Tag Archives: Northwestern High School

Homers fly, especially for Hanover’s Christie, Indiana Wesleyan’s Salmon

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

Several players doubled down on power during the Indiana college baseball week of Feb. 28-March 6.
NCAA Division III Hanover’s Alex Christie (Center Grove High School graduate) knocked five home runs for the week — two against Purchase and one each against Mary Washington, Kean and Neumann — in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It was Christie’s first five homers of the 2022 season.
Also lofting five homers was NAIA Indiana Wesleyan’s Evan Salmon — two homers in Game 1 and one in Game 2 against Cleary and one apiece in Games 3 and 4 against Spring Arbor.
IWU’s Zach Rabe clouted two in Game 1 against Cleary and two in Game 3 against Spring Arbor. Salmon has eight homers in ’22 and Rabe four.
NCAA D-I’s Ball State’s Trenton Quartermaine socked four home runs for the week — one against Coastal Carolina, one in Game 1 against Florida A&M and two in Game 2 against Florida A&M. Quartermaine’s season total for circuit clouts is five.
NAIA Indiana Southeast’s Trevor Campbell homered twice against Lindsey Wilson and once each in Games 1 and 3 against Northwestern Ohio. Ray Aponte smacked homers against Lindsey Wilson and Northwestern Ohio (Games 1 and 3).
NCAA D-III Franklin’s Logan Demkovich (Munster) homered in all three games against Hope while Noah Wood (Indianapolis Lutheran) produced big flies in Games 1 and 2.
Purdue’s Cam Thompson cracked a walk-off homer as Purdue (12-0) topped Longwood 6-5 in 11 innings in Game 3 of the series. The Boilermakers continue to enjoy the best start in program history. Thompson has two homers in ’22.
Indiana’s Brock Tibbitts (New Albany) rapped two homers against Miami (Ohio) while teammates Matthew Ellis (Miami and Game 2 vs. Missouri State) and Homestead graduate Carter Mathison (Games 1 and 3 vs. Missouri State) also enjoyed two-homer weeks. Ellis has five dingers on the year while Tibbitts and Mathison (the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year) have two each.
Butler’s Aaron Steinhart went deep twice against Northern Kentucky. The blasts were his first two of ’22.
Evansville’s Tanner Craig (Austin) cranked homers against Kentucky, Ohio (Game 1) and Illinois-Chicago (Game 2). He has six homers on the season.
At 5-3, Valparaiso is off to its best eight-game start since 1999.
NCAA D-II University of Indianapolis third baseman Armen Torosian homered in Games 2 and 3 against Wayne State, raising his season total to three.
Purdue Northwest finally opened its season and went 3-1 in a series at Southwest Baptist.
Anderson’s Tyler Smitherman (Westfield) bashed two homers in Game 1 against St. Norbert, doubling his season HR tally.
Earlham’s Christian Lancianese homered twice in Game 2 against Wilmington. Nathan Lancianese homered once in Game 3 of the series. They were the season’s first bombs for both players.
Manchester’s Brady Perez (Rochester) ahieved lift-off in Games 2 and 4 against Kalamazoo, raising his season HR mark to five.
Rose-Hulman’s Shane Garner (Sullivan) rapped his first two homers of ’22 in Game 1 against Saint Mary’s (Minn.) and Dubuque.
NAIA Saint Francis freshman Sam Pesa (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) homered in Games 1 and 3 against Huntington. His grand slam in Game 1 was part of a 13-run fifth inning. Pesa has a team-best five homers in ’22.
Goshen’s Peyton Smith (Daleville) homered in Games 3 and 4 against Grace. He has three homers on the season.
It wasn’t all about slugging.
NAIA Indiana University Kokomo posted three shutouts against visiting Ohio Christian — 5-0, 10-0 and 1-0. Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern), Lucas Letsinger (Hamilton Heights), Ben Harris (Northwestern), J.T. Holton (Clinton Central) and Ryan Beck (Mt. Vernon of Fortville) combined for 18 strikeouts and six walks over 23 innings.
Indiana University South Bend beat Concordia (Neb. 1) 2-1 in Game 2 in Auburndale, Fla., without a hit. Nolan Unger’s second-inning groundout drove in Coby Campbell with the first run and Jake Dykstra (Lake Central) scored on a seventh-inning wild pitch. The Titans have won four straight.
Crown Point graduate Josh Hoogewerf (9 K’s, 0 BB, 7 IP) and New Prairie alum Noah Brettin (2 K’s, 0 BB, 1 IP) combined on a 1-hitter as NCAA D-III Trine beat John Carroll 1-0 in the first game of a doubleheader in Lake Myrtle, Fla.
Dalton Nikirk (Bedford North Lawrence) delivered the walk-off RBI single to plate Easton Rhodes (DeKalb) for the Thunder.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through March 6

NCAA D-I
Purdue 12-0 (0-0 Big Ten)
Notre Dame 8-1 (0-0 ACC)
Indiana State 6-4 (0-0 MVC)
Valparaiso 5-3 (0-0 MVC)
Butler 5-6 (0-0 Big East)
Ball State 5-7 (0-0 MAC)
Indiana 4-6 (0-0 Big Ten)
Evansville 3-9 (0-0 MVC)
Purdue Fort Wayne 0-11 (0-0 Horizon)

NCAA D-II
Southern Indiana 6-3 (0-0 GLVC)
Indianapolis 4-6 (0-0 GLVC)
Purdue Northwest 3-1 (0-0 GLIAC)

