Brock Boynton came from a very successful prep baseball program and he’s experienced more of the same in college. The 2019 graduate of Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., where the Kingsmen have won five state titles and numerous conference, sectional, regional and semistate crowns, landed at NCAA Division II dynamo Quincy (Ill.) University. The Hawks (44-9 overall, 27-5 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2023) are on a 14-game win streak after winning the GLVC tournament and host a D-II Midwest Region tournament Thursday to Saturday, May 18-20. The winner of the event that also includes Wayne State and Northwood moves on to a best-of-three super regional for a chance to compete in the D-II World Series June 3-10 in Cary, N.C. Quincy, which calls QU Stadium (built in 1938 under the Works Project Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt), is No. 4 in the Collegiate Baseball D-II poll and No. 1 in the NCAA Midwest D-II rankings. A lefty batting and throwing senior center fielder, Boyton has played in 51 games (50 starts) and is hitting .294 (52-of-177) with eight home runs, eight doubles, 41 runs batted in, 42 runs scored and an .849 OPS (.374 on-base percentage plus .475 slugging average). Quincy opened the 2023 season in Florida and went 4-3 against traditional D-II powers Tampa, Saint Leo and Rollins. Boynton hit .387 (12-of-31) on the trip. “I felt pretty good,” says Boynton of that start. “I came back up (north) and struggled a little bit. “I’m just trying to ride the wave — not get too high or get too low — and just take one pitch at a time. It know there are times coming up where the team is going to need you. This is playoff baseball. Every pitch counts. It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting or on defense, you’ve got to put everything aside. It’s a new season. I’m going up the plate every single time to do a job for my team. “Our inside joke for our hitters is “The Union: We do jobs.” During his four-year QU career, Boynton has been in 161 games (157 starts) and is hitting .304 (164-of-539) with 16 homers, 22 doubles, 104 RBIs, 122 runs and an .847 OPS (.398/.449). With Boynton on the team, Quincy is 120-55. Boynton really takes satisfaction from his impact on defense. “It’s everything,” says Boynton. “Because baseball is a very hard sport and you’ve got guys being paid millions of dollars to fail 7 out of 10 times. A buddy always told me, ‘Your offense will always come and go, but your defense can always stay.’ That has always sat with me. “I take so much pride in the outfield and being that leader in center field. To take runs away (from the other team) and be there for your pitcher. My nickname on the team is ‘Golden Retriever.’ I’m going to chase down that ball for you.” Among his favorite MLB players are Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. “You look at photos of me back in rec ball and I had the eye black nearly down to my chin,” says Boynton. “Those are two guys I model my game on.” Quincy’s head coach for Boynton’s first two seasons was Josh Rabe (who played 38 games in the majors with the Minnesota Twins in 2006 and 2007). Matt Schissel has guided the program the past two. “The knowledge that (Rabe) has is unbelievable,” says Boynton of the man who is now Quincy’s athletic director. “That dude has seen a lot of baseball. I tried to be a sponge around him. “(Hitting coach/recruiting coordinator) Chandler Purcell played for Josh. He has done an excellent job.” The 2023 Hawks are led by junior catcher and GLVC Player of the Year Luke Napleton (.359, 27 homers, 83 RBIs). “Our lineup is very scary because 1 through 9 can change the game in one swing,” says Boynton. “That’s what sets us apart from any other team we play.” Boynton, who turns 23 in July, received his diploma Monday, May 15 and graduated with a Sport Management degree. Though he is entitled to a fifth season, his plan is to play this summer for the Northwoods League’s Kokomo (Ind.) Jackrabbits and try to make his way into independent pro baseball. “I’m putting all my chips out on the table and betting on myself this season and this summer,” says Hobbs. “I know I have the tools to play at the next level.” Johnston Hobbs, who earned a Master of Kinesiology degree from Indiana University, has been named as Kokomo head coach/manager for 2023. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder spent the summer of 2022 honing his game at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind. He was briefly with the 2021 Quincy Gems of the Prospect League and spent 2020 with the Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo (Mich.) Mac Daddies. Boynton was born in South Bend, Ind., and grew up on the south side of Osceola, Ind. He started organized baseball at what is now Penn Park in Osceola through 12U and moved on to Harris Township Black, the Granger Irish (coached by father Brad Boynton and Rick Berg) and then in high school the South Bend Cubs Elite. “There were all the same faces in high school and travel ball which is awesome,” says Boynton. A stint with the Illinois-based 29ers (now Midwest Hitmen) for a tournament in Georgia is how he got connected to Quincy. At Penn, Boynton played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos. “Coach Dikos will go down as one of the best baseball coaches I’ve ever had in my life,” says Boynton. “That man means the world to me. “He’s a Founding Father of 574 Baseball in my opinion. There’s no other coach in (north central) Indiana that has the accolades that man has.” Besides all the rings, Dikos has amassed more than 800 career victories. A memory for Boynton is Dikos bringing out a training device when he wanted the Kingsmen — on the way to a school record number of home runs — to level out their upper-cut swings. “We were hitting too many pop flies,” says Boynton. “With this flat red tee if you didn’t have a flat swing you were busting your bat or you were busting this tee. You either hit the ball on the ground or it became a line drive.” Guess what Quincy, a team that has D-II-leading 118 home runs, uses? “Every single day here we use that flat red tee,” says Boynton. “I thought I’d never see it again since leaving high school.” Boynton also shined for Penn on the gridiron. He caught a game-winning touchdown at Elkhart Central and was featured on ESPN and saluted by Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss during his “You Got Mossed!” segment in October 2018. The same fall, Boynton committed to Quincy for baseball. He was invited to play football at QU as a receiver/kick returner but decided to focus on the diamond. “I love football,” says Boynton. “That is a different side of me. I had a lot more offers for baseball. The fact that my parents don’t have to pay a single cent for me to go to school here is the cherry on top.” Even though it’s a 770-mile roundtrip from Osceola to Quincy and back and closest GLVC school (Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill.) is 117 miles one-way, Brad and Stephanie Boynton are able to get to all of Brock’s games. Brad Boynton was a sophomore starting center fielder on the Kingsmen’s first state championship team in 1994. He now works at Hoosier Spring Company in South Bend. Stephanie Boynton owns Artistic Hair in South Bend. Younger brother Hunter Boynton (Penn Class of 2021) was a high school wrestler and is now an electrician for Weaver Electric & Heating Corp., in Mishawaka.
“I was just getting them work out there.” That was the response of Ben Gregory when he was told that he had so many fly-ball outs behind him in tossing a three-hitter to help Penn (26-6) beat Indianapolis Cathedral 3-0 in a clash of unranked teams for the IHSAA Class 4A state baseball title Saturday, June 18 in the 2022 State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis. The senior right-hander got Fighting Irish batters to fly out nine times with seven strikeouts, one pop-up, one line-out and a groundout (the the 21st and final out). He faced 24 batters and threw 84 pitches. He retired the side in the seventh with a line-out, strikeout and groundout. “I was trying to keep them off-balance,” said Gregory, who helped the Kingsmen to their fifth state crown (1994, 1998, 2001, 2015, 2022). “I had curveball and change-up working most of the game and I was keeping the fastball higher in the (strike) zone so (Cathedral hitters) were getting under it a little bit.” Sophomore Patrick Mazur produced a one-hit single and sophomore J.T. Stiner was hit by a Gregory pitch with two outs before the Penn pitcher got a rally-squelching strikeout in the Irish first. “This is easily the biggest game I’ve ever pitched in my entire life,” said Gregory. “Being able to come off that little bit of adversity definitely calmed me down. “Once we scored in the bottom of the first I knew we were in control of the game.” Gregory, who had elbow surgery in the off-season, not only got to loft the state championship trophy Saturday. But he was named winner of the Bob Gardner Mental Attitude Award. “I’ve dealt with a lot,” said Gregory. “Nine months ago I had no idea if I’d ever play again. “Just being put up for that award means so much because my coached trusted me to be the recipient. I truly love the coaching staff.” Greg Dikos has been Penn’s head coach for 35 years and all of the state titles (and a runner-up finish in 2017). He talked about his hurler and his team. “One of (Gregoy’s) most-effective traits is changing speeds,” said Dikos. “Last year that was his bread and butter — that change-up. That would fool a lot of hitters and get them to pop up. It’s a wicked pitch. “I’m just so happy. I never thought in the world he was going to make it seven innings. He hasn’t pitched seven innings all year.” What’s championship No. 5 mean? “It’s different (with each one),” said Dikos. “One for the thumb. They’re all special. “It’s humbling. I watch the kids how they practice, develop that team chemistry and just work their butts off and start playing for one another.” Senior right-handed submariner Ben Gomez tossed all six innings for the Irish and gave up six singles with one strikeout and three walks over 76 pitches. “We didn’t exactly know what to expect from (Gomez),” said Dikos. “We tried to mimic (the delivery) at practice. “I preach that we’ve got to take what they give you. If they pitch outside you’ve got to scrap and grind and go the opposite way.” Penn went down in order in the sixth against Gomez with a strikeout and two fly-outs. A one-out single by junior Carson Johnson was followed by a strikeout and an inning-ending fielder’s choice in the Cathedral sixth. The Kingsmen left the bases loaded in a score-free fifth. The third out came when junior Irish shortstop Kyuss Gargett made a diving stop on a ball hit up the middle and beat the runner to the second base bag for a force-out. The Irish had two fly-outs and pop-up in going down in order in the fifth. Penn got one run in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. Junior Evan Tuesley led off with a single, moved to second base on junior Colton Hudnall’s sacrifice bunt and scored on senior Zach Hoskins’ two-out single. Cathedral (18-11-2) went down 1-2-3 in the fourth with fly-outs to center, right and left. Gomez coaxed the Kingsmen into three groundouts and were not hurt by an error in the bottom of the third. Cathedral went down on three fly-outs in the third, including a sprinting grab by right fielder Tuesley for the final out of the stanza. Penn’s edge moved to 2-0 with a run in the second. Gregory poked a lead-off single. Junior courtesy runner Mason Campbell stole second base, moved to third base on Hudnall’s single and crossed the plate on junior Cooper Hums’ groundout. The frame ended with the bases loaded. Gregory yielded a single to sophomore Chris Klug then picked him off first base for the first out of a score-free Irish second. Gregory fanned the next two hitters. Penn scored the game’s first run in its half the first for a 1-0 lead. Hoskins led off with a single, stole second base, moved to third base on a groundout and crossed the plate thanks to a passed ball. Cathedral left two runners in a scoreless first. “There were three or four ball that were hit really well but just right at somebody,” said sixth-year Cathedral coach Ed Freje of his team’s offensive night. “That’s baseball. They made some really good plays and we were beat by a really solid pitcher.” The Irish were going for a fourth state championship — the most-recent being a 4-3 win in eight innings against Penn in 2017. Cathedral now has six runner-up finishes.
