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Wisemans, South Central Rebels enjoying the ride

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

They’re making baseball memories at a tiny school in southern Indiana.

Led by father and son co-coaches Brad and Alex Wiseman, the South Central (Elizabeth) Rebels have won the IHSAA Class 1A Shawe Memorial Sectional and are getting ready for the two-hour trek to the Loogootee Regional (South Central plays No. 9-ranked Tecumseh at 11 a.m., followed by Trinity Lutheran vs. No. 6 Barr-Reeve with the championship at 7:30 p.m.).

South Central spotted Borden four runs in the first two innings and trailed 6-2 after four frames in the sectional championship before winning 10-8 and earning a ride on the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Department’s truck when they got back from Madison to Harrison County.

“It’s a good memory for the boys — something they’ll never forget,” says Alex Wiseman, who played for the Rebels and graduated from South Central in 2012 before pitching for Hanover (Ind.) College. “South Central baseball is a tradition around here. Everybody knows about it.”

The team mugged for the championship photo wearing the green “Hank Strong” T-shirts that they donned in a benefit game for Hank Sutherland, a young boy in the community dealing with Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome.

Kim Wiseman enjoys being at the park about as much as husband Brad and son Alex.

“She’s the epitome of a baseball mom,” says Brad Wiseman. “Alex is 25 and baseball has been a part of our lives for 22 years.

“(Kim) is just as excited to see a Cincinnati Reds game or a T-ball game.”

Alex and wife Leslie have a son — Maverick (1).

Will the boy be a ballplayer?

While sitting for her grandson, Kim got a fat lip when a baseball was thrown harder than she anticipated.

The younger Wiseman has watched the South Central team develop a “grind-it-out mentality.”

The turning point in the season came May 7 at South Central’s Donald L. Dones Field. That’s when the Rebels rallied from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to edge Austin 10-9. The Eagles scored all nine runs in the first two innings.

“That opened the eyes of the boys,” says Alex Wiseman of the comeback against a team that will compete in Saturday’s 2A Southridge Regional. “It shows they can accomplish a lot.”

South Central (enrollment around 215) part of the South Harrison Community School Corporation, which also includes Corydon Central High School (3A).

The Rebels belong to the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, Lanesville and New Washington).

The top three finishers in the 2019 SAC pennant race were Henryville (5-0), Lanesville (4-1) and South Central (3-2).

The Rebels are part of a sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, New Washington and Shawe Memorial.

Brad Wiseman, who was a South Central junior varsity coach from 2014-17 before being joined by Alex to lead the Rebels beginning with the 2018 season, saw the team take an 11-16 regular-season into the postseason before beating Christian Academy and Borden for the program’s seventh sectional title (all since 2005).

“We were very aggressive (about playing all scheduled contests),” says Brad Wiseman. “We knew we needed as much game experience as we could get to get us ready for this part of the season.”

The Rebels took on 3A teams like Providence and Silver Creek (ranked No. 10 and the 2018 2A state runners-up) and 2A’s Lanesville.

“We really see the difference, especially in the sophomores,” says Alex Wiseman of the strong competition. “The game is coming a lot easier to them.”

Says Brad Wiseman, “We get overlooked because of our record. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Various factors, including injuries, left South Central’s sophomore-heavy roster with 16 players and many junior varsity games were canceled.

The Rebels’ top pitchers are junior Zach Needler, sophomore Frank Goodman and seniors Wyatt Crosier, Bryce Lewis and Will Weber. All but Weber are right-handers.

Crosier, junior Austin Tyree and sophomores Wes Wilson and Stephen Sawicki are offensive leaders.

The Wisemans are assisted by Jeff Riley and Jeff Skaggs.

Dones Field has seen upgrades in the past decade and more are on the way. New dugouts and backstop fencing was added around 2010. Since then, the Rebels have gained an indoor hitting facility, turf was placed around home plate and new bullpens and more fencing is coming in the near future.

South Harrison Athletic Corporation (SHAC) is a feeder system, training players from age 4 through eighth grade in the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken system.

The Wisemans maintain a relationship with junior high coaches to make sure those players are prepared for high school baseball. The younger boys are invited to serve as managers for the older ones and experience the culture.