NCAA D-III
Earlham 5-1 (0-0 HCAC)
Franklin 4-2 (0-0 HCAC)
Anderson 4-4 (0-0 HCAC)
DePauw 4-4 (0-0 NCA
Wabash 3-1 (0-0 NCAC)
Rose-Hulman 3-3 (0-0 HCAC)
Trine 2-3 (0-0 MIAA)
Hanover 2-6 (0-0 HCAC)
Manchester 0-7 (0-0 HCAC)

NAIA
Oakland City 13-5 (2-1 RSC)
Saint Francis 12-6 (2-2 CL)
Taylor 12-7 (3-1 CL)
Grace 9-8 (3-1 CL)
Marian 9-9 (1-3 CL)
Indiana University-Kokomo 8-6 (3-0 RSC)
Indiana University Southeast 8-7 (0-0 RSC)
Indiana Wesleyan 7-9 (3-1 CL)
Bethel 7-13 (1-3 CL)
Indiana Tech 5-6 (0-0 WHAC)
Indiana University South Bend 6-8 (0-0 CCAC)
Huntington 4-8 (2-2 CL)
Calumet of Saint Joseph 4-6 (0-0 CCAC)
Goshen 4-10 (1-3 CL)

Junior College
Vincennes 5-9 (0-0 MWAC)
Ivy Tech Northeast 3-2 (0-0 NJCAA XII)
Marian’s Ancilla 1-13 (0-0 MCCAA)

Week of Feb. 28-March 6
NCAA D-I
Monday, Feb. 28
Coastal Carolina 9, Ball State 6

Tuesday, March 1
Northern Kentucky 13, Butler 8
Indiana 15, Miami (Ohio) 2

Wednesday, March 2
Butler 5, Manchester 2
Kentucky 5, Evansville 4
Purdue 6, Charlotte 2

Friday, March 4
Ball State 6, Florida A&M 3
Jacksonville 4, Butler 1
Evansville 4, llinois-Chicago 2
Notre Dame 6, Illinois 1
Purdue 6, Longwood 1
Tennessee Tech 13, Purdue Fort Wayne 4
Missouri State 9, Indiana 7
East Carolina 5, Indiana State 4
Valparaiso 4, Omaha 2
Omaha 9, Valparaiso 2

Saturday, March 5
Ball State 7, Florida A&M 4
Ball State 6, Florida A&M 1
Jacksonville 11, Butler 3
Evansville 12, Ohio 5
Illinois-Chicago 7, Evansville 5
Notre Dame 2, Michigan 1
Purdue 6, Longwood 5 (13 inn.)
Tennessee Tech 7, Purdue Fort Wayne 1
Indiana 12, Missouri State 3
Maryland 10, Indiana State 4
Valparaiso 7, Omaha 5

Sunday, March 6
Florida A&M 5, Ball State 3
Butler 7, Jacksonville 3
Ohio 6, Evansville 4
Indiana State 6, Michigan 5
Purdue 6, Longwood 5 (11 inn.)
Tennessee Tech 15, Purdue Fort Wayne 7
Indiana vs. Missouri State
Indiana State vs. Michigan
Notre Dame 3, Minnesota 1

NCAA D-II
Monday, Feb. 28
Lake Erie 6, Southern Indiana 3

Friday, March 4
Indianapolis 5, Wayne State 3
Southwest Baptist 7, Purdue Northwest 4
Purdue Northwest 5, Southwest Baptist 0
Southern Indiana 11, Trevecca Nazarene 3

Saturday, March 5
Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 2
Wayne State 26, Indianapolis 11
Purdue Northwest 7, Southwest Baptist 2
Trevecca Nazarene 9, Southern Indiana 4
Trevecca Nazarene 15, Southern Indiana 3

Sunday, March 6
Wayne State 13, Indianapolis 3
Purdue Northwest 6, Southwest Baptist 5

NCAA D-III
Monday, Feb. 28
Rose-Hulman 8, Saint Mary’s (Minn.) 5

Tuesday, March 1
Christopher Newport 10, Hanover 6
Cabrini 9, Hanover 5 (11 inn.)

Wednesday, March 2
Butler 5, Manchester 2
Mary Washington 13, Hanover 5
Grove City 2, Rose-Hulman 0

Thursday, March 3
Saint Mary’s (Minn.) 16, Rose-Hulman 7
Hanover 19, Purchase 6

Friday, March 4
Wilmington 9, Earlham 8
Hope 14, Franklin 13
Dubuque 9, Rose-Hulman 7
Kean 9, Hanover 5
Hendrix 14, DePauw 7

Saturday, March 5
Earlham 19, Wilmington 9
Franklin 18, Hope 6
Hope 27, Franklin 7
Hanover 11, Neumann 3
Anderson 11, St. Norbert 4
Anderson 20, St. Norbert 11
Kalamazoo 19, Manchester 6
Kalamazoo 13, Manchester 5
DePauw 9, Hendrix 6
Hendrix 8, DePauw 6
Aurora 9, Wabash 8 (10 inn.)
Wabash 16, Aurora 3

Sunday, March 6
Anderson 6, St. Norbert 2
Earlham 12, Wilmington 11
Kalamazoo 15, Manchester 1
Kalamazoo 8, Manchester 6
Trine 1, John Carroll 0 (8 inn.)
John Carroll 15, Trine 0

NAIA
Monday, Feb. 28
Spring Arbor 9, Goshen 2
Spring Arbor 3, Goshen 0

Tuesday, March 1
Calumet of St. Joseph 19, Lincoln Christian 1
Calumet of St. Joseph 8, Lincoln Christian 0 (suspended in 3rd to April 11)
Grace 12, IU South Bend 7

