Adam Spencer has learned that if you want to make a leader you let someone take the lead. If you went them to be a valuable part of the group you show them how. Spencer, the head baseball coach at Sheridan (Ind.) High School since 2017, defines his role. “I’m a developer of men,” says Spencer, who is also a sixth grade math teacher and activities director at Sheridan Middle School (he earned an Elementary Education degree from Ball State University in 1998 and about a decade later at Masters in Education from Indiana Wesleyan University). “Everybody wants to win. I want to help make good fathers, good husbands, good friends. “We talk about being an all-conference teammate. These are things we don’t have stats on.” Through the years of coaching youth sports, Spencer has gotten to the point where players are asked to take charge in certain areas. “Early on I never gave anybody leadership roles,” says Spencer. “Our guys run our drills (supervised by coaches). We put our upperclassmen in leadership roles.” The baseball team is also involved in community service. “We try to help others if we can,” says Spencer, whose players have raked leaves, pulled weeds and even helped the Sheridan Historical Society move across Main Street (S.R. 38). Spencer is a 1993 Sheridan graduate. He did not play baseball or basketball in high school though he as a big fan of the sport. His father passed away when Adam was in elementary school and he worked during the winter and spring. He did play football at Sheridan for Hall of Famer Larry “Bud” Wright and was on an IHSAA state championship team in 1992. His love of baseball led Spencer to the Indianapolis Umpire Association and he officiated games for 17 years. As his children got older (Adam and wife of 21 years, Lindsay, have four sons), he got involved in coaching at the middle school level. At Lebanon (Ind.) High School, Spencer was on the football staffs of Lance Scheib and Kent Wright. Years later, Matt Britt gave him the chance to coach middle school baseball at Sheridan. Some of those players were on the 2019 Blackhawks team that went 14-6 and lost to eventual Carroll (Flora) Regional champion Rossville in the Class 1A Sheridan Sectional championship. Spencer was pitching coach for Larry Lipker for a season before taking over as head coach. Sheridan (enrollment around 330) is a member of the Hoosier Heartland Conference (with Carroll of Flora, Clinton Central, Clinton Prairie, Delphi, Eastern of Greentown, Rossville, Taylor and Tri-Central). In 2022, HHC teams will play one another on Tuesdays and Thursdays with some Saturday doubleheaders. In 2013, there will be 11 conference games included a seeded end-of-season tournament. In 2021, the Blackhawks were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Clinton Central, Frontier (the 2021 host), Rossville, South Newton and Tri-County. Sheridan has won its lone sectional title in 2004. Sheridan plays its home games on Kent Harris Field (named after a former Blackhawks baseball coach). In the fall, Blake Marschand-owned Marschand’s Athletic Field Service laser-graded the diamond and there was no Limited Contact Period activity. Spencer says there might have been five athletes involved that don’t play football or another fall sport at Sheridan. Spencer also coaches middle school football. Through a partnership formed between Spencer and Michael Tucker, Sheridan hosts some Bullpen Tournaments games and has access to the turf diamonds at Grand Park in nearby Westfield, Ind. Spencer’s assistant baseball coaches are Sheridan alum Adam Durr and Ryan Conley, whom he met from IUA. Sam Crail (Class of 2017) played at Indiana University and then went to Saint Leo (Fla.) University. Zach Mannies (Class of 2018) played at Ancilla College and then West Liberty (W.Va.) University. Cameron Hovey (Class of 2021) is on the baseball and football teams at Manchester University. Spencer sees college baseball potential in current seniors Gavin Reners and Silas DeVaney if they should pursue that path. “(Reners and DeVaney) will be the leaders of our team (in 2022),” says Spencer. Caine Spencer played for his father at the end of his middle school and high school baseball days and is now a 21-year-old junior at Ball State. Adam and Lindsay’s other three boys — sophomore Camden (16), eighth grader Chance (14) and fifth grader Crew (11) – are also baseball players. Feeders for Sheridan High School baseball are a Sheridan Babe Ruth League team of seventh and eighth graders that play in the late spring and into the summer plus young players in Sheridan Community Recreation Inc. (SCRI). A middle school baseball camp introduces players to the ways and the language used at Sheridan High School. “I’m invested in the program at every level,” says Spencer.
