Tag Archives: North Harrison

Oppel welcomes opportunity with Lanesville Swingin’ Eagles

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

Greg Oppel, who was hired as head baseball coach at Lanesville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in the fall of 2021, has long been part of the bat-and-ball scene in the southeast part of the state.
A 1987 graduate of North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., where he earned Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association honorable mention all-state and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series status as a senior for Cougars coach Danny Smith, left-handed pitcher Oppel went on to play at the Indiana State University-Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) for Screaming Eagles coach Gary Redman. Rotator cuff surgery limited his college playing career to 2 1/2 years.
Darren Oppel, Greg’s cousin, graduated from North Harrison in 1989 and was a first-team all-state shortstop and played in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. He went on to play at the University of Louisville and was a Colorado Rockies scout.
As a baseball coach, Greg Oppel has been an assistant (2008) to Rick Parr and head coach (2009-11) at North Harrison (Cody Johnson was the IHSBCA North/South Series MVP in 2008) and assistant to Grenadiers head coach Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (2012-15) and assistant to Lions head coach Jason Pepmeier at Salem (Ind.) High School.
It was when Reel was new at IUS and Oppel was on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board that the new formed a friendship.
The idea of building an indoor hitting facility was explored and the process really took off when Oppel became North Harrison head coach. It happened through private donations and matching funds from the Harrison County Community Foundation.
Reel inquired about using the hitting building for his IU Southeast team in winter months.
“I said heck yeah — with one stipulation,” says Oppel. “I want your players and your staff to work our kids out with your knowledge.”
When Oppel joined Reel’s staff he got even more access to his know-how.
“Coach Reel is one of the top baseball minds in the country,” says Oppel. “Sitting in a session and listening to him talk and picking his brain was such a great opportunity for me and still is today.”
Having traveled all over the country following daughter Kyia’s softball exploits, Oppel became head softball coach at North Harrison in her senior year (2017). A torn patellar tendon limited her season and ended her hopes of playing in college.
“She’s handled adversity very well with her knee over a period of time,” says Oppel. “I think it hurt me more than it did her.”
Greg Oppel and joined Kyia Oppel when the middle school special education teacher became head coach at Crawford County High School in Marengo.
“We had a blast,” says Oppel of his time with his daughter and the Wolfpack, which went 8-14 in 2021.
With Christopher Broughton and Jason Sturgeon leading the charge, an indoor facility push was made at Crawford County.
Then came Greg Oppel’s chance to lead Lanesville Swingin’ Eagles baseball. He met four times with athletic director and former baseball head coach Zach Payne before taking the position.
“I wanted to made sure it was the right thing for Lanesville and the right thing for me,” says Oppel. “It’s tight-knit community. It’s almost like a throwback to years ago. It sounds like a cliche’ but they welcomed me with open arms.”
It’s a community that likes its sports and has enjoyed — and has come to expect — baseball success. Lanesville has won five sectionals, including those in 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Regional and semistate titles came in 2016 and 2017. The Eagles were Class 1A state runners-up in 2016 and 1A state champions in 2017.
The Harrison County school with an enrollment around 240 is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central of Elizabeth).
In 2021, the Eagles were part of an 1A sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Orleans and South Central (Elizabeth).
Oppel’s assistants for 2022 include Jeff Cockerham, Tyler Cockerham and Aaron Lockman. Jeff Cockerham played at Jeffersonville High School. Tyler Cockerham played for Oppel at North Harrison then at Hanover (Ind.) College. Lockman is 2020 Lanesville graduate.
A campaign to bring an indoor facility to Lanesville is now in the works.
“This will be a win-win for the Lanesville community,” says Oppel. “We are fortunate to have such a backing at Lanesville. The following for baseball alone at Lanesville is astronomical.
“I’m very blessed to have this opportunity.”
Oppel, who is also a 29 1/2-year employee of Ford Motor Company in Louisville, where he builds the Escape and Lincoln Corsair, served 12 years on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board. He began coaching at the 10U and 12U level.
Says Oppel, “At 14U we had tremendous success because we did everything fundamentally sound with lots of drills and going things at game speed.”

Greg Oppel
Kyia Oppel and Greg Oppel.
Chad Eveslage (left) and Greg Oppel at North Harrison High School.

