Greg Oppel, who was hired as head baseball coach at Lanesville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in the fall of 2021, has long been part of the bat-and-ball scene in the southeast part of the state. A 1987 graduate of North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., where he earned Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association honorable mention all-state and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series status as a senior for Cougars coach Danny Smith, left-handed pitcher Oppel went on to play at the Indiana State University-Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) for Screaming Eagles coach Gary Redman. Rotator cuff surgery limited his college playing career to 2 1/2 years. Darren Oppel, Greg’s cousin, graduated from North Harrison in 1989 and was a first-team all-state shortstop and played in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. He went on to play at the University of Louisville and was a Colorado Rockies scout. As a baseball coach, Greg Oppel has been an assistant (2008) to Rick Parr and head coach (2009-11) at North Harrison (Cody Johnson was the IHSBCA North/South Series MVP in 2008) and assistant to Grenadiers head coach Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (2012-15) and assistant to Lions head coach Jason Pepmeier at Salem (Ind.) High School. It was when Reel was new at IUS and Oppel was on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board that the new formed a friendship. The idea of building an indoor hitting facility was explored and the process really took off when Oppel became North Harrison head coach. It happened through private donations and matching funds from the Harrison County Community Foundation. Reel inquired about using the hitting building for his IU Southeast team in winter months. “I said heck yeah — with one stipulation,” says Oppel. “I want your players and your staff to work our kids out with your knowledge.” When Oppel joined Reel’s staff he got even more access to his know-how. “Coach Reel is one of the top baseball minds in the country,” says Oppel. “Sitting in a session and listening to him talk and picking his brain was such a great opportunity for me and still is today.” Having traveled all over the country following daughter Kyia’s softball exploits, Oppel became head softball coach at North Harrison in her senior year (2017). A torn patellar tendon limited her season and ended her hopes of playing in college. “She’s handled adversity very well with her knee over a period of time,” says Oppel. “I think it hurt me more than it did her.” Greg Oppel and joined Kyia Oppel when the middle school special education teacher became head coach at Crawford County High School in Marengo. “We had a blast,” says Oppel of his time with his daughter and the Wolfpack, which went 8-14 in 2021. With Christopher Broughton and Jason Sturgeon leading the charge, an indoor facility push was made at Crawford County. Then came Greg Oppel’s chance to lead Lanesville Swingin’ Eagles baseball. He met four times with athletic director and former baseball head coach Zach Payne before taking the position. “I wanted to made sure it was the right thing for Lanesville and the right thing for me,” says Oppel. “It’s tight-knit community. It’s almost like a throwback to years ago. It sounds like a cliche’ but they welcomed me with open arms.” It’s a community that likes its sports and has enjoyed — and has come to expect — baseball success. Lanesville has won five sectionals, including those in 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Regional and semistate titles came in 2016 and 2017. The Eagles were Class 1A state runners-up in 2016 and 1A state champions in 2017. The Harrison County school with an enrollment around 240 is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central of Elizabeth). In 2021, the Eagles were part of an 1A sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Orleans and South Central (Elizabeth). Oppel’s assistants for 2022 include Jeff Cockerham, Tyler Cockerham and Aaron Lockman. Jeff Cockerham played at Jeffersonville High School. Tyler Cockerham played for Oppel at North Harrison then at Hanover (Ind.) College. Lockman is 2020 Lanesville graduate. A campaign to bring an indoor facility to Lanesville is now in the works. “This will be a win-win for the Lanesville community,” says Oppel. “We are fortunate to have such a backing at Lanesville. The following for baseball alone at Lanesville is astronomical. “I’m very blessed to have this opportunity.” Oppel, who is also a 29 1/2-year employee of Ford Motor Company in Louisville, where he builds the Escape and Lincoln Corsair, served 12 years on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board. He began coaching at the 10U and 12U level. Says Oppel, “At 14U we had tremendous success because we did everything fundamentally sound with lots of drills and going things at game speed.”
Those questions were answered as IHSAA Executive Committee minutes from Feb. 19 were released March 8.
According to the IHSAA website, Assistant Commissioner Robert Faulkens reported on the general format, sites and other preliminary plans for the 2020-21 Baseball Tournament Series.
Faulkens was notified by the Indianapolis Indians that their schedule is now set by Major League Baseball rather than the International League and has the team set for home games on the dates of this year’s IHSAA State Finals. The plan now will be to play this year’s state championship games on the following Monday and Tuesday (June 21-22).
The first IHSAA practice date is March 15. The first contest date is March 29.