2021 IHSBCA ALL-STATE TEAM Class 4A Pitchers: Grant Stratton (Jasper), Nate Dohm (Zionsville). C: Hunter Dobbins (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 1B: Kaleb Kolpien (Homestead). 2B: Joel Walton (Mount Vernon of Fortville). 3B: Connor Foley (Jasper). SS: Tucker Biven (New Albany). OF: Carter Mathison (Homestead), Max Clark (Franklin), Tommy O’Connor (Mooresville). Honorable Mention: Evan Waggoner (Bedford North Lawrence); Austin Bode (Columbus North); Jaden Deel (Hobart); Andrew Wallace (Jasper); Jackson Micheels (Carmel); Breenen Weigert (Homestead); Jack Braun (Fishers); Tyler Walkup (Lawrence North); Quentin Markle (Westfield); Joe Huffman (Avon); Nick Mitchell (Carmel); Brad White (Andrean); Blake Herrmann (Castle); Camden Jordan (Cathedral); Sam Gladd (Columbia City); Eli Hopf (Jasper); Brody Chrisman (Zionsville); J.D. Rogers (Carmel); Keaton Mahan (Westfield); Gage Standifer (Westfield); Kyler McIntosh (Columbus North); Chris Gallagher (Cathedral); Carter Doorn (Lake Central); Grant Comstock (Valparaiso); Tate Warner (Fishers); Carter Gilbert (Northridge).
The same week the IHSAA crowns four state champions in Indianapolis, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will conduct its North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. State Finals are Monday and Tuesday, June 21-22 at Victory Field with the games to be set after semistates. The IHSBCA will hold its all-star game festivities Friday through Sunday, June 25-27 at the University of Evansville and historic Bosse Field. Practice is at U of E’s German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium (North workout at 3:15 p.m. Central Time, South workout at 5 Central) followed by the all-star banquet at Crescent Center at Milestones at 7 Central. A noon doubleheader is slated for Saturday at Braun Stadium with a wood-bat single game on Sunday at Bosse Field at 11 a.m. Central. Holiday Inn Express East, 220 Kirkwood Drive, is the team hotel. The North leads 68-63 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged in Evansville Wednesday, June 28.
Cade Carlson quit baseball. He was persuaded to come back with the help a friend. Now Carlson is looking forward to new diamond adventures in a different place and at the NCAA Division I level. A right-handed pitcher and 2018 graduate of University High School in Carmel, Ind., where he was the starter in the Trailblazers’ first state championship game appearance as a senior, Carlson went Northwood University in Midland, Mich., on a baseball scholarship. For reasons Carlson doesn’t go into, he left the school and the game after the fall semester and enrolled at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and had every intention of transferring to IU-Bloomington as a sophomore. Lukas Barnes, a Carmel High School graduate who Cade had known most of his life, convinced his buddy to give baseball another try and they became teammates at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio. “I wasn’t that good of a pitcher, but I kept working and got one of those four starting spots,” says Carlson. “My first outing terrible (lasting less than two innings.” The righty made three starts for the National Junior College Athletic Association-member and Steve Dintaman-coached Tartan Pride and was a winner in his last one, going 1-3 for the 2020 season, which was shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That summer Carlson pitched in the first season for the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., not far from his Carmel home. He was with the A-Team coached by Kevin Christman. The CSL gave Carlson the chance to see where he stacked up with good talent. Due to COVID, Sinclair made the decision to suspend athletics through 2021-22 and Carlson went to Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., and outfielder Barnes landed at Danville (Ill.) Community College. In 13 mound appearances (11 starts) for head coach Kevin Bowers and pitching coach Andrew Elliott, Carlson went 6-4 with a 2.72 earned run average. In 59 2/3 innings, he struck out 62 and walked 25. “I thought I had a pretty good year,” says Carlson. “I started out shaky and got on a roll. “I figured out how to pitch as games went on. I was not pitching to my advantage but the hitters’ disadvantage. That was big for my success this year.” The NJCAA’s LTC Statesmen went 32-21. East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., was impressed by Carlson and he agreed to join the NCAA D-I Buccaneers in 2021-22. “(ETSU was) the first school to offer me in the fall,” says Carlson, 21. “I jumped at the opportunity. It’s a good school in a great area and the baseball is good. “It’s a win-win.” With three years of baseball eligibility remaining, Carlson plans to pursue a Sport Management degree. “I’ll go to school and continue to work hard and baseball at higher levels,” says Carlson. East Tennessee State is a