Jacob Daftari is winding up what has been productive college career — in the classroom and on the baseball field. A fifth-year senior at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Daftari has earned a undergraduate degree in Business Administration with concentration in Sport Management and is about to complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Commencement is slated for Saturday, May 13. A four-time scholar-athlete in high school, he has been an NAIA Scholar-Athlete and Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference All-Academic while at Indiana Tech. “My parents are always stressing that academics come first,” says Jacob, the oldest child of Dr. Sanju Daftari and Dr. Julie Daftari, who met while attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. “My parents have always stressed getting all your school work done before extracurricular activities or hanging out with friends.” Younger brother Jackson Daftari is an Agricultural Business major at Purdue University who is planning to attend law school. Sister Jillian Daftari is a cheerleader at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind. As a righty-swinging second baseman batting second in the Indiana Tech Warriors batting order, Jacob Daftari is hitting .328 (44-of-134) with nine home runs, six doubles, 32 runs batted in, 41 runs scored and 21 walks. “To me it’s all about comfortability,” says Daftari, who carries a .1012 OPS (.437 on-base percentage plus .575 slugging average) in 41 games (39 starts). “I like to see what the pitcher does to the lead-off batter. I know I’ll get pitched similarly.” Daftari, 23, has three two-homer games in 2023 (Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 against Saint Ambrose of Iowa and March 4 vs. Bryan of Tennessee). He was named WHAC Player of the Week after going 7-for-14 with seven RBIs in the four-game sweep of Saint Ambrose. For his college career (2019-23), Daftari has played in 176 games (148 starts) and is hitting .329 (168-of-510) with 23 homers, 30 doubles, 117 RBIs, 123 runs, 65 walks and a .965 OPS (.535/.430). “My mentality is that even if I don’t barrel a ball I want to get on safely as much as I can for my teammates behind me,” says Daftari, a 5-foot-9, 175-pounder. “It’s all about passing the bat to the next guy and keeping an inning alive.” Daftari appeared in 21 games as a freshman, hit .190 and was on the team that went to the 2019 NAIA World Series. He hit .359 during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. He put up marks of .341 in 2021 and .329 in 2022. A middle infielder when he arrived at Indiana Tech, he was moved to third base and played there until moving to second base this spring. “It’s what I’m most comfortable with,” says Daftari of second base. “I feel I can play a greater role there. “At third base, anything but a routine play I could easily. Those routine plays got to my head a little bit.” As well as hitters, Brent Alwine coaches Warrior infielders. “He does a great job of ways at teaching us different ways we can think outside of the box in terms of making plays,” says Daftari. “There are plays where you need to think on your feet.” Kip McWilliams is Indiana Tech’s head coach and Daftari has kind words for him. “He’s a great individual,” says Daftari. “He’s also very knowledgeable about the game. “He does what he can to put our team in position to win. Even when things aren’t going well he’s always motivating us to stay together and play for each other.” Daftari played for the Indiana Summer Collegiate Baseball League’s Fort Wayne-based Kekiongas in 2019 and was an all-star in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., in 2020. He worked on his game, but did not play the past two summers. Born in Indianapolis, Daftari grew up in Lawrence and played his early baseball at what is now Skiles Test Baseball and Softball and counted the Indiana Prospects, Indiana Nitro, Travelers Baseball and the Kevin Christman-coached San Francisco Giants Scout Team (the fall squad won a Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association title in Florida) among his travel ball teams. Jacob’s family moved to Fishers and he began attending Hamilton Southeastern Schools in the middle of his seventh grade year. Daftari was a two-year varsity player at Hamilton Southeastern, where he graduated in 2018. His head coach was Scott Henson. “He was more of a nitty-gritty coach,” says Daftari. “He wanted to make sure things were done correctly. He pushed us to be the best so we could eventually play at a higher level. “We had a lot of guys who could play. Almost seems like Hamilton County breeds athletes.” Indiana Tech (29-12, 15-8) goes to Cleary for two regular-season-ending WHAC doubleheaders. The games are slated for 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30. The top six teams in the conference will play in the WHAC tournament begins May 4-5. The Warriors are currently seventh.