Brad Wiseman is a 1986 graduate of Castle High School, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Al Rabe.

“He was very insistent on the fine details,” says Brad Wiseman of Rabe. “You knew where you needed to be on the field at all times.”

Alex Wiseman’s coach at South Central was Nick Tremain (now head coach at Lawrenceburg).

“He was very much about the mental approach to the game,” says Alex Wiseman. “We played with a swagger. We expected to win. If you take that attitude, not a lot of teams are going to beat you.

“These are values we’ve tried to instill in the boys. Believe you can do it and you will get there if you put in the work.”

Work away from baseball happens in nearby Kentucky for both father and son. Brad Wiseman is a manager at Equian, a pre-bill medical recovery company. Alex Wiseman is a revenue analyst with Louisville Physicians Group.

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Father and son co-coaches Brad (right) and Alex Wiseman celebrate an IHSAA sectional baseball championship for South Central (Elizabeth) Junior/Senior High School.

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With co-coach Brad Wiseman toward the front, the South Central Rebels got to ride an Elizabeth (Ind.) Volunteer Fire Department truck after winning the 2019 IHSAA Shawe Memorial Sectional baseball title.

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The South Central (Elizabeth) Junior/Senior High School Rebels won the 2019 IHSAA Shawe Memorial Sectional baseball title. The team is wearing its “Hank Strong” T-shirts in support of Hank Sutherland, a boy in their community dealing with Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome.

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Pepmeier, Salem Lions looking to raise baseball profile

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Salem (Ind.) High School is located on the northwest side of the county seat in Washington County. The city is about 40 miles northwest of Louisville, Ky.

On the boys side, Salem’s sports identity revolves around the gridiron.

“Salem has always been a football town,” says first-year Lions head baseball coach Jason Pepmeier. “Baseball’s never been a real important sport in our school.

“We’d like to put ourselves on the map.”

Pepmeier, a 1992 Salem graduate and former baseball assistant, wants the Lions to roar on the diamond.

“We put in a lot of work in the off-season and hope to reap the rewards down the road,” says Pepmeier. “We hope to get this thing rolling.

“There’s some good baseball in this area. I’d put our conference in (IHSAA Class) 3A up against anybody in the state. We hope to be competitive.”

Pepmeier says there are usually between 24 and 30 players for varsity and junior varsity teams. He and assistants Jerry Hickey, Gregg Oppel and Jeffrey Burch have been working with 29 this spring as the Lions prepare for the 2019 season.

While Xavier Haendiges graduated early and is now on the baseball roster at Ohio University, returnees include senior Brandon Pepmeier and sophomore Brody Pepmeier — the coach’s sons.

Salem (enrollment around 575) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

Non-conference opponents include Crawford County, Madison, Mitchell, New Washington, Orleans, Paoli, Providence, South Central, Southwestern (Hanover), Springs Valley and West Washington

The Lions are part of a 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, North Harrison, Providence, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Salem has won three sectional titles — the last in 1996.

Besides Providence, which moved up from 2A because of the IHSAA tournament success factor, Salem and Brownstown Central (enrollment around 575) are the smallest schools in the sectional field. Silver Creek is around 880, Scottsburg 780, Corydon Central 700 and North Harrison 680.

“I’d like to see (the IHSAA) go to five or six classes,” says Pepmeier. “There are quite a few discrepancies (in school sizes with the current classes).

“I’m not sure if it will ever happen.”

Besides Salem Little League, there is a junior high club program with about a dozen players on both the seventh and eighth grade squads which compete in the spring on the high school diamond.

Travel ball options include the Smash, Southern Indiana Heat, Ironmen and Rawlings Tigers.

Pepmeier moved from Vincennes to Salem in 1986 and played four years of high school baseball for head coach Derek Smith.

“He still teaches at the school and is good friend of mine,” says Pepmeier of Smith. “He was a great players’ coach. He had good baseball mind and was very supportive of all of us when when went through school.”

When Pepmeier played right field for the Lions, he had to contend with a hill inside the ballpark. That problem was fixed about a decade ago.

“It’s in pretty good shape compete to what it used to be,” says Pepmeier, who indicates that he would like to see lights installed at the on-campus facility.

