Tag Archives: Project Lead The Way

Fun important part of baseball for Mikolajczyk, Munster Mustangs

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

As part of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Shinkan’s coaching staff at Munster High School, Mike Mikolajczyk saw the importance of keeping the sport fun for players.
“You’ve got to be loose,” says Mikolacjzyk, who enters his 24th year in the program and first as head coach in 2022. Only IHSBCA Hall of Famer Mike Niksic and Shinkan have held that title before Mikolajczyk, who was Mustangs freshmen coach for 20 seasons and varsity assistant for three.
He is a 1989 graduate of Bremen High School in Midlothian, Ill., where he played four years of baseball for Braves coach Tom Johnson and earned all-conference and all-area honors as a junior and senior and was a team captain. He spent a half year with the baseball team at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in Teaching from Purdue University Calumet and a master’s degree in Arts and Language Arts from Governors State University.
Mikolajczyk (Mick-O-Lie-Check) teaches sixth grade Reading and Language Arts at Wilbur Wright Middle School in Munster.
In 2021, the Mustangs were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central and Merrillville (host). Munster won its 13th sectional title — the first since 2016.
“We have 11 guys coming back from last year’s team,” says Mikolajczyk. “We will be pretty senior strong.”
The Class of 2022 includes right-hander Brady Ginaven (Indiana State University commit), left-hander Jake Thometz (uncommitted) and right-hander Will Moell (Johns Hopkins University commit) at the top of the mound rotation.
“I’m pretty excited about our top three pitchers,” says Mikolajczyk. “I could put those guys against anybody in northwest Indiana and we’ll be competitive.”
Another key senior is outfielder/first baseman Tyler Lukowski. Juniors drawing D-I attention are outfielder Kozy Denham and outfielder/shortstop Kevin Hall.
Recent graduates moving on to college ball include 2020 graduates in right-hander Costa Sirounis (Indiana University), right-hander Will Melby (Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs) and infielder Ronnie Nowak (Marshalltown, Iowa, Community College). From 2021, there’s right-hander/third baseman and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Bryce Schaum (Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.), second baseman/catcher Ben Greiner (DePauw University) and middle infielder/outfielder Derrick Wiening (Purdue Northwest).
Munster (enrollment around 1,600) is located in Lake County and a member of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (with Andrean, Highland, Hobart, Kankakee Valley and Lowell).
The Mustangs plan to field three teams — varsity, junior varsity and freshmen — in 2022 — and Mikolajczyk estimates there will be 45 to 50 in the program. The first time Munster had paid assistants was four years ago.
Mikolajczyk’s assistants include Matt Backs, volunteers Brian Boliek and Adam Musielak with the varsity, Mark Dye with the JV and an as-yet-to-be-named freshmen coach.
Backs, who coached one year at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, Ill., and 27 years as Munster JV coach, will handle infielders and outfielders and coach first base. The Illinois State University graduate is a Project Lead The Way teacher at Wilbur Wright.
Boilek, who enters his fifth year on the staff who has more than two decades experience of coaching travel and American Legion ball, is a bench coach and handles strength and conditioning. He works in banking and finance.
Musielak was head coach for six years at Whiting (Ind.) High School and took the Oilers to the IHSAA Class 2A Final Four in 2019. He has 10 years of coaching experience for baseball, basketball and football. The Indiana University alum teaches Physical Education at Munster.
Dye is a Munster graduate who played at Earlham College In Richmond, Ind., and served a freshmen coach at Portage (Ind.) High School for six years. He teaches Social Studies at Munster. Infielders and catchers will be part of Mikolajczyk’s responsbilities.
Munster had 10 IHSAA Limited Contact Period sessions in September and early October with nearly 60 participants (not involved in fall sports). There were open fields and gyms with activity on Mike Niksic Field (which has a turf infield and grass outfielder), diamonds at Community Park, located next to the school and the home to Munster Little League and Munster Babe Ruth or the turfed football field.
“In fall workouts, we get an idea of who’s really dedicated to you and who’s not,” says Mikolajczyk.
An off-season weight program is baseball-specific and is geared toward flexibility and mobility.
“What we’re trying to emphasize is bigger, faster, stronger,” says Mikolajczyk. “We’re not trying to bulk up. It’s about maintenance and an injury-prevention type of thing.”
For the first time in program history, a 500-pound club (total for bench press, clean and jerk and deadlift) has been established to promote bonding and buy-in. Just before break, all 13 who attempted to qualify for a club made it and got a T-shirt. Qualifying is planned again in January and February.
Mikolajczyk says strength and conditioning training has drawn 30 to 35 participants each time without freshmen.
Little League (T-ball to age 12) and Babe Ruth (13-15) feed players to Munster High School. Several players are in travel ball with Morris Baseball, which is run by alum Bobby Morris.
Hal Morris, Bobby’s brother, is a Munster graduate who made it to the big leagues primarily as a first baseman (1988-2000) and is also in the IHSBCA Hall of Fame. More recently, outfielder Craig Dedelow played at Indiana University (2014-17) and is now in the Chicago White Sox organization.
The Manous brothers — right-hander Connor (Class of 2016) and outfielder Garrett (Class of 2019 — were both on the IU roster in 2021.
An avid golfer, Mikolajczyk is a 7-handicap on the links. He also enjoys hunting. He lives in Frankfort, Ill., with significant other Maribel Soto Piccinini. She has a son named Troy (26).
Tanya Mikolajczyk, who was married to Mike, died of colon cancer in 2019.

