Tag Archives: Tennessee

Illinois junior colleges tap into Indiana baseball talent

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

Illinois junior college baseball has long been a destination for Indiana players.
Many have used the two-year institutions to springboard into a four-year school or the professional ranks.
Our neighbors to the west sport 41 National Junior College Athletic Association programs in Division I, II and III (Regions 4 or 24).
There is a difference between divisions.
NJCAA Divisions I and II can offer up to 24 athletic scholarships. Division III schools do not. Most (but not all) junior colleges have other scholarship and financial aid options.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-I teams include Frontier Community College (Fairfield), John A. Logan College (Carterville), Kakaskia College (Centralia), Kishwaukee College (Malta), Lake Land College (Mattoon), Lincoln Trail College (Robinson), Olive-Harvey College (Chicago), Olney Central College (Olney), Rend Lake College (Ina), Shawnee CC (Ullin), South Suburban College (South Holland), Southeastern Illinois College (Harrisburg), Southwestern Illinois College (Swansea), Triton College (River Grove) and Wabash Valley College (Mount Carmel).
Wabash Valley went 59-9 and qualified for the 2022 NJCAA D-I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Wabash Valley coach Aaron Biddle, who is in his eighth season with the Warriors and first as head coach in 2023. “We’ve had some very good Indiana kids over the years. We’re just right across the border form Princeton, Ind. Getting into Evansville and going up to Indianapolis are great recruiting sources for us.
“Our conference is real competitive.”
John A. Logan, Kakaskia, Lake Land, Lincoln Trail, Olney Central, Rend Lake, Shawnee, Southeastern Illinois, Southwestern Illinois and Wabash Valley is in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference.
WVC plays mostly D-I schools with a few D-II’s sprinkled in.
“The more D-I opponents you have on your schedule the better it is for your (RPI) rankings,” says Biddle.
What does “JUCO Bandit” means to Biddle, who started his college playing career at former NJCAA D-III St. Catharine in Kentucky and finished at NCAA D-II Kentucky Wesleyan.
“Maybe he’s not be getting the offers he wants at (NCAA) D-I or a big school and he’s going to bet on himself and he’s going to go the JUCO route, grind for two years and get better everyday and definitely get that offer he’s not getting right now,” says Biddle. “We get to spend a lot of time with our guys. We get to be with them almost every single day. There’s not a lot of restrictions on how much practice time we have.
“The big things is that in the fall, we get to play 14 dates. We get to play every weekend. Guys are getting all those extra innings and they’re getting to compete. That’s a big thing for us.
“In baseball you’ve got to play to get better.”
Biddle says the funnest aspect of his job is seeing players land at their dream school.
South Suburban posted a 42-19 record in 2022.
Kevin Bowers has been head coach at Lincoln Trail since the 2010 season. That was the sophomore season of Justin Hancock (who went on to pitch in the big leagues and is now an Indiana State University assistant).
Bowers was on the LTC staff since 2001 and was an assistant to then-Statesmen head coach Mitch Hannahs (who is now head coach at Indiana State).
Bowers coached at ISU for the 2000 season. Lincoln Trail is about 10 miles from the Indiana line and 40 miles from ISU.
“The talent level is just off the chart,” says Bowers. “I’m certainly not knocking the state of Illinois. We’ve had a great deal of success with kids out of Indiana.”
Bowers has a take on “JUCO Bandit.”
“We develop an ‘ask no quarter, take no quarter’ mentality,” says Bowers. “We don’t want for a lot. We don’t need a lot. But we try to get a lot done.
“’Bandit has that negative connotation to it. When you go to junior college your mindset is that you’re foregoing the 100,000-seat football stadium. There’s not a lot of nightlife. Campus activities are geared around the athletics. You develop a worker’s mentality.
“There’s not a lot of thrills, but the talent at this level is crazy good.”
Bowers said there was a time when junior college baseball was battling the perception that their players had got booted from another school or could not make grades.
“Our guys are getting it done in the classroom and they’re getting it done on the field,” says Bowers, whose program earned a 2021-22 American Baseball Coaches Association Team Excellence Award for posting a grade-point average of 3.0 or above. “It’s a situation where academically you’re not going to lose ground.”
Illinois’ NJCAA D-II squads are Black Hawk-Moline College (Moline), Carl Sandburg College (Galesburg), Danville Area CC (Danville), Elgin CC (Elgin), Heartland CC (Normal), Highland College (Freeport), Illinois Central College (East Peoria), Illinois Valley CC (Oglesby), John Wood CC (Quincy), Kankakee CC (Kankakee), College of Lake County (Grayslake), Lewis & Clark CC (Godfrey), Lincoln Land CC (Springfield), McHenry County College (Crystal Lake), Moraine Valley CC (Palos Heights), Morton College (Cicero), Parkland College (Champaign), Prairie State College (Chicago Heights), Sauk Valley CC (Dixon) and Spoon River College (Canton).
Heartland (49-10) played in the 2022 NJCAA D-II World Series in Enid, Okla.
The Mid-West Athletic Conference features Heartland, Danville Area, Illinois Central, John Wood, Lewis & Clark, Lincoln Land, Parkland and Spoon River plus Vincennes (Ind.) University.
Also in 2022, Kankakee went 43-17, McHenry 40-18, Black Hawk-Moline 35-20, Lake County 32-20 and Morton 32-20.
Illinois’ NJCAA D-III features College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn), Harper College (Palatine), Joliet Junior College (Joliet), Oakton CC (Skokie), Rock Valley College (Rockport) and Waubonsee CC (Sugar Grove).
The Arrowhead Conference is made up of Black Hawk-Moline, Carl Sandburg, Highland, Illinois Valley, Kishwaukee and Sauk Valley.
Oakton (34-28-1) competed in the 2022 NJCAA D-III World Series in Greenville, Tenn.
Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference includes Lake County, Elgin, McHenry County, Moraine Valley, Morton, Oakton, Prairie State and Waubonsee.
Since 1993, Triton is a two-time D-I World Series runner-up (1993 and 1994).
D-II World Series titles were earned by Kishwaukee (1999), Lincoln Land (2000), Parkland (2002 and 2009) and Kankakee (2017). Parkland was also a runner-up in 2018.
Joliet earned D-III World Series championships in 1994, 2008 and 2012 and placed second in 1995 and 2015. Oakton reigned in D-III in 2018 and Waubonsee was runner-up in 1996.

