After two baseball seasons at Saint Louis University, Nolan Bowser has opted to enter the Transfer Portal with two years of college eligibility. Is he nervous about where he’ll land? “A little bit, but at the same time I just have to keep playing and feel like teams will come scouting me,” says Bowser. “So nervousness? Yes. But also it’s a little bit of a calling to just play the game.” With the SLU Billikens, Bowser got into 40 games (10 as a starter) in 2021 and 2022 and hit .234 (11-of-47) with four runs batted in and 13 runs scored. His batting mark this past spring was .269 (7-of-26) and he produced a walk-off RBI single against Western Illinois on March 8. Bowser is listed as a lefty-swinging catcher, but has the versatility to play all over the infield or outfield as well. “I can play anywhere really,” says Bowser, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who played third base, shortstop and second base and a few games at catcher in high school and was a catcher and outfielder in travel ball. He was allowed to call pitches. What does catching do for him? “I know it may not seem like it sometimes, but I like being in-control,” says Bowser. “Keeping in-charge of the pitcher it just came easy to me.” Bowser is in his third go-round in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., about 25 miles from McCordsville. He was with the Screwballs in 2020, Tropics in 2021 and is now on the Bomb Squad in 2022. He had just graduated when he played during the CSL’s first season (2020). That year — with limited summer wood bat opportunities — the league was chock-full of D-I talent. “It was definitely a change going from high school to college ball,” says Bowser. “That’s for sure.” As a Criminal Justice major, Bowser sees himself pursuing a career in law enforcement. What made him decide on that path? “On my mom’s side of the family, her dad, grandpa and brother were all in the Marines,” says Bowser. “I played baseball so I really didn’t want to join the Marines. But I felt like I could give back to the community and the world (as a police officer or detective). It’s kind of not in a great place right now. “I feel like I can help change it just a little bit.” Bowser grew up in Lawrence, Ind., and moved into the Mt. Vernon district as high school approached. He played travel ball from 8U to 17U — first with the Oaklandon Bombers and then the Indiana Bulls. His father — Steve Bowser — was one of his Bombers coaches. With the Bulls, Nolan played for Tony Cookerly, Jeremy Honaker, Dan Held and Sean Laird. “Sean was very intense,” says Bowser. “I loved it though.” A 2020 graduate of Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., Bowser played on the freshman and junior varsity teams as a ninth grader. He played varsity as a sophomore and junior. His senior season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “(Then-Marauders head coach Ryan Carr) was great to me,” says Bowser. “I gave it my all every single time.” Bowser was selected all-Hancock County in 2018 and 2019 and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference in 2019. Steve and Dana Bowser have two children — Nolan (20) and Delaney (18). Steve Bowser is a vice president of a construction company. Dana Bowser is a dietician. A 2022 Mt. Vernon graduate, Delaney Bowser is to play volleyball for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Today (June 12) four semistates will be staged at LaPorte, Kokomo, Mooresville and Jasper to determine the teams competing int he 2021 IHSAA State Finals June 21-22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Here is a capsulized look at Final Four teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A:
Team By Team Washington Township Senators — Head Coach Randy Roberts. 1A Washington Township Sectional — Kouts 7-1, Westville 4-1, Morgan Township 4-1. 1A South Bend Regional — South Central (Union Mills) 6-3, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 10-1. Sectional titles (10) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (1) — 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2019 (Randy Roberts).
Cowan Blackhawks — Head Coach Aaron Wells. 1A Liberty Christian Sectional — Wes-Del 5-1, Daleville 4-3. 1A Carroll (Flora) Regional — Union City 3-0, Riverton Parke 9-3. Sectional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2008. Semistate titles (1) — 2008. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2008 (Camden Parkhurst).
Hanover Central Wildcats — Head Coach Ryan Bridges. 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional — Kankakee Valley 9-1, Culver Academies 10-0, John Glenn 8-4. 3A Griffith Regional — South Bend St. Joseph 6-1, Northwestern 18-1. Sectional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional tittles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Semistate titles (1) — 2011. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2011 (Doug Nelson).
Norwell Knights — Head Coach Dave Goodmiller. 3A Bellmont Sectional — Marion 10-0, Mississinewa 13-2, Oak Hills 15-10. 3A Bellmont Regional — Wawasee 7-2, Leo 5-3. Sectional titles (17) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2013. Semistate titles (3) — 2006, 2007, 2013. State titles (3) — 2003 (Kelby Weybright), 2007 (Kelby Weybright), 2013 (Andy McClain).
