South Ripley High School in Versailles, Ind., has had its share of baseball success. From 2016-19, the Raiders averaged nearly 16 wins per season. The team had plenty of veterans in 2020, but that season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, South Ripley won its eighth sectional title — the first since 2008. That team featured Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series selection Brady Linkel (now at Ohio University). Jeff Greiwe, a Raiders assistant to Steve Franklin the past several years whose middle son Aaron was a senior ballplayer in 2020, has been named South Ripley head coach as the team prepares for 2022. As head coach, Greiwe plans to assert the importance of fundamentals and attention to detail. “If you want the big things to happen, you’ve got to do the little things right,” says Greiwe. “Bunting, base running, throwing strikes — those things will definitely be emphasized. “We’re going to be extremely young. We’re going to start several freshmen.” Among those is catcher Trent Smith. Keeping everyone involved is also a Greiwe strength. “I make it a point to use everybody during the game,” says Greiwe. South Ripley (enrollment around 370) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Rising Sun, Shawe Memorial, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County). ORVC teams play each other twice during the season. In 2021, the Raiders were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County. South Ripley plays its home games on-campus at Forest G. Waters Field. A few years ago, the mound was re-done and new bullpen mounds and dugouts were installed. “We’ve got a strong tradition in baseball and one of the better fields in southeastern Indiana,” says Greiwe. “It’s up to me to keep the field to a very high standard.” Greiwe (pronounced (Gry-vee), who teaches high school Geometry, keep things going in the summer and fall for whomever was going to be the head coach and that turned out to be him. He was approved by the school board this month. Greiwe coached the 14U Redlegs Baseball Club in the summer and fall of 2021. As has been the case for years, local players took part in high school and junior team fall leagues at the CERA Sports Park and Camp Ground in Columbus, Ind. After helping get the junior high baseball program off the ground, Greiwe moved up the South Ripley coaching ranks. Brian Smith, who has coached at the junior high level the past few years, is part of the South Ripley high school staff. Greiwe is talking to other possible 2022 assistants. A 1998 graduate of Greensburg (Ind.) Community High School when the Pirates were coached by Roger Cash, Greiwe earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from Ball State University. Greiwe has been head coach at Milan in two different stints, helped former high school classmate Doug Behlmer at Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy and was head coach at North Decatur. Prior to teaching at South Ripley, Greiwe was an elementary then middle school math teacher at Milan. Jeff, who is married to South Ripley Elementary teacher and former head volleyball coach Robyn Greiwe, has also coached sons Shayne, Aaron Griewe and Peyton during their travel ball years. Shayne Griewe (Class of 2018) served in the U.S. Navy and is now working in Florida. Aaron Griewe is in the Navy and stationed in Norfolk, Va. Peyton Owens (Class of 2020) is studying music at Dark Horse Institute in Franklin, Tenn.
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.
As he goes into his fourth season leading the program at the tuition-free public charter school serving grades 6-12, Beasley is met with issues like getting enough players and retaining those.
The school, which opened in August 2011 with grades 7-9 before expanding, presented its first baseball team in 2014. The Trailblazers became eligible for IHSAA tournament play in 2017 — the year before Beasley became head coach.
“The first year we went into most games with 10 players,” says Beasley. “The second year, it was 13 or 14. Last year, we were in good shape with decent numbers then we did not play (because of the COVID-19 pandemic).”
As the 2021 slate approaches, Beasley has been getting a handful out for winter conditioning. He hopes that number will go up at the end of basketball season and when more students begin coming for in-person instruction.
One of the reasons participation is down is because some students take all their classes online and don’t appear at the campus on the northwest side of South Bend just below the Indiana Toll Road. The school has enrollees from all over the area.
“I don’t get to interact with those kids and that’s where a lot of the recruitment comes from,” says Beasley. “Losing the baseball season really hurt because (students and staff) are not talking about it.
“If doesn’t matter if you never played before. Come out and we’ll have some fun. I’m not going to force a kid to come out and do it.”
These novices — some who have never played or have not been on a diamond since Little League — face a varsity high school schedule with experienced opponents. Some of those will go on to play college baseball.
“Retention is hard,” says Beasley. “Many of them do not come back the next year.
“That’s our biggest hurdle.”
There is currently no feeder system for CASB baseball, though Beasley is hoping to develop a middle school team in the next couple years. Career Academy has a second South Bend campus — Success Academy — which serves grades K-5.
