Tyler Rubasky, who hails from Pennsylvania, has returned to Indiana to coach college baseball. Rubasky, a 2012 graduate of Hazleton (Pa.) Area High School, played at catcher for Cougars head coach Gino Cara. “He made a huge impact on me,” says Rubasky. “I went home for Christmas break. My first stop was to see my dad (Brian Rubasky) at his office. My second stop was to see Coach Cara in his office.” “He was there with constant encouragement and trying to do right by me and the team,” says Rubasky of Cara, who was a standout baseball player at Lafayette University. “He encouraged me to keep pursuing the dream and keep chasing the game.” At NCAA Division IIIWaynesburg (Pa.) University, Rubasky played for Yellow Jackets head coach Mike Humiston, worked with pitching coach Perry Cunningham (who is now head coach) and also was an assistant coach. “Coach Hum gave me a shot,” says Rubasky. “I’m not a huge guy for a catcher. I was always overlooked for my size. He saw something in me. “Perry and I have an awesome relationship. He went to Davis & Elkins (as a student/athlete). That was kind of a cool full circle moment.” Rubasky started college on a different path. “I was going to be a teacher and then I found the Athletic Training (major),” says Rubasky. “That wasn’t what I found passion in. “I can still teach through coaching and can still be around baseball which I love. “I guess I’m pretty fortunate.” Rubasky, who earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Exercise Science, Wellness and Physiology at Waynesburg (2016) and a Masters of Science degree in Coaching and Sport Education at West Virginia University (2018), was charge of catchers and outfielders and assisted with hitters at D-III Franklin (Ind.) College for Grizzlies head coach Lance Marshall. During the 2019 season and through August 2020, Rubasky led catchers, outfielders and hitters at D-II Davis & Elkins (W.Va.) College in 2021 and 2022. The Senators head coach was Tim Miller. In late August 2022, Rubasky was hired as an assistant at D-III Trine University in Angola, Ind. Greg Perschke is entering his 22nd season as Thunder head coach in 2023. “I really like Indiana,” says Rubasky. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be a full-time assistant which is rare at our level. Across baseball sometimes it’s rare. “Coach Marshall is very close to my heart. Coach Perschke has been there long enough that he must have something going on and Trine is a great place to be — from an overall university standpoint with their academics and the athletics being a priority.” Rubasky oversees hitters and catchers at Trine while sharing in recruiting duties with Perschke. “Recruiting is a huge piece at any college level, especially at our level,” says Rubasky. “We’re going to do our part for that.” Rubasky has also coached at the youth baseball level. He was head coach for 14U Pony League World Series host team, Indiana Elite 16U and Pittsburgh Outlaws 14U. The Transfer Portal continues to play a major part in college sports, but it’s not quite as prevalent at the D-III level where there are no athletic scholarships. Players do transfer to places like Trine for reasons such as a major or masters degree or getting closer to home. Occasionally, there might be a bounce-back from NCAA D-I or D-II. Rubasky says the basic different between D-III and D-II is contact/development time between players and coaches. He says D-II players and coaches can work together eight hours a week from the first day of school in the fall until just before finals in the spring. D-III teams are allowed four weeks of practice in the fall. Players are then given a set of recommendations to work until the period leading up to the season opener. For Trine in 2023 that is Feb. 25 at Anderson (Ind.) University.
Notre Dame — the last college baseball team from Indiana left standing in 2022 — found out today (May 30) that the Irish will be in the Statesboro Regional for the 64-team NCAA Division I tournament. The No. 2-seeded Irish (35-14) play No. 3 Texas Tech (37-20) at 2 p.m. Friday, June 3. Site host and top-seeded Georgia Southern (40-18) plays No. UNC Greensboro (34-28) at 7 p.m. Friday. Notre Dame made it to the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Regionals continue through June 6 with super regionals June 10-13 and the College World Series June 17-27. Ball State made it to the “if necessary” Mid-American Conference tournament championship game against Central Michigan and lost 11-7 to wind up the season at 40-19 overall and 32-7 as MAC regular-season champions. Central Michigan earned an automatic NCAA tournament bid. Evansville (32-24, 14-6), Indiana State (26-22-1, 10-10-1) and Valparaiso (16-32, 5-15) bowed out in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Seasons came to a close for Purdue (29-21, 9-12) and Indiana (27-32, 10-14) at the Big Ten tournament. Purdue Fort Wayne (18-36, 13-15) finished up in the Horizon League tournament. In the past few weeks, conferences have handed out postseason awards at the NCAA D-I, D-II and D-III, NAIA and junior college levels and there is a list of those below.
