Sam Pesa recently completed his second baseball season at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind. A right-handed swinger and thrower, he played mostly first base and a little outfield. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder played in 52 games (48 starts) for the 2023 Cougars and hit .245 (38-of-155) with eight home runs, four doubles, 39 runs batted in and 28 runs scored. In two seasons at USF, Pesa has played in 104 games (94 starts) and is hitting .260 (78-of-300) with 17 homers, 10 doubles, 80 RBIs and 50 runs. “Something we preach at Saint Francis is timing and rhythm,” says Pesa. “Early in the (ball-strike) count I look for something in my (strike) zone I can hit hard. I think about hitting that fast ball to right-center and be on-time to hit the off-speed to left-center. “Late in the count, you’ve just got to protect the zone. I just do my best to get the bat on the ball and put it in-play.” Pesa, who turns 21 in July, also has keys on defense. “One thing that I always have done is prep-stepping and being ready right at the point of contact so I can react to the ball off the bat,” says Pesa. “It’s definitely more difficult at first to react to those ones right at you. In the outfield, you have to be able to notice and follow the swing path because that will determine the ball flight and where you need to be to catch the ball or take it off the ground and throw it.” Dustin Butcher is head coach at Saint Francis. “I love playing for Coach Butch,” says Pesa. “He’s a great guy. He’ll always have your back and fight for you. “He’s very knowledgeable about the game and he’s definitely a very good leader.” Away from the field, Pesa is a Business Administration major. Pesa is a 2021 graduate of Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School. “It was very enjoyable,” says Pesa of his time at Dwenger. “I made a lot of lifelong friends there. I enjoyed football and baseball a lot.” A linebacker on the gridiron, Pesa says he takes an aggressive and team mindset to the diamond. “You’ve got to compete on every single play. You’ve got to trust that if you do your job the guys are you will do theirs, too.” Jason Garrett is the head coach for Bishop Dwenger Saints football and baseball. “When I think of Coach Garrett I think of a very faith-filled person and a great leader,” says Pesa. “He’s one of the favorite coaches that I’ve had. He’s a terrific guy. I always loved playing for him.” Born in Fort Wayne, Pesa grew up in the Cherry Hill section of town and played at Saint Joe Little League. Travel teams included the Wallen Jackers (coached by Sam Nolan, father of Xavier Nolan, who is now at Saint Francis teammate), Fort Wayne Diamondbacks and Summit City Sluggers. After not playing the past two summers, Pesa is now with the Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex. Splitting time between first base and right field, he drove in seven runs in his first six games. Sam is the oldest of Dwenger alums Paul and Jen Pesa’s three children. Lindsey Pesa played volleyball and softball at Dwenger and is heading into her sophomore year at Purdue University. Ali Pesa also plays those two sports and will be a Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic School eight grader in the fall.
Grant Lashure is now a junior catcher on the Eastern Illinois University baseball team bound for the June 2-5 NCAA Division I Nashville Regional. Lashure (pronounced Lasher) has played in 45 games for the 2023 EIU Panthers (41 starts) and the righty swinger is hitting .312 (49-of-157) with 11 doubles, 34 runs batted in and 23 runs scored. He is fielding at a .997 clip with 275 putouts and 25 assists. In his first season on the Charleston, Ill., campus (2022), Lashure appeared in 35 games (31 starts) and hit .286 (32-of-112) with three home runs, one triples, two doubles, 14 RBIs and 17 runs. His fielding mark was .996 with 251 putouts and 19 assists. While at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers High School, Lashure did not receive many offers to play college baseball. He committed to North Carolina Central University only to have that program suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lashure opted to stay at home and play for Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne. He was familiar with Titans head coach Lance Hershberger and assistant Connor Wilkins. He played travel ball for them with the Northeast Indiana Buzz, Summit City Sluggers and Kekiongas. Lashure was not big as a youngster and has since filled out his 5-foot-10 frame at 180 pounds. He appreciates the fundamentals and “small ball” he learned from Hershberger. “He taught the game extremely well,” says Lashure of Hershberger. “He allowed me to become the player I am today. “He allowed me to focus on the little things. With Coach Hershberger, I started to know the game and get a lot better. I became a more well-rounded player.” Lashure credits Wilkins for helping to hone his catching skills — things like, mobility, set-up, receiving, throwing and blocking. Born in Mooresville, N.C., Lashure moved to Fort Wayne as he was entering fourth grade. He was with the James Ball-coached Fort Wayne Cubs (now the Fort Wayne Diamondbacks) for his 10U to 12U travel seasons then was part of the 13U Strike Zone Spiders. He played a little second base as a Luers freshman, but Lashure was mostly a catcher as a four-year Knights varsity player. His head coaches were Gary Rogers the first two years and Jeff Stanski the last two. Grant says he is grateful to Rogers for giving him an opportunity to play with older brother Luke Lashure (Luers Class of 2016). The summer after graduation (2019), Grant played in the local men’s league with the Fort Wayne Blues. When he got to Ivy Tech, he got to play 30 games in the fall and just 11 in the spring because of the shortened 2020 season. But he continued learning and improving while working with Wilkins. “When you’re getting a lot of reps you’re going to get better,” says Lashure. In 2021, he played in 55 games (53 starts) and hit a team-best .421 (67-of-159) with two homers, one triple, 11 doubles, 52 RBIs and 46 runs. A .993 fielder, he collected 248 putouts and 37 assists. Lashure was with the Appalachian League’s Greeneville (Tenn.) Flyboys for 14 games in the summer of 2021. This summer, Lashure is to be with the MLB Draft League’s State College (Pa.) Spikes. But before that comes the postseason at Eastern Illinois. The Jason Anderson-coached Panthers followed up a 33-20 mark in 2022 by losing players who decided not to take their extra year of eligibility or enter the Transfer Portal. Among those was Jesse Wainscott (a right-hander and graduate of Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis who landed at Arizona State University). “We were left scrambling,” says Lashure. “We had a lot of arms to replace.” Even so, the team got off to a 12-4 start in 2023. But a 5-9 stretch came next. “We worried about making the (Ohio Valley Conference) tournament at a certain point in our season,” says Lashure. “We had to play as a team. Not just one individual was going to carry us. “We all competed.” The team ended the regular season on a seven-game win streak, including a three-game sweep at Southeast Missouri and went into the OVC tournament in Marion, Ill., as the No. 5 seed. Playing six games in four days, EIU went 5-1, beating No. 1 seed Morehead State for the NCAA tournament bid. “We took the longest route to the championship,” says Lashure. The Nashville Regional is hosted by No. 1 seed Vanderbilt (No. 6 of 16 national seeds) and also includes No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Xavier and No. 4 Eastern Illinois (38-19). Lashure, who turns 23 on June 18, earned a General Studies associate degree at Ivy Tech and is an Exercise Science major at Eastern Illinois. Mike and Monica Lashure have six children — Luke, Grant, Leah, Nick, Anthony and Veronica. Mike Lashure is Director of New Market Development for Schafer Industries. Monica Lashure is a stay-at-home mom. Luke Lashure played one baseball season at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. Leah Lashure played tennis at Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger High School and is now a art/substitute teacher at Our Lady of Good Hope School in Fort Wayne. Nick Lashure (Dwenger Class of 2024) is a prep baseball and football athlete. Anthony Lashure finished eighth grade. He plays baseball and basketball. Veronica Lashure, 6, is just getting started in school.
