But there are still plenty of Indiana connections for the former pitcher.
Thompson is a 2000 graduate of Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., where he was a Liberal Studies major and Business minor while pitching for head coaches Sam Riggleman (1998 and 1999) and Mike Hutcheon (2000) learning from Bethel assistant and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dick Siler.
As an elementary student, Thompson was always writing out lineups and plays. At first all he wanted to do was play baseball. When that time was over, he turned his attention to coaching.
“I’ve always loved baseball and sports,” says Thompson. “God’s gifted me in that capacity.”
Thompson is a 1995 graduate of Cowden-Herrick Senior High School in central Illinois. His graduating class had 33 students. With too few boys to have a football team, the Bobcats played conference games in the fall and the rest of the schedule in the spring with a healthy American Legion schedule in the summer.
Left-hander Stults, an Argos (Ind.) High School graduate, was in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
Right-hander Humen also pitched at Rice University and Oral Roberts University and made it to Double-A with the Miami Marlins and also logged mound time in the Kansas City Royals system and in independent ball.
Left-hander Kloosterman, an Elkhart Central graduate, competed in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
Before leaving for Air Force, Hutcheon and Thompson recruited Justin Masterson out of Ohio to attend Bethel. They later faced him in the Mountain West Conference when Masterson transferred to San Diego State University. He went on to pitched in the bigs for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals.
At MNU, Thompson’s coaching staff includes former Huntington (Ind.) University pitcher and Taylor University (Upland, Ind.) assistant Colton Punches as pitching coach. He was recommended by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould.
Cam Screeton, a Rochester (Ind.) High School and Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, Ind.) graduate and former head coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., is a graduate assistant working with MNU Pioneers hitters.
In a program with around 60 players (varsity and junior varsity), Elkhart Central alum Brycen Sherwood (Craig Sherwood’s nephew) is a sophomore second baseman and Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate Jake Bisland is a sophomore catcher.
Chad Jenkins, a teammate and roommate of Thompson at Bethel, is MNU’s Sports Information Director.
Thanks to Jenkins’ efforts, the Pioneers stream home baseball games in HD with a center field camera.
MNU’s last game before the shutdown of the 2020 season was March 13. Thompson opted to start the 2021 campaign Jan. 29 at Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas.
“It’s a little out of my comfort zone and not ideal, but we’ve been off long enough,” says Thompson of the early start. The Pioneers, a member of the NAIA and the Heart of America Athletic Conference, typically open in mid-February.
Players left campus at Thanksgiving and are due back Jan. 10 for COVID-19 protocol with the first practice Jan. 10 and in-person classes resuming Jan. 12.
The other Indiana connection is at home. Ryan’s wife Kristie is a graduate of NorthWood High School in Nappanee, Ind. The Thompsons have six homeschooled children (three boys followed by three girls) — Ty (15), Kade (13), Beau (11), Bailee (9), Kamryn (8) and Taylor (6). A homeschool hook-up on Fridays in Olathe has allowed the kids to explore different sports.
“I’m a humongous believer in owning that inside part of the plate with the fastball,” says Welliever. “It seems to have worked.
“If you can throw the inside fastball, every other pitch is available to you.”
Welliever wants his hurlers to employ solid mechanics. But he is also unique in today’s deviating from today’s prevelant approach.
“My pitchers are always working on stuff, stuff, stuff,” says Welliever, who knows his players enjoy throwing hard. “Most people work on location, location, location.”
Welliever has his catchers set up on the inside black for bullpens about 60-70 percent of the time. Many of his hurlers go hard in and soft away though some have done the opposite.
“It’s OK if once in awhile you hit a batter,” says Welliever. “Don’t get upset.”
Breaking balls are also thrown hard.
“We’re trying to create as much spin on that ball so it breaks as late as possible and the hitter has the least amount of time to react to it,” says Welliever. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Welliever has his pitchers build arm strength with long toss and with burnouts aka pulldowns.
The 2008 Crawfordsville pitching staff racked up 397 (No. 3 in the IHSBCA Record Book; No. 1 Lafayette Jeff fanned 450 in 43 games in 1971).
Steven Rice fanned 198 batters in 2009 and finished his Athenians career (2007-10) with 521 K’s.
Welliever worked alongside brother-in-law and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Froedge through 2020.
“One of John’s strengths teaching the fundamentals of fielding,” says Welliever. “(Strong defense) helps pitchers.
“It gives them confidence to attack the hitters and throw strikes.”
Brett Motz, a 1995 Crawfordsville graduate, is now Athenians head coach. Motz played at the University of Evansville, served as a graduate assistant at Purdue University and was head coach at North Putnam High School before returning to his alma mater, where he is also the strength & conditioning coach.
The Athenians won Class 3A state championships in 2008 (32-4) and 2011 (29-6).
What keeps Welliever coming back?
“It’s working with the kids and getting them to the point where they’re confident about themselves,” says Welliever. “It’s seeing them succeed in baseball and in life.”
He has witnessed many former players giving back to the community as coaches at the youth and high school levels.
“It is the most satisfying thing,” says Welliever, who grew up around New Market, Ind., and is a 1980 graduate of Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, where he played baseball for Mounties head coach George Davis and counted Froedge and the Taylor twins — Dave and Dan — as teammates. Dave Taylor went on to help found the Indiana Bulls travel organization.
“We played a lot of baseball together,” says Welliever. “It was a really special group of guys.”
Dan Welliever, Rhett’s father, taught junior high and was a wrestling head coach and an assistant in baseball, football and softball at Crawfordsville.
Jamie Welliever, Rhett’s brother, is retired from teaching and has spent two tenures each as head baseball and head wrestling coach at Southmont.
Landon McBride (New Palestine)
A middle school coach for five years (seventh and eighth grade teams often play up to 20 games while feeding the high school program), Landon McBride joined the New Palestine High School staff for the 2007 season. He is the Dragons infield coach and helps with hitters on a staff led since 2012 by Shawn Lyons.
“The thing that jumps out at me the most about Coach Lyons is his absolute passion for his kids,” says McBride. “If you’re not in the inner circle you may not see that. But he does a great job of having his finger no the pulse of where our team is at and where each individual is at.”
McBride sees Lyons as steady.
“He doesn’t get too high; He doesn’t get too low,” says McBride. “He tries to keep our players on that even-keel, knowing there’s going to be ups and downs everyday.”
On game days, McBride serves as Lyons’ right-hand man, bouncing lineups off one another and trading ideas about strategy while also coaching first base.
McBride emphasizes fundamentals when it comes to his infielders fielding ground balls.
“We’re getting reps in every day — the way we think is the right way,” says McBride. “With hitting, we believe in going the other way. We’re utilizing our speed, bunt and steal bases when we can.”
McBride regularly throws batting practice.
“I’m 59 but I’m still chucking it in there,” says McBride. “I try to give them a little sense of velocity (by moving the L screen closer to the plate.”
When the varsity field is not available, New Pal baseball has been able to use the turf football field for long toss, tracking fly balls and taking grounders.
A 1980 graduate of Marshall High School in Indianapolis where he played three seasons for Bob Tremain and one for Brad Goffinet, McBride was a four-year player for Lynn Morrell at Marian University in Indianapolis — at the time an independent NAIA program.
McBride says he appreciates the discipline, structure and attention to detail that Tremain and Goffinet brought to Redskins baseball.
“(Coach Morrell) liked getting the ball into play and swinging away,” says McBride. “It was the pure joy of being around the game.”
Landon, a partner in Indiana Property Services which gives him the schedule freedom to coach baseball, and wife Shari McBride have three children — Ryan (30), Angela (28) and Wes (24). The boys played baseball and Angela was also an athlete at New Palestine.
Mike Zeilinga (New Palestine)
A 1976 New Palestine graduate, Mike Zeilinga coaches Dragons outfielders and leads the junior varsity.
Zeilinga began coaching boys basketball at New Pal in 1996 and led the freshmen for two seasons and the JV for four. He joined Al Cooper’s baseball staff in 2003. Cooper was a Dragons senior when Zeilinga was a freshman.
New Palestine earned a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2003 and state title in 2004.
“The kids keep me young,” says Zeilinga. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching.”
Most Dragons practices begin with stretching and throwing followed by individual defensive position work and team drills (cuts, double cuts and knowing situations).
“Coach McBride is excellent about working with our infielders,” says Zeilinga. “He makes sure they are moving with every pitch.