Sectionals Class 4A 1. Merrillville (6): East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central, Merrillville, Munster. 2. Chesterton (7): Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell, Portage, Valparaiso. 3. Plymouth (6): LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Plymouth, South Bend Adams, South Bend Riley. 4. Northridge (6): Concord, Elkhart, Goshen, Northridge, Penn, Warsaw Community. 5. Carroll (Fort Wayne) (5): Carroll (Fort Wayne), DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider
6. Huntington North (6): Columbia City, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead, Huntington North. 7. Lafayette Jefferson (5): Harrison (West Lafayette), Kokomo, Lafayette Jefferson, Logansport, McCutcheon. 8. Westfield (6): Carmel, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield, Zionsville. 9. Pendleton Heights (6): Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central, Pendleton Heights, Richmond.
10. Ben Davis (7): Ben Davis, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, Indianapolis Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike 11. Warren Central (6): Franklin Central, New Palestine, Perry Meridian, , Roncalli, Southport, Warren Central. 12. Plainfield (6): Avon, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Plainfield, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo. 13. Mooresville (6): Center Grove, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Whiteland Community. 14. Bloomington North (6): Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central, Shelbyville. 15. New Albany (6): Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany, Seymour. 16. Evansville F.J. Reitz (6): Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Jasper.
Class 3A 17. Griffith (6): Calumet, Gary West Side, Griffith, Hammond, Hammond Clark, Hammond Gavit. 18. Kankakee Valley (6): Culver Academies, Glenn, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox, River Forest. 19. South Bend Clay (5): Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Clay, South Bend Saint Joseph, South Bend Washington. 20. Northwestern (7): Benton Central, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette, Western.
21. Wawasee (6): Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wawasee, West Noble. 22. Garrett (7): Angola, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Garrett, Leo, New Haven. 23. Bellmont (6): Bellmont, Heritage, Marion, Mississinewa, Norwell, Oak Hill. 24. Yorktown (6): Delta, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle, Yorktown. 25. North Montgomery (6): Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Northview, South Vermillion.
26. Brebeuf Jesuit (5): Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory, Danville Community, Greencastle, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Tri-West Hendricks. 27. Beech Grove (5): Beech Grove, Herron, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Indianapolis Emmerich Manual, Indianapolis Shortridge. 28. Owen Valley (6): Brown County, Edgewood, Indian Creek, Owen Valley, Sullivan, West Vigo. 29. Lawrenceburg (7): Batesville, Connersville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated, South Dearborn. 30. Silver Creek (8): Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg, Silver Creek. 31. Southridge (6): Gibson Southern, Pike Central, Princeton Community, Southridge, Vincennes Lincoln, Washington
Class 2A 33. Whiting (6): Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary Roosevelt, Hammond Bishop Noll, Lake Station Edison, Wheeler, Whiting.
34. Hebron (6): Boone Grove, Hebron, North Judson-San Pierre, North Newton, Rensselaer Central, Winamac Community. 35. Westview (6): Bremen, Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille, Prairie Heights, Westview. 36. Eastside (6): Adams Central, Bluffton, Churubusco, Eastside, South Adams, Woodlan. 37. Wabash (6): Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Manchester, Rochester Community, Wabash, Whitko. 38. Delphi (6): Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community, Fountain Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger, Western Boone. 39. Eastern (Greentown) (6): Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant, Taylor, Tipton. 40. Lapel (8): Alexandria Monroe, Elwood Community, Frankton, Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris, Wapahani, Winchester Community. 41. Centerville (5): Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah, Union County. 42. Heritage Christian (6): Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown, Triton Central. 43. Cascade (6): Cascade, Covenant Christian (Indpls), Monrovia, Park Tudor, Speedway, University. 44. Southmont (5): Cloverdale, North Putnam, Parke Heritage, South Putnam, Southmont. 45. South Ripley (6): Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover), Switzerland County. 46. Eastern (Pekin) (6): Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin), Henryville, Providence.
47. Mitchell (6): Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli, South Knox. 48. Tell City (6): Evansville Mater Dei, Forest Park, North Posey, Perry Central, South Spencer, Tell City.
Class 1A 49. Washington Township (8): 21st Century Charter-Gary, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Kouts, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township, Westville.
