Tag Archives: Seth Zartman

Western Michigan’s Piotrowicz gets hitters to develop routines

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

While you’ll only see Adam Piotrowicz donning one cap — usually a brown one with a gold “W” — he essentially wears three.

A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Piotrowicz as associate head coach. He also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon.

Piotrowicz, who played at John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., and Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Ind., describes his associate head coach duties.

“I help out more with scheduling, budget and things of that nature,” says Piotrowicz. “I have more administrative responsibility.”

Piotrowicz guides the Broncos’ offense. In 2019, WMU hit the most home runs (32) since the BBCOR Bat era in 2010 and posted the second highest batting average (.287) since 2012. The team also scored the most runs per game (6.0) since 2008 and racked up the most stolen bases (50) since 2013.

When the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic brought Western Michigan’s 2020 season to a close after 15 games, the Broncos had belted seven homers with a .261 average, 8.6 runs per contest and 35 stolen bases.

“I’m a big believer in having a great two-strike approach and competing in the box,” says Piotrowicz. “It’s about our daily routine — whatever it is.

“Each guy’s different.”

Some hitters are focused on power and others are looking to get the most out of their speed.

It’s the routine that keeps hitters sane.

“This game will drive guy’s crazy,” says Piotrowicz. “Just focus on the day-to-day process. It gets you over the 0-of-10 slumps and keeps you grounded during the 10-for-10.”

It’s helpful to Piotorowicz to know the style of learning that suits hitters best — Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic — in order to best communicate and assist them with their approach, mechanics etc., while competing at all times.

“We want to be a tough out,” says Piotrowicz. “We want to make other team earn all 27 outs.”

Piotrowicz is also aware that all players do not respond to the same coaching techniques based on their personality. Calling a player out in front of his teammates may not be appropriate for one while another will respond well.

“Our center fielder (Blake Dunn), I can yell at him,” says Piotrowicz of a junior from Saugatuck, Mich., who he expects to go high in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. “He was a multi-sport athlete and football player. He needs that. He wants that hard coaching.”

The analogy that Piotrowicz favors is the mail. A package, whether sent first class air mail or standard third class will carry the same message and expectations regardless of delivery method.

Piotrowicz says Western’s recruiting territory is reflective of the 2020 WMU roster which features 19 players with hometowns in Michigan, nine from the Chicago area and three from Indiana high schools — junior Ryan Missal (Lowell), sophomore Bobby Dearing (Lafayette Harrison) and freshman Hayden Berg (Penn). The Broncos have received a commitment from Ryan Watt (Mishawaka).

Piotrowicz says the school has helped by making out-of-state tuition only $2,000 to $3,000 more than for in-state students.

Working with Gernon, Piotrowicz absorbs knowledge someone who has plenty of coaching experience. He was an assistant at Indiana University, helped Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne) transition to NCAA Division I as assistant then head coach then was a Michigan State University assistant before his first season in charge in Kalamazoo in 2011.

In 2016, WMU won its first Mid-American Conference tournament. Jeffersonville (Ind.) High School graduate Gernon has 210 victories as Broncos skipper, including 104 in the MAC.

“I couldn’t ask for a more supportive boss,” says Piotrowicz of Gernon. “He’s given me a lot of freedom and responsibility.

“I learn something everyday.”

Prior to Western Michigan, Piotrowicz was an assistant for three seasons (2011-13) at Valparaiso (Ind.) University, where former big leaguer Tracy Woodson was head coach at current Crusaders head coach Brian Schmack was pitching coach.

“(Woodson) gave me a ton of freedom and a lot of trust,” says Piotrowicz, who go to work with hitters, infielders, catchers and outfielders while splitting strength and conditioning with Schmack.

In 2012, Valpo was regular season and tournament champions in the Horizon League and competed in the NCAA Gary Regional, losing to Purdue and Kentucky.

In 2013, the Crusaders won the HL tournament and took part in the Indiana Regional, losing to Indiana and Austin Peay but not before knocking out Florida.

Piotrowicz got his college coaching start with two seasons at NCAA Division III Heidelberg University (2009-10) in Tiffin, Ohio, where they won Ohio Athletic Conference Conference and regular-season titles both seasons. The 2010 team won the Mideast Regional and competed in the D-III World Series in Grand Chute, Wis., beating Johns Hopkins and Wisconsin-Stevens Points and losing to eventual champion Illinois Wesleyan and Linfield.

Though he was a graduate assistant, he worked like a full-time coach and had his perceptions of what a coach is shaped while developing head coach Matt Palm’s Student Princes. He aided hitters and catchers and shared in recruiting.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Matt Palm,” says Piotrowicz.

After a season at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. (now Bethel University), Piotorowicz finished his playing days at Manchester.

Recruited to Bethel by Mike Hutcheon, Piotrowicz played one season for Pilots head coach Seth Zartman and assistants Dick Siler and Javier Jimenez.

“(Zartman) was a good guy,” says Piotrowicz. “He was very big on team culture.

“(Siler) was amazing. He was very, very knowledgable guy and a down-to-earth person. He worked with catchers and made sure I was in shape.

“(Jimenez) also brought a ton of knowledge.”

Rick Espeset was and still in head baseball coach and athletic director at Manchester. Given his workload and Espeset’s young family, Piotrowicz and his teammates marveled at how organized he was.

“Practices were always detailed,” says Piotrowicz. “He did a good job of teaching guys how to the win the game.”

Points of emphasis included baserunning, defense and playing the game hard and fast.

“You do that and winning will take care of itself,” says Piotrowicz. “We called (Espeset) the ‘Silent Assassin.’ He was a psychology major with a very dry sense of humor. The mental side of the game, that’s where he was the strongest.”

At Glenn, Piotrowicz played for John Nadolny aka “Nud.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better high school coach,” says Piotrowicz. “He coached us tough. He coached us fair.

“He was hard on you, but you know he had good intentions behind it. He wanted you to be better. Nud was great.”

The Glenn Falcons were 2002 Class 2A Jimtown Sectional champions, losing to Manchester in the Jimtown Regional championship game.

In 2003, Glenn won the sectional and regional at Jimtoiwn then lost to Frankton in the 2A State Semifinals.

The 2004 Falcons had a win-filled regular season then lost to Fairfield in the 2A Jimtown Sectional title game.

Piotrowicz, a catcher, had a backyard neighbor and best friend named Andy Groves.

“I caught him since Little League,” says Piotrowicz. “We had all kinds of fights over pitch selection.”

Right-hander Groves pitched four seasons at Purdue University (2004-07) and two in the Colorado Rockies organization (2007-08).

Adam and Heather Piotrowicz, a former Manchester basketball player, have two sons — Hunter (4) and Elliot (1).

ADAMPIOTROWICZWMU

A member of the Western Michigan University baseball staff since the 2014 season, 2020 was the second for Adam Piotrowicz as associate head coach. The graduate of John Glenn High School in Walkerton, Ind., and Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Ind., also served as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator on a group led by Billy Gernon. (Western Michigan University Photo)

 

Prep baseball coaches try to lift seniors’ spirits

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BY JIM PETERS

For http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t … don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40, but we’re all told.” — Moneyball

One of the famous quotes from the movie about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane has hit home for many high school seniors whose playing days weren’t ended by the standard baseball career markers — graduation, injury, a roster cut or retirement — but by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know how big it was for me,” South Bend Clay coach Joel Reinebold said of his last prep game. “I was playing for my dad (Jim Reinebold). I stood out in the outfield and cried that it was over.”

The moment is etched in time for Reinebold, who went on to play at Mississippi College. In retrospect, he hurts for the seniors who are not getting any such closure this spring.

“It’s a tough way to end your career,” he said. “I can’t imagine.”

Reinebold and other coaches across Indiana are doing a variety of things to try to ease the disappointment of the lost 2020 season for their final-year players.

One of Reinebold’s endeavors is having individual signs made for his seniors and placing them on the infield with their jerseys under the lights of the diamond, which is named after his father.

“Just give them a little salute, hey, we’re sorry you don’t get to play, but thank you for everything you’ve done for three years,” he said.

Clay expected to have nine seniors this spring, four of whom are first-year players. Catcher-outfielder Mark Williams and outfielder-pitcher Jackson Jones would have been in their fourth year on varsity and Hunter Aker in his third. Other veterans were Miguel Penaloza and Tyler Williams. Aker, a first baseman-shortstop-pitcher, will go on to play at Manchester University, while Bethel University is looking at Jones, an outfielder-pitcher.

“Some are going on to college, some are done and it’s time to figure out something else to do, and some may realize with time that they’re not ready to get out,” Reinebold said.

The team last met on the final day of February for a conditioning session. After an initial two-week shutdown, there was hope for a return March 15. When it was bumped back again, teams held on to the prospect of an abbreviated season until that glimmer was snuffed out with the state’s shutdown for the rest of the school year.

“We can’t even meet,” said Reinebold, who is doing all correspondence via text. “We can’t do anything as a group. We can’t make them work out. I was trying to think of the last time we were together. It seems like forever.”

***

Hope springs eternal in March, when everybody is 0-0 with aspirations for greatness. With a whopping 11 seniors, Jimtown had high expectations for the season, led by shortstop Dustin Whitman, a four-year starter, three-year catcher Sammy Schwartz and outfielder-pitcher Brandon Coble.

“Most coaches are saying that now, but we really had our eyes set on moving the program forward,” Jimmies coach Cory Stoner said. “They’ve worked hard. They practice on their own. We don’t have to tell them what to do. It’s a tribute to them for taking charge. It’s a really close group that gets along. They’ve spent a lot of time together growing up.”

The day after the season was officially cancelled, assistant coach Jim Fredwell approached Stoner with the suggestion of turning on the stadium lights, piggybacking on a idea that has been done across the country as a symbolic tip of the cap to seniors.

