Tag Archives: Northwood University

Spiceland, Sycamores form special bond

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dan Spiceland started out as the man that got Indiana State University’s baseball team to and from its games.

But he soon became much more and in a decade of transporting the Sycamores the man they call “Dan-O” has made many meaningful relationships while having a lot of fun.

“He’s the grandpa of this team,” says Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs of Spiceland. “He’s just a great person with a great outlook on life. That’s why it’s great to have him around.

“He picks these guys up on the bad days and it’s really nice to see. Every team should have a grandfather in the dugout. He talks to these guys about life and a lot of things around this game. He’s invaluable to our club.”

At 52, Spiceland retired after 35 years from Ford Motor Company, where he was in plan engineering and a millwright by trade. He went to Ford a week after graduating from Taylor (Mich.) High School and received further education at Henry Ford Community College (where he also played baseball) and Northwood University with the help of his employer.

“Ford was very good to me and my family,” says Spiceland. “I really never thought I would work again.”

Spiceland and wife, Liz, live near Poland, Ind., and worship at the North Meridian Street Church of Christ in Brazil, Ind. The couple moved from Indianapolis and became a regular with the congregation in 2003.

Dan is one of the elders at North Meridian and was told by one of the members and Terre Haute-based Turner Motor Coaches driver, Robert Hostetler, that the company was in need of drivers.

“Robert was always putting a bug in my ear,” says Spiceland of Hostetler. “I told him out of friendship with you I’ll go down and take a look at it.”

Spiceland had never driven a bus in his life, but showed an aptitude for its right away and was hired.

He began by taking some tour groups on shorter trips.

In 2010, the ISU baseball team was getting ready to go on its first excursion of the season from Terre Haute to Shreveport, La.

The law allows motor coach drivers to be behind the wheel for 10 hours a day and then shut down for eight. This sometimes necessitates a relay system with one driver taking over for the other at a given point along the route.

Two days before the trip, the driver that was going to take the team from Sikeston, Mo., to Shreveport for four days asked to trade places with Spiceland, who was going to drive the first leg from Terre Haute and hand off the team in Missouri.

“I drove them down to Shreveport and we had a great series,” says Spiceland. “We won all the games there against Texas Southern.”

On the way back to the relay point, then-Sycamores head coach Rick Heller made it known how much he appreciated Spiceland. The coach told the driver he wanted him to be the team’s full-time transporter, always taking them on the long end of trips if a relay was involved.

Heller contacted Turner and Spiceland took on the ISU baseball team as part of his driving duties, which now also includes the Indiana State women’s soccer team in the fall and tours of all kinds.

“I’m a people person,” says Spiceland. “I like to meet people. I like to reach out to them any way that I can.

“I’ve made a lot of friends driving this motor coach. I can’t say enough about how much fun it is.”

Getting to drive for and developing a bond with the baseball team came as a a twist of fate when the other driver wanted to swap.

Spiceland drove for Heller for four years. When Heller left to become head coach at the University of Iowa, Hannahs took over the reins of the Sycamores.

“Mitch and myself, we have a great relationship,” says Spiceland. “About four years ago, Mitch took me aside and said, ‘I want to talk to you. You have such a great rapport with the team. You would be much more valuable to me to be in the dugout than to be up in the stands cheering.’”

Donning a uniform and cap, Spiceland spends games in the ISU dugout.

“That makes me feel like a kid again,” says Spiceland. “I’m in the dugout and like a spark plug.”

If a player has a bad at-bat or shaky inning on the mound, Spiceland will approach them and offer words of encouragement.

“I go over to him and it’s authentic — it’s not fake — but I’ll stroke their ego,” says Spiceland. “I try to build up their self-esteem.

“I think of them as my sons.”

Dan and Liz have two biological sons — Dan (43) in Huntsville, Ala., and Frank (40) in Findlay, Ohio, and six grandchildren.

“I’ve been through this before when my sons were this age,” says Spiceland. “There’s peer pressure. These guys have challenges in their lives.

“It’s a relationship that pulls at my heart strings. In four years, I was able to have a small smidgeon in their lives.

“More than a driver, I try to mentor these guys.”

With the baseball team alone, Spiceland averages about 7,000 miles a year.

Dan-O and the team spend a great deal of time together between the bus, baseball stadiums, hotels and restaurants. Many times, players invite him to breakfast to discuss some matters.

