It’s down to the “Elite Eight” in each of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s four baseball classes. Under the new tournament format, there were one-game regionals and this Saturday, June 10, teams will vie in four-team semistates for the right to play at the State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis either Friday, June 16 or Saturday, June 17. There were no first-time sectional champions this year. The program that had gone the longest without hoisting the trophy until doing it in 2023 was Winchester. The Golden Falcons’ other sectional crown came in 1986. Tops in sectional championships among teams still alive in the postseason are Class 3A’s Evansville Memorial (32), 3A’s Andrean (31), 1A’s Shakamak (28), 4A’s Penn (24), 4A’s Lake Central (22), 4A’s Center Grove (21), 1A’s Lafayette Central Catholic (19), 3A’s Norwell (19), 4A’s New Palestine (18), 4A’s Homestead (17), 4A’s Brownsburg (16), 4A’s Castle (16), 4A’S Hamilton Southeastern (16), 1A’s Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (16), 1A’s Barr-Reeve (14), 2A’s Mitchell (11), 3A’s Heritage (10) and 2A’s Westview (10). 3A’s Tri-West Hendricks, Class 2A’s Brownstown Central, Covenant Christian, Mitchell, Westview and Winchester and Class 1A’s Greenwood Christian Academy were first-time regional champions in 2023. Among teams still playing, 3A’s Evansville Memorial (18), 3A’s Andrean (16), 1A’s Lafayette Central Catholic (16), 1A’s Shakamak (15), 4A’s Penn (12) and 1A’s Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (10) has won the most regional crowns. Vying for their programs’ first semistate crown will be 4A’s Castle, 3A’s Franfort and Tri-West Hendricks, 2A’s Brownstown Central, Covenant Christian, Mitchell, Westview, Winchester and 1A’s Greenwood Christian Academy, Marquette Catholic and Rising Sun. 1A’s Lafayette Central Catholic (10), 3A’s Andrean (9), 1A’s Shakamak (8) and 4A’s Penn (5) are leaders in semistate championships won among teams still in the hunt. Ranking semistate teams by past state titles: Andrean (8 — 2005, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2022; all at 3A), Lafayette Central Catholic (8 — 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2022; all at 1A), Penn (5 — 1994, 1997, 2001, 2015, 2022; first two single-class; last three in 4A), Evansville Memorial (3 — 1978, 1989, 1993; all in single-class), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (3 — 2005, 2005, 2006; all in 1A), Norwell (3 — 2003, 2007, 2013; all in 3A), Heritage Christian (2 — 2009, 2010; both in 2A), Shakamak (2 — 2008, 2014; both in 1A), Brownsburg (1 — 2005; 4A), Hamilton Southeastern (1 — 2019; 4A), Lake Central (1 — 2012; 4A) and New Palestine (1 — 2004; 3A).
IHSAA SEMISTATES (June 10, 2023) North Class 4A at LaPorte (Schreiber Field)
G1: Homestead (19-9) vs. Hamilton Southeastern (19-14), 10:30 a.m. CT
G2: Penn (19-8) vs. Lake Central (27-4), 1 p.m. CT
Championship: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 7 p.m. CT
Tournament Trail Homestead: Huntington North Sectional — Columbia City 5-0, Huntington North 1-0, Fort Wayne South Side 10-0; Plymouth Regional – DeKalb 10-0. Hamilton Southeastern: Carmel Sectional — Westfield 5-2, Noblesville 3-1; Lafayette Jeff Regional — Lafayette Harrison 4-0. Penn: Northridge Sectional — Concord 11-0, Northridge 1-0, Goshen 10-0; LaPorte Regional – LaPorte 6-2. Lake Central: Munster Sectional – East Chicago Central 20-0, Munster 11-0, Hobart 16-2; LaPorte Regional — Valparaiso 3-0.
Class 3A at Oak Hill
G1: Heritage (19-7) vs. Frankfort (19-12), 11 a.m. ET
G2: Andrean (26-6-1) vs. Norwell (23-7), 2 p.m. ET
Championship: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 8 p.m. ET
Tournament Trail Heritage: Garrett Sectional — Angola 4-3, Leo 11-5, Concordia Lutheran 6-4; South Bend Clay Regional — East Noble 13-1. Frankfort: Northwestern Sectional — Northwestern 3-1, Western 2-1; Lafayette Central Catholic Regional — Mishawaka Marian 11-7. Andrean: Griffith Sectional — Rensselaer Central 12-2, Hanover Central 7-5, Boone Grove 9-3; Plymouth Regional — New Prairie 9-4. Norwell: Oak Hill Sectional — Mississinewa 4-1, Peru 5-1, Bellmont 14-0; Oak Hill Regional — New Castle 12-2.