50. LaCrosse (7): Argos, Culver Community, LaCrosse, Oregon-Davis, South Bend Career Academy, South Central (Union Mills), Triton. 51. Fremont (7): Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont, Hamilton, Lakewood Park Christian 52. Caston (7): Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield, Pioneer, Southwood, West Central. 53. Riverton Parke (5): Attica, Covington, Faith Christian, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke. 54. Frontier (6): Clinton Central, Frontier, Rossville, Sheridan, South Newton, Tri-County. 55. Liberty Christian (7): Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central, Wes-Del. 56. Seton Catholic (6): Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Randolph Southern, Seton Catholic, Tri, Union City. 57. White River Valley (6): Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak, White River Valley 58. Bethesda Christian (6): Bethesda Christian, Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Providence Cristo Rey, Tindley, Traders Point Christian. 59. Morristown (6): Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown, Southwestern (Shelbyville), Waldron. 60. Jac-Cen-Del (6): Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy, Rising Sun, Trinity Lutheran. 61. South Central (Elizabeth) (5): Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Lanesville, Orleans, South Central (Elizabeth). 62. West Washington (4): Crothersville, New Washington, Shawe Memorial, West Washington. 63. North Daviess (5): Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Daviess, Shoals, Vincennes Rivet. 64. Northeast Dubois (5): Cannelton, Northeast Dubois, Springs Valley, Tecumseh, Wood Memorial.
1. LaPorte Feeder Sectionals: Chesterton, LaPorte, Merrillville, Northridge. 2. Kokomo Feeder Sectionals: DeKalb, Huntington North, Lafayette Jefferson, Westfield. 3. Plainfield Feeder Sectionals: Ben Davis Pendleton Heights, Terre Haute South Vigo, Warren Central. 4. Jasper Feeder Sectionals: Bloomington North, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Jennings County, Mooresville.
5. Griffith Feeder Sectionals: Griffith, Kankakee Valley, South Bend Clay, Northwestern. 6. Bellmont Feeder Sectionals: Wawasee, Garrett, Bellmont, Yorktown. 7. Danville Feeder Sectionals: Beech Grove, Brebeuf Jesuit, North Montgomery, Owen Valley. 8. Southridge Feeder Sectionals: Evansville Bosse, Lawrenceburg, Silver Creek, Southridge.
10. Lafayette Central Catholic Feeder Sectionals: Delphi, Eastern (Greentown), Lapel, Wabash. 11. Park Tudor/Cascade Feeder Sectionals: Cascade, Centerville, Heritage Christian, Southmont. 12. Evansville Mater Dei (Bosse Field) Feeder Sectionals: Eastern (Pekin), Mitchell, South Ripley, Tell City.
13. South Bend Washington Feeder Sectionals: Caston, Fremont, LaCrosse, Washington Township. 14. Carroll (Flora) Feeder Sectionals: Frontier, Liberty Christian, Riverton Parke, Seton Catholic. 15. Morristown Feeder Sectionals: Bethesda Christian, Jac-Cen-Del, Morristown, White River Valley. 16. Lanesville Feeder Sectionals: North Daviess, Northeast Dubois, South Central (Elizabeth), West Washington.
1. LaPorte 2. Kokomo 3. Mooresville
Victory Field (Indianapolis), 501 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis The eight (8) winning teams of the semi-state tourneys shall constitute the participants in the state tourney.
Will, a 2016 Lanesville graduate, was hired when Zach Payne resigned in August 2020 as Swingin’ Eagles head coach after leading them since the 2015 season.
At 22, Will is one of the younger varsity head coaches in any sport in Indiana.
“I’m blessed that it happened at my alma mater,” says Will. “There’s no school I love more than Lanesville. It’s such a wonderful small community to be a part of.
“Everyone does know everyone.”
Jon is the youngest of Thomas and Marianne Will’s four children. Older brother Richard Will played tennis at Lanesville and graduated in 2005. His sisters are Jackie Kolkmeier and Cady Gustin. Jackie is married to North Harrison High School head girls basketball coach Jamie Kolkmeier.
The three older ones were all born in Florida, where Thomas and Marianne met while participating in a bowling league. Thomas is originally from Buffalo, N.Y., and Marianne from Youngstown, Ohio.
The family landed in southern Indiana, settled in Lanesville and had Jon, who went on to play tennis, soccer, baseball and golf at Lanesville.
After attending Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., where he saw limited baseball action and then Indiana University Southeast in New Albany briefly, Will decided to go into the working world. For nearly four years he has been employed at First Harrison Bank in Georgetown, Ind., as a vault teller.
At Lanesville, Will played one season (2014) for Rusty McCubbins and two for (2015 and 2016) for Payne. Those were Payne’s first two seasons leading the program. He is now a volunteer assistant at Providence, where he graduated in 2008.
