Tag Archives: Miami Marlins

Lefty Lohman competes way to Dodgers organization

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

Competition.
It’s one of the things Carter Lohman likes most about baseball.
As a left-handed pitcher, the 2018 Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate enjoys the challenge of facing hitters.
In four seasons at the University of Louisville (2019-22), he appeared in 38 games (30 in relief) and went 3-4 with a 5.59 earned run average, 62 strikeouts and 52 walks in 58 innings.
The Cardinals went 134-65-1 during Lohman’s time with the program, including 51-18 and a College World Series appearance in 2019.
Each season was preceded by the Omaha Challenge — a series of competitions to get the team ready for the season and focused on the goal of ending the season at the CWS.
For a week or two, the red and black teams took part in swimming, tire flips, 100-meter dashes, lifting and running and more. There was a truck push around the Kentucky State Fairgrounds.
Lohman was in the individual top 10 and on the winning team a couple of times.
In high school, he played four varsity seasons (all but his junior year as a pitcher-only) for then-HSE head coach Scott Henson and the Royals did the Victory Challenge (the IHSAA State Finals are at Victory Field) early in the spring semester.
“It helped make us mentally and physically tougher,” says Lohman. “(Coach Henson) pushed everyone to get the most out of themselves on the field. Our practices were scheduled nicely. There was no lollygagging. That was our time to get better.
“At the same time he knew that baseball is fun so let it be fun.”
He struck out 125 batters during his prep career and was ranked as Indiana’s top left-handed pitcher by Perfect Game. He also earned two football letters at HSE.
Lohman has also enjoyed development at PRP Baseball at Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind., working with Greg Vogt, Anthony Gomez and others and going against other players on Fridays.
“It’s a good atmosphere for competing and getting better,” says Lohman.
Dan McDonnell is Louisville’s head coach. Lohman worked closely with associate head coach/pitching coach Roger Williams.
“He did not take a cookie-cutter approach (to each pitcher),” says Lohman of Williams, who has been at the U of L for 16 seasons. “The emphasis was on learning the game and becoming a better player.”
Lohman learned about things like bunting scenarios and first-and-third situations.
“I could go for days talking about pitch sequencing,” says Lohman. “You can use your pitches in different ways to get the batters out.”
Lohman’s been good enough at it to get paid for it.
The 22-year-old southpaw was signed Aug. 1 as a minor league free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers is now at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., throwing regular bullpen sessions and expecting to make his pro debut soon in the Arizona Complex League.
Lohman, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, throws from a high three-quarter arm slot.
His four-seam fastball has gotten up to 96 mph. His two-seamer has similar velocity with more horizontal movement to the arm side as opposed to the glove side for the four-seamer.
To get more feel for the pitch, Lohman positions his index finger to throw a “spike” curve ball.
Thrown harder than his curve, his slider has more horizontal break.
His uses a “circle” grip for his change-up.
Born in Indianapolis on Christmas Day 1999, Carter is the oldest of Northwestern High School graduates Brian and Andrea Lohman’s four children.
Brian Lohman, a sales engineer, played baseball and football in high school and lettered as a defensive back at Purdue University (1992-95).
Andrea Lohman, an actuary, was a high school cheerleader.
Griffin Lohman, 21, is a right-handed pitcher at Purdue. Ava and Sydney have played volleyball at HSE.
The Lohman brothers were teammates briefly during Carter’s senior year of high school and with the Tropics of the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
What was it like growing up with a ball-playing brother?
“The biggest thing was playing catch,” says Carter. “We eventually passed up our dad so we had no one else to throw with.”
Carter played recreation ball in Fishers until 8 then travel ball for the Fisher Cats, Indiana Bulls and Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest) at 16U and 17U.
He met Jared Poland around 10 while both were on the Bulls. Right-hander Poland went on to pitch at Indianapolis Cathedral High School and was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins.
“We definitely talk about (pitching),” says Lohman of some of his conversations with Poland.
Lohman played briefly with the Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 before joining other freshmen on the Louisville campus. He had a short stint in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Orleans Firebirds in 2019 and was with the CSL’s Snapping Turtles in 2020.
In May, Lohman earned a degree in Exercise Science.
“I’ve always been interested in how the body moves,” says Lohman. “It can help me on the field.”
Away from baseball, the knowledge gives Lohman many options including athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist.
But now it’s about competing on the pitcher’s mound.

Carter Lohman at the University of Louisville. (Bryan Green Photo)
Brothers Carter and Griffin Lohman with Tropics of 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park.
Carter Lohman signs pro baseball contract. (Los Angeles Dodgers Photo)

Eleven players who prepped in Indiana selected in ’22 MLB Draft

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

Eleven players who graduated from high school in Indiana were chosen in the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which concluded its three-day run in Los Angeles Tuesday, July 19.
There were 20 rounds and 616 players selected.
Indiana University right-handed pitcher Jack Perkins (Kokomo High School graduate) was picked in the fifth round (154th overall) by the Oakland Athletics.
Ball State University left-hander Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern) was chosen in the fifth round (161 overall) by the Chicago White Sox.
University of Louisville right-hander Jared Poland (Indianapolis Cathedral) was taken in the sixth round (172 overall) by the Miami Marlins.
University of Connecticut right-hander Austin Peterson (Chesterton) went in the ninth round (271st overall) to the Cleveland Guardians.
Purdue University left-hander Jackson Smeltz (McCutcheon) was picked in the 10th round (300th overall) by the San Diego Padres.
Indiana U. right-hander Bradley Brehmer (Decatur Central) was drafted in the 12th round (347th overall) by the Baltimore Orioles.
Ivy Tech Northeast Community College right-hander Matt Peters (Fort Wayne Dwenger) was picked in the 12th round (353rd overall) by the Chicago Cubs.
Righty-swinging Georgia Tech shortstop Tim Borden II (Providence) was chosen in the 16th round (493rd overall) by the Houston Astros.
Evansville North High School switch-hitting shortstop Cameron Decker (a University of Central Florida commit) was drafted in the 18th round (555th overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Westfield High School right-hander Gage Stanifer (a University of Cincinnati commit) was picked in the 19th round (578th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Indiana U. right-hander Reese Sharp (University High) was selected in the 20th round (587th overall) by Baltimore.