Wichman raises interest, expectations for Scottsburg Warriors

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

Brian Wichman has helped Scottsburg (Ind.) High School to many baseball successes since taking over the Warriors program.
When he came on board prior to the 2018 season, Scottsburg had not had not posted a record above .500 since 2004 and high school players were not involved in travel ball in the summer.
“We had to get back to the basics and get people interested in ball,” says Wichman. “I’ve tried to really push kids toward travel ball.”
Wichman’s Warriors went 15-13 in 2018, regressed to 9-19 in 2019 with a young squad (there were only two seniors and one junior), missed the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic then sported 19-10 mark in 2021 bolstered by the senior and sophomore classes.
There were 22 players to take on varsity and junior varsity schedules.
Scottsburg (enrollment around 770) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek).
In 2021, the Warriors were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek (the 2021 host). Scottsburg has won six sectional crowns — the last in 1996.
Scottsburg plays on Warrior Field, an on-campus facility that was laser-graded four years ago and has Bermuda grass.
“It looks really good, especially when we get to May,” says Wichman.
Feeder systems include Scott County Youth League (T-ball through 12U) and a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders that play schools in the MSC and Hoosier Hills Conference.
Wichman, who teaches engineering and welding classes and is involved in Project Lead The Way at Scottsburg, has extensive coaching experiences at the high school and travel ball levels.
His first season was as a Columbus (Ind.) East High School assistant in 1995 while he was doing his student teaching. Wichman graduated from Ball State University with an Industrial Technology degree. He played baseball for one season (1991) at Indiana University Southeast before transferring to BSU.
Wichman served as an assistant at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., in 1996 and 1997 and helped at Columbus (Ind.) North High School in 2007.
From 2004-14, he ran the Indiana Blazers travel organization and coached for the Indiana Prospects in 2015 and 2016.
Brian and wife Cathy have four sons and all played for the Blazers and other travel teams, including the Indiana Prospects, Cincinnati Flames
Evansville Razorbacks and Indiana Bulls, as well as at Columbus East.
Left-handed pitcher Brian “B.T.” Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2013) was at Murray State University, Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Indianapolis. Peyton Gray, a 2014 Columbus East graduate now in the Kansas City Royals organization, was a high school and GCCC teammate.
Defensive back/catcher Christian Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2014) went to Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., for football and baseball then transferred to play baseball at the University of West Georgia (Carrollton, Ga.).
Defensive back Noah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2016) played football at Taylor University in Upland, Ind.
Infielder Jonah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2019) was on the baseball team at Butler University in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2021 and has transferred to St. Charles Community College (Cottleville, Mo.).
The past two summers, Brian Wichman has been an assistant in the College Summer League at Grand Park — in 2020 with head coach Joe Thatcher’s Park Rangers and in 2021 with head coach Kevin Christman’s Moon Shots.
A 1990 graduate of Seymour (Ind.) High School, Wichman played one varsity season for Owls coach Bob Bowman.

Brian Wichman (Eyes Of The Heart Photography)
The Wichman family (from left): Noah. B.T., Cathy, Brian, Christian and Jonah.
The Wichmans (from left): First row — Cathy and Brian; Second row — Noah, B.T., Jonah and Christian.
Cathy and Brian Wichman.
Brian and Cathy Wichman.
Cathy, B.T. and Brian Wichman.
Brian, Jonah and Cathy Wichman.

Hannon builds relationships with Paoli Rams baseball

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Aaron Hannon was drawn to coaching because of the coach-player relationship.

Hannon enjoyed that as a baseball catcher at John Adams High School‘ in South Bend, Ind., with head coaches Joel Reinebold (now at South Bend Clay) and Scott Sherry (now at Whiteland) and assistant John Huemmer (now at Mishawaka).

“They built that relationship with me,” says Hannon, who is heading into his sixth season as head baseball coach at Paoli (Ind.) High School  in Orange County and is also the defensive coordinator for Rams football. “All three are examples of people who are building people and not just players.

“They took the time to develop kids.”

Hannon played football at Hanover (Ind.) College for Wayne Perry, a man who took the same approach to coaching. 

“He found it just as important to mentor and mold young men and as make football players,” says Hannon. “I respect him and everything he did for me.”

Hannon, who graduated from Adams in 2001 and Hanover in 2005, is emphasizing fundamentals with his Paoli baseball players while building a sense of trust.

“If you can’t do the basic things it’s going to be difficult,” says Hannon. “When we build those relationships, I can ask things of them and they are willing to go the extra mile.

“When they are comfortable, they can have conversation with you that they can’t have when you keep kids at a distance.”

Hannon wants his young athletes to discover the reason for doing things in a certain way.

“Why are we doing this?,” says Hannon. “We have to understand the why.

“The fun part as a coach is seeing the kids take ownership once they understand what’s going on. It’s not just adults pulling the strings.”

Hannon is assisted in 2021 by Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School graduate Chris Meehan and Forest Park Junior-Senior High School alum Jaxon Cronin.

“As coaches, we don’t take things for granted,” says Hannon. “We don’t assume the kid knows something. I think the kids appreciate that.

“We want to make sure we’re all on the same page and in the same flow.”