Mike Mikolajczyk with 2021 sectional trophy earned by Munster (Ind.) High School.
Mike Mikolajczyk (left) and Maribel Soto Piccinini.

Harden keeping it positive with Linton-Stockton Miners

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

Accountability, positivity, a spirt of competition and excellence are qualities Jacob Harden is looking to instill as the new head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School in Indiana’s Greene County.
“I’m big on holding (players) accountable,” says Harden, who was hired to lead the Miners program in July. “I’ll be the first one to get on their tail when they’re doing something wrong, but I’ll be the first one to build them back up. All the coaches I’ve been around cared and still held me to realistic standards.
“Positives need to outweigh the negatives.”
Harden, who is also a Project Lead The Way computer science teacher at Linton-Stockton Middle School, had players conditioning shortly after the school year began and led players in grades 7-12 during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period in the fall and since the first week of December.
“I want to be the program coach,” says Harden, 25. “I don’t want players to meet me for the first time when they’re freshmen.”
Besides the middle school program for seventh and eighth graders, the Linton Youth League (T-ball though Grade 6) feeds the high school Miners.
Recent graduates moving on to college ball are 2021 graduates Josh Pyne and Kip Fougerousse (son of former Linton-Stockton head coach Matt Fougerousse) to Indiana University.
Bracey Breneman (Class of 2022) recently signed with Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Harden did his best in the fall to simulate what spring practices will be like with position group work followed by team activity.
He set the tone from Day 1.
“I set the standard for how I expect things to go,” says Harden. “I mean business. I want us to win state championships. That means working hard.
“We’re doing something every minute of our practices and everybody is going to get better.”
Harden has players trying to beat one another in cut-off and bunt drills.
“Scoop Tennis” — which promotes quick hands and feet and proper glove work — is both fun and competitive.
“When guys compete with everything they do that’s going to transfer over to the game,” says Harden. “You want to be be a competitor and find ways to win.
“It’s a competitive atmosphere and we’re paying attention to the fine details.”
Fall World Series teams vied for the “Folger’s Cup” — an old coffee can found in a dugout. There’s also social media salutes to the “Grinder of the Week” complete with honoree pictured with a coal miner cap.
Linton-Stockton baseball embraces the hashtag #PreparingForReign.
“Everybody want to be the best they can be, but who’s going to prepare?,” says Harden, who also has his team breaking huddles with a chant of “618.” What’s significant about that number? June 18, 2022 is the date of the IHSAA State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis and that’s where the Miners want to be — #Destination618.
Harden wants “The Miner Way” to be personified by players who are gritty with good attitudes.
“It embodies what this town is all about,” says Harden. “These people have to work for a living. That’s how this community is.
“These guys are starting to believe they can do it.”
Linton-Stockton’s new uniforms will feature “MH” on the right shoulder to honor baseball backer Mark Hollingsworth, who died at the beginning of the school year.
While he’s not on his staff, Harden has got plenty of support from former Miners head coach Bart Berns.
Linton-Stockton (enrollment around 390) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley).