After two baseball seasons at Saint Louis University, Nolan Bowser has opted to enter the Transfer Portal with two years of college eligibility. Is he nervous about where he’ll land? “A little bit, but at the same time I just have to keep playing and feel like teams will come scouting me,” says Bowser. “So nervousness? Yes. But also it’s a little bit of a calling to just play the game.” With the SLU Billikens, Bowser got into 40 games (10 as a starter) in 2021 and 2022 and hit .234 (11-of-47) with four runs batted in and 13 runs scored. His batting mark this past spring was .269 (7-of-26) and he produced a walk-off RBI single against Western Illinois on March 8. Bowser is listed as a lefty-swinging catcher, but has the versatility to play all over the infield or outfield as well. “I can play anywhere really,” says Bowser, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who played third base, shortstop and second base and a few games at catcher in high school and was a catcher and outfielder in travel ball. He was allowed to call pitches. What does catching do for him? “I know it may not seem like it sometimes, but I like being in-control,” says Bowser. “Keeping in-charge of the pitcher it just came easy to me.” Bowser is in his third go-round in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., about 25 miles from McCordsville. He was with the Screwballs in 2020, Tropics in 2021 and is now on the Bomb Squad in 2022. He had just graduated when he played during the CSL’s first season (2020). That year — with limited summer wood bat opportunities — the league was chock-full of D-I talent. “It was definitely a change going from high school to college ball,” says Bowser. “That’s for sure.” As a Criminal Justice major, Bowser sees himself pursuing a career in law enforcement. What made him decide on that path? “On my mom’s side of the family, her dad, grandpa and brother were all in the Marines,” says Bowser. “I played baseball so I really didn’t want to join the Marines. But I felt like I could give back to the community and the world (as a police officer or detective). It’s kind of not in a great place right now. “I feel like I can help change it just a little bit.” Bowser grew up in Lawrence, Ind., and moved into the Mt. Vernon district as high school approached. He played travel ball from 8U to 17U — first with the Oaklandon Bombers and then the Indiana Bulls. His father — Steve Bowser — was one of his Bombers coaches. With the Bulls, Nolan played for Tony Cookerly, Jeremy Honaker, Dan Held and Sean Laird. “Sean was very intense,” says Bowser. “I loved it though.” A 2020 graduate of Mt. Vernon High School in Fortville, Ind., Bowser played on the freshman and junior varsity teams as a ninth grader. He played varsity as a sophomore and junior. His senior season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “(Then-Marauders head coach Ryan Carr) was great to me,” says Bowser. “I gave it my all every single time.” Bowser was selected all-Hancock County in 2018 and 2019 and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference in 2019. Steve and Dana Bowser have two children — Nolan (20) and Delaney (18). Steve Bowser is a vice president of a construction company. Dana Bowser is a dietician. A 2022 Mt. Vernon graduate, Delaney Bowser is to play volleyball for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Gage Smith grew up in the small town of Garrett, Ind. The third baseman/right-handed pitcher is playing in another bantam burg this summer while playing for the Wellington Heat in Kansas Collegiate League Baseball. “The community is close-knit and we have great group of guys here,” says Smith, a 2021 graduate of Garrett High School who has completed one season of college ball for the Connor Wilkins-coached Ivy Tech Northeast Titans in Fort Wayne. Heat home games are played under the lights at Hibbs-Hooten Stadium in the seat of Summer County — Wellington. Road trips in the KCBL are as short as 30 minutes and as long as 1 hour, 40 minutes. Wellington won the National Baseball Congress title in 2007 and were NBC World Series runners-up in 2013. In his first eight games with the 2022 Heat, Smith is hitting .238 (5-of-21) with two home runs, four runs batted in and five runs scored. He has pitched in five games (all in relief) and is 0-0 with one save, a 2.70 earned run average, 11 strikeouts and two walks for 6 2/3 innings. In 26 games at Ivy Tech in the spring, Smith hit .341 (29-of-85) with one homer, four triples, six doubles,15 RBIs and a .952 OPS (.411 on-base percentage plus .541 slugging average). The righty batter has also scored 16 runs and swiped 10 bases. In four mound appearances (one start), Smith was 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA, nine strikeouts and four walks over 7 1/3 innings. Smith does not wish to choose between infielder/hitter and pitcher as his favorite. “I love both equally,” says Smith, 19. “I’d like to be a two-way for my whole career. I try to balance out the work with both positions. “As a fielder my strength is putting it all on the line while backing my pitchers. At the plate, I try to spray it anywhere and be a