The 55th IHSAA State Finals for baseball is returning to a Friday-Saturday format with two games each day at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. On Friday, June 17, the Class 2A game pits No. 7-ranked Centerville (21-5) against unranked Illiana Christian (21-7) at 5:30 p.m. ET/4:30 CT. Both teams are making their first State Finals appearance. Centerville has outscored opponents 38-20 in five postseason games. Illiana Christian has a run differential of 62-6 in six games. The 3A game features No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit (26-4) against No. 1 Andrean (30-4) at 8 ET/7 CT. The Braves have earned one state runner-up finish in 3A (2012), the 59ers seven state titles (2005, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) and one runner-up (2003). Tournament run differential — Brebeuf 47-5 in six games, Andrean 49-6 in five games. On Saturday, June 18, the 1A title contest is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 CT and includes vote-getter Tecumseh (19-12) and No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic (26-6). The Braves won it all in 1A in 2003 while the Knights have carted off the state trophy on seven occasions (2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). Tournament run differential — Tecumseh 58-15 in six games, Lafayette Central Catholic 62-7 in five games. The 4A championship is slated for 8 ET/7 CT and pits a pair of unranked clubs — Indianapolis Cathedral (18-10-2) against Penn (25-6). The Irish have reigned three times (2001 in 3A, 2007 and 2017 in 4A) with five runner-up finishes (2006, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2018). The Kingsmen have four state crowns to their credit (1994 in the pre-class era, 1998, 2001 and 2015 in 4A) with one runner-up (2017). Tournament run differential — Cathedral 59-27 in five games, Penn 33-12 in six games. Andrean’s Dave Pishkur, Lafayette Central Catholic’s Tim Bordenet, Penn’s Greg Dikos are all members of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A capsule look at the finalists:
Class 4A Indianapolis Cathedral Top hitters: Jr. Kyuss Gargett (.395 average, 3 home runs, 18 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases), So. Carson Johnson (.389, 20 RBI, 12 SB), So. J.T. Stiner (.364, 2 HR, 30 RBI), Sr. Ben Gomez (.342, 2 HR), So. Patrick Mazur (.341, 21 RBI), 13 SB, Jr. David Ayers (.247, 18 RBI, 16 SB), Sr. Connor Hall (15 SB). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Ben Gomez (5-1, 36 strikeouts, 15 walks, 3.55 earned run average, 51 1/3 IP), Sr. RHP Dylan Haslett (3-3, 3.58, 56 K’s, 25 walks, 43 IP). Cathedral won the Pike Sectional (Pike 11-1, Lawrence North 10-8), New Palestine Regional (Anderson 14-4, New Palestine 11-7) and Mooresville Semistate (Columbus East 13-7). The Fighting Irish have won a season-best seven in a row. Saturday’s game against Penn recalls the 2017 4A championship game (a 4-3 Cathedral victory). Bishop Chatard bested the Irish in the 2022 city championship game May 10 at Victory Field. Cathedral head coach Ed Freje (Sixth season, 113-32-5) says: “We’ve struggled early and throughout to kind of find our identity on the mound and some pieces that worked offensively for us. We had some bad losses. We had some good wins. It was kind of an up-and-down year … Ben Gomez threw a great game, a complete game (in a 3-2 Senior Night win May 16 against Mooresville). I don’t know if that was a turning point, but I think it definitely gave the guys confidence to beat a good opponent. It was some momentum to build on going into the postseason … We make it a priority (to play a competitive schedule). We definitely want to play and see good teams to see where we’re at early and throughout the season — most importantly to see good pitching and challenge ourselves … We can learn from our wins and learn from our losses and grow through the season … Hopefully — along the way — we’re winning some games. Losing is something we try not to settle in too much in the program … We try to go out and compete everyday to win so you know the losses we took throughout weren’t easy, especially some of the lopsided ones (including 11-1 to Homestead, 17-1 to Center Grove and 18-8 to Franklin Community) … We’ve had games where we’ve had to battle and win in some ugly ways … One of the staples of the program when I was an assistant to Coach (Rich) Andriole was pitching and defense and holding opponents to low-scoring games and that — quite frankly — hasn’t been how we’ve won this year. We’ve been kind of fortunate to find some offense and find our bats here lately … Each team kind of takes its own identity and this isn’t the team from 2017 and it’s not the team from 2018 (which lost 4-3 to Fishers for the 4A title). This team is its own team. I’m proud of the way we’ve stuck together … It’s a special opportunity (to play at Victory Field). We try to tell our players it’s nothing to take for granted … It provides a little bit of reassurance the fact that we’ve been there.”
Penn Top hitters: Zach Hoskins (.412, 1 HR, 14 RBI), Jr. Cam Dombrowski (.409, 21 RBI), Sr. Ben Gregory (.373, 30 RBI), Jr. Adam Lehmann (.366, 20 RBI), Jr. Cooper Hums (.333, 2 HR, 16 RBI), Sr. Zac David (.313, 27 RBI), Jr. Evan Tuesley (.219, 2 HR, 11 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Ben Gregory (3-1, 2.07, 37 K’s, 8 walks, 27 IP), Jr. RHP Brayden Schoetzow (10-0, 1.37, 62 K’s, 14 walks, 51 IP), Jr. RHP Adam Lehmann (3-1, 1.64, 49 K’s, 16 walks, 34 IP), So. RHP Joe Trennery (4-2, 3.30, 49 K’s, 18 walks, 36 IP). Penn won the Penn Sectional (Elkhart 7-0, Warsaw 3-1, Northridge 7-5), LaPorte Regional (South Bend Adams 11-0, Lake Central 5-4) and LaPorte Semistate (Zionsville 4-2). The Kingsmen are in the state championship game for the sixth time coming off an 11-game win streak. Penn has won 14 of its last 15. Penn head coach Greg Dikos (35th season, 793-281) says: “I think it’s going to be very good baseball … (Cathedral) is pounding the ball pretty good. That’s one of the things we have to stop. They score a lot of runs. They look to have some team speed … Like we did for Zionsville, we’re going working on holding runners and with our catchers getting rid of he ball. You know, making sure we don’t allow them any free bases … We want them to take a look around and enjoy the atmosphere because this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (for our players). I also want to make sure they understand the responsibility on their shoulders. The community is expecting a ‘W.’ … (Competing for championships) is the culture here at Penn … (Assistant coach Jim Kominkiewicz) has been involved for all six (State Finals) appearances. (Tom Stanton) has been involved since 2002. The kids see that we’re experienced (coaches) and I think that might take a little pressure off as well.”
Class 3A Brebeuf Jesuit Top hitters: Sr. Sam Reed (.444, 2 HR, 22 RBI), Sr. Will Schenkelberg (.426, 2 HR, 32 RBI), Sr. Luke Bauer (.413, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 19 SB), So. Will Loftus (.407, 3 HR, 32 RBI), Jr. Jayden Ohmer (.398, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 21 SB), Sr. Anthony Annee (.320, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 33 SB), Jr. Michael Finelli (.329, 22 RBI), Jr. Alex Cookerly (.241, 22 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Andrew Dutkanych (8-0, 106 K’s, 24 walks, 1.02, 48 IP), Sr. LHP Sam Reed (5-0, 1.17, 89 K’s, 15 walks, 54 IP). Brebeuf won the Danville Sectional (Greencastle 10-0, Danville 11-3, Tri-West Hendricks 12-2), Danville Regional (West Vigo 4-0, Beech Grove 8-0) and Jasper Semistate (Silver Creek 2-0). The Braves have won 15 straight. Their last loss was April 30 at Center Grove (9-8). Brebeuf won the Marion County tournament championship May 10 against Lawrence North (13-3) at Victory Field. Brebeuf head coach Jeff Scott (Fourth season at Brebeuf and 12th overall, 131-100-1) says: “We never really talked about the State Finals this year. We had a senior leadership meeting (in the winter and throughout the season). One of the things I talked about was ‘let’s enjoy this ride here and let’s take this thing day-by-day. Let’s go work hard and enjoy each day and see where we get when this thing’s over … This is my last year at Brebeuf. I’ve kept that under my hat. I didn’t want to take away our seniors or our team (Scott, who is in his fourth season leading the Braves, lives in the Center Grove district and makes a long daily commute to Brebeuf and wants to spent more time enjoying his children’s activities) … We knew we compete on that stage and compete with that team (after the loss to Center Grove). I think our mindset changed a little bit … Sam (Reed) gives you a great look on the left side. He really works down and keeps the ball down. Where (Friday’s starter) Andrew (Dutkanych) will rely on the breaking ball a little more, Sam relies on the change-up a little more. That’s probably the noticeable differences between those two pitchers … It’s a huge advantage (having played recently at Victory Field). You know we were there last year. The majority of the team has played on that field the last two years already. When you first play there No. 1 you’re a little awestruck. It’s a beautiful venue and unbelievable backdrop with the city of Indianapolis there. So you have that factor. It’s really big (320 feet down the lines, 418 to left-center, 326 to right-center and 402 to dead center). The foul territories are much bigger and the gaps are much bigger that your normal high school field. Positioning the outfielders is very difficult at Victory Field, especially if you haven’t been there. Communicating is extremely challenging out there for some reason … (Andrean) is going to be well-prepared to go pitch it well and defend it well. I’m certain they’ll have a good game plan to try to attack (Dutkanych) as well — just like Silver Creek did this past weekend.”
Andrean Top hitters: Sr. Jax Kalemba (.460, 5 HR, 38 RBI), Sr. Billy Jones (.435, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Sr. Alonzo Paul (.434, 17 RBI), Sr. Miguel Martinez (.429, 2 HR, 11 RBI), Sr. Peyton Niksch (.425, 2 HR, 33 RBI), Fr. Mason Barth (.406, 1 HR, 43 RBI), Sr. Owen Walkowiak (.395, 18 RBI), Jr. Drayk Bowen (.355, 2 HR, 30 RBI), Jr. Chris Koeppen (.282, 2 HR, 13 RBI). Top pitchers: Sr. RHP Peyton Niksch (10-0, 0.22, 79 K’s, 15 walks, 62 2/3 IP), Sr. RHP Owen Walkowiak (5-2, 1.76, 59 K’s, 17 walks, 47 2/3 IP). Andrean won the Griffith Sectional (Griffith 10-2, Calumet New Tech 18-0), Griffith Regional (South Bend Saint Joseph 5-3, Glenn 4-0) and Kokomo Semistate (New Castle 12-1). The 59ers have won six in a row. The team reeled off 14 straight wins April 14-May 10. Andrean head coach Dave Pishkur (42nd season, 1,070-292) says: “The Penn game (a 4-3 win on April 29) might be the one that told me that we’re good enough to beat some of the really good teams. But we kept on getting better week after week (as the starting lineup from Day 1 evolved through the season as is typical at Andrean) … We went right by Victory Field (on the way came back from Louisville Ballard in late March). Our kids were saying ‘we’ll be there in two months.’ My son and I, we were kind of laughing like there’s no way we’re coming back there if we don’t get markedly better and we did. They prophesied that they were going to be there … This is a very athletic team. We put a premium on baserunning and putting the ball in-play … We’ve seen good pitching this year. The problem is Dukanych might be a step up from good pitching. He might be that elite generational type of talent … We’re fortunate at Andrean that we have a lot of good equipment (including a $14,000 iPitch machine which can deliver 97 mph fastballs, 76 mph breaking pitches and just about everything in-between) … With a good opposition (like Brebeuf) you expect good pitching. You expect good hitting. But, on the other side, they should expect the same out of us and you kind of hope it’s a well-played game.”
