Matt Brankle is a familiar face in a different place on the Wayne County, Ind., baseball scene. Brankle pitched at Earlham College and for the Richmond RiverRats and was head coach for the Richmond Jazz and Cambridge City Lincoln Middle/High School. In July, the 28-year-old became head coach at Richmond High School. With the Red Devils, Brankle is establishing a culture where Old School meets New School. “I’m going to use a lot of the Old School strategies, but try to do it with a modern approach,” says Brankle. “That’s what our players have grown up with. “We’re going to be disciplined in how we handle every moment of our day. I’m high on grades. We expect to miss zero assignments and have zero F’s. We’ll be 10 minutes early everywhere we go, including school. We’ll be dressed properly with shirts tucked in and hats forward. “I know there’s a lot more to this life than baseball I’m going to try to teach them skills in baseball that will help them in those situations.” Brankle has learned coaches he played for and applied it to his coaching style. “I’ve taken the best of all of those and found a middle ground,” says Swinson. Steve Swinson was his coach with the Kokomo (Ind.) Longhorns travel ball team. “He never yelled,” says Brankle of Swinson. “He built a relationship with you that you respected. “My high school coaches were more demanding, but also understood the New School mentality.” Brankle played three years for Jeremy Luna and Brent Owens as a senior at Taylor High School in Kokomo. (Luna) was hard-nosed — kind of a football style — and was upbeat all the time,” says Brankle, who played shortstop and third base when he was not pitching for the Titans. “(Owens) was even-keeled most of the time.” At Earlham, Brankle’s head coach was Steve Sakosits. “Coach was full of energy all the time — most of the time it was positive,” says Brankle of Sakosits. “He has one heckuva of a drive in him and it definitely leaks out to his players.” Old School in his approach, Coach Sak’s Quakers were expected to be clean-shaven with short hair cuts. At EC, Brankle was named Newcomer of the Year (2012), Pitcher of the Year (2013) and earned the All-Heartland Collegiate Conference Sportsmanship Award (2013), Captains Award (2015) and George Van Dyke Outstanding Athlete Award (2015). At the time of graduation, he was No. 1 in all-time strikeouts, No. 2 in career saves and innings and No. 3 in career mound appearances. Brankle played for the RiverRats in the summers of 2013 and 2014. After graduating in 2015 with a Fine Arts degree, he played independent professional baseball with the Lake Erie Crushers. He was the head coach for the Jazz in the summer of 2016 and assisted Patrick Flanagan at Eaton (Ohio) High School in the springs of 2016 and 2017. Brankle was head coach at Cambridge City 2018-21. He taught at Richmond Community School’s Test Intermediate School for 2 1/2 years before Cambridge City and is now a Special Education teacher at Richmond’s Dennis Middle School. In May 2021, Brankle completed a Masters in Education from Indiana University East and is now working on a Masters in Educational Leadership from American College of Education. Richmond (enrollment around 1,375) is a member of the North Central Conference (with Anderson, Arsenal Tech, Harrison of West Lafayette, Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Logansport, Marion, McCutcheon and Muncie Central). The NCC is split into two divisions with Richmond in the East. In 2021, the Red Devils were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central and Pendleton Heights (2021 host). Richmond has won 29 sectional titles — the last in 2011. Richmond plays home games on John Cate Field at Don McBride Stadium. “The history is the best part,” says Brankle of a park built in the 1930s that has seen Bob Feller, Satchel Paige and many more diamond legends play there. “We don’t talk about it enough. “Some of the kids don’t understand the significance.”
Matt and wife of seven years, Kelsey Brankle, have three children — daughters Amillia (5) and Abigail (3) and son Broden (1 1/2).
That’s because his grandparents — Don and Bonnie Barrett — lived in Princeton, Ind., and Don played American Legion ball with Hodges — who went on to fame with the Brooklyn Dodgers — in the early 1940’s. When Gil joined the team Don moved from shortstop to third base.