Major League Baseball Image

Indiana products making mark in bigs, minors

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

Left-handed pitcher Zack Thompson, who was a star at Wapahani High School in Selma, Ind., and the University of Kentucky, made his Major League Baseball debut when he earned a four-inning save for the St. Louis Cardinals June 3 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Thompson, 24, has made 10 starts for the Triple-A Memphis (Tenn.) Redbirds in 2022 and is 2-2 with a 4.67 earned run average.
Zach McKinstry (Fort Wayne North Side/Central Michigan) has split his time between the minors and the big-league Los Angeles Dodgers and the lefty-swinging infielder is currently on the active roster with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. He made his big league debut in 2020.
McKinstry, 27, is hitting .335 with three home runs and 20 runs batted in over 164 MiLB at-bats and is 1-for-5 with LA — the hit being a June 3 two-run home run off New York Mets right-hander Chris Bassitt.
Right-hander Ryan Pepiot (Westfield/Butler) had made his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 11. He is back with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Pepiot, 24, is 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA in nine appearances for OKC and 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three games (11 1/3 innings) in the big leagues.
Many other players are also on active rosters in the minors.
Right-hander Luke Albright (Fishers/Kent State) is with the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Albright, 22, is 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in 10 starts.
Third baseman Cole Barr (Yorktown/Indiana University) plays for the High-A Everett (Wash.) AquaSox (Seattle Mariners).
Barr, 24, is hitting .172 with three homers and 17 RBIs.
Right-hander Gabe Bierman (Jeffersonville/Indiana) toes the rubber for the Low-A Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads (Miami Marlins).
Bierman, 22, is 2-2 with a 4.28 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts).
Right-hander Garrett Burhenn (Lawrence North/Ohio State) takes the bump for the Low-A Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers (Detroit Tigers).
Burhenn, 22, is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts.
Lefty-swinging outfielder Zach Britton (Batesville/Louisville) is with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays).
Britton, 23, is hitting .206 with four homers and 11 RBIs.
Right-hander Zack Brown (Seymour/Kentucky) is one step from the majors with the Triple-A Nashville (Tenn.) Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers).
Brown, 27, is 1-0 with two saves and a 3.54 ERA in 17 relief appearances.
Outfielder Drew Campbell (Jeffersonville/Louisville) swings from the left side for the High-A Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves).
Campbell, 24, is hitting .266 with one homer and 22 RBIs.
Left-hander Jacob Cantleberry (Center Grove/Missouri/San Jacinto) is with the High-A Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers) in Midland, Mich.
Cantleberry, 24, is 2-1 with one save and a 6.10 ERA in 13 games out of the bullpen.

Right-hander Adysin Coffey (Delta/Wabash Valley) is on the Development List as a reliever with the Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox).

Coffey, 23, is 2-2 with two saves a 7.30 ERA in 13 games.
Lefty-swinging outfielder Craig Dedelow (Munster/Indiana) takes his cuts for the Double-A Birmingham (Ala.) Barons (Chicago White Sox).
Dedelow, 27, is hitting .226 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs.
Lefty-swinging second baseman Clay Dungan (Yorktown/Indiana State) is with Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals).
Dungan, 26, is hitting .204 with three homers and 18 RBIs.
Outfielder Elijah Dunham (Evansville Reitz/Indiana) bats lefty for the Double-A Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees) in Bridgewater, N.J.
Dunham, 24, is hitting .346 with seven homers and 27 RBIs.
Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Zionsville/Wake Forest) is spinning pitches for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland Athletics).
Dunshee, 27, is 1-5 with a 7.24 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).

Righty-swinging outfielder Matt Gorski (Hamilton Southeastern/Indiana) is with Double-A Altoona (Pa.) Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates).

Gorski, 24, is hitting .290 with 19 homers and 46 RBIs.
Left-hander Timmy Herrin (Terre Haute South Vigo/Indiana) takes the mound for the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers (Cleveland Guardians).
Herrin, 25, is 0-2 with one save and a 4.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances.
Right-hander Bryan Hoeing (Batesville/Louisville) challenges hitters for the Triple-A Jacksonville (Fla.) Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins).
Hoeing, 25, is 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts.
Lefty-swinging outfielder Jacob Hurtubise (Zionsville/Army) is with the Double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds).
Hurtubise, 24, is hitting .299 with no homers and five RBIs. He has spent some time on the IL.
Right-hander Drey Jameson (Greenfield-Central/Ball State) fires it for the Triple-A Reno (Nev.) Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Jameson, 24, is 3-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 12 games (11 starts).
Catcher Hayden Jones (Carroll/Mississippi State/Illinois State) is also a lefty swinger and plays for the Low-A Daytona (Fla.) Tortugas (Cincinnati Reds).
Jones, 22, is hitting .210 with one homer and eight RBIs.
Righty-swinging catcher Scott Kapers (Mount Carmel, Ill./Valparaiso) is with the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers).
Kapers, 25, is hitting .257 with five homers and 16 RBIs.
Lefty-swinging first baseman Niko Kavadas (Penn/Notre Dame) competes for the Low-A Salem (Va.) Red Sox (Boston Red Sox).
Kavadas, 23, is hitting .253 with seven homers and 31 RBIs.
Right-hander Chayce McDermott (Pendleton Heights/Ball State) journeys around the circuit with the High-A Asheville (N.C.) Tourists (Houston Astros).
McDermott, 23, is 5-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 12 games (six starts).
First baseman Jacson McGowan (Brownsburg/Purdue) plies his trade with the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays).
McGowan, 24, is hitting .276 with one homer and two RBIs. He has been on the IL in 2022.
Right-hander Zach Messinger (Castle/Virginia) hurls for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees).
Messinger, 22, is 0-4 with two saves and a 4.85 ERA in 18 games (15 in relief).
Right-hander Evan Miller (LaPorte/Purdue Fort Wayne) works mostly out of the bullpen for the Triple-A El Paso (Texas) Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres).
Miller, 27, is 1-2 with two saves and a 6.59 ERA in 21 games (19 in relief).
Lefty-swinging shortstop Colson Montgomery (Southridge) is with the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox).
Montgomery, 20, is hitting .295 with four homers and 23 RBIs.
Righty-swinging infielder Nick Podkul (Andrean/Notre Dame) was with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays).
Podkul, 25, is hitting .178 with two homers and nine RBIs.
Left-hander Triston Polley (Brownsburg/Indiana State) has been a reliever for the High-A Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads (Texas Rangers).
Polley, 25, is 6-2 with one save and a 5.67 ERA in 16 games (all out of the bullpen).
Outfielder Grant Richardson (Fishers/Indiana) bats lefty for the Low-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons (New York Yankees).
Richardson, 22, is hitting .207 with two homers and 16 RBIs.
Left-hander Andrew Saalfrank (Heritage/Indiana) is a reliever for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Saalfrank, 24, is 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in 17 bullpen games.
Andy Samuelson (LaPorte/Wabash Valley) pitched for the Rookie-level Braves (Atlanta Braves) until retiring June 11.
Samuelson, 23, pitched 1/3 of an inning in 2022.
Right-hander Caleb Sampen (Brownsburg/Wright State) pours it in for the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays).
Sampen, 25, is 1-12 with a 5.02 ERA in nine appearances (five starts). He has been on the IL in 2022.
Right-hander Reid Schaller (Lebanon/Vanderbilt) is part of the bullpen for the Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators (Washington Nationals).
Schaller, 25, is 2-0 with one save and a 2.89 ERA in 14 bullpen contests.
Lefty-swinging outfielder Nick Schnell (Roncalli) is back on the field after a long injury-list stint. He plays for the Low-A Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs (Tampa Bay Rays).
Schnell, 22, was activated May 31 and is hitting .333 with no homers and six RBIs. The “Diamonds in the Rough” podcast features Schnell and Cole Wilcox.
Left-hander Garrett Schoenle (Fort Wayne Northrop/Cincinnati) mostly comes out of the bullpen for the High-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox).
Schoenle, 23, is 3-1 with one save and a 1.39 ERA in 14 games (13 in relief).
Left-hander Avery Short (Southport) has been starting for the High-A Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Short, 21, is 0-4 with a 4.58 ERA in nine starts.
Left-hander Tommy Sommer (Carmel/Indiana) is a starter for the Low-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox).
Sommer, 23, is 2-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 starts.
Right-hander Skylar Szynski (Penn) was drafted in 2016 and has missed much time because of injury. He is Low-A Stockton (Calif.) Ports (Oakland Athletics).
Szynski, 24, is 1-1 with a 12.66 ERA in 15 bullpen games.
Right-hander Nolan Watson (Lawrence North) is mostly a reliever for the Double-A San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres).
Watson, 25, is 1-2 with a 7.76 ERA in 14 appearances (12 in relief).
Among those on the 7-day injury list are right-hander Sam Bachman (Hamilton Southeastern/Miami of Ohio) with the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas (Los Angeles Angels) in Madison, Ala., righty-swinging third baseman Kody Hoese (Griffith/Tulane) with the Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers), right-hander Michael McAvene (Roncalli/Louisville) with the High-A South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs) and righty-swinging third baseman Riley Tirotta (Mishawaka Marian/Dayton) with the High-A Vancouver (B.C.) Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays).
Bachman, 22, is 0-0 with a 1.98 ERA in four starts.
Hoese, 24, is hitting .284 with three homers and 21 RBIs.
McAvene, 24, is 0-0 with a 40.50 ERA in one relief appearance.
Tirotta, 23, is hitting .209 with three homers and 20 RBIs.
Right-hander Tanner Andrews (Tippecanoe Valley/Purdue) with the Triple-A Sacramento (Calif.) River Cats (San Francisco Giants), right-hander Pauly Milto (Roncalli/Indiana) with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash (Chicago White Sox) and righty-swinging third baseman Hunter Owen (Evansville Mater Dei/Indiana State) with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates) are on the 60-day IL.
Andrews, 26, is 0-0 with an 11.12 ERA in four relief games.
Milto, 25, is 0-0 with a 3.07 ERA in nine games (eight in relief).
Owen, 28, is hitting .256 with no homers and five RBIs. He made his MLB debut in 2021.