Varsity baseball on Indiana college campus gets the attention. But those teams aren’t the only ones taking to the diamond representing their schools in 2022-23. National Club Baseball Association — a division of Pittsburgh-based ColClubSports — features two squads at Indiana University (D-I and D-II) and one each at Ball State, Notre Dame and Purdue. These four plus Illinois and Illinois State belong to the NCBA Great Lakes South. Squads played one or two series in the fall. Most games are in March and April. The four-team NCBA D-I Great Lakes Regional is slated for May 12-14 at Ash Centre/World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne, Ind. The eight-team NCBA D-I World Series is May 26-June 2 in Alton, Ill. D-II regionals are May 5-7 at sites to be determined with the eight-team D-II World Series May 19-May 23 in Alton. Indiana-based teams are made up of players with high school and/or high level travel ball experience. The NCBA tracks rankings, statistics, standings and selects All-Americans. Notre Dame is No. 9 and Illinois State and Illinois are vote-getters in the D-I Week 16 poll. NCBA Great Lakes team previews can be found HERE.
Indiana IU club officers are president Garrett Larson (Lucas, Texas), secretary Spencer Puett (Eden Prairie, Minn.), treasurer Jacob Kortenber (New Haven, Ind., graduate) and social media chair Casey Fanelli (Westfield, Ind., alum). Brenden Schrage (Elmhurst, Ill.) is a future vice president. Games tend to be on Saturdays and Sundays. Indiana’s D-I team went 2-4 in the fall — 1-2 against both Illinois and Illinois State. Beginning the Week of March 13, the spring season sees IU play Eastern Kentucky, Marquette, Ohio State and Tennessee for single games. Ball State visits for three games and the Hoosiers play three-game sets at Notre Dame and Purdue. The D-II squad went 4-2 in the fall — 1-2 vs. Xavier and 3-0 vs. Eastern Kentucky. Beginning the Week of Feb. 27, the spring season includes a three-game home series against Michigan State, three at Akron and three at home against Ohio State. “The club experience is a great one not only for myself but a lot of other people because our club consists of mid- to high-level high school baseball players who could not make it at the next level or wanted to only play Division I college ball or go to a bigger school and get a better education,” says Larson, a junior Sports Media & Advertising co-major. “Club baseball is a way for us to keep playing the game we love.” At Indiana in 2022-23, 85 to 100 players tried out for 26 vacancies on two teams. There’s about 20 players on each squad. The club is responsible for securing playing fields and off-campus practice facilities, umpires and uniforms. Club dues and fundraising helps pay expenses. Bloomington North High School is Indiana’s home field. “We’re very appreciative for that opportunity,” says Larson. The club makes a donation to the school for the use of the Cougars’ diamond. In past seasons, the club played some games at Bedford North Lawrence High School. The club also supports the varsity Hoosiers when they play at Bart Kaufman Field aka The Bart. “We go to those games all the time,” says Larson. “A lot of our best players tried to walk on and came to play for us.” Club players tend to sit close to the home dugout and backstop and can be heard on TV and radio broadcasts. Kortenber, a sophomore Sports Marketing & Management major, played for Dave Bischoff at New Haven High School and explains his reason for playing club baseball. “I just really wanted to stay connected to the game and meet a bunch of new people,” says Kortenber, who considered being a manager for the varsity team. “Then I decided I could actually keep on playing.” A club sports fair during “Welcome Week” is a big recruiting tool. The club is open to anyone who wants to practice. Then there’s a travel roster. Both D-I and D-II teams at Indiana practice together. Schrage gives his “why.” “It gets me out of the house,’ says Schrage, who now calls Indianapolis home and is a sophomore Informatics major with a Business cognate. “I like to collaborate with different people. I enjoy baseball players. That was my crowd in high school. “I just want a competitive edge outside of doing lifting and homework. It’s nice to travel on the weekends and be part of a team.” Indiana’s Twitter handle is @ClubBaseball_IU. The Instagram address is iuclubbaseball. The D-I roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE. The D-II roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Ball State BSU club officers include president Ross Culy (Winchester, Ind., Community High School graduate), vice president Clay Hamm (Blue Valley alum) and social media manager Ben Carr (Zionsville Community graduate). Ball State lost three-game series to Notre Dame and Purdue in the fall. The spring slate begins the Week of March 20 and the Cardinals play a series at Indiana with home series against Illinois State and Illinois. Culy, a third-year senior on pace to graduate in the spring with a double major in Analytics and Economics, talks about what he gets from club baseball. “It definitely starts with a lot of friendships and relationships you make,” says Culy. “Relationships are really important in life. “Being president has developed my leadership abilities and people skills.” The club is hoping to play one home series on the varsity field (Ball Diamond) and will play the other at a local high school or perhaps Gainbridge Field at McCulloch Park in Muncie. Fall home games are played at Ball Diamond. Club dues are $350 for the year or $175 per semester and pay for jerseys, travel, umpires etc. “We try to keep our costs as low as possible and keep guys in the club,” says Culy. The club had to disband during the COVID-19 pandemic and came back in 2021-22. “We’re accepting anybody who wants to play,” says Culy. “We have from former college players and high-level high school to kids who never played before. “We don’t currently have enough to make cuts. This year we had huge growth. We have 30-ish guys which is a big improvement from last year. Most recruiting was done at the club fair at the beginning of the school year. “A lot of it is just getting our name out there and getting the players who have the talent and interest,” says Culy. Three member of Ball State’s swimming and diving program — Michael Burns (South Bend, Ind., Riley High School graduate), Erkan Ozgen (Burr Ridge, Ill.) and Porter Brovont (Eastern of Greentown alum) — have indicated they will join the baseball club at the conclusion of their season. Hamm, a sophomore Sport Administration major, split his high school days between New Castle and Blue River Valley before playing one season at the University of Northwestern Ohio and transferring to Ball State and joining the club. “I just wanted to get back into baseball,” says Hamm. “It’s a lot of fun. Everybody wants to be there and wants to play.” Carr, a freshman Sports Administration major and Marketing minor, tells why he’s involved. “I love baseball,” says Carr. “I played it all my life. I played throughout high school and had some opportunities to play (intercollegiate ball). Ball State was the best first for me. “I got involved (in club baseball) and it’s a blast.” As