The Eagles are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Orleans and South Central (Elizabeth). Lanesville has won five sectional crowns — the last in 2019. The Eagles earned a 1A state title in 2017 after finishing as 1A state runners-up in 2016.
Will played second base and shortstop in the ’16 championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Two members of the Lanesville Class of 2020 — Gabe Gowens (Hanover College) and Matthew Lindsay (Franklin College) — are on college baseball rosters. Will says there are younger Swingin’ Eagles with college aspirations and have been attending showcases and using recruiting websites.
Lanesville’s coaching staff is a large one, which helps accommodate work schedules. Besides McCubbins (a graduate of St. Xavier High School in Louisviille), there’s Joe Gowens (Eastern of Pekin), Lane Staples (Jennings County), Garrett Sherrell (New Albany), Lucas Timberlake (Lanesville), Taylor Proffitt (West Washington) and Spencer Purcell (Providence).
“It’s tough to find help everyday,” says Will. “Everyone works their way into a different area everyday.”
Staples played at Spalding after Will transferred out. Motivator Purcell handles strength and conditioning duties for the Swingin’ Eagles. Proffitt works with catchers.
Former pitcher Timberlake was a Lanesville classmate of Will’s.
“We talked about how we would be coaching our own ball club one day,” says Will. “Then came this opportunity.
“I’m learning as much as the players are learning everyday. Nobody sees how much the head coach is doing behind the scenes until they’re doing it
“Larry is charismatic and has a contagious baseball mind,” says Hester.
Hester, who followed his baseball playing career, by traveling all over the country competing in top-flight slow pitch softball tournaments, has his Charlestown players competing during IHSAA Limited Contact Period winter workouts.
“We compete internally all the time,” says Hester. “I have a good group of (10) seniors who love hard work and competing.”
Hester has been getting his Pirates to understand what it means to have love and passion for the game and and enjoying being on the team.
“A lot of that comes from Larry Owens,” says Hester.
Expecting around 24 players in the program this spring, Hester and assistants Bryan Glover, Tony Kailen, George Roberts and Brady Hester will lead a program in varsity and junior varsity competition. Of the five coaches, only Kailen is not a Charlestown graduate.
The site of the Pirates baseball field is the same that Hester knew as a player, but the facility was totally overhauled almost a decade ago.
The former practice football field was turned into a softball field and now baseball and softball share not only a hitting building but a walkway and common area with a concession stand between the two diamonds.
“There’s great energy for our games,” says Hester.
The Pirates are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek. Charlestown has won two sectional titles — 1999 and 2009.
While Hester was a Charlestown assistant he helped establish middle school baseball. Not affiliated with the school system, games are played during the spring. This year, Hester expects one team of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Recent Charlestown graduates on college baseball teams include right-handed pitchers Andrew Snider (Morehead, Ky., State University) and Drew Fifer (Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.).
Two current seniors — right-handed pitcher Eric Wigginton (Spalding University in Louisville) and utility infielder Matthew McCoy (Hanover, Ind., College) — have made college baseball commitments.
Two others from the Class of 2021 weighing their options are catcher Nathaniel Kimbrell and right-handed pitcher Jacob Glover.
Ronni Hester, Brian’s wife, is in retail management. Brian and Ronni have three sons — Brady (22), Dalton (18) and Boomer (13) plus one grandson. Dalton Hester is a Charlestown senior. Boomer Hester is a seventh grader who plays football, basketball, wrestling and baseball with the middle school team and the Rawlings Tigers.
makes us better playing tougher competition,” says Schroeder (pronounced SHRAY-der), who is heading into his 27th season leading the Hornets. His teams have won 13 Southern Athletic Conference titles and six IHSAA Class 1A sectional crowns (the last in 2008).
Schroeder, who was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gary O’Neal while doing his student teaching at Madison Consolidated in 1992 led led the Hornets from 1993-2012 and came back in 2014, emphasizes a commitment to the Henryville program.
“You should be putting forth your best effort everyday,” says Schroeder. “To be successful in life you have to work hard.
“You shouldn’t expect a hand-out. That’s a life lesson.”
Assisted by Brian Consley and Cody Reister (a Henryville alum who pitched at Hanover College), Schroeder expects to have 21 or 22 players to play varsity and junior varsity schedules.
With many playing soccer or tennis in the fall, only a handful participated in fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts. Since the winter window opened Dec. 9, there have been more practicing while some have been busy with basketball.
