Tag Archives: Kyle Cheesebrough

West Lafayette native Bridge gets hot in final season with Southeastern Fire

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

After making three other college baseball stops, Carter Bridge is a productive player with a perennial NAIA powerhouse.

Bridge, a 2016 graduate of Harrison High School in West Lafayette, Ind., spent time with Western Michigan University, Heartland Community College in Normal, Ill., and Indiana University has been at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., the past two seasons.

He has been introduced to a winning culture established by Fire head coach Adrian Dinkel and his staff.

“I didn’t know about Southeastern when I was getting recruited,” says Bridge, 22. “I just needed to find a school in Florida. I wanted to play down there.

I get here and find out they are a top five team in the country. They win 40-plus games every year. This team we have right year can go and compete with most (NCAA) D-I ’s.”

Bridge says the Fire’s first mission was to win the Sun Conference and then set its sights on the NAIA College World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.

No. 2-ranked Southeastern (47-7) host the five-team NAIA Opening Round Lakeland Bracket. SEU’s first game is tonight (May 17) against the USC-Beaufort (S.C)-Fisher (Mass.) winner in Winter Haven.

The righty-swinging Bridge is a utility player. As he grew up, Bridge played all over the infield. In college, he’s been in the infield and the outfield. Last year at Southeastern, he was in center field. Now he’s in right field.

In 47 games (30 starts) this spring, Bridge is hitting .357 (45-of-126) with seven home runs, eight doubles, 33 runs batted in, 39 runs scored, 7-of-9 in stolen bases and a .986 OPS (.399 on-base percentage plus .587 slugging average).

“The confidence I have in the (batter’s) box is unmatched right now,” says Bridge. “I get in there and I’m like, ‘throw me something I can hit.’

“I’ve always been a pretty good hitter. I’ve known that I can hit. It’s always like a mental thing for me.”

A pinch-hit home run April 17 against Florida Memorial led to a start in SEU’s next game and built Bridge’s confidence. 

“My mindset’s been a complete 180 (from the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021,” says Bridge, who is in his last year of college eligibility. “I stopped putting pressure on myself and starting playing the game like I did when I was a little kid. It’s fun. Enjoy it.”

In 2020 — a season that ended prematurely because of the COVID-19 pandemic — Bridge played in 26 games (21 starts) and hit .370 (27-of-73) with four homers, five doubles, 20 RBIs, 21 runs, 4-of-6 in stolen bases and a 1.056 OPS (.453 on-base percentage plus .603 slugging average).

Bridge completed an Executive Leadership undergraduate degree at Southeastern last year and is well into earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Executive Leadership.

“I’ve always focused on baseball,” says Bridge. “These degrees are definitely helping me further my knowledge in the business world. That’s what I want to do when I’m done with baseball.

“It’s also really helped with my leadership skills. I’m able to communicate better with people.”

Brian and Shanna Bridge have two children — daughter Hunter and son Carter. Dad works for Lafayette Masonry, Mom for State Farm Insurance and sister for Purdue University. Only Carter did not attend Purdue.

Bridge was at Western Michigan for the fall semester of his freshman year then transferred to Heartland, where he spent his freshman spring and all of his sophomore year.

With the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II member Hawks, he was able to build a brotherhood.

“I was able to build those relationships with those guys I knew absolutely nothing about,” says Bridge. “In my sophomore year (2018), we were the No. 2 team in the country. We were a really good team. That stemmed from the brotherhood that team had built.”

Bridge was recruited to Indiana by Chris Lemonis and Kyle Cheesebrough, but both coaches left for Mississippi State. Bridge got into three games with the 2019 Hoosiers and transferred to Southeastern. 

Bridge was born and grew up in the West Lafayette area. His first travel ball team — the Tippecanoe Wolfpack — was started by his father. 

Then came the Northern Baseball Club Stars and Indiana Bulls with head coach Dan Held.

Bridge played for Pat Lowrey at Harrison.