Eastside Blazers — Head Coach Aaron Willard. 2A Eastside Sectional — Adams Central 3-1, Bluffton 16-1. 2A Whiting Regional — Wheeler 7-1, Central Noble 18-3. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
Delphi Oracles — Head Coach Ryan Long. 2A Delphi Sectional — Fountain Central 14-2, Seeger 7-3. 2A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional — Rochester 12-5, Wapahani 7-2. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (1) — 2010. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — Delphi (Pat Lowrey).
Munster Mustangs — Head Coach Bob Shinkan (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee). 4A Merrillville Sectional — Highland 11-2, Merrillville 9-0, Lake Central 2-1. 4A LaPorte Regional — Valparaiso 6-3, South Bend Adams 9-2. Sectional titles (13) — last one before 2021 — 2016. Regional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (0). State titles (1) — 2002 (Bob Shinkan).
Fishers Tigers — Head Coach Matt Cherry. 4A Westfield Sectional — Hamilton Southeastern 7-1, Carmel 1-0, Noblesville 4-0. 4A Kokomo Regional — Homestead 8-4, Harrison (West Lafayette) 7-5. Sectional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Semistate titles (1) — 2018. State titles (1) — 2018 (Matt Cherry).
Shakamak Lakers – Head Coach Jeremy Yeryar. 1A White River Valley Sectional — White River Valley 14-0, Clay City 10-0, Bloomfield 4-1. 1A Morristown Regional — Southwestern (Shelbyville) 10-1, Oldenburg Academy 13-0. Sectional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (12) — last one before 2021 — 2015. Semistate titles (7) — 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015. State titles (2) — 2008 (Matt Fougerousse), 2014 (Chip Sweet). State runner-up (5) — 2004 (Chip Sweet), 2006 (Matt Fougerousse), 2007 (Matt Fougerousse), 2012 (Chip Sweet), 2015 (Todd Gambill).
Borden Braves — Head Coach Eric Stotts. 1A South Central (Elizabeth) Sectional — Lanesville 18-1, Orleans 3-0. 1A Lanesville Regional — West Washington 17-2, Loogootee 5-2. Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
University Trailblazers — Head Coach Chris Estep (1 state title). 2A Cascade Sectional — Covenant Christian 7-3, Cascade 8-2. 2A Cascade Regional — Centerville 12-5, Parke Heritage 8-2. Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (1) — 2019 (Chris Estep). State runner-up (1) — 2018 (Chris Estep.
Providence Pioneers — Head Coach Scott Hutchins. 2A Eastern (Pekin) Sectional — Henryville 10-4, Eastern (Pekin) 11-0, Austin 10-0. 2A Evansville Mater Dei Regional — South Ripley 5-3, North Posey 8-6. Sectional titles (19) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (1) — 2016. State titles (1) — 2016 (Scott Hornung).
Brebeuf Jesuit Braves — Head Coach Jeff Scott. 3A Brebeuf Sectional — Danville 5-0, Tri-West Hendricks 15-1. 3A Danville Regional — Indianapolis Bishop Chatard 10-0, Northview 17-2. Sectional titles (15) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2012. Semistate titles (1) — 2012. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2012 (Andy McClain).
Southridge Raiders — Head Coach Gene Mattingly. 3A Southridge Sectional — Pike Central 10-0, Washington 1-0. 3A Southridge Regional — Silver Creek 2-1, Evansville Memorial 7-2. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (2) — 2018 (Gene Mattingly), 2019 (Gene Mattingly).
Mt. Vernon Marauders — Head Coach Brad King. 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional — Muncie Central 19-0, Pendleton Heights 8-0. 4A Mt. Vernon Regional — Franklin Central 6-2, Indianapolis Cathedral 6-3. Sectional titles (8) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 1971. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
Jasper Wildcats — Head Coach Terry Gobert (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee; 5 state titles). 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional — Castle 6-1, Evansville North 5-4, Evansville Central 10-0. 4A Jasper Regional — Floyd Central 2-1, Center Grove 7-4. Sectional titles (39) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (14) — 1967, 1968, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017. State titles (5) — 1996 (Terry Gobert), 1997 (Terry Gobert), 1998 (Terry Gobert), 2000 (Terry Gobert), 2006 (Terry Gobert). State runner-up (4) — 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017.
Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., carries the nickname Marauders. Head baseball coach Brad King has another monicker: Trailblazers. The 2021 squad has made history along its path to the one-game IHSAA Class 4A Jasper Semistate on Saturday, June 12 against Jasper (29-2). The winner of the 4 p.m. game moves on to the State Finals either Monday or Tuesday, June 21 or 22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. At 26-6, Mt. Vernon has surpassed the previous school record for single-season victories by five. The 2021 Marauders won their first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship (Mt. Vernon shared the HCC title with New Palestine in 2009). Other HCC members are Delta, Greenfield-Central, New Castle, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown. In winning sectional and regional crowns, the Marauders broke through at those stages for the first time since 2011 and 1971. “It’s a big deal playing in semistate,” says King, who was hired in the fall of 2019 after 23 seasons — the last 16 as head coach — at New Castle and is coaching his first Mt. Vernon season on the field after the COVID-19 pandemic took he 2020 campaign away. “There will be a lot of electricity at Jasper. But the kids won’t be overwhelmed. We just beat (Indianapolis) Cathedral (in the regional championship game). “We’re trying to go through the best to be the best.” Mt. Vernon opened the season by going 2-1 in the Noblesville Invitational, playing Noblesville, Columbus North and Franklin Community and went on to go 12-2 in the conference and play a solid non-conference schedule. “These kids have kept gaining confidence as the season has gone on,” says King, whose squad is 15-1 in its last 16 games. At the Pendleton Heights Sectional, the Marauders blanked Muncie Central 19-0 and Pendleton Heights 8-0 then downed Franklin Central 6-2 and Cathedral 6-3 to take the Plainfield Regional. This brought Mt. Vernon’s all-time totals to eight sectional titles and two regionals. The Marauders have never won a semistate or appeared in the State Finals. Led by seniors Hunter Dobbins (.560, 10 home runs, 39 runs batted in) and Joel Walton (.485, 5 HR, 38 RBI) and sophomore Eli Bridenthal (.366, 15 stolen bases), Mt. Vernon hits .321 as a team and averages 8.6 runs per game. Junior Landon Clark (.297, 44 runs, 17 stolen bases) sets the table table as the Marauders’ lead-off hitter. Senior A.J. Swingle (.276, 23 RBI) hits No. 2, puts the ball in play and moves runners. Senior Jake Stank (.308, 4 HR, 28 RBI) is the clean-up hitter. “We’re just really solid offensively, field the ball at 95 percent and have four or five really good (pitching arms),” says King. “We’re really blessed.” Senior left-hander Swingle (9-0, 1.60 earned run average, 80 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings) and senior right-hander Eli Clodfelter (8-1, 3.29 ERA, 81 K’s, 51 IP) are Mt. Vernon’s leaders on mound. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series selection Dobbins is bound for Ball State University. Other seniors with college commitments are Walton (Trine University), Stank (Anderson University), Clodfelter (Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tenn.), Carson Augustinovicz (Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio) and Nate Weaver (Concordia University in Seward, Neb.). Recent Mt. Vernon graduates with college baseball programs include Nolan Bowser (Saint Louis University), Griffin Garwood (Manchester University), Matt Lood (Indiana University South Bend), Shaun Shipley (committed to Florida Gulf Coast University after playing at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla.) and Jake Stadler (Purdue University). King’s coaching staff features Tony Gregory, Wayne Graham, Jerry Grill, Scott Blanchard and Shane Douglas. Varsity assistants Gregory and Graham were with King throughout his head coach run at New Castle. Grill leads the junior varsity team with the help of Blanchard. Douglas is the C-team coach. Mt. Vernon were 25-1 at the JV level and 8-7 in C-team contests this spring. The last day of school was June 8 so the team has been keeping something a normal schedule during the postseason. King says Marauder practices have been brief. Mt. Vernon’s feeder system includes Mt. Vernon Optimist (T-ball through age 13), the Marauder Baseball Club (a travel program for Mt. Vernon players through 14U and Mt. Vernon Middle School (seventh and eighth grade teams). King, who is still Dean of the Freshmen Academy at New Castle, stepped down as baseball coach because of health issues in his family. “After those issues went away it opened up the possibility for me to get back into coaching,” says King. Since New Castle had hired a new head coach, King looked for nearby opportunities. Mt. Vernon intrigued him. Athletic director Brandon Ecker served in the same capacity during part of King’s coaching tenure at New Castle. King was approved for hire with the Marauders in August 2019 and had players attending their first workouts in September. Because of the shutdown he never got to lead a talented team in 2020. “We thought we were going to be very good,” says King. The prevailing feeling outside the Mt. Vernon camp was that the team would be “a little down” in 2021. “I didn’t feel that way at all,” says King. “That’s the way we approached our offseason workouts. “The guys were focused and had the same goals as the previous years (win conference, sectional, regional and maybe more). So far they’ve done what they wanted to accomplish.”