Beasley is a math teacher. This year he leads Algebra and Algebra Lab classes.
He grew up in North Liberty, Ind., and played baseball at John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., graduating in 2005. Beasley’s freshmen year was John Nadolny’s first at Falcons head coach.
“He was the coach who taught me the most about all aspects of the game as opposed to just the physical part,” says Beasley. “He had those instincts during the game. Being around baseball his whole life, he did what his gut told him to do and it’s worked out for him.”
Beasley credits “Nud” for teaching him how to look at baseball’s mental side.
“How far I can hit the ball or how hard I can throw is not always the most-important part,” says Beasley.
At Ball State University in Muncie, Beasley played four years of club baseball, serving as president his last two years.
The club played intrasquad games in the fall and then a National Club Baseball Association schedule in the spring. Ball State played in the Great Lakes South Conference with club teams from Indiana University, University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and SIU-Edwardsville.
The student-run club was responsible for securing its own practice time and space — in the winter that meant 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. when the varsity teams weren’t using any of the BSU gyms.
Working with Muncie Parks & Recreation, the club played at Francis Lafferty Park. As president, Beasley had to lead fundraising efforts and put together a proposal to get financial help from the university. There was also making out the roster and other administrative duties that many don’t associate with coaching.
Before coaching at Career Academy South Bend, Beasley served as an assistant and junior varsity coach at South Bend Clay (2012-17). He got to work with baseball veterans like Colonials head coach Joel Reinebold and assistants Bill Schell, John Kehoe and Dan Kasper.
“It was very informative,” says Beasley. “(Reinebold) always had something that players could do to get better. I learned a lot from him.”
Beasley also learned how to run a team and craft a schedule.
Schoettle values the relationships he builds with his student-athletes. He expects them to take pride in being a Franklin Central Flash while being accountable for everything they do — on and off the diamond.
“It’s wanting to be part of the program and doing what is expected to be successful at this level,” says Schoettle, who joined the Flashes staff in 2010 and has been in charge since 2019. “We play in the toughest baseball conference in the state.
The HCC has accounted for four state championships — Brownsburg in 2005, Noblesville in 2014, Fishers in 2018 and Hamilton Southeastern in 2019. Franklin Central was state runner-up in 1992. Other runner-up finishes include 2003 and 2004 for Brownsburg, 1998 and 2009 for Westfield and 2016 for Zionsville.
Since 2010, the conference has combined to win 17 sectionals, seven regionals and four semistates.
Conference teams play each other in a two-game home-and-home series in the same week.
Schoettle is a 1985 graduate of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Wirtz.
At Franklin Central, Schoettle was an assistant to head coach John Rockey and was on the same staff with John McCormick.
Schoettle credits Wirtz, Rockey and McCormick for teaching him valuable lessons.
From Wirtz, he learned the importance of fundamentals. From Rockey, he gained a grasp on everyday coaching situations.
McCormick, an Indianapolis Cathedral graduate who had also coaches at Bishop Chatard, Lawrence Central and Noblesville, died of brain cancer in 2016 at 44. He left an impression on many with his knack of making you think you were the most important person on the planet.
“Everybody that knew John loved John,” says Schoettle. “I only knew him for three years, but I felt like I lost a brother.”
Schoettle earned a business degree from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI) and worked several jobs before deciding to go into education. This is his 16th year of teaching for the FCHS math instructor.
Prior to coaching baseball at Franklin Central, Schoettle coached football with Mike Harmon at Brebeuf Jesuit and guided son Jackson’s in travel baseball team.
It was just a few days before tryouts in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down — and then wiped out — the season.
“It was heartbreaking,” says Schoettle. “We had 12 seniors on our roster last year.
“But everybody was in the same boat (losing the season.
“We’re excited to see who’s going to step up (in 2021). It’s up for grabs. The kids know that.”
Right now, Schoettle has 50 to 60 kids coming to off-season conditioning. They are working on flexibility, endurance and speed.
“We want to get in the best shape we can right now,” says Schoettle. “The beauty of it is I have great assistant coaches.”
At 30, Devin Anderson is the oldest of 53-year-old Schoettle’s helpers and is a varsity assistant. He is an Evansville Harrison High School graduate.
Ben Kennedy is the junior varsity head coach. He is assisted by Tom Rockey (son of John Rockey). Brett Massengale is the freshmen coach. Kennedy, Rockey and Massengale are all Franklin Central graduates.