“Coach Lyons trusts the coaches that he has. He and Coach McBride have coached together that they can read each other’s mind. They have that kind of chemistry.”
During the fall IHSAA Limited Contract Period (twice a week for two hours), 73 players were at workouts while participation was around 65 for recent winter sessions.
“All coaches at New Pal work very well with sharing athletes,” says Zeilinga. “That’s straight from the mentality of Coach (Al) Cooper (athletic director and former head baseball coach).
Zeilinga often works with New Pal outfielders and JV players.
Since varsity and JV teams tend to play on the same night, Zeilinga rarely sees the varsity once the regular season starts.
After each JV game, Zeilinga sends an overview of what his players did well or areas where they need improvement and share that with head coach Shawn Lyons and varsity assistant Landon McBride.
Like McBride, Zeilinga has noticed the head coach’s temperament.
“Coach Lyons doesn’t get real high or real low after a big win or a hard loss,” says Zeilinga. “He’s just a real gentleman of the game.”
Mike, who worked at Eli Lily & Company 35 years before retiring, and wife Susan Zeilinga have two children — Stephanie (a teacher at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis) and Michael (who was the starting center fielder on New Palestine’s 2004 state championship team).
Kevin Hall (New Albany)
Kevin Hall is a 1986 New Albany High School graduate who was a scrappy middle infielder and lead-off hitter for John Buerger, but his association with Bulldogs baseball goes back to before he started school.
Hall, who credits his work ethic for being the youngest of 11, was a batboy for teams featuring older brother David and coached by Stan Sajko in the early 1970’s. Hall still has the tiny pinstriped uniform from those days.
“(Coach Berger) had an attention to detail,” says Hall. “John was very big on pitching and defense. He believed in the bunting game.”
With a few years off here and there, Hall has been on the New Albany baseball coaching staff since 1990. He has been Bulldogs head coach and IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre’s top assistant for more than two decades.
“We both have the same philosophy on winning and we’re teaching these kids how to be young men,” says Hall, who leads infielders while also helping with outfielders, hitters and catchers. “When kids get out of school they’re probably not going to be their own boss. They need to learn to take direction.
“We understand that this is the game of failure. If you give us effort, we’ll never get on you about that.”
Hall coaches first base with McIntyre in the third base box.
“Coach McIntyre has a mind like nobody I’ve ever met,” says Hall. “He can process things. He’s analytical. He’s a math teacher. He loves the numbers.”
One day, Hall brought a stop watch to time runners without McIntyre knowing it and — counting in his head — the head coach was only off the actual number by about 1/10th of a second.
“Our program wouldn’t be near where it would be without Chris McIntyre.”
Hall calls baseball “the fairest game ever.”
“Each team gets the same number of outs, same number of opportunities and deals with the same conditions,” says Hall. “There’s no clock.
“You just have to go play.”
Hall throws a good deal of batting practice to the Bulldogs.
“Our kids get a lot of live arms,” says Hall. “I just use aspirin and ice and go back and do it again the next day.”
When McIntyre was approaching New Albany’s all-time win mark, Hall helped organize a special night for him.
After the celebration, Mac pulled Hall aside and said, “Don’t ever do that again” and then thanked him the next day.
“He’s very humble,” says Hall of McIntyre. “He wants the kids to have that limelight and not him.”
With the loss of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, New Albany had time to upgrade its baseball field while also putting in a new softball diamond next door.
Kevin, a plant operator at Grant Line Elementary School in New Albany, and wife Melia Hall have a daughter together — eighth grader Anderson (named for Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson). Kevin’s two older daughters are Samantha and Stephanie. Melia’s son is Aidan.
The 2021 season will mark Ford’s 31st with the Kings. He has always led the infield defense and helped with hitting instruction at Cass, which finished as Class 2A state runners-up in 2009 (20-9).
“It’s pretty collaborative in our program,” says Ford, who coaches first base and sits next to Marschand when the coaches are in the dugout. “We get a sense of the style of play we’re going to use and we coach each of the areas based on what we’re trying to do for that season.
“We we like to put pressure on the defense (on offense). You can do that a lot of different ways. If we have plodders (on the base paths), we can bunt them over. If we have rabbits, we can have more stolen bases, double steals and taking of extra bases.”
Kings coaches like players to play to their strengths and learn to do things like hit behind the runner and put the ball on the ground up the middle.
“We want them to be well-versed in the approach they are going to be taking at the plate based on the situation,” says Ford. “We would really like our players to learn the strategies and the options.
“In practice, we put runners in position and they decide how they are going to score the run.
“Once they have a broader knowledge of how to play, they are going to enjoy it more and be more successful.”
A big part of the Cass offensive blueprint is to get accumulate freebies with dirt-ball reads etc.
“Our approach at the plate has to be to hit hittable strikes,” says Ford. “Early in the count we’re not going to hit his pitch. We’re going to hit our pitch.”
A goal in batting practice is for each player to figure out which pitch he hits best.
BP goal – each player to learn to figure out which pitch he hits best
“Hitting a pitcher’s pitch is giving him a freebie,” says Ford. “Hitting our pitch is somewhat of a freebie for us.”
As part of its SAFE-T offensive plan, Cass wants to score the game’s first run.
Going for the long ball is not a priority, especially at home games where it’s 330 feet down the foul lines and 408 to center field.
“There’s a lot of outfield grass and we’re going to try to pepper it rather than try to hit it out of the park,” says Ford.
Kings defenders focus a lot of on momentum changers.
“One of he biggest on defense is the double play,” says Ford. “We work a lot on turns, feeds and throws to first base while trying to help our pitcher.
“At the high school level, pitching can be a huge variable. Defensive positioning os based on the speed of our pitcher.
“I can’t tell (infielders) every pitch where to align so they have to be cognizant of signals between the pitchers and catcher and know what pitch is coming.”
The Kings also look to prevent opponents from taking the extra base by being in the proper position for cut-offs and double-cuts.
“We’re making sure to be in a good back-up position in case the throw isn’t perfect,” says Ford. “There are a lot of nuances in defense like where the first baseman takes the throw or where the third baseman goes based on the count. At the high school level, the drag bunt is a big strategy.”
Taking nothing for granted, Ford wants his infielders to back up throws from the catcher to the pitcher.
Ford, a 1970 Kokomo Haworth graduate played for for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Keith Slaughter. The 1970 Haworth Huskies were state finalists.
Bill Bright was middle infielder Ford’s coach at Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis).
Steve and wife Julia Ford have been married since 1974 and have two daughters — Amanda (a local farm wife with a son and two daughters) and Melanie (who played four years of basketball at the University of Charleston and is now associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and NCAA compliance officer at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.). Amanda was a manager and Melanie a player for their father as a basketball coach.
Steve Ford was the girls basketball coach at Cass for 18 seasons, concluding in 2007-08.
Jim Kominiewicz has been there as an assistant for all of them. The 2021 season will be Komo’s 31st on the Kingsmen coaching staff. He has been in education for 38 years — eight in South Bend and 30 in the Penn system.
The current staff has Dikos leading the catcher, Kominkiewicz the infielders, Tom Stanton the pitchers and John Westra the outfielders.
“Greg is one of the best catching coaches in the state,” says Kominkiewicz, noting that Penn has produced its share of college backstops. “Catching is one of the hardest things to do. You’re involved in every play.
Kominkiewicz applauds Dikos for his willingness to keep learning and incorporating them into the Kingsmen program.
“Every year we try to do something better,” says Kominkiewicz. “We never stay the same. We try to change things up and keep the kids excited about it.
“Greg is always going to clinics. He’s the best.”
Kominkiewicz has noticed that many clinic speakers reinforce concepts already being taught by Penn coaches.
“It shows we’re doing things right,” says Kominkiewicz.
As an infield coach, Komo stresses getting the palm to the baseball and fielding through it. Time is spent on back-handing and picking up short hops.
Kominkiewicz graduated from South Bend John Adams High School in 1972, where he played baseball for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski.
Komo’s first baseball coaching post was at South Bend Washington High School on the staff of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski that also included pitching coach Larry Jackowiak.
“Rick was very intense,” says Kominkiewicz. “He’s a book. We spent a lot of time together. We’d come in on Saturday morning and leave at 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
“I learned a lot of baseball from those guys. Both of them were great coaches.”
A popular drill during the indoor portion of the preseason was a game called “27 Outs.”
As fielders got closer to making it to the finish, balls off fungo bats got harder.
