By STEVE KRAH
“Putting the ball in-play and running like the dickens.”
In simplified terms, that’s the offensive philosophy Shawn Turner has as head baseball coach at Seeger Memorial Junior-Senior High School in West Lebanon, Ind.
“We try to put the ball in-play and in the middle of the diamond as best we can,” says Turner. “We want to put the onus on the defense to have to make plays.
“We’re not focused on launch angle. We’re not focused on things 15- to 19-year-old kids typically aren’t ready for.
“Contact and hard contact is the most-important thing.”
Turner led the Warren County-based Patriots to a 23-5 mark in 2022. Seeger hit .379 as a team with five home runs and 300 runs (10.7 per game). The pitching staff posted a 2.42 earned run average. The team committed 44 errors (1.5 per game).
“Pitching and defense is what we focus on more than anything else,” says Turner. “We don’t have the capabilities — year in and year out — to go out there and rely on the three-run home run. We have to manufacture runs. We’re going to try to be smart on the base paths and move runners by putting the ball in play.
“Once you get to tournament time and as you’re playing better teams, you face better pitching. Our kids recognize that they’re pretty good at hitting the ball when the pitcher’s not very solid. When he is that makes it a little more challenging so it’s easier for them to buy into what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Turner calls the The groundout to the second baseman — which can move a runner from from second to third or score a runner from third — the most-overlooked play in baseball.
Seeger (enrollment around 400) is a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Attica, Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Parke Heritage, Riverton Parke and South Vermillion).
WRC teams meet twice during the same week — either two weekdays or Saturday doubleheader.
The Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Benton Central, Carroll (Flora), Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community and Lewis Cass. Seeger has won five sectional titles — the last in 2015.
Turner, who is also a math teacher at the high school, spent four seasons as head coach at Richmond (Ind.) High School, one as an assistant at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., and 17 as head coach at Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo High School (1998-2014) after two as assistant. He was a McCutcheon assistant in 1994 and 1995, helped at West Vigo in 1993 and North Vigo 1990-92.
At Seeger, Turner is part of a school where the multi-sport athlete is the norm.
“We have very few individuals who are participating in (IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities),” says Turner. “We share athletes. I’ve got basketball players, wrestlers and swimmers.”
Turner expects to have about 25 athletes for varsity and junior varsity baseball in the spring. Of that number, nearly 20 are involved in at least one other sport.
“It makes it rough to have an aggressive off-season program,” says Turner, who also sees his baseballers go out for football, cross country and tennis in the fall. “It’s the nature of the beast.
“Once high school is over, it’s over. We’re at a school where kids have the opportunity multiple sports.
“We encourage that. It’s the day-to-day opportunities they’re going to remember not so much a win or a loss. It’s spending time with their teammates and practices along the way. We try to make sure they’re enjoying what they’re doing. It’s their team. It’s not my team.”
Turner wants players to go on to become fine young men and positive members of society. If they also get to play at the next level, so be it.
Two recent Seeger graduates and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participants are now in college baseball — pitcher and 2021 graduate Khal Stephen (Purdue University) and catcher and 2022 graduate Nick Turner (Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill.).
Nick is the youngest of Shawn and Tiffany Turner’s two sons. Austin Turner played at McCutcheon (Class of 2017) and Indiana Wesleyan University.
Three-year starters Caleb Edwards and Jace Ware are among the returnees for 2023.
Seeger assistant coaches are Mike Holland, Matt Pruitt and Robert Jones.
The Patriots’ home field is on-campus. The baseball and softball diamonds are due for major renovations following the 2023 season. That includes getting lights.
There is junior high baseball in the spring and summer for seventh and eighth graders.
Future and current high school players are also involved in youth leagues in Williamsport and Lafayette and travel and American Legion teams in Indiana and Illinois.