Zach Wager sees rockets and spacecraft in his future. Right now he’s excelling on the baseball diamond. As an 18-year-old (he turned 19 on May 28), Wager (pronounced Way-Jer) pitched well enough in his first season at NCAA Division I University of Tennessee at Martin to earned Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year and a place on the all-OVC second team. “I came into the season with only one goal and that was to get on the all-conference team,” says Wager. “To get (Freshmen of the Year) was mind-blowing.” A left-hander and 2022 Columbus (Ind.) North High School graduate made 22 mound appearances for the Skyhawks (17 in relief) and went 2-1 with four saves, a 2.44 earned run average, 40 strikeouts and 20 walks in 44 1/3 innings. His major is Mechanical Engineering. He sees himself pursuing a masters in Aeronautical or Aerospace Engineering. “Space exploration is the main key. That’s what drives all this,” says Wager. “I want to help us go into space. I’m not sure I want to go into space.” His job wish list includes NASA, SpaceX, Boeing and Lockeed Martin. He landed at UT-Martin after being recruited by the school, visiting the school and meeting coaches and faculty. “They were going to honor my major (and not have me change it),” says Wager. “The classes are on the smaller side. It’s more one-on-one with the professor. “We were on the road a lot this spring (for baseball). I missed a couple tests. Teachers didn’t hesitate to help me out.” The Skyhawks baseball staff includes head coach Ryan Jenkins and pitching coach Bill White plus assistant Pat Cottrell and volunteer Alex Lozado (a graduate of Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, Ind.). The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Wager delivers four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and change-up from a three-quarter overhand arm slot. His four-seamer runs and tops out at 87 mph. His curve moves on an 11-to-5 plane with vertical and a little horizontal movement. There’s move horizontal break to his slider. He uses a “circle” grip on his change-up. There’s just something about lefty movement. Wager explains how it works with him. “If you’re trying to throw a ball on the outside corner as a lefty you have to start the ball right down the middle so when it moves it’s going hit the outside corner,” says Wager. “If you start it there it’s just going to end up being a ball.” In assessing his best athletic qualities, Wager considers himself a good leader on and off the field. “I just try to create friendships,” says Wager. “If I see some struggling I pick them up. We all have those games. “It’s also about giving back to the community.” At UTM, Wager does community service. There is a daycare near the field and he donates to a food pantry. In high school, he had a two-part project where he gave pitching lessons to kids and built a plyo-ball wall for the baseball team. Born and raised in Columbus, Zach played at what is now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County and for the traveling Indiana Vipers and Indiana Blazers — all coached by father Nathan Wager — then in high school for Canes Midwest. Wager played at Columbus North for two head coaches — Ben McDaniel for the first three years and Patrick Antone as a senior. “I loved Ben McDaniel as a coach,” says Wager of the man who got him to come to the Bull Dogs out of Northside Middle School. With his workload this spring, Wager has opted not to play this summer. He plans to work out and give lessons at Hit Factory in Columbus, where Hunter McIntosh (a Columbus North graduate who pitched at Alabama State University) is partner and CEO, and do remote and on-site training with Pineville, N.C.-based Tread Athletics. Nathan Wager is an engineering manager at Cummins. Mother Michelle Wager is a pharmacist. Older sister Caitlin Wager (who played softball at Columbus East High School) recently got into Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The Greyhounds had another chance to dogpile and the Sycamores kept rolling along. That was the past week for baseball teams at the University of Indianapolis and Indiana State University. UIndy — a No. 7 seed when the postseason began — beat Quincy twice on its own field to win a super regional and the Al Ready-coached Greyhounds (39-19) earned a spot in the NCAA Division II World Series June 3-10 in Cary, N.C. No. 1 seed Indiana State followed a Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title with a MVC tournament championship on its own field — besting Evansville in the “if necessary” game to clinch the eighth tourney title in program history. The Mitch Hannahs-coached Sycamores (42-14 overall and 34-4 in its last 38 games) will now host an NCAA Division I regional. The selections will be announced later today (May 29).
Also, No. 3 seed Ball State won the Mid-American Conference tournament title at Kent State and await an NCAA regional assignment. The Rich Maloney-coached Cardinals (36-21) were swept by the Golden Flashes May 18-20 in Muncie then topped Central Michigan once and Kent State twice in tournament play.