Class 2A at Kokomo (Municipal Stadium)
G1: Westview (19-8) vs. Illiana Christian (22-9), 11 a.m. ET
G2: Winchester (15-11) vs. Delphi (21-10), 2 p.m. ET
Championship: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 8 p.m. ET
Tournament Trail Westview: Westview Sectional — Churubusco 11-1, Eastside 12-9, Central Noble 6-0; South Bend Clay Regional — Fort Wayne Bishop Luers 6-0. Illiana Christian: Whiting Sectional — North Newton 16-0, Whiting 14-0, Hammond Bishop Noll 11-1; Griffith Regional — Hebron 18-0. Winchester: Lapel Sectional — Frankton 3-0, Lapel 1-0; Logansport Regional — Eastern (Greentown) 3-2. Delphi: Delphi Sectional — Clinton Prairie 11-1, Carroll (Flora) 2-0; Lafayette Jeff Regional — Bremen 10-2.
Class 1A at Lafayette Jefferson (Loeb Stadium)
G1: Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (12-12) vs. Marquette Catholic (9-9), 11 a.m. ET
G2: Wes-Del (21-8) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (22-11), 2 p.m. ET
Championship: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 8 p.m. ET
Tournament Trail Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian: Fremont Sectional — Fort Wayne Canterbury 9-1, Lakewood Park Christian 8-4; Logansport Regional — Southwood 4-1. Marquette Catholic: Tri-Township Sectional — Westville 11-5, Tri-Township 14-4, Triton 1-0; Griffith Regional — Morgan Township 4-3. Wes-Del: Anderson Prep Sectional — Southern Wells 8-1, Cowan 4-3, Daleville 2-1; Oak Hill Regional – Blue River Valley 9-2. Lafayette Central Catholic: Lafayette Central Catholic Sectional — Attica 13-0, Covington 7-2, Fountain Central 13-0; Lafayette Central Catholic Regional — Rossville 9-0.
South Class 4A at Plainfield
G1: New Palestine (23-9) vs. Castle (24-6), 11 a.m. ET
G2: Center Grove (27-3) vs. Brownsburg (16-12), 2 p.m. ET
Championship: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 8 p.m. ET
Tournament Trail New Palestine: Mt. Vernon (Fortville) Sectional — Muncie Central 9-0, Pendleton Heights 1-0, Mt. Vernon 2-0; Mooresville Regional — Cathedral 4-2. Castle: Evansville Reitz Sectional — Evansville Harrison 5-1, Evansville North 6-2; Castle Regional — Jeffersonville 4-0. Center Grove: Mooresville Sectional — Bloomington South 4-1, Greenwood Community 16-0; Jasper Regional — Columbus North 4-2. Brownsburg: Brownsburg Sectional — Plainfield 2-1, Avon 13-9, Terre Haute North Vigo 12-2; Mooresville Regional — Franklin Central 4-1.
Class 3A at Southridge (League Stadium)
G1: Indianapolis Bishop Chatard (18-10-1) vs. Tri-West Hendricks (23-6), 11 a.m. ET
G2: Silver Creek (23-7) vs. Evansville Memorial (20-8), 2 p.m. ET
G1: Covenant Christian (14-15) vs. Brownstown Central (24-8), 11 a.m. ET
G2: Mitchell (26-6) vs. Heritage Christian (17-15), 2 p.m. ET
Championship: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 8 p.m. ET
Tournament Trail Covenant Christian: Cascade Sectional — University 2-0, Cascade 5-1; Loogootee Regional — Cloverdale 13-1. Brownstown Central: Austin Sectional — Brown County 11-0, Milan 1-0, Austin 4-2; Floyd Central Regional – Providence 7-3. Mitchell: Mitchell Sectional — South Knox 3-2, Linton-Stockton 7-6, Sullivan 6-4; Mitchell Regional — Perry Central 7-1. Heritage Christian: Park Tudor Sectional — Irvington Prep 10-0, Park Tudor 12-2; Park Tudor Regional — Hagerstown 3-2.
Class 1A at Jasper (Ruxer Field)
G1: Shakamak (15-10) vs. Rising Sun (17-16-1), 11 a.m. ET
G2: Barr-Reeve (27-3) vs. Greenwood Christian Academy (15-12-1), 2 p.m. ET
Championship: G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 8 p.m. ET
Tournament Trail Shakamak: White River Valley Sectional — North Central (Farmersburg) 6-2, Clay City 12-5; Mitchell Regional — Bethesda Christian 4-3. Rising Sun: Shawe Memorial Sectional — Shawe Memorial 13-3, Henryville 3-2, Trinity Lutheran 7-0; Loogootee Regional — Borden 6-5. Barr-Reeve: North Daviess Sectional — North Daviess 9-0, Loogootee 7-1; Castle Regional — Evansville 10-0. Greenwood Christian Academy: Morristown Sectional — Indianapolis Metropolitan 24-0, Indianapolis Lutheran 6-2; Morristown Regional — North Decatur 10-0.
