Tag Archives: Missouri Valley Conference

‘Stubborn approach’ has Evansville’s Owen at Triple-A level with Pirates

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Hunter Owen was playing in his fifth game since being promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Evansville, Ind., native was facing a knuckleball pitcher for the first time.

After grounding into a fielder’s choice in his first plate appearance on Thursday, July 18, Owen belted the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the third inning from Syracuse right-hander Mickey Jannis for a two-run home run and the Indians went on to beat the Mets 9-1 at Victory Field.

“You can’t prepare for (the knuckleball),” says Owen. “You have to be willing to battle and stick to your stubborn approach.”

Owen, who swings from the right side, says that when he’s going good he looks for a pitch in a particular location and doesn’t miss it.

That kind of pitch recognition comes with repetition.

“The majority is experience — a lot of at-bats at each level,” says Owen. “The higher up you go, the better the stuff is.

“(Experience) allows you to progress as a hitter — visually and physically.”

Owen was selected out of Indiana State University in the 25th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He experienced 187 at-bats for the short-season West Virginia Black Bears in 2016. In 2017, he had 12 AB’s with the Black Bears, 291 with the Low Class-A West Virginia Power and 10 with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates.

There were 401 at-bats with the Advanced-A Bradenton (Fla.) Marauders in 2018. He opened 2019 with 235 more for the Double-A Altoona (Pa.) Curve.

Owen hit .257 with five homers and 34 runs batted in for 2016, .284 with 13 and 49 in 2017 and .262 with 18 and 60 in 2018.

At Altoona, his numbers were .298, 15 and 44 before his promotion.

The biggest difference between Double-A and Triple-A?

“The pitching,” says Owen. “Guys can throw three to four pitches wherever they want it.

“They have a better plan of how to attack you.”

Owen really learned how to play in attack mode from his head coach at Evansville Mater Dei High School and with Funkhouser American Legion Post 8Jeff Schulz (who played 40 games in the majors with the Pirates and Kansas City Royals).

“What sticks with me is the aggressiveness mentality,” says Owen. “You’re going up to the plate to do damage.

“You also want to be as much of a well-rounded player as a you can be.”

Growing up, Owen was mostly a shortstop. In high school, he was also used at second base and third base (and was also honorable mention all-state on the football field).

Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs told him to embrace versatility and Owen is comfortable in the infield, outfield or behind the plate.

“Any ability to crack the lineup and be versatile for my team,” says Owen. “(Hannahs) made me the ballplayer I am today — for sure.

“More than anything, he helped me grow mentally. He takes pride in having ballplayers with a lot of character that are good people.”

While he’s got 52 minor league homers, Owen does not classify himself as a pure home run hitter.

“I have gap-to-gap power,” says Owen, who is 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds. “I have the ability to drive the baseball over the wall (with a combination of bat speed and strength).”

Owen notes that every hitter has a launch angle — that’s just physics.

He sticks with the approach that’s more conducive to his swing.

“I’m hitting down through (the baseball),” says Owen, who also has 70 doubles and 12 triples in three-plus minor league seasons.

Owen, who resides in Fishers, Ind., in the off-season, began training last winter with Mike Robertson at Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFIT) to increase his mobility, overall strength and speed.

“They help you maximize your physical potential,” says Owen.

Now that he’s playing home games in Indianapolis, Owen has had many family and friends in the stands and expects to see more.

“It’s super humbling to have so many people reach out who are interested in my career,” says Owen, who turns 26 Sept. 22. “The big support system behind me makes it super special.”

The youngest of former University of Evansville baseball player Steve and wife Kena Owen’s five children (following Michael, Leslie, Tyler and Mandi), Hunter took advantage of the lessons that position afforded him.

“It was awesome,” says Hunter. “I really took hold to my two brothers.”

Tyler Owen played four years of NCAA Division I baseball at Murray (Ky.) State University.

“He helped me through my high school and college career,” says Hunter of Tyler. “Picking my brother’s brain was super helpful.”

Hunter attended St. Philip Catholic School through the eighth grade and played for the school teams as well as the Southern Indiana Bombers prior to high school. He played a summer with the Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks before heading off to ISU.

As a Sycamore, Owen was redshirted in 2013 then played from 2014-16. He hit .342 with nine homers and 59 RBIs, including .350, six and 47 as an all-Missouri Valley Conference outfielder in 2016.