“He introduced me to what I should expect at the college level,” says Bridge, who was the Lafayette Journal & Courier Big School Player of the Year with the Raiders. “He’s also big on the little things — the fine little details of the game.

“That’s what makes him really good coach. He doesn’t let things slide. He’s really stern and he knows what he’s doing.”

Carter Bridge (Southeastern University Photo)

Indiana U.’s Tucker gets summer ball opportunities on two fronts

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Some college baseball players did not get to have a summer season in 2020.

Indiana University’s Braydon Tucker pitched in two different leagues. The right-handed pitcher from Brazil, Ind., was in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., then accepted the invitation to hurl in the Coastal Plain League.

The 12-team Grand Park league sprung up when other circuits opted out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Used mostly as a Tuesday starter (most CSL games were played on Mondays and Tuesdays with training at Pro X Athlete Development Wednesday through Friday), Tucker drove weekdays from Brazil to Grand Park to train or play for the Tropics, a team featuring Josh Galvan as manager and Ryan Cheek as an assistant coach.

As that season wound down, IU pitching coach Justin Parker let Tucker know about an opportunity with the Macon (Ga.) Bacon and the righty took it.

The Bacon, with Jimmy Turk as manager and Josh Teichroew as pitching coach, operated as part of a three-team pod with the Savannah (Ga.) Bananas and Lexington County (S.C.) Blow Fish. Macon teammates included Indiana pitchers Ty Bothwell, Matt Litwicki, Connor Manous and Braden Scott.

Used mostly as a starter with some relief work on scheduled “bullpen” days, Tucker made one trip to Columbia, S.C. He made five mound appearances (three starts) with an 0-0 record, 4.97 earned run average, 14 strikeouts and seven walks in 12 2/3 innings.

His summer four-seam fastball was thrown at 90 to 93 mph, occasionally touching 94. That’s up from 89 to 92 and touching 93 in the spring and 89 to 91 and touching 92 as a freshman in 2019.

Thrown from a three-quarter arm angle like all his pitches, Tucker’s fastball is thrown with a split-finger grip and has sinking action. 

His slider moves from 1-to-7 or 2-to-8 on the clock face, meaning the movement (both horizontal and vertical) is in to the left-handed batter and away from a righty.

He throws a “circle” change-up.

He’s working to add two other pitchers to his selection — a curveball an cutter (cut fastball). 

“The curve plays off the slider,” says Tucker. “It is more vertical than horizontal.”

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Tucker was slated to spend most of June and all of July with the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats, but Keene did not get a chance to go after a second straight NECBL when the league elected to cancel the season.

Tucker, who has logged two springs with the Hoosiers (he has started four of his nine games and is a combined 2-1 with a 4.10 ERA, 12 strikeouts and 11walks in 26 1/3 innings) and played in the summer of 2019 with the Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex. That team was managed by Tyler Wampler. Jeremy Lucas coached pitchers and catchers. The PL did not take the field this summer either.

A 2018 graduate of Northview High School in Brazil, Tucker helped the Craig Trout-coached Knights win an IHSAA Class 3A state championship in his sophomore year. When he was not on the mound during his prep career, he logged time at first base, second base, third base and all over the outfield.

There was an expectation with Trout of hard play and focus.

“He wanted us to have a loose practice and enjoy it, but if we didn’t execute in practice — like somebody missed the cut-off man — it was a waste of time,” says Tucker, using his own words.

Tucker committed to Indiana when Chris Lemonis was head coach. Most of the pursuing was done by former Hoosier assistants Kyle Bunn (pitching coach) and Kyle Cheesebrough (recruiting director). 

Soon after high school graduation, Tucker enrolled in summer school. By the fall, the coaching staff had changed and Jeff Mercer was in charge with Parker as pitching coach.

“I don’t have one single word to described what it’s like to describe working with them,” says Tucker of Mercer, Parker and the rest of the IU staff. “It’s very detailed and developmental. It’s structured to the point that you don’t need down time. You always have something to do.”