Class 2A Centerville Top hitters: Sr. Jamari Pamplin (.429, 6 HR, 28 RBI), Sr. Javontae Pamplin (.423, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 16 SB) , Sr. Keegan Schlotterbeck (.364, 2 HR, 27 RBI), Sr. Logan Drook (.361, 18 RBI), Jr. Jacob Crowe (.357, 1 HR, 26 RBI), Jr. Collin Clark (.338, 2 HR, 18 RBI), So. Kollyn Peed (.333, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Sr. Bryce Robertson (333, 18 RBI), Sr. Zach Thompson (.274, 1 HR, 14 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Jacob Crowe (10-3, 2.13, 87 K’s, 14 walks, 62 1/3 IP), Sr. RHP Logan Drook (5-0, 1.30, 66 K’s, 28 walks, 43 IP). Centerville won the Centerville Sectional (Shenandoah 4-2, Hagerstown 14-8), Park Tudor Regional (Cascade 6-3, Heritage Christian 8-2) and Mooresville Semistate (Linton-Stockton 6-5). The Bulldogs have won eight in a row — including the school’s first-ever regional and semistate titles — following a three-game losing skid. The team strung together 11 victories April 20-May 9. Centerville head coach Tracey Crull (10th season, 120-94) says: “It’s absolutely madness. It’s crazy (the excitement in the community) … We have a walk-off (RBI single by Jamari Pamplin against Linton-Stockton to punctuate a two-run seventh) and we’re in the state title game. My phone, email, text messages, all kinds of messages have been blowing. It’s not just the Centerville community. It’s the whole county … We had a really tough week in May where we played our rival Hagerstown twice (in Tri-Eastern Conference Wayne County tournament games). We lost both ball games by a run (2-1 and 3-2 sandwiching a 10-0 loss at Lapel). After that week we had some long conversations as a team. We talked about focus. We talked about accountability. We talked about how we react to adversity. We then went on a run … We’ve had a stretch where we’ve hit the ball really well … It could be (Jacob Crowe or Logan Drook starting on the mound Friday). Logan gave up only one unearned run all year. They are completely different pitchers. Logan (who was the semistate starter) is a little bit harder thrower. He doesn’t give up as many hits. Jake gives up a few more hits, but he’s really good at keeping runners and batters off-balance with his motion and his delivery. It depends on whoever is feeling the best and having the best match-up Friday … Our boys like to see really good pitching (which the Bulldogs have faced in tournament play). I think it will be a good ball game (against Illiana Christian).”
Illiana Christian Top hitters: Jr. Kevin Corcoran (.471, 4 HR, 37 RBI), Sr. Ian VanBeek (.446, 22 RBI), Sr. Adam Walters (.410, 12 RBI), Sr. Tyler Barker (.373, 29 RBI), Jr. Cody DeJong (.351, 2 HR, 22 RBI), So. Isaac VanderWoude (.338, 19 RBI), Sr. Levi Hescott (.300, 12 RBI), Sr. Gabe VanRoekel (.282, 17 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. LHP Kevin Corcoran (4-1, 2.194, 75 K’s, 13 walks, 44 2/3 IP), Sr. RHP Ian VanBeek (3-2, 1.474, 56 K’s, 6 walks, 38 IP). Illiana Christian won the Whiting Sectional (Bowman Academy 19-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 3-1, Wheeler 16-4), Whiting Regional (Winamac 11-1, Eastside 7-0) and Kokomo Semistate (Wapahani 6-0). The Vikings have won a season-best seven straight games. There was a stretch from April 25 to May 2 where Illiana Christian went 2-4 with two losses to Griffith and one each against Highland and Hanover Central. The team has triumphed in 13 of its last 14. Illiana Christian head coach Jeff VanderWoude (Third season, 40-13) says: “Last year we had a younger team. I thought we were pretty good. Last year we ran into Rex Stills of Wheeler and lost that game 2-1 in the (Whiting) Sectional final … This year our (Bible) verse is James 1:2-3. It’s basically saying consider it pure joy when you hit trials and tribulations because our faith has been strengthened … This team turned around when they started playing for each other and not themselves. Our team does that extremely well, I am 100-percent convinced that’s exactly whey we’re in this position … We try to play the bigger schools (around northwest Indiana) … Kevin Corcoran competes really well. He’s a very athletic kid.”
Class 1A Tecumseh Top hitters: Jr. Conner Anglin (.472, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 13 SB), Jr. Brody Julian (.383, 14 RBI), Jr. Drew Dupont (.341, 2 HR, 27 RBI), Jr. Dax Bailey (.387, 1 HR, 27 RBI), So. D.J. Dupont (.298, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 15 SB), Jr. Chase Jones (.263, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 11 SB), Fr. Mason Gogel (.256, 18 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Dax Bailey (5-4, 3.35, 39 K’s, 22 walks, 54 1/3 IP), Jr. RHP Conner Anglin (5-2, 1.13, 28 K’s, 10 walks, 31 IP), Jr. RHP Drew Dupont (5-1, 3.00, 47 K’s, 23 walks, 42 IP). Tecumseh won the Cannelton Sectional (Northeast Dubois 9-8, Wood Memorial 11-2, Springs Valley 11-0), Loogootee Regional (New Washington 11-1, Barr-Reeve 4-1) and Jasper Semistate (Shakamak 12-3). The Braves have won a season-high nine straight games. The team, which has no seniors and four freshmen in the starting lineup, started out 1-4 and entered May 6-9. Of the 12 losses, seven are by two runs or fewer. Tecumseh head coach Ted Thompson (Fifth season, 77-44) says: “We started out struggling a little bit. Our four freshmen (Mason Gogel, Wyatt Huddleston, Braydon Long and Thomas Pemberton) were just learning how to play it at the varsity level. I thought by the time we were going to do tournament we were going to be in good shape as far as being able to compete at a high level … About the month of May everything started to click … Everything just really started to work well with our four freshmen and our juniors provided great leadership … We’ve made one — maybe two errors — in the last three weeks. It’s been really good defensively and we’ve just really played well … We try to load up our schedule (with 4A and 3A schools including Evansville North and Gibson Southern) to try to be competitive. We try to do everything we can to provide an atmosphere for our guys to improve … The first two weeks of the season we only pitch our pitches for 35 to 40 pitches. The second two weeks, which ends April, we don’t even get our pitchers above 60 pitches (with freshmen pitching often in relief) … For our young guys to really get some innings is going to be valuable for us not only this year, but next year as well … (The State Finals) is a brand new environment for everyone. They’ve never faced it before. We feel like we do a great job of preparing our guys for big moments. We put a lot of pressure on them in practice. We really drill them on a lot of different situations … We’ll definitely be focused on the Tecumseh Braves. We have a great philosophy and I believe we have a great system. We’ll try to give the kids an idea of what to expect. Lafayette Central Catholic is going to be a formidable opponent. We know they’re going to come at us with a lot of different variations of the game. I can tell you our players will be prepared for those moments. It’s all about execution.”
Lafayette Central Catholic Top hitters: Jr. Evan Dienhart (.462, 18 RBI), Jr. Owen Munn (.366, 1HR, 23 RBI), Jr. Ryan Schummer (.354, 2 HR, 26 RBI), So. Kayden Minnich (.270, 21 RBI), Sr. Justin Brady (.250, 1 HR, 21 RBI). Top pitchers: Jr. RHP Ben Mazur (8-1, 0.63, 96 K’s, 19 walks, 55 1/3 IP), So. RHP Brinn Robbins (8-1, 0.95, 61 K’s, 15 walks, 59 IP). Central Catholic won the Lafayette Central Sectional (Attica 13-1, Riverton Parke 8-0, Covington 10-0), Lafayette Central Regional (Union City 12-2, Rossville 10-0) and LaPorte Semistate (South Central of Union Mills 9-4 in 8 innings). The Knights have won a season-best 13 straight after a two-game losing streak. The team’s other setbacks came between April 1 and May 4. Knights head coach Tim Bordenet (27th season, 634-203) says: “We were kind of up-and-down until our (Hoosier) Conference championship against Western (a 6-1 victory on May 13 against University of Louisville pitching recruit Mitchell Dean). I think that was really the turning point. We had two games that week and were not playing that well. (Beating Western) proved to our guys that when we play the way we’re capable of we can compete and beat anybody … You’ve got to be able to get in a lot of hitters’ counts and put pressure on the opposing pitcher and opposing defense. Saturday (in the regional against South Central) we only had one hit for seven innings, but we did draw a lot of walks and hit by pitches and so we had a lot of traffic on the bases. I thought our approach at the plate was really good … We know we play a tough schedule and intentionally put ourselves in some adverse situations where we have to come back or hold on to a late lead in a close ballgame. Undoubtedly those situations have helped us here in the (state) tournament … We brought (junior right-hander) Evan Dienhart in (to pitch) with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in a tie game … He got a strikeout and fly out to get out of that inning … Our outfielders have to have good angles at balls in the gaps (at spacious Victory Field) and not let balls get past them. Fortunately for us, our outfield (senior Carter Johnson in left, Brinn Robbins in center and sophomore Kayden Minnich in right) is probably the strength of our team and has really good speed … Our kids are pretty savvy. The moments haven’t been too big for them to this point.”
