Tag Archives: Teacher

Willard follows father as Eastside Blazers head coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Eastside Junior/Senior High School athletics has been a big part of Cade Willard’s world all of his 23 years.
His parents — Aaron and Kerri Willard — have both been employed by DeKalb Eastern Community School District.
Cade played baseball and basketball for the Butler, Ind.-based Eastside Blazers — Jason Pierce for the first two years (2014 and 2015) and his father for the last two (2016 and 2017) on the diamond and Ryan Abbott on the hardwood.
A right-handed pitcher, Willard played three seasons at Purdue Fort Wayne (2019-21). He redshirted in 2018. He appeared in 92 games (all in relief) for the Mastodons. His head coach the last two seasons was Doug Schreiber.
“Throughout my career I’ve been blessed with good coaches,” says Willard.
Graduating in 2021 as a Business Management major and Marketing minor, Willard went to work at Eastside teaching Business and Computer Science and joined his father’s baseball coaching staff.
After an IHSAA Class 2A state runner-up finish in 2021, Eastside won another sectional title in 2022. The Kelly Green & White went 26-7 in ’21 and 21-8 in ’22.
Eastside (enrollment around 380) is a member of the Northeast Corner Conference (with Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, Prairie Heights, West Noble and Westview).
The Blazers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2023 with Central Noble, Churubusco, Prairie Heights, Westview and Whitko. Eastside has won seven sectional titles.
Aaron Willard was a North coach and Owen Willard — little brother of former volleyball/softball athlete Madison (Willard) Shelter (Class of 2014) and Cade — was the MVP at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
At the end of the season, Aaron Willard kept his athletic director tag but passed the head coaching baton to Cade.
His decision to pursue business or education and coaching was made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I grew up around Eastside my whole life,” says Cade. “It seemed right.
“It makes it more special being in your hometown.”
Aaron and elementary P.E. teacher Kerri now have more time to see right-hander Owen pitch at PFW.
Cade is also an assistant to Ed Bentley on the Blazers varsity boys basketball staff. Willard found time to lead IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activities (two days a week for two hours) in the fall and will do so again in the winter, beginning Dec. 5. He will roll right from basketball to baseball on some days.
“In the fall, we got better, got in a routine and got our hitting philosophies down,” says Willard, who had eight to 10 high schoolers at each session along with a handful of junior high players. “On paper, we had our starting infield out there.
“It’s important to get kids in before the holidays. We can see what numbers we have.”
Cade wants the ones who are able to attend to get used to his practice structure.
“The past few years we’ve been successful,” says Willard. “It’s about keeping the tradition alive.
““We’re always a scrappy team. I want to get our guys ready to compete. We have a few spots to fill. We were super senior-heavy last year.
“For some it will be the first time playing varsity baseball. Toward the end of the season we’ll be alright.”
Besides Owen Willard, Class of 2022’s Nick Snyder moved on to college baseball at Indiana University Southeast.
Willard has a mixture of seasoned and younger assistant coaches.
“I think it’s important to bring on experienced guys who know what to do in different situations,” says Willard.
Eastern graduate Tony Emenhiser — who coached with Pierce and Aaron Willard — is back. Alum Gary Kaiser was also on Pierce’s staff.
Conner Dove is junior varsity head coach and is assisted by Mike Gustin. Dove was an Eastside classmate of Willard. He was a teammate of Prairie Heights graduate Gustin at Trine University (Angola, Ind.).
Willard expects to have around two dozen players for varsity and JV squads. Among returnees is Class of 2024’s Loden Johnson and Ryder Reed and Class of 2025’s Jace Mayberry.
Pitchers will be asked to throw strikes and keep the ball low and away from he middle of the plate.
“Free bases hurt,” says Willard. “You can throw two pitches for strikes and get away with it and be effective with three.
“In our non-conference games we’ll see who can throw and who cannot throw. It’ll get us ready for rather get ready for conference in the later weeks.
There will be a lot of juggling (of positions) this year for sure. We want to put the best lineup out there for conference.”
Eastside plays home contests on-campus at Michael D. Fieldler Field. The diamond played host to a fall league and has had its dugouts upgraded with other projects in the works.
Bobcat Youth League locations at Butler and Riverdale-St. Joe develop players that end up at Eastside. Fifth and sixth graders travel to play area teams, including in Hicksville, Ohio. Butler is about four miles from the Indiana-Ohio line.
The non-conference high school season tends to include Ohio opponents like Archbold, Edgerton and Fairview.
A youth camp is planned at Eastside for the spring.
“It is important to get youth kids enjoying and playing baseball
doing it the right way,” says Willard. “Dad — being AD — says that’s an area you could blossom in with time over the long run.”

Cade Willard.
Cade Willard.
Aaron Willard (left) and Cade Willard.
Owen Willard (left) and Cade Willard.
Cade (left), Owen, Kerri and Aaron Willard.