member of the Southern Conference. With Joe Pennucci as head coach and Jamie Pinzino as pitching coach, the team went 24-25 in 2021. Carlson throws five pitches from a three-quarter overhand arm angle — four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, slider and curveball. He credits Lincoln Trail teammate/roommate Joey Perkins (a left-hander who hails from Lebanon, Ohio, and is bound for Virginia Commonwealth University) for teaching him the change-up which can be thrown from multiple grips. Carlson’s slider (horizontal) and curve (vertical) move on different planes. After going 2-0 in three outings during a temporary contract period with the State College (Pa.) Spikes of the MLB Draft League, Carlson is back in Carmel with father Tyce, mother Christine, brother Tyler and grandmother Carol Pinkley and plans to spend the summer training at RoundTripper Academy in Westfield to get ready for ETSU. “I have not taken a break from throwing in about a year now,” says Carlson. “The first month of summer won’t be about throwing. I’ll be lifting to getting stronger and putting good weight on.” Carlson wants to put about 20 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. Born in Speedway, Carlson grew up in Carmel played rec baseball for the Carmel Dads Club. He played travel ball with the Indiana Mustangs for about a decade. One of Cade’s teammates was Dawson Estep (University Class of 2019), son of Mustangs and RoundTripper founder Chris Estep. After two years at Carmel High School, Carlson transferred to University and played for Estep. “What can I say about Chris?,” says Carlson. “I’ve known Chris forever. Chris puts the spirit of baseball into his players. “If you don’t love baseball you wouldn’t play for Chris.” Tyler Carlson also played baseball for Estep at University, graduating in 2014.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members have voted and selected 16 district players of the year for 2021.
All-State and Indiana Player of the Year voting begins June 6.
The IHSAA state tournament series begins with sectionals May 26-31, followed by regionals June 5, semistates June 12 and the State Finals June 21-22. The IHSBCA Futures Games and North/South All-Star Series is slated for June 23-27 in Evansville.
Here’s a look at the 16 seniors chosen at Players of the Year in Districts A through P:
Says Swartzentruber: “Carter has been with us for two years following his transfer from Illiana Christian … Great kid, great student and great leader on our young team. One of my favorite players I have coached during my 24 years. … He has been a dominant player this year for us both on the mound and at the plate. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will do great things at Purdue and beyond. Great work ethic and very competitive young man.”
Lake Central is in the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional.
Says Evans: “He’s been a great pitcher for us, probably one of the more dominant pitchers in the (Duneland Athletic Conference). He’s a leader on and off the field. He also plays football and basketball. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Valparaiso is in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional.
Says Smolinski: “Kyle has been blessed with an amazing ability to excel in both athletics and academics. Along with Kyle’s great leadership skills, he’s an outstanding teammate who respects his coaches, teachers and family. He’s hard-working, motivated and driven in everything that he does. I’m so proud of Kyle and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him. I look forward to seeing him succeed on and off the field in the future … Kyle is the type of player where you wish you had nine of him on the field. He does everything you ask. He makes his teammates better.”
St. Joseph is in the Class 3A South Bend Clay Sectional.
Says Byall: “He has been a phenomenal player for us for four years. He is extremely talented, but has also worked extremely hard to transform his body and skills to an elite level … He is phenomenal to coach because you know he’s going to work hard and go about his business the right way every single day. He has been phenomenal for us this year, performing at such a high level, and by working hard everyday. He has a really bright future.”
Homestead is in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional.
E — Jacob Loftus (Peru). A righty-swinging catcher for Tigers coach Chuck Brimbury, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Loftus has not yet made his college commitment. He plans to major in Secondary Math Education.
Say Brimbury: “Jacob is the best high school player I have coached at Peru High School in my two-plus decades. Hard worker, captain, tough, talented, and a model of ‘team first’ guy. We have have had two drafts, dozens of college players and several D-1 players from our program. Jacob ‘Yogi’ Loftus is our best to play here.”