Mark Yoder thought he was done with umpiring for 2022. His college slate wrapped up last week with an Atlantic-10 series and he was gearing up for rotator cuff and knee surgeries. Then he gets a call to work one more game as a substitute in the Class-A Carolina League. Yoder was the base umpire Tuesday, May 24 as the Fredericksburg (Va.) Nationals hosted the Salem (Va.) Red Sox. In the pregame plate meeting he saw a familiar face from days gone by in Virginia baseball circles in Jake Lowery, who is now the FredNats manager. This game was also rehab start for right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg (the 2019 World Series MVP). But as Yoder, who worked in the 2021 NCAA Division III World Series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, took his spot on the field he began chatting with the Salem first baseman. “His face looks really familiar to me but I just can’t place it,” says Yoder. “I ask him his name and he says, ‘Niko.’ There’s not that many guys named Niko.” Yoder’s next question: “Where’d you play college ball?” Niko Kavadas tells him: “Notre Dame.” Come to find out Yoder (55) and Kavadas (23) both played at Penn High School — decades apart — for Greg Dikos. The latter was in his first season as Kingsmen junior varsity coach when Yoder met him. So there they are in a professional game in Virginia. Kavadas, who was selected in the 11th round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Boston Red Sox, smacked a two-run double off Strasburg in the top of the third inning. Strasburg wound up throwing 2 2/3 innings and giving up three runs (all earned) and throwing 61 pitches. The lefty-swinging Kavadas is hitting .264 (29-of-110) with three home runs, one triple, 12 doubles, 19 runs batted and 16 runs scored in 34 games. Shortly before the game was over, Yoder came to the slugger and fellow Penn alum. Said Yoder, “I told Niko in the ninth inning: I can’t root for you tonight but I’m rooting for you the rest of the year and the rest of your career.”
Brady Gumpf and Ryan Lynch were youngsters when they were first baseball teammates. The two buddies played in the summers for the Granger (Ind.) Cubs with Chris Hickey as head coach and Greg Lynch (Ryan’s father and former University of Wisconsin baseball player) as an assistant. Then came the Jay Hundley-coadhed Indiana Outlaws. That travel organization became the Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest). Both have earned All-American and all-tournament honors from Perfect Game. “We car-pooled down to Indianapolis every weekend,” says Lynch of the trips to meet up with the Outlaws or Canes. “It was always fun playing against him at school.” Lynch and C.J. Kavadas tried to coax Gumpf to play with them at Penn High School. But Gumpf stayed at South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph where his father – John Gumpf — was Indians head coach. When it came time for college ball, 2020 high school graduates Gumpf and Lynch both landed close to home at the University of Notre Dame. Because of depth and talent for head coach Link Jarrett’s Irish, Gumpf did not get into a game and Lynch pitched 2/3 of an inning in the spring of 2021. ND went 34-13, won the South Bend Regional and lost to eventual national champion Mississippi State in the Starkville Super Regional. This summer, righty-swinging outfielder Gumpf and left-handed pitcher Lynch were again teammates with the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League-champion Bethesda (Md.) Big Train, where Sal Colangelo was manager, Sam Bender hitting coach and Craig Lopez pitching coach. They were placed there along with Irish mates Matt Bedford and Danny Neri by Notre Dame assistant Rich Wallace. In 28 regular-season games, Gumpf hit .290 (20-of-69) with three home runs, one triple, one double, 13 runs batted in and 18 runs scored. “At the beginning of summer I was struggling a little bit at the plate, but I turned it around pretty easily,” says Gumpf, whose last game action came in the fall of 2019 for Team Indiana, coached by Prep Baseball Report Indiana’s Phil Wade and Blake Hibler. “It was the first time playing in awhile. I was still able to grow as a player and improve. It was mostly just getting the reps.” Gumpf, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, split his defensive time for Bethesda between right and left field and did make an appearance at third base. A catcher/outfielder in high school, Gumpf has been mostly an outfielder at Notre Dame. “With my overall athleticism, I made the transition to that pretty easily,” says Gumpf. “I can still catch.” Brady played at what is now South Bend East Side Baseball Softball Association before joining the Granger Cubs. At Saint Joe, he was on the roster as a freshman as the Indians won the IHSAA Class 3A state championship in 2017. There was another sectional title in 2018. The 2019 season ended in the final game of the Griffith Regional with a loss to eventual 3A state champion Andrean. Gumpf was honorable mention all-state as a sophomore and junior and all-conference second team in 2018 and first team in 2019. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic there was no 2020 prep season. Gumpf was invited to play in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., but was advised by Notre Dame coaches to take the summer off and train on his own. Gumpf has declared himself to be a Management Consulting major. Brady’s mother, Deanna Gumpf, is head softball coach at Notre Dame. Deanna and John also have a daughter — Tatum. Lynch, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, made regular-season mound appearances (seven in relief) for the 2021 Big Train and went 2-1 with a 5.54 earned run average. In 13 innings, the southpaw produced 22 strikeouts and eight walks. “It was a good experience for me to get some innings in and to develop,” says Lynch, who pitched in mid-week scrimmages with ND substitutes last spring. “I want to try to become a starter,” says Lynch. “I think I have the skill. “We do have a lot of guys who started coming back and there are transfers that we picked up. I want to compete this fall and earn some kind of spot.” Chuck Ristano is the Notre Dame pitching coach. Lynch employs both a four-seam and two-seam fastball as well as a change-up, curveball and slider. The lefty gets plenty of arm-side run on his fastballs. The four-seamer sat at 88 to 91 mph in the spring. He tosses a “circle” change and gets his “12-to-6” curve to run in on lefties and drop a little bit. The slider is harder than the curve — mid 80’s vs. about 75. “One of my strengths is that all of my pitches look the same when they come out (of my hand),” says Lynch. “That’s good. That’s what I want — to keep the hitters off-balance.” Lynch has decided on Finance as a major as he enters his sophomore year at Notre Dame. He moves back to campus this weekend and classes begin Monday, Aug. 23. Baseball activities are expected to begin shortly after that. At Penn, Lynch was the 2020 Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year. Penn topped Saint Joe for the Northern Indiana Conference title in 2019. The Greg Dikos-coached Kingsmen were Class 4A state runners-up in 2017 with freshman Lynch in center field. He pitched a no-hitter that same season. Greg and Diana Lynch have three children — Kristina, Ryan and Brandon. Kristina Lynch plays soccer at Florida State University, where the Seminoles won a national title in 2018.
“I’m a humongous believer in owning that inside part of the plate with the fastball,” says Welliever. “It seems to have worked.
“If you can throw the inside fastball, every other pitch is available to you.”
Welliever wants his hurlers to employ solid mechanics. But he is also unique in today’s deviating from today’s prevelant approach.
“My pitchers are always working on stuff, stuff, stuff,” says Welliever, who knows his players enjoy throwing hard. “Most people work on location, location, location.”
Welliever has his catchers set up on the inside black for bullpens about 60-70 percent of the time. Many of his hurlers go hard in and soft away though some have done the opposite.
“It’s OK if once in awhile you hit a batter,” says Welliever. “Don’t get upset.”
Breaking balls are also thrown hard.
“We’re trying to create as much spin on that ball so it breaks as late as possible and the hitter has the least amount of time to react to it,” says Welliever. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Welliever has his pitchers build arm strength with long toss and with burnouts aka pulldowns.
The 2008 Crawfordsville pitching staff racked up 397 (No. 3 in the IHSBCA Record Book; No. 1 Lafayette Jeff fanned 450 in 43 games in 1971).
Steven Rice fanned 198 batters in 2009 and finished his Athenians career (2007-10) with 521 K’s.
Welliever worked alongside brother-in-law and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge through 2020.
“One of John’s strengths teaching the fundamentals of fielding,” says Welliever. “(Strong defense) helps pitchers.
“It gives them confidence to attack the hitters and throw strikes.”
Brett Motz, a 1995 Crawfordsville graduate, is now Athenians head coach. Motz played at the University of Evansville, served as a graduate assistant at Purdue University and was head coach at North Putnam High School before returning to his alma mater, where he is also the strength & conditioning coach.
The Athenians won Class 3A state championships in 2008 (32-4) and 2011 (29-6).
What keeps Welliever coming back?
“It’s working with the kids and getting them to the point where they’re confident about themselves,” says Welliever. “It’s seeing them succeed in baseball and in life.”
He has witnessed many former players giving back to the community as coaches at the youth and high school levels.
“It is the most satisfying thing,” says Welliever, who grew up around New Market, Ind., and is a 1980 graduate of Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, where he played baseball for Mounties head coach George Davis and counted Froedge and the Taylor twins — Dave and Dan — as teammates. Dave Taylor went on to help found the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
“We played a lot of baseball together,” says Welliever. “It was a really special group of guys.”
Dan Welliever, Rhett’s father, taught junior high and was a wrestling head coach and an assistant in baseball, football and softball at Crawfordsville.
Jamie Welliever, Rhett’s brother, is retired from teaching and has spent two tenures each as head baseball and head wrestling coach at Southmont.
Landon McBride (New Palestine)
A middle school coach for five years (seventh and eighth grade teams often play up to 20 games while feeding the high school program), Landon McBride joined the New Palestine High School staff for the 2007 season. He is the Dragons infield coach and helps with hitters on a staff led since 2012 by Shawn Lyons.
“The thing that jumps out at me the most about Coach Lyons is his absolute passion for his kids,” says McBride. “If you’re not in the inner circle you may not see that. But he does a great job of having his finger no the pulse of where our team is at and where each individual is at.”
McBride sees Lyons as steady.
“He doesn’t get too high; He doesn’t get too low,” says McBride. “He tries to keep our players on that even-keel, knowing there’s going to be ups and downs everyday.”
On game days, McBride serves as Lyons’ right-hand man, bouncing lineups off one another and trading ideas about strategy while also coaching first base.
McBride emphasizes fundamentals when it comes to his infielders fielding ground balls.
“We’re getting reps in every day — the way we think is the right way,” says McBride. “With hitting, we believe in going the other way. We’re utilizing our speed, bunt and steal bases when we can.”
McBride regularly throws batting practice.
“I’m 59 but I’m still chucking it in there,” says McBride. “I try to give them a little sense of velocity (by moving the L screen closer to the plate.”
When the varsity field is not available, New Pal baseball has been able to use the turf football field for long toss, tracking fly balls and taking grounders.
A 1980 graduate of Marshall High School in Indianapolis where he played three seasons for Bob Tremain and one for Brad Goffinet, McBride was a four-year player for Lynn Morrell at Marian University in Indianapolis — at the time an independent NAIA program.
McBride says he appreciates the discipline, structure and attention to detail that Tremain and Goffinet brought to Redskins baseball.
“(Coach Morrell) liked getting the ball into play and swinging away,” says McBride. “It was the pure joy of being around the game.”
Landon, a partner in Indiana Property Services which gives him the schedule freedom to coach baseball, and wife Shari McBride have three children — Ryan (30), Angela (28) and Wes (24). The boys played baseball and Angela was also an athlete at New Palestine.