an Indiana Expos travel ball player, Carr was coached by former Indiana club member Leo Tobasco. Carr is a submarine pitcher. He was throwing from a three-quarter arm slot as a high school junior and looking to see how he could help on a staff of fireballers. “One of my coaches suggested that I try to see if I could throw sidearm or lower,” says Carr. “I kept messing with it and kept messing with it. I became an effective groundball pitcher.” As social media manager, Carr has been able to tap into skill he learned from his father who is a graphic designer and get his friend who is a photographer to provide compelling shots. “I’ve edits for our schedule on Instagram that I’m pretty proud of,” says Carr. Cooper Roach, a Delta High School graduate and freshman Data Analytics major, was smitten by baseball growing up in Muncie. “There’s something different about it I love,” says Roach. “I don’t think I can ever get away from baseball because of it.” Ball State’s club fair is how he found out about the opportunity to keep playing in college. “I’d like to see the club aspect pushed a little more,” says Roach of club sports overall. Ball State’s Instagram address is ballstatebaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Notre Dame ND club officers are president Josh Dippold (Fort Wayne Bishop Luers graduate), interim vice president Sam Sikkink (Minnetonka, Minn., and serving for Lafayette, La.’s Jacob Tate who is studying abroad), secretary Chris Ayres (Malvern, Pa.) and treasurer Brady LaBahn (Apple Valley, Minn.). Players pay $315 per semester to pay for travel, umpires, league, registration etc. Donation also come in from alumni and family during “ND Day.” The Irish won the 8th annual Battle Creek Blast in the fall as the wild card, besting Illinois State B 11-1 and Michigan-Flint 21-1 and losing 5-4 to Michigan in pool play before topping Michigan 11-4 and Illinois 18-1 in the single-elimination bracket. Besides taking that 12-team event at C.O. Brown Stadium, Notre Dame also swept a three-game conference series against Ball State. The spring began this past weekend with a three-game sweep at Kentucky. Next is a series at Illinois then home series vs. Indiana, Illinois State and Purdue. South Bend Clay High School has been a home field for Notre Dame. The club is hoping to play some games on-campus at Frank Eck Stadium — home to the varsity Irish. Notre Dame lost to Michigan in 2022 regional championship. “It was nice to see them this fall in Battle Creek,” says Dippold, who played his home games while at Bishop Luers at the Ash Centre. He grew up playing travel ball around Fort Wayne, including with the Summit City Sluggers and Lance Hershberger-led Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana Buzz. Dippold, a senior Theology major with a Pre-Health supplemental major and Latino Studies minor, intends to go to medical school. The club president says about 50 players try out in the fall. There are currently 29 on the roster (33 is the maximum). “I love baseball and the leadership that comes with being around so many ballplayers and friends,” says Dippold. “It’s for the love of the game and you need to be heads-up to be a good ballplayer. It’s America’s Pastime to me. “I see the freshmen and sophomores on our team and I want to give back to the game. When I’m older I know I will be a coach of some sort. “I’m incredibly grateful that God has bestowed this opportunity for me to still be playing the game as a senior in college. This year I feel like we have something left in the tank and some unfinished business. “I’ve always been a competitor. I look forward to being something more than an academic competitor and let it loose on the baseball field.” Jake Fuehrmeyer, a graduate of Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Ind., and a senior Science Pre-Professional (Pre-Med) major, decided to attend Notre Dame rather than play varsity baseball and study at a smaller school in Illinois. He expresses his appreciation for club ball. “It’s been everything to be college experience-wise,” says Fuehrmeyer. “I never would have thought I’d still get to play ball once I got to Notre Dame. “It’s allowed me the opportunity to continue to compete at a high level. My favorite thing to do is play baseball. “All of the guys on the team are such great dudes. I look forward to going to practice. I look forward to competing in games. It’s given me a ton of new friends.” While vans were to be used to travel to the Kentucky series, players typically car-pool to away games. “It’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make,” says Fuehrmeyer. “We’ll go wherever the baseball is.” In-season, Notre Dame tends to practice twice a week for 90 minutes. Outside of practice, Fuehrmeyer seeks time to get in swings on his own or long toss with a friend. There is an on-campus practice space. RBIs Unlimited in Mishawaka offers an off-campus training option. While he’s got a full plate, Fuehrmeyer does carve out time to follow the varsity Irish. “College baseball is some of the most-exciting baseball you can watch,” says Fuehrmeyer. “It’s evolving at a rapid pace. We’re seeing some outstanding talent come through Notre Dame. “We’ve got some serious talent on the varsity team and it’s reflected in how good our club team is. “I look at some guys and say, “Wow! Why aren’t you playing (NCAA) Division I baseball somewhere?” Notre Dame’s Twitter handle is @NDclubbaseball. The Instagram address is ndclubbaseball. The roster can be found HERE and schedule HERE.
Purdue PU club officers are president Daniel Stephen (Fort Wayne, Ind., Northrop High School graduate), vice president Ross Ostrager (Plainview, N.Y.), treasurer Jacob Knaust (O’Fallon, Ill.), fundraising officer Jeremy VanTryon (Plainfield, Ind., High School alum), community service officer Joe Patton (Kansas City, Kan.) and safety officer Kyle Goff (Fort Wayne, Ind., Carroll graduate). Dr. Howard Zelanik is advisor. Purdue went 6-5 in the fall — 3-0 vs. Ball State, 2-1 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 0-3 vs. Illinois State and 1-1 vs. Miami (Ohio). Beginning the Week of March 13, an 11-game spring includes contests against Ohio, Tennessee, Ohio State, Iowa and Wyoming in Panama City Beach, Fla., before a three-game series at Illinois, three at home against Indiana and three at Notre Dame. Purdue senior James Ham, a Lafayette (Ind.) Harrison High School alum, pitched a no-hitter Oct. 1, 2022 against Ball State with 15 strikeouts in seven innings. The no-no was caught by junior Ostrager. The club was present at the B-Involved Fair and had callouts last August. Tryouts were last September at the Purdue Intramural Fields. Home games are played at Crawfordsville (Ind.) High School. The team has a set of bats, helmets, and catchers gear. Hats, jerseys, black pants, gold stirrups and a gold belt are provided. Players must have their own glove, cleats, white baseball pants, gray baseball pants, black socks and black belt. Semester dues can vary depending on expected club expenses. They are typically around $300 for returning members and $350 for new members. The Twitter handle is @PUBaseballClub. The Instagram address is pubaseballclub. The roster can be found HERE and the schedule HERE.
