Tag Archives: Payton Hall

Oakland City U. off to 11-4 start in 2022

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The Mighty Oaks of Oakland City University swing some mighty potent bats in improving to 11-4 on the 2022 baseball season.
OCU went 6-1 for the Week of Feb. 21-27 and collected 49 hits — 16 for extra bases — in a four-game sweep of Grace Christian.
Chandler Dunn (.533, 12 runs batted in, 16 runs scored), Noah Baugher (.419, 11 R), Payton Hall (Benton Central High School graduate) (.400, 17 R), Treven Madden (2 home runs, 12 RBIs), Sam Pinckert (Heritage Hills) (2 HR, 16 RBIs, 12 R), Bailey Falkenstien (Jeffersonville) (2 HR), Gehrig Tenhumberg (Evansville Reitz) (2-0, 2.70 earned run average, 23 strikeouts, 3 walks, 20 innings) and Milan VanDerBreggen (2-1, 2.38, 15 K’s, 1 base on balls, 11 1/3 IP) are among leaders for Andy Lasher-coached Mighty Oaks.
Oakland City went 17-27 in 2021.
In other NAIA play, Taylor — coached by Kyle Gould — moved to 9-6 with a 3-1 week. On the season, offensive leaders include T.J. Bass (Greenwood Community) (.356 average, 5 HR, 26 RBIs), Kaleb Kolpien (Homestead) (.474, 12 RBIs) and Camden Knepp (Northridge) (12 RBIs). On the mound, Matt Duktowski (NorthWood) is 2-0 with 16 K’s and three walks over 15 1/3 innings.
Todd Bacon-coached Marian went 2-2 for the week and is 8-6. For the season, A.J. Bordenet (Lafayette Central Catholic) (.458, 11 RBIs), Jackson Hogg (.390), Bryce Davenport (.350, 3 HR, 10 RBIs), Kato Hironori (2 HR) and Brodie Rinehold (Franklin Community) (2 HR) are among top batsmen. Pitcher Damien Wallace (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter) has made four starts and is 3-0 with 3.05 ERA, 24 K’s and eight walks in 20 2/3 innings.
Some other NAIA performers: Indiana University Southeast — Trevor Campbell (.364) and Brody Tanksley (Bedford North Lawrence) (4 HR, 10 RBIs); Indiana Tech — Jacob Daftari (Hamilton Southeastern) (.471) and Manuel Ascanio (.407); Indiana University-Kokomo — Dylan Steele (Bloomington North) (.357) and Ben Harris (Northwestern) (2-1, 2.08, 13 K’s, 10 BB, 13 IP); Grace — Alex Rich (Crown Point) (.395, 11 RBIs), Chris Griffin (.375, 10 RBIs), Sam Newkirk (3 HR, 11 RBIs) and Austin Carr (Franklin Central) (10 RBIs); Bethel — Andrew Sarno (.474), Jake Schlasky (Crown Point) (10 RBIs), Jeremy Wiersema (9 RBIs, 7-of-8 on stolen bases) and Frank Plesac (Crown Point) (2-1, 2.55, 21 K’s, 5 BB, 17 2/3 IP); and Goshen — Morgan Baker (2 HR in Game 1 vs. Brescia).
NCAA Division I Purdue is off to an 8-0 start. Led by Curtis Washington Jr. (7-of-7) and Evan Albrecht (6-of-6), the Boliermakers are 35-of-35 in stolen base attempts.
Albrecht (.462), Washington (.375), Cam Thompson (13 RBIs) and Jackson Smeltz (McCutcheon) (2-0, 1.07, 18 K’s, 4 BB, 9 1/3 IP) are among the hot Boilermakers, which are coached by Greg Goff.