Mike Zeilinga (New Palestine)
A 1976 New Palestine graduate, Mike Zeilinga coaches Dragons outfielders and leads the junior varsity.
Zeilinga began coaching boys basketball at New Pal in 1996 and led the freshmen for two seasons and the JV for four. He joined Al Cooper’s baseball staff in 2003. Cooper was a Dragons senior when Zeilinga was a freshman.
New Palestine earned a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2003 and state title in 2004.
“The kids keep me young,” says Zeilinga. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching.”
Most Dragons practices begin with stretching and throwing followed by individual defensive position work and team drills (cuts, double cuts and knowing situations).
“Coach McBride is excellent about working with our infielders,” says Zeilinga. “He makes sure they are moving with every pitch.
“Coach Lyons trusts the coaches that he has. He and Coach McBride have coached together that they can read each other’s mind. They have that kind of chemistry.”
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contract Period (twice a week for two hours), 73 players were at workouts while participation was around 65 for recent winter sessions.
“All coaches at New Pal work very well with sharing athletes,” says Zeilinga. “That’s straight from the mentality of Coach (Al) Cooper (athletic director and former head baseball coach).
Zeilinga often works with New Pal outfielders and JV players.
Since varsity and JV teams tend to play on the same night, Zeilinga rarely sees the varsity once the regular season starts.
After each JV game, Zeilinga sends an overview of what his players did well or areas where they need improvement and share that with head coach Shawn Lyons and varsity assistant Landon McBride.
Like McBride, Zeilinga has noticed the head coach’s temperament.
“Coach Lyons doesn’t get real high or real low after a big win or a hard loss,” says Zeilinga. “He’s just a real gentleman of the game.”
Mike, who worked at Eli Lily & Company 35 years before retiring, and wife Susan Zeilinga have two children — Stephanie (a teacher at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis) and Michael (who was the starting center fielder on New Palestine’s 2004 state championship team).
Kevin Hall (New Albany)
Kevin Hall is a 1986 New Albany High School graduate who was a scrappy middle infielder and lead-off hitter for John Buerger, but his association with Bulldogs baseball goes back to before he started school.
Hall, who credits his work ethic for being the youngest of 11, was a batboy for teams featuring older brother David and coached by Stan Sajko in the early 1970’s. Hall still has the tiny pinstriped uniform from those days.
“(Coach Berger) had an attention to detail,” says Hall. “John was very big on pitching and defense. He believed in the bunting game.”
With a few years off here and there, Hall has been on the New Albany baseball coaching staff since 1990. He has been Bulldogs head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre’s top assistant for more than two decades.
“We both have the same philosophy on winning and we’re teaching these kids how to be young men,” says Hall, who leads infielders while also helping with outfielders, hitters and catchers. “When kids get out of school they’re probably not going to be their own boss. They need to learn to take direction.
“We understand that this is the game of failure. If you give us effort, we’ll never get on you about that.”
Hall coaches first base with McIntyre in the third base box.
“Coach McIntyre has a mind like nobody I’ve ever met,” says Hall. “He can process things. He’s analytical. He’s a math teacher. He loves the numbers.”
One day, Hall brought a stop watch to time runners without McIntyre knowing it and — counting in his head — the head coach was only off the actual number by about 1/10th of a second.
“Our program wouldn’t be near where it would be without Chris McIntyre.”
Hall calls baseball “the fairest game ever.”
“Each team gets the same number of outs, same number of opportunities and deals with the same conditions,” says Hall. “There’s no clock.
“You just have to go play.”
Hall throws a good deal of batting practice to the Bulldogs.
“Our kids get a lot of live arms,” says Hall. “I just use aspirin and ice and go back and do it again the next day.”
When McIntyre was approaching New Albany’s all-time win mark, Hall helped organize a special night for him.
After the celebration, Mac pulled Hall aside and said, “Don’t ever do that again” and then thanked him the next day.
“He’s very humble,” says Hall of McIntyre. “He wants the kids to have that limelight and not him.”
With the loss of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, New Albany had time to upgrade its baseball field while also putting in a new softball diamond next door.
Kevin, a plant operator at Grant Line Elementary School in New Albany, and wife Melia Hall have a daughter together — eighth grader Anderson (named for Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson). Kevin’s two older daughters are Samantha and Stephanie. Melia’s son is Aidan.
The 2021 season will mark Ford’s 31st with the Kings. He has always led the infield defense and helped with hitting instruction at Cass, which finished as Class 2A state runners-up in 2009 (20-9).
“It’s pretty collaborative in our program,” says Ford, who coaches first base and sits next to Marschand when the coaches are in the dugout. “We get a sense of the style of play we’re going to use and we coach each of the areas based on what we’re trying to do for that season.
“We we like to put pressure on the defense (on offense). You can do that a lot of different ways. If we have plodders (on the base paths), we can bunt them over. If we have rabbits, we can have more stolen bases, double steals and taking of extra bases.”
Kings coaches like players to play to their strengths and learn to do things like hit behind the runner and put the ball on the ground up the middle.
“We want them to be well-versed in the approach they are going to be taking at the plate based on the situation,” says Ford. “We would really like our players to learn the strategies and the options.
“In practice, we put runners in position and they decide how they are going to score the run.
“Once they have a broader knowledge of how to play, they are going to enjoy it more and be more successful.”
A big part of the Cass offensive blueprint is to get accumulate freebies with dirt-ball reads etc.
“Our approach at the plate has to be to hit hittable strikes,” says Ford. “Early in the count we’re not going to hit his pitch. We’re going to hit our pitch.”
A goal in batting practice is for each player to figure out which pitch he hits best.
BP goal – each player to learn to figure out which pitch he hits best
“Hitting a pitcher’s pitch is giving him a freebie,” says Ford. “Hitting our pitch is somewhat of a freebie for us.”
As part of its SAFE-T offensive plan, Cass wants to score the game’s first run.
Going for the long ball is not a priority, especially at home games where it’s 330 feet down the foul lines and 408 to center field.
“There’s a lot of outfield grass and we’re going to try to pepper it rather than try to hit it out of the park,” says Ford.
Kings defenders focus a lot of on momentum changers.
“One of he biggest on defense is the double play,” says Ford. “We work a lot on turns, feeds and throws to first base while trying to help our pitcher.
“At the high school level, pitching can be a huge variable. Defensive positioning os based on the speed of our pitcher.
“I can’t tell (infielders) every pitch where to align so they have to be cognizant of signals between the pitchers and catcher and know what pitch is coming.”
The Kings also look to prevent opponents from taking the extra base by being in the proper position for cut-offs and double-cuts.
“We’re making sure to be in a good back-up position in case the throw isn’t perfect,” says Ford. “There are a lot of nuances in defense like where the first baseman takes the throw or where the third baseman goes based on the count. At the high school level, the drag bunt is a big strategy.”
Taking nothing for granted, Ford wants his infielders to back up throws from the catcher to the pitcher.
Ford, a 1970 Kokomo Haworth graduate played for for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Keith Slaughter. The 1970 Haworth Huskies were state finalists.
Bill Bright was middle infielder Ford’s coach at Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis).
Steve and wife Julia Ford have been married since 1974 and have two daughters — Amanda (a local farm wife with a son and two daughters) and Melanie (who played four years of basketball at the University of Charleston and is now associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and NCAA compliance officer at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.). Amanda was a manager and Melanie a player for their father as a basketball coach.
Steve Ford was the girls basketball coach at Cass for 18 seasons, concluding in 2007-08.
Jim Kominiewicz has been there as an assistant for all of them. The 2021 season will be Komo’s 31st on the Kingsmen coaching staff. He has been in education for 38 years — eight in South Bend and 30 in the Penn system.
The current staff has Dikos leading the catcher, Kominkiewicz the infielders, Tom Stanton the pitchers and John Westra the outfielders.
“Greg is one of the best catching coaches in the state,” says Kominkiewicz, noting that Penn has produced its share of college backstops. “Catching is one of the hardest things to do. You’re involved in every play.
Kominkiewicz applauds Dikos for his willingness to keep learning and incorporating them into the Kingsmen program.
“Every year we try to do something better,” says Kominkiewicz. “We never stay the same. We try to change things up and keep the kids excited about it.
“Greg is always going to clinics. He’s the best.”
Kominkiewicz has noticed that many clinic speakers reinforce concepts already being taught by Penn coaches.
“It shows we’re doing things right,” says Kominkiewicz.
As an infield coach, Komo stresses getting the palm to the baseball and fielding through it. Time is spent on back-handing and picking up short hops.
Kominkiewicz graduated from South Bend John Adams High School in 1972, where he played baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski.
Komo’s first baseball coaching post was at South Bend Washington High School on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski that also included pitching coach Larry Jackowiak.
“Rick was very intense,” says Kominkiewicz. “He’s a book. We spent a lot of time together. We’d come in on Saturday morning and leave at 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
“I learned a lot of baseball from those guys. Both of them were great coaches.”
A popular drill during the indoor portion of the preseason was a game called “27 Outs.”
As fielders got closer to making it to the finish, balls off fungo bats got harder.
“That’s why (Tomaszewski’s) team were good,” says Kominkiewicz. “They competed every practice.
“We do the same things at Penn. We compete. We test for sit-ups, push-ups and longest throws. We rate their at-bats (4 points for a line drive, 3 for a hard ground ball etc.). Pitchers try to throw the most strikes — things like that.”
Ground balls and double plays are often timed.
Splitting the team into three groups, the Kingsmen go nine outs per round. Losers do extra running or clean up the field.
“A lot of times our practices are harder than the games,” says Kominkiewicz. “But it’s got to be good practice — not just practice. We want to do it right.
“Our theory is we want to good game of catch, put the ball in play (on offense) and pitchers have to throw strikes. That’s what we stress.”
After Washington, Kominkiewicz went to Adams to coach football, wrestling, baseball and and weightlifting then went back to Washington to coach baseball.
Then came the move to Penn, where he also coached football for two years. He has taught and coaches football and wrestling and served as athletic director at Grissom Middle School.
Jim and wife Beth Kominkiewicz have four children — Ryan (38), Brandon (32), Jill (29) and Matt (21) — and seven grandchildren ages six months to 9 years.
Ryan, an engineer with Caterpillar, played baseball at Penn.
Brandon played football at Penn and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and coaches football at Fort Wayne North Side High School.
Jill is a dental assistant.
Matt played baseball and football at Penn and is on the football team at Saint Francis.
Kevin Fitzgerald (Noblesville)
A 1987 graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis where he played two seasons each for former big league pitcher Russ Kemmerer and Richard Bender, Noblesville High School assistant Kevin Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1989-94 then was an assistant to Duke Burns at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis (2000-02), Dave Mundy at Sheridan (Ind.) High School (2003 and 2004) and head coach at Sheridan (2005 and 2006).