Other Places George Boardman is a pitcher on the Vanderbilt University club in Nashville, Tenn. Boardman, of LaPorte, Ind., is a freshman Law History Society major. After playing for coach Kurt Christiansen, he graduated from Culver (Ind.) Academies in 2021. “I’m pretty serious about going to law school so playing for an actual college team was too much of a time commitment,” says Boardman. “I selected Vanderbilt for many other reasons, but (club baseball) was an added benefit. “Most of the people on our team could have played (NCAA) D-III baseball.” Like Boardman, they those Vandy for its academic rigor. “Club baseball here at Vanderbilt is really, really balanced,” says Boardman. “We practice three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We usually play six or seven series (in the spring and fall) with three games each. “Attendance at those series is completely optional. The flexibility is perfect. If you have a class or a ton of homework, just text your coach or (club) president and say, ‘I can’t make it.’ “You can pretty much make out of it what you want.” The club plays many of its home games at nearby Belmont University though there is a contest scheduled April 9 against Georgia State at Hawkins Field — where the Vandy Boys varsity plays.
Sharing their knowledge to the next wave of players, four current or recent collegians from northeast Indiana will lead the Summit City Baseball Academy. The developmental camp featuring instruction by Tanner Gaff,Carter Mathison, Treyvin Moss and Brayden Risedorph and organized by Jayce Riegling is slated for Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 27-28 for Grades 5-6 and 7-8 and Thursday and Friday, Dec. 29-30 for high schoolers at Summit City Sluggers, 5730 Bluffton Road, Fort Wayne. A Summit City Baseball Academy pitching session is scheduled each day from noon to 2:30 p.m. with hitting from 3:30 to 6 p.m. (all Eastern Time). Cost is $100 for one session or $150 for two. Spots are limited. Entry deadline is Dec. 14. Gaff, a 2016 Whitko High School graduate who pitched at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, began his professional career this summer in the Minnesota Twins organization. The right-hander was with the Florida Complex League Twins followed the instructional league. As a youngster, he played for the Sluggers. “We’re trying to help them get to that next level whether that’s improving their mechanics or velocity or teaching them the fundamentals of the game,” says Gaff. “We want to give back to the 260 community though its open to everyone around.” While he is likely to keep it basic with the younger pitchers, Gaff foresees being able to get into more details with high schoolers. “Pitching is kinetic chain-oriented, which is how the whole body works,” says Gaff. “It’s working from the ground up. It’s using their body efficiently. A lot of pitching has to do with the lower half. The upper half tags along at the end of a throw. That’s simple way of explaining it. The arm is pulled through. “There is no such thing as perfect mechanics. There are elite compensators that know how to get into certain positions better than others or use other parts of their body to make up for what they lack.”
Mathison, a 2021 Homestead High School graduate and former Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year, is a sophomore outfielder at Indiana University coming off a summer with the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats. “I know I’ll be working with hitters,” says Mathison. “With the high schoolers I’m thinking about teaching them a lot about the mental game, the mental side of hitting as well as some drills. With the junior high kids, it will be what they need to be thinking about when they’re at-bat and what position they need to be in to be a successful hitter.” Mathison says confidence is the key to hitting for him. He goes the plate thinking he’s going to find his pitch and hit it hard. Moss, a Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School alum (Class of 2018), is a redshirt senior outfielder at Northern Kentucky University. “We want to spread the knowledge that we gained over the years,” says Moss. “We’re in a position now that these kids would love to be in our shoes. We want to inspire and work with this younger generation. Moss, whose father Randy is the director of player development for the Summit City Sluggers, anticipates some points of emphasis at the camp. “For the high school kids it will be more about the mental game,” says Moss. “Any collegiate-level player will tell you how big the mental side of the game is. “With the younger (players), it’s the basic mechanics that can help them along the way.” Risedorph, an East Noble High School alum (Class of 2022) and IHSBCA North/South Series participant, is a freshman right-handed pitcher at Indiana University. He played for the Sluggers during his prep sophomore summer. “If you have a way of giving back to the community, it’s pretty important to do something,” says Risedorph. “I’ve been exposed to some great baseball people and great talent. It would be a waste not to spread the love and spread the knowledge. “I thought this would be fun to do and give back a little bit. It’ll be some mechanical stuff and the mental aspects of the game like learning how to compete and have fun. I’ll share some pitching drills that have helped me throughout my career.” Riegling, a 2020 graduate Lakeland High School, where he was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball), is a student at Indiana University with a goal of becoming a sports agent. Among his projects is the JKR Podcast. Mark Delagarza founded the Summit City Sluggers in 1996 and has coached college baseball. “Jayce wants to utilize their skills and knowledge and transfer it to the kids who sign up for the camp,” says Delagarza. “It says a lot about these guys that they’re willing to do it. “These guys appreciate what was giving to them in the day. I think it’s awesome that they want to share and help the young kids get better like someone did for them.” For more information, contact Riegling at (260) 585-4388 or Jayce.SCLA@gmail.com.
