Tag Archives: National Junior College Athletic Association

Britton explains importance of body language in baseball

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

Phil Britton was attending the Culture & Leadership Hot Stove at the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Nashville when Jerry Weinstein began talking about body language.
As the ABCA Hall of Famer spoke, a slide went up which read: Body Language Is The #1 Form Of Communication. “What You Do Speaks So Loudly I Can’t Hear What You Say.” Immediate Attention Away From The Group.”
“When you’re trying to be competitive and put together a good ball club it starts with your values and what you’re trying to achieve,” says Britton, who played college and professional baseball, runs a training business in southern Illinois and southern Indiana and coaches travel ball. “It’s a lot easier to achieve those things when you don’t have to coach body language.
“Don’t get me wrong. The game’s hard and everybody gets down. But if you’re recruiting Player A and Player B and they’re both really talented and have the same skill set but one has body language that communicates that they can handle defeat and the other one has the shrugged shoulders, eye rolls and the stuff that really projects bad energy you’re going to select the player that doesn’t have that.
“If you’ve got those guys on your team it’s going to be a long year. It comes down to what kind of player am I — the one who pouts or the one who says ‘I’m going to get the next one.’”
Britton graduated from 2003 graduate of East Richland High School in Olney, Ill. (now consolidated into Richland County High School), where he played for Andy Julian of Newburgh, Ind., spent two seasons under National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Famer Dennis Conley at Olney Central College and turned down an offer from the University of Kentucky to go pro. The catcher was in the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles organizations and with the independent league Fargo (N.D.)-Moorhead (Minn.) Red Hawks and Evansville (Ind.) Otters. He has been on the Otters coaching staff of manager Andy McCauley since 2012.
As his playing career was winding down, he started Britton’s Bullpen in Olney and has expanded to Indiana locations in Boonville and Fort Branch.
“I’m always watching body language,” says Britton. “I try to see what my body language is. If somebody strikes out in a big spot, how am I handling myself? Am I moping in the dugout or the third base coach’s box?”
As a manager, Britton wants to project a confident, stoic approach.
“I’m not sure how many kids understand (body language),” says Britton. “Everybody’s got body language. Your body speaks way bigger than your words. You can tell when somebody’s up. You can tell when somebody’s down.
“It’s difficult for a team to continually progress if you’ve got guys with bad body language. It’s a sign that they don’t want to be there. Why would you want somebody that doesn’t want to be there?”
Britton says players can’t project poor body language and be ready for the next play.
“If you’re putting yourself in position to make a play and you don’t make the play that’s not a bad inning that’s just not making a play. There’s a humungous difference.
“I can handle guys not making plays. That will never bother me. Not being in position will.”
Southern Smoke Baseball will field 8U, 11U and 13U teams out of Fort Branch and 12U, 14U, 15U, 16U, 17U and 18U out of Olney in 2023. Britton facilitates off-season workouts for Illinois teams, pops in with the younger teams and is a manager for the older squads.
He has an understanding with his players.
“Don’t mistake my intensity for getting after you,” says Britton. “The only time I’ll (do that) is if you’ve got it coming. By that I mean you’re a poor sport and showing up your teammates.
“I’m not going chew somebody’s tail just because they didn’t make a play.”
Britton expects his players to learn the game.
“We play half the season without base coaches and we do that to force kids to run with their heads up and make their own decisions,” says Britton. “There are some parents that are rubbed the wrong way. They want their kids to be coached every single play and they’re not learning anything. They’d be learning less with us controlling them.
“When you’ve got a kid crossing the road you want them to just put their head down and tell them it’s OK. Eventually they have to cross the road on their own with no one telling them.”
Britton, 38, was raised “old school” and spent a lot of time helping his grandfather. When he set his grandson for a tool, he didn’t ask where it was he just found it.
“You figured it out,” says Britton. “That’s how I grew up.”
It was this approach that Britton took into high school baseball.
“Coach Julian challenged me,” says Britton. “I was that player who needed someone to get up into my personal space and challenge me and Andy did a real good job of that.
“I wanted to be the best player everywhere I went.”
Jim Baker, who was from nearby Sumner, Ill., and pitched at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind., and in Triple-A in the Toronto Blue Jays system, was an encouragement to Britton.
“I respected him because he was where I wanted to be,” says Britton. “He said to me, ‘you’ve got some tools. Keep working your tail off.’”
Growing up poor and rural, Britton did not have brand new equipment. He got the old gear left over when the youth league was cleaning out the closet.
When he was a high school freshman, he and a friend entered a radio contest. The 95th caller won Bruce Springsteen tickets. Britton won the contest, sold the seats to a teacher who was a fan of “The Boss” and took the money to buy his first set of new catcher’s gear.
In his two seasons at Olney Central, Britton hit .426 with 15 home runs and a nation-leading 89 runs batted in and .430 with 10 homers and earned NJCAA All-American honors while playing for veteran coach Conley.
“People who know baseball understand just how valuable the guy is,” says Britton of Conley, who has led the Blue Knights for more than 40 years. “I can’t thank Coach Conley enough for holding me accountable.”
Britton came to campus not recruited by other places and 160 pounds, won the starting catching job and caught all games in the spring, including doubleheaders on Saturdays and bullpens between games.
“You’ll find out what you’re made of in a heart beat. That’s why Coach Conley’s the best. He is going to challenge you.”
He was going to be a Conley assistant when he turned his attention to building his own business, which now has Josh Wetzel and (former Castle High School player) Conner Porter leading things at Boonville and (former Indianapolis North Central High School and Indiana University catcher and current Otters hitting coach) Bobby Segal and Matt Racinowski at Fort Branch. Britton’s Bullpen also trains softball players.
“The end goal has been to help as many players as we can,” says Britton.
McCauley was in his first season as Otters manager when Britton came in at the all-star break in 2011. Bill Bussing has been the team’s owner since 2001.
“There’s nobody better than Mr. Bussing when it comes to independent baseball,” says Britton. “He cares about his people.
“That guy is there to help anybody he can help. He’s there to set a good example. We have got an extremely short leash in Evansville. We’ve got to bring in high-character dudes. If we swing and miss, you move on down the road.
“The guy at the top sets the standard. That’s true anywhere you go. Mr. Bussing is our standard.”
Britton credits the ABCA — the largest organization dedicated to baseball coaches in the world — to saving his coaching career.
“Getting a change to hear Patrick Murphy, Augie Garrido, Ken Ravizza and Matt Deggs — you talk about some very humbling individuals,” says Britton. “There is so much to learn than what I know.”
Britton’s Bullpen is on Facebook and Instagram and has a YouTube channel.