Pepmeier earned a business management degree from the University of Southern Indiana in 1996 and is married to 1994 Salem graduate Kandi. He is an agent with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance in Salem.

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The Pepmeiers (clockwise from bottom left): Jason, Kandi, Brandon and Brody. Jason Pepmeier is the head baseball coach at Salem (Ind.) High School. Brandon and Brody are two of his players. Jason and Kandi are both Salem graduates.

 

 

‘Small ball’ one way Stotts, Borden Braves achieve small-school baseball success

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Being consistently competitive on the baseball field at a small school is no small feat.

Head coach Eric Stotts has found a way to make the Braves of Borden High School (enrollment just over 200) into a program to be reckoned with around southern Indiana.

Fielding just a varsity team with about 12 to 14 players, the IHSAA Class 1A Braves have faired well against a schedule that is full of larger schools, including 4A’s Jennings County, New Albany and Seymour and 3A’s Corydon Central, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek.

“Aside from conference, we have only one 1A opponent,” says Stotts. “It’s the nature of the beast where we’re located.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a modest amount of pitching depth for a 1A high school.”

One way Borden dealt with the new pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) last spring was to sometimes lift pitchers at the front of the rotation early in games and go back to them later if needed.

“Everybody’s dealing with it,” says Stotts. “With 12 kids on a baseball team, our arms are limited.”

In 2017, Borden went 16-7 and might have gotten to the 20-win plateau if not for some rainouts that never got made up.

Lanesville edged Borden 1-0 in the championship game of the 1A South Central (Elizabeth) Sectional. The Eagles went on to hoist the 2017 state championship trophy a year after beating Borden 4-1 in the Lanesville Sectional final then going on to be 2016 1A state runner-up.

“We have see-sawed back and forth (with Lanesville),” says Stotts, who has led  Borden baseball 2000-07 and 2015 to the present. “We gave them the toughest game in their state tournament run both years.”

Because of the IHSAA success factor, Lanesville will move up to 2A in 2018. That leaves Christian Academy of Indiana, New Washington, Shawe Memorial, South Central (Elizabeth) as potential sectional foes for Borden.

Borden will still meet up with Lanesville. They are both members of the Southern Athletic Conference (along with Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central).

If SAC schools meet twice during the season, the first one counts toward the conference standings. Crothersville (about a 50-minute trip) is the furthest SAC school from Borden.

Borden, Henryville and Silver Creek are all part of West Clark Community Schools.

With the help of full-time assistants Sam Beckort and Eric Nale and part-timers Kyle Kruer (Indiana University Southeast student) and Dawson Nale (University of Southern Indiana student), the Braves go into 2018 with a trio of seniors that have been starters since Stotts came back to the program in 2015 — catcher/shortstop/pitcher Lucas McNew (a USI commit), first baseman/utility player Cory Anderson and outfielder Noah Franklin.

Having seen him speak at clinics, Stotts has incorporated some infield drills taught by USI head coach Tracy Archuleta.

Stotts draws on the influence of a real diamond veteran. The 1993 Clarksville High School graduate played for the Generals and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Wayne Stock, who taught lessons of dedication and commitment.

“Coach Wayne threw every pitch of batting practice,” says Stotts. “He was a wonderful man and a wonderful mentor.

“I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet. I’m now a coach and social studies teacher. That’s exactly what he was. No one outside my family was more influential on me.”

Stotts recalls the words of the late Billy Graham: “A coach will impact more people in a season than the average person does in a lifetime.”

“I firmly believe that,” says Stotts, who is father to Jonathan (22) and Zane (15).

As for strategy, Stotts says Stock was not a fan of the bunt. It took Stotts some time to learn how effective “small ball” can be.

“Now that has become a main weapon in any high school coach’s arsenal,” says Stotts.

As an assistant to Larry Ingram at Eastern (Pekin) High School in 1999, Stotts saw the Musketeers lay down up to a dozen bunts a game.

“You can have a lot of success with it,” says Stotts. “Getting the ball down means somebody (on defense) has to make a play.”

Before the BBCOR era, Stotts might have multiple long-ball hitters in his lineup. He can’t count on power now.

“Everybody can bunt — slow, fast, whatever,” says Stotts.