The Flashes tend to have about 45 players in the program for their three teams.
There are two baseball fields on-campus that are adjacent to one another. The varsity diamond has lights.
“It’s nice having fields next to each other,” says Schoettle. “We can have four-team tournaments or the varsity and JV can play at the same time.”
While Schoettle would like to have turf on the baseball field, his players have been able to practice occasionally on the football turf on the other end of campus.
Greg and is married to Roncalli graduate Liz. The couple have two children — Jackson (22) and Lucy (14). Jackson Schoettle pitched one year at Roncalli and ran cross country for four years. Lucy Schoettle is a Franklin Central freshmen and a dancer.
The ninth-year GC assistant has certain things for pitchers to do six days a week while they each are encouraged to find what works best for them.
These are college athletes. It’s no cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all system.
“A lot of these kids when they get here never really focused on pitching,” says Grubbs. “If they were at a school where they played multiple positions they might play shortstop, come in and pitch and the next day they’re back at shortstop.
“One of our outfielders — a freshmen — said he never thought of himself as a pitcher through he was the No. 1 at his school. Here, you’ve got to put a lot more emphasis on it if you want to get better at it.”
Having an abundance of quality arms has long been important when playing a 55-game NAIA schedule. But with the Crossroads League going to 36 conference games and Friday and Saturday doubleheaders, it has taken on even more significance for the Maple Leafs.
“You have a really good chance of getting on the field as a pitcher. We need pitching,” says Grubbs. “With this many innings, there’s going to be opportunities.”
Grubbs spells out his points of emphasis.
“What we’re big on the most is being able to attack hitters, have command and be able to throw secondary pitches for strikes,” says Grubbs. “We’re pretty successful with that compared to some other programs.
“A lot of times, we’ll pitch backwards to teams. We’ll always work off our fastball. But you’ve got to be able to mix speeds and change locations.”
In 2019, the GC staff set a school record for strikeouts (345). In the past four seasons, the top four team earned run averages in Goshen’s DakStats-era history have been posted.
“We’d like to pitch to weak contact at times, too,” says Grubbs, recognizing that strikeouts tend to raise the pitch count. “We have a nice core of veterans back that are going to be able to help us (in 2021).”
Now in the sixth of seven fall practice weeks, the Maple Leafs are looking to get better even as the COVID-19 pandemic took away or shortened the 2020 spring and summer seasons.
Goshen was 7-11 overall and 2-1 in the Crossroads and on a two-game win streak when the season ended soon after a March 7 doubleheader sweep of visiting Taylor.
Newcomers and veterans are getting roughly the same amount of playing time in intrasquad games so the coaching staff can see what the players can do.
“We try to even up teams so they get a fair crack at it,” says Grubbs. “They have an opportunity.”
In a typical non-pandemic year, Goshen would be playing outside competition in the fall. Not so in 2020.
“We’re getting a lot of reps against each other,” says Grubbs. “Some nights we have to grind through it a little bit.”
The Maple Leaf World Series — Purple vs. Black — is slated for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.
Right now, Childers is with his wife Amber and family at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis while Wellenreiter and Grubbs run the team.
“Alex is the type of coach that has given us so much responsibility and given us the reins to lead our components of the team,” says Grubbs. “He gives us that freedom to coach.”
During the season, Grubbs helps Childers with in-game decision-making and also handles much of GC’s recruiting.
The Leafs roster includes players from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. But it also features those from California, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada and Texas plus Alberta in Canada, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
Once the pandemic hit, there was a slow start to recruiting for the 2021 class. But with the help of the admissions office, virtual visits soon became the norm.
“These were guys we’d already done research on,” says Grubbs. “We’d seen videos and texted back and forth. We had an idea of who they are and talked with their coaches.”
Following the school’s protocol and precautions, there was one short recruiting trip to Michigan in the summer. In most years, Grubbs would log many miles in pursuit of players.
Grubbs grew up just outside Bourbon, Ind., and graduated from Triton Junior/Senior High School in 1998. The Trojans won the old Northern State Conference title in 1997 and were perennial NSC contenders.
Eric Stults, who went on to star at Crossroads League member Bethel College (now Bethel University) and pitch in the big leagues, lived just a couple of miles away. In Justin’s final high school game — left-hander Stults hurled Argos to a 3-2 victory over Triton.