Body language is important in baseball as American Baseball Coaches Association Convention attendee Phil Britton will attest.
Phil Britton bumps fists with Southern Smoke Baseball travel players.
Phil Britton. (Evansville Otters Photo)

Illinois junior colleges tap into Indiana baseball talent

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

Illinois junior college baseball has long been a destination for Indiana players.
Many have used the two-year institutions to springboard into a four-year school or the professional ranks.
Our neighbors to the west sport 41 National Junior College Athletic Association programs in Division I, II and III (Regions 4 or 24).
There is a difference between divisions.
NJCAA Divisions I and II can offer up to 24 athletic scholarships. Division III schools do not. Most (but not all) junior colleges have other scholarship and financial aid options.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-I teams include Frontier Community College (Fairfield), John A. Logan College (Carterville), Kakaskia College (Centralia), Kishwaukee College (Malta), Lake Land College (Mattoon), Lincoln Trail College (Robinson), Olive-Harvey College (Chicago), Olney Central College (Olney), Rend Lake College (Ina), Shawnee CC (Ullin), South Suburban College (South Holland), Southeastern Illinois College (Harrisburg), Southwestern Illinois College (Swansea), Triton College (River Grove) and Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel).
Wabash Valley went 59-9 and qualified for the 2022 NJCAA D-I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Wabash Valley coach Aaron Biddle, who is in his eighth season with the Warriors and first as head coach in 2023. “We’ve had some very good Indiana kids over the years. We’re just right across the border form Princeton, Ind. Getting into Evansville and going up to Indianapolis are great recruiting sources for us.
“Our conference is real competitive.”
John A. Logan, Kakaskia, Lake Land, Lincoln Trail, Olney Central, Rend Lake, Shawnee, Southeastern Illinois, Southwestern Illinois and Wabash Valley is in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference.
WVC plays mostly D-I schools with a few D-II’s sprinkled in.
“The more D-I opponents you have on your schedule the better it is for your (RPI) rankings,” says Biddle.
What does “JUCO Bandit” means to Biddle, who started his college playing career at former NJCAA D-III St. Catharine in Kentucky and finished at NCAA D-II Kentucky Wesleyan.
“Maybe he’s not be getting the offers he wants at (NCAA) D-I or a big school and he’s going to bet on himself and he’s going to go the JUCO route, grind for two years and get better everyday and definitely get that offer he’s not getting right now,” says Biddle. “We get to spend a lot of time with our guys. We get to be with them almost every single day. There’s not a lot of restrictions on how much practice time we have.
“The big things is that in the fall, we get to play 14 dates. We get to play every weekend. Guys are getting all those extra innings and they’re getting to compete. That’s a big thing for us.
“In baseball you’ve got to play to get better.”
Biddle says the funnest aspect of his job is seeing players land at their dream school.
South Suburban posted a 42-19 record in 2022.
Kevin Bowers has been head coach at Lincoln Trail since the 2010 season. That was the sophomore season of Justin Hancock (who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now an Indiana State University assistant).
Bowers was on the LTC staff since 2001 and was an assistant to then-Statesmen head coach Mitch Hannahs (who is now head coach at Indiana State).
Bowers coached at ISU for the 2000 season. Lincoln Trail is about 10 miles from the Indiana line and 40 miles from ISU.
“The talent level is just off the chart,” says Bowers. “I’m certainly not knocking the state of Illinois. We’ve had a great deal of success with kids out of Indiana.”
Bowers has a take on “JUCO Bandit.”
“We develop an ‘ask no quarter, take no quarter’ mentality,” says Bowers. “We don’t want for a lot. We don’t need a lot. But we try to get a lot done.
“’Bandit has that negative connotation to it. When you go to junior college your mindset is that you’re foregoing the 100,000-seat football stadium. There’s not a lot of nightlife. Campus activities are geared around the athletics. You develop a worker’s mentality.
“There’s not a lot of thrills, but the talent at this level is crazy good.”
Bowers said there was a time when junior college baseball was battling the perception that their players had got booted from another school or could not make grades.
“Our guys are getting it done in the classroom and they’re getting it done on the field,” says Bowers, whose program earned a 2021-22 American Baseball Coaches Association Team Excellence Award for posting a grade-point average of 3.0 or above. “It’s a situation where academically you’re not going to lose ground.”
Illinois’ NJCAA D-II squads are Black Hawk-Moline College (Moline), Carl Sandburg College (Galesburg), Danville Area CC (Danville), Elgin CC (Elgin), Heartland CC (Normal), Highland College (Freeport), Illinois Central College (East Peoria), Illinois Valley CC (Oglesby), John Wood CC (Quincy), Kankakee CC (Kankakee), College of Lake County (Grayslake), Lewis & Clark CC (Godfrey), Lincoln Land CC (Springfield), McHenry County College (Crystal Lake), Moraine Valley CC (Palos Heights), Morton College (Cicero), Parkland College (Champaign), Prairie State College (Chicago Heights), Sauk Valley CC (Dixon) and Spoon River College (Canton).
Heartland (49-10) played in the 2022 NJCAA D-II World Series in Enid, Okla.
The Mid-West Athletic Conference features Heartland, Danville Area, Illinois Central, John Wood, Lewis & Clark, Lincoln Land, Parkland and Spoon River plus Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Also in 2022, Kankakee went 43-17, McHenry 40-18, Black Hawk-Moline 35-20, Lake County 32-20 and Morton 32-20.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-III features College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn), Harper College (Palatine), Joliet Junior College (Joliet), Oakton CC (Skokie), Rock Valley College (Rockport) and Waubonsee CC (Sugar Grove).
The Arrowhead Conference is made up of Black Hawk-Moline, Carl Sandburg, Highland, Illinois Valley, Kishwaukee and Sauk Valley.
Oakton (34-28-1) competed in the 2022 NJCAA D-III World Series in Greenville, Tenn.
Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference includes Lake County, Elgin, McHenry County, Moraine Valley, Morton, Oakton, Prairie State and Waubonsee.
Since 1993, Triton is a two-time D-I World Series runner-up (1993 and 1994).
D-II World Series titles were earned by Kishwaukee (1999), Lincoln Land (2000), Parkland (2002 and 2009) and Kankakee (2017). Parkland was also a runner-up in 2018.
Joliet earned D-III World Series championships in 1994, 2008 and 2012 and placed second in 1995 and 2015. Oakton reigned in D-III in 2018 and Waubonsee was runner-up in 1996.