tough out.” While working with Ivy Tech pitching coach Javier DeJesus, Smith took the velocity on the four-seam fastball from 83 mph to 88 mph from the fall to the spring. But Smith does not focus on speed. “I try to be dominant on the mound,” says Smith. “I’m pitching in the (strike) zone and attacking hitters with their weaknesses. “Every hitter has a tell about what he’s going to chase. The catcher will also help you with that.” Throwing over the top, Smith has a 12-to-6 curveball and “circle” change-up and he has been working on a two-seamer. Smith calls DeJesus “a pitching genius.” “He’s been moving the ball around in our hand to get the best break we can on (pitches),” says Smith. Another Titans hurler that has benefitted from working with DeJesus is Matt Peters, who is moving on to NCAA Division I Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). “It was awesome playing with him,” says Smith of Peters, who throws the ball in the high 90’s. “We got to face him in live (at-bats). “He made an impact on all of us.” Smith has three Ivy Tech teammates at Wellington — Joel Deakins, Coby Griffith and Noah Matheson. Deakins is an outfielder, Griffith a pitcher and Matheson an infielder. Another — Zach Green — plays for KCBL’s Park City Rangers as a catcher. Smith and Matheson are roomies with host family parents James and Jodie McCarthy. “They are some sweet people,” says Smith. “They are willing to have people live there and care for them. “It’s definitely more comfortable having (Ivy Tech mates) around.” At Ivy Tech — an National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II team — Smith has embraced the idea of a “JUCO Bandit.” “I means you have some sort of grit to you. You’re dirtbags,” says Smith. “You train hard and play the game hard. “That’s what a ‘JUCO Bandit’ means to me.” Smith is in Kansas this summer and plans to return to Ivy Tech in the fall as a General Studies major with the idea of attracting a four-year school who will give him the opportunity to continue his baseball career. Born in Fort Wayne, Smith grew up in Garrett and played about eight years at what is now Garrett Youth Baseball. The summers before and after his last high school season, he played for the Brett Ratcliffe-coached DeKalb County Thunder. Ratcliffe was head coach at Garrett High in Smith’s freshman and sophomore years with Jason Richards leading the Railroaders in 2019-20 (the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic) and 2020-21. “(Ratcliffe) was kind of an old school coach,” says Smith. “He taught me the basics of baseball and got me to where I wanted to play college baseball. “(Richards) coached me in football in middle school. He was a guy I knew really well and could trust and depend on him.” Gage’s parents are Pamela Smith and Chris Smith. He has a twin sister, Morgan Smith. Tori Smith is a few years older. Austin Carroll is second oldest sibling. Beau Carroll (who died in 2021 at 29) was the oldest.
Alec Brunson is coming to the end of his college baseball career and he’s doing it with a flourish. Starting in left field and hitting in the No. 2 hole in the batting order, Brunson has been productive for the University of Saint Francis (25-23 overall and 14-18 in the Crossroads League). Going into a conference series Friday and Saturday, April 29-30 at Bethel, righty swinger Brunson is hitting .341 (57-of-167) with six home runs, two triples, 17 doubles, 36 runs batted in and 38 runs scored. The CL tournament is scheduled for May 6-10. He enjoys the 2-hole behind Xavier Nolan and in front of David Miller and Sam Pesa. “I get more AB’s (hitting second),” says Brunson, 22. “If I get on, more times than not Miller and Pesa will hit me in.” Lefty stick Miller has plated 55 and righty Pesa 38. In 2021 — Brunson’s first season with the Cougars after transferring from Purdue Fort Wayne — he hit .272 (56-of-206) with 10 homers, four triples, nine doubles, 38 RBIs and 51 runs for 56 games (53 as a starter) and was selected all-conference honorable mention. When deciding to change schools, Brunson went where cousin Kristian Gayday is an assistant coach. “I’ve hit with him since I was 12,” says Brunson. “There was no better option than playing for him and I’ve had two of the better seasons I’ve had in quite some time.” Brunson is also enjoying his time with Saint Francis head coach Dustin Butcher. “His personality is amazing,” says Brunson. “He’s a great guy overall. He’ll do anything for any of his players. “That’s the type of coach I always wanted to play for.” A 2018 graduate of DeKalb High School in Auburn, Ind., Brunson was then a catcher. He would up catching and playing in the outfield and at first base at PFW. He was used at first base at Saint Francis in 2021 and third base in summer ball. An outfielder last summer with the Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex, he was named a Prospect League all-star. “I’ll play wherever they need me,” says Brunson. “My strengths are my hitting and arm. Sometimes I don’t make the best reads in the outfield, but my arm makes up for it. Even when my swing is not perfect it’s still good enough to get a base hit.” Commencement