Wednesday, March 2
Indiana Wesleyan 17, Cleary 8
Cleary 11, Indiana Wesleyan 2
IU Southeast 16, Lindsey Wilson 2

Friday, March 4
Brewton-Parker 20, Calumet of St. Joseph 4
Saint Francis 14, Huntington 9
Huntington 6, Saint Francis 1
Bethel 9, Mt. Vernon Nazarene 6
Mt. Vernon Nazarene 13, Bethel 0
Grace 6, Goshen 2
Goshen 1, Grace 0
Spring Arbor 2, Indiana Wesleyan 1
Indiana Wesleyan 7, Spring Arbor 6
Taylor 8, Marian 1
Taylor 5, Marian 1
IU Kokomo 5, Ohio Christian 0
Oakland City 4, West Virginia Tech 2

Saturday, March 5
Calumet of St. Joseph 6, Brewton-Parker 4
Brewton-Parker 12, Calumet of St. Joseph 11
Huntington 6, Saint Francis 5
Saint Francis 6, Huntington 1
Bethel 9, Mt. Nazarene 6
Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 2
Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Bethel 3
Grace 16, Goshen 12
Grace 13, Goshen 11
Indiana Wesleyan 26, Spring Arbor 1
Indiana Wesleyan 19, Spring Arbor 18
Marian 20, Taylor 10 (8 inn.)
Taylor 12, Marian 10
IU Kokomo 10, Ohio Christian 0
IU Kokomo 1, Ohio Christian 0
Oakland 11, West Virginia Tech 10 (11 inn.)
Oakland 7, West Virginia Tech 6
IU Southeast 26, Northwestern Ohio 12
Northwestern Ohio 3, IU Southeast 2
IU South Bend 20, Michigan-Dearborn 5
IU South Bend 13, Michigan-Dearborn 9

Sunday, March 6
IU Southeast 11, Northwestern Ohio 8
IU South Bend 8, Concorida (Neb.) 7
IU South Bend 2, Concorida (Neb.) 1
Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 2
Southeastern 6, Indiana Tech 0

Junior College
Monday, Feb. 28
Vincennes 7, Joliet 2

Friday, March 4
Ivy Tech Northeast 4, Anderson JV 3
Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0
Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7

Saturday, March 5
Wabash Valley 16, Vincennes 0
Kellogg 16, Vincennes 7
Miami-Hamilton 13, Marian’s Ancilla 8
Ivy Tech Northeast 13, Lincoln Trail 3
Lincoln Trail 8, Ivy Tech Northeast 6

Sunday, March 6
Lake County 1, Marian’s Ancilla 0
Lake County 16, Marian’s Ancilla 5
Lincoln Trail 12, Ivy Tech Northeast 5
Ivy Tech Northeast 6, Lincoln Trail 1

Young Hammel now in charge at Benton Central

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jarrett Hammel has quickly transitioned from student-athlete to educator-coach.

Ten months after pitching his last game for Valparaiso (Ind.) University he was announced as the head baseball coach at Benton Central Junior/Senior High School in Oxford, Ind. 

“I’m super-excited to get after it,” says Hammel, who was originally hired as pitching coach but became a head coach candidate when Jon Vernon opted to spend more time with family and focus on his duties as Benton Central’s head volleyball coach. “We want to do everything with a purpose. 

“Baseball is not like other sports.”

The son of Donovan (Ill.) Elementary fourth grade teacher Todd Hammel and Morocco Elementary first grade teacher Pam Hammel, Jarrett received an Elementary Education degree from VU and began the 2020-21 school year as a fourth grade teacher at Prairie Crossing Elementary in Oxford.

At South Newton — a K-12 school in Kentland, Ind. — Jarrett got a chance to help with younger kids as a high school junior and senior.

“I knew I wanted to be a positive role model — someone to look up to,” says Hammel. “I look up to my parents a lot. They made a lot of sacrifices for me to be where I am today.

“They’ve always had my back.”

Coming from a close-knit family where both sets of grandparents live within 15 minutes, Jarrett counts younger brother Jay as his best friend. They grew up pushing each other in academics and athletics. 

With 1,195 points, 6-foot-4 Jarrett Hammel was the No. 1 all-time scorer in South Newton boys hoops history until he was surpassed by younger brother Jay Hammel with 1,363. The 6-6 Jay is now a 21-year-old junior right-hander on the Quincy (Ill.) University baseball team and a Multimedia Journalism major.

A 2016 South Newton graduate, Jarrett Hammel played baseball for Glenn Donahue and basketball for Mike Hall. 

Hammel was born in Lafayette, Ind., and grew up in Brook, Ind., where he still resides. He knew Donahue as a youth baseball coach who moved up to the high school ranks. 

Jarrett played four high school summers of travel ball with the Indiana Nitro.

His first college baseball season was spent with head coach Rick O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When the school closed, he transferred to Valpo U., and played for head coach Brian Schmack.

Hammel was a high school sophomore when he appeared on O’Dette’s radar. He became a mentor to the pitcher.

“I learned a lot in the year I was (at St. Joe),” says Hammel. “My outlook on life has changed because of him.”

O’Dette stressed being a good example and always staying in contact with people who are close to you.

“Don’t let conversations get stale,” says Hammel. “You never know when they made need you or you may need them.”

Once it was announced that St. Joseph’s was closing, Hammel recalls that O’Dette was worried more about getting us placed than his own career. O’Dette landed at Saint Leo (Fla.) University.

