Tag Archives: North Carolina

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

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

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

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

Borden begins professional career in Houston Astros system

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

Tim Borden II just wanted a chance to show what he can do on the diamond.
So the infielder and 2018 graduate of Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., transferred from the University of Louisville to Georgia Tech for the 2022 collegiate baseball season. He was familiar with the school and program since the two schools are both in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Playing in 55 games for the ’22 Danny Hall-coached Yellow Jackets, the righty swinger hit .316 (60-of-190) with 18 home runs, 11 doubles, 53 runs batted in, 56 runs scored and 1.106 OPS (.448 on-base percentage plus .658 slugging average).
“I felt like I had to give myself the opportunity to play every day,” says Borden, 23. “It’s been my lifelong dream to be a professional baseball player.
“It all worked out the way I wanted to.”
Borden, who was selected in the 37th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cleveland Indians but opted for college, was chosen in the 16th round of the 2022 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. He got into 26 games with the Florida Complex League Astros and Asheville (N.C.) Tourists and hit .286 (24-of-84) with six homers and 21 RBIs. He played shortstop, third base and second base.
“I’m very familiar with all three of those positions,” says Borden. “I like them all equally. As long as I’m out there playing every day I’m OK with wherever I play.”
The last day of the Astros two-week instructional league in West Palm Beach, Fla., was Sept. 25.
He plans to spend his off-season working out in Louisville with Eric Hammer.
Borden, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, describes his hitting approach.
“I’m always looking to attack the fastball early on in the count,” says Borden. “Any off-speed pitch that starts in the middle or down in the zone I’m letting go by.”
His best athletic qualities are twofold.
“Being a competitor and being confident are the two biggest things,” says Borden. “I always know my confidence is going to be through the roof because I put in the preparation. I’ve done the work.
“When it comes to game time I’m able to be free and have fun.”
Tim Borden II is the son of Tim Borden Sr. and grandson of Ray Borden and considers them his two biggest mentors.
“Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Tim II. “They’ve always shown me what hard work looks like whether it’s in a business forum or in the weight room.
“I’ve always looked up to them in every aspect of life.”
Borden graduated in three years from Louisville as a Sport Administration major with a minor in Communication. He was studying History, Technology & Communication at Georgia Tech.
Born in Jeffersonville, Ind., Borden spent the first nine years of his life there and played at Jeff/GRC Little League. He played travel ball for the Ironmen, Evoshield Canes and Georgia-based Team Elite.
A four-year baseball letterwinner and three-time first team All-State selection at Providence, Borden helped the Pioneers win an IHSAA Class 2A state title in as a sophomore in 2016.
He hit .417 with seven homers, 12 doubles, 38 RBIs and 28 runs as a junior in 2017. He hit .484 with six homers, 12 doubles, 41 RBIs and 28 runs as a senior in 2018.
Scott Hornung was Borden’s head coach all four years at Providence.
“He allowed me to play my game and to compete at a very high level with all the other guys on my team,” says Borden of Hornung. “That’s what allowed us to run to make a run to a state cham[pionshiup and to the semistate the year after that.”
“Coach Hornung was always in my corner and for that I will always be grateful.”
Marissa Hornung, who played volleyball at Providence and Purdue University, is one of Borden’s best friends.
Borden was redshirted for his first year at Louisville (2019) and played for the Dan McDonnell-coached Cardinals for two years (2020 and 2021), earning Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. In 32 games at U of L, he hit .309 (21-of-68) with one homer and 14 RBIs.
He worked out at Louisville in the summer of 2018. He split the summer of 2019 with the Prospect League’s Quincy (Ill.) Gems and Northwoods League’s Rochester (Minn.) Honkers. He was in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in its first two seasons (2020 and 2021).
Tim Borden Sr. and wife Patty have three children — Tim II, Grant and Brooke. Providence senior infielder Grant Borden is committed to play baseball at Mercer University (Macon, Ga.). Brooke Borden (Class of 2025) plays volleyball for Providence.

