By STEVE KRAH
Pushing the pace has put the Pioneers of Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville among Indiana’s baseball elite.
“We want to be a very aggressive team,” says Providence head coach Scott Hornung. “We’re always looking to take the extra base.
“We want to be aggressive from the first pitch on. As pitchers, we want them to be overly aggressive on their first pitch to get ahead in the count.”
Hornung has helped push the Pioneers to a 433-224 record since the 1981 Providence graduate became head coach at the private Catholic school in 1995, including 28-5 with a second straight semistate appearance in 2017. The 2016 squad won the program’s first state championship.
Providence has claimed 18 sectional baseball titles (13 of those with Hornung as head coach).
The Pioneers have claimed a 2A sectional trophy three of the past five seasons (2014 and 2017 at Providence, 2016 at Clarksville) and went on to claim regional crowns the past two seasons (2016 and 2017 at Providence) plus the program’s first semistate championship (2016 at Plainfield).
The 2017 season ended for the Pioneers (28-5) with a loss to eventual state champion Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter at the Plainfield Semistate.
Is there such a thing as too aggressive?
“The regular season as opportunity to learn,” says Hornung. “They need to learn difference between being aggressive and being stupid. We do have to let them make mistakes. That’s the only way they’re going to learn.”
In 2018, the Pioneers will learn what it means to compete in the postseason at Class 3A after years in 2A.
By earning 13 IHSAA Tournament Success Factor points in 2015-16 and 2016-17, Providence moves up to 3A for the next reclassification period ( 2017-18 and 2018-19).
By rule, schools that achieve six points (1 for a sectional championship, 2 for a regional championship, 3 for a semistate championship and 4 for a state championship) are required to move up.
Hornung is not a fan of the rule in its current form.
“The span of years is too little,” says Hornung. “It needs to be over a four- or five-year span. In two years at the 1A or 2A level, you could have a couple players be dominant (and rack up Tournament Success Factor points). They graduate and then you go back to just being competitive.”
Hornung says the Tournament Success Factor rule is “football-driven” and “Catholic-biased.”
“We’re penalizing everybody for that reason,” says Hornung. “(The IHSAA) need adjustments.”
Adjusting in 2017 to the new 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) was not a hardship with Providence and its mound corps depth.
But Hornung sees where other schools — especially smaller ones — felt the effects.
“The smaller the school, the harder it is for that team to pitch effectively,” says Hornung. “We’re not the kind of (coaching) staff that overuses pitchers in any way. A few people making bad decisions have forced the hand and they made the rule across the board.
“I wish they’d leave it up to the discretion of the staff to determine the health of a pitcher’s arm. We don’t (enforce pitch counts) in the college or the pros.”
Providence does not belong to a conference. The Pioneers play an independent schedule.
“Most of the time I like it,” says Hornung. “But it’s getting frustrating. Teams won’t schedule us.
“I like to be able to make my own schedule and have my pitching rotation based around certain games. We play three to five games with Kentucky schools every year. But can’t make extended contracts because they have a mandated schedule and we don’t always if dates will correspond.”
Providence plays its home games on-campus on a field with an artificial turf infield installed by The Motz Group of Cincinnati (at a cost of between $250,000 and $300,000, according to Hornung) and a grass outfield.
Hornung and one of his assistants can be be found riding the mower.
“It’s kind of therapeutic,” says Hornung. “(Maintaining) the infield, I don’t miss it at all. That was a nightmare and it got harder as I got older and I wanted to do it less.
“I wouldn’t go back (to a grass infield) unless we had all the manpower and tools to do it right. This is a high school program and we don’t have access to all that.
“Statistics have shown that there is more cost effectiveness (with turf) in the long haul. It’s all the maintenance etc. that is saved over a 10-year period.”
Hornung’s 2018 coaching staff includes Scott Hutchins, Jacob Julius, Matt Schaab and newcomer and pitching coach Elliott Fuller at the varsity level and Shawn Hoffman and Collin Rauck with the junior varsity.
Among the returnees for 2018 are seniors Timmy Borden (University of Louisville commit), Reece Davis (Bellarmine University commit) and Nathan Proctor and juniors Joe Wilkinson (Louisville commit), Adam Uhl and Kaden Williams.
Their head coach is very familiar with the recruiting process in baseball and in the volleyball world. All three of Scott and Elly Hornung’s daughters are volleyball players. Jacquie Hornung is a sophomore at Bellarmine. Marissa Hornung is a Providence senior who recently signed to play at Purdue University. Ali Hornung is Providence freshmen.
Hornung says he gets as involved with the recruiting of his baseball athletes as much as they want.
But things recruiting landscape has changed.
“The high school coach is not as relevant as they used to be as the travel ball coach is,” says Hornung. “Colleges send messages to the travel or high school coach. I’m fine with that.
“The player recruits themselves anymore. That’s just the way it is. They go out and play and it’s up to them and their contact with the schools.”
Scott Hornung, a 1981 graduate of Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, has been Pioneers head baseball coach since 1995. Providence won an IHSAA Class 2A state championship in 2016.