Floyd Central alum Lozado now coaching at UT Martin

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

Alex Lozado is making the transition from college baseball player to coach.
Lozado was a right-handed pitcher at the University of South Florida after serving as a pitcher and infielder at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla.
In 2021, he made five mound appearances for USF and posted a 3.18 earned run average and 1.06 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in 5 2/3 innings.
The Billy Mohl-coached USF Bulls won the American Athletic Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.
One thing that stands out about Mohl is the way he cared. When Lozado and his roommates experienced a gas leak at their apartment, the coach was quick to help.
“He would always tell us that if we got in any trouble — no matter what time it is — to make sure he is our first call,” says Lozado. “I gave him a call at 2 a.m. He said, ‘I’m going to set up the guest bed rooms for you guys. Come on over and stay at my place.’
“Mol is a great coach, but even a better person.”
Lozado, whose playing career was ended by an elbow injury, graduated from South Florida in 2022 with a degree in Communications.
At Gulf Coast State, Lozado played in 66 games (63 starts) in 2019 and 2020 and hit .268 with two home runs, 28 runs batted in and 28 runs scored. He also made 18 trips to the mound (nine starts) and went 5-2 with four saves, a 3.77 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 11 walks in 62 innings. During the COVID-19-shorted 2020 season, he was 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 42 strikeouts and five walks in 41 1/3 innings. He hurled the first four innings of a combined no-hitter against Faulkner.
“I was a big-time change-up guy,” says Lozado. “I got the point with my elbow where I couldn’t bend my slider as well.
“Change-up was definitely my pitch.”
The Mike Kandler-coached Commodores went 44-28 during Lozado’s two-year stint.
“I loved Kandler,” says Lozado. “He pushed you real hard, but at the end of the day he’s going to let you know that he loves and cares about you and is going to do anything for your best interests.”
Lozado is glad he went the JUCO route.
“Graduating from high school at 17 my dad though junior college was probably the best option for me and it was,” says Lozado. “I saw a lot of progress not only from high school to college and from my freshman to sophomore year but grew as a person and a player.”
Alex (22) is the oldest of Willie and Karen Lozado’s two children. Floyd Central, graduate Mia Lozado (19) is a junior at the University of Louisville.
Willie Lozado, who comes from a Puerto Rican family, was born in the Bronx and went to high school in Brooklyn. The third baseman/shortstop was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1977, did not sign and was then selected by the Milwaukee Brewers out of Miami Dade College in 1978.
He met Karen while playing for Triple-A Louisville. Willie played 43 games for Milwaukee in 1984. His only MLB home run — a three-run shot — came on Sept. 11 against Boston’s Steve Crawford at Fenway Park.
Willie later coached at Floyd Central.
Born in Louisville, Alex grew up in Sellersburg, Ind. The family moved up the hill to Georgetown, Ind., his junior year at Floyd Central.
A former Kentucky Baseball Club travel ball player and 2018 graduate of Floyd Central High School (Floyds Knobs, Ind.), Lozado earned three letters and earned all-area, all-Hoosier Hills Conference and Pitcher of the Year honors (he posted a 1.30 ERA as a junior and 1.80 as a senior) while playing for Highlanders head coach Casey LaDuke.
“He has a fire to win that is almost unmatched,” says Lozado of LaDuke.
Lozado arrived at the University of Tennessee at Martin in August as a volunteer assistant coach for the NCAA Division I Skyhawks.
The connection was made through a relationship between USF pitching coach Karsten Whitson and UT Martin hitting coach Pat Cottrell.
Working on a staff led by Ryan Jenkins, Lozado works with outfielders and does a myriad of things, including hitting fungos and pitching batting practice.
Lozado is working at the Play’n Sports vendor booth at the 2023 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention which runs Jan. 5-8 in Nashville.

