Tag Archives: Lance Marshall

Sprinkle helping Franklin College as assistant coach

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

Franklin (Ind.) College enjoyed a 25-14 baseball season in 2021.
The Grizzlies hit .299 as a team with 152 extra-base hits (45 home runs) and 87 stolen bases.
Of the top eight players in at-bats, six were seniors. Franklin’s fall workouts included many newcomers.
“We worked a lot on team offense and defense,” says Jake Sprinkle, who is in his second season as a Franklin assistant coach in 2021-22. “We have a lot of new faces and we want to get those guys acclimated.
“We had a lot of scrimmages, letting pitchers and hitters show what they’ve got.”
NCAA Division III rules restrict coach-player contact in the winter.
“We don’t have individual time,” says Sprinkle. “Seniors and leaders are setting up hitting and throwing groups. They’re making velo and exit velocity jumps and getting stronger in the weight room.”
Sprinkle, who works for head coach and associate director of athletics Lance Marshall, has been hitting the recruiting trail and getting plans in place and equipment ordered for the spring of 2022. The season is slated to begin Feb. 26 against Albion at Grizzly Park.
“This time of year we’re getting a lot of kids on-campus,” says Sprinkle of recruiting. “We’re trying to get some guys bought-in. We’re still working on 2022 (recruiting) class and reaching out to some 2023’s we’ve seen in the past.”
The Franklin website lists a 2021 roster of 45 with 40 of those hailing from Indiana.
Sprinkle, who turns 26 on Dec. 28, was born and raised in the Franklin Township section of Indianapolis. He played tennis and baseball at Franklin Central High School. Twin brother Ben was his tennis doubles partner and a baseball teammate. The Flashes were coached on the diamond by John Rockey.
“He was an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle of Rockey. “He brought a ton of energy to practice. He taught us what we needed to do at a younger age and prepared guys for college.
“We wanted to show up and work every single day.”
Jacob Wickliff (now head baseball coach at Beech Grove High School) was a Franklin Central teammate of the Sprinkle brothers.
Sprinkle was a right-handed pitcher at the University of Indianapolis.
As a UIndy freshman in 2015, Sprinkle went 8-2 with 2.97 earned run average. He struck out 32 and walked 11 in 63 2/3 inning.
Tommy John arm surgery caused him to miss the 2016 season and he was granted a medical redshirt before pitching for the Greyhounds from 2017-19. For his four college seasons, he was 22-9 with 3.86 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240 innings.
Sprinkle’s first four years were spent with Gary Vaught as head coach with Al Ready moving up to be head coach his fifth year.
“(Coach Vaught) was so personable,” says Sprinkle. “He made everybody feel like they were special and created a personal bond. He would make sure people knew he was there for them.
“(Coach Ready) is extremely dedicated and hard-working. He’s a guy who’s going to put his best foot forward, do his research and whatever he can to win.”
Landon Hutchison was the Greyhounds pitching coach Sprinkle’s last few seasons.
After his college playing days, Sprinkle was briefly in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in the summer of 2019 then spent a year as a UIndy graduate assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing/Information Systems and a master’s degree in Sports Management from UIndy.
He joined Marshall’s Franklin coaching staff in September 2020.
“(Coach Marshall) is an awesome guy,” says Sprinkle. “He’s extremely hard-working and does everything the right way.
“He builds a championship culture — on and off the field.”
Besides recruiting, Sprinkle is in charge of Grizzlies infielders and hitters and helps with pitchers.
“With our infielders, we’re big on making the routine play,” says Sprinkle. “We re-set every play. It’s about being athletic.
“The hitters’ approach is about being on-time and driving the baseball in the gap.”
Last summer, Sprinkle coached a 17U travel team for Mike Chitwood’s Indiana Elite organization and will be leading a 17U squad for Chad Fowler’s Powerhouse Athletics group in the summer of 2022.
“I thought that’s where my path would take me,” says Sprinkle of coaching. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches.
“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
Sprinkle comes from a baseball-loving family. He and his brother grew up being coached by their father, Tracy Sprinkle with support from mother Lori Sprinkle and sister Malorie Sprinkle (a former Franklin Central softball player who’s now a Butler University freshman). Ben Sprinkle began went to Kentucky Wesleyan College for baseball before transferring to Franklin.

Jake Sprinkle (Franklin College Photo)

Pirates’ Haley says pro baseball scouts must ‘finish the play’

