Dr. Joe LaPlaca — founder of Ares Elite Sports Vision and Ares Sports Vision Academy — has long had a goal. Graduated from Illinois College of Optometry in 2009, LaPlaca started his sports vision optometry practice in 2018. “I noticed there’s a gap in the market for vision and how it relates to every sport,” says LaPlaca. “In optometry schools and athletics we’re missing it. “There’s a big opportunity there and something I always wanted to do. “Eighty percent of how we experience the world is through our eyes. How do we make this better?” A lifelong athlete, LaPlaca has been involved in soccer, baseball, hockey, wrestling, tennis, football and martial arts and more. “Sports has always been a passion of mine and understanding the nuances of the games and understanding how vision relates to all those sports,” says LaPlaca. “I take this very seriously. It’s primarily for research. I know what impact this can have on an athlete. “This could be the thing that gets a kid a college scholarship or not. This is the thing that could take a Triple-A baseball player up to the major leagues. “If we can clean things up and I can get them bought-in and processing — and I know I can — it’s huge for a lot of people.” “I want to make the biggest impact I can on the sports world.” LaPlaca’s practice is located inside Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind. LaPlaca sees vision and cognitive training working together. “How do we take all the information we’re getting from the vision side and how does our brain make decisions?,” says LaPlaca. “How does it orient in space?” LaPlaca says athletes encounter visual discrimination. In baseball, batters must learn to recognize pitches based on factors like rotation, release point and speed. “The ones that excel at that are the ones who are able to make the decision once they’ve seen the actual pitch and process that information,” says LaPlaca. “It’s called choice reaction time. Do I swing or do I not swing? If we can break it down to simple steps of ‘do I go’ or ‘do I not go’ that’s what — hitters especially — are concerned the most about. “That’s the holy grail that everybody is chasing right now. How to I train at that piece and how do I know I’m getting better at that thing?” In LaPlaca’s practice, he makes it a point to track all the analytics. “Through training we can equivocally say you’re getting faster in your choice reaction time,” says LaPlaca. “It should improve your batting average, your strikeout percentage (and more). Those are the things coaches are (seeking).” LaPlaca says it is progressions that he puts athletes through that makes the difference. “A lot of people train with their tablet or their phone,” says LaPlaca. “We do a lot more free space. We’re connecting the visual stimuli to an action for your right hand or your left hand or a closed fist or an open fist. There’s eye-hand coordination drills. “All these things are custom for that specific athlete based on specific areas of weakness.” Currently, the youngest Ares client is 9 and the oldest is 64. “There’s no age limit to it,” says LaPlaca. “13 is probably the best. They’ll start going through puberty. They’ll have growth spurts. We can stay on top of how their eyes and brains connect to their body (as they grow). “On the other side they come out and are a lot stronger than kids who weren’t doing vision training.” LaPlaca doesn’t see an end point for this training and that those wishing to be a NCAA Division I athlete or professional will continue this training for a long time. Currently, LaPlaca is working with the baseball programs at Purdue University and the University of Maryland and has worked with Butler University in the past. He has also visited with a Major League Baseball organization. LaPlaca estimates that few of the collegians or pros he works with had heard of vision training and more than a third had never had an eye exam. “That seems to be the more glaring thing,” says LaPlaca. “They think that just a vision screening is good enough. When in the world are they just standing and looking at one specific spot? “They’re using their visual and neurocognitive systems way more frequently than they even understand.” Typically, athletes are evaluated and ranked against their teammates and against other athletes of similar caliber. LaPlaca can identify those with serious visual issues and refer them to a local vision therapist. Ares Elite Sports Vision is on Facebook and Instagram. LaPlaca has been a frequent podcast guest. Here are links to some of those episodes:
Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports? Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State. In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships. Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98. There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward. Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008). A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system. These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:
Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
Who benefits the most from class baseball?
