At 23 and in his fifth season, Eston Stull is a college baseball veteran. The right-handed pitcher finds himself surrounded by many other seasoned players as part of a Southeastern University team ranked No. 1 in NAIA. “The best part of this team is humble confidence,” says Stull of the Lakeland, Fla.-based Fire. “You look in the dugout and they’re not nervous. Even if we’re down, they have the confidence that somebody is going to pick them up. “It’s a team that almost coaches itself. Having that veteran presence has helped this team a lot.” Stull, a 2017 graduate of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School, played four seasons at Indiana University-Kokomo (2018-21) while earning degrees in Finance and Management. In 51 mound appearances (27 starts), Stull went 13-4 with a 4.57 earned run average. He amassed 187 strikeouts and 89 walks in 159 2/3 innings. Matt Howard left the IUK program as head coach and Stull — who was granted an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic — began exploring his options. “I reached out on Twitter,” says Stull. Those Tweets drew the attention of SEU assistant coach/recruiting director Mike Mendoza and Stull corresponded with him and head coach Adrian Dinkel while pitching in the summer of 2021 for the Northwoods League’s Kokomo Jackrabbits. Stull decided to join a program that went 51-9 and competed in the 2021 NAIA World Series. Excluding the 2020 COVID season, Southeastern has posted four straight 50-win campaigns and is closing in on a fifth in 2022. Going into The Sun Conference tournament May 5-8 in West Palm Beach, Fla., the Fire is 47-3. The NAIA Opening Round is slated for May 16-19. Taylor University in Upland, Ind., is one the 10 sites and the SEU could be assigned there which is about 40 miles northeast of Pendleton. In 14 games (13 in relief), graduate student Stull is 0-0 with 0 saves and a 2.11 ERA. The righty has 32 strikeouts and seven walks in 21 1/3 innings. Graduate assistant Connor Dailey, who was a reliever 2015-18 at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., is Southeastern’s pitching coach. “He’s somewhat our age and easy to talk to,” says Stull of Dailey. “He trusts all of us and let’s us stick to our own routine.” The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Stull has made the adjustment from starter to relief pitcher. “I think I fit better in the bullpen for this team,” says Stull, who mixes a four-seam fastball, curve, slider and change-up from a high three-quarter arm angle. His four-seamer sits 92 to 93 mph and recently reach 97. His curve has a 12-to-6 action. He throws what he calls a “gyro” slider. “It goes down like a reverse change-up,” says Stull. “I look at the Rapsodo (motion capture system) and try to keep the spin efficiency below 12 and the RPM’s up (he averages 2800 with the pitch). Stull began throwing his change-up more last summer. “I have a good shape for it,” says Stull. “It’s just finding the time to get comfortable throwing it in-game.” Away from the diamond, Stull is working toward a Master of Business Administration and expects to take summer classes and finish as soon as possible. His coaches are looking to place him with a team. “I want to see how far baseball will take me,” says Stull. “I don’t want to have any regrets.” Born in Pendelton to Todd and Misty Stull, Eston grew up around the area and played what is now known as Pendleton Junior Baseball/Softball and then in travel ball, including time with the Indiana Nitro. At Pendleton Heights, his head coach was Travis Keesling. “I struggled my junior year and did not pitch much,” says Stull. “Coach Keesling sat me down and said you need to figure it out.” Stull began training with Greg Vogt — first at VIP and then PRP Baseball (in Noblesville, Ind.). “I had a great senior year,” says Stull. He still stays in-touch with Vogt. “I’ve reached out to him a couple of times with tips,” says Stull of the former Carmel (Ind.) High School and Anderson (Ind.) University hurler who has moved his family to Florida and added rehab pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays system to his PRP Baseball duties. All three of Todd and Misty’s sons are in college. Eston’s younger brother Walker Stull pitches at Anderson U., and has trained with his at PRP Baseball. The youngest — Harrison Stull — is a student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Their parents have moved to Jacksonville, Fla.
The way Devin Wilburn sees it, life is about timing. Just when he and his wife were looking to move closer to home and family for the arrival of their first child, a job opportunity opened up. Teacher Devin and nurse Maddie Wilburn were living in Florida when the chance to come to come back to the Muncie, Ind., area came as daughter Tatum was on the way. Tatum is now 2 months old and Devin (who turned 30 on Sept. 18) is the head baseball coach and a physical education teacher at Delta High School. Delta (enrollment around 800) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Shelbyville and Yorktown). In 2021, the Eagles were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle and Yorktown. Delta has won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2016. The Wilburns reside in Selma, about 10 minutes from both sets of grandparents and in the same town where they graduated from Wapahani High School. Devin went 24-9 and struck out 309 batters while while walking 79 in 203 1/3 innings while playing for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Brian Dudley and graduating in 2010. “A lot of stuff fell in place,” says Devin Wilburn, who comes to the Eagles after spending the 2021 season as an assistant to head coach Kyle Gould at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., after one spring season (2020) as head coach at Countryside High School in Clearwater Fla. Wilburn, who holds a Sport Administration degree (2014) and Masters in Sport Administration (2016) from Ball State University, was an assistant to head coach Rich Maloney at BSU in Muncie in 2019 after spending the fall of 2018 on Matt Bair’s staff at Anderson (Ind.) University. He was the pitching coach at Taylor 2015-18. A left-handed pitcher, Wilburn played three seasons for head coaches Alex Marconi (2011 and 2012) and Maloney (2015). At 20, Wilburn had a colon procedure and spent the better part of two years recuperating then returned to the diamond with the Cardinals. “It was a cool