By STEVE KRAH
Moving players around during the 2018 season, sixth-year Tri-West Hendricks High School baseball coach Ryan Oppy found the combination that has helped the Bruins win 20 games and a second straight IHSAA Class 3A sectional title.
“We’ve been plugging guys in and out trying to find the right comfort level,” says Oppy. “They’ve handled some change well.”
By beating Brebeuf Jesuit 6-3 Monday, May 28 for the IHSAA Class 3A Danville Sectional title — the seventh in program history — Tri-West earned the right to play Saturday, June 2 at the Crawfordsville Regional.
North Montgomery plays West Vigo in the morning game followed by Indian Creek against Tri-West. Because Indian Creek’s graduation is Saturday morning, the first game is set for 11 a.m., followed the second around 2:30 p.m. The championship is slated for 7.
Tri-West, based in Lizton, Ind., will be aiming at its first regional crown.
The power-hitting Bruins were averaging more than 10 runs per game heading into the postseason.
“We get on base and score a lot,” says Oppy.
Tri-West is currently among the top home run producers in Indiana with 24 (11 belonging to catcher Derek Wagner). According to MaxPreps, only Center Grove (34), Monrovia (34) and Pike (27) have more.
Wagner (Indiana University Southeast), center fielder Carter Cooper (Wright State University-Lake Campus) and shortstop Lucas Goodin (Indiana Wesleyan) are all seniors who have made college baseball commitments.
The veteran-laden Bruins have six other seniors — right-handed pitcher/first baseman/right fielder Mason Cox, second baseman Tanner Freije, third baseman Levi Jackson, left fielder/left-hander Jarrett Roseboom, right fielder Ryan Vershave and first baseman/right-hander Zach Waters. Cox is the ace of the pitching staff.
“We’ve had a lot of experience the last couple years has helped our program,” says Oppy.
Also in the mound mix are junior left-hander Jacob Hayden and sophomore righty Dawson Wolfe.
Junior Blake Bear sees most of the time in right field. Sophomore Quinten Cooper also plays in the outfield.
Tri-West belongs to the Sagamore Conference (along with Crawfordsville, Danville, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Southmont and Western Boone).
Teams play home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tri-West and Frankfort both went 10-4 to tie for the Sagamore championship.
The 20-6 Bruins split with Crawfordsville, Danville, Frankfort and North Montgomery and suffered non-conference losses to Avon and Cascade.
There were 33 players in the program this spring for varsity and junior varsity teams.
Oppy’s assistant coaches are Bryan Engelbrecht, Dellos Schabel, Scott Arthur and Gordie Lucas.
Tri-West plays its home games on-campus. This spring, a fundraising campaign brought the Bruins a new mobile batting cage.
Various travel ball organizations, including Indiana Hurricanes, Indiana Braves, Indiana Expos and Indiana Nitro serve as a kind of feeder system for Tri-West. Slugger Wagner has played with the Cincinnati Spikes.
Oppy graduated in 2004 from Danville Community High School, where he played for and gained knowledge from veteran Warriors head coach Rick Foster that helps him to this day.
“It was the way he communicated with his players and how he handled different aspects of running a baseball program,” says Oppy of Foster. “As for the on the field stuff, he knew a lot. I would ask the question of why we would do this instead of that.
“I also saw the way he treated people.”
Head coach Tim Bunton taught Oppy more about the game during his two seasons at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College. He finished his elementary education degree at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.
While Bunton was very personable, he was also very demanding of his athletes.
“He would push people,” says Oppy. “He expected more out of you than you would out of yourself.
“You hold yourself and other people accountable.”
Bunton was also a stickler for time management.
“If practice time was 3:30, the rule is you had to be there 15 minutes before that,” says Oppy. “If you weren’t, you were in trouble.”
Oppy teaches fourth grade at Pittsboro Elementary. The current junior class were fourth graders when he started.
Ryan and Nicole Oppy have two daughters — Lydia (4) and Margaret (1).
Tri-West Hendricks made it two IHSAA Class 3A sectional baseball titles in a row in 2018 under Bruins head coach Ryan Oppy. Tri-West plays in the Crawfordsville Regional Saturday, June 2.
The Tri-West Bruins hoist the trophy at the 2018 IHSAA Class 3A Danville Sectional baseball tournament.