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

Doing all the homework while building and maintaining relationships and trust leading up to the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and beyond.
That’s what it’s all about for a scout tied to an MLB organization.
Indiana native Trevor Haley knows. January 2022 will mark his 14th year scouting for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“We have to finish the play on every player we want to select,” says Haley, who was an area scout before becoming a regional supervisor. “The player has to be who we’ve advertised them to do be.
“You’re investing money and draft capital on these players. You need to know if they’re ready. Are they a good fit for your organization?”
The MLB Draft — now 20 rounds over three days at the All-Star Break — is the potential finish line of talent identified by scouts and the other 362 days are the race.
For an area supervisor, a big part of the job is helping players and their families through the process.
Jameson Taillon, a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher with the New York Yankees, was signed to a Pirates contract by Haley.
“Cultivating and getting to know Jameson and his father Mike that’s a big part of it,” says Haley. “Jameson has overcome a lot of adversity (including testicular cancer surgery during his second MLB season with Pittsburgh in 2017). I couldn’t be prouder of the man he’s become.
“It is a business, but at the core of it are the relationships. Area scouts are listed as the signing scouts, but it’s definitely a collaboration and a team effort.”
Haley recently moved to South Bend, Ind. His current territory is essentially the middle third of the country.
Born in Valparaiso, Ind., Haley was just starting school when he moved to Richmond, Ind.
As a Richmond High School Red Devil, the lefty-swinging first baseman played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Cate and graduated in 1996.
“He’ll coach you hard, but love you afterward,” says Haley of Cate. “He cared about his players. He cared about winning. He cared about the program. We had some pretty good teams (Richmond won four sectionals, three regionals and two semistates, was twice at State Finals semifinalist and was at or near the top of the state rankings from 1993-96).
“I learned to take pride in how I represented myself on and off the field and take pride in the uniform and the team.”
Haley compares the experience to what he expects it might be like to play for former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight.
“It’s hard going through it but, looking back, you wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says Haley of his time with Cate.
At Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Ind., Haley’s freshmen year was the first for Rick Espeset as Spartans head coach.
“(Espeset) had a completely different style than Coach Cate, who was an expressive motivator,” says Haley. “Espy was much more cerebral in his motivation. He was understated. He was a great team builder.”
Haley received a Business Administration degree from Manchester then was an assistant coach for two years on the staff of Grizzlies head coach Lance Marshall at Franklin (Ind.) College.
After a year away from baseball traveling the county working in event marketing, Haley to Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee and received a J.D.Sports Law Certificate in 2006.
The goal had always been to build his resume and open doors in the baseball world.
“That was always my passion,” says Haley. “I took the time to write all the letters and send them out and go though the networking process.”
He landed a baseball operations internship with the 2007 Colorado Rockies. That was the year the team went into the World Series on an improbable 21-1 run that became known as “Rocktober.”
“In my opinion it’s one of the most not-talked-about runs in the history of sports,” says Haley.
Through the Rockies, Haley was able to attend scout school for a chance to enter a limited field. All in all, there are not that many scouts in pro baseball.
“It’s a very insular industry,” says Haley, who got his foot in the door and has been with the Pirates since 2008.
Haley was an area scout in south Texas from 2009-14 before moving back north as an area scout in the Midwest, western Pennsylvania and eastern Canada in 2015 and became a regional supervisor in 2016.

Trevor Haley.

Alum VanWienen wants best for Kankakee Valley baseball

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

Jordon VanWienen has spent his life in the DeMotte/Wheatland, Ind., community and now he’s head baseball coach at his alma mater — Kankakee Valley High School.
The 2006 KVHS graduate was officially moved up from Kougars assistant coach in July. He had served four years as junior varsity head coach — one on the staff of Doug Greenlee and three under Ryan Armstrong then three years as a varsity assistant to Doug Nelson.
“Seeing the KV program excel is true to my heart,” says VanWienen, who was a catcher for Greenlee as a Kougar player.
“He’s got a lot of heart and passion — not only for the game but for his players,” says VanWienen of Greenlee. “He’s about more than just winning baseball games.
“He had our backs.”
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period concluded Oct. 16 and VanWienen had about 20 to 25 athletes not in fall sports participating in the twice-weekly sessions.
“We got outside every week that we went with good solid practices,” says VanWienen. “We would work on defense one day and offense another day.
“We had a good turnout. The numbers were high, which is a good sign for the program. There are a lot of good work ethics. We’re headed in the right direction.”
Kankakee Valley (enrollment around 1,100) is a member of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (with Andrean, Highland, Hobart, Lowell and Munster).
In 2021, the Kougars were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Culver Academies, Glenn, Hanover Central, Knox and River Forest. Kankakee Valley has won four sectional titles — the last in 1999.
Outfielder Nolan McKim (Class of 2020) is on the reserve baseball roster at Indiana Tech. VanWienen says a pair of current Kougars – left-handed pitcher Max Schultz and infielder-outfielder Luke Andree — have college potential and there are others that could play at the next level.
VanWienen’s assistants are Jim Pint, Scott Holmes and Jeremy Rohzon. Hitting coach Pint has been a volunteer at KV for 22 years. Pitching coach Holmes and JV head coach/varsity assistant Rohzon are both Kankakee Valley graduates.
KV has two baseball fields on its Wheatfield campus. A JV/freshmen diamond was used for the first time in 2021.
A strong feeder system is a priority for VanWienen.
“My goal is to have a large involvement with local Little Leagues,” says VanWienen, who sits in the DeMotte Little League board.
A travel ball program of DeMotte/Wheatfield players — the NWI Warriors — was established in August. There are currently 9U and 12U baseball teams.
“The program is designed to get boys playing in April in tournaments and they can play in Little League as well,” says VanWienen. “I intend to start middle school season after high school season.”
VanWienen wants to narrow the gap between Little League and high school where some players lose interest or get involved with other things.
After KV, VanWienen to Franklin (Ind.) College for a few years. He was with the Lance Marshall-coached Grizzlies in fall ball and was involved in athletic training. He now works in the grains department at Iroquois Bio-Energy Company, LLC in Rensselaer, Ind.
Besides coaching Little League and at KV, VanWienen led Outcast Thunder 15U, 16U and 17U travel teams from 2017-19.
Jordon and wife Julie (a 2008 Kankakee Valley graduate) have been married for 12 years. They have two children — son Ayden (10) and daughter Hayley (9). Ayden VanWienen is active in soccer, basketball, baseball and 4-H. Hayley VanWienen participates in soccer, gymnastics and 4-H. The VanWienens have a San Pierre, Ind., address.