“He always had something for me to work on,” says Zach of his grandpa. “He knew the game really well.”
One of Zach’s cousin is Aaron Barrett. Before Don Barrett died he got to see Aaron pitch in the big leagues.
“He was super-proud of Aaron,” says Zach. “He would be super-proud to know I was hired at Princeton — his alma mater.”
Gil Hodges Field has a different look these days, including turf in the infield. Barrett’s players got a chance to get on the carpet for the first time just this week.
“The school corporation put a ton of money into it,” says Barrett. “There are all sorts of upgrades.”
Jason Engelbrecht was the head coach at Evansville Central High School when Zach’s cousins Aaron Barrett (who has come back from multiple injuries as a pro), Drew Barrett (a left-handed-hitting infielder who played two years at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and two at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky.) and Ryan Barrett were playing for the Bears.
Jason Barrett (Zach’s older brother who played at Ball State University) was a hitting star at Central for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul Gries. The Central facility is now known as Paul Gries Field.
Engelbrecht was later head coach at Princeton Community and is now Tigers athletic director. He brought Zach on as an assistant. With the cancellation of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is to be Barrett’s first one with games.
Princeton Community went 10-16 in 2019. A number of regulars remain from that team.
“We have a pretty good nucleus,” says Barrett.
The Tigers go in with a group that includes senior left-handed pitcher/outfielder Rhett Thompson, senior shortstop Lance Stuckey, senior corner infielder/right-handed pitcher Briar Christy and junior catcher/pitcher/third baseman Sean Stone.
The 6-foot-7 Thompson was the mound starter in the 2019 IHSAA Class 3A Vincennes Lincoln Sectional championship game against the host Alices.
Stone is already getting looks from college baseball programs.
Gerit Bock, a 2020 Princeton graduate, is now on the roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
With Barrett serving as an assistant on Princeton Community head football coach Jared Maners’ staff, there was no IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activity in the fall. Players began to get rolling in January.
Made up primarily of seventh and eighth graders with some sixth graders, that squad plays from March to May.
“We have good coaches at that level that understand the game,” says Barrett. “It’s not about wins and losses at that level. Are the kids having fun? Are they getting better? Are they part of the team?”
Barrett, who splits his work day between teaching high school Health and middle school Physical Education, will walk the halls to find athletes.
Thorough his own experience and observation, he realizes that what they are at 13 and 17 may be vastly different.
“I’ve played with kids absolute studs in middle school and barely played as seniors,” says Barrett. “On the other side, there are those (smallish or uncoordinated kids) who stick with it and become very good varsity players.
“You just never know. Kids mature differently.”
The Cub team practices and plays on Gil Hodges Field, which features lights.
“I want those kids to feel like they’re a part of us,” says Barrett. “In years past, they’ve worked out with our varsity guys.”
That’s given the older ones a chance to mentor the younger ones.
“They understand that they are the future,” says Barrett. “They put Princeton first.
“They’re not selfish.”
Barrett is a 2004 graduate of Reitz High School in Evansville, where the 6-foot-5 athlete was a standout in football, basketball and baseball. He played receiver and safety for John Hart on the gridiron, power forward or center for Michael Adams on the hardwood and pitcher, shortstop and center fielder for Steve Johnston on the diamond.
Hart, a member of the Reitz and Greater Evansville Football halls of fame, impressed Barrett with the way he went about his business and the relationships he built with his players. Unlike some coaches, Hart was not intimidating but approachable.
“He was like a second dad,” says Barrett. “I was able to talk with him.
“He was good about taking care of the small things and being disciplined. He was a very smart coach.”
Nick Hart, John’s son and head football coach at Gibson Southern, is a good friend of Barrett’s.
Barrett was all-city, all-SIAC and Indiana Football Coaches Association All-State as junior and senior, AP All-State and an Indiana Mr. Football Finalist as senior.