Alum, former pro Richardson now in charge of West Noble Chargers

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

Waylon Richardson, who was named this week as head baseball at West Noble High School in Ligonier, Ind., has had most of his baseball experiences as a player.
Born in Goshen, Richardson grew up around Ligonier, moved near Cromwell in high school (parents Franklin Jr., and Kimberly Richardson own about 220 acres of farmland) and got acquainted with the game early at Wawaka.
At West Noble, he competed four years each in baseball and basketball and two of football.
As a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher he appeared in 11 games as a senior in 2015 and went 6-1 with one save, a 1.61 earned run average, 85 strikeouts and 30 walks in 56 2/3 innings. As a junior, he pitched in eight games and went 1-3 with a 2.18 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 1/3 innings.
Richardson scored 445 career points on the basketball court.
In his senior football season of 2014, he passed for 1,236 yards and eight touchdowns.
His head coaches were Doug Brown (baseball), Jim Best (basketball) and Monte Mawhorter (football). The trio always seemed to get their older players to take leadership roles.
“They were hard-nosed coaches and role models,” says Richardson. “They got the most out of their group of players each and every year. I still reach out to each of them. I couldn’t have asked for three better high school coaches.”
Richardson went to Kankakee (Ill.) Community College. In 2016, he made one start and experienced a shoulder separation and sat out the rest of the season.
As a redshirt freshman in 2017, he was the Cavaliers closer. In 27 games, he went 2-0 with nine saves and an 0.30 ERA, 39 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 innings. KCC went to Enid, Okla., and won the 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series.
Richardson was named to all-region and all-World Series teams.
That summer, he hurled for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms. He made 11 appearances (10 in relief) and went 2-4 with 4.91 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 14 2/3 innings. He also tore the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2017.
In 2018, a trainer for the Chicago Cubs visited Kankakee and advised head coach Todd Post and pitching coach Bryce Shafer to shut Richardson down after three appearances because he had come back from surgery too soon. The right-hander continued his rehabilitation and threw bullpens for professional scouts.
Richardson committed to play at Saint Leo (Fla.) University for head coach Rick O’Dette (who played at coached at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind.), whose pitching philosophy went hand-in-hand with Shafer.
Post congratulated Richardson when he was named as West Noble head coach.
“He’s like a second father to me,” says Richardson of the veteran field boss. “He got me into that mental mindset that led me to bigger and better things. It got me drafted.”
Post helped Richardson understand the importance of the little things in baseball. Those add up to big things.
“It was a whole new perspective on baseball (for me),” says Richardson.
When the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was held Richardson was selected in the 40th round by the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched in the minors in 2019. Various injuries limited him to three games and three innings. He was released in May 2020. The minor league season was canceled that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Richardson, who was getting old for a Class-A ballplayer, opted to retire.
Waylon married the former Abby Richards of Churubusco in October 2020 and started working in construction as a remodeler and house flipper and flooring sub-contractor. Abby Richardson is a speech therapist and cheerleading coach at West Noble.
Waylon Richardson, 25, was a varsity assistant to brother Aaron Coy (other siblings include Brittany Richardson and former all-state, Ball State University and Grace College basketball player Haley Richardson) during the 2022 West Noble baseball season. Coy is a 2006 West Noble alum who played baseball at Goshen College.
As the man in charge of the Chargers, Richardson had from nine to 17 players participate in fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities.
“We share to many athletes at our school,” says Richardson, who held optional open fields after football practice. “Without everyone there it’s hard to put in your philosophy.”
He was able to critique the swings of newer players, getting them to use more of their lower half. He got the older players to take the younger ones under their wins and emphasized knowing where to throw the ball on defense.
The winter Limited Contact Period is Dec. 5-Feb. 4. Richardson plans to have his twice-weekly sessions following basketball practice.
“We want to get as many kids as possible,” says Richardson.
Hitters will be asked to have an approach at the plate and not just be free swingers.
A brand new outdoor batting cage was recently installed at the Chargers’ on-campus field. Richardson’s wish list includes a new scoreboard and a new or remodeled press box.
“I’m excited,” says Richardson. “We lost eight seniors but return at least six everyday starters. We have a really good young freshman class. The ones showing up (at practices) are athletic and versatile.”
Richardson says he sees college baseball potential in Class of 2023’s Elijah Bacon and Winston Deel.
The coaching staff includes returnees Dave Shields, Mel Coyle and Jose Marmolejo.
Shields was on the staff when Richardson was a player.
“I respect his Baseball I.Q.,” says Richardson. “He’s like a father figure to the kids.”
Coyle doubles as a junior varsity coach and groundskeeper.
“He makes sure Charger baseball plays on a beautiful diamond,” says Richardson, who is also hoping to bring on two former college teammates.
Richardson seeks pitchers who get ahead in the count.
“We want to work low in the zone — inside and out,” says Richardson. “If you command two pitches, you can play around with a third and get hitters to chase.”
Looking at his 2023 season opener, Richardson is considering letting pitchers go one inning each to see what they’ve got and doing the same thing in Game 2.
“We want to figure out our rotation and relievers going into conference play and the end of the year,” says Richardson.
West Noble (enrollment around 720) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights and Westview).
The Chargers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with East Noble, Fairfield, Lakeland, NorthWood and Wawasee. West Noble has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2006.
West Noble Little League (formerly Kimmel Baseball & Softball) prepares players for the high school. Greg Eash is WNLL board president for an organization which has traditionally fielded teams from T-Ball to 1/2 Pints (seventh and eighth graders).
“Greg Eash great coach for our feeder system,” says Richardson. “I’ve told my coaches we need to get down there and show our face to the youth.”