At the time he began his pro baseball career, Owen was working toward and sport management degree and plans to complete it at some point.

Right now, he’s battling and being stubborn in his approach.

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Hunter Owen, an Evansville (Ind.) Mater Dei High School graduate who played at Indiana State University, is now with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. (Indianapolis Indians Photo)

 

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Fort Wayne’s Wedge takes his passion back to Wichita State

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Eric Wedge was in his early 30’s when he was already sporting the “dinosaur” mentality of his coaching predecessors in Indiana.

“A team is always going to play off their manager,” said Wedge in this writer’s 2001 self-published book, “Hitting And Hurling In The Heartland: A look at Indiana high school baseball.” “It’s a powerful position and you have to make sure you approach it that way.

“I have a passion for the game. I love kids that love to come out and play. And it’s got to hurt when you lose.

“I’ve got a problem with people who don’t compete every pitch, every out and every game.”

Wedge played at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrop High School for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Chris Stavreti. Stav was a “dinosaur” — a term once attached to 20-year IHSBCA members.

After his playing career, which included four seasons in the big leagues with the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies, Wedge managed five seasons in the minors and 10 in the majors — 10 with the Cleveland Indians and three with the Seattle Mariners. Wedge was the American League Manager of the Year in 2007 as the Cleveland lost to Boston in the American League Championship Series.

Now 51, the Fort Wayne native and IHSBCA Hall of Famer has been named head baseball coach at Wichita State University, the school he helped win the College World Series in 1989.

A two-time all-Missouri Valley Conference selection, Wedge is a member of the Wichita State 25-Year Anniversary Team, the WSU Hall of Fame (1996) and is also a member of the league’s All-Centennial Baseball Team.

In his three seasons at WSU, the Shockers reached three NCAA Tournaments and twice played in the CWS (1988, 1989). WSU won three regular-season MVC crowns and two MVC Tournament crowns during his collegiate playing career.

Wedge, a Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Famer who had a wood bat division named for him at Fort Wayne’s Wallen Little League in June and had been in player development with the Toronto Blue Jays, talked about his new role and about Fort Wayne baseball in a story written by Dean Jackson.

Enjoy that story here.

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Eric Wedge, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native, is the new head baseball coach at Wichita State University. He helped the Shockers win the College World Series in 1989. (Wichita State Photo)

 

Pascoe provides Butler Bulldogs hitters with knowledge, tools

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Butler University batsmen have been putting up better power numbers since Andy Pascoe arrived on campus as hitting coach on head coach Dave Schrage’s staff prior to the 2017 season.

In 2019, the Bulldogs hit .261 with 463 runs scored, 39 home runs and 95 doubles.

Harrison Freed, a right-handed-swinging junior outfielder and Westfield (Ind.) High School graduate, hit .376 with 17 homers, 10 doubles, 73 runs batted in.

In 2018, BU hit .272 with 324 runs, 20 homers and 107 doubles.

Lefty-swinging senior outfielder Gehrig Parker paced the Bulldogs by hitting .336 with seven homers, 15 doubles and 37 RBIs.

In 2017, those totals were . 256 average, 256 runs, 35 homers and 71 doubles.

Tyler Houston, then a righty-swinging junior outfielder and Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, hit. 287 and led the team with 12 homers to go with 13 doubles and 38 RBIs.

In 2016 — the year prior to Pascoe landing in Indianapolis — Butler hit .246 with 225 runs, 11 homers and 90 doubles.

Pascoe, a graduate of Traverse City (Mich.) Central High School, worked as the Director of Scouting for Prep Baseball Report Michigan before arriving at Butler. Before that he was the assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, the University of Evansville and holds a degree in exercise science.

Not all hitters are the same, but what are Pascoe’s points of emphasis?

“Being on time with the barrel, staying athletic in the box and working their bodies properly to get the most out of their swing,” says Pascoe. “A hitter’s approach is largely dictated on the situation as to where they are at in the count, who is on the mound, where runners are, and how they have been pitched by a team or pitcher.”

Butler hitters have a routine as they go through fall, winter and spring.

“We try to hit on the field as much as possible throughout the year so they are able to see the flight of the ball, which can give the hitter good feedback,” says Pascoe. “We go through a lot of drills as well early on to get them to feel their body moving properly – this will be done in the fall and preseason daily in the cages.

