Robbie Frank was a sophomore starter on Evansville (Ind.) Central High School’s IHSAA state runner-up baseball team in 1987. The 29-win Bears lost 4-1 to LaPorte in the championship game. The Slicers went to be named mythical national champions in that season. Frank started at shortstop for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul Griese as a junior and senior at Central and played one season as a utility player at Saint Louis University for Billikens head coach Bob Hughes. The Central Bears were ranked No. 1 during the 1988 season. Central lost to Memorial in the sectional championship in both 1988 and 1989 — 3-0 and 8-2. The Tigers lost in the first round of the semistate in 1988 and won the state crown in 1989. Energy and passion are two things Frank saw Griese bring to the diamond. “It was a great experience to play under him,” says Frank. “We were a very talent team 1987-89. It was a good time to be at Central.” In the summer of 1989, Frank played American Legion baseball for Evansville Funkhouser Post 8. Henry “Mac” LaRue was the manager and son Mark LaRue the head coach. Later on, Frank coached Highland Little League teams in Evansville, including a state runner-up squad when his players were 12 and state champion unit when they were 13. Bryce Frank, Robbie’s son, was on those teams. Robbie Frank has served as manager for Evansville Pate American Legion Post 265, guiding a junior squad to the state championship in 2021 and leading a senior team in 2022. He plans to do the same again in 2023, scheduling 30 to 35 games against the best competition he can find. Frank also spent the past 10 years as an Evansville Central assistant. After head coach Mike Goedde retired at the end of a 12-year run in 2022, Frank was elevated to head coach. “He’s an old school coach,” says Frank of Goedde. “He’s big on playing the game the right way. He gives a lot of responsibility to the kids — not only in baseball but in life.” Goedde expected his players to represent themselves, their families and their schools in an appropriate way. “You never know who’s watching or looking out,” says Frank. When Frank was hired as Central head coach he had one-on-one meetings with returning sophomores, juniors and seniors to discuss expectations. He plans to have IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices — twice a week for two hours — working around basketball which is also having LCP workouts. Among the recent Central graduates to move on to college baseball are the Class of 2022’s Aiden Esarey (Goshen College), Gavin Kelley (Grace College), Ben Kennedy (Taylor University), Ethan Lyke (Murray State University), Ethan Rothschild (University of Southern Indiana) and Kaiden Turner (Grace College), 2021’s Henry Brown (Indiana State University), Garrett Causey (University of Southern Indiana) and Mason Simon (Oakland City University), 2019’s Cory Bosecker (Butler University) and Kody Putnam (Southeastern Illinois College and transferred to Jacksonville State University), 2018’s Sean Becker (Indiana University-Kokomo and transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan College) and Mason White (Indiana University Southeast) and 2017’s Evan Kahre (University of Southern Indiana). Evansville Central (enrollment around 1,075) is a member of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville Memorial, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz, Jasper and Vincennes Lincoln). The Bears were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Castle, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Jasper. “It’s a dogfight every year,” says Frank. Central has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2017. The process of hiring Frank’s assistant coaches is in progress. The Bears play home games at Paul Griese Field. Goedde had Bermuda grass added to the infield a few years ago. Each spring, Cub Baseball in Evansville has eighth graders (and some seventh graders) competing on behalf of the high schools they are feeding. Robbie Frank, who is president of Frank Insurance Services Inc. (owned by father Gene Frank), has three children — Faith, Ellie and Bryce. Faith Frank (20) is a former Evansville Central basketball and track athlete now studying at Ivy Tech in Evansville. Ellie Frank (19) was a two-time first-team all-state lacrosse player for the Bears and is now a Murray (Ky.) State University freshman. Bryce Frank (17) is a junior baseball player at Evansville Central.
That’s because his grandparents — Don and Bonnie Barrett — lived in Princeton, Ind., and Don played American Legion ball with Hodges — who went on to fame with the Brooklyn Dodgers — in the early 1940’s. When Gil joined the team Don moved from shortstop to third base.
“He always had something for me to work on,” says Zach of his grandpa. “He knew the game really well.”
One of Zach’s cousin is Aaron Barrett. Before Don Barrett died he got to see Aaron pitch in the big leagues.