Hammel played summer college ball for the Lafayette Aviators in 2017 and 2018. Brent McNeil (now pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) managed the team to a Prospect League title in 2017. Will Arnold (now with Prep Baseball Report Arizona) was in charge in 2018.

While Hammel was at South Newton, Valpo also had interest in him and Schmack welcomed the southpaw when he became available.

What did Hammel learn from Schmack?

“Just being a man and owning up to your mistakes,” says Hammel. “Never put the blame on someone else.”

It’s about responding to adversity — something that is plentiful in baseball.

From his personal life, Hammel has learned to greater than his ups and downs.

“When things are not going your way in life you can’t put your head down and go through the motions,” says Hammel. “You have to ride the wave. Life is full of highs and lows.”

He also learned important concepts about teamwork and time management while playing NCAA Division I baseball.

As left-handed pitcher, left-hander Hammel hurled for Valpo at Alabama State March 11, 2020 and was announced as the head of the Bison program Jan. 12, 2021. 

The 23-year-old Hammel conducted his first winter practice session where he engaged with 15 athletes (many BC baseball players are involved in winter sports) and dished out baseball and life lessons. 

Hammel expects his players to be role models.

“I told them that someone is always watching your every move,” says Hammel. “You’re high schoolers now. Be good people and go hard with everything you do.”

Benton Central (enrollment around 550) belongs to the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Twin Lakes and Rensselaer Central in the West Division and Hamilton Heights, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Tipton and Western in the East Division). 

The Bison are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western. Benton Central has won 25 sectionals — the last in 2009.

While the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Benton Central fielded two teams in 2019 and Hammel says he expects to have about 30 players for two squads in 2021.

Hammel is in the process of finding assistant coaches. He would like to have a Benton Central alum on his staff. Bringing in coaches from Newton County is not practical since Brook is in Central Time and Oxford is in Eastern Time.

In looking to his feeder system, Hammel likes the youth program already established and plans to place players in competitive summer leagues and with top travel organizations.

“We want to get them out of their comfort zone and change their outlook on life,” says Hammel, who also plans to start a fall baseball program at BC.

“We went to keep kids at it and try to perfect their craft year-round,” says Hammel. “We’re trying to maximize everyone’s potential.”

Recent Benton Central graduates in college baseball include Matt Taylor and Taylor Varnado with Marian University in Indianapolis. Knights head coach Todd Bacon went to BC.

There’s also Alex Thurston at Valparaiso U., and Payton Hall at Oakland City (Ind.) University.

Benton Central senior Dalton Rennaker is a Marian commit.

Jarrett Hammel, a 2016 graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., and 2020 graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) University, has been hired as head baseball coach at Benton Central High School in Oxford, Ind.

Team chemistry counts for plenty with Kokomo Post 6 baseball manager Andrews

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Don Andrews wants to fill his Kokomo American Legion Post 6 baseball team with talented players.

But playing ability is not the first priority for the man who enters his eighth season as senior team manager in 2018 after serving as an assistant and with Post 6’s junior squad.

“Team chemistry is more important than talent,” says Andrews. “It’s something we work really hard at.

“We’re finding out what the dynamics of the team are going to be. I go to a high school baseball game in the spring almost every night. I’m watching the players and also watching the parents.

“By the time (open) tryouts come around (in August) we almost know who we want (for the following year).”

Through his observations and conversations, Andrews will invite desired players to the tryout. He wants kids with a high baseball I.Q.

But — again — there’s more than that.

“A big basis of what we do is try to find high character kids,” says Andrews. “It’s a long, hot summer so we want to have good kids.”

Andrews normally goes through the regular season with about 15 or 16 players and adds a few worthy juniors at the end of the summer.

Post 6 plays around 35 games before the regional. This year, the regular season opens June 4 and closes July 10.

The Kokomo Summer Classic at Highland Park Stadium is slated for June 15-17.

Andrews estimates that 70 percent of Post 6’s games are at Highland Park.

“Everybody loves to play on that field,” says Andrews. “The parks department does a great job of keeping it up.”

Then there’s the dimesions.

“We have a big home field advantage,” says Andrews, eluding to the short distance down the right field line with a high fence. “We know we’ve just got to play. We don’t worry about hitting it over that fence.”

Meanwhile, left-handed batters on opposing teams are practically drooling when they see that short porch.

Kokomo has realized plenty of Legion diamond success in recent years.

The Sixers won regional titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Sectionals were eliminated in 2014, but Kokomo won a few of those on Andrews’ watch.

The Indiana American Legion State Finals rotates from north to south each year with teams bidding for the rights to host.

Kokomo hosted in 2016 at Kokomo Municipal Stadium and will do so again this year at Highland Park. The eight-team event (seven regional champions plus the host) is scheduled for July 27-31 (the Kokomo Regional is July 20-22).

The Great Lakes Regional Aug. 8-12 in Napoleon, Ohio, with the American Legion World Series Aug. 16-21 in Shelby, N.C.

Rockport Post 254 won the 2017 state championship in a tournament hosted by Terre Haute Post 346.

While the deadline for entries is still open, Andrews expects there to be up to 32 senior teams in Indiana this year and maybe a dozen or so junior (17U) squads.

Kokomo will also host junior regional and state finals at Highland Park and Northwestern High School July 13-15 and July 19-22, respectively.

Post 6 will take its senior players in 2018 from the following high schools: Kokomo, Northwestern, Western, Taylor, and Logansport.