Alex Lozado. (University of Tennessee at Martin Photo)

Purdue alum Serrato spreading knowledge as Kent State coach

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

A Purdue University graduate is applying some lessons he learned while playing for the Boilermakers in his role as an assistant baseball coach/recruiting coordinator at Kent (Ohio) State University.
Barrett Serrato, a graduate of West Chicago (Ill.) High School, played four seasons for head coach Doug Schreiber at Purdue (2009-12) and received a Physical Education degree and experienced a Big Ten Conference championship in 2012.
Former Boiler assistants Jamie Sailors (current Lafayette Aviators managers) and Spencer Allen (now a Northwestern University assistant) were involved in Serrato’s recruitment.
“It’s hard to pick one experience,” says Serrato of his time at Purdue. The whole thing was so enjoyable for me.
“We’ve got a team group chat now. Any time anybody texts it’s like we never left.”
Among players who were on the 2009 and 2012 rosters with Serrato are Kyle Bischoff (New Haven High School graduate), Ryan Bridges (Griffith), Eric Charles (Zionsville), Sean Collins (Pendleton Heights), Joe Haase (Knightstown), Jake Hansen (Westfield), Robert Ramer (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Tyler Spillner (Fort Wayne Northrop). Bridges was head coach at Hanover Central High School.
Three future big leaguers were juniors on the 2012 team — Cameron Perkins (Southport), Kevin Plawecki (Westfield) and Nick Wittgren (McCutcheon). Brett Andrzejewski (Westfield) was also on that team.
“We all really got along,” says Serrato. “We all jelled. On the field and off the field we really enjoyed our time.
“Winning conference in 2012 was the icing on the cake.”
That squad went 45-14 overall, 17-7 in the Big Ten and beat Indiana twice to win first Big Ten Tournament title. Serrato was named to the all-tournament team.
Another memorable moment for him came in 2011 while Purdue swept a three-game series from visiting Indiana. It was the first sweep of the Hoosiers in 14 years.
“I remember a couple of fans getting on top of the IU dugout (with brooms),” says Serrato. “That’s as good as it gets.”
In 177 games (151 starts) at Purdue, the lefty-swinging Serrato hit .309 with eight home runs, 117 runs batted in and 116 runs scored.
Lessons learned from Schreiber (who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) included discipline.
“You have to have discipline in everything you do,” says Serrato. “Be the toughest team on the field at all times. Play hard and don’t back down.
“If you have high goals and high standards you have to be able the stuff that comes with it.”
Serrato says Schreiber stressed fundamentals and following the path.
“You knew the standards and the rules,” says Schreiber. “Nobody got any special treatment. This is how we do things and we’re going to do it this way.
“That’s been the biggest carryover to what I do now.”
In Serrato’s last three seasons in West Lafayette, Jeff Duncan was a Boilers assistant and is heading into his 10th season as Kent State coach in 2023.
Selected in the 48th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins out of high school, Serrato was later picked in the 30th round by the Texas Rangers in 2012 and played in the minors in 2012 and 2013.
Serrato was on Duncan’s Golden Flashes staff 2015-17, coached 2018-19 at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and was at the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2019 before coming back to Kent State in January 2020.
“Coach Dunc is a people person,” says Serrato. “He relates to every type of person.
“He’s good at making sure each guy feels important.”
As recruiting coordinator, Serrato is after a certain kind of player.
“Here at Kent we have a bit of a track record in western (Pennysylvania) and Ohio,” says Serrato. “We have a similar stomping grounds to Purdue. We go into Chicago and Wisconsin. We get some guys from around the Detroit area. It’s a tough kind of kid.
“We’ve got high standards here. We’re going to go into some big places. We’re going to play some really good teams and we’re going to expect to win. If we don’t have a strong mental will — hey, we’re going to get this done — we’re not going to accomplish what this program has set out to do.”
With relationships as a priority, Serrato wants to bring the right people into the Golden Flashes fold.
“If there’s a bad attitude, we’re out,” says Serrato. “At the end of the day we need people who can handle failure and be mature in what they do.”
While looking at potential recruits, he is readying body language, energy and gathering information from multiple sources.
“Off the field are they positive people?,” says Serrato. “What are others saying about them?”
As a hitting coach, Serrato prepares his players to have mature conversations — something he gleaned from pro ball — and preaches three things in this order: mentality, approach and fundamentals.
“It’s that toughness, that go-get-it attitude,” says Serrato. “Anybody who’s been around this game knows that as a hitter you’re going to fail a lot. Guys who can’t take some punches are really going to struggle.
“With two strikes, we shortened up (our swings) and sacrifice power. Our motto is ‘win fastballs away with two strikes.’ If we get beat (inside) we tip our cap.”
Barrett, 32, and wife Karlie met at Kent State. The couple has two daughters.

Barrett Serrato. (Kent State University Image)