Says King: “Hunter is a very talented player — one of the best I’ve had. Hunter is probably the best all-around hitter I’ve ever had. He’s definitely a five-tool player. He has the ability to play not only at the collegiate level but the professional level … He’s a good leader (for the program’s first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship). He talks hitting and situations all the time with our guys.”
Mount Vernon is in the Class 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional.
Says Marker: “I don’t think there’s another player in the state of Indiana that means more to his team than Luke means to ours. He strikes out between 15 and 21 guys (per game) … He’s had 11 strikeouts in four innings (a couple of times) … At the 1A level he strikes fear into the hearts of hitters … He’s got six pitches. He’ll have to whittle that down at the next level.”
Seton Catholic is in the Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional.
Says Doty: “Kameron is the kind of player every coach hopes they will have the opportunity to coach — hard-working, dedicated, coachable, but most importantly a leader! Add it in the athletic ability and that describes Kameron Salazar. He has the ability to hit any pitch in any count to all fields. He is one of the best pure hitters I have had the opportunity to coach … His quick hands aid him both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. He will use all fields offensively and has significant range in the middle of the infield … All of those abilities — as great as they are — of course don’t come even close to describing his character! He is one of the nicest young men you would ever meet and terrific teammate! He has been (would have been) a four-year starter for us at shortstop if not for COVID. He has been the heart and soul of our program for the past four years and he will be great missed as he moves on to Marian next year. It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach him these past four years.”
Says Koeppen: “He’s by far one of the most enjoyable kids I’ve ever coached. He works as hard as anybody at practice. He does things the right way all the time … It’s been fun to sit back and watch him play this year.”
Lafayette Jeff is in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Says Cosgray: “Garrett is just a very well-rounded player. He’s an exceptional right-handed pitcher, topping out at 95 mph with good command of his curveball, slider and change-up … Defensively at shortstop, he’s very sound. He makes the routine play but also has the ability to make the spectacular play when necessary … He hits in the 3-hole for us. He can hit for power. He’s a gap-to-gap approach hitter, hitting over .500. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded player than him.”
Lebanon is in the Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional.
Says Freje: “He’s been a lead-off hitter and the top arm we go to … Chris is comfortable (as a sidearmer). He’s taken that role and run with it … He’s been incredibly impactful on the bases. He’s a gamer. He’s embraced all the roles he’s been given. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Says Jones: “He throws 92 mph-plus and he mixes his pitches real well. He gets a lot of strikeouts. He’s able to throw the ball up, throw the ball down and hit the corners … He hits well. He’s well over 400. He’s just a consistent guy.”
Edgewood is in the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional.
Says Decker: “He’s had a really good senior year. He’s been good on the mound and at the plate for us. He probably could have gone some places to be a two-way (having played all over the field). He’s one of the better athletes I’ve got to coach … Stuff comes really easy to him.”
Silver Creek is in the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
Says Mattingly: “He’s one of those kids who’s humble, hard-working and he competes. He want to be the best and he goes about his business to be the best … I’ve been around him a long time and he’s just a good kid.”
Southridge is in the Class 3A Southridge Sectional.
Says Goedde: “He’s been our most-consistent player all year. He’s in the middle of a good season. He’s had minimal slumps …. He’s versatile enough that he can play just about anywhere. Henry moves very well. He’s got a good, athletic body.”
Evansville Central is in the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional.
IHSBCA 2021 District Players of the Year (School/Head Coach)
Usually a second baseman, Schilling came straight over the top when he was on the mound.
Schilling was recruited to Ivy Tech Northeast — a junior college program in Fort Wayne, Ind. — as a two-way player. But the Titans had plenty of talented middle infielders and he wasn’t getting much velocity on the hill.
“I was at 83 or 84 mph on a good day,” says Schilling. “I was struggling.”
Since he had grown up as a second sacker and dropping his arm down came naturally, Ivy Tech head coach Lance Hershberger suggested he pitch with a lower arm angle.
“The ball was moving more than ever and I was throwing strikes,” says Schilling. “It just worked out for me.”
Becoming a “sidewinder” or “submariner” did not give Schilling a big velo jump, but it did make him effective.
As a “Corona” sophomore in 2021, the right-hander was 3-1 with one save, 41 strikeouts and just two walks in his first 37 innings (12 appearances with four starts). His earned run average was 4.38.