Junior players come from those those schools plus Oak Hill, Sheridan and Tri-Central.

In some years, the Sixers had players from Eastern, Lewis Cass and Peru.

American Legion Baseball has been a tradition in Indiana since 1926. Legion ball thrives in many corners of the state.

While many Legion rules mimic those of Major League Baseball, the national organization voted not to adopt mound visit restrictions now used by MLB.

Andrews began his coaching career when son Reid was 5 and playing T-ball at Russiaville Little League. Andrews, with the help of Dan Weaver, followed his son up the line, including four years of travel baseball — three with the Bullpen Aces and one with the Central Indiana Kings — and summers with Kokomo Post 6.

Besides bench coach Weaver, Andrews is helped with his Sixers by third base coach Will Harris and first base coach Dave Takacs.

Reid Andrews, a graduate of Western High School and Purdue University, is now general at Roundtripper Sports Academy in Westfield and an assistant to head baseball coach Chris Estep at University High School in Carmel.

The Andrews family is full of coaches. Don’s wife Deb Andrews is a boys and girls swimming assistant coach at Western High.

Daughter Rae Andrews, an Indiana University graduate, is a swim coach and lifeguard at the YMCA of Greater Rochester (N.Y.).

Don Andrews, a 1977 Northwestern High School graduate, played a few years of prep baseball then discovered a talent for running and turned to track and field and cross country.

He was on the track team at Purdue when he was struck by a vehicle during a November training run. A few years later, he was on the cross country and track teams at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., and coached the sports during and after college.

Andrews now works at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles transmission plant in Kokomo.

DONANDREWS

Don Andrews is manager of the Kokomo (Ind.) American Legion Post 6 baseball team. The Sixers is scheduled to open the 2018 season June 4. Post 6 will also host regionals and state finals for both junior and senior divisions.

Second baseball coaching stint at Peru rewarding for Brimbury

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Chuck Brimbury has enjoyed each stage of his professional life — from teacher and coach to assistant principal to principal to superintendent and then to athletic director along with a return to coach.

Brimbury is really basking in his second go-round as head baseball coach at Peru High School.

“I’ve loved every single job I’ve had in education,” says Brimbury, who also served 15 years as a football coach at Peru, including one as interim head coach. “The more you move up, the farther you seem to be from the kids and the daily guidance of them. I missed coaching. It was huge part of my life.

“I’ve been blessed to get back into it.”

After serving four years as superintendent of Peru Community Schools and helping to earn the district four-star status as one of the best-performing systems in Indiana, he opted in June 2014 to become AD and once again lead the Tigers on the diamond.

Beginning in 1998, Brimbury previously held the job for a decade.

“We had a really good run,” says Brimbury, whose teams were state-ranked in most seasons and had his 2000 squad reach the IHSAA Class 3A Final Four.

Brimbury borrowed methods he learned while serving as an assistant to Don Sherman at Huntington North High School.

The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer taught him all the intricacies of running a successful baseball operation.

“We believe in holding people to high standards,” says Brimbury. “We get off the bus all looking the same and we stay together. Our top players carry the water cooler. There’s no job too small.”

Peru baseballers wears “Program” on their shirts to remind themselves and everyone else that “the program is more important than any player or any coach.”

Brimbury also uses drills and teaching methods gleaned from Hall of Famers Bill Jones of DeKalb, Bill Nixon of Plymouth and Chris Stavreti of Fort Wayne Northrop as well as the man who won 1,010 games and seven state championships — Ken Schreiber of LaPorte.

It doesn’t have to be a Thursday for the Tigers to throwing it back.

“We’re throwbacks,” says Brimbury. “It’s an old-school approach and our kids thrive off it.

“If you resemble a lot of guys with blue rings you’ll get one for your community one day. If their kids can do it, we can do it. We believe that here. We use a lot of what works.”

In his first season back in charge (2015), Brimbury enjoyed Peru’s first sectional championship since 2000.

When the Mid-Indiana Conference dissolved at the end on the 2014-15 academic school year, the Tigers joined the Three Rivers Conference and have reigned in baseball in their first two seasons in the new league (2016 and 2017).

“It’s a really good small-school conference,” says Brimbury of a conference which also includes Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Rochester, Southwood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko. “I really enjoy the competition.”

Brimbury has also savored the ability to build a non-conference which has pitted the Tigers against the best competition from around the state and to a variety of venues.

Peru played Lafayette Central Catholic at Purdue University and both Providence and Rossville at Alexandria-Monroe in 2017 and this year will feature a program first — a southern spring break trip with stops at League Stadium in Huntingburg (where much of the movie “A League of Their Own” was filmed) to play Southridge and games at Muhlenberg County and Christian County in Kentucky.

“I want to make sure these kids have a tremendous experience in their four years at Peru,” says Brimbury. “I like exposing these kids to beautiful places and really good programs.

“Each year our schedule is a little different. We want to get our kids used to playing on the road.”

The idea is to prepare the Tigers for the postseason, which begins in 2018 with the Peru Sectional but another title would mean a trek to the always-tough Griffith Regional.

Getting to Griffith will be no small task. The 3A sectional grouping also features Benton Central, Maconaquah, Northwestern, West Lafayette and Western.

Peru is to play at Indiana State University May 5.

Nolan Brimbury — the oldest of Chuck and Michelle Brimbury’s three children — is a redshirt sophomore infielder for the Indiana State Sycamores.