If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion. “The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s). “Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. “I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”
“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. “For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional. “The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period. “It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. “Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question. “Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely. “There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds. “It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it. “But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball. “The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into. “The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”
“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system. “All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting. “I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete. “We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament. “We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”
“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. “Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today. “High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be. “The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo). “There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more. “How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are. “Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level). “I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”
“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. “Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball). “I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down. “I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”
“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. “Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. “The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports. “I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes. The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. “I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A. “Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). “You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw. “Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach. “Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class. Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference. “(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc. “Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”
“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have. “(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size. “Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools. “As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting. I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”
“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class. “Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close. “Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students. “Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. “Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. “The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion. Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”
“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it. “It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools. “Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”
“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis. “Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. “Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. “The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. “As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field. “The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney. Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers. “We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up. “The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. “Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so. “The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most. “The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A. “(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”
“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes. “I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.” “It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.” “Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”
“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint. “Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament. I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals. “A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment. “Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300). “If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth. “At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth. In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”
There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class. “If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win. “At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game. “The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools). “In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up. “I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”
“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same. “Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes. “Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”
“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights. “There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game. “I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes. “For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”
“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part. “We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class. “That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships). “The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.” “There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”
“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. “Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’ We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team. It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area. “The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”
“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started. “Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament. “The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”
“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular. “In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland. Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases. “I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”
“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. “While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. “At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.
“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”
“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game. “I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit. “I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that. “Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”
“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools. To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money. “The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. “I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball. “I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”