Adams, who is still on the bench at Reitz, got Barrett’s attention when he as attending basketball camps as an elementary school student.
“His attention to detail was apparent at that age,” says Barrett, who saw varsity minutes as a freshman and became a starter as a sophomore. “He was very strict but he knew how to relate to players.
“He was about as good an X’s and O’s coach as you’ll ever see. He would get you ready and prepared mentally and physically.
“I’m glad to see all the success he’s had lately.”
Barrett won four basketball letters at Reitz and paced the team in rebounding three times. He was all-SIAC as a junior and senior and honorable mention All-State as a senior.
Johnston gave Barrett the chance to experience varsity ball as a freshman and made him a starter the next spring.
“Everybody enjoy playing for him,” says Barrett of Johnston. “He had a good baseball mind.”
Barrett completed his Reitz baseball career second all-time in both hits (95) and slugging percentage (.576). He was named all-Southern Indiana Athletic Conference as a junior and Associated Press All-State as a senior when he was also selected in the 38th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins and chosen to play in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
“DC — we called him the ‘Mayor of Olney,’” says Barrett of veteran skipper Conley. “He was a mentor and taught you about doing things right. He wasn’t messing around. But he could flip the stitch and be able to relate to us.
“He obviously knew the game very well. He was tough to play for. He put a lot of pressure on you. You needed to come up big and handle situations. I had my share of butt-chewings. He got max effort out of all of us and we respected the heck out of him.”
Similar to Conley, Peterson was Old School in his approach. He believed in fundamentals and discipline.
“He was not afraid to run you and do things like that when he didn’t get the most of us,” says Barrett. “I learned a lot of life lessons from my high school and college coaches.”
Barrett uses drills in his high school practices that he learned from Conley and Peterson.
Barrett played in 116 games as a third baseman for the MTSU Blue Raiders. He hit .329 with 12 doubles and 32 runs batted in as a junior and . 383 with nine home runs, 16 doubles and 46 RBI’s in as a senior.
“As a society we need to have more humility. Mistakes are going to be happen in life. We need to be OK with that.
“We need to change our perspective on things and (recognize) if someone is hurting inside (and show empathy).
“We should just be kind to people. Nobody knows what’s going on in people’s life. With COVID-19, a lot of depression going around. I live by these everyday. My parents (Nick and Anne Lawvere) built these in me at a very young age.”
Nick Lawvere is a science teacher at Highland Middle School in Anderson, Ind. Anne Lawvere is Director of Special Education for Eastbrook Community Schools. Older sister Nicole Lawvere (23) was a standout at Eastbrook and a utility infielder at Indiana University, where she is now attending law school.
A three-time Academic Honor Roll and one-time Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence (2018-19) selection by the Summit League, Andrew Lawvere (21) is on track to graduate in the spring with a major in Accounting and minor in and Management and Marketing.
He plans to play summer collegiate ball for the Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators in 2021 and come back for a bonus season in 2022 while either pursuing another degree or applying for graduate school. After that comes law school. Grandmother Judith Golitko and uncle Matthew Golitko are personal injury lawyers with Golitko & Daly P.C. and Andrew did an internship with the firm in 2018.
“I like helping other people,” says Lawvere. “It goes back to my four pillars.”
Lawvere has appearance in 77 games in three seasons for the PFW Mastodons, including 11 (seven as a starter — six at first base and one as designated hitter) during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign.
The righty swinger hit .300 (9-of-30) with one home run, one double, eight runs batted in and four runs scored. He collected three hits with a homer and drove in three runs Feb. 29 at New Mexico State.
As a right-handed relief pitcher, he made four appearances and went 0-1 while striking out five while walking two in 4 1/3 innings. He fanned three in a 1 2/3-inning stint Feb. 23 at Miami (Ohio).
For his career, Lawvere is hitting .242 (48-of-198) with six homers (including a 2019 grand slam against Alabama State), nine doubles, 29 RBIs and 21 runs.