“He was super-proud of Aaron,” says Zach. “He would be super-proud to know I was hired at Princeton — his alma mater.”
Gil Hodges Field has a different look these days, including turf in the infield. Barrett’s players got a chance to get on the carpet for the first time just this week.
“The school corporation put a ton of money into it,” says Barrett. “There are all sorts of upgrades.”
Jason Engelbrecht was the head coach at Evansville Central High School when Zach’s cousins Aaron Barrett (who has come back from multiple injuries as a pro), Drew Barrett (a left-handed-hitting infielder who played two years at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and two at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky.) and Ryan Barrett were playing for the Bears.
Jason Barrett (Zach’s older brother who played at Ball State University) was a hitting star at Central for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul Gries. The Central facility is now known as Paul Gries Field.
Engelbrecht was later head coach at Princeton Community and is now Tigers athletic director. He brought Zach on as an assistant. With the cancellation of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is to be Barrett’s first one with games.
Princeton Community went 10-16 in 2019. A number of regulars remain from that team.
“We have a pretty good nucleus,” says Barrett.
The Tigers go in with a group that includes senior left-handed pitcher/outfielder Rhett Thompson, senior shortstop Lance Stuckey, senior corner infielder/right-handed pitcher Briar Christy and junior catcher/pitcher/third baseman Sean Stone.
The 6-foot-7 Thompson was the mound starter in the 2019 IHSAA Class 3A Vincennes Lincoln Sectional championship game against the host Alices.
Stone is already getting looks from college baseball programs.
Gerit Bock, a 2020 Princeton graduate, is now on the roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
With Barrett serving as an assistant on Princeton Community head football coach Jared Maners’ staff, there was no IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activity in the fall. Players began to get rolling in January.
Made up primarily of seventh and eighth graders with some sixth graders, that squad plays from March to May.
“We have good coaches at that level that understand the game,” says Barrett. “It’s not about wins and losses at that level. Are the kids having fun? Are they getting better? Are they part of the team?”
Barrett, who splits his work day between teaching high school Health and middle school Physical Education, will walk the halls to find athletes.
Thorough his own experience and observation, he realizes that what they are at 13 and 17 may be vastly different.
“I’ve played with kids absolute studs in middle school and barely played as seniors,” says Barrett. “On the other side, there are those (smallish or uncoordinated kids) who stick with it and become very good varsity players.
“You just never know. Kids mature differently.”
The Cub team practices and plays on Gil Hodges Field, which features lights.
“I want those kids to feel like they’re a part of us,” says Barrett. “In years past, they’ve worked out with our varsity guys.”
That’s given the older ones a chance to mentor the younger ones.
“They understand that they are the future,” says Barrett. “They put Princeton first.
“They’re not selfish.”
Barrett is a 2004 graduate of Reitz High School in Evansville, where the 6-foot-5 athlete was a standout in football, basketball and baseball. He played receiver and safety for John Hart on the gridiron, power forward or center for Michael Adams on the hardwood and pitcher, shortstop and center fielder for Steve Johnston on the diamond.
Hart, a member of the Reitz and Greater Evansville Football halls of fame, impressed Barrett with the way he went about his business and the relationships he built with his players. Unlike some coaches, Hart was not intimidating but approachable.
“He was like a second dad,” says Barrett. “I was able to talk with him.
“He was good about taking care of the small things and being disciplined. He was a very smart coach.”
Nick Hart, John’s son and head football coach at Gibson Southern, is a good friend of Barrett’s.
Barrett was all-city, all-SIAC and Indiana Football Coaches Association All-State as junior and senior, AP All-State and an Indiana Mr. Football Finalist as senior.
Adams, who is still on the bench at Reitz, got Barrett’s attention when he as attending basketball camps as an elementary school student.
“His attention to detail was apparent at that age,” says Barrett, who saw varsity minutes as a freshman and became a starter as a sophomore. “He was very strict but he knew how to relate to players.
“He was about as good an X’s and O’s coach as you’ll ever see. He would get you ready and prepared mentally and physically.
“I’m glad to see all the success he’s had lately.”
Barrett won four basketball letters at Reitz and paced the team in rebounding three times. He was all-SIAC as a junior and senior and honorable mention All-State as a senior.