Lipscomb U. southpaw Dunkelberger earns right to call his own pitches

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

Michael Dunkelberger did something last spring that many college baseball pitchers do not get to do — call their own pitches.
The left-hander at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., says those decisions get made by coaches the overwhelming majority of the time.
Dunkelberger, a 2018 graduate of South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph High School who turned 23 in August, was on a team full of older players thanks largely to the extra years of eligibility given because of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
That extra time led to wisdom which helped lead to the ability make the right decisions under fire.
“It takes time to be able to call your own pitches,” says Dunkelberger, one of a handful on his staff given the chance to call pitches. “You have practice and bullpens and you talk through scouting reports.”
At the beginning of the year, he scored well on an online cognitive test.
“It showed how well you can instinctively learn and figure out what’s working well and what’s not,” says Dunkelberger, who credits Lipscomb pitching coach Matt Myers for helping him progress.
“He was very similar to me in college,” says Dunkelberger of Myers, who was a lefty pitcher at the University of Tennessee. “He taught me about the mental side and how to go deep in games.
“I was learning how to dissect the hitters swings and able to call my own game.”
It was the first time in his college career he got to call pitches. It had been since the end of his days at Saint Joseph when Indians head coach John Gumpf allowed Dunkelberger and catcher/classmate Luke Houin to make those decisions.
As a junior, Dunkelberger pitched a three-hitter as Saint Joseph beat Jasper 4-0 for the IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
The lefty struck out four, walked two and hit two batters in a seven-inning complete game.
“That junior year team was a lot of fun,” says Dunkelberger. “I grew up with those guys. We played together from 7 or 8 (on The Baseball Factory travel team) and went to the same high school.”
Beating John Glenn 9-7 in extra innings in the Griffith Regional was a highlight of the state title run.
“There were a lot of characters on the team,” says Dunkelberger. “(Coach Gumpf) he let us be ourselves and go out and play. We were a very talented team. A lot of guys on that team played college baseball.”
Taking stock of his best athletic qualities, Dunkelberger puts experience and pitchability at the top.
“There are guys that throw a lot harder than me,” says Dunkelberger. “I earned from an early age how to get guys out without having to throw hard.”
Coming from an arm slot that’s close to over-the-top, Dunkelberger throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider.
His four-seamer tops out at 92 mph. His two-seamer gets up to 90. His curve is of the 12-to-6 variety. His “split” change goes straight down. A new trend on the college scene is a “sweeper” slider and the southpaw throws one of those.
Strength training in college allowed the athlete to come up to 6-foot and 215 pounds.
Dunkelberger, who did not see action at Indiana University in 2019 and pitched at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Valley Community College in 2020 and 2021, made a splash in his first season with Lipscomb in 2022.
He made 15 appearances (13 as a starter) and went 7-3 with 3.45 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 18 walks in 78 1/3 innings while being named to second-team all-ASUN Conference.
Cody Piechocki was Dunkelberger’s head coach at KVCC and with the summer wood bat Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo Growlers/Mac Daddies from 2019-21 (because of his spring workload Dunkelberger did not play in the summer of 2022).
“He was great,” says Dunkelberger of Piechocki, who is also an associate scout for the Texas Rangers. “He helped me develop on the pitching side with command and velocity.
“He reminded me of Gumpf, letting me be me. Through my failures, he stuck by me.”
In nine starts at Kalamazoo Valley, Dunkelberger went 6-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 50 innings and was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
He was going to transfer to the University of Oregon. But COVID-19 changed his scholarship status and he decided to re-enter the recruiting process and he and KVCC roommate Collin Witzke wound up at Lipscomb.
The Bisons — with Jeff Forehand as head coach — went 35-23 in 2022 after an 18-29 ledger in 2021.
Dunkelberger has two more years of remaining eligibility and is getting ready for 2023 while he is on pace to earn a Business Management in the spring.
Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dunkelberger came to northern Indiana around 3 and grew up in Granger. He played youth baseball in Clay Township and was with a Chicago White Sox-sponsored travel team after The Baseball Factory.
Michael is the second-oldest of Scott and Laura Dunkelberger’s four children. Nick Boyd played football at South Bend Riley High School. Victoria Dunkelberger played softball at Penn High School. Penn junior Julianna Dunkelberger played volleyball as a freshman.
Scott Dunkelberger played baseball at Riley and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and is now a pharmaceutical sales representative. Laura Dunkelberger works for the State of Indiana, finding resources for special needs children.

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)
Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

Michael Dunkelberger. (Lipscomb University Photo)