ending to my career,” says Wilburn. “I working out with my best friend, Jon Keesling (who played at Wapahani then Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion). “My ball was moving pretty good. Maybe I’ll give (a comeback) a shot.” Wilburn made the team and in 27 mound appearances (26 in relief) went 4-2 for a 33-25 squad that played in the Mid-American Conference championship game in 2015. “That last year I got to play changed my life in so many ways,” says Wilburn. It was through Ball State volunteer assistant Rhett Goodmiller that he was connected with Taylor. The summer before joining the Trojans, Wilburn was the head coach of the Indiana Prospects 17U national travel team. The talented club featured future Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft first-round pick J.J. Bleday plus two others now in the minors — Gianluca Dalatri and Sean Mooney — with the help of father Bryan Wilburn. Wilburn has formed his coaching philosophy through the men he played for and coached with — Dudley, Maloney and Gould — and more. “Along the way you make it yours,” says Wilburn. “You learn from coaching conventions and podcasts and put your own spin on it. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some really good baseball teams and coaches. “Coach Dudley and I have a real good relationship. He just does things the right way. He was my first mentor. I learned so much from him. “He had such a high expectation for us. He let us shine with what we were good at.” Devin, the only child of Bryan and Missie Wilburn, moved from Muncie to Selma in the fourth grade and his first teacher was Jason Dudley, Brian’s son and a longtime Wapahani baseball assistant. “I was part of those good traditions that shape your life in so many ways,” says Wilburn, who counted three former Wapahani teammates in the wedding party when he married Maddie a little over three years ago. “I’m so grateful to go through that program. “I look back fondly on my high school days.” A youth baseball coach for several decades, Russell Wilburn had a field named in his honor in Muncie’s Chambers Park when Devin was a young boy. Bryan Wilburn and brother Dan both played baseball at Muncie Central High School and Bryan went on to the diamond life at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Dan to Valparaiso University. After being recruited by Greg Beals, playing for Marconi and then Maloney, the latter hired him as an assistant. “I wore many hats,” says Wilburn. “I got to work with catchers and some with outfielders. My end goal was to find a head coaching job at small college or high school. “I wanted to be a well-rounded coach.” Wilburn is appreciative of Blake Beemer, who was a Cardinals teammate and then a coaching colleague. “I’m grateful for his mentorship,” says Wilburn of Beemer. “I also coached with Dustin Glant. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard talk about pitching.” Gould gave Wilburn his first crack at college coaching. “He is probably the best mentor in my life,” says Wilburn. “I’ve learned so much from him from the baseball and the life perspective “He opened my eyes in so many different ways. I could not be more grateful for the time I spent over there learning from him. (Taylor) is a wonderful place.” It was at Taylor that Wilburn also got to be on staff with IHSBCA Hall of Famer Rick Atkinson and Justin Barber. “Coach A forgot more about baseball than what I knew,” says Wilburn. “Justin and I had a good relationship when we recruited his players when he was with the Indiana Chargers.” At Delta, Wilburn has hired former Ball State teammate Scott Baker as his pitching coach with other assistant hires pending school board approval. The Eagles play on Veteran’s Field. “We’ve got a couple of projects,” says Wilburn, whose been assessing Delta’s baseball needs since taking the job. “We’ve got a nice facility and a real supportive booster club.” Feeders for Wilburn’s program include Delta Little League in Royerton and East Central Indiana junior high league run by Jason Dudley. Current senior left-hander Nick Crabtree has committed to Taylor. And Wilburn continues his love affair with the game. Says the coach, “Baseball is what keeps me sane in life and forget the daily stress.”
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).
Matt Vosburgh is now the man in charge of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School baseball and he considers it a privilege. Vosburgh enters his 11th year in the program in 2022. He has been Arabians head coach since before the 2020 season that was canceled because of COVID-19. After graduating from Purdue University with a Social Studies Education degree in 2011 and taking a teaching job at Pendleton Heights Middle School, Vosburgh reached out to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and longtime PH head baseball coach Bill Stoudt. “He told me to come on out and gave me all the opportunity in the world to be part of something special at Pendleton Heights,” says Vosburgh, a 2006 graduate of Tri-County Junior-Senior High School in White County town of Wolcott, Ind. “I wanted his blessing more than anything else. (Coach Stoudt) is still very much a part of the program. He cares more about the program than anybody else.” Vosburgh, who was a junior varsity assistant in 2012, quickly saw Stoudt’s love for the game and his players. The school corporation returned the love by naming the place where the Arabians’ diamond Bill Stoudt Field. From 2013-19, Vosburgh was head JV coach on the staff of Travis Keesling. He stepped away to watch his children in their sports and activities, but is still involved with the baseball program at his alma mater. “He understands family priorities,” says Vosburgh of Keesling. “He told me, ‘I understand the rigors of being the head coach in this program. I’ll come out and mow (so you can spend time with family. “People have no idea how hard he worked for the program. He did so many things behind the scenes.” Vosburgh and wife of eight years, Claire, have three kids — kindergartener Elizabeth (5), pre-K student Evelyn (4) and David (2). Matt Vosburgh is in his second year as eLearning specialist for South Madison Community School Corporation. He started at Purdue as a History major with a Pre-Law minor. A summer spent teaching English in rural Thailand ignited a passion for education and he changed his path. “It opened my eyes,” says Vosburgh. Right now his baseball vision has been focused on athletes participating in fall workouts. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. The Arabians have been doing baseball activities two days a week and speed and agility work a third day. “We’ve had good numbers so far,” says Vosburgh. “We don’t have a lot of fall athletes, but are getting 24 to 26. We expect that number to double at minimum in the spring.” Beginning Sept. 9, Thursdays will be for a two-hour Green-White game with Tuesdays being for practice and another for speed and agility. After the Limited Contact Period ends, conditioning work will continue. Vosburgh’s coaching staff includes first base/infield coach Rene Casas, pitching coach Brad Schnepp, JV coach Ryan Jones, Freshmen coach Eric Pierzchala plus Austin Price and Shane Cox. Pendleton Heights (enrollment around 1,430) is a member of the Hoosier Heritage Conference (with Delta, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, New Castle, New Palestine, Shelbyville and Yorktown). In 2021, the Arabians were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon of Fortville, Muncie Central and Richmond. Pendleton Heights has won 17 sectional crowns — the last in 2018. Pendleton Junior Baseball — with Todd Miller as president — helps prepare future PHHS players as does the Indiana Arabians travel team and other travel teams in the community. “It’s a such a huge asset,” says Vosburgh. “Those people work really, really hard. “Baseball is such an important part of Pendleton. People take a lot of pride in that.” While no current Pendleton Heights players have made college baseball commitments, there are several recent graduates who have taken that route, including right-handed pitcher Chayce McDermott (2017 PHHS graduate who played at Ball State University and was selected in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Houston Astros). There’s also Arturo Casas (Manchester University), Rene Casas Jr. (Anderson University), Mitchell Cobb (Manchester University), Corbin Cox (Heartland Community College and University of Indianapolis), Evan Douglas (Ivy Tech Northeast), Wyatt Douglas (Ivy Tech Northeast and Taylor University), Kamden Earley (Wabash College), Jake Harris (Danville Area Community College), Philip Lawson (Anderson University), Maverik Mollemkopf (Manchester University), Ben Richards (Texas Post Grad), Eston Stull (Indiana University Kokomo and Southeastern University), Walker Stull (Anderson University), Matt Vetor (Hanover College) and C.J. Williams (Manchester University). Vosburgh played two varsity season for coach Jeff LeBeau at Tri-County. “He took as much pride in the field as anybody and instilled a work ethic and discipline,” says Vosburgh of LeBeau. “We had high standards and still had fun while we were playing.”
Austin Earley is going to be busy in 2021-22 as a varsity coach in two sports, a teacher, husband and father. Earley was hired in June as head baseball coach at Daleville (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School. He was junior varsity coach for the Broncos in 2018 and 2019, would have been a varsity assistant in 2020 (a season taken away by COVID-19) and did serve in that position in 2021 on the staff of Terry Turner, who retired after that campaign. Daleville won IHSAA Class 1A state championships on Turner’s watch in 2016 and 2018. “Coach Turner is definitely a baseball enthusiast and he loved being part of the high school game and having relationships with the kids,” says Earley. “He related things to life. A lot of things he did we’re going to continue to do.” Earley expects to field varsity and junior varsity teams in 2022. “We lost eight seniors and are bringing in eight or nine freshmen,” says Earley. “It’s a balancing act with total innings.” The winter of 2020-21 marked Earley’s first season as head girls basketball coach at Daleville. He was junior varsity boys basketball coach under Broncos head coach Tyler Stoller from 2017-18 to 2019-20. With Bryce Drew as head coach, Earley served as head manager for the Valparaiso (Ind.) University men’s basketball team, graduating from VU in 2015. Earley credits the experience in shaping him as a coach and person. “It instilled the philosophy of servant leadership,” says Earley. “I try to convey that to all my kids. Even as the head coach I don’t consider myself to be above anybody. “You never know who’s watching.” He played one season of baseball at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. (2012), then transferred to Valpo U. During the school day, Earley teaches physical education for Grades 7-12. Austin and wife of seven years, Ellie, have an adopted son named Dukane (who turns 4 in October). Austin is a 2011 graduate of Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School, where he was a four-year outfielder for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Stoudt. “Coach Stoudt — to this day — is a big mentor for me,” says Earley. “He’s one of the first persons I talked to when I got (the job as Daleville head baseball coach). He’s a lifelong friend and lifelong mentor.” Earley appreciates the discipline and organization Stoudt brought to Arabians baseball. “Down to the smallest detail he had a plan mapped out,” says Earley. An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16 and Earley has been leading baseball players two times a week. “We’re doing the best we can,” says Earley, who coaches at a school with an enrollment around 275. “We’ve got quite a few shared athletes and we started soccer (at Daleville) this year.” High school and junior high players have been at fall baseball activities. Spring baseball for Grades 6-8 was started at the school in 2019. “We’re trying to continue and build the legacy of Daleville baseball,” says Earley, who is assisted by Jake Sorenson, Curtis Wilson and Elliott Jackson. Daleville is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del). In 2021, the Broncos were part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. Daleville has won 11 sectional titles — the last in 2019. Recent Daleville graduates to move on to college baseball include Evan Etchison (Grace College), Cayden Gothrup (Ball State University), Ryan Hale (Huntington University), Josh Price (Anderson University), Peyton Smith (Goshen College), Max Stecher (Indiana University Southeast), Jared Waltermire (Crown College in Saint Bonifacius, Minn.) and Ayden Wilson (Indiana Wesleyan University).
