Tag Archives: NEIBA Hall of Fame

Rutgers-bound Besser keeps on buzzing the ball past batters

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

Grant Besser’s habit of dodging bats with his pitches got him noticed during his prep days and it continues at the collegiate level.
At South Adams High School in Berne, Ind., the left-hander and four-time first-team all-Allen County Athletic Conference selection whiffed 451 in 241 innings with a 1.27 earned run average. He also hit .397 with eight home runs and 58 runs batted in.
As a senior, Besser fanned 130 in 54 frame and posted a 0.77 ERA and hit .426 with two homers and 17 RBIs for the Brad Buckingham-coached Starfires. He began working out that winter in Fort Wayne with Pittsburgh Pirates strength trainer Dru Scott.
When not pitching, lefty Besser was the unorthodox choice for South Adams at shortstop his last three seasons.
“I knew it looked silly, but I had been playing shortstop all my life,” says Besser. “I can throw from any arm angle. I had a great time doing it.
“Besides I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it for long. I knew pitching is what I wanted to do.”
Besser played in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison. He was honored as the 2019 Northeast Indiana Baseball Association/Dick Crumback Player of the Year.
The 2021 recipient of the award — Carter Mathison (Homestead/Indiana University) is Besser’s teammate this summer with New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats. Mathison was also the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Besser shined on the mound at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers.
In 36 appearances (10 starts), he went 6-4 with eight saves and a 2.66 earned run average as the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Buccaneers posted marks of 16-11 in 2020 (COVID-19 shortened), 44-16 in 2021 and 42-15 in 2022. He amassed 125 strikeouts and 42 walks in 94 2/3 innings.
Besser played no summer ball in 2020 and dealt with an injury at the beginning of the 2021. He came back and hurled five innings in the state tournament and did not allow a baserunner.
“I really saw a spike in all of my numbers for the good (in 2022),” says Besser. “I blew every category away from the previous years.”
He was in 20 games in 2022 and went 3-2 with six saves, a 1.28 ERA, 61 K’s and 16 walks in 42 1/3 innings.
Ben Bizier is head coach at Florida SouthWestern State. Derrick Conatser is Bucs pitching coach.
“I like that toughness to he brings to the table,” says Besser of Bizier.
In his exit interview with Bizier Besser was told that 18 Major League Baseball organizations have been following him as they prepare for the 2022 First-Year Player Draft (July 17-19 in Los Angeles).
“He said there’s a really good chance it happens this year,” says Besser, who turns 22 in September. “Out of high school I had zero (college) offers. Coach Buckingham offered me to Florida JUCO’s. I earned a scholarship at FSW in the spring.
“Money has never been the big thing for me. It’s opportunity and getting my foot in the door.”
This is Besser’s second straight summer at Keene and he has had several meaningful chats with Swamp Bats president and general manager Kevin Watterson.
So far, Besser has made four appearances (one start) and is 1-0 with an 0.87 ERA. In 10 1/3 innings, the southpaw has 10 strikeouts and one walk. The NECBL regular season ends July 30.
Throughout his college experience, Besser has been used in multiple pitching roles, including starter, long reliever and a closer.
“It doesn’t matter to me as long as we get a win,” says Besser. “I’m very versatile.”
Besser has excelled with an ability to keep his head when things get tense.
“It’s mental toughness. I preach it,” says Besser. “I can spot when somebody doesn’t have that mental toughness.
“I’m ready for the situation. I’m consistent with all that I do. I work quick and throw strikes. Preparation and a steady mindset is key.”
Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, Besser uses a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up and curveball.
“My four-seamer has natural run and a high spin rate,” says Besser. “Up in the zone is where I get the most out of it.
“This summer it’s been sitting 89 to 91 mph (it hit 92 at Florida SouthWestern State).”
Besser’s two-seamer moves in to left-handed hitters and away from righties.
His “circle” change-up break to his arm side and is usually clocked around 83 mph.
“My curveball is more of a slurve,” says Besser of the pitch that’s often delivered at around 78 mph. “I mix and match. Sometimes it’s 12-to-6 and sometimes I sweep it. It depends on the situation.”
Grant is the oldest of Mike and Katina Besser’s two sons. Adam Besser, a right-handed pitcher for Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, turns 20 in August.
Mike Besser is a salesman for Moser Motor Sales. Katina Besser is chief financial officer at Swiss Village Retirement Community.
The family moved from Geneva and Berne when Grant was in the fifth grade. Beginning at 9U, he played travel ball for the Muncie Longhorns and Indiana Bandits and then Summit City Sluggers founder Mark DeLaGarza reached out to him and he spent two summers with the 17U Sluggers, playing for head coaches Todd Armstrong and Brent Alwine.
“My parents’ sacrifices let me do that,” says Grant. “The Sluggers gave me a lot of knowledge on baseball.”