New head coach Burcham looks for Batesville Bulldogs to push potential

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

Tyler Burcham has gotten to know a few things about Batesville, Ind., in his four years of teaching there and five seasons as a baseball coach.
“We have a town that really rallies around its baseball,” says Burcham, who was a Batesville High School assistant from 2018-22 and recently took over the program from alum Justin Tucker, who guided the BHS program 2016-22. “I learned a lot from (Coach Tucker) and — hopefully — I can continue to push this program in the right direction.”
The Bulldogs won 20 games and lost to Franklin County in the semifinals of the IHSAA Class 3A Rushville Consolidated Sectional in 2022.
Batesville (enrollment around 715) is a member of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Connersville, East Central, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated and South Dearborn).
Besides Franklin County and Rushville Consolidated, the Bulldogs were part of a 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Connersville, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg and South Dearborn. Batesville has won 13 sectional titles — the last two in 2018 and 2021.
Burcham, who teaches Health and Physical Education to eighth graders at Batesville Middle School, has already met with some returning players from the Class of 2023 (middle infielder Charlie Schebler is an Ohio State University commit) and morning weightlifting sessions have happened the past two weeks. The goal is to build team chemistry and commitment.
“We’re having a lot of guys coming through this program who want to play collegiately,” says Burcham. “Our next step is to push our potential and see how much harder can we hit the baseball and how much harder we can throw it.
“There’s culture build-up. We want to see how much further can we take this thing.”
Two alums — Zach Britton (Class of 2017) and Bryan Hoeing (Class of 2015) — are in professional baseball and come to work with the next wave during their off-seasons.
“They’ve elevated those expectations,” says Burcham.
Zach Wade (Class of 2022) has gone on to baseball at Adrian (Mich.) College. Other recent graduates who signed at the next level include Class of 2021’s Sam Voegele (Indiana University Southeast) and Riley Zink (Oakland City University) and Class of 2019’s Trey Heidlage (Marian University) and Lane Oesterling (Indiana University Southeast).
Doug Burcham, Tyler’s father, has joined the coaching staff. Other assistants are being sought.
The elder Burcham coached at Waldron in 2022 and recently accepted as job as math teacher at Greensburg.
Doug Burcham was teaching and coach in Versailles, Ind., when Tyler went to school at South Ripley until second grade and then moved to Greensburg.
Tyler did not play varsity as a freshman, when his father was Pirates head coach. Scott Holdsworth was at the head of the program during his three varsity years.
“I remember his ability to create relationships,” says Burcham of Holdsworth. “He motivated players as if they were adults and treated them as such. I always appreciated that about Scott.”
Burcham is a 2013 graduate of Greensburg High School, where he was part of successful programs in soccer, football, basketball and baseball. He was the first man off the bench for the 2013 3A state boys basketball champions.
Recruited by outgoing coach Matt Kennedy, left-handed pitcher Burcham played two baseball seasons at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., for Cobras head coach David Garcia, then two more for Mark Brew at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn.
Brew has been Flames head coach since the 2007 season and has enjoyed success at the NAIA and NCAA Division II levels.
Burcham recalls Brew’s attention to detail.
“We’d practice standing from the National Anthem and he’d grade us on it,” says Burcham. “Everything we did we tried to make sure we were really good at it.
“He always wanted us to be good men. He’s a big family guy and wants the best for everybody.”
After Lee, Tyler was a full-time substitute at Batesville and spent a few months helping his father at Waldron when the opportunity arose to join the Tucker’s Batesville baseball staff.
The Bulldogs plays home games off-campus at Liberty Park, which celebrated its 100th year of baseball in 2021. Batesville shares a skinned-infield diamond with the Oldenburg Academy baseball program and Batesville adult slow pitch softball.
Varsity games and practices are coordinated with Oldenburg. Junior varsity and C-team practices take place at an on-campus field which is adjacent to the football stadium and is considered too small for varsity play.

Batesville Bats — founded by Brandon Blessing and Paul Drake — are a travel organization that worked closely with Tucker and will continue to help Burcham. The 2023 season will be the eighth season for the Bats. There will be teams for 9U to 15U.
Tyler’s mother — Cindy Burcham — is a former nurse and current case manager for Indiana University Health. Both brothers are older. Kyle Burcham works for Amazon and lives in Santa Claus, Ind. Shawn Burcham works with a sports program app and resides in Indianapolis.
Tyler and Carissa Burcham were married in July 2021.
“She’s been a rock star during this whole thing,” says Tyler of his wife. “She wants to help in any way she can.
“I think she knows how much it means to me.”

Tyler Burcham (Batesville Middle School Photo)

Tyler Burcham (Lee University Photo)

Tyler Burcham

Tyler Burcham

Brebeuf’s Dutkanych chosen 2022 IHSBCA Player of the Year

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

A day removed from sitting in the office of Vanderbilt University head baseball coach Tim Corbin, Andrew Dutkanych IV was in a rural banquet hall in his home state being honored by prep coaches as the best player of 2022.
Committed to play at Vandy, Dutkanych had a meeting with the Commodores coach in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, June 23.
“It’s always cool to go down to Vanderbilt,” says Dutkanych. “I’ve been in-contact with them for so long. It’s becoming more and more real as it comes up on the next few months.
“We were just talking about what the fall will look like if that’s what my decision comes to.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed pitcher who went 8-1, struck out 114, walked 25 in 54 innings and led his high school team to the 2022 IHSAA Class 3A championship game could find himself back in Music City in the fall as part of a traditional college baseball powerhouse.
Or Dutkanych’s name could be called early in the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (slated for July 17-19) and cause him to go the pro route straight out of Brebeuf Jesuit High School in Indianapolis.
On Friday, June 24 — the eve of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion — and with parents Andrew III and Caroline and brothers Sam, Jack and Luke plus high school head coach Jeff Scott in the audience at Roseburg Event Center, Dutkanych was honored as the 2022 IHSBCA Player of the Year.
“Duke” knows many of the All-Stars from high school and travel ball circles. He will root on other South invitees, but he will not play in the games (two Saturday and one Sunday).
After his time in Marion he will head back home and be a regular visitor to the weight room.
“Right now I’m focusing on building some massive in my upper body a little bit,” says Dutkanych. “I want to get stronger up here and take a break from throwing.”
Dutkanych says he will coordinate his training with PRP Baseball’s Anthony Gomez will doing most of the work at the gym next to his house.
“The last week all I was focused on was the State Finals,” says Dutkanych. “It was obviously a heart-breaking (5-1) loss (to Andrean).
“But it’s also been really cool to kind of reflect on the whole high school career and the relationships I had with the seniors and the whole team. I just felt a lot of pride in the last week for just being part of that team for four years.”