at USF is scheduled for May 7 and Brunson is scheduled to get a degree in Criminal Justice. He is pondering his future. “I’m hoping to play independent (pro) ball before I get a big boy job,” says Brunson, who is also considering considering going into law enforcement but is also feeling the tug of coaching. “I’ve thought about coaching a lot,” says Brunson, who has helped teams at Auburn Little League and in other capacities. “I’ve helped teammates with their swings. I feel like I really understand swing types and what drills can help. “I can’t get away from the game yet. There’s something about baseball that keeps bringing me back.” Brunson plans to be a graduate assistant at Saint Francis in 2022-23 to his foot in the coaching door. He says he will pursue either at Masters of Business Administration (MBA) or an Athletic Administration degree. Born and raised in Auburn, Brunson played in two stints at Auburn Little League and travel ball with the Fort Wayne Cubs (later known as the Fort Wayne Diamondbacks). As a teenager, his D-backs head coach was Javier DeJesus (now pitching coach at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne). At DeKalb, Brunson played for Tim Murdock. The 2017 Barons won 19 games and finished as runner-up in the DeKalb Sectional. “I loved him as a coach,” says Brunson of Murdock. “He allowed us to do us. He knew we had played with each other since we were 12.” Brunson played in the 2018 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in South Bend. Alec is the son of Jason and Jennifer Brunson and older brother of Bella Brunson. Before selling in 2021, Jason was co-owner of Captain’s Cabin on Crooked Lake. The business was once owned by former major league outfielder “Jungle Jim” Rivera. Jennifer is in pharmaceutical sales with Bristol Myers Squibb. DeKalb senior Bella plans to attend Indiana University.
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.
Josh Pyne decided early in life that he wanted to play college baseball. And not just anywhere. Pyne desired to play at Indiana University, having been born in Bedford, Ind., and grown up near Bloomington in Linton, Ind. “We were a 25-minute drive away,” says Pyne, a 19-year-old freshman who has started all 31 games so far for the 2022 Hoosiers. “My dad a huge IU basketball fan and still is. I grew up an IU baseball fan.” Pyne verbally committed to IU his freshman year at Linton-Stockton High School when Chris Lemonis was Hoosiers head coach. Jared Pyne is a lineman superintendent for Greene County REMC. His wife, Brooke Pyne, works for a Navy contractor. Oldest son Jacob, 23, is a Daviess County REMC lineman. Daughter Adalyn, 17, is a Linton-Stockton junior involved in cheerleading and track and interested in animals. Middle child Josh followed Jacob into motocross as the family criss-crossed the country on that circuit. After Josh raced for a few years, along came baseball. He threw himself into the diamond sport, playing for the Smithville Scrappers at 9. Family friend Mike Vaughn coached that team and would be Pyne’s coach with the Indiana Nitro and Indiana Bulls through his 15U summer. “I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” says Pyne of Vaughn. Another summer with the Jeremy Honaker-coached Bulls was followed by a summer with Jay Hundley’s Canes Midwest team. In the fall of his junior year at Linton-Stockton, Pyne was with the Jeff Petty-coached Canes National squad. The next summer he played for Johnny Goodrich’s Orlando Scorpions. To help with the transition from high school to college, freshmen were brought on-campus last summer to take classes, get in the weight room and begin the bonding process. It’s a class that includes infielder Evan Goforth (Floyd Central), right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden (Edgewood) and outfielder Carter Mathison (Homestead). The latter has started in 29 games and appeared in 31 this spring. Business Management major Pyne already had a relationship with one Hoosier, having played baseball and basketball with Kip Fougerousse (who was a 1,000-point scorer on the hardwood) at Linton-Stockton. Josh and sophomore catcher/infielder Kip hang out a lot at IU. “I go over to his house almost everyday,” says Pyne. “We play cards or get some food. We have a background like nobody else on the team.” Pyne say it was a big adjustment going from high school to college, but that has been eased by the bonding, the leadership or older players and the coaching staff led by Jeff Mercer. The biggest difference in high school and college baseball to Pyne is the pace of play. “I see how much faster everything is,” says Pyne. “Balls are balls hit harder. Pitches are quicker. You have less reaction time.” To adapt to this, the Hoosiers practice and train at game speed. “You have to go full speed and push yourself to get used to that pace of play,” says Pyne. “Some drills uncomfortable because it speeds us up. But you have to be uncomfortable to be better.” Pyne, who was a shortstop in high school and travel ball, has gotten used to “27 outs” when Mercer or assistant Derek Simmons laces balls all over the field and Pyne can get live