“He was fantastic,” says Fitzgerald of Kemmerer. “There were so many lessons I learned that I didn’t realize I was learning at the time.
“For him, it was really teaching about life and baseball was just the tool. He said baseball is played on a six-inch field — the six inches between your ears. There are no such things as physical errors — they’re all mental. You weren’t prepared.”
Bender, who had big shoes to fill replacing the popular Kemmerer, is credited by Fitzgerald for the opportunity to explore leadership.
Brett played four seasons at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University) for IHSBCA/NEIBA Hall of Famer Mike Frame, graduating in December 1995.
Before landing at Carroll, Brett was on his father’s Dwenger staff from 1996-2002.
Hershberger, who was an elementary physical education teacher for Windmiller, taught his players about focus and intensity.
“It started with him from the time you started playing catch until you got on the bus and went home,” says Windmiller. “All those things in between mattered. Not that you’re going to dwell on it afterward but this current pitch or at-bat is important.
“If you weren’t ready, you were going to hear about it from Lance.”
Hershberger reminded his players that there was a difference between baseball during the high school and summer seasons. There’s a finality to the high school season while the summer — though very important for development and exposure — is a series of games and unattached tournaments.
Brett did not feel the stigma of being a coach’s son.
“It may have just been the guys I played with,” says Brett. “In hindsight, it may be that dad handled it real well.
“I enjoyed playing for him. There were expectations with the way he wanted you to play. He was good at detecting an issue by watching you swing or throw.”
In his son’s eyes, Larry Windmiller was pretty even-keeled.
“He never got upset,” says Brett. “He was kind of in the middle all the time.
“He really let us play. We had a lot of kids with talent. We played loose and had a lot of success.”
The Dwenger Saints bowed out to Highland in the 1991 South Bend Semistate championship game.
At Huntington, Windmiller learned to play with intensity but not to let a mistake or a perceived bad call fester.
“The intensity of a baseball game is there,” says Windmiller. “It has to be. You learn the moments of the game where that’s appropriate. It cannot drive you into making a second mistake. You can’t carry your at-bat into the field. My red light was strike calls I didn’t agree with.
“Coach Frame was great as far as getting me to try to understand that I’m killing myself when I’m doing that. He helped me lose a little bit of the football mentality.”
Windmiller says he and his fellow coaches have matured over the years and tries set a good example for the players.
“When something bad happens, they are going to look at us,” says Windmiller. “We want to be cheering them on and saying let’s go to the next pitch.”
His first spring at Carroll, Windmiller coached junior varsity players with Mike Klopfenstein.
“JV’s great,” says Windmiller. “There’s no all-conference. There’s no media. It’s just young kids learning how to play baseball the correct way.”
At the JV level, win-loss record is irrelevant. It’s about developing. Between the spring and summer ball and getting in the weight room, a player can make big jumps from one season to the next.
Windmiller is a public address announcer for many Carroll sports, including football, boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling. He has coached eighth grade football and seventh grade girls basketball in the system.
Brett took over the FWBF post after the passing of NEIBA Hall of Famer Dick Crumback in 2019.
The NEIBA presents the Dick Crumback Player of the Year annually to an area ballplayer. The honor comes with a $1,000 donation ($500 from the Crumback family and $500 for the FWBF) to the program of the recipient.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit baseball community in Fort Wayne,” says Windmiller, who has also been a Wildcat League coach.
Brett, a sixth grade science teacher at Carroll Middle School, and wife Kara Windmiller (secretary to Chargers athletic director Dan Ginder) live in the Carroll school district and have two daughters — high school sophomore Ryli and seventh grader Hannah.
Brett’s sister Kari played volleyball and basketball at Dwenger.
“We play every two days,” says Metcalf, who was the designated hitter during a season-opening victory Thursday, July 2 against the Pit Spitters. Former Jackrabbits hitting coach Alex O’Donnell, who played at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and is an assistant at Mercyhurst-North East was made a winner in his managing debut. “I’ve been to the beach a couple of times.”
Before the Kansas season was halted in March, Metcalf appeared in 15 games with 12 starts at first base and hit .244 (10-of-41 with two home runs, two doubles, six walks and 10 runs batted in. He belted his homers against Charleston Southern Feb. 22 and Indiana State March 7.
The Jayhawks, with Ritch Price as head coach and his son Ritchie Price as hitting/infield coach, recruiting coordinator and third base coach, were returning from a series March 10-11 at the University of Iowa when they learned that the Ivy League had canceled its season.
“We practiced the next day and the coaches told us it was not looking good,” says Metcalf.
Soon after that, the season was canceled and campus was closed. Metcalf finished his spring semester classes via computer back in Granger, Ind.
“I was trying to learn accounting online,” says Metcalf, who is working toward a major in Sport Management with a minor in Business. “I got it done.”
The son of Dave and Leslie Metcalf and brother of Lexie Metcalf quarantined for about a month then began going to the Harris Township fields for daily batting practice with Penn classmate Niko Kavadas, who completed his third season at Notre Dame in 2020.
Metcalf also resumed lessons with Mike Marks at his Hitters Edge training facility in Sturgis, Mich., and began mowing lawns with the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation.
“I wasn’t super-confident about the summer (baseball season),” says Metcalf, who was told June 15 to report to Traverse City, which is about 250 miles due north of Granger. “Now I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.”
Metcalf expects to split his time with the Dune Bears between DH, first base and catcher.
As a Jayhawk freshman, Metcalf got into 14 games (one as a starter) and hit .077 (1-for-14) with one RBI.
Playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos at Penn, Metcalf was a career .379 hitter while earning all-state and District Player of the Year recognition and being named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series as a senior.
Metcalf was on the High Honor Roll four times. The Kingsmen won four Northern Indiana Conference and IHSAA sectional titles, three regionals, two semistates and a Class 4A state championship (he scored two runs in a 3-2 win against Terre Haute North Vigo in 2015). The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder also played football at Penn.
What’s the difference between high school and college baseball?
“It’s the faster pace,” says Metcalf. “It’s how good every single player is. You have to prepare for every single game like it’s a big game — even the mid-week ones.
“It’s fun, but hard work.”
Metcalf, a righty swinger, sees his power and his ability to hit to all fields as his strengths as a hitter.
“Hitting veto — guys that throw in the low to mid-90’s — means having quick hands,” says Metcalf. “You need to have a short, steady stroke. (The pitcher) will provide the power.”
From his 7U to 14U summer, Metcalf played travel baseball for the Granger Cubs. Teammates included Kavadas, Trevor Waite, Matt Kominkiewicz and Tony Carmola.
He played for Penn’s summer team after his first two high school campaigns then one summer each with the Eric Osborn-coached Indiana Nitro (17U) and Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays (18U). Prior to his senior year, he played for the Kevin Christman-coached San Francisco Giants Fall Scout Team.
“My athleticism and competitiveness,” says Lynch, who is bound for the University of Notre Dame as a two-way player. “(Hitting) mechanics are something I’ve been working on. Before that I didn’t get too much into that. I used (athleticism and competitiveness) in overcoming some of the flaws in my swing.
“Competitiveness carries over from the batter’s box to the pitching mound. Competitiveness and composure. With the bases loaded and less that two outs, I trust myself to get out of a jam.”
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Lynch has grown about an inch and packed on 20 pounds of muscle since entering high school.
Lynch, 18, has also gained the wisdom of others along the way.
“A lot of my growth has come with the upper class, especially at Penn,” says Lynch. “Niko Kavadas was a senior when I was a freshman. “He’s given me a lot of great advice. He showed me what it takes to be a Division I college athlete.”
As a Penn freshman in 2017, Lynch went 7-0 with a 2.86 earned run average and helped Penn to the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game. A righty swinger, he also hit .350 with 26 runs batted in.
In 2018, he was 8-2 with a 2.07 ERA on the mound and hit .456 with 44 RBIs.
As a junior in 2018, his pitching mark was 5-1 with 1.61 ERA. He also hit .330 with 20 RBIs.
The 2020 season was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For his three-year career, Lynch was 20-3 with a 2.18 ERA with 201 strikeouts and 79 walks. He also batted .378 and plated 90 runs.
Lynch thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Penn program headed by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.
“It was my first time being with a true team with bus rides together and seeing each other at school,” says Lynch. “It taught me some valuable lessons about being a better teammate and a leader as well, working with some of the young guys who needed.
“It’s not being selfish. We’re trying to work as a team and get to that state championship.”
Lynch considers himself as a versatile offensive player — something who can be a threat with his speed, but can also pop the ball into the gaps or over the fence.
“Having a training mindset, I want to get as strong as I can but be flexible,” says Lynch. “It’s not being too big and slow so you can’t stretch doubles and steal those bases.
“Some guys will train for one thing or another. If (the team wants) me to hit for power, I know what to do. If they want me to use speed, I know what to do.
“I’ve worked on my launch angle as I’ve worked on mechanics. Hopefully that will help me hit more home runs along with the doubles.”
On the mound, Lynch possesses a moving fastball clocked at 85 to 90 mph and is able to locate his curve ball and slider.
He describes the action of the breaking balls in terms of a clock face — 11-to-5 with the curve and 10-to-4 with a slider.
“I’ve been trying to get my curve ball more 12-to-6,” says Lynch. “It’s hard for hitters to pick up.
“I love throwing the slider to lefties. That’s probably where it’s most effective. You get them to open up their hips early and roll over on it.”
Lynch verbally committed early to Notre Dame and the new staff headed by Link Jarrett honored that offer.
“Growing up really close to Notre Dame, I loved everything about it — that campus, the traditions,” says Lynch. “Going to football games was really fun.
“The importance of Notre Dame and how valuable an education from that university would be. That really sets it apart.”
Lynch will graduate from Penn with the Latin Academic Honors distinction Cum Laude (4.25 grade-point average or higher on a scale of 4.0).
As a member of Penn’s Student-Athlete Leadership Council, Lynch has taken the lead in the school’s commitment to education-based athletics, creating and implementing lessons such as social media responsibility and how to take care of yourself and your teammates. He has helped organize events ranging from building community to freshmen student-athlete mentoring.
“Everyone says great things about Coach Jarrett and the staff,” says Lynch. “I’m real excited to get into that program.”
The third of Gregory and Diana Lynch’s three children (Kristina is now playing soccer at Florida State University and football player Brandon is finishing his eighth grade year at Discovery Middle School), Ryan played for the Granger (Ind.) Cubs travel team from 9-13. To face a higher level of competition, he split his 13U summer with the Cubs and Ohio Elite. That team made it deep into the USSSA 13U World Series at Disney World in Florida.
In high school, Lynch played for the Jay Hundley-coached Indiana Outlaws (which became the Evoshield Canes Midwest).