“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state. “I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system. “If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four. “Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. “A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer. “One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist. “Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success. It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities. “I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs. “Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney. “The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success. “My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well. “IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball. “I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”
“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school. “If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’ “If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’” “If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools. “Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10! “I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success. “I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”
“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. “All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”
“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis. “The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success. “Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher. “In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”
“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits. “(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. “There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”
“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them. “The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes. The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all. “I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”
“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. “I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. “I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community. “With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”
“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board. “Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players. “I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”
“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships. “Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”
“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo). “The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.
“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”
“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved. The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. “The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.
“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”
“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs.
“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.
“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.
“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”
“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. “More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level. “(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. “There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”
Dennis Kas has spent many a spring and summer on a baseball diamond. The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer (Class of 2000) had no specific plans to do that in 2022. It was while attending his grandsons’ basketball games in Lafayette in November 2021 that Kas ran into Clayton Richard, the former Indiana Mr. Baseball at McCutcheon High School who pitched against Kas’ Noblesville teams and went on to the big leagues and had been hired as head baseball coach at Lafayette Jeff. That chance meeting led to an invitation for Kas to join Richard’s Jeff coaching staff. Kas accepted and acted as bench coach and helped out in a variety of ways and is doing the same again in 2022-23. “I worked offensively with the kids this fall,” says Kas, 70. “(Clayton) likes to lean on me a little bit during the course of games and ask my opinion about certain situations.” Kas has developed a philosophy as a coach. “In baseball, there’s so much in the game you can’t control,” says Kas. “You’d better be good at the things you can control. “For me, that starts with your preparation. I cannot know what my opponents are doing with their time. I just have to be confident that we’re out-working them. “It’s our discipline, our approach to things, our toughness, the character we show, our resiliency. They come to the forefront in baseball because those are things you can control in preparing your kids.” It’s those principles that are being promoted by the Jeff staff. “We want to do our part in developing quality young men,” says Kas. “We want to develop players. We expect to win games. In order to do that it takes a lot of time and commitment. We’re raising the demands.” Kas says players often make defensive mistakes when they get caught by surprise because they are lacking in preparation. “I never wanted to ask kid to do something in a game that I had not prepared him to do in practice,” says Kas. “That’s totally unfair.” The coach is a proponent of hitters putting the ball in-play. “Never underestimate the ability of your opponent to screw up,” says Kas. “In baseball, the best way to do that is the force the action. We had better be causing some havoc for the (opposing) defense. “I’m a big believer in being resourceful offensively. You’ve got to be able to bunt the baseball. Use a little hit-and-run. It depends on our personnel. Let’s get hit by pitches if we have players who understand that concept and are willing to do it. Let’s find a way to get on-base.” On defense, it comes down to executing every play. There is nothing “routine.” “If we can control those kinds of things and be fundamentally sound defensively then I think we give ourselves the best chance to win,” says Kas. “It’s unfair to have to go to pitchers and say we’ve got to have you strike out 10 guys for us to have a chance.” Kas notes that a successful formula for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros was the ability to rack up strikeouts by its pitching staff while limiting those as hitters. “That was their secret to success,” says Kas. “They put the ball in-play — even at that level.” The Astros fanned 160 of 498 batters faced and whiffed 118 times in 455 at-bats themselves during an 11-2 postseason run. Prior to coaching at Jeff, Kas spent a couple of years assisting Andy Dudley at Frankfort. Dudley was a teammate of Jade Kas — Dennis’ oldest son and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participant in 1995 — at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Dennis Kas spent 22 years as an Indiana high school head coach — five at Clinton Prairie and 17 at Noblesville — and amassed a 464-210 mark with five conference, seven sectional and one regional title. He had 53 players receive baseball scholarships, five selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, 13 chosen IHSBCA Academic All-State, 12 pick as All-State and 12 named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. Kas served two terms as IHSBCA president and assisted the organization in many other ways. Recently he was in charge of conducting the Junior Showcase during All-Star weekend. He spent a couple of years as a volunteer coach at Butler University and six as a paid assistant to Mike Frame at Huntington (Ind.) University while commuting from Noblesville. Kas has also coached for the Indiana Bulls organization with sons Jade and Austan. A 