Baseball has been kind to a young man from Salem, Ind. It’s given him moments of joy and relationships and helped him earn a college degree. Xavier Haendiges (pronounced X-avier Hen-dig-us) says he will keep the game in his life even though his playing days are behind him. “It’s been fun,” says Haendiges, a 2019 Salem High School graduate who redshirted one year, played three seasons at Ohio University and earned a Business Analytics and Marketing degree with a sales certificate this spring. “I met a lot of people I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. “Being able to play the game of baseball and compete everyday has been awesome.” Haendiges has one year of eligibility left, but has opted to move on. “I don’t think my arm could handle playing another season,” says Haendiges, who has also dealt with an ailing back. A righty-swinging middle infielder, he started in 30 of the 31 games he appeared in for the 2022 OU Bobcats. The 6-foot, 170-pounder hit .299 (26-of-81) with one triple, five doubles, six runs batted in and 20 runs scored. In three years, he played in 47 games and hit .252 (31-of-123). Haendiges, who turned 22 on June 15, plans to move to Cincinnati in a few weeks and begin a job as a remote account executive with InSight — an IT solutions company. “Being in marketing and sales keeps me in that competitive mindset,” says Haendiges. “I have to compete for customers and against other salesmen. “I want to be able to challenge myself everyday.” He’s recently taken to golf to help scratch his competitive itch. Growing up in Salem, Haendiges played in the local youth league then began travel ball around 11 with the Indiana Bulls. “It’s a great organization,” says Haendiges. “I’ve had so many opportunities. “It’s led me through so many doors.” With the Salem High Lions, Haendiges played for head coach Brett Miller. “To be a coach you have to have a good personality and love the game,” says Haendiges. “He was a great mentor and a great coach.” Haendiges also played point guard for the Salem basketball team. Xavier is the youngest of Ron and Pam Haendiges’ two sons. Trey Haendiges is 10 years older than Xavier and runs Haendiges Insurance Solutions in Salem and recently made his brother into an uncle and his parents into grandparents. Trey’s affection for the Boston Red Sox has rubbed off on his little brother. “I follow the Red Sox heavily,” says Haendiges. “I’ve been watching the College Word Series. When I move to Cincinnati, I plan to catch some Reds games as well.” Ron Haendiges works at State Farm Insurance in Salem. Pam Haendiges is a former first grade teacher at Bradie Shrum Elementary — the same school that Xavier attended.
Henryville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School’s uniforms say “Hornets.” But first-year head baseball coach and alum Cody Reister wants “guys that have the dog in them.” “We want to be tough defensively and on the base paths — someone that executes all the time,” says Reister (Class of 2013). “That’s our focus. Everyone can hit to some extent, but not everyone can do the little things well.” Reister played for and coached with Jeff Schroeder who led the Henryville for 27 seasons. As a student and player at Hanover (Ind.) College — where pitched for Panthers coach Shayne Stock (the 6-foot-3 right-hander was 6-1 out of the bullpen as a senior) — Reister would help out Schroeder’s Henyrville teams when he could. Reister was born in Jeffersonville, Ind., and moved from Salem, Ind., to Henryville in second grade. He played American Legion baseball for Doc Boyd’s Scottsburg Post 234 team and later Ricky Romans’ Floyds Knobs Post 42 squad. After graduating HC in 2017 with a History degree, Reister came home and became a middle school science teacher and to coach in the boys basketball and baseball programs. As Henryville approaches the start of official practice March 14, Reister sees six or seven players with mound potential. During conditioning, his players have been throwing footballs to build up arm strength. A year ago, Reister worked almost exclusively with pitchers and catchers. “We threw a ton of fastballs and change-ups,” says Reister. “It’s just as effective as anything if you can do it correctly.” The competitor in Reister would not have been receptive to 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) when he played. But the coach in him understands. “It puts you in-tune with development and what you’re guys can do,” says Reister. “I understand the reasoning for it.” Reister, who is assisted by Henrville classmate Bailey Hall as well as Tim Hawkins, expects have have 12 or 13 players in 2022. “We’re