Indiana Nitro — a travel baseball organization launched in the central part of the state — has had 164 college commits and five Major League Baseball draft selections since 2014. Among Nitro alums who went on to pro baseball are Zach Britton (Toronto Blue Jays system), Matt Gorski (Pittsburgh Pirates), Niko Kavadas (Boston Red Sox), Devin Mann (Los Angeles Dodgers), Tommy Sommer (Chicago White Sox) and Zack Thompson (St. Louis Cardinals). The Nitro fielded more than 20 teams — spring, summer and fall — at the 8U to 17U levels in recent seasons. The group has earned many victories and championships and competed in multiple states. It all began with a single 11U team that took to the diamond in 2010. Tim Burns, whose sons Brendan and Brock were playing travel ball, was exploring diamond opportunities for his boys when he was approached by some fathers about coaching a team. With the idea of being able to control development and practice schedules, the elder Burns agreed and led that first Nitro squad, featuring Brock. Most of the players were from Hamilton County — one of the exceptions being Batesville’s Britton. Brock Burns is now on the football team at Ball State University as an outside linebacker while Brendan Burns was a right-handed pitcher for BSU baseball; Tim Burns is a graduate of Ball State where his major was Telecommunications. Both Burns brothers are Hamilton Southeastern High School graduates — Brendan in 2014 and Brock in 2017. Most games in 2010 were played in central Indiana and the team went 50-5 with five tournament titles. Eleven of the 12 players on that first team went on to play at the collegiate level. Tammy Burns, Tim’s wife, told him that he did not have the time to head a travel organization. Yet momentum kept on building. “Kids wanted to play,” says Burns. Parents and players gathered and voted on a team name — Burns presented around 300 choices found on Google — and team colors. The Nitro wound up donning Athletic Gold and Cardinal Red and uses explosive terms like Bombs and Gas on social media. In 2011, the Nitro had four teams. The number went to seven in 2012 then 11 in 2013. It jumped to 20 in 2014 (the first year the organization had a high school age team). “The snowball got big,” says Burns. “It took on a life of its own.” The mantra of the Nitro is “Advancing players to the next level.” That came to mean grooming them to play high school baseball and then — for those who wished to do so — college baseball. “It’s a very complex recruiting process that we came up with over the years,” says Burns, a 1982 graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., who grew up on the diamonds of Goodland, Ind., and counted Tracy Smith (who went on to coach at Miami University-Middletown, Miami University, Indiana University and Arizona State University) as a teammate. “You dive deep into it and build relationships with college coaches and recruiters. “Learning how to help these kids get recruited was important to our board (of directors) and and organization.” Nitro staffers work the phones on behalf of their players and are constantly seeking talent and getting ready for the next thing. “It’s a year-round job,” says Burns, who is employed in sales for Bally Sports Indiana (the Indiana Pacers TV Network). “There’s so much behind the scenes in the off-season. It keeps the board and volunteers busy.” Randy Poiry has been on the board since the beginning. Two sons — catcher Rutger Poiry (Lincoln Trail College and Eastern Kentucky University) and right-handed pitcher Carter Poiry (Murray State University and Quinnipiac University) — played for the Nitro. Directors are Chris Poland (daily operations and high school age teams) and Dan Rodgers (ages 8-14). Jared Poland, son of Chris, is at the University of Louisville. Nathan Rodgers (Carmel High School Class of 2024) played for his father on the Nitro 14U Gold team in 2021. Burns, who coached the Nitro 16U Gold team to a 26-9-1 mark in 2021 and will move up to coach the 17U Gold squad in 2022, gets players from near and far. “We don’t care where they come from,” says Burns. “We want good kids from good families who want to put in the work.” Nitro players train at Pro X Athlete Development on the Grand Park campus in Westfield, Ind. A membership is included with fees. Burns counts four nephews — South Newton graduates Jarrett Hammel and Jay Hammel and Benton Central High school alums Payton Hall and Conner Hall — among former Nitro players. Former Saint Joseph’s College and Valparaiso right-hander Jarrett Hammel is now head baseball coach at Benton Central. Jay Hammel is a righty pitcher at Quincy (Ill.) University. Payton Hall is an outfielder at Oakland City (Ind.) University after transferring from the University of Southern Indiana. Former middle infielder Connor Hall is an Aviation Management student at Indiana State University.