With two years of eligibility remaining, has committed to NCAA Division I Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He signed with the Scarlet Knights over the winter.
Why Rutgers?
“What really attracting me was coming home to the Big Ten,” says Besser, who was born in Fort Wayne and grew up in Geneva and Berne. “It’s up-and-coming program and pretty hard-nosed.”
With Steve Owens as head coach and Brendan Monaghan guiding pitchers, the Scarlet Knights posted an overall mark of 44-17 and Big Ten record of 17-7 in 2022. Rutgers played Michigan in the conference tournament championship game.
After earning an Associate of Arts degree in Business Management at Florida SouthWestern State, Besser is considering a Labor and Relations major at Rutgers.

Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)

Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)
Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)
Head coach Ben Bizier (left) and Grant Besser (Florida SouthWestern State College Photo)

City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
Grant Besser (Keene Swamp Bats Photo)

Heritage’s Wasson named 2022 Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year

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

Dalton Wasson has been chosen as the 2022 Dick Crumback/Northeast Indiana Baseball Association High School Player of the Year.
Playing for Dean Lehrman at Heritage Junior-Senior High School in Monroeville, senior Wasson goes into IHSAA sectional play hitting .566 with one home run, one triple, nine doubles, 24 runs batted in, 23 runs scored and six stolen bases. He has only struck out twice and has a 1.506 OPS (.676 on-base percentage plus .830 slugging average).
On the mound, Wasson is 6-0. In six starts, he has a 1.00 earned run average with 66 strikeouts and eight walks in 35 innings.
Wasson, a Belmont University commit who was chosen from a list of players nominated by area coaches, will be recognized prior to the Wednesday, June 8 Fort Wayne TinCaps game at Parkview Field and honored at the NEIBA Hall of Fame banquet slated for 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 12 at Classic Cafe in Fort Wayne. Lehrman is going into the Hall of Fame.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or via PayPal at fwneiba@gmail.com.
Previous Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year winners are Carter Mathison (Homestead) in 2021 and Grant Besser (South Adams) in 2019. With no season in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no award was given.

Dalton Wasson (Belmont University Photo)

NEIBA releases ’22 Dick Crumback Player of the Year Watch List

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

With the beginning of IHSAA baseball practice, the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association has put out its Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year Watch List for 2022.
An email was sent to baseball coaches in Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Huntington, Wells and Whitley counties. These are the counties that the NEIBA covers when choosing their Hall of Famers. Each coach was asked to nominated any player(s) that he feels could be in the running for such an honor.
The list of 72 will be narrowed down in finalists in early May and the Dick Crumback/NEIBA Player of the Year will be announced May 25 to coincide with the beginning of the IHSAA baseball tournament series.
The player of the year will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game in early June and at the NEIBA Hall of Fame banquet June 12.
Homestead’s Carter Mathison was the 2021 honoree.
The organization has honored local baseball players, personnel and ambassadors since 1961.
For more information, contact Gary Rogers at grogers@eacs.k.in.us or Brett Windmiller at brett.windmiller@nacs.k.in.us. 

