Tag Archives: Slippery Rock State University

Following culture of hard work, IU Kokomo Cougars win 31 games in inaugural baseball season

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Indiana University Kokomo got off to a slow start in its first collegiate baseball season then came roaring down the stretch.

The NAIA-affiliated Cougars, led by head coach Matt Howard, lost the first four games of 2018 then went on to post a couple seven-game win streaks and finished 31-21-1 overall and 16-11 in the River States Conference. IUK lost to Midway in the RSC tournament semifinals.

“We have a good group of guys,” says Howard. “We had a pretty balanced team. Pitchers kept us in ball games early in the year. Our batters came around late.

“With the success we had last year and being able to add some guys, it should be a pretty exciting year for us (in 2019).”

IUK hit .303 as a team, stole 67 bases and outscored opponents 397-261.

“We shoot for 100 bags a year and we were well short of our goal,” says Howard, who saw junior center fielder Tavon Lindsay (20) and freshman left fielder Jared Heard (19) paced the Cougars in pilfered bases. “We like to play aggressive, fast-paced and put as much pressure on the defense as we possibly can.

“Speed doesn’t slump.”

Among regulars, Heard (New Castle) at .347, Lindsay (Port Lucie, Fla.) at .346, freshman second baseman Max McKee (Shenandoah) at .344 and junior designated hitter Dalton Clarke (Newmarket, Ont.) at .320 were batting leaders.

Heard collected 58 hits and drove in 40 runs. Lindsay wound up with 66 hits and 39 RBI. Clarke popped seven home runs and knocked in 52 runs.

Bolstering the pitching staff was junior right-hander Renton Poole (Bloomington South) and freshman left-handers Owen Callaghan (Hamilton Southeastern) and Noah Richardson (Lafayette Central Catholic).

Poole made 14 appearances (12 starts) and was 7-2 with a 2.28 earned run average and 98 strikeouts in 79 innings.

In 14 appearances (13 starts), Callaghan was 7-5 with 2.92 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 71 innings.

Richardson took the mound 16 times (11 as a starter) and was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings.

Howard wants to have 40 players by the fall and is now on the recruiting trail.

“This is the time where we shore up our roster,” says Howard. “We identify the talent, find the Class of 2019 graduates and try to get them on campus in the summer or later fall so you can get some early commitments.

Howard is “looking for players that make us better and fit our culture.”

And just what does that mean?

“Our culture is one of hard work and dedication to the sport,” says Howard. “We push our guys very hard.

“When our guys go on the field, they expect and deserve to win because they’ve worked harder than the guys on the other side.”

To hone their skills and competitive edge even sharper, several IUK players have been placed in competitive summer collegiate baseball leagues.

Howard is a graduate of Slippery Rock University and managed the Kokomo Jackrabbits of the summer collegiate Prospect League prior to helping to build the IUK program from scratch.

Indiana University Kokomo plays its home games on the turf at Kokomo Municipal Stadium — the same facility used by the Jackrabbits and Kokomo High School.

IUKOKOMOCOUGARS

MATTHOWARD

Matt Howard led Indiana University Kokomo to 31 victories in their first season of college baseball in 2018. (IU Kokomo Photo)

 

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Howard looking for first IU Kokomo baseball team to play the game fast

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Matt Howard hit the ground running when he took over as head coach for the new baseball program at Indiana University Kokomo.

That’s fitting since Howard wants his Cougars to play the game fast and put pressure on opponents.

Since starting in January and hitting the recruiting trail, Howard and his assistants — associate head coach/pitching coach Joe Thatcher (a Kokomo High School graduate who pitched in the big leagues), recruiting coordinator Zach Hall (who played at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.) and infield/assistant hitting coach Jason Leone (who played at Avila University in Kansas City, Mo.) — have built a roster and begun establishing a culture.

“We want to play fast,” says  says Howard, who used his speed as a outfielder to a be an NCAA Division II All-American and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Player of the Year at Slippery Rock State University and was an assistant at Chestnut Hill College, where the Griffins were consistently among the D-II leaders in stolen bases. “We want guys that understand the game and play the game hard. We want to put pressure on the defense and take advantage of any mistake they make.”

A Philadelphia, Pa., native, Howard served three seasons as manager of the Kokomo Jackrabbits of the summer collegiate Prospect League (2014-16) and was on the baseball staffs at Ball State University, LaSalle University and Chestnut Hill after his collegiate playing career.

Howard and his IU Kokomo staff have a group of 38 for 2017-18 and are now working on the recruiting class of 2018-19.

“We’re just looking for the best student-athlete we can find,” says Howard. IUK has about 3,000 students — many of them of commuters.

What attracted him to the heart of Indiana?

“Kokomo is a special place,” says Howard. “It’s a baseball town. We’re at an institution where we can attract a very strong student-athlete

“Our athletic department is young and looking to add sports strategically and run them in a competitive manner,” says Howard.

By having nearly 40 players, its creates competition within the squad and gives the Cougars some depth as they go through fall ball activities. Practices will wrap in a few weeks and players will hit the weight room. When classes begin again after winter break on Jan. 8, the team will kick it into gear as it prepares for the inaugural season opener Feb. 9 at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. It’s the first of three straight weekend series in Tennessee. The home opener on the turf at Kokomo Municipal Stadium is Feb. 27 against Indiana Wesleyan.

At 28, Howard is one of the younger head coaches in NAIA baseball. He sees it as a positive.

“It’s an advantage,” says Howard. “I have a lot of energy and passion for what I do. I’m out everyday to prove I’m the guy for the job. I’m able to get my players on the field more.

“Baseball is a beautiful game that teaches a lot of life lessons and about (dealing with) failure. Baseball is a tough game to play. You need to take the positives from the negatives.”

MATTHOWARD

Matt Howard, 28, is the head coach of a brand new NAIA baseball program at Indiana University Kokomo. He is a Philadelphia, Pa., native who was an NCAA Division II All-American at Slippery Rock State University. (IU Kokomo Photo)