Hannon wants his players to shoot him straight and he returns the favor.

“You have to be honest,” says Hannon. “Kids respect honesty.”

The same concepts — honesty and communication — are at work for Hannon as a fifth grade math teacher at Throop Elementary in Paoli.

“Feedback is huge,” says Hannon. “Kids can tell you things you had no idea was going on.

“It’s just important for me to listen to what that kid is saying.”

Paoli (enrollment around 430) is a member of the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference (with Crawford County, Mitchell‘, Orleans, Perry Central, Springs Valley and West Washington).

The Rams are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, Mitchell (the 2021 host), North Knox and South Knox‘. Paoli has won eight sectional crowns — the last in 1995.

Aside from conference and sectional games, the Rams are slated to play Eastern (Pekin), Scottsburg, Shoals, Northeast Dubois, Brownstown Central, Henryville, Lanesville, North Harrison and Cannelton. The Rams are to take part in the May 15 Les Page Classic at Loogootee (which also features Princeton Community and Tecumseh).

Paoli play its home games on a lighted on-campus diamond called Trinkle Field. It is named in honor of Ken Trinkle, a Paoli native who pitched for the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies in the 1940’s and served as a corporal in the U.S. Army during World War II.

The high school program is fed by seventh and eighth graders who play and practice in the spring on Trinkle Field.

Paoli Youth Diamond Sports serves players age 4 through sixth grade at Paoli Community Park.

With Hannon coaching football and many athletes involved in football, cross country and tennis in the fall, most off-season baseball team activities started after Christmas break.

Of 23 players in the program, one is a senior. With COVID-19 taking away the 2020 season, the last time three of those players appeared in a varsity game was as freshmen in 2019.

“We’ll have lots of competition and varying lineups to see what are best combination is,” says Hannon. “I’m excited. It’s been very fun group to worth with so far.”

Seven seniors graduated in 2020, including current Indiana Tech reserve squad player Aron Busick

Aaron and wife Terri Hannon have four children — Michael (17), Tyler (13), Kalyn (11) and Beau (3). Michael Hannon is currently on the Paoli track team. Tyler Hannon plays junior high baseball. Kalyn is involved in elementary volleyball and then goes to youth softball. Beau Hannon is enjoying being a part of it all.

Aaron and Paoli graduate Terri met at Hanover, where she was on the softball team. 

Aaron and wife Terri Hannon have four children — Michael (17), Tyler (13), Kalyn (11) and Beau (3). Michael Hannon is currently on the Paoli track team. Tyler Hannon plays junior high baseball. Kalyn is involved in elementary volleyball and then goes to youth softball. Beau Hannon is enjoying being a part of it all.

Aaron and 1999 Paoli graduate Terri met at Hanover, where she was on the softball team. 

Aaron Hannon (Paoli baseball coach)

LaDuke offers life lessons to Floyd Central Highlanders

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Casey LaDuke grew up around Floyds Knobs in southern Indiana and played baseball and football at Floyd Central High School.

Along the way he decided he’d like to be a head coach in one of those two sports.

The opportunity came first in baseball. After earning his Industrial Technology degree at Ball State University, LaDuke spent one year teaching and leading the baseball program at Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School in French Lick, Ind. 

Bill Pierce, his baseball coach at Floyd Central, let him know about a teaching and coaching opening at Floyd Central and LaDuke came home. After a few years as an assistant, the 1984 FCHS graduate has led the Highlanders on the diamond since 1999.

LaDuke also spent about 15 years on the Floyd Central football staff — most of those with Ron Weigleb, a man he had been a wide receiver, kicker and punter for as a player (LaDuke played one season at Kentucky State University before transferring to BSU, where he decided on an education path as a junior and graduated in 1990).

“He’s my big influence as a coach,” says LaDuke of Weigleb. “Some of the things he instilled into the football program we try to do with the baseball program — things like discipline, responsibility and keeping kids accountable. There’s more to it than just playing the game.”

It’s the life lessons that last.

LaDuke appreciated how Weigleb created a family atmosphere. When his coaches went to a clinic, the wives came along and everyone got close.

Dora LaDuke, a 1986 Floyd Central graduate and former Highlander athlete, died after a long battle with Leukemia in 2012 at age 45. Casey and Dora’s daughter, Sydney, is now a senior Elementary Education major at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

Floyd Central is in the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation (along with New Albany High School) and serves Floyds Knobs, Galena, Georgetown and Greenville. Locals like to say Floyds Knobs is on the “hill” overlooking New Albany in the “valley.”

Built in 1967, FCHS was formerly called Floyd Central Junior-Senior High School until the opening of Highland Hills Middle School in 2004.