1970 graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and 1974 graduate of Anderson College (now Anderson University), Kas started teaching in 1974-75 and served in that capacity for 37 1/2 years in the Clinton Prairie (12), Noblesville (24) and Clinton Central (1 1/2) school systems. Kas was coaxed out of retirement by a former teaching colleague Melissa Perry and Jeremy Rodibaugh, who played at Huntington University during the coach’s time with the Foresters and was now principal at Clinton Central Elementary School. For the second semester of one school year and the whole next year, Kas taught Spanish before retiring from the classroom the second time. He moved from Noblesville to Frankfort more than three years ago to be closer to family. Catherine “Cathe” Kas died Dec. 9, 2021. She and Dennis had been married and remained great friends. Dennis has three children — Jade, Austan and Cheyenne — and seven grandchildren (Brady, Sydnie, Charlie, Jacoby, Xyan, Jalen and Sloan). Jade Kas (who is married to Crysta) lives in the McCutcheon school district and works for Eli Lily. Former sports editor Austan Kas (Ashley) resides in Fort Wayne and is involved with fantasy sports websites. He played at Huntington U. when his dad coached there. Cheyenne (Chris Taylor) lives in Frankort and directs the Clinton County Human Society.
An American shined in Canada and got the chance to play in Mexico. That’s the story of Tasker Strobel’s 2022 as a professional baseball pitcher. Strobel, a graduate of Avon (Ind.) High School (2013) and Saint Joseph’s College (2017), spent the spring and summer with the independent/MLB Partner League American Association’s Winnipeg Goldeyes. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound left-hander performances for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats against Winnipeg in 2021 made Goldeyes manager/pitching coach Rick Forney want Strobel in 2022. The 27-year-old southpaw was given a chance to compete for the closer role, landed it and made 53 appearances (all in relief) and went 2-3 with 21 saves (second in the AA to the 23 for Fargo-Moorhead’s Alex DuBord) and a 3.41 earned run average. Strobel racked up 58 strikeouts with 21 walks in 55 1/3 innings. “(Forney) was good for my career,” says Strobel. “If you were doing well he let you ride and do your own thing.” The longtime baseball man maintains connections South of the Border and had former Winnipeg slugger Kyle Martin play for Mayos de Navojoa of the Mexican Pacific League (Liga Mexicana del Pacífico or LMP in Spanish) in 2021-22. Navojoa — managed by Homar Rojas — reached out saying they needed a closer for 2022-23. Strobel and his agent deemed it a good fit and he signed to compete in the 10-team league that has a 68-game regular season runs from October to December and is followed by a playoff series in January to determine the league champion and a berth in the Caribbean Series. The way it was explained to Strobel, the winter league is essentially all-star teams from the 18-team Mexican League (which runs from April to August) with a few imports mixed in among native Mexicans. Mayos teammates include three players from the 2022 American Association season — infielder Grant Kay (Chicago Dogs), pitcher Max Kuhns (Sioux City Explorer) and outfielder Zach Nehrir (Cleburne Railroaders). Through Mexican Pacific League games of Nov. 1, Strobel had finished seven games and was 0-0 with four saves, 4.26 ERA, four strikeouts and one walk in 6 1/3 innings. What makes a closer in Strobel’s eyes? “You’ve got to be a little crazy and have that mindset of getting everyone out,” says Strobel. (The other team is) not going to score a run on you. “You have to lock it in. You can’t miss a spot with any pitch, especially the American Association.” Throwing from a low three-quarter arm slot, Strobel employs a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. His four-seamer sits at 90 to 91 mph and has been up to 94. His curve has more of a sweeping action that his slider, which is tighter and faster. “I have two sliders that vary depending on counts and batters,” says Strobel. “I throw a class ‘circle’ change.” While in Mexico, Strobel is working to learn the basics of Spanish. “I took German in high school,” says Strobel, who is expanding his vocabulary with online lessons. He also uses Google Translate extensively. Tasker was born in Overland Park, Kan., and moved to Indiana at 4. The oldest of Chris and Janelle Strobel’s two sons (2017 Avon graduate Spencer Strobel is a super senior lefty pitcher at Indiana Tech) grew up in Avon and went from rec ball to travel ball as soon as he could with the Hendricks County Hurricanes. In high school, Tasker played with the Indiana Bulls and Jeff Mercer Sr. Strobel’s varsity coach at Avon High was Troy Drosche. The Orioles pitching coach then was Bob McPike and Strobel also took lessons from former big leaguer Bill Sampen. These days, Strobel helps Drosche with his high school and Indiana Bulls teams when he is able. His two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill. (2014 and 2015) are what Strobel calls “one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Kevin Bowers was — and still is the Statemen’s head coach. Max Hudson coached pitchers in 2014 and Kyle Medley led them in 2015. “It was literally baseball and school,” says Strobel. “It was about being a JUCO Bandit and I loved it.” That diamond chapter was followed up by two campaigns with head coach/pitching coach Rick O’Dette at NCAA Division II Saint Joe. “I love that guy,” says Strobel of Coach O. “He led me into how I think about pitching now. “We would sometimes butt heads, but we were a good pairing.” Strobel was a SJC senior in 2017 — the year the school closed and the Pumas program went with it. That spring, Strobel made 14 appearances (13 starts) and was 7-3 with three complete games, a 3.17 ERA and 68 strikeouts and 30 walks in 88 innings. As a junior, he hurled in 12 games (nine starts) and went went 4-4 with a 4.53 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 13 walks in 57 2/3 innings. Business degrees were earned from both Lincoln Trail and Saint Joseph’s. The lefty began his professional career in 2017 with seven appearances for the Frontier League’s Joliet (Ill.) Slammers. Strobel had Tommy John surgery on his elbow at the end of 2017 and did not play in 2018. As soon as he was cleared, he began training at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., and still goes there in the off-season to work with Greg Vogt and Anthony Gomez and to coach other pitchers. Bullpen Tournaments and Pro X Athlete Development — both at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. — also employed Strobel during his time away from playing the game. With the independent Utica, Mich.-based United Shore Professional Baseball League’s 2020 Westside Woolly Mammoths, the lefty played in 10 games (nine in relief) with no decisions, a 3.97 ERA, 18 strikeouts and four walks in 11 1/3 innings. Strobel pitched parts of 2019 and 2021 with the Greg Tagert-managed RailCats, getting into 34 games and going 3-5, a 3.84 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 21 walks in 70 1/3 innings. Strobel, who is contracted to return to Winnipeg in 2023, wasn’t the only Indiana native in the 2022 Goldeyes bullpen. Right-hander Zac Ryan, an Andrean High School graduate and former Georgia Tech pitcher drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2017 and released in 2021, made 32 appearances (all in relief) for Winnipeg in 2022. He was 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 16 walks in 29 innings.
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.”