“That’s why (Tomaszewski’s) team were good,” says Kominkiewicz. “They competed every practice.
“We do the same things at Penn. We compete. We test for sit-ups, push-ups and longest throws. We rate their at-bats (4 points for a line drive, 3 for a hard ground ball etc.). Pitchers try to throw the most strikes — things like that.”
Ground balls and double plays are often timed.
Splitting the team into three groups, the Kingsmen go nine outs per round. Losers do extra running or clean up the field.
“A lot of times our practices are harder than the games,” says Kominkiewicz. “But it’s got to be good practice — not just practice. We want to do it right.
“Our theory is we want to good game of catch, put the ball in play (on offense) and pitchers have to throw strikes. That’s what we stress.”
After Washington, Kominkiewicz went to Adams to coach football, wrestling, baseball and and weightlifting then went back to Washington to coach baseball.
Then came the move to Penn, where he also coached football for two years. He has taught and coaches football and wrestling and served as athletic director at Grissom Middle School.
Jim and wife Beth Kominkiewicz have four children — Ryan (38), Brandon (32), Jill (29) and Matt (21) — and seven grandchildren ages six months to 9 years.
Ryan, an engineer with Caterpillar, played baseball at Penn.
Brandon played football at Penn and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and coaches football at Fort Wayne North Side High School.
Jill is a dental assistant.
Matt played baseball and football at Penn and is on the football team at Saint Francis.
Kevin Fitzgerald (Noblesville)
A 1987 graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis where he played two seasons each for former big league pitcher Russ Kemmerer and Richard Bender, Noblesville High School assistant Kevin Fitzgerald served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1989-94 then was an assistant to Duke Burns at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis (2000-02), Dave Mundy at Sheridan (Ind.) High School (2003 and 2004) and head coach at Sheridan (2005 and 2006).
“He was fantastic,” says Fitzgerald of Kemmerer. “There were so many lessons I learned that I didn’t realize I was learning at the time.
“For him, it was really teaching about life and baseball was just the tool. He said baseball is played on a six-inch field — the six inches between your ears. There are no such things as physical errors — they’re all mental. You weren’t prepared.”
Bender, who had big shoes to fill replacing the popular Kemmerer, is credited by Fitzgerald for the opportunity to explore leadership.
Brett played four seasons at Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University) for IHSBCA/NEIBA Hall of Famer Mike Frame, graduating in December 1995.
Before landing at Carroll, Brett was on his father’s Dwenger staff from 1996-2002.
Hershberger, who was an elementary physical education teacher for Windmiller, taught his players about focus and intensity.
“It started with him from the time you started playing catch until you got on the bus and went home,” says Windmiller. “All those things in between mattered. Not that you’re going to dwell on it afterward but this current pitch or at-bat is important.
“If you weren’t ready, you were going to hear about it from Lance.”
Hershberger reminded his players that there was a difference between baseball during the high school and summer seasons. There’s a finality to the high school season while the summer — though very important for development and exposure — is a series of games and unattached tournaments.
Brett did not feel the stigma of being a coach’s son.
“It may have just been the guys I played with,” says Brett. “In hindsight, it may be that dad handled it real well.
“I enjoyed playing for him. There were expectations with the way he wanted you to play. He was good at detecting an issue by watching you swing or throw.”
In his son’s eyes, Larry Windmiller was pretty even-keeled.
“He never got upset,” says Brett. “He was kind of in the middle all the time.
“He really let us play. We had a lot of kids with talent. We played loose and had a lot of success.”
The Dwenger Saints bowed out to Highland in the 1991 South Bend Semistate championship game.
At Huntington, Windmiller learned to play with intensity but not to let a mistake or a perceived bad call fester.
“The intensity of a baseball game is there,” says Windmiller. “It has to be. You learn the moments of the game where that’s appropriate. It cannot drive you into making a second mistake. You can’t carry your at-bat into the field. My red light was strike calls I didn’t agree with.
“Coach Frame was great as far as getting me to try to understand that I’m killing myself when I’m doing that. He helped me lose a little bit of the football mentality.”
Windmiller says he and his fellow coaches have matured over the years and tries set a good example for the players.
“When something bad happens, they are going to look at us,” says Windmiller. “We want to be cheering them on and saying let’s go to the next pitch.”
His first spring at Carroll, Windmiller coached junior varsity players with Mike Klopfenstein.
“JV’s great,” says Windmiller. “There’s no all-conference. There’s no media. It’s just young kids learning how to play baseball the correct way.”
At the JV level, win-loss record is irrelevant. It’s about developing. Between the spring and summer ball and getting in the weight room, a player can make big jumps from one season to the next.
Windmiller is a public address announcer for many Carroll sports, including football, boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling. He has coached eighth grade football and seventh grade girls basketball in the system.
Brett took over the FWBF post after the passing of NEIBA Hall of Famer Dick Crumback in 2019.
The NEIBA presents the Dick Crumback Player of the Year annually to an area ballplayer. The honor comes with a $1,000 donation ($500 from the Crumback family and $500 for the FWBF) to the program of the recipient.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit baseball community in Fort Wayne,” says Windmiller, who has also been a Wildcat League coach.
Brett, a sixth grade science teacher at Carroll Middle School, and wife Kara Windmiller (secretary to Chargers athletic director Dan Ginder) live in the Carroll school district and have two daughters — high school sophomore Ryli and seventh grader Hannah.
Brett’s sister Kari played volleyball and basketball at Dwenger.
John Smolinski, who first wore a baseball uniform for Saint Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind., as a player in 2004 and was an Indians assistant coach for the past eight seasons is now Saint Joe’s head coach.
The last pitch that Brady Gumpf, now at Notre Dame, saw for Saint Joe was thumped for a home run against eventual state champion Andrean in the 2019 Griffith Regional championship game.
“I was fortunate to play for him and coach with him,” says Smolinski of Brady Gumpf’s father, John. “I got to understand his thoughts and how he thinks about the game.
“My goal is to make him proud and build upon the foundation he has started for Saint Joe.
“I’m very loyal to this school. I have big shoes to fill. It’s emotional. It’s high expectations. I’m embracing it.”
Smolinski’s senior year at Saint Joseph (2007) was Gumpf’s first as head coach. The Indians won Plymouth Sectional and one-game regional crowns and lost to future major league pitcher Jarrod Parker and eventual state champion Norwell in the Plymouth Semistate. Norwell finished the 2007 season at 35-0.
“We had a great team and a lot of seniors,” says Smolinski of Saint Joe. “There was a program chance when Coach Gumpf came in there.”
In Gumpf, Smolinski saw a competitor who respected the opposition and demanded the best out of his players and plans to emulate those qualities.
As interim coach, Smolinski led the Indians through Limited Contacted Period practice two days a week with about two dozen players.
“We did not have any positive COVID cases,” says Smolinski. “Our (practice) structure has changed. We take this very serious.”
Attendance was taken before each workout to make sure every student was able to participate. They were put into smaller groups — each player having a group number — and socially-distanced.
Coaches and players were always masked-up. He expects to have 13 seniors and 16 freshmen among 50 players for varsity, JV and freshman squads in the spring.
“It went really well,” says Smolinski. “Everybody bought into it.
“Not having the (spring) season hurt everyone (though most everyone played travel ball in the summer).
“We got after it. I got great feedback from the players. I was happy with the senior leadership. It was great to have some normalcy.”
At the end of the fall, Smolinski applied for the vacant head coaching position and went through the interview process.
Smolinski, who played four years at Manchester University for Rick Espeset before joining the Saint Joe coaching staff, was named head coach this week. Tom Washburn is expected be a varsity assistant and Dan Mentock the junior varsity head coach. There are other assistants, including a freshmen head coach, to hire.
“The last 24 hours have been kind of crazy,” says Smolinski, speaking on Nov. 4. “A lot of people have reached out to me.
“At Saint Joe, we’re a family. You can tell. People are willing to help out.”
Smolinski says players will likely get to help design an alternate jersey for the Indians. Recently, that look has featured black though the school colors are Columbia Blue and White. Coach Smo says Saint Joe will continuing to don a black cap.
Away from his coaching job, Smolinski is a self-employed social media manager that amplifies athletic accounts on Twitter including WhistleSports and FanSided.
“My athleticism and competitiveness,” says Lynch, who is bound for the University of Notre Dame as a two-way player. “(Hitting) mechanics are something I’ve been working on. Before that I didn’t get too much into that. I used (athleticism and competitiveness) in overcoming some of the flaws in my swing.