All-Time Titles (with most recent if before 2023) Class 4A Sectionals Homestead (17 — 2022) Hamilton Southeastern (16 — 2019) Penn (24 — 2022) Lake Central (22 — 2022) New Palestine (18 — 2022) Castle (16 — 2019) Center Grove (21 — 2021) Brownsburg (16 — 2022)
Regionals Homestead (4 — 2015) Hamilton Southeastern (6 — 2019) Penn (12 – 2022) Lake Central (8 — 2014) New Palestine (7 — 2014) Castle (9 — 2018) Center Grove (7 — 2016) Brownsburg (6 — 2005)
Semistates Homestead (1 — 2008) Hamilton Southeastern (1 — 2019) Penn (5 — 2022) Lake Central (1 — 2012) New Palestine (1 — 2004) Castle (0) Center Grove (1 — 1996) Brownsburg (2 — 2005)
Jarrett Grube, Jarrod Parker and Kip McWilliams are to be inducted into the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Fame as part of its 2023 class. Grubb played at DeKalb High School, Vincennes University, the University of Memphis and in the majors with 2014 Los Angeles Angels. The right-hander was in affiliated pro ball from 2004-17. Parker played at Norwell High School and in the big leagues with Arizona Diamondbacks (2011) and Oakland Athletics (2012-13). The right-hander was a pro from 2008-15. McWilliams is in his 15th season as head coach at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. He has more than 500 wins, numerous conference titles and an NAIA World Series appearance on his resume. The NEIBA Hall of Fame banquet is 5 p.m. Sunday, June 11 at Classic Cafe Catering and Event Center, 4832 Hillegas Road, Fort Wayne. In addition to the Hall of Famers, Fort Wayne Canterbury High School coach Pat “Bubba” McMahon will receive the Colin Lister Award and WFFT-TV 55 sports director Justin Prince the Bob Parker Award. Reservations may be made at the following link https://forms.gle/vfTWCs2VVcPZqK9a6. Tickets can also be purchased through the reservation link via PayPal or attendees can pay via cash/check at the door.
IHSAA baseball practice has arrived and the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association has announced its Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year watch list for 2023. An email was sent out to the baseball coaches from Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Huntington, Wells and Whitley counties. These are the counties that the NEIBA covers when choosing their Hall of Fame members. Each coach was asked to nominate any player(s) that he feels could be in the running for such an honor. The watch list features 70 players. The list will be narrowed down in early May and finalists will be announced. The Dick Crumback/NEIBA High School Player of the Year will be honored May 24 to coincide with the start of the IHSAA state tournament. The Player of the Year will be honored at a Fort Wayne TinCaps game and at the June 11 Hall of Fame banquet. Past winners of the award include Grant Besser (South Adams) in 2019, Carter Mathison (Homestead) in 2021 and Dalton Wasson (Heritage) in 2022. The organization has honored local baseball players, personnel and ambassadors since 1961. For more information, contact Gary Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brett Windmiller at email@example.com.
Building team chemistry is among the priorities for Josh Ulery as he takes over as head baseball coach at his alma mater — Peru (Ind.) High School. Hired in the fall to lead the Tigers program, the 1999 Peru graduate graduate has also been stressing fundamentals, conditioning and offensive approach while assessing his team’s strengths and weaknesses during IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities. “We want to hit the fastball and be aggressive in the (batter’s) box,” says Ulery of his hitters. “We want to swing hard but have a controllable swing.” This week, players were in the gym for Tuesday hitting. Fielding practice is slated for Saturday. Ulery wants his team — which has most varsity players back from 2022 — to be “tip-top defensively.” Thanks to moving to a new shift and role for the Peru Police Department (he went into police work at 25 and is now a detective) Ulrey is able to coach baseball in an expanded capacity. In the past he’s been a paid assistant and last year was a volunteer for Chuck Brimbury, who was his head coach when he was a standout right-handed pitcher/first baseman for the Tigers and offered a baseball scholarship to Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (which he did not pursue). “A lot of my coaching comes through Chuck Brimbury,” says Ulrey. A four-year varsity performer, Ulrey was with Dick Keller for the first two years and Brimbury the next two. Peru went 22-5 in 1999. With many of that team returning in 2000, the Tigers won their only IHSAA Class 3A regional title. With an enrollment around 660, Peru is the largest school Three Rivers Conference (which also includes Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Rochester, Southwood, Tipppecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko). TRC teams see each other once during conference play. Peru is slated to begin the regular season April 7 against Bluffton in the Howard County Invitational. The slate also features at April 29 home doubleheader against South Bend Saint Joseph, a May 6 round robin at Western at May 13 Miami County Classic. The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2023 with Bellmont, Maconaquah, Mississinewa, Norwell and Oak Hill. Peru has won five sectional titles — the last in 2018. Lief Astrup graduated in 2022. Returnees include several players who Ulery says have college baseball aspirations — Class of 2023’s Logan Gatliff and Fox Huppenthal, 2024’s Ian Potts, Matthew Roettger and Jackson Rogers and 2025’s Gavin Eldridge. “We have an amazing freshman class,” says Ulery, who could see as many as 17 representing the Class of 2026. “Those guys are really competitive. I can image a few pushing for varsity positions. “It should be an exciting and motivated year.” There have been 36 players at various open fields and conditioning. Ulery says he expects to keep up to 28 in the spring. His varsity assistants are Rob Hileman, Chris Beauchamp, Ron Potts, Adam Butt and Gary Loe with the varsity. Hillman works with hitters and fielders and coaches third base. Beauchamp is assistant hitting/outfielders coach. Potts is in charge of drill work. Butt and Loe do scorebook work for varsity and junior varsity. Jacob Loftus is head JV/catching coach. Jody Beauchamp (brother of Chris) is program pitching/first baseman coach and JV assistant. Ron Whitney is a JV assistant and also works with outfielders. Peru fields a junior high team of seventh and eighth graders that plays about a dozen contests in the spring. Jeff Dicken is the head coach. His assistant is Cody Hiles. Volunteers are Andre Ambrose and Joe Bockover. Former head coach Mike Stewart is the public address announcer for Peru baseball. Bob DeWire coordinates field maintenance at Tiger Field. Ulery says there is talk about a new field being put in — with turf and new lights — in 2024. But those details have not been set. Josh and wife Becky (formerly Mannies) have been married for 17 years. The couple has three children (a girl and two boys) — junior Jordyn, eighth graders Lukas and kindergartener Blake. Jordyn Ulery is a varsity cheerleader. Her mother is Peru’s varsity cheer coach.