Waylon Richardson (West Noble High School Photo)
Waylon and Abby Richardson (West Noble High School Photo)
Waylon Richardson pitches for West Noble High School.
Waylon Richardson helped Kankakee (Ill.) Community College win the 2017 NJCAA Division II World Series.
Waylon Richardson was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched briefly in the minors. (Four Seam Images)

Cabana brings growth mindset to Marian U.’s Ancilla College

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

Kirk Cabana’s life path has been anything but a straight one.
“My journey is not orthodox,” says Cabana.
At 35, Cabana is the new head baseball coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College, a National Junior College Athletic Association and Michigan Community College Athletic Association member in Donaldson, Ind.
“It’s such a welcoming community,” says Cabana. “It met me right where I’m at in my growth and development.”
The MCCAA has three divisions: Northern (Alpena, Cay, Delta, Grand Rapids, Mid Michigan and Muskegon), Western (Glen Oaks, Kalamazoo Valley, Kellogg, Lake Michigan, Lansing and and Marian’s Ancilla) and Eastern (Henry Ford, Jackson, Macomb, Mott, Schoolcraft and St. Clair County).
Including 8-40 in 2022, the MUAC Chargers have won 67 games since 2013.
It wasn’t too many years ago that West Covina (Calif.) High School graduate Cabana worked in pest control more than a decade after going to Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., where he played football but neglected his studies.
“I ruined opportunities I had because I wouldn’t go to class,” says Cabana, who years later decided he wanted a change and went back to the same school, played baseball at age 30 and earned an associate in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Citrus in 2018.
That was followed by a General Studies bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University and a master’s degree in Positive Coaching and Athletic Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
He was a player then an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Carolina University in Winston-Salem, N.C. (the Bruins went to the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series in 2021 and 2022), from August 2019 until moving to Indiana for a chance to be a head coach and impact lives.
“I’ve fallen in love with this process,” says Cabana. “Making the sacrifices these last five years have been fun and rewarding.”
His coaching experience also includes head coach in the Puerto Rico Collegiate League, bench coach for the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms and All-American Amateur Baseball Association’s Winston-Salem-based Carolina Disco Turkeys.
In September 2021, Cabana founded Pursuit 4 Purpose to help athletes with their struggles of trying to become their best and has released 33 P4P podcast episodes to date related to personal development.
“It’s a character-developing, goal-setting organization intended to take the principles, values and life lessons we learn from sports and take them and apply them to other areas of our lives,” says Cabana. “I want to encourage and implore students to be more than athletes so when your sport fails you and it will you’ll have something more to stand on.”
Renowned physical and mental skills trainer Alan Jaeger has been a frequent guest. His first guest was Jeremy Sheetinger, former assistant at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and College Division Liaison for the American Amateur Baseball Coaches Association who is now head coach at Georgia Gwinett College (the Grizzlies won the NAIA World Series in 2021).
Making himself a sponge, Cabana is soaking up the information while sharing it with others.
“I’m just doing my part to help athletes through the process,” says Cabana.
Kirk, wife Katie and sons Kooper (6) and Karson (infant) have settled near MUAC in Plymouth, Ind., while he goes about building his first Chargers team with about 25 players and the help of assistants Chuck Bowen, Josh Pitts and Matt Pitney. Bowen played and has coached at Ancilla. Pitts was on the Knox (Ind,) High School staff. The 2023 season is slated to open Feb. 11 against Southeastern Illinois College.
“We’re ready to attack the spring,” says Cabana.
That will be done while emphasizing team.
It’s the model of Mudita promoted by University of Alabama head softball coach Patrick Murphy.
“It’s vicarious joy through others’ success,” says Cabana. “What I’m trying to do for my guys is know that somebody else’s success does not mean less success for you.
“You have to be willing to move the team forward … There are so many roles on the team … You have to successful where you’re at.”
Cabana notes that during a 55-game season there will be chances for players to prove themselves.
“It’s a lot more than a baseball team,” says Cabana. “It’s a group of people learning to be their best.”