“We both have little kids, so it seemed like a fun thing,” Stoner said. “A couple people stopped by (Booster Field). My college coach (Seth Zartman) lives down the road and he came down. It was pretty cool to see.”

Given the opportunity, Stoner hopes to do something more extensive this summer, kicking around the idea of a mock senior night with a cookout or, should the social distancing restrictions be eased back by then, possibly an intra-squad scrimmage.

“We’ve got a great group of seniors and we want to honor them in the right way,” Stoner said. “It’s just hard right now to plan much of anything.”

Stoner recently organized a virtual team meeting during which he let each of the seniors talk and their words warmed his heart.

“Clay Campbell was talking about how devastating this is, but we have to look at the big picture, that there are people who are hurting far worse,” Stoner said. “We try to preach selfless leadership, putting others first, and he’s one who really gets it. It was cool to hear.”

***

Goshen‘s five-player senior class will always hold a special place for RedHawks coach J.J. DuBois, now even more so due to the circumstances.

“I coached them on JV before varsity,” DuBois said. “This was my first group that I’ve had since they were freshmen. It’s a great group of kids, the perfect program guys. Goshen baseball doesn’t have a great history of success. We haven’t won a sectional since 2008. This was our best shot to sneak up on people like Northridge and Penn. We didn’t have a ton of varsity experience, but we have good talent. It was the perfect team for this year.”

DuBois is going to great lengths to honor his seniors in light of them missing out on the chance to fulfill their on-field aspirations. Among them, pitcher-shortstop Skylar Reyes, last season’s MVP, will play at Manchester, and Tommy Cartagena Garcia, who came to the school from Puerto Rico as a sophomore, is also looking at a couple schools.

“Losing their season, they’re so disappointed they don’t get to wear the RedHawks jersey one more time,” he said. “You want to give them things to remember, not just the wins and losses, but something special, fun things like dinner with the guys.”

It started with 20-minute Zoom interviews with each player in which they answered a variety of questions, both related and not related to baseball. Preview clips were posted on the Goshen baseball Twitter account with the full segments available on YouTube.

“They got to tell some cool stories that got them laughing,” DuBois said. “It was a good time.”

Borrowing an idea from basketball coach Michael Wohlford, who had posters done for his players, DuBois is in the process of having replica jerseys put in frames for each seniors. His hope is to hold a ceremony where they can gather the seniors and their parents to recognize them.

“Who knows with the timing,” he said. “We certainly have the room (to spread out) on a baseball field.”

***

NorthWood coach A.J. Risedorph has five players in his senior class — third-year regulars Jaden Miller and Cooper Davis, Josh Stratford, Jack Wysong and Kyler Germann all of whom have been in the program since they were freshmen. Among them, only Miller (Danville Area Community College) is signed to play at the collegiate level, though Wysong is headed to DePauw University for tennis.

“We graduated a pretty good class, so I was more excited about the competition, the young guys who were going to step up,” Risedorph said. “That’s what sports is all about. They put in all the time and have been ready from day one. It’s very unfortunate. A lot of guys are struggling. We want to make sure they’re all right.”

With that in mind, Risedorph has a few projects in the works, starting off with social media posts. After doing some online searching, he’s looking into having personalized bats and replica jerseys done as senior gifts.

“My wife (Jenna) was talking about driving around to the homes and dropping them off,” he said.

The school’s baseball field doesn’t have lights, but Risedorph is thinking about getting the site game ready with bases, batter’s boxes and base lines, then painting the players’ numbers on the grass with the stencils used for football.

“Maybe we can do a drone shot,” he said. “We’d like to get them back out again. It kind of all depends on how long we’re shut down, as we get more information from the state.”

The missed season isn’t impactful on the seniors alone. Risedorph shared the story of junior Sergio Lira Ayala, who came to the school from Puerto Rico during his freshman year.

“He lives and breathes baseball, it’s all he cares about,” Risedorph said. “It’s his escape, with everything he’s dealt with. He just wants to be able to compete. I tell the juniors, you’re the seniors now. The standard of expectations is on their shoulders now.”

***

There’s no protocol, no manual, no reference for coaches on how to tell their seniors they don’t get to play their final season.

“There are guys who like to play and guys who love to play,” Fairfield coach Darin Kauffman said. “I have three of them it was really tough for. I felt awful for calling and leaving a message that we were done for the season. How do you do that? As coaches, it stinks, we want to play, too, but next year, we’ll be at it again. For the seniors, they don’t know if they’ll ever be on a field again and play.”

Of his seniors, just one, Felipe Arevalo, has a possibility of playing in college.

“He’d be really good for a JUCO for two years and go (to a four-year school) from there,” Kauffman said. “He called me right after (the season was cancelled). He was crying. He just loves the game. It was devastating to him. I felt bad. We were talking to colleges and they were planning on seeing him. Now they won’t be able to set up something.”

Kauffman has taken to doing social media posts with pictures of his seniors with write-ups that are going up one a day on the team page, as well as on the athletic department account, which is doing the same for the other spring sports.

“I’d like to have a thing, if we’re allowed to do it, on a nice day, in July even, where we could all meet at the field and recognize all the seniors for everything they’ve done, say some final words,” he said. “They worked hard in the winter. The guys were all for it.”

Fairfield didn’t bring back a great deal of experience after graduating 11 seniors last year, so it will now be in the same boat next season.

“I’m hoping the underclassmen can play at least a couple games,” Kauffman said. “If not, it’ll be almost two years. I don’t know what we’ll do. We won’t have a lot of seniors and it’ll be like really having two freshman classes. We have some young kids who wanted to travel.”

Kauffman has been staying busy with free online clinics and webinars.

“I sent out some things I want them to do, to try to keep their arms in shape,” he said. “Some kids have a back yard big enough to at least go out and do something, but everybody has a different dilemma. We’re all in the same boat on this.”

Follow Jim Peters on Twitter — @JP8185

BOOSTERFIELDLIGHTS

The lights on Booster Field were illuminated to honor Jimtown High School’s Class of 2020, which did not get to play at senior season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams all over Indiana are finding ways to say thanks to the seniors. (Jimtown Baseball Photo)

 

Coronavirus measures cause abrupt end to ’20 college baseball season in Indiana

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Who saw this coming?

Because of concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic, most of the college baseball seasons in Indiana came to a premature end.

COVID-19 has caused campuses to shut down with many schools going to remote learning and social distancing practiced across the country. The NCAA, NAIA and National Junior College Athletic Association all decided to cancel their tournaments and baseball schedules have been wiped out.

“It’s been a learning curve for everybody,” says 17th-year Bethel University coach Seth Zartman. “Everything just happened so fast. It almost seems surreal.”

On Monday, March 13, the Mishawaka-based Pilots were 45 minutes from an intra-squad session when the NAIA made its announcement.

That’s when Zartman and his assistants had to inform players that the season was over.

“It’s one of the most not-fun meetings I’ve ever had to do with the team,” says Zartman, who saw his team conclude 2019-20 at 19-7, including 11-0 in the fall. “We helped them get prepared for online classes. On Tuesday, we had equipment check-in. That’s where we’re sitting at this point.

“We’ll savor what we were able to get done and accomplish and move on.”

Junior Cole Searles hit .395 (32-of-81) for Bethel. Senior Mike Wathier (Crown Point High School graduate) hit .337, belted four home runs and drove in 29 runs. Senior Kawambee Moss hit. 382 and stole 15 bases.

Senior right-handed pitcher Justin Rasmussen went 6-1 with a 2.59 earned run average and 37 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.

For a few years, Bethel has taken advantage of an NAIA rule which allows baseball and softball teams to scheduled counter games in the fall.

“It’s something we’ve come to appreciate,” says Zartman. “It brings a better focus to our fall season. It helps us come closer to the 55-game limit and there’s nicer weather to do it in (in the fall).”

The NCAA (D-I) and NAIA granted every current spring sport athlete an extra year of eligibility if they want to use it.

“That’s another process we’re going to have to navigate,” says Zartman. “I’m not sure how many will come back or take advantage of that at this point.”

The NCAA is expected to announce its decision on other levels by March 20.

The Bethel campus is still open, but many students including players, have decided to go home and continue course work via computer. For that reason, Zartman expects that any exit interviews he does will likely be done by phone.

Zartman, with his office away from many of the other BU employees, has been diving into paperwork he probably would not have tackled until May or June. Wife Antira is a teacher in the Jimtown system and goes in three days a week. The four Zartman children are staying home like the rest of their schoolmates.

“We’re hanging onto a new normal right now,” says Zartman.

Of the 38 college baseball programs in Indiana, 13 are in the NAIA. Besides Bethel, they include Calumet of Saint Joseph, Goshen, Grace, Huntington, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan, Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University South Bend, Indiana University Southeast, Marian, Saint Francis and Taylor.

When the season came to a halt, No. 12-ranked IU Southeast was 18-1. The New Albany-based Grenadiers’ last game was an 11-7 win against Lindsey Wilson in Columbia, Ky., on March 11. The only loss (6-5 in eight innings) came March 4 in the first game of a doubleheader at then-No. 25 Campbellsville (Ky.).

Sophomore Daunte Decello hit .519 (27-of-51) for the Grenadiers. Junior Clay Woeste (Lawrenceburg) hit .368, belted five homers, plated 25 runs and stole 15 bases.

Junior left-hander Hunter Kloke posted a 2.45 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.

Ben Reel, who has been IU Southeast’s head coach since 2009, is choosing to see the positives in the situation.

“I learned a lot during this time,” says Reel. “You think you’ve seen it all and done it all and you’re dead wrong.”

Reel recalls his high school psychology class and the five stages of grief and loss — denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In talking with his network of fellow coaches, including former Grenadiers assistant Andrew Dickson (now at Yale, where the Ivy League was among the first to shut down for 2020), Reel found a recurring theme.

“We weren’t really prepared to be the middle men between our universities and our players,” says Reel. “They’re confused. They’re upset.