Kelby Weybright is going into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The organization voted Weybright in as part of the 2023 class (players Drew Storen and Jeff Samardzija and veterans committee selections Lenny “Lefty” Johnston and Wayne Johnson are the others) and he will be recognized at a banquet held during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The dinner is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13 at the Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis. Weybright coached baseball at Norwell High School near Ossian, Ind., for 17 seasons — the last 11 as head coach. On his watch, the Knights went 243-93 with two conference, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles to go with two IHSAA Class 3A state championships (2003 and 2007) and one 3A state runner-up finish (2006). The 2007 team went 35-0. “It’s an award that truly represents the commitment and efforts of a lot of people in our community who gave of their time and talents to give kids an opportunity to learn and play the game of baseball and to play it at a high level,” says Weybright. “(It reflects) the kids who worked their tails off, coaches who gave of their time and talents, our community who supported those teams and our school who stood behind us. “I was fortunate enough to be the person who had the title of head coach.” Fundamental soundness was a priority for Weybright. “There were fundamental drills we did every single day. I’m sure kids got tired of seeing it. “Our practices were detailed down to the minute with what we were doing.” Success could be achieved if Norwell had strong pitching, made the “everyday” play and won as many innings as possible. “Whatever we were doing it was nine guys working as one as much as possible,” says Weybright. “I loved to look out at the baseball diamond and see a play happen and all nine guys moving in rhythm and going where they’re supposed to be. “It’s like a symphony playing.” Bunting and running were major parts of the Knights’ game. So was hustle. Many were the times when players went first to third or two players scored on a suicide squeeze bunt. “We tried to play like our rear ends were on fire,” says Weybright. “I wanted guys who played the game hard. I wanted guys who competed. When we went on the field or came off the field it was at a dead run. “We want to come out and have a great pregame. We wanted to be fast and crisp. We wanted the people in the other dugout to go, ‘Mmm, dang, we’re going to struggle today.’ “Those are the kinds of things our kids bought into. When you see team play that hard it carries over to different aspects of the game.” His teams were well-conditioned, frequently coming in for 6 a.m. Saturday workouts during the winter. But beyond baseball it was about getting teenagers ready to be fathers and productive members of the community. “We’re proud of watching these guys grow and become the men they are,” says Weybright. After the 2012 Norwell season, Weybright stepped away from his head coach post to guide his sons in travel ball and tend to his school responsibilities. After years as assistant principal and dean of students, Kelby was named Norwell’s athletic director in 2017. Those duties keep him busy though he does help out with the baseball program when time allows. When the Knights advanced to semistate a couple of years ago he found time to work with the infielders. He trades videos and ideas with current Norwell head coach Dave Goodmiller. “I still try to stay involved,” says Weybright, 52. Kelby and wife of 25 years, Lisa, have three children — Garrett (23), Jacob (21) and Maria (19). Garrett Weybright (Norwell Class of 2018) and Jacob Weybright (Class of 2020) both played baseball in high school. Maria Weybright (Class of 2021) was a four-year varsity cheerleader at Norwell. Kelby was born in Wooster, Mass., to Garry and Linda Weybright (who now live in Elkhart County) and moved to Indiana around age 5. Brother Teague Weybright is one year younger than Kelby. A 1988 graduate of North White Middle/High School in Monon, Ind., Before graduating from Indiana University, Kelby played three baseball seasons at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill. “It’s about an hour from Busch Stadium (in St. Louis),” says Weybright. “When I was in college you could actually buy outfield seats for five bucks.” Growing up as a big Gary Carter fan, Weybright cheered for the Montreal Expos or New York Mets. Listening to Jack Buck on the radio or attending game changed his favorite team in college. “I’m a diehard (St. Louis Cardinals) fan,” says Weybright. “I live and die by the Redbirds right now.” For questions about Hall of Fame banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from Jeff on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Weybright is a graduate of North White High School. Following graduation, he attended and played baseball for three years at Blackburn College before earning his bachelor degree from Indiana University. Following one season as an assistant at North White, Weybright spent six seasons as an assistant and 11 seasons as the head coach at Norwell High School where he compiled a record of 243-93 with two NHC, seven sectional, four regional and two semistate titles with an IHSAA Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2006 and 3A state championships in 2003 and 2007 before retiring in 2012 to coach his sons in travel baseball. The 2007 team went 35-0 and finished ranked 10th nationally (Collegiate Baseball/Easton Sports). The 2006 and 2007 squads went a combined 64-2. Weybright coached 22 players that played collegiately with six IHSBCA North All-Stars and four Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selections. Two NHC Coach of the Year honors (2006 and 2007) came Weybright’s way as well as two IHSBCA Coach of the Year awards (2003 and 2007). He was recognized as a National High School Baseball Coaches Association District and National Coach of the Year in 2007. Weybright is currently athletic director at Norwell and continues to work with the baseball program during its summer development period and occasionally during the season as time permits.