The VanWienens (counterclockwise from upper right): Jordon, Julie, Hayley and Ayden.

Podkul’s path takes him to Yinzer Baseball Confederacy

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

Frank Podkul’s baseball journey has taken him to many places in North America.
The trek began in northwest Indiana. Podkul’s first organized experience came at Schererville Little League. That was followed by a Lake Central travel team, Northwest Indiana Shockers (coached by John Mallee), Indiana Playermakers (coached by Dave Griffin), Hammond Seminoles (coached by Ryan Pishkur, Tyler Oche and Matt Pobereyko), Hammond Chiefs (coached by Dave Sutkowski) and Midwest Irish (coached by Shane Brogan).
Podkul graduated from Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., in 2014. He helped the 59ers (steered by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur) win an IHSAA Class 3A state title that year.
Younger brother Nick Podkul played up on most of Frank’s teams, including Andrean. Nick went on to Notre Dame and is now with Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
“We talk just about everyday,” says Frank. “We’e really close.”
Frank and Nick grew up in a neighborhood with kids who played many different sports — football, basketball, baseball, tennis etc.
“When you build that culture growing up you get a better appreciation for everything,” says Podkul, who turned 26 June 3. “:earn to be an athlete first. Everything else falls into place after that.
“It hurt when people want to specialize early. Let kids be kids.”
After he thought he might be a pitcher in college since he didn’t swing a potent bat in high school, Podkul played four seasons in the infield for Lance Marshall at Franklin (Ind.) College (2015-18).
“He’s just the best,” says Podkul of Marshall. “He would do anything for any of his players — no matter what. The way he’s built that program over the years it is one big family.
“On the baseball side of it, he let guys be themselves and got the best out of everybody.”
A corner infielder for the Grizzlies (mostly third base his last two years), Podkul appeared in 132 games and hit .290 (134-of-462) with 29 home runs, 25 doubles, 122 runs batted in, 109 runs and a .946 OPS (.414 on-base percentage plus .532 slugging average).
In 2018, Podkul hit .327 (53-of-162) with 16 homers, 10 doubles, 57 RBIs, 52 runs and a 1.129 OPS (.444/.685) while Franklin went 39-5 and ending the season at the NCAA Division III Central Regional.
“We had a ridiculous lineup,” says Podkul. “The amount of times we scored four or five runs in the first inning was almost comical.”
With baseball workouts and games, classes and his duties as a student athletic trainer, Podkul felt like a two-sport athlete as a senior. In the fall, he would awake at 5 a.m. for soccer practice, followed by classes, baseball practice and weightlifting then football practice and staying on top of his homework.
“At Franklin you have to be a good student,” says Podkul. “There’s no gimme classes.
“Everything is challenging.”
In his first two college summers, Podkul played for the Midwest Irish in 2015 and in the Virginia Beach (Va.) Collegiate Baseball League in 2016.
Podkul got a kickstart to his senior season at Franklin by spending the summer of 2017 with the Medicine Hat (Alberta) Mavericks of the Western Canadian Baseball League.
“It was amazing,” says Podkul. “There’s really good competition in that league. Learning some stuff from those guys helped me in my senior year.”
One of his fond memories is playing a game in Fort McMurray, Alberta, which is 890 kilometers (428 miles) north of Medicine Hat and seeing the sun out at 1 a.m.
After graduating from Franklin as an Athletic Training major with minors in Exercise Science and Coaching, Podkul went through some workouts in the independent pro Frontier League. Nothing came of those and he went to the California Winter League where he landed a spot with the Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers in 2019.
In the fall of that year, Podkul contacted Joe Torre (not that Joe Torre) of Torre Baseball Training LLC in Ridgewood, N.J. He runs an independent ball spring training camp in Palm Beach, Fla.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and much of baseball was shut down, a four-team league — the Yinzer Baseball Confederacy — was established with all games played in Washington, Pa., run by Torre and Washington Wild Things president/general manager Tony Buccilli.
Podkul split his time between the Road Warrior Black Sox and Baseball Brilliance Sox. The Frontier League put in the two other teams — the Wild Things and Steel City Slammin Sammies.
The YBC is back for 2021 with the Road Warrior Black Sox, Baseball Brilliance Sox, Killer Bees and Wolfpack. Players are not paid. They are reimbursed clubhouse attendant dues if they are picked up by another league.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Podkul is with the Carson McCurdy-managed Black Sox — playing corner infielder and occasionally in the outfield. Through 32 games, he was hitting .284 (27-of-95) with five homers, 10 doubles, 13 RBIs, 16 runs and a .981 OPS (.433/.547).
The Yinzer league provides the opportunity for players to stay sharp and build up their numbers while looking to catch on in independent leagues. Rosters are set a month at a time.
“It’s real games,” says Podkul, who plays daily — either afternoon or night — at Wild Things Park. “It’s not a showcase.
“You’ve got to play and get in front of (coaches and scouts). You go where you’re going to be a good fit.”
Since January, about 60 Yinzer league players have moved to other clubs.

Frank Podkul with Andrean High School.
Frank Podkul with Franklin (Ind.) College.
Frank Podkul with Franklin (Ind.) College.
Frank Podkul with Franklin (Ind.) College.
Frank Podkul with the Medicine Hat (Alberta) Mavericks.
Frank Podkul with the Road Warrior Black Sox of the Yinzer Baseball Confederacy.