Some other top NCAA D-I performers: Notre Dame — Ryan Cole (.500, 6 RBI, 5-5 SB), Brooks Coetze (2 HR), Carter Putz (8 RBI), Jack Brannigan (6 RBI), Aidan Tyrell (2-0, 0.00, 11 K’s, 3 BB, 11 IP) and John Michael Bertrand (2-0. 0.69, 19 K’s, 1 BB, 13 IP; Indiana State — Jordan Schaffer (West Vigo) (.414), Diego Gines (.407), Mike Sears (2 HR), Parker Stinson (Yorktown) (9 RBI), Miguel Rivera (6 RBI), Sean Ross (6 RBI) and Matt Jachec (2-0. 1.35, 13 K’s, 0 BB, 13 1/3 IP); Valparaiso — Kaleb Hannahs (West Vigo) (.474, 2 HR, 7 runs), Alex Thurston (.353), Kyle Schmack (South Central of Union Mills) (.333, 5 RBIs) and Colin Fields 1-0, 1.64, 15 K’s, 5 BB, 11 IP); Butler — Travis Holt (.478, 7 R, 5-6 SB), James Gargano (7 RBIs), Cole McDaniel (1-0, 2.25) and Derek Drees (0-0, 2 games, 10 K’s, 3 BB, 5 IP); Ball State — Amir Wright (Griffith) (.333); Indiana — Bobby Whalen (.391, 4 RBI, 5-5 SB), Matthew Ellis (2 HR) and Braydon Tucker (Northview) (0-1, 1.93, 2 appearances, 5 K, 5 BB, 4 2/3 IP); Evansville — Mark Shallenberger (.304) and Nick Smith (Boonville) (0-1, 1.61, 9 1/3 IP); and Purdue Fort Wayne — Alex Evenson (.320) and Jack Lang (Hamilton Southeastern) (.310, 6 RBIs).
Tracy Archuleta-coached Southern Indiana is out of the gate at 6-0. The Screaming Eagles have been led by Lucas McNew (Borden) (.455, 2 HR, 13 RBIs through 5 games), Ethan Hunter (Terre Haute South Vigo) (11 RBIs) and Brice Stuteville (South Spencer) (0-0, 1.42, 3 games, 8 K’s, 0 BB, 6 1/3 IP).
Other top NCAA D-II performers: Indianapolis — Alex Vela (Cardinal Ritter) (.478, 6 RBIs, 11 R, 5-7 SB), Caleb Vaughan (Lawrence North) (.409, 10 R), Drew Donaldson (8 RBI) and Xavier Rivas (Portage) (1-0, 1.93, 2 games, 23 K’s, 6 BB, 14 IP).
In NCAA Division III, the Adam Rosen Era began at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with the Fightin’ Engineers winning both of the first-year head coach’s first two games. Adam Taylor (Perry Meridian) (5 RBI’s), Josh Mesenbrink (4 RBI’s), Brett Tuttle (1 HR, 5 R) and Ian Kline (1-0, 1.50, 4 2/3 IP) are among the RHIT leaders.
Other top NCAA D-III performers: Earlham — Cameron McCabe (.500), Zach Swearingen (.500), Andrew Bradley (.500), Maxwell Fries (8 RBIs) and Keodon Kuderer (6 R); Franklin — Logan Demkovich (Munster) (2 HR); DePauw — Evan Barnes .588 through 4 games), Cameron Macon .563, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 8 R) and Cameron Allen (9 R); Wabash — Liam Patton (Warsaw) (.800 3 2B, 3 RBIs), Camden Scheidt (Highland) (.500), Reese Bauer (Northeast Dubois) (.500) and Dylan Scheid (Lawrence North) (0-0, 1.50, 1 game, 8 Ks, 0 BB, 6 IP); Anderson — Jake Stank (Mount Vernon of Fortville) (.444) and Tyler Smitherman (Westfield) (2 HR); and Manchester — Brady Perez (Rochester) (2 HR, 4 RBIs).
In junior college, Vincennes U.’s Colton Evans is hitting .465 and Connor VanLannen is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 18 K’s in 15 innings.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through Feb. 27