Schroeder appreciates the multi-sport athlete who can develop a variety of skills while still competing.
Henryville plays its games on-campus. The field was renovated in the fall of 2011. A devastating tornado hit the school and community in the spring of 2012.
“That was a bad situation,” says Schroeder. “Everything you know is gone. They school is demolished. What is going to happen next? We didn’t know what direction we were going to take.
“It took the work of lot of people to put things back together and got things looking good again.”
With much effort, the Hornets were able to take the diamond that year.
“It’s really nice,” says Schroeder. “I’ll put our baseball infield up against any around.”
Bill Miller, who was a very successful coach at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Ky., ran Mid South Baseball until his death in 2018 and his company — a frequent vendor at the IHSBCA State Clinic each January — did the laser grading at Henryville.
The high school program is fed by Henryville Youth Sports, which hosts baseball for ages 3/4 and 5/6 and grades 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6 in the summer and separates seventh and eighth grade junior high teams in the spring.
Schroeder has a number of former players who are now parents and coaching at the youth league and junior high levels.
“They teach these kids the things I expect so they’re not totally lost when they get to high school,” says Schroeder.
Besides Reister, another recent Henryville graduate to move to on college baseball is all-state catcher Luke Stock. The son of Lance Stock and grandson of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Wayne Stock was at Vincennes University.
Current Henryville junior left-hander Dawson Hope has been drawing collegiate interest.
Schroeder is a graduate of Jennings County High School in North Vernon, Ind. (1984) and Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (1988). He earned a Secondary Education degree with an emphasis on Language Arts in Grades 5-12 and currently teaches Junior and Senior LA classes at Henryville.
His high school coach was Bob Howe.
“He was very direct with players,” says Schroeder of Howe. “If he had something on his mind that was bothering him, he was going to tell you.”
That was the same kind of hard-nose approach taken by Jeff’s father Don Schroeder as a long-time baseball and basketball coach at Jennings County.
“You’d better play hard for (my father) or you weren’t going to be on the team,” says Jeff Schroeder.
The elder Schroeder coached Howe.
Jeff Schroeder played one year for Dennis Bohr and three for Rick Parr at IUS.
He describes Bohr as a carefree guy who are also very competitive. Schroeder learned much about the game from Parr, who played in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Jeff’s wife, Jenny, was head softball coach at Henryville for a decade and earned much success. The couple has four children — Floyd Central High School graduates Haley (25) and Braden (21) and Silver Creek students Isabel (16) and Olivia (15). The two youngest girls are cheerleaders. Isabel also runs cross country and track.
Hutchins says he would like to stretch out his starters and have his bullpen pitchers throw a lesser number of pitches two or three days a week to get used to doing that during the season.
“Right now, it’s hard to get their arms ready,” says Hutchins.
His assistants include Providence alums Jacob Julius (2004), Tre Watson (2016) and Colin Rauck (2015) plus former Indiana University Southeast pitcher Elliott Fuller and Jennings County graduate and former IUS player Brian Jackson.
Associate head coach Julius played and coached at the University of Arkansas and played in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Watson was on the Pioneers’ state title team in 2016 and is now the hitting coach. Fuller works with pitcher and is the head junior varsity coach. Jackson works with catchers. Rauck is a JV assistant.
Providence (enrollment around 360) is an athletic independent with no conference affiliation.
The Pioneers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern of Pekin and Henryville. Providence has won 18 sectional titles — the last in 2017. The Pioneers were 2A state champions in 2016.
No current Pioneers have made college baseball commitments.
Hutchins has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Indiana University Southeast. He teaches Chemistry and is Dean of Students at Providence.
Scott and Traci Hutchins have two baseball-playing sons — senior Bryce Hutchins and freshman Logan Hutchins. Both are second basemen.
The Hutchins family (from left): Bryce, Logan, Traci and Scott. After 23 seasons as an assistant, alum Scott Hutchins is now the head baseball coach at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind.
Holtsclaw, who was recently named as the Cardinals head coach, is a 1991 Bloomfield graduate and recalls the competitive teams of the past. In the pre-IHSAA class days, the Cards went to Bedford for the sectional.
These days, Bloomfield is part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Clay City, Eminence, North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak and White River Valley. The Cardinals’ two sectional titles came in 1970 and 1971.
Bloomfield (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Conference (with Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley).
“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” says Holtsclaw. “But we want to get back to playing good, solid baseball.”
