Tag Archives: NCAA Division III

Sycamores earn another sweep; Tuesday schedule chock-full

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana State University swept its sixth weekend series of the 2019 college baseball season, topping Valparaiso University three times in Terre Haute Friday and Saturday, April 12-13.

The Sycamores (27-7) are scheduled to visit Vanderbilt at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 16.

Also Tuesday, Ball State goes to Indiana with a 6:05 p.m. start at Bart Kaufman Field.

The Hoosiers (24-12) are riding a seven-game win streak, including a three-game weekend sweep of Evansville. The Cardinals (23-12) have won four of their previous five games.

NCAA Division III’s Rose-Hulman (17-8) is on a five-game win streak.

The Ivy Tech Northeast program in Fort Wayne recently got the thumbs up from its administration to get going with the program, which is in its second season as a pilot for athletics in the Ivy Tech statewide system.

The Lance Hershberger-coached Titans won 25 games in 2018 and already have 22 victories in 2019, including the 600th of Hershberger’s storied coaching career.

If weather cooperates, there will be plenty of collegiate diamond action around Indiana Tuesday, including (all times local):

NCAA Division I

Western Michigan at Valparaiso, 3 p.m.

Evansville at Murray State, 5 p.m.

Northwestern at Notre Dame, 6 p.m.

Ball State at Indiana, 6:05 p.m.

Butler at Purdue, 7 p.m.

NCAA Division II

Lake Erie at Indianapolis (DH), 1 p.m.

Kentucky Wesleyan at Southern Indiana, 6 p.m.

NCAA Division III

Wittenberg at DePauw (DH), noon.

Wabash at Ohio Wesleyan (DH), noon.

Bluffton at Anderson (DH), 1 p.m.

Defiance at Manchester (DH), 1 p.m.

Earlham at Mount St. Joseph (DH), 4 p.m.

Franklin at Rose-Hulman (DH), 4 p.m.

NAIA

Mount Vernon Nazarene at Saint Francis (DH), 1 p.m.

Taylor at Bethel (DH), 1 p.m.

Goshen at Spring Arbor (DH), 1 p.m.

Indiana Wesleyan at Grace (DH), 2 p.m.

Marian at Huntington (DH), 3 p.m.

IU Southeast at Lindenwood-Belleville, 3 p.m.

IU South Bend at St. Ambrose, 4 p.m.

St. Francis (Ill.) at Calumet of St. Joseph, 4 p.m.

Junior College

Sinclair at Ivy Tech Northeast (DH), 2 p.m.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through April 14

NCAA Division I

Indiana State  27-7 (4-2 Missouri Valley)

Indiana 24-12 (7-2 Big Ten)

Ball State 23-12 (7-3 Mid-American)

Butler 18-15 (2-4 Big East)

Evansville 17-15 (5-1 Missouri Valley)

Notre Dame 13-21 (8-10 Atlantic Coast)

Purdue 11-23 (5-6 Big Ten)

Valparaiso 6-24 (1-8 Missouri Valley)

Fort Wayne 5-28 (0-15 Summit)

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 23-14 (15-9 Great Lakes Valley)

Southern Indiana 21-14 (14-9 Great Lakes Valley)

Oakland City 19-11

NCAA Division III

Rose-Hulman 17-8 (6-0 Heartland)

Franklin 16-10 (5-3 Heartland)

DePauw 15-11 (2-4 North Coast)

Anderson 13-10 (4-4 Heartland)

Earlham 13-14 (5-5 Heartland)

Wabash 13-14 (1-6 North Coast)

Trine 11-15 (4-10 Michigan Intercollegiate)

Hanover 10-14 (2-6 Heartland)

Manchester 8-19 (3-5 Heartland)

NAIA

Taylor Trojans 29-13 (9-9 Crossroads)

Indiana University-Kokomo 28-13 (15-6 River States)

Indiana University Southeast 27-14 (15-6 River States)

Indiana Tech 25-13 (9-3 Wolverine-Hoosier)

Huntington 20-10 (14-5 Crossroads)

Marian 19-16 (11-8 Crossroads)

Indiana Wesleyan 17-24 (11-8 Crossroads)

Purdue Northwest 14-18 (9-5 Great Lakes Intercollegiate)

Goshen 13-24 (7-12 Crossroads)

Saint Francis Cougars 13-28 (7-12 Crossroads)

Grace 12-19 (8-11 Crossroads)

Bethel 9-23 (5-14 Crossroads)

Calumet of Saint Joseph 8-32 (1-19 Chicagoland)

Indiana University South Bend 8-32 (6-15 Chicagoland)

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northwest 22-11

Vincennes 18-18 (6-10 Mid-West)

Ancilla 5-18 (4-12 Michigan Community)

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Barney’s spent decade leading Vincennes U. baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Student-athletes are constantly coming and going. That’s the nature of junior college sports.

