By STEVE KRAH
Northview took a junior-heavy team to Indianapolis in 2016 and claimed the first IHSAA team state title in school history — a Class 3A baseball championship.
The question started around Brazil: What will the Knights do with all those seniors in 2017?
The answer is very well.
Fourth-year head coach Craig Trout has gotten his squad to “embrace the target” and led by 10 members from the Class of ’17, Northview is 25-3 and again in the 3A southern semistate against Jasper (30-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 10 at Jasper’s Ruxer Field. That’s one win away from a return trip to Victory Field.
“I told them the target’s on their back,” says Trout. “They can run from it or embrace it. We want to play better baseball every time we go out and play somebody and still carry ourselves with humility and a hard work status.”
The Knights topped Sullivan, Owen Valley and Edgewood to win the Northview Sectional then Brebeuf and Tri-West Hendricks to take the Brebeuf Regional (moved from Crawfordsville after a tornado hit Montgomery County).
Northview, a member of the Western Indiana Conference (along with Brown County, Edgewood, Owen Valley, South Vermillion, Sullivan and West Vigo), is reaping the benefits of a core group that began playing and winning together at a young age. The senior class has earned seven state baseball titles from youth leagues on up.
“They’ve learned how to win,” says Trout. “That’s really important for a culture.”
Having been there before, Trout’s players know what it means to play in close games, come from behind or hold on to a lead.
Some of the younger Knights were also a part of the North Clay Middle School baseball program, started when Trout took over as head coach from Scott McDonald for the 2014 season (he was a McDonald assistant for five).
“It builds a cohesiveness,” says Trout of middle school baseball. “They play with each other at least two years and build that bond of brotherhood. It helps teams become winners.”
Clay Youth League and travel teams have also kept the diamond momentum up in a program that has long been a winner (just not a state champion until 2016).
Trout was a catcher for the Knights and coach Gary Witham, who went 581-274 in 31 seasons (1978-84 at pre-consolidation Brazil and 1985-2008 at Northview).
One of Trout’s fond memories was playing games for Witham in Costa Rica in the summer of 2004.
Brazil/Northview won 11 sectionals on Witham’s watch with the first regional coming in Trout’s senior season of 2005. The Knights won one sectional for McDonald and now have two sectionals and two regionals with Trout in charge.
Trout remembers Witham’s strengths as a coach.
“He would focus on practice, making sure the time we spent was time well-spent,” says Trout. “There was not a lot of down time.
“Gary was pretty calm during the game. I’m a really emotional guy. I ride the highs and lows a lot. He was good to the players.”
Besides embracing the target, Trout has his ’17 Knights “FIT” for the task at hand. That’s Focus, Intensity and Toughness.
“We want to win every inning and play Northview baseball (small ball with timely hits),” says Trout on Focus.
Intensity manifests itself in being present and positive — on the bench and on the field.
Toughness means the Knights are always tracking the ball and hustling.
“That’s been the M.O. for this team,” says Trout.
Helping make all those things happen are Trout’s assistant coaches — Mitch Lancaster, Tony Trout, Scott McDonald, Jim Tucker and Trent Lancaster.
Lancaster and Trout were in Craig’s first two hires.
Mitch Lancaster, who has coached multiple sports and various schools and the son of former Brazil head baseball coach Bob Lancaster, is in charge of defense and helps with strategy.
Tony Trout, Craig’s father, is the pitching/catching coach. Father and son are both social studies teachers at NHS.
Former head coach McDonald is a statistician and in-game strategist. Tucker coaches the junior varsity. Trent Lancaster is C-team and strength and conditioning coach.
Craig Trout, an Indiana State University graduate, began his coaching career in 2006 as a football assistant. He has coached basketball and track and was at Marshall (Ill.) High School for a time before coming back to Brazil.
The Trouts are a baseball family. Craig’s father Tony Trout was a catcher at Staunton High School, Wabash Valley College and Indiana University. Grandfather Virgil Trout pitched in the New York Giants system with Hannibal, Mo., and Michigan City. Uncle Joe Trout pitched for Indiana State. Great uncle Jim Casassa was also a pitcher who tried out for the Detroit Tigers. There are stories about seeing Satchel Paige pitch against the old Terre Haute Tots.
Craig has also been a sponge around Indiana high school’s greatest baseball minds, including Jasper’s Terry Gobert and Crawfordsville’s John Froedge.
“Being 31 and being a head coach is a difficult task,” says Trout. “You are still figuring things out. Being in the coaching fraternity and being successful has been great for me.”
“(Veteran coaches) came to me as mentors and gave me great information that I’ll always remember.”
Craig Trout celebrates a regional baseball championship with wife Robin, daughter Calli Drew and son Lincoln. Trout is in his fourth season as head coach at Northview High School. The Knights were Class 3A state champions in 2016.