Ty Neal is the new head baseball coach at Carmel (Ind.) High School. While transitioning his wife and three children from southwestern Ohio to central Indiana, Neal embraces the expectations that come with leading the Greyhounds and performing in a community that demands excellence. “This is the only high school job in the country I would have moved my family for,” says Neal, a former Indiana University assistant and University of Cincinnati head coach who is married to Christine and has sons Silas (14) and Beckett (12) and daughter Paisley (9). “I owe it to myself and my family to surround us with high-level people. “I’m excited because it’s going to bring out the best in all of us.” Both Neal boys were born in Bloomington. “I’ve built so many relationships in Indiana,” says Ty Neal. “This is a great opportunity for my family to get back to the great state of Indiana.” The competitive environment and lofty standards at his new school district suit Neal. “The reason people are so critical of Carmel they expect so much out of everyone,” says Neal, who was hired in July. “As a coach that’s all positive. “I want be held under a microscope and perform at a high level every single day of my life.” After serving as the Director of Pitching at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind., November 2018 to October 2019, Neal led the baseball program at Loveland High School (enrollment around 525) in the Greater Cincinnati area in 2020 and 2021. The Tigers did not play any games in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carmel (enrollment around 5,225) is currently an athletic independent. The Greyhounds were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville. Those schools have combined for nine State Finals appearances — two each for Carmel (1997, 2000), Fishers (2018, 2021) and Westfield (1998, 2009) and one apiece for Hamilton Southeastern (2019), Noblesville (2014) and Zionsville (2016) with state titles in 2014, 2018 and 2019. Carmel has earned 13 sectional championships — the last in 2016. Neal intends to bring consistency as he builds the culture of his Greyhounds program. “That starts at the top,” says Neal. “These are 14- to 18-year-old young men that have so many moving parts in their lives. “I want to be consistent in my demeanor, expectations and standards for them. We show up everyday and there’s no surprises. We’re not going to get in mid-season and change the way we do things. We’re not going to panic. “There’s a comfort level that comes with consistency where — hopefully — you can bring out the best in everyone.” Neal, who has targeted potential assistant coaches, conducted a recent player-parent meeting to shake everyone’s hand and is planning to start IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Sept. 13. Carmel plays its home games on Hartman Field. “I think it’s awesome,” says Neal. “It’s a brand new turf field with lights that I can turn on and off with an app on my phone.” To serve a community that features the Carmel Dads Club, Carmel Pups travel baseball and teams at Carmel Clay Schools’ three middle schools — Carmel, Clay and Creekside — Neal plans a five-week middle school camp. “I want to build relationships with the middle school coaches,” says Neal. “We’ll have similar concepts so we’re not starting from scratch freshman year.” The Greyhounds routinely send players on to college baseball. Three alums — Ryan Campbell, Conrad Gregor and Tommy Sommer — are current or recent pros. Born in West Elkton, Ohio (Dayton area), former left-handed pitcher Neal is a 1995 graduate of Preble Shawnee Junior/Senior High School in Camden, Ohio. He earned four letters at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) 1996-99 and was team captain in 1999 and secured a Sport Management degree. Tracy Smith was his head coach. Neal served as Smith’s pitching coach at Miami in 2000 and 2005 and was an assistant to Dan Callahan for three seasons (2001-03) at Southern Illinois University while getting a Masters of Sport and Fitness Administration/Management. He was pitching coach for the Cape Cod Baseball League‘s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the summer of 2002. There was one season as an assistant at Cincinnati (2004) and four as head coach (2014-17). When Smith became head coach at Indiana, he brought Neal along and he was top assistant and recruiting coordinator for eight seasons (2006-13). He was also pitching coach for six of those campaigns and infield/third base coach for two. The Hoosiers went to the College World Series in 2013. “He gave me an opportunity to help the team,” says Neal of the coach-player relationship with Smith (who is now head coach at the University of Michigan). “I had to grow up a lot under him. “I learned from him to be agile and open to new things and learning. You change things when you need to.” Neal was Smith’s Quality Control Analyst at Arizona State University in 2018. While in Ohio, he created Serving Baseball Passion as a platform to share his knowledge with younger players. In addition to coaching, Neal teaches Special Education at Carmel High School.