Seasons ended in conference tournaments for No. 4 seed Evansville (Missouri Valley), No. 8 seed Notre Dame (Atlantic Coast), No. 8 seed Southern Indiana (Ohio Valley) and No. 6 seed Purdue Fort Wayne (Horizon League). At 37-24, Evansville produced its most wins since 2006.
The NCAA Division I RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rankings through May 28 has Wake Forest as the overall No. 1. Among the state’s schools, Indiana State is No. 9, Indiana No. 30, Notre Dame No. 54, Evansville No. 72, Ball State No. 101, Valparaiso No. 149, Purdue No. 207, Butler No. 236, Southern Indiana No. 275 and Purdue Fort Wayne 276. After conference tournaments comes the national tournament selection announcement on Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day).
Heading into Memorial Day games, Taylor was 2-0 and Indiana Wesleyan 1-1 in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. The Kyle Gould-coached Trojans are 42-15. The Rich Benjamin-coached Wildcats are 40-19-1.
Thursday, May 25 Morehead State 2, Eastern Illinois 1 Arkansas-Little Rock 4, Tennessee Tech 1 Eastern Illinois 8, Tennessee Tech 2
Friday, May 26 Morehead State 3, Arkansas-Little Rock 2 Eastern Illinois 5, Arkansas-Little Rock 1
Saturday, May 27 Championship Eastern Illinois 6, Morehead State 5
Horizon League Tournament (At Dayton, Ohio) Wednesday, May 24 Milwaukee 12, Youngstown State 3 Northern Kentucky 6, Purdue Fort Wayne 3
Thursday, May 25 Wright State 6, Milwaukee 3 Oakland 13, Northern Kentucky 8 Milwaukee 10, Northern Kentucky 8
Friday, May 26 Oakland 6, Wright State 5 Wright State 2, Milwaukee 1
Saturday, May 27 Championship Wright State 14, Oakland 0
NCAA D-II Midwest Super Regional (At Quincy, Ill.) Friday, May 26 Indianapolis 4, Quincy 3 Saturday, May 27 Championship Indianapolis 5, Quincy 2
NAIA NAIA World Series (At Lewiston, Idaho) Friday, May 26 Taylor 6, MidAmerica Nazarene 5 Westmont 7, Cumberlands 3 William Carey 6, Bellevue 4 Lewis-Clark State 12, Indiana Wesleyan 4
Saturday, May 27 MidAmerica Nazarene 4, Cumberlands 3 Indiana Wesleyan 5, Bellevue 3 Taylor 23, Georgia Gwinnett 7 Southeastern 5, Lewis-Clark State 2
Sunday, May 28 No games
Monday, May 29 Georgia Gwinnett vs. Indiana Wesleyan Lewis-Clark State vs. MidAmerica Nazarene Taylor vs. Westmont William Carey vs. Southeastern
Tuesday, May 30 3 games
Wednesday, May 31 2 games
Thursday, June 1 Championship
Friday, June 2 If necessary game
National Christian College World Series (At Kansas City) Monday, May 22 Mid-America Christian 6, Southwestern Christian 3 Trinity Christian 7, Oakland City 6 College of the Ozarks 10, Fort Lauderdale 1 Southwestern Christian 9, College of the Ozarks 8 Trinity Christian 11, Mid-America Christian 10
Tuesday, May 23 Southwestern 14, Trinity Christian 4 (8 inn.) Championship Mid-America Christian 3, Southwestern Christian 2 (10 inn.)
Two schools from the same conference and just over 10 miles apart in Grant County, Ind., will both represented at the 2023 NAIA World Series baseball tournament in Lewiston, Idaho. Indiana Wesleyan University and Taylor University — the tournament and regular-season champions in the Crossroads League — went 3-0 in their respective Opening Round tourneys. The Rich Benjamin-coached Wildcats did it in Kingsport, Tenn., and the Kyle Gould-coached Trojans at home to punch their tickets. Benjamin has announced that he will leave IWU to become athletic director at Mississinewa High School in Gas City, Ind., at the end of the season. The final NAIA coaches’ poll came out May 10 and Taylor was No. 19. Indiana Wesleyan received votes. It will be the first World Series appearance for IWU and the second for Taylor (the other trip came in 1969). The 10-team event is Friday to Friday, May 26-June 2. The field also features MidAmerica Nazarene University (Olathe, Kan.) and Georgia Gwinnett University (Lawrenceville, Ga.). MNU Pioneers head coach Ryan Thompson was a player and assistant at Bethel College (now Bethel University), a Crossroads League member in Mishawaka, Ind. GGU Grizzlies head coach Jeremy Sheetinger was an assistant at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., early in his coaching career.