“You’re the point person to make sense of everything.”

Reel’s focus throughout his coaching career is to recruit people he wants to be around everyday.

“That’s what hurts the most,” says Reel. “We’re prevented from being around the people we love and that’s our players.”

Another message that Reel has bought into and that’s to use this time without daily baseball for personal growth.

“I’m going to get better at something,” says Reel. “You have time to do whatever you want do and whatever you need to do.”

NAIA

Brian Nowakowski’s Calumet College of St. Joseph Crimson Wave finished 3-11.

Sophomore Noah Miller hit .389 (14-of-36) and stole seven bases. Sophomore right-hander Zach Verta slugged two homers and drove in 11 runs while also going 2-1 as a pitcher. Junior Jake Everaert (Hebron) had a 6.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 18 innings.

The Alex Childers-coached Goshen Maple Leafs finished 7-11.

Senior Ben Longacre hit .361 (22-of-61). Freshman Nate Lange knocked in 12 runs and stole four bases.

Senior right-hander Braedon Evans posted a 5.75 ERA. Freshman right-hander Landon Roth went 2-0 on the mound. Sophomore right-hander Kade Gorman (Noblesville) fanned 17 batters in 18 1/3 innings.

Ryan Roth’s Grace Lancers went 6-10.

Sophomore Chris Griffin hit .415 (22-of-53). Senior David Anderson hit .315 drove in 12 runs. Sophomore Sam Newkirk smacked three homers. Freshman Patrick Danforth (Monrovia) stole four bases

Freshman Nick Stoltzfus went 2-0 on the bump. Junior Houston Haney (Westview) went 1-2 and posted a 3.46 ERA. Freshman Tanner Clark (Columbia City) whiffed 19 batters in 19 1/3 innings.

Mike Frame’s Huntington Foresters wound up at 5-7.

Junior Daniel Lichty hit .432 (19-of-44) and plated nine runs. Sophomore Langston Ginder (Fort Wayne Carroll) popped two homers. Sophomore Satchell Wilson (Lapel) stole four bases.

Senior left-hander Alex McCutcheon (Huntington North) went 2-2 as a pitcher. Senior right-hander Mason Shinabery (Bellmont) went 1-1 and produced a 1.38 ERA and fanned 25 in 26 innings.

Rich Benamin’s Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats went 10-9.

Junior Denver Blinn hit .369 (24-of-65) with four homers and 22 RBIs. Senior Tanner Killian hit .284 and belted five homers. Freshman Colby Jenkins (New Palestine) stole six bases.

Senior right-hander Conner Cantrell (Center Grove) went 3-1 on the mound. Senior left-hander Austin Swift delivered a 0.32 ERA and struck out 22 in 19 innings.

Todd Bacon’s Marian Knights finished 10-9.

Senior Shane Peisker hit .493 (34-of-69). Senior Evan Hickman (New Palestine) hit. 286 and drove in 16 runs. Four Knights — Hickman, sophomore Sean Dieppa, sophomore Caden Jones (Crawfordsville) and senior Caleb Myers (Lebanon) — rapped two homers each.

Freshman right-hander Trey Heidlage (Batesville) swiped five bases. Sophomore right-hander Ty Lautenschlager (West Vigo) went 3-0 as a pitcher. Junior right-hander Reese Wills (Hamilton Heights) fanned 28 in 18 2/3 innings.

The Saint Francis Cougars of Dustin Butcher concluded at 9-10.

Junior David Miller hit .308 (12-of-39) and stole seven bases. Senior Brady Harris (Cowan) hit .274 and collected 15 RBIs. Junior Mikhail McCowin (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers) smacked three homers. Senior Kyle DeKonick went 2-0 on the mound.

Senior left-hander Matt Fiorini (2-2) posted a 2.57 ERA and struck out 27 in 28 innings.

Kyle Gould’s Taylor Trojans went 13-5.

Sophomore Nick Rusche (New Palestine) hit .405 (30-of-74). Sophomore Ben Kalbaugh hit .379 and drove in 21 runs. Sophomore T.J. Bass (Greenwood Community) slammed six homers. Junior Jonathan Foster (Columbus East) stole six bases.

Junior right-hander Noah Huseman, senior right-hander Justin Pettit (Jennings County) and senior right-hander Tucker Waddups (Pioneer) are went 2-0 on the mound. Huseman produced a 3.00 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 21 innings.

Doug Buysse’s Indiana University South Bend Titans went 7-9.

Sophomore Logan Young (Shelbyville) hit .405 (17-of-42) with two homers and 13 RBIs. Sophomore Colin Mack (Morgan Township) stole 11 bases.

Senior left-hander Troy Cullen (Griffith) went 2-2 posted a 2.87 ERA. Freshman right-hander Robbie Berger (John Glenn) went 2-1 and fanned 19 in 18 innings.

Matt Howard’s Indiana University Kokomo Cougars finished 12-10.

Senior Austin Weiler hit .405 (30-of-74) with five homers. Sophomore Noah Hurlock (Kokomo High School) hit .344 with three homers and knocked in 19 runs. Junior Jared Heard (New Castle) hit .343 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Junior Bryce Lenz (Avon) purloined seven bases.

Junior left-hander Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern) went 3-2 and pitched to a 3.41 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings.

Kip McWilliams’ No. 11 Indiana Tech Warriors wrapped at 11-5.

Junior Mike Snyder (Fort Wayne Northrop) hit .400 (20-of-50) with 10 homers and drove in 26 runs. Sophomore Jacob Daftari (Hamilton Southeastern) hit .359 with three homers. Junior Ashtin Moxey stole three bases.

Senior left-hander Charles Dunavan went 3-0 on the mound with a 1.88 ERA. Sophomore Hayes Sturtsman (Manchester) pitched to a 1.13 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 16 innings.

NCAA D-I

The NCAA Division I College World Series — held each year since 1947 — has been called off for 2020.

The state has nine D-I baseball programs — Ball State, Butler, Evansville, Purdue, Purdue Fort Wayne, Indiana, Indiana State, Notre Dame and Valparaiso.

Rich Maloney’s RPI No. 210 Ball State Cardinals (7-9) were led offensively by sophomore Noah Navarro (Avon), who hit .377 (20-of-53) with one homer and seven stolen bases. Junior Trenton Quartermaine hit .366 (18-of-50) with 13 RBIs.

Freshman left-hander Tyler Schweitzer (Hamilton Southeastern) went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA. Junior right-hander Kyle Nicolas (0-1, 2.74) struck out 37 in 23 innings. Senior right-hander John Baker (1-2, 2.42) fanned 27 in 22 1/3 innings.

Dave Schrage’s RPI No. 231 Butler Bulldogs (8-7) were led at the plate by junior Nick Ortega, who hit .283 (13-of-46) with 11 RBIs.

On the mound, junior right-hander Jack Myers (Indianapolis Cathedral) went 2-2 with a 4.04 ERA and whiffed 34 batters in 24 2/3 innings. Junior right-hander Connor Schultz (2-1, 3.04) fanned 26 in 23 2/3 innings.

Wes Carroll’s RPI No. 195 Evansville Purple Aces (5-11) were paced at the plate by junior Mason Brinkley, who hit .359 (14-of-39), and junior Tanner Craig (Austin), who hit .345 (20-of-58) with seven homers and 19 RBIs. Senior Troy Beilsmith stolen six bases.

Sophomore right-hander Shane Gray (1-1, 3.57) struck out 19 in 22 2/3 innings. Senior left-hander Nathan Croner (1-1, 3.26) whiffed 18 in 19 1/3 innings. Senior right-hander David Ellis (Princeton Community) went 2-1 to lead the staff in victories.

Greg Goff’s RPI No. 134 Purdue Boilermakers (7-7) saw sophomore Evan Albrecht hit .364 (16-of-44) with 14 RBIs and three stolen bases, junior Ben Nisle (Lake Central) .320 (16-of-50), senior Skyler Hunter .315 (17-of-54) with 11 RBIs. Junior Miles Simington knocked in 10.

Freshman right-hander Jett Jackson (1-0, 1.89) with 13 strikeouts in 19 innings and wins leader and sophomore right-hander Cory Brooks (2-2, 5.12) with 16 K’s in 19 1/3 innings were among the pitching leaders.

Doug Schreiber’s RPI No. 262 Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (5-10) was guided in the batter’s box by sophomore Aaron Chapman, who hit .382 (26-of-68) with 11 RBIs and sophomore Dylan Stewart, who hit .381 (16-of-42) with five stolen bases.

Senior right-hander Cameron Boyd (Fishers) went 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA and struck out 21 in 23 innings. Sophomore left-hander Justin Miller (Homestead) went 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA and fanned 20 in 16 2/3 innings.

Jeff Mercer’s RPI No. 39 Indiana Hoosiers (9-7) were guided at bat by sophomore Grant Richardson (Fishers), who hit .424 (25-of-59) with five homers and 17 RBIs and junior Elijah Dunham (Evansville Reitz), who hit .390 (23-of-59). Junior Drew Ashley (Evansville Memorial) hit .288 with two homers and drove in 12 runs. Jordan Fucci (.283) blasted two homers and plated 14. Junior Cole Barr (Yorktown) also smacked two homers. Senior Jeremy Houston swiped a team-best three bases.

Sophomore right-hander Gabe Bierman (Jeffersonville) went 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA and struck out 24 in 22 innings. Junior left-hander Tommy Sommer (Carmel) went 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and fanned 17 in 20 2/3 innings. Sophomore right-hander Brayden Tucker (Northview) went 2-1 with a 4.58 ERA and whiffed 10 in 19 2/3 innings.

Mitch Hannahs’ RPI No. 100 Indiana State Sycamores (8-6) were led offensively by freshman Dominic Cusumano, who hit .341 (14-of-41) and junior Jordan Schaffer (West Vigo), who hit .321 (17-of-53) with two stolen bases. Junior Miguel Rivera (.261) knocked in 11 runs and junior Brian Fuentes (.245) plated 10. Fuentes and freshman Diego Gines both belted two homers.