pretty light this year,” says Reister. “We have a bunch of kids in middle school. Hopefully we get them to continue on (with baseball).” As a feeder system, there is Henryville Youth Sports (wee-ball to 12U) and Henryville Elite (a teams for Grades 6-8 not affiliated with the school that plays in the spring and summer). The Hornets play on a diamond located on the west side of campus. “Our field is very, very nice,” says Reister of the facility with Bermuda grass in the infield. Henryville (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central (Elizabeth). Other non-conference foes include Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central, Providence, Rock Creek Academy, Salem, Seymour, Scottsburg, Silver Creek, Southwestern (Hanvover) and Trinity Lutheran. In 2021, the Hornets were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin) and Providence. Henryville has won six sectional titles — the last in 2008. March 2 marked 10 years since a EF4 tornado caused extensive damage to Henryville, killing one person and destroying the schools. Rise Above Mental Health/Illness is a podcast hosted by Henryville senior athletes Caleb Lehaceanu, J.D. Michael and Tyler Orberson. The latest episode was dedicated to the tornado. Senior Sam Gilles, who was inside the elementary on that unforgettable day in 2012, was a podcast guest. Reister is to be on the student-led podcast in the near future. To follow the Hornets, see the Henrville High School Baseball page on Facebook.
A Pacific Northwest native has found his fit in the Upper Midwest. Kiel Boynton, who was born and raised in Oregon, is now heading into his eighth season as an assistant baseball coach at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Ind. Boynton, 38, shares his time between worship leader at Grace Church in Granger, Ind., and helping head coach Seth Zartman with the NAIA-affiliated Pilots. While Boynton’s main focus on-campus is pitching and infielders, he handles more of the out-of-state recruiting with his network while Zartman concentrates in Indiana. “I’m working the phones a lot,” says Boynton. “Recruiting on the West Coast is a little rough sometimes (with the time difference), but my family at home has kind of gotten used to the fact that around a certain time I go into recruiting mode. “The travel just depends on the player. If I’m interested in the player I’m definitely going to try to go and see him.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel coaches have learned to make some judgment calls on recruits through viewing video. But in-person is best. “We would always love to see them live because a video can make a kid look really great or a video can make them look really bad,” says Boynton. “When you’re out-of-state, you’re trying to maybe sell the school a little bit more than selling the finances. If they’re in-state we kind of know that they’re going to qualify of additional potential scholarship (money) depending on their grades and their family’s income.” As a coach, Boynton sees pitching and defense as his strength and lets Zartman concentrate on the offensive part of the game. “I’m big on the mental side,” says Boynton. “It’s important to see how they respond to adversity and different things.” In practice, Boynton puts his pitchers in high-pressure situations. It may be a closer coming into the game with less than two outs and runners in scoring position. “My heart rate’s up and I’ve got to figure out how to stay calm and be able to do that,” says Boynton of the hurler’s task. “We’ll put them on a bike between innings. They’ll have to go real fast and get their heart rate up and then we immediately send them to the mound and have have to pitch and calm themselves down. “They learn how to overcome that and still get outs.” Sam Riggleman, who was head coach at Bethel (1995-99) and has more than four decades of experiences and a college coach, gave Boynton some advice year ago about pitchers and adversity that stuck with him. “He doesn’t give his pitchers multiple chances to succeed because he wants them to have to learn to deal with adversity and failure,” says Boynton. “When he puts them in a situation like that, they get the outs or they don’t get the outs. “It’s all that mental side that comes into play. They pitcher needs to know the situation (and where and how to deliver his pitches).” Boynton looks on his coaching career and has witnessed constant change in himself. “When I first started coaching I just wanted to win,” says Boynton. “It was not as much about building relationships. When the team would lose, I would take it personally. It was like I didn’t do my job or I