After the 2020 season was called off and Lawvere find himself back at home, he decided to take his strength and conditioning up a few notches. He began training with former Purdue and Ball State pitcher Eric Van Matre at Muncie (Ind.) Crossfit at The Arsenal. He was introduced to Olympic-style weightlifting and lost 20 pounds.
“I really took advantage of quarantine,” says Lawvere. “I’m in the best shape of myself. I educated myself nutritionally.”
Injuries had moved Lawvere away from catching, but he can see himself going back behind the plate again.
“I had a talk with Coach (Doug) Schreiber,” says Lawvere. “This year I think I’ll get to strap up the shin guards.
“I’m pretty confident I’m going to get back to my roots. I’ll do whatever benefits the team.”
Schreiber took over the Mastodons program in July 2019 and had an impact on Lawvere.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s been around the game for a long time
I’ve really picked his brain lot. He’s an Old School, which I love. He’s a hard-working guy. We understand each other. We are very similar in a lot of ways.
“On a personal level, he makes random phone calls just to check up on me. We just talk about life. He gets it.”
PFW team meetings are filled with discussions tying life situations — like obstacles and adversity — to baseball.
While the Mastodons were on the way to Western Illinois in mid-March when they had to turn around and head back to Fort Wayne after just 15 games, Lawvere said the team was just getting started in 2020.
“We saw a lot of improvement,” says Lawvere. “Schreiber is going to get the culture of the team right.
“As a senior, I’m trying to put my best effort into the culture. I think we’ll have a lot of success (in 2021).”
When Lawvere came to to the Mastodons, Bobby Pierce was head coach.
“One thing that really sticks out about Coach Pierce is that he understood that people are going to have different ways of thinking,” says Lawvere. “There’s no one right thing about a swing or mechanics.
“He tried to better us as individuals and focused on our strengths.”
Pierce was also receptive when players would reach out.
“I’m always trying to reach my optimal level,” says Lawvere. “I try to get as much information as possible and do what I believe is correct.”
He has been able share baseball knowledge and trade jokes with Mastodons hitting/catchers/outfielders coach Ken Jones.
“I love taking knowledge from (Coach Jones) and using it at different times,” says Lawvere. “We have that open relationship where we can talk.”
IPW has faced challenges since returning to campus this fall. After one practice, the team had to go into a 14-day coronavirus quarantine and returned to the field Sept. 21. All players are on the field but are in pods wearing masks and paying attention to social distancing.
“We’re playing it day-by-day with everything going on,” says Lawvere. “We can’t have another two-week shutdown. We’ve got to set a tone for the Horizon League.”
IPW has moved from the Summit League (with North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and Western Illinois) to the Horizon League (with Illinois-Chicago, Milwaukee, Northern Kentucky, Oakland, Wright State and Youngstown State).
“We’ve talked about intangibles and things we can control,” says Lawvere. “If you want this bad you have to do work on your own (more than 20 hours a week of official team activity).”
In a normal setting, the team would do individual work and then team practice in the fall followed by winter workouts, more individual work and holiday break leading up to the spring season.
Lawvere was born in Muncie and grew up in Upland. With many relatives on his father’s side living close, they refer to the area as “Lawvereville.”
After playing coach pitch baseball in Upland, Andrew played travel ball for the Gas City-based Indiana Rebels coached by Tim Young (his son Nolan Young plays at Illinois State), Greenfield-based Indiana Bandits coached by Dwayne Hutchinson (son Dalton Hutchinson played at Taylor University), the Indiana Prospects coached by Drew Kidd and supervised by Todd Nierman and Indiana Bulls coached by Troy Drosche.
Lawvere played four seasons at Eastbrook for former head coach Todd Farr.
“He was very caring,” says Lawvere of Farr. “He wanted me to get recruited. There were times early in my high school career where I was struggling. He believe in me.
“He saw that I worked hard and wanted to get better.”