reads off the bat at 100 mph or more. Mercer has plenty of praise for Pyne. “Josh is just an A ++ kid. I’m super proud of him,” says Mercer. “He’s a southern Indiana kid at IU playing his tail off. He’s an awesome dude. He’s very talented. He can have a great at-bat. He’s a great defender and baserunner and an awesome teammate. “He’s everything a Hoosier should be.” Pyne was a four-year letterwinner and four-time captain at Linton-Stockton playing for Miners baseball head coach Matt Fougerousse, Kip’s father. As a senior, Pyne was an all-state selection and the team MVP. He was all-Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference three times and set a single-season school record with 50 hits. As a basketball player for coach Joey Hart, Pyne was part of three IHSAA Class 2A sectional championships and played in the 2019 2A state championship game as a sophomore. “I played basketball to keep in shape and for the fun of it,” says Pyne. Josh recalls that Matt Fougerousse’s was always there for late-night batting practice after basketball games or practices. “He helped me for those four years,” says Pyne. “He even stayed and coached me for my senior year when he really didn’t have to.” Matt stepped away from coaching at the end of the 2021 season, giving himself more of a chance to see Indiana play. Going into a Big Ten Conference series April 15-17 at Rutgers, righty swinger Pyne is hitting .301 (37-of-103) with four home runs, seven doubles (tied for second on the team), 31 runs batted in (second on the team) and 19 runs scored. He carries an OPS of .820 (.365 on-base plus .455 slugging). Pyne produced a career highs three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored April 10 at Purdue. He rapped two doubles April 2 against Northwestern. Indiana 13-18 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are 3-5 in April. The team’s freshmen third baseman is confident IU will get rolling. “We just need to compete on the mound and at the plate,” says Pyne. “It will all fall into place. “We have the talent to do it.”
Playing with and against players from bigger schools, Damen Castillo enjoys showing what he can do on a baseball diamond. Castillo, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound righty-swinging/throwing first baseman, plays during the spring at NCAA Division III Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill. This summer, the Highland (Ind.) High School graduate is with the Prospect League’s Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp in the team’s first season in Peru, Ill. “It’s the competition level,” says Castillo, 21. “The pace of play is faster than what I come from. “It’s fun being around guys from different schools like that.” Of the 31 players listed on the team’s online roster, 18 are from Illinois with eight from California and one each from Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. Castillo is one of six players from NCAA D-III schools (the others are pitchers Jake Dahl of Rockford University, Chandler Kerr of Concordia University Chicago and Justin Rios and Jason Shanner of North Central College and infielder Garry Maynard of Concordia University Chicago). There are 20 from NCAA D-I, two from NCAA D-II and three from National Junior College Athletic Association institutions. Teams on Illinois Valley’s schedule, which consists of squads from the Wabash River, Great River, Prairie Land divisions, boasts no less than 105 D-I players. The Pistol Shrimp are owned and managed by John Jakiemiec, who co-owns a player development academy in Naperville, Ill., Evolution Athletics. “He’s been great,” says Castillo of Jakiemiec. “When we play, it’s real serious. “You get your work in and still try to win at the same time. “It’s been a fun summer.” Jakiemiec, who played baseball at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., uses his Ivy League education to throw out random facts during bus trips. “We don’t always know what he’s talking about,” says Castillo. “But we laugh.” Through 25 games with the Pistol Shrimp, Castillo was hitting .280 (23-of-82) with five home runs, four doubles, 14 runs batted in and 10 runs scored. “One of my best qualities as a hitter is the ability to drive the ball to the right side of the field,” says Castillo. “I get pitched away and I get a lot of off-speed. Over the years I’ve gotten good at hitting the outside pitch.” Adam Smith is the head coach at Benedictine. “He’s been real supportive,” says Castillo of Smith. “He come to me with things he think I can change.” Castillo appreciates how Smith keeps practices loose and competitive. “Our team tends to do better when things are like that,” says Castillo, who helped the Eagles go 29-13 overall and 15-5 in the Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference in 2021. “We do competition things in practice. It’s better than taking mass ground balls or BP. “It makes it fun.” In 42 games (all as a starter), Castillo hit .347 (61-of-176) with nine homers, one triple, 18 doubles, 51 RBIs, 35 runs and a 1.009 OPS (.395 on-base percentage plus .614 slugging average). The 2021 season was his third at Benedictine. In