Chris Barney is in his 10th season as head baseball coach at one such two-year institution — Vincennes (Ind.) University.

“I enjoy the challenge,” says Barney. “I enjoy the aspect of recruiting. You’re always looking for the next best thing.”

A poor team can get better quickly with a solid recruiting class.

‘I’m often asked, what are you looking for in college baseball? Bats play. If you can swing the pole, you’re going to play at the junior college level.”

VU’s stated mission is “to provide associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of academic and occupational majors leading to entry to a four-year university or to the workforce.”

Vincennes serves more than 17,000 at its various locations with about a third of that number at the main campus.

“It’s not the typical junior college,” says Barney. “It has a mid-major collegiate feel.”

The goal of the baseball program is to place student-athletes with a place to play at a four-year college. As of last week, 96 Vincennes players had moved on during the decade that Barney’s been in charge, including 32 to NCAA Division I, many to NCAA D-II and NAIA and a few to NCAA D-III.

Barney sees players choose the junior college route for many reasons. Among them are cost, grade issues, level of play, the chance to play right away or be drafted by Major League Baseball and not have to wait to turn 21 or play three seasons like is required at four-year schools.

The Trailblazers’ core beliefs revolve around faith, family, school and baseball.

“It’s like a three-ring circus of academics, athletics and the social scene,” says Barney of Vincennes campus life. “You have to have self-discipline and time management skills. You prioritize where you want to spend your time and what you want to get accomplished out of college.

“You can obtain your full potential as a player. That’s what junior college offers guys.”

Junior college players are allowed to practice more often that those at other levels.

All the time with the team allows individuals to built work ethic, character and emotional stability and, hopefully, have a positive experience.

“It’s an opportunity to get better,” says Barney. “There’s always obstacles and challenges for guys, where it’s an injury, a class, a teammate or playing time. But they learn the fundamental game of baseball.”

School rules say Vincennes freshmen must stay in campus housing. Sophomores have the choice to live on-campus or off-campus. Barney says there’s about a 50-50 split for his current sophomore class.

Barney, who is assisted by Hank Lopez and Matt Goebel, started out with 37 players in the fall and took 31 into the spring.

Almost all of those have hometowns in Indiana.

Until a couple of years ago, Indiana was Barney’s recruiting base. Such scholarship money is based on in-state tuition.

With the favorable rates and so many Illinois junior college baseball programs as opposed to Indiana (which now has three — Vincennes, Ancilla College and Ivy Tech Northeast), plenty of Indiana players choose to play junior college baseball in Illinois.

But Illinois has been opened up so that VU can offer students there a cost similar to what they would get in-state.

“I hope to drive up the price of poker in Illinois for some of those guys,” says Barney of landing Illinois players for the VU program.

Rules allow junior colleges to play 20 games against outside competition in the fall. Vincennes also plays about 10 intrasquad games. There are 56 regular-season games in the spring.

That’s a lot of innings to cover so Barney typically carries 16 to 18 pitches, some of whom also play other positions.

“I love those guys,” says Barney. “If they can be successful at both, it’s well worth or time and energy to put the effort into that.”

The Trailblazers are in National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Region 24. The region is made up of nine Mid-West Athletic Conference members — Vincennes plus Danville (Ill.) Area Community College, Heartland Community College (Normal, Ill.), Illinois Central College (East Peoria, Ill.), John Wood Community College (Quincy, Ill.), Lewis & Clark Community College (Godfrey, Ill.), Lincoln Land Community College (Springfield, Ill.), Parkland College (Champaign, Ill.) and Spoon River College (Canton, Ill.).

Vincennes went into play April 3 at 15-12 overall and 4-4 in the conference.

There is a 32-game conference schedule. The top eight teams go to the MWAC tournament. The winner advances to the NJCAA D-II World Series (May 25-June 1 in Enid, Okla.).

“There’s a lot of positives in moving over to that region,” says Barney. “Before, we were independent in Region 12, which is Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Trying to find games in late March, April and part of May was a bear.”

Vincennes went to the World Series in 2010 and 2014 under the old qualifying format. Teams were required to make it through a sub-regional to get to an eight-team double-elimination tournament that sent the champion to championship series.

The Trailblazers play home games at Jeremy Blemker Field.

Huntingburg, Ind., native Blemker coached for 38 years, including 26 at Vincennes (1980-2006) and amassed a NJCAA-record 1,037 victories. He sent more than 180 players on to play at universities around the country and 27 signed professional contracts.

Blemker, who died in 2012, was an inductee of the NJCAA and Greater Evansville Baseball halls of fame.

The original Blemker Field was on the VU campus. It was razed to make room for Updike Hall Scienc Earth and Mathematics Learning Center and the Trailblazers moved to a new baseball complex on Old Terre Haute Road five years ago.

Barney says the university has continued to provide the team with the means to maintain the facility.