Carter Doorn enjoyed a super season in his first summer since becoming a college baseball pitcher. The right-hander saw limited action at Purdue University in the spring then turned heads with the 2022 Lima (Ohio) Locos of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. The 2021 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., made four mound appearances for the Boilermakers (all in relief) and went 0-0 with a 9.82 earned run average, five strikeouts and five walks over 3 2/3 innings. Combining the regular season, a 1-2-3 frame in the July 12 GLSCL All-Star Game in Mason, Ohio, and the playoffs, Doorn pitched in 10 games (eight starts) representing the Locos and went 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA, 54 strikeouts and 23 walks over 48 innings. During his award-taking summer, he was named the Lou Laslo Pitcher of the Year and Tony Lucadello Top Pitcher Prospect in the GLSCL’s North Division and was also chosen first-team all-league. Doorn fanned 11 in six innings July 15 against the visiting Grand Lake Mariners (Celina, Ohio) and whiffed nine in six frames June 21 in a road game vs. the Muskegon (Mich.) Clippers. In a one-inning stint in Game 3 of the league championship series July 31 against the Hamilton Joes, Doorn achieved a personal-best with a 96 mph four-seam fastball. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder landed in Lima thanks to a Purdue connection. Boilers volunteer assistant coach Daniel Furuto is a former Locos manager and is the brother of 2022 Lima manager Matt Furuto. Purdue infielder Ty Gill (Valparaiso High School Class of 2021) also played for the team this summer. Doorn’s pitch selection has changed over time. With the Locos, he used the four-seamer (which sat 90 to 92 mph), sinker, slider, curveball and change-up. He went with the four-seamer, curve and slider in 3-2 counts. When behind in the count, Doorn would often use his sinker (combination one- or two-seamer) that goes drops and gets on the hands of right-handed hitters. His slider — thrown in the low 80s — is a mix of a cutter and traditional slider. “It does not have much depth,” says Doorn, 19. “It moves a lot from right to left. It moves away from a right-hander.” Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, his curve drops almost 12-to-6 on the clock face. It goes away from a righty and into a lefty. “My curveball is my best breaking pitch,” says Doorn. A “circle” change-up moves into a right and away from a lefty. Born in Chicago, Doorn grew up in Schererville, Ind. His 11U summer was his last at Dyer (Ind.) Little League and his first in travel ball with Morris Baseball. He played for some other travel teams in tournaments, but was primarily with Morris. He spent his 17U summer with the Dave Sutkowski-coached 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs (formerly the Hammond/Morris Chiefs). “Coach Bush is really, really wise,” says Doorn of Sutkowski. “When he says something you have to listen.” Doorn, who committed to Purdue even before that summer leading into his senior year of high school, respects how Sutkowski takes a different group of 17-year-olds year after year and helps them find a college baseball home. “He shows how much he cares for these kids’ development and the career they have ahead of them,” says Doorn. Carter is the oldest of Karl and Carli Doorn’s two children. Carpenter/contractor Karl Doorn played baseball and football at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Ill., Veterans Administration nurse practitioner Carli Doorn played volleyball and basketball and Illiana Christian High School when it was located in Lansing, Ill. Indiana Wesleyan University-bound Mia Doorn (18) played four seasons of varsity volleyball at Illiana Christian, which is now located in Dyer. Carter spent his first two prep years at Illiana Christian and his last two at Lake Central. His head baseball coaches were Darren DeBoer with the Vikings and Mike Swartzentruber with the Indians. “He’s an awesome dude,” says Doorn of DeBoer. “He’s super, super caring for players and the program. Being athletic director and a coach shows his devotion. “I never had a bad experience with him. He always knows what to say at the right time. He’s really good with words.” Though the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Doorn did get to experience Swartzentruber. “He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met in my life,” says Doorn of Swartzentruber. “He always wants the best for whoever he associates himself with “He’s a gritty coach and you can always ask him questions.” In his one season for Lake Central (2021), Doorn was an all-Duneland Athletic Conference honoree, Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District A Player of the Year and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series selection. The pitcher/corner infielder was also finalist for IHSBCA Player of the Year after posting strong pitching and hitting numbers. On the mound, he was 8-1 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.97 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and 94 strikeouts in 48 innings with a no-hitter. He struck out 12 and 14 in consecutive starts. He also hit .406 with 47 runs batted in and a 1.212 OPS (.522 on-base percentage plus .690 slugging average) in 28 games. Doorn spent the summer of 2021 living in central Indiana on weekdays training at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind., and playing for the Greg Vogt-coached 18U Mambas on the weekend. Deciding he wanted to throw a baseball harder, Doorn gave up basketball after his ninth grade year and hit the weights to put some muscle on what was then a 6-3, 135-pound frame. His goal has been to develop year after year he got to work on becoming bigger, faster and stronger at PRP while continuing work with former Morris Chiefs coach Anthony Gomez. Thinking he would pursue a path to become a dentist, Doorn entered Purdue as a Biology major. He has since changed to Construction Management Technology. “I grew up on the construction scene on my dad’s job sites,” says Doorn for his decision to switch majors. Doorn, who turns 20 on Aug. 24, plans to heads back to West Lafayette a week before that. A team meeting is planned for Aug. 21, followed by six weeks or so of individual work then full team practice. With a number of graduations, transfers and pitchers being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Doorn expects Purdue pitching staff to look much different in 2023. Gone are all three weekend starters — Jackson Smeltz (drafted in the 10th round by the San Diego Padres), Wyatt Wendell (signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks) and Troy Wansing (transferred to Texas A&M).