Zack Thompson (MLB Photo)

Kinzer enjoys baseball bonds as player, scout, agent, coach

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

Matt Kinzer has an eye for baseball talent.
The former Norwell High School (Ossian, Ind.) and Purdue University athlete who played in the majors and the National Football League was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., when he became an amateur scout in 1995 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Kinzer was responsible for assessing amateur players in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Ontario and Quebec.
After five years with Tampa Bay, Kinzer spent a decade as a baseball agent for Reynolds Sports Management, whose owner and CEO is Larry Reynolds (older brother of big league second baseman Harold Reynolds).
“I was his recruiting coordinator for the whole country,” says Kinzer. “We hoped these amateurs are going to make the big leagues and get paid.”
Among others, Kinzer got the Upton brothers — B.J. and Justin — to commit to the company.
LaTroy Hawkins, a Gary, Ind., native who pitched in 1,042 games over 21 MLB seasons, was also a Kinzer client and later went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
At the 2010 Winter Meetings, Dan Jennings (who had been with the Devil Rays) hired Kinzer as a pro scout for the Miami Marlins.
Kinzer went to minor league games and an occasional major league contest to evaluate players and file reports for potential trade opportunities.
The first year he scouted the entire Midwest League out of Fort Wayne. During his five years with the Marlins, he also did international scouting in the Dominican Republic.
While Kinzer was still with the Marlins, the Atlanta Braves called for permission to interview him to scout on the major league side and take on special assignments. He talked with general manager John Coppolella and accepted the deal.
“That gave me a seat at the big table,” says Kinzer, who worked with top executives including president John Hart and senior advisor John Schuerholz in giving opinions and developing a preferential list of who could be traded and who was hands-off in the Braves minor league system. “It took us a couple of years to turn that club around.”
Kinzer also did advanced scouting to check out possible playoff opponents for Atlanta. He had the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League and Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the American League.
Because of COVID-19 and budgetary reasons, the Braves dismissed the entire major league scouting staff toward the end of the 2020 season.
Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics (which were postponed from 2020 to 2021), Kinzer selected by his peers to sit on the committee that chose Team USA. They started with a big pool and narrowed it down to the final roster.
“It was hard assignment because you could only get guys not on a 40-man roster or had get permission from a club for them to play,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to be part of the decision-making for our country.”
When Kinzer joined the process, Joe Girardi was Team USA manager. When Girardi became Philadelphia Phillies manager the job was passed to Scott Brosius and it wound up with Mike Scioscia.
“I got to listen to Joe Girardi on how he likes to design a team and I said to myself, ‘this is pretty cool,’” says Kinzer. “It was a very humbling experience. You put all those years into working the game of baseball and someone has recognized your ability to evaluate.”
More recently, Kinzer has lent his appraisal skills as a consultant for Program 15 — a part of New Balance Future Stars baseball tournaments. He lives in Lakeland, Fla., and writes player reports on weekends.
Kinzer is also a special events coordinator and fundraising director for Major League Fishing — a circuit that features the world’s top bass anglers.
He is helping prepare for a charity fishing event featuring current and former major leaguers Nov. 19-21 in Guntersville, Ala.
“I’ve spent three decades in the game professionally building trust with current and former guys and their second love is fishing,” says Kinzer. “I grew up on a pond and I liked fishing.”
Participants have baseball and angling in common.
“There’s a connection there,” says Kinzer. “They have a tight fraternity. They’re good old boys.”
Kinzer played youth baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Colin Lister and graduated from Norwell in 1981.
As a sophomore, it was discovered how well he did in booting a football and he led Indiana high schoolers in punting as a junior and senior. He went to Purdue on a full ride in football and also played baseball.
He was selected in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals and made his MLB debut in 1989 at age 25 and went on to pitch nine games for the 1989 Cardinals and 1990 Detroit Tigers. He punted seven times in his one NFL game with the Detroit Lions with a long of 42 yards in Week 5 of 1987 against the Green Bay Packers.
Kinzer, 58, has three sons who all played baseball and graduated from Homestead High School in Fort Wayne.
Taylor Kinzer (33) was drafted twice as a right-handed pitcher — once at the end of his high school career in 2006 in the 34th round by the Washington Nationals and then out of Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) in the 24th round in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels and competed three seasons in the minors.
Derek Kinzer (31) was an outfielder for IHSAA Class 4A state runner Homestead in 2008, graduated in 2009 and also played at Taylor.
Jordan Kinzer (29) played junior college baseball and now serves in the U.S. Navy.
Matt Kinzer, a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer, was head baseball coach at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne in 1993 and 1994 and a volunteer assistant coach at Taylor 2011-14 and got to work with Trojans head coach Kyle Gould and assistant and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson.
‘Kyle is one of the best non-Division I coaches around,” says Kinzer. “It was an honor to share a bench with Coach A.
“The game itself creates a fraternity and a bond that lasts forever.”