Freshman left-hander Cameron Edmonson (2-1, 1.96) struck out 25 in 18 1/3 innings. Senior right-hander Collin Liberatore (2-1, 4.95) whiffed 10 in 20 innings. Junior left-hander Tristan Weaver (1-1, 1.85) fanned 34 in 24 1/3 innings. Senior left-hander Tyler Grauer (0-1, 1.59) collected five saves and struck out 23 in 11 1/3 innings.

Link Jarrett’s RPI No. 31 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-2) were led at bat by junior Spencer Myers, who hit .431 (25-of-58) with 15 stolen bases and graduate student Eric Gilgenbach, who hit .370 (10-of-27). Junior Niko Kavadas (Penn) drove in 17 runs, freshman Jack Brannigan 11, Gilgenbach 10, sophomore Carter Putz 10 and junior Jared Miller 10.

Junior left-hander Tommy Vail (3-0, 2.08) produced 24 strikeouts with 17 1/3 innings while junior left-hander Tommy Sheehan (3-0, 2.70) whiffed 22 in 23 1/3 innings.

Brian Schmack’s RPI No. 152 Valparaiso Crusaders (2-10) saw senior Riley Dent hit .311 (19-of-61) with one homer and seven RBI. Juniors Troy Jones and Jonathan Temple also plated seven runs apiece. Freshman Nolan Tucker (Hanover Central) swiped four bases.

Senior right-hander Easton Rhodehouse (1-2, 3.45) struck out 20 in 15 2/3 innings.

NCAA D-II

Al Ready’s Indianapolis Greyhounds finished 12-3.

Senior and Center Grove product Will Smithey (8-of-20) and sophomore Ty Williams (10-of-25) both hit .400. Smithey has four homers, 16 RBIs and three stolen bases.

Senior left-hander Myc Witty (Lawrence North) and senior right-hander Reid Werner (Greenwood Community) were both 3-0 on the mound. Witty has a 1.59 ERA. Senior left-hander Corey Bates (1-1) has fanned 30 batters in 18 1/3 innings.

Tracy Archuleta’s Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles finished 6-8.

Senior Manny Lopez hit .356 (16-of-45) with two homers and 12 RBIs. Sophomore Lucas McNew (Borden) hit .327 with two homers and 12 RBIs. Junior Ethan Hunter (Terre Haute South Vigo) and junior Bryce Krizan (Mount Vernon of Posey) had three stolen bases apiece.

On the mound, senior right-hander Tyler Hagedorn (Evansville North) went 2-0 and senior right-hander Jacob Bowles was 2-1. Sophomore left-hander Sammy Barnett (Silver Creek) struck out 16 in 14 innings.

T-Ray Fletcher’s Oakland City Mighty Oaks finished 4-9.

Senior Devan Franz (Boonville) hit .375 (15-of-40) with a homer and 10 RBIs.

Senior right-hander Tristan Cummings (Tecumseh) went 2-2 on the mound with a 2.28 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings.

Dave Griffin’s Purdue Northwest Pride wound up 4-5.

Senior Danny Schneberger hit .308 (4-of-13). Senior Hunter Thorn (Portage) hit a homer and drove in five runs. Junior Jacob Soules stole three bases.

Freshman right-hander Hunter Robinson (New Prairie) went 2-0 on the hill. Freshman right-hander Tristan Baker (Fishers) posted a 1.50 ERA. Junior right-hander Chad Patrick (Hebron) racked up 12 strikeouts in 10 innings.

NCAA D-III

Matt Bair’s Anderson Ravens finished 6-3.

Junior Joe Moran (Anderson High School) hit .563 (18-of-32) with one homer and six stolen bases. As a right-handed pitcher, he was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 20 innings. He is slated to be the Heartland College Athletic Conference’s first player in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer.

Freshman Justin Reed (Martinsville) hit .286 with nine RBIs. Senior Branton Sanders (Whiteland) swiped eight bases. Junior left-hander Kasey Henderson (Cowan) was also 2-0 on the bump.

Blake Allen’s DePauw Tigers went 4-4 with sophomore Evan Barnes hitting .444 (8-of-18), freshman Kyle Boyer .375 (9-of-24) with two homers, junior Jackson Williams (Brebeuf Jesuit) .344 (11-of-32) and sophomore Kyle Callahan (Zionsville) .324 (11-of-32) with two homers and 18 RBIs.

Senior right-hander Tom Giella went 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA and nine strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

The Earlham Quakers of Steve Sakosits wound up at 7-3.

Junior Brian Pincura hit .346 (9-of-26) and junior Marc Gendreau .341 (15-of-44). Senior Danny Dopp homered twice and knocked in 13 runs. Senior Isaiah Shake (Bloomington South) stole nine bases.

Sophomore right-hander Aidan Talarek went 2-0 with an 0.00 ERA on the hill. Senior right-hander Kyle Gorman fanned 19 batters in 16 1/3 innings.

The Franklin Grizzlies of Lance Marshall went 5-3.

Junior Logan Demkovich (Munster) hit .500 (10-of-20) with 12 RBIs. Senior Jarrod Smith (Frankfort) batted .400 with two homers. Seniors Ryan Bixler (Lewis Cass), Brandt Pawley and Quenton Wellington (Indianapolis Bishop Chatard) had stolen three bases each.

On the mound, junior right-hander Mitch Merica (North Montgomery) finished 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 14 innings.

Grant Bellak’s Hanover Panthers went 7-7.

Sophomore Charlie Burton (Columbus East) hit .353 (18-of-51) with three homers and 12 RBIs and sophomore Jake Schaefer .350 (14-of-40) with five stolen bases.

Sophomore left-hander Andrew Littlefield went 2-1 on the mound with a 3.32 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 19 innings. Junior right-hander Justin Pope (Fishers) whiffed 14 in 10 2/3 innings.

Rick Espeset’s Manchester Spartans wrapped at 2-5.

Junior Joe Henschel (Fort Wayne Carroll) hit .409 (9-of-22) with two homers and eight RBIs.

Senior right-hander Nick Rush (Terre Haute North Vigo) went 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA and had nine strikeouts in nine innings. Sophomore right-hander Zach White (Logansport) went 1-0, 1.13) and fanned eight in eight innings.

Rose-Hulman’s Jeff Jenkins earned his 800th career coaching victory March 3 against Saint Joseph’s (Maine) in Florida. His Fightin’ Engineers finished 4-3.

Freshman Andy Krajecki hit. 438 (7-of-16), sophomore Josh Mesenbrink .417 (10-of-24) and junior Luke Kluemper (Monrovia) .409 (9-of-22). Junior Shaine Mitchell (Brebeuf Jesuit) stole three bases.

Senior left-hander Luke Buehler (Guerin Catholic) went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA and was among the pitching leaders. Sophomore right-hander Matthew Rouse racked up 12 strikeouts in 10 innings

The Trine Thunder wrapped at 9-2 under coach Greg Perschke.

Junior A.J. Mitchell hit .375 (15-of-40), Jake Conley .333 with 11 RBIs and Shayne Devine (Portage) hit .364 with 10 RBIs. Senior Nick Ricci (Crown Point) cracked the lone homer.

Junior left-hander Kyle Robinson (2-0, 0.00), sophomore right-hander Bryce Bloode (2-0, 2.93) and junior right-hander Drew Cebulak (1-0, 1.50) with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings were among the mound leaders. Robinson prepped at Crown Point and Bloode at New Prairie.

Jake Martin’s Wabash Little Giants finished 6-2.

Senior Jackson Blevins (Plainfield) hit .500 (15-of-30). Junior Andrew Jumonville (Munster) drove in nine runs. Junior Sean Smith (Peru) hit both of the team’s homers and was 2-0 on the mound. Sophomore Austin Simmers (Jasper) stole three bases.

Junior Tyler Dearing (McCutcheon) went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and whiffed 16 in 11 innings.

JUNIOR COLLEGE

Chris Woodruff’s Ancilla Chargers wound up 5-10.

Freshman Daniel Wright (Western) hit .350 (7-of-20). Emitt Zimmerman (Carroll of Flora) knocked in nine runs. Freshman Bryce Huntley (New Castle) swiped four bases.

Freshman left-hander Weston Record (Logansport) was the pitching workhorse, going 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.

The Ivy Tech Northeast Titans finished 6-5 under coach Lance Hershberger.

Sophomore Eric Doyle (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) hit .553 (21-of-38) with 11 stolen bases and freshman Robert Irgang (Wabash) .529 (9-of-17) with 10 RBIs.

Sophomore Brandon Bultemeier (Adams Central) went 2-0, 1.46 and sophomore Matt Jindra (Valparaiso) 0-0, 2.25 with 14 strikeouts in 16 innings as pitching stalwarts.

Chris Barney’s Vincennes Trailblazers went 10-5.

Sophomore Ryan Robison (New Albany) hit .404 (19-of-47) with three homers and 21 RBIs and freshman Landen Freestone (Shenandoah) .400 (12-of-30). Sophomore Jared Sermerheim (Jasper) stole eight bases.