Tiger Field will also be the site of 2018 Miami County Classic. Two of the three teams that visit Peru feature head coaches with close ties to Brimbury — former assistant Shane Edwards at Oak Hill and former player Troy Hudson at North Miami. Maconaquah rounds out the field for the May 12 all-day event.

“We have an old-time field,” says Brimbury. “It’s beautiful at night. It’s a really good atmosphere for home games.

“It’s one of the better small-school stadiums out there.”

Brimbury’s public address announcer at Tiger Field and assistant at Peru athletic events is Mike Stewart.

Now retired, Stewart was Chuck’s baseball coach at Fountain Central High School who also found his way to “Tiger Town.”

“(Stewart) was passionate about the game,” says Brimbury, who graduated from high school in 1988 and went on to play a little at Marian University in Indianapolis and receive various degrees from Indiana State.

Every Peru game and a weekly coach’s show has been on the radio (thanks to 101.9 FM and broadcasters Bob Stambazze and Doug Muzzillo) and many contests are shown on student-run Tiger TV.

Several players saw significant varsity action last spring, meaning Brimbury welcomes back 17 lettermen.

Among the senior returnees are catcher Nathan Brimbury (Chuck and Michelle’s son and a 2017 IHSBCA Junior Showcase invitee), right-hander Lucas McConahay (the top returning pitcher), outfielders Austin Caldwell and Robert Cunningham, second baseman Kasey Comp, first baseman Christian Gatliff and designated hitter Nathan Ramirez.

Juniors include third baseman Blake Edwards, outfielder D.J. Fuller, catcher Payton Honn and left-handers Chance Ogle and Zach Purcell.

Sophomores in the mix are right-hander/third baseman/shorstop Michael Chandler, outfielder Jonah Hoopenthal, outfielder/shortstop Daunte Majors, middle infielder Dmitry Reese and right-handers Jackson Green and Chase Tyler.

Hitting coach Rob Hileman has been with Brimbury in every season in both of his tenures except one. Jody Beauchamp is the Tigers pitching coach. Shawn Dwyer, Josh Ulrey, Brad Townsend, Gary Loe and strength coach complete the high school staff.

Sixth grader Madison Brimbury (Chuck and Michelle’s daughter) is a baseball student manager.

Michelle Brimbury, who is a special education teacher at PHS, is also team mom.

Feeders for the high school program include a Peru Junior High School team, which is expected to play 12 to 15 games in April and May.

There is also the Peru Cal Ripken League and many players wind up with various travel baseball organizations.

Besides Nolan Brimbury, recent Peru graduates on college baseball rosters include left-handed pitcher Cameron Beauchamp (Indiana University) and right-handers Dexter Shuler (Franklin College) and Sean Smith (Wabash College).

Beauchamp (2016) and Smith (2017) were both IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participants.

“It’s fulfilling to see our kids playing at some level above high school and we try to keep (former players) a part of our program,” says Brimbury, who regularly welcomes baseball alums from his first Peru head coaching stint into his dugout and is now coaching the sons of some former players. “It’s a long history of former Tiger baseball players.

“We are totally vested in the success of our kids here.”

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The Brimbury family celebrates Peru High School’s 2015 sectional baseball championship (from left): Michelle, Nathan, Nolan, Chuck and Madison. In 2018, Chuck is in the fourth season of his second tenure as head coach. Nathan is a senior catcher. Michelle is team mom. Madison is student manager. Nolan is now a redshirt sophomore at Indiana State University.

Ward, Northwestern Tigers baseball enjoying ‘firsts’

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Kokomo, Ind., touts itself as the “City of Firsts” with claims to America’s first commercially-produced automobile and more.

Northwestern High School is enjoying some its own “firsts.”

For the first time, the Tigers have artificial turf on three of their athletic fields — baseball, football and softball.

As Phase 1 of a improvement campaign, a committee of administrators, teachers, parents and community members used grant money to make the upgrades. While not yet determined, a second phase could bring lighted fields and academic improvements.

Fourth-year head baseball coach Ryan Ward got a chance to send his baseball players on the carpet for the first time during fall workouts.

“If it’s warm enough, we can take some kids out there in January and February,” says Ward. “We have the best practice field in the state, especially a school our size (enrollment around 550).”

As the Tigers play their first season on the new-look field in 2018, Ward will continue to assert some other firsts — something he has done since taking over as head coach in 2015 after serving on Kyle Beachy’s staff for the IHSAA Class 3A Twin Lakes Sectional-winning 2014 season.

“We want to play an aggressive style of baseball,” says Ward. “For pitchers, we emphasize first-pitch strikes. As hitters, we look for to drive early in the counts. As baserunners, we will be aggressive. If we make mistakes, they are aggressive mistakes. That’s the brand of ball we’re trying to play.

Ward knows it’s not always easy teenagers to make the right catch, throw and tag in the heat of the moment, so he is going to have his players force the issue.

“We’ve got to keep empowering the kids on our team,” says Ward. “The more we can force our opponents to do, the better chance they are going to make mistakes and give ourselves a better chance to win.”

Ward graduated from Hickory High School in Hermitage, Pa. (about 75 miles northwest of Pittsburgh), in 2009.

Gary Hinkson was Ward’s high school coach. He saw the potential for Ward to go into the profession.

“He gave me that encouragement and motivation,” says Ward of Hinkson, who would win 301 games at Hickory from 1994-2015. “He treated us (players) like we were major leaguers. We carried on the expectations that he set for us.”

In Ward’s sophomore season (2007), the Hickory Hornets won their first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 10 title in 10 years, repeated the feat the next spring and lost in the district championship game in 2009.