Matt Kinzer.

Littlejohn emphasizes fun, aggressiveness for Tippecanoe Valley

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

Just six seasons after playing his last baseball season at Tippecanoe Valley High School new Akron and Mentone in Indiana, Jarred Littlejohn became the Vikings head coach for 2021 after two years as junior varsity coach on Greg Prater’s staff.
As he prepares for 2022, the former four-year outfielder tells what is important to him while leading the Valley program.
“Our biggest thing is to make sure the kids are loose and having fun,” says Littlejohn. “If they’re tight, they’re not going to perform.
“On offense, we want to be aggressive and get the pitch we’re looking for. On every pitch, we have an approach. We know we’re not going to be perfect.”
And then there’s the moundsmen.
“Pitching last year was the best part of our game,” says Littlejohn. “We knew what was working and stayed with it. Work ahead and don’t get behind in the count.
“We had a good defense behind us. (Pitchers) knew we could make the plays in the field.”
Littlejohn played for three coaches in high school — Ryan Moore his freshmen year, Brandon Cody as a sophomore and junior and Justin Brannock as a senior.
“There has not been much stability in the baseball program,” says Littlejohn. “We’re going to try to bring that back.”
Assisting Littlejohn, a machinist at Craig Welding & Manufacturing in Mentone, is Anthony Newcomer and Mike Bowers.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period opened Aug. 30 and closes Oct. 16. Littlejohn has been conducting open fields and weightlifting program that has consistently had six to 12 participants.
Tippecanoe Valley (enrollment around 570) has many baseball players involved in fall sports.
In 2021, there were 26 players taking part in varsity and JV games. The varsity went 12-12.
The Vikings are a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with along with Maconaquah, Manchester, North Miami, Northfield, Peru, Rochester, Southwood, Wabash and Whitko).
Last season, Valley was part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Wawasee and West Noble.The Vikings have won five sectional titles — the last in 2012.
Tippecanoe Valley is fed by youth leagues in Akron and Mentone. Those organizations are a part of Town & Country Baseball of Indiana.
Tanner Andrews, who is now a pitcher in the Miami Marlins organization, is a 2014 graduate who was selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Purdue University.
Littlejohn says right-hander Owen Kirchenstien (Class of 2022) is expected to commit to junior college baseball.

Jarred Littlejohn.
Jarred Littlejohn.

Indiana University righty Bierman signs with Miami Marlins

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

Gabe Bierman has faced adversity and personal crisis on his way to professional baseball.
The Jeffersonville, Ind., lost his father during his freshman year at Indiana University.
Douglas Bierman Jr., passed at 49 on May 16, 2019.
“I fought through my dad’s death and ended on a good note,” says Bierman, who signed July 18 with the Miami Marlins after being selected in the seventh round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
A right-handed pitcher who committed to IU as a Jeffersonville High School freshman, Gabe was on the mound two days after Dougie Bierman died and hurled three shutout innings with four strikeouts against Rutgers and fanned two and allowed just two hits in 3 2/3 innings in an NCAA Tournament game against Illinois Chicago. He wrapped his freshman year as a Hoosier at 4-0. In 20 games (15 as a reliever), he posted a 3.56 earned run average and struck out 46 while walking 18 in 48 innings.
Bierman’s time management skills — something needed by all college students but especially an athlete — were lacking during his early days in Bloomington. He persevered.
As Bierman developed on the diamond, he got tougher. Jeffersonville pitching coach P.J. Thomas and he had talked about being a warrior and that’s the mentality he takes each time he steps on the mound.
“I’m someone who will get the job done and battle,” says Bierman, 21. “I’m a person who fights and fights and fights.”
Add to that pitchability, game management and the stuff that goes along with it.
In three seasons (2019-21) at IU playing for head coach Jeff Mercer and pitching coach Justin Parker, Bierman made 36 appearances (21 starts) and went 11-5
with one save and a 4.00 ERA. He had 150 K’s and 57 walks in 144 innings.
In 2021, Bierman had 12 starts and 5-4 record to go with a 3.16 ERA. He produced 80 strikeouts and 30 walks in 74 innings. On May 9 against Nebraska, the righty whiffed 11 batters and walked one in nine frames.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept Indiana strictly Big Ten Conference games and limited the home crowd at Bart Kaufman Field. That had no adverse effect on Bierman.
“My game and what I do on the mound is focused no matter what,” says Bierman. “There are no external factors.”
When Bierman pledged to play at Indiana, Chris Lemonis was head coach and Kyle Bunn pitching coach. Their successors got a thumbs-up from the pitcher who won four baseball letters and set career and single-game strikeout marks at Jeffersonville.
“I was pretty confident and Mercer and Parker and their good reputation,” says Bierman. “I needed that for my career moving forward.
“What I’m doing now reflects how they treated me and my journey through IU.”
A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, Bierman throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, change-up and curveball from a three-quarter overhand arm slot.
His fastest pitch is sinking two-seamer that sits at 89 to 93 mph and hit 95 in the summer of 2020 while Bierman was playing for the Prospect League’s Normal (Ill.) Cornbelters.
A sinking change-up came during his freshman year and he added the slider as a sophomore. Rapsodo data has helped him refine these pitches.
“I shortened up arm path in my sophomore year to get better movement on the slider,” says Bierman. “Eventually everything came along with more bite and more movement.”
Bierman signed with the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla., and its there that he is beginning to prepare as a pro.
Miami’s four affiliate clubs are the Low Class-A Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads, High Class-A Beloit (Wis.) Snappers, Double-A Pensecola (Fla.) Blue Wahoos and Jacksonville (Fla.) Jumbo Shrimp.
Where does Bierman go and when?
“It depends on how hard I work,” says Bierman. “I’ll put anything on the table for any organization.
“I’ll do anything I have to get to the top.”
Bierman’s first organized baseball came at Jeff/GRC Little League, where he played from age 5 to 12. Then came travel ball with the Louisville-based Ironman Baseball Club 13U to 17U.
Derek Ellis was his head coach with the Jeffersonville Red Devils.
“Derek was great,” says Bierman of Ellis. “We had several meetings together to see what my career could look like. “He pushed me and motivated me to the best version of myself.”
Following his freshmen year at IU, Bierman played for the Northwoods League’s 2019 Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish.
Since the end of the 2021 season and being selected by and reporting to the Marlins, Bierman spent time in Bloomington keeping physically sharp and spending time with family. His mother is Andrea Bierman. His stepmother is Molly Bierman. He has five siblings — sister Mekenzi (an Indiana University Southeast student) and brothers Elijah, Nick, Ashton and Myles.

Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)
Gabe Bierman (Indiana University Photo)

Bethel U. graduate Thompson leads MidAmerica Nazarene baseball

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The 2021 college baseball season will mark the 15th as head coach for Ryan Thompson at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan.

But there are still plenty of Indiana connections for the former pitcher.

Thompson is a 2000 graduate of Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., where he was a Liberal Studies major and Business minor while pitching for head coaches Sam Riggleman (1998 and 1999) and Mike Hutcheon (2000) learning from Bethel assistant and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dick Siler.

As an elementary student, Thompson was always writing out lineups and plays. At first all he wanted to do was play baseball. When that time was over, he turned his attention to coaching.

“I’ve always loved baseball and sports,” says Thompson. “God’s gifted me in that capacity.”

Thompson is a 1995 graduate of Cowden-Herrick Senior High School in central Illinois. His graduating class had 33 students. With too few boys to have a football team, the Bobcats played conference games in the fall and the rest of the schedule in the spring with a healthy American Legion schedule in the summer.

In the fall of 1995, Thompson was a 17-year-old walk-on at Olney (Ill.) Central College, where the Blue Knights head coach was — and still is — Dennis Conley.

“He was a great coach,” says Thompson of Conley. “He was intense and demanding. It helped me grow up and mature.”

Familiar with area junior college baseball from his time at Southern Illinois University, Riggleman recruited Thompson to Bethel.

“I love Sam,” says Thompson. “We still talk frequently.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Riggleman has been on several Zoom calls with the MidAmerica Nazarene coaching staff.

Thompson recalls Riggleman as a fierce yet caring coach.

“Sam left the benchmark in my mind,” says Thompson. “I remember what the practices were like. 

“(Players) really respected him.”

Among his Pilots teammates were Indiana high school products Craig Sherwood (Elkhart Central), Jeremie Riggleman (Mishawaka), Seth Zartman (Caston), Brian Blondell (South Bend Washington), Ryan Takach (Penn), Shawn Summe (Penn) and Allen Hodge (Goshen). 

Jeremie Riggleman, a shortstop at Bethel, is Sam’s son. 

Zartman has been head baseball coach at Bethel since the 2004 season. 

Blondell was a Bethel assistant and head coach at Holy Cross College and is the founder of the Michiana Scrappers travel organization. 

Takach was in the Arizona Diamondbacks chain, including a stint with the 2000 South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks, and in indy ball.

Former college baseball coach Summe is now athletic director at Avila University in Kansas City, Mo. — less than 20 miles from MidAmerica Nazarene.

Thompson, Takach and Blondell were the top pitchers on the 1998 Bethel team which lost to Indiana Tech in the NAIA regional.

Thompson got to know Hutcheon as a player then coached for him for three seasons each as pitching coach at Bethel and Air Force Academy.

“Hutch is a great communicator and recruiter,” says Thompson. “He’s a good friend as well.

“I enjoyed my time with him.”

Thompson also maintained contact with Siler and received a visit from him in the summer of 2019.

“He was a numbers guy and taught me so much,” says Thompson of Siler, who died July 20, 2020 at 84. “I just learned so much from him.”

Thompson coached future professional pitchers Eric Stults, David Humen and Greg Kloosterman.

Left-hander Stults, an Argos (Ind.) High School graduate, was in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.

Right-hander Humen also pitched at Rice University and Oral Roberts University and made it to Double-A with the Miami Marlins and also logged mound time in the Kansas City Royals system and in independent ball.

Left-hander Kloosterman, an Elkhart Central graduate, competed in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

Before leaving for Air Force, Hutcheon and Thompson recruited Justin Masterson out of Ohio to attend Bethel. They later faced him in the Mountain West Conference when Masterson transferred to San Diego State University. He went on to pitched in the bigs for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals.

At MNU, Thompson’s coaching staff includes former Huntington (Ind.) University pitcher and Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) assistant Colton Punches as pitching coach. He was recommended by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould.

Cam Screeton, a Rochester (Ind.) High School and Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, Ind.) graduate and former head coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., is a graduate assistant working with MNU Pioneers hitters.

In a program with around 60 players (varsity and junior varsity), Elkhart Central alum Brycen Sherwood (Craig Sherwood’s nephew) is a sophomore second baseman and Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate Jake Bisland is a sophomore catcher.

Chad Jenkins, a teammate and roommate of Thompson at Bethel, is MNU’s Sports Information Director.

Thanks to Jenkins’ efforts, the Pioneers stream home baseball games in HD with a center field camera.

MNU’s last game before the shutdown of the 2020 season was March 13. Thompson opted to start the 2021 campaign Jan. 29 at Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas.

“It’s a little out of my comfort zone and not ideal, but we’ve been off long enough,” says Thompson of the early start. The Pioneers, a member of the NAIA and the Heart of America Athletic Conference, typically open in mid-February.

Players left campus at Thanksgiving and are due back Jan. 10 for COVID-19 protocol with the first practice Jan. 10 and in-person classes resuming Jan. 12.

The other Indiana connection is at home. Ryan’s wife Kristie is a graduate of NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind. The Thompsons have six homeschooled children (three boys followed by three girls) — Ty (15), Kade (13), Beau (11), Bailee (9), Kamryn (8) and Taylor (6). A homeschool hook-up on Fridays in Olathe has allowed the kids to explore different sports.

Ryan Thompson, a 2000 graduate of Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., is entering his 15th season as head baseball coach at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan., in 2021. (MidAmerica Nazarene University Photo)

Riggs shares prep, college, pro experiences with next generation

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Like many Indiana boys, Eric Riggs’ athletic focus growing up in Brownsburg, Ind., was basketball.