NCAA D-I
Purdue 8-0
Notre Dame 5-1
Indiana State 5-2
Valparaiso 3-2
Butler 3-3
Ball State 2-5
Indiana 1-5
Evansville 1-6
Purdue Fort Wayne 0-8

NCAA D-II
Southern Indiana 6-0
Indianapolis 3-3
Purdue Northwest 0-0

NCAA D-III
Earlham 3-0
Franklin 3-0
DePauw 3-2
Rose-Hulman 2-0
Wabash 2-0
Anderson 1-4
Trine 1-2
Hanover 0-2
Manchester 0-2

NAIA
Oakland City 11-4
Taylor 9-6
Marian 8-6
Saint Francis 6-4
Bethel 6-10
Indiana Tech 5-4
Indiana University-Kokomo 5-4
Indiana University Southeast 5-6
Grace 5-7
Goshen 3-5
Indiana Wesleyan 3-7
Indiana University South Bend 2-5
Huntington 2-6
Calumet of Saint Joseph 0-2

Junior College
Vincennes 4-5
Marian’s Ancilla 1-10
Ivy Tech Northeast 0-0

Week of Feb. 21-27
NCAA D-I
Wednesday, Feb. 23
Vanderbilt 9, Evansville 0

Friday, Feb. 25
UNC-Wilmington 2, Ball State 0
Butler 6, Jackson State 5
Arkansas 5, Indiana 2
Indiana State 14, Merrimack 2
Notre Dame 20, Marist 2
Purdue 9, Princeton 3
Purdue 8, Princeton 3
California Baptist 4, Purdue Fort Wayne
Valparaiso 9, Alabama A&M 2
Valparaiso 3, Alabama A&M 2

Saturday, Feb. 26
Middle Tennessee 1, Ball State 0
Butler 10, Prairie View 1
Butler 9, Jackson State 1
Evansville 11, Dayton 2
Indiana 12, Louisiana-Lafayette 4
Indiana State 16, Minnesota 3
Notre Dame 16, Monmouth 2
Notre Dame 9, Monmouth 0
Purdue 4, Princeton 3
Purdue 5, Princeton 4
California Baptist 23, Purdue Fort Wayne 5
California Baptist 5, Purdue Fort Wayne 3

Sunday, Feb. 27
Coastal Carolina 7, Ball State 2
Dayton 4, Evansville 2
Dayton 5, Evansville 4
Stanford 13, Indiana 0
Indiana State 14, Minnesota 8
Purdue Fort Wayne vs. California Baptist

NCAA D-II
Saturday, Feb. 26
Northwood 11, Indianapolis 6
Northwood 5, Indianapolis 4
Southern Indiana 12, Lake Erie 4

Sunday, Feb. 27
Northwood 9, Indianapolis 4
Southern Indiana 8, Lake Erie 3

NCAA D-III
Wednesday, Feb. 23
Centre 9, Hanover 1

Saturday, Feb. 26
Otterbein 8, Anderson 3
Baldwin Wallace 9, DePauw 8
Franklin 20, Albion 1
North Central 15, Manchester 5
Hope 16, Manchester 5
Wabash 3, Heidelberg 2
Maryville 4, Hanover 1
Earlham 20, Olivet 4
Earlham 9, Olivet 4
Asbury 5, Trine 4
Asbury 5, Trine 1

Sunday, Feb. 27
Baldwin Wallace 9, Anderson 4
DePauw 10, Transylvania 4
Earlham 10, Olivet 9
Franklin 11, Albion 6
Franklin 11, Albion 5
Wabash 15, Otterbein 5
Rose-Hulman 14, North Vermont-Lyndon 1
Rose-Hulman 12, North Vermon-Lyndon 11
Trine 3, Asbury 1

NAIA
Monday, Feb. 21
Bethel 5, Oakland City 3
Oakland City 5, Bethel 4 (8 inn.)
IU-Kokomo 5, Calumet of Saint Joseph 2
IU-Kokomo 5, Calumet of Saint Joseph 1
Indiana Tech 4, Indiana Wesleyan 3
Indiana Wesleyan 6, Indiana Tech 3
Marian 11, Georgetown 9

Wednesday, Feb. 23
Oakland City 9, Asbury 2

Thursday, Feb. 24
Bethel 11, Toccoa Falls 7

Friday, Feb. 25
Toccoa Falls 7, Bethel 1
Faulkner 3, Indiana Wesleyan 2
Indiana Wesleyan 4, Faulkner 3
Marian 9, Edward Waters 5
Edward Waters 8, Marian 7
Edward Waters 2, Marian 1
Taylor 8, Olivet Nazarene 6
Olivet Nazarene 2, Taylor 1

Saturday, Feb. 26
Bethel 4, Toccoa Falls 0
Bethel 4, Toccoa Falls 3
Faulkner 8, Indiana Wesleyan 4
Faulkner 4, Indiana Wesleyan 3
Oakland City 13, Grace Christian 1
Oakland City 13, Grace Christian 4
Saint Francis 7, IU South Bend 5
Saint Francis 7, IU South Bend 6
Taylor 11, Olivet Nazarene 1
Taylor 9, Olivet Nazarene 5