At Northwestern, Ward prepares his Tigers for competition in the Hoosier Conference and athletic director and former Northwestern baseball coach Dan Armstrong schedules many other teams in the Kokomo and Lafayette areas.

The HC is split into two divisions — Northwestern, Cass, Hamilton Heights, Tipton and Western in the East and Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Rensselaer Central, Twin Lakes and West Lafayette in the West.

Teams play all the schools in their division in home-and-home series on Wednesdays and Thursdays with crossover games at the end. The top teams in each division square off the title with East Division No. 2 facing West Division No. 2 and so on.

Ward, who counts Jeff Trueblood and Dan Butcher as assistant coaches for 2018, gears his pitching staff toward conference games.

“We have our Wednesday starter and Thursday starter,” says Ward. “It helps pitchers get into a routine and guys are working to be a conference starters.”

In 2017, the IHSAA implemented pitch count rules (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“I love the intent of the rules,” says Ward. “It’s putting the focus on the health of the athlete. I’d like to see better communication on how we execute the rule between coaches, umpires and the IHSAA.

“Wow do we keep improving it?”

Northwestern doesn’t have to look far to see the future of its program since the Northwestern Youth Baseball League (T-ball through major baseball) is housed on school grounds and seventh and eighth grade teams play 15 to 20 games in the spring on the varsity field. Truebood, a Northwestern graduate who played college baseball, is NYBL president. Joel Downey and Bruce Smith are middle school coaches.

“From the time they’re 6, they think about wearing purple one day,” says Ward. “They are coming back as alumni. We’re putting the focus on the Northwestern school district and those relationships.”

Many high school-age Tigers play in the summer for travel teams or Kokomo American Legion Post 6.

Ward went to Butler University with the idea of playing baseball, but was cut in his freshman year. He still respects then-Bulldogs head coach Steve Farley as a mentor.

“He was honest with me,” says Ward, who earned a degree from Butler in 2013 and began teaching fifth grade at Northwestern Elementary that fall. Ryan and wife Katelyn, a 2008 Kokomo High School graduate and third grade teacher in Kokomo schools at Lafayette Park International Elementary, were wed in September 2016 and live in the Northwestern district.

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Ryan Ward and wife, Katelyn, are both elementary school teachers — Ryan in the Northwestern district, Katelyn in Kokomo. Ward is entering his fourth season as Northwestern High School head baseball coach in 2018.

 

Bunnell has Westfield playing with character, commitment

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ryan Bunnell might change the words of his mantra from time to time to stay fresh.

But the head baseball coach at Westfield High School in Hamilton County, Indiana, continues to run a program based on character, commitment, hard work and extra effort.

“Everyone has influence,” says Bunnell. “How they use that influence is up to them.”

Bunnell has been in charge of the Shamrocks since the 2003 season, meaning 2017-18 is his 16th as coach and 15th as a WHS teacher.

The Rocks have won well over 200 games to go with three sectional (2008, 2009, 2011), one regional (2009), one semistate (2009) and one state runner-up finish (2009) plus four Hoosier Crossroads Conference titles (2009, 2010, 2013, 2015) on Bunnell’s watch.

Kevin Plawecki, who is now a catcher with the New York Mets, was a senior and batted No. 3 for Westfield in the 2009 IHSAA Class 4A State Finals then played at Purdue University before beginning his professional baseball career. Plawecki still stays in contact with Bunnell.

A 1991 graduate of Northwestern High School in Kokomo, where he played for coach Kent LeBeau, Bunnell put in one season at Huntington College (now Huntington University) for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Frame and finished his college studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Bunnell likes his Shamrocks to “stay in the present” and “control the controllable.”

Knowing when the make the right play and quality at-bats are valued highly by Westfield baseball. QAB points can come from hard-hit balls, walks, hit-by-pitch, stolen bases, dirt-ball reads and other things.

The Rocks look to “win the freebie war” — meaning they give up fewer walks, errors, etc., and seeks have more big innings (defined by three runs or more) than the opponents. They have crunched the numbers at Westfield and know the win percentage is high when the Rocks have more big innings than their foes.

It’s a philosophy Bunnell picked up at a clinic from former Mississippi State University coach John Cohen and it’s kind of thing that happened frequently in successful Westfield seasons like 2009.

Bunnell says the program usually sees up to 70 kids try out for about 50 spots on three teams — varsity and two junior varsity squads (Green and White). Having two JV units allows for flexibility and playing time. For instance, the Rocks had five catchers in the freshmen class in 2017 and just one among the sophomores.

Westfield’s 2018 coaching staff is to include John Oestreich (pitching coach), Mike Hansen (third base/catchers coach), Bill Lindsey (hitting/corner infielders coach), Kevin Entwistle (JV Green/outfielders coach) and Evan Kosmoski (JV White/pitching coach).

All JV home games are played at Grand Park with some varsity games being moved there if wet weather means the Rocks can’t play on-campus. With this relationship, Bullpen Tournaments is allowed to use the Westfield varsity field for some of its summer tournaments.

Feeding the program are recreation and 12U to 15U travel teams (Westfield Rocks) from Westfield Youth Sports, Inc., plus middle school squads that play at Shamrock Springs Elementary.

“Baseball is strong here for sure,” says Bunnell.

A portion of Bunnell’s summers is spent with wife Michell and four children (Kaylie, A.J., Cooper and Beau) and coaching with the Indiana Bulls travel baseball organization.

“They have been very good to me,” says Bunnell. “We don’t practice a whole lot in the summer. The crispness of the game gets away. We need that repetition in practice.”