Jack Myers had only been to Georgia a couple of times. Travel baseball took him there as a teenager. Now 22, Myers is looking forward to playing at Kennesaw (Ga.) State University after four seasons (2018-21) at Butler University in his hometown of Indianapolis then entering the NCAA Transfer Portal. “It’s really good opportunity to put myself in a place to play at the next level,” says Myers. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid and I’m going to go chase it.” A 6-foot-7, 220-pound right-handed pitcher, Myers joins the KSU Owls after making 40 appearances (16 as a starter) as a Butler Bulldog, going 10-10 with three saves and a 5.05 earned run average. In 128 1/3 innings, he racked up 126 strikeouts with just 38 walks. In 2021, Myers started 11 games and went 4-5 with two complete games and a 4.39 ERA. He fanned 54 and walked 18 in 65 2/3 innings. A May 20 win at Georgetown was a seven-inning outing with eight strikeouts and no walks and earned him Big East Conference Pitcher of the Week honors. “Command is usually one of my strong suits,” says Myers. “I’m around the (strike) zone and keep the fielders in the game. “I’m very competitive and mentally tough. I like the competitive aspect of pitching, going one-one-one with the hitter.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Myers mixes four- and two-seam fastballs with a change-up, slider and curveball. His four-seamer got up to 93 mph last fall and again in the spring. His change-up grip is a modified “circle.” The action on Myers’ slider can be described as “gyro.” “It’s more vertical than horizontal,” says Myers. “It’s a lot different than the curveball.” His curve, which he like to throw as close to “12-to-6” as he can, has been measured with up to 16 inches of vertical drop. Myers played for head coach Dave Schrage and pitching coach Ben Norton at Butler. “I loved it,” says Myers of his time with Schrage and Norton. “I developed a ton and came into my body.” As a freshman, a lanky Myers tipped the scales at about 180 pounds. “They gave us the resources that we needed,” says Myers. “(Before college), I had never done any mechanical work with weighted balls. It was all foreign to me. I was put into program (with running, ab work and arm care). I you’re sore, you don’t push it. They really look out for your arm health.” Myers was attracted to NCAA D-I ASUN Conference member Kennesaw State because that’s where Matt Passeuer landed as pitch coach after serving in that role at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), where he worked with fireballer Sam Bachman (the graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind., selected No. 9 overall in the 2021 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels). “He had a development plan and a track record of putting velocity on guys,” says Myers of Passeuer, who is on Owls head coach Ryan Coe’s staff. Myers earned a Finance degree from Butler in May and plans to take Professional Sales classes at Kennesaw State. Myers did not play in the summer of 2018 after getting surgery for a nerve issue in his elbow. He was with the Jesse Lancaster-coached Morehead (N.C.) Marlins of the Coastal Plain League in 2019 and 2021. He was to play for that team in 2020 when the CPL shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic and he competed the last month of the season with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics of then College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Born and raised on the north side of Indianapolis, Myers played T-ball for the Tigers at 3 and travel ball for the Shane Cox-coached Indiana Prospects, Tim Burns-coach Indiana Nitro, Dwayne Hutchinson-coached Indiana Outlaws, Ray Hilbert-coached Indy Stix and Ryan Bunnell-coached Indiana Bulls. Myers attended St. Pius Parish Catholic School for Grades K-8 then went to Indianapolis Cathedral High School, graduating in 2017. A shortstop as a freshman and sophomore, Myers took a growth spurt up to 6-4 and then had another one up to 6-7 his last two years of high school. He dressed with the varsity as a sophomore. Myers was a pitcher/first baseman as a junior and a pitcher/right fielder/first baseman as a senior. At Cathedral, Myers played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Rich Andriole then, for the 2017 IHSAA Class 4A state championship season, Ed Freje. “I was a 14-year-old kid when (Andriole) instilled discipline and mental toughness,” says Myers. “He had an impact on college career. I had played under pressure. “(Freje) came in our senior year and let us create the identity of the team How do you want this to be run? He held us accountable and we had a lot of success. He allowed us to play loose, but also required discipline.” Jack is the eldest of financial advisor Mike and Cathedral counselor Jenny Myers’ three children. Indianapolis North Central High School graduate Kate Myers is entering her freshman year at Indiana University-Bloomington to study business. Volleyball player Josie Myers is a Cathedral freshman.
Grant Jablonski had assumed that his baseball playing career was coming to an end with his couple of innings on the mound in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Stars Series in Madison, Ind. The Mishawaka (Ind.) High School graduate had not gotten any college baseball honors and had already enrolled as a student-only at Purdue University. “I had given up on baseball,” says Jablonski, who exited Mishawaka in 2019 as the school record holder in career pitching wins (20) and career stolen bases (63) and was part of three sectional championship teams on the diamond (2016, 2018, 2019). “I wanted to play at a bigger school, but I had nowhere to go after I graduated.” It turns out that two former Valparaiso (Ind.) University assistant coaches were going to help Jablonski turn things around. Nic Mishler, who was then on the staff at Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College, was scouting at a sectional game and reached out to Jablonski. “I owe him a lot,” says Jablonski of Westview High School graduate Mishler who is now head coach at DACC. Ben Wolgamot, a Western Kentucky University who had also been at Valpo, pulled some strings. It also helped Jablonski that VU head coach Brian Schmack was at the all-star series since his son, Kyle Schmack, was participating — and on his way to MVP. After a postgame conversation, Jablonski went to visit Coach Schmack on the Valpo campus and soon was starting his NCAA Division I baseball experience. “It’s crazy,” says Jablonski, who was 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds when he stepped on the campus. “I owe Coach Schmack a lot for giving me a chance. “I’m still trying to put weight on,” says right-hander Jablonski who is now up to 5-10 and 175. In two seasons (2020-21), he has appeared in six games (all in