“When we get on the field we look more to situational hitting and hitting high velocity and breaking balls.

“Another component is also giving them more tools as a hitter – working on base hit bunting is big for a large majority of our guys. “While we talk about approach the entire year, the regular season is where we mainly focus on that so they do not get bogged down by mechanics and they can just be athletic and let everything work.”

Video and pitching machines are used often in training for Bulldog hitters.

“This past year was the first year that we used the hitting Rapsodo, which is a great tool to use in the cages when we can not get outside on the field,” says Pasceo. “Weighted bats have also been a big tool we have used at Butler.”

Launch angle and exit velocity are also a part of the equation.

“LA and EV can be useful data when tracking progress and what range for those works best for each hitter,” says Pascoe. “Certain guys are better with higher LA while others are better at lower LA. “EV can be good to give a hitter feedback to progress with getting stronger or gaining bat speed as well as just overall ability to square the ball up.

“When it comes to game time, we try to not chase these numbers so much and just look to get in there and compete.”

Analytics has become a big part of the collegiate game and it’s no different at Butler.

“Analytics do come into play quite a bit as we look at how to play certain hitters, shifting our infielders and outfielders around,” says Pascoe. “We also use analytics to determine certain matchups from both and offensive and defensive standpoint.”

Pascoe sees several outstanding qualities in Schrage as a coach.

“Coach Schrage has a lot of knowledge about the game of baseball, but he also has the drive to continue to learn more and grow as a coach,” says Pascoe. “He is very good at developing and maintaining a strong culture in programs – a lot of which attributes to his strong communication skills, his passion for the game as well as his players, and how he holds players and coaches accountable.”

Schrage, Pascoe and pitching coach Ben Norton all share in recruiting duties, but it is Pascoe that is typically on the road a little more during fall and spring practices.

Pascoe, an infielder and catcher, played at Evansville for head coach Wes Carroll from 2007-10. As a junior he was on the all-Missouri Valley Conference second team at designated hitter, leading the Purple Aces in hitting at .331.

“I enjoyed my time playing for Wes,” says Pascoe. “He always pushed me to be a good ball player and a good person while holding me accountable.

“Playing for him, he brought a lot of energy and passion for the Evansville program. For me, it was easy to play for him because I knew he cared about me and had a lot of pride for the program while also teaching me about the game of baseball.”

After his playing career was over, Pascoe joined Carroll’s coaching staff and spent five seasons (2011-15) learning the craft.

“Coaching for him provided me with a lot of experience early because he gave me the freedom as a coach to work with hitters and catchers a lot, while also giving me many responsibilities with recruiting,” says Pascoe.

One of the Aces was Kevin Kaczmarski, who played his last season in Evansville in 2015 and made his Major League Baseball debut with the New York Mets in 2018.

“We really worked with Kevin on getting rhythm to his swing, especially early in his college career,” says Pascoe. “He came in with an extreme amount of athleticism but was a little stiff with his swing so once he learned to loosen up, have some rhythm and load up on time, he really took off.

“Once he gained some rhythm to himself and to his swing, we got him to use the whole field with authority. All of this was done because he wanted to learn it and he put in a lot of work to do it.”

Pascoe has several men he considers leaders in his life, including father Paul, Schrage, Carroll, high school coach Ian Hearn (now head coach at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern High School), former Evansville assistant Marc Wagner and former Traverse City Central, Western Michigan University and Detroit Tigers organization player and college coach Sam Flamont.

“All of them have taught me about the game of baseball and the intricacies, but also how to handle different players and their personalities and to enjoy the process that goes into everyday coaching,” says Pascoe. “(Flamont) has also been a major role model and mentor for me – he is the biggest reason why am where I am at in my life.”

Pascoe, who is single, will keep busy this summer, running tournament games on-campus and recruiting.

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Andy Pascoe, a graduate of Traverse City (Mich.) Central High School and the University of Evansville, is an assistant coach at Butler University. Among his responsibilities, he leads the hitters and helps with recruiting. (Butler University Photo)

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Andy Pascoe (left) has seen offensive numbers improve since taking over as Butler University hitting coach for the 2017 season. (Butler University Photo)

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Andy Pascoe just completed his third season as hitting coach at Butler University in 2019. Before arriving in Indianapolis, he played and coached at the University of Evansville. (Butler University Photo)

 

Indiana Tech, IU Southeast, Huntington, Marian in NAIA Opening Round

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A quest for an NAIA baseball national title begins today (May 13) for four Indiana schools.