Kirk Cabana. (Marian University’s Ancilla College Photo)
The new logo of Marian’s University’s Ancilla College Chargers.

Saskatchewan native Komonosky leading catchers as Indiana State assistant

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

Ben Komonosky was a catcher at the NCAA Division I level and now he coaches them.
Plenty of times, he has been asked to “be a wall” behind the plate.
Komonosky, who played at the University of Evansville and is in his first year as a volunteer assistant at Indiana State University (also a member of the Missouri Valley Conference), says that’s the wrong mental picture.
The idea is to stop the flying object and keep it in front of you.
“Be a pillow,” says Komonosky. “Walls are bouncy and we don’t like that.
“It’s like being a goalie in hockey. You don’t want pucks bouncing off you.”
Ben is the son of Ward and Cindy Komonosky. Ward Komonosky played goaltender for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Regina Blue Pats, Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders and Atlantic Coast Hockey League’s New York Slapshots.
Ward Komonosky won 30 games and Prince Albert took the Memorial Cup in 1985. New York was coached by Dave Schultz, who helped the “Broad Street Bullies” Philadelphia Flyers win the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975.
Besides leading drills for ISU catchers (receiving, blocking and throwing form various angles) for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs, Ben Komonosky also coordinates camps. There was an instructional/showcase event in October and another is scheduled for January.
Komonosky, who turned 25 in September, says he has settled in to living in Terre Haute, Ind.
“There are a lot of friendly people,” says Komonosky, who is from Regina, Sask., where he played baseball, football, basketball and volleyball at Vauxhall High School in Alberta. He was with the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball as a senior in 2015.
He spent the fall semester at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas.
“It was not the right fit and I went back home (to Canada) for a bit,” says Komonosky. “That spring I took time off. I was falling out of love with baseball.
“But then I felt I was missing something in my life and started training again.”
The backstop landed at North Iowa Area Community College, where he played for Trojans head coach Travis Hergert in 2017 and 2018.
“It was a great two years there,” says Komonosky. “I needed time to grow into the player I needed to be. I was able to get stronger and better in every part of the game.”
Though North Iowa — based in Mason City — was not as hard-nosed a some junior college programs, Komonosky understands what it means to be a “JUCO Bandit.”
“The majority of (junior colleges) are blue collar with a bunch of grinders,” says Komonosky, who notes the emphasis on development. “Half of their job is sending guys on to the next level.”
Komonosky played in 111 games for NIACC in 2017 and 2018 and hit .282 with 11 home runs and 76 runs batted in.
Jake Mahon, then an Evansville assistant coach, saw Komonosky at a North Iowa scrimmage and invited him to visit to UE campus. He went on to play in 88 games (81 starts) for the Wes Carroll-coached Purple Aces from 2019 to 2021 and graduated with a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Sports Management.
“I knew I wanted to stay around the game when my playing days were done,” says Komonosky, who spent the summer after graduating scouting for Perfect Game in Florida.
In 2021-22, Komonosky was on the Jimmy Brenneman-led coaching staff at Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill. The Bobcats are a National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division I program.
“I loved it there,” says Komonosky. “It was really good baseball. Junior college is a really good route for a lot of guys. There’s extra development.”
Komonosky specialized working with Frontier catchers while also assisting the hitters, recruiting, and strength and conditioning.
In the summer of 2022, Komonosky served as manager of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Michigan Monarchs. The team, based in Adrian, Mich., won the North Division and advanced to the playoffs and Komonosky was selected as GLSCL Manager of the Year.
Komonosky played for the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Swift Current 57s in 2018 and the WCBL’s Regina Red Sox in 2019. He did not play in the COVID-19 summer of 2020.
He was recently named as Regina Red Sox manager for the summer of 2023. Komonosky has been an assistant coach at 2SK Performance and with the Inside Pitch Baseball Academy — both in Regina.
Ben’s family athletic roots in Indiana precede him. Grandfather Glenn Young, who went to Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Ill., played football at Purdue University and was a defensive back for the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers (1956).