the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, he started all seven games and hit .217 (5-of-23) with one extra-base hit (a double), four RBIs, three runs and a .557 OPS (.296/.261). As a freshman in 2019, Castillo played a little bit of third base before becoming a full-time first baseman. In 28 games (24 as a starter), he hit .323 (32-of-99) with four homers, six doubles, 21 RBIs, 16 runs and a .885 OPS (.380/.505). With two years of eligibility left, Castillo is a year away from earning a degree in Management of Organizational Behavior through the Goodwin College of Business. Castillo and his Eagles teammates are to report back to campus in late August and will get right to work for about eight weeks of workouts before “captain’s practice” where NCAA D-III rules limit contact by the coaching staff. Born and raised in Highland to Damen and Jodee Castillo with little sister Angelica (a volleyball and softball athlete entering her senior year at Highland High in 2021-22), “D” played travel ball around his hometown until 12 and then went with the Dave Griffiin-coached Indiana Playmakers, Morris (coached by Jim Tucker), Chiefs (coached by Dave Sutkowski) and Midwest Irish (coached by Shane Brogan). When the Midwest Collegiate League shut down and Castillo was not able to play for the Southland Vikings in 2020, he assisted Brogan with the Irish. “He has been the closest coach to me,” says Castillo of Brogan. The two talk every other day. This year, Castillo helps Brogan out in practice when his schedule allows. John Bogner was Castillo’s coach at Highland and had the third baseman on the varsity since early in his freshmen year with the Trojans. “He was a great high school coach and I learned a lot from him,” says Castillo, who stays in touch with Bogner and dropped by practice during the end of 2021 season to hit with the Highland team.
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.
At 62 and in a year where he lost his wife, Tyner has a different perspective.
“I’m pretty intense as a competitor,” says Tyner. “As you age you don’t lose your intensity, it becomes a different kind of focus. I’m a little more cerebral. Yelling and screaming might have worked in the ‘90s. That doesn’t work now. You have to think about who you’re talking to.
“Hopefully I’ve calmed down. As you mature, you go from thinking it’s your team to how can I serve the kid? Or how can I share the information I’ve learned in my 40 years in the game?”
It’s a horizontal relationship. Tyner lets his assistants take their strengths and run with them.
“I’m not ego-driven anymore,” says Tyner. “We can all learn something from each other and coaches and kids benefit.”
Coaching friends — like Tony Vittorio — are quick to point out when Tyner might lose sight of what his job is.
“I’m a father first and a coach second,” says Tyner. “I don’t have just one son, I have 38 his year. I’m older than all my coaches, so I have more even more sons.”
Tyner was a standout in Decatur, Ill., playing for Ray DeMoulin (a bird dog scout for the Cincinnati Reds who allowed Tyner to try out at 15) at MacAthur High School and Lee Handley (who played in the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers systems) as American Legion manager.
The coin came up heads. Tyner went to Florida, made the Hurricanes roster and played on College World Series teams in 1978, 1979 and 1980, earning Baskin Robbins Player of the Year honors in that final season.
At Miami, Tyner was around coaching legends Ron Fraser and Skip Bertman. The young outfielder marveled at how the two baseball minds could anticipate what was going to happen in a game.
“How did they do that?” says Tyner. who refers to Bertman as a walking baseball encyclopedia. “I hovered closed to him. His sixth sense was incredible.”
Fraser called them the “Miami Greyhounds.”
“I felt I was on a track team,” says Tyner. “That’s how much we ran. We were in shape.”
Before the current 56-game spring limit in NCAA Division I, Miami typically played more than 100 games counting fall and spring.
In 1981, he enjoyed his best offensive and worst defensive season. The parent Orioles had decided to move Cal Ripken Jr. from third base to shortstop and decided to make Tyner into a third sacker. But the hot corner proved pretty hot for him and he made 20 errors in 51 games at third for the Hagerstown Suns.
Fans down both baselines let him know about it with a group of ladies on the third base side pointing out the places where the ball struck the “human dartboard.” Hagerstown spectators donned hard hats on the first base side in case of errant Tyner throws.
His roommate on the road was pitcher Julian Gonzalez. During a game in Salem, Va., after Tyner committed his third error, Hagerstown manager Grady Little came to the mound. Gonzalez told the skipper that his roomie had to go.
There was a bus accident the first weekend of season. The vehicle landed on its side.
“I felt something pop in my back way down low,” says Tyner. “24 hours later I couldn’t move. I missed over 30 games that summer.
At the plate, Tyner was locked in, hitting .301 with 31 home runs and 113 runs batted for the Suns in 1981.