“I always accommodate them,” says Spiceland. “We talk about a lot of things. They can bounce things off of me. They know it’s not going to go any farther.

“We really love each other. We can communicate with each other. We just bond with each other.”

When the schedule allows, Spiceland finds a church on the road and players have been known to come along.

“it’s an opportunity for me to share my faith with people,” says Spiceland. “That’s an important thing.”

Earlier this season, Spiceland took the team to the University of Michigan, an experienced he thoroughly enjoyed with his Wolverine State roots.

Indiana State (34-11) is coming off a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series against Illinois State in Normal, Ill. Dan-O and Liz celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary Saturday, May 4, and the Sycamores won Saturday and Sunday to takes 2-of-3 from the Redbirds.

The next trip is this Friday through Sunday at Dallas Baptist. Since it will be Finals Week, players can’t leave campus until Thursday. The plan calls for the team to fly down that night with Spiceland leaving Wednesday and meeting the team in Texas.

After a home series May 16-18, Indiana State goes back to Normal for the MVC Tournament, which is slated for May 21-25.

NCAA Regionals are May 31-June 3 at campus sites with Super Regionals June 7-10 at campus sites and the College World Series June 15-29 in Omaha, Neb.

Whenever the last trip of the season comes for Spiceland and the Sycamores, he will stand at the front of the bus and tell them the same thing he tells each team.

“Guys, this is the last ride,” says Spiceland. “We will never ever be together again as this group of men.”

As the senior disembark in Terre Haute, the seniors have real tears in their eyes and they give Spiceland a hug.

“They say, Dan-O, we may never see you again,” says Spiceland. “But you’ve been like a dad or like a grandpa to us and we’ll never forget that.”

MITCHHANNAHS2

Indiana State University baseball head coach says of team bus driver and mentor, Dan Spiceland: “Every team should have a grandfather in the dugout.” (Indiana State University Photo)

DANSPICELAND

Dan Spiceland aka “Dan-O” has been a bus driver and mentor for the Indiana State University baseball team since 2010. He is employed by Terre Haute-based Turner Motor Coaches. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Maloney making conversion from player to coach at Wayne State

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Alex Maloney closed out his Ball State University baseball playing career in 2017 by receiving the “Dirt Bag Award” from his teammates.

“It means a lot to me,” says Maloney of the recognition of his willingness to persevere. “They saw me as hard-working and blue collar. Not a lot of people know it, but I played through a lot of injuries in college.”

It’s that kind of approach that Maloney is taking as the pitching coach at Wayne State University, an NCAA Division II program in Detroit. He is a graduate student pursuing his masters degree in business.

‘This team is a really special team to be around,” says Maloney, 24. “It’s a great group of hard-working kids. They make my job easy.

“We’re getting after it.”

Before transferring to Delta High School in Muncie, Ind., midway through his senior year (2013), Maloney attended Chelsea (Mich.) High School — located about 60 miles from Detroit — and played baseball and football for the Bulldogs. Alex transferred to Delta when father Rich Maloney returned as Ball State in Muncie as head baseball coach.

Terry Summers was head coach at Delta when Alex and younger brother Nick played for the Eagles.

Alex Maloney, the oldest of Rich and Kelle Maloney’s three children (Nick is a Ball State senior and daughter Natalie is a BSU freshmen) was recruited to Ball State as a two-way player. Injuries limited his pitching appearances. He worked nine stints and 8 2/3 innings in his freshman and junior seasons. He was primarily a shortstop or third baseman.

After playing in 227 games (226 as a starter), Maloney graduated from Ball State in 2017 with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Business Information Systems, played a few games with the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers of the United Shore Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich., then signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox organization. He played 23 games in 2017 and was released in June 2018.

He was on his way to testing to becoming a Michigan state trooper when Wayne State contacted him about continuing his education while coaching baseball. He started at WSU in August.

“Coaching or federal law enforcement — I’m debating each one I want to do,” says Maloney. “This is a great opportunity. It gives me two years to figure out what I wanted to do in life.

“It’s a win-win for me. I’m getting great coaching experience.”

Maloney experienced what he calls a learning curve in the fall as he was getting to know his pitchers and they were getting to know him.

Though he was mostly a position player in college, he welcomes the chance to learn more about guiding pitchers.

“As a coach, it’s good to be well-rounded,” says Maloney, who also helps with hitters and infielders on a Warriors staff led by Ryan Kelley and also featuring assistant/recruiting coordinator Aaron Hepner plus volunteer assistants John Dombrowski, Chris Ogden, Jake Pacholski and Josh Simonis.

