Steven Mirizzi enjoyed his previous coaching assignment, but has made a move that brings him closer to home. Mirizzi, who lives in Avon, Ind., with fiancee’ Tiffany Herr and three children (son Jackson, 9, daughter Mackenzie, 5, and son Keegan, 3) has gone from head coach at Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind., to head coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School. He lives about 10 minutes from the Home of the Quakers. It was about an hour commute to Indian Creek. Jackson plays travel baseball (Indiana Bulls 10U Black with his father as coach) and Mackenzie is in competitive cheerleading. Steven Mirizzi balances family and his own lawn care service. “Leaving Indian Creek was really hard. I think they will have a strong shot at winning the (Western Indiana) Conference and the sectional (in 2023),” says Mirzzi, who led the Braves program 2018-22 with sectional crowns in 2018 and 2019 and a regional tile in 2018. “I am very grateful that (athletic director) Derek Perry, (principal) Luke Skobal and (superintendent) Dr. Tim Edsel gave me the opportunity to lead their program. They are some of the most-memorable seasons of my coaching career. “(Moving to Plainfield) came down to having a chance to compete at the highest level in a good conference.” Plainfield (enrollment around 1,800) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian and Whiteland). The Quakers were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Avon, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Plainfield has won eight sectional titles — the last in 1997. Mirizzi was hired in early August and from the time of his call-out meeting through the IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices drawing 25-plus players each time out and now wrapping up with a Red-Blue World Series, lofty goals have been set. “We have high expectations,” says Mirizzi, who takes over a program that was 6-22 at the varsity level in 2022. “We want to win 20 games every year and compete for conference and sectional championships. “We want to win a state title.” Plainfield just broke ground on turf fields for baseball and softball, which are expected to be ready next spring. The baseball field already has stadium seating dugout-to-dugout and will get new fencing. “I want to get the community excited again about Plainfield baseball,” says Mirizzi. “We have a good dynamic for our coaching staff. We will be able to develop our guys through the program and make our varsity competitive.” The varsity staff includes Tyler Brown (pitching coach) and Eric Farley (former Indiana University catcher and local youth coach) with Steve Fuson returning as head junior varsity coach and Mike Harper back as head freshmen coach. Plainfield alum Noah Lane also returns and helps at also levels. Fuson is also a director for the Plainfield Havoc, which serves as a feeder program for the Quakers. Mirizzi and company are looking for pitchers who can compete in the strike zone to keep the team in games. “We want to let (defenders) make plays and limit walks,” says Mirizzi. “I’m excited about our defense and offensive lineup. We have strong senior group.” Among returning regulars in the Class of 2023 are Mason Birke, Noah Hessong, Maddox Holtsclaw, Cooper Martin and Bryce Pax.
Mike Bodart conducted a call-out meeting Wednesday, Aug. 31, after being named head baseball coach at his alma mater — Columbus (Ind.) North High School. There were 37 players in attendance and a few more indicated that they could not be there. There could be about 40 players to fill out varsity and junior varsity rosters in 2023. Bodart, a 1993 North graduate who has been a Bull Dogs assistant in two different stints (1998-2000 with head coach Val Nolan and 2014-21 with head coach Ben McDaniel), talked about putting teammates first and lifelong loyalty to Columbus North baseball. “It’s not about us; It’s about the program,” says Bodart. “We don’t want any individuals putting themselves first. “It’s about building.” Bodart has had a number of former players reach out to him this week. “I’m going to work on getting the alumni re-energized,” says Bodart. “We want to honor them a little bit.” Ways this can be done is to recognize teams that advanced in the state tournament or prominent alums. “We want to show the kids how loyalty to the program looks,” says Bodart. The coach also told Wednesday’s gathering about perseverance. As a player, he did not make the varsity until he was a senior and convinced head coach Joe Preda to keep him. “I was not necessarily the most-talented,” says Bodart. “But I gritty, smart and worked hard. I tried to put myself in places to be successful. “(Current players) are going to get a fair chance from me because I understand. Be ready when your chance comes.” Columbus North (enrollment around 2,300) is a member of Conference Indiana (with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo). The Bull Dogs were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, East Central and Shelbyville. Columbus North has won 14 sectional titles — the last in 2021. Bodart says there has been talk at North of adding lights and turf to the infield at the school’s on-campus field. “We’ve never had lights in Columbus at either high school,” says Bodart. “If we end a conference game in a tie for darkness the visiting team has to come back.” CERA Sports Park & Campground in Columbus is home to a youth baseball league. Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus will field it first baseball team in 2022-23. Bodart played two seasons at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany for Rick Parr and later graduated from IU-Bloomington and then joined Nolan’s staff. “Part of his goal was to get me ready to be a varsity coach,” says Bodart. “Val is still a really good friend to this day.” Bodart helped Gene Wise at Columbus East during the 2001 and 2002 seasons. McDaniel, who retired after the 2021 season, did things that impressed Bodart. “He did a wonderful job of challenging the guys mentally and making sure they were prepared,” says Bodart. “His attention to detail was ridiculously amazing. He was meticulous during the game. It forced me to be a better coach.” Bodart says McDaniel had a way of addressing mistakes and positives. “We have to learn from what we did,” says Bodart. “It forced me to start working on that.” Bodart has also coached with the Diesel Baseball Club — a Bartholomew County-based travel organization — the past three years and plans to continue. Mike and wife Amanda have two children — North sophomore Lizzie (15) and South Side Elementary fifth grader and Diesel ballplayer Michael (11). Bodart bought Hoosier Sporting Goods in Columbus in 2003. The business has been in town for generations. “It keeps me involved in sports,” says Bodart. “I keep up on the trends the kids like.” He foresees letting current seniors — who missed their freshman season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and have three head coaches in McDaniel, Patrick Antone (now head coach at Roncalli) and Bodart — will be allowed to design a set of uniforms to leave their mark on the program. There have been no college commitments among current players. Bodart says Tyler Blythe and Luke Harmon are among those from the Class of 2023 who might choose to play at the next level. Devin Mann (Class of 2015) is a North graduate who played at the University of Louisville and is now an infielder with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. Of late, some college players from North have been the Class of 2018’s Tyler Finke (Snead State Community College in Alabama and Southeastern Louisiana State University), 2019’s Parker Maddox (University of Southern Indiana) and Jakob Meyer (University of Evansville), 2020’s Casper Clark (John A. Logan College in Illinois), 2021’s Austin Bode (Louisville and Indiana University), Reese Harmon (Iowa Western Community College) and Kyler McIntosh (Alabama State University) and 2022’s Will Baker (Snead State), Dyllan Redmon (Franklin College in Indiana) and Zach Wager (University of Tennessee at Martin).