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)
Tim Borden II. (Asheville Tourists Photo)

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)

Tim Borden II. (Georgia Tech Photo)

Muncie Post 19 Chiefs play Wednesday in American Legion Baseball Great Lakes Regional

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

Brackets have been set for the 2022 American Legion Baseball Great Lakes Regional at Northwood University in Midland, Mich.
Indiana champion Muncie Post 19 is scheduled to play its first game against Gladwin City (Mich.) Post 171 in Game 3 at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
Muncie will play again in the double-elimination event on Thursday, Aug. 4 at either 4 p.m. (Wednesday win) or 9:30 a.m. (Wednesday loss).
The regional continues through Sunday, Aug. 7.
The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C.
Muncie (19-11) earned the right to compete at regional by beating Terre Haute Post 346 by a 4-0 score Saturday, July 30 in Kokomo for the Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Championship.
Jacob Pruitt tossed a no-hitter as the Kevn Zvokel-managed Chiefs won their first state title since 2008. Muncie went 4-1 in the tournament began in Rockport and concluded in Muncie.

AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
GREAT LAKES REGIONAL
(At Midland, Mich.)
Wednesday, Aug. 3
Game 1: Moline (Ill.) Post 256 vs. Eau Claire (Wis.), 9:30 a.m.
Game 2: Aviston (Ill.) 1239 vs. Manitowoc (Wis.) Post 88, 12:30 p.m.
Game 3: Muncie (Ind.) Post 19 vs. Gladwin City (Mich.) Post 171, 4 p.m.
Game 4: Cincinnati (Ohio) Post 199 vs. Midland (Mich.) Post 165, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 4
Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 9:30 a.m.
Game 6: Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 12:30 p.m.
Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 8: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 5
Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 11 a.m.
Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 4 p.m.
Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 6
Game 12: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 4 p.m.
Game 13: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 7
Game 14: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 1 p.m. (Championship).
Game 15: If necessary, 4 p.m.

Pruitt’s no-hitter helps Muncie Post 19 Chiefs win Indiana Senior Legion title

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

Right-hander Jacob Pruitt pitched a no-hitter Saturday, July 30 to help Muncie Post 19 defeat Terre Haute Post 346 by a 4-0 score in the championship of the 2022 Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Finals.
Pruitt threw 100 pitches with 11 strikeouts and two walks to helped the Post 19 Chiefs win the program’s first senior baseball state crown since 2008.
“My catcher Luke Willmann called a great game today,” said Pruitt. “He knew exactly what he wanted to me to throw and I was able to execute.”
Pruitt, a 2022 Yorktown High School graduate and Indiana State University recruit as well as an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant, mixed his four- and two-seam fastball and his breaking pitches to best Terre Haute for the second time during the State Finals.
The first time was not at Kokomo’s CFD Stadium at Highland Park.
The tournament began in Rockport Friday, July 22 and was moved to Kokomo because of excessive rain on what would have been the final day Tuesday, July 25. This also allowed all pitchers to be eligible under American Legion pitch count rest rules.
Muncie Post 19, Terre Haute Post 346 and Kokomo Post 6 came into Saturday’s action with 3-1 tourney records.
“I learned what their hitters are capable of doing,” said Pruitt of the July 22 game against Terre Haute. “They’re a very good team, obviously. But I was able to find some weaknesses in the off-speed where I could exploit.
“It the curveball the last time. It was the slider today. I was able to mix it up.”
Post 346 manager David Will explained why he thought Pruitt was so effective.
“He throws a 92 mph fastball and he’s got a slider that’s only five or six miles an hour slower,” said Will. “It looks like a fastball coming to the kids so they’re right out front and it makes them look silly.
“He’s a good pitcher.”
Post 19 Chiefs manager Ken Zvokel had Jerad Michael (who had two saves earlier in the State Finals) ready to go if Pruitt faltered. But that did not happen.
“(Pruitt) was on fire,” said Kvokel. He got it in his head that he was going to win this game and wasn’t going to give the ball up.”
With the championship, Muncie (19-11) advances to the Great Lakes Regional (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 3-7 in Midland, Mich. The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C.
“We were fired up,” said Zvokel of his team. “We’ve had a good roll here the last couple of weeks. We play good ball all the way — top to bottom. Every guy on the bench is ready to go.”
Terre Haute (25-8-1) was seeking its 15th overall state title and first since 2019. Post 346 topped Kokomo Post 6 by a 5-1 count in Saturday’s first game.
Muncie went up 4-0 with two runs in the fourth.
Hayden Carrow smacked a lead-off single and Isaac Jackson followed with a double.
Carrow scored on an error and Jackson later came home Cooper Roach’s sacrifice fly.
Post 19 tallied a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the third for a 2-0 lead.
Quinn Faulkner led off with a walk and Michael reached on a sacrifice and an error. A double by Willmann drove in Faulkner and Michael.
Right-hander Derek Lebron, a Rend Lake College recruit, pitched a complete game for Terre Haute. He allowed six hits while striking out five and walking two