Holtsclaw has coached travel ball with the Washington-based Bombers, in the Bloomfield youth league (which spans from T-ball to major league) and, the past couple of springs, with the junior high program at Bloomfield. It was started a few years ago as an independent organization by Shane Evans and is now affiliated with Bloomfield School District.
The coach notes that it’s important that the gap between major league and high school is filled to build and keep some kind of momentum for the sport.
“We have to keep as many kids involved in baseball as possible,” says Holtsclaw.
Some years, there have been enough sixth, seventh and eighth graders for an A and B squad. Last year, there was just an A team playing games between April and early June on the high school field and high school rules.
“We want to get them used to expectations of the high school kids,” says Holtsclaw.
What about the Cardinals’ home facility?
“It’s a quirky little field,” says Holtsclaw. “It has fairly short dimensions. The school property ends at the right field fence.”
The right field fence has been raised and there is talk of raising it again.
“Maybe we can sell sponsorships and have our own Red Monster in right?,” says Holtsclaw.
After IHSAA Limited Contact Practice this fall, the school plans to put down new sod and refresh the dugouts. On the wish list is also the expansion of batting cages and an upgraded sound system.
Being a small school, sharing of athletes is a must at Bloomfield. This fall, Holtsclaw has had 16 athletes come to voluntary baseball workouts. Of that number, 14 are in one or more fall sports.
“Time on the diamond is so limited,” says Holtsclaw. “But we can work on defense and arm strength.”
Pitching and defense will be a priority for the Cardinals on Holtsclaw’s watch.
“That will keep you in every ball game,” says Holtsclaw. “Over the years here, we’ve had struggles developing enough pitchers.”
The coach says he approves any steps the IHSAA will take to assist in arm care and development.
“They could give us a little more time to get kids’ arms ready to go,” says Holtsclaw.
With one spot yet to be filled on his coaching staff, Holtsclaw counts Mike Sherrard and Bill McIntosh as Bloomfield assistants for 2019-20.
Holding undergraduate (1995) and law degrees (1998) from Indiana University, Holtsclaw became a deputy prosecutor in Greene County in 1998 and has been the county’s elected prosecutor for the past 13 years.
Jarrod Holtsclaw is the new head baseball coach at Bloomfield (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School. He is a Bloomfield graduate.
South Central spotted Borden four runs in the first two innings and trailed 6-2 after four frames in the sectional championship before winning 10-8 and earning a ride on the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Department’s truck when they got back from Madison to Harrison County.
“It’s a good memory for the boys — something they’ll never forget,” says Alex Wiseman, who played for the Rebels and graduated from South Central in 2012 before pitching for Hanover (Ind.) College. “South Central baseball is a tradition around here. Everybody knows about it.”
The team mugged for the championship photo wearing the green “Hank Strong” T-shirts that they donned in a benefit game for Hank Sutherland, a young boy in the community dealing with Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome.
Kim Wiseman enjoys being at the park about as much as husband Brad and son Alex.
“She’s the epitome of a baseball mom,” says Brad Wiseman. “Alex is 25 and baseball has been a part of our lives for 22 years.
While sitting for her grandson, Kim got a fat lip when a baseball was thrown harder than she anticipated.
The younger Wiseman has watched the South Central team develop a “grind-it-out mentality.”
The turning point in the season came May 7 at South Central’s Donald L. Dones Field. That’s when the Rebels rallied from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to edge Austin 10-9. The Eagles scored all nine runs in the first two innings.
“That opened the eyes of the boys,” says Alex Wiseman of the comeback against a team that will compete in Saturday’s 2A Southridge Regional. “It shows they can accomplish a lot.”
The top three finishers in the 2019 SAC pennant race were Henryville (5-0), Lanesville (4-1) and South Central (3-2).
The Rebels are part of a sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, New Washington and Shawe Memorial.
Brad Wiseman, who was a South Central junior varsity coach from 2014-17 before being joined by Alex to lead the Rebels beginning with the 2018 season, saw the team take an 11-16 regular-season into the postseason before beating Christian Academy and Borden for the program’s seventh sectional title (all since 2005).
“We were very aggressive (about playing all scheduled contests),” says Brad Wiseman. “We knew we needed as much game experience as we could get to get us ready for this part of the season.”
The Rebels took on 3A teams like Providence and Silver Creek (ranked No. 10 and the 2018 2A state runners-up) and 2A’s Lanesville.
“We really see the difference, especially in the sophomores,” says Alex Wiseman of the strong competition. “The game is coming a lot easier to them.”