failed. I would get really frustrated.” Through the influences of Zartman, Riggleman, Dean Stiles, Mike Manes and others, Boynton’s coaching philosophy has morphed. “I am not just worried about what they do on the baseball field,” says Boynton. “I heard a long time ago a coach say that if you’re a good coach, you get invited to weddings. “I started really wrapping my head around that. If a player invites me to their wedding that means that I meant something to their life. Whether or not they were successful on the field they knew that I cared about them enough that they wanted me to be a part of the biggest day of their life.” Kiel (pronounced Kyle) and wife Faith have two children — son Parker (12) and daughter Aubrie (3) — with one on the way. As a right-handed pitcher/infielder, Boynton played for Stiles at Crook County High School in Prineville, Ore., since his tiny Christian school — did not have baseball. He also played football and basketball. Boynton was born with mild form of Cerebral Palsy that effects the muscles on the right side of his body. “The right side will get to a certain strength and that’s about it,” says Boynton. “When I lifted in college you could always see that my left side was stronger. My left leg what take the primary force of my squat. “My mom (Teri) and dad (John) did a great job of not letting Cerebral Palsy be a crutch for me,” says Boynton. “They always encouraged me to just work harder. I played pretty much every sport growing up.” Even with the weakness, John Boynton made his son a right-handed pitcher. “It’s made a big impact on my coaching career,” says Boynton of CP. “I don’t like laziness or pitchers who kind of take time off. In my own life, I never did that. “I want my players to work twice as hard.” Patrick Tubaugh, who has been a Director of Baseball Operations for Bethel, also has Cerebral Palsy. Boynton is a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to his father who grew up in southern California, played at Los Angeles Bible College (now The Master’s University) for Pete Reese and had a tryout with the Dodgers. An EMT director job got him to move to Oregon. “I grew up hearing about Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and all the great Dodger legends,” says Boynton. “I grew up listening to (play-by-play announcer) Vin Scully. I’ve been following them ever since.” Each Christmas Faith adds an item to Kiel’s Dodger collection. “She’s running out of things to get me,” says Boynton. The younger brother of Cy and Shannon followed his sister when he attended Cedarville (Ohio) University and played four seasons (2003-06) for the Yellow Jackets. “Coach (Greg) Hughes took that gamble on a kid with Cerebral Palsy and I’m very appreciative,” says Boynton. By that time, Reese was the athletic director at Cedarville. He was a middle infielder and pitcher and earned undergraduate and masters degrees in sport management with a minor in Bible, and coached at the school 25 miles east of Dayton for five — one as an assistant to Hughes and four on Manes’ staff. During that time, Boynton met Zartman as a competing coach or someone at the same site on a southern trip. Among the pitchers he coached were the Ledbetter twins of Indianapolis — David and Ryan. Boynton met Justin Masterson, who pitched at Bethel in 2004 and 2005 and hails from Beavercreek, Ohio, when he used Cedarville facilities to train during part of his big league career. Boynton left Cedarville and went back to Oregon, where he was a pitching coach at Corban University in Salem, where he was born, for about three years. He was also involved in youth ministry. During his time in Salem, Boynton received a call from Zartman letting him know of a potential assistant coach job at Bethel. There was prayer and family discussion and about a week later, Boynton and let Zartman know it was a good fit and he was ready to move to northern Indiana. Economic uncertainty at the time led Zartman to tell Boynton not to make the move with his family in case the position was cut. The following year with things stabilized, Zartman called again and the Boyntons came back to the Midwest. He started at Bethel in January 2015. Boynton says about three-quarters of his income comes from his worship director position. “The two jobs really work great with each other,” says Boynton. “My coaching job is pretty much Monday through Saturday. My worship leader job is also a Monday through Saturday thing, but the one day that they actually really need me to be doing something is Sunday.” Bethel, a member of the Crossroads League, is to open the 2022 season Feb. 4 against Lourdes in Hot Springs, Ark.