It’s been an historic baseball season in 2021 for the Brad King-coached Mt. Vernon (Fortville) Marauders. The team has set a school record for wins and won its first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference title and first sectional and regional crowns since 2011 and 1971.
As a reward, the Marauders head coach presented “Dirtbag” T-shirts to those athlete who exhibited this brand of baseball in 2018 and plans to do the same again in 2019.
“We’re too nice sometimes,” says Carr. “(The incentive) gave them a reason to play a little harder. I want (opponents) to know they played a game of baseball.
“Every year the team has become closer and closer to what I want. We’re a year older and a year more experienced.”
After seeing Mt. Vernon go 16-12 in 2018, Carr heads into his fifth season as head coach next spring.
“It sounds so cliche’, but I want to get good kids to play hard,” says Carr, who learned more about the profession by attending the annual American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis in 2018. “I want to get as much out of them as I can.
“I want them to play the game right and be respectful. I tell them to give ‘100 percent, 100 percent of the time.’”
At the latter stop, the baseball program had been dormant and Carr helped bring it back. It was an experience that was both difficult and rewarding.
“I was knocking on doors and creating relationships to make sure we could field a team,” says Carr. “I had no assistant coach. I did get a lot of support from athletic director and assistant principal Don Burton.”
Carr expects three seniors to return for 2019 — left fielder Dylan Cole, catcher Sam McCarty and center fielder Thomas Obergfell. Carr sees Cole going to an Ivy League school for academics only with the other two weighing their options of playing college ball.
A 2000 Norwell High School graduate, Carr was a four-year starter for head coach Bob Mosier.
“I learned that it does not matter what grade a kid’s in, if he’s good enough, let him play varsity,” says Carr. “It’s not always a very popular decision to play young guys. But if they’re good enough, put them on the field.”
Carr was one of three freshmen seeing considerable playing time when Norwell won the 1997 Bellmont Sectional and met future Notre Dame and major league pitcher Aaron Heilman and his Logansport teammates in the first round of the Kokomo Regional.
That was the last year of the IHSAA single-class system in Indiana. Carr recalls that the focus at the time of the switch was on basketball.
“It didn’t change that much for baseball,” says Carr. “We were in a sectional before with 2A’s and 3A’s. The Bellmont Sectional was made up of Adams and Wells county schools.”
In 2018, the tournament was hosted by Mt. Vernon. Pendleton Heights beat the Marauders in the championship game. The last Mt. Vernon sectional championship season was 2011.
Mt. Vernon is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, New Castle, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown). The Marauders went 6-8 in HCC play in 2018, finishing tied for fifth with Pendleton Heights and Shelbyville and behind conference champion New Palestine (11-4), New Castle (9-4), Yorktown (8-6) and Greenfield-Central (7-7).
HCC games are played as Friday night doubleheaders unless New Castle (which does not have lights) is hosting and then the contests are on Saturday.
Mt. Vernon’s lighted varsity diamond is on-campus and has a short brick wall in front of the dugouts rather than a screen. There is an adjacent practice field.
Carr is still filling his 2019 coaching staff. Michael Thompson has been with him each year at the varsity level and will return. Jerry Grill will lead the junior varsity. Other coaches at the varsity, JV and C-team levels have not yet been solidified.
Typically, Carr likes to have 40 players in the program.
“Every year I get better at (explaining to players how they might fit),” says Carr. “I try to be forthright and open, telling them ‘this is the role you’re going to play.’”
Marauder Baseball Club will field 8U through 13U teams in 2019. The club’s first season was 2018.
“He’s an interesting cat,” says Carr of Espeset. “He’s always thinking and changing. He tries things his players maybe don’t understand. But he’s proven himself.
“I loved playing for him.”
Carr tries to mimic Espeset calm demeanor.
“He’s not a rah-rah guy,” says Carr. “I’m more excitable, but I try to keep it cool. I don’t get in an umpire’s face.”
Carr got his history/social studies in 2006. After holding non-education positions, his first teaching job was at Indianapolis Marshall High School in the fall of 2011. That’s when he began helping Glant at Mt. Vernon.
Now a high school history and government teacher at Mt. Vernon, Carr is engaged to Joanna Sajda.
Ryan Carr (left) and fiancee’ Joanna Sajda enjoy Turkey Run State Park in the spring of 2018. Carr is entering his fifth season at head baseball coach at Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., in 2019.