The coach approves of the pitch count rules adopted by the IHSAA in 2017 (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“These are young kids and they are still developing and kids are throwing harder than ever,” says Bunnell, who had tended to use his starters once a week during the regular season with a non-conference game on Tuesday and conference contests on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The past few seasons the Hoosier Crossroads Conference (which has featured Avon, Brownsburg, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville and Zionsville and will add Franklin Central in 2018-19) has employed a three-game series for baseball and Bunnell has been a fan of the format.

“You get a true conference champion,” says Bunnell. “I’ll be sad to see it go (if it goes away with the growth of the conference or reduction in the number of games allowed by the IHSAA).”

Currently, the association allows 28 games plus a tournament prior to the state tournament series.

If he had his way, the season would actually expand, state tournament stages would be seeded and championships would be determined by a series or at least through double-elimination.

“It would create excitement and it would be great to see it showcased that way,” says Bunnell. “We have to stop with the one-size-fits-all approach. Each sport has its uniqueness.”

With the HCC format, the Friday game under the lights has often drawn big crowds and taken on the atmosphere of prep football.

Of course more games would necessitate more time to get postseason games in and there are already issues now where sectional games have to be played from Wednesday through Monday and still adhere to pitch count rules.

Bunnell said this narrow window, the draw and variables like weather and graduation ceremonies can put teams on one side of the bracket at a serious disadvantage.

How would seeding work?

Bunnell notes that it is done in Ohio and rankings such as those produced by MaxPreps could be used.

“There are a lot of options,” says Bunnell.

To concentrate on mental toughness, Westfield athletes take part annually in Shamrock Advantage Week. In brief after-school sessions, speakers cover various topics like mindfulness, trust building and becoming an elite competitor. Bunnell has been one of those SAW presenters.

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Ryan Bunnell is going into his 16th season as head baseball coach at Westfield High School in 2017-18.

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Berryman getting Western ready for ‘next’ baseball move

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

They’ve got a good thing going at Western High School.

The Panthers have enjoyed plenty of baseball success, taking 18 sectionals, seven regionals, two semistates, one Class 3A state championship (2012) and one 3A state runner-up finish (2016).

Ty Calloway, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and Howard County Sports hall of famer, led the program for 36 seasons and Quentin Brown (now with Indiana Primetime Sports) for the past three.

Ryan Berryman is now the man in charge. As a 1994 Western graduate, former WHS athletic director and head coach at county rival Northwestern, he is very aware of the winning tradition in Russiaville.

“We’re a baseball community,” says Berryman. “The expectations are high.”

Berryman, who returned to the classroom after serving as AD from 2011-13, has continued to coach baseball in the summer with the Indiana Bulls travel organization (he will lead a 16U squad this summer).

In 11 seasons at Northwestern, Berryman’s teams won 226 games, four sectionals and took the Tigers to a 2005 Class 2A State Finals. Future big leaguer Brandon Beachy was part of that team.

At Western, Berryman is greeted by 15 returnees from the 2016 state runners-up.

“We’ve got a much deeper pitching staff,” says Berryman, a big believer in mound depth with two-thirds of the players in his program being able to pitch. “It’ll be disappointing for all these guys if they don’t make a run.”

Not that Berryman wants the Panthers to get ahead of themselves.

“We don’t get caught up in anything too small,” says Berryman. “We don’t get caught up in anything too big. We just focus in on play by play, pitch by pitch.

“We want to keep it as simple as possible. There’s nothing magical to the success I’ve had as a coach.”

Berryman, whose coaching staff features Cody Shipley, Colton Summers, Devon Eaker and Dwight Singer at the varsity level as well as Luke Waitt and Michael Rocchio with the junior varsity, wants his players to have that “next” mentality — Next at-bat. Next pitch. Next inning.

His daily request is to be on-time and work hard.

“I only have two hours a day with these guys,” says Berryman. “After that, it’s on them.

“It’s a tough game. Find a way to work through your mistakes and get better and don’t dwell on the negative things.”

After playing for Calloway at Western, Berryman took the field for Indiana Wesleyan University and Northern Kentucky University as did twin brother Scott. Ryan pitched for the Lafayette Leopards of the independent professional Heartland League in 1998.

Berryman, who was head coach for the IHSBCA North-South All-Star Series in 2011 and is a past association president, would like to see an increase in the time coaches can work with athletes out-of-season — a change that would help not only baseball but other high school sports.

“I realize that these kids are student-athletes and academics come first and there are coaches that want to be with the kids too much,” says Berryman. “But, at the same time, we shouldn’t take opportunities away for kids to fully develop.

“Now, they can’t work with their baseball coach until a certain date has passed. It’s about kids and opportunities.”

Western competes in the 10-team Hoosier Conference. Teams play Tuesday-Wednesday home-and-home series within their divisions with seeded crossover games at the end of the season. Western, Cass, Hamilton Heights , Northwestern and Tipton are in the East. Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Rensselaer Central, Twin Lakes and West Lafayette are in the West.

Feeder systems for Western baseball are Russiaville Youth Baseball League and the Russiaville Rams travel team.

High school players participating with several travel teams in the summer, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Mustangs, Indiana Nitro, Indiana Pony Express and Indiana Prospects.

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Ryan Berryman, a 1994 Western High School graduate, is in his first season as the Panthers head baseball coach. He coached Northwestern to the 2005 IHSAA Class 2A State Finals and is a summer coach with the Indiana Bulls travel organization.