relief) and is 0-0 with a 6.24 earned run average with six strikeouts and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. In his second season in the College Summer League at Grand Park, Jablonski has been working a morning jobs and commuting to Westfield, Ind., on the days he starts. On July 20, the Moon Shots right-hander pitched 5 1/3 no-hit innings with one walk. The reason he came out of the game is that the team only had two pitchers available for a nine-inning game and Michael Brewer needed some mound time. Jablonski played for the A-Team when the CSL cropped up in 2020 as other summer collegiate leagues were shutting down during COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a really good league,” says Jablonski, noting that University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis (No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft to the Pittsburgh Pirates) and Miami University fireballer and Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate Sam Bachman (No. 9 overall to the Los Angeles Angels) played at Grand Park in 2020. Former San Francisco Giants scout Kevin Christman has been Jablonski’s head coach in both his CSL seasons. “He’s a super good coach to have,” says Jablonski of Christman. “He’s a good source of baseball knowledge.” Throwing from the three-quarter overhand arm slot, Jablonski employs a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. His four-seamer sits about 86 to 89 mph. His curve moves end-over-end in a 12-to-6 fashion. His “circle” change has a low spin rate and drops. His slider — with more horizontal break — is somewhere between the fastball and change-up with its spin. “The fastball and change-up compliment each other well when its coming from the same (release point).” Jablonski says his fastball has spun at around 2300 rpm with the curve as high as about 2500. There are flat screens at Grand Park that prominently display spin rates and velocity. “It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Jablonski. “You don’t need to fire 95, 96, 97 to be a good college pitcher. “You need to threw multiple pitches in multiple counts for strikes and have command.” Jablonski saw Schmack employ an opener (right-hander Easton Rhodehouse) and followed him with a starter (righty Ryan Mintz) in Valpo’s weekend series and both were able to spot pitches well and pitch to weak contact. Left-hander Geremy Guerrero had a standout season for Missouri Valley Conference rival Indiana State University. “He is by no means overpowering,” says Jablonski of Guerrero. “But he throws all pitches for command in all counts.” One thing Jablonski appreciates about Schmack is the he makes small tweaks and does not overhaul a pitcher’s mechanics if it’s not necessary. “He doesn’t try to change you too much,” says Jablonski. “It’s smaller changes. “He knows what he’s talking about for sure.” Born and raised in Mishawaka, Grant played for the Landsharks and later the Mishawaka Mayhem (2011-13), coached by father Jason Jablonski and Mike Fisher. That was followed by the Mike Lee-coached Indiana Shredders (2014-17), Mike Logan-coached Michiana Scrappers (2017-18) and Jim Shively-coached Indiana Chargers (2018-19). Jablonski earned nine varsity letters at Mishawaka — four in baseball, three in basketball and two in football. His head coaches were John Huemmer in baseball, Ryan Watson and Ron Heclinski in basketball and Bart Curtis and Keith Kinder in football. “He’s a great coach,” says Jablonski of Huemmer. “We had such a senior-led team (in 2019). He let us work on our own.” The pitcher/middle infielder earned IHSBCA Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors in 2019 and was all-Northern Indiana Conference second team in 2017 and 2019. Jablonski, who turns 21 on Sept. 1, is a Business Analytics major and Supply Chain and Logistics Management minor at Valpo U. Grant’s parents are Jason and Kelley Jablonski. His siblings — both older — are Sydney Jablonski and Ryan Lewis. Jason Jablonski is administrative director at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Kelley Jablonski works at Beacon Health & Fitness. Sydney Jablosnki is heading into pharmacy school at Purdue. Ryan Lewis, who played baseball at Mishawaka High and Ancilla College, is employed by the City of Mishawaka.
Valparaiso Post 94 is doing its part to keep American Legion Baseball in Indiana thriving. In 2021, Post 94 counts Wayne Coil as Senior team field manager and Dan Sherman in the role of general manager/director of operations. Brian Niksch is head coach of the Valpo Juniors. “We’re hanging in there,” says Sherman, who has been involved with the Valpo program for almost 10 years. Son Jake Sherman, a 2017 Andrean High School graduate, played for Charles Pratt Post 94. “Last year with the (COVID-19) pandemic and Indiana American Legion shutting down (its tournament series) hurt. “We’re probably down 10 teams in Indiana (which fields 19U senior and 17U junior squads). The strongest programs are in Rockport (Post 254), Terre Haute (Post 346) and Kokomo (Post 6).” As Post 94 GM/Director of Ops, Sherman helps raise funds, orders equipment and sets schedules. He’s even filled in as an umpire. Artificial turf is going in at Valparaiso High School. That means that the VHS Vikings were “Road Warriors” (Senior Night was held at Valparaiso University) in the spring and the Post 94 is playing an all-away schedule. Featuring many recent Valparaiso High graduates from the 2021 IHSAA Class 4A Chesterton Sectional champions, the Senior team plays American Legion and a few travel teams. Most games are within a 60-mile radius of Valpo. In Indiana, there’s Crawfordsville Post 72, East Chicago Post 100/369, Highland Post 180, Hobart Post 502, Kokomo Post 6, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 (the Blaze is based in Hobart and draws high school players from Hobart, Portage, Boone Grove, Wheeler and River Forest) and, possibly, Bristol Post 143. Michigan Legion opponents include Stevensville Post 568 and Three Oaks Post 204. There’s even Napoleon (Ohio) Post 300. Valpo, which has a Senior (19U) and Junior (17U) squad, has or will see the Midwest Rockets, Morris Chiefs, Northwest Indiana Shockers and two Indiana Playmakers squads. There will be regionals at sites to be determined for Senior and Junior teams. Junior regionals are July 8-11 with the State Finals July 15-18 at Terre Haute. Senior regionals are July 15-18 with the State Finals July 23-27 at Highland Park in Kokomo. The 94th American Legion Baseball World Series is slated for Aug. 12-17 in Shelby, N.C. Valpo placed third in the 2019 senior tournament staged in Rockport, Ind. “They play on bluegrass,” says Sherman of Joe Hargis Field, which Post 254 shares with South Spencer High School. “An army of guys to do maintenance and there’s covered stands. “It’s top