Floyd Central (enrollment around 1,900) is a member of the Hoosier Hills Conference (with Bedford North Lawrence, Columbus East, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, Madison Consolidated, New Albany and Seymour).

Bedford North Lawrence, Jeffersonville, Jennings County and New Albany all have turf on their home diamonds. 

Floyd Central plays at spacious Highlander Field.

“It’s one of the biggest fields at the high school level,” says LaDuke. “It’s one of the best natural surface fields in the area. We take pride in it.”

LaDuke, his assistants and players have put in many hours maintaining the field.

“It’s my place to get away,” says LaDuke.

The FCHS sports complex includes two fields each for baseball, softball and soccer next to a stadium used for football and track and field.

Tennis courts are less than a mile away at the middle school, which has club baseball with two eighth grade squads feeding the three at the high school — varsity and two junior varsity teams.

LaDuke says 72 players signed up for fall activities. About 60 participated in tryouts this spring, leaving about 45 players.

The coach says the numbers going into tryouts were higher since cuts were not made prior to the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown and loss of season and many of those players came out again in 2021.

Highlander Youth Recreation sponsors baseball teams from age 5 to 13.

Floyd Central is part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Bedford North Lawrence, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany (the 2021 host) and Seymour. The Highlanders have won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2015.

The 2013 squad was ranked No. 1 in the state. The Highlanders lost to Jeffersonville in the Bedford North Lawrence championship game.

Tell City, Fort Wayne Carroll, South Dearborn, Corydon Central, South Spencer, Owensboro (Ky.), Castle, St. Xavier (Ky.), Columbus North, Trinity Lutheran, Lanesville, Brownstown Central, Evansville North, Evansville Mater Dei, Providence, Seymour, Charlestown, Heritage Hills, Bloomington North, Bloomington South and Clarksville are also on the 2021 slate.

LaDuke’s main 2021 assistants are Floyd Central graduates Jamie Polk and Chris Hogan. With a hiatus as head coach at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., Polk has been with LaDuke since he took over the Highlanders. Hogan came on board about three of four years in.

Seniors Evan Goforth (Indiana University) and Casey Sorg (Bellarmine University in Louisville) have made college baseball commitments. Caleb Slaughter has drawn collegiate interest.

Tristan Polk is planning to attend Marian University in Indianapolis to play quarterback on the football team.

There are many recent Floyd Central graduates on college baseball rosters, including Philip Archer (Southern Illinois University), Alex Lozado (University of South Florida), Max Meyer (Indiana State University), Jon Cato (Bellarmine), Adam Spalding (Bellarmine), Joel Archer (Oakland City, Ind., University), Joe Harrington (Oakland City), Daly Skees (Hillsdale, Mich., College), Blake Barrett (Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.) and Josh Gross (Glen Oaks Community College in Centerville, Mich.).

“I take pride in helping kids find schools,” says LaDuke.

He notes that college coaches — particularly at the NCAA I level — are reaching out to players at earlier and earlier ages while recruiting on the travel ball circuit.

Says LaDuke, “Coaches don’t like it, but that’s what their competitive is doing so they have to do it to keep up.”

Casey LaDuke

Fessel wants North Harrison Cougars to ‘Win The Day’

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“Win The Day.”

It’s a phrase that Kevin Fessel has tied to his role as head baseball coach at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind.

“We want to win in baseball, but we also want to be good people,” says Fessel, a 1996 North Harrison graduate. “I’m coaching young men to be husbands and fathers.

“Do what’s right even when no one’s watching.”

An assistant to Cody Johnson for three seasons, Fessel took over the Cougars program for the 2019 season. 

Of course, the 2020 schedule was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was kind of heart-breaking,” says Fessel. “I contacted schools in Harrison and Crawford counties to see if they wanted to put together a Senior Day. We had a date set. Then there were more stipulations and no visitors were allowed on-campus.

“It was even more of a gut punch.”

A member of the North Harrison Class of 2020 — Dawson Howell — did go to Vincennes University to play baseball. Colin Higdon (Class of 2021) has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College.

Other Cougars to move on to college ball include 2019 grads Justin Deatrick (Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo.) and Jake Harley (Kentucky Wesleyan College) and 2018 grad Max Flock (Vincennes U.).

During fall and winter workouts, North Harrison players have worked on their glove work — back hands, forehands etc. There’s been plyo-ball and core work. They’ve also gotten into the school’s hitting facility to polish their mechanics. 

“We got outside as much as we could,” says Fessel. “We did long toss and get our arm strength.

“With missing last year, I feel we got put behind the 8-ball.”

Once things opened up again in the summer, a few of Fessel’s players got to play travel ball. But the majority of them did not see game action on the diamond though there was some practice in July.

“It was just fun to be outside more than anything,” says Fessel. “We were getting re-connected. It felt like we couldn’t see them for the longest time.”