Johnston gave Barrett the chance to experience varsity ball as a freshman and made him a starter the next spring.
“Everybody enjoy playing for him,” says Barrett of Johnston. “He had a good baseball mind.”
Barrett completed his Reitz baseball career second all-time in both hits (95) and slugging percentage (.576). He was named all-Southern Indiana Athletic Conference as a junior and Associated Press All-State as a senior when he was also selected in the 38th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins and chosen to play in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
“DC — we called him the ‘Mayor of Olney,’” says Barrett of veteran skipper Conley. “He was a mentor and taught you about doing things right. He wasn’t messing around. But he could flip the stitch and be able to relate to us.
“He obviously knew the game very well. He was tough to play for. He put a lot of pressure on you. You needed to come up big and handle situations. I had my share of butt-chewings. He got max effort out of all of us and we respected the heck out of him.”
Similar to Conley, Peterson was Old School in his approach. He believed in fundamentals and discipline.
“He was not afraid to run you and do things like that when he didn’t get the most of us,” says Barrett. “I learned a lot of life lessons from my high school and college coaches.”
Barrett uses drills in his high school practices that he learned from Conley and Peterson.
Barrett played in 116 games as a third baseman for the MTSU Blue Raiders. He hit .329 with 12 doubles and 32 runs batted in as a junior and . 383 with nine home runs, 16 doubles and 46 RBI’s in as a senior.
“He took care of his players,” says Dillman of Sparrow, who died in 2014. “He taught us a lot of life lessons.”
A 2008 North graduate who played for Sparrow, Dillman began coaching right after high school with one year as Huskies freshmen coach before moving up to junior varsity coach/varsity assistant. He was on the staff of Sparrow and then current North head coach Jeremy Jones.
“With Coach Jones, it’s about being on time, being a good teammate and always hustling,” says Dillman. “He’s a player’s coach.
“There’s never a time he doesn’t think about baseball. The attention to detail he puts into his practice plans like no other.”
Dillman, who works for Lamar Advertising in Evansville, has also coached for the former Ironmen (now part of the Louisville Legends) and Indiana Spikes travel organizations.
Hired at Harrison in October after the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period window, Dillman went about meeting his players and establishing his coaching staff.
Keith Ayers and Shane Holmes are varsity assistants. Harrison graduate and former University of Indianapolis and University of Southern Indiana player LaWan Rollins is junior varsity coach.
When the Limited Contact Period window re-opened in January, the Warriors worked on building their arms and conditioning while the new head coach got to know his athletes even better.
“They’re all new to me,” says Dillman. “It’s a fresh start. There’s a new guy and a new system.
While SIAC teams may play each other more than once during the regular season, only one designated game counts during the conference standings.
The Warriors are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Jasper. Harrison has won seven sectional titles — the last in 2016. The Andy Rice-coached Warriors were 4A state runners-up in 2000.
Rice poured much into the Harrison program, including the Warriors’ home field that is located two miles west of the school near the National Guard Armory, Roberts Park (former site of Roberts Stadium) and Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve.
In the spirit of taking responsibility, Dillman encourages players with a driver’s license to get players who don’t to practices and games at the field.
Besides Rollins, a recent Harrison graduate in college baseball is Aaron Beck who went to Olney (Ill.) Central College then committed to Indiana State University. Andrew Cope played for USI’s 2014 NCAA Division II national champions.
Getting attention at the collegiate level are junior catcher Zak York and senior middle infielder/pitcher Alex Griffin. Both have been varsity regulars since their respective freshmen years.
Evansville is scheduled to be the site of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game June 23 at USI and IHSBCA North/South Series June 26-27 to the University of Evansville — and perhaps — historic Bosse Field. That’s the week after the 2021 IHSAA State Finals in Indianapolis.
“I rode the coattails of those guys on the 1989 state championship team,” says Collins, referring to Tigers diamond stars like Pat Schulz who went on to play at the University of Evansville and in the Cleveland Indians organization.
Merkel racked up 941 victories, three IHSAA state championships (1978, 1989 and 1993), three state runner-up finishes (1970, 1979 and 2005) and 26 sectional titles in his 45 years at Memorial head coach.