Says Brad Wiseman, “We get overlooked because of our record. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Various factors, including injuries, left South Central’s sophomore-heavy roster with 16 players and many junior varsity games were canceled.
The Rebels’ top pitchers are junior Zach Needler, sophomore Frank Goodman and seniors Wyatt Crosier, Bryce Lewis and Will Weber. All but Weber are right-handers.
Crosier, junior Austin Tyree and sophomores Wes Wilson and Stephen Sawicki are offensive leaders.
The Wisemans are assisted by Jeff Riley and Jeff Skaggs.
Dones Field has seen upgrades in the past decade and more are on the way. New dugouts and backstop fencing was added around 2010. Since then, the Rebels have gained an indoor hitting facility, turf was placed around home plate and new bullpens and more fencing is coming in the near future.
The Wisemans maintain a relationship with junior high coaches to make sure those players are prepared for high school baseball. The younger boys are invited to serve as managers for the older ones and experience the culture.
Brad Wiseman is a 1986 graduate of Castle High School, where he played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Al Rabe.
“He was very insistent on the fine details,” says Brad Wiseman of Rabe. “You knew where you needed to be on the field at all times.”
Alex Wiseman’s coach at South Central was Nick Tremain (now head coach at Lawrenceburg).
“He was very much about the mental approach to the game,” says Alex Wiseman. “We played with a swagger. We expected to win. If you take that attitude, not a lot of teams are going to beat you.
“These are values we’ve tried to instill in the boys. Believe you can do it and you will get there if you put in the work.”
Work away from baseball happens in nearby Kentucky for both father and son. Brad Wiseman is a manager at Equian, a pre-bill medical recovery company. Alex Wiseman is a revenue analyst with Louisville Physicians Group.
Father and son co-coaches Brad (right) and Alex Wiseman celebrate an IHSAA sectional baseball championship for South Central (Elizabeth) Junior/Senior High School.
With co-coach Brad Wiseman toward the front, the South Central Rebels got to ride an Elizabeth (Ind.) Volunteer Fire Department truck after winning the 2019 IHSAA Shawe Memorial Sectional baseball title.
The South Central (Elizabeth) Junior/Senior High School Rebels won the 2019 IHSAA Shawe Memorial Sectional baseball title. The team is wearing its “Hank Strong” T-shirts in support of Hank Sutherland, a boy in their community dealing with Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome.
The longer Jeff Pennington is in coaching and education, the more he realizes that developing athletic skills — in his case, baseball — is secondary to fostering character.
“It’s not just the game of baseball,” says Pennington, who is in his seventh season as head coach at Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind., in 2019. “It’s the kind of young men they’re going to grow up to be.”
Seeing young men grow the attributes of respect, mental toughness, hustle and intensity — things that apply to life as well as sports — is what gives Pennington fulfillment.
“We are already know they’re baseball guys,” says Pennington. “What kind of young men we can turn these young guys into?”
“They can be established at 8, 9, 10 years old,” says Pennington. “You think they’re not hearing it, but it goes in.
“Now we’ve got them in high school. We’re starting see some of those benefits.”
Carson Ehlers, Payton Miller and Adam Stempowski are seniors. Hunter Anderson, Landon Snelling, Joe Fetz, and Rhett Pennington are juniors. Ryan Adamson, Brant Farris, Ethan Ford, Conner Gonzalez, Cauy Motsinger, Snyder Pennington and Adam Stewart are sophomores. Micah Robinson, Dallis Stayton and Clayton Young are freshmen. Miller, Anderson, Adamson, Motsinger, Gonzalez and both Pennington brothers are pitchers.
All three of Jeff and Mindi Pennington’s sons — junior Rhett (17), sophomore Snyder (16) and sixth grader Wyatt (11) — are ballplayers. All three play travel baseball. Rhett is with Louisville-based Wolves, Snyder with the Indiana Trailblazers and Wyatt and cousin Garrett Drury (son of brother Wes and sister-in-law Holly) with the Southern Indiana Rawlings Tigers.
There’s a lot of moving parts when getting players to games.
“It takes a village,” says Pennington. “This is one of the advantages of moving back home. Between (family members, including sister Jessica Huls and parents, Ronnie Pennington and Cindy Erwin), you just divide and conquer.
“I’ve been three different places in one weekend watching three different kids. It’s fun. But, man, it’s a whirlwind.”
Pennington is a 1992 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School, where he played baseball for head coach Derek Smith.