Tommy Sommer knows the value of speed and pitch movement. But the 10th-round selection in the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox also sees the value in poise under pressure. Now 22. Sommer has been doing it since he was young. “I have really good feel for the game and I’ve always been good at managing situations,” says Sommer, who pitched four seasons (2018-21) at Indiana University. “All those things come naturally to me. “Velocity and off-speed pitches are important, but handling emotions is taken for granted,” says Somer. “All of that stuff is an asset to me. “My dad is a big inspiration. He was a pro athlete. I’ve been in locker rooms since 3 and 4 years old.” Tommy was in some high-pressure moments during his travel ball days with the Indiana Bulls and saw his father — former soccer goalkeeper Juergen Sommer — on some big stages. The elder Juergen, who shined at Culver Military Academy and IU, earned 10 caps on the U.S. National Team, and was he first American goalie to play in the FA Premier League. Juergen was playing for Major League Soccer’s Columbus (Ohio) Crew when oldest son Tommy was born and the New England Revolution (Boston) when youngest son Noah (now 19 and a Pre-Medical student at Vanderbilt University) came into the world. He has coached keepers for the U.S. Men’s National team and for the Indy Eleven and runs Carmel FC. Tommy Sommer played soccer while growing up, but fell in love with the diamond. “Baseball has carved a great path for me,” says Sommer, who has done from playing wiffleball in the back yard in Columbus with mother Susie (who is now a realtor) to T-ball at First Baptist Church after the family moved to Carmel, Ind., to travel ball (Smithville Gators, Indiana Nitro and then the Indiana Bulls in high school — three summers with Dave Taylor as head coach and two with Sean Laird at 16U and 17U). “(Taylor) let us grow as baseball players and would teach from mistakes,” says Sommer. “(Laird) was more hands-on. He wanted you to put your best foot forward and hold yourself accountable. “He wanted you to be more aggressive. You’re going after something (a college scholarship or pro contract) and developing a future in the game.” Sommer graduated in 2017 from Carmel High School, where he played three seasons for Dan Roman and one for Matt Buczkowski. He appreciates the opportunities afforded by both Greyhounds bench bosses. When it came deciding on college, Sommer was more than familiar with IU with his family’s ties to the school. “We had family gatherings in Brown County,” says Sommer. “It was almost too comfortable.” He was enticed by offers from Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference schools, but Sommer saw in Indiana the chance to play right away in the competitive Big Ten Conference. He played one season with Chris Lemonis as head coach and Kyle Bunn as pitching coach and three with Jeff Mercer and Justin Parker in those roles. Sommer made 45 mound appearances (24 as a starter) with a 13-9 record, two saves and a 3.17 earned run average. In 157 2/3 innings, he struck out 160 and walked 71. He helped the Hoosiers win the Big Ten regular-season title in 2019. In 2021, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder made 12 starts and went 5-4 with a 4.60 ERA. He fanned 69 and walked 38 in 62 2/3 innings. He also earned a Finance degree from IU’s Kelley School of Business in May. Prior to the MLB Draft, Sommer pitched three innings for the Cape Cod League’s Falmouth Commodores. He was on the Cape when the White Sox picked him and is now at a mini-camp in Birmingham, Ala. After that, some will go to Glendale, Ariz., and on to affiliate teams. The top four farm teams in the system are the Low Class-A Kannapolis (N.C.) Cannon Ballers, High Class-A Winston-Salem (N.C.) Dash, Double-A Birmingham Barons and Triple-A Charlotte (N.C.) Knights. After a shortened 2020 season at IU because of COVID-19, Sommer pitched in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. “It was fun toe play with kids I played with or against for a decade,” says Sommer. “It was a unique experience.” He also got the chance to work with pitching instructor Jay Lehr at Pro X Athlete Development at Grand Park. In the winter, Sommer had gone to The Barn in Lapel and got pointers from White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Shirley and White Sox area scout Justin Wechsler, a Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School graduate who pitched at Ball State University and in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. In 2019, Sommer was a substitute arm for the Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex while also rehabbing from knee surgery and training with Lehr. The lefty was with the Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers in the summer of 2018. Sommer throws a four-seam fastball which sits between 88 to 92 mph. He also employs a cutter which runs away from left-handed batters and into right-handers. “I want to induce weak contact,” says Sommer of the cutter. “It’s a good pitch in counts where someone is hunting a fastball. “You get them off thinking they’re in a dead-red fastball count.” The change-up is where Sommer gets strikeouts in the bottom of the strike zone. “It spins sideways and drops off the table,” says Sommer. “There is vertical depth and halo spin. It’s the opposite of a gyro ball.” Sommer mixes in his curve to let hitters know that’s a part of his arsenal.
Connecting baseball players who wish to play at the next level with coaches seeking talent is something that the Crossroads Baseball Series has been doing for more than a decade.
Started in 2008 by former Indiana University and professional infielder Eric Blakeley as an outgrowth of his Diamond Kings training business in northwest Indiana, CBS has grown to include showcases, tournaments and fall leagues in numerous states.
Blakeley ran Diamond Kings — former Griffith (Ind.) High School and Tulane University standout and current Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer Kody Hoese was one of his early pupils — for about a decade.
Crossroads Baseball Series began as a way for “Region” area players to have exposure events without traveling to Indianapolis or Chicago.
The first CBS event held at Gary’s U.S. Steel Yard include future big league pitcher Sean Manaea. Blakeley notes that 85 of the 87 players involved went on to play college baseball.
At Crossroads Baseball Series showcases, players work out in front of college coaches and play in prospect games against top recommended players.
There are 17 tournaments on the 2021 calendar with events in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. Many of these are for 14U to 18U players.
“We’re on the verge of growing our tournament space,” says Blakeley, CEO/President of Baseball Operations for Crossroads Baseball Series. “There’s a high demand for quality tournaments that don’t cost $2,000. We try to stay around $1,000 price point.”
Blakeley says college coaches can get on an RSVP list and attend events and receive information from them.
Rosters are collected and each player fills out an information form. Coaches have full access to this for free.
CBS provides social media coverage for recruiters and players’ families to share.
“We pride ourselves on educating the families,” says Blakeley. “We can get your names out there.
“The players have to do their research and count the schools that match (their choices).”