Brebeuf Jesuit’s Andrew Dutkanych IV is the 2022 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year. (Steve Krah Photo)

Bickel making memories in first season at Purdue Fort Wayne

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

Jarrett Bickel had a decision to make after playing junior college baseball for two seasons.
The infielder from South Bend, Ind., with two years of eligibility remaining could take another year at the JUCO level allowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Head coach Kyle Forbes invited him to stay at Palm Beach State College.
“I was ready to move on to a four-year school and play at the (NCAA) Division I level,” says Bickel, who chose Purdue Fort Wayne over East Tennessee State, New Orleans, Alcorn State and Savannah State.
Why the PFW Mastodons?
“I was sold on Coach (Doug) Schreiber and his history at Purdue University,” says Bickel. “I knew he was coming here to turn the program around.
“He’s awesome. His knowledge for the game is through the roof.”
Bickel appreciates Schreiber not only for what he can do for him on the diamond, but away from it.
“He shows you how to carry yourself off the field and be a man,” says Bickel, 22.
As a player, Bickel has gone from third base to shortstop and settling in as Purdue Fort Wayne’s starting shortstop and lead-off hitter.
His double play partner is redshirt sophomore second baseman Brian Erbe.
“He has a confidence and swagger he brings everyday,” says Bickel of Erbe. “We kind of feed off that energy.”
Going into an April 27 non-conference game at Michigan State, righty swinger Bickel was hitting .259 (38-of-147) with five home runs, 12 doubles, 19 runs batted in, 18 runs scored and a .306 on-base percentage. He collected a season-best four hits April 3 against Wright State and drove in a season-high three runs April 16 at Northern Kentucky.
Bickel even pitched 2/3 of an inning Feb. 27 at Cal Baptist.
Though he was not in the middle of either, two memorable moments for Bickel came with walk-off wins March 20 against Youngstown State and April 22 vs. Northern Kentucky.
Away from the field, Bickel likes to hang out with teammates. He also likes to play golf and go fishing.
“I’m an outdoorsy person,” says Bickel. “I don’t like to be inside that much. I love to fish.”
A St. Joseph River dam near campus gives him a chance to pull in catfish and bass. In the warm climes of Florida, he liked going on the ocean and catching snook.
Bickel grew up a few minutes from Notre Dame and Bickel got to play against the Irish April 20, going 1-for-4 with an RBI.
“I’ve always been a Notre Dame fan since I was little,” says Bickel. “Going back there and playing them was pretty special.”
ND is No. 3 behind Tennessee and Dallas Bapist in the D1Baseball.com RPI.
Bickel assessed the Link Jarrett-coached Irish.
“They’re very well put-together and do all the little things,” says Bickel. “They’re well-coached. They are good at situational hitting and have very good (pitching) arms.”
Currently fifth in the Horizon League, the Mastodons are looking to finish in the top six to earn a berth in the conference tournament May 25-28 with games hosted by the top seed. The last HL series wraps May 14. The regular season is to end May 21.
Enrolled at Purdue Fort Wayne as a General Studies major, he has been taking mostly Business classes.
Bickel plans to spent the summer with the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators. Mastodons pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Brent McNeil managed that team a few years ago. Chris Willsey, Bickel’s head coach two years ago in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., is slated to guide the Aviators in 2022.
A 2018 graduate of Marian High School in Mishwawaka, Ind., Bickel played for Joe Turnock. The Knights won an IHSAA Class 3A Jimtown Sectional title in 2016.
In 2019, Bickel played 41 games for Miami Dade College. He did not play in the spring of 2020 — the COVID-19 season.
That summer, Bickel was with the Indiana Collegiate Summer Baseball League’s Mishawaka Brewers as well as the CSL’s Snakes and Northwoods League’s Bismarck (N.D.) Bull Moose, hitting .271 with a .403 OBP in 16 games. He played for the Bismarck Larks in 2021 with a OBP of .321 over 112 at-bats.
Jarrett is the middle son of Joe and Megan Bickel. Tyler Bickel (24) is working toward becoming a fireman. Xavier Bickel (18) is a Marian senior. Cousin Trey Bickel is head baseball coach at Marian University’s Ancilla College — a junior college in Donaldson, Ind.

Jarrett Bickel (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)
Jarrett Bickel (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)
Jarrett Bickel (Purdue Fort Wayne Photo)