Semifinal
Terre Haute Post 346 5,
Kokomo Post 6 1
Right-hander Cade Moore threw 100 pitches and went the distance as the winner for Post 346.
The right-hander who graduated from Terre Haute North Vigo High School in 2021 and was at Kentucky Wesleyan College in the spring scattered six hits, struck out five and walked none.
“Cade pitched really well,” said Will. “He was pounding the zone. He gave them some fits. On top of that we made some great plays in the infield that really helped him.”
Terre Haute took its lead up to 5-1 with one run in the top of the sixth inning.
Logan Nicoson singled and later crossed the plate on an infield hit by Tyler Will.
Kokomo right fielder Jacob Ward caught a fly and threw out a runner at the plate for the first two outs.
Post 6 cut the gap to 4-1 with one run in the bottom of the fourth.
Will McKinzie produced a lead-off single and later scored on Conner Boone’s sacrifice fly. McKinzie moved to second base on an error and third base on Levi Mavrick’s single.
Post 346 pushed its advantage to 4-0 with a solo home run by Pierson Barnes in the top of the fourth.
With one out, Barnes belted the first pitch he saw over the tall fence in right field.
Terre Haute took a 3-0 lead with two runs in the top of the third.
Ty Stultz drew a walk against Kokomo right-handed starter Owen Taylor. With one out, Moore doubled off Post 6 righty reliever Mavrick, who tossed the last five innings and gave up 10 hits with one strikeout and two walks.
An error on the play allowed Stultz and score. A single by Bryson Carpenter plated Moore from second base.
Post 346 scored one run in the top of the first.
Lead-off man Caden Mason walked and later scored on a wild pitch. He was advanced to second base by Moore’s sacrifice bunt and third base Carpenter’s fly-out.
Kokomo, which was seeking its first state crown since 1982, finished 2022 season at 23-10-2.
Because of a positive COVID-19 test, Post 6 was without 2022 Logansport High School graduate and Indiana University Kokomo commit Gavin Smith. He was selected as the A.D. Phillips Sportsmanship Award winner.
The five other participants in the 2022 State Finals were Newburgh Post 44, Jasper Post 147, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 and Rockport Post 254.

INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION
SENIOR STATE FINALS
(2022)
At Rockport
Friday, July 22
Newburgh 7, Jasper 3
Muncie 2, Terre Haute 1
Kokomo 4, South Bend 1
Rockport 5, South Haven 4
Saturday, July 23
Jasper 10, South Bend 7
Terre Haute 7, South Haven 0 (forfeit)
Kokomo 10, Newburgh 4
Muncie 4, Rockport 3
Sunday, July 24
Terre Haute 4, Newburgh 3
Rockport 11, Jasper 0 (5 inn.)
Muncie 10, Kokomo 0 (5 inn.)
Monday, July 25
Kokomo 3, Rockport 2
Terre Haute 15, Muncie 3
At Kokomo
Saturday, July 30
Terre Haute 5, Kokomo 1 (semifinal)
Muncie 4, Terre Haute 0 (championship)

The Muncie Post 19 Chiefs, 2022 Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball champions. (Steve Krah Photo)