The double-elimination Opening Round begins at nine sites. Indiana Tech is the No. 2 seed at Williamsburg, Ky., Indiana University Southeast is No. 3 at Lawrenceville, Ga., Huntington is No. 4 at Macon, Ga., and Marian is No. 5 at Kingsport, Tenn.

Indiana Tech (38-14-1) takes on Lyon (Ark.) in its first game while IU Southeast (35-18) faces Georgetown (Ky.), Huntington (26-14) squares off against British Columbia and Marian (30-19) clashes with Madonna (Mich.).

Winners in the Opening Round, which is scheduled to conclude May 16, advance to the 63rd annual NAIA World Series May 24-31 in Lewiston, Idaho.

No. 3 seed Oakland City (21-13) will host the National Christian College Athletic Association Mid-East Regional and plays Hiwassee (Tenn.) today. The regional goes through May 16. The NCCAA World Series is May 22-25 in Easley, S.C.

By beating Rose-Hulman in the championship of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, Franklin (28-13) earned a berth in the NCAA Division III regionals and were to learn where they go today.

In NCAA Division I, Indiana (33-18, 14-7) is in second place in the Big Ten Conference standings behind Michigan (37-13, 15-5). The eight-team conference tournament is May 22-26 in Omaha, Neb. Before that, the Hoosiers play host to Louisville Tuesday, May 14 then Rutgers in a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series.

Purdue (19-31, 7-13) is in 12th in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers play host to Xavier Tuesday, May, 14 then Ohio State for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Indiana State (34-14, 11-7) is in second in the Missouri Valley Conference behind Dallas Baptist (36-15, 12-6) and Illinois State (30-21, 12-6). The Sycamores host Bradley Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the eight-team MVC tournament May 21-15 in Normal, Ill.

Evansville (23-24, 10-8) is fifth in the MVC. The Purple Aces visit Belmont Tuesday and Illinois State Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Valparaiso (13-32, 6-12) is seventh in the MVC. The Crusaders plays host to Chicago State Tuesday then goes to Missouri State Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Ball State (33-17, 17-5) sits in second in the Mid-American Conference behind Central Michigan (39-12, 19-5). The Cardinals, coming off combined a nine-inning no-hitter by John Baker and Luke Jaksich, host Toledo Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The MAC tournament is scheduled for May 22-26 in Avon, Ohio.

Butler (25-23, 5-9) is fifth in the Big East Conference. The Bulldogs visit Eastern Illinois Tuesday and Georgetown Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Big East tournament is May 23-26 at a site to be determined.

Notre Dame (22-26, 12-15) is sixth the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division, which has its 12-team tournament May 21-26 in Durham, N.C. The Irish go to Northwestern Tuesday and Boston College Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Purdue Fort Wayne (6-42, 1-26 Summit League) is at Toledo Tuesday and at home with Western Illinois Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Summit League tournament is slated for May 22-25 in Tulsa, Okla.

Vincennes (25-28, 13-18 in the Mid-West Conference) play in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Midwest District May 16-20 in Normal, Ill.

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Records Through May 12

NCAA Division I

Indiana State 34-14 (11-7 Missouri Valley)

Indiana 33-18 (14-7 Big Ten)

Ball State 33-17 (17-5 Mid-American)

Butler 25-23 (5-9 Big East)

Evansville 23-24 (10-8 Missouri Valley)

Notre Dame 22-26 (12-15 Atlantic Coast)

Purdue 19-31 (7-13 Big Ten)

Valparaiso 13-32 (6-12 Missouri Valley)

Purdue Fort Wayne 6-42 (1-26 Summit)

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 30-20 (19-14 Great Lakes Valley)

Southern Indiana 30-21 (21-12 Great Lakes Valley)

Oakland City 21-13

NCAA Division III

Franklin 28-13 (12-6 Heartland)

Rose-Hulman 27-12 (14-2 Heartland)

DePauw 22-15 (8-8 North Coast)

Wabash 22-19 (9-8 North Coast)

Anderson 21-16 (10-8 Heartland)

Earlham 16-21 (8-10 Heartland)

Hanover 15-19 (7-11 Heartland)

Trine 15-25 (8-20 Michigan Intercollegiate)