The state’s longest current win streaks belong to Indiana Wesleyan (6), Indiana State (5), Indianapolis (3) and Taylor (3).
The NCAA Division I RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rankings through May 21 has Wake Forest as the overall No. 1. Among the state’s schools, Indiana State is No. 10, Indiana No. 27, Notre Dame No. 47, Evansville No. 87, Ball State No. 116, Valparaiso No. 135, Purdue No. 209, Butler No. 235, Purdue Fort Wayne No. 275 and Southern Indiana No. 276. After conference tournaments comes the national tournament selection announcement on Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day).
Below are season records, weekly results and links to web pages, schedules and statistics for all 39 programs.
Through May 21 NCAA D-I Tuesday, May 16 Ball State 12, Southern Indiana 1 (7 inn.) Indiana 6, Evansville 2 Northwestern 8, Notre Dame 7 (11 inn) Purdue Fort Wayne 8, Toledo 7
Thursday, May 18 Kent State 29, Ball State 11 St. John’s 24, Butler 5 Evansville 9, Illinois-Chicago 8 Michigan State 8, Indiana 6 Indiana State 11, Missouri State 4 Notre Dame 5, Boston College 1 Nebraska 10, Purdue 5 Purdue Fort Wayne 4, Milwaukee 3 Valparaiso 7, Illinois State 6
Friday, May 19 Kent State 14, Ball State 3 St. John’s 7, Butler 5 Illinois-Chicago 7, Evansville 3 Michigan State 7, Indiana 6 Boston College 7, Notre Dame 2 Boston College 8, Notre Dame 4 Purdue 7, Nebraska 3 Milwaukee 7, Purdue Fort Wayne 1 Southern Indiana 8, Tennessee Tech 7 Tennessee Tech 11, Southern Indiana 7 Illinois State 20, Valparaiso 10 (8 inn.)
Saturday, May 20 Kent State 11, Ball State 5 St. John’s 14, Butler 4 Evansville 2, Illinois-Chicago 1 Indiana 6, Michigan State 5 Indiana State 9, Missouri State 5 Indiana State 14, Missouri State 4 Nebraska 6, Purdue 4 Purdue Fort Wayne 9, Milwaukee 3 Southern Indiana 8, Tennessee Tech 6 Illinois State 10, Valparaiso 3
NCAA D-II Midwest Regional II Tournament (At Springfield, Ill.) Thursday, May 18 Indianapolis 11, Illinois-Springfield 10 (11 inn.) Maryville 5, Ashland 2
Friday, May 19 Illinois-Springfield 10, Ashland 2 Indianapolis 14, Maryville 5
Saturday, May 20 Maryville 5, Illinois-Springfield 4 Championship Indianapolis 11, Maryville 1
NCAA D-III Friday, May 19 Birmingham (Ala.) Regional Lewis & Clark 7, Birmingham-Southern 1 LaVerne 8, Franklin 7
Saturday, May 20 Birmingham-Southern 16, Franklin 2 LaVerne 19, Lewis & Clark 4 Birmingham-Southern 15, Lewis & Clark 8
NAIA Opening Round Upland Bracket Monday, May 15 Point Park 20, Fisher 3 Taylor 3, Cumberland 2 Point Park 8, Tennessee Wesleyan 4
Tuesday, May 16 Cumberland 17, Fisher 9 Taylor 12, Point Park 10 Tennessee Wesleyan 30, Cumberland 18
Wednesday, May 17 Point Park 6, Tennessee Wesleyan 5 (10 inn.) Championship Taylor 12, Point Park 0
Kingsport Bracket Monday, May 15 Bryan 10, Missouri Baptist 1 Indiana Wesleyan 9, Webber International 4
Tuesday, May 16 Missouri Baptist 14, Webber International 7 Indiana Wesleyan 8, Bryan 3
Wednesday, May 17 Missouri Baptist 21, Bryan 4 Indiana Wesleyan vs. Missouri Baptist Championship Indiana Wesleyan 7, Missouri Baptist 6
National Christian College World Series (At Kansas City) Friday, May 19 Fort Lauderdale 9, Trinity Christian 6 Dallas Christian 5, Kansas Christian 4 Oakland City 5, Toccoa Falls 0 Mid-America Christian 6, Fort Lauderdale 2
Saturday, May 20 College of the Ozarks 2, Baptist Bible 0 Southwestern Christian 4, Dallas Christian 0 Trinity Christian 8, Toccoa Falls 2 Kansas Christian 6, Baptist Bible 2 Trinity Christian 5, Dallas Christian 3 Mid-America Christian 7, Oakland City 6 Fort Lauderdale 9, Kansas Christian 2 Southwestern Christian 7, College of the Ozarks 3
Monday, May 22 Mid-America Christian vs. Southwestern Christian Oakland City vs. Trinity Christian College of the Ozarks vs. Fort Lauderdale Game 16 Game 17
Tuesday, May 23 Championship Game 18 Game 19 (if necessary)
Junior College NJCAA Region 24 Tournament Wednesday, May 17 Lewis & Clark 7, John Wood 5 Illinois Central 12, Lincoln Land 10 Parkland 10, Vincennes 4 Lincoln Land 13, Vincennes 9
Thursday, May 18 Heartland 10, Lewis & Clark 2 Parkland 8, Illinois Central 5 Lincoln Land 7, Lewis & Clark 5 Illinois Central 7, John Wood 5
Friday, May 19 Heartland 14, Parkland 6 Lincoln Land 10, Illinois Central 7 Lincoln Land 21, Parkland 8
Saturday, May 20 Championship Heartland 9, Lincoln Land 3