Right-hander Maynard brings ‘bulldog mentality’ to the mound

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

Johnny Maynard is not yet sure where he’ll throw his next regular-season collegiate pitch.
But he is certain how he will approach baseball. The way he always has — with a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality.
“It’s how I raised by my parents,” says Maynard, who turns 22 today (June 30). “Whatever you start you have to finish. I never quit anything ever. Always go full-out.
“I really don’t care who I’m competing against, I know they’re not going to beat me. I’m a 5-foot-10 right-handed pitcher. I’m usually one of the smaller guys on the team. I have to work harder to the get the results and earn respect.”
Maynard (rhymes with Play Hard), a 2019 Griffith (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School graduate who is now in the Transfer Portal after two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., (2020 and 2021) and one at NCAA Division I Radford (Va.) University. The Sports Management and Marketing major hurled 5 1/3 innings in six appearances for the 2022 Highlanders.
Alex Guerra was hired as Radford head coach after the season.
This summer, Maynard is pitching for the Coastal Plain League’s Jeremy Knight-coached Asheboro (N.C.) ZooKeepers.
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Maynard uses on four-seam fastball, one-seamer, curveball and change-up.
The four-seam sits 87 to 89 mph and has been up to 92.
“The one-seamer (finger on just one seam) I learned this year,” says Maynard. “My two-seamer was not moving the way I wanted it to. (The one-seamer) gets pretty good movement away from a lefty and has pretty good sink to it. It works off my (circle) change-up (which is generally thrown 82 to 84 mph.”
Maynard employs a curve that is 1-to-7 on the clock face.
“It drops off the table pretty well,” says Maynard.
Born in Munster, Ind., Maynard moved to Griffith as a sixth grader. He played in Munster and Griffith youth leagues then went into travel ball and suited up for the Northwest Indiana Shockers, Steelheads, Cobras, Slammers, Hammond Chiefs and 18U Midwest Irish.
At Griffith High, Maynard played four years for Panthers coach coach Brian Jennings, starting as a freshman.
“He’s a great guy,” says Maynard of Jennings, who retired after the 2022 season.
Lincoln Trail coach Kevin Bowers allowed the righty got to close some games for the Statesman. One of his highlights is slamming the door on highly-ranked John A. Logan during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Maynard split the summer of 2019 between the Irish and Midwest Collegiate League’s Northwest Indiana Oilmen. He also got in a few innings with that Whiting-based team in 2020. He was with the Tropics of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2021, which allowed him to work at home and then commute two-plus hours to games.
Johnny’s mother, Jen Maynard, is a cardiac tech in northwest Indiana. Father Mike Maynard is recently-retired and living in Florida. Sister Lauren Maynard played and coached softball at Purdue Northwest and is now in nursing school.

Johnny Maynard (Asheboro ZooKeepers Photo)
Johnny Maynard (Anne Bowers Photo)
Johnny Maynard (Anne Bowers Photo)
Johnny Maynard (Lincoln Trail College Photo)
Johnny Maynard (Lincoln Trail College Photo)

Schofield embraces toughness on his baseball journey

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

Tenacity has taken Peyton Schofield to where he’s gotten on the diamond and it will continue to be with him as he works toward where he wants to go.
A 6-foot-3, 190-pound left-handed pitcher, Schofield is a 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Cathedral High School who has made two collegiate baseball stops — NCAA Division I Charleston (S.C.) Southern University and National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Southeastern Community College (Whiteville, N.C.) — and is committed to join NCAA D-I Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, N.C.) in the fall. The Catamounts have a new head coach — Alan Beck.
Schofield credits two Cathedral head coaches — Rich Andriole (who was Irish head coach when was a freshman dressing on varsity) and Ed Freje (who was his head coach for three years) — for helping to develop his fortitude.
“You won’t survive if you’re not the toughest guy out there,” says Schofield of the lessons taught by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Andriole (who died in 2020) and his former assistant Freje. “They taught us how to win and do it humbly.
“You expect to win but you also have to do all the right things
best team in the world or the worst team in the world, you approach it the same,” says Schofield.
It’s the idea of respecting all opponents but fearing none.
He also counts former Charleston Southern coach George Schaefer as a mentor. Even though he is now a scout, Schaefer and Schofield still have phone conversations.
This summer, Schofield is with the Coastal Plain League’s High Point-Thomasville (N.C.) Hi-Toms. In his first six mound appearances (two starts) covering 16 2/3 innings, he is 0-1 with 18 strikeouts, 15 walks and a 4.86 earned run average.
With an arm angle that comes over the top, Schofield throws six different pitches — four-seam fastball (which has vertical ride and has been up to 91 mph), two-seam fastball (which sinks and moves away from a right-handed hitter and into a lefty), change-up (which drops and fades to the arm side), curveball (with 12-to-6 action), slider (with horizontal movement) and a seldom-used cutter (which gets swings and misses).
“Throwing over the top gets the vertical ride on four seams and more horizontal movement to the arm on two seams,” says Schofield. “The guys that throw three quarters get more sink.”
Schofield, 21, was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Noblesville, Ind. He played Noblesville Youth Baseball then was in travel ball with the Noblesville Heat, Indiana Prospects, Baseball Academics Midwest (BAM) and Indiana Mustangs.
Peyton’s father still lives in Noblesville. Father Mark owns a contracting service. Mother Nicole works as an AT&T account manager. Younger sister Laney (20) is a student at the University of Alabama.
An Economics major, Schofield still has two years to go for his full degree.