Sophomore right-hander Nate Toone (3-0, 3.48) struck out 19 in 20 2/2 innings while left-hander Robison (2-0, 0.89) fanned 20 in 20 1/3 innings.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Final 2020 Records

NCAA Division I

Ball State 7-9 (0-0 Mid-American)

Butler 8-7 (0-0 Big East)

Evansville 5-11 (0-0 Missouri Valley)

Indiana 9-6 (0-0 Big Ten)

Indiana State  8-6 (0-0 Missouri Valley)

Notre Dame 11-2 (3-0 Atlantic Coast)

Purdue 7-7 (0-0 Big Ten)

Purdue Fort Wayne 5-10 (0-0 Summit)

Valparaiso 2-14 (0-0 Missouri Valley)

NCAA Division II

Indianapolis 12-3 (2-1 Great Lakes Valley)

Oakland City 4-9

Purdue Northwest 4-5 (0-0 Great Lakes Intercollegiate)

Southern Indiana 6-8 (1-1 Great Lakes Valley)

NCAA Division III

Anderson 6-3 (0-0 Heartland)

DePauw 4-4 (0-0 North Coast)

Earlham 7-3 (0-0 Heartland)

Franklin 5-3 (0-0 Heartland)

Hanover 7-7 (0-0 Heartland)

Manchester 2-5 (0-0 Heartland)

Rose-Hulman 4-3 (0-0 Heartland)

Trine 9-2 (0-0 Michigan Intercollegiate)

Wabash 6-2 (0-0 North Coast)

NAIA

Bethel 19-7 (2-1 Crossroads)

Calumet of Saint Joseph 3-11 (0-0 Chicagoland)

Goshen 7-11 (2-1 Crossroads)

Grace 6-10 (1-3 Crossroads)

Huntington 5-7 (3-0 Crossroads)

Indiana Tech 11-5 (0-0 Wolverine-Hoosier)

Indiana Wesleyan 10-9 (3-0 Crossroads)

Indiana University-Kokomo 12-10 (5-1 River States)

Indiana University South Bend 7-9 (0-0 Chicagoland)

Indiana University Southeast 18-1 (6-0 River States)

Marian 10-9 (0-3 Crossroads)

Saint Francis 9-10 (0-3 Crossroads)

Taylor 13-5 (1-2 Crossroads)

Junior College

Ancilla Chargers 5-10 (0-0 Michigan Community)

Ivy Tech Northeast 6-5

Vincennes 10-5 (0-0 Mid-West)

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Clay Woeste makes a throw for the 2020 Indiana Univesity Southeast baseball team. The New Albany-based Grenadiers were 18-1 when the season came to a sudden halt because of concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). (Indiana University Southeast Photo)

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Bethel University (Mishawaka, Ind.) celebrates one of its 2020 baseball victories. The Pilots went 19-7 in 2019-20. The season was shortened when the NAIA shut down because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Bethel University Photo)

 

Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball a 60-year tradition

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“Way to get off the bus, Gus. Scoring runs is fun!”

After the Portland (Ind.) Rockets plated three in the first inning at the National Baseball Federation major division (unlimited age) wood bat regional in Fort Wayne, manager Randy Miller shouted his approval from the third base coach’s box.

Miller has brought enthusiasm to the diamond for much of the organization’s long history.

The Rockets — started in 1959 by Dick Runkle and continued by Ray Miller (Randy’s father) — celebrated 60 years of diamond fun and memories in 2019. That makes it one of the longest-running continuous teams in amateur baseball.

“We go back to our 1960’s roots,” says Portland manager Randy Miller, who has seen the Rockets square off against squads from Albany, Geneva, Dunkirk, Elwood, New Castle, Upland, Yorktown and beyond. A rivalry with the Gas City-based Twin City Bankers is well-chronicled in Bill Lightle’s book “My Mother’s Dream.”

When the Rockets began, they were comprised of players from Portland and later fanned out from Jay County.

“We’re still townball,” says Miller”. We just come from a lot of towns.”

The ’19 Rockets (10-13) had four players who claim Portland as their hometown — Peyton Heniser, Chandler Jacks, Max Moser and captain Mitch Waters. They also came from Auburn, Bluffton, Carmel, Ellettsville, Frankton, Indianapolis, LaPorte, Marion, Pendleton, St. Joseph and Thorntown in Indiana and Coldwater, St. Mary’s and Vandalia in Ohio.

The oldest players were Waters (35), Chris Gaines (33), Zeth Tanner (29), Codey Harrison (28) and Craig Martin (28). The rest were under 25 with seven teenagers. Waters is the director of operations at the Jay County Community Center.

A graduate of Jay County High School and Manchester College, Waters played for the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Kings of the independent Frontier League.

“Our guys are some of the best athletes their high schools have ever had,” says Randy Miller. “They’re gamers.

“I’m just so proud of them.”

Miller, 65, began playing for the Rockets in 1972 and caught a doubleheader at 51. By the 1990’s, he was sharing manager duties with his father and has continued helped continue the tradition.

“I’ve got a motorcycle and a boat,” says Miller, a former teacher at Adams Central High School in Monroe, Ind. “I’m not on them very much in the summer.”

Runkle had the Rockets competing in the old Eastern Indiana Baseball League. Local talent included Steve Takats. His Ball State University teammate, Merv Rettenmund, played for Portland in 1966 and made his big league debut as a player with the Baltimore Orioles in 1968 and was an MLB hitting coach for many years.

The Rockets went 18-1 and won the EIBL in 1968.

With the team in financial trouble, Ray Miller took over in 1972. He doubled the schedule and included games with Fort Wayne teams.

With the support of wife Betty, Ray helped secure a playing facility in Portland that is now known as Runkle-Miller Field.

“Mom was always there with a sandwich and a cold beverage,” says Randy Miller of his mother, who served 16 years as city clerk.

In 1984, the Rockets merged with the Bank of Berne Lancers and went 34-20. The ’85 season was the best to date at 41-14 with Portland’s first-ever American Amateur Baseball Congress state title.

Miller became AABC state secretary in 1991 and the Rockets won AABC state crowns in 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2006 and in more than 30 years as manager Portland won more than 900 games.

Ray Miller died in 2017 and was inducted into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. Randy Miller was enshrined in 2011.

With Randy Miller, siblings Brad Miller and Mickey Scott and many community members pitching in, the Rockets have survived. Mickey, who was city clerk for 12 years, used to run Runkle-Miller’s “Rocket Lunching Pad” concession stand and now Brad does it.

All three Miller offspring have taken turns watering the field. The baselines are seeded to help with all the excess rain.

For years, the Rockets were purely a family-funded operation.

Since the mid-1990s, the Rockets have swung wood bats. At first, Randy provided those. But that got too expensive and now the players provide their own clubs.

For $100, the team picks up the cost of caps, uniforms and handles insurance.

Randy Miller carries on a tradition by giving the “Rocket Report” on WPGW 100.9 FM on afternoons following games. Samantha Thomas, who once worked for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, is involved with keeping score and other team functions.

Randy Miller schedules games, recruits players, pays bills and generally keeps the Rockets going.

“That’s my legacy,” says Miller. “I carry the torch.”

The Rockets coaching tree spreads far and wide, especially along the U.S. 27 corridor.

“They want to give back to the game,” says Miller. “We are a baseball town. I really believe that.”

Among former Rockets are Jay County High School head coach Lea Selvey, Adams Central head coach Dave Neuenschwander and Bethel University head coach Seth Zartman.

Portland won 35 or more games a season throughout the 2000’s and went to the NABF World Series in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2012. A few years ago, the Rockets posted a 35-12 mark.

In 2018, an $28,000 scoreboard was installed at Runkle-Miller Field.

A 60-foot “Wall of Dreams” mural on the side of Portland’s Ritz Theatre was painted by Pamela Bliss and dedicated July 28 and many alums and Rocket backers came to celebrate.

Wearing the gold and black, fans were in Fort Wayne to see the Rockets’ latest season come to a close.

But the fun is not over yet for 2019. The annual Rocket Rally golf outing is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Portland Golf Club. For more information, email Randy Miller at ramiller15@embarqmail.com.

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Randy Miller and Mitch Waters share in the spoils of victory for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team. (Portland Rockets Photo)

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Dalton Tinsley hits for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team. (Portland Rockets Photo)

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Former players and fans gathered July 28, 2019 for the dedication of a 60-foot “Wall of Dreams” mural and celebration of 60 years of Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball. (Portland Rockets Photo)

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Artist Pamela Bliss created the 60-foot “Wall of Dreams” mural on the side of the Ritz Theatre in Portland, Ind. On Aug. 28, 2019, there was a

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Siblings Brad Miller (left), Randy Miller and Mickey Scott stand in front of a “Wall of Dreams” mural in Portland, Ind., celebrating 60 years of Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball. The mural behind them depicts Randy and their father, Ray Miller, who were co-managers for years.

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The story of the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team and the “Wall of Dreams.” (Portland Rockets Photo)

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Runkle-Miller Field received a $28,000 scoreboard in 2018. The field is home to the Portland (Ind.) Rockets baseball team, which has been around since 1959. (Portland Rockets Photo)

PORTLANDROCKETS

Indiana Black Caps enter travel baseball world

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There’s a new travel baseball organization in northern Indiana.

The Indiana Black Caps was officially established July 7, 2019 and expects to field 11U, 12U and 13U teams for the 2020 season.

Jesse Zepeda, who played for coach Steve Stutsman on the 2013 IHSAA Class 4A state champions at Elkhart Central High School then for coach Seth Zartman at Bethel College (now Bethel University), has been with the Indiana Chargers travel organization and wants to bring that kind of focus on development and investment in players.

“We wanted something similar and thus the Black Caps came into motion,” says Zepeda. “We share the same values as the Chargers did and will continue to do so.

“My philosophy is simple: I hope to build a program that is known for tradition and will help develop the kids in to the best version of themselves on and off the field.”

Zepeda considers Chargers founder Joel Mishler and former Chargers assistant coach Wes Bogan among his mentors.

“I’ve only known Joel for about a year and half,” says Zepeda of Mishler. “The man has a great baseball mind and he has taught me a lot about the game in a short period of time of knowing him — things I wish I knew when I was a player.

“I helped him run Charger practices, camps, showcases and tryouts the past year.

“I look to him for advice and tips for coaching. He almost always will have a response to it.”

Zepeda credits Bogan for showing him how to manage the game.

“I learned a lot from him and still continuing to learn,” says Zepeda of Bogan. He has been a big contributor in my young coaching career.”