In 2021, the Miners were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli and South Knox and beat North Knox 10-0 in the championship game. Linton-Stockton has won 10 sectional titles.
Harden’s assistants are Mike Walters, Craig House and Brian Reel. Walters was a Harden teammate at Northview High School in Brazil, Ind. House is a longtime Linton-Stockton coach who is employed as a coal miner. Reel is the father of Indiana University Southeast head baseball coach Ben Reel.
Harden graduated from Northview in 2015. Besides playing Knights head coaches Scott McDonald (2012 and 2013) and Craig Trout (2014 and 2015), he was in the Clay Youth League and was in travel ball as a middle schooler with the Indiana Redbirds and American Legion Baseball for Clinton Post 140 the summer before his senior year and Clay County Post 2 the summer after graduation.
He played for Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany in the spring of 2016 and went back that fall.
“I had a lot going on,” says Harden. “My grandpa passed away late that fall and one thing led to another.
“I was led to step away and come back closer to home.”
Harden, who is the son of Brazil’s Mark and Jaime Harden and older brother of sister Kennady Harden (now 19 and an Indiana State freshman) transferred to Vincennes U.
“Coach (Chris) Barney took a chance on me,” says Harden, who went in as a walk-on in the fall of 2017 and left in the spring of 2018 as a scholarship player.
He became a 4-2-4 player (four-year school, two-year school and four-year school) when he went to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs convinced him it was not worth the risk since Harden had open heart surgery at 16 in 2013 and he was a student manager the rest of the first semester for an ISU team that went on to win a Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship in 2019.
Trout invited Harden to be an assistant at Northview and he helped at the varsity and junior varsity levels in 2019 and leading up to the COVID-19-canceled 2020 season.
“I’d always known I wanted to coach,” says Harden. “That was the first time I got to put my imprint on something.”
In 2021, Harden was an assistant to longtime Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology coach Jeff Jenkins in what turned out to be Jenkins’ final season at the Terre Haute school.
Harden assisted manager A.J. Reed of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex in the summer and was on a bus heading to Champion City (Springfield, Ohio) when he got the call from Linton-Stockton asking him to join the Miners.
We got to grow real close together,” says Harden of Reed. “He was fighting very hard for me. I got great references and guys on the team pulling for me. It felt so good.
“I’ve met a lot of people along the way. I can’t think of too many 25-year-olds has the network I do. I’ve got to learn some much. It’s been a chaotic journey. But you have to have some chaos to get that goal accomplished.”
The holder of an associate degree in General Studies from Vincennes and degree in Sports Management from Indiana State, Harden is working toward certification through the Indiana Teachers of Tomorrow program. This semester, his PLTW class is creating apps. Next semester, it will be computer science for innovators and makers.
“It gives kids a moment to shine,” says Harden of the STEM students. “It makes them feel good.”

Jacob Harden (Terre Haute Rex/Brian Williams Photo)
Jacob Harden instructs Linton-Stockton baseball players.
Linton-Stockton Miners with the “Folger’s Cup” at the Fall World Series.
Linton-Stockton Miners aiming at “Destination618 — the IHSAA State Finals on June 18, 2022.