Maloney has made the conversion from player to coach with the help of some mentors.

Besides his father and Wayne State’s Kelley and Hepner, there’s been Ball State pitching coaching coach Dustin Glant and University of Alabama at Birmingham volunteer assistant Ron Polk (who was a head coach for 35 years, including 29 at Mississippi State University) among others.

Maloney is also learning about NCAA Division II baseball, which is allowed to give nine scholarships (it’s 11.7 in D-I) and the teams on Wayne State’s schedule while also making connections with members of the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association and beyond. The MHSBCA staged its annual state clinic Jan. 11-12 in Mt. Pleasant.

The Wayne State Warriors are part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (with Ashland, Davenport, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Northwood, Purdue Northwest, Saginaw Valley State and Wisconsin-Parkside).

alexmaloneywaynestate

Alex Maloney, a 2017 Ball State University graduate, is now baseball pitching coach and a graduate assistant at Wayne State University in Detroit. (Wayne State University Photo)

 

Here’s a look back at 2018 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series in South Bend

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Series is in the books.

Despite wet weather in South Bend, Ind., many of the best players from around the state got a chance to show what they can do on the diamond —  first with the annual Junior Showcase Friday, July 21 and then the recent graduates took to Four Winds Field for three games following a Friday night banquet featuring keynote speaker Greg Kloosterman and the announcement of Roncalli’s Nick Schnell as IHSBCA Player of the Year.

A scheduled doubleheader Saturday became a rain-shortened game. That led to a 9 a.m. Sunday doubleheader.

Three IHSBCA founders were remembered during the weekend. There was a pregame ceremony Saturday to posthumously honor Jim Reinebold and Ken Schreiber.

Declaring, “This ones for you Grandpa!!” on Twitter, Fort Wayne Carroll’s Hayden Jones went out and took MVP honors for the North/South Series in memory of a Bill Jones.

The North coaching staff was head coach Steve Stutsman (Elkhart Central) plus assistants Steve Asbury (Elkhart Central), Shane Edwards (Oak Hill), John Huemmer (Mishawaka) and Lonnie Weatherholt (Elkhart Central).

Coaching the South was head coach Shawn Lyons (New Palestine), Jason Combs (Decatur Central), Zach Payne (Lanesville) and Curt Welch (Castle).

Ryan Fagan and Anna Roberts served as trainers.

Umpires were Tony Gaugler, Bob Lichtenberger, Jay Miller and Corey Stewart in Game 1, Mike Alberts, Terry Baker, Kevin Kirsch and Eric Erb in Game 2 and Laird Salmon, Zach Sliwa, Bob Schellinger and Steve Kajzer in Game 2.

The 45th North/South Series is planned for one week after the IHSAA State Finals in Madison, Ind.

2018 IHSBCA NORTH/SOUTH

ALL-STAR SERIES

(At Fort Winds Field, South Bend)

Saturday, July 21

North 8, South 4 (rain-shortened in 5th inning)

S 201 1 — 4 4 5

N 602 x — 8 6 4

Sunday, July 22

South 8, North 4

(Wood Bat Game)

N 000 040 0 — 4 5 2

S 130 040 — 8 12 0

North 8, South 0

S 000 000 0 — 0 4 0

N 214 010 x — 8 8 1

MVP: Hayden Jones (Fort Wayne Carroll).

Offensive Stats (AB R H RBI)

Pitching Stats (IP H R ER BB SO)

North

Kollyn All (McCutcheon HS/Butler) — G1 — DNP; G2 — C 2 0 0 0; G3 — C 1 0 0 0.

Chandler Banic (LaPorte HS/Ball State) — G1 — DNP; G2 — SS 0 0 0 0, P 1 0 0 0 0 2; G3 — P 1 0 0 0 0 0 3

Robbie Berger (John Glenn HS/Lincoln Trail CC) — Participated, but did not play.

