By STEVE KRAH
Parke Heritage High School in Rockville, Ind., fielded its second baseball team in 2021.
The Wolves debuted in 2019, missed the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and came back this spring.
On Memorial Day, Parke Heritage won its first sectional championship, reigning at Sectional 44 hosted by Southmont. Tournament wins came against South Putnam Wednesday May 26 as well as Southmont and North Putnam both on Monday, May 31.
Down 3-2 against Southmont with six outs to go, the Wolves scored six runs in the sixth inning for an 8-3 triumph prior to an 11-1 title game win against North Putnam.
Parke Heritage heads to the IHSAA Class 2A Cascade Regional Saturday, June 5 with a 15-10 record after a 5-9 start.
“It’s been an up-and-down ride,” says first-year Wolves head coach Ron Alabaugh. “We lost last year with the pandemic and our basketball team went to the (2020-21) State Finals.
“Basketball players are key parts of the baseball program.”
These hoopsters, which finished as 2A state runners-up to Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, played catch-up while knocking the baseball rust off and getting their arms in shape at the beginning of the season.
“It took a little while to get things going,” says Alabaugh. “But they stuck with it and worked hard. It’s paying off for us late in the season.
“Winning is just as contagious as losing. At a certain part of a season we expected to lose. We had to work on that frame of mind and turn it around. It was rough on the boys, but we were able to do it.”
By the close of the regular slate, the Wolves were down to 15 players in the program. Two seniors — Joey Bouffard and Connor Davis — have been drawing interest from college baseball programs.
In recent years, Rockville/Parke Heritage sent Kaleb Huxford (Maryville University in St. Louis), Dalton Laney (Indiana State) and Hunter Michalic (Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.) to college diamonds. Logan White is on the football team at Franklin (Ind.) College).
Parke Heritage (a consolidation of Rockville and Turkey Run with an enrollment around 350) is a member of the Wabash River Conference (with Attica, Covington, Fountain Central, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke, 2021 champion Seeger and South Vermillion).
WRC teams played each other twice — sometimes in home-and-away weekday series and sometimes in Saturday doubleheaders.
Regular-season wins came against Covington (twice), Attica (twice), North Putnam, North Vermillion (twice), Fountain Central (twice), Sullivan, Greencastle and South Newton.
Parke Heritage plays at a facility named for former Rockville athletic director Stan Gideon, who died in 2006.
The Wolves count local youth leagues, travel teams and a junior high team as part of its feeder program. The high school took over the old Rockville High building. Parke Heritage Middle School is in the structure that once housed Turkey Run in Marshall, Ind.
Rockville won 12 sectional titles, five regionals, two semistates and was 1A state runners-up in 2014 and 1A state champions in 2015. Turkey Run won four sectionals.
Alabaugh was an assistant at Rockville to Bob Kyle for the 2008-13 and 2016-19 seasons.
This spring, Alabaugh’s staff includes Mark Harper and Jarred Russell.
His father — Ron Alabaugh — attends every game. He played many years of semipro baseball for the old Blanford Cardinals as a teammate of Kyle. Young Ron was the batboy and later played on the same field as a member of the Clinton American Legion Post 140 team.
“My mother (Beverly) walked away with the (sectional) game ball last night,” says Alabaugh. “She put up with 50-some years of my baseball. That’s the least I could do for her.”
A 1987 graduate of South Vermillion High School in Clinton, Ind., Alabaugh played for Tim Terry near the beginning of Terry’s Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame career.
Terry’s longevity in establishing a successful program is a marvel to Alabaugh, who counts winning a sectional title in his sophomore year among his favorite baseball memories.
The Wildcats beat Montezuma and Rosedale to win the 1985 South Vermillion Sectional and lost to Terre Haute South Vigo featuring Kyle Kraemer in the semifinals of the Terre North Regional semifinals.
Alabaugh has two degrees from Indiana State University. After nearly two decades in the car business — he had his own Chevrolet dealership — he decided to go back to college and at 43 he was ready to be an educator. He started at North Montgomery, where he was also an assistant girls basketball coach on the staff of Ryan Nuppnau.
The 2020-21 year is his sixth at Rockville/Parke Heritage. He is a Social Studies teacher, instructing classes in history, psychology and economics.
Ron and wife Annie Alabaugh have a married son named Jordan (his bride is Nikki). Jordan Alabaugh was a golfer at South Vermillion.