quality.” Sherman, a former teacher and coach and a longtime attorney, played baseball at South Haven (Mich.) High School and Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., then until age 29 in an adult league. He has an affinity for promoting amateur baseball and particularly likes the American Legion brand. “Baseball has almost become an elitist sport for some that have the money,” says Sherman. “ $250 donation (per player) pays for everything. “A big part of promoting baseball is having good facilities that are fan-friendly.” When the Post 94 Seniors traveled to River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich., Thursday, June 16 to play the Post 204 Oakers he knew that J.C. German and son Jason German would have the field prepped and fans would be there to cheer. Coil, a music teacher at Ben Franklin Middle School in Valparaiso who joined the Post 94 coaching staff in 2018, also coaches the junior varsity at Valpo High under varsity head coach Todd Evans, who encourages all his Vikings to play Legion ball in the summer. One of Wayne’s sons, Alex Coil (VHS Class of 2018), played for Post 94 as well as the Northwest Indiana Rippers in the Babe Ruth World Series. A broadcast intern this summer with the independent professional Frontier League’s Florence (Ky.) Y’alls, Alex is heading into his senior year in Sports Journalism at Arizona State University. Nolan Coil, another of Wayne’s sons and a 2021 Valpo graduate heading to Calvin University in Grand Rapids to study and play baseball, is on the current Post 94 Senior squad. Four other Post 94 players — Nick Koprcina (Calvin), Kyle Lawrence (Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio), Jake Nightingale (Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich.) and Lucas Siewin (Kankakee, Ill., Community College) — are headed to college baseball programs in the fall. The Post 94 Senior roster also includes Josh Brinson, Nate Guzek, Adler Hazlett, Erik Kallen, Matt Levenda, Matt Nightingale, Chris Rahn and Griffey Zborowski. Three 2021 Valpo grads who have made college commitments not playing Legion ball this summer are Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District Player of the Year and North/South All-Star Series selection Grant Comstock (Northwestern University), Ty Gill (Purdue University), Carter Kosiara (North Central College in Naperville, Ill.) and Elan Reid (Manchester University). “I like the competition (of American Legion Baseball),” says Wayne Coil. “Many players have just finished their first year of college (at the senior level). The pitching is usually excellence. “The distance to travel and expense is less than when my boys were in travel ball. We get to know the (other Legion) coaches a lot better. They are all volunteering their time. It’s a bunch of great guys.” Coil sees Legion ball making a comeback. “The enthusiasm is greater for it,” says Coil. “If only more high school coaches would become aware of what American Legion is all about.” Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gene Bottorff was infielder/pitcher Coil’s coach at Muncie (Ind.) Central High School. “He was a great mentor,’’ says 1984 MCHS graduate Coil of Bottorff. “My older brother (Class of ’82’s Neal Coil) and I learned quite a bit from him.” Wayne Coil graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and played in a summer baseball league after college. Niksch, a 1997 Valpo High graduate, is the freshmen baseball coach and a business teacher at VHS as well as an IHSAA-licensed umpire. Son Jake Niksch (Class of 2023) has played for the Post 94 Juniors and Seniors this summer. While most Post 94 Juniors players go to Valpo High, New Prairie, Portage and South Central (Union Mills) are also represented on a 14-player roster.
But his relationship with many Union City players goes back to when they were little boys.
Freshmen Owen Dowler (Jason’s son), Zack Fulk and Corbin Richards and sophomore Jude Connor all played together on Dylan’s Dawgs — a team named in honor of Dylan Williams who was killed during an 8U all-star practice in 2013. Owen Dowler was Dylan’s rec ball teammate.
Dylan Williams would have been a sophomore in 2021.
Having coached and observed them for years, Jason Dowler knew those younger players very well.
In winning the program’s third sectional title — and first since 2018 — Union City bested Tri, Seton Catholic and Blue River Valley by a combined 27-0 at Don McBride Stadium in Richmond.
Senior Hunter Reagan started on the mound and Owen Dowler finished against Tri. The Seton Catholic game began Friday and was postponed to Saturday because of rain. Sophomore Camden LaFuze started it Friday and Reagan finished it Saturday.
The postponement also meant that Seton, which beat Randolph Southern with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District H Player of the Year and Miami (Ohio) University commit Luke Leverton, was able to go back to the hard-throwing right-hander at the beginning of Saturday’s game.
As Leverton left the mound after three innings, Union City was up 1-0. When Leverton came to the plate in a key spot late in the game, Dowler had him intentionally walked and UC went on to a 5-0 triumph and the sectional championship game on Monday, which was pitched by LaFuze. The Indians blanked Blue River Valley 6-0.
“We’ve been dominant on the mound and our defense is playing very well right now,” says Dowler. “A lot of games we lost we beat ourselves (with errors and too many walks by the pitching staff).”
The Indians were 2-7 in the nine games heading into the tournament.
Dowler says there was a team meeting that turned things around.
“We said we can beat ourselves or start playing some good Indian baseball,” says Dowler. “It’s a very simple sport. We as players and coaches overthink it.
“We can make it difficult or we can make it easy on ourselves. We’ve tried to work smarter and not harder.”
Union City has operated by a motto: “Just compete, man.”
“If we lose, we lose,” says Dowler. “But we’re not going to beat ourselves.
“Go out there and compete and have fun.”
Dowler insists that his pitchers throw strikes and let their defense have the opportunity to get outs.
Above all, he wants them to be bold.
“You are going to make errors and you are going to strike out,” says Dowler. “Baseball is a mindset. You have to be confident.”
There are 10 active players on the youthful Union City team. The starting lineup features freshmen Owen Dowler (first base), Fulk (second base) and Richards (catcher) and sophomores Connor (third base) and LaFuze (pitcher).
“It’s challenging mentally for these kids to walk up to a baseball field and other team is sporting 17 to 19 kids and we walk up with just enough to play,” says Dowler. “But we have a different mindset. We don’t let that effect us. It’s not your dream, but you deal with what you’ve got.”