“Competitiveness carries over from the batter’s box to the pitching mound. Competitiveness and composure. With the bases loaded and less that two outs, I trust myself to get out of a jam.”
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Lynch has grown about an inch and packed on 20 pounds of muscle since entering high school.
Lynch, 18, has also gained the wisdom of others along the way.
“A lot of my growth has come with the upper class, especially at Penn,” says Lynch. “Niko Kavadas was a senior when I was a freshman. “He’s given me a lot of great advice. He showed me what it takes to be a Division I college athlete.”
As a Penn freshman in 2017, Lynch went 7-0 with a 2.86 earned run average and helped Penn to the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game. A righty swinger, he also hit .350 with 26 runs batted in.
In 2018, he was 8-2 with a 2.07 ERA on the mound and hit .456 with 44 RBIs.
As a junior in 2018, his pitching mark was 5-1 with 1.61 ERA. He also hit .330 with 20 RBIs.
The 2020 season was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For his three-year career, Lynch was 20-3 with a 2.18 ERA with 201 strikeouts and 79 walks. He also batted .378 and plated 90 runs.
Lynch thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Penn program headed by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.
“It was my first time being with a true team with bus rides together and seeing each other at school,” says Lynch. “It taught me some valuable lessons about being a better teammate and a leader as well, working with some of the young guys who needed.
“It’s not being selfish. We’re trying to work as a team and get to that state championship.”
Lynch considers himself as a versatile offensive player — something who can be a threat with his speed, but can also pop the ball into the gaps or over the fence.
“Having a training mindset, I want to get as strong as I can but be flexible,” says Lynch. “It’s not being too big and slow so you can’t stretch doubles and steal those bases.
“Some guys will train for one thing or another. If (the team wants) me to hit for power, I know what to do. If they want me to use speed, I know what to do.
“I’ve worked on my launch angle as I’ve worked on mechanics. Hopefully that will help me hit more home runs along with the doubles.”
On the mound, Lynch possesses a moving fastball clocked at 85 to 90 mph and is able to locate his curve ball and slider.
He describes the action of the breaking balls in terms of a clock face — 11-to-5 with the curve and 10-to-4 with a slider.
“I’ve been trying to get my curve ball more 12-to-6,” says Lynch. “It’s hard for hitters to pick up.
“I love throwing the slider to lefties. That’s probably where it’s most effective. You get them to open up their hips early and roll over on it.”
Lynch verbally committed early to Notre Dame and the new staff headed by Link Jarrett honored that offer.
“Growing up really close to Notre Dame, I loved everything about it — that campus, the traditions,” says Lynch. “Going to football games was really fun.
“The importance of Notre Dame and how valuable an education from that university would be. That really sets it apart.”
Lynch will graduate from Penn with the Latin Academic Honors distinction Cum Laude (4.25 grade-point average or higher on a scale of 4.0).
As a member of Penn’s Student-Athlete Leadership Council, Lynch has taken the lead in the school’s commitment to education-based athletics, creating and implementing lessons such as social media responsibility and how to take care of yourself and your teammates. He has helped organize events ranging from building community to freshmen student-athlete mentoring.
“Everyone says great things about Coach Jarrett and the staff,” says Lynch. “I’m real excited to get into that program.”
The third of Gregory and Diana Lynch’s three children (Kristina is now playing soccer at Florida State University and football player Brandon is finishing his eighth grade year at Discovery Middle School), Ryan played for the Granger (Ind.) Cubs travel team from 9-13. To face a higher level of competition, he split his 13U summer with the Cubs and Ohio Elite. That team made it deep into the USSSA 13U World Series at Disney World in Florida.
In high school, Lynch played for the Jay Hundley-coached Indiana Outlaws (which became the Evoshield Canes Midwest).
Lynch says last summer was going to be his last with the Canes. With the cancellation of the 2020 Indiana high school season, the team is considering having a short summer run.
“I still have to get word with Coach Jarrett and his opinion on it,” says Lynch. “He doesn’t want me to rush back into anything. It’s something I will consider for this summer.”
Kristina Lynch was selected as the 2017-18 Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year in Girls Soccer and now plays that sport at Florida State University. She helped the Seminoles win the 2018 National Championship.
“She’s made a big impact in my life,” says Ryan of Kristina. “She’s set a great example of what it takes to be successful in all aspects of life. It’s not just hard work on the field. She can manage playing sports and taking extremely hard classes and help out in the community.
“She’s able to reach out and expand as a person.”
Brandon Lynch, 15, was a quarterback and linebacker in middle school and now moves on to the storied Penn football program.
Ryan Lynch, a senior at Penn High School in Mishawaka, is the Gatorade Indiana 2019-20 Player of the Year for Baseball. He is on his way to the University of Notre Dame. (Penn High School Photo)
Ryan Lynch, a senior at Penn High School in Mishawaka, is the Gatorade Indiana 2019-20 Player of the Year for Baseball. In three season, the left-handed pitcher/center fielder won 20 games and hit .378 with 90 runs batted in during his prep career. He is bound for the University of Notre Dame. (Penn High School Photo)
While you’ll only see Adam Piotrowicz donning one cap — usually a brown one with a gold “W” — he essentially wears three.
A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Piotrowicz as associate head coach. He also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon.
“I help out more with scheduling, budget and things of that nature,” says Piotrowicz. “I have more administrative responsibility.”
Piotrowicz guides the Broncos’ offense. In 2019, WMU hit the most home runs (32) since the BBCOR Bat era in 2010 and posted the second highest batting average (.287) since 2012. The team also scored the most runs per game (6.0) since 2008 and racked up the most stolen bases (50) since 2013.
When the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic brought Western Michigan’s 2020 season to a close after 15 games, the Broncos had belted seven homers with a .261 average, 8.6 runs per contest and 35 stolen bases.
“I’m a big believer in having a great two-strike approach and competing in the box,” says Piotrowicz. “It’s about our daily routine — whatever it is.
“Each guy’s different.”
Some hitters are focused on power and others are looking to get the most out of their speed.
It’s the routine that keeps hitters sane.
“This game will drive guy’s crazy,” says Piotrowicz. “Just focus on the day-to-day process. It gets you over the 0-of-10 slumps and keeps you grounded during the 10-for-10.”
It’s helpful to Piotorowicz to know the style of learning that suits hitters best — Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic — in order to best communicate and assist them with their approach, mechanics etc., while competing at all times.
“We want to be a tough out,” says Piotrowicz. “We want to make other team earn all 27 outs.”
Piotrowicz is also aware that all players do not respond to the same coaching techniques based on their personality. Calling a player out in front of his teammates may not be appropriate for one while another will respond well.
“Our center fielder (Blake Dunn), I can yell at him,” says Piotrowicz of a junior from Saugatuck, Mich., who he expects to go high in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. “He was a multi-sport athlete and football player. He needs that. He wants that hard coaching.”
The analogy that Piotrowicz favors is the mail. A package, whether sent first class air mail or standard third class will carry the same message and expectations regardless of delivery method.
Piotrowicz says Western’s recruiting territory is reflective of the 2020 WMU roster which features 19 players with hometowns in Michigan, nine from the Chicago area and three from Indiana high schools — junior Ryan Missal (Lowell), sophomore Bobby Dearing (Lafayette Harrison) and freshman Hayden Berg (Penn). The Broncos have received a commitment from Ryan Watt (Mishawaka).
Piotrowicz says the school has helped by making out-of-state tuition only $2,000 to $3,000 more than for in-state students.
Working with Gernon, Piotrowicz absorbs knowledge someone who has plenty of coaching experience. He was an assistant at Indiana University, helped Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne) transition to NCAA Division I as assistant then head coach then was a Michigan State University assistant before his first season in charge in Kalamazoo in 2011.
In 2016, WMU won its first Mid-American Conference tournament. Jeffersonville (Ind.) High School graduate Gernon has 210 victories as Broncos skipper, including 104 in the MAC.
“I couldn’t ask for a more supportive boss,” says Piotrowicz of Gernon. “He’s given me a lot of freedom and responsibility.
“(Woodson) gave me a ton of freedom and a lot of trust,” says Piotrowicz, who go to work with hitters, infielders, catchers and outfielders while splitting strength and conditioning with Schmack.
In 2012, Valpo was regular season and tournament champions in the Horizon League and competed in the NCAA Gary Regional, losing to Purdue and Kentucky.