“I pitch to contact guy until I get to two strikes,” says Schilling. “You have to have conviction with every one of your pitches.
“You can’t be afraid to attack the zone.”
Schilling throws a two-seam fastball with sinking action.
“It breaks down hard and to the right,” says Schilling. “My slider has a lot of late break. I start on the third base side of the rubber and it slides away from righties or jams lefties.
“My ‘circle’ change-up has almost a 12-to-6 action. It’s like a curveball but from a submarine pitcher.”
While Schilling is mostly self-taught, he does credit former Tech sidearmer Zach Haefer (an East Noble High School graduate now at Davenport University) with help from Hershberger, former Ivy Tech and current Indiana Tech assistant Seth Sorenson as well as Mark Fluekiger.
Schilling graduated from Ivy Tech last semester with a general studies degree is enjoying the life of a “juco bandit” before heading to Lebanon, Tenn., to join the successful baseball program at Cumberland University (the Phoenix are three-time NAIA national champions (2004, 2010 and 2014) and national runners-up (1995, 2006) with 12 NAIA World Series appearances).
“To me a juco bandit is someone who is already hardened,” says Schilling. “It’s somebody who is tough, loves baseball and is a true competitor.”
Those are qualities embraced by diamond veteran Hershberger.
“The way Coach Hershberger coaches is not for everybody,” says Schilling. “He looks at championships things like making your bed, polishing your cleats and running on and off the field.
“He will push you to your competitive edge. He wants to unlock that potential in you.
“I want to give a huge thank you to Coach Hershberger. He has let me compete and pushed me to a limit I never thought I had.
“Winning is fun. Being successful is fun. That transfers to real life.”
Born in Indianapolis and raised on the west side to David and Melissa Schilling (who divorced when Ian was young), he played at Ben Davis Little League from grades K-6 and then in recreational leagues until high school summers in travel ball with the Indiana Eagles and Indiana Bruins.
After spending the summers of 2019 and 2020 with the Portland Rockets, the righty expects to spend much of this summer adding strength and possibly weight to his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame.
Schilling, who has four older sisters (Sara, Nikki, Ashley and Savannah) and a younger brother (Landon), was on varsity at Ben Davis High for two years for Giants head coach David Bear.
He vividly recalls his last time on the field with Bear.
“We just lost the (Ben Davis) Sectional championship game and I had teary eyes,” says Schilling. “He said, ‘You’re going to be OK, kid. You’ve got a future.’”
“I feel really lucky,” says Coy, who is heading into his first season as head coach at Waldron (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School in Shelby County. “There are a lot of guys I can seek council from all over the place.
“They want baseball to be great in this state. They’ll give you any piece of advice you need and do anything to grow the game.”
Coy was going to be an assistant to Doug Burcham before the 2020 season was called off because the COVID-19 pandemic.
Southwestern is No. 3 and Hauser No. 6 in the 1A preseason rankings and Knightstown is receiving votes in 2A.
With 16 players — up from the usual 11 or 12 — Coy says the Mohawks will play only a varsity schedule this spring.
Coy’s 2021 assistants are all Waldron graduates — Cam Wells (Class of 2018), Nate Bernard (2019) and Cole Chappelow (2020).
The 2020-21 school year is Coy’s second in Shelby Eastern Schools (which includes Waldron and Morristown) where he teaches U.S. History, Psychology and Sociology. At various times, he educates sixth through 12th graders.
Coy has also been an assistant boys basketball coach on the Waldron staff of Beau Scott.
Waldron Junior-Senior serves the communities of Waldron, Geneva, St. Paul and some students outside Shelbyville.
“I’ve had a nice little gambit to learn from and coach under,” says Coy. “(Carlton) is a bright young coach. He eats it up.
“They do it differently, but (Cosgray) and (Froedge) were awesome mentors for me.”
Carlton helped Coy upgrade the infield at Waldron’s on-campus field.
There are five high schools in Shelby County — Waldron, Morristown, Shelbyville, Southwestern (Shelbyville) and Triton Central. Coy and Carlton would like to see a county league for younger players with teams feeding their respective schools.
A 2002 graduate of Western Boone Junior-Senior High School in Thorntown, Ind., Coy played for Stars head coach Don Jackson and pitching coach Rob Ebert (who also coached him during the summer). His father, Doug Coy, was also a WEBO assistant.