Union City (10-13) takes on Cowan (13-13) at 10 a.m. Saturday. A win sends them into the 8 p.m. championship game against the winner of Riverton Parke (21-9) vs. Clinton Central (16-11).
A wrinkle for the Indians is that graduation is at 3 p.m., so they would make the 2 1/2-hour trip each way from Flora to Union City and back — something that happened in 2018.
With the latest trophy-taking, Union City has won three sectional titles. The previous championships came in 2012 and 2018.
Home games are played on the Union City campus. This year the team sold soap to raise funds to upgrade the facility.
Dowler says he wants to get the local Pony League thriving again.
“To be successful you have to have a feeder program,” says Dowler.
His assistant coaches at the high school are Rick Lacy, Kevin Lehman and Jacob Fulk. Lacy has been around Union City for about four decades in various capacities. Lehman keeps the scorebook for the Indians and was on South Adams’ state runner-up team in 1972. Fulk, the older brother of Zack, was on the 2018 sectional championship team and played one season and the University of Northwestern Ohio. He is Dowler’s pitching coach.
Dowler played soccer at Union City and graduated in 1998. He owns his own heating and cooling business in town — Comfort Systems.
Jason and wife Amy Dowler have two children — Kahlee and Owen. Jason coached daughter Kahlee in softball and transitioned to baseball with son Owen. Kahlee Dowler, who will be a senior at Ball State University in the fall, was a three-sport athlete at Union City — cross country, basketball and softball. She was a junior on the Class 1A state runner-up girls basketball squad in 2017.
“Last year we didn’t get to play,” says Marker. “We’re very young this year.”
Louie Falcone, a Seton Catholic graduate, was a freshman on the baseball team at Hanover (Ind.) College this spring.
Seton Catholic (enrollment around 90) wrapped the 2021 regular season with a 7-6 win against Union County. Patriots head coach Jordan Ashbrook, a former Richmond assistant, helped get the game moved to Day Air Ballpark — home of the High-A Central League’s Dayton (Ohio) Dragons.
Seton Catholic, which has three buildings in downtown Richmond (elementary, middle school and high school), has added a middle school baseball program of grades 6-8 in 2021.
“There’s work to be done to grow the program,” says Marker.
Marker, who teaches K-5 physical education at Test Intermediate School and is in his 23rd years in Richmond Community Schools, was a baseball assistant to Shawn Turner for four seasons (2016-19) at Richmond High after 10 seasons as assistant to Red Devils softball coach Kyle Ingram. His assistants at Seton Catholic are Ingram, Robert Cornell and Brice Brown.
A few summers back, Marker coached for the Midwest Astros travel baseball organization.
A graduate of Randolph Southern Junior/Senior High School in Lynn, Ind., where father Larry was a longtime athletic director, Marker played for the Rebels and for the John Lebo-managed Richmond Post 65 state runner-up team.
“I’ve had some pretty good coaches who took me under my wing,” says Marker.
It was in March 1986 while Marker was away playing baseball that his hometown was rocked by a tornado.
“That was before cellphones,” says Marker. “For three days, I did not get ahold of mom and dad.”
When he got back to Lynn, his parents were fine.
After college, Marker had a few professional tryouts and hurt his arm. He played for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets and in fast pitch softball with K&G Sporting Goods (Seymour) and New Construction (Shelbyville).
Marker also teaches summer school P.E., umpires church league softball and likes to run haunted houses.
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members have voted and selected 16 district players of the year for 2021.
All-State and Indiana Player of the Year voting begins June 6.
The IHSAA state tournament series begins with sectionals May 26-31, followed by regionals June 5, semistates June 12 and the State Finals June 21-22. The IHSBCA Futures Games and North/South All-Star Series is slated for June 23-27 in Evansville.
Here’s a look at the 16 seniors chosen at Players of the Year in Districts A through P:
Says Swartzentruber: “Carter has been with us for two years following his transfer from Illiana Christian … Great kid, great student and great leader on our young team. One of my favorite players I have coached during my 24 years. … He has been a dominant player this year for us both on the mound and at the plate. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will do great things at Purdue and beyond. Great work ethic and very competitive young man.”
Lake Central is in the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional.
Says Evans: “He’s been a great pitcher for us, probably one of the more dominant pitchers in the (Duneland Athletic Conference). He’s a leader on and off the field. He also plays football and basketball. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Valparaiso is in the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional.
Says Smolinski: “Kyle has been blessed with an amazing ability to excel in both athletics and academics. Along with Kyle’s great leadership skills, he’s an outstanding teammate who respects his coaches, teachers and family. He’s hard-working, motivated and driven in everything that he does. I’m so proud of Kyle and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him. I look forward to seeing him succeed on and off the field in the future … Kyle is the type of player where you wish you had nine of him on the field. He does everything you ask. He makes his teammates better.”
St. Joseph is in the Class 3A South Bend Clay Sectional.
Says Byall: “He has been a phenomenal player for us for four years. He is extremely talented, but has also worked extremely hard to transform his body and skills to an elite level … He is phenomenal to coach because you know he’s going to work hard and go about his business the right way every single day. He has been phenomenal for us this year, performing at such a high level, and by working hard everyday. He has a really bright future.”
Homestead is in the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional.
E — Jacob Loftus (Peru). A righty-swinging catcher for Tigers coach Chuck Brimbury, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Loftus has not yet made his college commitment. He plans to major in Secondary Math Education.
Say Brimbury: “Jacob is the best high school player I have coached at Peru High School in my two-plus decades. Hard worker, captain, tough, talented, and a model of ‘team first’ guy. We have have had two drafts, dozens of college players and several D-1 players from our program. Jacob ‘Yogi’ Loftus is our best to play here.”