“I learned so much from the coaches I’ve had throughout the years. One thing that specifically comes to mind was, ‘Don’t think, just have fun’ that one coach told the team.

“This stuck through the hardships and struggles throughout my career.”

Zepeda and Bogan will lead the Black Caps along with Derek Coy and Brant Mast.

The organization plans to do off-season training at Elkhart Sports Center will play and practice around the Elkhart/Goshen area.

Zepeda says the Black Caps will likely play in USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association), Game Day USA, BPA (Baseball Players Association) and Bullpen tournaments around Indiana. There will be approximately eight tournaments from mid-April to mid-July with built-in development weekends.

“In those weekends, we will solely-focus on the players’ development and play one game or a doubleheader against a team,” says Zepeda. “This gives us time to really focus on what we need to improve on.”

Why the Black Caps?

“Coming up with a name was probably one of the hardest parts for us. We kicked around many different names over the course of a couple weeks and the Black Caps just resonated with us,” says Zepeda. “We wanted to try and come up with something unique and that people would remember.”

JESSEZEPEDA

Jesse Zepeda, a graduate of Elkhart Central High School and Bethel College, has helped start a new travel baseball organization — the Indiana Black Caps. (Bethel College Photo)

INDIANABLACKCAPSLOGO

Mollenkopf entering 14th season of leading Caston Comets

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball is a big deal at a small school in Fulton County, Ind.

The Comets of Caston Junior/Senior High School (an IHSAA Class 1A member with an enrollment of about 215 in the top four grades) take pride in their facility — known as the “The Crater” — and the ball that is played there near the town of Fulton.

The man in charge of program since the 2006 season is Blake Mollenkopf.

Since he arrived on-campus, Caston has overhauled its field, adding lights and a new press box, refurbishing the dugouts and upgrading the playing surface.

“It’s one of the better fields in this part of the state,” says Mollenkopf. “Our kids, school and community are very proud of it.”

The Comets hosted sectional and regional tournaments in 2018.

Caston is part of a sectional grouping with North Miami, North White, Northfield, South Newton, Southwood and West Central. The Comets won the first sectional crown in school history when Mollenkopf’s squad hoisted the trophy at Tri-County in 2012.

Caston is a member of the Hoosier North Athletic Conference (with Culver Community, Knox, LaVille, North Judson-San Pierre, Pioneer, Triton and Winamac). Each team plays the other twice to determine the champion. LaVille won the crown in 2018.

“It’s a very balanced conference,” says Mollenkopf.

HNAC’s 14 conference games are played with home-and-home series either on Monday or Tuesday or Thursday and Friday and a Saturday doubleheader, depending on the week.

Mollenkopf says participation numbers tend  to hover from 16 to 24 at the high school for varsity and junior varsity squads.

“It’s important to have a JV, especially at the 1A level to develop kids,” says Mollenkopf. “We try to play up (in class), especially at the JV level. We want to challenge them and prepare them for varsity baseball.”

The 2019 season will be the third for the IHSAA pitch count rule. This year, the parameters will be the same for varsity and JV (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).

“We’ve always stressed arm care here,” says Mollenkopf. “We do a lot in the fall and in January and February. At the varsity level, there’s very little influence. I’ve noticed it more on the JV level, where we’ve not had strike throwers all the way through.”

Mollenkopf says a focus on throwing strikes should be able to keep pitch counts down.

Assistant coaches are Adam Goller (14th year), Nick Stuber (ninth year), Matt Gibson (second year) and Brandon Kinser (first year). Stuber will run the JV team this spring.

Caston Athletic League (for ages 5-12) and a junior high club (for grades 7-8) are feeders for the high school program.

Though not affiliated with the school, the junior high team does play its games in the spring on the high school diamond.

In the summer, some Caston players take part in the Babe Ruth League in Logansport. There are others, including Gavin Mollenkopf (Blake’s oldest of two sons), who play travel ball for the Indiana Chargers.

There are some high school summer workouts and games and a team camp at Bethel College.

Caston graduate Seth Zartman is head baseball coach at Bethel. Ethan Zartman played at Caston for Mollenkopf, and then for big brother at Bethel.

Last summer, players from Plymouth and Rochester joined the Comets. In the past, South Adams and Tri-County have participated in the camp.

Mollenkopf is a graduate of Convoy Crestview High School, where he played for Jim Wharton, a member of the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association and ACME baseball halls of fame.

“He’s a great mentor,” says Mollenkopf of Wharton. “There’s so respect for him in that community. He’s still another ear to bend. He had a big impact on my life and my love for baseball.”

Mollenkopf played four seasons (2000-03) at Huntington University for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Frame.

Frame was known for his attention to detail, practice preparation and communication skills.

“I remember the Friday morning devotions,” says Mollenkopf. “He met with small groups of players. He tried to make an impact as future husbands, fathers and people.

“I went there to play baseball, but came out as a better man because of him, too.”

Mollenkopf received an elementary education degree at Huntington. Before coaching at Caston, he spent two seasons as an assistant to IHSBCA Hall of Famer George Phares at Taylor High School.

“He’s a special individual,” says Mollenkopf of Phares. “I learned how to interact with players, handling parent meetings and working with the administration

driving an hour back and forth.”

At the time, Mollenkopf was making the commute from Fulton County to Kokomo.

“There were so many meals and more he and (his wife) Martha provided for me.”

Mollenkopf is married to a Caston graduate. Blake and Stephanie have four children — eighth grader Kinzie (13), fifth grader Gavin (11), third grader Logan (9) and kindergartener Remy (6). All of them attend Caston schools.

After a few years on the job, Blake Mollenkopf resigned last May as Caston athletic director. Besides coaching baseball, he is an elementary physical education teacher and is involved with youth football and eighth grade girls basketball.

CASONCOMETS

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The Mollenkopfs (clockwise from upper left): Blake, Stephanie, Kinzie, Gavin, Remy and Logan. Blake Mollenkopf is head baseball coach at Caston Junior/Senior High School in Fulton, Ind.

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Blake Mollenkopf has been head baseball coach at Caston Junior/Senior High School in Fulton, Ind., since the 2006 season.

 

 

Zartman coaches, cares for Bethel College Pilots

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Seth Zartman has shared slices of life with hundreds of players in two decades as a college baseball coach.

There have been moments shared in dugouts, on bus rides and at team meals and community service projects.

The man who has led the program at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind., since the 2004 season has always viewed these young men as more than athletes.

They are people, too.

“I want to love those guys the very best that I can while they’re here,” says Zartman. “When they leave, that love doesn’t change. You’re very appreciative of who they are as people.”

Zartman, a 1998 Bethel graduate, tries to see what makes each one tick and does his best to lead them on and off the diamond.

“Your players are more than just a roster number,” says Zartman. “They’re more important than that.

“It’s the relationship you build with those guys and getting to know them for who they are not only on the field but off. Who are they within their families? What do they like to do?.

“To have a genuine care for who they are as a person allows you to understand how you can deal with them on the field as well and make them the best baseball player you can.”

It’s a lesson he learned while playing at Bethel for head coach Sam Riggleman. 

Zartman, who wrapped his career as the Pilots’ all-time leader in home runs (37), runs batted in (181), doubles (61) and slugging percentage (.625) and was inducted into the Bethel College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006, saw Riggleman’s example of how to “treat and love your players.”

Riggleman displayed an attention to detail and a way of pushing the right button to get the most out of his players.

“When you’re a player for Sam you understand real quickly the importance of details and the small things,” says Zartman, who is going into his 16th season as Bethel head coach in 2018-19. “Coach was very well-organized. You never question whatever plan he had for what we were doing every single day.

“It had to do with your focus and what attitude you were going to show up with everyday. Those are things I’ve tried to carry on in my coaching career.”

Prior to returning to his alma mater, Zartman started the program at Mid-Continent College in Mayfield, Ky. The school (which has since closed) was changing to a liberal arts institution and adding athletics.

Zartman tried to get a graduate assistant coaching position after graduating from Bethel and when he found none, he went into the business world for a year.

Zartman is now in his 20th season as a head coach without ever having been an assistant.

“It’s very unusual,” says Zartman. “Guys ask all the time about how to get going in this realm. I can tell them that my story’s not the one that you look at.

“I was very fortunate to get that opportunity freshly out of school.”

Most head coaches went through the grind, starting out as a graduate assistant and/or volunteer coach before serving multiple seasons as a full-time assistant.

One year removed from being a player, Zartman took a call from Riggleman and found out about Mid-Continent.

“In my interview I found out they had already interviewed 20-plus coaches that had experience at the college level and every single one of them turned down,” says Zartman, recalling the summer of 1999. “Then here comes this young kid one year out of college. But — Praise God! — I got the call and they offered me the job.

“I started the program from Ground Zero.”

In the four seasons that Zartman was there, Mid-Continent built a baseball field from scratch and finally reached double digits in wins in his last season.

“It was a tough road, but a road I wouldn’t trade for anything,” says Zartman. “When you’re thrown into the fire like that, you learn a lot and quickly.

“You’re young and green and you just go with instinct. You and learn the best way you know how.”

Between learning on the job, spending time on the phone with Riggleman and being led by the Mid-Continent administration, Zartman began to navigate life as a college head coach.

Recruiting has changed for Zartman during his time in charge at BC, where the current tuition is about $28,500.

“Just in my 16 years here at Bethel, we’ve had four different scholarship systems,” says Zartman. “We go from a standard to a certain pot of money to a period of time with no (athletic) scholarships to today when we’re in a discount rate system.”

Zartman says the biggest switch in recent years is that players are making their college decisions a lot sooner. Rare are the days that they commit in the summer and then come to campus in the fall.

“It’s helped us build our recruiting lists earlier,” says Zartman. “We’re in the period right now where a lot of Class of ’19 kids are making their decisions.

“They want to have a stress-free senior year.”