In 2013, the Crusaders won the HL tournament and took part in the Indiana Regional, losing to Indiana and Austin Peay but not before knocking out Florida.
Piotrowicz got his college coaching start with two seasons at NCAA Division III Heidelberg University (2009-10) in Tiffin, Ohio, where they won Ohio Athletic Conference Conference and regular-season titles both seasons. The 2010 team won the Mideast Regional and competed in the D-III World Series in Grand Chute, Wis., beating Johns Hopkins and Wisconsin-Stevens Points and losing to eventual champion Illinois Wesleyan and Linfield.
Though he was a graduate assistant, he worked like a full-time coach and had his perceptions of what a coach is shaped while developing head coach Matt Palm’s Student Princes. He aided hitters and catchers and shared in recruiting.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Matt Palm,” says Piotrowicz.
After a season at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. (now Bethel University), Piotorowicz finished his playing days at Manchester.
“(Zartman) was a good guy,” says Piotrowicz. “He was very big on team culture.
“(Siler) was amazing. He was very, very knowledgable guy and a down-to-earth person. He worked with catchers and made sure I was in shape.
“(Jimenez) also brought a ton of knowledge.”
Rick Espeset was and still in head baseball coach and athletic director at Manchester. Given his workload and Espeset’s young family, Piotrowicz and his teammates marveled at how organized he was.
“Practices were always detailed,” says Piotrowicz. “He did a good job of teaching guys how to the win the game.”
Points of emphasis included baserunning, defense and playing the game hard and fast.
“You do that and winning will take care of itself,” says Piotrowicz. “We called (Espeset) the ‘Silent Assassin.’ He was a psychology major with a very dry sense of humor. The mental side of the game, that’s where he was the strongest.”
Adam and Heather Piotrowicz, a former Manchester basketball player, have two sons — Hunter (4) and Elliot (1).
A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Adam Piotrowicz as associate head coach. The graduate of John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., and Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Ind., also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon. (Western Michigan University Photo)
When the 2020 high school baseball season was shut down even before it began because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Penn head coach Greg Dikos described the feeling for he and his wife.
“Yesterday was like a kick in the stomach for Sally and I both,” says Greg Dikos, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer with more than 700 victories, four state titles and a runner-up finish in 32 seasons of the news that came down Thursday, April 2. “We were both in tears over the whole dang thing.”
In accordance, the IHSAA is suspending any school-sponsored activities through June 30.
While adhering to IHSAA guidance and state directives as Indiana slowly re-opens, the IHSBCA executive council has convened to discuss what’s next for Indiana high school baseball.
IHSBCA executive director Brian Abbott says schools have the option to take a moratorium week at the beginning of July or by-pass it.
Abbott says the IHSAA granted 10 baseball activity day with four as competition days.
“Common sense dictates you’d want to practice a little bit and make sure your guys are in condition before playing,” says Abbott.
Since high school campuses will be closed though June and fall sports is supposed to be starting up in August, that leaves July as the period to get in school-sponsored baseball activity.
The IHSBCA will recognized academic all-state players in 2020. There will be no all-state selections nor the North/South All-Star Series. The event was to be held in Evansville and that will be the site in 2021.
IHSBCA District Coach of the Year will be service awards in 2020. There will be no umpire or media awards.
While details are pending, Abbott says the IHSBCA hopes to conduct a Futures Game in July.
An IHSBCA proposal to allow throwing during conditioning.
“Conditioning is not Limited Contact but rather a time to condition your body for a sport (weights, general conditioning activities, band work, plyometrics etc.),” says Abbott. “That’s a positive thing. We can throw more often.”
In February, Assistant Commissioner Robert Faulkens reported to the IHSAA about the administration of the pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).
At the May IHSAA meeting, it was decided that a team that violates the rule must forfeit the contest and report the violation in writing to the IHSAA.
The IHSAA had assigned an official scorer to track pitches during the state tournament series.
According to Feb, 21 IHSAA minutes: “At the conclusion of each inning, the head coaches will meet at the plate and exchange pitch counts for both teams for the inning which was just concluded. If there is a discrepancy, the Official Scorer pitch count will be used. The Official Scorer will notify coaches when a pitcher reaches each pitch count threshold (36, 61, 81, 101 and 120).
“At the conclusion of the game, both coaches will reconcile the pitch count for each pitcher on each team. Any discrepancies in pitch counts will be determined by the Official Scorer Pitch Count.
“The responsibility for administering the pitch count remains with the Head Coach. The Pitch Count is a Participation Rule and not a game rule. Much like the quarter count in football and basketball. It is not the duty, or responsibility, of the Umpires, nor the Official Scorer, to administer the Pitch Count.”
“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t … don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40, but we’re all told.” — Moneyball
One of the famous quotes from the movie about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane has hit home for many high school seniors whose playing days weren’t ended by the standard baseball career markers — graduation, injury, a roster cut or retirement — but by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The moment is etched in time for Reinebold, who went on to play at Mississippi College. In retrospect, he hurts for the seniors who are not getting any such closure this spring.
“It’s a tough way to end your career,” he said. “I can’t imagine.”
Reinebold and other coaches across Indiana are doing a variety of things to try to ease the disappointment of the lost 2020 season for their final-year players.
One of Reinebold’s endeavors is having individual signs made for his seniors and placing them on the infield with their jerseys under the lights of the diamond, which is named after his father.
“Just give them a little salute, hey, we’re sorry you don’t get to play, but thank you for everything you’ve done for three years,” he said.
Clay expected to have nine seniors this spring, four of whom are first-year players. Catcher-outfielder Mark Williams and outfielder-pitcher Jackson Jones would have been in their fourth year on varsity and Hunter Aker in his third. Other veterans were Miguel Penaloza and Tyler Williams. Aker, a first baseman-shortstop-pitcher, will go on to play at Manchester University, while Bethel University is looking at Jones, an outfielder-pitcher.
“Some are going on to college, some are done and it’s time to figure out something else to do, and some may realize with time that they’re not ready to get out,” Reinebold said.
The team last met on the final day of February for a conditioning session. After an initial two-week shutdown, there was hope for a return March 15. When it was bumped back again, teams held on to the prospect of an abbreviated season until that glimmer was snuffed out with the state’s shutdown for the rest of the school year.
“We can’t even meet,” said Reinebold, who is doing all correspondence via text. “We can’t do anything as a group. We can’t make them work out. I was trying to think of the last time we were together. It seems like forever.”
Hope springs eternal in March, when everybody is 0-0 with aspirations for greatness. With a whopping 11 seniors, Jimtown had high expectations for the season, led by shortstop Dustin Whitman, a four-year starter, three-year catcher Sammy Schwartz and outfielder-pitcher Brandon Coble.
“Most coaches are saying that now, but we really had our eyes set on moving the program forward,” Jimmies coach Cory Stoner said. “They’ve worked hard. They practice on their own. We don’t have to tell them what to do. It’s a tribute to them for taking charge. It’s a really close group that gets along. They’ve spent a lot of time together growing up.”
The day after the season was officially cancelled, assistant coach Jim Fredwell approached Stoner with the suggestion of turning on the stadium lights, piggybacking on a idea that has been done across the country as a symbolic tip of the cap to seniors.
“We both have little kids, so it seemed like a fun thing,” Stoner said. “A couple people stopped by (Booster Field). My college coach (Seth Zartman) lives down the road and he came down. It was pretty cool to see.”
Given the opportunity, Stoner hopes to do something more extensive this summer, kicking around the idea of a mock senior night with a cookout or, should the social distancing restrictions be eased back by then, possibly an intra-squad scrimmage.
“We’ve got a great group of seniors and we want to honor them in the right way,” Stoner said. “It’s just hard right now to plan much of anything.”
Stoner recently organized a virtual team meeting during which he let each of the seniors talk and their words warmed his heart.
“Clay Campbell was talking about how devastating this is, but we have to look at the big picture, that there are people who are hurting far worse,” Stoner said. “We try to preach selfless leadership, putting others first, and he’s one who really gets it. It was cool to hear.”
Goshen‘s five-player senior class will always hold a special place for RedHawks coach J.J. DuBois, now even more so due to the circumstances.
“I coached them on JV before varsity,” DuBois said. “This was my first group that I’ve had since they were freshmen. It’s a great group of kids, the perfect program guys. Goshen baseball doesn’t have a great history of success. We haven’t won a sectional since 2008. This was our best shot to sneak up on people like Northridge and Penn. We didn’t have a ton of varsity experience, but we have good talent. It was the perfect team for this year.”