Ben Komonosky. (Indiana State University Photo)

Lipscomb U. southpaw Dunkelberger earns right to call his own pitches

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

Michael Dunkelberger did something last spring that many college baseball pitchers do not get to do — call their own pitches.
The left-hander at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., says those decisions get made by coaches the overwhelming majority of the time.
Dunkelberger, a 2018 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph High School who turned 23 in August, was on a team full of older players thanks largely to the extra years of eligibility given because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
That extra time led to wisdom which helped lead to the ability make the right decisions under fire.
“It takes time to be able to call your own pitches,” says Dunkelberger, one of a handful on his staff given the chance to call pitches. “You have practice and bullpens and you talk through scouting reports.”
At the beginning of the year, he scored well on an online cognitive test.
“It showed how well you can instinctively learn and figure out what’s working well and what’s not,” says Dunkelberger, who credits Lipscomb pitching coach Matt Myers for helping him progress.
“He was very similar to me in college,” says Dunkelberger of Myers, who was a lefty pitcher at the University of Tennessee. “He taught me about the mental side and how to go deep in games.
“I was learning how to dissect the hitters swings and able to call my own game.”
It was the first time in his college career he got to call pitches. It had been since the end of his days at Saint Joseph when Indians head coach John Gumpf allowed Dunkelberger and catcher/classmate Luke Houin to make those decisions.
As a junior, Dunkelberger pitched a three-hitter as Saint Joseph beat Jasper 4-0 for the IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
The lefty struck out four, walked two and hit two batters in a seven-inning complete game.
“That junior year team was a lot of fun,” says Dunkelberger. “I grew up with those guys. We played together from 7 or 8 (on The Baseball Factory travel team) and went to the same high school.”
Beating John Glenn 9-7 in extra innings in the Griffith Regional was a highlight of the state title run.
“There were a lot of characters on the team,” says Dunkelberger. “(Coach Gumpf) he let us be ourselves and go out and play. We were a very talented team. A lot of guys on that team played college baseball.”
Taking stock of his best athletic qualities, Dunkelberger puts experience and pitchability at the top.
“There are guys that throw a lot harder than me,” says Dunkelberger. “I earned from an early age how to get guys out without having to throw hard.”
Coming from an arm slot that’s close to over-the-top, Dunkelberger throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider.
His four-seamer tops out at 92 mph. His two-seamer gets up to 90. His curve is of the 12-to-6 variety. His “split” change goes straight down. A new trend on the college scene is a “sweeper” slider and the southpaw throws one of those.
Strength training in college allowed the athlete to come up to 6-foot and 215 pounds.
Dunkelberger, who did not see action at Indiana University in 2019 and pitched at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Valley Community College in 2020 and 2021, made a splash in his first season with Lipscomb in 2022.
He made 15 appearances (13 as a starter) and went 7-3 with 3.45 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 18 walks in 78 1/3 innings while being named to second-team all-ASUN Conference.
Cody Piechocki was Dunkelberger’s head coach at KVCC and with the summer wood bat Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo Growlers/Mac Daddies from 2019-21 (because of his spring workload Dunkelberger did not play in the summer of 2022).
“He was great,” says Dunkelberger of Piechocki, who is also an associate scout for the Texas Rangers. “He helped me develop on the pitching side with command and velocity.
“He reminded me of Gumpf, letting me be me. Through my failures, he stuck by me.”
In nine starts at Kalamazoo Valley, Dunkelberger went 6-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 50 innings and was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
He was going to transfer to the University of Oregon. But COVID-19 changed his scholarship status and he decided to re-enter the recruiting process and he and KVCC roommate Collin Witzke wound up at Lipscomb.
The Bisons — with Jeff Forehand as head coach — went 35-23 in 2022 after an 18-29 ledger in 2021.
Dunkelberger has two more years of remaining eligibility and is getting ready for 2023 while he is on pace to earn a Business Management in the spring.
Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dunkelberger came to northern Indiana around 3 and grew up in Granger. He played youth baseball in Clay Township and was with a Chicago White Sox-sponsored travel team after The Baseball Factory.
Michael is the second-oldest of Scott and Laura Dunkelberger’s four children. Nick Boyd played football at South Bend Riley High School. Victoria Dunkelberger played softball at Penn High School. Penn junior Julianna Dunkelberger played volleyball as a freshman.
Scott Dunkelberger played baseball at Riley and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and is now a pharmaceutical sales representative. Laura Dunkelberger works for the State of Indiana, finding resources for special needs children.

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Lake Central alum Tomasic’s diamond path takes twists, turns