IHSBCA Hall of Famers Calloway, Phares reflect, share views

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Ty Calloway and George Phares were on opposite sides as coaches of baseball and basketball in Indiana’s Howard County.
Calloway, a 1968 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville was at his alma mater and 1965 Shelbyville Senior High School grad Phares at Taylor High School on the side side of Kokomo.
Success came to both men and Phares (656-412 in seven seasons at Morristown and 31 at Taylor with an IHSAA Class 2A state championship for the Titans in 2000) was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. Calloway (662-310 with a 3A state title in 2012) joined his friend in the Hall in 2012 and retired after the 2013 season.
Taylor’s diamond was renamed Phares Field in 2006. After retiring from the classroom, he helped out at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion on the staffs of Mark DeMichael and Chad Newhard for seven or eight years.
Phares says he enjoyed his interactions with former Bethel University assistant and fellow IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dick Siler.
Future major league pitcher Brandon Beachy went Northwestern High School in Howard County to IWU.
Phares also volunteered at Taylor and Kokomo and could be seen in recent years helping each January with registration at the IHSBCA State Clinic in Indianapolis. He is also on Hall of Fame selection committees.
As retirees, Calloway and Phares share a log cabin on Dewart Lake near Leesburg in Kosciusko County. They often spend New Year’s Eve there with wives Dallas Calloway and Martha Phares.
Ty and Dallas are the parents of Wendy and Betsy. George and Martha have Jennifer, Tim and Susan.
“We are the second-most famous George and Martha in the United States,” says Phares with a nod to the Washington’s.
Recently, Calloway and Phares offered their views on a variety of topics related to baseball and education.
Calloway was in the last eighth grade class that went through in Taylor Township prior to the completion of the high school.
Ty’s two younger brothers — two and three years behind him — both went to Taylor.
“My parents had to split time going to my games and their games,” says Ty, who got to compete against middle brother Mike on both the diamond and the basketball court.
Mike’s class played a junior varsity schedule as freshmen then a varsity schedule as sophomores.
There was one baseball game between the two schools where Ty was on second base and one of his teammates hit a deep fly to center field.
“We didn’t have fences back then at Western,” says Ty. “Mike took off and I thought for sure it was over his head and I came all the way and stepped on home plate. All of a sudden, he did one of those ‘Willie Mays’ over-the-back catches. I had to retreat back. He threw (me) out at second.
“I was at shortstop when we picked Mike off second base. That was an interesting game.”
Ty and Mike guarded each other on the hardwood.
There was one season of baseball for Ty at Ball State University in Muncie and summers with the Kokomo Highlanders. He went on to earn a bachelors and a masters degree at BSU. He applied in several places but was offered a chance to teach and coach at Western by Norm Llewellyn and took it.
Calloway taught middle school Health and Physical Education.
Beginning in the spring of 1974, he was JV baseball coach for four years. He was also a varsity assistant or JV boys basketball coach for about 20 years.
Phares played baseball at Seymour High School as a freshman and the next three at Shelbyville. He went to Indiana State University and was cut from the team.
He graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Physical Education and went to Morristown in 1969-70.
“I had played (American) Legion baseball at Morristown and knew a lot of people there,” says Phares. “They hired me as a junior high baseball coach. I graduated from college on Sunday and Monday I started working. I was made head coach at the end of the first year.
“Throughout my high school career I was always the head baseball coach.”
Phares was also a varsity assistant in basketball at the beginning of his time at Taylor.
Calloway says it was his raising with his brothers and sister that led to his philosophy as a coach.
“My dad taught self-discipline and being responsible,” says Ty. “No matter whatever did give 100 percent effort and that’s what I told (our players) we’re gonna get.”
At tryout time when it came down to cutting down the roster and Calloway had two players of equal ability, character would be the tiebreaker.
Students and athletes on Calloway’s watch were expected to behave.
“You can’t win with kids who have bad character,” says Calloway. “You’ve got to have good kids.
“As much as you can you’ve got to be a good role model for those kids.”
Between the lines, Calloway stressed fundamentals and saw to it that those were being taught at Russiaville Little League.
Among those fundamentals was the proper throwing mechanics.
“The teams that win games are the teams that play the best pitch and catch,” says Calloway. “That’s a fact.”
Calloway organized practices where his player got plenty of repetitions and got better.
“In high school baseball, reps is the key to winning,” says Calloway. “Sometimes I said we play too many games. We need a couple more practice in-between.”
Calloway says games are where skills are showcased. Practices are where they are built.
One Western player who got better even after being cut multiple times was Steve Bagby. He started as a senior then played in the outfield at Coastal Carolina University.
“He was one of those kids who just kept getting better and better and better,” says Calloway of Bagby. “He matured and he worked on a skill.”
Both former coaches talked about dealing with parents.
“I was blessed,” says Phares. “I really didn’t have problems mount. I had parents who were unhappy. I tried to explain things to them and — for the most part — it worked out OK.
“You try to be fair.”
Calloway says he had few problems with parents during his lengthy career.
“You went to be straight up with them,” says Calloway. “You want the administration to back you.”
Phares, who later coached in the college ranks, made a point of being a straight shooter when a college coach came to evaluate of one of his players or even others in the area.
“I was always honest with him,” says Phares. “High school coaches can’t lie to those college coaches. You gotta tell the truth.
“Most parents would rank their kid better in their skill level than where they’re at. It’s just nature.”
Calloway was the same way. He’d know an athlete’s potential and his maturity level and would share that with recruiters.
“You’ve got to have the skill,” says Calloway. “And you have to have the strength and the speed. I’ve had a kid who had the skill and strength but was slower than molasses and couldn’t play at the (NCAA) Division I level.”
Many parents and players don’t realize that a “full-ride” scholarship is a rare thing in college baseball with rosters of 30-plus and 13.7 scholarships at the D-I level (and less at D-II, NAIA etc.).
Phares became a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in 1955 the year the team won the World Series and his home is full of Dodgers memorabilia.
Through his relationship with Dodgers scout Dale McReynolds (who signed Bob Welch, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Howe), there is a photo of Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda standing with Phares and Calloway.
It was the New York Yankees — who won plenty and were on the “Game of the Week” on TV with Dizzy Dean and Peewee Reese at the mic as Calloway was growing up that became his team.
The coaching veterans are not fans of some of baseball’s changes reflected in Major League Baseball and moving down.
“It’s changed for the worse,” says Phares. “Now the baseball game has become kind of a side show and all the antics of the players.
“They all have to flip their bats, stare down and do this and do that. I just don’t like it. It’s television. That’s what they want. I can’t stand to watch the Little League World Series anymore. They’re encouraging those kids to act like (the bat-flipping big leaguers).
“When they get to high school they’re got a bad attitude.”
Calloway sees a lot of self-centered behavior.
“The the Little League to the high school you’re starting to see kids where it’s about ‘me’ instead of ‘we.’”
He sees it reflected in Kokomo shrinking at the neighborhood park level. Many are leaving for travel ball and the youth leagues have shut down leaving them to play at Championship Park.
“We had a park in about every little area of town — UCT, Southside, Indian Heights, Northside,” says Calloway. “Local teams now are dwindling.”
When Calloway was coaching he would often have his top players on a travel or American Legion team and then there was a focus on the others.
“If I could devote time and make my 6 through 9 players better than your 6 through 9 players I’m going to beat you because baseball is consistently up and down the lineup,” says Calloway. “We would work in the off-season to develop these kids.”
Phares always enjoyed going to clinics and attended about four every year. He went with a purpose.
“My goal is to find one thing that we can use that will fit the Taylor Titan program that we can use to make us better,” says Phares. “I don’t think most coaches have a program. They play their games and they spend all winter going to these (showcase) camps and saying this kid throws 95 mph.”
The way Phares sees it, a testament to a program is one that can do well with multi-sport athletes who have chosen not to specialize in one area.
“(Taylor) didn’t have enough athletes and had to pass them around,” says Phares.