Right-hander Jacob Pruitt pitched a no-hitter Saturday, July 30 to help Muncie Post 19 defeat Terre Haute Post 346 by a 4-0 score in the championship of the 2022 Indiana American Legion Senior Baseball State Finals. Pruitt threw 100 pitches with 11 strikeouts and two walks to helped the Post 19 Chiefs win the program’s first senior baseball state crown since 2008. “My catcher Luke Willmann called a great game today,” said Pruitt. “He knew exactly what he wanted to me to throw and I was able to execute.” Pruitt, a 2022 Yorktown High School graduate and Indiana State University recruit as well as an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series participant, mixed his four- and two-seam fastball and his breaking pitches to best Terre Haute for the second time during the State Finals. The first time was not at Kokomo’s CFD Stadium at Highland Park. The tournament began in Rockport Friday, July 22 and was moved to Kokomo because of excessive rain on what would have been the final day Tuesday, July 25. This also allowed all pitchers to be eligible under American Legion pitch count rest rules. Muncie Post 19, Terre Haute Post 346 and Kokomo Post 6 came into Saturday’s action with 3-1 tourney records. “I learned what their hitters are capable of doing,” said Pruitt of the July 22 game against Terre Haute. “They’re a very good team, obviously. But I was able to find some weaknesses in the off-speed where I could exploit. “It the curveball the last time. It was the slider today. I was able to mix it up.” Post 346 manager David Will explained why he thought Pruitt was so effective. “He throws a 92 mph fastball and he’s got a slider that’s only five or six miles an hour slower,” said Will. “It looks like a fastball coming to the kids so they’re right out front and it makes them look silly. “He’s a good pitcher.” Post 19 Chiefs manager Ken Zvokel had Jerad Michael (who had two saves earlier in the State Finals) ready to go if Pruitt faltered. But that did not happen. “(Pruitt) was on fire,” said Kvokel. He got it in his head that he was going to win this game and wasn’t going to give the ball up.” With the championship, Muncie (19-11) advances to the Great Lakes Regional (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 3-7 in Midland, Mich. The American Legion World Series is slated for Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C. “We were fired up,” said Zvokel of his team. “We’ve had a good roll here the last couple of weeks. We play good ball all the way — top to bottom. Every guy on the bench is ready to go.” Terre Haute (25-8-1) was seeking its 15th overall state title and first since 2019. Post 346 topped Kokomo Post 6 by a 5-1 count in Saturday’s first game. Muncie went up 4-0 with two runs in the fourth. Hayden Carrow smacked a lead-off single and Isaac Jackson followed with a double. Carrow scored on an error and Jackson later came home Cooper Roach’s sacrifice fly. Post 19 tallied a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the third for a 2-0 lead. Quinn Faulkner led off with a walk and Michael reached on a sacrifice and an error. A double by Willmann drove in Faulkner and Michael. Right-hander Derek Lebron, a Rend Lake College recruit, pitched a complete game for Terre Haute. He allowed six hits while striking out five and walking two
Semifinal Terre Haute Post 346 5, Kokomo Post 6 1 Right-hander Cade Moore threw 100 pitches and went the distance as the winner for Post 346. The right-hander who graduated from Terre Haute North Vigo High School in 2021 and was at Kentucky Wesleyan College in the spring scattered six hits, struck out five and walked none. “Cade pitched really well,” said Will. “He was pounding the zone. He gave them some fits. On top of that we made some great plays in the infield that really helped him.” Terre Haute took its lead up to 5-1 with one run in the top of the sixth inning. Logan Nicoson singled and later crossed the plate on an infield hit by Tyler Will. Kokomo right fielder Jacob Ward caught a fly and threw out a runner at the plate for the first two outs. Post 6 cut the gap to 4-1 with one run in the bottom of the fourth. Will McKinzie produced a lead-off single and later scored on Conner Boone’s sacrifice fly. McKinzie moved to second base on an error and third base on Levi Mavrick’s single. Post 346 pushed its advantage to 4-0 with a solo home run by Pierson Barnes in the top of the fourth. With one out, Barnes belted the first pitch he saw over the tall fence in right field. Terre Haute took a 3-0 lead with two runs in the top of the third. Ty Stultz drew a walk against Kokomo right-handed starter Owen Taylor. With one out, Moore doubled off Post 6 righty reliever Mavrick, who tossed the last five innings and gave up 10 hits with one strikeout and two walks. An error on the play allowed Stultz and score. A single by Bryson Carpenter plated Moore from second base. Post 346 scored one run in the top of the first. Lead-off man Caden Mason walked and later scored on a wild pitch. He was advanced to second base by Moore’s sacrifice bunt and third base Carpenter’s fly-out. Kokomo, which was seeking its first state crown since 1982, finished 2022 season at 23-10-2. Because of a positive COVID-19 test, Post 6 was without 2022 Logansport High School graduate and Indiana University Kokomo commit Gavin Smith. He was selected as the A.D. Phillips Sportsmanship Award winner. The five other participants in the 2022 State Finals were Newburgh Post 44, Jasper Post 147, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 and Rockport Post 254.
