After two baseball seasons at Saint Louis University, Nolan Bowser has opted to enter the Transfer Portal with two years of college eligibility. Is he nervous about where he’ll land? “A little bit, but at the same time I just have to keep playing and feel like teams will come scouting me,” says Bowser. “So nervousness? Yes. But also it’s a little bit of a calling to just play the game.” With the SLU Billikens, Bowser got into 40 games (10 as a starter) in 2021 and 2022 and hit .234 (11-of-47) with four runs batted in and 13 runs scored. His batting mark this past spring was .269 (7-of-26) and he produced a walk-off RBI single against Western Illinois on March 8. Bowser is listed as a lefty-swinging catcher, but has the versatility to play all over the infield or outfield as well. “I can play anywhere really,” says Bowser, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who played third base, shortstop and second base and a few games at catcher in high school and was a catcher and outfielder in travel ball. He was allowed to call pitches. What does catching do for him? “I know it may not seem like it sometimes, but I like being in-control,” says Bowser. “Keeping in-charge of the pitcher it just came easy to me.” Bowser is in his third go-round in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., about 25 miles from McCordsville. He was with the Screwballs in 2020, Tropics in 2021 and is now on the Bomb Squad in 2022. He had just graduated when he played during the CSL’s first season (2020). That year — with limited summer wood bat opportunities — the league was chock-full of D-I talent. “It was definitely a change going from high school to college ball,” says Bowser. “That’s for sure.” As a Criminal Justice major, Bowser sees himself pursuing a career in law enforcement. What made him decide on that path? “On my mom’s side of the family, her dad, grandpa and brother were all in the Marines,” says Bowser. “I played baseball so I really didn’t want to join the Marines. But I felt like I could give back to the community and the world (as a police officer or detective). It’s kind of not in a great place right now. “I feel like I can help change it just a little bit.” Bowser grew up in Lawrence, Ind., and moved into the Mt. Vernon district as high school approached. He played travel ball from 8U to 17U — first with the Oaklandon Bombers and then the Indiana Bulls. His father — Steve Bowser — was one of his Bombers coaches. With the Bulls, Nolan played for Tony Cookerly, Jeremy Honaker, Dan Held and Sean Laird. “Sean was very intense,” says Bowser. “I loved it though.” A 2020 graduate of Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., Bowser played on the freshman and junior varsity teams as a ninth grader. He played varsity as a sophomore and junior. His senior season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “(Then-Marauders head coach Ryan Carr) was great to me,” says Bowser. “I gave it my all every single time.” Bowser was selected all-Hancock County in 2018 and 2019 and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference in 2019. Steve and Dana Bowser have two children — Nolan (20) and Delaney (18). Steve Bowser is a vice president of a construction company. Dana Bowser is a dietician. A 2022 Mt. Vernon graduate, Delaney Bowser is to play volleyball for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Josh Cooper may have been appointed as head coach one week before the start of the 2022 New Castle (Ind.) High School baseball season, but he was already quite familiar with the players. With the help of Rodney Scott, Cooper had coached or coached against many of the Trojans since they were 7 and saw them having success coming up through the ranks. Eli Cooper, who is 18 and Josh’s son, is one of New Castle’s seniors. “I know them very, very well,” says Josh Cooper of the Trojans. “It’s easy to read them. I always try to be honest and upfront with them.” Cooper tells his players about the importance of being a good teammate. A player’s performance or game situation should not dictate that. The players are very close. Each day after practice or a game, they spend more time together at a team members’ house or at a restaurant. So when circumstances had the Trojans looking for someone to lead the program, 1998 New Castle graduate Cooper was encouraged to apply for the job. That was mid-March. Flash forward to the present and the Trojans are in the semistate for the second time and first since 1996 (Josh Cooper was a sophomore on that team). Uncle Dennis Bolden was on the first semistate team in 1970 and later played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Cut from basketball in the seventh grade, Josh focused on baseball and played high school ball for New Castle alum Gary Brown. “He was a pretty hard-nosed coach and a good guy,” says Cooper of Brown. On Saturday, June 11, New Castle (18-5-1) takes on No. 1-ranked Andrean (29-4) in the IHSAA Class 3A Kokomo Semistate (following the 1 p.m. 2A game). New Castle will be out to win its first semistate crown. New Castle (enrollment around 900) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown). In winning the 2022 Yorktown Sectional, New Castle topped Hamilton Heights 4-3, Jay County 6-2 and Guerin Catholic 3-2. To prevail at the Oak Hill Regional, the Trojans bested Wawasee 9-0 (Indiana University commit Aydan Decker-Petty pitched a 16-strikeout one-hitter) and held off Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger 5-4 (behind the pitching of Eli Cooper and Corbin Malott). Dwenger scored all its runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. “I put a lot of emphasis on pitching to contact and defense,” says Cooper. “But we also spend a lot of time working in hitting.” Leading the offense is seniors Malott (.405 average, three home runs, 20 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases), Garrett Rusch (.324, 3 HR, 24 RBI), Bryce Jenkins (.296), Eli Cooper (.276, 3 HR, 23 RBI), Decker-Petty .262) and Jake Barber (.259, 22 RBI) and junior Max Upchurch (.239). On the mound, the Trojans are guided by right-handers Decker-Petty 4-1, 2.64 earned run average, 91 strikeouts, 22 walks in 53 innings), Eli Cooper (5-1, 4.32, 66 K’s, 27 walks, 47 IP), senior Trighton Cummings 4-1, 5.32, 20 K’s, 17 walks, 25 IP) and Malott (2-2, 0.98, 34 K’s, 12 walks, 21 IP). Josh Cooper says Decker-Petty has fastball that has touched 91 mph while Eli Cooper has gotten up to 88. Malott is committed to Purdue