George Phares (left) and Ty Calloway. (Steve Krah Photo)

New head coach Blocker seeks ‘efficient’ Southwood Knights

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Cory Blocker moves up from varsity assistant to head baseball coach at Southwood Junior/Senior High School in Wabash, Ind., in 2022-23.
Borrowing a motto from another coach, Blocker wants the Knights to be “efficient.”
“In practice drills, we’re not standing around but getting plenty of swings and taking game-like reps,” says Blocker, who wants to see efficiency in the field, on the mound and in the batter’s box.
Southwood left 6.6 runners on base per game and committed 88 fielding errors in going 5-17-1 in 2022.
“We want to make the plays behind our pitchers,” says Blocker. “We want to have an (offensive) approach and understand our job each time we go to the plate. We’ll try to put ourselves in the best position to achieve that job.”
If the Knights have a runner on first base, the job will entail moving them at least to second base.
“We want to make (opposing) pitchers work and make every out count,” says Blocker, who wants to see his hitters make contact and increase their batting average on balls in play.
Pitching efficiency includes mechanics, throwing strikes and liming walks.
Among Southwood returnees for 2023 is senior catcher Mo Lloyd, who hit .452 with 12 home runs and 40 runs batted in for 2002 and hitting .480 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs for a 22-7 team in 2021.
Besides Blocker, the coaching staff features returnees Danny Lloyd and Christian Deeter and newcomers in pitching coach Kyle Zerfas and junior varsity coach Tanner Chamberlain.
There were about 25 players in the program — varsity and JV — in 2022.
Blocker is in his eighth year as a Southwood teacher. He instructs sixth grade math and is at the junior/high school building for the first time in 2022-23.
He has been a baseball and football assistant for seven years. This fall, he was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach. The 2022 Southwood football team went 7-3.
Because of when Blocker was named head coach and his football duties, there were no IHSAA Limited Contact Period activities in the fall.
The Knights play home games on-campus on a facility sometimes called “The Launching Pad” for its cozy dimensions. Blocker says its about 280 feet down the foul lines.
Wabash Little League serves Wabash County and feeds players to Southwood, Manchester, Northfield and Wabash high schools.
Southwood (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Three Rivers Conference (with Maconaquah, Manchester, Northfield, North Miami, Peru, Rochester, Tippecanoe Valley, Wabash and Whitko).
In recent seasons, TRC teams met each other once during the season. There is no conference tournament.
The Knights part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2023 with Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield and West Central. Southwood has won five sectional titles — the last in 2021.
A 2009 graduate of Huntington (Ind.) North High School, Blocker played four years of football, three of baseball and two of basketball. His head coaches were Rief Gilg (the Vikings went 8-3 in 2008, Blocker’s senior year on the gridiron), Russ Degitz and Eric Foister.
“A lot of our time in baseball was spent with the little details,” says Blocker of Degitz. “He was a big fundamental guy.
“They were all coaches that were hard on you but cared about you at the same time and made sure that was relayed in everything they did.”
Blocker spent two years at Purdue University and four at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, graduating in 2015.
Cory and Brittany Blocker have been married five years. The couple resides in Wabash and has three children — daughter Wrenley (3), son Wesley (1 1/2) and daughter Willow (almost eight months).

Cory Blocker. (Frederick’s Photography)
Cory and Brittany Blocker with children (from left): Wrenley, Wesley and Willow.