Todd Farr helped achieve baseball success at Jay County Junior/Senior High School in Portland, Ind., on the staff of veteran head coach Lea Selvey. With Selvey retiring after the 2022 season, Farr is now in charge of keeping the momentum going for the Patriots. Farr was head baseball coach at Eastbrook High School in Marion, Ind., from 2012-17 before becoming a Selvey assistant at Jay County for the 2018 season. In 34 seasons, Selvey won 528 of the 880 games he coached with seven sectional titles, three regional crowns and six conference championships. Selvey also made an impression on Farr. “He brought a lot of fun to the game,” says Farr, who also coached Summit City Sluggers teams with Selvey. “Lea’s an incredible guy. He’s seen a lot. “He’s got a real calm demeanor about him. Players feed off him. Sometimes I get real antsy and uptight at times. “It really was a joy to coach with him the last few years.” When Selvey let it be known that he was retiring, Farr applied for the job and received support from principal Chad Dodd (who coached at Eastbrook with Brian Abbott when Farr was a player and then was head coach at Blackford) and Patriots athletic director Steve Boozier. “I’m greatly appreciative of those guys for believing in me,” says Farr. Jay County (enrollment around 870) is a member of the Allen County Athletic Conference] (with Adams Central, Bluffton, Heritage, South Adams, Southern Wells and Woodlan). The Patriots were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Delta, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, New Castle and Yorktown. Jay County has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2019. The school board will need to approve Farr’s assistants which will be some of Selvey’s former players. Jay County varsity and junior teams play and practices on Don E. Selvey Field. Lea’s father looked after the diamond followed by Lea. Farr spent much of the summer of 2022 tending to the facility. “I want our guys take to pride in it,” says Farr, who had spent recent summers coaching the Sluggers and the Dirt Bags in the Fort Wayne-based Indiana Collegiate Summer Baseball League. Denise Selvey, Lea’s wife, has been a babysitter for Todd and Holly Farr. The couple have three children (two girls and a boy) — sixth grader Makenzi (11), fourth grader Kendall (9) and preschooler Kaysen (5). Todd followed Holly to the Jay County district. She is a fourth grade teacher at West Jay Elementary School in Dunkirk. He teaches Special Education for Grades 7-12. Since he is a teacher and a former assistant, Farr already knows the players. He looks forward to working with them twice weekly during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period that goes from Aug. 29-Oct. 15. “We’ll work on fundamentals,” says Farr. “I’m big on do the small things in games that leading to bigger things.” While there are no college commitments yet among current players, Farr says many are working toward that goal. Recent graduates moving on to collegiate diamonds include Wyatt Geesaman (Class of 2019) who went to the University of Cincinnati and is transferring to Northern Kentucky University. There’s also Class of 2022’s Quinn Faulkner and Crosby Heniser headed to Manchester University and Sam Dunlavy bound for Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne. Kess McBride (Class of 2022) had planned to try to walk-on and become a bullpen catcher at Purdue University. Faulkner, Heniser and McBride were all part of the Muncie Post 19 Chiefs team that won the 2022 Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball Championship and competed in the Great Lakes Regional in Midland, Mich. A school-run junior high program had tryouts in the summer so those players can also participate in fall activities and learn and develop in the Jay County way. “The high school guys will take them under their wings,” says Farr, who expects close to 30 seventh and eighth graders. “This community is big into baseball. Numbers have never been an issue here.” Playing and practicing at Miller-Runkle Field — home of the Portland Rockets — the junior high teams will conduct their season in the spring. Farr says opponents on the schedule will closely resemble that of the high school. The new Jay County Baseball Club is to field 8U, 10U and 11U travel teams in 2023. Farr, who is president of the organization’s board, says there will be a fall skills clinic next month. “It will be a bunch of development,” says Farr. “They’ll see how we warm-up and do fundamental stuff.” The club works with recreation leagues — Portland Junior League and Redkey Junior League. “It’s for kids who want to play some extra baseball,” says Farr. “I truly believe it’s going to lead to some good things in the history of Jay County baseball.” Farr, a 2004 Eastbrook graduate, credits Abbott for setting an example and being a friend. “He’s one of those guys who’s in my corner,” says Farr of Abbott. Before he was his high school baseball coach, Abbott coached Farr in junior high basketball. “I was raised by a single mother,” says Farr. “He picked me up for practice. Then I played for him for four years and I saw how important family is to him. He means a lot to me and my family. “That’s why I’m into coaching baseball today. I saw the joy he had with the guys.” Abbott is now executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and a member of the IHSBCA Hall of Fame. Recruited for baseball and football at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., Farr opted to play football. He received a General Studies degree and later earned his teaching accreditation from Taylor online.
Grant Besser’s habit of dodging bats with his pitches got him noticed during his prep days and it continues at the collegiate level. At South Adams High School in Berne, Ind., the left-hander and four-time first-team all-Allen County Athletic Conference selection whiffed 451 in 241 innings with a 1.27 earned run average. He also hit .397 with eight home runs and 58 runs batted in. As a senior, Besser fanned 130 in 54 frame and posted a 0.77 ERA and hit .426 with two homers and 17 RBIs for the Brad Buckingham-coached Starfires. He began working out that winter in Fort Wayne with Pittsburgh Pirates strength trainer Dru Scott. When not pitching, lefty Besser was the unorthodox choice for South Adams at shortstop his last three seasons. “I knew it looked silly, but I had been playing shortstop all my life,” says Besser. “I can throw from any arm angle. I had a great time doing it. “Besides I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it for long. I knew pitching is what I wanted to do.” Besser played in the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in Madison. He was honored as the 2019 Northeast Indiana Baseball Association/Dick Crumback Player of the Year. The 2021 recipient of the award — Carter Mathison (Homestead/Indiana University) is Besser’s teammate this summer with New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats. Mathison was also the 2021 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Besser shined on the mound at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers. In 36 appearances (10 starts), he went 6-4 with eight saves and a 2.66 earned run average as the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Buccaneers posted marks of 16-11 in 2020 (COVID-19 shortened), 44-16 in 2021 and 42-15 in 2022. He amassed 125 strikeouts and 42 walks in 94 2/3 innings. Besser played no summer ball in 2020 and dealt with an injury at the beginning of the 2021. He came back and hurled five innings in the state tournament and did not allow a baserunner. “I really saw a spike in all of my numbers for the good (in 2022),” says Besser. “I blew every category away from the previous years.” He was in 20 games in 2022 and went 3-2 with six saves, a 1.28 ERA, 61 K’s and 16 walks in 42 1/3 innings. Ben Bizier is head coach at Florida SouthWestern State. Derrick Conatser is Bucs pitching coach. “I like that toughness to he brings to the table,” says Besser of Bizier. In his exit interview with Bizier Besser was told that 18 Major League Baseball organizations have been following him as they prepare for the 2022 First-Year Player Draft (July 17-19 in Los Angeles). “He said there’s a really good chance it happens this year,” says Besser, who turns 22 in September. “Out of high school I had zero (college) offers. Coach Buckingham offered me to Florida JUCO’s. I earned a scholarship at FSW in the spring. “Money has never been the big thing for me. It’s opportunity and getting my foot in the door.” This is Besser’s second straight summer at Keene and he has had several meaningful chats with Swamp Bats president and general manager Kevin Watterson. So far, Besser has made four appearances (one start) and is 1-0 with an 0.87 ERA. In 10 1/3 innings, the southpaw has 10 strikeouts and one walk. The NECBL regular season ends July 30. Throughout his college experience, Besser has been used in multiple pitching roles, including starter, long reliever and a closer. “It doesn’t matter to me as long as we get a win,” says Besser. “I’m very versatile.” Besser has excelled with an ability to keep his head when things get tense. “It’s mental toughness. I preach it,” says Besser. “I can spot when somebody doesn’t have that mental toughness. “I’m ready for the situation. I’m consistent with all that I do. I work quick and throw strikes. Preparation and a steady mindset is key.” Throwing from a three-quarter arm slot, Besser uses a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up and curveball. “My four-seamer has natural run and a high spin rate,” says Besser. “Up in the zone is where I get the most out of it. “This summer it’s been sitting 89 to 91 mph (it hit 92 at Florida SouthWestern State).” Besser’s two-seamer moves in to left-handed hitters and away from righties. His “circle” change-up break to his arm side and is usually clocked around 83 mph. “My curveball is more of a slurve,” says Besser of the pitch that’s often delivered at around 78 mph. “I mix and match. Sometimes it’s 12-to-6 and sometimes I sweep it. It depends on the situation.” Grant is the oldest of Mike and Katina Besser’s two sons. Adam Besser, a right-handed pitcher for Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne, turns 20 in August. Mike Besser is a salesman for Moser Motor Sales. Katina Besser is chief financial officer at Swiss Village Retirement Community. The family moved from Geneva and Berne when Grant was in the fifth grade. Beginning at 9U, he played travel ball for the Muncie Longhorns and Indiana Bandits and then Summit City Sluggers founder Mark DeLaGarza reached out to him and he spent two summers with the 17U Sluggers, playing for head coaches Todd Armstrong and Brent Alwine. “My parents’ sacrifices let me do that,” says Grant. “The Sluggers gave me a lot of knowledge on baseball.”