His father, David Riggs, was on the 1962 Evansville Bosse state championship team and earned a letter on the hardwood at the University of Evansville in 1966-67. The Purple Aces were NCAA Division II national champions in 1963-64 and 1964-65.

David’s father Walter Riggs and uncle Clarence Riggs are both in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Both graduated from Evansville Central High School and Evansville College.

Walter Riggs, grandfather of Eric, coached Evansville Central to an IHSAA state runner-up finish to Lafayette Jeff in 1948.

Eric Riggs, who is 6-foot-2 and played on Steve Brunes-coached Brownsburg High School teams that went 20-5 and 24-3 in his junior (1993-94) and senior seasons (1994-95), accepted a basketball scholarship to the University of Central Florida.

Playing Knights head coach Kirk Speraw, Riggs started in 22 of 30 games and averaged 11.4 points and 3.1 assists per game as a freshman in 1995-96. UMass and Marcus Camby knocked UCF out of the 1996 NCAA tournament.

Then Riggs turned his attention back to the diamond.

In his 16U, 17U and 18U summers, Riggs played travel baseball for the Indiana Bulls — the first two years with Jeff Mercer Sr. as head coach and the last with Bret Shambaugh.

The switch-hitting infielder had played baseball at Brownsburg for head coach Wayne Johnson and assistants Craig Moore and Mick Thornton. Big league pitcher Jeff Fassero came in to help the Bulldogs during the off-season.

“(Johnson) was a players’ coach,” says Riggs. “We were pretty stacked in our senior class. We had a lot of guys play at the next level (including Brian Stayte, Mark Voll and Joel Martin).”

Junior Quinn Moore, youngest son of Craig, was the mound ace in 1995 and went on to play at the University of South Alabama.

During a basketball recruiting trip to the school near Orlando in the spring of 1995, Riggs met with UCF baseball coach Jay Bergman near the end of the program’s 29-game win streak.

“He was very positive,” says Riggs of Bergman. “Coach Moore had been in Coach Bergman’s ear to let me walk on.

“(Craig Moore) was very instrumental in my baseball career. I just kind of played it. Basketball was my first sport.”

“I had never played year-round baseball. I wanted to find out what that was like. I ended up getting a partial baseball scholarship.”

Before he knew it, Riggs was batting ninth and starting at second base at the NCAA D-I level.

From 1996-98, Riggs amassed a career average of .362 with 49 doubles and a .573 slugging percentage. As an all-Atlantic Sun Conference first-team shortstop in 1998, he hit .394 with 26 doubles, 154 total bases and 64 runs scored.

Selected in the fourth round of the 1998 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Riggs was one of 10 UCF players picked from a 41-21 team. Two of those — pitcher Mike Maroth (Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals) and outfielder Esix Snead (New York Mets) — reached the majors.

In the winter of 2000-01, Riggs played a few months in Queensland, Australia, before returning to the U.S. and the Dodgers. He was with that organization for eight years (1998-2004, 2006), getting as far as Triple-A in 2003, 2004 and 2006.

In three seasons, his roommate was David Ross (who went on to be a 14-year big league catcher and is now manager of the Chicago Cubs).

“He’s a natural leader,” says Riggs of Ross. “Being a catcher that was his state of mind. He managed the pitching staff well.

“He was just a solid baseball player. Once he got his chance (in the majors), he showed them what he could do as a catcher and hit a little bit.”

Riggs also played Double-A ball for the Houston Astros in 2005 and was briefly with the independent Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyers at the beginning of 2007 before finishing up his pro career that year in Double-A with the Miami Marlins.

In 10 seasons at all levels, Riggs played in 1,050 games (with 500 appearances at shortstop, 235 at second base and 216 at third base) and hit .264 with 78 homers, 217 doubles, 459 RBIs and slugging percentage of .406.

Steve Farley, then the Butler University head coach, brought Riggs on as a part-time volunteer coach in the spring of 2008.

“Steve gave me a chance to see what coaching at that level was like,” says Riggs. “He was a very, very smart baseball man. He was great to learn from and watch work.

“I had a blast.”

Riggs also had the opportunity to pick the baseball brain of Butler assistant Matt Tyner, who had played the University of Miami (Fla.) for Ron Fraser and in the Baltimore Orioles system. After Butler, Tyner was head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., a University of Richmond (Va.) assistant and head coach at Towson (Md.) State University.

With a change in his full-time job in 2009, Riggs changed his focus to coaching his sons. Eric and wife Trisha have four sons. Bryce (16) is a sophomore at Noblesville (Ind.) High School. Twins Blake (13) and Brooks (13) are seventh graders at Noblesville West Middle School. Beckett (8) is a third grader at Noble Crossing Elementary School. 

The three oldest Riggs boys have had their father as a coach with the Indiana Bulls. Eric was an assistant with Bulls teams Bryce played on from age 8 to eighth grade and he is now head coach of the 13U White team as well as a board of directors member. The 12-player roster (pitcher-only players become a thing in the high school years) includes Blake and Brooks. 

The team played in two fall tournaments and plans to ramp up preparation for the 2021 season of 11 tournaments with 50 or more games in January. His assistants include Brandon Inge, J.J. Beard and Kyle Smith. Former MLB third baseman/catcher Inge (Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates) go back to their Cape Cod Baseball League days in college with 1997 Bourne Braves.

Kevin O’Sullivan (who went on to coach the 2017 national championship team at the University of Florida) was the Bourne head coach. The ace of the pitching staff was left-hander Mark Mulder, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft and went on to win 103 games in nine Major League Baseball seasons with the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.

When he can, Eric also helps coach the Noblesville Millers travel team that includes Beckett.

“I’m using what I’ve learned from players and coaches I’ve been around,” says Riggs. “I want to pass that to kids to make them better people and baseball players.”

Riggs, 44, is also a sales pro for BSN Sports with college and high school clients. He says uniform trends at the high school level tend to revolve around what catches a coach’s eye on the college scene. If they like the Vanderbilt look, they may wish to replicate in their school colors.

The Riggs family (clockwise from top left): Eric, Bryce, Trisha, Brooks, Beckett and Blake. Eric Riggs, a 1995 Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, played pro baseball for 10 years and now helps coach his boys with the Indiana Bulls and Noblesville Millers travel organizations. 

Clinton Central, Bowling Green State grad Scott experiences ‘emotional roller coaster’ in first year as baseball coach

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jeffery Scott saw the lessons that can be learned from baseball from the time he was a kid playing in Frankfort, Ind., to when he was winding up his playing career at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University.

It was with the Danny Schmitz-coached Falcons that he decided he wanted to become a coach.