Smith showed Pennington that its the relationships with the players that’s important.
“He was the kind of coach you could jell with real well,” says Pennington. “He was easygoing. He could take the discomfort out of you when you weren’t comfortable.”
Pennington played two-plus seasons at Indiana University Southeast when Rick Parr was head coach.
“I probably learned about hitting then anymore else I’ve been around,” says Pennington. “He was a very good hitting coach.”
Prior to returning to Washington County, Pennington spent seven years coaching middle school and high school baseball at Community in Unionville, Tenn.
Being consistently competitive on the baseball field at a small school is no small feat.
Head coach Eric Stotts has found a way to make the Braves of Borden High School (enrollment just over 200) into a program to be reckoned with around southern Indiana.
Fielding just a varsity team with about 12 to 14 players, the IHSAA Class 1A Braves have faired well against a schedule that is full of larger schools, including 4A’s Jennings County, New Albany and Seymour and 3A’s Corydon Central, North Harrison, Salem and Silver Creek.
“Aside from conference, we have only one 1A opponent,” says Stotts. “It’s the nature of the beast where we’re located.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a modest amount of pitching depth for a 1A high school.”
One way Borden dealt with the new pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) last spring was to sometimes lift pitchers at the front of the rotation early in games and go back to them later if needed.
“Everybody’s dealing with it,” says Stotts. “With 12 kids on a baseball team, our arms are limited.”
In 2017, Borden went 16-7 and might have gotten to the 20-win plateau if not for some rainouts that never got made up.
“We have see-sawed back and forth (with Lanesville),” says Stotts, who has ledBorden baseball 2000-07 and 2015 to the present. “We gave them the toughest game in their state tournament run both years.”
Because of the IHSAA success factor, Lanesville will move up to 2A in 2018. That leaves Christian Academy of Indiana, New Washington, Shawe Memorial, South Central (Elizabeth) as potential sectional foes for Borden.
Borden will still meet up with Lanesville. They are both members of the Southern Athletic Conference (along with Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central).
If SAC schools meet twice during the season, the first one counts toward the conference standings. Crothersville (about a 50-minute trip) is the furthest SAC school from Borden.
With the help of full-time assistants Sam Beckort and Eric Nale and part-timers Kyle Kruer (Indiana University Southeast student) and Dawson Nale (University of Southern Indiana student), the Braves go into 2018 with a trio of seniors that have been starters since Stotts came back to the program in 2015 — catcher/shortstop/pitcher Lucas McNew (a USI commit), first baseman/utility player Cory Anderson and outfielder Noah Franklin.
Having seen him speak at clinics, Stotts has incorporated some infield drills taught by USI head coach Tracy Archuleta.
Stotts draws on the influence of a real diamond veteran. The 1993 Clarksville High School graduate played for the Generals and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Wayne Stock, who taught lessons of dedication and commitment.
“Coach Wayne threw every pitch of batting practice,” says Stotts. “He was a wonderful man and a wonderful mentor.
“I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet. I’m now a coach and social studies teacher. That’s exactly what he was. No one outside my family was more influential on me.”
Stotts recalls the words of the late Billy Graham: “A coach will impact more people in a season than the average person does in a lifetime.”
“I firmly believe that,” says Stotts, who is father to Jonathan (22) and Zane (15).
As for strategy, Stotts says Stock was not a fan of the bunt. It took Stotts some time to learn how effective “small ball” can be.
“Now that has become a main weapon in any high school coach’s arsenal,” says Stotts.
McIntyre was a student teacher at Clarksville when Stotts was still in school.
“Coach Mac is a great old-school kind of coach,” says Stotts. “His teams do things the right way.”
One of Ingram’s products at Eastern (Pekin) was Brad Pennington. Drafted in 1989, the 6-foot-5 left-hander went on to pitch five seasons in the majors with the Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, California Angels and Tampa Bay Rays.
Like tennis, track and softball, Borden has its baseball facilities about a mile from campus.
The baseball field does not have lights. But fencing and other equipment was replaced after a low-grade tornado tore through last season.
Upgrades last year at Borden Youth League meant that junior high age players no longer had to share the high school diamond.
Eric Stotts gets a point across to his Borden High School baseball team. He has led the Braves in two different stints — 2000-2007 and 2015 to the present. (Greg Mengelt/News and Tribune Photo)
Borden High School baseball players listen intently to head coach Eric Stotts. The 1993 Clarksville High School graduate is in his second stint with the Braves. (Joel Ulrich/News and Tribune Photo)