Competition. It’s one of the things Carter Lohman likes most about baseball. As a left-handed pitcher, the 2018 Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate enjoys the challenge of facing hitters. In four seasons at the University of Louisville (2019-22), he appeared in 38 games (30 in relief) and went 3-4 with a 5.59 earned run average, 62 strikeouts and 52 walks in 58 innings. The Cardinals went 134-65-1 during Lohman’s time with the program, including 51-18 and a College World Series appearance in 2019. Each season was preceded by the Omaha Challenge — a series of competitions to get the team ready for the season and focused on the goal of ending the season at the CWS. For a week or two, the red and black teams took part in swimming, tire flips, 100-meter dashes, lifting and running and more. There was a truck push around the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. Lohman was in the individual top 10 and on the winning team a couple of times. In high school, he played four varsity seasons (all but his junior year as a pitcher-only) for then-HSE head coach Scott Henson and the Royals did the Victory Challenge (the IHSAA State Finals are at Victory Field) early in the spring semester. “It helped make us mentally and physically tougher,” says Lohman. “(Coach Henson) pushed everyone to get the most out of themselves on the field. Our practices were scheduled nicely. There was no lollygagging. That was our time to get better. “At the same time he knew that baseball is fun so let it be fun.” He struck out 125 batters during his prep career and was ranked as Indiana’s top left-handed pitcher by Perfect Game. He also earned two football letters at HSE. Lohman has also enjoyed development at PRP Baseball at Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind., working with Greg Vogt, Anthony Gomez and others and going against other players on Fridays. “It’s a good atmosphere for competing and getting better,” says Lohman. Dan McDonnell is Louisville’s head coach. Lohman worked closely with associate head coach/pitching coach Roger Williams. “He did not take a cookie-cutter approach (to each pitcher),” says Lohman of Williams, who has been at the U of L for 16 seasons. “The emphasis was on learning the game and becoming a better player.” Lohman learned about things like bunting scenarios and first-and-third situations. “I could go for days talking about pitch sequencing,” says Lohman. “You can use your pitches in different ways to get the batters out.” Lohman’s been good enough at it to get paid for it. The 22-year-old southpaw was signed Aug. 1 as a minor league free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers is now at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., throwing regular bullpen sessions and expecting to make his pro debut soon in the Arizona Complex League. Lohman, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, throws from a high three-quarter arm slot. His four-seam fastball has gotten up to 96 mph. His two-seamer has similar velocity with more horizontal movement to the arm side as opposed to the glove side for the four-seamer. To get more feel for the pitch, Lohman positions his index finger to throw a “spike” curve ball. Thrown harder than his curve, his slider has more horizontal break. His uses a “circle” grip for his change-up. Born in Indianapolis on Christmas Day 1999, Carter is the oldest of Northwestern High School graduates Brian and Andrea Lohman’s four children. Brian Lohman, a sales engineer, played baseball and football in high school and lettered as a defensive back at Purdue University (1992-95). Andrea Lohman, an actuary, was a high school cheerleader. Griffin Lohman, 21, is a right-handed pitcher at Purdue. Ava and Sydney have played volleyball at HSE. The Lohman brothers were teammates briefly during Carter’s senior year of high school and with the Tropics of the 2021 College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. What was it like growing up with a ball-playing brother? “The biggest thing was playing catch,” says Carter. “We eventually passed up our dad so we had no one else to throw with.” Carter played recreation ball in Fishers until 8 then travel ball for the Fisher Cats, Indiana Bulls and Evoshield Canes (now Canes Midwest) at 16U and 17U. He met Jared Poland around 10 while both were on the Bulls. Right-hander Poland went on to pitch at Indianapolis Cathedral High School and was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins. “We definitely talk about (pitching),” says Lohman of some of his conversations with Poland. Lohman played briefly with the Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 before joining other freshmen on the Louisville campus. He had a short stint in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Orleans Firebirds in 2019 and was with the CSL’s Snapping Turtles in 2020. In May, Lohman earned a degree in Exercise Science. “I’ve always been interested in how the body moves,” says Lohman. “It can help me on the field.” Away from baseball, the knowledge gives Lohman many options including athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist. But now it’s about competing on the pitcher’s mound.