The four-team circuit staged its first game at League Stadium Aug. 7 and the schedule is slated to go through Oct. 18.
In the mix is independent baseball veteran Derrick Pyles. The 37-year-old outfielder is in his 11th season of indy ball. The former Avon, Ind., resident now has experience in 10 different leagues.
Pyles has been acting as a player-manager in the Liberation, which when it gets up to speed will have four full squads — Indiana Barn Owls, Indy Wind Storm, BaseballResume.com Bandits and California Dogecoin.
The league features players with professional experience and those looking to get some. Former major leaguer Johnny Barbato pitched in the first game and is now in the Atlantic League-satellite Constellation Energy League with four teams playing in Sugarland, Texas. The Atlantic — independent pro ball’s top circuit — is not operating in 2020.
The Liberation came to Indiana thanks to owner Brian Williams. He was ready to go in the Pacific Association when that league was shut down because of the coronavirus.
“Brian pounded on doors all over the country,” says Pyles, who is leading players in the new league along with Ray Ortega and Lance Myers.
Huntingburg answered the knock.
“It’s better than 90 percent better of the other places we could have went,” says Pyles. “It’s a wonderful place to play.”
It happened very quick. It was less than two weeks ago that Pyles first heard about the league, which is the only pro loop operating in Indiana this year.
“There was zero advertisement,” says Pyles. “It’s literally come out of the woodwork.
“If people give us a shot, I think they’ll enjoy it. This is a legit professional baseball league taking part inside their city.”
There is a plan to meet with the community this week with the hopes of picking up a few more host families. Some players are staying at nearby hotels.
Pyles commutes to his in-laws in Mooresville, Ind.
While it’s too early to say what level the Liberation will equate to in affiliated baseball, Pyles and the rest are hopeful.
“There’s just so much talent,” says Pyles. “Guys are hungry for opportunities.”
But indy ball is not the same as being tied to a major league organization.
“Independent ball can be extremely cut throat,” says Pyles. “It’s way more about winning.
“In affiliated ball you’re getting prepped for the big leagues.”
Pyles, who bats and throws right-handed, has been a player-coach or player-manager the past few seasons. He hopes to get back to a higher league such as the Atlantic (he played for Sugarland and Long Island in 2017) would like to play until he’s 40.
After the 2019 season, he moved from Avon to Goodyear, Ariz., where it’s easier to stay in shape with the warm weather. He still comes back to train players in central Indiana.
“I love the people in Avon,” says Pyles. “Indiana definitely feels like home to me.”
He started with Zyon Avery (a Ben Davis High School graduate who is now at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill.) and Allbry Major (an Indianapolis North Central grad who plays at Xavier University) when they were young.
Matt Moore, an Avon High School graduate, was a hitting Pyles hitting pupil who became a hard-throwing pitcher. The Purdue University left-hander is a MLB draft prospect.
“I love to train players that are very motivated,” says Pyles. “I’m 100 percent confident I can help the top players get better.
“The road has been so hard for me I really had to figure out the best stuff.”
There’s a running debate in baseball coaching about the Old School vs. the New School.
The Old School represents the long-used methods.
The New School includes emerging technology and its application to the game.
“We’re always learning,” says Bobby Bell, a Lafayette, Ind., native, who has decades of experience as a professional hitting instructor — most recently working in affiliated baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers organization 2018 and 2019. “Technology is very important. That’s where we are today.
“We are not Old School or New School, We’re In School. If we don’t continue to be In School, we’re going to hurt these kids. Period.”
As Bell teaches lessons and clinics across the country as well as in Noblesville, Ind., at Jason Taulman’s Indy Sharks training facility and will soon in Lafayette at Jeff Isom’s new On Deck Training building, he looks to share he’s learned and shares it with his pupils.
“There’s all this information,” says Bell. “I’m not saying its detrimental. It’s confusing. (Technology) can be a great thing.”
Bell, 56, is adaptinhg to the new tools so he can understand and get players to understand.