Ryan Bolda (Crown Point HS/Indiana) — G1 — DNP; G2 — P 1 0 0 0 2; G3 — P 1 0 0 0 1 0

Ty Bothwell (Boone Grove HS/Indiana) — G1 — DNP; G2 — DNP; G3 — PR 0 0 0 0

Alec Brunson (DeKalb HS/Purdue Fort Wayne) — G1 — DH 2 0 0 0; G2 — C 1 0 0 0; G 3 — C 0 1 0 0

Eric Doyle (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger HS/Ivy Tech Northeast) — G1 — DNP; G2 — SS 2 1 1 1; G3 — SS 1 0 0 0

Justin Graves (Lake Central HS/Purdue Northwest) — G1 — DNP; G2 — 2B 3 0 0 0; G3 — 2B 2 0 1 0

Ashton Guyer (Western HS/Purdue) — G1 — DNP; G2 — P 1 0 0 0 2 1; G3 — PR 0 1 0 0, P 1 1 0 0 2 3

Jay Hammel (South Newton HS/Quincy) — G1 — DNP; G2 — 1B 1 0 0 1; G3 — 1B 1 0 0 0

Riley Hershberger (Logansport HS/Danville Area CC) — G1 — DNP; G2 — 3B 1 1 0 0; G3 — 3B 1 0 1 0

Hayden Jones (Fort Wayne Carroll HS/Mississippi State) — G1 — C 3 1 3 2; G2 — DH 3 0 1 2; G3 — C 1 0 1 1 (double)

Payton Kerr (Penn HS/IUPUI) — G1 — SS 3 1 1 2; G2 — SS 1 0 0 0; G3 — SS 0 2 0 0

Ethan Larason (Maconaquah HS/Indiana) — G1 — DNP; G2 — P 1 4 4 4 2 0; G3 — P 1 1 0 0 0 0

Jacob Marin (Lafayette Central Catholic HS/Marian) — G1 — P 1 1 1 1 2 1; G2 — DNP; G3 — DH 1 0 0 0

Ian McCutcheon (Huntington North HS/Huntington) — G1 — RF 2 1 0 1; G2 — PR 1 1 0 0;  G3 — RF 1 1 0 1

Matthew Meyer (Westfield HS/Sinclair CC) — G1 — 3B 2 2 2 2; G2 — 3B 0 0 0 0; G3 — 3B 2 0 0 0

Pat Mills (Western HS/Olney Central) — G1 — 1B 3 0 0 0; G2 — 1B 1 0 1 0 (triple); G3 — 1B 2 0 1 1

Benji Nixon (Plymouth HS/Indiana) — G1 — 2B 0 1 0 0; G2 — 2B 0 0 0 0; G3 — 2B 2 1 1 1

Tyler Owens (Noblesville HS/Northwood) — G1 — LF 3 1 0 0; G2 — DNP; G3 — LF 0 0 0 0

Riley Perlich (Fort Wayne Carroll HS/Wright State) — G1 — P 3 3 3 1 1 1; G2 — DNP; G3 — DH 1 0 0 0

Austin Peterson (Chesterton HS/Purdue) — Participated, but did not play.

Hayden Schott (Culver Military Academy/Cypress College) — G1 — DNP; G2 — RF 2 1 0 0; G3 — LF 2 1 1 1

Sullivan Swingley (Yorktown HS/Bethel) — G1 — DNP; G2 — P 1 2 0 0 0 1; G3 — P 1 1 0 0 1 0

Clay Thompson (Andrean HS/Oakland U.) — G1 — CF 2 0 0 1; G2 — LF 2 0 0 0; G3 — CF 3 1 0 0

Wes Transier (Oak Hill HS/Ivy Tech Northeast) — G1 — PR 0 0 0 0; G2 — CF 3 0 2 0; G3 — LF 2 0 1 0

Alex Voss (South Bend St. Joseph HS/Butler) — G1 —DNP; G2 — DNP; G3 — P 2 1 0 0 2 1

Landon Weins (Frankton HS/Morehead State) — G1 — PR 0 1 0 0; G2 — P 2 6 4 4 1 2; G3 — DH 1 0 0 0

South

Luke Albright (Fishers HS/Kent State) — G1 — P 2.1 5 8 2 3 3; G2 — DNP; G3 — DNP

Jake Andriole (Guerin Catholic HS/Purdue) — Participated, but did not play.