Before landing at VU, Orlando, Fla., native Barney has made several baseball coaching stops. He was assistant coach and recruiting director for 13 years at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.

Barney, a graduate of Tennessee Wesleyan University in Athens, Tenn., has also served as head coach of the Quincy Gems and Springfield Rifles in the Central Illinois Collegiate League (summer) and was an assistant at Tennessee Wesleyan, Tusculum University (Greeneville, Tenn.) and St. John’s River State College (Palatka, Fla.) as well as serving on the summer staffs for the Frontier League’s Midwest Sliders (Ypsilanti, Mich.) and New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Vermont Mountaineers (Montpelier, Vt.).

Barney counts Mike Policastro, Tom Griffin, Mike Goedde and Mike Robins among his baseball mentors.

Barney played for Policastro (now head coach at Cleveland State Community College in Tennessee) at Tenessee Weselyan and was a teammate and coached alongside Griffin (now head coach at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.) at that same school. Goedde (now head coach at Evansville Central High School) was USI head coach when Barney was on the staff. Robins led the squad at St. John’s River.

“You take a little bit from everybody,” says Barney. “You put your own personality on the program, too.

“It’s fun. The kids keep you young and always bring something new to the table.”

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Chris Barney is in his 10th season as head baseball coach at Vincennes (Ind.) University in 2019. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Indiana State, IU-Kokomo, IU Southeast, Taylor over 20-win mark

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Four schools have already reached or surpassed the 20-win mark on the 2019 college baseball season.

No fooling.

Going into April, NCAA Division I member Indiana State (21-4), NAIA schools Indiana University-Kokomo (24-9) and Indiana University Southeast (23-9) and NAIA affiliate Taylor (24-9) are leading the way in victories among Indiana teams.

In addition, Ball State (17-9), Southern Indiana (17-9), Butler (16-9), Indianapolis (16-10), Indiana Tech (16-10), Vincennes (15-8) and Indiana (15-10) have surpassed the 15-victory plateau.

At 12-3, IUK and IUS are tied atop the River States Conference standings.

The most recent rankings showed Southern Indiana receiving votes in NCAA Division II with Indiana Tech No. 16 and Taylor No. 20 in NAIA.

The longest current winning streaks for college programs in the state belong to Ball State (8), IU Southeast (8), DePauw (5), Evansville (5), Butler (4) and Purdue (4).

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through March 31

NCAA Division I

Ball State 17-9 (4-0 Mid-American)

Butler 16-9 (0-0 Big East)

Evansville 14-9 (3-0 Missouri Valley)

Fort Wayne 4-21 (0-9 Summit)

Indiana 15-10 (5-1 Big Ten)

Indiana State  21-4 (1-2 Missouri Valley)

Notre Dame 11-14 (6-6 Atlantic Coast)

Purdue 10-16 (4-1 Big Ten)

Valparaiso 5-18 (0-3 Missouri Valley)

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 16-10 (7-6 Great Lakes Valley)

Oakland City 14-7

Southern Indiana 17-9 (10-4 Great Lakes Valley)

NCAA Division III

Anderson 8-6 (0-0 Heartland)

DePauw 12-6 (0-0 North Coast)

Earlham 8-11 (0-2 Heartland)

Franklin 10-8 (0-2 Heartland)

Hanover 8-7 (0-0 Heartland)

Manchester 5-13 (0-0 Heartland)

Rose-Hulman 10-16 (0-0 Heartland)

Trine 7-7 (0-2 Michigan Intercollegiate)

Wabash 10-8 (0-1 North Coast)

NAIA

Bethel 8-15 (4-6 Crossroads)

Calumet of Saint Joseph 6-20 (0-11 Chicagoland)

Goshen 10-17 (4-6 Crossroads)

Grace 8-11 (4-6 Crossroads)

Huntington 11-8 (7-3 Crossroads)

Indiana Tech 16-10 (3-1 Wolverine-Hoosier)

Indiana Wesleyan 9-22 (3-6 Crossroads)

Indiana University-Kokomo 24-9 (12-3 River States)

Indiana University South Bend 5-24 (3-8 Chicagoland)

Indiana University Southeast 23-9 (12-3 River States)

Marian 14-11 (6-3 Crossroads)

Purdue Northwest 9-13 (6-2 Great Lakes Intercollegiate)

Saint Francis 10-20 (4-5 Crossroads)

Taylor 24-9 (4-5 Crossroads)

Junior College

Ancilla 3-12 (2-6 Michigan Community)

Ivy Tech Northwest 10-10

Vincennes 15-8 (4-0 Mid-West)

 

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Indianapolis Lutheran graduate Broughton passing on baseball knowledge at Piedmont College

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Taking baseball lessons he learned in the Midwest, Jared Broughton is now passing along his diamond knowledge in the South.

Broughton, who was born in and grew up in Indianapolis and played at Indianapolis Lutheran High School, Vincennes (Ind.) University and the University of Dayton (Ohio) before serving as an assistant coach at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., is heading into his third season on the baseball coaching staff at Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga.