Hall of Famer Kas heading into second season as Lafayette Jeff assistant

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dennis Kas has spent many a spring and summer on a baseball diamond.
The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer (Class of 2000) had no specific plans to do that in 2022.
It was while attending his grandsons’ basketball games in Lafayette in November 2021 that Kas ran into Clayton Richard, the former Indiana Mr. Baseball at McCutcheon High School who pitched against Kas’ Noblesville teams and went on to the big leagues and had been hired as head baseball coach at Lafayette Jeff.
That chance meeting led to an invitation for Kas to join Richard’s Jeff coaching staff.
Kas accepted and acted as bench coach and helped out in a variety of ways and is doing the same again in 2022-23.
“I worked offensively with the kids this fall,” says Kas, 70. “(Clayton) likes to lean on me a little bit during the course of games and ask my opinion about certain situations.”
Kas has developed a philosophy as a coach.
“In baseball, there’s so much in the game you can’t control,” says Kas. “You’d better be good at the things you can control.
“For me, that starts with your preparation. I cannot know what my opponents are doing with their time. I just have to be confident that we’re out-working them.
“It’s our discipline, our approach to things, our toughness, the character we show, our resiliency. They come to the forefront in baseball because those are things you can control in preparing your kids.”
It’s those principles that are being promoted by the Jeff staff.
“We want to do our part in developing quality young men,” says Kas. “We want to develop players. We expect to win games. In order to do that it takes a lot of time and commitment. We’re raising the demands.”
Kas says players often make defensive mistakes when they get caught by surprise because they are lacking in preparation.
“I never wanted to ask kid to do something in a game that I had not prepared him to do in practice,” says Kas. “That’s totally unfair.”
The coach is a proponent of hitters putting the ball in-play.
“Never underestimate the ability of your opponent to screw up,” says Kas. “In baseball, the best way to do that is the force the action. We had better be causing some havoc for the (opposing) defense.
“I’m a big believer in being resourceful offensively. You’ve got to be able to bunt the baseball. Use a little hit-and-run. It depends on our personnel. Let’s get hit by pitches if we have players who understand that concept and are willing to do it. Let’s find a way to get on-base.”
On defense, it comes down to executing every play. There is nothing “routine.”
“If we can control those kinds of things and be fundamentally sound defensively then I think we give ourselves the best chance to win,” says Kas. “It’s unfair to have to go to pitchers and say we’ve got to have you strike out 10 guys for us to have a chance.”
Kas notes that a successful formula for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros was the ability to rack up strikeouts by its pitching staff while limiting those as hitters.
“That was their secret to success,” says Kas. “They put the ball in-play — even at that level.”
The Astros fanned 160 of 498 batters faced and whiffed 118 times in 455 at-bats themselves during an 11-2 postseason run.
Prior to coaching at Jeff, Kas spent a couple of years assisting Andy Dudley at Frankfort.
Dudley was a teammate of Jade Kas — Dennis’ oldest son and an IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series participant in 1995 — at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Dennis Kas spent 22 years as an Indiana high school head coach — five at Clinton Prairie and 17 at Noblesville — and amassed a 464-210 mark with five conference, seven sectional and one regional title.
He had 53 players receive baseball scholarships, five selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, 13 chosen IHSBCA Academic All-State, 12 pick as All-State and 12 named to the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series.
Kas served two terms as IHSBCA president and assisted the organization in many other ways. Recently he was in charge of conducting the Junior Showcase during All-Star weekend.
He spent a couple of years as a volunteer coach at Butler University and six as a paid assistant to Mike Frame at Huntington (Ind.) University while commuting from Noblesville.
Kas has also coached for the Indiana Bulls organization with sons Jade and Austan.
A 1970 graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and 1974 graduate of Anderson College (now Anderson University), Kas started teaching in 1974-75 and served in that capacity for 37 1/2 years in the Clinton Prairie (12), Noblesville (24) and Clinton Central (1 1/2) school systems.
Kas was coaxed out of retirement by a former teaching colleague Melissa Perry and Jeremy Rodibaugh, who played at Huntington University during the coach’s time with the Foresters and was now principal at Clinton Central Elementary School.
For the second semester of one school year and the whole next year, Kas taught Spanish before retiring from the classroom the second time.
He moved from Noblesville to Frankfort more than three years ago to be closer to family.
Catherine “Cathe” Kas died Dec. 9, 2021. She and Dennis had been married and remained great friends.
Dennis has three children — Jade, Austan and Cheyenne — and seven grandchildren (Brady, Sydnie, Charlie, Jacoby, Xyan, Jalen and Sloan).
Jade Kas (who is married to Crysta) lives in the McCutcheon school district and works for Eli Lily.
Former sports editor Austan Kas (Ashley) resides in Fort Wayne and is involved with fantasy sports websites. He played at Huntington U. when his dad coached there.
Cheyenne (Chris Taylor) lives in Frankort and directs the Clinton County Human Society.

Dennis Kas. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)
The Bronchos baseball staff of 2022. (Lafayette Jefferson High School Baseball Photo)