University, Eli Cooper and Jenkins to Clark State College (Springfield, Ohio) and Rusch to Allen Community College (Iola, Kan.). Nic Besecker (Class of 2020) was with Allen Community College in 2021 and Drew Barber (2019) was at Indiana University-Kokomo. The brother of Jake Barber intends to transfer to Indiana University South Bend. Coaching New Castle’s pitchers is alum Trey Ball, who was the seventh overall selection in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Boston Red Sox. The 6-foot-5 lefty pitcher/batter had committed to the University of Texas before going pro. “Trey Ball has been so great,” says Cooper. “He brings a lot of great information.” Scott, Tyler Smith, Zak Kellogg are also New Castle assistants. Scott digs in on analytics and scouting. “He did a great job against Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger,” says Cooper. A Parks and Recreation employee for the City of New Castle, Josh Cooper had established a junior high program last winter (there were 22 seventh graders and 16 eighth graders playing this spring) and was working hard to turn Denny Bolden Field — named for his grandfather who coached Babe Ruth ball in town for 50 years — into the home for junior varsity and junior high baseball when he was called to his current baseball post, turning his attention to the high school facility — revamped Collin McAtee Memorial Field (formerly Sunnyside Field). Fencing, dugouts and scoreboard are all new. Turf Dawgs put down a bluegrass hybrid. “I’m very thankful and the city is thankful for it,” says Cooper. Because of the wet weather in the spring and the renovation project in progress, New Castle played just five games on their home field in 2022. Practices were held at Denny Bolden Field and “home” games were contested near Middletown, Ind., at Shenandoah High School, which is 15 miles from New Castle High. The Raiders are coached by Ryan Painter. “They were unbelievable about helping us,” says Cooper. “Coach Painter was so gracious.” As a thank you, Cooper is helping Painter with a field project at Shenandoah.
Several players doubled down on power during the Indiana college baseball week of Feb. 28-March 6. NCAA Division III Hanover’s Alex Christie (Center Grove High School graduate) knocked five home runs for the week — two against Purchase and one each against Mary Washington, Kean and Neumann — in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It was Christie’s first five homers of the 2022 season. Also lofting five homers was NAIA Indiana Wesleyan’s Evan Salmon — two homers in Game 1 and one in Game 2 against Cleary and one apiece in Games 3 and 4 against Spring Arbor. IWU’s Zach Rabe clouted two in Game 1 against Cleary and two in Game 3 against Spring Arbor. Salmon has eight homers in ’22 and Rabe four. NCAA D-I’s Ball State’s Trenton Quartermaine socked four home runs for the week — one against Coastal Carolina, one in Game 1 against Florida A&M and two in Game 2 against Florida A&M. Quartermaine’s season total for circuit clouts is five. NAIA Indiana Southeast’s Trevor Campbell homered twice against Lindsey Wilson and once each in Games 1 and 3 against Northwestern Ohio. Ray Aponte smacked homers against Lindsey Wilson and Northwestern Ohio (Games 1 and 3). NCAA D-III Franklin’s Logan Demkovich (Munster) homered in all three games against Hope while Noah Wood (Indianapolis Lutheran) produced big flies in Games 1 and 2. Purdue’s Cam Thompson cracked a walk-off homer as Purdue (12-0) topped Longwood 6-5 in 11 innings in Game 3 of the series. The Boilermakers continue to enjoy the best start in program history. Thompson has two homers in ’22. Indiana’s Brock Tibbitts (New Albany) rapped two homers against Miami (Ohio) while teammates Matthew Ellis (Miami and Game 2 vs. Missouri State) and Homestead graduate Carter Mathison (Games 1 and 3 vs. Missouri State) also enjoyed two-homer weeks. Ellis has five dingers on the year while Tibbitts and Mathison (the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year) have two each. Butler’s Aaron Steinhart went deep twice against Northern Kentucky. The blasts were his first two of ’22. Evansville’s Tanner Craig (Austin) cranked homers against Kentucky, Ohio (Game 1) and Illinois-Chicago (Game 2). He has six homers on the season. At 5-3, Valparaiso is off to its best eight-game start since 1999. NCAA D-II University of Indianapolis third baseman Armen Torosian homered in Games 2 and 3 against Wayne State, raising his season total to three. Purdue Northwest finally opened its season and went 3-1 in a series at Southwest Baptist. Anderson’s Tyler Smitherman (Westfield) bashed two homers in Game 1 against St. Norbert, doubling his season HR tally. Earlham’s Christian Lancianese homered twice in Game 2 against Wilmington. Nathan Lancianese homered once in Game 3 of the series. They were the season’s first bombs for both players. Manchester’s Brady Perez (Rochester) ahieved lift-off in Games 2 and 4 against Kalamazoo, raising his season HR mark to five. Rose-Hulman’s Shane Garner (Sullivan) rapped his first two homers of ’22 in Game 1 against Saint Mary’s (Minn.) and Dubuque. NAIA Saint Francis freshman Sam Pesa (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) homered in Games 1 and 3 against Huntington. His grand slam in Game 1 was part of a 13-run fifth inning. Pesa has a team-best five homers in ’22. Goshen’s Peyton Smith (Daleville) homered in Games 3 and 4 against Grace. He has three homers on the season. It wasn’t all about slugging. NAIA Indiana University Kokomo posted three shutouts against visiting Ohio Christian — 5-0, 10-0 and 1-0. Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern), Lucas Letsinger (Hamilton Heights), Ben Harris (Northwestern), J.T. Holton (Clinton Central) and Ryan Beck (Mt. Vernon of Fortville) combined for 18 strikeouts and six walks over 23 innings. Indiana University South Bend beat Concordia (Neb. 1) 2-1 in Game 2 in Auburndale, Fla., without a hit. Nolan Unger’s second-inning groundout drove in Coby Campbell with the first run and Jake Dykstra (Lake Central) scored on a seventh-inning wild pitch. The Titans have won four straight. Crown Point graduate Josh Hoogewerf (9 K’s, 0 BB, 7 IP) and New Prairie alum Noah Brettin (2 K’s, 0 BB, 1 IP) combined on a 1-hitter as NCAA D-III Trine beat John Carroll 1-0 in the first game of a doubleheader in Lake Myrtle, Fla. Dalton Nikirk (Bedford North Lawrence) delivered the walk-off RBI single to plate Easton Rhodes (DeKalb) for the Thunder.