Lynch says last summer was going to be his last with the Canes. With the cancellation of the 2020 Indiana high school season, the team is considering having a short summer run.
“I still have to get word with Coach Jarrett and his opinion on it,” says Lynch. “He doesn’t want me to rush back into anything. It’s something I will consider for this summer.”
Kristina Lynch was selected as the 2017-18 Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year in Girls Soccer and now plays that sport at Florida State University. She helped the Seminoles win the 2018 National Championship.
“She’s made a big impact in my life,” says Ryan of Kristina. “She’s set a great example of what it takes to be successful in all aspects of life. It’s not just hard work on the field. She can manage playing sports and taking extremely hard classes and help out in the community.
“She’s able to reach out and expand as a person.”
Brandon Lynch, 15, was a quarterback and linebacker in middle school and now moves on to the storied Penn football program.
Ryan Lynch, a senior at Penn High School in Mishawaka, is the Gatorade Indiana 2019-20 Player of the Year for Baseball. He is on his way to the University of Notre Dame. (Penn High School Photo)
Ryan Lynch, a senior at Penn High School in Mishawaka, is the Gatorade Indiana 2019-20 Player of the Year for Baseball. In three season, the left-handed pitcher/center fielder won 20 games and hit .378 with 90 runs batted in during his prep career. He is bound for the University of Notre Dame. (Penn High School Photo)
The Cascade Cadets played on turf at their Clayton, Ind., campus for the first time in 2019.
The administration (Scott Stevens is the athletic director) made the call to turf the baseball, softball and football fields.
Cascade head coach Ty Foster sees advantages to having turf.
“Last season we were able to be outside for practice or games everyday of the season except for two days,” says Foster. “Rain earlier in the day or week would of normally pushed us inside for a couple days, but now it’s just a matter of hours or even less that we can go out and take advantage of a full practice without the indoor limitations.
“We are able to go out and do things early in the season when it’s usually the wettest and we are getting new players and returning players up to speed on how we prepare for games that most teams in the state aren’t able to because they are inside for the start of the year and are limited in space.
“We were also able to get in a full schedule of games, except a few that scheduling conflicts with conference opponents got in the way of. That is something we weren’t able to do in my first three seasons at Casacde that we were never lucky to do.
“Our varsity can play games, but most importantly our younger players are able to get more experience and play a full slate of JV games in.”
The Danville Warriors are guided on the field by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Pat O’Neil. Jon Regashus is AD.
Danville’s diamond has turf in the infield and grass in the outfield since the 2018 season.
“More and more schools going that route,” says Regashus of a field that has FieldTurf (Cincinnati-based The Motz Group was the subcontractor). “We were dealing with a construction project in general (parking lots, bleachers, fencing). We looked at the financials and since the field was being renovated anyway, it was cost versus maintenance.”
Regashus says debt was falling off the school corporation’s books and it opened up funds for capital projects.
The AD adds that its hard to give an exact figure on cost since it was part of a larger project, but he estimates that the whole thing came in at around $700,000.
A machine is used to sweep the turf and keep it as clean as possible.
O’Neil gives his thumbs up to the turf infield.
“My first two years there, it seemed that everyday we had to get water off the field, fix home plate or the mound or drainage areas,” says O’Neil. “We were spending more time fixing the field than getting ready for games.”
O’Neil say players were expending energy pulling a tarp that could have been spent in other game day activities.
“I would take our field over anybody else’s field,” says O’Neil.
The game and bullpen mounds at Danville are clay and the warning track is brick dust.
O’Neil says there is something to be said about working on the field.
“Tractor time — it is therapy,” says O’Neil. “(In the fall) we’d be edging, pulling a weed here and there and put it to sleep. I guarantee I’d be out there on Thanksgiving to breathe the baseball air. I did it at Brownsburg all the time.
“It’s definitely therapeutic.”
Having turf helped keep the Brebeuf Sectional on schedule when the Greencastle-Tri-West game was moved to Danville. A Little League state tournament was hosted by Danville in 2018. Regashus says travel teams pay a rental fee for practices or tournaments.
INDIANAPOLIS BISHOP CHATARD
Chatard‘s Dave Alexander Field on the northeast side of Indianapolis was the first Indiana high school to have a turfed field on its campus. The 2020 season marks the eighth.
IHSBCA Hall of Famer Alexander led the capital campaign.
“Dave was very generous with his donation,” says Chatard head coach Mike Harmon. (The Motz Group-installed turf) is 2 1/4 inch. The whole field is same height (since it is a multi-use field shared with Trojans soccer programs).
“We were able to structure it any way we wanted. The football and baseball fields were done the same way.
Harmon, who is also an assistant AD to Mike Ford, says the business office has set a rental fee of $125 per hour.
“It’s a decent income generator in the summer,” says Harmon. “It’s used Thursday through Sunday non-stop.”
The Red Devils of Jeffersonville are on pace to debut The Motz Group-installed turf infield on Don Poole Field in 2020.
There was a groundbreaking ceremony in late November and the project funded by Jeffersonville alum John Schnatter (aka Papa John) went full steam ahead.
“We’re blessed,” says Jeff head coach Derek Ellis. “We would have never had a turf infield or upgrades to our baseball field if it wasn’t for Mr. Schnatter’s generosity.”
Upgrades in the works also call for a new scoreboard, outfield fence, dugout railings and more.
Ellis says the Kentucky Bluegrass in the outfield was in really good shape.
The coach says his players should have no problem making the transition to the new infield surface.
“We live in an era now where these kids are playing on turf fields (like the one at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.) in the summer,” says Ellis. “(Turf) makes you a better fielder with its pretty true consistent playability. Natural surface is a little more aggressive than artificial surface. Of course, it depends on how high or low the grass is cut.”
Ellis notes a turf field is not maintenance-free. The high-traffic areas must be attended so the fibers stand tall.
But the prep time has been cut down considerably.
“Now we’re doing some player development,” says Ellis. “If it’s 35 degrees and the sun’s out it’s like 45 degrees on the turf.
“I’m excited about this. Practices will run smoother. We can get a lot more accomplished.”
Todd Satterly is the Jeffersonville AD.
New baseball and softball fields were in the works at Jennings County in North Vernon, Ind., and the decision was later made to put turf on both diamonds for 2020.
Former Wabash College head baseball coach Cory Stevens is JC’s athletic director and Trent Hardisty is the Panthers head baseball coach.
“We have the ability to get out there much, much earlier in the year,” says Stevens. “It’s not maintenance-free, but we no longer need tarps, rakes or any of those things.
“It’s extremely exciting.”
Stevens says more teams are likely to schedule games at Jennings County.
“Hometown fans get to see your team play a lot more often,” says Stevens. “We have the convenience of being able to play anytime as long as its not lightning or pouring at game time. It also frees up grounds staff for other things.”
Stevens says there will be a standard rental fee for outside teams.
“We would like to generate revenue in the summer,” says Stevens. “We’d like to host as much as we could.”
The Motz Group-installed turf on the baseball field will be on the infield and in foul territory behind the plate, extending to the back cut of the infield. The actual product from The Motz Group is called Triple Play. It’s 2 inches thick in the grass areas and 1.625 inches in the skinned areas. The batter’s boxes, mound and bullpens are turf as well.
Stevens says putting in turf is represents a significant cost savings over time. There will be less rainouts and makeups and less required field maintenance.
The project was paid for by a bond issued to the school corporation.
JC’s football field was converted to synthetic turf in 2018.
Lake Central in St. John, Ind., marked its fifth spring with a turf baseball field in 2019.
Many of the outdoor athletic areas for the Indians, including football (2015 was the first season) and softball (since 2014), are covered by FieldTurf. The baseball field is shared with the Indians soccer programs.
“We’re able to do some things other schools can’t,” says LC head baseball coach Mike Swartzentruber. “Ours is all turf – including the mound. It’s one less thing you have to deal with from a maintenance standpoint.
“I don’t miss that for sure.
“In the three years I’ve been here, we’ve played about 20 games a year at our place (with games scheduled on the road moved to Lake Central). We always get our allotted games in.”
Duneland Athletic Conference games are scheduled on consecutive weekdays and both will often by contested at Lake Central.
While programs with grass and dirt field have to buy materials (clay, diamond dry etc.) every year. That’s not the case at Lake Central.
LC’s old varsity field — now used by the junior varsity — is grass. The JV softball field has a turf infield and grass outfield.
Swartzentruber says maintenance on a turf field includes replaces the rubber pellets and sand in the sliding areas.
“With all the kids it takes about 10 minutes,” says Swartzentruber. The mound is held in place by velcro.
The coach says outside teams have asked to use the field while getting ready for regional or semistate play and there is a rental fee involved.
“We’re pretty particular on who uses it,” says Swartzentruber. “We want to makes sure it stays as nice as possible for as long as possible.
“We’re on it a ton. Other sports will be on it some. Freshmen football team practices on it a lot.”
Swartzentruber emailed all the teams on the Indians schedule to let them no that sunflower seeds, gum, colored drinks and metal spikes are not allowed. Teams can wearturf shoes, tennis shoes or molded cleats.
The field has the same dimensions as Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“Our field is really, really big,” says Swartzentruber. Home runs are a rarity at LC.
LC AD Chris Enyeart explains why turf was adopted at his school.
“Northwest Indiana weather very unpredictable in the spring seasons,” says Enyeart. “The heaviest rain needs an hour to be ready to go. Maintenance is much easier.
“Tryouts have been outside every year we’ve had it. Some teams stuck in the gym two or three weeks behind us.”
Enyeart notes that when snow doesn’t melt on grass fields, it turns to mud.
Not so with turf.
The Logansport Berries have sported turf at Jim Turner Field since the 2016 season. The school turf down on its football, softball and baseball fields at the same time.
Logansport AD Brian Strong says the total project cost just over $2 million. Previous debt was refinanced and and taxes did not go up.
Strong cites the advantages of turf.
“In northern Indiana, it’s a challenge to get on those fields in early spring for practices etc.,” says Strong. “We’re always worried about over-use (noting that soccer teams and youth leagues also play on the field).
“It’s been a great investment in our community. We have so many different programs taking advantage of it.”
Strong estimates that the Berries wind up hosting 18 to 20 baseball games per season.
Maintenance generally means pulling a groomer weekly behind the Gator.
“We want to keep it looking nice,” says Strong. “It takes about the same time or less than mowing. We were probably mowing every other day in-season (with grass).
The facilities have been rented out to small colleges around the state and allowed travel baseball and softball organizations to use it for free.
Colleges begin their seasons in mid-February and have been able to play on Turner Field’s turf.
New Berries head baseball coach Dan Frye remembers all the time Jim Turner Sr. and Jim Turner Jr. put into the original facility.