Greg Oppel, who was hired as head baseball coach at Lanesville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in the fall of 2021, has long been part of the bat-and-ball scene in the southeast part of the state. A 1987 graduate of North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., where he earned Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association honorable mention all-state and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series status as a senior for Cougars coach Danny Smith, left-handed pitcher Oppel went on to play at the Indiana State University-Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) for Screaming Eagles coach Gary Redman. Rotator cuff surgery limited his college playing career to 2 1/2 years. Darren Oppel, Greg’s cousin, graduated from North Harrison in 1989 and was a first-team all-state shortstop and played in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. He went on to play at the University of Louisville and was a Colorado Rockies scout. As a baseball coach, Greg Oppel has been an assistant (2008) to Rick Parr and head coach (2009-11) at North Harrison (Cody Johnson was the IHSBCA North/South Series MVP in 2008) and assistant to Grenadiers head coach Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (2012-15) and assistant to Lions head coach Jason Pepmeier at Salem (Ind.) High School. It was when Reel was new at IUS and Oppel was on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board that the new formed a friendship. The idea of building an indoor hitting facility was explored and the process really took off when Oppel became North Harrison head coach. It happened through private donations and matching funds from the Harrison County Community Foundation. Reel inquired about using the hitting building for his IU Southeast team in winter months. “I said heck yeah — with one stipulation,” says Oppel. “I want your players and your staff to work our kids out with your knowledge.” When Oppel joined Reel’s staff he got even more access to his know-how. “Coach Reel is one of the top baseball minds in the country,” says Oppel. “Sitting in a session and listening to him talk and picking his brain was such a great opportunity for me and still is today.” Having traveled all over the country following daughter Kyia’s softball exploits, Oppel became head softball coach at North Harrison in her senior year (2017). A torn patellar tendon limited her season and ended her hopes of playing in college. “She’s handled adversity very well with her knee over a period of time,” says Oppel. “I think it hurt me more than it did her.” Greg Oppel and joined Kyia Oppel when the middle school special education teacher became head coach at Crawford County High School in Marengo. “We had a blast,” says Oppel of his time with his daughter and the Wolfpack, which went 8-14 in 2021. With Christopher Broughton and Jason Sturgeon leading the charge, an indoor facility push was made at Crawford County. Then came Greg Oppel’s chance to lead Lanesville Swingin’ Eagles baseball. He met four times with athletic director and former baseball head coach Zach Payne before taking the position. “I wanted to made sure it was the right thing for Lanesville and the right thing for me,” says Oppel. “It’s tight-knit community. It’s almost like a throwback to years ago. It sounds like a cliche’ but they welcomed me with open arms.” It’s a community that likes its sports and has enjoyed — and has come to expect — baseball success. Lanesville has won five sectionals, including those in 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Regional and semistate titles came in 2016 and 2017. The Eagles were Class 1A state runners-up in 2016 and 1A state champions in 2017. The Harrison County school with an enrollment around 240 is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central of Elizabeth). In 2021, the Eagles were part of an 1A sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Orleans and South Central (Elizabeth). Oppel’s assistants for 2022 include Jeff Cockerham, Tyler Cockerham and Aaron Lockman. Jeff Cockerham played at Jeffersonville High School. Tyler Cockerham played for Oppel at North Harrison then at Hanover (Ind.) College. Lockman is 2020 Lanesville graduate. A campaign to bring an indoor facility to Lanesville is now in the works. “This will be a win-win for the Lanesville community,” says Oppel. “We are fortunate to have such a backing at Lanesville. The following for baseball alone at Lanesville is astronomical. “I’m very blessed to have this opportunity.” Oppel, who is also a 29 1/2-year employee of Ford Motor Company in Louisville, where he builds the Escape and Lincoln Corsair, served 12 years on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board. He began coaching at the 10U and 12U level. Says Oppel, “At 14U we had tremendous success because we did everything fundamentally sound with lots of drills and going things at game speed.”