With two years of eligibility remaining, has committed to NCAA Division I Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He signed with the Scarlet Knights over the winter. Why Rutgers? “What really attracting me was coming home to the Big Ten,” says Besser, who was born in Fort Wayne and grew up in Geneva and Berne. “It’s up-and-coming program and pretty hard-nosed.” With Steve Owens as head coach and Brendan Monaghan guiding pitchers, the Scarlet Knights posted an overall mark of 44-17 and Big Ten record of 17-7 in 2022. Rutgers played Michigan in the conference tournament championship game. After earning an Associate of Arts degree in Business Management at Florida SouthWestern State, Besser is considering a Labor and Relations major at Rutgers.
Tanner Gaff grew up in Whitley County, Ind., as a middle infielder who moved to the corners as he got older. The right-hander doubled as a pitcher. A 2016 graduate of Whitko Junior/Senior High School in South Whitley, Gaff went to the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne and was a two-way player until his last season — the extra year granted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I had a pretty good year,” says Gaff, who employed Driveline Baseball training methods and increased his velocity going into 2021. As a pitcher-only in ’21, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder made 14 mound appearances and went 8-2 with a 4.15 earned run average and 92 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings. USF went 34-22, setting a school record for single-season victories. Gaff, who earned a degree in Business Management with a Sports concentration in 2020, still wanted to see how far pitching could take him. “I had heard nothing but good things about Tread (Athletics),” says Gaff of the business specializing in online performance coaching. He began training remotely with Tread in the summer of 2021. When Connor Lawhead left the Saint Francis coaching staff and went back to his native Washington, the Cougars were in need of a pitching coach. Gaff filled that role and was part of a staff featuring head coach Dustin Butcher and assistant Kristian Gayday while still honing his own skills. Then came the time to go to Charlotte, N.C., and train with Tread in-house, which he did from February to May of 2022. “Butch was happy for me,” says Gaff of Butcher’s willingness to let him pursue his dreams. “He was all for me furthering my baseball career.” With the help of Tread, Gaff posted videos of him pitching to social media and got the attention of the Minnesota Twins. On May 20, he signed with that organization and is now in Fort Myers gearing up for the Florida Complex League season which opens June 6. The next two steps up the minor league ladder are with the Low-A Florida State League’s Fort Myers Mighty Mussels and High-A Midwest League’s Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels. Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Gaff possesses a four-seam fastball, slider/cutter, curve and splitter (split-finger fastball). “My four-seamer has ‘plus’ carry and sits at 91 to 94,” says Gaff, 24. “I’m always looking to gain mph. When it’s right, his slider is delivered about 80 mph. “My splitter is one of my most promising pitches,” says Gaff. “I get good swing-and-miss with it. “I threw it in middle school though I didn’t know it was called a splitter at the time. I’ve always had it in my back pocket. The movement patterns are always consistent. Sometimes it’s left. Sometimes right.” At Tread, Gaff used TrackMan cameras to learned how to manipulate his splitter and other pitches. Born in Columbia City to James and Debra Gaff, Tanner spent his youth on a 40-acre farm (20 acres of farmland and 20 acres of wetlands) about 10 minutes from Columbia City, Larwill and South Whitley. He played in the South Whitley youth league until about sixth grade then travel ball with a homegrown team later the Ken Jones-coached Flippin’ Frogs and Cam Brannock-coached Summit City Sluggers. As a middle schooler, Gaff was on a Pony League travel team that was coached by then-Whitko head coach Erik Hisner (now at Eastern of Greentown). “That helped us with high school,” says Gaff, who had some teammates go on to win the Wildcats’ first sectional title in 2017. “We kept our core together.” Gaff played two years at USF for head coach Greg Roberts and then assistant Butcher took over the program. “(Roberts) was a really nice guy,” says Gaff. “He cared about his players. Butch is a great coach, but an even better person. “He changed the culture. Saint Francis wasn’t always typically known as a good baseball school.” Tanner has two older married sisters — Starr Kane and Isis Ivy.