Reinoehl makes diamond impact as Franklin College sidearmer

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

Alex Reinoehl just wanted to get a chance to play.
With so many talented players on the Franklin (Ind.) College squad, it didn’t look like Reinoehl would be able to crack the Grizzlies lineup at his favorite position — third base.
In the fall of his freshman year (2017), Franklin head coach Lance Marshall approached Reinoehl and asked him if he could pitch.
He threw some from a three-quarter overhand arm slot but really got movement when he dropped down sidearm — something he had done while playing with his buddies.
Reinoehl pitched in a scrimmage against Vincennes University with his sidearm delivery.
“It was moving a ton,” says Reinoehl. “Guys were not hitting it.”
That’s when he became a college baseball regular — as a pitcher.
In four seasons at NCAA Division III Franklin (2018-21), Reinoehl has made 42 appearances (all as a reliever) and is 12-3 with three saves and a 3.74 earned run average. He has 67 strikeouts and 21 walks in 84 1/3 innings.
In 2021, red-haired righty got into 18 games (16 in relief) with 3-0 record, four saves and 3.50 ERA. He fanned 32 and walked 12 in 36 innings. He had five K’s and one walk in four bullpen innings March 27 against Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Earlham College.
Reinoehl, who turns 23 on Sept. 25, graduated in May with a degree in Criminal Justice and minor in Spanish from Franklin and plans to complete a Psychology minor while using his extra COVID-19 year of eligibility in 2021-22.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder uses a sinking fastball that has been clocked at 84 mph with a slider and change-up.
“(Speed) is not what I’m all about,” says Reinoehl. “It’s more sink.”
He’d like to get a little more velocity, but he also knows if they get too much they could flatten out and not get as much desired dive.
He has fed his knowledge by listening to Coach Marshall, Franklin assistant and former Franklin Central High School and University of Indianapolis right-hander Jake Sprinkle, other pitchers and online information. Former big league submariner Brad Ziegler and SidearmNation.com are two of his resources.
Reinoehl is 2017 graduate of Northview High School in Brazil, Ind., where his head coach was Craig Trout.
As a junior, Reinoehl started at third base and scored the decisive run in the Knights’ 2-1 win against Western in the 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state championship game.
Born in Houston, Texas, Reinoehl moved to Brazil — father Jon’s hometown — at 8 and played for league and all-star teams in what is now Clay Youth League Baseball through his freshmen year of high school. His lone travel ball year was as an eighth grader with the Terre Haute Junior Rex.
In high school, Reinoehl played American Legion ball for Kris Lawson-managed Clinton Post 140 for one summer and Eric France-managed Brazil Post 2 for two.
Reinoehl has pitched for three summer collegiate teams — the Midwest Prospect Baseball League’s Franklin (Ind.) Cougars in 2019, the College Summer League at Grand Park’s Juice in 2020 and the Prospect League’s Terre Haute Rex in 2021.
Richmond, Ind., native and former Wright State University and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league infielder Matt Morrow was head coach of the CSL‘s Juice.
A.J. Reed, who socked 140 professional home runs (four in the big leagues), is head coach for the Rex. Jacob Harden, who was recently named head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School, is an assistant.
Jon, who played football and basketball at Northview, and Anna Reinoehl have five children — sons Steven, Alex, Isaac, Peyton and daughter Emma.
Indiana University graduate Steven Reinoehl played soccer at Northview. Ball State University student Isaac Reinoehl played basketball for the Knights. Peyton Reinoehl (Northview Class of 2022) is also a basketball player. Emma Reinoehl is about to turn 14 and will be a Northview freshman in the fall.
Grandfather Steve Reinoehl played baseball at Van Buren High School, which is part of the Northview consolidation.

Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Terre Haute Rex Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)
Alex Reinoehl (Franklin College Photo)

Bixler providing power at or near top of Franklin College order

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ryan Bixler smacked two home runs in Franklin (Ind.) College’s win on Saturday, April 10 and was named Monday, April 12 as the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time in his college baseball career.

It wasn’t the first case of multiple-mashing for the Logansport, Ind., native.

The righty-swinging fifth-year senior right fielder lofted two dingers May 10, 2018 against Manchester, two April 17, 2018 against Rose-Hulman, three April 16, 2019 at Rose-Hulman and two March 1, 2020 against Heidelberg.

On April 3, 2021 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Franklin’s John P. McDowell Field against Hanover, Bixler’s eight-inning clout made the school’s all-time homer king.

The Grizzlies are 13-5 overall and in the HCAC heading into twin bills Saturday, April 17 vs. Rose-Hulman and Sunday, April 18 at Anderson.

The HCAC tournament (site to be determined) in May will include all 10 teams this year with the top five seeds serving as the home team in best-of-three series. A five-team finals will feature a double bye for the top seed. 

Bixler’s head-turning batting numbers so far for 2021 include a .449 (31-of-69) average with five homers, one triple, nine doubles, 25 runs batting, 31 runs scored and 5-of-6 in stolen bases. He owns a .576 on-base percentage and .826 slugging average.

“I look to do damage,” says Bixler of his offensive approach. “I just try to get the ball in the air or in the gap.”

While he has homered to center and right, he estimates that more than half of his long balls have gone out to left field.