Manchester 14-23 (8-9 Heartland)

NAIA

Indiana Tech 38-14-1 (17-4-1 Wolverine-Hoosier)

Taylor 38-18 (15-12 Crossroads)

Indiana University-Kokomo 36-18 (19-8 River States)

Indiana University Southeast 35-18 (21-6 River States)

Marian 30-19 (17-10 Crossroads)

Huntington 26-14 (20-7 Crossroads)

Indiana Wesleyan 22-30 (15-11 Crossroads)

Purdue Northwest 21-27 (16-12 Great Lakes Intercollegiate)

Goshen 20-29 (12-15 Crossroads)

Grace 17-27 (10-17 Crossroads)

Indiana University South Bend 13-38 (11-19 Chicagoland)

Saint Francis 13-40 (7-20 Crossroads)

Bethel 11-29 (7-20 Crossroads)

Calumet of Saint Joseph 8-39 (1-27 Chicagoland)

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 33-14

Vincennes 25-28 (13-18 Mid-West)

Ancilla 5-30 (4-24 Michigan Community)

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Indiana State lefty Polley stays calm, keeps coming at hitters

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Triston Polley is the first weekend starting pitcher for the Indiana State University baseball team.

The senior left-hander knows what it means to face pressure situations and to perform in hostile environments when the Sycamores  go on the road.

At 22 and with 210 collegiate innings logged, Polley does his best to be the calm in the storm. Like the eye in the hurricane.

“We’ve played in some of the biggest ballparks in the country in my time here,” says Polley. “It’s the same everywhere you go.”

Polley, a 2015 Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, was in one of those stressful situations in his last start Friday, May 3 at Illinois State.

“It was one of his best outings in terms of competing and giving us a chance to win the game,” says Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs. “I was really impressed with what he did (in the game) with the composure and from a competing standpoint.”

The host Redbirds collected 12 hits against Polley, but he battled for six innings and gave up just three runs in a no-decision.

“There’s always going to be games that don’t go your way,” says Polley. “You have to be able to keep a calm mindset and stay aggressive throughout it all and not fold, which is what the other team wants.”

Polley says it would be easy to get rattled pitching in front of a loud crowd and opposing dugout.

“It almost feels like things can speed up on you,” says Polley. “There was one point in the game (at Illinois State), where I just had to take a step off of the mound, re-group, try to figure out what I was and go at the other team again.”

As Polley and Indiana State (34-11, 11-4) enter a Friday-Saturday-Sunday Missouri Valley Conference series at Dallas Baptist, he is 6-0 with a 2.23 earned run average in 12 starts and 80 2/3 innings. He has struck out 65 batters and walked 33. Opponents are hitting .203 against the southpaw.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Polley competes using a sinking fastball, cutter/slider, change-up and big breaking ball.

He credits Hannahs and pitching coach Jordan Tiegs for helping him to develop an aggressive mindset on the mound and to hit his spots.

During winter breaks, Polley has worked with Greg Vogt (founder and operator of PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind.) on things like pitch design.

“He’s a really good dude and nice resource that I have,” says Polley of Vogt. “I can pick his brain. He’s a very knowledgable guy.”

Polley has also spent much time on his own doing research online to find the philosophies and routine that works best for him.

“I stick with ti and got about it everyday,” says Polley.

Growing up in Avon, Ind., Polley took the mound in high school as a strong-armed lefty. He later learned the craft of pitching.

Polley credits the Indiana Bulls travel organization for giving him a chance to play NCAA Division I baseball at Indiana State.

He says he’s come a long way since arriving in Terre Haute.

“A lot of it has to do with mentally (maturing),” says Polley. “I was an off-the-wall freshman.

“Once I got here, I knew if I took a step mentally, because I knew I had the physical ability that everything was going to play up.”

For his ISU career to date, Polley is 16-4 in 57 mound appearances (30 as a starter) with a 3.51 ERA, 167 strikeouts and 98 walks.

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Triston Polley is a senior starting pitcher for Indiana State University. In 12 starts, he is 6-0 for a team that is 34-11 heading into a weekend series at Dallas Baptist. (Indiana State University Photo)

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Triston Polley has been aggressive and calm at the same time at the front of the Indiana State University baseball team’s pitching rotation. The ISU senior is a graduate of Brownsburg (Ind.) High School. (Indiana State University Photo)

 

Spiceland, Sycamores form special bond

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dan Spiceland started out as the man that got Indiana State University’s baseball team to and from its games.