“I’ve learned it my way instead of some guy telling me how I must learn it,” says Bell, who has worked with Blast Motion sensors and looks forward to using Rapsodo motion detection.
“Humans see in 2D,” says Bell. “Technology sees in 4D. It’s another set of eyes. It can be a great thing.
“You will see great strides in that kid’s progression if it’s utilized the right way.
“You can’t quantify the movement from the left to the right hemisphere You have to combine (technology) with what he’s thinking, how he’s thinking and why he’s thinking. I understand the importance of it all coming together. I really do.”
Knowing that each player is different, Bell does not expect everyone to have the same movement patterns and to reach them you’ve got to get to know them.
“The individual needs to be an individual,” says Bell. “We want them to be short and direct to the ball. We don’t worry about things we don’t control. We control the (strike) zone and get a good pitch to hit. It sounds like a cliche, but you’re only as good as the pitch you hit.
“We try to keep it as simple as possible. Pitching is too good. They throw so hard.”
Bell wants to relate to his hitters on a personal basis.
“I want to establish a relationship with that player,” says Bell. “That’s the key. This guy’s there for him whenever he needs them.”
Bell is a 1981 graduate of Lafayette Jefferson High School. His head baseball coach was Mark Strader, who had been a Bronchos standout for and assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul “Spider” Fields.
“(Strader) was one of the best baseball players to come out of Tippecanoe County,” says Bell.
Concepts he associates with Strader are intensity, tenacity, competitiveness, work ethic and doing the little things right.
“He did a lot of things for me,” says Bell, who credits Harmon for getting his a place on Team USA in the 1982 World’s Fair Games in Knoxville, Tenn., and a place in college baseball. “He is a phenomenal man.”
Bell played two seasons at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., where his head coach was Rich Alday and Jim Fleming directed Aztecs hitters.
“(Fleming) was one of the best hitting teachers in the country,” says Bell, who would meet up with him again years later.
From Pima, Bell played two seasons at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) for head coach Byron Wiehe. Jamie Hamilton was an assistant coach for the Mavericks.
Bell signed as a minor league free agent with the California Angels and played three seasons in the Halos’ system 1986-88, primarily as a righty-swinging catcher with Palm Springs or Quad Cities.
Sometime after his playing career ended, Bell moved back to Lafayette. Isom asked him if he wanted to get back into baseball.
“Absolutely not” was Bell’s reply. But Isom asked again later and got Bell to be his hitting coach with the Joliet Jackhammers in the independent Northern League.
Bell went to be hitting coach in the Northern League with the Andy McCauley-managed Schaumburg Flyers in the independent Frontier League with the Jason Verdugo-managed Evansville Otters.
Then comes a call from John Mallee, then hitting coordinator for the Florida (now Miami) Marlins that leads to another call from then vice president of the Marlins Jim Fleming — the same man who was Bell’s hitting coach back in college.
“I actually hung up,” says Bell. “I didn’t think it was Coach Flem.”
Mallee called Bell back and set him straight and Bell was hired by the Marlins and was hitting coach for Greensboro Grasshoppers (2009), Jupiter Hammerheads (2010) and Gulf Coast League Marlins (2011-14).
He was out of organized baseball for a few years and still offering instruction including at Kiwanis International baseball camps for troubled teens in Alaska at the invitation of David Hall.
By this time Mallee was with the Phillies. He called to say that the Brewers were in dire need of a hitting coach. There was one week left in spring training.
But Bell took the gig and spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, N.C. Coincidently, the Mudcats vice president/general manager is Lafayette native Joe Kremer. Bell and Kremer had never met until Bell arrived with the club.
The past five years, Bell has been traveling up from Florida to share his knowledge with Taulman and the Indy Sharks.
“I love everything he does for all those kids,” says Bell. “They’ve progressed extremely.”