During his Franklin days (Bixler played at Indiana Wesleyan in 2017 then transferred), he is hitting .354 (159-of-449) with 33 homers, nine triples, 34 doubles, 145 RBIs, 156 runs and is 32-of-38 in stolen bases. He sports a ..475 on-base percentage and .690 slugging average.

Bixler hit .321 with three homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs in eight games in 2020..

In 2019, he was first-team all-HCAC and third-team all-region by D3Baseball.

In 2018, he was the HCAC Offensive Player of the Year and conference tournament MVP. He was also honored as a third-team All-America pick by D3Baseball.com and was on the D3Baseball.com and American Baseball Coaches Association all-region.

Normally a 2-hole hitter, Bixler has been moved to the top of the Grizzlies order because of an injury to shortstop Quenton Welllington.

Bixler has had little trouble making the switch since he led off for four seasons at Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School in Walton, Ind. (2013-16).

Is there a difference between 1 and 2?

“Maybe to start the game,” says Bixler. “As lead-off see as many pitches as you can for your teammates.”

Franklin coach Lance Marshall recruited Bixler while the player was in high school and welcomed him when he decided to transfer.

“Everyone respects him,” says Bixler of Marshall, FC head coach since the fall of 1997. “He knows how to win games.

“It’s a fun culture to be around for sure. This was the best fit for me.”

Bixler grew up playing baseball in Logansport and transferred to Lewis Cass after his eighth grade year. With the Kings, he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Marschand.

“He’s huge role model,” says Bixler of Marchand. “He took me under his wing and taught me almost everything I know today about baseball.

“He truly cares for each player. He is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”

Bixler was supposed to graduate in 2020. When granted another year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to play another season and took a class while also working as a salesman for Warweg & Co., Irrigation in Franklin. He is slated to graduate this spring with a Public Relations degree and a minor in Business.

At 23, Ryan is the youngest of Brad and Kathy Bixler’s four sons. Josh is the oldest, followed by Justin and Brandon.

Ryan Bixler (Franklin College Photo)

Inglels sees ‘special’ things at Southwestern (Shelbyville)

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Chris Ingels has watched an exceptional group of athletes make their way through Southwestern Junior-Senior High School near Shelbyville, Ind.

The Class of 2021 played a part in a 14-11 baseball season in 2018 — the first winning season in program history since 1976. The Spartans went 17-9 on the diamond in 2019 and lost the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far in 2020-21, Southwestern has earned IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in boys soccer and boys basketball.

“They’ve contributed so much to our school,” says Ingels, who heads into his eighth season as Southwestern head baseball coach this spring and is also a boys basketball assistant and head cross country coach at the school where he is also a Social Studies and Physical Education teacher. “They’re pretty special kids and great students.

“When you have really good players it makes the coach look smart.”

Of the Spartans’ six seniors (Anick Harstell, Christian DeArmitt, Ethan Wending, Chance Johnson, Blake Dunbar and Kirk Van Gorden), five played as sophomores with Hartsell, DeArnitt, Wending and Johnson in the starting lineup. 

Two juniors (Aiden Hartsell and Jordan Jones) started as freshmen. Matthew Clements is a talented sophomore who grew up in the Indiana Bulls organization. Southwestern lost two players to graduation in 2020.

Ingels’ 2021 assistant is South Dearborn High School graduate and Franklin College senior Alex Smith.

Located seven miles from Shelbyville and close to the community of Marietta, Southwestern (enrollment around 175) is a member of the Mid-Hoosier Conference (with Edinburgh, Hauser, Morristown, North Decatur, South Decatur and Waldron).

MHC games are played on consecutive days as home-and-home series.

“You have to have multiple pitchers, which I like,” says Ingels.

The Spartans are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown (the 2021 host) and Waldron. Southwestern won its lone sectional crown in 1999.

Southwestern is to open the 2021 season at home April 5 against Eminence.

Opponents not in the conference or sectional include Austin, Oldenburg Academy, Shelbyville, Brown County, Indiana School for the Deaf, Trinity Lutheran, Arsenal Tech and Herron.

The Spartans could see Triton Central in the Shelby County Tournament at Morristown on May 8.

There are 17 players in the Southwestern program. Ingels says a few junior varsity games will be sprinkled in to get younger players some playing experience.

The Spartans play home games on-campus at the Jeremy Wright Athletic Complex.

The high school program is fed by a junior high club. Seventh and eighth graders play some games in the spring then take part in the Babe Ruth League at Edinburgh during the summer. 

“It’s really beneficial,” says Ingels. 

Ingels, played tennis for Kevin Rockey, Rodney Klein and Pete Khensouri, basketball for Steve Todd and baseball for Derick Bright and Brian Ingels (his father) at Edinburgh High School and graduated in 2002.

Todd was the first to talk to Chris about coaching and gave him the opportunity to volunteer with the Lancers.

“(Bright) was a really good baseball coach,” says Ingels. “He changed the way we practiced. Everything was structured. In (batting practice), we’d have two-strike swings, hit-and-run swings, bunt, hit to the right side and swing away.”

Brian Ingels, who had been head football coach at Edinburgh when Chris was young and a longtime cross country and track coach at the school. He was Bright’s assistant before stepping in as head baseball coach for his son’s senior year. The Industrial Arts instructor is currently in his 43rd year of teaching at Edinburgh.

Ingels began coaching boys basketball before finishing at Franklin College in 2007 as an assistant to Edinburgh head coach Todd Tatlock. 