The 1978 and 1979 squads were led by Don Mattingly, who went on to play for the New York Yankees, be inducted into the IHSBCA Hall of Fame and manage the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins.
Collins, who started his teaching career at Holy Rosary School then moved to Memorial (the Western Kentucky University graduate leads classes for physical education and driver’s education) and has coached football, basketball and baseball at Memorial over the course of more than 20 years, was a Merkel assistant in 2013 and took over the program the next season.
“He’s a man I’ve looked up to,” says Collins of Merkel. “I’ve instilled a lot of things he did, like his work ethic and overall approach to the game.
“We bought into it. That’s what we’ve tried to do on our staff.”
Collins’ assistants are Chris Schaefer (pitching coach) and Dan Durchholz with the varsity on gameday, Aaron Schmitt and Ethan Sauls with the junior varsity and Eric Chamberlain and Sam Mattingly with the freshmen.
It’s about consistency for Collins and his staff.
“Baseball hasn’t changed very much,” says Collins. “We try to keep it simple.
“We have a daily routine. Our drills might be monotonous, but we think it’s important.”
This repetition has helped the Tigers.
“You’re not surprised when good things happen,” says Collins. “Mentally, we can get through the tough times.”
With the IHSAA allowing courtesy runners for pitchers and catchers the past two years, there have been more playing opportunities for reserve players.
Collins asks his athletes to embrace their chance to contribute.
“Define your role and relish in that role regardless of what it is,” says Collins.
Memorial generally has about 40 players for its three teams, which keeps the Tigers hopping since their home diamond, Stone Field, does not have lights.
The facility, located behind Holy Rosary on South Green River Road, now sports new higher bleachers on the home and visiting sides.
A 7-1 loss to eventual state runner-up Silver Creek in the Bosse Regional championship ended the Tigers’ season.
Senior Isaac Housman is committed to play baseball at the University of Southern Indiana. Branson Combs (Southern Illinois University) and Michael Lindauer (University of Cincinnati) are bound for collegiate football.
Memorial (enrollment around 610) is a member of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Central, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville North and Evansville Reitz).
SIAC schools play each other twice in a same-week home-and-home series to determine the conference champion.
The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping with Boonville, Bosse, Heritage Hills and Mount Vernon. Memorial has won 28 sectional titles — two with Collins as head coach (2016 and 2018).
A Cub baseball team for seventh and eighth graders who have committed to attend Memorial plays in the spring. There are many travel baseball organizations for junior high and high school players.
“Rip” went into education like his father. Larry “Pops” Collins coached with James “Mojo” Hollowell at Henderson (Ky.) High School and picked up the habit of giving a nickname to each of his players in 40 years as an East Side Little League coach. He carried that over to his children and grandchildren.
Larry, who died in 2009, and Donna had four kids — Laurie (aka “Pumpkin”), Lainie (“Bird”), James Patrick (“Jock”) and Matthew Ryan (“Rip”).
“They’re just baseball kids,” says Jones. “It’s a group that’s jelled together.
“They do the little things.”
North batters produced a 2-to-1 walk-to-strikeout ratio and the Huskies stole 130 bases in 2018.
Right-handed pitcher Toone moved on to Vincennes University.
Returnees and incoming players have Jones seeing a bright future on the north side of the Pocket City.
“This is the most talent I’ve had freshmen through seniors,” says Jones.“I couldn’t be more excited about the (2019) season.
“The sophomores and freshmen are a pretty good group for us.”
Returning seniors include shortstop Alex Archuleta (son of University of Southern Indiana head coach Tracy Archuleta), outfielder Seth Seniour and catcher A.J. Wheeler.
While a few may be added, Jones expects his coaching staff to include David Johnson, Zane Mauser, John Newman, Dustin Murray, Tyler Owen and Kyle Kempf.
Another thing that has Jones pumped is the IHSAA rule change which allows periods where coaches can work with the whole squad for twice a week for two hours each (rather than two athletes at a time) and that first window opens Monday, Aug. 27.
“This is going to help with coaches who are ready to invest in practices,” says Jones. “It will be a huge advantage for people who are ready to work.”
Jones says he expects to have about 45 players in his program — varsity, junior and freshman — and another 15 on the Cub (eighth grade) team.