Bell has been spending more time in Indiana to be closer to daughter Bobbi, a junior at Purdue University. Bell also has four sons — Brandon and Keaton in Colorado, Zion in California and Kai in North Dakota.
Bobby Bell, a Lafayette, Ind., native, was a hitting coach in the Florida/Miami Marlins system for six years.
Bobby Bell, a 1981 graduate of Lafayette (Ind.) Jefferson High School, has been instructing baseball hitters for decades. In 2018 and 2019, he was a coach in the Milwaukee Brewers system. He works regularly with the Indy Sharks travel organization.
“We’re always intense. We don’t have a problem taking extra bases. We’ll bunt. We’ll do anything we can to win. Pitching-wise, we’ll throw inside and outside.
“The system seems to work and we just pass it down. People say I’m softer than I was when I first started.
“I think I’m doing the same thing.”
After assistant stints at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (with Craig Moore) and Brownstown Central High School, Malott has been coaching in the South Dearborn program for 34 years and is coming up on 25 years of leading the Knights.
Larry Hornbach (who died Dec. 16, 2018) and Mallot are the only head coaches in program history. Mallot has also been a linebackers coach for SD football.
In 2018-19, the Knights were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Batesville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Madison Consolidated and Rushville Consolidated. With 2019’s South Dearborn Sectional title, the Knights have won 12 sectional championships.
This spring produced a 21-8 mark, a co-championship in he EIAC and a Charlestown Invitational title. South Dearborn lost to Silver Creek in the semifinals of the Jasper Regional.
“Probably about everything,” says Malott. “I became a social studies teacher because of him. I tried to coach like him, but personality’s different so it still comes out different.
“Your personality comes out in your players, too.”
Malott has coached several IHSBCA North/South All-Stars, including Jim Townsend (1986), Brad Tyler (1987), Mark Morris (1994), A.J. Gray (1996), Jared Cutter (1997), Korey Kirkpatrick (1999), Jeremy Legge (2000), Sam Schmeltzer (2007), Wyatt Schwing (2016) and Ethan Getz (2019).
The 2008 IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series was held in Evansville and Malott was a South assistant.
“My favorite day is the one where they use the wooden bats and you can see all the kids’ (high school) uniforms,” says Malott. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I get to meet some of the other coaches and tell stories.”
Stepping back on Gary O’Neal Field at Madison brings fond memories to Malott. His South Dearborn team played the Cubs in the sectional championship game in 1999, the year Madison won the 3A state title.
“It was a close game (5-3),” says Malott. “They were better than us.
“We played these guys in football, basketball and baseball and six times in Legion ball (Malott coached with South Dearborn American Legion baseball for more than 25 years). I knew most of these kids’ families.”
Ben Reel, the head baseball coach at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany since the 2009 season, played at South Dearborn for Malott.
His assistant coaches in 2019 included, Adam Wheat, Dave Burress, Greg Hughes, Tim Studer and T.J. Schomber. Most of them played at SD for Malott and know the system and are able to pass it along to the high schoolers and those in the junior high program which is part of the Knights feeder system.
Youth baseball in Aurora, Dillsboro, Manchester and Moores Hill as well as select teams in the Cincinnati area (Aurora is 25 miles west of Cincy) help develop players for South Dearborn.
Highlander Park, located adjacent to the South Dearborn campus, is the Knights’ home field. In the past three years, the lighted facility has had a nine-inning scoreboard installed with new dugouts, press box and wind screens.
“We keep trying to update it,” says Malott.
Jay and Teresa Malott have one daughter — Ashley. She lives in Lafayette with her husband and three children.
Jay Malott has been coaching baseball at South Dearborn High School in Aurora, Ind., for 34 years and is coming up his his 25th in charge of the Knights program. He was an assistant for the South in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison. (Steve Krah Photo)
Talarico, founder of StealBases.com, talked about developing well-rounded threats who score, making development a No. 1 priority, the run scorer cycle of on-base percentage to stolen bases to slugging percentage, the systematic approach of base stealing (Old School, New School and Hybrid) and the application of these methods.