Treyvin Moss was a toddler when he got his first taste of baseball training. At 2, he had a bat in his hand and began to swing it as a right-hander. Father Randy — thinking of the advantages of seeing all those righty pitchers — quickly turned his son around. “I made him left-handed,” says Randy Moss. “He didn’t have a choice.” For much of Treyvin’s early life his dad was co-owner of Stars Baseball & Softball Academy near Fort Wayne, Ind. Treyvin got all the baseball reps he wanted. Two decades after first picking up that bat it’s still that way between father and son even though Treyvin is a 22-year-old redshirt junior at NCAA Division I Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Ky. – less than 10 miles south of downtown Cincinnati. “I’ve never told T we couldn’t go hit,” says Randy Moss. “I’ve always made time for him.” Treyvin has been known to take BP seven days a week, getting to the field before practice or a game and coming back afterward. Oftentimes dad is there. “It’s cool because I get some swings in and he gets some swings in,” says Randy Moss. “I don’t miss a game. He’s my favorite player. I built him. He plays the game the right way. He makes my heart happy. “He’s just a dream come true for me.” The NKU Norse are the No. 6 seed in the six-team Horizon League tournament which begins today (May 25) at Wright State in Dayton, Ohio. In 51 games (all starts), Treyvin Moss is hitting .292 (62-of-212) with three home runs, one triple, 15 doubles, 35 runs batted in and 34 runs scored. He is also 10-of-12 in stolen bases. One of the highlights of 2022 for Moss was NKU’s three-game series at Mississippi State, home of the 2021 College World Series champions. “It was a great experience,” says Moss, who got to see famed Dudy Noble Field and the baseball-crazed MSU fans as the Norse lead-off hitter and right fielder. “That’s a different level of baseball.” “As a competitor you want to play against the best of the best. That’s what you prepare and train for.” Fans heckled but they also showed hospitality by sharing hamburgers and brats from their cookout with the NKU players. In 2021, Moss played in 47 games (46 starts) and hit .298 with 21 RBIs and 24 runs scored. In the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, he started all 11 games and hit .297 with two RBIs and six runs. He also drew nine walks and posted a .460 on-base percentage. He has received the Bill Aker Scholarship from a fund endowed by NKU’s first head baseball coach. A middle infielder in high school and at the beginning of his college career, Moss has been used mostly in right field the past two seasons though he has played some second base when injuries cropped up on the team this spring. “I enjoy the outfield a lot,” says Treyvin Moss, who stands just shy of 6-foot-3 and weighs about 185 pounds. “I’m better suited there with arm and speed. I love the infield and I always will.” There’s not as much action in the outfield, but he needs to be ready when the time comes. “(In the outfield) you need to focus a little more make sure you don’t take a pitch off,” says Treyvin Moss. “You’ve got to stay disciplined.” Randy Moss knows that concept. His junior season at Fort Wayne North Side High School (1982), the team had just one senior was predicted to finish low in conference play and went 10-0. “It was all on incredible discipline and coaching,” says Randy Moss, who played for three head coaches at North Side — Myron Dickerson, Dale Doerffler and Jim Dyer — and was later junior varsity and head coach at his alma mater. After graduating North Side in 1983, Moss went to Vincennes (Ind.) University and San Diego State University, where he learned from Aztecs coach Jim Dietz (who coached 30 years before giving the reins to Tony Gwynn). Tearing his rotator cuff while chasing a ball in the gap while at SDSU, Randy underwent shoulder surgery and transferred to Huntington (Ind.) College (now Huntington University). For the Foresters, he hit .380 his last season and was a National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association All-America selection. Randy Moss went on to play for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets, Fort Wayne Rangers and in the Men’s Senior Baseball League. He participated in the Roy Hobbs World Series for 35-and-over in Fort Myers, Fla. He was inducted into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame. He is now director of player development and vice president of the Fort Wayne-based Summit City Sluggers (Mark DeLaGarza is founder and president) and owns Moss Painting & Home Improvement. He has about 15 young training clients and is also very involved with the Sluggers 12U team. “I love teaching kids,” says Randy Moss, 57. “It’s so rewarding.” Besides Treyvin, Randy has three daughters — Nicole (33), Alaya (16) and Tatum (8). Treyvin Moss was born and raised in Fort Wayne and began playing for his father’s 10U Stars travel team at 8. From there he went to the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro and Midwest Rangers. He played at Lakewood Park Christian School in Auburn, Ind., as a freshman. He went to Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian and did not play as a sophomore. His last two prep seasons came at Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, where Matt Urban was the head coach. “He was more of a relaxed positive guy,” says Moss of Urban. “But he really wanted to win.” Moss hit .540 as a senior in 2018 and received a few junior college offers. He played that summer with the Midwest Rangers. It was while playing a tournament on the NKU campus that he attracted the attention of the Norse coaching staff. He joined the team then got the news that he would be redshirted as a freshman. “It was tough,” says Treyvin Moss. “I was upset about the redshirt for sure. “But it’s outside my control. I kept working hard. “I’ve loved every single bit about NKU.” Long-time Norse assistant Dizzy Peyton took over as head coach in 2022. “Diz is probably one of my favorite coaches that I’ve had in my life,” says Treyvin Moss. “He’s very down to earth. You can tell he enjoys being around the game and being around his kids. “He has an open-door policy.” Steve Dintaman, who was head coach at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, is an NKU assistant. Hunter Losekamp, who played and coached at Huntington U., is the volunteer assistant. Moss, who has two years of college eligibility remaining and is a Business major on pace to graduate in the spring of 2023, is scheduled to play in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. The CSL’s third season is to begin June 5.
Jason Pierce knows what kind of identity he wants for his Bluffton (Ind.) High School baseball team. “Our motto is to control what we can control,” says Pierce, who asks his Tigers not to dwell on mistakes and to rally together. “We’re very much a family here. This sport has a lot of ups and down. We want our players to have controlled aggression and do the little things the best they possibly can.” Pierce stresses life lessons, high academics and building maturity in young men. “We want to productive members of society,” says Pierce, who took over the program before the 2020 season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic after seven seasons as head coach at Eastside Junior/Senior High School (Butler, Ind.) and two campaigns leading the Churubusco (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School program. “You learn that through team sports.” Bluffton went 14-16-1 in 2021 with five on-run losses and a pair of one-run victories with a team featuring just one senior starter. “We’re young on paper, but we’ve got a lot of experience on the field,” says Pierce in looking ahead to 2022. “We’ve got a lot of athletes. We’re in a really good spot with guys who can move around the field. “As long as we can keep our heads I think we’re going to be a pretty dangerous baseball team.” The 14 players on Bluffton’s MaxPreps.com roster (as of March 28) include six seniors — middle infielder/pitcher Brock Drayer, outfielder/catcher Lukas Hunt, outfielder/pitcher/first baseman Dylan King, outfielder/pitcher/shortstop Kyler Rolston, pitcher/first baseman Grant Thompson and pitcher/outfielder Kayden Vineyard plus four juniors in corner infielder/pitcher Curtis Ellis, catcher/outfielder Kayden King, pitcher/infielder/outfielder, outfielder/pitcher Austin Lewis, Andrew Onuegbu and outfielder/pitcher Drew Pressler and three sophomores in pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Braxton Betancourt, middle infielder/pitcher Eli Garrett and catcher/pitcher Brody Lewis. Left-hander Betancourt (5-5, 1.43 earned run average, 97 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings) was the Tigers’ No. 1 pitcher in 2021 and Pierce expects him to have the same role in 2022. Bluffton is to open the season Tuesday, April 5 at New Haven. On a team with as many as 10 players can be effective pitchers, Pierce looks at right-hander Ellis as his probable No. 2. Kaleb Riley (Class of 2021) is now on the baseball team at Indiana University South Bend. Bluffton (enrollment around 470) is a member of the Allen County Athletic Conference (with Adams Central, Heritage, Jay County, South Adams, Southern Wells and Woodlan). The Tigers is scheduled play Adams Central and Southern Wells twice with the second game counting toward the ACAC standings. Bluffton is slated to meet Heritage, Jay County, South Adams and Woodlan one time each. In 2021, the Tigers were runner-up in a IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Adams Central, Eastside (host and champion), Churubusco, South Adams and Woodlan. Bluffton has won five sectional crowns — the last in 2019. Bluffton plays home games on Everett Scott Field. The facility on the north side of the campus is named after the Indiana Hall of Famer who played in a then-record 1,307 consecutive games for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees 1916-25. Providing early diamond opportunities is Bluffton Youth Baseball (T-ball to age 15). Most high school players are with travel organizations, including the Indiana Bandits, Midwest Aces and Summit City Sluggers. Pierce’s 2022 coaching staff features Tim Garrett, Marco Betancourt (pitching coach) and Doug Pressler with the varsity and Trae Jojola and Cody Harris with the junior varsity. A 1993 graduate of St. Marys (Ohio) High School, Pierce played one season at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio, and then transferred to Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. He got hurt in the fall and did not get to play for Lance Hershberger’s Warriors. Pierce, who teaches seventh grade at Bluffton-Harrison Middle School, has two daughters — Leo sophomore Lillian (16) and Heritage grade schooler Harper (8).