Friday, March 4 Indianapolis 5, Wayne State 3 Southwest Baptist 7, Purdue Northwest 4 Purdue Northwest 5, Southwest Baptist 0 Southern Indiana 11, Trevecca Nazarene 3
Saturday, March 5 Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 2 Wayne State 26, Indianapolis 11 Purdue Northwest 7, Southwest Baptist 2 Trevecca Nazarene 9, Southern Indiana 4 Trevecca Nazarene 15, Southern Indiana 3
Sunday, March 6 Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 3 Purdue Northwest 6, Southwest Baptist 5
Saturday, March 5 Earlham 19, Wilmington 9 Franklin 18, Hope 6 Hope 27, Franklin 7 Hanover 11, Neumann 3 Anderson 11, St. Norbert 4 Anderson 20, St. Norbert 11 Kalamazoo 19, Manchester 6 Kalamazoo 13, Manchester 5 DePauw 9, Hendrix 6 Hendrix 8, DePauw 6 Aurora 9, Wabash 8 (10 inn.) Wabash 16, Aurora 3
Sunday, March 6 Anderson 6, St. Norbert 2 Earlham 12, Wilmington 11 Kalamazoo 15, Manchester 1 Kalamazoo 8, Manchester 6 Trine 1, John Carroll 0 (8 inn.) John Carroll 15, Trine 0
NAIA Monday, Feb. 28 Spring Arbor 9, Goshen 2 Spring Arbor 3, Goshen 0
Tuesday, March 1 Calumet of St. Joseph 19, Lincoln Christian 1 Calumet of St. Joseph 8, Lincoln Christian 0 (suspended in 3rd to April 11) Grace 12, IU South Bend 7
Wednesday, March 2 Indiana Wesleyan 17, Cleary 8 Cleary 11, Indiana Wesleyan 2 IU Southeast 16, Lindsey Wilson 2
Friday, March 4 Brewton-Parker 20, Calumet of St. Joseph 4 Saint Francis 14, Huntington 9 Huntington 6, Saint Francis 1 Bethel 9, Mt. Vernon Nazarene 6 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 13, Bethel 0 Grace 6, Goshen 2 Goshen 1, Grace 0 Spring Arbor 2, Indiana Wesleyan 1 Indiana Wesleyan 7, Spring Arbor 6 Taylor 8, Marian 1 Taylor 5, Marian 1 IU Kokomo 5, Ohio Christian 0 Oakland City 4, West Virginia Tech 2
Saturday, March 5 Calumet of St. Joseph 6, Brewton-Parker 4 Brewton-Parker 12, Calumet of St. Joseph 11 Huntington 6, Saint Francis 5 Saint Francis 6, Huntington 1 Bethel 9, Mt. Nazarene 6 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 2 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 3 Grace 16, Goshen 12 Grace 13, Goshen 11 Indiana Wesleyan 26, Spring Arbor 1 Indiana Wesleyan 19, Spring Arbor 18 Marian 20, Taylor 10 (8 inn.) Taylor 12, Marian 10 IU Kokomo 10, Ohio Christian 0 IU Kokomo 1, Ohio Christian 0 Oakland 11, West Virginia Tech 10 (11 inn.) Oakland 7, West Virginia Tech 6 IU Southeast 26, Northwestern Ohio 12 Northwestern Ohio 3, IU Southeast 2 IU South Bend 20, Michigan-Dearborn 5 IU South Bend 13, Michigan-Dearborn 9
Sunday, March 6 IU Southeast 11, Northwestern Ohio 8 IU South Bend 8, Concorida (Neb.) 7 IU South Bend 2, Concorida (Neb.) 1 Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 2 Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 0
Junior College Monday, Feb. 28 Vincennes 7, Joliet 2
Friday, March 4 Ivy Tech Northeast 4, Anderson JV 3 Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0 Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7
Saturday, March 5 Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0 Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7 Miami-Hamilton 13, Marian’s Ancilla 8 Ivy Tech Northeast 13, Lincoln Trail 3 Lincoln Trail 8, Ivy Tech Northeast 6
Sunday, March 6 Lake County 1, Marian’s Ancilla 0 Lake County 16, Marian’s Ancilla 5 Lincoln Trail 12, Ivy Tech Northeast 5 Ivy Tech Northeast 6, Lincoln Trail 1
The way Devin Wilburn sees it, life is about timing. Just when he and his wife were looking to move closer to home and family for the arrival of their first child, a job opportunity opened up. Teacher Devin and nurse Maddie Wilburn were living in Florida when the chance to come to come back to the Muncie, Ind., area came as daughter Tatum was on the way. Tatum is now 2 months old and Devin (who turned 30 on Sept. 18) is the head baseball coach and a physical education teacher at Delta High School. Delta (enrollment around 800) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown). In 2021, the Eagles were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle and Yorktown. Delta has won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2016. The Wilburns reside in Selma, about 10 minutes from both sets of grandparents and in the same town where they graduated from Wapahani High School. Devin went 24-9 and struck out 309 batters while while walking 79 in 203 1/3 innings while playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Brian Dudley and graduating in 2010. “A lot of stuff fell in place,” says Devin Wilburn, who comes to the Eagles after spending the 2021 season as an assistant to head coach Kyle Gould at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., after one spring season (2020) as head coach at Countryside High School in Clearwater Fla. Wilburn, who holds a Sport Administration degree (2014) and Masters