By STEVE KRAH
Aggressiveness on the bases.
That’s what Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School baseball coach Matt Scott emphasizes with his Gophers.
“We put pressure on the defense,” says Scott, who enters his seventh season in charge at the Frankfort, Ind.-based school in 2019. “We do a lot of hit-and-run and bunt-and-run. We find ways to make the defense make the play.”
Led by seniors Kameron Peters (30) and Sam Schoonveld (10), the 2018 Gophers collected 83 stole bases while going 10-14. Clinton Prairie swiped 70 bases in 2017 (led by Peters’ 18) and 75 in 2016 (paced by Peters’ 14). Schoonveld went on to play football at the University of Indianapolis.
Scott is a 1998 Frankfort High School graduate. His baseball coach with the Hot Dogs was Torrey Rodkey. Scott earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations (2002) and master’s degree in political science (2003) and now teaches social studies to both junior high and high school students at Clinton Prairie.
It was while doing his practicum and student teaching at Frankfort that Scott was bitten by the baseball coaching bug. He spent a couple years on the staff of Andy Dudley.
After that, Scott was an assistant to Dan Hilgediek at Clinton Prairie for six years before taking over the Gophers program.
Scott says he learned things from each coach that helps him in his current position.
“(Dudley) is very detail-oriented,” says Scott. “He let’s the kids play the game, but there’s a sense of fundamentals,” says Scott. “He showed me organization and how to run a practice.”
Dudley was able to get his players to understand concepts like footwork and the intricacies of hitting.
Scott says Hilgidiek’s strength was as an in-game tactician.
“He knew when to go to the mound vs. letting the kids work through it,” says Scott. “He handled situations with umpires and with kids.
“He got the kids to understand that you play the way you practice.”
The IHSAA now allows a coaches to work with the team for two hours a day two days a week during certain windows rather than just two athletes at a time.
During the fall, Clinton Prairie (enrollment of about 330) had baseball players involved in football and other sports, but up to 10 participated in baseball workouts.
“We’re a small school. It’s difficult to have a lot of kids,” says Scott. “But we were able to get into individual groups, scrimmage and work on different things — like hitting the ball to the right side.”
Winter workouts are held early in the morning. One week there will be a defense/pitching session on one day and hitting the next. It flips the following week. This allows athletes in wrestling and basketball who show up once a week to get work in both areas.
In recent seasons, the Gophers have had about 25 players for varsity and junior varsity squads.
Varsity assistants Brian Hennen and Kip Skinner and JV coach Jonas Lenehan are on Scott’s 2019 coaching staff. Jerrad Blacker runs the junior high program (separate teams for seventh and eighth grade) with oversight by Scott.
Besides the junior high, the Gophers’ feeder system includes Frankfort Little League and Town & Country leagues at Colfax and Mulberry plus various travel organizations.
All Clinton Prairie teams play on the same on-campus diamond. With former McCutcheon baseball coach and current CP athletic director Brian Eaton leading the way, sponsorships have been formed with local businesses to fund projects like double bullpens on both the home and visitor sides. There are also plans to skin the infield and re-plant sod and re-do the backstop.
Scott says baseball, football and softball are combining forces to seek a rural water grant that would bring irrigation to all their playing fields.
Clinton Prairie is a member of the Hoosier Heartland Conference (with Carroll of Flora, Clinton Central, Delphi, Eastern of Greentown, Rossville, Sheridan, Taylor and Tri-Central). Each team plays once to determine the champion. Delphi becomes a full HHC member in team sports in 2019-20.
Among the Gophers’ non-conference opponents are Frankfort, Covington, Fountain Central, Hamilton Heights, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Covington and Southmont.
The Gophers are in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Carroll of Flora, Delphi, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger and Western Boone. Clinton Prairie has won four sectionals — the last in 1993.
Matt and Megan Scott have two children — Cooper (5) and Lynnlee (14 months).
Matt and Megan Scott share a moment together. Matt is a teacher and head baseball coach at Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School in Frankfort, Ind.
Matt Scott goes for a winter stroll with son Cooper and daughter Lynnlee. Matt is a teacher and head baseball coach at Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School in Frankfort, Ind.
Three generations of Scott men attend a Chicago Cubs game (from left): Matt, Cooper and Richard. Matt is a teacher and head baseball coach at Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School in Frankfort, Ind.