Kory Seitz has some points of emphasis as the new head baseball coach at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind. “Out of the gate we’ve got to get stronger and have a little more grit,” says Seitz. “We are going to live in the weight room. “I’m going to be a little less baseball and a little more that.” Seitz, a 1996 HSE graduate who has been on the Royals coaching staff the last 18 years under four head coaches (Curry Harden, Scott Johnson, Scott Henson and Jeremy Sassanella), has witnessed a huge uptick in strikeouts by the program’s hitters in recent seasons and sees a solution. “We’ve been overthinking things,” says Seitz. “It’s going to be different. They’re not going to be told they have to swing a certain way. The kids have to relax and be comfortable in their own skin.” Seitz spent his entire pre-college career in the Hamilton Southeastern system. His father Ken Seitz was HSE head baseball coach for 25 years and is a member of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The elder Seitz was also the school’s athletic director for 25 years and was IHSBCA State Clinic chairman for 15. Kory, a former infielder who played for Bob Morgan at Indiana University, describes his father’s coaching style. “My dad’s not a yeller,” says Kory. “He built relationships with kids. When he did get loud he got a lot better response. If you’re constantly on the negative side they’re going shut down. “There’s a reason guys come back 30 years later at alumni night.” Seitz uses a phrase from HSE head football coach Mike Kelly which also fits. “You can’t make withdrawals without making deposits with kids,” says Seitz. “They know that you care about them.” The Royals play and practice on Ken Seitz Field. Since his retirement as head coach, Ken Seitz (who is married to Kathy with a daughter, Kristy) has served several years as an assistant and is on Kory’s varsity staff along with pitching coach Owen Callaghan (HSE Class of 2017), who just finished his fifth year at Indiana University-Kokomo and was the Cougars’ Friday starter in 2022. “He is mature beyond his years on the baseball side,” says Seitz of Callaghan, who follows Harden as the man in charge of Royals pitchers There is one opening at the varsity level. HSE fields two junior varsity teams — Royal and White. Coaches include Ken Shepherd, Mason Love, John Gibbons and Brian Harrison. Hamilton Southeastern (enrollment around 3,475) is a member of the Hoosier Crossroads Conference (with Avon, Brownsburg, Franklin Central, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville). HCC teams play two-game series. “I love the competition,” says Seitz of the conference. “Playing against the best puts you in the best come tournament time.” The Royals were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville. HSE has won 15 sectional titles — the last in 2019. The team went on to win a 4A state championship, edging Columbus East 3-2 in the finale with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Eight of the 12 players to appear in that game were seniors, including starter pitcher Michael Dillon and reliever Tyler Schweitzer. Right-hander Dillon ranked No. 2 among all NCAA Division II pitchers in saves with 14 for Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) in 2022. Lefty Schweitzer went 11-2 at Ball State and was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox. Among other recent alums to move on to college baseball are Matt Gorski (Class of 2016) at Indiana University (drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019), Carter Poiry (Class of 2016) at Western Illinois (later Lincoln Trail College, Morehead State University and Quinnipiac University), Sam Bachman (Class of 2018) to Miami (Ohio) University (drafted in the first round in 2021 by the Los Angeles Angels), Carter Lohman (Class of 2018) at the University of Louisville (drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022), Andrew Morlen (Class of 2018) at Anderson University, Lake Land College and Delta State University, Rutger Poiry (Class of 2018) at Lincoln Trail College and Eastern Kentucky University, Greyson Droste (Class of 2019) at the University of Akron, Cole Graverson (Class of 2020) at Butler University and Griffin Lohman (Class of 2020) at Purdue University. There are no college commitments yet among current players. Seitz looks at a number of returning pitchers who logged innings for HSE in 2022, including the Class of 2023’s Brady Strawmyer, Eli Lantz, Griffen Haas and Ty Bradle and the Class of 2024’s Ethan Lund. Lund and Haas are left-handers. The rest of right-handers. “Growing up in this program and working under different coaches,” says Seitz. “I know a lot of these kids really well. “I know what we have coming.” Started three years ago, the Royals Baseball Club serves as kind of feeder for HSE. It is run as a separate entity from the school. Beginning at 13, teams play a full travel ball schedule from March to July. Kory’s oldest son, Kam Seitz (Class of 2024), played for the 16U RBC Select team this summer. “In our district kids have a choice of which high school they want to go to — HSE or Fishers,” says Seitz. “(With the RBC), we get get to know who are kids are. Our whole coaching staff involved in their winter workouts and are in-charge of teams if possible. “We don’t have junior high baseball here. This is our way of connecting with those kids and building a relationship with them.” Besides being a coach, Seitz is a realtor/broker for Keller Williams Realty. “It’s easy for me to want to promote this area,” says Seitz. Kory and wife Heather also have twins in the Class of 2027 — Karson (baseball) and Haleigh (softball).
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.