But he soon became much more and in a decade of transporting the Sycamores the man they call “Dan-O” has made many meaningful relationships while having a lot of fun.

“He’s the grandpa of this team,” says Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs of Spiceland. “He’s just a great person with a great outlook on life. That’s why it’s great to have him around.

“He picks these guys up on the bad days and it’s really nice to see. Every team should have a grandfather in the dugout. He talks to these guys about life and a lot of things around this game. He’s invaluable to our club.”

At 52, Spiceland retired after 35 years from Ford Motor Company, where he was in plan engineering and a millwright by trade. He went to Ford a week after graduating from Taylor (Mich.) High School and received further education at Henry Ford Community College (where he also played baseball) and Northwood University with the help of his employer.

“Ford was very good to me and my family,” says Spiceland. “I really never thought I would work again.”

Spiceland and wife, Liz, live near Poland, Ind., and worship at the North Meridian Street Church of Christ in Brazil, Ind. The couple moved from Indianapolis and became a regular with the congregation in 2003.

Dan is one of the elders at North Meridian and was told by one of the members and Terre Haute-based Turner Motor Coaches driver, Robert Hostetler, that the company was in need of drivers.

“Robert was always putting a bug in my ear,” says Spiceland of Hostetler. “I told him out of friendship with you I’ll go down and take a look at it.”

Spiceland had never driven a bus in his life, but showed an aptitude for its right away and was hired.

He began by taking some tour groups on shorter trips.

In 2010, the ISU baseball team was getting ready to go on its first excursion of the season from Terre Haute to Shreveport, La.

The law allows motor coach drivers to be behind the wheel for 10 hours a day and then shut down for eight. This sometimes necessitates a relay system with one driver taking over for the other at a given point along the route.

Two days before the trip, the driver that was going to take the team from Sikeston, Mo., to Shreveport for four days asked to trade places with Spiceland, who was going to drive the first leg from Terre Haute and hand off the team in Missouri.

“I drove them down to Shreveport and we had a great series,” says Spiceland. “We won all the games there against Texas Southern.”

On the way back to the relay point, then-Sycamores head coach Rick Heller made it known how much he appreciated Spiceland. The coach told the driver he wanted him to be the team’s full-time transporter, always taking them on the long end of trips if a relay was involved.

Heller contacted Turner and Spiceland took on the ISU baseball team as part of his driving duties, which now also includes the Indiana State women’s soccer team in the fall and tours of all kinds.

“I’m a people person,” says Spiceland. “I like to meet people. I like to reach out to them any way that I can.

“I’ve made a lot of friends driving this motor coach. I can’t say enough about how much fun it is.”

Getting to drive for and developing a bond with the baseball team came as a a twist of fate when the other driver wanted to swap.

Spiceland drove for Heller for four years. When Heller left to become head coach at the University of Iowa, Hannahs took over the reins of the Sycamores.

“Mitch and myself, we have a great relationship,” says Spiceland. “About four years ago, Mitch took me aside and said, ‘I want to talk to you. You have such a great rapport with the team. You would be much more valuable to me to be in the dugout than to be up in the stands cheering.’”

Donning a uniform and cap, Spiceland spends games in the ISU dugout.

“That makes me feel like a kid again,” says Spiceland. “I’m in the dugout and like a spark plug.”

If a player has a bad at-bat or shaky inning on the mound, Spiceland will approach them and offer words of encouragement.

“I go over to him and it’s authentic — it’s not fake — but I’ll stroke their ego,” says Spiceland. “I try to build up their self-esteem.

“I think of them as my sons.”

Dan and Liz have two biological sons — Dan (43) in Huntsville, Ala., and Frank (40) in Findlay, Ohio, and six grandchildren.

“I’ve been through this before when my sons were this age,” says Spiceland. “There’s peer pressure. These guys have challenges in their lives.

“It’s a relationship that pulls at my heart strings. In four years, I was able to have a small smidgeon in their lives.

“More than a driver, I try to mentor these guys.”

With the baseball team alone, Spiceland averages about 7,000 miles a year.

Dan-O and the team spend a great deal of time together between the bus, baseball stadiums, hotels and restaurants. Many times, players invite him to breakfast to discuss some matters.