DICK CRUMBACK/NEIBA
HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
WATCH LIST
2022
Adams Central (Coach Dave Neuenschwander)
Sr. Alex Currie
Jr. Ryan Black
Sr. Jaron Hildebrand
Sr. Blake Heyerly
Bishop Dwenger (Coach Jason Garrett)
So. Brayton Thomas
Sr. Xavier Aguirre
Sr. Jack Tippmann
Bishop Luers (Coach Jeff Stanski)
Jr. Cam Martinez
Sr. Paul Birkmeier
Carroll (Coach Dave Ginder)
Sr. Alex Smith
Sr. Jaydan Duba
Sr. Jordan Malott
Jr. Will Worrel
Jr. Thomas Tratnyek
Jr. Andrew Sinish
Jr. Daniel Kirk
So. Conner Barkel
Central Noble (Coach Tyler Graybeal)
Sr. Will Hoover
Churubusco (Coach Jordan Turner)
Sr. Keenan Hendricks
Sr. Cal Ostrowski
Columbia City (Coach Rob Bell)
Sr. Sam Gladd
Sr. Adin Miller
Sr. Julian Osselaer
DeKalb (Coach Collin Bice)
Sr. Bryce Dobson
Sr. Logan Jordan
Jr. Eli Ehmke
Jr. Tegan Irk
Jr. Ethan Jordan
Jr. Alex Leslie
Jr. Logan Montoya
Jr. Parker Smith
Jr. Donnie Wiley
East Noble (Coach Aaron Desmonds)
Sr. Brayden Risedorph
Eastside (Coach Aaron Willard)
Sr. Jack Buchanan
Sr. Nick Snyder
Sr. Owen Willard
Garrett (Coach Jason Richards)
Sr. Graham Kelham
Sr. Trey Richards
Sr. Kail Baughman
Jr. Luke Byers
So. Luke Holcomb
Heritage (Coach Dean Lehrman)
Sr. Dalton D. Wasson
Homestead (Coach Nick Byall)
Sr. Brennen Weigert
Sr. Nick Hockemeyer
Sr. Caden Tarango
Jr. Jake Goode
Jr. Bryce Yoder
Sr. Braydon Quintana
Sr. Carter Dixon
Sr. Jackson Todor
Huntington North (Coach Jarod Hammel)
Sr. Austin Oswalt
Leo (Coach Gary Rogers)
Sr. Cohden Brubaker
Sr. Donavin Massing
Jr. Jevon Walker
So. Kylar Decker
New Haven (Coach Dave Bischoff)
Sr. Connor Cannon
Northrop (Coach Matt Brumbaugh)
Sr. Luke Siren
So. Pernell Whitsett
North Side (Coach Austin Mannan)
Jr. Gabriel Oliva
Snider (Coach Josh Clinkenbeard)
Sr. Trevor Newman
Sr. Cade Hinton
Fr. Landen Fry
Fr. Brandon Logan
Sr. Aaron Fenn
Sr. Domanic Moon
Sr. Jakob Byler
South Adams (Coach Brad Buckingham)
Sr. A.J. Dull
South Side (Coach Will Coursen-Carr)
Sr. Perry Stow
So. Evan Harl
Southern Wells (Coach Blade Rheinhart)
Sr. Branson Rheinhart
Sr. Evan Reynolds
Sr. Owen Vickrey