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

Circumstances have caused Conner Tomasic to build his baseball and academic careers in unique ways. 
The 2018 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., went to Purdue University in West Lafayette for two seasons (2019 and 2020), transferred to South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., for one (2021) and then came back to the Big Ten with Michigan State University (2022).
The right-handed pitcher has another year of college eligibility, but his next move might be as an independent pro.
This fall, Tomasic is a commuter student at Purdue Northwest in Hammond, Ind., while staying prepared for his diamond future. His major is Construction Engineering and Management Technology.
Tomasic entered college as a Kinesiology major. Having had Tommy John surgery in high school he had worked with plenty of physical therapists. A Biology course at Purdue made him decide that was not the path for him. He followed some teammates and went with construction.
“I like to see things in front of me and work with my hands,” says Tomasic. “It felt like a teamwork class. I felt comfortable with it.
“You learned how to deal with people and work a job site.
An associate degree was earned at South Suburban, a two-year school. But Tomasic also faced a bit of a curve. He had to switch his major at Michigan State to Psychology to stay eligible.
A 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, Tomasic took the mound 17 times (nine as a starter) for head coach Jake Boss Jr.’s MSU Spartans. He went 4-4 with a 5.40 earned run average, 41 strikeouts and 26 walks in 65 innings.
Because of the work load, Tomasic did not play summer ball, focusing on strength training. In July, he began traveling from Schererville, Ind., to PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., to work with Director of Player Development/Pitching Anthony Gomez. The two have known each other since Tomasic — who turned 23 in August — was an eighth or ninth grader and Gomez was coaching in northwest Indiana.
“We’ve always been close,” says Tomasic of Gomez. “It’s nice to work with someone who’s seen me grow up and develop.
“He knows my delivery almost as well as I do. He knows what I need at the end of the day.”
His PNW classes meet Monday through Thursday then Tomasic heads to central Indiana for workouts later that day or on Friday before returning to The Region.
Tomasic has three pitches — a four-seam fastball, slider and change-up.
His four-seamer was clocked at 92.9 mph this summer at 93 mph at South Suburban.
His slider — often thrown between 77 to 79 mph — has evolved.
“When I first started throwing it, it was a ‘gyro,’ says Tomasic of the pitch’s movement. “Now it’s getting mike more a ‘bullet’ slider. You can see the dot (as it rotates).
“My change-up, some people think it’s a splitter. It depends on what it’s doing that day. The majority of the time it’s going to sink and have arm-side run. But sometimes it dives straight down.”
Tomasic describes his delivery as “a little funky.”
The arm angle is about mid-three quarter overhand. But the delivery comes low.
“It’s something (opposing batters) don’t see that often,” says Tomasic. “My fastball plays up in the zone so it seems fast than it is.”
Tomasic sees determination and focus as two of his best athletic qualities.
“I’m a guy who know how to separate his sport from his daily life,” says Tomasic. “If I have a bad, I flush it. If I have a good day, I forget about it quick.
“You’ve got the day ahead of you in baseball.”
Born in Hammond and raised in Schererville, Conner is the oldest of Jerry and Dena Tomasic’s two children. Jennifer Tomasic (Lake Central Class of 2021) played basketball at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and Governors State University (University Park, Ill.).
Jerry Tomasic was born in Yugoslavia before that country split and moved to the U.S. around 2. He played baseball but not past junior high and went on to play basketball at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
Dena Tomasic works at Cheers Food & Drink in Munster, Ind.
Conner played for the Dyer team that finished runner-up to eventual Little League World Series qualifier New Castle in 2012.
When he was ready for a travel ball transition outside northwest Indiana at 15 to 16 he was unable to play for Top Tier because of his injured elbow.
Tomasic shined as a two-way player at Lake Central and got to swing the bat for head coaches Mark Wasikowski and Greg Goff at Purdue and Steve Ruzich at South Suburban.
As a three-year letterwinner and four-time scholar-athlete at LC, he played for head coaches Jeff Sandor and Mike Swartzentruber.
The Indians won sectional titles in baseball and basketball in 2018 and Tomasic played a part while earning LCHS Pride, Hustle and Desire in both sports. He also earned 2018 Perfect Game All-American and All-Region Team honors.
He was the Roger Maris MVP in leading Team Serbia to the title in the 2018 International Baseball Challenge Tournament in Whiting, Ind.
In two seasons at Purdue, he hit .250 (3-of-12) with a triple in three runs batted and made one putout and five assists in the field. He pitched in 19 games (all in relief) with an 0-1 record, 4.30 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 1/3 innings.
At South Suburban, the pitcher/middle infielder was an National Junior College Athletic Association all-region selection as he hit .392 with 60 hits, including eighth home runs, three triples and 12 doubles with 49 RBIs, 28 walks and 15 stolen bases. On the bump, he was 6-1 with a 4.64 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64 innings.
Tomasic played for the Northwoods League’s Bismarck (N.D.) Larks and Midwest Collegiate League’s (now Northern League’s) Northwest Indiana Oilmen in the summers of 2019 and 2020.
Along the way the focus became pitching rather than two-way player.
“I think I’m athletic enough,” says Tomasic. “I can pull it off.”

Conner Tomasic. (Michigan State University)
Conner Tomasic. (Michigan State University)

Conner Tomasic. (Michigan State University)