Alum Redford first-year head coach, teacher for New Albany Bulldogs

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tim Redford was a player at New Albany (Ind.) High School when he proclaimed that one day he’d be the Bulldogs head baseball coach.
He just didn’t know that he’d be 24 when that proclamation came true.
Redford, a 2016 New Albany graduate, was offered in the job that came open with the retirement of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chris McIntyre in July and was school-board approved in early August.
The former catcher is also a first-year teacher with three hours each of Health and Physical Education each school day at NAHS.
Redford is heading into the fourth week of IHSAA Limited Contact practice. Twenty players who are not tied up with fall or winter sports have been on Mt. Tabor Field for two hours on Mondays and Thursdays.
“It’s nice,” says Redford of the limited contact. “I haven’t seen these kids play. I can figure out what we’ve got.”
Redford says heavy weightlifting and conditioning will likely start after fall break.
The past two years, Redford has been an assistant baseball coach at NAIA member Rheinhardt University (Waleska, Ga.).
“I love the college level,” says Redford. “But there’s nothing like home.”
Redford, who turns 25 in January, played for McIntyre. He was New Albany head coach for 26 seasons.
“He helped us off the field as much as on it with becoming good husbands, fathers and citizens,” says Redford for Coach Mac. “A lot of these kids aren’t going to play college baseball and it’s important.
“He did an incredible job.”
Redford was a catcher at New Albany and then at Kaskaskia College (a junior college in Centralia, Ill.) and NAIA member William Woods University (Fulton, Mo.). He says this experience helped prepare him for coaching.
“Catching is the hardest position in baseball in my opinion,” says Redford. “You’re involved in every play
be the quarterback on the field.”
Former Purdue University All-American Mitch Koester was Redford’s head coach at Kaskaskia.
“He’s great coach and a very, very good recruiter,” says Redford, whose college decision out of New Albany came down to the KC and John A. Logan in Carterville, Ill. “He’s a players’ coach. He knows his stuff.”
In two seasons at William Woods, Redford played for two head coaches — Brock Nehls (who went on to be pitching coach at Emporia State, Kan., University) and Chris Fletcher (who has helped start baseball at Moberly, Mo., Area Community College).
Redford earned an associate degree at Kaskaskia, an undergraduate Exercise Science degree with a concentration in Sports Management from William Woods and a Masters in Sports Administration and Leadership from Rheinhardt.
New Albany (enrollment around 1,840) is a member of the Hoosier Hills Conference (with Bedford North Lawrence, Columbus East, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County and Seymour).
The Bulldogs were champions of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County and Seymour. New Albany won its 23rd sectional title at Jennings County.
Redford is in the process of assembling his full coaching staff.
“We want to make sure we get the right guys in there,” says Redford.
Improvements at Mt. Tabor since Redford played include turf in fair and foul territory in the infield.
“They’ve rarely have to cancel home games last two years,” says Redford.
The facility also features in-ground dugouts, bleachers that wrap around dugout to dugout and a large press box with a locker room underneath.
New Albany Little League gives a foundation of the high school program
“Little League baseball around here has always been big,” says Redmond. “It’s got all the bells and whistles and a good reputation.
“It’s super nice to have a community that supports baseball as much as this one. That’s for sure.”
Shortstop Tucker Biven (Class of 2022) was an IHSBCA North/South All-Series participant and has moved on to the University of Louisville.
Pitcher/shortstop Landon Tiesing (Class of 2023) has committed to Kent State University.
Tim Redford III met Colleen Bayer at William Woods and recently purchased a house together. Tim III is the son of Tim Redford II and Marsha Redford and younger brother of Kyle Krinninger.

Tim Redford III. (Reinhardt University Photo)

Tim Redford III. (William Woods University Photo)

Cunningham now in charge of Wheeler Bearcats

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Sean Cunningham is now in charge of the baseball program at Wheeler High School in Valparaiso, Ind., after two seasons as an assistant coach.
Cunningham held a call-out meeting with the Bearcats Thursday, Sept. 1. About 20 attended with several more involved in fall sports.
It is hoped that Wheeler will field varsity and junior varsity teams in 2023.
“We have a lot of incoming freshmen,” says Cunningham. “It will depend on numbers in the spring.”
Two points of emphasis for Cunningham as he gets Wheeler ready are off-season conditioning and pitching.
“With our weight lifting and running, players got a little lackadaisical last year,” says Cunningham. “They were not pushing themselves very hard. In hotter games last year the guys dragged a little bit.
“Pitching was a weak point for us last year. We have a lot of talent on the mound. I don’t think its been utilized yet.”
To help with that, Cunningham has brought Paul Lipski in as pitching coach.
Lipski and Cunningham served together on head coach Cory Mack’s staff at Morgan Township in 2017. The Cherokees registered several earned run averages below 3.00 and went 15-12 in 2017 and 20-6 in 2018, winning an IHSAA Class 2A sectional title in the latter season.
Lipski, Mack and Wheeler graduate Alex Hutman (Class of 2021) make up Cunningham’s Bearcats staff.
Cunningham coached three seasons with Jeff Rochowiak at Michigan City (2018-20).
Jeff Enright (now athletic director at Wheeler) was head baseball coach with Cunningham as an assistant.
“I liked his whole off-field philosophy and mindset,” says Cunningham of Enright’s approach. “We work as a team. I plan to continue that same exact kind of field in the locker room and in the dugout.”
Wheeler alum Rex Stills (Class of 2021) pitched in 17 games as a Purdue Fort Wayne in 2022.
Mason Leckrone (Class of 2023) is currently weighing his college options.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period began Aug. 29 and goes through Oct. 15.
Wheeler (enrollment around 440) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, and Whiting). There are 12 GSSC games with some teams meeting twice and other once.
The Bearcats were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bowman Leadership Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Whiting. Wheeler, which calls Richard Wendt Field home, has won six sectional titles — the last in 2021.
Cunningham was born in Oak Lawn, Ill., and moved to Valparaiso at 5. He played baseball for four years at Valparaiso High School — two for Todd Coffin then two for Mickey Morandini.
“Todd Coffin was a small-ball coach,” says Cunningham. “We learned how to play small ball the right way.
“(Mickey Morandini) was a good person.”
Cunningham graduated from Purdue North Central in 2014 and began teaching elementary school in Michigan City. He is now a sixth grade math teacher at Union Township Middle School.
He has also been an instructor at Triple Crown Baseball and Softball Training Center in Valparaiso though he has not worked in a few months.
Sean and wife Kristen Eleftheri-Cunningham had their first child — Oliver Eleftheri-Cunningham — in June.