What Crossroads Baseball Series does, according to Blakeley, makes it easier for players to communicate with college coaches and do their research.
Blakeley emphasizes that college coaches will know if a player has done his homework on his program.
It is even more important now that the competition for roster spots has become even more fierce with many players staying in college baseball longer thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the smaller MLB Draft.
“It’s become a lot more competitive to get into these schools — academically and athletically,” says Blakeley.
The words of former Indiana University and current Arizona State University head coach Tracy Smith ring true with Blakeley.
“If you want to play college baseball, there’s a place for you,” says Blakeley. “You just need to do your research and go to camps.”
Travis Keesling, former head coach at Pendleton Heights High School, is Vice President of Baseball Operations for CBS after starting out as a coach selecting players for a showcase.
“Travis has a very good baseball background,” says Blakeley. “He knows the game very well.”
Keesling deals with finding on-field personnel, RSVPing college coaches and the overall vision of the company. He and Blakeley talk on a daily basis.
Nelson Gord, a former minor league opponent to Blakeley who resides in Illinois and is Director of Baseball for NCSA (Next College Student Athlete), is also Director of Recruiting Education for Crossroads Baseball Series.
“He’ll come to events and speak to parents about the recruiting process,” says Blakeley of Gord.
NCSA had purchased a platform called Coach Packet and CBS now has its own app that incorporates video, social media and results to the same player profile. College coaches are given access to this information.
“I was fortunate to have good coaches for high school and summer ball,” says Blakeley. “I got hit by pitch and broke my arm and did not play junior year of high school.”
The righty-swinging infielder wound up at Indiana through a relationship his coach had with Hoosiers head coach Bob Morgan.
“He taught you some things about life,” says Blakeley. “There’s nothing easy about getting through a practice with Bob Morgan.
“He taught you accountability and taking care of yourself.”
As much as the process has changed over the year, one things has remained constant.
“It was word-of-mouth then and it’s still that way today,” says Blakeley. Coaches want to hear from coaches who they consider trustworthy and whose opinion they respect. “What has changed is technology. There is accessibility and instant updates now.”
Another change is the age of those being seriously pursued by recruiters.
“Recruiting has gotten a lot earlier,” says Blakeley. “When we started Crossroads in 2008, every single of the players had not made their college choice yet and were juniors going into their senior year. Ten years later, eighth graders were (verbally) committing going into their freshmen year.”
Those questions were answered as IHSAA Executive Committee minutes from Feb. 19 were released March 8.
According to the IHSAA website, Assistant Commissioner Robert Faulkens reported on the general format, sites and other preliminary plans for the 2020-21 Baseball Tournament Series.
Faulkens was notified by the Indianapolis Indians that their schedule is now set by Major League Baseball rather than the International League and has the team set for home games on the dates of this year’s IHSAA State Finals. The plan now will be to play this year’s state championship games on the following Monday and Tuesday (June 21-22).
The first IHSAA practice date is March 15. The first contest date is March 29.
Sectionals Class 4A 1. Merrillville (6): East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central, Merrillville, Munster. 2. Chesterton (7): Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell, Portage, Valparaiso. 3. Plymouth (6): LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Plymouth, South Bend Adams, South Bend Riley. 4. Northridge (6): Concord, Elkhart, Goshen, Northridge, Penn, Warsaw Community. 5. Carroll (Fort Wayne) (5): Carroll (Fort Wayne), DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider
6. Huntington North (6): Columbia City, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead, Huntington North. 7. Lafayette Jefferson (5): Harrison (West Lafayette), Kokomo, Lafayette Jefferson, Logansport, McCutcheon. 8. Westfield (6): Carmel, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield, Zionsville. 9. Pendleton Heights (6): Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central, Pendleton Heights, Richmond.
10. Ben Davis (7): Ben Davis, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, Indianapolis Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike 11. Warren Central (6): Franklin Central, New Palestine, Perry Meridian, , Roncalli, Southport, Warren Central. 12. Plainfield (6): Avon, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Plainfield, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo. 13. Mooresville (6): Center Grove, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Whiteland Community. 14. Bloomington North (6): Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central, Shelbyville. 15. New Albany (6): Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany, Seymour. 16. Evansville F.J. Reitz (6): Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Jasper.
Class 3A 17. Griffith (6): Calumet, Gary West Side, Griffith, Hammond, Hammond Clark, Hammond Gavit. 18. Kankakee Valley (6): Culver Academies, Glenn, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox, River Forest. 19. South Bend Clay (5): Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Clay, South Bend Saint Joseph, South Bend Washington. 20. Northwestern (7): Benton Central, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette, Western.
21. Wawasee (6): Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wawasee, West Noble. 22. Garrett (7): Angola, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Garrett, Leo, New Haven. 23. Bellmont (6): Bellmont, Heritage, Marion, Mississinewa, Norwell, Oak Hill. 24. Yorktown (6): Delta, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle, Yorktown. 25. North Montgomery (6): Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Northview, South Vermillion.
26. Brebeuf Jesuit (5): Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory, Danville Community, Greencastle, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Tri-West Hendricks. 27. Beech Grove (5): Beech Grove, Herron, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Indianapolis Emmerich Manual, Indianapolis Shortridge. 28. Owen Valley (6): Brown County, Edgewood, Indian Creek, Owen Valley, Sullivan, West Vigo. 29. Lawrenceburg (7): Batesville, Connersville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated, South Dearborn. 30. Silver Creek (8): Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg, Silver Creek. 31. Southridge (6): Gibson Southern, Pike Central, Princeton Community, Southridge, Vincennes Lincoln, Washington
Class 2A 33. Whiting (6): Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary Roosevelt, Hammond Bishop Noll, Lake Station Edison, Wheeler, Whiting.