Peyton Schofield (Southeastern Community College Photo)
Peyton Schofield (Southeastern Community College Photo)
Peyton Schofield (Southeastern Community College Photo)
Peyton Schofield (Charleston Southern University Photo)

Righty Gaff pursuing baseball dreams with Minnesota Twins organization

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

Tanner Gaff grew up in Whitley County, Ind., as a middle infielder who moved to the corners as he got older.
The right-hander doubled as a pitcher.
A 2016 graduate of Whitko Junior/Senior High School in South Whitley, Gaff went to the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and was a two-way player until his last season — the extra year granted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a pretty good year,” says Gaff, who employed Driveline Baseball training methods and increased his velocity going into 2021.
As a pitcher-only in ’21, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder made 14 mound appearances and went 8-2 with a 4.15 earned run average and 92 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings. USF went 34-22, setting a school record for single-season victories.
Gaff, who earned a degree in Business Management with a Sports concentration in 2020, still wanted to see how far pitching could take him.
“I had heard nothing but good things about Tread (Athletics),” says Gaff of the business specializing in online performance coaching. He began training remotely with Tread in the summer of 2021.
When Connor Lawhead left the Saint Francis coaching staff and went back to his native Washington, the Cougars were in need of a pitching coach. Gaff filled that role and was part of a staff featuring head coach Dustin Butcher and assistant Kristian Gayday while still honing his own skills.
Then came the time to go to Charlotte, N.C., and train with Tread in-house, which he did from February to May of 2022.
“Butch was happy for me,” says Gaff of Butcher’s willingness to let him pursue his dreams. “He was all for me furthering my baseball career.”
With the help of Tread, Gaff posted videos of him pitching to social media and got the attention of the Minnesota Twins. On May 20, he signed with that organization and is now in Fort Myers gearing up for the Florida Complex League season which opens June 6. The next two steps up the minor league ladder are with the Low-A Florida State League’s Fort Myers Mighty Mussels and High-A Midwest League’s Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels.
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Gaff possesses a four-seam fastball, slider/cutter, curve and splitter (split-finger fastball).
“My four-seamer has ‘plus’ carry and sits at 91 to 94,” says Gaff, 24. “I’m always looking to gain mph.
When it’s right, his slider is delivered about 80 mph.
“My splitter is one of my most promising pitches,” says Gaff. “I get good swing-and-miss with it.
“I threw it in middle school though I didn’t know it was called a splitter at the time. I’ve always had it in my back pocket. The movement patterns are always consistent. Sometimes it’s left. Sometimes right.”
At Tread, Gaff used TrackMan cameras to learned how to manipulate his splitter and other pitches.
Born in Columbia City to James and Debra Gaff, Tanner spent his youth on a 40-acre farm (20 acres of farmland and 20 acres of wetlands) about 10 minutes from Columbia City, Larwill and South Whitley.
He played in the South Whitley youth league until about sixth grade then travel ball with a homegrown team later the Ken Jones-coached Flippin’ Frogs and Cam Brannock-coached Summit City Sluggers.
As a middle schooler, Gaff was on a Pony League travel team that was coached by then-Whitko head coach Erik Hisner (now at Eastern of Greentown).
“That helped us with high school,” says Gaff, who had some teammates go on to win the Wildcats’ first sectional title in 2017. “We kept our core together.”
Gaff played two years at USF for head coach Greg Roberts and then assistant Butcher took over the program.
“(Roberts) was a really nice guy,” says Gaff. “He cared about his players. Butch is a great coach, but an even better person.
“He changed the culture. Saint Francis wasn’t always typically known as a good baseball school.”
Tanner has two older married sisters — Starr Kane and Isis Ivy.

Tanner Gaff, a graduate of Whitko Junior/Senior High School and the University of Saint Francis (Ind.), signs with the Minnesota Twins. (Minnesota Twins Photo)
Former University of Saint Francis pitcher has signed to play professional baseball with the Minnesota Twins. He trained remotely and on-site with Tread Athletics of Charlotte, N.C. (Tread Athletics Image)