Brian Wichman has helped Scottsburg (Ind.) High School to many baseball successes since taking over the Warriors program. When he came on board prior to the 2018 season, Scottsburg had not had not posted a record above .500 since 2004 and high school players were not involved in travel ball in the summer. “We had to get back to the basics and get people interested in ball,” says Wichman. “I’ve tried to really push kids toward travel ball.” Wichman’s Warriors went 15-13 in 2018, regressed to 9-19 in 2019 with a young squad (there were only two seniors and one junior), missed the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic then sported 19-10 mark in 2021 bolstered by the senior and sophomore classes. There were 22 players to take on varsity and junior varsity schedules. Scottsburg (enrollment around 770) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Eastern of Pekin, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek). In 2021, the Warriors were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek (the 2021 host). Scottsburg has won six sectional crowns — the last in 1996. Scottsburg plays on Warrior Field, an on-campus facility that was laser-graded four years ago and has Bermuda grass. “It looks really good, especially when we get to May,” says Wichman. Feeder systems include Scott County Youth League (T-ball through 12U) and a middle school team of seventh and eighth graders that play schools in the MSC and Hoosier Hills Conference. Wichman, who teaches engineering and welding classes and is involved in Project Lead The Way at Scottsburg, has extensive coaching experiences at the high school and travel ball levels. His first season was as a Columbus (Ind.) East High School assistant in 1995 while he was doing his student teaching. Wichman graduated from Ball State University with an Industrial Technology degree. He played baseball for one season (1991) at Indiana University Southeast before transferring to BSU. Wichman served as an assistant at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., in 1996 and 1997 and helped at Columbus (Ind.) North High School in 2007. From 2004-14, he ran the Indiana Blazers travel organization and coached for the Indiana Prospects in 2015 and 2016. Brian and wife Cathy have four sons and all played for the Blazers and other travel teams, including the Indiana Prospects, Cincinnati Flames Evansville Razorbacks and Indiana Bulls, as well as at Columbus East. Left-handed pitcher Brian “B.T.” Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2013) was at Murray State University, Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Indianapolis. Peyton Gray, a 2014 Columbus East graduate now in the Kansas City Royals organization, was a high school and GCCC teammate. Defensive back/catcher Christian Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2014) went to Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., for football and baseball then transferred to play baseball at the University of West Georgia (Carrollton, Ga.). Defensive back Noah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2016) played football at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Infielder Jonah Wichman (Columbus East Class of 2019) was on the baseball team at Butler University in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2021 and has transferred to St. Charles Community College (Cottleville, Mo.). The past two summers, Brian Wichman has been an assistant in the College Summer League at Grand Park — in 2020 with head coach Joe Thatcher’s Park Rangers and in 2021 with head coach Kevin Christman’s Moon Shots. A 1990 graduate of Seymour (Ind.) High School, Wichman played one varsity season for Owls coach Bob Bowman.
“We want to win in baseball, but we also want to be good people,” says Fessel, a 1996 North Harrison graduate. “I’m coaching young men to be husbands and fathers.
“Do what’s right even when no one’s watching.”
An assistant to Cody Johnson for three seasons, Fessel took over the Cougars program for the 2019 season.
Of course, the 2020 schedule was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was kind of heart-breaking,” says Fessel. “I contacted schools in Harrison and Crawford counties to see if they wanted to put together a Senior Day. We had a date set. Then there were more stipulations and no visitors were allowed on-campus.
“It was even more of a gut punch.”
A member of the North Harrison Class of 2020 — Dawson Howell — did go to Vincennes University to play baseball. Colin Higdon (Class of 2021) has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College.
Other Cougars to move on to college ball include 2019 grads Justin Deatrick (Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo.) and Jake Harley (Kentucky Wesleyan College) and 2018 grad Max Flock (Vincennes U.).