After that, Ingels aided Kerry Brown then Toby Carrigan at South Dearborn before helping Brent Keck at Perry Meridian. He is on Brady Days’ staff at Southwestern.

Lance Marshall, the Franklin College head baseball coach, has let Ingels sit in on Grizzlies practice and has offered advice.

“He’s a great guy,” says Ingels.

Ingels values his relationships and connections to his young athletes.

“Through baseball you are dealing with a lot of failure and adversity,” says Ingels. “You’re trying to get kids to be able to handle that and push their way through it and succeed in the end.”

Ingels sees a lot of lessons in baseball.

“It starts with preparation and having to put a lot of work into each little part,” says Ingels. “That adds up in the end.”

The coach appreciates the team aspect of the sport and that you’re 

“A lot of people think baseball is an individual sport on your own island at each position and getting your stats at the plate,” says Ingels. “It’s the ultimate team sport when it comes down to it.”

One player can’t carry the whole load.

On the offensive side, Ingels sees worth in batting average. But that doesn’t rank first in his eyes.

“On-base percentage is so much more important,” says Ingels. “We’ve got to get men on base.”

While the Spartans may not chart it in 2021, there will be discussions about quality at-bats.

“Sometimes a groundout to the right side can be productive,” says Ingels.

Chris Ingels

Indiana’s college baseball teams take to the diamond for ’21

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Cabin fever and cold temperatures have been a reality in Indiana this winter.

But it’s beginning to thaw in many places. College baseball games have been played in the state and institutions from the state have traveled to open the 2021 season.

There are 38 college baseball programs in Indiana — Ball State (Head coach Rich Maloney), Butler (Dave Schrage), Evansville (Wes Carroll), Notre Dame (Link Jarrett), Purdue (Greg Goff), Purdue Fort Wayne (Doug Schreiber), Indiana (Jeff Mercer), Indiana State (Mitch Hannahs) and Valparaiso (Brian Schmack) in NCAA Division I, Indianapolis (Al Ready), Purdue Northwest (Dave Griffin) and Southern Indiana (Tracy Archuleta) in NCAA Division II, Anderson (Matt Bair), DePauw (Blake Allen), Earlham (Steve Sakosits), Franklin (Lance Marshall), Hanover (Grant Bellak), Manchester (Rick Espeset), Rose-Hulman (Jeff Jenkins), Trine (Greg Perschke) and Wabash (Jake Martin) in NCAA Division III, Bethel (Seth Zartman), Calumet of Saint Joseph (Brian Nowakowski), Goshen (Alex Childers), Grace (Ryan Roth), Huntington (Mike Frame), Marian (Todd Bacon), Oakland City (Andy Lasher), Taylor (Kyle Gould), Indiana University-Kokomo (Matt Howard), Indiana University South Bend (Doug Buysse), Indiana University Southeast (Ben Reel), Indiana Tech (Kip McWilliams), Indiana Wesleyan (Rich Benjamin) and Saint Francis (Dustin Butcher) in NAIA and Ancilla (Chris Woodruff), Ivy Tech Northeast (Lance Hershberger) and Vincennes (Chris Barney) in NJCAA — and 26 have already heard “Play Ball!”

Where they’ve been allowed, fans have been in the stands. Others have followed on internet streams.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have altered traditional schedules. Many have gone to longer series to limit travel.

So who’s off to the hottest starts?

Coming off a four-game series sweep against IU Southeast, Huntington is 7-0.

Taylor got the earliest start of any college team in the start, opening its season Jan. 22 in Arizona. The Trojans are 11-6.

Ball State leads D-I clubs at 4-3. The Cardinals split a season-opening series at Arizona.

The Big Ten opted to play conference games only in ’21. Indiana opens March 5 in Minneapolis and will play games against Minnesota and Rutgers.

Meanwhile, Purdue will also open a four-game series against Nebraska in Round Rock, Texas, on March 5.

Purdue Northwest is also scheduled to get going March 5.

Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference teams Earlham, Franklin, Hanover and Manchester open up March 6. Anderson and Rose-Hulman get into the act March 7.

Trine’s lid-lifter is slated for March 13.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through Feb. 28

NCAA Division I

Ball State 4-3

Evansville 3-3

Indiana State 3-4

Notre Dame 2-1

Purdue Fort Wayne 1-3

Valparaiso 1-5 

Butler 0-0

Indiana 0-0

Purdue 0-0

NCAA Division II

Southern Indiana 2-1

Indianapolis 1-5

Purdue Northwest 0-0

NCAA Division III

DePauw 1-1

Wabash 1-1

Anderson 0-0

Earlham 0-0

Franklin 0-0

Hanover 0-0

Manchester 0-0

Rose-Hulman 0-0

Trine 0-0

NAIA

Taylor 11-6

Huntington 7-0

Oakland City 6-4

Saint Francis 6-5

Marian 6-6

Indiana University Southeast 5-10

Indiana Wesleyan 4-7

Indiana University-Kokomo 3-4

Bethel 2-8

Grace 1-3

Goshen 0-2

Indiana University South Bend 0-4 

Indiana Tech 0-7

Calumet of Saint Joseph 0-0

Junior College

Vincennes 2-6

Ancilla 2-6

Ivy Tech Northeast 0-1

Hardisty leads hard-nose Jennings County Panthers

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Taking many of his cues from his high school coach, Trent Hardisty heads into his fifth season guiding the baseball program at Jennings County High School in North Vernon, Ind., in 2021.