Hug looks to do damage or do a job in each plate appearance

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

Chase Hug has a plan when he goes to the plate.
“My general offensive approach is try to find a ball where I can do some damage early in the count,” says Hug, who played his first season at the University of Evansville in 2022 after a year off for Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery and rehabilitation. “Late in the count, get the job done — advance or score a runner.”
Hug, a lefty-swinging first baseman/outfielder, was with the Jaxon Shirley managed-Turf Monsters in the 2022 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., before joining the Northwoods League’s Wausau (Wis.) Woodchucks.
In his first 14 Northwoods League games, Hug is hitting a robust .373 (19-of-51) with six home runs (including three circuit clouts Tuesday, July 26 at Madison), 17 walks (vs. seven strikeouts), 20 runs batted in, 18 runs scored and a 1.353 OPS (.529 on-base percentage plus .824 slugging average).
“I try to make sure everything feels right with my swing — day in and day out,” says Hug, a 6-foot, 190-pounder.
A 2018 graduate of Pike High School in Indianapolis, Hug hit .484 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs as a senior for the Todd Webster-coached Red Devils.
“He was a good guy,” says Hug of Webster.
At Dennis Conley-coached Olney (Ill.) Central College, Hug played in 37 games and hit .358 with 17 extra-base hits (five homers), 35 RBIs and 30 runs for the 2019 Blue Knights. He also made five mound starts and went 2-1 with a 2.63 earned run average and 28 strikeouts in 24 innings.
In the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, Hug hit .516 in 31 at-bats with nine extra-base hits (two homers), 20 RBIs and 10 runs as Olney Central went 14-1.
After transferring to Evansville in the fall of 2020, Purple Aces coaches advised him to get checked out when his mound velocity began to dip. Hug learned in December 2020 that he needed Tommy John and had the procedure done Jan. 12, 2021.
Hug missed the spring and summer seasons in 2021. His NCAA Division I debut came Feb. 19, 2022 at North Carolina State. He went on to play in 47 games (40 starts) and hit .238 (36-of-151) with 11 homers, 39 RBIs, 32 runs and a .906 OPS (.396/.510).
“Everybody is truly a brother with one another,” says Hug of the culture fostered by Purple Aces head coach Wes Carroll.
This past spring, Evansville went 32-24 and scored 7.2 runs per game.
“It was pretty fun to watch and be a part of,” says Hug.
Having experienced both junior college and D-I baseball, Hug has witnessed differences.
“JUCO is a harder grind,” says Hug, 22. “At Evansville, we ride charter busses and have our own bed in hotel rooms. Per diem is $15 and we have trainers travel with us.”
Junior college travel was done in vans. Hotels weren’t all that comfortable, per diem was much lower and no trainers made these treks. Then hitters had to face pitchers throwing near triple digits. Olney Central is in National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Region 24 with teams like John A. Logan, Lincoln Trail and Wabash Valley.
Hug, who has two years of eligibility remaining, is an Exercise Science major at UE.
“The last few years I’ve gotten really big into (weightlifting) to help me get better as an athlete,” says Hug. “In this major I’ve been able to learn a lot.”
While job-shadowing college athletic trainers and personal trainers, he’s been able to see what it means to train for bodybuilding vs. the regular athlete.
Older brother Logan Hug is a personal trainer in Atlanta. The 2011 Pike graduate played four years of collegiate baseball in Indiana — two at Ancilla College and two at Manchester University.
Chase, Logan and older sister Stephanie Hug (who manages a shoe store in Evansville) are the children of Jeff and Anne Hug. Jeff Hug manages a printing firm. Anne Hug is a nurse.
Born in Indianapolis, Chase Hug grew up in Pike Township. He played at Westlane-Delaware Trail Little League and then was in travel ball with the Indiana Mustangs from 10U to 17U.
The summer of 2018, he played for the Lebanon (Ind.) Merchants collegiate team.

Chase Hug (University of Evansville Photo)

Chase Hug (University of Evansville Photo)
Chase Hug (University of Evansville Photo)

Chase Hug (University of Evansville Image)

Chase Hug (Wausau Woodchucks Photo)

Baseball takes service-minded Morlen to Mississippi

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

Andrew Morlen sees a future in public service — perhaps as a police officer or detective.
That’s why he is pursuing a Criminology degree.
“My dad is a first responder,” says Andrew of Greg Morlen, a firefighter in Fishers, Ind. “I have a lot of respect for the men and women in black and blue.
“If I can contribute to and protect the city where I live I feel like I’m doing my part.”
As a college baseball player, Andrew Morlen contributes now as a right-handed pitcher.
Morlen, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, spent the 2022 season at Delta State University — an NCAA Division II program in Cleveland, Miss. He made 10 mound appearances (all in relief) with five scoreless outings while posting a 1-0 record with one save and a 3.75 earned run average. In 12 innings, the righty struck out eight and walked nine.
After competing for the Bag Bandits during the 2022 season of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., Morlen plans to return to Delta State in the fall. He still has two years of eligibility and will consider his possible graduate school options based on how the 2023 season goes.
He landed in Mississippi after the DSU Statesmen were attracted by a video posted by the coaching staff at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill., where Morlen pitched during the springs of 2020 and 2021.
Andy Rincker, pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, reached out to Morlen and brought him in for a visit.
“I just fell in love with the campus and atmosphere,” says Morlen. “We have a really good coaching staff (led by Rodney Batts) to go along with it.”
Delta State went 32-17 with an appearance in the NCAA D-II South Regional in 2022.
After spending the summers of 2019 and 2020 training — much of the time with Greg Vogt at PRP Baseball in Noblesville — Morlen hurled for the CSL’s Turf Monsters in 2021.
Born and raised in Fishers, Morlen played local rec ball and then travel ball with the Indiana Nitro from ages 16 to 18. His head coach was Craig Huls (who is now pitching coach at Fishers High School).
A 2018 graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Morlen played for then-Royals head coach Scott Henson.
“He made sure you did the little things right,” says Morlen of Henson. “If we take care of the little things it will take care of the bigger things down the road.”
Morlen was at NCAA D-III Anderson (Ind.) University in 2019 before transferring to National Junior College Athletic Association Division I member Lake Land.
In the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, he got into five games and was 0-0 with four strikeouts and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Playing for Lakers head coach Julio Godinez and pitching coach/recruiting coordinator Gordon Cardenas, Morlen started five times out of nine games in 2021 and went 3-1 with 4.81 earned run average. He fanned 33 and walked 17 in 24 1/3 innings.
Throwing from an arm slot between three-quarter and over-the-top, Morlen uses a four-seam fastball (which has been recorded at 89 mph) with arm-side movement.
“My slider is my go-to pitch (for swing-and-miss or light contact),” says Morlen.
Greg and Susan Morlen have two sons — Andrew (22) and A.J. (19). Susan Morlen is a senior credit analyst for Delta Faucet in Fishers. A.J. Morlen, a 2021 HSE graduate and former baseball player, attends Purdue University.

Andrew Morlen (Delta State University Photo)
Andrew Morlen of the 2022 College Summer League at Grand Park’s Bag Bandits (Steve Krah Photo)