After that, Tyner went back to the outfield where he vied with Drungo Hazewood for the unofficial title of best arm in the Orioles organization.
He would go on to belt 79 home runs in 365 games, playing for Hagerstown in 1981 and 1983 and the Charlotte O’s in 1982 and 1983. Multiple surgeries for bone chips in his right elbow put and end to Tyner’s pro career.
“I put my arm through a little bit of abuse,” says Tyner. “I was a quarterback and pitched in high school. Who knows what I did? It didn’t fail me for five more years. At Miami, I had a really good arm.”
“I’m not sure it gets much better than that,” says Tyner.
It was while coming to Indianapolis to finish his degree at Concordia University that Tyner connected with Butler head coach Steve Farley and began coaching for the Bulldogs. The first go-round, he was on Farley’s staff from 1993-97.
A relationship with the Bulls led to the press box and stands that are there to this day.
At the time, Dave Taylor was president of the organization and Craig Moore was head coach of the 17U team. Tyner started out with the 15U squad.
After coaching four years at Butler making $325 per semester, Tyner decided it was time to make money for his family — wife Laura, daughter Lindsay and son Matthew and got into communication sales and real estate.
Lindsay Dempsey, who is worked as a Registered Nurse, is now 36, married with two children and living Switzerland. Matthew Tyner, 33, is married and a finance and operations manager in Indianapolis.
When Matthew became a teenager, the Bulls approached his father about coaching a new 13U team with Jeremy Guler. The next year, Matt Tyner and Jeff Jamerson coached their sons Matthew and Jason on the 14U Bulls.
“We had top-shelf athletes way ahead of their time,” says Tyner of a team that featured future pros Lance Lynn (Brownsburg), Tommy Hunter (Cathedral) and J.B. Paxson (Center Grove). “It was fun to watch them play.”
“He imparted so much baseball knowledge on these kids,” says Tyner of Alexander, who was integral current baseball fields at Purdue University as well as Indianapolis Bishop Chatard High School, where Matthew Tyner played for Trojans head coach Mike Harmon and graduated in 2005. “What a treat that was.”
A few years later, Matt Tyner got the itch to coach baseball again. This time Farley could pay him a living wage and he went back to work at Butler in August 2007. Pendleton Heights graduate Jason Jamerson was a Bulldog senior in 2009.
“They made me feel like a king and there was one great speaker after the next for 2 1/2 days,” says Tyner. “As a coach you can’t be everything to everybody. But I’m going to use this nugget and I’m going to use that nugget.
“That’s money well-spent.”
In the summer of 2010, Tyner was offered the head coaching position at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. Knights athletic director Scott Wiegandt had been a Triple-A Louisville teammate of Tracy Woodson, a former big league third baseman, Fort Wayne Wizards manager who was then Valparaiso University head coach.
Farley, Woodson and University of Indianapolis head coach Gary Vaught gave Tyner their endorsement.
“We made some serious strides in that program,” says Tyner, who coached then-NCAA Division II Bellarmine to 26-26 and 27-23 marks in 2011 and 2012 with a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and an appearance in the regional tournament championship game against the Grand Valley State University the second year.
Brandon Tormoehlen, now head coach at Brownstown (Ind.) Central High School, was on Tyner’s coaching staff.
Woodson became head coach at the University of Richmond (Va.) and called Tyner to be his recruiting coordinator and hitting coach. It was a post he held for four seasons.
“We had some pretty strong offensive teams,” says Tyner of his time with the Spiders.
Then Towson reached out and hit Tyner was an offer to be the Tigers head coach.
“The first two years at Towson was a challenge for all of us,” says Tyner, who saw his teams go 13-42 in 2018 and 14-39 in 2019. “We are process-driven and not results-driven. Took awhile for those entrenched in a different system to get it.
“Last year was their chance to shine.”
Indianapolis native Laura Anne Tyner passed away Feb. 10 in her hometown and Matt took a leave of absence at Towson. Matt and Laura were wed in 1983. She taught children with special needs and spent 20 years in real estate management.
With former Butler and Purdue University assistant Miller running the team, the 2020 Towson Tigers went 7-8 before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Tyner went down to see the team play in the opener of a weekend series in Miami. It turned out to be a pitchers’ dual. The Hurricanes held on for a 2-1 Feb. 28 victory. Freshman catcher Burke Camper just barely missed a home run in the top of the ninth inning.