Sunday, Feb. 27
Brescia 5, Goshen 4
Brescia 8, Goshen 5
Oakland City 11, Grace Christian 1
Oakland City 26, Grace Christian 0
Indiana Tech 6, IU Kokomo 2
Indiana Tech 7, IU Kokomo 5

Junior College
Monday, Feb. 21
Vincennes 10, Marian’s Ancilla 2
Vincennes 3, South Suburban 1

Saturday, Feb. 26
Clark State 4, Marian’s Ancilla 3
Clark State 9, Marian’s Ancilla 4

Sunday, Feb. 27
Marian’s Ancilla 10, Clark State 9
Clark State 7, Marian’s Ancilla 3
Morton 10, Vincennes 5
Joliet 10, Vincennes 3

Indiana Nitro grows from one team into successful travel ball organization

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana Nitro — a travel baseball organization launched in the central part of the state — has had 164 college commits and five Major League Baseball draft selections since 2014.
Among Nitro alums who went on to pro baseball are Zach Britton (Toronto Blue Jays system), Matt Gorski (Pittsburgh Pirates), Niko Kavadas (Boston Red Sox), Devin Mann (Los Angeles Dodgers), Tommy Sommer (Chicago White Sox) and Zack Thompson (St. Louis Cardinals).
The Nitro fielded more than 20 teams — spring, summer and fall — at the 8U to 17U levels in recent seasons. The group has earned many victories and championships and competed in multiple states.
It all began with a single 11U team that took to the diamond in 2010.
Tim Burns, whose sons Brendan and Brock were playing travel ball, was exploring diamond opportunities for his boys when he was approached by some fathers about coaching a team.
With the idea of being able to control development and practice schedules, the elder Burns agreed and led that first Nitro squad, featuring Brock.
Most of the players were from Hamilton County — one of the exceptions being Batesville’s Britton. Brock Burns is now on the football team at Ball State University as an outside linebacker while Brendan Burns was a right-handed pitcher for BSU baseball; Tim Burns is a graduate of Ball State where his major was Telecommunications.
Both Burns brothers are Hamilton Southeastern High School graduates — Brendan in 2014 and Brock in 2017.
Most games in 2010 were played in central Indiana and the team went 50-5 with five tournament titles. Eleven of the 12 players on that first team went on to play at the collegiate level.
Tammy Burns, Tim’s wife, told him that he did not have the time to head a travel organization. Yet momentum kept on building.
“Kids wanted to play,” says Burns.
Parents and players gathered and voted on a team name — Burns presented around 300 choices found on Google — and team colors. The Nitro wound up donning Athletic Gold and Cardinal Red and uses explosive terms like Bombs and Gas on social media.
In 2011, the Nitro had four teams. The number went to seven in 2012 then 11 in 2013. It jumped to 20 in 2014 (the first year the organization had a high school age team).
“The snowball got big,” says Burns. “It took on a life of its own.”
The mantra of the Nitro is “Advancing players to the next level.” That came to mean grooming them to play high school baseball and then — for those who wished to do so — college baseball.
“It’s a very complex recruiting process that we came up with over the years,” says Burns, a 1982 graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., who grew up on the diamonds of Goodland, Ind., and counted Tracy Smith (who went on to coach at Miami University-Middletown, Miami University, Indiana University and Arizona State University) as a teammate. “You dive deep into it and build relationships with college coaches and recruiters.
“Learning how to help these kids get recruited was important to our board (of directors) and and organization.”
Nitro staffers work the phones on behalf of their players and are constantly seeking talent and getting ready for the next thing.
“It’s a year-round job,” says Burns, who is employed in sales for Bally Sports Indiana (the Indiana Pacers TV Network). “There’s so much behind the scenes in the off-season. It keeps the board and volunteers busy.”
Randy Poiry has been on the board since the beginning. Two sons — catcher Rutger Poiry (Lincoln Trail College and Eastern Kentucky University) and right-handed pitcher Carter Poiry (Murray State University and Quinnipiac University) — played for the Nitro.
Directors are Chris Poland (daily operations and high school age teams) and Dan Rodgers (ages 8-14). Jared Poland, son of Chris, is at the University of Louisville. Nathan Rodgers (Carmel High School Class of 2024) played for his father on the Nitro 14U Gold team in 2021.
Burns, who coached the Nitro 16U Gold team to a 26-9-1 mark in 2021 and will move up to coach the 17U Gold squad in 2022, gets players from near and far.
“We don’t care where they come from,” says Burns. “We want good kids from good families who want to put in the work.”
Nitro players train at Pro X Athlete Development on the Grand Park campus in Westfield, Ind. A membership is included with fees.
Burns counts four nephews — South Newton graduates Jarrett Hammel and Jay Hammel and Benton Central High school alums Payton Hall and Conner Hall — among former Nitro players. Former Saint Joseph’s College and Valparaiso right-hander Jarrett Hammel is now head baseball coach at Benton Central. Jay Hammel is a righty pitcher at Quincy (Ill.) University. Payton Hall is an outfielder at Oakland City (Ind.) University after transferring from the University of Southern Indiana. Former middle infielder Connor Hall is an Aviation Management student at Indiana State University.