in Sport Administration (2016) from Ball State University, was an assistant to head coach Rich Maloney at BSU in Muncie in 2019 after spending the fall of 2018 on Matt Bair’s staff at Anderson (Ind.) University. He was the pitching coach at Taylor 2015-18. A left-handed pitcher, Wilburn played three seasons for head coaches Alex Marconi (2011 and 2012) and Maloney (2015). At 20, Wilburn had a colon procedure and spent the better part of two years recuperating then returned to the diamond with the Cardinals. “It was a cool ending to my career,” says Wilburn. “I working out with my best friend, Jon Keesling (who played at Wapahani then Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion). “My ball was moving pretty good. Maybe I’ll give (a comeback) a shot.” Wilburn made the team and in 27 mound appearances (26 in relief) went 4-2 for a 33-25 squad that played in the Mid-American Conference championship game in 2015. “That last year I got to play changed my life in so many ways,” says Wilburn. It was through Ball State volunteer assistant Rhett Goodmiller that he was connected with Taylor. The summer before joining the Trojans, Wilburn was the head coach of the Indiana Prospects 17U national travel team. The talented club featured future Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft first-round pick J.J. Bleday plus two others now in the minors — Gianluca Dalatri and Sean Mooney — with the help of father Bryan Wilburn. Wilburn has formed his coaching philosophy through the men he played for and coached with — Dudley, Maloney and Gould — and more. “Along the way you make it yours,” says Wilburn. “You learn from coaching conventions and podcasts and put your own spin on it. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some really good baseball teams and coaches. “Coach Dudley and I have a real good relationship. He just does things the right way. He was my first mentor. I learned so much from him. “He had such a high expectation for us. He let us shine with what we were good at.” Devin, the only child of Bryan and Missie Wilburn, moved from Muncie to Selma in the fourth grade and his first teacher was Jason Dudley, Brian’s son and a longtime Wapahani baseball assistant. “I was part of those good traditions that shape your life in so many ways,” says Wilburn, who counted three former Wapahani teammates in the wedding party when he married Maddie a little over three years ago. “I’m so grateful to go through that program. “I look back fondly on my high school days.” A youth baseball coach for several decades, Russell Wilburn had a field named in his honor in Muncie’s Chambers Park when Devin was a young boy. Bryan Wilburn and brother Dan both played baseball at Muncie Central High School and Bryan went on to the diamond life at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Dan to Valparaiso University. After being recruited by Greg Beals, playing for Marconi and then Maloney, the latter hired him as an assistant. “I wore many hats,” says Wilburn. “I got to work with catchers and some with outfielders. My end goal was to find a head coaching job at small college or high school. “I wanted to be a well-rounded coach.” Wilburn is appreciative of Blake Beemer, who was a Cardinals teammate and then a coaching colleague. “I’m grateful for his mentorship,” says Wilburn of Beemer. “I also coached with Dustin Glant. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard talk about pitching.” Gould gave Wilburn his first crack at college coaching. “He is probably the best mentor in my life,” says Wilburn. “I’ve learned so much from him from the baseball and the life perspective “He opened my eyes in so many different ways. I could not be more grateful for the time I spent over there learning from him. (Taylor) is a wonderful place.” It was at Taylor that Wilburn also got to be on staff with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson and Justin Barber. “Coach A forgot more about baseball than what I knew,” says Wilburn. “Justin and I had a good relationship when we recruited his players when he was with the Indiana Chargers.” At Delta, Wilburn has hired former Ball State teammate Scott Baker as his pitching coach with other assistant hires pending school board approval. The Eagles play on Veteran’s Field. “We’ve got a couple of projects,” says Wilburn, whose been assessing Delta’s baseball needs since taking the job. “We’ve got a nice facility and a real supportive booster club.” Feeders for Wilburn’s program include Delta Little League in Royerton and East Central Indiana junior high league run by Jason Dudley. Current senior left-hander Nick Crabtree has committed to Taylor. And Wilburn continues his love affair with the game. Says the coach, “Baseball is what keeps me sane in life and forget the daily stress.”