Franklin — with a 17-5 overall record — has gotten off to the best start of 2022 among the state’s NCAA Division III schools. The Lance Marshall-coached Grizzlies enjoyed a 4-1 week (March 28-April 3). One of the highlights was senior Logan Demkovich’s four home runs in a doubleheader sweep of Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Bluffton. Munster High School graduate Demkovich is now hitting .410 with 12 home runs and 36 runs batted in. Earlham (13-5) won its first two HCAC games. Quakers head coach Steve Sakosits reached the 200-win plateau earlier this season. D-III Trine enjoyed a 3-1 week, including a three-game Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association sweep of Olivet. The first two games were the Thunder’s first home contests of the season.
With a win Sunday against Aquinas, Indiana Tech gave Warriors coach Kip McWilliams his 500th career victory. NCAA Division I Ball State saw its 10-game win streak end with a loss Sunday at Toledo. The Rich Maloney-coached Cardinals (17-9) fashioned a 6-1 week and moved to 12-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Griffith graduate Amir Wright (.344) leads the BSU attack for the lead-off spot. Hamilton Heights graduate Tyler Schweitzer (4-2), Lawrence North alum Ty Johnson (4-1) and Bloomington North grad Sam Klein (six saves) are among the leading pitchers. A 4-0 week for Notre Dame included a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference sweep at Florida State. The Irish won 2-0 in 12 innings, 5-4 (with one run in the eighth inning and two in the ninth) and 9-7 (with two eighth-inning runs). ND head coach Link Jarrett played at FSU. A 4-0 week for Evansville (13-14) included a three-game non-conference sweep of Michigan State. Wes Carroll’s Purple Aces are 7-4 on their home turf. Butler (14-14) went 4-1 on the week. Dave Schrage’s Bulldogs have won five of their last six heading into a Tuesday game at Notre Dame. Schrage reached 850 career wins earlier this spring. NCAA Division II Indianapolis won three of four Great Lakes Valley Conference games at Truman as part of a 3-3 week. Al Ready’s Greyhounds are 5-5 in away contests. Inclement weather meant no games for Dave Griffin’s Purdue Northwest squad. The Pride is 10-7. Following a 5-1 week NAIA Taylor (24-10) is tied atop the Crossroads League standings with Mount Vernon Nazarene at 14-4. Kyle Gould’s Trojans were to play two at Saint Francis today (April 4). Also in the Crossroads League, Rich Benjamin’s Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (17-14) went 5-1 and Seth Zartman’s Bethel Pilots (13-21) went 4-2.
Week of March 28-April 3 NCAA D-I Monday, March 28 Ball State 2, Western Michigan 0 Ball State 12, Western Michigan 5
Tuesday, March 29 Butler 7, Bellarmine 4 Evansville 10, Austin Peay 5 Notre Dame 11, Northern Illinois 2 Illinois-Chicago 10, Purdue 9 Purdue Fort Wayne 11, Valparaiso 3
Friday, April 1 Ball State 8, Toledo 1 Butler 1, Eastern Illinois 0 Evansville 7, Michigan State 2 Indiana 5, Northwestern 4 Indiana State 4, Illinois State 2 Notre Dame 2, Florida State 0 (12 inn.) Illinois 8, Purdue 1 Wright State 5, Purdue Fort Wayne 3 Illinois-Chicago 9, Valparaiso 7 Valparaiso 8, Illinois-Chicago 3