During the shutdown, Fessel and his players stayed in-touch through group chats. To keep the boys’ minds sharp, he coach offered scenarios from the baseball case book. He’d ask, “What’s the call on this?”

“I was testing their I.Q. and keeping them baseball-minded,” says Fessel. “We were trying to keep upbeat and stay ready during that COVID time. Then they shut it all down. 

“A lot of (players) shut down themselves and I really worried about them.”

North Harrison (enrollment around 700) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. North Harrison has won nine sectional championships — the last in 2015.

Fessel’s 2021 assistant coaches include Tony Waynescott (varsity), John Miller (junior varsity) and volunteers Chris Koutsoubos and Micah Napper.

North Harrison plays its games on campus on a field that’s dimensions are larger than many high school facilities — 320 feet down the foul lines, 365 in gaps and 390 to dead center field. 

“We don’t see a lot of home runs,” says Fessel, who says baseballs used in 2021 will need to be approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).

Fessel says the Cougars’ field is expected to see a new wind screen this spring.

A middle school club baseball team is part of North Harrison’s feeder program. Ideally, there are enough players for separate seventh and eighth grade teams who play in a league filled with Hoosier Hills Conference feeder schools.

Since the middle school shares the same field with the high school, there is a movement to get a Pony League diamond built at the North Harrison Cal Ripken complex. The youth league for Grades K-6 tends to have about 220 participants.

Fessel played baseball for Danny Schmidt and football for Chuck Walker — both still North Harrison teachers.

Both men set an example about work ethic.

“Danny was one of those guys who were there all the time,” says Fessel. “He worked hard. That stuck with me.

“He did it for the players.”

Walker saw Fessel go on to play football at the next level at Franklin College, where he played two seasons for Mike McClure and two for Bill Unsworth.

It was at Franklin that Fessel met Michelle Knoll. The couple will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July and have three children — Brody (16), Bryce (13) and Abigail (9). 

North Harrison sophomore Brody Fessel is likely to be the Cougars’ starting catcher in 2021. He is also a varsity basketball player and football manager. Seventh grader Bryce Fessel plays football, basketball and is on the middle school baseball team. Third grader Abigail Fessel plays softball.

At LaPorte (Ind.) High School, Michelle was a batgirl for Hall of Fame coach Ken Schreiber

Since earning his History degree from Franklin and teaching certification at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Kevin has been an educator and football coach. 

He taught for nine years at Highland Hills Middle Schools (part of the Floyd Central system) and is in his sixth year at North Harrison Middle School, where he teaches eighth grade U.S. History. 

Fessel was on the varsity football staff at North Harrison 2000-08 — the last five assisting Jason Mullis. The 2009 season was spent with Brian Glesing at Floyd Central for coaching at Floyd Central Middle School 2010-14. In 2015, he returned to North Harrison. His primary responsibility on Mark Williamson’s staff is defensive line.

Kevin Fessel is the head baseball coach at Northern Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind.

Hester takes the wheel for Charlestown Pirates

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

A familiar face is now in charge of the Charlestown (Ind.) High School baseball program. 

Brian Hester, a 1987 Charlestown graduate who served nine seasons as an assistant to former head coach Ricky Romans (who led CHS baseball for 17 years) and the past five with Southern Indiana Rawlings Tigers travel organization, is now leading the Pirates on the diamond.

“Ricky has an amazing passion for the game,” says Hester, who came back on board at Charlestown in December. “He loves the game. He studies the game.”

Hester played high school baseball for Mike Hall.

“He was caring with his players,” says Hester. “I could go to him for anything I needed.

“He’s one of the reasons I started teaching and got into coaching.”

After one season playing for Rick Parr at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Hester concentrated on his studies. He is now a Robotics teacher at Charlestown Middle School after beginning his professional life as a mechanical engineer. He also serves on the Charlestown City Council.

Hester calls Parr one of the greatest hitting instructors he’s ever been around.

The former Boston Red Sox minor leaguer had a knack for breaking down the swing and bringing out the best in a hitter.

“Coming out of high school I was mainly a pull hitter,” says Hester. “He opened up my eyes to using the whole field and being a multi-faceted hitter.

“He was one of the very first guys I heard talk about letting the ball travel deep into the (strike) zone.”

Hester says that by letting the ball travel, the hitter can see it a little deeper and can still generate bat speed and power to the opposite field while opening up the defense.

Another coach to have an impact on Hester is Larry Owens, who played for rival Jeffersonville (Ind.) High School and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Poole when Hester was playing and is now head baseball coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. The two have since worked the same camps.

“Larry is charismatic and has a contagious baseball mind,” says Hester.