New varsity head coach Nance growing game with Western Boone Stars

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

An investment has been made in the future of baseball at Western Boone Junior/Senior High School in Thorntown, Ind., and Michael Nance is part of it.
After coaching travel ball in the community, in the junior high program that feeds the high school and helping at the high school level, Nance was hired in July 2021 to guide the Webo Stars.
The junior high team has players in Grades 6-8 and plays 12 to 14 games in the spring.
Nance reached out to Western Boone Little League and a partnership was formed. The Western Boone Baseball Club offers instruction on Sundays to players age 9 to 12 not involved in travel ball.
“It’s an opportunity to get these kids more baseball reps all year,” says Nance.
Out of that came 12U and 10U club teams that offer additional games to the Little League schedule.
Knowing his current players and what’s in the pipeline, Nance is upbeat in leading a program which produced five varsity victories in 2019 and four in 2021.
“I think we can win,” says Nance. “I’m very excited about the next six or eight years from what I can see coming.”
Western Boone’s four seniors are Casey Baird, Will Barta, Evan Hine and Mitch Miller.
Baird, who has committed to Franklin (Ind.) College for football, will be called on to play multiple positions, including shortstop, second base, catcher and relief pitcher. Barta is a designated hitter. Georgetown (Ky.) College-bound Evan Hine (.325 average with a team-best .509 on-base percentage in 2021) is a third baseman. Miller, who led the Stars with .349 average last season, is a center fielder and lead-off hitter.
There’s also junior first baseman Andrew Foster, sophomore left-handed pitcher/right fielder Jackson Grimes, sophomore right-hander/left fielder Luke Jackson, sophomore righty/shortstop Bryce Kopriva, sophomore catcher and clean-up hitter Cole Wiley and freshman second baseman Gavin Hawkins.
Nance labels Kopriva, Jackson and Grimes as 1, 1A and 1B on his pitching staff. He points out that athletic Hawkins was the No. 1 singles player in tennis and played on the junior varsity team in basketball.
Former Marian University pitcher Gabe Westerfeld is a varsity assistant coach and the program’s pitching coordinator.
“We are really, really young on the mound,” says Nance. “Gabe has our young guys believing and there have been velocity increases.”
Eric Gubera is JV coach and is also in charge of outfielders and base runners. He has coached with Nance in the summer since their sons were 8. Two years ago, they became affiliated with the Indiana Braves. This summer, they will guide the 12U Indiana Yard Goats — a squad that includes six players from Western Boone, three from Avon and one from Brownsburg player.
Nance, who was a catcher at Lebanon (Ind.) High School, Ancilla College (Donaldson, Ind.) and MacMurray College (Jacksonsonville, Ill.), handles catchers, infielders and hitters.
There are 22 players in the program and all practice together.
Western Boone (enrollment around 510) is a member of the Sagamore Conference (with Crawfordsville, Danville Community, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Southmont and Tri-West Hendricks).
The Stars are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Clinton Prairie, Delphi (2022 host), Fountain Central and Seeger. Western Boone has won two sectional titles — 1982 and 1983.
Western Boone is scheduled to open the 2022 season with three games this weekend in Unionville, Tenn., south of Nashville. An optional part of the spring break trip is attending Sunday’s Tennessee at Vanderbilt college game.
The Stars play home contests on-campus with side-by-side varsity and JV diamonds north of the school building. This year, the Stars got new brick dust for the infield and new wind screens for the outfield as well as a Hack machine and new L screens. At the end of the season, lights will go up.
“It’s a really nice place to play,” says Nance.
A 2004 Lebanon graduate, Nance played for Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray.
“He demanded a lot but got more out kids than they knew they were capable,” says Nance. “You knew he really loved the game. He was always so upbeat and positive.
“I have nothing but admiration for Coach Cosgray. I try to run my program like him.”
Nance played for two head coaches at Ancilla — Rockie Dodds and Joe Yonto.
“(Yonto) had a profound impact on me,” says Nance. “He showed me how to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand (through eye-specific muscle training.”
In Nance’s last year at MacMurray, former high school coach Fred Curtis led the Highlanders.
“He just loved the game,” says Nance. “He said if you do the fundamentals right and not walk people, you can win ball games.”
Nance says he also appreciates the mentoring and assistance he’s received from men also leading high school programs — among them Matthew Cherry (Fishers), Troy Drosche (Avon) and Andy Dudley (Frankfort).
“There’s been such support from the coaching community,” says Nance. “They’ve been willing to help.”
Nance earned a Special Education degree at MacMurray and a masters in Criminal Justice from Xavier University in Cincinnati. This summer will mark 15 years with Boone County Community Corrections. After starting out as a probation officer, he is now executive director.
Michael and wife Emily (who played softball at Manchester University and MacMurray and now works in cancer research at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis) have a son and daughter attending Thorntown Elementary — Easton (12) and Harper (10). He enjoys tennis, baseball and duck hunting. She likes soccer and plays travel softball with the Indiana Magic.

Michael Nance.
Michael Nance.
Emily, Easton, Michael and Harper Nance.
Michael, Emily, Easton and Harper Nance.
Harper and Michael Nance.
Easton, Michael and Harper Nance.