Matt Brankle is a familiar face in a different place on the Wayne County, Ind., baseball scene. Brankle pitched at Earlham College and for the Richmond RiverRats and was head coach for the Richmond Jazz and Cambridge City Lincoln Middle/High School. In July, the 28-year-old became head coach at Richmond High School. With the Red Devils, Brankle is establishing a culture where Old School meets New School. “I’m going to use a lot of the Old School strategies, but try to do it with a modern approach,” says Brankle. “That’s what our players have grown up with. “We’re going to be disciplined in how we handle every moment of our day. I’m high on grades. We expect to miss zero assignments and have zero F’s. We’ll be 10 minutes early everywhere we go, including school. We’ll be dressed properly with shirts tucked in and hats forward. “I know there’s a lot more to this life than baseball I’m going to try to teach them skills in baseball that will help them in those situations.” Brankle has learned coaches he played for and applied it to his coaching style. “I’ve taken the best of all of those and found a middle ground,” says Swinson. Steve Swinson was his coach with the Kokomo (Ind.) Longhorns travel ball team. “He never yelled,” says Brankle of Swinson. “He built a relationship with you that you respected. “My high school coaches were more demanding, but also understood the New School mentality.” Brankle played three years for Jeremy Luna and Brent Owens as a senior at Taylor High School in Kokomo. (Luna) was hard-nosed — kind of a football style — and was upbeat all the time,” says Brankle, who played shortstop and third base when he was not pitching for the Titans. “(Owens) was even-keeled most of the time.” At Earlham, Brankle’s head coach was Steve Sakosits. “Coach was full of energy all the time — most of the time it was positive,” says Brankle of Sakosits. “He has one heckuva of a drive in him and it definitely leaks out to his players.” Old School in his approach, Coach Sak’s Quakers were expected to be clean-shaven with short hair cuts. At EC, Brankle was named Newcomer of the Year (2012), Pitcher of the Year (2013) and earned the All-Heartland Collegiate Conference Sportsmanship Award (2013), Captains Award (2015) and George Van Dyke Outstanding Athlete Award (2015). At the time of graduation, he was No. 1 in all-time strikeouts, No. 2 in career saves and innings and No. 3 in career mound appearances. Brankle played for the RiverRats in the summers of 2013 and 2014. After graduating in 2015 with a Fine Arts degree, he played independent professional baseball with the Lake Erie Crushers. He was the head coach for the Jazz in the summer of 2016 and assisted Patrick Flanagan at Eaton (Ohio) High School in the springs of 2016 and 2017. Brankle was head coach at Cambridge City 2018-21. He taught at Richmond Community School’s Test Intermediate School for 2 1/2 years before Cambridge City and is now a Special Education teacher at Richmond’s Dennis Middle School. In May 2021, Brankle completed a Masters in Education from Indiana University East and is now working on a Masters in Educational Leadership from American College of Education. Richmond (enrollment around 1,375) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon and Muncie Central). The NCC is split into two divisions with Richmond in the East. In 2021, the Red Devils were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central and Pendleton Heights (2021 host). Richmond has won 29 sectional titles — the last in 2011. Richmond plays home games on John Cate Field at Don McBride Stadium. “The history is the best part,” says Brankle of a park built in the 1930s that has seen Bob Feller, Satchel Paige and many more diamond legends play there. “We don’t talk about it enough. “Some of the kids don’t understand the significance.”
Matt and wife of seven years, Kelsey Brankle, have three children — daughters Amillia (5) and Abigail (3) and son Broden (1 1/2).
Matt Vosburgh is now the man in charge of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School baseball and he considers it a privilege. Vosburgh enters his 11th year in the program in 2022. He has been Arabians head coach since before the 2020 season that was canceled because of COVID-19. After graduating from Purdue University with a Social Studies Education degree in 2011 and taking a teaching job at Pendleton Heights Middle School, Vosburgh reached out to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and longtime PH head baseball coach Bill Stoudt. “He told me to come on out and gave me all the opportunity in the world to be part of something special at Pendleton Heights,” says Vosburgh, a 2006 graduate of Tri-County Junior-Senior High School in White County town of Wolcott, Ind. “I wanted his blessing more than anything else. (Coach Stoudt) is still very much a part of the program. He cares more about the program than anybody else.” Vosburgh, who was a junior varsity assistant in 2012, quickly saw Stoudt’s love for the game and his players. The school corporation returned the love by naming the place where the Arabians’ diamond Bill Stoudt Field. From 2013-19, Vosburgh was head JV coach on the staff of Travis Keesling. He stepped away to watch his children in their sports and activities, but is still involved with the baseball program at his alma mater. “He understands family priorities,” says Vosburgh of Keesling. “He told me, ‘I understand the rigors of being the head coach in this program. I’ll come out and mow (so you can spend time with family. “People have no idea how hard he worked for the program. He did so many things behind the scenes.” Vosburgh and wife of eight years, Claire, have three kids — kindergartener Elizabeth (5), pre-K student Evelyn (4) and David (2). Matt Vosburgh is in his second year as eLearning specialist for South Madison Community School Corporation. He started at Purdue as a History major with a Pre-Law minor. A summer spent teaching English in rural Thailand ignited a passion for education and he changed his path. “It opened my eyes,” says Vosburgh. Right now his baseball vision has been focused on athletes participating in fall workouts. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. The Arabians have been doing baseball activities two days a week and speed and agility work a third day. “We’ve had good numbers so far,” says Vosburgh. “We don’t have a lot of fall athletes, but are getting 24 to 26. We expect that number to double at minimum in the spring.” Beginning Sept. 9, Thursdays will be for a two-hour Green-White game with Tuesdays being for practice and another for speed and agility. After the Limited Contact Period ends, conditioning work will continue. Vosburgh’s coaching staff includes first base/infield coach Rene Casas, pitching coach Brad Schnepp, JV coach Ryan Jones, Freshmen coach Eric Pierzchala plus Austin Price and Shane Cox. Pendleton Heights (enrollment around 1,430) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Shelbyville and Yorktown). In 2021, the Arabians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, Muncie Central and Richmond. Pendleton Heights has won 17 sectional crowns — the last in 2018. Pendleton Junior Baseball — with Todd Miller as president — helps prepare future PHHS players as does the Indiana Arabians travel team and other travel teams in the community. “It’s a such a huge asset,” says Vosburgh. “Those people work really, really hard. “Baseball is such an important part of Pendleton. People take a lot of pride in that.” While no current Pendleton Heights players have made college baseball commitments, there are several recent graduates who have taken that route, including right-handed pitcher Chayce McDermott (2017 PHHS graduate who played at Ball State University and was selected in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Houston Astros). There’s also Arturo Casas (Manchester University), Rene Casas Jr. (Anderson University), Mitchell Cobb (Manchester University), Corbin Cox (Heartland Community College and University of Indianapolis), Evan Douglas (Ivy Tech Northeast), Wyatt Douglas (Ivy Tech Northeast and Taylor University), Kamden Earley (Wabash College), Jake Harris (Danville Area Community College), Philip Lawson (Anderson University), Maverik Mollemkopf (Manchester University), Ben Richards (Texas Post Grad), Eston Stull (Indiana University Kokomo and Southeastern University), Walker Stull (Anderson University), Matt Vetor (Hanover College) and C.J. Williams (Manchester University). Vosburgh played two varsity season for coach Jeff LeBeau at Tri-County. “He took as much pride in the field as anybody and instilled a work ethic and discipline,” says Vosburgh of LeBeau. “We had high standards and still had fun while we were playing.”
Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., carries the nickname Marauders. Head baseball coach Brad King has another monicker: Trailblazers. The 2021 squad has made history along its path to the one-game IHSAA Class 4A Jasper Semistate on Saturday, June 12 against Jasper (29-2). The winner of the 4 p.m. game moves on to the State Finals either Monday or Tuesday, June 21 or 22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. At 26-6, Mt. Vernon has surpassed the previous school record for single-season victories by five. The 2021 Marauders won their first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship (Mt. Vernon shared the HCC title with New Palestine in 2009). Other HCC members are Delta, Greenfield-Central, New Castle, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown. In winning sectional and regional crowns, the Marauders broke through at those stages for the first time since 2011 and 1971. “It’s a big deal playing in semistate,” says King, who was hired in the fall of 2019 after 23 seasons — the last 16 as head coach — at New Castle and is coaching his first Mt. Vernon season on the field after the COVID-19 pandemic took he 2020 campaign away. “There will be a lot of electricity at Jasper. But the kids won’t be overwhelmed. We just beat (Indianapolis) Cathedral (in the regional championship game). “We’re trying to go through the best to be the best.” Mt. Vernon opened the season by going 2-1 in the Noblesville Invitational, playing Noblesville, Columbus North and Franklin Community and went on to go 12-2 in the conference and play a solid non-conference schedule. “These kids have kept gaining confidence as the season has gone on,” says King, whose squad is 15-1 in its last 16 games. At the Pendleton Heights Sectional, the Marauders blanked Muncie Central 19-0 and Pendleton Heights 8-0 then downed Franklin Central 6-2 and Cathedral 6-3 to take the Plainfield Regional. This brought Mt. Vernon’s all-time totals to eight sectional titles and two regionals. The Marauders have never won a semistate or appeared in the State Finals. Led by seniors Hunter Dobbins (.560, 10 home runs, 39 runs batted in) and Joel Walton (.485, 5 HR, 38 RBI) and sophomore Eli Bridenthal (.366, 15 stolen bases), Mt. Vernon hits .321 as a team and averages 8.6 runs per game. Junior Landon Clark (.297, 44 runs, 17 stolen bases) sets the table table as the Marauders’ lead-off hitter. Senior A.J. Swingle (.276, 23 RBI) hits No. 2, puts the ball in play and moves runners. Senior Jake Stank (.308, 4 HR, 28 RBI) is the clean-up hitter. “We’re just really solid offensively, field the ball at 95 percent and have four or five really good (pitching arms),” says King. “We’re really blessed.” Senior left-hander Swingle (9-0, 1.60 earned run average, 80 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings) and senior right-hander Eli Clodfelter (8-1, 3.29 ERA, 81 K’s, 51 IP) are Mt. Vernon’s leaders on mound. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series selection Dobbins is bound for Ball State University. Other seniors with college commitments are Walton (Trine University), Stank (Anderson University), Clodfelter (Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tenn.), Carson Augustinovicz (Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio) and Nate Weaver (Concordia University in Seward, Neb.). Recent Mt. Vernon graduates with college baseball programs include Nolan Bowser (Saint Louis University), Griffin Garwood (Manchester University), Matt Lood (Indiana University South Bend), Shaun Shipley (committed to Florida Gulf Coast University after playing at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla.) and Jake Stadler (Purdue University). King’s coaching staff features Tony Gregory, Wayne Graham, Jerry Grill, Scott Blanchard and Shane Douglas. Varsity assistants Gregory and Graham were with King throughout his head coach run at New Castle. Grill leads the junior varsity team with the help of Blanchard. Douglas is the C-team coach. Mt. Vernon were 25-1 at the JV level and 8-7 in C-team contests this spring. The last day of school was June 8 so the team has been keeping something a normal schedule during the postseason. King says Marauder practices have been brief. Mt. Vernon’s feeder system includes Mt. Vernon Optimist (T-ball through age 13), the Marauder Baseball Club (a travel program for Mt. Vernon players through 14U and Mt. Vernon Middle School (seventh and eighth grade teams). King, who is still Dean of the Freshmen Academy at New Castle, stepped down as baseball coach because of health issues in his family. “After those issues went away it opened up the possibility for me to get back into coaching,” says King. Since New Castle had hired a new head coach, King looked for nearby opportunities. Mt. Vernon intrigued him. Athletic director Brandon Ecker served in the same capacity during part of King’s coaching tenure at New Castle. King was approved for hire with the Marauders in August 2019 and had players attending their first workouts in September. Because of the shutdown he never got to lead a talented team in 2020. “We thought we were going to be very good,” says King. The prevailing feeling outside the Mt. Vernon camp was that the team would be “a little down” in 2021. “I didn’t feel that way at all,” says King. “That’s the way we approached our offseason workouts. “The guys were focused and had the same goals as the previous years (win conference, sectional, regional and maybe more). So far they’ve done what they wanted to accomplish.”