Jackson had a passion for baseball and expected his players to respect the game by playing hard.
Ebert taught Coy how to “turn the ball over” to get it to move in on a right-handed batter.
“If we can pitch inside I think we’ll have a lot of success at Waldron for sure,” says Coy.
Before arm issues cropped up, right-hander Coy pitched two seasons at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., where Tom Flynn was the Little Giants head coach and Cory Stevens the pitching coach.
Flynn was the Old School, in-your-face type of coach.
“He’d get the most out of you,” says Coy. “He genuinely cared for his players.”
Stevens, who is now athletic director at Jennings County High School in North Vernon, Ind., let Coy know the importance of controlled movement and pitching backwards (throwing breaking balls and change-ups in counts were the hitter is usually looking for a fastball — 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-1 and 3-2).
“The change-up is most underutilized pitch in all of baseball,” says Coy. “It’s all the grip and takes time to develop. Kids don’t have the patience.
“They want instant gratification.”
Coy admires how Hall of Famer Greg Maddux — while not throwing in the upper 90’s — was able to craftily pin-point his pitches on the inside and outside corners of the plate and get lots of movement.
Tommy and Stacey Coy (a 2004 Waldron alum who was a senior in the pep band at the time the Mohawks went 27-0 and won the IHSAA Class 1A boys basketball state championship) have two sons — Kellen (9) and Karsten (7). The boys will have birthdays two days apart in May — Kellen on the 12th and Karsten the 14th.
“Larry is charismatic and has a contagious baseball mind,” says Hester.
Hester, who followed his baseball playing career, by traveling all over the country competing in top-flight slow pitch softball tournaments, has his Charlestown players competing during IHSAA Limited Contact Period winter workouts.
“We compete internally all the time,” says Hester. “I have a good group of (10) seniors who love hard work and competing.”
Hester has been getting his Pirates to understand what it means to have love and passion for the game and and enjoying being on the team.
“A lot of that comes from Larry Owens,” says Hester.
Expecting around 24 players in the program this spring, Hester and assistants Bryan Glover, Tony Kailen, George Roberts and Brady Hester will lead a program in varsity and junior varsity competition. Of the five coaches, only Kailen is not a Charlestown graduate.
The site of the Pirates baseball field is the same that Hester knew as a player, but the facility was totally overhauled almost a decade ago.
The former practice football field was turned into a softball field and now baseball and softball share not only a hitting building but a walkway and common area with a concession stand between the two diamonds.
“There’s great energy for our games,” says Hester.
The Pirates are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Charlestown has won two sectional titles — 1999 and 2009.
While Hester was a Charlestown assistant he helped establish middle school baseball. Not affiliated with the school system, games are played during the spring. This year, Hester expects one team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Recent Charlestown graduates on college baseball teams include right-handed pitchers Andrew Snider (Morehead, Ky., State University) and Drew Fifer (Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.).
Two current seniors — right-handed pitcher Eric Wigginton (Spalding University in Louisville) and utility infielder Matthew McCoy (Hanover, Ind., College) — have made college baseball commitments.
Two others from the Class of 2021 weighing their options are catcher Nathaniel Kimbrell and right-handed pitcher Jacob Glover.
Ronni Hester, Brian’s wife, is in retail management. Brian and Ronni have three sons — Brady (22), Dalton (18) and Boomer (13) plus one grandson. Dalton Hester is a Charlestown senior. Boomer Hester is a seventh grader who plays football, basketball, wrestling and baseball with the middle school team and the Rawlings Tigers.
Pitching is the priority as Adam Acton gets his baseball team ready for the 2021 baseball season.
Heading into his fourth campaign as head coach at Fountain Central Junior/Senior High School in Veedersburg, Ind., Acton wants to get his hurlers on the mound twice a week during this time of year with many throwing 20 to 25 pitches.
There’s also flat ground work, strength training, running and band work.
“We try to mix it up and not make it mundane,” says Acton, who has been leading a small group through January workouts while other baseball players are in winter sports. “The pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) needed to happen. Some coaches were killing the kids
“It forces teams to have a deeper pitching rotation.”
Other items of importance for Acton’s Mustangs are aggressiveness and alertness on the bases, making the routine fielding play and being smart in the batter’s box.