As the associate varsity head coach and head junior varsity coach, Broughton leads the Lions in hitting, base running and infield play and also mans the third base coach’s box while helping head coach Justin Scali and assistant Luke Harris with recruiting for the NCAA Division III program.

“These kids are very intelligent and can really process information quickly,” says Broughton, who turns 29 in September. “It’s fun to coach those guys because they are very willing learn.”

With D-III schools giving academic but no athletic scholarship money, Broughton knows his athletes are there for “a degree first and foremost and also get a first-class baseball experience as well.”

Broughton was drawn to Piedmont because it is a perennially-strong performer in D-III baseball and got a recommendation from Jeremy Sheetinger. The two coached against one another when Broughton was an assistant at Earlham and Sheetinger the head coach at Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., and worked clinics together.

“I owe a lot of how I got down here to him,” says Broughton of Sheetinger, who is now the College Division Liaison with the American Baseball Coaches Association. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Broughton’s appreciation for Scali comes from his organization, attention to detail and fundamentally-based type of play.

“We play a brand of baseball that is very sound,” says Broughton. “You dominate the routine play and do not beat yourself. That’s a hard team to play against because they just won’t give you anything.”

Scali and Broughton are scheduled to speak on base stealing and defending the running game at the Oct. 21 ABCA Barnstormers Clinic at the University of Georgia.

Piedmont is a member of the USA South Athletic Conference. The northern-most member is Berea (Ky.) College. The Lions are to open their 2019 season in early February and finish about the time the academic calendar winds down in late April.

Broughton was hired for his first coaching job about two months after his playing career ended at Dayton and spent three seasons (2014-16) at Earlham with head coach Steve Sakosits.

“He took a big risk. I had no coaching experience,” says Broughton. “I will be forever grateful to Coach Sakosits for giving me that opportunity.”

While former college pitcher Sakosits focused on Quaker arms, he allowed Broughton to jump into the fire with what he knew about hitting and base running.

“He entrusted me as a young coach to implement my own system on the offensive side,” says Broughton. “I was able to take what I learned as a player and teach that to guys who were about my age.

“It was a great way for me to learn and grow as a coach.”

While at Earlham, Broughton met Tia Seymour from nearby Lynn, Ind., and she has moved with him to Georgia.

Broughton began his baseball career at Garfield Park Little League and Franklin Township Little League in Indianapolis. At 13, he began a six-season travel baseball run with the Indiana Bulls.

At Indianapolis Lutheran, his head coach was his uncle —  Dick Alter (who is married to his mother’s sister). Jared and older sisters Jennifer and Jessica spent a good deal of time with the Alters as kids.

“I learned an awful lot from him,” says Broughton. “He was a big influencing act in my baseball career ever since I was a little kid.

“He taught me not only about hitting mechanics, but also the mental side of the game.”

Jared, who lost his mother, Kristi, in 2001, also credits his father, Leon (now married to Cathleen), for helping to teach him the intricacies of the game as well as playing hard.

Broughton was all-Marion County three times as a third baseman at Lutheran before playing two seasons of junior college baseball (2009-10) at Vincennes for Trailblazers head coach Chris Barney.

“(Barney) always had a lot of confidence in me,” says Broughton, who was used at third base, first base and in left field at VU. “He taught me not to ride the roller coaster of a season and stay steady.”

An injury caused Broughton to take a medical redshirt season at Dayton before playing two seasons (2012-13) at second base for Indianapolis native and Flyers head coach Tony Vittorio.

“(Vittorio) taught us that you have to have passion, energy and enthusiasm in everything you do,” says Broughton. “I was a passionate player.

“I was a little bit of a dirtbag — in a good way. Coach V brought out the best in a lot of players we had there.”

Why did Broughton go into coaching?

Being the nephew of Alter and the grandson of Indiana Football Hall of Famer Ray Schultz, Jared grew up in a family of coaches.

Sitting out the 2011 season at Dayton also gave him a different perspective on the game.

“I felt I was a leader on the field and someone the coaches came to get a pulse of the team,” says Broughton.

For him, the transition to coaching was a natural.

JAREDBROUGHTON2

Jared Broughton, an Indianapolis native, coaches third base for Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga. (Piedmont College Photo)

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The Piedmont College Lions play baseball at Loudermilk Field. (Piedmont College Photo)

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Jared Broughton heads into his third season on the baseball coaching staff at Piedmont College in 2018-19. He is an Indianapolis native. (Piedmont College Photo)

JAREDBROUGHTONTIASEYMOUR

Two Indiana natives — Jared Broughton (left) and girlfriend Tia Seymour — have found a home in Demorest, Ga., where Broughton is associate varsity baseball head coach and junior varsity baseball head coach at Piedmont College. (Piedmont College Photo)

 

RoundTripper, Indiana Mustangs founder Estep emphasizes work ethic, grades, playing with fire not anger

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Providing instruction and tools for players to get better and helping them get to the next level.