It’s been an historic baseball season in 2021 for the Brad King-coached Mt. Vernon (Fortville) Marauders. The team has set a school record for wins and won its first outright Hoosier Heritage Conference title and first sectional and regional crowns since 2011 and 1971.
The same week the IHSAA crowns four state champions in Indianapolis, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association will conduct its North/South All-Star Series in Evansville. State Finals are Monday and Tuesday, June 21-22 at Victory Field with the games to be set after semistates. The IHSBCA will hold its all-star game festivities Friday through Sunday, June 25-27 at the University of Evansville and historic Bosse Field. Practice is at U of E’s German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium (North workout at 3:15 p.m. Central Time, South workout at 5 Central) followed by the all-star banquet at Crescent Center at Milestones at 7 Central. A noon doubleheader is slated for Saturday at Braun Stadium with a wood-bat single game on Sunday at Bosse Field at 11 a.m. Central. Holiday Inn Express East, 220 Kirkwood Drive, is the team hotel. The North leads 68-63 in the all-time series. Indiana all-stars are seniors nominated by IHSBCA members and selected by a committee. In addition, the IHSBCA Futures Game (non-seniors) is to be staged in Evansville Wednesday, June 28.
When the baseball team at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis took the field in 2019, the Braves had many freshmen in the lineup. Two years later, junior-rich Brebeuf has qualified for the program’s fourth semistate appearance and the first since 2012 when the Maroon and Gold went on to be IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up. The current Braves (20-11) take on Southridge (24-7) in the one-game Jasper Semistate at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12. The Brebeuf-Southridge winner moves on to the State Finals to play Hanover Central (28-3-1) or Norwell (20-9) either Monday or Tuesday, June 21 or 22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. “We’re a talented ball club in a lot of ways,” says Jeff Scott, who has been the Braves head coach in two on-field seasons sandwiched around the 2020 campaign lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s not just Andrew Dutkanych.” Dutkanych, a junior right-hander with a fastball that sometimes touches 95 and 96 mph, verbally committed to Vanderbilt University as a freshman. In 2021, he has made 10 mound appearances and is 6-3 with an 0.88 earned run average. He has 108 strikeouts in 56 innings, including 18 in the Marion County championship game against Lawrence North on May 17 at Victory Field. Add junior left-hander Sam Reed (6-4, 1.74 ERA, 12 appearances, 72 K’s, 52 1/3 innings) and Brebeuf has a strong 1-2 punch at the top of its pitching staff. Junior righty A.J. Rinebold (4-1, 3.42 ERA, nine appearances, 28 K’s, 30 2/3 innings) established himself as the Braves’ No. 3 arm in his first varsity season. Two of Brebeuf’s four seniors are NCAA Division I commits — Butler University-bound third baseman Jack Moroknek (.359, 11 home runs, 38 runs batted in) and shortstop Nate Bingman (.358, 2 HR, 21 RBI), a Virginia Military Institute recruit. The Braves have stolen 90 bases in 31 games. “We’ve got a lot of team speed which is very nice,” says Scott. “A lot of those stolen base comes from our outfield.” Junior center fielder Anthony Annee is hitting .347 with 11 RBI, 20 steals and plenty of good glove work. “The kid’s an unbelievable athlete,” says Scott. Annee is flanked by sophomores Jayden Ohmer (.340, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 18 SB) in right and Michael Finelli (.296, 8 SB) in left. There’s also junior catcher Luke Bauer (.341, 0 HR, 16 RBI, 16 SB). Running a gauntlet of tough teams, Brebeuf was 4-5 in its first nine games of 2021 and 2-3 in the five games leading into the Brebeuf Sectional. “We have played a very difficult schedule,” says Scott. “We’ve done that for a reason — to prepare us for the postseason. “Preparation putting us where we’re at.” Scott points out that six teams — Center Grove, Columbus North, Franklin Central, Indianapolis Cathedral, Jasper and Mt. Vernon (Fortville)— playing in 4A regionals June 5 were on the Braves’ slate this spring. Brebeuf is part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Danville, Greencastle, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter and Tri-West Hendricks. In running their all-time sectional title total to 15, the Braves beat Danville 5-0 and Tri-West 15-1. Regional crown No. 4 and a berth in the 3A Final Four came by besting Indianapolis Bishop Chatard 10-0 and Northview 17-2. A member of the Circle City Conference (with Covenant Christian, Guerin Catholic, Heritage Christian, Chatard and Roncalli), Brebeuf has enrollment around 815. CCC schools meet in home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Braves play home game on-campus at Father O’Brien Field. “We have one of the nicer fields around,” says Scott. “I love our (natural) surface.” Since former Martinsville head coach Scott has taken over at Brebeuf, the program has sent five players into the college baseball ranks — 2019 graduate Sean Swenson (Akron) and Shane Bauer (Dartmouth), Karl Meyer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Andrew Pickett (Hope College) and Gabe Wright (South Florida State College after a year at IMG Academy in Florida) from the Class of 2020. Shane is the brother of Luke Bauer. Scott’s 2021 assistants are Greencastle High School graduate Wes Neese, Indianapolis North Central alum Joe Perkins, Brebeuf grad Joey Perkins and Staten Island native Eric Hartung. Joey Perkins — son of Joe — played for Scott at Brebeuf and a DePauw University.