DuBois is going to great lengths to honor his seniors in light of them missing out on the chance to fulfill their on-field aspirations. Among them, pitcher-shortstop Skylar Reyes, last season’s MVP, will play at Manchester, and Tommy Cartagena Garcia, who came to the school from Puerto Rico as a sophomore, is also looking at a couple schools.
“Losing their season, they’re so disappointed they don’t get to wear the RedHawks jersey one more time,” he said. “You want to give them things to remember, not just the wins and losses, but something special, fun things like dinner with the guys.”
It started with 20-minute Zoom interviews with each player in which they answered a variety of questions, both related and not related to baseball. Preview clips were posted on the Goshen baseball Twitter account with the full segments available on YouTube.
“They got to tell some cool stories that got them laughing,” DuBois said. “It was a good time.”
Borrowing an idea from basketball coach Michael Wohlford, who had posters done for his players, DuBois is in the process of having replica jerseys put in frames for each seniors. His hope is to hold a ceremony where they can gather the seniors and their parents to recognize them.
“Who knows with the timing,” he said. “We certainly have the room (to spread out) on a baseball field.”
NorthWood coach A.J. Risedorph has five players in his senior class — third-year regulars Jaden Miller and Cooper Davis, Josh Stratford, Jack Wysong and Kyler Germann — all of whom have been in the program since they were freshmen. Among them, only Miller (Danville Area Community College) is signed to play at the collegiate level, though Wysong is headed to DePauw University for tennis.
“We graduated a pretty good class, so I was more excited about the competition, the young guys who were going to step up,” Risedorph said. “That’s what sports is all about. They put in all the time and have been ready from day one. It’s very unfortunate. A lot of guys are struggling. We want to make sure they’re all right.”
With that in mind, Risedorph has a few projects in the works, starting off with social media posts. After doing some online searching, he’s looking into having personalized bats and replica jerseys done as senior gifts.
“My wife (Jenna) was talking about driving around to the homes and dropping them off,” he said.
The school’s baseball field doesn’t have lights, but Risedorph is thinking about getting the site game ready with bases, batter’s boxes and base lines, then painting the players’ numbers on the grass with the stencils used for football.
“Maybe we can do a drone shot,” he said. “We’d like to get them back out again. It kind of all depends on how long we’re shut down, as we get more information from the state.”
The missed season isn’t impactful on the seniors alone. Risedorph shared the story of junior Sergio Lira Ayala, who came to the school from Puerto Rico during his freshman year.
“He lives and breathes baseball, it’s all he cares about,” Risedorph said. “It’s his escape, with everything he’s dealt with. He just wants to be able to compete. I tell the juniors, you’re the seniors now. The standard of expectations is on their shoulders now.”
There’s no protocol, no manual, no reference for coaches on how to tell their seniors they don’t get to play their final season.
“There are guys who like to play and guys who love to play,” Fairfield coach Darin Kauffman said. “I have three of them it was really tough for. I felt awful for calling and leaving a message that we were done for the season. How do you do that? As coaches, it stinks, we want to play, too, but next year, we’ll be at it again. For the seniors, they don’t know if they’ll ever be on a field again and play.”
Of his seniors, just one, Felipe Arevalo, has a possibility of playing in college.
“He’d be really good for a JUCO for two years and go (to a four-year school) from there,” Kauffman said. “He called me right after (the season was cancelled). He was crying. He just loves the game. It was devastating to him. I felt bad. We were talking to colleges and they were planning on seeing him. Now they won’t be able to set up something.”
Kauffman has taken to doing social media posts with pictures of his seniors with write-ups that are going up one a day on the team page, as well as on the athletic department account, which is doing the same for the other spring sports.
“I’d like to have a thing, if we’re allowed to do it, on a nice day, in July even, where we could all meet at the field and recognize all the seniors for everything they’ve done, say some final words,” he said. “They worked hard in the winter. The guys were all for it.”
Fairfield didn’t bring back a great deal of experience after graduating 11 seniors last year, so it will now be in the same boat next season.
“I’m hoping the underclassmen can play at least a couple games,” Kauffman said. “If not, it’ll be almost two years. I don’t know what we’ll do. We won’t have a lot of seniors and it’ll be like really having two freshman classes. We have some young kids who wanted to travel.”
Kauffman has been staying busy with free online clinics and webinars.
“I sent out some things I want them to do, to try to keep their arms in shape,” he said. “Some kids have a back yard big enough to at least go out and do something, but everybody has a different dilemma. We’re all in the same boat on this.”
The lights on Booster Field were illuminated to honor Jimtown High School’s Class of 2020, which did not get to play at senior season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams all over Indiana are finding ways to say thanks to the seniors. (Jimtown Baseball Photo)
UPDATE: Since this story was published, the spring sports season has been canceled by the Indiana High School Athletic Association. The announcement came shortly after Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced that there would be no more in-person classes for the 2019-20 school year.
This was supposed to be the first week of the 2020 Indiana high school baseball regular season.
But the game is on hold while the world deals with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic through social distancing.
In a landscape that is ever-changing, many states have already closed down for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has ruled that all Indiana schools be closed until May 1.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association has stated that there is hope for shortened regular season beginning with five required practices — rather than the usual 10 — after schools are allowed to re-open. The state tournament series would follow.
Right now, sectionals are slated for May 27-June 1 with regionals June 6, semistates June 13 and the State Finals June 19-20 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
“Our players have been strongly encouraged to follow all local, state and federal guidelines in helping to not spread the virus,” says Froedge, an IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “We are beginning to ramp back up this week with anticipation of a May 4 start.”
The Athenians, ranked No. 3 in the IHSBCA Class 3A preseason poll, have been communicating via calls, texts and Zoom video conferences and had a meeting scheduled to share team and position workouts through Google Sheets that includes links to instructional and motivational videos, articles etc.
“The workouts are all the things they can do by themselves or with a brother or dad,” says Froedge. “The idea is that we’re all working in the same things remotely. They then long each day what they’ve done and share with teammates in various ways, short videos included.
“Our hope for the players — especially seniors in all spring sports — is that they will get some kind of season, however brief it might be. But even if we don’t have a season, we still have a team and are creating memories and imparting life lessons.”
The Indians were return seven starters from regional finalist squad and is ranked No. 2 in the preseason 4A poll.
“You feel for the kids, especially the seniors who have put in so much time and done what you’ve asked them to do for four years,” says Swartzentruber. “It’s hard trying to find the words to say to kids.
“But, in the grand scheme of things, people’s health is greater than playing a game. The trend is not very good right now. But we’re trying to stay positive.”
Swartzentruber has shared workouts that players can do in their basement, garage or driveway. He asks them all to find regular cardiovascular exercise.
“It’s all up to them,” says Swartzentruber. “We say whatever you do, make sure you do don’t put yourself in jeopardy from a health standpoint.”
Swartzentruber teaches seven classes and is now doing that from home since Lake Central adopted eLearning. Assignments are given through the Canvas platform.
“Its a little tricky,” says Swartzentruber. “I know there’s going to be some things lost in translation when you’re not face-to-face.”
Shane Edwards, head coach at 3A Oak Hill and a member of the IHSBCA executive council, has kept plenty busy fielding questions from other coaches from around the state.
“Coaches are nervous,” says Edwards. “They’re concerned and want to be informed.
“We’re kind of in the dark about where this is going.”
Edwards has stayed connected to his players with weekly emails to suggest workouts they can do on their own or with a parent or sibling. The Golden Eagles coaching staff uses group texts to stay on the same page.
“We still hold out hope that we’re going to play,” says Edwards.
With a late start and an abbreviated season, Edwards says many teams will be doing in May what they normally do in March and April.
“Usually by May, you feel comfortable with your lineup and pitching staff,” says Edwards. “So now do you try to get a lot of games in or make progress for when the tournament comes? It’s a delicate balance we’re all going to have to play.”
Oak Hill typically has in-season hitting sessions a couple of times a week during the season. Edwards says that time might be used to bring his young players up to speed on varsity baseball.
“You can’t replace game situations,” says Edwards. “I would want as much coaching time as I could have in those practice situations.”
Also an assistant high school principal, Edwards says Oak Hill is looking to supply some district students with laptops will begin online learning next week.
IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph is just three career wins shy of 800.
