Shawn Kahre was a baseball player and an assistant coach at Vincennes (Ind.) University. He is a 2011 graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School, where he is now an baseball assistant coach. He is also an associate coach for the Texas Rangers. (Vincennes University Photo)
Four years later, the right-hander was and pitching in the big leagues. He wound up being 6-2 and 195. He was a professional pitcher from 2004-14.
Along the way, Wade developed clean mechanics and the ability to repeat them.
“As I got bigger and stronger, the velocity went up,” says Wade, who appeared with the Dodgers in 2008 and 2009 and the New York Yankees in 2011 and 2012 and played in the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals organizations as well as a some time with the independent Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers.
Jay Lehr also works with pitchers at Pro X Athlete in Westfield, Ind., and Wade began getting lessons from him around age 11.
As an instructor himself, Wade teaches the mechanics of the pitching delivery. But he also focuses on the “C” word.
“It’s about being competitive,” says Wade. “If you compete, good things happen. It’s really that simple.
“You’re getting the most out of what you’re doing that day.”
Wade says pitchers — baseball players — must grind and overcome adversity. That approach will also carry them outside the white lines of the diamond.
“It shapes you mentally for later in life,” says Wade. “(It helps when) you’re trying to get a promotion in corporate America.”
Wade played in the highest level of baseball — the big leagues — but Wade says you can be competitive at every level.
“You’d be amazed where that will take you,” says Wade.
Making steady progress is key.
“It’s hard for any kid to see where they’re going to be in five years,” says Wade. “You have to get a little bit better each day
“You make micro-adjustments over time. If you shrink these kids’ (immediate) goals and expectations, it makes it easier to digest.”
As a pro scout for the Padres, Wade is assigned to follow players — Low Class-A through the majors — with the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays. Other pro scouts in the system have MLB organizations that they follow.
“We compile as much information as we can about guys we like,” says Wade, who is required to file 25 reports every five days. He can set his own schedule and will flies more than amateur scouts typically do to see players for multiple games.
“You have to see them a few days before you remotely know who they are,” says Wade. “Position guys more difficult. They might be off (when you see them). They might have bad series or a good series. You have to filter through that.”
While the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic currently has baseball shut down and Wade at home with his family (wife Mikaeala, 12-year-old daughter Amaya, a sixth grader, and 6-year-old son Camden, a kindergartner) in Zionsville, Ind., he typically spends 25 days in spring training between Florida and Arizona and then sees about 100 games from early April until the July 31 trade deadline. August and September is devoted to following up and seeing players that might have been missed April through July.
Cory Wade, a graduate of Indianapolis Broad Ripple High School who played at Kentucky Wesleyan College, played in the big leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees and is now a pro scout with the San Diego Padres. (Getty Images)
Matt Kennedy is back home again in Indiana after spending a few years coaching baseball in Florida.
The Lafayette native joined the staff at Butler University in Indianapolis in January. He is instructing catchers, infielders and hitters, helping pitching coach Ben Norton with recruiting, assisting with camps and clinics and office duties.
“It’s a group effort here,” says Kennedy. “We make sure we are all on the same page.”
Head coach Dave Schrage’s Bulldogs open the 2020 season Feb. 14-16 in Lexington, S.C., with two games each against North Carolina A&T and George Mason. Butler is a member of the Big East Conference.
Kennedy appreciates that Schrage values player development and promotes a family atmosphere.
“It’s about getting guys better and fundamentals,” says Kennedy of Schrage. “He’s a pitching and defense guy and believes in attention to details. He emphasizes base running, which a little bit of a lost art.
“We have a family feel within our clubhouse. He wants to make sure you get home and spend time with your kids. He knows how important that is, especially with the season right around the corner.”
Kennedy has has three children in West Lafayette. Son Karson Kennedy (16) is a junior catcher at Harrison High School, where Pat Lowrey is head coach. Daughter Emilyne (13) is a gymnast and a seventh grader at Battle Ground Middle School. Daughter Jolee (9) is a third grader at Battle Ground Elementary.