Hester, who followed his baseball playing career, by traveling all over the country competing in top-flight slow pitch softball tournaments, has his Charlestown players competing during IHSAA Limited Contact Period winter workouts.

“We compete internally all the time,” says Hester. “I have a good group of (10) seniors who love hard work and competing.”

Hester has been getting his Pirates to understand what it means to have love and passion for the game and and enjoying being on the team.

“A lot of that comes from Larry Owens,” says Hester.

Expecting around 24 players in the program this spring, Hester and assistants Bryan Glover, Tony Kailen, George Roberts and Brady Hester will lead a program in varsity and junior varsity competition. Of the five coaches, only Kailen is not a Charlestown graduate.

The site of the Pirates baseball field is the same that Hester knew as a player, but the facility was totally overhauled almost a decade ago.

The former practice football field was turned into a softball field and now baseball and softball share not only a hitting building but a walkway and common area with a concession stand between the two diamonds.

“There’s great energy for our games,” says Hester. 

Charlestown (enrollment around 715) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

The Pirates are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Charlestown has won two sectional titles — 1999 and 2009.

Non-conference games on the 2021 schedule include Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Jennings County, Lanesville, New Washington, Perry Central and South Central (Elizabeth).

Invitees to the May 15 Charlestown Invitational include Boonville, Lebanon and Providence.

While Hester was a Charlestown assistant he helped establish middle school baseball. Not affiliated with the school system, games are played during the spring. This year, Hester expects one team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders. 

Another feeder for CHS baseball is Charlestown Little League

There is no travel organization solely-dedicated to Charlestown players and Hester would like to see that change. 

Greater Clark County Schools includes Charlestown and Jeffersonville. Silver Creek School Corporation is nearby.

Recent Charlestown graduates on college baseball teams include right-handed pitchers Andrew Snider (Morehead, Ky., State University) and Drew Fifer (Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.).

Two current seniors — right-handed pitcher Eric Wigginton (Spalding University in Louisville) and utility infielder Matthew McCoy (Hanover, Ind., College) — have made college baseball commitments.

Two others from the Class of 2021 weighing their options are catcher Nathaniel Kimbrell and right-handed pitcher Jacob Glover.

Ronni Hester, Brian’s wife, is in retail management. Brian and Ronni have three sons — Brady (22), Dalton (18) and Boomer (13) plus one grandson. Dalton Hester is a Charlestown senior. Boomer Hester is a seventh grader who plays football, basketball, wrestling and baseball with the middle school team and the Rawlings Tigers.

Brian Hester, a 1987 Charlestown (Ind.) High School graduate, is now head baseball coach at his alma mater. He was a Pirates assistant for nine years on the staff of Ricky Romans and coached the past five with the Southern Indiana Rawlings Tigers travel organization.

Former long-time assistant Hutchins now in charge of Providence Pioneers

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Scott Hutchins has spent 27 years in a Our Lady of Providence High School baseball uniform — four as a player for then-head coach Ben Hornung and the past 23 as an assistant coach to Scott Hornung (Ben’s cousin). In 25 seasons, Scott Hornung went 473-233 with 13 sectional title, six regional crowns, one semistate championship and one state title.

Now 1991 Providence graduate Hutchins is in charge of the Clarksville, Ind.-based Pioneers program and carries things he learned from the Hornungs and ideas he’s formed on his own.

Hutchins recalls how prepared Ben Hornung was for each day’s practice.

“He was very organized,” says Hutchins. “He made every single person feel like they were an important part of the team and that they were a big contributor.

“(Scott Hornung) had the ability to cultivate relationships with all the players. He had a lot of respect for all those guys. He listened to his assistants and would take your advice.

“I hope to take a little bit of all those things when I get started.”

Hutchins has already put Providence players through fall Limited Contact Period baseball workouts (two hours, twice-a-week for seven weeks).

“We had good weather and got all 14 practices in,” says Hutchins. “We really focused on individual player development. We did a little bit of team stuff.

“I like the Limited Contact rule because we are allowed to instruct.”

There was individual defensive work and time spent in the batting cage.

“We had a super productive fall,” says Hutchins. “In December, we’ll do conditioning and lifting. I doubt we’ll even pick up a baseball in December.

“In January, we’ll focus on getting our pitchers ready for the season.”

Ideally, Hutchins would like his players to be able to throw a little during conditioning times, but the rules do not currently allow that though the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association is working with the Indiana High School Athletic Association and Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association on proposals, including one that would extend the period of arm care.

Hutchins says he would like to stretch out his starters and have his bullpen pitchers throw a lesser number of pitches two or three days a week to get used to doing that during the season.

“Right now, it’s hard to get their arms ready,” says Hutchins.