Zyon Avery (Ben Davis HS/Ohio U.) — G1 — C 1 1 0 0; G2 — DH 2 0 1 0; G3 — DH 1 0 0 0

Aaron Beard (Tecumseh HS/Danville Area CC) — G1 — PH 1 0 0 0; G2 — 2B 2 0 0 0; G3 — 2B 2 0 2 0

Riley Bertram (Zionsville HS/Michigan) —  G1 — 3B 2 1 2 1 (triple); 2 1 1 1 (double); 3B 2 0 0 0 0, P 1 0 0 0 0 0

Case Eisenhut (Northeast Dubois HS/Undecided) — G1 — 2B 1 0 0 0; G2 — PH 1 0 0 0; G3 — 2B 1 0 0 0

Ethan English (Jeffersonville HS/Indiana Wesleyan) — G1 — 1B 1 0 0 1; G2 — RF 1 0 0 0; G3 — 1B 2 0 0 0

Tyler Finke (Columbus North HS/Snead State) — G1 — PR 0 0 0 0; G2 — PR 0 1 0 0; G3 — PR 0 0 0 0

Drew Hasson (Columbus East HS/Northern Illinois) — G1 — DNP; G2 — P 1 2 2 2 2 0; G3 — PH 1 0 0 0

Eli Helton (Lawrenceburg HS/IU Southeast) — G1 — RF 2 0 0 0; G2 — RF 3 0 1 0; G3 — PH 2 0 1 0 (double)

Cameron Holycross (Lapel HS/Indiana State) — G1 — P 1 1 0 0 2 5; G2 — DNP; G3 — P 1 1 2 2 2 2

Chase Hug (Pike HS/Olney Central) — G1 — DNP; G2 — 1B 3 0 1 0; G3 — DH 2 0 0 0, P 1 2 1 1 2 1

Lucas McNew (Borden HS/Southern Indiana) — G1 — DH 1 0 0 0; G2 — C 1 1 0 0; G3 — C 0 0 0 0

Sam Meek (Hauser HS/Bluffton) — G1 — DNP; G2 — DNP; G3 — P 0.1 2 0 0 2 1

Caleb Meeks (Evansville Memorial HS/Evansville) — G1 — CF 2 1 1 0; G2 — CF 4 1 1 0 (double); G3 — CF 0 0 0 0

Zach Messinger (Castle HS/Virginia) — DNP; DNP; G2 — PH 1 0 0 0; G3 — DNP

Dillon Olejnik (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter HS/Marian) — G1 — DNP; G2 — C 2 1 2 0; G3 — C 1 0 0 0

Matthew Panagouleas (South Vermillion HS/Indiana State) — G1 — DNP; G2 — PH 1 0 0 0; G3 — P 1.1 1 1 1 2 1

Alan Perry (Seymour HS/Cedarville) — G1 — DNP; G2 — 2 1 0 0 0 1; G3 — DNP

Ryan Robison (New Albany HS/Vincennes) — G1 — LF 1 0 0 0; G2 — 1B 1 0 1 0;  G3 — RF 2 0 0 0

Chase Springmeyer (Greensburg HS/Cedarville) — G1 — DNP; G2 — LF 3 1 2 1; G3 — LF 2 0 0 0

Sam Steimel (Sullivan HS/Evansville) — G1 — DNP; G2 — SS 2 0 0 0; G3 — PR 1 0 0 0

Joey Weller (Union County HS/Thomas More) — G1 — DNP; G2 — P 2 0 0 0 0 2; G3 — DNP

Jackson Wynn (Danville HS/Parkland) — G1 — DNP; G2 — PH 0 0 0 0, P 1 1 0 0 0 0; G3 — PH 0 0 0 0, P 1.1 2 0 0 1 3

Craig Yoho (Fishers HS/Houston) — G1 — SS 2 1 1 0 (double); G2 — SS 1 1 1 1 (double); G3 — SS 2 0 1 0

Trever Zink (Forest Park HS/Olney Central) — G1 — DNP; G2 — 3B 2 1 1 1; G3 — 3B 2 0 0 0

Scorekeepers: Bill & Sue Forgey of Huntington, Ind.

IHSBCAREINEBOLDPLAQUE18

Commemorative plague for founder Jim Reinebold at 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)

IHSBCASCHREIBERPLAQUE18

Commemorative plague for founder Ken Schreiber at 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)

IHSBCANSALLSTARSSTEVESTUTSMAN18

Elkhart Central and North head coach Steve Stutsman makes his parting remarks at 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)

IHSBCANSALLSTARSSOUTHCOACHES18

Making out the Game 3 lineup for Game 3 of the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend are (from left): New Palestine’s Shawn Lyons, Decatur Central’s Jacob Combs, Castle’s Curt Welch and Lanesville’s Zach Payne. (Steve Krah Photo)

NSALLSTARSSHIRT18

A T-shirt to commemorate the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Series in South Bend. (Steve Krah Photo)

Aggressive style has Estep, University Trailblazers baseball in 1A semistate

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Chris Estep, his coaching staff and players have built a culture of confidence for the University High School baseball.