Storen is a 2007 graduate of Brownsburg High School. As a freshman, he was the No. 2 pitcher (3-0, 1.17 earned run average) behind Lance Lynn on the eventual 2004 state runner-up. As a sophomore, right-hander Storen went 9-0 with 86 strikeouts in 57 innings and helped the Bulldogs to go 35-0 and win the 2005 state championship while earning a No. 2 ranking in the country from Baseball America. The Indianapolis Star called that team, “The greatest high school team in Indiana history.” For his career, Storen finished 28-2 with 270 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.61. At the plate, he hit .400 with 16 home runs. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2007, but attended Stanford University. In two seasons with the Cardinal, he was named to three Freshman All-American teams and was twice chosen first team All-Pac 12. He got the win in Game 1 of the 2008 College World Series. Storen led Stanford as a sophomore in saves, wins and appearances and was named team MVP for 2009. He finished his collegiate career with a 12-4 record, 26 saves, 59 appearances and a 3.84 ERA. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Storen was taken by the Washington Nationals as the 10th overall pick of the 2009 MLB Draft. In eight seasons with the Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, he went 29-18 with 99 saves, a 3.45 ERA and 417 strikeouts. He made six postseason appearances for Washington in 2012 and 2014 with one win and one save. Drew and his wife Brittani currently reside in Carmel and have two boys — Jace (6) and Pierce (2).
Samardzija is a 2003 Valparaiso High School graduate is considered one of the best athletes in Indiana history. By his senior year, he was recognized as one of the state’s best football players and was the runner-up for the Indiana Mr. Football award. Samardzija was a three-time all-state player and was selected to the Indiana All-Star team. In baseball, he was a runner-up for the Mr. Baseball award as a senior, a three-year varsity letterman and an All-State honoree as a center fielder. He hit .375 with five home runs and 37 runs batted in as a junior and .481 with eight homers and 50 RBIs as a senior. As one of the nation’s top football recruits, he chose Notre Dame where he was also invited to pitch for the baseball team. Samardzija was a two-time All American wide receiver, a two-time All-American pitcher and a two-time runner up for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s best receiver. Despite his football skills and the likelihood of being drafted as a first-round pick in the National Football League, Samardzija opted to play professional baseball after pitching for the Irish for three seasons. The right-hander was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut for the Cubs in July 2008 and went on to pitch 13 full seasons. In addition to the Cubs, Samardzija pitched for the Oakland Athletics (2014), Chicago White Sox (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-2020). He was named an All-Star in 2014. Jeff and older brother Sam represent a rare achievement in VHS history with each being selected as All-State performers in both football and baseball.
Johnston graduated from Western Michigan University and was a minor league outfielder from 1952-67. He played for the Indianapolis Indians from 1960-1966 and played in the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators organizations. He was a career .286 hitter and had 525 stolen bases. He led his league in stolen bases six straight years (1953-58). He paced the International League in 1956 with 182. Johnston was a minor league manager for nine years and was the with the Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., in an administrative role. In 2020, he was inducted into the Appalachian League Hall of Fame. Johnston served as a scout, scouting supervisor, cross-checker and minor league coordinator roles before retiring in 2019. He currently resides in Nashville, Tenn.
Wayne Johnson spent 12 years as a varsity assistant to Greg Silver at Mooresville before spending two stints as the head coach at Brownsburg High School. At the helm of the Bulldog program, he compiled 278 wins over 15 years. During his first stint from (1987-2000), Johnson-led teams took home sectional championships in 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1996. The Bulldogs were also regional champions in 1996. Then on short notice, Johnson was asked to return to coach Brownsburg in 2011 and won another sectional title. While Johnson’s victories and championships are impressive, his contributions to Brownsburg baseball far exceed his won/loss record. The 1990 Central Suburban Athletic Conference Coach of the Year was instrumental in the construction of Brownsburg’s home baseball field — Mary Beth Rose Park. Johnson partnered with countless members of the community to design and build the stadium and it has served to host over a 1,000 games since the spring of 1988. Rose Park is still considered a premier location to play baseball in Indiana. Johnson was a big supporter of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and it fundraising efforts. He also owned a business, Johnson Sports Collectibles in addition to teaching for 39 years at Mooresville and Brownsburg High Schools. Johnson impacted many lives through the game of baseball and his presence is sorely missed. He is being inducted posthumously as he passed away on Dec. 19, 2018.