Young Hammel now in charge at Benton Central

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jarrett Hammel has quickly transitioned from student-athlete to educator-coach.

Ten months after pitching his last game for Valparaiso (Ind.) University he was announced as the head baseball coach at Benton Central Junior/Senior High School in Oxford, Ind. 

“I’m super-excited to get after it,” says Hammel, who was originally hired as pitching coach but became a head coach candidate when Jon Vernon opted to spend more time with family and focus on his duties as Benton Central’s head volleyball coach. “We want to do everything with a purpose. 

“Baseball is not like other sports.”

The son of Donovan (Ill.) Elementary fourth grade teacher Todd Hammel and Morocco Elementary first grade teacher Pam Hammel, Jarrett received an Elementary Education degree from VU and began the 2020-21 school year as a fourth grade teacher at Prairie Crossing Elementary in Oxford.

At South Newton — a K-12 school in Kentland, Ind. — Jarrett got a chance to help with younger kids as a high school junior and senior.

“I knew I wanted to be a positive role model — someone to look up to,” says Hammel. “I look up to my parents a lot. They made a lot of sacrifices for me to be where I am today.

“They’ve always had my back.”

Coming from a close-knit family where both sets of grandparents live within 15 minutes, Jarrett counts younger brother Jay as his best friend. They grew up pushing each other in academics and athletics. 

With 1,195 points, 6-foot-4 Jarrett Hammel was the No. 1 all-time scorer in South Newton boys hoops history until he was surpassed by younger brother Jay Hammel with 1,363. The 6-6 Jay is now a 21-year-old junior right-hander on the Quincy (Ill.) University baseball team and a Multimedia Journalism major.

A 2016 South Newton graduate, Jarrett Hammel played baseball for Glenn Donahue and basketball for Mike Hall. 

Hammel was born in Lafayette, Ind., and grew up in Brook, Ind., where he still resides. He knew Donahue as a youth baseball coach who moved up to the high school ranks. 

Jarrett played four high school summers of travel ball with the Indiana Nitro.

His first college baseball season was spent with head coach Rick O’Dette at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When the school closed, he transferred to Valpo U., and played for head coach Brian Schmack.

Hammel was a high school sophomore when he appeared on O’Dette’s radar. He became a mentor to the pitcher.

“I learned a lot in the year I was (at St. Joe),” says Hammel. “My outlook on life has changed because of him.”

O’Dette stressed being a good example and always staying in contact with people who are close to you.

“Don’t let conversations get stale,” says Hammel. “You never know when they made need you or you may need them.”

Once it was announced that St. Joseph’s was closing, Hammel recalls that O’Dette was worried more about getting us placed than his own career. O’Dette landed at Saint Leo (Fla.) University.

Hammel played summer college ball for the Lafayette Aviators in 2017 and 2018. Brent McNeil (now pitching coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) managed the team to a Prospect League title in 2017. Will Arnold (now with Prep Baseball Report Arizona) was in charge in 2018.

While Hammel was at South Newton, Valpo also had interest in him and Schmack welcomed the southpaw when he became available.

What did Hammel learn from Schmack?

“Just being a man and owning up to your mistakes,” says Hammel. “Never put the blame on someone else.”

It’s about responding to adversity — something that is plentiful in baseball.

From his personal life, Hammel has learned to greater than his ups and downs.

“When things are not going your way in life you can’t put your head down and go through the motions,” says Hammel. “You have to ride the wave. Life is full of highs and lows.”