Sean Cunningham and son Oliver Eleftheri-Cunningham.

Rookie teacher/coach Hunt tabbed to lead Whiting baseball

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jacob Hunt was born and raised in Whiting, Ind.
The 24-year-old is now a first-year baseball coach and teacher at Whiting Junior/Senior High School.
“I wasn’t to give back to the community and keep the baseball tradition going,” says Hunt.
He was approved as head coach of the Oilers program the second week of the 2022-23 school year.
Hunt, a 2016 graduate of George Rogers Clark Junior/Senior High School in Whiting who teaches Physical Education and Health at WJSHS, has met a few players. Most are on the Oiler football team. He expects to see the rest in the winter.
Multi-sport athletes are the norm at Whiting (enrollment around 450), which is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Hammond Bishop Noll, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest and Wheeler).
The Oilers were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bowman Leadership Academy, Hammond Bishop Noll, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison and Wheeler. Whiting has won four sectional titles — the last in 2019.
Hunt wants to instill a “winning culture” for Whiting baseball.
“I want to get as many kids into college as a I can and make sure everyone is a hard worker,” says Hunt. “We want no laziness and for them to get good grades.”
Hunt says he plans to put an emphasis on conditioning with plenty of running, agility work and weightlifting.
Good friend Amir Wright, who played at Ball State University in the spring and with the Frederick (Md.) Keys of the MLB Draft League this summer, has offered to help Hunt with strength and conditioning training.
Playing in a big ballpark like Oil City Stadium, Hunt wants players to be able to turn balls into the gap into triples and for outfielders to track down those balls hit by the opposition.
Speed and cunning on the base paths can also help fuel the offense.
“If we can lead the state of Indiana in steals we’ll do it,” says Hunt. “As hitters, we want to stay inside the ball. The body is all connected together.”
And another thing.
“We want to have fun,” says Hunt. “Enjoy yourself while you’re out here.”
Hunt has asked best friend Zach Bucsko and father Jamie Hunt to be his assistant coaches. Bucsko is a 2016 Clark graduate who pitched at Glen Oaks Community College (Centerville, Mich.).
Jacob’s mother is Christine Mickles. He has two older brothers — 37-year-old twins Buddy and Jesse Hunt.
Lakeshore Cal Ripken Babe Ruth Baseball/Softball League in Hammond is where Hunt played his first ball.
He played four years at Clark, first seeing some time on varsity as a sophomore. Jason Ochall was the Pioneers head coach.
Ochall’s message: “Be yourself.”
“I remember how he cared for all of us,” says Hunt. “He trusted all of us older guys.”
Hunt also played travel baseball for the Northwest Indiana Pirates in 2016 and Chicago-based Satchel Paige in 2017.
He was on the Brian Nowakowski-coached baseball team at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting through 2021. In the summer of 2019, he played for the Midwest Collegiate League’s Crestwood Panthers.
To explore his options, Hunt did a teaching internship through the University of Evansville in 2021-22.
“I wanted to get out of the area and get out of my comfort zone,” says Hunt. “I was willing to go anywhere to coach and teach in the state of Indiana.”
He wound up back home at Whiting.

Jacob Hunt (Calumet College of St. Joseph Photo)

Neese moves up to head coach role for Brebeuf Jesuit

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School baseball ended the 2022 season as IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up.
The 2021 Braves participated at the semistate level.
Wes Neese was an assistant coach with those clubs and is now Brebeuf head coach after Jeff Scott stepped away from the post.
“There won’t be a ton of changes,” says Neese. “Our philosophies were so much the same. We did everything together.”
Neese and Scott met each other as assistants on the Mooresville (Ind.) High School staff led by Eric McGaha.
Scott was Neese’s assistant during his time leading the Pioneers program. Neese aided Scott for two previous seasons at Brebeuf, three at Martinsville (Ind.) High School and the most-recent stint with the Indianapolis-based Braves.
“I’ve been fortunate to be with coaches who didn’t have a big ego and let you coach as an assistant,” says Neese. “Coach McGaha did not micro-manage us. Jeff and I have continued that.”
As a Brebeuf assistant, Neese was third base and pitching coach. He called the pitches.
“I was able to learn a lot,” says Neese, who looks forward to getting ready for 2023 during the upcoming IHSAA Limited Contact Period.
“I’m letting kids get settled into school roles right now,” says Neese. “Starting Sept. 6 we’ll go two days a week for two hours until fall break.”
There will be practices on Father O’Brien Field and weightlifting days.
“We have quite a few fall athletes so we won’t have our whole team,” says Neese. “We’ll get to know as many kids as we can.”
Many position players are expected back for 2023. About 15 varsity innings return to the pitching staff with the graduation of Andrew Dutkanych IV (Vanderbilt University commit), Sam Reed (Eastern Michigan University), Chase Golden (Western Illinois University) and A.J. Rinebold (who plans to try to walk on at Purdue University).
Luke Bauer is bound for baseball at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) and Anthony Annee football at Marian University in Indianapolis.
Neese says there are no college baseball commitments yet in the Class of 2023 but Jayden Ohmer has gotten D-I schools to indicate interest.
First base coach Thomas Parker (a former Huntington North High School and Anderson University player) and infield coach/data and analytics coordinator Eric Hartung (who works for the NCAA in Indianapolis) return to the varsity coaching staff. Mooresville graduate and retired Ford Motor Company quality lead Eric Fenwick is an addition and will guide outfielders. Neese is interviewing junior varsity coach candidates.
The Class of 2021 had to two college players in 2022 — Nathan Bingman at Virginia Military Institute and Jack Moronek at Butler University in Indianapolis with the Class of 2020’s Shane Bauer at Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.), Karl Meyer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Andrew Pickett at Hope College (Holland, Mich.). Gabe Wright extended his prep school time at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.).
Neese is a 1997 graduate of Greencastle (Ind.) High School, where Stan Ward was the head baseball coach his freshman year and Glen Hile was in charge of the Tiger Cubs the last three.
After being cut from baseball in fall at DePauw University in Greencastle, Neese opted to change his major to Secondary Education and began coaching at the youth and high school levels.
After a long stint as a teacher at Mooresville, Neese opted for a career change and went to work for Adrenaline Fundraising territory owner Scott and works from his Plainfield, Ind., home as business operations manager.
Wes and wife Jean Ann, a pharmacist at Eli Lily, celebrated 20 years of marriage in June. The couple has two sons — Brebeuf sophomore football/baseball player Steven Neese and Plainfield Community Middle School eighth grade footballer Brayden Neese.
What Wes Neese appreciates is the support Brebeuf baseball gets from president Fr. William Verbryke, athletic director Ted Hampton and assistants AD’s Brad Weinstein and Jacob Weinstein.
“There’s never been a time when we needed something that they weren’t there to provide it,” says Neese. “Working of the right people is credibly important to me and Brebeuf is the right place because of the people.”
Brebeuf (enrollment around 825) is four-year private school a member of the Circle City Conference (with Covenant Christian, Guerin Catholic, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard and Roncalli).
The Braves were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Danville Community, Greencastle, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter and Tri-West Hendricks. Brebeuf has won 16 sectional titles — the last dozen coming in the 2000’s.