His assistants include Providence alums Jacob Julius (2004), Tre Watson (2016) and Colin Rauck (2015) plus former Indiana University Southeast pitcher Elliott Fuller and Jennings County graduate and former IUS player Brian Jackson.

Associate head coach Julius played and coached at the University of Arkansas and played in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Watson was on the Pioneers’ state title team in 2016 and is now the hitting coach. Fuller works with pitcher and is the head junior varsity coach. Jackson works with catchers. Rauck is a JV assistant.

Providence (enrollment around 360) is an athletic independent with no conference affiliation.

Among 2019 opponents were Austin, Brownstown Central, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, Gibson Southern, Jeffersonville, Lanesville, New Albany, North Harrison, Salem, Silver Creek, South Central of Elizabeth and Washington in Indiana plus Glenbrook South and Metamora in Illinois and Trinity in Kentucky.

The Pioneers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern of Pekin and Henryville. Providence has won 18 sectional titles — the last in 2017. The Pioneers were 2A state champions in 2016.

Several recent Providence graduates have gone on to college baseball, including Joe Wilkinson (Indiana University), Christian Graf (Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.) and Adam Uhl (Franklin College), Timmy Borden (University of Louisville), Reece Davis (Bellarmine University in Louisville), Jake Lewis (Eastern Kentucky University) and Jay Lorenz (Hanover College).

No current Pioneers have made college baseball commitments.

Hutchins has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Indiana University Southeast. He teaches Chemistry and is Dean of Students at Providence.

Scott and Traci Hutchins have two baseball-playing sons — senior Bryce Hutchins and freshman Logan Hutchins. Both are second basemen.

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The Hutchins family (from left): Bryce, Logan, Traci and Scott. After 23 seasons as an assistant, alum Scott Hutchins is now the head baseball coach at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind.

 

Ingram looking to grow the game with West Washington Senators

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brent Ingram went to Indianapolis to attend college.

His first two teaching jobs were in Gas City, Ind., and Switz City, Ind.

Then the Washington County, Ind., native came back south and became an educator and a coach at a school just up the road from where he grew up.

Ingram is a 2011 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School. He had three coaches in four years. The last one was Brett Miller.

The Lions’ two county rivals were West Washington and Eastern (Pekin). His father, Larry Ingram, was head coach at Eastern for 29 seasons, concluding in 2011.

After earning his degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on physical education at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2015, Brent Ingram worked one year each as a teacher only at Mississinewa High School and White River Valley High School.

Then West Washington Junior-Senior High School principal MaryAnne Knapp called to say that the Senators needed a P.E. teacher and a head baseball coach.

To his his, he is just the second head baseball coach in the history of the program that was also a teacher.

“That’s a big deal to be able to recruit kids,” says Ingram. “Our numbers are better. We expect to have eight or nine freshmen.”

Ingram took both teaching and coaching positions in 2017-18 and made his father one of his assistants.

“I grew up around a baseball coach and a baseball setting and I loved every minute of it,” says Ingram, who counts Larry Ingram, Tim Barksdale and Lincoln Jones as West Washington assistants.

Barksdale is the former director of the youth league in Campbellsburg and a school board member. Jones teaches business at West Washington. The North Harrison High School graduate pitched for four years at Franklin (Ind.) College.

The 2000 baseball season will be Brent Ingram’s third at the IHSAA Class 1A school of about 290 students.

The first season saw the Senators on the wrong end of many run-rule games. That only happened a couple times last spring.

“They’ve improved,” says Ingram, who has had about a dozen players in the program and on a few occasions — such as days when baseball games and track meets fell on the same day — went into games with just nine. There was a time he his left fielder was playing with the broken arm. “It makes you sweat a little bit. If the guys are willing to put the time in, they’re going to play.”

Moving players around the diamond is the norm.

“We’ve had bunch of different lineups in the last few years,” says Ingram. “That’s for sure.”

Baseball is a priority at West Washington as evidenced by the building a junior high diamond next to the high school facility — Claude C. Combs Field (named for the former Senators head coach and current school board member).

The junior high team is affiliated with the school system and coached by West Washington Elementary principal Tom Rosenbaum and West Washington Community Schools superintendent Keith Nance.

A training building with indoor mounds and batting cages will also benefit the Senators.

Whether that will translate into any home runs at Combs Field remains to be seen. While is is 300 feet down the lines and 350 to center, the field sits up on a hill and the wind seems to always be blowing in.

Ingram has never witnessed a game-time home run there.

Combs Field is lighted and has brick dugouts, raised fences all the way around and, recently, a turf home plate area was added.

“For a 1A, we have awesome facilities,” says Ingram.

The Senators are part of a sectional grouping with Crothersville, New Washington and Shawe Memorial. West Washington, a sectional host the past two years, has yet to win a sectional title.