Jones began his run with the Huskies with the 2013 season and North won 19 and and 18 contests those first two years. That ’13 team had no returning starters.
A 1994 Evansville Bosse graduate and former Eugene Pate American Legion Post 265 player, Jones was a four-year starter at third base for the USI in Evansville with a redshirt year.
Mike Goedde, who had coached Jones during his junior Legion season, was his head coach at USI.
“He taught me that to get anything you have to work hard,” says Jones of Goedde, who is now head coach at Evansville Central High School. “You have to put the time and effort in to be a good baseball player.
“Coach Goedde was definitely organized and we got our reps in.”
Jones has three simple rules for his North Huskies and they are posted in the dugout — be one time; be a good teammate; always hustle.
“If our kids follow those three guidelines we’re in a pretty good place as a program,” says Jones.
Playing for Goedde is the basis of those rules.
“Coach Goedde was definitely organized and we got our reps in,” says Jones. “It’s loving the game and having the ability to work hard.
“You want to get better.”
Jones graduated from USI in 1999. He was an assistant coach at Bosse from 2001-04 and then head coach of the Bulldogs from 2005-12. In the summers, he also coached the junior team for Pate Post 265 from 1998-2003 and Pate’s senior squad from 2007-13.
Evansville North belongs to the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (along with Evansville Bosse, Evansville Central, Castle, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville Memorial and Evansville Reitz).
SIAC teams play one another twice in home-and-home series on Tuesday and Thursday or Friday for seventh straight weeks.
All-SIAC performers for the Huskies in 2018 were pitcher Toone and outfielder Newton on the first team and Archuleta on the second team.
“Our pitchers have kept us in all the games during this run,” says Welch. “They did a great job of keeping hitters off-balance.
“They’ve been working ahead (in the count) and making teams earn runs.”
The Knights staff is led by 6-foot-6 senior right-hander Zach Messinger (a University of Virginia commit), junior left-hander Blake Ciuffetelli and junior right-hander Jared Nutt.
Welch says fourth-year varsity player Messinger has a fastball that reaches the upper 80s, which he can mix with his breaking ball and change-up.
Ciufetelli has the ability to change arm angles and velocity. Nutt has relieved in three of Castle’s four postseason games.
When not pitching, Messinger is usually the designated hitter or third baseman.
Offensive contributions have come up and down the lineup.
“It’s been a team effort,” says Welch. “We have guys come up at times with two-out hits.”
Among the leading producers have been senior left fielder Garron Moffett, senior center fielder Griffin Scaggs and senior shortstop Nate James. Moffett has committed to play baseball at NCAA Division I Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., while Scaggs and James are bound for Kankakee (Ill.) Community College.
According to Welch, right-hander Zach Wagner (Anderson University), DH/catcher Ben Newhouse (Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky.) right fielder Cale Mattingly (Hanover College) and cacher Noah Gilbert (Oakland City University) are also seniors who have made college baseball commitments.
Castle had 40 players in the program this season for varsity, junior varsity and freshmen squads.
Welch, who is in his 15th season as head coach after 14 as an assistant to Chuck Hawkins then Sensenbrenner and two as as volunteer for Mike Metzger at alma mater Boonville, counts Hawkins, Dan Labhart and John Barisano as his varsity coaches. There’s also John Copeland, Corey Steele and Art George with the JV and Daniel Nichols and Chris Stallion with the freshmen.
Borrowing ideas and approaches from Hawkins, Sensenbrenner, Brian Kuester (who helped played American Legion baseball for in the summer) and high school coaches Metgzer and Howard Buickel, 1983 Boonville graduate Welch has melded his coaching approach. He’s even taken a thing or two from Terry Wetherald, his wrestling coach at the University of Indianapolis.
“All those coaches did a great job of getting me ready for where I am right now,” says Welch. “(Hawkins and Sensenbrenner) did a lot for me. Being a coach and being a player are two different things. As head coach, everything falls back on you. There’s a lot more pressure when you make decisions.
“As a head coach, you are always thinking three, four or five innings down the line and not just in the moment.”
While there are no wrestlers in the current Castle varsity mix, Welch appreciates what grapplers bring to other sports.