“Rick is phenomenal,” says Kennedy. “He believes in the importance of work ethic and that blue collar feel.
“It’s made (going to Butler) an easy transition for me. (O’Dette) was so family-oriented with the team. Players were caring for each other playing for each other. He knew the importance of team and not the ‘I’ factor. He demanded a lot, but you see the rewards of that.”
That’s the way it was at Saint Joseph’s, where alum O’Dette was head coach for 17 years.
“I’m one of them,” says Kennedy. “(O’Dette) is instilling that culture down at Saint Leo.”
Kennedy began his high school baseball career at Lafayette Central Catholic High School. He was bumped up from the junior varsity to the varsity, took a baseball to the face which required reconstructive surgery and ended his freshmen season early.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Assocation Hall of Famer’s expectations were high for Kennedy and the rest of the Mavericks.
“He saw a lot more in me in what I thought I could do — both as a person and a player,” says Kennedy of Burton. “Jake was great for me. I owe that man a lot. Without his influence, I definitely wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.”
Kennedy learned to never be truly satisfied as a player and has carried that into his coaching career, holding himself and his athletes to a high standard.
“You can always learn, always get better,” says Kennedy. “You see there’s little more in there (with players). You have to figure out a way to get them out of them.”
Burton expected his players to work hard, be good people, follow the rules and be accountable for themselves and their actions. They had to make good decisions or they couldn’t be a part of the McCutcheon program.
“That put me in the right direction,” says Kennedy. “It put me with a good group of friends that I still talk to today.”
McVey demanded much from his players and kept them on-task.
“He was a planner,” says Kennedy, who is among the Kentucky Wesleyan career leaders in fielding percentage and assists. “We knew everyday what we were doing. These are the goals of the day and this is what we want to accomplish.”
Like O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s, Lillpop became a college head coach at a young age and learned on the fly.
“He stressed the importance of working everyday and improving,” says Kennedy of Lillpop. “As a team, we had some success.”
The Owensboro-based KWC Panthers made their conference tournament for the first time in well over a decade and turned the program around.
Kennedy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Kentucky Wesleyan in 2003. He began his coaching career as a KWC assistant in 2004.
After his first stop at Saint Joseph’s, he was an assistant to Bob Warn in the Hall of Famer’s last season leading the Indiana State University program.
“He cared so much for that place,” says Kennedy of Warn. “Everything he did was for the good of Indiana State baseball. His legacy there is going to be forever. Guys played hard for him and he was great to work for.
“As a young coach, you think you know more than you do. It’s good to keep your mouth shut and your ears open and you’re going to learn a lot more. (Warn) opened my eyes. There are a lot of different ways to do things.”
After his second tenure at Saint Joseph’s, Kennedy took over the reins at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill. (2009-13). His first four teams went 49-9, 50-13, 43-11 and 40-20. The 2009 Cobras, featuring future Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Divison II World Series.
Kiermaier was primarily a shortstop when he came to Parkland. Kennedy, wishing to get some more repetitions for his infielders, asked Kiemaier to move to center field during a fall game. He later told him his path to the next level would be at that position.
Before being selected in the 31st round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Kiemaier was a two-time NJCAA All-American.
“His athleticism was unmatched,” says Kennedy of Kiermaier. “It was fun to watch him out there.”
From spring to fall of 2013, Kennedy was briefly an assistant at High Point (N.C.) University for head coach Chris Cozart.
With his parents in declining health, he decided to move back to the Midwest.
When Isom became manager of the independent Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers, he invited Kennedy to be his hitting coach. He served in that role during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
“Pro ball is something that always intrigued me a little bit,” says Kennedy. “I checked it out for a couple years.
“I missed the college end of things.”
So he went back with O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s.
And now he’s back in Indiana, doing his best to develop players at Butler.
Matt Kennedy, a Lafayette, Ind., native, has joined the baseball coaching staff at Butler University in Indianapolis. His previous job was as an assistant at Saint Leo (Fla.) University. (Butler University Photo)