As a member of the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference (with Crawford County, Mitchell, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central and Springs Valley), the Senators play home and away games against each league team.

Besides Eastern (Pekin) and Salem, past non-conference opponents have included Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Clarksville, Crothersville, Evansville Christian, North Harrison, Orleans, Scottsburg, Shoals, Southwestern (Hanover) and Trinity Lutheran.

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The Ingrams (from left): Brooke, Nick, Dustin, Larry, Luke, Janis and Brent. Brent Ingram is head baseball coach at West Washington High School in Campbellsburg, Ind. Larry Ingram, who was head coach at Eastern (Pekin) for 29 years, is one of his assistants. Brent and Dustin are the sons of Larry and Janis. Nick and Luke are the sons of Dustin and Brooke.

Character counts for Pennington, Eastern Musketeers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The longer Jeff Pennington is in coaching and education, the more he realizes that developing athletic skills — in his case, baseball — is secondary to fostering character.

“It’s not just the game of baseball,” says Pennington, who is in his seventh season as head coach at Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind., in 2019. “It’s the kind of young men they’re going to grow up to be.”

Seeing young men grow the attributes of respect, mental toughness, hustle and intensity — things that apply to life as well as sports — is what gives Pennington fulfillment.

“We are already know they’re baseball guys,” says Pennington. “What kind of young men we can turn these young guys into?”

Pennington, who teaches at East Washington Elementary School in Pekin, says the those lessons can start long before the teenage years.

“They can be established at 8, 9, 10 years old,” says Pennington. “You think they’re not hearing it, but it goes in.

“Now we’ve got them in high school. We’re starting see some of those benefits.”

Carson Ehlers, Payton Miller and Adam Stempowski are seniors. Hunter Anderson, Landon Snelling, Joe Fetz, and Rhett Pennington are juniors. Ryan Adamson, Brant Farris, Ethan Ford, Conner Gonzalez, Cauy Motsinger, Snyder Pennington and Adam Stewart are sophomores. Micah Robinson, Dallis Stayton and Clayton Young are freshmen. Miller, Anderson, Adamson, Motsinger, Gonzalez and both Pennington brothers are pitchers.

All three of Jeff and Mindi Pennington’s sons — junior Rhett (17), sophomore Snyder (16) and sixth grader Wyatt (11) — are ballplayers. All three play travel baseball. Rhett is with Louisville-based Wolves, Snyder with the Indiana Trailblazers and Wyatt and cousin Garrett Drury (son of brother Wes and sister-in-law Holly) with the Southern Indiana Rawlings Tigers.

There’s a lot of moving parts when getting players to games.

“It takes a village,” says Pennington. “This is one of the advantages of moving back home. Between (family members, including sister Jessica Huls and parents, Ronnie Pennington and Cindy Erwin), you just divide and conquer.

“I’ve been three different places in one weekend watching three different kids. It’s fun. But, man, it’s a whirlwind.”

Pennington is a 1992 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School, where he played baseball for head coach Derek Smith.

Smith showed Pennington that its the relationships with the players that’s important.

“He was the kind of coach you could jell with real well,” says Pennington. “He was easygoing. He could take the discomfort out of you when you weren’t comfortable.”

Pennington played two-plus seasons at Indiana University Southeast when Rick Parr was head coach.

“I probably learned about hitting then anymore else I’ve been around,” says Pennington. “He was a very good hitting coach.”

Prior to returning to Washington County, Pennington spent seven years coaching middle school and high school baseball at Community in Unionville, Tenn.

Before that, he was an assistant for a couple of seasons at South Central (Elizabeth).

Pennington’s assistants are principal Darin Farris and volunteer Rick Snelling.

Eastern (enrollment around 460) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

Opponents on the non-conference portion of the schedule include Borden, Crawford County, Henryville, Mitchell, North Vermillion, Lanesville, Orleans, Paoli, Seymour, South Central (Elizabeth), Southwestern (Hanover), Springs Valley, Trinity Lutheran and West Washington. It’s only a varsity slate that Eastern is playing this spring.

The Musketeers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Clarksville, Crawford County, Henryville, Lanesville and Paoli. Eastern has won four sectional crowns — the last in 2012.

Larry Ingram led the Eastern program for years.

“There’s a rich history of baseball at this high school,” says Pennington. “My goal to get it back where Coach Ingram had it.”

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The Eastern High School baseball team in Pekin, Ind., has three members of the Pennington family in 2019 (from left): junior Rhett, head coach Jeff and sophomore Snyder.

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Jeff Pennington is the head baseball coach at Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind. (Melissa Stewart Photo)

Pepmeier, Salem Lions looking to raise baseball profile

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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