By STEVE KRAH
Kyle Cortner has been part of something special in his first season as a member of the Indiana State University baseball team.
A left-handed pitcher from Fishers, Ind. and a 2020 Indianapolis Cathedral High School graduate, Cortner contributed along the way to a squad that is 45-15 going into the Fort Worth Super Regional against Texas Christian University (40-22).
Game 1 in the best-of-three series is at 5 p.m. ET today (June 9). Game 2 is at 6 p.m. ET Saturday. If a third game is necessary that will be Sunday. The College World Series in Omaha, Neb., is June 16-26.
“It’s very exciting,” says Cortner, who has made seven mound appearances (six in relief) so far in 2023 and gone 0-0 with a 4.91 earned run average, four strikeouts and four walks in 7 1/3 innings. He last pitched in a game on May 20.
“I’ve been in the bullpen,” says Cortner of his current role. “They want me facing mainly (left-handed hitters) if possible and being a match-up guy.”
Cortner, 21, came to Terre Haute after two seasons at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., There, the southpaw pitched in 20 games (all in relief) and won three saves with a 4.80 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 60 walks in 69 1/3 innings.
As a left-handed hitter, he posted a .283 average (66-of-233) with 13 home runs, 11 doubles, 41 runs batted in and 61 runs scored. He was a first baseman when not pitching as a freshman and took on more starting pitcher responsibilities and played less at first as a sophomore. He gave up the bat and infielder duty when he went to ISU.
“It’s definitely difficult to do both,” says Cortner.
Kevin Bowers followed current Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs as Lincoln Trail field boss.
“I got introduced to (Hannahs’) coaching style so that helped a lot,” says Cortner of Bowers. “He’s pretty hard-nosed. It’s junior college and there’s not a lot of room for error. You’re there to get better.”
Bowers made his Statesmen toe the line off the field, insisting that they behave correctly and tend to their studies.
“He kept me in-line for two straight years and helped me get (to Indiana State),” says Cortner.
The lefty has enjoyed his time with Hannahs.
“I really like him as a coach,” says Cortner. “He’s brutally honest. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. He tells it as it is.
“He’s a good motivator. He knows how to fire up the team. He brings a blue-collar style of coaching to Indiana State which has helped us a lot after starting out so slow. He’s not going to hold your hand and guide you along the process.”
Hannahs knew there more to a club that started the season 2-8. Later on, the Sycamores went on a 14-game win streak.
Cortner spends much of his time with ISU pitching coach and former big leaguer Justin Hancock.
“He’s helped me develop my slider more and focus on certain pitches that will get more outs like my slider and my fastball command for sure,” says Cortner of Hancock. “And with moving my body down the mound better. I came in not doing that very well. It’s helped me rhythm and being more consistent.”
A 6-foot-3, 215-pounder with a three-quarter overhand arm slot, Cortner mixes a four-seam fastball, slider and change-up.
The four-seamer has been clocked at 90 mph. The slider tends to travel 10-to-4 on the clock with “more vertical than normal” movement.
He throws a “circle” change.
“It rolls off the outside of my middle finger,” says Cortner, who has also been working on adding a cutter to his pitch mix.
Is it true that left-handers just have natural movement on their pitches?
“Every lefty that I play with here does not throw a straight fastball ever,” says Cortner.
Born in Indianapolis, Cortner grew up in Fishers. He attended grades K-8 at St. Simon the Apostle School in Indianapolis.
His travel baseball teams were the HSE Cats at 8U and 9U, Matt Turner-coached Indiana Propects from 10U to 12U, USAthletic at 13U and Turner-coached Indy Sharks from 14U to 18U.
At Cathedral, Cortner played for Ed Freje. As an Irish junior in 2019, the lefty went 6-0 with an 0.68 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 12 walks in 31 innings. He also knocked in 19 runs.
The COVID-19 pandemic took away his senior season. He did play in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020 and returned the next summer. He was with the Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex in the summer of 2022 and expects to join the Kokomo (Ind.) Jackrabbits when Indiana State’s 2023 season is done.
Kyle’s mother — Jennifer Cortner — is the escrow manager at Summit Title in Carmel, Ind. Older sister Katelyn (Cortner) Schaefer (Cathedral Class of 2018) played volleyball in high school and one year at Aurora University and is now a nurse.