Wes Neese (left) and Jeff Scott.
Joe Perkins (left), Thomas Parker, Jeff Scott, Wes Neese and Eric Hartung.
Aiden Holtzapple (left) and Wes Neese.
The Neese family (from left): Wes, Jean Ann, Steven and Brayden.

New head coach Aguilar sets sights high for Hanover Central Wildcats

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Sal Aguilar has been a part of baseball success as a player and an assistant coach.
He was the starting third baseman for the Hammond (Ind.) Chiefs that went to the Babe Ruth Baseball World Series.
The 1998 graduate of Griffith (Ind.) High School was on the coaching staff at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., as the 59ers won IHSAA Class 3A state championships in 2018 and 2019 — two of eight state titles on Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Pishkur’s watch.
Aguilar’s first year as an assistant at Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Ind., was 2021 and the Wildcats finished as Class 3A state runners-up.
Ryan Bridges let his team know that the 2022 season would be his last as Hanover Central head coach since he was taking a job at the school as assistant athletic director to Kelly Bermes.
In June, Aguilar was hired to head the Wildcats baseball program.
“We have great kids and great community support,” says Aguilar. “We’re excited to embark on this new chapter of Hanover Central baseball. We have a very bright future
“We’re not going to shy away from the ultimate goal which is to win a state championship.”
Hanover Central (enrollment around 775) is a member of the Greater South Shore Conference (with Hammond Bishop Noll, Boone Grove, Calumet New Tech, Griffith, Illiana Christian, Lake Station Edison, River Forest, South Central of Union Mills, Wheeler and Whiting).
The Wildcats were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Culver Military Academy, John Glenn, Kankakee Valley, Knox and River Forest. Hanover Central has won two sectional crowns — 2011 (2A) and 2021 (3A).
Players from the Class of 2021 included outfielder Jared Comia (now at the University of Illinois), 6-foot-9 right-handed pitcher Peyton Olejnik (who went to Triton College in River Grove, Ill., and is heading to the University of Oklahoma in 2022-23), left-hander/infielder Bret Matthys (Purdue Northwest) and infielder Blaze Cano (who is transferring from PNW to Calumet of St. Joseph in Whiting).
Three athletes in the Class of 2023 expected to play at the next level include shortstop/pitcher Zach Zykowski, pitcher Luka Zakman and two-sport standout Gannan Howes (who is getting attention in baseball and football).
Aguilar came to Hanover Central as a teacher in 2020-2 and is entering his 16th year in the classroom. He taught seven years in Texas, three in Illinois and this will be his sixth in Indiana.
He instructs HCHS freshmen in Integrated Chemistry and Physics (ICP).
Born in Munster, Ind., Aguilar spent his first nine years in East Chicago, Ind. After fourth grade, he moved to Griffith and attended St. Mary School then went to Griffith High School for four years.
He earned three baseball letters for the Todd Iwema-coached Panthers.
Aguilar played for the Hammond Seminoles in 1997 then for Dave Sutkowski’s Hammond Chiefs in 1998 and 1999.
“The kids call him Bush,” says Aguilar of Sutkowski. “I learned a lot from Dave as a young kid about building relationships with players.”
One way to do that at Hanover Central is through junior high baseball program.
Thirty players in grades 6-8 play and practice in the fall.
“That’s a huge asset for our program,” says Aguilar. “It’s all hands on deck here so varsity coaches are going to run that team. We’re going to be able install and implement our brands of offense and defense.
“We get to cultivate those lifelong relationships with those kids at a very young age.”
Aguilar’s coaching staff includes four Hanover Central graduates — Nic Sampognaro (Class of 2011) with the varsity, twins Sam Momcilovic (Class of 2019) and Evan Momcilovic (2019) with the junior varsity and Mike Biegel (Class of 2018) as freshman head coach.
Former Hammond Bishop Noll and Merrillville head coach Paul Wirtz lends his experience to the varsity staff. Jesse Forrester (Lowell Class of 2019) is a freshman assistant.
Aguilar finished his college degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2006. His teaching and coaching career began shortly after that.
He came back to Indiana and married Griffith alum Brittany Clark in 2016. Sal and Brittany Aguilar have two children — Luis (5) and Gianna (2).
“(Brittany) knows it’s not easy being a coach’s wife,” says Sal. “We’re lucky to have family around to help us out.”