In three seasons at Wright State, Talarico has watched the Raiders swipe 101 bases in 128 attempts in 2016 and go 130-of-161 in 2017 and 110-of-128 in 2018. Eleven different WSU players pilfered at least one bag last spring. In Talarico’s five campaigns at the University of Dayton staff, the Flyers copped 509 bases in 685 tries. In one season at the University of Toledo (2010), Talarico saw the Rockets purloin 74 bases in 96 attempts.
When Talarico got to Wright State, he and his players decided they would make the commitment to get on base in any way they could. That would lead to more stolen bases and runs scored and — in turn — a higher slugging percentage.
“What does a Wright State player look like?,” said Talarico. “If you look at us, I’d like a couple of things to be said about a Wright State offensive player. “We want to keep the main thing, the main thing. We want to work on physicality. I don’t know if we played a bigger, stronger, faster team (in 2018). It’s a culture thing.”
Proper nutrition, strength training and recovery/sleep is a priority for the Raiders.
In getting on-base in 2018, Wright State hitters walked (268) or got hit by a pitch (81) more than they struck out (325).
“That was a pretty big adjustment,” said Talarico. “We got rid of drills we didn’t think worked and we stuck with one or two drills that helped our guys recognize pitches.
“Our guys have a great, great feel for the strike zone. Good hitters have adjustability. They can hit the ball early. They can hit the ball late. They can adjust.
“All of our players have to be able to bunt for a hit.”
That even included Gabe Snyder, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound slugger who was selected in the 21st of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota.
Even at his size, Snyder was able to put pressure on the opponent with his ability to run the bases.
Talarico noted that some stolen base chances are high risk and others are low risk.
“We’re talking about pressure,” said Talarico. “We want to make the pitcher make a good throw.”
Talarico is trying to build speed in his runners.
“To build speed, you have to run fast,” said Talarico. “That seems so obvious.”
This is done by taking advantage of the player’s competitive nature, keeping the sprint distances short and getting the players striving for their best reps.
“You call out a winner,” said Talarico. “If call on them to race, they’re going to run fast.
“We don’t want to go into survival mode. We make most of our sprints 15, maybe 30 feet. We’re always competitive and we’re always recovering.
“Then we have what I call the ‘Coach, can I get one more? zone.’”
Players develop a mindset to get better and faster.
Talarico loves it when upperclassmen speak up and show the proper way to perform a drill.
“When it’s important to them, it’s important to everybody,” said Talarico.
The base of the whole system is Old School lead-off — Right. Left. Shuffle. Shuffle. Secondary. Shuffle. Shuffle.
“If we can do that, we can get fancier,” said Talarico.
New School involves a relaxed, athletic position. Hybrid is a mix of the two.
“If we do this right, we only have to create a little momentum to get going,” said Talarico. “Once the technique gets good, anything can happen.”
After Talarico’s players know the rules and skill set, it becomes about tempo. He teaches them what to do then steps back and lets them figure it out.
“It might start out scientific, but this is an art,” said Talarico. “It’s not about what I know. It’s about what they believe.”
To Talarico, there are three types of game plans.
“There’s the right game plan that players believe 100 percent. That’s the best,” said Talarico. “There’s the wrong game plan that players believe 100 percent. That’s the second-best option.
“No. 3 is the worse. It’s no game plan or not really believing what you’re saying. Now we don’t have confidence.”
Matt Talarico is an assistant coach/development coordinator for the baseball program at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. (Wright State Photo)
Matt Talarico participates in a question-and-answer session after his presentation on base stealing at the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas. (Steve Krah Photo)
Matt Talarico presents on the big stage at the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas. The graduate of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger High School and Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., and an assistant coach/developmental coordinator at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, talked about Base Stealing: The Link to Developing the Complete Offensive Player. (Steve Krah Photo)