“Wrestlers are hard-nosed kids,” says Welch. “They are not afraid to battle for win or come from behind.
‘They know about mental toughness. You’ve got to be mentally tough to go 0-for-3 and then come in the last inning and produce.”
Welch estimates that about half the players in the Castle baseball program are multi-sport athletes at a school of about 1,900 students.
“I like multi-sport athletes,” says Welch. “You can’t get that competition in a practice or in a gym.”
Castle plays its home games on-campus in a facility that’s been totally overhauled during Welch’s time.
“It’s been a gradual process,” says Welch, which saw a new locker room go in near the field. About the only thing that was there when he joined the coaching staff was the press box. “We’re proud of what we have.”
Welch, who teaches advanced mathematics at Castle, has four children with wife Dawn. Daughter Courtney is the oldest and she has three girls. Twin sons Chad and Doug as well as Luke Welch all played baseball for their father at Castle and wrestled at Purdue University. Doug Welch is now the head wrestling coach at Zionsville High School and is assisted by Chad Welch.
Head coach Curt Welch and the Castle Knights won sectional and regional titles in events hosted by Evansville Reitz and will face Indianapolis Cathedral in the IHSAA Class 4A Plainfield Semistate Saturday, June 9.
Eric Barnes is getting his first opportunity to coach high school baseball players at the varsity level.
The 28-year-old is excited for the challenge and the chance to teach the game and impact young lives at Boonville High School.
Barnes played at Evansville Bosse High School, graduating in 2007 Evansville Courier & Press All-Metro Player of the Year with a .429 and 40 runs batted in that senior season.
Bosse coach Jeremy Jones (who later moved on to Evansville North) imparted a sense of excitement and selflessness.
“Nothing is done without enthusiasm,” says Barnes in echoing Jones’ message. “Putting team first should always be the goal no matter what the sport is and what happens. What is best for the team is not always what is best for yourself.”
“One of the main things I learned from (Fletcher) is every player is different,” says Barnes, who was also an assistant at OCU after his playing days. “What is going to work for one player is not going to work for the other.
“I also learned to be patient and the importance of relationships.
I’m not just a coach. I’m someone that can help (my players) in life. I want to be more than the person giving the signs down at third.”
When Barnes completed his schooling, he started teaching fifth grade at Castle Elementary School and is still in that position. He was an assistant baseball coach at Castle High School in 2016 and 2017 and was named as Cory Julian’s successor at Boonville in September when Julian left to become assistant principal and athletic director at Loogootee High School.
“I know the city of Boonville is very passionate about its sports and wants to get a baseball tradition back,” says Barnes, who met with players, coaches and parents soon after his hiring for a field clean-up day following the Boonville American Legion Post 200 season and to lay out his expectations — athletically and acacdemically.
The plate and mound on the Pioneers’ on-campus diamond has been re-done. The field has been seeded and sod has been cut. There has been power washing and dugout painting.
“In the spring, look forward to edging the field, spraying for weeds a final time and painting the back stop,” says Barnes. “There’s a certain pride factor to have your field looking pristine and having people make nice comments. You want to make sure your field is top notch.”
Early indications have Barnes expecting around 35 to try out in the spring. He plans to keep somewhere around 30 for varsity and junior varsity squads.
“We have a wealth of youth and first-time varsity players,” says Barnes.
Fall open barn workouts have been focused on conditioning and fundamentals.
Barnes has a the Cub feeder program of seventh and eighth graders doing the same things as high school players.
“We’ve got a little momentum going toward the spring,” says Barnes. “It’s been exiting.”
Boonville assistants for 2018 are to include Chad Overton, Matt Fuhs, Jay Hachmiester at the varsity level with Trent Creek helping the JV. Barnes expects a few more additions.
The Pioneers play in the Big Eight Conference (along with Jasper, Mount Carmel, Ill., Mount Vernon of Posey, Princeton Community, Vincennes Lincoln and Washington).
Most of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference is on the Pioneers’ schedule with dates against Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Central, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Memorial, Evansville North and Evansville Reitz.
There’s also clashes with Forest Park, Gibson Southern, Heritage Hills, Loogootee, North Posey, Perry Central, Pike Central, Southridge, South Spencer, Tecumseh, Tell City and Wood Memorial.