Chris Estep has been doing that for more than two decades. He founded RoundTripper Sports Academy in 1993 in Hamilton County, Ind. In 2001, RoundTripper and the Indiana Mustangs travel organization has been housed in a 40,000-square feet facility in Westfield.

Estep, an Indianapolis native, was an All-American at the University of Kentucky and was selected in the 12th round of the 1988 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He began has career as an instructor and coach after retiring from minor league baseball in 1992.

When he’s not traveling with a team, Estep is at RoundTripper giving up to 12 lessons a day or conducting classes with players with ties to many different organizations.

“When I’m here, it’s contact teaching,” says Estep. “On the road, it’s constantly marketing the players and working to try to get them signed.”

Estep is proud to see long list of RoundTripper and Indiana Mustangs alumni going on to higher levels of baseball and giving back to the game as coaches, scouts, instructors and tournament directors.

Among those are current or former big leaguers Micah Johnson, Dillon Peters, Kevin Plawecki, Drew Storen, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Tommy Hunter, Lance Lynn and Cory Wade.

Former Mustang and RoundTripper employee Blake Hibler is now program director/event manager for Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield.

“This is a place they grew up and it’s pretty awesome,” says Estep. “You’ve got guys out their teaching and coaching the game the right way.”

The Mustangs field 17 baseball and four softball travel teams in 2018.

Much of Estep’s focus right now revolves around the 17U baseball team. Former pro player and current scout Mike Farrell manages the team, Chase Estep is an assistant coach and Chris Estep does his part to help athletes through the college recruiting process.

“Our biggest thing is making sure we’re getting all the kids signed,” says the elder Estep. “We’ve had up to 20 colleges in every game we played in. They’re evaluating these guys.

“The process moves very quickly when they identify the kid they want. We have kids who are not committed that have interest from 15 to 20 schools. They still have choices.”

Estep, 51, notes that verbal commitments can be made at any time, but players can’t sign a letter of intent until they begin their senior year.

He sees the current trend of early commits and shakes his head.

“Slow down a little bit,” says Estep. “Nobody knows what this kid is going to be in eighth grade or their freshman year. Nobody has any idea.

“You may think he has this trajectory. But he may be what he is in that freshman year. Conversely, you may have a pipsqueak that grows to become this unbelievable dude.”

Estep says it’s too early to knowing what a player at 12, 13 or 14 will be at 16, 17 or 18.

“If anybody can tell you what they’re going to be, they’re lying to you,” says Estep. “You don’t know that until he turns 16.

“You may have a fully-developed kid at 13 and 14. All he’s going to do is get hairier. He’s a big, strong kid. But all he’s got is what he’s got.

“Now it’s going to be up to his work ethic.”

That player may not be getting any bigger, so they need to continue developing their skills, learning how to hit for power and to all fields, getting in the weight room to increase their strength and doing what they can to enhance their speed by a tick or two.

“If the skill sets are good, it all comes down to work ethic,” says Estep. “Every kid that comes (to RoundTripper) for a reason. They want to play at the next level — whatever that level may be. The thing they’ll get from us is how hard they need to work.

“You don’t have to take 25,000 lessons. You take a lesson and you have your marching orders of what I need to work on that week.”

Players are asked to answers a series of questions.

How many swings are you going to take?

How many throws are you going to make?

How balls are you going to block?

How many ground balls are you going to take?

How many fly balls?

Are you going to work on your angles?

“The game is just not hitting or defense, it’s all of those things,” says Estep, who has built a reputation in the baseball world and relationships with college coaches and pro scouts.

“When you’ve been in the business for 25 years, they start to trust that you might know what you’re doing,” says Estep. “So they listen to what you might have to say and what your evaluation is.

“As long as your honest about what the kid can do and how he projects, they’ll watch them play and say ‘you’re dead on.’

“You cannot be used car salesman.”

Shooting straight with players and parents also helps the process.

“When you get to this level, parents have to pretty good idea of what their kids are,” says Estep.

Estep says it all comes down to the 16U and 17U summers.

“That’s where (college recruiters) are putting their real (player) boards together,” says Estep. “They call the 16U year ‘The Arms Race.’ Everybody’s looking at arms. They’re seeing position players. They all want to gobble up catchers, shortstops and center fielders.

“They’re the ones making the big bucks so they should know what they’re doing.”

Many times, college coaching jobs are dependent upon winning and claiming championships.

But priorities can change prior to a player signing on the dotted line.

“(Players) can get a commitment, but come November they can get a phone call (from the college) saying, ‘listen, we went in another direction,’” says Estep. “Now the kids out there flopping in the wind.”

Estep and his staff also emphasize the importance of good grades.