Evan Kahre is coming to the close of a college baseball journey that has led to hundreds of relationships. A senior outfielder at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Kahre has graduated with a Finance degree and is exploring his future options. “I don’t have anything set in stone yet,” says Kahre, who turned 24 in April. “But I have a lot of things I want to try to do. I know I have a lot of different opportunities. The great thing about playing baseball and going to three different (colleges) and playing summer ball I know I have 300-500 guys that could call me at anytime to offer me a job or an opportunity to work anywhere or do anything.” Kahre (pronounced Car-EE) was born in Evansville, grew up on the north side of town and graduated from Evansville Central High School in 2017. He has spent two years each at Olney (Ill.) Central College, the University of Evansville and USI. He played in 65 games and hit .356 (67-of-188) with three home runs, three triples, 13 doubles, 31 runs batted in, 56 runs scored and 18 stolen bases for the OCC Blue Knights in 2018. Kahre committed to Evansville in the fall of his sophomore year at Olney then had hand surgery after winter break. He got into just two games in 2019 and took a medical redshirt. He appeared in 12 games at Evansville in 2020 — the season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic and got that year of eligibility back. Kahre played in 19 games for the Purple Aces in 2021 and went 0-of-7 at the plate and opted to move on. “I was very fortunate,” says Kahre. “Growing up in Evansville I knew a lot of guys around USI’s baseball team. Coach (Tracy) Archuleta was one of the first people to call me after I entered the Transfer Portal. “I just love him as a person and as a coach as well. He’s very personable and easy to talk to.” Archuleta, who has led the Screaming Eagles program since the 2007 season, has shown the ability to get the most out of players. “When it comes down to it, if you mess up in a game he’s going to hold you accountable, which is good,” says Kahre. “He expects more out of every individual than they think they’re capable of and that’s how he’s created great teams and great players in the past.” Southern Indiana went from NCAA Division II in 2022 to NCAA D-I in 2023. “I already knew what we were getting into,” says Kahre, having been with a D-I program at Evansville. “I really wish a lot of other guys could have seen that. “Baseball is so mental. It’s about the mindset and what you think of it. If we think we’re going to lose we probably don’t have a good chance to win. If we think we’re just as good as any team we have a really good chance to win.” Many of the players on the 2022 USI roster made the transition in 2023. “The guys we’re playing now aren’t any different than the ones we played in Division II,” says Kahre. “They put their shoes on the same way in the morning as we do.” Kahre sees no skill gap between D-I and D-II position players. There might be a little with hitters and there tends to be more velocity coming from DI weekend starting pitchers. USI is in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference. The top eight makes the OVC tournament. The Screaming Eagles (15-36, 6-14) are currently in eighth ahead of Lindenwood. A regular season-closing series at Tennessee Tech is May 18-20. “We really need to get some wins this weekend,” says Kahre. As an outfielder, Kahre works with assistant Seth LaRue as well as Archuleta. Kahre, who is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds and throws and hits right-handed, goes into the Tennessee Tech series hitting .304 (49-of-161) with two home runs, three triples, seven doubles, 21 runs batted in, 36 runs scored, 22 walks and 12 stolen bases. He has started in all 40 games in which he has played. In 2022, he played in 43 contests (all starts) and hit .290 (40-of-138) with no homers, five triples, six doubles, 22 RBIs, 34 runs, 29 walks and eight stolen bases. “I’ve always been able to run a little bit,” says Kahre. “The goal is to get into scoring position.” Kahre is aware of pitchers throwing off-speed pitches. He studies his pick-off move and reads balls in the dirt. During the season, Kahre was moved to the lead-off spot in the Southern Indiana batting order. “I see it as a leadership role,” says Kahre. “I’m trying put together a good at-bat and get on-base to start us in a positive direction.” The past two years, Kahre played in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. “I had a great host family,” says Kahre, who stayed both years with Trevor and Abbey Hash. He did not play summer ball in 2020 and was with the Dubois County Bombers in Huntingburg, Ind., in 