Shelbyville alum Lux producing for Duke Blue Devils

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

Damon Lux has made his way to everyday player in his senior season at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
A 2018 graduate of Shelbyville (Ind.) High School, Lux has been starting for the Blue Devils baseball team in center field and batting anywhere from No. 4 to No. 6 in the batting order through the first eight games of the 2022 season.
Heading into a March 4-6 home series against Bucknell, Lux has driven in seven runs in 30 at-bats with five coming in a Feb. 19 game against Virginia Military Institute (the righty swinger went 2-of-3 with three-run home run).
“I like that I get a lot of chances to score some guys,” says Lux of hitting in the middle of the order for the Atlantic Coast Conference squad. “I consider myself to be an RBI hitter.”
Lux, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, finds himself really bearing down in those situations.
“It’s made me focus to be a much tougher out and putting the ball in play whenever there’s guys in scoring position,” says Lux. “It’s having great plate discipline, not swinging on pitches out of the zone and fouling off pitches.
“I still have a lot of work to do.”
Coming into this season, Lux had played in 42 games with his lone start coming as a designated hitter in a 2021 game against Liberty.
Lux was a center fielder for much of his time in high school and travel ball. He prefers the middle of the outfield to the corners.
“I like playing center,” says Lux. “I have a lot of room to roam and move. It makes it easier to get good reads on balls. (In in left field or right field) you have to worry about the wall.
“Some of the farthest throws on the baseball field (come from center field). I’d like to think I have a pretty solid arm.”
Lux has spent his whole Duke career with head coach Chris Pollard, associate head coach Josh Jordan and assistant/hitting coach Jason Stein.
“I really enjoy playing for Coach Pollard,” says Lux. “We’ve developed a really good relationship the last four years. We can trust each other. We can lay it out on the table. We can talk about anything.
“Coach Jordan and I have built a relationship over the last four years as well. He was tough starting out. When I was a freshman, he picked on me and gave me some tougher skin.
“I like how Coach Stein is kind of a players’ coach. He lets players have the freedom to personalize their swings and approach at the plate. He doesn’t micro-manage.”
Lux spent the past three summer in collegiate wood bat leagues. He was with the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers of the Northwoods League in 2021, the Local Legends of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020 and the Bismarck (N.D.) Larks of the Northwoods League in 2019.
Duke has been feeding players to the Growlers, including Lux’s roommate Jake Topolski.
“I enjoyed (Kalamazoo) Coach (Cody) Piechocki,” says Lux. “He knows a lot about the game.”
Lux is a Sociology major who is also working toward a certificate in Markets and Management Studies and is due to graduate from Duke in May.
“What I enjoy most about Sociology is the broadness of topics we discuss in class — from from how we interact in society to the medical field to anything in-between,” says Lux. “It’s to be determined if I will go for a fifth year. I would definitely love the opportunity (to play pro ball).”
Unless that chance comes this summer, Lux expects to pursue an internship while preparing for “the real world.”
Lux came into the world in Indianapolis and grew up in Shelbyville with a brief move to Illinois and back. He played in the Shelby County Babe Ruth League then travel ball with the Indiana Bandits, Indiana Travelers and then the Indiana Bulls from 14U to 17U. His 17U head coach was Sean Laird.
“He was extremely energetic and passionate about the game,” says Lux of Laird.
Lux was a four-year varsity player at Shelbyville High. Scott Hughes led the Golden Bears his first three years and Royce Carlton was head coach his senior year.
Hughes was Lux’s Biology teacher in eighth grade.
“He’s an overall great guy and easy person to talk to,” says Lux of Hughes. “He’s a mentor who helped me with anything I needed.
“Coach Carlton was very passionate about the team and winning, which I admired. I loved his energy.”
On the football field — in a program led by Patrick Parks — Lux was a wide receiver for three seasons then a running back as a senior. Combined receiving and rushing, he had more than 4,000 yards 2014 to 2017.
“(Parks) was very knowledgeable about the game of football and how to make guys stronger and better athletes,” says Lux. “He was a game. He knew what he was doing.
“He helped me hit the ground running when I got into high school and started playing football. I’ll be grateful for that the rest of my life.”
Lux played basketball as a freshman and sophomore then decided to focus more time on developing in baseball.
Damon (22) is the middle child of Jared and Leigh Lux between sisters Anastasia (24) and Alex (19).

Damon Lux homers for Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers.
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)
Damon Lux (Duke University Photo)