“They must understand what the ACT and SAT can provide for you,” says Estep. “The academic money is a big deal.”

Only 11.7 baseball scholarships are offered yearly at the NCAA Division I level. It’s 9 at NCAA D-II, 0 at NCAA D-III and 12 for the NAIA. For the National Junior College Athletic Association, it’s 24 for Division I and II and 0 for D-III.

In the past week, Estep talked with one school and learned that an 1150 SAT will bring a player $20,000. The Mustangs have a half dozen players who have the baseball skills and SAT scores high enough to get interest from Ivy League schools.

Learning to stay cool when the heat is on is another important lesson taught by Estep.

“Baseball is a massive game of failure,” says Estep. “You have to control your emotions. We tell kids, ‘anger is not your friend.’”

In other words: The sport can’t be played in a blind rage.

“We see them turning corners and getting a little better every year,” says Estep. “It’s fun to watch.

“Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong in playing with fire. There’s a very thin line between playing with fire and playing with anger. Anger sets you up for failure. Playing with fire allows you to succeed.”

Estep has watched Indiana baseball enjoy growth in recent years. He submits the 2018 IHSAA State Finals as one piece of evidence of the high level.  Fishers edged Indianapolis Cathedral 4-3 in Class 4A. Andrean bested Silver Creek 6-1 in 3A. Boone Grove shaded Southridge 5-4 in 2A. Daleville defeated University 4-2 in nine innings in 1A.

“It was phenomenal,” says Estep, who completed his 10th season as University head coach in 2018. Guys played great. Everyone is extremely well-prepared.

“I was so impressed with how the Indianapolis Indians and IHSAA ran things (at Victory Field).”

Then there’s the explosion of travel baseball and player development.

“At facilities like ours, you’re seeing them preparing themselves and honing skill sets,” says Estep. “They’re trying to reach their fullest potential.”

The game has also grown with the help of talent identifiers like Perfect Game and Prep Baseball Report.

“(PBR Indiana owner/director) Phil Wade is doing a phenomenal job,” says Estep.

The 17th annual RoundTripper Showcase is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 26. Coaches from 50 or more college programs are expected to attend.

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RoundTripper Sports Academy and the Indiana Mustangs travel organization were both founded by Chris Estep in Hamilton County, Ind.

 

Bellak looking for more than just ballplayers as Hanover College head coach

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Grant Bellak jumped into his job as head baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College with both feet.

Hired to his first head-coaching position on June 1, a few days later the former Franklin (Ind.) College assistant was already recruiting at an event in Cincinnati and spent the next few weeks looking for student-athletes.

Bellak says he expects to have 32 players in the fall and have recruiting classes of 10 to 12 players the next few seasons.

“I felt comfortable with the recruiting area,” says Bellak, who was the recruiting coordinator at Franklin. “Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college program.

“I want athletes who are big and strong. Power bats and power arms play. Power bats can change the game with one swing. Power arms give you more room for error. You don’t have to be perfect.”

Bella, 32, prides himself in finding value where others miss it.

“I plan on bringing that to Hanover and developing that over four years,” says Bellak. “We want mid-major Division I’s calling asking us to play.”

With the Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville areas as a base, Bellak already has contacts he developed at Franklin that he can use at Hanover. Both are members of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference — an NCAA Division III circuit.

As a D-III school, Hanover (enrollment 1,100) does not give athletic scholarships. The liberal arts institution places a premium on academics.

“The thing I’ve been preaching on the recruiting trail is that fit matters,” says Bellak. “This is not for you if you are not 100 percent Panthers. You have to fit the academic profile, campus profile and athletic profile.”

Almost all of the seniors in his last three recruiting classes at Franklin had job offers prior to graduation.

Bellak is looking for young men coming to Hanover who want to be more than ballplayers. They have aspirations of pursuing careers as CEOs, lawyers, politicians etc.

“Here at Hanover, our focus is wanting guys who want more,” says Bellak. “What is your ‘why’?’

“We want difference makers.”

The Shayne Stock-coached Hanover Panthers went 8-25 overall and 5-12 in the HCAC.

“You can win a lot here,” says Bellak. “The rest of athletic department, that’s what they’re doing.

“It’s one of those opportunities I felt I couldn’t pass up.”

Hanover got Bellak’s attention the first time he arrived on the southern Indiana campus as a Franklin assistant.

“It’s got that ‘wow factor,’” says Bellak. “It’s the way it is back in the woods overlooking the Ohio River and the architecture. There’s lots of green space.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Dick Naylor Field at K.T. Young Ballpark, with its natural grass surface and old trees surrounding the outfield, is also picturesque.

At Franklin, Bellak served on a staff with veteran head coach Lance Marshall.

He saw the behind-the-scenes things that it takes to be a head coach — being an administrator and mentor.

“It’s a different mindset,” says Bellak. “Hours are not just devoted to player development, but developing a program as a whole.