2018 and 2019. Andy Lasher (who is now head coach at Oakland City University) was the manager the first year and Travis LaMar the second. Kahre’s formal baseball start was in Cal Ripken. He played travel ball for Boonville/Indiana Gold and in his 17U summer the Indiana Outlaws (now known as the Canes Midwest) and the 18U Evansville Leathernecks (based out of the training facility then now as Extra Innings and now Complete Game). Mike Goedde, a former USI head coach and two-time UE pitching coach, was Kahre’s head coach at Evansville Central. “Playing in high school is where I learned a good amount more about how the game should be played,” says Kahre. “(Goedde) taught us how to do the little things right.” Brett and Stacey Kahre have three sons — Evan, Dax and Ashton. Brett Kahre played football at Evansville Central and now works in engineering for Brake Supply in Evansville. Stacey Kahre played softball at Evansville Reitz and UE and owns Midwest Skin Institute, a dermatology business in Evansville. Dax Kahre (Evansville Central Class of 2021) played baseball in high school and is now a USI student. Ashton Kahre played baseball and soccer and picked up lacrosse in high school. He is an Evansville Central senior.
Moneyball — the film based on the non-fiction book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis — came out in 2011. Brodey Heaton was 9 or 10 and living in Newburgh, Ind., when he first saw it. “I liked the storyline and as I grew up and started getting more into math and statistics it just started becoming my favorite movie,” says Heaton, who is a first baseman — the same position played by Scott Hatteberg of the Oakland Athletics in real life and the film. Now 22 and a 6-foot-5, 235-pounder at NCAA Division I Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Heaton has already earned an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics. With an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Heaton plans to play for the Bruins again in 2024 while pursuing a Master of Sport Administration. Batting primarily in the 3-hole, Heaton has played in 52 games (50 starts) in 2023 and is hitting .241 (46-of-191) with six home runs, 10 doubles, 33 runs batted in, 28 runs scored and .724 OPS (.326 on-base percentage plus .398 slugging average). “I try to drive in runs or be productive for the team — try to have a tough at-bat and set up the rest of the lineup the best I can,” says Heaton, who went 2-of-3 and scored a run Tuesday, May 16 at Tennessee. For his college career, the righty swinger/thrower has played in 174 games (172 starts) and is hitting .286 (191-of-669) with 23 homers, 39 doubles, 149 RBIs, 97 runs and .825 OPS (.360/.465). Heaton was an all-Ohio Valley Conference tournament team in 2022. If Belmont (23-30, 8-16) qualifies for the 2023 Missouri Valley Conference tourney, that event is May 23-27 at Indiana State. Teammates voted Heaton and left-handed pitcher Andy Bean as co-captains for 2023. “Part of my job is the communicate between the coaches and the rest of the team,” says Heaton. “And to be an extra coach out there. Since I’ve probably been here the longest I help the new guys out and give them little pointers when they need it. “It’s also being a relaxing presence for people and showing them the way we do things at Belmont.” In that way, Heaton is a reflection of his veteran head coach. Dave Jarvis is in his 26th season as Belmont head coach and 41st year of coaching overall. “He’s a calm presence in the dugout,” says Heaton of Jarvis. “He’s always positive. He’s always telling us to be calm and ready for the moment.” Heaton benefits from physical strength and mental acuity, honed by playing football (tight end), basketball (power forward) and baseball (first base) at Castle High School, where he graduated in 2019. “Strength is a big part of my game now,” says Heaton. “I’ve always been naturally strong but in my years at Belmont I’ve put in a lot more work in the weight room. I’ve gotten a lot more strength, especially in my lower body. I’ve worked with our strength coach (assistant sports performance coach Jarett Thompson) just to stay healthy and strong. “It’s paid dividends for me. “I’m not the quickest. Playing three sports in high school has made me more athletic. My Baseball I.Q. helps me know what’s going on and get to balls or take extra bases.” Curt Welch was Heaton’s head baseball coach in high school, instilling drive and providing life lessons. “He is super competitive,” says Heaton of Welch. “He wants it a lot