Michigan middle infielder Bertram spending summer with Lafayette Aviators

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

Riley Bertram is spending the last summer before his final college baseball season in the same town where he began playing the game as a boy.
The 21-year-old switch-hitter has been leading off and playing shortstop for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators at new Loeb Stadium.
Through 17 games for head coach/manager Michael Keeran’s Aviators, Bertram was hitting .273 (15-of-55) with two doubles, eight runs batted in, 12 runs and four stolen bases.
Bertram, a 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate who has played three seasons (2019-21) at the University of Michigan (he started 31 of the 37 games in which he played in 2021 at second base), was born in Noblesville, Ind., and introduced to the game while father Vince Bertram was the principal at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
“I’m a middle infielder,” says Riley. “I play both second base and shortstop — whatever position the team I’m on needs.”
A year ago, Bertram was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Riley is the youngest of Project Lead The Way president and CEO Vince and Western Governors University advisor Jill Bertram’s four boys, behind Josh, Ryan and Drew.
Josh Betram played basketball and baseball at Lafayette Jeff.
Ryan Bertram played three baseball seasons at Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School and one at Zionsville Community. He was part of the University of Southern Indiana’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 2014 and later an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University and director of operations at Campbell University in Buis Creek, N.C.
Drew Bertram played at Purdue and was a manager for the Boilermakers when Mark Wasikowski was head coach. Drew is a Purdue graduate and is going to graduate school at the West Lafayette school.
It was in the back yard with his brothers that Riley first experimented with switch-hitting. He has been doing it in games since about 13.
At Michigan, Bertram has played in 70 games (49 as a starter) and is hitting .236 (43-of-182) with 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. On defense, he has 95 putouts, 136 assists, five errors and a .979 fielding percentage. He led the team in stolen bases in 2021, swiping eight in nine attempts.
Bertram has played three seasons for Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and assistant Nick Schnabel. Pitching coach Steve Merriman and volunteer coach Brandon Inge joined the staff for the 2021 slate.
“I’m very fortunate to have this coaching staff,” says Bertram. “They know what they’re talking about.
“Coach Bakich is awesome to play for. He is trying to find the best for you. He knows everything about your family. He has your back. He’s someone you could reach out if you need to get something off your chest. He does a good job of building a culture.”
Schnabel works with Michigan infielders, including Bertram.
“He knows the game at a higher level than a lot of people,” says Bertram of Schnabel.
Merriman has made a point of bonding with all UM players and not just pitchers.
“At the college level you need to have at least a baseline relationship with all players if you want to have a culture,” says Bertram. “Everytime Coach Inge talks you have to listen because whatever he’s going to say is going to beneficial to your performance.
“He keeps things loose. He’s bought into the culture Coach Bakich and Coach Schnabel have built.”
Bertram is on pace toward a Communication and Media degree from Michigan in the spring of 2022. He was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2021.
Riley played Little League baseball in Evansville, Ind., when his father served as superintendent of schools. After the family moved to Zionsville, he played for Zionsville Baseball Club and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 15U to 18U, playing for teams with Dan Held, Sean Laird, Jered Moore and Jeremy Honaker as coaches.
Bertram played four seasons for Moore at Zionsville Community and was part of IHSAA Class 4A sectional champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, regional winners in 2016 and 2017, a semistte title-taker in 2016 and state runner-up in 2016.
In 2018, Bertram was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-State selection and IHSBCA North-South All-Star as a third baseman as well as a Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American.
“I’ve always been close with Coach Moore and his family,” says Bertram. “Jered was not only was my coach, but I’ve reached out to him for many things.
Last week I texted him about hitting facilities in (the Lafayette) area and he hooked me up.
“It’s a really strong relationship.”

Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)

McNabb, North Daviess Cougars enjoy community support

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Steven McNabb learned much about baseball while playing for and coaching with an Indiana High School Baseball Hall of Famer and he tries to bring that to his role as head coach at North Daviess Junior/Senior High School in Elnora, Ind.