“It’s more than just hitting fungoes and throwing BP. You’re engaging the alumni base and fundraising. It’s all the extras, things the outside world doesn’t see.”

Before Franklin, Bellak was a volunteer assistant at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Ill., in 2010 and 2011.

A 2004 graduate of Aurora (Ill.) Christian High School, the Big Rock, Ill., native played two seasons at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Ill., and two at Webster University in St. Louis, Mo.

Bellak was sixth in the National Junior College Athletic Association in stolen bases in 2006 at Waubonsee.

Webster, coached by Bill Kurich, came within six outs of going to the 2008 NCAA D-III World Series.

In 2009, Bellak worked as a student assistant to Kurich.

“Bill knows what it takes to win,” says Bellak of Kurich. “He has the unique ability to get the most out of you.”

Bellak coached three summers with the Prospect League’s Dubois County Bombers in Huntingburg, Ind., in 2009-11 — the last as field manager. One of his players was future major league pitcher Sean Manaea.

In 2009, Bellak graduated from Webster with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He earned a masters degree in leadership and management from Liberty University’s online program in 2013. The latter is a precursor to a Masters of Business Administration.

“(The leadership and management masters) helped me take a different perspective to coaching,” says Bellak. “The business world isn’t that different than a team.

“The way a CEO motivates someone in the office is not much different than how a coach motivates someone on the field.”

Grant and wife Natasha Bellak have a daughter — Bexley (2).

GRANTBELLAK

Grant Bellak is now the head baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College after seven seasons as an assistant at Franklin (Ind.) College. (Hanover College Photo)

 

State’s baseball talent exposure has multiplied; Just ask Hibler of Bullpen Tournaments, PBR Indiana

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There was a time when college baseball recruiters and pro scouts did not hold the Hoosier State in high regard.

“Indiana has always been talented as a state,” says Blake Hibler. “But from an exposure standout, it was always overlooked.

“Indiana was some place you drove through. People are now stopping. They realize what kind of talent there is.”

Hibler, founder of Prep Baseball Report Indiana who is now kept busy as program director/event manager for Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., has watched the state raise its profile with the help of travel baseball and strong college programs.

“(Big leaguers like) Adam Lind, Scott Rolen and Lance Lynn kind of paved the way for Indiana baseball to become big,” says Hibler. “The explosion came when Purdue was a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA tournament (in 2012) and (Indiana University) went to Omaha (for the College World Series in 2013).”

At the lower levels, the University of Southern Indiana went NCAA Division II World Series in 2007 and won it all in 2010 and 2014. The University of Indianapolis went to the D-II World Series in 2000 and 2012. Manchester appeared in the D-III World Series in 2004 and 2013.

“This allowed Indiana to become more exposed,” says Hibler. “When we started PBR, college coaches contacted us asking ‘where is that sleeper?’ We don’t have sleepers anymore.

“Colleges are very aware of every player in our state.”

In his role at Grand Park, Hibler oversees 16 straight weekends of travel baseball events in the spring and summer and another six in the fall.

There’s something baseball-related going on — games, tournaments, showcases — at the facility with 26 diamonds from the end of January through October.

There are 12 full-size fields — four with full synthetic turf fields and eight with synthetic infields and grass outfields. Hibler considers eight of those high school or college fields.

Bullpen Tournaments, which counts 90 percent of its business as baseball with some softball, leases the facility from Grand Park. The land is owned by the City of Westfield.

As the sole operator, Bullpen’s 100 employees take care of everything from restrooms to common area mowing to field maintenance to practice scheduling and more.

From the beginning of June to the end of July, there are 230 to 280 teams at Grand Park every weekend. Of those, 115 are high school-age squads.

There are often more than one tournament going on — maybe U9 through U12 games on one side of the complex and high schoolers on the other.

In June and July, Bullpen hosts American Baseball Championships for Youth Baseball, U13, U14, U15, U16, U17 and U18.

An elite event is the PBR Future Games. The eighth annual tournament is slated for Aug. 1-4 with 24 teams and players from more than 40 states.

In 2017, all five collegiate power conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) were represented with more than 80 percent of schools in those leagues in attendance.

“This year won’t be any different,” says Hibler of the 16U event. “It’s the best uncommitted sophomores in the country.

“It’s kind of a culmination of their season and kickoff to their junior year. The recruiting calendar falls in perfect. Sept. 1 is when college coaches can begin calling and have direct  conversations with these recruits.”

The first Future Games was held in 2011 with four teams.

Nolan Watson was MVP in 2015, the year he was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals out of Lawrence North High School.

Technology helps keep track of all Bullpen tournaments.

There is a phone app for that. It can be uploaded from the Google Play Store.

Hibler is the “tech guy” for both Bullpen Tournaments and PBR-Indiana and does a podcast with PBR owner/director Phil Wade. Many of those focus on events at Grand Park or the top high school players and teams in the state.