“The kids have bought into what we’re trying to do as a program,” says Estep, the head coach that has his Trailblazers (27-6) meetings Tecumseh (20-9) in the IHSAA Class 1A Plainfield Semistate at 1 p.m. EST Saturday, June 9. “When we run out on to the field we can play with anybody.”

What is the root that confidence?

“It’s how we’ve structured practices,” says Estep. “We make practices run faster.”

In practices — and games — University pushes the limits on offensive and defense.

“We want to be very, very aggressive,” says Estep. “The last thing we want to see is a kid afraid to make a mistake. The more aggressive you are, the more chance you’ll have to make aggressive plays.

“You can not expect a kid to make a great play if they don’t practice making great plays.”

University, a private school of just under 300 students located in Carmel which played in its first IHSAA tournament in 2007, won the University Sectional and the Morristown Regional to find itself one win short of going to Victory Field in Indianapolis for the 1A state championship game.

Estep, who is supported by assistants Reid Andrews, Michael Thompson and Steve Nerney and athletic director John Walls, points to the regional to show how his players are prepared deal with misfortune on the diamond.

The Trailblazers were up 2-0 in the semifinals against Indianapolis Lutheran only to find themselves down 4-3 in the next inning. They came back with a 9-4 victory.

The championship game was tied 0-0 going into the seventh inning. Estep saw a pinch-hitter foul off pitches to get to a full count and University went on to score three runs in the top of the frame and then hold Hauser for a 3-0 win and the regional crown.

“If you can’t handle adversity, you can’t be a champion,” says Estep. “We put them into as many adverse situations as we can and ask them to go out and make a play.

“You never know when it’s going to be your time and you better be ready to answer the bell.”

The aim is to play as close to flawless as possible and make up for any mistakes that do happen.

“There’s really no such thing as a perfect game,” says Estep. “But if we try, we will give ourselves the opportunity to win.”

There are 18 players in the program in 2018.

University is a member of the Pioneer Conference (along with baseball-playing schools Anderson Preparatory Academy, Bethesda Christian in Brownsburg, Greenwood Christian, Indianapolis Shortridge, Liberty Christian in Anderson, Muncie Burris and Seton Catholic in Richmond). The Traliblazers went 7-0 this spring to win the conference title.

Top University pitchers include senior right-hander Cade Carlson (committed to Northwood University in Midland, Mich.), junior right-hander Brock Moore and senior right-hander Garrett Hill (Purdue Fort Wayne commit). When not pitching, the three rotate between first base and third base.

Hill, junior shortstop Dawson Estep (the coach’s son), Moore, freshman left fielder and senior center fielder Ryan Williams (committed to Morehouse College in Atlanta) are among the Trailblazers’ leading hitters.

Coach Estep calls No. 9 hitter Williams “a major catalyst” with “speed to burn.”

Estep watched junior catcher Kolton Stevens fight through hot conditions to shine in the regional.

“He caught best two games I’ve ever seen a kid catch,” says Estep. “I can’t tell you how balls he blocked.

“Nobody ever notices that position until there is a mistake.

“He was absolutely phenomenal.”

It’s phenomenal plays or games that earns players the right to wear the “U chain”.

Borrowed from the University of Miami football “turnover chain,” Andrews brought the motivating bling to University baseball in 2017.

“Miami’s ‘The U’ and we’re the ‘The U,’” says Estep. “It’s been (Andrews’) baby. He hangs the ‘U chain’ on the fence before games. He awards it to a kid and pictures are taken. Kids are excited for whoever gets the ‘U chain.’”

Also for the second year, the “U” took a southern trip at the beginning of the season. The Traliblazers played in Tennessee.

The squad got away and spent quality time together at the ballpark and the breakfast table.

“It’s really important for team camaraderie,” says Estep. “We went and played four games then released them to spring break. When they came back, we got back to work.”

Estep, 51, has been working as a baseball instructor for decades. His Roundtripper Sports Academy in Westfield is coming up in 25 years.

“It found me out more than I found it,” says Estep.

He grew up on the east side of Indianapolis and played wiffleball, basketball and football and, of course, baseball. Organized ball came at Christian Park, where he played for John Gannon.