While working on a degree in Sport Management with a minor in Marketing that was achieved in 2019, Scott soaked in information from veteran Schmitz and the other BGSU staffers.

“Coach Schmitz is an old school type of coach,” says Scott. “He has a lot of knowledge about the game. I was able to talk with him everyday and learn stuff.

“I talked with him and the rest of the coaching staff on what to expect. He’s been really good influence on me baseball and life-wise.”

Before his senior year, Scott worked at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and made a determination.

“If I don’t get to play baseball anymore I’d like to stay around the game,” says Scott. “I’d like to be making an impact and sharing my knowledge.”

He wanted to prepare young men for life and to face adversity like you face in baseball.

Scott, who was a catcher and outfielder at Bowling Green State for three seasons (playing in 127 games and starting 114 from 2017-19), made a visit to the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima as a senior and talked with Racers head coach Kory Hartman and his staff and signed on as a graduate assistant. He expects to earn his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) next spring.

“It’s been a really good experience,” says Scott of his time so far with the NAIA-member program. “One of the things that drew me here is that it’s close to Bowling Green State. (Hartman and company) were open to me getting what I want out of this program — to form who I am as a coach.”

Since being at UNOH, a member of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, Scott has absorbed drills and procedures and also enjoyed camaraderie with coaches who like to hang out, fish and hunt together. 

The Racers staff currently counts Hartman, Scott and associate head coach Aaron Lee and two graduate assistants with pitching experience will be hired.

With NAIA’s COVID-19 pandemic-related decision to cancel fall sports, Northwestern Ohio baseball coaches are sorting out what fall will look for the Racers. Students are supposed to be back on campus for face-to-face classes Sept. 14.

“Right now, we’re in a gray area,” says Scott, who turns 25 this month. “We’ll have to figure things out. 

“We hope to get together once or twice a week as a team.”

The 2020 UNOH season came to a halt because of the pandemic on March 8 with the Racers at 8-12. 

Back at Bowling Green State, the NCAA Division I program went on the chopping block.

Baseball was reinstated through the efforts of Schmitz and other baseball alumni. 

“It was an emotional roller coaster for me,” says Scott. “I didn’t know where baseball is headed with the COVID stuff and (colleges and universities) were cutting sports — not just baseball.”

Schmitz was put in charge of alumni outreach at Bowling Green and former Falcons pitching coach Kyle Hallock, whom Scott knew well as a catcher, was named head coach.

“I tip my cap to Danny Schmitz,” says Scott. “I’m sure he reached out to a lot of the alumni. He has made an impact on a lot of people’s lives.”

Bowling Green State baseball has produced many successful people, including those who went on to the pro diamond, including 19 major leaguers. Among that group are current Miami Marlins third baseman Jon Berti and former big leaguers Orel Hershiser (who won a National League Cy Young Award and helped the Los Angeles Dodgers to a World Series win in 1988), Nolan Reimold, Andy Tracy and Roger McDowell.

“It was special to see them step up, donate some money and keep the program,” says Scott.

Frankfort (Ind.) Little League is where Scott got his first taste of organized baseball. Around the same time he also played with a group of local youngsters called the Frankfort Slam. That team was coached by Rodney Smith, Jason Forsythe and at various times, Kent Scott (Jeffery’s father) and Jamie Bolinger (Jeffery’s stepfather).

Kent Scott is employed in Federal-Mogul Powertain in Frankfort.

Jamie Bolinger, who is retired military, works for Lafayette (Ind.) Transitional Housing Center’s Homeless Services.

Maleta Bolinger (Jeffery’s mother) is a registered nurse in Kokomo, Ind.

Shealynne Bolinger (Jeffery’s 19-year-old sister) is finishing up schooling to be a veterinary technician.

Scott and girlfriend Shelby Weaver have been together about nine moths. They also dated in high school. Her son Eli is almost 1.

After spending his 12U summer with the Muncie-based Indiana Wildcats, Jeffery Scott played six travel ball seasons with the Indiana Bulls.

At 13U, he was coached by  John Rigney and Rick Hamm. Brothers Todd Miller and Adam Miller led his team at 14U and 15U. Tony Cookerly, Sean Laird and Jim Fredwell coached his team at 16U. Quinn Moore and Dan Held was in charge at 17U. He played briefly at 18U before going to summer school at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., where he spent a year and a half before transferring to Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.

Kevin Bowers was and still is head coach for the junior college Statesmen.

“He welcomed me in with open arms mid-year,” says Scott of Bowers. “He made me feel a part of the family. I still talk to him quite a bit. He’s definitely been one of my favorite coaches.

“He was genuine, truthful and transparent. He brings in a lot of talent to Lincoln Trail and gets them to where they want to be.”

Though mostly a catcher in the summers, Scott was a shortstop and pitcher at Clinton Central High School in Michigantown, Ind., playing for Bulldogs head coach Eric Flickinger. He also played football for Mike Quick and Justin Schuhmacher and wrestled for Austin Faulkner.

Jeffery Scott observes catchers during a baseball practice as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima. Scott was a catcher at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University. He is a graduate of BGSU and Clinton Central High School in Michigantown, Ind., near Frankfort. (UNOH Photo)
Jeffery Scott is a 2019 graduate of Bowling Green (Ohio) State University, where he played three baseball for three seasons (2017-19). The graduate of BGSU and Clinton High School in Michigantown, Ind., is a graduate assistant baseball coach at the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima. (Bowling Green State University Photo)

Former McCutcheon, Purdue hurler Wittgren finds his groove in Cleveland bullpen

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A change of baseball addresses meant a change in change-up approach for Nick Wittgren.

The 6-foot-3 right-handed reliever was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Cleveland Indians in February 2019.

The Tribe made a request of the former Purdue University closer and three-sport standout at McCutcheon High School — also in West Lafayette, Ind.

“When I got to Cleveland they told me my change-up plays pretty well and to throw it more to right-handers than I did in the past,” says Wittgren, who recorded a career-high 12 holds in 55 appearances and 57 2/3 relief innings. His 2.81 earned run average was 19th-lowest among American League relievers. “Roberto Perez was behind the plate and loved calling it.

“I almost felt like I threw my change-up more than I did my slider.”

Close.

According to Statcast data, Wittgren’s pitch arsenal included four pitches in 2019. He threw his four-seamer 66.4 percent of the time, slider 18.8, change-up 14.7 and curve 0.1.

“I was in my groove last year,” says Wittgren, who turns 29 on May 29. “I had my head where I needed it.”

With Miami in 2018, Statcast actually has Wittgren with a higher percentage of change-ups (15.7) as compared to sliders (12.8). Besides the four-seamer (62.7), there was also the sinker (7.5) and cutter (1.3).