While trying to build a roster that the Bethel administration wants to be between 28 and 35 athletes, the Pilots coaching staff (Zartman, Kiel Boynton and Dick Siler) get out to high school games at the end of the college season and then really focus on summer travel tournaments — particularly Pastime Tournaments at the University of Notre Dame and Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

Bethel coaches also see players via video and identify potential recruits through Prep Baseball Report.

“A lot of kids are now promoting themselves,” says Zartman. “With the videos, we can get a quick glimpse to see what they’re like.”

The current roster includes players with hometowns in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Venezuela.

“We’re starting to branch out and get guys from a broader spectrum,” says Zartman. “Some of these guys have never seen snow before. They end up adapting and they really enjoy their experience.”

Bethel is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The NAIA allows its baseball teams to play 55 games during the school year. The Pilots are to play six games that count toward their record this fall with Saturday noon doubleheaders Sept. 22 (vs. Trinity International University), Sept. 29 (at University of Michigan-Dearborn) and Oct. 6 (vs. UM-Dearborn).

“I love the NAIA from the standpoint that we can spend time with our players,” says Zartman, who was a four-time NAIA All-American as a player. “We can do things off the field with them.”

On the baseball side, teams are allowed 24 weeks of activity during the school year, counting backwards from the last regular-season game. For Bethel this year that means six weeks in the fall and the rest in the spring.

Bethel belongs to the Crossroads League (along with Goshen College, Grace College, Huntington University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Marian University, Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, Spring Arbor University and Taylor University). The CL tries to play as many conference games on weekends as possible.

With schedules aligning, Bethel and Grace are slated play their series in Vero Beach, Fla., in March 2019.

A member of the American Baseball Coaches Association, Zartman plans to attend the ABCA Convention Jan. 3-6 in Dallas.

“I definitely love the camaraderie,” says Zartman. “There is so much perspective to gain from other coaches.

“The clinic speakers are next to none. We also get to have our voices heard (in NAIA meetings).”

Zartman is a 1994 graduate of Caston High School in Fulton, Ind., where he played for head coach Dick Farrer (who is now at Pioneer High School in Royal Center, Ind.).

In his freshman season, Zartman, Farrer came to him and his teammates asking about their diamond dreams. For Seth, it was to be a starting catcher and that goal was attained.

“He enabled us to go for it,” says Zartman of Farrer. “He allowed us to get into those positions and really show what we could do.

“I remember Coach Farrer saying as long you’re giving me your best then I have nothing to complain about. He really, really enhanced the positives.”

Zartman began playing summer youth baseball in Fulton and then switched to Rochester, Ind., to be closer to father Marty’s job. Marty coached back then and later helped Seth at Bethel.

Seth played in Rochester through Babe Ruth before entering high school. In the summers, he played for Walton American Legion Post 418. His coaches were Mike Platt and Larry “Bud” Jones, the latter being the head coach at Logansport High School.

“Coach Jones was a very attention-to-detail guy. He was big on the fundamentals of the game.

“I was very fortunate in all my levels to play for coaches that emphasized how important the fundamentals of baseball are and working those all the time are what makes you the player you’re going to be.

“It’s not just showing up everyday because you have the talent to overpower somebody.”

Zartman knows that a lot of people say that’s the old school way of baseball.

“I’m a firm believer that the old school is the new school,” says Zartman. “You have to do those things.

“That repetition in practice — doing things over and over — implants in you those things that become second nature when you go play a game.”

In addition to his coaching duties, Zartman is the head groundskeeper for outdoor athletic facilities at Bethel. He is assisted by head women’s soccer coach Jamie Lindvall and head cross country/assistant track and field coach Ryan Sommers.

Zartman was diagnosed in January 2012 with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). It is a thickening of the heart muscle (myocardium). The condition can make it harder for the heart to pump blood. HCM may also affect the heart’s electrical system.

“I had a good check-up in May,” says Zartman. “I go to Boston in October for my yearly check-up with my main HCM doctor.

“I feel very blessed. God’s been really good in protection and provision.”

Marty and Joyce Zartman, who are also Caston High graduates, have four boys. Seth is one year older than Sean, five years older than Luke and 15 years older than Ethan. Between the three, they have six children. Seth coached Ethan Zartman at Bethel.

Seth and Anitra Zartman, who met at Bethel as student-athletes, have been married for 18 years. The couple has four kids — Senica (14), Ty (14), Lyric (7) and Evik (5).

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Seth Zartman, a 1998 Bethel College graduate and BC Athletic Hall of Famer, is in his 16th year as head baseball coach at his alma mater. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Stoner wants Jimtown Jimmies baseball to aim for ‘The Gold Standard’

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

New Jimtown High School head baseball coach Cory Stoner wants his Jimmies to reach for “The Gold Standard” during the 2018-19 school year.

“We’re not going to settle for ‘good enough,” says Stoner, who has been with the Jimtown junior varsity the past five springs. “We want to push ourselves and get back to competing for sectional and conference championships.

“There is a goldmine of talent here. We’ve just got to mine that gold a little bit.”

Stoner, who graduated from Mishawaka (Ind.) High School in 2009 and Bethel College in Mishawaka in 2013, began teaching U.S. History (Explorers to Civil War) at Jimtown Junior High School in Elkhart, Ind., and joined the Mike Campbell-led football coaching staff (Stoner is defensive coordinator for the Jimmies) in 2013-14.

He believes in the multi-sport athlete.

“Doing other things makes them better baseball players, too,” says Stoner. “It makes them better athletes all-around.”

For athletes not in a fall sport, Stoner just held a session to help some Jimtown baseball players get better. There was even a fall athlete who came to get in some extra work.

John Huemmer was Stoner’s head coach at Mishawaka High and has made an impact on his life.

“What a great role model,” says Stoner of Huemmer. “I remember how hard he worked for me. You could tell he was working for the kids.

“He worked so hard to get me into Bethel and improve my skills and talents. I really appreciated him as a role model and a figure and, hopefully, I can do that here at Jimtown.”

At Bethel, head coach Seth Zartman displayed a contagious zeal.

“He had a passion for the game,” says Stoner, who played all over the infield and some in the outfield for the Pilots. “Playing high school and college baseball are two different things and you find out quickly if you have a passion for the game. He brought that everyday.

“I really appreciated that from him.”

Stoner will be assisted at Jimtown by former Jimmies head coach Darin Mast, Luke Smith and some others to be determined. Smith will be the pitching coach.

“I want kids who have bought in and ready to work and get better,” says Stoner. “We want to dig into the whole character aspect and build young men who will be successful outside of baseball as well.

“I’m a big believer in the little things matter — staying mentally into games. That stuff carries over into life, too. That’s what I hope to relay to these guys and imprint on their lives.”

In order for a program to be successful, athletes must accept their roles and putting the team first.

Stoner says he’s seen that attitude so far in his years with the Jimmies and expects it to continue.

“This is a special place,” says Stoner of Baugo Community Schools. “I see that in these kids. They accept their roles, understand what it is and embrace and enjoy it.

“They want to get better in their roles because it’s about the team. That’s part of The Gold Standard — what can I do get us where we want to be?”

New IHSAA rules allow coaches to work with an unlimited number of players in the off-season, but only two times a week for up to two hours at a time.

“One of the big things that I want to focus on is getting into the weight room and growing physically,” says Stoner. “There are muscles for baseball that are different for other sports.

“And pitching is huge. We want to get that arm built up. There’s a reason pitchers and catchers come in early (for spring training) in the major leagues. You’ve got to get that arm strength built up. We’ll focus on that early.”

Stoner notes that even though rules limit off-season team activities to four times a week, that doesn’t prevent players from working on their own.

“Those are the kids that have that passion and can’t get enough of it,” says Stoner.

What changes has Stoner noticed in the education field?

“It’s crazy,” says Stoner. “Technology is huge now. We’re using (Google) Chromebooks in class and researching.

“(Technology) is also huge in baseball, too. We can get the iPad out and videotape a swing, slow it down and talk about certain points. There’s definitely connections there.”

Cory and wife Richele Stoner have two sons — Luke and Sam. Sam Stoner recently had his first birthday. Luke Stoner turns 3 in September. Cory and Richele are expecting a third boy — Cole — in December.

Kirby and Barb Stoner are Cory’s parents. Kirby Stoner is retired from the Mishawaka Police Department. Barb Stoner keeps busy babysitting her grandkids. Scott Stoner, Cory’s older brother and a social studies teacher at John Young Middle School in Mishawaka, is married with a daughter.

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Cory Stoner is in his sixth year as a teacher and coach in Baugo Community Schools. After five seasons as an assistant, the graduate of Mishawaka (Ind.) High School and Bethel College is now head baseball coach at Jimtown High School. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

DuBois eager to get going as new Goshen RedHawks baseball head coach

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

There are many educators in the family of J.J. DuBois.

So even though his career path started out toward business administration, he found himself transitioning toward the classroom.

Around athletics throughout his life, DuBois also felt the full of coaching and added that professional role.

DuBois, who teaches business at Goshen (Ind.) High School, now finds himself as the RedHawks head baseball coach. His hiring was approved this week.

“I truly can’t wait to get started,” says DuBois, 28. “(Former Goshen head coach) Josh (Keister) made unbelievable strides in a short time.

“I want to keep the momentum going.”

While J.J. says the fast pace of basketball got much of his attention growing up, he came to enjoy the strategy and nuances of baseball. He appreciates the life lessons that it can help impart.

“It teaches you how to bounce back from failure,” says DuBois. “You get humbled real quick in baseball.

“Coaching — in any sport — can make a huge impact on kids.”

While roles could change, J.J. DuBois says he expects to have the same men return to coach Goshen baseball in 2018-19, including Aaron Keister, Clay Norris, Troy Pickard, Tracy Farmwald, Chad Collins and Daniel Liechty.

Aaron Keister was the RedHawks pitching coach and Norris a varsity assistant in 2018. Pickard helped DuBois at the junior varsity level. Liechty served as elementary coordinator and a liaison to Goshen Little League.