When he’s not home tending to projects ordering puzzles or watching TV with his wife, Gandolph has been going to Indianapolis Scecina Memorial High School two or three times a week to work on the Crusaders’ facility.
“I’m just by my lonesome,” says Gandolph, who has mowed grass and done work on Scecina’s new hitting building in the block house where the old weight room was located.
March 16 was supposed to be the first official day of IHSAA practice. During the Limited Contact Period, the Crusaders got a chance to work out on the grass.
2A No. 3-ranked Scecina’s first game was slated for this Saturday at the end of spring break.
Should the season begin in early May, Gandolph foresees his team hosting a Saturday doubleheader against Providence and then getting in one round of Indiana Crossroads Conference games before the postseason.
“I don’t get too hung up on planning,” says Gandolph. “It’s a day-by-day type thing anyway.”
He takes that same attitude about the milestone victory in his future.
“(No. 800) will come whenever it comes,” says Gandolph, who has been a his alma mater since the 2014 season after years at Center Grove, where he also taught for 40 years.
Gandolph says he has kept in-touch with players through texts and Twitter posts.
“I give suggestions to keep them busy and healthy and, hopefully, keep them positive,” says Gandolph.
While the team has not yet done any Zoom conferences, the Gandolph family has used the technology and is planning to do so this week to celebrate the seventh birthday of one of Dave’s grandsons.
Like many, Roberts has seen the levels of coronavirus restriction increase. Until the latest constraints were put in place, some players were going to the homes of teammates with batting cages at their homes and conducting their own practices.
“Parents are now following the guidelines that have been set down and keeping their kids at home,” says Roberts. “They’re in that better safe-than-sorry mode.”
Roberts says he has witnessed two extremes on social media regarding COVID-19.
“It’s not that big a deal and no more than flu and older people with prior health issues (are at risk) or on the other side, it’s serious, don’t mess with it,” says Roberts. “We’re expecting the worse and hoping for the best.”
Roberts says many of his players put in plenty of off-season work before the interruption.
“I keep hoping that this thing will level off and we can get back to school,” says Roberts. “Our boys and their parents were pretty devastated when they got sent home from school.
“If theres a glimmer of hope, the boys will start hooking up and getting in their time before I can be with them.”
Roberts has been home with two baseball-playing sons. Max Roberts is a pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization. William Roberts is a 2019 Washington Township graduate who sat out a year while getting ready to go the junior college route.
Randy and William went to see Max, who was attending a Mariners “gas” camp in Arizona, when they began to shut things down and send players home as minor league spring training was about to start.
Roberts says some in his area have talked about playing two or three games a week prior to the sectional. If possible, he can see the Senators playing just about everyday leading into the postseason.
“My heart goes out to all these high school seniors in all spring sports if they don’t have an opportunity to participate,” says Turner. “It’s just an awful feeling.
“I guess I’m being selfish here, but in the last four years I’ve won two (1A) state titles (in 2016 and 2018). We have the possibility of a third one (with six players, including five starters, from the 2018 team). I was really excited about it. We have right group of kids with the right mentality.
“I have my doubts we’ll even get to see what would happen.”
Turner has had little contact with his players since the lockdown began and has been doing his best to teach online to his pupils at Anderson High School.
“I’m bored out of mind,” says Turner. “I can’t get out to talk to these kids. That’s the worst part.
“Some of the kids have texted me. I have great senior leadership. They’ve gotten together a few times to go throw and stuff. I tell them to do the best they can to stay in baseball shape.”
Daleville was fundraising to pay for its overnight trip to Jasper, but for safety-sake, Turner put an end to that.
Turner had beefed up the Broncos schedule to get them ready for the state tournament.
“I wouldn’t have done that unless I felt like I had a team that could compete,” says Turner. “I said, ‘let’s have a challenge.’”
Regardless of what happens this year, Turner says he has decided that 2021 is going to be his last spring as a coach and teacher.
“I have grandkids I want to spend some time with,” says Turner. “I have a bucket list I want to do.”
“I still think about him everyday,” says South Vigo head coach Kyle Kraemer. “It’s all perspective.
“The biggest thing is the fear of the unknown. There are so many what-ifs and unknowns. It’s just crazy.
“We are living through history. You’re talking about fighting something you can’t see.”
The Braves spent to winter building up a library of Hudl videos of themselves hitting and pitching that can now be used as references for at-home workouts.
“I’m trying to be prepared,” says Kraemer, who is hopeful that South Vigo might be able to play Conference Indiana opponents and some others prior to the postseason — if there is one.
When the IHSAA ruled this past winter that teams can have 10 summer practices with four contest dates, Kraemer says he didn’t think much about it.
“Now I think a lot of coaches are going to take advantage of that if possible,” says Kraemer.
Also a teacher, Kraemer says eLearning is to kick in Vigo County on April 6. This is spring break. There were eight waiver days prior to that.
Mark Schellinger, head coach at 3A New Prairie, has spent part of his days tending to eLearning — either from home or at the school — and has joined with his assistants in working on Harry “Bear” Tolmen Field.
“It was weird, knowing (players) could not be out there with us,” says Schellinger, whose Cougars are No. 10 in the 3A preseason rankings. (It’s tough for everybody, but it’s really tough for the kids.
“But we have to take a step back and see there is a bigger picture.”
Schellinger says safety and health are the first priority for players, followed by staying on top of their eLearning and then staying in shape, especially with throwing.
“We’re hoping to be proactive so we have a plan in place,” says Schellinger. “But it’s hard to make those decisions or make those plans.
“There’s just so much unknown right now.”
Should the season get started in early May, Schellinger says he favors playing as many regular-season games as possible.
“The kids want to play, especially in a short time span,” says Schellinger. “Hopefully our pitchers are ready for that.”
New Prairie does have pitching depth, though Schellinger hardly expects 100 from anyone out of the gate.
Receiving votes: Danville, Evansville Memorial, Griffith, Guerin Catholic, Hanover Central, Heritage Hills, Indian Creek, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Kankakee Valley, NorthWood, Norwell, Providence, South Dearborn, South Vermillion, Southridge.
2. Lafayette Central Catholic
3. Indianapolis Scecina Memorial
4. Lewis Cass
4. North Posey
Receiving votes: Blackford, Boone Grove, Covenant Christian, LaVille, Monroe Central, South Adams, Wheeler.
1. Washington Township
5. North Miami
8. Riverton Parke
Receiving votes: Clinton Central, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fremont, Hauser, Loogootee, North Daviesss, North White, Rising Sun, South Central (Union Mills), Trinity Lutheran, Wes-Del.
Because of concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic, most of the college baseball seasons in Indiana came to a premature end.
COVID-19 has caused campuses to shut down with many schools going to remote learning and social distancing practiced across the country. The NCAA, NAIA and National Junior College Athletic Association all decided to cancel their tournaments and baseball schedules have been wiped out.
“It’s been a learning curve for everybody,” says 17th-year Bethel University coach Seth Zartman. “Everything just happened so fast. It almost seems surreal.”
On Monday, March 13, the Mishawaka-based Pilots were 45 minutes from an intra-squad session when the NAIA made its announcement.
That’s when Zartman and his assistants had to inform players that the season was over.
“It’s one of the most not-fun meetings I’ve ever had to do with the team,” says Zartman, who saw his team conclude 2019-20 at 19-7, including 11-0 in the fall. “We helped them get prepared for online classes. On Tuesday, we had equipment check-in. That’s where we’re sitting at this point.
“We’ll savor what we were able to get done and accomplish and move on.”
Senior right-handed pitcher Justin Rasmussen went 6-1 with a 2.59 earned run average and 37 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.
For a few years, Bethel has taken advantage of an NAIA rule which allows baseball and softball teams to scheduled counter games in the fall.
“It’s something we’ve come to appreciate,” says Zartman. “It brings a better focus to our fall season. It helps us come closer to the 55-game limit and there’s nicer weather to do it in (in the fall).”
The NCAA (D-I) and NAIA granted every current spring sport athlete an extra year of eligibility if they want to use it.
“That’s another process we’re going to have to navigate,” says Zartman. “I’m not sure how many will come back or take advantage of that at this point.”
The NCAA is expected to announce its decision on other levels by March 20.
The Bethel campus is still open, but many students including players, have decided to go home and continue course work via computer. For that reason, Zartman expects that any exit interviews he does will likely be done by phone.