Ginder, Lehrman headline 2022 NEIBA Hall of Fame class

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

Northeast Indiana Baseball Association plans to honor longtime high school coaches Dave Ginder and Dean Lehrman and former professional player Steve Finken as part of its Hall of Fame class of 2022.
Heading into the spring, Dave Ginder is 335-118 in 15 seasons at Carroll with eight sectional titles, four regionals, three Final Four appearances state championships in 2010 and 2011. The 1991 Carroll graduate was a Chargers assistant for six years.
Ginder graduated from Anderson (Ind.) University with a Mathematics and Secondary Education degree and is in his 21st year as a math teacher at Carroll. He also holds a Masters in Administration.
Dave and Kristen Ginder, a Parkview SurgeryONE surgical case coordinator, have three children — son Langston (18) and daughters Drezdan (16) and Jantzyn (13).
In 43 seasons (nine at Woodlan and 34 at Heritage, including 2020 COVID-19 year), Lehrman has 615 wins, 12 Allen County Athletic Conference titles with eight sectionals, three regionals, one semistate and three semistate appearances with a state runner-up finish in 2007. He’s also been a district coach of the year and twice named an Indiana High School Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series coach.
Lehrman, who retired as a high school math teacher at Heritage in 2020, coached football for 39 years and was 40-26 in six seasons at head coach.
Dean and wife Janice have three children — Camryn, Derek and Ryne — and four grandchildren.
Finken is a graduate of Fort Wayne Elmhurst High School and was an All-American at the University of Michigan. He was selected in the 21st round of the 1988 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played in the minors from 1988-92. The infielder was in Triple-A with the Dodgers in 1991 and played his last pro season in the San Francisco Giants system.
Overall, Finked hit .267 with a .373 on-base percentage, .431 slugging average, 49 home runs and 227 runs batted in for 473 games.
Journalist Steve Krah will also go into the NEIBA Hall of Fame during a banquet at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 12, 2022 at Classic Cafe in Fort Wayne.
Jeff Herring will receive the organization’s Colin Lister Award from the Hall of Fame for his 25-plus year of service to high school sports, specifically baseball. He has been an assistant coach at both Elmhurst and Wayne high schools.

Northeast Indiana Baseball Association.

Grove appreciates how Churubusco values baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Mark Grove retired as head baseball coach at Churubusco (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in 2015.

But that hasn’t stopped him from being a regular around “Turtle Town” diamonds.

Grove has helped out with the high school program, now led by 2011 graduate Jordan Turner, and has crossed Churubusco Community Park to watch youth league games.

“Baseball’s important in Churubusco,” says Grove. “It really is.

Grove, a graduate of Bluffton (Ind.) High School and Ball State University (1977), started coaching baseball at Churubusco in 1980 as an assistant to Jerry Lange (who was head football coach at the school 1985-91) and took over the Eagles in 1985. He went on to earn 513 victories, nine sectional titles, four regional crowns and a semistate runner-up finish in 1995. Churubusco won nine Northeast Corner Conference championships (reigning four times in the NECC tournament) on his watch and two Allen County Athletic Conference titles.

Grove produced 25 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association all-state selections and six players selected for the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series — Devin Peters (2015), Bryan Brudi (2008), Brad Vaught (2007), Brad Dell (2003), Todd Fleetwood (1997) and Travis Rehrer (1995). Grove was an assistant to North head coach Erik Hisner during the 2015 series.

Peters went on to play for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national champions at Kankakee (Ill.) Community College (2017) and participate in the NCAA Division II World Series with Ashland (Ohio) University (2019).

Right-handed pitcher Fred Ransom Jones, a 2004 Churubusco graduate, was selected in the 33rd round of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees out of the University of Evansville.

Grove’s 1995 squad lost 7-1 to eventual single-class state runner-up Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, coached by IHSBCA Hall of Famer Jack Massucci, in the championship game of the Concordia Semistate. Bill Sharpe was the plate umpire in the title games of the Warsaw Sectional, Plymouth Regional, Concordia Semistate and State Finals in ’95.

The ’Busco battery of right-hander Rehrer and catcher Shawn Targgart wound up playing for Richard “Itchy” Jones at the University of Illinois.

Right-hander Brent Gaff represented Churubusco in the majors. He was chosen in the sixth round of the 1977 MLB Draft by the New York Mets and spent parts of 1982-84 with the big club.

“A small town kid from Churubusco can make it to the bigs,” says Grove. “This town is proud of the product they turn out on the baseball field.”

Whether or not an Eagles’ season included any postseason accolades, Grove got a kick out of fitting the pieces of the puzzle together.

“I enjoyed the whole preseason part and working out in the gym,” says Grove. “I moved kids around so we could be the most competitive we could be.”

After games, Grove went home and studied charts to see how to pitch to returning players for the next opponent.

“That was a lot of fun,” says Grove.

He also appreciated the rapport with his players and the camaraderie with his assistant coaches.

“I’ve got to see (players) grow up and become fathers,” says Grove. “You’re only going to be as good as your assistants.”

Business teacher Terry McManama was hired at Churubusco at the same time as Industrial Technology teacher Grove and coached volleyball and softball before he was lured to the baseball staff, where he served for more than two decades.