Bryce Shafer faces a distinctive challenge as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the Kankakee (Ill.) Community College baseball program. A former right-handed pitcher at Northfield High School in Wabash, Ind., and Valparaiso (Ind.) University as well as in the Chicago Cubs system and independent pro ball (Frontier Greys and River City Rascals), Shafter is preparing for his seventh season at KCC — a two-year school and a member of National Junior College Athletic Association Region 4. “Junior college is definitely unique,” says Shafer, 33. “You’re always recruiting and trying to get your guys recruited. “Year to year, your roster changes so much.” As the Cavaliers get ready for the 2022 season opener on March 4 at Southeastern Illinois College, four of Shafer’s sophomore pitchers — starters Kyle Iwinski (Purdue), Matt Lelito (Toledo), Dylan Wolff (Eastern Michigan) and reliever Gavin King (Eastern Michigan) — have already made commitments to NCAA Division I schools. Three others are close to declaring their next stop. Right-handers Iwinski (Griffith) and Lelito (Andrean) and left-hander King (Bluffton) are from Indiana high schools. Righty Wolff hails went to Joliet (Ill.) West. Since 2016, Shafer has seen 25 of his pitchers move on to four-year schools or the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Eleven to NCAA Division I; six to NCAA Division II; five to NAIA; and two (West Noble’s Waylon Richardson and Dylan Dodd) to the MLB Draft. Richardson was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies (2018) and Dodd was selected 96th overall by the Atlanta Braves in the third round in 2021. Last spring, the Cavaliers pitching staff broke the KCC single-season strikeout record with 491. “It’s really about development,” says Shafer. “We have something going the full year-round. “There’s pitchers’ strength and speed development in the off-season. Now we’re now getting them ready for competition. “It’s all about developing players and getting the most out of them. Junior college is a stepping stone. We realize we’re not a destination. Shater, who is on a staff with head coach Todd Post and hitting/catching coach Nick Ulrey (a New Palestine graduate), uses networking to find players to develop at KCC. “As a junior college, you get told ‘no’ a lot,” says Shafer, who looks at a roster full of Illinois and Indiana players but also has a two from Canada, one from Missouri and a shortstop — Beyonce Paulina — from Curacao. “It’s about the connections you make,” says Shafer of the recruiting process. “You watch film. Some numbers help. Velocity is always nice. We look at mechanics. Can we clean him up and make him better? “We look at the body type. How does he move? “We always talk to their coaches. We get their whole background and make sure there’s not any red flags.” Kankakee coaches Shafer, Post and Ulrey all weigh in on player evaluations. “I pride myself in being able to look at a limited amount of video to see if this kid can be successful at this level and what can we do to make them better,” says Shafer. “We want good kids from good families that get good grades and want to be better at baseball. My goal is to get our players at their highest level of baseball.” That means teaching the physical and mental sides of the game. “We try to put our guys in difficult situations and how to handle it,” says Shafer, who earned a Psychology degree at Fort Hayes State University. “We teach pitchers what they need to think about and to avoid things they can’t control, focus on the next pitch and the hitters’ weaknesses.” It’s about handling adversity. “We do a good job of that here,” says Shafer. “It’s definitely a priority.” Shafer grew up around Wabash and played travel ball for the Summit City Sluggers, Jarrod Parker, Kyle Leindecker, Scott Woodward and Rhett Goodmiller. Parker pitched in the big leagues. Leindecker played at Indiana University, Woodward at Coastal Carolina University and indy ball and Goodmiller Central Michigan University and Taylor University. At Northfield, Shafer helped the Norsemen to the IHSAA Class 2A Final Four in 2006, and graduated in 2007. Tony Uggen, who is now in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, was his head coach. “He was always very professional,” says Shafer of Uggen. “We had to have our shirts tucked in and look and act like ballplayers. It was a disciplined system. The basics were always there. We did things right. “If you stay focus and disciplined the whole time, you can have a pretty good high school team.” While he was barely 5-foot, 100 pounds, Shafer made varsity as a freshman. “I thought I was getting cut,” says Shafer. “I had to out-work people because I was so small.” By graduation he was 5-10 and around 150. In college, he grew to 6-1 and 185. “I learned that you need to need to be big if you want to last,” says Shafer. “We play 56 games in 2 1/2 months at (KCC). Guys can break down if their bodies aren’t ready.” At Valpo, Shafer played for head coach Tracy Woodson and pitching coach Brian Schmack (who is now VU head coach). “He taught me to be calm, handle situations and embrace where you’re at,” says Shafer of Schmack. “Just remember the people — not necessarily the facilities.” While attending the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago in January, Shafer gravitated to mental performance presenters like Brian Cain. “I got a lot out of it,” says Shafer. “That is the most under-accessed part of the game. To succeed at the highest level need to be mentally tough.” Some of the books read by Shafer lately are “The Mental ABCs of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement” by Harvey Dorfman and “The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental Emotional Physical Conditioning from One of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists” by James E. Loehr. “It’s how champions think,” says Shafer. “If you can teach that to a young guy really, you’re doing something right.” Bryce and wife Jill have two sons — Carver (4) and Callum (2).