During fall and winter workouts, North Harrison players have worked on their glove work — back hands, forehands etc. There’s been plyo-ball and core work. They’ve also gotten into the school’s hitting facility to polish their mechanics.
“We got outside as much as we could,” says Fessel. “We did long toss and get our arm strength.
“With missing last year, I feel we got put behind the 8-ball.”
Once things opened up again in the summer, a few of Fessel’s players got to play travel ball. But the majority of them did not see game action on the diamond though there was some practice in July.
“It was just fun to be outside more than anything,” says Fessel. “We were getting re-connected. It felt like we couldn’t see them for the longest time.”
During the shutdown, Fessel and his players stayed in-touch through group chats. To keep the boys’ minds sharp, he coach offered scenarios from the baseball case book. He’d ask, “What’s the call on this?”
“I was testing their I.Q. and keeping them baseball-minded,” says Fessel. “We were trying to keep upbeat and stay ready during that COVID time. Then they shut it all down.
“A lot of (players) shut down themselves and I really worried about them.”
The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. North Harrison has won nine sectional championships — the last in 2015.
Fessel’s 2021 assistant coaches include Tony Waynescott (varsity), John Miller (junior varsity) and volunteers Chris Koutsoubos and Micah Napper.
North Harrison plays its games on campus on a field that’s dimensions are larger than many high school facilities — 320 feet down the foul lines, 365 in gaps and 390 to dead center field.
“We don’t see a lot of home runs,” says Fessel, who says baseballs used in 2021 will need to be approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
Fessel says the Cougars’ field is expected to see a new wind screen this spring.
A middle school club baseball team is part of North Harrison’s feeder program. Ideally, there are enough players for separate seventh and eighth grade teams who play in a league filled with Hoosier Hills Conference feeder schools.
Since the middle school shares the same field with the high school, there is a movement to get a Pony League diamond built at the North Harrison Cal Ripken complex. The youth league for Grades K-6 tends to have about 220 participants.
Fessel played baseball for Danny Schmidt and football for Chuck Walker — both still North Harrison teachers.
Both men set an example about work ethic.
“Danny was one of those guys who were there all the time,” says Fessel. “He worked hard. That stuck with me.
It was at Franklin that Fessel met Michelle Knoll. The couple will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July and have three children — Brody (16), Bryce (13) and Abigail (9).
North Harrison sophomore Brody Fessel is likely to be the Cougars’ starting catcher in 2021. He is also a varsity basketball player and football manager. Seventh grader Bryce Fessel plays football, basketball and is on the middle school baseball team. Third grader Abigail Fessel plays softball.
Since earning his History degree from Franklin and teaching certification at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Kevin has been an educator and football coach.
He taught for nine years at Highland Hills Middle Schools (part of the Floyd Central system) and is in his sixth year at North Harrison Middle School, where he teaches eighth grade U.S. History.
Fessel was on the varsity football staff at North Harrison 2000-08 — the last five assisting Jason Mullis. The 2009 season was spent with Brian Glesing at Floyd Central for coaching at Floyd Central Middle School 2010-14. In 2015, he returned to North Harrison. His primary responsibility on Mark Williamson’s staff is defensive line.
“Larry is charismatic and has a contagious baseball mind,” says Hester.
Hester, who followed his baseball playing career, by traveling all over the country competing in top-flight slow pitch softball tournaments, has his Charlestown players competing during IHSAA Limited Contact Period winter workouts.
“We compete internally all the time,” says Hester. “I have a good group of (10) seniors who love hard work and competing.”
Hester has been getting his Pirates to understand what it means to have love and passion for the game and and enjoying being on the team.
“A lot of that comes from Larry Owens,” says Hester.