After years at Rogers Park, the JV was moved to the Little League. DuBois says he wants to conduct camps for Goshen’s youth players.

The varsity plays on Phend Field, located across U.S. 33 from Goshen High School.

Goshen is part of the Northern Lakes Conference (along with Concord, Elkhart Memorial, Northridge, NorthWood, Plymouth, Warsaw and Wawasee).

DuBois coached junior varsity baseball at Goshen the past two seasons and now gets to educate young people in his first job as a head coach.

“There’s nothing better than helping kids find out what they want to pursue and get the most out of them as an athlete and turn that into some wins,” says DuBois, who played baseball and tennis for four years and basketball for one at Jimtown High School in Elkhart, Ind., graduating in 2008.

DuBois was a first baseman and pitcher on the diamond for coach Mike Stout and a singles player on the court for coach Steve Fledderman.

“Coach Stout was the most calm anybody could ever ask for,” says DuBois of Stout, who spent in 25 seasons leading the Jimmies. “He never got in your face and screamed at you. I was never afraid to make a mistake. All he did was instill confidence in guys.

“He never let his emotions get the best of him. He respected you as a player and a person and cared for every single guy. He got a lot out of us because he let us be ourselves.”

Jimtown won a sectional baseball title when DuBois was a junior (2007) and were very good his senior year.

DuBois credits Fledderman for instilling discipline and self control. There was a certain way to act and “Fled” insisted upon it or there would be extra running or push-ups.

“In tennis, you have to have self control,” says DuBois. “I could not lose my mind out on the court.”

DuBois continued to learn about the X’s and O’s of baseball in four seasons (concluding with graduation in 2012) as a pitcher at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind., where he played for head coach Seth Zartman and assistant Dick Siler (an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer).

While at Bethel, DuBois did an internship in the athletic department at the University of Notre Dame. He enjoyed the experience, but missed interacting with athletes.

When wife Holly, who was an NAIA All-American softball player at Bethel, went to Hazelhurst, Miss., as part of the Teach for America program, J.J. enrolled in graduate school at Belhaven University in nearby Jackson, Miss., where he gained experience in game day operations and marketing. He also volunteered for the Blazers baseball staff, watching Belhaven go 37-21 in 2013 and 42-21 in 2014.

Belhaven is where DuBois encountered head baseball coach Hill Denson.

“He had the biggest influence in making me want to pursue coaching,” says DuBois of Denson, who made such an impact in his time at the University of Southern Mississippi that baseball field is called Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field.

After a season as an assistant coach at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., DuBois came to Goshen to teach and spent one season with wife Holly on the softball coaching staff led by Brent Kulp.

Holly (Weaver) DuBois is a teacher at West Goshen Elementary and will guide first graders in 2018-19. The couple have a daughter (Hope) and will soon welcome a son (Owen).

Just part of the “family business” of education includes J.J.’s father Jim DuBois (superintendent of Baugo Community Schools in Elkhart, Ind.), uncle Mike Dubois (teacher at Concord High School in Elkhart, Ind.), aunt Jennifer Cobb (teacher at Discovery Middle School in Granger, Ind.) and uncle Mike Cobb (educator in Edwardsburg, Mich.).

Jim and Laurie DuBois (who worked for many years at Elkhart General Hospital) have four children — Zach, J.J., Sarah and Jessica.

Zach DuBois, 11 months older than J.J. and a Notre Dame graduate, is a country music artist (wife Katy performs with the trio Maybe April).

Sarah (DuBois) McMahon is a nurse at Memorial Hospital in South Bend. Her husband, Kevin McMahon, is a teacher at Jimtown Elementary and has been an assistant baseball coach for Jimtown High School.

Jessica DuBois is a recent Indiana University graduate who has been active in theater with Premier Arts in Elkhart.

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J.J. DuBois teaches business at Goshen (Ind.) High School, where he was just named head baseball coach. (Goshen High School Photo)

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J.J. DuBois, a Jimtown High School and Bethel College graduate, is now the head baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) High School. J.J. and wife Holly have a daughter Hope (shown above) and are expecting a son (Owen).

 

New baseball coach Woodruff looks for Ancilla Chargers to adapt and improve

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Personal experience has taught Chris Woodruff the value of junior college for a student-athlete and now he’s leading a baseball program at a two-year school.

Woodruff, 25, was named head coach at Ancilla College near Donaldson, Ind., in June and has been busy recruiting and working on the facility at the liberal arts institution of higher learning sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

Woodruff, who has been running events for Elite Baseball Tournaments on the weekends, sees recruiting as a “fun challenge.”

With only a few months to fill a roster, recruiting has really amped up for him.

“Once we begin our fall ball season, we can begin recruiting our 2019 season,” says Woodruff. “We do have a lot of quality guys that return. I’m getting close to my goal. I want to get 30 guys this year and next year, I want to get up to 40.

“The more guys I can have on the roster, the more intrasquads we can do and the more team work we can do here on the field and see what we have in front of us rather having to depend on going somewhere to play a scrimmage.”

Woodruff says he hopes to tap into local talent on the playing side and has already done that for coaching.

Jesse Zepeda, an Elkhart Central High School graduate who played the outfield at Bethel College, has joined Woodruff’s Ancilla coaching staff.

“He already knows what I’m trying to bring here,” says Woodruff of Zepeda. “He’ll back my methods and my ways.”

Woodruff has a couple other people in mind to add other assistants.

A 2011 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) John Adams High School, Woodruff played two seasons (2012 and 2013) for coaches  Keith Schreiber and Mike Marks at Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Mich. — a Michigan Community College Athletic Association member along with Ancilla — and two (2014 and 2015) for coach Brian Blondell at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind.

In high school, Woodruff played travel baseball his last two summers for Blondell’s Michiana Scrappers.

One of his teammates at Holy Cross was Jake Lanning, who was selected in the 24th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Atlanta Braves and played in the minors that summer.

“I’ve seen and played with a lot of great guys,” says Woodruff.

Woodruff, who played football for coaches Frank Amato and Craig Redman and baseball for coach Adam Zache at Adams, hit .312 with two doubles, one triple, six runs batted in and 20 runs scored in his last season as a center fielder at Glen Oaks.

His final year at Holy Cross, the right fielder was selected first-team all-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference after hitting .331.

“I know what kind of junior college played for me — athletically and academically,” says Woodruff. “I can give players the opportunity to come here and play for two years at the college level. In two years, they can improve and develop and leave with their associate degree and go somewhere bigger and better.

“I’m looking for guys who want to come here and work day in and day out and if Ancilla is the right place for them, we can make it work baseball-wise as well.”

Ancilla offers 25 associate degrees and the professor-to-student ratio is low, making for more personal attention. The campus located next to Gilbert Lake and eight miles west of Plymouth.

Indiana has three junior college baseball programs — Ancilla, Vincennes University and Indiana Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne are the others.

Some players and families know how the junior college system works and others are being educated while also being told the merits of Ancilla.

“Each family is different,” says Woodruff. “I have to feed off of them and see where their mindset is.”

Woodruff began his coaching career as a football assistant to Redman at Adams while also finishing his degree in the fall/winter of 2015.

Woodruff then tried his hand at professional baseball in the 2016 California Winter League.

“It was a good experience,” says Woodruff. “All the coaches in that league were (independent pro baseball) coaches or ex-pros and I learned a lot picking their brains.”

In 2016-17, he was a football assistant to Redman at South Bend Clay and a volunteer baseball assistant to head coach Mike Huling at Indiana University South Bend then served as a volunteer on the staff of Seth Zartman at Bethel in Mishawaka, Ind., in 2017-18.

Huling was an hitting/outfield coach in Woodruff’s senior year at Holy Cross then brought him onto the IUSB staff.

“I was always a great outfielder and defender, but it was always just natural,” says Woodruff. “I never had anyone teach me. He was constantly getting us to improve on what we did yesterday.

“At IUSB, it was what were we doing as a team to get better that day. Each day, we’re going to improve a little bit.”

Woodruff always wants to get better as a coach and see his atheles make steady progress.

“As soon as you think you know it all, get out of baseball because it’s constantly improving and adapting,” says Woodruff. “There’s so much information out there. Try to just be a sponge.”

At Bethel, Woodruff saw the way Zartman and assistant Kiel Boynton went about their daily business.

“I try to take everything in and that’s what it’s been like this first two or three weeks at Ancilla,” says Woodruff. “I’m constantly learning.

“That’s the kind of team I want to have on the field year in and year out — one that wants to adapt and improve.”

Woodruff, who was hired to a part-time position at Ancilla by athletic director Brian Pearison, has been consulting with groundskeeping guru and longtime family friend Joel Reinebold about getting the Chargers’ playing facility in shape.

“He’s definitely someone I will lean on as I’m getting started and as I move forward,” says Woodruff of Reinebold.

John and Teri Woodruff both have coaching and athletic administration backgrounds but they never pressured their only child to participate in sports.

“They got it right the first time,” says Chris Woodruff. “They just wanted me to be doing something. They’ve definitely been great role models for me and they are the backbone of my support system.”

Growing up, Chris was always around for dad’s softball games in the spring and summer and helped his mother at football games (at Penn High School then Adams).

“I was always around athletics,” says Woodruff. “It’s something I’ve grown to love.”

Woodruff also appreciates all the community support.

There’s a whole village that helped me get to this point and I have been to thank,” says Woodruff. “I’m always adapting, improving, learning and growing.”

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Chris Woodruff, a South Bend John Adams High School graduate who played at Glen Oaks Community College and Holy Cross, is the new head baseball coach at Ancilla College near Donaldson, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)

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New Ancilla College head baseball coach Chris Woodruff, 25, is working to fill his roster for 2018-19 while also improving the playing facility at the two-year school near Donaldson, Ind. (Steve Krah Photo)