He also learned important concepts about teamwork and time management while playing NCAA Division I baseball.

As left-handed pitcher, left-hander Hammel hurled for Valpo at Alabama State March 11, 2020 and was announced as the head of the Bison program Jan. 12, 2021. 

The 23-year-old Hammel conducted his first winter practice session where he engaged with 15 athletes (many BC baseball players are involved in winter sports) and dished out baseball and life lessons. 

Hammel expects his players to be role models.

“I told them that someone is always watching your every move,” says Hammel. “You’re high schoolers now. Be good people and go hard with everything you do.”

Benton Central (enrollment around 550) belongs to the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Twin Lakes and Rensselaer Central in the West Division and Hamilton Heights, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Tipton and Western in the East Division). 

The Bison are in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette and Western. Benton Central has won 25 sectionals — the last in 2009.

While the COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season, Benton Central fielded two teams in 2019 and Hammel says he expects to have about 30 players for two squads in 2021.

Hammel is in the process of finding assistant coaches. He would like to have a Benton Central alum on his staff. Bringing in coaches from Newton County is not practical since Brook is in Central Time and Oxford is in Eastern Time.

In looking to his feeder system, Hammel likes the youth program already established and plans to place players in competitive summer leagues and with top travel organizations.

“We want to get them out of their comfort zone and change their outlook on life,” says Hammel, who also plans to start a fall baseball program at BC.

“We went to keep kids at it and try to perfect their craft year-round,” says Hammel. “We’re trying to maximize everyone’s potential.”

Recent Benton Central graduates in college baseball include Matt Taylor and Taylor Varnado with Marian University in Indianapolis. Knights head coach Todd Bacon went to BC.

There’s also Alex Thurston at Valparaiso U., and Payton Hall at Oakland City (Ind.) University.

Benton Central senior Dalton Rennaker is a Marian commit.

Jarrett Hammel, a 2016 graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., and 2020 graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) University, has been hired as head baseball coach at Benton Central High School in Oxford, Ind.

Vernon brings ‘culture change’ to Benton Central Bison baseball

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball players are buying what Jon Vernon’s selling at Benton Central Junior-Senior High School in Oxford, Ind.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have some good athletes and good players,” says Vernon, who is heading into his fourth season as BC head coach in 2019. “They’ve bought into my system.”

The Bison have improved its record in each of Vernon’s first three seasons in charge, going 10-17 in 2016, 17-9 in 2017 and 19-6 in 2018.

Benton Central lost 9-2 to Western in the 2017 IHSAA Class 3A West Lafayette Sectional championship game.

BC bowed out of the state tournament series with a  3-2 loss to Maconaquah on a seventh-inning wild pitch in the first round of the 2018 3A Peru Sectional.

“We changed the culture a little bit,” says Vernon, whose current seniors have been varsity since freshmen year. That group includes three who have signed for college baseball —

Center fielder Payton Hall (University of Southern Indiana), right-handed pitcher/third baseman Alex Stout (Bethel College) and first baseman/left-hander Matt Taylor (Anderson University).

Right-hander Taylor Varnado, BC’s probable No. 1 starting pitcher in 2019 and a third baseman, is expected to sign soon. Junior shortstop Alex Thurston is verbally committed to Valparaiso University.

Vernon says he expects to have about 30 players for varsity and junior varsity teams in the spring. The JV went 11-6 in 2018.

Benton Central (enrollment of about 580) belongs to the Hoosier Athletic Conference (with Benton Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Twin Lakes and Rensselaer Central in the West Division and Hamilton Heights, Lewis Cass, Northwestern, Tipton and Western in the East Division).

Teams play a home-and-home within their division then a crossover game with the corresponding regular-season placer in the other division.

BC is in an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, West Lafayette and Western. Benton Central has won 25 sectionals — the last in 2009.

The Bison roam on-campus at Darrell Snodgrass Field, a facility that recently received new fencing and upgraded dugouts and sound system. The worked on the diamond in the fall, doing things like edging.

A unique feature is the sounds of wind turbines. Benton County is home to wind farms.

With all that breeze, Vernon says it is best to be conservative field conditioner in the like in the autumn.

“You put too much stuff down in the fall, it won’t be there in the spring,” says Vernon.