INDIANA AMERICAN LEGION SENIOR STATE FINALS (2022) At Rockport Friday, July 22 Newburgh 7, Jasper 3 Muncie 2, Terre Haute 1 Kokomo 4, South Bend 1 Rockport 5, South Haven 4 Saturday, July 23 Jasper 10, South Bend 7 Terre Haute 7, South Haven 0 (forfeit) Kokomo 10, Newburgh 4 Muncie 4, Rockport 3 Sunday, July 24 Terre Haute 4, Newburgh 3 Rockport 11, Jasper 0 (5 inn.) Muncie 10, Kokomo 0 (5 inn.) Monday, July 25 Kokomo 3, Rockport 2 Terre Haute 15, Muncie 3 At Kokomo Saturday, July 30 Terre Haute 5, Kokomo 1 (semifinal) Muncie 4, Terre Haute 0 (championship)
Harrison Pittsford is soaking up the knowledge of veterans while getting in his summer reps as a first-year player for the South Bend Royals, members of men’s wood bat leagues in both South Bend and Fort Wayne. At 20, Pittsford is younger than most of his Royals teammates. That includes 53-year-old Jayson Best. “It’s cool learning from guys like Bestie,” says Pittsford, who completed his second year at NCAA Division III Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., in the spring. “I see how they play the game. “It’s a great experience playing with those guys.” Best, who was born in Lafayette, Ind., played professional baseball from 1989-97. He ascended to Double-A in the Minnesota Twins organization as a pitcher and later was head baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) College. He pitched a no-hitter for the Royals in Mishawaka, Ind., on July 10. Pittsford, a 2020 graduate of Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Ind., comes up to play mostly weekend doubleheaders with former GC hitting star and current Eastern (Greentown) head coach Erik Hisner-managed Royals and Manchester teammate/roommate Hunter Aker (a South Bend Clay High School graduate). While he does some catching, Pittsford is getting playing time in the outfield since he expects to be there much of the time at Manchester. The Royals are to compete in a National Amateur Baseball Federation regional in Fort Wayne July 28-30. The top two finishers move on to the NABF World Series Aug. 2-5 in Battle Creek, Mich. Pittsford was named to the 2022 all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team at designated hitter. The righty swinger played in 30 games (28 starts) and hit .327 (33-of-101) with six home runs, eight doubles, 29 runs batted in, 27 runs scored and a 1.002 OPS (.418 on-base percentage plus .584 slugging average). Rick Espeset competed his 26th season as Manchester head coach in 2022. “Espy got my attention in the recruiting process,” says Pittsford. “His success and longevity eye-catching for me.” Espeset’s Spartans have won 619 games with six national tournament appearances, including two trips to the D-III World Series (2004 and 2013). As much as Pittsford appreciates all the knowledge that Espeset shares, he is also grateful for the insights on the mental approach. “We’re taking time to detach from baseball with breathing and mindfulness,” says Pittsford. As a D-III program, Manchester conducts four weeks of fall practice with the whole team and coaches. Players are then on their own for a few months until everyone reconvenes shortly before the start of the season. “Nothing’s really forced on us,” says Pittsford. “If guys want to get better they are going to get better. I get motivated seeing my teammates working out. “We have good leadership from underclassmen.” A Sport Management major, Pittsford was named Academic all-HCAC in 2022. “I want to stay involved in sports in some capacity,” says Pittsford of his post-college path. “That could be coaching, running a sports facility or being an athletic director. I want to be involved in sports and make a difference for kids and make sure the next generation has the same opportunities I had coming up. “Sports can teach you a lot of life lessons like building character and making friendships.” Born in Bloomington, Ind., and growing up in Ellettsville, Pittsford participated in baseball and basketball through Richland Bean Blossom Youth Sports and was also part of Monroe County Youth Football Association. He was in travel ball with the Ellettsville Explosion, Diamond Dynamics and then Tier Ten. It was with Diamond Dynamics that Pittsford met coach/instructor Tony Kestranek. “He was passionate about baseball,” says Pittsford of Kestranek. “He taught us when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.” At Edgewood, Pittsford played four years each of football and baseball and two of basketball. A special teams player as a freshman, he was the Mustangs’ starting center for three seasons. Brian Rosenburgh was defensive coordinator Pittsford’s freshman year then head coach for the last three. “I loved him as a person and a coach,” says Pittsford of Rosenburgh, who was also a Physical Education teacher at Edgewood. An football coach was Mychal Doering. “He’s an amazing guy,” says Pittsford of the father of classmate Izaiah Doering and JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) specialist at Edgewood. “He was high-energy and he motivated you. He was always checking on people outside of school and he taught me about life and handling the ups and down. “He’s going through chemo (for cancer). It’s cool to see how he’s battling through that.” Pittsford considered playing college football, but decided to go with his first love of baseball. Besides, at 6-foot, 230 pounds he is considered to be undersized for a college lineman. Bob Jones, who has been a Business teacher for more than 40 years and head baseball coach for 36, passed along many diamond lessons to Pittsford. “He knows a lot of baseball,” says Pittsford of Jones, who went into