“It was a game for the ages,” says Tyner. “It was unbelievable for me to watch and be a part of.”
A few days later, it was decided between Tyner and Towson athletic director Tim Leonard that the coach would come back to the program in mid-March.
“I needed baseball more than baseball needed me,” says Tyner, who got back in time to see the season prematurely halted with the campus being closed and all classes going online. He came back to Indianapolis.
When things opened back up, players were placed in summer leagues. This fall, the Tigers worked out with social distancing and other COVID precautions.
“It was the most competitive for all of us since I’ve been here,” says Tyner. “We have a chance to be pretty good (2021).”
Towson is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. The Tigers are not fully-funded. There are 6.2 scholarships available and the NCAA Division I limit is 11.7.
“God love the AD and president of this university (Tim Leonard and Dr. Kim Schaztel),” says Tyner. “They’ve done a phenomenal job of keeping us afloat.
The Battle rages Aug. 1-Sept. 13 with games contested Wednesday through Sunday at Florence’s UC Health Stadium and Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Claycamp, who commuted from Columbus to begin the season, has made arrangements for an Airbnb in Lexington. When the Legends play in Florence, he stays with family friends in the Lawrenceburg/Sunman, Ind., area.
Ellis, a Jeffersonville High School graduate, played at the University of Louisville and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. The third baseman plays home games only for the Legends and Leyengas.
Thompson (Floyd Central) is a 6-6 right-hander who was at Louisville and in the Detroit Tigers organization. He was in indy ball at Sussex County in 2019.
Right-hander Talcott (McCutcheon) last pitched for Earlham College in 2019.
Outfielder Baker played at Ball State University and was in independent ball in the American Association in 2019 (Texas and Kansas City).
Righty Dougherty (Morgan Township) pitched for Grace College before taking the mound in the United Shores Professional Baseball League in Utica, Mich.
Floyd (Jimtown) was at Ball State University and the righty hurled for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats in 2019.
While his primary position growing up and through college was shortstop, Claycamp has moved around the field.
“I’ve been a utility player my whole life,” says Claycamp.
At Columbus (Ind.) East High School, where he graduated in 2015, he was a shortstop as a freshman, shortstop and second baseman as a sophomore, third baseman as a junior and third baseman, shortstop and second baseman as a senior.
He played those same three spots in his one season at the University of Dayton (2016) and then was locked in at short in three campaigns at Franklin (2017-19). He helped the Grizzlies win back-to-back Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in his final two campaigns.
Claycamp was invited to pre-Major League Baseball Draft workouts by the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies in, but was unable to attend with Franklin making the school’s deepest ever postseason run, reaching the regional final in Sequin, Texas.
After getting into eight games at NCAA Division I Dayton (two starts), Claycamp transferred to D-III Franklin and played in 128 contests for the Grizzlies. He hit .354 (174-of-491) with 20 home runs (tied for No. 9 in program history), 46 doubles (No. 5 all-time), 133 runs batted in (No. 6) and 143 runs scored (No. 4).
Right-handed pitcher Gray went on to Florida Gulf Coast University, the Colorado Rockies organization and is now in independent pro ball with the Milwaukee Milkmen.
Right-hander/outfielder Curry started at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. When SJC school closed, he went to Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Anderson, a 6-foot-8 righty, pitched at Northern Illinois University.
Left-hander Brian Wichman was at Murray State University then hurled for the University of Indianapolis.
Catcher Christian Wichman played briefly at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills, Ky., where he was also a football player.
Claycamp played in both Bartholomew County Little League (weekdays) and travel baseball (weekends) until he was in high school. Bartholomew County (now Youth Baseball of Bartholomew County) won a state title when he was 12 and lost in the Great Lakes Regional championship. The winner went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Early travel ball teams were the Columbus Crush, Indiana Blazers and BCLL All-Stars. In high school, Claycamp donned the jerseys of the Indiana Redbirds, Indiana Outlaws and Johnson County/Indiana Jaguars.
Besides baseball, Sam played football until middle school. He was on the school basketball team through eighth grade then played intramural and church hoops.
His falls were dedicated to deer hunting.
David and Tammy Claycamp have two sons — Sam and Kobbe (22). David Claycamp is machine shop manager at Innovative Casting Technologies in Franklin. Tammy Claycamp is a teacher at Faith Lutheran Preschool in Columbus. Kobbe Claycamp played baseball and football at Columbus East. He was on the IHSAA Class 5A state championship team in 2017 and state runner-up squad in 2016. He also played club rugby in high school.