Says King: “Hunter is a very talented player — one of the best I’ve had. Hunter is probably the best all-around hitter I’ve ever had. He’s definitely a five-tool player. He has the ability to play not only at the collegiate level but the professional level … He’s a good leader (for the program’s first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship). He talks hitting and situations all the time with our guys.”
Mount Vernon is in the Class 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional.
Says Marker: “I don’t think there’s another player in the state of Indiana that means more to his team than Luke means to ours. He strikes out between 15 and 21 guys (per game) … He’s had 11 strikeouts in four innings (a couple of times) … At the 1A level he strikes fear into the hearts of hitters … He’s got six pitches. He’ll have to whittle that down at the next level.”
Seton Catholic is in the Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional.
Says Doty: “Kameron is the kind of player every coach hopes they will have the opportunity to coach — hard-working, dedicated, coachable, but most importantly a leader! Add it in the athletic ability and that describes Kameron Salazar. He has the ability to hit any pitch in any count to all fields. He is one of the best pure hitters I have had the opportunity to coach … His quick hands aid him both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. He will use all fields offensively and has significant range in the middle of the infield … All of those abilities — as great as they are — of course don’t come even close to describing his character! He is one of the nicest young men you would ever meet and terrific teammate! He has been (would have been) a four-year starter for us at shortstop if not for COVID. He has been the heart and soul of our program for the past four years and he will be great missed as he moves on to Marian next year. It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach him these past four years.”
Says Koeppen: “He’s by far one of the most enjoyable kids I’ve ever coached. He works as hard as anybody at practice. He does things the right way all the time … It’s been fun to sit back and watch him play this year.”
Lafayette Jeff is in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional.
Says Cosgray: “Garrett is just a very well-rounded player. He’s an exceptional right-handed pitcher, topping out at 95 mph with good command of his curveball, slider and change-up … Defensively at shortstop, he’s very sound. He makes the routine play but also has the ability to make the spectacular play when necessary … He hits in the 3-hole for us. He can hit for power. He’s a gap-to-gap approach hitter, hitting over .500. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded player than him.”
Lebanon is in the Class 3A North Montgomery Sectional.
Says Freje: “He’s been a lead-off hitter and the top arm we go to … Chris is comfortable (as a sidearmer). He’s taken that role and run with it … He’s been incredibly impactful on the bases. He’s a gamer. He’s embraced all the roles he’s been given. He’s been a pleasure to coach.”
Says Jones: “He throws 92 mph-plus and he mixes his pitches real well. He gets a lot of strikeouts. He’s able to throw the ball up, throw the ball down and hit the corners … He hits well. He’s well over 400. He’s just a consistent guy.”
Edgewood is in the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional.
Says Decker: “He’s had a really good senior year. He’s been good on the mound and at the plate for us. He probably could have gone some places to be a two-way (having played all over the field). He’s one of the better athletes I’ve got to coach … Stuff comes really easy to him.”
Silver Creek is in the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional.
Says Mattingly: “He’s one of those kids who’s humble, hard-working and he competes. He want to be the best and he goes about his business to be the best … I’ve been around him a long time and he’s just a good kid.”
Southridge is in the Class 3A Southridge Sectional.
Says Goedde: “He’s been our most-consistent player all year. He’s in the middle of a good season. He’s had minimal slumps …. He’s versatile enough that he can play just about anywhere. Henry moves very well. He’s got a good, athletic body.”
Evansville Central is in the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional.
IHSBCA 2021 District Players of the Year (School/Head Coach)
No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan (43-12) and No. 5 Indiana Tech (31-25) are part of the five-team Marion (Ind.) Bracket at Indiana Wesleyan.
IWU, coached by Rich Benjamin, won the regular-season and tournament titles in the Crossroads League.
Indiana Tech, coached by Kip McWilliams, was the regular-season champion in the Wolverine-Hoosier Conference.
No. 2 seed Indiana University Southeast (45-14) will be one of five teams competing in the Kingsport (Tenn.) Bracket.
IU Southeast, coached by Ben Reel, was the regular season and tournament champion in the River States Conference.
The NAIA season has ended for Taylor (37-20), Saint Francis (34-22), Huntington (33-16), Indiana University-Kokomo (28-20), Marian (25-29), Indiana University South Bend (24-24), Oakland City (17-27), Bethel (15-39), Grace (12-31), Calumet of Saint Joseph (7-29) and Goshen (3-34).
The 34 wins is a single-season school record for Saint Francis and Panthers coach Dustin Butcher.
Franklin (25-12), Earlham (23-18) and Anderson ( 20-17) were among teams winning opening round series and making it to the five-team finals in the NCAA Division III Heartland Collegiate Conference tournament.
Transylvania and Bluffton will be the other two teams. The tourney is to conclude Sunday, May 23.
The 2021 season is over for Indiana’s other D-III programs — Rose-Hulman (23-14), Hanover (20-20), Manchester (19-22), Wabash (18-15), DePauw (15-21) and Trine (6-28).
NCAA D-III teams Indianapolis (27-21), Southern Indiana (24-20) and Purdue Northwest (11-22) have also seen their slates come to a close.
Ivy Tech Northwest (31-25) lost 2-1 to Kellogg in a three-game National Junior College Athletic Association Regional in Battle Creek, Mich., and wrapped its season.
Max Flock homered three times and collected five hits and six runs batted in as Vincennes swept a doubleheader from Spoon River and made the Mid-West Athletic Conference tournament May 20-23 in Normal, Ill.
NJCAA member Ancilla (6-29) has concluded its season.