Saturday, April 2 Ball State 7, Toledo 3 Ball State 10, Toledo 2 Eastern Illinois 3, Butler 2 Evansville 7, Michigan State 5 Northwestern 7, Indiana 6 Illinois State 12, Indiana State 2 Notre Dame 5, Florida State 4 Illinois 11, Purdue 10 Wright State 17, Purdue Fort Wayne 11
Sunday, April 3 Toledo 5, Ball State 1 Butler 2, Eastern Illinois 0 Butler 2, Eastern Illinois 1 Evansville 5, Michigan State 4 Northwestern 13, Indiana 6 Indiana State 5, Illinois State 2 Notre Dame 9, Florida State 7 Illinois 11, Purdue 8 Wright State 12, Purdue Fort Wayne 3 Valparaiso 5, Illinois-Chicago 2
NCAA D-II Tuesday, March 29 Kentucky Wesleyan 8, Indianapolis 2 Kentucky Wesleyan 4, Indianapolis 1 Maryville 15, Southern Indiana 8
Friday, April 1 Truman 3, Indianapolis 2 Quincy 7, Southern Indiana 2
Saturday, April 2 Truman 3, Indianapolis 2 Indianapolis 4, Truman 2 Southern Indiana 5, Quincy 1 Quincy 5, Southern Indiana 3
Sunday, April 3 Indianapolis 9, Truman 3 Quincy 6, Southern Indiana 4
NCAA D-III Monday, March 28 Franklin 9, St. Olaf 8
Tuesday, March 29 Carson-Newman 13, DePauw 3 Wittenberg 10, Earlham 5 St. Olaf 4, Franklin 3 Hanover 15, Mount St. Joseph 14 (13 inn.) Hanover 9, Mount St. Joseph 5 Rose-Hulman 7, Wabash 1 Ohio Northern 12, Trine 11
Wednesday, March 30 Anderson 15, Greenville 5 DePauw 10, Earlham 3 Franklin 7, Williams 6 Heidelberg 8, Manchester 2
Saturday, April 2 DePauw 12, Wooster 4 Wooster 13, DePauw 6 Earlham 7, Mount St. Joseph 4 Earlham 12, Mount St. Joseph 8 Franklin 16, Bluffton 4 Franklin 13, Bluffton 3 Manchester 6, Hanover 2 Manchester 6, Hanover 2 Trine 3, Olivet 0 Trine 13, Olivet 3 Allegheny 8, Wabash 3 Allegheny 11, Wabash 0
Sunday, April 3 Anderson 4, Rose-Hulman 3 Anderson 6, Rose-Hulman 5 Trine 4, Olivet 2
NAIA Tuesday, March 29 Bethel 6, Marian 4 Marian 8, Bethel 0 St. Francis (Ill.) 7, Calumet of St. Joseph 1 IU Southeast 16, Campbellsville 7 Indiana Wesleyan 9, Grace 7 Grace 5, Indiana Wesleyan 3 Spring Arbor 16, Huntington 14 Huntington 15, Spring Arbor 2 Concordia 6, Indiana Tech 5 Indiana Tech 5, Concordia 3 Taylor 13, Saint Francis 1 Taylor 11, Saint Francis 0 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Goshen 3 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 3, Goshen 1
Wednesday, March 30 Lawrence Tech 5, IU Kokomo 4 Lawrence Tech 10, IU Kokomo 4 St. Francis (Ill.) 12, IU South Bend 4 Indiana Wesleyan 18, Thomas More 4
Friday, April 1 Grace 9, Bethel 4 Bethel 13, Grace 3 Taylor 12, Goshen 1 Goshen 3, Taylor 2 IU Kokomo 15, Midway 5 Midway 5, IU Kokomo 4 Olivet Nazarene 10, IU South Bend 0 Olivet Nazarene 11, IU South Bend 3 IU Southeast 8, Oakland City 7 IU Southeast 16, Oakland City 4 Indiana Wesleyan 12, Saint Francis 1 Indiana Wesleyan 11, Saint Francis 5
Saturday, April 2 Bethel 4, Grace 2 Bethel 3, Grace 0 Taylor 13, Goshen 1 Taylor 10, Goshen 3 Huntington 10, Marian 6 Huntington 14, Marian 12 (8 inn.) IU Kokomo 7, Midway 6 (10 inn.) Olivet Nazarene 9, IU South Bend 5 Oakland City 10, IU Southeast 9 (11 inn.) Cornerstone 5, Indiana Tech 4 Cornerstone 9, Indiana Tech 3 Indiana Wesleyan 11, Saint Francis 1 Indiana Wesleyan 13, Saint Francis 6
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.