34. Hebron (6): Boone Grove, Hebron, North Judson-San Pierre, North Newton, Rensselaer Central, Winamac Community. 35. Westview (6): Bremen, Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille, Prairie Heights, Westview. 36. Eastside (6): Adams Central, Bluffton, Churubusco, Eastside, South Adams, Woodlan. 37. Wabash (6): Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Manchester, Rochester Community, Wabash, Whitko. 38. Delphi (6): Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community, Fountain Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger, Western Boone. 39. Eastern (Greentown) (6): Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant, Taylor, Tipton. 40. Lapel (8): Alexandria Monroe, Elwood Community, Frankton, Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris, Wapahani, Winchester Community. 41. Centerville (5): Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah, Union County. 42. Heritage Christian (6): Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown, Triton Central. 43. Cascade (6): Cascade, Covenant Christian (Indpls), Monrovia, Park Tudor, Speedway, University. 44. Southmont (5): Cloverdale, North Putnam, Parke Heritage, South Putnam, Southmont. 45. South Ripley (6): Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover), Switzerland County. 46. Eastern (Pekin) (6): Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin), Henryville, Providence.
47. Mitchell (6): Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli, South Knox. 48. Tell City (6): Evansville Mater Dei, Forest Park, North Posey, Perry Central, South Spencer, Tell City.
Class 1A 49. Washington Township (8): 21st Century Charter-Gary, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Kouts, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township, Westville.
50. LaCrosse (7): Argos, Culver Community, LaCrosse, Oregon-Davis, South Bend Career Academy, South Central (Union Mills), Triton. 51. Fremont (7): Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont, Hamilton, Lakewood Park Christian 52. Caston (7): Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield, Pioneer, Southwood, West Central. 53. Riverton Parke (5): Attica, Covington, Faith Christian, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke. 54. Frontier (6): Clinton Central, Frontier, Rossville, Sheridan, South Newton, Tri-County. 55. Liberty Christian (7): Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central, Wes-Del. 56. Seton Catholic (6): Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Randolph Southern, Seton Catholic, Tri, Union City. 57. White River Valley (6): Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak, White River Valley 58. Bethesda Christian (6): Bethesda Christian, Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Providence Cristo Rey, Tindley, Traders Point Christian. 59. Morristown (6): Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown, Southwestern (Shelbyville), Waldron. 60. Jac-Cen-Del (6): Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy, Rising Sun, Trinity Lutheran. 61. South Central (Elizabeth) (5): Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Lanesville, Orleans, South Central (Elizabeth). 62. West Washington (4): Crothersville, New Washington, Shawe Memorial, West Washington. 63. North Daviess (5): Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Daviess, Shoals, Vincennes Rivet. 64. Northeast Dubois (5): Cannelton, Northeast Dubois, Springs Valley, Tecumseh, Wood Memorial.
1. LaPorte Feeder Sectionals: Chesterton, LaPorte, Merrillville, Northridge. 2. Kokomo Feeder Sectionals: DeKalb, Huntington North, Lafayette Jefferson, Westfield. 3. Plainfield Feeder Sectionals: Ben Davis Pendleton Heights, Terre Haute South Vigo, Warren Central. 4. Jasper Feeder Sectionals: Bloomington North, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Jennings County, Mooresville.
5. Griffith Feeder Sectionals: Griffith, Kankakee Valley, South Bend Clay, Northwestern. 6. Bellmont Feeder Sectionals: Wawasee, Garrett, Bellmont, Yorktown. 7. Danville Feeder Sectionals: Beech Grove, Brebeuf Jesuit, North Montgomery, Owen Valley. 8. Southridge Feeder Sectionals: Evansville Bosse, Lawrenceburg, Silver Creek, Southridge.
10. Lafayette Central Catholic Feeder Sectionals: Delphi, Eastern (Greentown), Lapel, Wabash. 11. Park Tudor/Cascade Feeder Sectionals: Cascade, Centerville, Heritage Christian, Southmont. 12. Evansville Mater Dei (Bosse Field) Feeder Sectionals: Eastern (Pekin), Mitchell, South Ripley, Tell City.
13. South Bend Washington Feeder Sectionals: Caston, Fremont, LaCrosse, Washington Township. 14. Carroll (Flora) Feeder Sectionals: Frontier, Liberty Christian, Riverton Parke, Seton Catholic. 15. Morristown Feeder Sectionals: Bethesda Christian, Jac-Cen-Del, Morristown, White River Valley. 16. Lanesville Feeder Sectionals: North Daviess, Northeast Dubois, South Central (Elizabeth), West Washington.
1. LaPorte 2. Kokomo 3. Mooresville
Victory Field (Indianapolis), 501 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis The eight (8) winning teams of the semi-state tourneys shall constitute the participants in the state tourney.
At 62 and in a year where he lost his wife, Tyner has a different perspective.
“I’m pretty intense as a competitor,” says Tyner. “As you age you don’t lose your intensity, it becomes a different kind of focus. I’m a little more cerebral. Yelling and screaming might have worked in the ‘90s. That doesn’t work now. You have to think about who you’re talking to.
“Hopefully I’ve calmed down. As you mature, you go from thinking it’s your team to how can I serve the kid? Or how can I share the information I’ve learned in my 40 years in the game?”
It’s a horizontal relationship. Tyner lets his assistants take their strengths and run with them.
“I’m not ego-driven anymore,” says Tyner. “We can all learn something from each other and coaches and kids benefit.”
Coaching friends — like Tony Vittorio — are quick to point out when Tyner might lose sight of what his job is.