Coaching takes Gobert to Walters State Community College

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

Nick Gobert’s baseball coaching career has taken him from a powerhouse in the Midwest to an elite program in the South.
The graduate of Jasper (Ind.) High School and the University of Southern Indiana has gone from Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa, to Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tenn., which is located between Knoxville and Johnson City.
The 44-16 IHCC Warriors and 61-7 WSCC Senators both participated in the 2021 National Junior College Athletic Association Division I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
Married in June 2021 to the former Haley Brun, Nick followed her to Tennessee when she took a job at Colgate-Palmolive in Morristown. The Kansas State University graduate had worked at the company’s plant in Richmond, Ind., while having a long-distance relationship with Gobert. The couple was introduced by a mutual friend.
When relocating, Gobert looked for a new baseball home.
“I wanted to get to a competitive place,” says Gobert. “(Coaching) wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t (Haley) believing in me. She’s been a sports fan her whole life.
“It took two years to fully understand the time commitment.”
Gobert is a volunteer assistant on the staff led by David Shelton, who earned his 400th career victory in February.
“I do a little bit of everything,” says Gobert. “I’m in charge of base running and help with infield play and hitters.”
How does his last team differ from his current one?
“Indian Hills is a pitching and defensive-minded program though we did have guys who could hit a little bit,” says Gobert. “Walters State is more offensive-minded. We have the ability to drive the baseball with guys who can impact the game with doubles and home runs.
“It’s a place kids want to come to because of the great tradition.”
Since 1984, the Senators have made 10 NJCAA World Series appearances with one championship (2006), a runner-up finish (2018) plus finishing third outright (2003 and 2015) and tying for third (2019). Former WSCC head coach Ken Campbell went into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
While Walters State has a home field with a turf surface and many other amenities and played a fall game at the home of the Tennessee Smokies (Double-A South), there still a junior college baseball mindset.
“We still have the JUCO grind-it-out kind of guys and atmosphere,” says Gobert. “We practice quite a bit. Our mentality is that nothing is every given to us. We have to earn everything we have.”
Gobert, who turns 28 in May, appreciates the amount of time allowed at the junior college level for one-on-one instruction and evaluation.
“It’s that amount of hands-on time you get with each player,” says Gobert. “You’re watching everything and working with them. You get to connect with your players better.
“You make adjustments as needed because of those relationships.”
When Gobert is not involved with baseball activities or his wife, he earns a little extra cash as a Walters State mail courier.
Walters State, which heads into the weekend at 20-2, carries a roster of around 50 players. Among those are redshirts and players who took an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19.
“It’s an older bunch,” says Gobert. It’s big to have those guys around to help the younger (players).”
The Senators tend to use a wide variety of players in mid-week games with those competing for spots in weekend Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Region VII contests.
Gobert was an assistant to Matthew Torrez at Indian Hills. Torrez played for Tracy Archuleta at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Archuleta is now head coach at USI.
Nick is the son of Terry Gobert, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer with more than 800 victores, five state titles and four state runners-up to his credit. The two were featured together in the American Baseball Coaches Association Podcast hosted by Evansville, Ind., native Ryan Brownlee in October 2021.

Nick Gobert (Walters State Community College Photo)
Nick Gobert (Walters State Community College Photo)
Aerial view of the Walters State Community College baseball field in Morristown, Tenn. (Walters State CC Photo)

Kutch, North Central Thunderbirds enjoy competition

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

Joe Kutch has long taken a leadership role in youth sports in and around Sullivan County, Ind.
Kutch (pronounced Kootch) is entering his eighth season as head baseball coach at North Central Junior/Senior High School in Farmersburg.
He was junior high coach for about five years before taking over the varsity Thunderbirds.
After years as an assistant, Kutch became North Central’s head football coach midway through the 2021 season. The Thunderbirds won their two sectional football titles with Kutch on the staff — 2018 as defensive coordinator and 2021 as head coach/offensive coordinator.
COVID-19 hit Kutch the first week of September and he was in the Intensive Care Unit for nine days and missed three football games. He is still on oxygen. But he still coaches, teaches Automotive classes at North Central (through a co-op with Ivy Tech in Terre Haute) and works for Sullivan Auto Group.
The Nashville (Tenn.) Auto-Diesel College graduate got his teacher’s license through Ball State University and began teaching eight years ago.
Kutch is an alum of Terre Haute North Vigo High School (Class of 1988). While still in high school he started organizing non-high school athletics.
As an adult, Kutch once ran the Northeast Youth League, Tri-Towers Softball League (which once had 500 players and was a pilot site for Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit & Run contest) and is still on the board of the Southwest Youth Football League (formerly Quad County).
Joe and Dianna Kutch have been married 28 years and have two sons — Austin Kutch (North Central Class of 2014) and Brayden Kutch (Class of 2017). Both played football and baseball for the Thunderbirds and graduated from college (Austin from Indiana State University and Brayden from Indiana University).
North Central (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley) for baseball and basketball.
Eastern Greene and Linton-Stockton have been IHSAA Class 2A schools on the diamond. Shakamak was a 1A state runner-up in 2021.
“I like the competition,” says Kutch, 52. “We take our sports serious. We compete every year in every sport.”
In 2021, the Thunderbirds were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, Shakamak and White River Valley (the 2021 host). North Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2011.
During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, North Central has 26 athletes who have indicated that they plan to play baseball in the spring.
“Most of my key players are playing basketball, like six of the starting nine,” says Kutch. “(Our numbers) will will drop when we get to mandatory practice (March 14).”
Kutch, pitching coach Andy Fuson and hitting coach Brian Raber make up the current Thunderbirds staff. A few volunteers when official preseason practice begins.
The Thunderbirds play home games on-campus. A ball over the right field fence could reach U.S. 41.
A few years ago, infield dirt was upgraded. The facility has a grass infield with brick dust running lanes. About a decade, a brick press box was installed.
The high school shares the field with the independent junior high program.
“You need junior high baseball,” says Kutch. “You need a feeder system to keep your program going.”
Connor Strain, a 2012 North Central graduate, pitched at the University of Evansville and in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.

North Central Thunderbirds.
Head coach Joe Kutch (left) and the North Central Thunderbirds.
Joe and Dianna Kutch.
Joe Kutch (foreground) with wife Dianna and sons Austin and Brayden.