“We had a beautiful surface when we had a natural field,” says Frye. “They put in countless hours. It was a great field to play on even back in the day.
“But now won’t have rainouts so much and the care and maintenance has gone way down.”
The Mooresville Pioneers took to the SprintTurf-installed FieldTurf for the third season in 2019. There’s no natural grass or dirt on the diamond at all.
“As long as its not pouring down rain, you can pretty much play on it,” says Mooresville head baseball coach Eric McGaha. “There’s not any weather condition you can not play through (short of thunder and lightning).
“You don’t have to put down material to dry the field, It’s dry within 10 minutes of when rain stops. Our diamond (prior to turf) just held too much water. One to 1 1/2 inches of rain would take two or three days to totally dry out.”
“It’s been a really, really good investment for us.”
Mooresville also put turf on its football and softball fields.
McGaha says the crushed rubber inside the fiber of the new turf makes it bouncy and soft to slide on.
“There not a ton of maintenance involved,” says McGaha. “We can use that extra time to practice and get better.
“You want those guys to have opportunities to practice or play. That’s why they’re playing baseball.
“The kids realize they’re in a very fortunate situation.”
Mooresville hosted a southern semistate.
“We got good, positive feedback,” says McGaha.
Because of the warranty, Mooresville does not allow outside groups to play on the field. The baseball diamond is used by the freshmen football team and physical education classes.
“We don’t rent it out,” says Mooresville AD Mike Mossbrucker. “A number of universities have asked us to play, particularly on our softball field.
“We don’t want to overuse it. It stands to reason the more teams you put out there the more the wear and tear is. There is a life expectancy. We’re just not taking any chances.”
While the Noblesville Millers do not have turf on Dunker Field (varsity), the adjacent JV field with the same dimensions does sport AstroTurf as of the fall of 2019.
“It’s a big help for us in terms of training,” says Noblesville head baseball coach Justin Keever. “We have three teams (two JV and one varsity).”
Keever says turf fields tend to respond in a more consistent way.
“Not all natural fields respond the same,” says Keever. “The grass is higher or lower. Some are fluffy. Some have high lips. Some don’t.
“The Dunk is very quick. We cut it short. It’s like a billiards table out there.”
Leah Wooldridge is AD at Noblesville, where they will host a 2020 tournament featuring Carmel, Penn and St. X of St. Louis.
Construction has started for a new athletic complex at the Middlebury, Ind., school. The Motz Group will be putting down turf for football/track, softball and baseball. The new digs are to debut in 2020-21. Northridge AD says the project costs nearly $15 million.
“We didn’t have to raise any taxes,” says Harms. “That’s huge. That gets everybody excited.
“It’ll be nice not have to worry about the weather as much. It could rain all day and you could still get out and play. The turnaround is so much quicker.”
Harms says the two existing varsity fields — baseball and softball — will become JV fields.
“Everything will be here on campus for the first time,” says Harms, noting that JV games have been contested at Middlebury Little League. “It had a lot to do with putting in new fields. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had an upgrade to our outdoor faculties.
“It also opens door to hosting sectionals etc. which we couldn’t do before. We’ve already been asked to host both baseball and softball sectionals (in 2021).”
“I’m super-excited about it,” says Brabender. “I wasn’t a fan of (turf) as a player. It just makes sense in northern Indiana. You’re really not counting on decent weather until the first of May.”
According to the coach, the new field will have a tire and sand ratio in the infield different than the outfield and there will be walnuts on the warning track that will crunch below fielders’ feet.
Brabender says getting outside after the snow melts means constantly rolling the grass field.
“The ball is never a true roll,” says Brabender. “It always has some kind of bounce.”
Brabender has used college teammate at Hannibal-LaGrange as a resource. Neil Richardson is the head baseball coach at Fox High School in Missouri, where there has been a turf infield and grass outfield for years.
Field maintenance at Northridge’s current grass field takes about 45 minutes to an hour a day when it does not rain and that duty falls to Brabender and his coaching staff.
Northwestern in Kokomo, Ind., had 50 acres of athletic complex to maintain and needed to do some safety upgrades bring all of fields into a small area, according to AD and former Tigers head baseball coach Dan Armstrong.
So Northwestern wound up with new football, softball and baseball fields installed by SprinTurf. Soccer uses all three multi-purpose fields. The first spring for baseball was in 2018.
“I’m a huge proponent for having high school turf,” says Armstrong. “(Instead of) maintaining the field, (athletes) can get home, get something to eat and get their homework done.”
Armstrong notes that the year prior to putting turf on the football field, it was used for 61 hours. The year after turf saw it host 137 events plus practices.
Even though there were eight inches of rain on baseball/softball sectional week, the games were still played.
“The last time we hosted sectional, rain pushed the final to Thursday and the regional was Saturday,” says Armstrong.
Northwestern has an all-rubber infield.
“It has no sand in it,” says Armstrong. “It plays like a (grass and dirt) baseball field. It’s not real bouncy. The fields are not abrasive.
“We wanted to focus on our kids. We play games at 6 p.m. (and use LED lights when necessary). We get bigger crowds. Plus it’s warmer on the turf.
“It’s been worth every penny we’ve spent on it. I just love it.”
Armstrong says fields need to be groomed for every 50 to 100 hours of use. Rakes and other equipment has been donated to youth programs.
“Gum is devastating,” says Armstrong. “It melts into the carpet. We’ve banned all nuts from our facility.”
Northwestern head baseball coach Ryan Ward considers himself a purist.
“I miss the tractor a little bit,” says Ward. “But instead of chalking or lining, I can get to my wife sooner. But extra reps is what it all boils down to.”
The turf also allows for Northwestern to host a Howard County tournament (with Eastern, Taylor and Western)) the first week of the season.
The Penn Kingsmen had The Motz Group install turf on varsity baseball and softball fields in Mishawaka, Ind., in time to practice on them in the fall of 2019 and will debut them for game play in 2020.
“I never thought of it,” says Penn head baseball coach Greg Dikos, an IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “I thought it was out-of-reach.
“(The administration) got the ball rolling and got it done.”
Dikos sees many positives to turf on Jordan Automotive Group Field.
“We get on there a lot sooner and stay out there a lot longer,” says Dikos. “We can do a lot more things outside. We don’t have to worry about gym space.”
Marketed as a multi-use field, the band also practices on the lighted baseball diamond. Dikos also takes his P.E. classes onto the rug. The field is also marked for soccer use.
Dikos attended a workout on maintaining the field, which involves redistributing and adding rubber pellets and sometimes sand in heavy-use areas.
“Kids will be able to get home a lot sooner,” says Dikos. (With the grass and dirt field), every kid had a job (rake etc.). Repair now is so much quicker.
“The varsity dirt we took to the JV field. We fixed it up pretty nice.”
Penn has to coordinate practice and game schedules for three teams — varsity, JV and freshmen.
Jeff Hart is the Kingsmen’s AD.
The Pioneers of Our Lady of Providence had Triple Play Turf installed on the baseball infield in the fall of 2015 and played the first season on it in 2016. The football/soccer field was turfed before that.
“We were just so pleased with the results on our football field,” says Providence AD Mickey Golembeski. “Let’s do what we can on the baseball field based on what we could raise.”
Golembeski says the project was funded by “in kind” donations by alumni.
“I’m guessing it cost in the $250,000 to $300,000 range,” says Golembeski. “But this include a complete re-do of the Bermuda (grass) outfield.”
Since Providence is private and no public monies were involved, the Pioneers and their feeder programs are the only ones to use it.
“With a baseball field, the wear and tear is much quicker and faster than a football field,” says Golembeski. “Proper grooming and maintenance makes a world of difference.”
Players replaces product and brushes it in all those locations after every game and practice. It gives kids pride and ownership in their area.
“It has to be done on a daily basis,” says Golembeski. “But it’s very quick and easy and takes much less time (the maintaining a all-grass and dirt field).
“The athletic department will groom the field with pull-behind brushes — very corse bristles used in a specific pattern — to refurbish and redistribute the base.
“In the long run, it’s going to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars of when we’re going to have a replacement.”
“There’s a lot of things to like,” says Hutchins. “Not having to deal with rainouts in wonderful. “I loved working on the field.”
But on rainy days, he take sponges to it during his planning period. Raking was a daily occurrence.
“Jokingly, I tell people my wife likes it more than I do,” says Hutchins. “I’m at home more and not working on the field.”
The combination turf/grass baseball field at Danville (Ind.) Community High School. (Danville Community High School Photo)The turf baseball field at Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. (Lake Central High School Photo)
Dave Alexander Field — the baseball diamond at Indianapolis Bishop Chatard High School — has had turf since the 2013 season. (Steve Krah Photo)
Born in South Bend, Ind., Whitmer played at Mishawaka Southwest Little League until he was 10 then was part of a core of travel baseball players who spent years with the Todd Marazita-coached Michiana Clippers (Marazita now coaches for the Michiana Scrappers).
Whitmer was a three-time all-Northern Indiana Conference selection at Penn High School, playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.
“(Dikos) instilled a lot of mental toughness with all the hard work we did,” says Whitmer. “That’s all stuck with me. In the off-season, we had really tough morning workouts. He helped me get to the next level by learning how to work.”
As a sophomore in 2011, Whitmer went 6-2 and led the NIC with a 1.50 ERA. As a junior in 2012, he went 5-4 with 1.44 and .386 batting average. As a senior in 2013, he went 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings.
Sean Galiher was the Kingsmen’s pitching coach at the start of Whitmer’s prep career then turned the reins over to Tom Stanton.
Whitmer, who turned 23 in May, credits both men with helping him fine-tune his mechanics and become more fluid on the mound.
In four seasons at Southern Illinois University, Whitmer was a two-time all-Missouri Valley Conference selection (2016, 2017) for head coach Ken Henderson and pitching coach P.J. Finigan. He hurled in 64 games (34 as a starter) and was 15-13 with a 3.70 ERA, 247 strikeouts and 41 walks in 282 innings.
Whitmer became the Friday-night starter for the Salukis midway through his junior season and held that spot through his senior campaign.
In 2017, Whitmer struck out 13 Indiana State batters, the most K’s by any SIU player since Finigan fanned 17 against Chicago State in 2005.
“One thing (Henderson and Finigan) preached a lot was being aggressive in the (strike) zone,” says Whitmer. “They made me a pretty competitor as well. Even if you don’t have your best stuff one day, you can still go out there and compete.
“You knew you were going to get a decent start out of me on Fridays and they knew they were going to get that out of me at the next level.”
After his freshman season at SIU, Whitmer played summer collegiate ball with the Richmond RiverRats (now known as the Richmond Jazz).