Inductees will be honored during the IHSBCA State Clinic. The ceremony is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at Sheraton at Keystone Crossing. The clinic is Jan. 12-14. For questions about banquet reservations, program advertisements or events leading up to the ceremony, contact Hall of Fame chairman Jeff McKeon at 317-445-9899. Banquet tickets can be purchased at https://www.cognitoforms.com/Baseball3%20_2023IHSBCAStateClinic and can be picked up from McKeon on the night of the banquet at the registration table. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Andy McClain has gotten a look at his prospects as the new head baseball coach at North Central High School in Indianapolis and he likes the Panthers chances to make noise on the diamond in 2023. “It’s a big school and a good program,” says McClain, who comes to Washington Township after four years at Lawrence Central. “We’ve got hungry kids. We’re setting high standards. I’m excited about it. “It’s a good opportunity.” North Central (enrollment around 3,875) is a member of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (with Ben Davis, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, Pike and Warren Central). MIC teams play home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Panthers are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with Ben Davis, Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North and Pike. North Central has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2006. “We play a competitive schedule,” says McClain. “The MIC and (Marion) County will help us make a run in the state tournament.” The fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period saw 40 to 50 North Central players participate in each session, allowing for scrimmaging. “It was different,” says McClain. “I’ve never had that. We were able to get a lot of things done. We feel like we’re in a good place from some of the things we were able to install in the fall. “There will be a lot of competition for positions. If the goal is to get them to compete you’re going to have that in your practice environment. That’s only going to make them better.” About the same number of athletes have begun weight room workouts and the next Limited Contact Period comes Dec. 5-Feb. 4. That’s where McClain will continue to emphasize energy, effort and execution. McClain plans to field three teams — varsity, junior varsity and C-team. He said he could have as many as 15 seniors — 10 with varsity experience. The Panthers went 14-9-1 in 2022. Jack Ferguson (Class of 2023) hit .412 and Micah Rienstra-Kiracofe (Class of 2024) .405. On the mound, Tristan Wilson (Class of 2025) won four games and Will Kaiser (Class of 2023) three. Besides McClain, the Panthers varsity coaching staff features Andrew Dutkanych III, Scott King and Gabe Hoffman. Dutkanych is the pitching coach. King returns to the staff. Hoffman pitched at Pike. Panther Park — North Central’s home field — recently was leveled and is scheduled to host sectional in the spring. Feeding the Panthers are baseball programs as three at three middle schools — Eastwood, Northview and Westlane. McClain, a 1987 graduate of Martinsville (Ind.) High School, where he played for and coached with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Tutterow, has been a head coach at five other Indiana high schools — LaVille, Indianapolis Arlington, Brebeuf Jesuit, Norwell and Lawrence Central. Brebeuf was the 2012 Class 3A state runner-up and Norwell the 2013 3A state champion. McClain is a longtime emcee at the IHSBCA State Clinic in January. Since moving back to Indianapolis, McClain has coached travel ball in the summer for the Indiana Bulls. The 2023 season will be his fifth. He will lead the 15U Grey. John Zangrilli is an assistant and his son John Zangrilli (Carmel Class of 2026) his on the team. McClain has coached Nevan Tutterow (Franklin Central Class of 2025, grandson of Bill and son of Bryant) on the Bulls. The 2023-23 year marks McClain’s 33rd in education and a Science teacher at North Central. “The Biology department along has 10 people in it,” says McClain of the enormity of North Central. Daughter MacKenzie McClain lives in Victor, N.Y., and is scheduled to be married next summer.
Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports? Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State. In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships. Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98. There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward. Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008). A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system. These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:
Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
Who benefits the most from class baseball?
If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion. “The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s). “Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. “I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”
“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. “For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional. “The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period. “It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. “Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question. “Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely. “There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds. “It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it. “But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball. “The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into. “The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”
“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system. “All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting. “I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete. “We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament. “We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”
“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. “Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today. “High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be. “The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo). “There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more. “How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are. “Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level). “I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”
“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. “Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball). “I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down. “I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”
“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. “Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. “The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports. “I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes. The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. “I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A. “Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). “You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw. “Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach. “Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class. Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference. “(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc. “Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”
“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have. “(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size. “Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools. “As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting. I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”
“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class. “Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close. “Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students. “Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. “Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. “The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion. Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”
“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it. “It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools. “Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”
“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis. “Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. “Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. “The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. “As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field. “The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney. Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers. “We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up. “The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. “Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so. “The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most. “The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A. “(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”
“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes. “I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.” “It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.” “Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”
“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint. “Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament. I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals. “A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment. “Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300). “If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth. “At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth. In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”
There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class. “If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win. “At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game. “The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools). “In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up. “I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”
“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same. “Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes. “Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”
“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights. “There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game. “I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes. “For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”
“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part. “We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class. “That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships). “The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.” “There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”
“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. “Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’ We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team. It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area. “The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”
“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started. “Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament. “The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”
“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular. “In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland. Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases. “I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”
“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. “While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. “At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.