With all its facilities, there is a large economic impact that comes with the complex.

“The most common question we get is: How do you pay for Grand Park?,” says Hibler. “Ultimately, the mayor (Andy Cook) took a risk. He decided to make youth sports his industry.”

The City of Westfield owns the land and owns and operates the Grand Park Events Center, which will house the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp this year, and the soccer facility.

Hotels and restaurants are on the way. There are also private facilities springing up like Pro X Athlete Development and Pacers Athletic Center.

A graduate of Lawrence Central High School who played for the Indiana Mustangs and Danville Area Community College, Hibler has worked for RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield and Pastime Tournaments as well as an associate MLB scout.

Hibler joined the PBR family in November 2010. At the time, he was in his second stint as the pitching coach for Lawrence Central, where he saw two pitchers get drafted in 2011 — Christian Montgomery (11th round, Mets) and Jared Ruxer (29th round, Indians). He was originally the pitching coach from 2004-2005 before returning for 2007-2011.

He has seen how competitive recruiting is, but it is usually not cut throat.

“Baseball is little more loyal with the verbal commitment than other sports,” says Hibler. “College coaches are buddies. They don’t necessarily go after other kids as aggressively as basketball and football.

“I would be naive to say it doesn’t happen (in baseball).”

A premium is placed on players who play in the middle of the diamond.

“Pitching is the easiest thing to project,” says Hibler. “If you’re 92 (mph) now, you’re going be 92 or better we you reach college. There’s a lot more to dream on with your catchers, shortstops and centerfielders.

“Typically, you’re looking for in that younger age group is athleticism and physicality. You get the combination of athleticism and physicality, those are the kids who typically commit early.”

Hibler notes that outside of the state’s top 10 or so players, most commit in their junior or even senior years.

How is success gauged in the travel baseball world?

“For 14-and-under, success is still defined by wins and losses,” says Hibler. “15-and-up is defined by scholarships and exposure.

“Lost in all of this is competitiveness. In the Future Games, Indiana always plays Illinois on Friday night. That’s still the most-attended game because there’s a rivalry there.”

Hibler says players appreciate playing against equal competition. With so many travel teams out there, mismatches happen.

“The better players relax or shut down during games,” says Hibler. “They don’t play hard during the summer sometimes unless they are in front of college coaches or playing a really good team.”

The ABC tournaments were designed with two tiers — the first to determine which division teams belong in and the second to crown Gold, Silver and Bronze division champions.

“That way it creates competitive baseball,” says Hibler.

Hibler notes that when the Indiana Bulls were started in the early 1990s to give the state’s best the chance to play top competition and receive exposure, they were the only organization out there. There are now many options and the talent is more evenly divided.

There are those who think that team chemistry is easier to build with a high school program than travel baseball, where players are coming from many different directions.

“Travel baseball is figuring that out and trying to combat it,” says Hibler. “They’re starting to put the development piece back into it a little bit.”

There is a misconception on the part of some players (and their parents) about travel ball and high school ball. They are putting more emphasis on travel.

“Some of these kids believe that travel baseball is more important to their future than high school is,” says Hibler. “A lot of college coaches still call the high school coach first after that initial talk with the travel coach.

“High school simulates a little bit of what college life could be — academics, girls, scouting reports, being a student and an athlete.

“A high school coach has to deal with the player and his girl friend got in a fight during seventh period and this kid has to be on the field in 15 minutes to play a game. The summer ball coach doesn’t have to deal with that as much.”

Then there are the trouble makers and malcontents.

“If you’re a bad kid and live in a community, everyone in that community knows you’re a bad kid,” says Hibler. “You can hide that in travel ball and travel sports in general.”

Hibler has seen players go out of there way to make high school coaches mad for no reason.

“They think it works like travel baseball,” says Hibler. “They can do whatever they want and pack up and leave. Some administrations allow that. But there’s a lot of good programs that don’t.”

Outside of loyalty, there is nothing binding that keeps a player with a travel organization. For various reasons, many players have jumped from team to team. Some players have skipped high school and played only travel baseball.

“Kids get handled with such care during the summer because the penalty is you lose them,” says Hibler. “Coaches don’t know if you handle them like they’re supposed to be handled — with discipline and holding them accountable.

“Some (coaches) take that approach. For others, it’s the Wild, Wild West. Do what you want.”

Hibler says players need both travel and high school and they need to respect the differences.

Travel players show up, play and leave. They pitch from pristine mounds. Maintenance at million-dollar fields is handled by someone else.

High schoolers must take on more responsibility. At many schools, they have to pick up trash in the dugout, sweep and rake to make the fields ready for play.

A few years ago, the coach of a team of 8-year-olds asked to change fields because one was too bumpy.

Hibler’s response: “You don’t live in the real world. We practiced in parking lots.”

BULLPENTOURNAMENTS

Bullpen Tournaments runs baseball and softball events out of Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.