Brownlee makes diamond impact at Evansville, Illinois State, more

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

Jim Brownlee built a long, successful baseball coaching career on the principles of fundamentals and discipline.
Now 76, retired and living with wife of 51 years — Candy — in Gulf Breeze in the Florida Panhandle (the couple moved there in April 2021), Brownlee can look back on a run that includes 23 seasons as head coach at the University of Evansville (1980-2002), seven seasons at Illinois State University (2003-09) and one season as University of Iowa pitching coach (2013). He was also a longtime basketball official.
“I learned the game of baseball from my college baseball coach Duffy Bass,” says Brownlee of the former Illinois State University head coach and American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “He was about as good at fundamentals of anybody I’ve been around — whether it was catching, hitting, bunting or pitching. I kind of patterned myself after him.”
A 1963 graduate of Antioch (Ill.) Community High School, Brownlee played for Bass at Illinois State from 1967-70 and was a teammate of future major league pitcher Buzz Capra. The 1969 Collegiate Division National champions went 33-5 and ran the table in the postseason.
“I learned the running game at a very young age,” says Brownlee. “We were very aggressive at Evansville. One year we had 202 stolen bases.
“I had lesser talent at Evansville. We didn’t have the full amount of scholarships. We had guys we thought would get better and they did. We had guys never drafted out of high school that were drafted out of college.
“I think college baseball has always been that way. (Development’s) at an all-time high. But we’re still behind the 8-ball with scholarships and dates. It used to be we had 120 games between fall and spring (at the NCAA D-I level and now it’s 56 games in the spring with 11.7 scholarships for a roster of 35).
“College baseball keeps growing. It’s become a money-maker.”
That money is bound to go even higher if the season was moved into the warmer months.
Says Brownlee, “40 years ago I proposed we play in the summer.”
Brownlee was “hard-nosed” as a coach.
“Discipline is important to me as a retired Marine,” says Brownlee.
After his playing days ended and having served a stint with the U.S. Marines, Brownlee became an assistant baseball coach at Illinois State (1975-76) and was as head coach for the Galesburg Pioneers in the Central Illinois Collegiate League (which later merged with the Prospect League), where he encountered Bloomington Bobcats pitcher Tim Stoddard. The 6-foot-7 right-hander from East Chicago, Ind., was on his way to an MLB career and is now an assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Ill.
Before UE, Brownlee coached at Princeton (Ill.) High School (1976-79).
As Evansville coach, Brownlee won 701 games with four 40-win seasons and seven conference coach of the year honors.
Among his players were future big leaguers Sal Fasano, Andy Benes and Jamey Carroll and Purple Aces head coach Wes Carroll. Benes and the Carroll brothers are Pocket City natives.
The Purple Aces have retired Brownlee’s No. 6 and Benes’ No. 30.
Brownlee has been inducted into the Illinois State University Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the Redbirds’ ’69 national champions, the University of Evansville Athletics Hall of Fame, the Lake County (Ill.) High Schools Sports Hall of Fame, the Bloomington-Normal Officials Association Wayne Meece Hall of Fame and is slated to go into the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame in Evansville in May.
A founding member of the Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League, that group will honor Brownlee with its Legends Award Jan. 15.
Tri-State Hot Stove Baseball League supports amateur athletics around the Evansville area. It started as an effort to save Bosse Field, which was established in 1915 and for years was the home to high school baseball and football, American Legion baseball and the Triple-A Evansville Triplets before affiliated pro ball left town.
The stadium, which now houses the independent pro Evansville Otters and was host to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in 2021, looked to be condemned and torn down back in the ‘80s.
That’s when Brownlee — who had his UE teams playing home games there at the time — got together with former minor league relief pitcher and manager “Singin’ Ed” Nottle and Evansville Central High School coach Paul Gries and brought in folks like Indiana, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer and Rex Mundi High School graduate Bob Griese, former MLB all-star and Evansville Memorial alum Don Mattingly and former big league pitcher and Evansville Central High grad Benes to help raise funds.
Since then, not only has Bosse Field been saved but local high school and college fields have been upgraded.
“It’s about facilities and making it better and showing it’s an important sport,” says Brownlee.
UE now plays on turf at German American Bank at Charles H. Braun Stadium.
“It was a labor of love for all of us,” says Brownlee. “I’m really proud of what we’ve built with the baseball community there.”
Brownlee had both his sons — Tim and Ryan — as UE players and then coached with both of them.
Tim Brownlee was also on the Illinois State staff and employed his father for a decade with his Normal, Ill.-based baseball tournament company — Diamond Sports Promotions. Between Evansville and ISU, Tim assisted his father for 17 seasons.
Ryan Brownlee was an assistant at Evansville (1998-99), James Madison University (2000-03) and Iowa (2004-12) and head coach at Western Illinois University (2013-19) and is now Assistant Executive Director and weekly podcast host for the Greensboro, N.C.- based ABCA. The ABCA Convention is Jan. 6-9 in Chicago. He plans to appear at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic Jan. 14-16 in Indianapolis. Jamey Carroll is to go into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame Jan. 15.

