By STEVE KRAH
First-year head coach Ben Kleber and the Trinity Lutheran High School baseball team have set their sights high for the 2019 season.
“We expect to win the sectional,” says Kleber. “We want to be the first team in school history to win a regional game. That’s our goal.”
Trinity Lutheran (enrollment around 150) is an independent school located in Seymour, Ind. The school opened in 2002 and the first baseball season was 2003.
The Cougars’ schedule features Class 4A’s Bedford North Lawrence and Seymour, 3A’s Brown County, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Salem and Scottsburg, 2A’s Austin, Henryville and Southwestern (Hanover) and 1A’s Christian Academy of Indiana, Crothersville, Greenwood Christian Academy, Hauser, Indianapolis Lutheran, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy, Rising Sun, Springs Valley and West Washington. The Trinity Lutheran Invitational on April 13 includes a round robin with 2A’s Eastern (Pekin) and Switzerland County and 4A’s Jennings County.
Trinity schedules bigger schools to get ready for the IHSAA tournament series.
The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Crothersville, Orleans and West Washington. Trinity has won five sectional championships — the last two in 2016 and 2017.
Kleber, a graduate of Seymour High School (2007) and Hanover (Ind.) College (2011), was a varsity assistant and junior varsity coach the past two seasons to head coach Brandon Tormoehlen at Brownstown Central.
“I learned a lot about hitting and catching drills from Coach T,” says Kleber of Tormoehlen. “He’s just a wealth of knowledge when it comes to offense. He definitely valued your option on things.
“I like his philosophy on the game all together. He has his guys playing the game fast.”
The previous two springs before he was at Brownstown Central, Kleber was on the Trinity Lutheran varsity staff of head coach Bob Tabeling.
He spent the 2012 and 2013 campaigns coaching freshmen at Seymour with Jeremy Richey as head coach.
“Jeremy was great,” says Kleber of Richey. “I’ll be forever grateful for him giving me the start in coaching at the high school level.”
After playing at Seymour for coach Bob Bowman (the man who led the Owls to an IHSAA state championship in 1988), Kleber pitched at Hanover for Shayne Stock.
“(Bowman) was a baseball guy,” says Kleber. “He knew a lot about the game.”
Much of what Kleber uses at Trinity Lutheran — from pitching to base running to field maintenance — comes from his time at Hanover with Shayne Stock and Panthers bench coach Wayne Stock (an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer).
“I loved playing for Coach (Shayne) Stock,” says Kleber. “He was
a hard-nosed guy who expected things done the right way. He expected the best of out you. He wanting your playing hard and playing smart.
“I learned so much from sitting and talking to (Wayne Stock).”
Kleber says he is transparent with his players and let’s them know their roles.
“They know what they need to do to get more playing time,” says Kleber. “I’m an open door. I make sure you’re ready to hear the truth and what’s expected of them and what they need to work on.
“Everybody is a piece to a puzzle. We want to be a family as much they want to be a team.”
Kleber’s desire is that his Cougars to be baseball-curious.
“I want our guys to ask questions,” says Kleber. “They have to be students of the game.
“You can’t just show up. You have to understand why.”
During the summers before his junior and senior years at Hanover, Kleber helped Todd Miller coach an Indiana Bulls travel team that included Drew Ellis (who played at Jeffersonville High School and the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks system).
Miller, a Franklin (Ind.) Community High Schoolg graduate who played baseball and football at Hanover, is now a baseball assistant at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tenn.
The Cougars’ roster features 13 players. There is no junior varsity team this spring. Some of those are also on the track team. Four players who logged significant playing time in 2018 are back.
“We’re young,” says Kleber. “Wwe’re learning a lot of fundamentals and how to play the game the right way.
“We’re building for the sectional.”
Recent Trinity graduates who went on to college baseball are Sam Crick (Hanover) and Jacob Schult (Rose-Hulman).
Kleber is assisted by Tyler Reedy, a Seymour graduate whom Kleber coached before Reedy was in high school. Doug Nichols helps with statistics and field maintenance.
Trinity plays its home games on Alf Snyder Field, an on-campus facility built through a donation from Snyder’s family.
Two years ago, the infield went from grass with dirt cut-outs to a conventional infield.
This year, the mound was replaced and one of the batter’s boxes was re-done. There are new sponsors on the scoreboard. Sponsor banners line the outfield fence and a new batter’s eye is on the way. There is also plans to put fences in front of the dugouts.
Feeder schools from Jackson, Jennings and Bartholomew counties for Trinity Lutheran include Immanuel Lutheran (Seymour), Lutheran Central (Brownstown), St. Ambrose (Seymour), St. Bartholomew (Columbus), St. John’s Sauers (Seymour), St. Mary’s (North Vernon), St. Peter’s Lutheran (Columbus) and White Creek Lutheran (Columbus).
Kleber is a dispatcher for Rose Acre Farms, an egg producer in Seymour.
Ben and Katie Kleber were married in September 2015. They have a son — Braxton (2).
Braxton Kleber (2) is the son of Ben and Katie Kleber. Ben Kleber is head baseball coach at Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour, Ind.
Katie and Ben Kleber were married in 2015. Ben Kleber is head baseball coach at Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour, Ind.