“I always accommodate them,” says Spiceland. “We talk about a lot of things. They can bounce things off of me. They know it’s not going to go any farther.

“We really love each other. We can communicate with each other. We just bond with each other.”

When the schedule allows, Spiceland finds a church on the road and players have been known to come along.

“it’s an opportunity for me to share my faith with people,” says Spiceland. “That’s an important thing.”

Earlier this season, Spiceland took the team to the University of Michigan, an experienced he thoroughly enjoyed with his Wolverine State roots.

Indiana State (34-11) is coming off a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series against Illinois State in Normal, Ill. Dan-O and Liz celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary Saturday, May 4, and the Sycamores won Saturday and Sunday to takes 2-of-3 from the Redbirds.

The next trip is this Friday through Sunday at Dallas Baptist. Since it will be Finals Week, players can’t leave campus until Thursday. The plan calls for the team to fly down that night with Spiceland leaving Wednesday and meeting the team in Texas.

After a home series May 16-18, Indiana State goes back to Normal for the MVC Tournament, which is slated for May 21-25.

NCAA Regionals are May 31-June 3 at campus sites with Super Regionals June 7-10 at campus sites and the College World Series June 15-29 in Omaha, Neb.

Whenever the last trip of the season comes for Spiceland and the Sycamores, he will stand at the front of the bus and tell them the same thing he tells each team.

“Guys, this is the last ride,” says Spiceland. “We will never ever be together again as this group of men.”

As the senior disembark in Terre Haute, the seniors have real tears in their eyes and they give Spiceland a hug.

“They say, Dan-O, we may never see you again,” says Spiceland. “But you’ve been like a dad or like a grandpa to us and we’ll never forget that.”

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Indiana State University baseball head coach says of team bus driver and mentor, Dan Spiceland: “Every team should have a grandfather in the dugout.” (Indiana State University Photo)

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Dan Spiceland aka “Dan-O” has been a bus driver and mentor for the Indiana State University baseball team since 2010. He is employed by Terre Haute-based Turner Motor Coaches. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Tiegs getting Indiana State pitchers ready for rigors of 2019 season

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana State University opens its 2019 baseball season with a three-game series Feb. 15-17 at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.

Fifth-year Sycamores pitching coach Jordan Tiegs is getting ISU arms ready for the opener and beyond.

“We’re full-go,” says Tiegs. “We’re building guys now. Some are up to four innings. We’d like our starters to be able to go six innings that first weekend.”

The process has been happening with both both scrimmages and bullpen sessions. They train with overload and underload throwing balls.

“We want to get it as close to what it’s like during the season as possible,” says Tiegs. Pitchers generally pitch live in intrasquad games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday while there is more bullpen work on Monday through Thursday.

ISU’s online roster lists 17 pitchers. All three of the team’s weekend starters from 2018 when the Sycamores went 31-24 overall and 11-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference — senior left-hander Triston Polley (Brownsburg High School graduate), senior right-hander Tyler Ward (Heritage Hills) and junior left-hander Tristan Weaver — return.

Polley went 7-2, Ward 6-3 and Weaver 3-5 in 2018.

Redshirt junior right-hander Colin Liberatore, who pitched at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, is in the starting mix. Weekday starter Weston Rivers is not back.

While primary closer Ethan Larrison (25 appearances with nine saves) has moved on to professional baseball, 6-foot-5 junior left-hander Tyler Grauer (21 appearances with three saves) did some closing in 2018 and he’s back.

“We lost a lot of leads in sixth and seventh innings last year,” says Tiegs. “That will be a big emphasis this year.”

New pieces in the bullpen include right-handers Austin Cross, Zach Frey, Ross Kramer and Jake Ridgway and lefty Geremy Guerrero.

Cross, a 6-7 junior, is one of seven pitchers on the staff who were in junior college last season.

Tiegs calls junior Frey, also a JC transfer, a “competitive bulldog” who throws strikes.

Coming to Indiana State as a two-way player as a JC transfer, the Sycamores have decided to let junior Kramer focus on pitching.

“He may have the best arm on the staff,” says Tiegs.

Sophomore Ridgway impressed ISU coaches during a showcase camp and was made a full-time pitcher as a freshman.

Junior Guerrero is considered a “swing” man who could be used as a starter or in long or short relief.

Being tall with long limbs is helpful for a pitcher.

But size is not always the determining factor in success.