Zartman, with his office away from many of the other BU employees, has been diving into paperwork he probably would not have tackled until May or June. Wife Antira is a teacher in the Jimtown system and goes in three days a week. The four Zartman children are staying home like the rest of their schoolmates.
“We’re hanging onto a new normal right now,” says Zartman.
Of the 38 college baseball programs in Indiana, 13 are in the NAIA. Besides Bethel, they include Calumet of Saint Joseph, Goshen, Grace, Huntington, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan, Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University South Bend, Indiana University Southeast, Marian, Saint Francis and Taylor.
When the season came to a halt, No. 12-ranked IU Southeast was 18-1. The New Albany-based Grenadiers’ last game was an 11-7 win against Lindsey Wilson in Columbia, Ky., on March 11. The only loss (6-5 in eight innings) came March 4 in the first game of a doubleheader at then-No. 25 Campbellsville (Ky.).
Junior left-hander Hunter Kloke posted a 2.45 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.
Ben Reel, who has been IU Southeast’s head coach since 2009, is choosing to see the positives in the situation.
“I learned a lot during this time,” says Reel. “You think you’ve seen it all and done it all and you’re dead wrong.”
Reel recalls his high school psychology class and the five stages of grief and loss — denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
In talking with his network of fellow coaches, including former Grenadiers assistant Andrew Dickson (now at Yale, where the Ivy League was among the first to shut down for 2020), Reel found a recurring theme.
“We weren’t really prepared to be the middle men between our universities and our players,” says Reel. “They’re confused. They’re upset.
“You’re the point person to make sense of everything.”
Reel’s focus throughout his coaching career is to recruit people he wants to be around everyday.
“That’s what hurts the most,” says Reel. “We’re prevented from being around the people we love and that’s our players.”
Another message that Reel has bought into and that’s to use this time without daily baseball for personal growth.
“I’m going to get better at something,” says Reel. “You have time to do whatever you want do and whatever you need to do.”
Sophomore Noah Miller hit .389 (14-of-36) and stole seven bases. Sophomore right-hander Zach Verta slugged two homers and drove in 11 runs while also going 2-1 as a pitcher. Junior Jake Everaert (Hebron) had a 6.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 18 innings.
Junior right-hander Noah Huseman, senior right-hander Justin Pettit (Jennings County) and senior right-hander Tucker Waddups (Pioneer) are went 2-0 on the mound. Huseman produced a 3.00 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 21 innings.
Freshman left-hander Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern) went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA. Junior right-hander Kyle Nicolas (0-1, 2.74) struck out 37 in 23 innings. Senior right-hander John Baker (1-2, 2.42) fanned 27 in 22 1/3 innings.
Sophomore right-hander Shane Gray (1-1, 3.57) struck out 19 in 22 2/3 innings. Senior left-hander Nathan Croner (1-1, 3.26) whiffed 18 in 19 1/3 innings. Senior right-hander David Ellis (Princeton Community) went 2-1 to lead the staff in victories.
Freshman right-hander Jett Jackson (1-0, 1.89) with 13 strikeouts in 19 innings and wins leader and sophomore right-hander Cory Brooks (2-2, 5.12) with 16 K’s in 19 1/3 innings were among the pitching leaders.
Senior right-hander Cameron Boyd (Fishers) went 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA and struck out 21 in 23 innings. Sophomore left-hander Justin Miller (Homestead) went 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA and fanned 20 in 16 2/3 innings.
Senior and Center Grove product Will Smithey (8-of-20) and sophomore Ty Williams (10-of-25) both hit .400. Smithey has four homers, 16 RBIs and three stolen bases.
Senior left-hander Myc Witty (Lawrence North) and senior right-hander Reid Werner (Greenwood Community) were both 3-0 on the mound. Witty has a 1.59 ERA. Senior left-hander Corey Bates (1-1) has fanned 30 batters in 18 1/3 innings.
Junior Joe Moran (Anderson High School) hit .563 (18-of-32) with one homer and six stolen bases. As a right-handed pitcher, he was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 20 innings. He is slated to be the Heartland College Athletic Conference’s first player in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer.
Junior Joe Henschel (Fort Wayne Carroll) hit .409 (9-of-22) with two homers and eight RBIs.
Senior right-hander Nick Rush (Terre Haute North Vigo) went 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA and had nine strikeouts in nine innings. Sophomore right-hander Zach White (Logansport) went 1-0, 1.13) and fanned eight in eight innings.
Junior left-hander Kyle Robinson (2-0, 0.00), sophomore right-hander Bryce Bloode (2-0, 2.93) and junior right-hander Drew Cebulak (1-0, 1.50) with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings were among the mound leaders. Robinson prepped at Crown Point and Bloode at New Prairie.
Clay Woeste makes a throw for the 2020 Indiana Univesity Southeast baseball team. The New Albany-based Grenadiers were 18-1 when the season came to a sudden halt because of concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). (Indiana University Southeast Photo)
Bethel University (Mishawaka, Ind.) celebrates one of its 2020 baseball victories. The Pilots went 19-7 in 2019-20. The season was shortened when the NAIA shut down because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Bethel University Photo)
Athletic director Richelle Viront wanted him to establish culture with the Eagles.
VanArsdale, a 2013 ECA graduate who had played baseball, golf and basketball at his alma mater, was a baseball assistant in 2017 and came back to lead the program in 2019.
“I’ve been preaching to the guys to stay humble and work hard,” says VanArsdale. “Humility is so valuable in a team sport.”
VanArsdale, who had also coached many of these same athletes as junior high basketball players, does not put the emphasis on personal statistics but the team.
“We talked about distractions,” says VanArsdale. “One huge one is pride.”
VanArsdale wants his players to know that “everyone matters” and that seniors with experience respect freshmen with little to none.
“When I see someone who is toxic to that culture, we’re addressing it head-on right away,” says VanArsdale. “At the end of the day, ECA baseball is about life development.”
VanArsdale saw the Eagles go from 1-11 in 2018 — a year he stayed out of coaching with the birth of his daughter (Bethel College graduates Tyler and Brittany welcomed Clara on their wedding anniversary of May 10, 2018 at 10:18 p.m.) — to 8-8 in 2019 with him in charge.
“It’s a mindset thing — a change in thinking,” says VanArsdale. “That’s a great turnaround.”
Elkhart Christian lost 4-0 to Fremont in the semifinals of the IHSAA Class 1A Fremont Sectional.
“It was intense and competitive,” says VanArsdale. “I was proud of the guys.”
Two seniors — Bailey Petty and Mark Stevens — were on that squad. Many players return for 2020. Stevens has joined a coaching staff that also includes Tony Tice and Chad Viront.
VanArsdale started his high school athletic career at nearby Penn.
As a sophomore, he transferred to ECA. He was allowed to play junior varsity basketball. The Eagles did not have a JV baseball team, but an arm injury ended his travel season early.
VanArsdale played basketball as a junior and season for squads that won 13 and 14 games.
His senior spring saw ECA go 21-8 and win the school’s first baseball sectional title, reigning at Hamilton and advancing to the finals of the 1A Caston Regional.
That team featured Caleb Stayton (who went on to a standout career at Ball State University) and Tanner Watson (who excelled at Taylor University) and VanArsdale keeps in-touch with many of his former teammates.
A former golf mate of Alec Dutkowski, VanArdale was also able to juggle the links and the diamond in the spring at ECA. He anticipates that he will have some baseball players also competing in track and field this spring.
During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, the Eagles have been practicing on Tuesdays and Saturdays with weight workouts on other days.
Players and coaches are communication via group chat and VanArsdale, who is also account manager for Legacy Fire Protection, has lunch with his seniors — a group that will have at least six.
“I’m excited,” says VanArsale. “1 through 9, we’ll be stronger at the plate.
“With pitching, we lost Bailey Petty. But we’ll be more diverse and may use three pitchers in a game.”
To keep his pitchers healthy, VanArsdale has them using J-Bands, lifting weights and stretching in the off-season.
For those players who have their sights on the next level, the coach has advice.
“If you have a goal to play college ball, I preach prospect camps,” says VanArsdale. “You don’t want to get worn out on travel ball.”
While ECA (enrollment around 170) is an independent in all sports but soccer now, the school will be part of the Hoosier Plains Conference (with Argos, Bethany Christian, Lakeland Christian Academy, South Bend Career Academy and Trinity at Greenlawn), beginning in 2020-21. It will come with a double robin schedule and end-of-season recognition.
“It’s going to be really good,” says VanArsdale. “It’ll give each school something to shoot for.”