Brebeuf won the 2021 Marion County championship May 17 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. The Braves hope to return to that facility for the IHSAA State Finals by winning a Class 3A Jasper Semistate game against Southridge.
The Cougars’ debut season of 2018 yielded a 31-21-1 record, followed by 36-17 in 2018. IUK was 11-8 through its first 19 games of 2020.
“I’m really proud of where the program’s at,” says Indiana Kokomo head coach Matt Howard. “We’ve been lucky to get a lot of really good student-athletes to come to IUK that have believed in me and believed in our process.
“We’ve been able to accomplish some pretty cool things pretty quickly. We’re still hungry. We still want to be one of — if not the best — NAIA programs in the state.”
“I tell guys you get a Division I experience here,” says Howard. “You get a Big Ten degree and facility and get some pretty good coaching as well. The only small-school thing about our set-up is our campus.”
One of the student-athletes that was there from the beginning of the baseball program is Jared Heard. Once a first baseman and left-handed pitcher, he was converted into an outfielder at New Castle (Ind.) High School and began to flourish.
Swinging from the left side of the plate, Heard hit .341 with one home run, 40 runs batted in, 54 runs scored and 19 stolen bases in 28 attempts as an IUK freshman in 2018.
In 2019, he hit .337 with seven homers, 33 RBIs, 41 runs and was 16-of-17 in steals.
Through 19 games in 2020, he was hitting .350 with three homers, 15 RBIs, 21 runs and was 3-of-3 in swiping bases.
“Everyone sees the impact he has on the field,” says Howard of Heard. “That is not even close to the impact that he has for us. He’s a great guy, great teammate, great leader, great captain. He’s a guy that just does everything the right way.
“Our program is where it’s at largely because of him.”
Howard says he didn’t know that much about Heard when he recruited him.
“We were starting a program and just kind of throwing a wide net,” says Howard. “We were bringing in everyone we thought could be talented and see what we could do with them. Jared turned out to be a diamond in the rough and a guy a lot of other people should have been recruiting.
“We’re lucky that he ended up here. He’s done a great job for us — on and off the field.”
On a team with several new faces this season, Heard is embracing his leadership role.
“As one of the captains of the team and someone who knows the ins and outs of program so far, that’s one of the biggest things,” says Heard, who shares the title of captain with junior left-handed starting pitcher Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate) and sophomore outfielder Mark Goudy (Noblesville High School graduate).
Heard, a general studies major with minors in psychology and sociology, gets instructions from the coaching staff — associate head coach Drew Brantley (Western High School graduate), assistant Ryan Cheek and student assistant Tyler Lunger — and relays them to his teammates, answering questions when necessary.
“On or off the field, you’ve just got to be that guy who’s open to everybody on the team,” says Heard, who chose to come to Kokomo after hearing Howard’s vision. “I thought this was going to be a better fit for me than other schools.
“I love it here.”
About a month ago, Heard found out that he has a labrum injury meaning he can’t throw and play left field. He has been the Cougars’ designated hitter.
“It’s been a big adjustment for me,” says Heard. “If I’m having a bad day at the plate, I use the field to fuel me up for the rest of the day. If I’m having a bad day in the field, I use the plate to fuel me.
“It’s a big change when you’re used to playing the game the whole time. It’s a big change when you’re sitting in the dugout. I have time to think about my at-bat and what I did wrong and what I did right, but I do like cheering on my teammates.”
Heard has been used anywhere in the first four or five slots in the IUK batting order, dependent upon and opposing pitcher.
“Anywhere you put him, he’s going to be dangerous,” says Howard. “He’s going to be circled by the other team.”
What role does Heard like best?
“I’d say around the 2- to 4-hole,” says Heard. “I was the lead-off hitter my freshmen and sophomore year. That was a big change for me. In high school, I was always a 3- or 4-hole hitter.
“(Howard) told me I had a very different swing than some people. It’s not the most fundamental, but it worked and it helped me get on-base.”
Heard says his swing has not changed, but his role has.
“Over the course of time, I’ve gotten bigger and stronger,” says Heard, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds. That size and muscle has led to more power — often gap-to-gap, but sometimes he pops it over the fence.
At New Castle, Heard played for head coach Brad King (now head coach at Mt. Vernon of Fortville).
“He’s a great coach in my eyes,” says Heard of King. “He really helped me out in my pursuit of playing college baseball. I love him to death. He helped me get to where I am today.”
Heard play for various travel baseball teams, the last being the Indiana Bulls coached by Troy Drosche (who is also head coach at Avon High School).
Jared’s parents are Gary and Melanie Heard. Sister Destiny Heard played collegiate softball.
Jared Heard, an Indiana University Kokomo junior, has been with the Cougars since they started their baseball program in 2018. He has become a leader for a team that has already gotten used to success. (Steve Krah Photo)