“I’m a father first and a coach second,” says Tyner. “I don’t have just one son, I have 38 his year. I’m older than all my coaches, so I have more even more sons.”
Tyner was a standout in Decatur, Ill., playing for Ray DeMoulin (a bird dog scout for the Cincinnati Reds who allowed Tyner to try out at 15) at MacAthur High School and Lee Handley (who played in the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers systems) as American Legion manager.
The coin came up heads. Tyner went to Florida, made the Hurricanes roster and played on College World Series teams in 1978, 1979 and 1980, earning Baskin Robbins Player of the Year honors in that final season.
At Miami, Tyner was around coaching legends Ron Fraser and Skip Bertman. The young outfielder marveled at how the two baseball minds could anticipate what was going to happen in a game.
“How did they do that?” says Tyner. who refers to Bertman as a walking baseball encyclopedia. “I hovered closed to him. His sixth sense was incredible.”
Fraser called them the “Miami Greyhounds.”
“I felt I was on a track team,” says Tyner. “That’s how much we ran. We were in shape.”
Before the current 56-game spring limit in NCAA Division I, Miami typically played more than 100 games counting fall and spring.
In 1981, he enjoyed his best offensive and worst defensive season. The parent Orioles had decided to move Cal Ripken Jr. from third base to shortstop and decided to make Tyner into a third sacker. But the hot corner proved pretty hot for him and he made 20 errors in 51 games at third for the Hagerstown Suns.
Fans down both baselines let him know about it with a group of ladies on the third base side pointing out the places where the ball struck the “human dartboard.” Hagerstown spectators donned hard hats on the first base side in case of errant Tyner throws.
His roommate on the road was pitcher Julian Gonzalez. During a game in Salem, Va., after Tyner committed his third error, Hagerstown manager Grady Little came to the mound. Gonzalez told the skipper that his roomie had to go.
There was a bus accident the first weekend of season. The vehicle landed on its side.
“I felt something pop in my back way down low,” says Tyner. “24 hours later I couldn’t move. I missed over 30 games that summer.
At the plate, Tyner was locked in, hitting .301 with 31 home runs and 113 runs batted for the Suns in 1981.
After that, Tyner went back to the outfield where he vied with Drungo Hazewood for the unofficial title of best arm in the Orioles organization.
He would go on to belt 79 home runs in 365 games, playing for Hagerstown in 1981 and 1983 and the Charlotte O’s in 1982 and 1983. Multiple surgeries for bone chips in his right elbow put and end to Tyner’s pro career.
“I put my arm through a little bit of abuse,” says Tyner. “I was a quarterback and pitched in high school. Who knows what I did? It didn’t fail me for five more years. At Miami, I had a really good arm.”
“I’m not sure it gets much better than that,” says Tyner.
It was while coming to Indianapolis to finish his degree at Concordia University that Tyner connected with Butler head coach Steve Farley and began coaching for the Bulldogs. The first go-round, he was on Farley’s staff from 1993-97.
A relationship with the Bulls led to the press box and stands that are there to this day.
At the time, Dave Taylor was president of the organization and Craig Moore was head coach of the 17U team. Tyner started out with the 15U squad.
After coaching four years at Butler making $325 per semester, Tyner decided it was time to make money for his family — wife Laura, daughter Lindsay and son Matthew and got into communication sales and real estate.
Lindsay Dempsey, who is worked as a Registered Nurse, is now 36, married with two children and living Switzerland. Matthew Tyner, 33, is married and a finance and operations manager in Indianapolis.
When Matthew became a teenager, the Bulls approached his father about coaching a new 13U team with Jeremy Guler. The next year, Matt Tyner and Jeff Jamerson coached their sons Matthew and Jason on the 14U Bulls.
“We had top-shelf athletes way ahead of their time,” says Tyner of a team that featured future pros Lance Lynn (Brownsburg), Tommy Hunter (Cathedral) and J.B. Paxson (Center Grove). “It was fun to watch them play.”
“He imparted so much baseball knowledge on these kids,” says Tyner of Alexander, who was integral current baseball fields at Purdue University as well as Indianapolis Bishop Chatard High School, where Matthew Tyner played for Trojans head coach Mike Harmon and graduated in 2005. “What a treat that was.”
A few years later, Matt Tyner got the itch to coach baseball again. This time Farley could pay him a living wage and he went back to work at Butler in August 2007. Pendleton Heights graduate Jason Jamerson was a Bulldog senior in 2009.
“They made me feel like a king and there was one great speaker after the next for 2 1/2 days,” says Tyner. “As a coach you can’t be everything to everybody. But I’m going to use this nugget and I’m going to use that nugget.
“That’s money well-spent.”
In the summer of 2010, Tyner was offered the head coaching position at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. Knights athletic director Scott Wiegandt had been a Triple-A Louisville teammate of Tracy Woodson, a former big league third baseman, Fort Wayne Wizards manager who was then Valparaiso University head coach.
Farley, Woodson and University of Indianapolis head coach Gary Vaught gave Tyner their endorsement.
“We made some serious strides in that program,” says Tyner, who coached then-NCAA Division II Bellarmine to 26-26 and 27-23 marks in 2011 and 2012 with a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and an appearance in the regional tournament championship game against the Grand Valley State University the second year.
Brandon Tormoehlen, now head coach at Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School, was on Tyner’s coaching staff.
Woodson became head coach at the University of Richmond (Va.) and called Tyner to be his recruiting coordinator and hitting coach. It was a post he held for four seasons.
“We had some pretty strong offensive teams,” says Tyner of his time with the Spiders.
Then Towson reached out and hit Tyner was an offer to be the Tigers head coach.