Expecting around 24 players in the program this spring, Hester and assistants Bryan Glover, Tony Kailen, George Roberts and Brady Hester will lead a program in varsity and junior varsity competition. Of the five coaches, only Kailen is not a Charlestown graduate.
The site of the Pirates baseball field is the same that Hester knew as a player, but the facility was totally overhauled almost a decade ago.
The former practice football field was turned into a softball field and now baseball and softball share not only a hitting building but a walkway and common area with a concession stand between the two diamonds.
“There’s great energy for our games,” says Hester.
The Pirates are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Charlestown has won two sectional titles — 1999 and 2009.
While Hester was a Charlestown assistant he helped establish middle school baseball. Not affiliated with the school system, games are played during the spring. This year, Hester expects one team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Recent Charlestown graduates on college baseball teams include right-handed pitchers Andrew Snider (Morehead, Ky., State University) and Drew Fifer (Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.).
Two current seniors — right-handed pitcher Eric Wigginton (Spalding University in Louisville) and utility infielder Matthew McCoy (Hanover, Ind., College) — have made college baseball commitments.
Two others from the Class of 2021 weighing their options are catcher Nathaniel Kimbrell and right-handed pitcher Jacob Glover.
Ronni Hester, Brian’s wife, is in retail management. Brian and Ronni have three sons — Brady (22), Dalton (18) and Boomer (13) plus one grandson. Dalton Hester is a Charlestown senior. Boomer Hester is a seventh grader who plays football, basketball, wrestling and baseball with the middle school team and the Rawlings Tigers.
Hutchins says he would like to stretch out his starters and have his bullpen pitchers throw a lesser number of pitches two or three days a week to get used to doing that during the season.
“Right now, it’s hard to get their arms ready,” says Hutchins.
His assistants include Providence alums Jacob Julius (2004), Tre Watson (2016) and Colin Rauck (2015) plus former Indiana University Southeast pitcher Elliott Fuller and Jennings County graduate and former IUS player Brian Jackson.
Associate head coach Julius played and coached at the University of Arkansas and played in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Watson was on the Pioneers’ state title team in 2016 and is now the hitting coach. Fuller works with pitcher and is the head junior varsity coach. Jackson works with catchers. Rauck is a JV assistant.
Providence (enrollment around 360) is an athletic independent with no conference affiliation.
The Pioneers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern of Pekin and Henryville. Providence has won 18 sectional titles — the last in 2017. The Pioneers were 2A state champions in 2016.
No current Pioneers have made college baseball commitments.
Hutchins has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Indiana University Southeast. He teaches Chemistry and is Dean of Students at Providence.
Scott and Traci Hutchins have two baseball-playing sons — senior Bryce Hutchins and freshman Logan Hutchins. Both are second basemen.
The Hutchins family (from left): Bryce, Logan, Traci and Scott. After 23 seasons as an assistant, alum Scott Hutchins is now the head baseball coach at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind.
He has general goals for the Lawrence County-based Bluejackets — on and off the field.
“My main focus is to turn boys into men that our school and community can be proud of,” says Chaney, who teaches Business, coaches junior varsity girls basketball and is the Students Against Drunk Driving director at MHS. “I want to teach them the fundamentals of baseball and what it takes to become a successful program.”
In 2019, there were 22 playing baseball for MHS. Feeding the Bluejackets at the high school level is a junior high program with about 16 players.
While there are no current players yet committed to play college baseball, Mitchell graduate Tanner Simpson is a left-handed pitcher at Marian University in Indianapolis.
Mitchell calls Gary Seitzinger Field home. The facility was a sectional host site a year ago.
“Our field is well taken care of, and our staff continually works on it,” says Chaney. “We are looking into a turf home plate area, an outside hitting facility and improving areas in front of dugouts.”
“Mike was a gentleman off and on the field,” says Chaney. “He was very organized and cared about us.”