Adam and wife Alison Acton have been married 19 years and have four sons — Owen (15), Nolan (13), Garrett (10) and Caleb (8). Freshman Owen Acton and seventh grader Nolan Acton play football, basketball and baseball. Third grader Garrett Acton participates in archery, football and baseball. Second grader Caleb Acton plays baseball. Adam Acton was on the archery team at Purdue University.
Acton is a 1992 Lebanon graduate, where he played for Tigers head coach Keith Campbell.
After a year playing at Milligan College in Johnson City, Tenn., for Doug Jennett (who also head coach at Benton Central High School in Oxford, Ind.), Acton transferred to Purdue as a student. He then headed in the work force.
This is his third year as a Construction/Building Trades teacher at Fountain Central.
Acton’s coaching staff for 2021 includes Ryan Hall (head football coach) and Tim Garbison (former FC head baseball coach). There are others who help on an intermittent basis.
Fountain Central’s home field is on-campus. The diamond was re-done about five years ago and re-graded in the last year. There is need for upgrading in the bullpens.
“It’s a pretty nice facility,” says Acton.
As a feeder system, the Mustangs have Fountain Central Summer League in Veedersburg that serves ages 4 to 12.
A junior high team for grades 7 and 8 (and sometimes 6) normally carries 12 or 13 players. Some players are affiliated with travel ball organizations.
There are no recent FC graduates playing college baseball and no current commitments though Acton expects some in the coming years.
“We’ve got some talent in those two younger grades,” says Acton. “We’re going to be relying on them quite a bit (in 2021).”
“There’s interest and it’s growing,” says Matt Nelson, who runs the organization with the help of Edwin Walker and is a second baseman/manager with the Pittsboro Sluggers. “Baseball is rooted in values, playing hard and having work ethics.
“It’s a very positive experience. It’s something that unites and unifies people. It’s the same people we’ll cross paths with in our occupations and personal lives.
“We’re playing kids’ game as old men. You don’t get this with other sports.”
With many players having families and being youth coaches, HTA contests are slated at 1 and 4:15 p.m. with 3-hour limits in the Sunday wood bat league.
“We wanted to play ‘real’ baseball,” says Nelson. “There’s nothing like swinging a piece of lumber.
“At some point you don’t want to play church league softball. You want to play hard ball.”
Safety is also taken into a account. Balls tend to come off wood bats at a slower clip than metal bats.
“Plus it just sounds better,” says Nelson. “Everybody tries to find the most obscure bat company they can find. But it seems we all wind up with a $19.99 Louisville Slugger we can pick up at Dick’s (Sporting Goods).”
There is free substitution on defense and everyone in the lineup bats.
“This is an at-cost league,” says Nelson. “We try to play at the nicest fields we can for the least amount of money.”
HTA venues include Franklin Park and Hummel Park in Plainfield, Memorial Park in Lebanon, Cascade High School in Clayton, Virgil Benge Community Sports Complex (ask The Benge) in Jamestown and Kokomo Municipal Stadium for Saturday barnstormer series games, if those are allowed this summer.
July 12 is scheduled as Opening Day for the league’s seventh season.
The Mooresville Reds took the first HTA crown in 2014. The champion of the end-of-season tournament — usually played in early October — earns a traveling baseball bat trophy. The league is not affiliated with any other organization.
“It’s a compact season,” says Nelson. “We play for three months and talk about those three months for the next nine months.”
There was a time all around the country that townball meant that all players came from the same place.
When the HTA began there was not enough interest to pull 15 or 16 from some of these small towns. But many squads have a core group from that locale who have brought in their friends and relatives to join in the fun.
The Pittsboro Sluggers and Coatesville Bluz take their names from town teams that played back in the 1910’s.
During that era, many players rode the railroad to and from the ball field on Sunday afternoons.
“Baseball history is important to a lot of us,” says Nelson, who has a collection of old baseball gloves.
A unique aspect of this 30-and-over league is that the players’ parents — some well into their retirement years — come to the games, cheer and snap photos.
“They remember seeing their kids play in high school,” says Nelson, a former center fielder for head coach Chris Goodwin at Yorktown (Ind.) High School.
While nothing is yet on the books, Nelson has been in contact with the Jasper (Ind.) Reds about playing a game against players from the HTA.