“The first two years at Towson was a challenge for all of us,” says Tyner, who saw his teams go 13-42 in 2018 and 14-39 in 2019. “We are process-driven and not results-driven. Took awhile for those entrenched in a different system to get it.
“Last year was their chance to shine.”
Indianapolis native Laura Anne Tyner passed away Feb. 10 in her hometown and Matt took a leave of absence at Towson. Matt and Laura were wed in 1983. She taught children with special needs and spent 20 years in real estate management.
With former Butler and Purdue University assistant Miller running the team, the 2020 Towson Tigers went 7-8 before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Tyner went down to see the team play in the opener of a weekend series in Miami. It turned out to be a pitchers’ dual. The Hurricanes held on for a 2-1 Feb. 28 victory. Freshman catcher Burke Camper just barely missed a home run in the top of the ninth inning.
“It was a game for the ages,” says Tyner. “It was unbelievable for me to watch and be a part of.”
A few days later, it was decided between Tyner and Towson athletic director Tim Leonard that the coach would come back to the program in mid-March.
“I needed baseball more than baseball needed me,” says Tyner, who got back in time to see the season prematurely halted with the campus being closed and all classes going online. He came back to Indianapolis.
When things opened back up, players were placed in summer leagues. This fall, the Tigers worked out with social distancing and other COVID precautions.
“It was the most competitive for all of us since I’ve been here,” says Tyner. “We have a chance to be pretty good (2021).”
Towson is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. The Tigers are not fully-funded. There are 6.2 scholarships available and the NCAA Division I limit is 11.7.
“God love the AD and president of this university (Tim Leonard and Dr. Kim Schaztel),” says Tyner. “They’ve done a phenomenal job of keeping us afloat.
After serving four seasons (2004-07) as a Scots junior varsity coach on the staff of Highland head coach Jason Stecher (current to Turner at Daleville (Ind.) High School and son of long-time Highland head coach Bob Stecher, who retired with more than 500 victories), Leyva was a varsity assistant for three years with Bair (2008-10).
So it was a natural when Bair took over as head baseball coach at Anderson University that he’d reach out to his friend.
“We really hit it off (at Highland) then he asked me to come with him to AU,” says Leyva. “We were getting the band back together.”
The 2020 Anderson season – though it was shortened to nine games because of the COVID-19 pandemic — was the third on Leyva with the Ravens.
His duties include working with outfielders, base running and assisting Bair with hitters. He also coaches first base when AU is at the plate.
Leyva has keys for his outfielders.
“The most important thing we can do is re-direct the ball back to the infield,” says Leyva. “We can shut down the other team’s offense.
“We focus on three goals at all times — keep the double play in order, limit the offense to one base at a time and with balls in the ground we’re 100 percent (no errors).”
The stolen base is a major part of Ravens baseball.
“We got progressively better as we implemented our system,” says Leyva. “We take pride in our base running.
“In a game where the defense has the ball we can take some control back on offense. We’re constantly studying what the game is giving us to see where we can find an advantage.”
Anderson, a member of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, swiped 105 bases in 45 games in 2018. Once Leyva and Bair had their system in place, the team lost to one of the more prolific teams in NCAA Division III, pilfering 109 in 37 games in 2019 and heisting 42 in nine contests in 2020.
“As a rule of thumb, the entire team has the green light,” says Leyva. “We live on those opportunities we’re creating.”
Bair runs the overall hitting system, including small group work in practice. Leyva spends time on the offensive side the outfielders.
“That was awesome, spending time in the dugout with a Hall of Famer,” says Leyva of his experience with Indiana High school Baseball Coaches Association enshrinee Stoudt.
Leyva says Keesling’s ability to leverage the abilities of his coaching staff is one of his strengths.
“He had a football mentality with position coaches,” says Leyva. “He let the infield guy be the infield guy (and so on). He took over that managerial role of figuring out how to best put those pieces together.
“You see staffs being put together that way all over the country. He was early to that concept.”
Leyva fondly looks back on his days playing at Madison Heights for Nikirk (who is now secondary school principal at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis).
“He was really big on personal responsibility and accountability and was really fair,” says Leyva. “He gave the guys opportunities.
“Those are qualities I’ve carried forward in my coaching career.”
Leyva has also coached travel baseball. He was co-founder and a head coach of the Indiana Magic in 2011-12 and was an assistant to Ryan Bunnell with Indiana Bulls 16U in 2013, Mike Farrell with the Indiana Outlaws (an organization started by Jay Hundley which is now part of Evoshield Canes Midwest) in 2014 and Mike Hitt with the Indiana Blue Jays 2015-17.
The Magic was comprised of players from Madison and surrounding counties and won 60 games in two summers.
Besides leading a Bulls team, Bunnell is also head coach at Westfield (Ind.) High School.
Farrell, who played at Indiana State University, is a veteran instructor and a scouting supervisor for the Kansas City Royals.
“That may have been as much fun as I’ve had in baseball.” says Leyva of his time coaching the Blue Jays. “We were a single (18U) team. The roster was all guys committed to playing college baseball at a high level and there were no egos.
“We just had a blast playing really good baseball. We were like 60-5 in three years.”
After graduating from Madison Heights, Leyva attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., for two years then transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington. He majored in Computer Information Systems and is a 2000 graduate of IU’s Kelley School of Business and has worked since 2008 for IBM as a System Storage Enterprise Client Technical Specialist.
Carlos and Julie Leyva have three children — fourth grader Mia (10), second grader Izzy (8) and kindergartener Cruz (7). Julie is on the front lines of the pandemic as a nurse practitioner.
Carlos Leyva has been an assistant baseball coach at Anderson (Ind.) University since the 2018 season. (Anderson University Photo)