out there and he takes that into his teams. “He has that attention to detail. You can just tell that he wants to make us competitive. I really appreciated playing for him.” As a senior, Heaton hit .392 and was named to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison and was all-state honorable mention, first-team all-Southern Indiana Athletic Conference and the All-Metro Player of the Year. He helped the Knights win two sectionals and two regionals. Growing up in Newburgh, Heaton started out with local teams, played Newburgh Junior Baseball in middle school and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 11U to 17U. Sean Laird was the head coach in his 17U summer. He then went with the Jeremy Johnson-coached Evansville Razorbacks before heading to Belmont. After his freshman season with the Bruins, Heaton went to College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Early in the 2021 spring season, he suffered a torn labrum in his left hip and partially-torn quadriceps and played through it. Surgery kept him off the field that summer. Heaton played for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Ocean State Waves in 2022 and expects to go back to South Kingstown, R.I., this summer. Bryan and Crystal Heaton have two children — Brodey and Katelyn (19). Bryan Heaton is a project manager for Toyota. Crystal Heaton is in the finance department of Deaconess Health System. Katelyn Heaton is studying speech therapy at Murray (Ky.) State University.
The University of Southern Indiana in Evansville has decided to raise its profile and athletics plays a major part. The Screaming Eagles have moved from NCAA Division II to Division I and begin competing at that level in 2022-23. “We’re not a secret anymore,” says Tracy Archuleta, USI’s head baseball coach since the 2007 season. “Once we make that jump to Division I we want everyone to know about it. We want everyone to know how good our nursing program is and how great the Romain business school is and our engineering program along with the great tradition of successful athletics. “We’re trying to make a big impact across the nation and not just in the tri-state (Indiana-Illinois-Kentucky) area.” It means that the Pocket City now has two D-I schools — Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville. Archuleta has spent his whole college baseball career in D-II as a player and a coach. He led Southern Indiana to DII national championships in 2010 and 2014. But he knows that D-I is at the top of the scale. “The excitement comes from being able to hold our teams against the best in the country,” says Archuleta. Part of the transition means hiring the staff to help student-athletes while gradually increasing the number of scholarships. “We want to hire guys who are familiar with Division I baseball and have had success with it,” says Archuleta. His current staff includes Nick Gobert, Seth LaRue, volunteer Brice Stuteville and director of player development Deron Spink. Gobert and Stuteville played at USI. LaRue is a 2011 graduate of Evansville Mater Dei High School who coached at Texas A&M Corpus Christi 2020-22. Spink is a former head coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville. Southern Indiana is beginning a four-year probationary period. The Screaming Eagles will not be eligible for NCAA tournament play until 2026-27. NCAA D-I allows for 11.7 baseball scholarships while D-II is capped at 9. USI typically had six to seven. “Recruiting has a big impact in all sports,” says Archuleta. “You have to be able to sell the university and give the student-athlete an understanding of why USI is a great fit for them. “The difference now in recruiting is that you see everyone out there working instead of a select few. When you call a kid they have six schools already on them.” In looking at Southern Indiana’s current roster, Archuleta has a mix of junior college transfers and players right out of high school along with returnees. Archuleta says the roster will have to be trimmed from 50 to 40 by the spring season. “The biggest thing for our guys is that they have to be willing to meet the challenge,” says Archuleta. “Some guys will have to step it up a little bit.” USI plays host to Kent State in a charity exhibition at 2 p.m. Central Time Saturday, Oct. 22. “I’m excited about what’s ahead for us there,” says Archuleta. “We’ll see where we’re at.” Formerly a part of the D-II Great Lakes Valley Conference, Southern Indiana now belongs to the Ohio Valley Conference (with Eastern Illinois