“He was the greatest youth coach in the history of Little League,” says Estep of Gannon, who is expected to be at Saturday’s semistate. “He’s a legend. “He made sure we all stayed out of trouble. He was an unbelievable mentor to kids.”

A 1985 Carmel High School graduate (he played his first two prep seasons at Indianapolis Cathedral before his family moved), Estep was an outfielder at the University of Kentucky for two seasons and was selected in the 12th round of the 1988 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played at the Double-A level in 1991 and 1992.

While he was still a professional player, he was approached by a parent about giving lessons to one of their sons. They were impressed enough to bring another son to him. Before you knew it, Estep had a long list of students and less and less time to work out himself.

“Even though I didn’t hit very well, I understood the processes for hitting and defense,” says Estep, who now sees to the needs of many baseball and softball players. “The girls are quicker learners and they’ll do whatever they tell them. The boys will fight you on it.”

Roundtripper alums include Jeremy Hazelbaker, Tommy Hunter, Lance Lynn, Dillon Peters, Kevin Plawecki, Micah Johnson, Drew Storen and Chris Ulrey.

Extra-busy giving lessons and running the Indiana Mustangs travel organization, Estep put up a fight when he was approached repeated by a former University administrator a decade ago.

“He would not leave me alone,” says Estep. “He said, ‘If you don’t do it, these kids can’t play.’ That got me. I called my wife and begged for forgiveness that I took on another job.

When we first started I couldn’t have weekend games because of the workload. The school made it work. Now we play every weekend. The program’s worth it. I’m willing to pay a little extra price — my family is, too, though my wife doesn’t like me very well.”

Besides Dawson, Chris and Sue Estep have an older son (Chandler, who plays football at Elon University in North Carolina) and a younger daughter (Jasmine, a talented athlete who is headed into the ninth grade).

For Estep to be close to his business, University began playing its home games at Roundtripper and still does.

His first team was overmatched. The first game was a 32-0 loss.

“They were the the kids that always got chosen last,” says Estep. “But that team set the standard. This is where we built from. This present team has an attitude that they’re going to fight you to the bitter end.

“I love them for that.”

Estep does not love the IHSAA decision to suspend Indianapolis Scecina junior right-hander Mac Ayres (who is also in the Mustangs organization) for the 2A Jasper Semistate. Ayres went over the IHSAA pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) in the Park Tudor Regional and the violation was self-reported by Scecina coach Dave Gandolph.

“It was a clerical/addition error,” says Estep. “(Scecina coaches) thought they were taking a kid out on 119 pitches for two games.

“There was no malice there. Now the kid is going to be penalized.”

If Estep had his way, pitch counts would be tracked in an official book in the press box and not with the home team. The scorekeeper would let the teams and umpires know how many pitches a player had going into the next game. When they got to 110, the coaches would be alerted.

“It should be a drop-dead (when the limit is reached),” says Estep. “You stop and make a pitching change.”

IHSAA SEMISTATES

Saturday, June 9

North

Kokomo

(Municipal Stadium)

Class 1A: Northfield (16-14) vs. Daleville (20-9), Noon CST/1 p.m. EST.

Class 3A: Andrean (29-6) vs. Jay County (20-6), following.

Plymouth

Class 2A: Boone Grove (19-5) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (26-4), Noon CST/1 p.m. EST.

Class 4A: Chesterton (18-7) vs. Fishers (27-7), following.

South

Plainfield

Class 1A: University (27-6) vs. Tecumseh (20-9), Noon CST/1 p.m. EST.

Class 4A: Indianapolis Cathedral (21-8-1) vs. Castle (22-8), following.

Jasper

(Ruxer Field)

Class 2A: Indianapolis Scecina (13-15-1) vs. Southridge (24-6), Noon CST/1 p.m. EST.

Class 3A: Indian Creek (24-5) vs. Silver Creek (24-2), following.

UNIVERSITYTRAILBLAZERS

REIDANDREWSCHRISESTEP

University High School head coach Chris Estep wears the “U chain” and assistant Reid Andrews holds the cake celebrating Estep’s 100th career win with the Trailblazers.

UNIVERSITYHSBASEBALL

University High School won the IHSAA Class 1A University Sectional and Morristown Regional and will play Saturday, June 9 in the Plainfield Sectional. Chris Estep is the head coach of the Trailblazers.