By STEVE KRAH
Zach Coulter has been head baseball coach at South Central Junior/Senior High School in Union Mills, Ind., for more than 500 days and has yet to earn a win or loss.
Hired prior to 2020, there was much anticipation with a talented group coming back.
The Satellites won the Porter County Conference for just the third time (2009 and 2017 were the other title seasons) and the IHSAA Class 1A South Bend Career Academy Sectional before losing in the South Bend Regional championship to eventual state runner-up and fellow PCC member Washington Township in 2019.
Several key starters from that squad returned in 2020.
But the Satellites never took the field in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” says Coulter. “Like everyone else.”
Coulter and company now getting ready for 2021 with more high hopes.
“I think we’ll be a dark horse this year,” says Coulter. “We’ve revamped the entire program and internally changed our mindset.”
South Central (enrollment around 325) is part of a 1A sectional grouping with Argos, Culver Community, LaCrosse, Oregon-Davis, South Bend Career Academy and Triton. The Satellites have won 16 sectional crowns, including 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. South Central won regional crowns in 1999, 2005, 2006 and 2011.
“We’re the sectional favorite or co-favorite almost every year,” says Coulter. “We don’t want winning sectional defining our season.”
When the Satellites break a huddle in practice, the chant is “138.”
That’s the number of miles from Satellite Field to Victory Field in Indianapolis — site of the IHSAA State Finals.
“We have a very talented group,” says Coulter. “It’s an exciting time to be a South Central baseball player.
“We’re more poised now to make a pretty deep (tournament) run.”
Last summer, South Central took part in five travel tournaments. No players were turned away. There were 32 taking part in games and workouts.
With the majority of the varsity lineup committed to other travel teams, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds played in 17U events.
With all the players together, a title was won at the On Turf Sports Classic in Columbia City, Ind., beating a team made up of Avon and Plainfield high school players for the championship. There was also a squad from Cincinnati and the Harris Storm (Penn High School players).
There are currently 38 identified with the program, including 18 freshmen. One member of the Class of 2024 — pitcher Bradley Ferrell — shined at a recent Perfect Game event in Florida.
Coulter is a 2009 LaPorte High School graduate. Other LPHS alums on his Satellite coaching staff include pitching coach Tony Ferrell (a member of the 1992 state champions and father of Bradley), Dave Santana and Garrett Kautz with the varsity. Alex Rochowiak is the JV head coach. Zach Lee is the JV pitching coach. Chesterton High School graduate Rochowiak played is the son of Michigan City High School head coach Jeff Rochowiak.
South Central has also gotten new uniforms for its varsity and junior teams and put a new windscreen completely around its home park.
The coaching staff donated their 2020 salaries to pay for infield playing mix, which helps with turnaround time on rain days.
The grass baseline have been replaced with dirt.
“It looks more like a baseball field now,” says Coulter.
Besides South Central, the Porter County Conference includes Boone Grove, Hebron, Kouts, LaCrosse, Morgan Township, Washington Township and Westville.
Boone Grove won the IHSAA Class 2A state championship in 2018 with Washington Township making it to the Class 1A finale in 2019.
“It’s a pretty solid conference in baseball,” says Coulter. Currently the largest of Indiana’s 1A schools, South Central has yet to win a PCC tournament.
Recent South Central graduates now in NCAA Division I college baseball are Carson Husmann (Bradley University) and Kyle Schmack (Valparaiso University).
The Satellite Series — a competition among groups — was launched in November and will continue until tryouts in March. Upperclassmen drafted teams of underclassmen. Teams compete for weekly points based on attendance, Baseball I.Q. sessions, in-person hitting sessions and school grades.
“The kids have absolutely eaten it up,” says Coulter, who adds that they are vying for a letter jacket patch and a steak dinner grilled by the coaching staff.
South Central players build their Baseball I.Q. with Zoom sessions that have included guests like Evan Miller (a pitcher in the San Diego Padres system who starred at LaPorte High and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne) and Rob Younce (a Philadelphia Phillies scout and national travel coach with the Canes).
Coulter encourages his players to talk and think like a coach and presents lessons from American Baseball Coaches Association convention speakers and the Baseball Coaching Bible edited by Jerry Kindall and John Winkin and featuring 27 coaches including LaPorte legend Ken Schreiber.
“It’s been real beneficial,” says Coulter. “The No. 1 priority in our program is to play catch. If you can’t play catch, you can’t play baseball.
“(Our players) hear some words from people at the top of the game.”
There are plans for Coulter and his assistant to tap into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic, which will stream its speakers to members Saturday, Jan. 16.
“It allows us to grow and stay current with the times,” says Coulter.
After playing football and lacrosse and a few seasons of basketball in high school, Coulter went to Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., where he pursued a Business Management degree and served as a student assistant football coach on the staff of Shannon Griffith.
After a season a junior varsity baseball coach at LaPorte, Coulter led the South Shore Smoke 13U travel team.
Coulter and partner Kevin Tran are Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance agents based in LaPorte.