University, Lindenwood University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Morehead State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and University of Tennessee at Martin). “There’s tradition there,” says Archuleta of the OVC. “In baseball, the conference is up-and-coming. “With us, there’s the proximity of all the schools. It’s going to be neat for USI to build up rivals. Fans will be able to travel to road games.” All but Tennessee Tech (205), Morehead State (260) and Arkansas-Little Rock (409) are inside 200 miles from USI. SEMO competed in the Louisville Regional in 2022. D-II is allowed to play 50 games. In 2022, USI played 49 with 28 of those at home. D-I allows 56 games. Archuleta says he expects the 2023 Screaming Eagles schedule to be released in mid-November. “Two of our first four weekends are at home (against Oakland and Bellarmine),” says Archuleta. “We have some midweek games at home. “I think we only have two non-Division I opponents on our schedule.” USI Baseball Field became the permanent home of the Screaming Eagles in 1974. The on-campus facility is tree-lined and has lights and seating for about 1,200 with a concession stand, picnic area, press box and restrooms. There’s also a four-camera replay system — something many D-I school do not possess. Dimensions are 355 feet down the lines, 375 in the power alleys and 380 to dead center field. “Our facilities are unbelievable,” says Archuleta. “We have great people who work on it.” Archuleta can see upgrades coming in the next five-plus years. “We have a little bit of work to do, but we’re not far away,” says Archuleta.
Blake Malatestnic’s prep baseball ended with a flourish. The right-handed pitcher helped Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter to the 2017 IHSAA Class 2A state championship by hurling a complete game in a 10-4 win against Wapahani. Malatestnic went seven innings and threw 95 pitches while yielding nine hits and four runs (three earned), striking out four and walking one. He finished the season at 12-1 and was also named as the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award recipient. But at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, he received just one college baseball offer. That came from Eastern Illinois University. “Eastern was my only school,” says Malatestnic, 23. “They saw something in a 5-foot-9, 150-pound kid. I was a small kid, but I had quick arm and I competed. (EIU head coach Jason Anderson) took a chance on me. “It’s something I’m forever thankful for.” More than five years later — including a pandemic and a major medical procedure — Malatestnic is preparing for one last go-round with the Panthers in 2023. Now up to a solid 175, Malatestic can look back on three competitive seasons so far. He pitched in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. The 2021 season was lost when he needed Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery. In 55 games (35 in relief), the righty is 10-11 with four saves, 149 strikeouts and 72 walks in 169 innings. During the 2022 season, he appeared in 16 games (10 starts) and was 4-4 with 6.09 earned run average, 51 strikeouts and 21 walks in 54 2/3 innings. Malatestnic went to the summer collegiate wood-bat Northwoods League’s Kenosha (Wis.) Kingfish and pitched in 13 games and 20 1/3 innings before reaching his limit of combined frames for the spring and summer. “The surgeon and (Anderson) wanted me at about 75 (total innings),” says Malatestnic, who hurt himself doing velocity training just days before he was going to the Coastal Plains League to pitch for the Wilson High-Tobs in 2020 following a COVID-19-shortened EIU season in which he went 3-0 in four games (three in relief) with a 1.69 ERA, 23 strikeouts and six walks in 26 2/3 innings. A 32-week rehab program began in October 2020 and concluded in April 2021. “It was a roller coaster of feelings and situations,” says Malatestnic. “But I knew I could do it.” The pitcher was with the 2021 Northwoods League’s Lakeshore Chinooks (Mequon, Wis.). He made seven rehab starts capped at about 65 pitches each. He worked 24 innings with 29 strikeouts and seven walks. “Lakeshore was fantastic,” says Malatestnic. “They saw the long-term goal of why I was there in the first place. “(Chinooks manager Travis Akre) was a great communicator with the whole process.” Malatestnic pitched for the Prospect League‘s Danville (Ill.) Dans in the summers of 2018 and 2019 Over the years, Malatestnic’s relationship with Anderson has also grown. “He has a real open office,” says Malatestnic. “He behind me on Tommy John and did what he could with the school being shut down and all this COVID compliance stuff.” Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Malatestnic uses a four-seam fastball (clocked as high as 94 mph when he was coming out of the bullpen at the end of the 2022 spring slate). He also uses a slider and change-up and — this summer — developed a two-seam sinker. “On the days when the slider’s sharp it has more of a cutter action,” says Malatestnic. “It moves more right to left without a ton of depth. I feel comfortable throwing it a lot. It plays off my fastball. “My change-up goes down and to the arm-side. There are so many good hitters in the Ohio Valley Conference to get fastballs by them.” Malatestnic credits Kenosha pitching coach Steve Andrade, who pitched in the majors and counts Indiana Tech among his coaching stops, for aiding him. “He had me using classical mechanics and posture and staying over the rubber,” says Malatestic. “Those helped me finish my pitches with the right grip and a quick arm.” Born in Indianapolis, Malatestnic grew up in Avon, Ind. He played T-ball through junior league at Ben Davis Little League. He was on a team that won district and went to the state tournament at 12. He played travel ball from 13U to 15U with the Indy Predators — coached by his father (Dave Malatestnic) and Terrance Davis. Going into his junior year of high school (16U), he was with the Indy Raiders. The next summer it was the Eric Osborn-coached Indiana Nitro. Malatestnic dressed for selected varsity games as a Ritter freshman and and even made his first start as a shortstop against Indianapolis Cathedral. He was a varsity player his last three seasons. He was three-time all-Indiana Crossroads Conference, two-time all-city, all-city Player of the Year (2017), Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District L Player of the Year (2017), IHSBCA All-State and a North/South All-Star Series participant (2017) and a MaxPreps Small School All-American honoree (2017). He went a combined 15-5 on the mound his sophomore and junior seasons while helping Ritter to sectional titles. “Coach (Dave) Scott gave me tests and little benchmarks and I passed those,” says Malatestnic. “He really had an attention to detail which was a really good foundation for success. “He was a hard-nosed kind of guy. We were a pretty scrappy bunch.” While there were not many future college players on the team, the 2017 Raiders hustled. “We would run hard, put down bunts and were not afraid of being down two strikes,” says Malatestnic. “We were aggressively calm.” Malatestnic still stays in-contact with Scott and makes it a point to look him up when he’s home from school. “You see a lot of guys go back to Ritter after the fact,” says Malatestnic. “That says a lot about Coach Scott. He invested a lot into his players and gave them a lot of life advice or baseball advice.” Malatestnic earned a degree in Elementary Education last winter then entered graduate school for Curriculum and Instruction. He is taking one online class this summer and plans to finish up next spring. Though he started out college on a Biology path, Malatestnic explains why he opted to pursue an education degree. “I started thinking about all the teachers I had growing up,” says Malatestnic. “Then I had to decide on what level I wanted to teach.” His senior year at Ritter he was a cadet teacher at St. Christopher School in Speedway with his fourth grade teacher, Miss Elizabeth Anderson. “It was a crazy amount of fun,” says Malatestnic. “I really enjoyed it.” Malatestnic did his student teaching the spring of 2021 while he was also rehabbing from his Tommy John. He is grateful for the time put in my graduate assistant athletic trainer Maria Garcia (now Assistant Director of Sports Medicine at Eastern Kentucky University). The graduate of Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, Ind., and Purdue University often met him early in the morning before he began his student-teaching day. Blake is the son of Dave (Karen) and Noelle Malatestnic. Dave Malatestnic works in IT at Hopebridge Autism Center. Noelle Malatestnic is an interior designed for Flaherty & Collins Properties. Blake’s siblings are Brenna Malatestnic (25), Jarek Malatestnic (21), Maddie Griffith (21) and Mary Griffith (19). Former Marian University soccer player Brenna lives in Indy. Jarek is a former track athlete at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.