Hardisty, who joined the Panthers staff in the mid-2000’s after a stint at Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind., is a 1999 graduate of Martinsville (Ind.) High School and gained much from the direction of Bill Tutterow.

What did Hardisty learn about baseball from the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer?

“Just about everything,” says Hardisty. “He was huge on pitching and defense. Offensively, we were super aggressive.

“A lot of my coaching style stems from him.”

Right-handed pitcher Hardisty was IHSBCA Class 4A honorable mention all-state and represented the Artesians as an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series alternate before going to the University of Southern Indiana. He tried out and made the team in the fall, but discovered it wasn’t the right fit for him.

Hardisty had been recruited by Lance Marshall at Franklin (Ind.) College and transferred to study Secondary Education and play for the Grizzlies.

“He’s just a terrific person,” says Hardisty of Marshall. “He was demanding on what he wanted done. 

“That’s one of the character traits that drew me to him.”

Hardisty was all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honorable mention in 2000 and 2002 and received his degree in 2003. 

Prior to taking the head coaching reins at Jennings County, Hardisty was a varsity assistant for five years under Gabe Lowman.

Hardisty’s current staff includes varsity helper Ryan Cummings and junior varsity coach Pete Manowitz.

Like the rest of Indiana, the Panthers missed out on a 2020 season became of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hardisty says about 10 players got in some serious summer baseball once the shutdown was over.

In the fall — when players finally got to experience the new turf on the home diamond — there was an emphasis.

“We did some hitting every once in awhile to keep sharp,” says Hardisty. “But we wanted them to learn how we want them to play defense.”

It’s a hard-nose, blue-collar attitude, where the highlight reel play is appreciated and the basic play is expected.

Not only does Jennings County have turf now, which will help deal with weather issues, the field has had lights for a number of years.

In 2021 winter workouts, Hardisty has been regularly working with 12 to 14 players with many others occupied with basketball.

“We’ve been doing a lot of throwing, trying to get the arms in-shape,” says Hardisty. “Next week will be the first time we touch the bat. We’re also start throwing bullpens.

“We want them to be an athlete, make accurate throws and hit (the receiver of the throw) in the chest.”

Hardisty expects to have around 30 players for varsity and junior varsity squads in the spring.

Jennings County (enrollment around 1,200) belongs to the Hoosier Hills Conference (with Bedford North Lawrence, Columbus East, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Madison Consolidated, New Albany and Seymour).

The HCC has an in-season tournament and each team usually plays one another at least one time.

The Panthers are in an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, New Albany and Seymour. Jennings County has won 11 sectionals — the last in 2006.

The high school program is fed by a Jennings County recreational league and by a travel ball organization called Panther Baseball.

Josh Pettit (Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio) is a recent JC players are on college baseball roster. Junior Jacob Vogel has been drawing interest at the next level.

Trent, an eighth grade physical education and health teacher and Jennings County Middle School, and wife Jennifer Hardisty reside in Franklin with son Tyler (12) and daughter Tenley (9). Tyler Hardisty is involved with football, basketball and baseball. Tenley Hardisty is a dancer.

Jennings County High School head baseball coach Trent Hardisty hangs with son Tyler.

Communication key for Bullpen Tournaments VP Tucker

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Growing up playing sports in Zionsville, Ind., Michael Tucker knew what it was to be a teammate.

A center in basketball and catcher in baseball, Tulsa, Okla.-born Tucker played at Zionsville Community High School and graduated in 2008. Some of his closest friends to this day played on those squads.

“We had some great teams,” says Tucker, who played for head coaches Dave Ferrell and Shaun Busick in basketball and Darrell Osborne and Adam Metzler in baseball and counted Matt Miller as a mate on the court and the diamond. Miller went on to pitch at the University of Michigan and in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

Eric Charles went on to play baseball at Purdue University.

Ryan Price’s father Tom Price played baseball for Dr. Don Brandon at Anderson (Ind.) University and that’s one of the reasons Tucker ended up at the NCAA Division III school.

Tucker was a standout hitter while playing catcher and first base for the Ravens and the Hall of Famer they called “Bama” for his first two college seasons followed by two with David Pressley.

Brandon impressed Tucker with his memory.

“He can tell you the situation — who was on the mound and the count — (from most any game),” says Tucker. “He was really fun to learn from.”

Pressley was a first-time head coach at Anderson. Tucker credits him with lessons on and off the field.

“I learned how to be a man,” says Tucker. “(Pressley) is a huge man of faith.

“He taught a tremendous amount of life lessons.”

Tucker also gained knowledge from Brad Lantz, who was an AU senior receiver when he was a freshman and went on to be a high school head coach at Guerin Catholic and Lapel and is now coaching in the Indy Sharks travel organization.

“I learned so much about catching, counts and what to look for,” says Tucker. “I learned more from (Lantz) than anyone else.”

Tucker was named to D3baseball.com’s 2010s All-Decade Team.  During his career, Tucket hit .361 with 52 home runs, 50 doubles, 193 runs batted in and a .730 slugging percentage. He was a first-team All-America selection and the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference MVP in 2011.

Franklin (Ind.) College has long been a big HCAC rival for Anderson. Tucker recalls how Grizzlies head coach Lance Marshall sometimes used to bring in a fifth infielder when Tucker was at the plate. 

Not a Marshall fan at the time, Tucker has come to see the veteran coach as one of his favorites.