the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame last week. “It’s nice to learn from a guy who’s been around the game for so long.” One of Jones’ more than 500 victories came during the first game of 2019 — a season that ended with the Mustangs finishing as IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up. Playing in a tournament at Vincennes University, Edgewood fell behind 11-0 to Terre Haute North Vigo after four innings. The Mustangs chipped away and eventually won 20-18 in a game that was played in a steady drizzle. “It was a pretty crazy game,” says Pittsford, who started at catcher and batted No. 2 that day and drove in two runs. Later moved to the No. 9 hole, it was there that Pittsford smacked a walk-off home run against West Vigo in the semifinals of the Owen Valley Sectional. Several other Edgewood players wound up playing college baseball, including Class of 2019’s Joe Kido (Indiana State University), Ethan Vecrumba (Indiana University), Cooper Thacker (University of Southern Indiana) and Blake Deckard (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology), Class of 2020’s Pittsford and Sam Kido (Indiana University South Bend) and Class of 2021’s Luke Hayden (Indiana University). Satoshi Kido — father of Mac, Joe and Sam — was an Edgewood assistant in 2019 and has been Pittsford’s hitting coach since he was 7 or 8. “He’s helped me so much with my swing over the years,” says Pittsford. “He always knows how to fix my swing when I get in a slump.” Pittsford spent much of 2021 dealing with a torn right shoulder labrum. Harrison is the youngest of 1986 Edgewood alums Jay and Cheryl Pittsford’s two sons. Alex Pittsford (25) is a graduate of Edgewood (2016) and Wabash College (2020) and is now pursing his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame. He was in football and swimming in high school. Jay Pittsford taught English for 19 1/2 years and then served as an assistant principal. Cheryl Pittsford is an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Physician’s Assistant.
Richard Hurt teaches math in the classroom and baseball on the field. At Bloomington (Ind.) High School North, Hurt leads second-Algebra students. He has taught the Indiana University Finite Math class for about 15 years. “I’m not the kind of teacher that there’s only one way to do things,” says Hurt. “The kids I’ve had in class kind of make fun of me because I say, ‘how do you get from Bloomington North to the mall on the east side? Is there only one road that gets you there? No. There’s all sorts of roads.’ But you’ve got to show me your work. You’ve got to show me how you’re going. “There’s all sorts of ways to solve math problems. But you need to show your work. You’ve got to prove what you’re doing. There’s that logical step-by-step approach to mathematics. I like that. “Everybody talks about the book in baseball. I haven’t seen it yet. But there are certain things you tend to do in certain situations. If you can find a better way to do it, absolutely. If it works, that’s right. Baseball is a numbers game. I like dealing with numbers.” Hurt was one of the first in his area to adopt arm band signals when went to them almost a decade ago. “It opens up a lot more things because everything is on paper,” says Hurt of the numbers-based shorthand system. “It allows you to do more things with your signals.” A 1977 graduate of Bloomington High School South, Hurt was double major in economics and mathematics at IU and earned a baseball letter for the Bob Lawrence-coached Hoosiers in 1980. Hurt was an assistant baseball coach at both South and North and was head coach at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis for three seasons (1986-88). He led Bloomington North 1989-2002, stepped away for six years and came back to the Cougars as head coach in 2009. He has compiled close to 500 victories. “I don’t live on wins and losses,” says Hurt. “They’re still important. You keep score. “At the same time it’s working with kids trying to get them better. You see how they progress.” Hurt has taught his player how to care for and maintain a field (that has changed a little since Bloomington North went to a turf diamond in 2021) and believes in the importance of fundamentals. “My dad was very much that way,” says Hurt. Warren Hurt, a graduate of Winslow High School (part of the Pike Central consolidation), played basketball with all-stater and future member of Branch McCracken’s Hurryin’ Hoosiers, Dick Farley. Hurt was a teacher and high school basketball coach (he guided Smithville High School for a time and later taught at Bloomington South) and also led youth baseball teams. The same lessons that his father taught Richard were also absorbed by brother Mark Hurt who exhibits those traits as head girls basketball coach at Mooresville (Ind.) High School. Hurt’s coaching has changed over the years. He saw the running at the end of practice was not vital and he no longer does that with his teams. “Do we condition?,” says Hurt. “Yeah. Whenever we go from drill to drill, you better run. But that fits into baseball. You hit the ball. You run 90 feet. If you’re out you back to the dugout and rest for 10 or 15 minutes. “You may get a double. You take a short break there.” Not that running is completely out of the equation. Recently, the Cougars had been striking out too much of Hurt’s liking so he came up with the “30 to 350” batting practice drill. “I’m 30 feet away,” says Hurt. “I’m throwing the ball as hard as my 63-year-old arm will allow me which is probably about average for high school “They have two strikes and if you strike out, you got to go to the 350 sign and back. The whole