Vernon’s 2019 assistants include Denny Musser and pitching coach Brad Goffinet with the varsity and Tyler Marsh with the junior varsity. Musser, the uncle of former Benton Central and professional left-hander Neal Musser, was a JV coach at BC on the staff of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gary DeHaven.

Neal Musser pitched 18 games for the 2007 and 2008 Kansas City Royals.

The southpaw was selected in the second round of the 1999 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the New York Mets.

Goffinet pitched at Indianapolis Marshall High School and Butler University in the 1970’s. Marsh is a former North Newton High School assistant.

Right-hander Jayson Best graduated from Benton Central in 1985 and played at Milligan College in Elizabethtown, Tenn., before signing with the Minnesota Twins in 1989. He reached the Double-A level in 1992 and 1993 and hurled for the independent Lafayette (Ind.) Leopards in 1996 and 1997. He was pitching at Goshen College 2000-04 (one season for Todd Bacon and four for Brent Hoober) and Maple Leafs head coach in 2005.

Benton Central baseball is largely fed by travel baseball organizations, including the Lafayette Lightning and Indiana Nitro. In the past, teams have played Pony League and Babe Ruth.

Vernon is a 1989 graduate of Logansport (Ind.) High School. He played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Jim Turner Sr.

Turner’s Berries lost 6-2 to Evansville Memorial in the 1989 IHSAA state championship game. Vernon was his left fielder and lead-off hitter. It was the first of Logan’s three straight Final Four appearances. The Berries 7-3 in the state semifinals to eventual champion LaPorte in 1990 and beat Marion for the state title in 1991.

What was it like to play for Turner Sr.?

“It was a great experience,” says Vernon. “He knows more about baseball is his little pinky than I do in my whole body.”

Turner Sr., who was assisted for many years by Larry “Butch” Jones and Rich Wild, established a winning culture and a program.

“You didn’t want to let coach down,” says Vernon. “He trusted his players. A lot of people revere him.”

As a coach, Vernon learned from Turner Sr. that “you always have to play the best players” and it doesn’t matter what they’re family name is what grade they’re in.

“Sometimes that makes people happy and sometimes it doesn’t,” says Vernon. “If you want to win, that’s what you have to do. Sometimes you have to make those tough decisions.”

After a season of club baseball at the University of Kentucky, Vernon went on to get a bachelor’s degree from Huntington University and master’s degree from Ball State University. He was head baseball coach at Delphi (Ind.) High School from 1994-2000 and assisted Jim Turner Jr. at Logansport for one season in the mid-2000’s and ran Turner’s summer programs.

He picked up pointers on organization and running practice from Turner Jr. Vernon was also head volleyball coach for the Berries.

After a brief stint in Florida, he came back to Indiana. He teaches business and computer classes at Benton Central has been BC’s head volleyball coach for three seasons.

Jon and Diann Vernon have been married for 25 years. They have four children — Matthew, Luke, Kailey and Karlee. Matthew works in finance for Amazon and lives in South Carolina. Luke is a dental student at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis. Kailey is in physician assistant school at Butler University. Karlee is 20 and works in Zionsville, Ind.

Staggered BC

ALEXTHURSTONBENTONCENTRALAlex Thurston (right) bats for Benton Central High School. He is a junior in 2019 and a verbal commit to Valparaiso (Ind.) University.

MATTTAYLORBENTONCENTRALMatt Taylor (left) catches a ball at first base for Benton Central High School. He has moved on to the baseball team at Anderson University.

PAYTONHALLTAYLORVARNADOALEXTHURSTONMATTTAYLORALEXSTOUTHOOSIERNORTHBenton Central players Payton Hall, Taylor Varnado, Alex Thurston, Matt Taylor and Alex Stout represent Hoosier North in the 2017 Colt Harry Bradway Classic in Lafayette, Ind.

VERNONFAMILY

The Vernon family in Key West, Fla., with spouses and children (from left): Matthew, Emily, Mary Katherine, Mason, Kailey, Karlee, Diann, Aubriel, Jon and Luke.

ALEXSTOUTBENTONCENTRAL

Another Benton Central High School baseball signs to play in college (from left): First row — Father David Stout, Benton Central Alex Stout and mother Stephanie Stout. Back row — Bethel College assistant Kiel Boynton, Bethel College head coach Seth Zartman and Benton Central head coach Jon Vernon. (Benton Central Photo)