Even when pitchers are engaged in throwing bullpens, long toss or some other specific thing, they are expected to do something productive and help their teammates. The same is true for all of the Hoosiers.

Tucker was born in Terre Haute and grew up in New Palestine, Ind., moving to Brazil as he was starting high school. His father (Jim) grew up in Clay County and his mother (Tammy) was raised on the south side of Terre Haute.

Braydon started in T-ball in New Palestine and was 6 when he made an Indiana Bandits 9U travel team. He attended a camp at the old Bandits Yard in Greenfield, Ind., conducted by Harold Gibson (father of Texas Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson). Jim Tucker retained the information and used it with Braydon.

After playing two more years with the Bandits, there were three summers with the Indiana Prospects (led by Shane Stout and Mark Peters) and one with the Hancock County-based Indiana Travelers (Mark Horsely).

From 13U to 16U, Tucker played for coaches Rick Arnold and Dan Metzinger with the Ironman Baseball out of Louisville. The 17U summer was spent with the Cincinnati Spikes. Trent Hanna was the head coach and was assisted by Aaron Goe, Stephen Rodgers and Joe Janusik.

Jim Tucker is a senior sourcing team leader at GE Aviation in Terre Haute. Tammy Tucker works is at Catalent Pharma Solutions in Bloomington. She had been in quality management at Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis.

Braydon (who turned 21 in July) has two brothers — Dakota (27) and Trey (19). Dakota Tucker played baseball and football at New Palestine then football at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, where he earned a mechanical engineering that he now uses at Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Trey Tucker is a sophomore at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. He played baseball and basketball at Northview.

Braydon Tucker, who is a Sports Marketing & Management major at IU, represented the Knights on the hardwood for three years. Now back at school, he is taking five classes this fall (all on online). Class begins Monday, Aug. 24. Tucker says baseball facilities are not to open until Sept. 17.

Brayden Tucker, a right-handed pitcher and 2018 graduate of Northview High School in Brazil, Ind., has played two baseball seasons at Indiana University. In the summer of 2020, he played in both the College Summer League at Grand Park and in the Coastal Plain League. (Indiana University Photo)

Lemonis hustles to keep Hoosiers competitive, playing baseball the right way

rbilogosmall

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

As the early NCAA Division I National Letter of Intent signing period approaches — it’s Nov. 8-15 — Chris Lemonis is doing the thing that has made him one of the nation’s top college baseball recruiters.

“Hustle,” says Lemonis, who is going into his fourth season as head baseball of Indiana University baseball in 2018. “You’ve got to be willing to hustle. You have to have an eye for it. You also have to have a plan. What pieces are you trying to put together? (A player might be the) right fit for one school and not for the other.”

Lemonis, who is 101-72-2 with two NCAA regional appearance (2015, 2017) while leading the Hoosiers, likes to find as much in-state talent as he can and still remain competitive. “The state of Indiana has great high school players. It is a big base for us. We will reach out at times and fiend pieces.”

The Hoosiers — regularly top 25-ranked program — find most players within a five-hour drive from the Bloomington campus.

“But we don’t rule out anybody,” says Lemonis, who has been spending his share of time on the road, visiting recruits and working camps. “We like to be a physical team and an athletic team.”

Lemonis asks that athletes and their parents research to see what fits their needs.

As drawing cards for the Hoosiers, there is an IU degree plus the ever-growing profile of Big Ten Conference baseball. The 2017 season saw five B1G schools make the 64-team NCAA D-I tournament — conference tournament champion and automatic bid winner Iowa plus at-large invitees Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Nebraska.

Conference baseball continues to get recognition and revenue through the Big Ten Network.

“We try to keep our kids in this part of the country — Midwest staying at Midwest schools,” says Lemonis. “When I first came to Midwest, all the good players went south. There is now a commitment to baseball in our league.”

As evidence, all of the 13 baseball-playing B1G schools have stadiums that were either built new or renovated in the last few years, many with artificial turf.

Indiana moved to Bart Kaufman Field in 2013. Hoosiers benefactor Bart Kaufman went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2017.