Stotts began his coaching career in youth leagues while he attended IU Southeast. He was freshmen coach on Chris McIntyre’s staff at New Albany in 1998.

McIntyre was a student teacher at Clarksville when Stotts was still in school.

“Coach Mac is a great old-school kind of coach,” says Stotts. “His teams do things the right way.”

One of Ingram’s products at Eastern (Pekin) was Brad Pennington. Drafted in 1989, the 6-foot-5 left-hander went on to pitch five seasons in the majors with the Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, California Angels and Tampa Bay Rays.

Like tennis, track and softball, Borden has its baseball facilities about a mile from campus.

The baseball field does not have lights. But fencing and other equipment was replaced after a low-grade tornado tore through last season.

Upgrades last year at Borden Youth League meant that junior high age players no longer had to share the high school diamond.

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Eric Stotts gets a point across to his Borden High School baseball team. He has led the Braves in two different stints — 2000-2007 and 2015 to the present. (Greg Mengelt/News and Tribune Photo)

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Borden High School baseball players listen intently to head coach Eric Stotts. The 1993 Clarksville High School graduate is in his second stint with the Braves. (Joel Ulrich/News and Tribune Photo)

 

Payne’s doing big things at tiny Lanesville

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tiny Lanesville is making a name for itself in Indiana high school baseball thanks in large part to Zach Payne.

In Payne’s second season as head coach at the Class 1A school (about 250 students) in 2016, the Eagles were state runners-up.

Many from the Harrison County town of around 600 folks found their way to Victory Field in Indianapolis to see a 4-0 loss to Daleville.

In 2017, Payne has Lanesville (18-6) back in the 1A semistate. The Eagles’ opponent Saturday, June 10 (following the 1 p.m. 3A game) at Jasper will be Indianapolis Lutheran (18-7). The winner advances to the state championship game.

Payne, 27, explains how he has gotten Lanesville to excel on the diamond.

“The main thing is putting kids in their best positions to succeed,” says Payne. “At a 1A school, we have limited numbers. We have to make the most out of what we’ve got. We try not to waste guys on the roster.”

There are 30 players in the program — the most Payne has had in his short time at the school. There are 20 on the tournament roster. He gets all of them — the starters and the bench players — to embrace their role.

“We will have them all contribute at some time during the season,” says Payne. “There’s a special group of guys who have been the leaders of the team. Other guys have been happy to help out in any way they can.”

The Eagles made it back to semistate in ’17 by topping New Washington and Borden to win the South Central (Elizabeth) Sectional and Loogootee and Northeast Dubois to take the Loogootee Regional.

It was the fourth sectional crown in program history (1975, 2010, 2016, 2017) and third regional (1975, 2016, 2017).

Lanesville is in the Southern Athletic Conference with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central.

With just five conference games (generally played one per week), Payne was free to have a challenging non-conference slate, full of larger opponents, including his alma mater and defending 2A state champion Providence.

“I like to schedule whoever,” says Payne. “This is probably the toughest schedule Lanesville has ever played.”

Lanesville, which plays its home games on Ed Jaegers Memorial Field at Heritage Park, is one of three teams in its sectional group with lights (South Central and Christian Academy of Indiana in New Albany, which did not field a team this spring, are the others) and those schools rotate as sectional hosts.

Zach Payne grew up playing baseball with his father Pat as a his youth coach.

“I wanted to be like dad,” says Payne. “I wanted to coach.”

Zach also counts older brother Sean (head softball coach at Floyd Central) and Providence coaches Scott Hornung, Scott Hutchins and Ben Hornung as mentors.

The 2017 Eagles coaching staff includes Josh Smith, Kyle Erwin, Christian Ensley at the varsity level with Jim Smith and Garrett Sherell guiding the junior varsity.

Payne, a computer programmer at Zirmed in Louisville by day, sees similarities in the community feel at Lanesville and Providence (he graduated from the school in Clarksville in 2008 and the University of Louisville in 2014).

“The biggest difference is the depth,” says Payne.

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Zach Payne, 27, is in his third season as head baseball coach at Lanesville High School in southern Indiana. He took the Eagles to an IHSAA Class 1A state runner-up finish in 2016 and has the program back in the semistate in 2017.