After high school, Chaney played catcher at Oakland City (Ind.) University, where he received his B.A. degree in education. He holds a masters of education from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Chaney was a varsity baseball assistant at BNL for 13 seasons, serving primarily as the hitting coach. He has also been head baseball coach at Eastern Greene High School in Bloomfield, Ind.
Mitchell (enrollment around 475) is a member of the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference (with Crawford County, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central, Springs Valley and West Washington) and plays home and away games against each league team.
His first two teaching jobs were in Gas City, Ind., and Switz City, Ind.
Then the Washington County, Ind., native came back south and became an educator and a coach at a school just up the road from where he grew up.
Ingram is a 2011 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School. He had three coaches in four years. The last one was Brett Miller.
The Lions’ two county rivals were West Washington and Eastern (Pekin). His father, Larry Ingram, was head coach at Eastern for 29 seasons, concluding in 2011.
After earning his degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on physical education at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2015, Brent Ingram worked one year each as a teacher only at Mississinewa High School and White River Valley High School.
Then West Washington Junior-Senior High School principal MaryAnne Knapp called to say that the Senators needed a P.E. teacher and a head baseball coach.
To his his, he is just the second head baseball coach in the history of the program that was also a teacher.
“That’s a big deal to be able to recruit kids,” says Ingram. “Our numbers are better. We expect to have eight or nine freshmen.”
Ingram took both teaching and coaching positions in 2017-18 and made his father one of his assistants.
“I grew up around a baseball coach and a baseball setting and I loved every minute of it,” says Ingram, who counts Larry Ingram, Tim Barksdale and Lincoln Jones as West Washington assistants.
Barksdale is the former director of the youth league in Campbellsburg and a school board member. Jones teaches business at West Washington. The North Harrison High School graduate pitched for four years at Franklin (Ind.) College.
The 2000 baseball season will be Brent Ingram’s third at the IHSAA Class 1A school of about 290 students.
The first season saw the Senators on the wrong end of many run-rule games. That only happened a couple times last spring.
“They’ve improved,” says Ingram, who has had about a dozen players in the program and on a few occasions — such as days when baseball games and track meets fell on the same day — went into games with just nine. There was a time he his left fielder was playing with the broken arm. “It makes you sweat a little bit. If the guys are willing to put the time in, they’re going to play.”
Moving players around the diamond is the norm.
“We’ve had bunch of different lineups in the last few years,” says Ingram. “That’s for sure.”
Baseball is a priority at West Washington as evidenced by the building a junior high diamond next to the high school facility — Claude C. Combs Field (named for the former Senators head coach and current school board member).
The junior high team is affiliated with the school system and coached by West Washington Elementary principal Tom Rosenbaum and West Washington Community Schools superintendent Keith Nance.
A training building with indoor mounds and batting cages will also benefit the Senators.
Whether that will translate into any home runs at Combs Field remains to be seen. While is is 300 feet down the lines and 350 to center, the field sits up on a hill and the wind seems to always be blowing in.
Ingram has never witnessed a game-time home run there.
Combs Field is lighted and has brick dugouts, raised fences all the way around and, recently, a turf home plate area was added.
“For a 1A, we have awesome facilities,” says Ingram.
The Senators are part of a sectional grouping with Crothersville, New Washington and Shawe Memorial. West Washington, a sectional host the past two years, has yet to win a sectional title.
Besides Eastern (Pekin) and Salem, past non-conference opponents have included Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Clarksville, Crothersville, Evansville Christian, North Harrison, Orleans, Scottsburg, Shoals, Southwestern (Hanover) and Trinity Lutheran.
The Ingrams (from left): Brooke, Nick, Dustin, Larry, Luke, Janis and Brent. Brent Ingram is head baseball coach at West Washington High School in Campbellsburg, Ind. Larry Ingram, who was head coach at Eastern (Pekin) for 29 years, is one of his assistants. Brent and Dustin are the sons of Larry and Janis. Nick and Luke are the sons of Dustin and Brooke.