“It’s a pretty intense 3A schedule,” says Barnes. “(In 2019), I look forward to upping the ante a little bit and scheduling some potential regional opponents.”
Boonville reigned as sectional champions for the first time in 18 years in 2017. The Pioneers beat Gibson Southern in the championship of the 3A Bosse Sectional then lost to Lawrenceburg in the semifinals of the North Harrison Regional.
Barnes’ early baseball days were spent at Evansville South Little League, Evansville East Pony League and West Side Nut Club. After college, he had a short professional stint with the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers of the independent Frontier League.
“It was a fantastic experience,” says Barnes. “My favorite team is Chicago Cubs. It was a train ride away from the city.
“I learned so many tips from guys who have been at Double-A and Triple-A. There were a lot of those guys were D-I players and high draft picks falling back to the Frontier League. At Oakland City, you don’t see talent like that very often.”
Eric is the youngest of George and Mary Barnes’s two sons. Mario is the oldest. Like his parents, Eric and wife Katy reside in Evansville.
Eric Barnes, a 2007 Evansville Bosse High School graduate, is now the head baseball coach at Boonville High School. The 28-year-old was mostly recently an assistant at Castle High School.
Mike Goedde has coached collegians and now leads high schoolers.
“(The difference in) physical skills are obvious,” says Goedde. “With high school players, you have to be more patient. You know you’re going to have more physical and mental errors. You just try to keep them to a minimum.”
When the playing career ended, Brownlee gave Goedde a chance to coach.
“He was a huge influence on the field and a huge influence off the field,” says Goedde. “He taught me a lot of things instead of just baseball.
“There’s guys out there that need chances and I can provide those as well.”
Goedde decided to get his teaching license so he could teach baseball and life lessons. He eventually landed at Central for the 2011 season.
“We teach more than just the X’s and O’s,” says Goedde as he prepared the Bears for the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional. “The kids are all ears. Very few of them tune you out. They’re eager to learn.”
With his background, Goedde is hands-on with his pitchers.
“We develop them to win with their fastball,” says Goedde. “I’m not a big fan of a lot of junk (or breaking pitches). Locating the fastball is the most important thing.”
That is the case with his current crop of hurlers and that was true when he coached future big league right-hander Andy Benes at U of E. He was taken first overall by the San Diego Padres in the 1988 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and went on to win 155 MLB games in 14 seasons with the Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks.
While Goedde never played for or coached with Gries, who retired after the 2001 season, he commends the man.
“The more I coach high school players, the more I admire what he was able to do,” says Goedde. “He was known for developing a family atmosphere.”
Helping Goedde guide the program in 2017 are assistant coaches Robbie Frank, Chris Chitwood and Dave Pfetscher at the varsity level, Jon Pfetscher, Ryan Causey and Charlie Causey with junior varsity and Kevin Kolb and Gary Masterson with the freshmen.
The JV and freshmen have a different schedule from the Bears varsity. Goedde generally keeps 38 to 40 players in the program each season.
The spring, the IHSAA adopted pitch count rules (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).
“I think it’s a great rule,” says Goedde. “It’s being done for all for the right reasons and right purposes.
“It’s something to make people aware of some guidelines.”
Through games played May 18, the Bears had one pitcher come close to the limit, tossing 119 pitches in a complete game.
While pitch count numbers can become a part of strategy, Goedde is of a mind that coaches are coached on their own pitchers more than opponents.
“As time goes on, they’ll figure out ways to get the opposing kid’s count,” says Goedde. “It’s tough to convince (hitters) to drive up the pitch count.”
The Central Bears play in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (along with Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Reitz, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville North and Evansville Memorial).
SIAC schools play each other once a week in a two-game home-and-home series, making it possible for teams to use their top starting pitchers in conference games.
Central players come from area Little League, Babe Ruth and travel programs. In the spring, seventh and eighth graders on their way to Central play Cub baseball.
Mike Goedde is in his seventh season as head baseball coach at Evansville Central High School. He is a former head coach at the University of Southern Indiana and served two stints as pitching coach at the University of Evansville and one as an assistant at Evansville Harrison High School.