Illinois plays at Illinois Field, Iowa at Duane Banks Field, Maryland at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, Michigan at Ray Fisher Stadium, Michigan State at McClane Baseball Stadium at Kobs Field, Minnesota at Siebert Field, Nebraska at Hawks Field at Haymarket Park, Northwestern at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park, Ohio State at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, Penn State at Medlar Park at Lubrano Field, Purdue at Alexander Field and Rutgers at Bainton Field. Wisconsin does not have NCAA D-I baseball.

Allowing for the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (IU’s Craig Dedelow was selected int he ninth round in 2017 by the Chicago White Sox and the Hoosiers count former players Micah Johnson, Josh Phegley, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Slegers and Sam Travis as current big leaguers), Lemonis plans his recruiting on a three-year cycle.

The Big Ten does have a rule that players sign a four-year scholarship and not a series of one-year deals, which is common in other conferences.

Lemonis came to Indiana after serving 20 seasons as an assistant coach — 12 at The Citadel (1995-2006) and eight at the University of Louisville (2006-14).

At Louisville, he worked closely with head coach Dan McDonnell and made three trips to the College World Series (2007, 2013, 2014). They were college roommates, teammates and athletic Hall of Famers at The Citadel — the military college in Charleston, S.C.

“He’s a great leader of men and a great coach,” says Lemonis of McDonnell, who spoke at the 2017 IHSBCA State Coaches Clinic in Indianapolis. “He is very big on the motivation side — not only with the players but the staff. He’s always trying to push the program forward and put it in a better place. He’s one of the best in the business — if not the best.”

Phone calls between Lemonis and McDonnell are exchanged a couple of times a week.

“We bounce ideas off each other,” says Lemonis.

As a left-handed-swinging infielder at The Citadel, Lemonis had two head coaches — American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chal Port and Fred Jordan — before playing minor league baseball (1995-2004) with Triple-A stops in the Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles organizations.

“(Port) was a tough old school coach,” says Lemonis. “He was big on fundamentals and playing the game the right way. He put together kids who became a close-knit group.”

Lemonis served 12 seasons on Jordan’s coaching staff.

“I got most of my development from him,” says Lemonis. “He was big into physicality and the speed of the game. We didn’t start (weight) lifting until Coach Jordan got there.”

When Lemonis was playing, most coaches thought baseball players should stay away from weights in order to remain flexible.

Now, strength and conditioning is a major part of the game. With fall baseball concluded, IU players are spending four days a week in the weight room, becoming bigger, stronger and faster.

Since many Hoosiers play spring, summer and fall, they are now giving their arms a rest. Throwing programs will resume in December and hitting will amp up. After Christmas break, the team will be in “spring training” mode as it prepares to open the 2018 schedule with four in South Carolina — Feb. 16 (Oklahoma), Feb. 17 (Kansas State) and Feb. 18 (South Alabama) in Myrtle Beach and Feb. 19 (Coastal Carolina) in Conway.

The home opener is slated for March 7 (Cincinnati).

Lemonis graduated from Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, S.C. A move-in, he played his junior year for Jody Rush and senior season for Rick Hardwick, who had come from The Citadel.

As a product of his playing and coaching stops, Lemonis believes in “playing the right way.”

That is reflected in IU being among the top fielding percentage teams in the B1G and the way the Hoosiers train, show up early, hustle and demonstrate positive body language.

“It’s doing a hard 90 down the baseline,” says Lemonis. “It’s respecting the game.”

The IU coaching staff also features Kyle Bunn (associate head coach/pitching), Kyle Cheesebrough (assistant/recruiting coordinator), Zach Lucas (assistant) and Roger Rodeheaver (director of operations).

Cheesebrough and Lucas both played at Louisville and they help Lemonis with the Hoosiers’ offensive game.

CHRISLEMONIS

Chris Lemonis enters his fourth season as head baseball coach at Indiana University in 2018. It will be his 24th as a coach at the NCAA Division I level. (Indiana University Photo)