NCAA Division I Notre Dame (26-10) was idle in Atlantic Coast Conference play and yet the Irish earned the program’s first regular season title since 2006 by winning the ACC Atlantic Division.
ND has one more ACC series May 20-22 at Virginia Tech before the conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C.
Indiana (24-12, 24-12) is second in the Big Ten Conference to Nebraska (25-11, 25-11). The Hoosiers have eight more conference games remaining. There will be no Big Ten tournament.
Ball State (32-16, 23-9) holds a slight lead on Central Michigan (32-17, 23-10) at the top of the Mid-American Conference standings.
BSU has a May 21-23 road series against Ohio and May 28-30 home series with Miami (Ohio) before the postseason.
The eight-team Missouri Valley Conference tournament is scheduled for May 25-29 in Carbondale, Ill. Right now Dallas Baptist (31-13, 16-4) and Indiana State (25-15, 12-8) are the top two seeds with Evansville (26-24, 9-14) No. 6 and Valparaiso (14-29, 9-15) No. 7.
O’Maley told Loggins that he would be a catcher in his program.
Loggins resisted at first, but came to excel behind the plate with the Harrison Raiders.
On March 11, 1995 — the eve of the baseball season — O’Maley passed away at 46 and six Harrison seniors — Loggins, Nate Linder, Brad Pitts, Brad Sherry, Dusty Sims and Jimmy Taylor — served as pall bearers. The players wore No. 42 patches on their uniforms all season as a tribute to O’Maley.
“He was passionate about doing the right thing,” says Loggins of Galema, who is now the school’s athletic director. “He was a very detailed, very organized coach and could not have been a better person.”
“I couldn’t say this more — and I get a little choked up — he’s the best individual I was ever introduced to,” says Loggins of Madison. “He is a genuine individual. It’s how he carries himself.
“He taught us how to be men. Coach Madison took me in where I was struggling to find myself. He helped me immensely. He got me back to confidence and kept me on a path to professional baseball. He’s a very good man.”
At Kentucky, Loggins would start at catcher in midweek games and in Friday and Saturday contests during Southeastern Conference series and be in right field in Sunday.
The righty swinger hit .384 with 15 home runs, five triples, 20 doubles, 63 runs batted in and six stolen bases in 57 games in 1998.
Loggins comes from a baseball family. He father — Vernon Porter “Mick” Loggins — played in local leagues in Danville, Ill. He became an English professor and poet with the pen name V.P. Loggins.
Kenny Loggins, Josh’s uncle, also pitched in Danville.
Grandfather Elmer “Buck” Loggins was a pro in Alabama as was his brother who was known as “Black Diamond” Loggins. He was a coal miner who doubled as a ballplayer.
It was as an outfielder that Josh Loggins was picked in the 11th round of the 1998 MLB Draft and was sent to Idaho Falls, where he hit .341 with eight homers, five triples, 20 doubles, 64 RBIs and and eight stolen bases in 71 games.
Loggins played for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wizards in 1999, hitting .297 with 14 homers, seven triples, 29 doubles, 85 RBIs and and 12 stolen bases in 136 games as the regular right fielder.
Fort Wayne was managed by Dan Simonds, who served stints at Miami (Ohio) University and Xavier University and associate head coach at Indiana University (2014) before becoming Director of Baseball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Before being with the Wizards he had also been an extra in the movie “Rookie of the Year.”
“Dan was a great guy,” says Loggins. “That was my first experience of what it means to be a professional baseball.
“You no longer call them ‘Coach’; it’s their first name or nickname. You are an equal. You are a professional. (Simonds) was relatable. He was a players’ manager.”
Loggins played professional baseball until 2005. He reached Double-A with the Padres, New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies organizations.
Parts of 2002 and 2003 were spent with the independent Washington (Pa.) Wind Things. He played for the independent Joliet (Ill.) JackHammers in 2004 and 2005. In both places his manager was Lafayette’s Jeff Isom.
As business partners, Loggins, Isom and Dunwoody had a stake in the On Deck Training in Lafayette. Isom runs the facility now with Bobby Bell and Pat Murtaugh as instructors and has a travel ball organization.
“Those were the best times I had in professional baseball,” says Loggins of independent ball. “There was no pressure moving up or playing for next year’s contract. You were playing ball and having fun.”
Perhaps Loggins’ best pro season was 2003 in Washington when he hit .331 with 24 homers, five triples, 13 doubles, 72 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 74 games.
“I was a hitter — that’s what kept me around a long time,” says Loggins. “I was pretty consistent though I did not perform as well as a platoon guy.
“I needed to be in there and keep the routine going and seeing pitches often.”
Loggins struck out over 100 times only once from 1998-2005. In fact, he whiffed 635 times while poking 90 homers, 26 triples and 144 doubles and driving in 468 runs in 2,987 plate appearances. He also swiped 81 bases.
He wound up playing every position except shortstop and pitcher. He also played briefly for Team USA in an international qualifier in Bradenton in 2005.
After his playing days, he spent some time as a Boston Red Sox scout. Registered Investment Advisor is the 43-year-old’s full-time job.
Since the early 1990’s, Loggins has been involved with the Indiana Bulls in one way or another. He played on one of the travel organization’s first teams. This year was his first vice president on the board of directors, lending advice to president Quinn Moore, treasurer Brent Mewhinney, secretary Todd Mewhinney and director of baseball operations Scott French.
Loggins will be the Bulls 10U Black head coach for 2021 with sons Hayes (10) and Tagg (who turns 9 in November) on the team.