Jim Brownlee (University of Evansville Photo)

Hamilton Southeastern, Indiana U. grad Gorski brings multiple tools to the game

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

Matt Gorski brings many attributes to the diamond.
The former Hamilton Southeastern High School and Indiana University outfielder now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization takes pride in his versatility.
“I can do a bunch of stuff on a baseball field,” says Gorski, who swings and throws right-handed. “I consider myself to be a five-tool athlete.”
In 95 games with the 2021 High Class-A Greensboro (N.C.) Grasshoppers (48 in center field, 38 in right field, three in left field, three at first base and three at designated hitter), Gorski hit .223 (80-of-358) 17 home runs, 18 doubles, 56 runs batted in, 62 runs scored, 18 stolen bases and .710 OPS (.294 on-base percentage plus .416 slugging average).
On Sept. 7 at Jersey Shore, 23-year-old Gorski went 5-of-6 with one homer, two RBIs and one run.
Does Gorski consider himself a power hitter?
“I’m starting to think of myself as one,” says Gorski. “I didn’t always.
“During the (COVID-19) quarantine period, I went though a bit of a body change.”
With no Minor League Baseball season in 2020, Gorski focused on strength training at home.
“I could not do a lot of baseball stuff,” says Gorski, who lives in Fishers, Ind.
Once facilities opened, he was able to work on keeping his batting eye and swing in shape.
“I tried to face a live arm,” says Gorski. “You can’t replicate that any other way.”
From October until the holidays, he went to PRP Baseball workouts at Finch Creek Fieldhouse in Noblesville, Ind.
Around Feb. 2021 — before spring training in Bradenton, Fla. — he went with Pirates minor league infielder Jared Triolo to Dynamic Sports Training in Houston.
Through it all, Gorski bulked up to 215 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.
In the field, Gorski is most comfortable in center field though he spent a fair share of time in left as an IU sophomore and right as a Hoosiers junior.
Gorski played three seasons at Indiana University (2017-19) — two for head coach Chris Lemonis and one for Jeff Mercer.
In 165 games (158 as a starter), he hit .306 (189-of-617) with 24 homers, five triples, 32 doubles, 108 RBIs, 127 runs, 57 stolen bases and .869 OPS (.378/.491).
“(Lemonis) was a lot like a dad not like a baseball coach,” says Gorski. “He’s a really good recruiter and knows how to care for people. He cared about the classroom and your family. He was first one to call me (when I got drafted).
“He didn’t try to make anything bigger than what it was. He laid it out for you. You’re going to have to work. He told it straight.”
Mercer took another approach.
“He’s a lot more baseball-driven than Coach Lemonis,” says Gorski. “That’s not a bad thing. They’re just different styles. (With Mercer) it was get big, get strong, hit balls far.
“We won a Big Ten title with him (in 2019). It obviously works.”
Gorski was part of a powerful Indiana lineup that slugged 95 homers (second in the country behind Vanderbilt’s 100) and was selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (57th overall pick).
In 49 games with the short-season 2019 West Virginia Black Bears, he hit .223 (40-of-179) with three home runs, two triples, nine doubles, 22 runs batted in, 32 runs, 11 stolen bases and .643 OPS (.297.346).
His two pro ball seasons have taught Gorski some things.
“I learned that it’s hard,” says Gorski. “You have to have the love of the game to go through the peaks and valleys.”
Since the 2021 season ended, Gorski has been working out at PRP Baseball. Next Sunday he heads to Florida for a month-long hitting camp.
Born Dec. 22, 1997 in South Bend, Ind., Gorski moved to Fishers when he was very young.
He played for the HSE Cats and Indiana Prospects before spending his 13U to 18U summers with the Indiana Nitro with Rick Stiner, Ken Elsbury and Eric Osborn as head coaches.
He was on the freshmen team his first year at Hamilton Southeastern then spent three varsity season with head coach Scott Henson.
“He was a lot like Lemonis,” says Gorski of Henson. “He cared about you more than a baseball player. It was the classroom, your family, your girlfriend.
“He was also a very good baseball coach. He made a lot of players better than expected. He knew how to individualize each person’s styles and connect with them in different ways.”
Henson is now an assistant at Noblesville High School.
Matt, who finished his IU degree in Sports Marketing & Management in the spring, is the youngest of HSE accountant Mark and nurse Lisa Gorski’s three children. Steven Gorski is a seventh grade math teacher at Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate/Junior High. Kristen Gorski is a communications specialist/press secretary for the Indiana Senate.

Matt Gorski (Greensboro Grasshoppers Photo)
Matt Gorski
Matt Gorski