“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”
“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game. “I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit. “I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that. “Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”
“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools. To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money. “The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. “I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball. “I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”
“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state. “I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system. “If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four. “Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. “A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer. “One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist. “Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success. It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities. “I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs. “Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney. “The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success. “My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well. “IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball. “I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”
“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school. “If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’ “If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’” “If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools. “Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10! “I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success. “I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”
“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. “All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”
“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis. “The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success. “Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher. “In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”
“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits. “(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. “There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”
“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them. “The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes. The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all. “I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”
“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. “I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. “I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community. “With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”
“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board. “Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players. “I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”
“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships. “Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”
“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo). “The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.
“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”
“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved. The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. “The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.
“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”
“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs.
“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.
“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.
“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”
“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. “More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level. “(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. “There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”
Toughness. Resiliency. Character. Concentration. Effort. Attention to Detail. Professionalism. These are the seven winning values — the battle cry — of the baseball program at Huntington (Ind.) North High School. “Win 7” is emblazoned on social media and apparel. “We fully believe in the team and we try to remove the individuals and that’s coaches and players,” says Jarod Hammel, who in the second year of a second stint as Vikings head coach (he was an assistant beginning in 2010 and then head coach from 2017-19). “Everything that we do is about the team with the exception of the ‘Win 7’ (year-end award). “It’s the player who embodied our seven values. It’s not the MVP. We make that clear to the guys and they vote on it.” It’s those values that can be controlled every game regardless of how the scoreboard reads. “We may not win all seven innings of every game, but we want to compete that way,” says Hammel. “If we get back on the bus and we feel we won those seven it’s going to be a good bus ride home.” The “seven” theme does not end there. “We have seven class periods in a day where we tell our kids you go in and you compete in the classroom as well and you win all seven of your periods,” says Hammel. “There are seven innings in each game. There are eight teams in (the Northeast Eight Conference) so we have to beat seven conference opponents. That’s our mindset. We may or may not, but we want to compete like we will. “There’s seven games on a typical road to the (IHSAA) State Finals for us out of our bracket.” Huntington North (enrollment around 1,500) counts Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Leo, New Haven and Norwell as NE8 foes. The Vikings are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2023 with Columbia City (host), Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead and New Haven. Huntington North has won 20 sectional titles — the last in 2017. The program has also produced three regional crowns (1982, 1987 and 1993), one semistate championship (1993) and one state runner-up finish (1993). A celebration of the ’93 team featuring Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association/Huntington North Athletics Hall of Famer Don Sherman during the 2023 season is now in the planning stages. Hammel logged four baseball seasons (one coached by Chad Daughterty and three by Russ Degitz) and four at Huntington University (coached by Hall of Famer Mike Frame), picking up diplomas in 2006 and 2010. “I was fortunate to have been a part of Viking baseball my whole life and be a small piece of it,” says Hammel. “I remember most the groups that I played on that served each other and was pulling for each other. “So we’ve tried to create that and we’ve been fairly successful using the program to impact young men in the community. To expose youth to Viking baseball and its players one method of outreach is a “home run derby” held on home football nights. “We just let kids have fun,” says Hammel. “We don’t care if it’s the prettiest swing. We let them use wiffle ball bats and set up a snow fence.” The recent IHSAA Limited Contact Period saw about 40 players participate with many others occupied with a fall sport. “I think it’s going to be a competitive year to throw your name in the mix and be part of the program,” says Hammel. “I want to keep as many kids as I can and impact them through the program. We won’t turn any guys away who demonstrate commitment and desire to be involved and make good decisions. With that said, we’re probably going to land around 30 to 35 (players for varsity and junior varsity squads). “We have a lot of multi-sport guys which I love. At minimum I’m wanting to catch a football practice a week so I can see our guys competing in a Viking jersey.” Hammel says about 80 percent of those participating in the “Viking Velocity Builder Program” using a timed duration increased their arm strength and speed at the end of about six weeks training. “We set realistic expectations of we can accomplish baseball-wise,” says Hammel. “Our primary focus was building relationships, especially with our new faces.” Renovations took Huntington North from two baseball diamonds to one and three teams to two. Viking Field, which is located on-campus, has new fencing, backstop netting and a brick kick wall as well as new batting cages and bullpens. A hill in right field has been smoothed out and a tall wall has been installed. It’s 310 feet down the right field line, 345 in the right-center gap, 405 to center, 375 to left-center and 340 down the left field line. “We’re so excited in some of the things the community has trusted us with,” says Hammel. “A significant amount of money has been donated to our baseball program. “We have a new football field which is turf and we can work out on as well. “It’s an exciting time for our guys to be involved. I think that they want to be good stewards of it.” A former Mathematics teacher at Huntington North, Hammel is now an assistant principal. He has a masters degree from Ball State University and is married with four small children.