team does. You’ve got to dig in. You’ve got to battle. If you foul it off or put it in-play you’re good.” Hurt has also noticed a change in his players on the artificial surface. “Your fielders are much more confident now,” says Hurt. “They stay down on the ball and get true hops.” Bloomington North (enrollment around 1,600) is a member of the Conference Indiana (with Bloomington South, Columbus North, Southport, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo). There are five conference games. The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Bloomington South (2022 host), Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central and Shelbyville. Bloomington North has won 17 sectional titles — the last in 2013. Several of Hurt’s players have gone on to college and pro baseball. Will Klein (Class of 2017) is a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization. Gant Elmore (Class of 2007) was a second baseman in the Milwaukee Brewers system. Sam Klein (Class of 2020) is the closer at Ball State University. Hurt’s assistants are Erik Pearson, Clay Keltner, Dr. Terry Greene, Drake Smith (JV head coach), A.J. Willis (JV assistant), Gary Stratten (freshmen head coach) and Eizlee Nixon (freshmen assistant). Pearson, Willis and Nixon played for Hurt. The Cougars have about three dozen players for varsity, junior varsity and freshman/C-team squads. Two of Hurt’s sons — Jim (Class of 2009) and Tyler (Class of 2012) — played for him at Bloomington North. Jim Hurt played baseball at the University of Dayton and Tyler Hurt at Cedarville (Ohio) University. Hurt’s stepson is Abe Carney. Richard and Cinder Hurt have been married since 1988. She is a dental hygienist and a Bloomington native.
One of the pillars of baseball at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis involves selflessness. Hawks head coach Sean Winkelseth wants his young men to concern themselves more with the needs of others than themselves. As the 2022 season approaches, Decatur Central players have already contributed nearly 200 hours of community service. They’ve helped clean up the grounds at Decatur Central Little League (where Winkelseth and junior varsity coaches Jim Bushee and Todd Conn are on the board), worked at elementary school carnivals and more. “There’s been a lot of volunteer efforts,” says Winkelseth, who was a Hawks assistant for one season prior to taking over the program in 2019-20. “We’re trying to be seen in the community as a positive.” In playing as a catcher/utility infielder for Ryan Kelley at Wayne State University in Detroit Winkelseth was exposed to this mentality and the 2017 WSU graduate has adopted it. “(Coach Kelley) is by far my biggest mentor for coaching,” says Winkelseth. “He just really instilled the importance of playing for the name on the front of the jersey. The team is is more important than an individual.” Winkelseth says Kelley is focused on making leaders who became successful as husbands and father. “He cared for us more than on the baseball field,” says Winkelseth, whose wife Madison went from Avon, Ind., to play volleyball at Wayne State and is now a speech language pathologist at Central Elementary School in the Beech Grove school district. The Winkelseths wed in August 2018. Sean Winkelseth is a fifth grade teacher at Valley Mills Elementary School in Decatur Township. A 2012 graduate of Ypisilanti (Mich.) High School, Winkelseth played his last three prep seasons for Chris Dessellier. He admires the Grizzlies head coach for building relationships with players. “He was getting to know guys and investing time,” says Winkelseth. “I still talk with him today.” Winkelseth also coached for the Michigan Bulls travel organization the summers before and after his final season at Wayne State. Decatur Central (enrollment around 1,800) is a member of the Mid-State Conference (with Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian, Plainfield and Whiteland). The 14 MSC games are played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as a home-and-home series. In 2021, the Hawks were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Avon, Brownsburg, Plainfield (host), Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Decatur Central has won 16 sectional crowns — the last in 2019. The Hawks play home games at Phil Webster Baseball Complex, named for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. Phil Webster is now back as an assistant at Pike with son Todd after a stint as Southport head coach. Recent field upgrades at Decatur Central have been made the the bases, home plate area and infield skin. Winkelseth’s varsity coaching staff in 2022 includes Alan Curry, Brandon Curry, Nick Jenkins and Noah Klick. Pitching coach Alan Curry is a longtime DC assistant. Brandon is Alan’s son. Jenkins is director of Armstrong Pavilion, Decatur Township’s health and fitness center. DCHS teacher and volunteer Klick played at Tiffin (Ohio) University. Besides Decatur Central Little League (T-ball to age 12), the high school’s feeder system includes seventh grade and eighth grade teams at Decatur Central Middle School. While current players are contemplating offers, Decatur Central has sent several recent graduates on to college baseball, including 2017 graduate Bradley Brehmer (Indiana University), 2018 grads/twins Alex Mitchell (Indiana Tech) and Austin Mitchell (Indiana Tech), 2020 alums Timmy Casteel (Manchester) and Brayden Hazelwood (Indiana University Southeast) and the Class of 2021’s Nico Avila (Marian University’s Ancilla College) and Bryce Woodruff (Marian University’s Ancilla College). Avila was an all-Marion County catcher in 2021.