With all the movement, Wittgren refers to his pitch repertoire as fastball, change-up and breaking ball.

Wittgren pitches from a three-quarter overhand arm angle. He throws across his body with his glove flaring out and whips around to deliver the baseball.

“I don’t know when I started,” says Wittgren of his mechanics. “In college I did it. It just works for me. I get the most force toward home. It’s really tough to pick up the baseball.

“To a righty I’m started with my arm behind them. It works in my favor.”

Wittgren favors sliders and four-seamers in on the hands with change-ups down and away.

“I started manipulated that pitch a little more last year,” says Wittgren of the change-up.

Indians pitching coach Carl Willis, assistant pitching coach Ruben Niebla and bullpen coach Brian Sweeney will often remind Wittgren to use that pitch.

With Cleveland, he occasionally got a chance to deliver that pitch and others to a familiar target.

Kevin Plawecki, a college teammate, was a back-up catcher with the Indians in 2019 (the Westfield (Ind.) High School graduate signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox in January).

“It was kind of cool taking it back to the good old Purdue says,” says Wittgren. “We still clicked.

“I didn’t have the change-up in college. I didn’t need it.”

Wittgren played shortstop and pitched at McCutcheon for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jake Burton.

As a Mavericks senior, Wittgren was an MVP in tennis in the fall and earned the same recognition for basketball in the winter.

Following brother Kyle’s lead, Nick took up tennis as a freshman.

“It was a good way to stay active for basketball and baseball,” says Wittgren. “It helped with footwork and conditioning and hand-eye (coordination).”

Rick Peckinpaugh was Wittgren’s head basketball coach.

“(Peckinpaugh) brought the most energy and talent out in you,” says Wittgren. “We had a group that played together really well. He was there for every single person, trying to get us better.

“It was a pleasure and a joy playing for him.”

With no college baseball offers coming in, he was thinking about bypassing his senior year on the diamond and focusing on basketball.

“I was just looking for a way to pay for college,” says Wittgren. “I was not looking at the whole picture.”

Wittgren had his sights on teaching math and coaching — either at the high school or college level.

“My mom (Lisa) is a (fourth grade) teacher,” says Wittgren. “I love kids. I love numbers.”

Burton let Wittgren know that he had baseball potential past high school.

He said, ‘you have something special, don’t waste it,’” says Wittgren of Burton’s advice.

Besides that, Burton emphasized that Wittgren was part of a large senior class and he owed it to the guys he’d been playing with since sixth grade to finish high school strong (born in Torrance, Calif., and raised in Long Beach and Cypress, Nick moved to Indiana as a sixth grader; father Andy lives in San Juan Capistrano; Nick’s other brother is Jack).

“If Jake didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here,” says Wittgren. “He saw something in me.”

A few days ago, the player and his former coach connected via FaceTime and Burton got to see Nick and Ashley Wittgren’s 14-month old son Jackson.

At McCutcheon, shortstop/pitcher Wittgren’s velocity topped out around 85 mph for most of the his senior season.

“I never took reps off in high school,” says Wittgren. “I need to do this to get better.”

His arm was tired from the workload.

With a few days off prior to sectional, Wittgren was touching 90.

Wittgren pitched in the Colt World Series in Lafayette and was scouted by McCutcheon graduate Matt Kennedy, then head coach at Parkland College. He got Wittgren to come to the junior college power in Champaign, Ill.

Seeing that the Cobras were in need of a Sunday starter, Wittgren pitched an idea to Kennedy.

He wanted to only pitch.

Wittgren recalls the response of the man he calls “KY.”

“He said that might be one of the best decisions you ever make,” says Wittgren a decade later. “I brought you in as a pitcher. I wanted you to figure it out.”

The lanky right-hander went 10-0 with 54 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings for a Parkland that placed fifth in the 2010 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series.

In the fall of his sophomore year at Purdue, Wittgren had an ulnar nerve transfer.

Boilermakers head coach Doug Schreiber wanted him to be the team’s closer in the spring of 2011.

“Whatever puts me out on that field is what I want to do,” says Wittgren, who finished 24 games and appeared in 29 with a Big Ten Conference-leading 12 saves to go with 55 strikeouts in 51 innings.

Schreiber (who later was head coach at McCutcheon and is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) and assistants Ryan Sawyers and Tristan McIntyre (now head coach at McCutcheon) implored him to “trust your stuff and pound the strike zone.”

“They got me to throw certain pitches in certain counts,” says Wittgren.

He could change the batter’s eye level with fastballs up and sliders down. If he  pitched up and in, hitters would not be able to extend their arms.

Wittgren was named second-team all-conference and then went to play for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks that summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Schreiber asked Wittgren to be a closer again in 2012.

He pitched in 26 games, finishing off 25 and racked up 10 saves, setting a new Purdue all-time high with 22. He fanned 39 batters in 41 innings and was named third-team all-Big Ten. His two-year earned run average for the Boilers was 2.54.

Wittgren selected in the ninth round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Marlins and made his major league debut for Miami in 2016.

On the Cape is where Wittgren first met Ashley Crosby. She was part of the media department for the elite summer circuit.

A few years later, strength trainer Ashley did an internship with Cressy Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and she began dating Nick, who was training in south Florida with the Marlins. The relationship blossomed. The married couple now lives near Miami.

During the COVID-19 quarantine, Wittgren works out in his garage gym.

“It’s a full set-up,” says Wittgren. “There’s anything you need.

Eric (Cressy) writes my program. My wife implements them.”

Ashley Wittgren has wealth of knowledge with an MS (Master of Science) degree and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Precision Nutrition (Pn1) and TPI accreditations. She is there to help her husband correctly perform the movements and get the most out of them.

“She could apply for a big league strength job if she wanted,” says Nick of his wife. “She walks and talks me through a lift so I can get as strong as I possibly can.”

During quarantine, Wittgren throws into a backyard net. On bullpen days, he throws to catchers living in the area brought together by CSP.

During the off-season, Wittgren long tosses. But as the season approaches, he gets dialed in to pitch from 60 feet, 6 inches.

“I want my release point during the season to stay the same on everything,” says Wittgren. “I keep it on a line the whole entire time and hit (the catcher’s) knees every single time.”

NICKWITTGRENINDIANS

Nick Wittgren, a McCutcheon High School graduate who pitched at Purdue University, is now a reliever for the Cleveland Indians. He made his Major League Baseball debut in 2016 with the Miami Marlins. (Cleveland Indians Photo)

NICKWITTGRENMLB

Nick Wittgren, who played at McCutcheon High School and Purdue University, delivers the baseball for the Cleveland Indians. He excelled as a set-up reliever for the Tribe in 2019. (MLB Photo)