Josh Brock is approaching two years as lead assistant baseball coach at Manchester University, an NCAA Division III program in North Manchester, Ind. Brock, 40, came back to the Spartans full-time in January 2021. He had been an assistant a different times since 2013. He played for Manchester for four years (2001-04). “I feel extremely fortunate to be around someone like Coach (Rick) Espeset,” says Brock of the longtime head coach and director of athletics. Playing four seasons for Espeset and then being on his staff has impressed Brock about how the coach thinks the game. “He has a level of baseball savvy,” says Brock. “He’s also preparing players for life after baseball.” Putting it in football terms, Brock describes himself as the Spartans’ offensive coordinator while Espeset is defensive coordinator. “I do the majority of the hitting and baserunning and work with outfielders since I played that position,” says Brock. “Espy works with the defense and makes all the strategic decisions.” Brock also does the bulk of the recruiting. The summer (roughly mid-May through August) is where Manchester coaches spent most of their time on the road. There’s also digital resources and the coaching network. “There are alums and people in the baseball world who know and respect Coach Espeset (that recommend potential recruits),” says Brock. Fall and winter is the time recruits are encouraged to visit the campus and to follow up on referrals. The team conducts four weeks of fall practice (basically the month of September). “We assess players and get the new guys acclimated,” says Brock. “Guys have a baseline they can use to transition into the off-season.” At the end of the fall, players meet individually with coaches to receive an assessment and guidance on how they can develop. NCAA Division III rules limit the contact time for coaches and players so there is no practice until it gets closer to the spring season. What separates Manchester from some D-III program is that the offseason is truly “off.” “We’re hands-off,” says Brock. “(Players) can just be a student and not worried about baseball obligations. “Some of our guys are going to be in the weight room and the indoor cages all winter long. Some don’t pick up a baseball or bat again until (after Jan. 1). That’s their decision to make.” Josh grew up close enough to Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., to have his father — Jerry Brock — take him to Generals’ batting cage on a regular basis. There he met Wayne head coach Dave Fireoved. “I was in awe of him,” says Brock. “He was always so good to us and a high-character guy. He loved the game and he loved his players. “I couldn’t wait to get to high school to play for him.” One of the coach’s sons — Mitch Fireoved — was the same age as Brock. After four seasons at Wayne (1997-2000), outfielder Brock chose to play college baseball at Manchester. There was a buzz around Espeset and his program after the Spartans won 70 games in his second through fourth seasons (1998-2000) with a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title in 1999. Espeset and assistant Shawn Summe were regulars at Brock’s travel games. Two of his Fort Wayne Marlins teammates — Jared Kurtz (Fort Wayne South Side) and Brian Minix (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) — signed with the Spartans as did Ryan Carr (Norwell) and Eric Screeton (New Haven) of the rival Fort Wayne Indians. Kurtz went on to play in the San Francisco Giants organization. Screeton became a coach, including leading the program at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. Brock’s last season as a player was 2004 — the year Manchester won a HCAC regular-season championship and advanced to the D-III World Series. He earned a Business Administration and Management degree from Manchester in 2005 and entered the professional world. Along the way, Brock decided to change career paths and got a Masters in English Literature from Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne as well as a Transition to Secondary Education and Teaching certificate from Taylor University in Upland, Ind., in 2013. It was also 2013 that Brock was junior varsity baseball coach for Steve Sotir at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne. When Espeset needed help at Manchester, Brock served as lead assistant in 2014 and 2015 and was a volunteer in 2016 while teaching at Summit Middle School, a part of Southwest Allen Schools as is Homestead High. In two of the next three years, Brock was an Homestead assistant to Nick Byall while taking one year off to focus on his studies. He earned a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., in 2019. “I’m grateful for my experiences and the accreditations I’ve been able to achieve,” says Brock. He is hopeful his schooling makes him a better coach, educator and person. Brock began teaching at Norwell High School in Ossian, Ind., in the fall of 2019. He helped out with Manchester baseball in the spring of 2020 and taught at Norwell through the fall semester of 2020. When a full-time position came up at Manchester, Brock went back to the school as a full-timer. Always looking for new ideas and things that will help players, Brock appreciated going with Espeset to the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention (the 2023 event is Jan. 5-8 in Nashville). “It’s Candyland for baseball coaches,” says Brock. “I enjoy talking to other coaches. “The ABCA is very giving group. (Members) are very giving with their time.” Last winter, Brock spoke about middle infield play for a coaches clinic hosted by the Summit City Sluggers. Brock is not married and has no kids. “I’m the cool uncle,” says Brock, whose niece and nephew live with older brother Jeremiah in Hawaii. Their parents — Jerry and AeSun — live in Fort Wayne. AeSun Brock was born in South Korea.