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.
Brendan Dudas determined that he needed on a career change and left the business world that he entered after college for education. He became a teacher in 2020-21. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s so fulfilling,” says Dudas, who is teaching fourth graders at Mary Bryan Elementary in the Southport section of Indianapolis, in the first part of 2021-22. “I can be a male role model for some of the boys in the school. They might say, ‘I can be a teacher just like Mr. Dudas someday.’” The Mary Bryan campus is the site of Holder Field – home of Southport High School baseball. Dudas was hired as the Cardinals head baseball coach in July and plans call for him to begin teaching college and career prep to SHS freshmen after winter break. The high school dismisses at 2 p.m. and the elementary at 4. Just like he does with The Dirtyard as founder of Circle City Wiffle®, Dudas did some sprucing at Holder Field. “I’ve edged it,” says Dudas. “I want to give the kids something to be proud of.” A 2013 graduate of Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis (PM and Southport are both part of Perry Township Schools), Dudas went to the University of Indianapolis to study and play baseball. He redshirted as a freshman and then competed for the Gary Vaught-coached Greyhounds for four seasons (2015-18) while earning a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management and a Master’s in Business Administration. Dudas describes the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period with Southport players. “I got right to work,” says Dudas. “I was excited to get out there and see what I had. “We did a lot of skill work and broke things down to the basics. By the end of the fall, the Cardinals were participating in modified scrimmages. Right now, players are working on conditioning and team bonding. “Last night they ran in the snow,” says Dudas, who is eager for the next Limited Contact window to open on Dec. 6. “On 12-6 we’re going to get reps after reps in the (batting) cage – whatever we have to do to simulate being on the field.” Southport has an indoor facility with cages and a turf floor. If it gets too cold in there, practice can be shifted to an auxiliary gym. Dudes’ 2022 assistants are Jordan Tackett (pitching coach), Thomas Hopkins, Keegan Caughey, Chris Cox and Mike Gaylor. Tackett (Perry Meridian Class of 2013) and Dudas played together at age 10 with the Edgewood Bulldogs (later known as the Indy Irish) and at Perry Meridian and UIndy. Dudas met Hopkins, who played at Hanover College, through Wiffle®Ball. Caughey is Dudas’ best friend and was also in the Perry Meridian Class of ’13. Cox is a holdover from 2021 and will be the junior varsity head coach. Southport (enrollment around 2,250) is a member of Conference Indiana (with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus North, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo). In 2021, the Cardinals were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Franklin Central, Perry Meridian, Roncalli and Warren Central. Southport has won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2008. Senior Zachary Shepherd recently signed to play of Southport graduate Tony Vittorio at Wilmington (Ohio) College. Dudas says he may have a few more college commits in his senior class and sees plenty of potentials in his “young guns.” Left-handed pitcher Avery Short was selected in 12th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks straight out of Southport. He competed at Low-Class A Visalia in 2021. The high school program is fed in part by Southport Little League. “(Administrators) want us to visit there and get it thriving again,” says Dudas. Southport Middle School plays condensed baseball schedule in the spring. Brendan and Madison Dudas have been married for two years. They’ve been best friends since they were in sixth grade. Madison Dudas is in the Indiana University School of Medicine-Indianapolis campus. The couple lives in Perry Township and are raising Brendan’s nephews – Kevin and Tristan. He was a true sophomore at UIndy when he took the boys in following the death of his sister to a heroin overdose. “We have a support system here,” says Brendan. “That’s why (coming to Southport) here is so appealing.”
Shakamak Junior-Senior High School in Jasonville, Ind., has established a tradition of excellence on the baseball diamond. As the Lakers go into the one-game IHSAA Class 1A Mooresville Semistate against first-time regional winner Borden (22-6-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12, they can count all-time totals of 26 sectionals, 13 regionals, seven semistates and two state titles (2008 and 2014). The Shakamak-Borden winner moves on to the State Finals to play Washington Township (25-7) or Cowan (15-13) either Monday or Tuesday, June 21 or 22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. In 2021, Shakamak beat White River Valley 14-0, Clay City 10-0 and Bloomfield 4-1 to win the White River Valley Sectional and Southwestern (Shelbyville) 10-1 and Oldenburg Academy 13-0 to reign at the Morristown Regional. The Lakers were 2-4 in the six games before sectional. “We got hot at the right time,” says Jeremy Yeryar (pronounced YIRE), Shakamak’s first-year head coach. “The kids got hot at the right time. The way we approach it we’re 5-0. “The postseason. That’s when it really matters. “The pitching’s been really good and solid. The defense and the bats have really come alive lately. We switched up things in practice and kept us in game mode. “We’re playing for those seven seniors. Everybody who’s been at this school would like to put that uniform on one more time. I don’t want to let go of the seniors just yet.” The Class of 2021 is represented by Ethan Burdette, Logan Burris, Trevor Ellingsworth, Brevon Fulford, Bryce Jenkins, Clayton “Buddy” Stone and Peyton Yeryar (cousin to Jeremy). There have been plenty of success, but Yeryar is not taking credit for those. “It’s my motto: Players win; Coaches lose,” says Yeryar. “If we lose, that’s on me. If we win, that’s on the kids.” Yeryar, a 1993 Shakamak graduate who played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chip Sweet. “The program that I played under him is a lot of the program I’m running,” says Yeryar. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. “We teach more than a game. We teach life lessons along the way. Baseball is not fair at times and neither is life. You can come up short at times. Baseball is a game of failure. “We hold our athletes to a high standard. You should lead at school or anywhere out in the public.” Yeryar, who was a Lakers assistant for Sweet and his successor Todd Gambill, asks his players to give their all each time out. “They know what’s at stake,” says Yeryar. “We lost a whole year last year (to the COVID-19 pandemic) and it can happen again. “So if this was the last time I got to play this game was I satisfied with the way I did it?” Shakamak graduates Dylan Collins (Class of 2015), Jake Walters (Class of ’15), Brent Yeryar (Class of ’95), Brett Yeryar (Class of ’14), Braxton Yeryar (Class of ’15) and Tanner Yeryar (Class of ’17) and Bloomfield alum Jason Pegg (mid-1990’s) are also part of the 2021 coaching staff. Brent and Brett are Jeremy’s cousins. Braxton and Tanner are the youngest sons of Jeremy and wife Stacy (a Shakamak cafeteria worker). The oldest son — Braden Cox (Class of ’13) — also played baseball for the Lakers. Collins played at Vincennes University and Purdue Northwest. Brett and Tanner Yeryar played at VU. Another former Laker player — Braden Scott (Class of ’16) — pitched out of the bullpen the past few seasons for Indiana University. While not committed, Burdette and Peyton Yeryar have drawn interest from college program. Shakamak (enrollment around 200) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess and White River Valley). The Lakers are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, North Central and White River Valley (the 2021 host). Besides conference and postseason opponents, Shakamak has played Bloomington North, Jasper, Martinsville, Owen Valley, Riverton Parke, Sullivan, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo, Washington and West Vigo. “We play a very brutal schedule,” says Yeryar. “We always have.” The Lakers play just one game each against SWIAC teams to free them up to play a strong non-conference slate. It gets them ready for the postseason and is beneficial to their opponents. “Shakamak travels well,” says Yeryar, who also does utilities for the City of Jasonville. “Coaches always keep us on the schedule. They say, ‘you make a game out of everything.’ “We take a lot of pride in that.” The Lakers plays home games on-campus. The field got plenty of attention from coaches and players the past year. “The kids do the field work with me,” says Yeryar. “If you work on the field you’ll respect it and take pride in it.” Shakamak Youth League (T-ball to age 12), the Shakamak Lakers travel team and a junior high program (grades 6-8) all go into feeding high school baseball.
Braden Cox (left), Stacy, Jeremy, Tanner and Braxton Yeryar.
Shakamak baseball seniors for 2021 (from left): Logan Burris, Trevor Ellingsworth, Brevon Fulford, Buddy Stone, head coach Jeremy Yeryar, Peyton Yeryar, Bryce Jenkins and Ethan Burdette.
Cade’s mother, Amanda Moore (South Vigo Class of 1992), is Kyle’s sister. Amanda is married to Scott Moore (North Vigo Class of 1990), who began his teaching and coaching career at South Vigo and is now an administrator at North Vigo. Scott’s parents are Steve and Diane Moore.
Steve Moore (Terre Haute Garfield Class of 1962) was North Vigo head coach when his son played for the Patriots. Diane graduated from Garfield in 1964.
Kyle’s parents are Bob and Kelly Dumas. They once rooted for another grandson in former South Vigo Braves and Indiana State University standout Koby Kraemer (Class of 2008), son of Kyle. Father coached son.
Bob Dumas is a Massachusetts native who came to Terre Haute to attend Indiana State University and met Kelly (Terre Haute Gerstmeyer Tech Class of 1965).
A retired heating and cooling man, Bob Dumas is not hard to spot at at North Vigo-South Vigo game. He’s the one with the shirt that’s half blue with an “N” and red with an “S.” He had it made at an embroidery business in town.
“We’ve been South fans every since Kyle went to high school,” says Bob. “It’s been kind of a twisted year with Cade at North.
“There will be more favoritism to Cade because he’s actually playing.”
Says Kelly Dumas, “It’s a whole range of emotions. We’ve never been North fans.”
“I was a big fan of South watching (Koby) play as a little kid,” says Cade, who has taken hitting lessons from Koby and Kyle.”
What advice does Cade take from grandfather Steve Moore?
“Keep my head in the game and focus on making the right play,” says Cade, 18. “Be a leader and be a teammate. I’ve always been one to have a teammates’ back. Stick with a program. It’s been instilled from grandparents and parents. If you see a teammate knocked over you go help them up.
“I’m hearing the same thing from my coaches.”
Steve Moore, who has taught science at North Vigo, Indiana State and South Vigo, was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Jennings then took over the Patriots for six years in the early 1990’s.
“My expertise was in teaching the game,” says Steve, who for 18 years was the only man to tend to the overall maintenance of the North Vigo diamond which would become known as Don Jennings Field. “You have to think the game. Some kids are not thinking like they should about the game.
“We stressed fundamentals. Know what to do when the ball comes to you. In practice, we would go over just about everything.”
One of the school clubs at North Vigo was Baseball. Members/players would talk about the game and expand their knowledge.