Tucker received a Management degree with a minor in Entrepreneurship from Anderson U. in 2012. 

His “internship” time was spent coaching (coaching with Cesar Barrientos and the Indiana Baseball Academy Storm while injured in 2009) or playing summer collegiate ball (Fort Mill, S.C., Stingers of the Southern Collegiate Baseball League in 2010 and Hannibal, Mo., Cavemen of the Prospect League in 2011 — a team owned at the time by former big leaguers Ryan Klesko and Woody Williams) and he saw a future related to the diamond. 

“I wanted to make baseball my job whether that was with an indoor facility, coaching, training or tournaments,” says Tucker. “I didn’t know what avenue.”

Tucker was a director at the Incrediplex on the northeast side of Indianapolis 2013-15 and coached for the Indiana Bulls travel organization 2012-16.

Since April 2015, Tucker has been part of a different team as vice president for Bullpen Tournaments, Prep Baseball Report Tournaments (with Rhett Goodmiller as director of tournaments) and Pro X Athlete Development (with former big league pitcher Joe Thatcher as co-founder and president) are tenants at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Bullpen, with Tucker as the director of day-to-day operations, is involved with Pro X and works with PBR Indiana and consults with PBR national, which operates LakePoint Sports campus in Emerson, Ga., and Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, Mo.

Ground was recently broken for Championship Park in Kokomo, Ind., and that complex will also be used by Bullpen and PBR.

The 2021 summer will mark Tucker’s seventh with Bullpen Tournaments. 

Hired by BT president Blake Hibler, whom he knew from working Prep Baseball Report showcases, Tucker started at Bullpen in time to experience Grand Park’s first full summer.

“I did everything,” says Tucker. “I tried to be a sponge. Being in baseball your whole life is completely different from the tournament industry.

“There’s learning the business side and scheduling.”

While at the Incrediplex near Lawrence, Tucker had done scheduling on a smaller scale and had become comfortable with software.

Tucker appreciates that Hibler lets him seek out processes.

“If I can find a better mousetrap, he lets me run with it,” says Tucker.

Bullpen is a very large operation.

“We’re a different beast in a lot of ways,” says Tucker, who notes that on any given weekend the company may have as many as 45 fields under its control, including those on and off the Grand Park campus.

Tucker says the key is getting the word out to teams, families and recruiters.

“You have to be able to communicate,” says Tucker. “Half of scheduling is the communicating of the schedule.”

With Hibler having a large part in brainstorming and development, Bullpen first used the Tourney Machine app and now works with Playbook 365 while also helping develop PitchAware and ScoreHQ. 

Bullpen hires scorekeepers for every high school tournament game (15U to 18U) at Grand Park. In 2020, there was also video on six fields.

“It’s huge to have accurate data,” says Tucker. “We can overlay video with stats.

“(A college) coach can recruit from his office.”

But even though Bullpen is dealing with many moving parts, there are only a half dozen full-time employees.

“Guys are tasked to learn a lot of different things,” says Tucker. “But we never feel like this is something I can’t do. Our mentality is we’re going bust our butts and how do we solve this problem?

“Our guys do a tremendous job of being flexible.”

An example of teamwork and flexibility is the creation of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which came about when so many other leagues were canceling the 2020 summer season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team that made it happen include Hibler, Tucker, Thatcher, Phil Wade, Luke Dietz, Mark Walther, Matt Bowles, Logan Weins, Cam Eveland and Kevin Ricks. Thatcher and Walther are at Pro X. Weins splits his time between Bullpen Tournaments and PBR Tournaments.

With many players reaching out, Bullpen saw the need and went to work to put together what became a 12-team league with most games played at Grand Park with a few at Kokomo Municipal Stadium and Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis.

The league was constructed with safety, NCAA and recruiting regulations in mind. Players were placed, umpires were lined up and jerseys were distributed in a very short time frame.

“We had about seven days to do it,” says Tucker. “We’re excited for it to come back (in 2021).”

As a D-III alum, Tucker was especially pleased that the CSL allowed top-flight players like Joe Moran (who pitched for Anderson and has transferred to Taylor University) was able to compete against D-I talent.

While the pandemic slowed the start of the 2020 Bullpen season, Tucker estimates that there were upwards of 80 percent in games played as compared to a normal year.

The fall included more contests than ever.

“Teams couldn’t play in the spring and that baseball hunger was still there,” says Tucker. “They wanted to play a little longer.

“We had a great fall.”

Weather plays a part, but the first games each year at Grand Park with all its turf fields are collegiate in February. 

“If we get a warm-weather day our phone blows up,” says Tucker. 

Activity starts to ramp up in March with the first 8U to 14U contests the last weekend of that month.

Of course, the pandemic will have a say in what happens in 2021.

“With all the uncertainty it’s tough,” says Tucker. “It’s going to be an interesting spring.”

A perk of Tucker’s position and location is the relationships he gets to build with high school coaches. 

He sees the unique dynamic between between Noblesville’s Justin Keever, Westfield’s Ryan Bunnell, Zionsville’s Jered Moore and Fishers’ Matt Cherry of the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.

“They’re buddies,” says Tucker. “They go out to eat after the game.”

Michael and wife Dani Tucker live in Noblesville, Ind., with son Cole (5) and Cali (3).

The Tucker family (from left): Cali, Dani, Michael and Cole. Michael Tucker is vice president of Bullpen Tournaments is a tenant at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.