Landon Grubbs — Justin’s brother — was the starting right fielder and clean-up hitter on Triton’s 2001 IHSAA Class 1A state championship team.
Both Grubbs brothers were coached by Jim Shively.
“He got the best out of his players,” says Grubbs of Shively. “He had a lot of enthusiasm. He taught guys how to hit. I never knew how to hit until I got (to high school). I was also more of a pitcher type who hit at the bottom of the order.”
Grubbs ended up in the No. 2 hole on a squad featuring Kyle Gould (who is now the head baseball coach at athletic director at Crossroads League member Taylor University).
On the mound, Grubbs was 15-4 and a two-time all-NSC selection. He also played football and was academic all-state in 1997.
Grubbs was relief on the baseball team at Indiana Wesleyan University. Mark DeMichael was then head coach of the Wildcats. He learned lessons of pitching and spirituality from IWU pitching coach Mike Burchette.
“He talked about the side work and what a pitching program really looks like,” says Grubbs of Burchette. “He had a really good Christian twist to everything and would really lead us spiritually.”
After a couple years, Grubbs decided to begin his coaching career while working toward a Indiana Wesleyan degree he earned in 2002 (he got a masters in Administration of Physical Education and Sport).
Grubbs then became varsity assistant and pitching coach to head coach Steve Shugart at Madison-Grant Junior/Senior High School in Fairmount, Ind. The Argylls regularly won 20 games as season and were state-ranked in Class 2A. M-G won a Central Indiana Conference championship.
After that, Justin and wife Emily (who also went to Triton and Indiana Wesleyan), opted to move closer to home to start a family (their daughters are Eliana and Maycee).
The couple, married since 2004, settled in Bremen, Ind., and Justin took a job as a math teacher and assistant baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) High School. He was the varsity assistant for the Redskins (now RedHawks) for five years.
Grubbs continues to teach at Goshen and coach at Goshen College. When deciding whether to take the college job, Grubbs consulted with former GHS teacher and coach and GC coach DeVon Hoffman.
He also talked with GHS principal Barry Younghans, who makes it possible for him to teach and get to college games — sometimes the second half of a doubleheader.
“Alex is very flexible as a coach,” says Grubbs. “He’s even said there are times that I need you even more in practice than I do at the games because that’s where all of our work is put in and it’s just performance at the game.
“I’m thankful I’m around people that are really good people to work for at the high school and here at the college.”
“You’ve got to keep a level head,” says Ryan. “Baseball’s a game of failure and you have to deal with failure.
“It’s about being mentally-prepared and mentally-ready.”
Ryan Thurston played his earliest organized baseball at the youth league in Madison and then travel baseball with the Greenfield-based Indiana Bandits, coached by Jeff Montgomery. In his 16U and 17U summers, he played for the Cincy Flames.
“He pitched in the big leagues (with the 1987 and 1988 Chicago White Sox),” says Thurston of Pawlowski. “He really knew his stuff.
“He taught me a lot about different pitches and when to throw them and being the the best I can be.”
Thurston graduated from Madison Consolidated in 2014 and Western Kentucky in 2017 with a graduate school year at WKU in 2018 (he played for the Hilltoppers in parts of five seasons and earned a financial management degree).
At Madison, he won four baseball letters at Madison, earning all-state honorable mention as a senior. He was all-conference and team MVP three times. He also garnered three letters in basketball.
At Western Kentucky, he pitched in 66 games (52 as a starter — 14 in each of his final three seasons) with 13 wins, 299 strikeouts (second in program history) and 174 walks in 306 2/3 innings (third in WKU annals).
As a senior, the lefty pitched a career-high 80 2/3 innings while allowing a career-low 15 extra-base hits. He finished the season with a 4.24 ERA, although that mark stood at 3.08 prior to his final two starts. He was the only pitcher in Conference USA to secure wins over both Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech.
Thurston signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and pitched in 13 games (nine in relief) in 2018 before being released.
With the RailCats, a team he joined May 26, Thurston is 2-0 with a 2.58 earned run average. In 35 1/3 innings, he has 33 strikeouts and 16 walks.
Ryan Thurston, a 2013 Madison (Ind.) Consolidated High School graduate who pitched at Western Kentucky University from 2014-18 and holds a financial management degree from that school, is now a relief pitcher for the independent Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats. (Steve Krah Photo)