“In a perfect world, they could all be 6-3 and 215 (the average size of a big league starter),” says Tiegs. “But what about the 5-9 guy who throws in the low to mid 90’s and can really spin it and is really competitive?.

“We have a bit of a mix here,” says Tiegs, who has 6-9 junior left-hander Will Buraconak and 5-9 freshman righty Paul Wendling in the pitching corps. “Both are going to help us a lot.”

Of course the plan on paper in February is not always what unfolds by May.

But one thing is constant.

“We want guys who are going to compete for the right reasons and execute their game plan,” says Tiegs of his pitchers. “We want to generate as much weak contact as we can.

“For some guys play book is simple. For some, it’s more complicated. It’s what they can handle.”

When recruiting, Tiegs wants pitchers who have a feel for the game around them and not ones who “can win the 60-foot, 6-inch battle” only.

“These are the ones who can’t hold runners and can’t field their positions,” says Tiegs. “Guys don’t work on these days as much as they used to.

“You can forget that a whole game is being played.”

Tiegs works for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs.

“He’s a very smart baseball guy,” says Tiegs of Hannahs. “He knows what pitching means to a team. It can make or break your entire season.”

Hannahs gives his perspective while giving Tiegs the freedom to develop his staff his way.

“As a former infielder, he has a pretty good feel for what pitchers go through on the mental side,” says Tiegs.

The mental side of the game is something that is addressed daily by Tiegs in practice.

“We get them in the right frame of mind on the mind,” says Tiegs. “We want them to be in control of their thoughts and in the moment.

“They should keep things as simple as possible and not get the wheels spinning too much.”

Speaking of spinning, Indiana State does keep tabs on spin rate, spin axis and rotation using Rapsodo technology.

Tiegs notes that the use of TrackMan is another way of getting analytic feedback.

This can help players “develop a better version of themselves.”

“We don’t want to overkill with it,” says Tiegs. “It’s just another tool.”

Tiegs is a 2005 graduate of Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada.

There was no high school baseball in his district. But he played on an elite travel team. The London Badgers played about 80 games a year from April to September with three or four tournaments in the U.S.

Tiegs also participated in volleyball, basketball, hockey and tennis and is definitely a believer in the concept of the multi-sport athlete.

“It can hurt your athletic growth if you eliminate things at a younger age,” says Tiegs. “Using different movements, it’s only going to help in baseball with agility and coordination.

“The more you can be exposed to that stuff is only going to benefit you. You’re going to get enough isolated work when you get to college.”

Tiegs wants his pitchers to be as athletic as possible.

“Pitchers can get a bad rap at being the non-athletes on the field,” says Tiegs, who has his ISU hurlers go through circuit training — strength and mobility — each day before they ever throw a baseball.

Tiegs was a pitcher and was selected selected in the 46th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, but played opted instead for college baseball. He played at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Ill., the College of Charleston in South Carolina and wound up at the University of Indianapolis.

The head coach at Sauk Valley was Al Ready, who is now head coach at UIndy.

Keith Hatfield, now head coach at Center Grove High School, was his pitching coach at UIndy.

“In 2009, we had a lot of talent on the mound,” says Tiegs. “We had to make sure guys were in the zone with their stuff. The only way we were going to get beat was with free bases.”

Tiegs delivers the same message to the Sycamores.

“We want our guys to constantly apply pressure and the pressure will be on them,” says Tiegs.

Before coming to ISU, Tiegs was the U of I Greyhounds pitching coach for three seasons on the staff of head coach Gary Vaught.

Having played and coached at the two levels, what is the main difference in NCAA Division I and II from a pitching perspective?

“It’s in the depth of lineups you see day in and day out,” says Tiegs. “You can get away with more mistakes (in D-II). With the better D-I teams, you need to be sharp for 7, 8, 9 guys in lineup. When they hit your mistakes, it’s usually louder.”

Jordan and wife Chelsea Tiegs are expecting their first child in late March.

In its preseason poll, Missouri Valley Conference head coaches have picked Indiana State to finish third behind Missouri State and Dallas Baptist and ahead of Bradley, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Valparaiso and Evansville.

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Jordan Tiegs was a player and pitching coach at the University of Indianapolis before going to Indiana State University as pitching coach. (University of Indianapolis Photo)

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Jordan Tiegs is the baseball pitching coach at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind. (Indiana State University Photo)