“They had to learn the rules of baseball,” says Steve. “I gave tests. It was all in fun.
“It was a way to teach the game from a different perspective.”
He appreciates what he sees on the field from his grandson.
“I told Cade not too long ago. ‘You’re better than your dad and a whole lot better than your Grandpa,” says Steve. “He’s constantly thinking.”
“I did not like to see Kyle come to the plate,” says Steve. “His technique was always good. He could hit the daylights out of that ball.”
Scott Moore, who is now assistant principal of building and grounds at North Vigo, takes over as Post 346 manager — a position long held by John Hayes and then Tim Hayes.
Of course, Cade gets pointers from his father.
“Take charge and keep your teammates in the game as well as yourself,” says Cade of that advice. He’s more of the fundamental type.
“He can break down my (right-handed) swing for me and help me make an adjustment.”
Says Scott, “I talk to Cade about how being a part of a team is important and working with other people for a common goal.
“It’s about setting goals and working hard. What could I have done differently? Those are life lessons.”
Scott Moore — and the rest of the family — have watched Cade excel on the tennis court. Cade and doubles partner and classmate Ethan Knott (a close friend that he’s known since they played youth baseball together) came within two wins of making the State Finals in the fall of 2019.
“Being involved in multiple sports helps the athlete all-around,” says Scott.
“I like the way he runs his program,” says Cade. “I’ll go there to play infield. I’ll be a two-way if he likes me on the mound.”
Cade has been mostly a shortstop and third baseman when not on the mound for North Vigo.
Both sets of grandparents have already scouted at KWC and the town and look forward to spending time there and the places where the Panthers play.
“(Kentucky Wesleyan) has same colors as Garfield,” says Diane Moore. “Steve and I felt right at home.”
Diane, who retired after 32 years at the Vigo County Library, was brought up in a baseball-loving family.
“Before I even met Steve my father was a big Chicago Cubs fan,” says Diane. “My mother was from St. Louis and a Cardinals fan.”
Steve, who lived across the alley from Diane’s grandparents, met his future bride in high school.
Cade grew up spending plenty of time at his grandparents’ house. When he was young, Woodrow Wilson teacher Amanda dropped him her son at Steve and Diane’s and his grandmother took him to DeVaney.
“(Cade) and Grandpa played I don’t know how much catch in our cul de sac,” says Diane.
Being part of a family filled with educators has not been lost on Cade.
“Not only has it helped me on the field but in the classroom as well,” says Cade.
It doesn’t hurt that he has ready access to facilities thanks to his dad’s job.
“Education has always been our focus,” says Amanda Moore. “You’re here to get an education first and then you can participate in extracurricular activities.
“Cade’s always been a pretty good student though it took a little bit of guidance in kindergarten and first grade.”
Says Scott, “Fortunately he had some good habits and worked through some things. (As an only child), my wife and I were able to focus on him. There was tough love. I wouldn’t say we spoiled him.”
Being six years younger than brother Kyle, Amanda tagged along or begged out when he had games when they were youngsters. She was a gymnast and then a diver at South Vigo.
“Not until Cade started playing baseball did I have any interest in it,” says Amanda. “One great thing about having Cade involved in baseball for so many years is the friendships. These people have become almost like family.
“Some of the parents are like an aunt and uncle to Cade and vice versa. We travel together. We’ve supported each other when one child has been injured.
“It’s been nice to develop those almost familial relationships with those other people and children.”
Amanda has watched her son learn life lessons through sports. While in junior high he was on the track team and did not like it. But there was no quitting the team.
“When you make a commitment you can not back out of that,” says Amanda. “Taking the easy way out is not going to teach you anything about life.
“My brother has shown that loyalty is an important value to have and develop even through the tough times.”
Amanda also sees similarities in her son and nephew and notices a similar dynamic between her husband and son and her brother and his son.
“I can see the competitive edge and desire to work hard,” says Amanda. “I can see that mirror in Koby and Cade. They want to win and are willing to work hard.
“Kyle and Scott walk that fine line between being a coach and dad and not showing any favoritism.
“Sometimes dad is tougher on their own child than they are on their own players.”
Kelly Dumas, a retired teacher who saw Kyle first play T-ball at age 3 and make tin-foil balls to throw around the house when it was too cold to go outside, has been to diamonds all over the place and made friendships with players and their families.
“We’ve enjoyed 50 years of baseball,” says Kelly. “I just like to watch all the different players come through and follow what they do afterward. It’s good to see both my grandsons be successful
“We’ve been so many places with Koby, especially when he played for the (Terre Haute) Rex (the summer collegiate team that will be managed in 2021 by former big league slugger and Kyle Kraemer player A.J. Reed). We went to little towns with old wooden stadiums.
“Cade’s been working very hard to be the best he can be.”
Koby Kraemer, who briefly played in the Toronto Blue Jays system after college, is now assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State University.
“We all love the game,” says Koby of the family’s affinity for baseball. “It plays a big part in our lives.
“The reason my dad has coached so long is because he loves it. The reason he’s successful is that he challenges people to be better.
“You get more out of them then they thought they had in them. That’s what makes good coaches.”
Besides April 30 (the Patriots won 8-5 at South Vigo) and May 7 at North Vigo, the rivals could meet three times this season. Both are in the IHSAA Class 4A Plainfield Sectional.