McNabb was a catcher at Shakamak Junior/Senior High School, where he played his first three seasons for Hall of Famer Chip Sweet. The coach’s oldest son, Josh, is one of Steven’s best friends.

After competing for Matt Fougerousse in his senior year and reaching the IHSAA State Finals for the third time (2004, 2006, 2007), McNabb played one season at Oakland City (Ind.) University and one at Olney (Ill.) Central College before receiving his degree at Indiana State University and joining Sweet’s coaching staff as junior varsity coach (2010-14) in his second stint at Shakamak.

“He is definitely my mentor and role model,” says McNabb of Sweet. “A lot of my style is like what his was.

“I can’t say enough about what he meant to my playing career and my coaching career. I’m super close with his whole family.”

McNabb says Sweet was not a screamer and yeller, but demanded much of his players. He was a disciplinarian when he needed to be there with tough love.

“We was ultra-competitive and that oozed through,” says McNabb. “He treated everybody as part of the team, regardless of ability level.”

Fougerousse is now head coach at Linton-Stockton. He and McNabb talk frequently about diamond matters.

North Daviess (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Central of Farmersburg, Shakamak and White River Valley).

The 2019 season was McNabb’s fifth in charge of the North Daviess program.

The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, Shoals and Vincennes Rivet. North Daviess has won seven sectional crowns — the last in 2015. The Cougars were North Daviess Sectional runners-up to Barr-Reeve in 2019.

Being in such close proximity to one another, there is a fierce three-headed rivalry between North Daviess, Barr-Reeve and Loogootee.

“The community really takes off with it,” says McNabb.

His first ND team won the 2015 Loogootee Sectional. A senior on that squad — Logan Wagler — went on to play a season at Bethel College (now Bethel University).

The Class of 2019 had three players moving on to college baseball programs — Shom Berry to Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky., honorable mention all-stater Landon Mokris to Greenville (Ill.) University and Tyler Dunbar to Hanover (Ind.) College.

McNabb’s coaching staff in 2020 will include local minister Ashley Shurtz, former North Daviess and Oakland City University player Lucas Swartzentruber and North Daviess teacher John Mullen.

Matt Sims, McNabb’s cousin and a Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Athletic Hall of Famer (baseball), was the Cougars pitching coach the past five seasons. Mullen moves up from the junior high staff and takes over those duties.

Sims works at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, located less than 20 miles east of North Daviess.

For eight years, McNabb has been his school’s Project Lead The Way teacher, providing instruction in computer science, robotics, electronics and CAD 3D modeling, which helps prepare students for a career at Crane.

North Daviess plays baseball on Wayne Davis Field. The facility is part of a baseball/softball/tennis complex which was established in 2004. The baseball diamond is fairly large in dimension (330 feet down the lines and 380 to center).

An indoor hitting facility shared with softball helps the Cougars get better even when the weather does not cooperate.

Feeding the high school are the Frank Roberts Youth League in Odon and a junior high program. McNabb just had a call-out meeting for seventh and eighth graders that drew more than 20 players.

“Numbers at the (youth league) are always high,” says McNabb. “Baseball is something people get behind. I have a lot of support.

“It’s a great place to be.”

Steven and Amanda McNabb have been married nearly four years. They reside in Bloomington.

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The 2015 IHSAA sectional baseball champions from North Daviess High School.

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North Daviess High School head baseball coach Steven McNabb stands with Class 1A honorable mention all-staters Shom Berry (left) and Brandon Craven (right).

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Steven McNabb (left) and Caleb Wagler share a moment on North Daviess High School’s Wayne Davis Field.

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Steven McNabb, a graduate of Shakamak High School and Indiana State University, enters his sixth season as head baseball coach at North Daviess High School in Elnora, Ind., in 2020.