Sal Aguilar

Sal and Brittany Aquilar with son with Luis and daughter Gianna.

NAIA RBI leader Bass, Taylor University heading into postseason play

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

T.J. Bass came out of the gate producing at the plate in 2022.
The righty swinger in his fourth baseball season at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., knocked in two run in the Trojans’ campaign-opening win against Kansas Wesleyan in Mesa, Ariz.
Heading into the Crossroads League tournament which begins May 7 at Taylor (note the change because of rain), Bass leads all of NAIA in runs batted in with 84.
Besides that, he’s hitting .382 (71-of-186) with 19 home runs, 14 doubles, 51 runs scored and a 1.254 OPS (.491 on-base percentage plus .763 slugging average).
“I need to start by giving credit to the guys batting before me,” says Bass of his big RBI total. “It seems like I come up with two or three guys on every time.”
Bass, who looks to be aggressive and barrel the ball up on the first good pitch he sees per at-bat, has been used by Trojans head coach Kyle Gould primarily in the No. 3 spot in the batting order with a few games in the 2-hole. He’s often found senior Nick Rusche (.337 with 63 hits) and freshman Kaleb Kolpein (.403 with 77 hits) — and for awhile — sophomore Camden Knepp (.282 with 44 hits)— reaching base before him. Rusche prepped at New Palestine (Ind.) High School, Kolpein at Homestead (Fort Wayne) and Knepp at Northridge (Middelbury).
“The back half the lineup has also been pretty good,” says Bass, a 2018 graduate of Greenwood (Ind,) Community.
Of his 19 homers, Bass has clouted three grand slams (vs. Reinhardt in Waleska, Ga., vs. Olivet Nazarene in Athens, Tenn., and vs. Indiana Wesleyan in Upland), four three-run bombs, seven two-run dingers and five solo shots. The enjoyed two-homer games against Reinhardt and Mount Vernon Nazarene.
Bass belted 14 circuit clouts in Crossroads League regular-season play.
Taylor (36-16) is the No. 2 seed in the eight-team Crossroads League tournament. Regular-season champion Mount Vernon Nazarene is No. 1.
The turf at Winterholter Field will also be the site of an NAIA Opening Round May 16-19.
“It’s incredible,” says Bass of playing at the facility located in the heart of the TU campus that was resurfaced after the 2021 season. “Coach Gould takes huge pride in how the field looks and it’s awesome to see so many fans come out.”
Bass has started in all 52 of the Trojans’ games in 2022, mostly in center field or right field. But he’s also been used as a catcher and first baseman. During his college career, he’s played everywhere but the middle infield and on the mound.
“It’s wherever the team needs me most based on who’s healthy if we need an offensive day or a defensive day,” says Bass. “Coach Gould does a good job of looking at Synergy in scouting teams.”
Taylor players watch videos of opposing hitters and pitchers to study their strengths weaknesses.
At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Bass has gotten physically stronger and faster since arriving on-campus thanks to off-season programs led by assistant coach Justin Barber as well as Gould.
When Bass arrived at Taylor in 2018-19, Josh Lane and Wyatt Whitman were seniors.
“They they were both huge role models taking a freshman and hour and a half from home under their wings,” says Bass. “They took the strain off.”
Bass was asked how they could help and if they could pray for him.
When Whitman moved on and acted jersey No. 11, Bass took it.
It was also during his first year at Taylor that Bass was undecided on a major. He landed on Elementary Education.
A camp counselor at a community recreation center since his junior year of high school and the son of high school teacher (Andy Bass) and pre-kindergarten teacher (Jenni Bass) with other educators on both sides of the family, T.J. sees that as a natural career path.
“I’ve been around teaching my whole life,” says Bass. “I really love to be able to work with kids and I like getting to know them and finding their interests.
“It didn’t feel like I would do as well with secondary (students). God was calling me to work with elementary.”
Andy Bass teaches Algebra II and Geometry at Greenwood Community, where he has been head baseball coach since 1998. Jenni Bass ran her own daycare for more than a decade and now works at Waverly Elementary School in the Mooresville corporation.
Timothy James Bass, 22, is the oldest of Andy and Jenni’s four kids. Sam Bass is two years younger than T.J. and living and working in Fort Wayne. Mary Bass is a Greenwood Community freshman. Claire Bass is a sixth grader in the Mooresville system.
T.J. was born and raised in Greenwood and played Little League baseball there. Around fifth grade, he played with the traveling Johnson County Jaguars. The summers following his freshman and sophomore years were spent with the Indiana Bulls. The next summer he played for the Indiana Nitro then was with Demand Command right before and right after his freshman year at Taylor.
Bass did not play during the COVID-19 summer of 2020. In 2021, he split his time between the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators and the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
With an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, Bass plans to come back for a fifth season at Taylor in 2023. He expects to do his student teaching this fall.

T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)
T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)

T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)
T.J. Bass (Taylor University Photo)