Math teacher Monte Gerig, who was Eagles head coach from 1973-77, and Chemistry teacher Jim Folland (a former Fort Wayne Elmhurst head baseball coach) were also Grove assistants. When Trent Gerig (Class of 1996), was a player, his father was lured back to coaching baseball.

Coaches in the Churubusco athletic department knew that they needed to share athletes in order for their teams to be competitive so multi-sport athletes were the norm.

“Everybody worked together,” says Grove. “We kept our kids active. We were there for the kids.

“The more sports they play, the more it makes them a rounded athlete. They tend to stay away from injuries because they don’t use the same muscles over and over again until something gives.”

Grove, McManama and Gerig can often be seen together on the golf course.

To stay close to football, Grove and McManama walk the sidelines and keep statistics for Churubusco football, which is now led by Paul Sade.

A former defensive coordinator, Grove was an Eagles assistant from 1979-99. He coached football at Lake State Edison briefly before coming to Whitley County.

Grove is still active with the IHSBCA, helping with registration at the State Clinic each January and assisting with the Class 2A poll. He was a district representative for many years and has served on the North/South All-Stars Series committee and was co-chair of the Baseball Strikes Out Cancer project with former executive director Bill Jones. The campaign raised more than $25,000 for the American Cancer Society.

“The most satisfying committee I ever worked on with the IHSBCA,” says Grove.

He is grateful for the impact of mentors like Hall of Famers Jones (who coached at DeKalb), Masucci, Don Sherman (Huntington North), Chris Stavreti (Fort Wayne Northrop) and Bill Nixon (Plymouth).

“I was skinny young coach,” says Grove. “I really looked up to those guys. The smartest thing I’ve ever done is that I kept my mouth shut and learned from them.”

At Bluffton, Grove was an outfielder and right-hander pitcher. Fred Murray was the Tigers head coach.

As a thank you to Murray, some member of the Class of 72, including Mike Pettibone, Bruce Hirschy and Jeff Penrod, initiated a reunion a couple of summers ago. Playing on old Wilson Field, Bluffton won its own sectional in 1972.

“Bluffton was a great place to grow up,” says Grove. “there was something going on for kids all the time.”

A summer recreation program provided chances to learn about baseball, swimming, tennis and more.

Denise Milholland, who went to another Wells County high school — Norwell — was introduced to Grove by Jim Watson and they later wed. Eric Milholland, brother of Denise, played in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Mark and Denise Grove have two married daughters and two grandsons — Jennifer, who works for Child Protective Services, and Derek Hupfer with Payton (9) and Brittany, an occupational therapy assistant, and Brennon Moughler with Evan (11).

Jennifer played volleyball, a little basketball and softball at Churubusco then softball at Parkland College (Champaign, Ill.). Brittany played volleyball, a little basketball and tennis for the Eagles. The Hupfers reside in Bluffton and the Moughlers near Butler, Ind.

One of Grove’s hobbies is collecting antique tools and tool boxes and fixing them up. One Christmas, he gave a tool box to each grandson and then let them and their fathers take turns picking out tools.

In January 2020, Grove received a call from Steve Warden on behalf of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association. Grove was selected for induction into the NEIA Hall of Fame with the banquet moved from the spring to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18 at Classic Cafe Catering & Event Center, 4832 Hillegas Road, Fort Wayne, because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

“That was a happy day at the Grove house,” says Grove, who was on the IHSBCA Hall of Fame ballot in 2020. “It validates the kind of program we had here at Churubusco.

“We had a lot of support from the administration and community. You don’t win without that.”

The NEIBA will also induct Northrop head coach Matt Brumbaugh and World Baseball Academy Chief Executive Officer Caleb Kimmel and present awards to Tom Knox and Tom Clements. Tickets are $25 each. Mail payment and the number of attendees to NEIBA, P.O. Box 12733, Fort Wayne, IN 46864.

MARKGROVE1

Mark Grove was head baseball coach at Churubusco (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School from 1985-2015 and earned 513 victories, nine sectional titles, four regional crowns and a semistate runner-up finish in 1995. He is to be inducted into the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Fame Oct. 18.