Without any prompting from their father or mother (McCutcheon High School graduate and former WLFI News 18 anchor Gina Quattrocchi Loggins), both boys became right-handed throwers who hit from the left side. It’s what felt right to them.
“You’ve got to be comfortable to hit,” says Loggins. “The motion has to be natural.
Kyle Callahan’s future is pointed toward a career in health care.
His father (Mike Callahan) and uncle (Jim Callahan) are doctors. He has cousins who are doctors and dentists.
“That’s what I grew up with,” says Callahan, a Biochemistry major at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where he has been on the Tiger Pride Honor Roll for his first four semesters and is a member of the Future Medical Professionals club with his sights set on medical, dental or optometry school.
But that’s not all.
Callahan is a baseball player.
During the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, he hit .324 (11-of-34) with two home runs, 18 runs batted in and 10 runs scored in eight games. He started all eight as the Tigers’ designated hitter, batting in the No. 3 hole. After four losses to open the campaign, NCAA Division III DePauw ended with a four-game winning streak.
After sweeping Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders at Manchester University, players were told they could not shake hands with the opposition.
“We were told, ‘you’re not going to do this today.’ We had heard talks about the virus. We knew something was up.”
The team practiced for a few days and then found out the rest of the season was canceled.
“It was definitely a tough pill to swallow,” says Callahan. “Especially for the seniors. They played their last game as a DePauw Tiger.”
Callahan has played two years in the Black and Gold.
In his freshman campaign of 2019, he hit .296 (34-of-115) with four homers and 24 RBIs while scoring 41 runs and learning lessons from Tigers head coach Blake Allen.
“He came from Vanderbilt,” says Callahan of the DePauw graduate who served two stints on the Nashville-based NCAA Division I powerhouse (2004-08, 2015-16). “He definitely knows what he’s talking about.
“He teaches us how be a good player and how to behave off the field. He stresses how important that is after college to be a good person. We have meetings where we talk about that.”
The Tigers also talk about being a good teammate, competitive and displaying mental toughness.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough to play baseball,” says Callahan. “Seven out of 10 times you’re going to fail. You have to focus on your positives.
“You may have one tough day. But there’s always tomorrow. There always’s more AB’s.”
Callahan had a memorable at-bat Tuesday, June 23.
Making a transition from outfield to first base, he’s been playing that position this summer for the Mark Walther-coached Marksmen in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
In the first game of a doubleheader against the Woodchucks, righty-swinger Callahan faced DePauw teammate E.J. White and socked a homer that TrackMan Baseball data says traveled 416.96 feet (the CBL’s longest hit in Week 2).
“It went right down the left field line,” says Callahan. “I pulled it. It kind of hooked around the pole.
“I was afraid the umpire was going to wave the ball foul.”
It’s not a long commute to Grand Park. Callahan is from Zionsvillle, Ind., in nearby Boone County.
A 2018 graduate of Zionsville Community High School, Callahan was on junior varsity as a freshmen and a roster player when the Eagles were IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up in 2016. He started in the outfield in 2017 and 2018 for head coach Jered Moore.
“He was always a great coach,” says Callahan of Moore. “Coming in as a freshmen, I was intimidated by him. Our relationship evolved and he became a friend. He supported us on the field and taught us how to behave off the field.
“He was a great role model and mentor throughout high school.”
Callahan was born in Indianapolis. His father, who now works at St. Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, did a three-year fellowship in Boston and the family landed back in Zionsville when Kyle was 7.
These days, Wade’s son Kyle plays at Purdue University. Former Bulls executive director Held is on the Indiana University coaching staff. Honaker (Martinsville), Drosche (Avon) and Campbell (Lapel) are high school head coaches.
Honaker, Callahan’s 15U Bulls coach, went from Zionsville High assistant to the Artesians and has continued to work with Callahan on his hitting in the summer.
“He’s been an awesome part of my baseball career,” says Callahan.
Last summer when a chance to play for the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints in the Prospect League fell through, Callahan worked out with long-time friend Nick Nelson. They’ve known each other since middle school and were high school teammates and share the field at DePauw. Nelson was the Tigers’ starting center fielder in 2020.
“He’s short stocky guy,” says Callahan of Nelson. “He’s pretty jacked. He wants to do something in the health field as well, maybe Kinesiology or Physical Therapy school.”
Callahan has to balance the diamond and academics in college.
“It’s tough,” says Callahan. “There’s some hard moments when you feel swamped.
“The important thing is to manage your time wisely. You should really try to stay on top of your work so it doesn’t snowball on you all at once.
“We have great resources at DePauw with teacher assistants and tutoring hours — usually nightly.”
The Tiger Honor Roll was established by director of athletics and recreational sports Stevie Baker-Watson to recognize the top student-athletes. To get on the list, they must have semester grade-point average of 3.40 or higher.
As a D-III program, the Tigers work with coaches in the fall and then — about the end of September — coaches are not allowed to instruct players.
“We have senior- or upperclassmen-led practices,” says Callahan. “It’s important. It weeds out the guys who aren’t fully committed to making baseball a priority.
“It’s definitely a bonding experience.”
When Callahan has rare free time he sometimes works in St. Vincent’s operating rooms as a Patient Care Technician (PCT). He cleans up after a case and gets it ready for the next.
“It’s immersed me into the hospital setting,” says Callahan. “I’ve only worked one day since COVID started and there were no cases when I was there.”
He’s glad he lives near a testing site because the exam is slated for 6:30 a.m.
Mike and Mollie Callahan (a former Westfield Elementary teacher) have three children. Kyle (20) has a twin sister named Grace, who is studying Journalism at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Christian (10) is baseball and basketball player heading into fourth grade.