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Abrell values life lessons while leading Plainfield Quakers baseball program

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

As a coach and educator, Shane Abrell looks for teachable moments.

Abrell and his coaching staff got the opportunity to teach their players about dealing with failure and about momentum during Abrell’s first season in charge of the Plainfield (Ind.) High School baseball program.

“Life lessons are really important in coaching,” says Abrell. “If we’re not teaching them about life, we’re failing them.”

Facing a formidable schedule, the 2018 Quakers got off to a 2-9 start then went on an 8-3 run on the way to 12-16-1. Right-hander Sam Tackett (an Indiana University Kokomo commit for 2019-20) hooked up in a pitchers’ duel with Braydon Tucker (now at Indiana University) as Plainfield bowed to Northview 1-0 in nine innings in the first round of the IHSAA Class 4A Avon Sectional.

“Now they know they can play with those teams,” says Abrell. “It gives us a lot of mental toughness as time goes on.”

Abrell and his assistants spent much time talking about the team.

“We have some really great conversations,” says Abrell, who welcomes back varsity assistants Josh Morris, Noah Lane and Jaylen Cushenberry, junior varsity coach Brian Holsclaw and freshmen coach Mike Harper for 2019. “We demand a lot of time and effort. But hese guys don’t skip a beat. They make my job easy.”

The coaches were honest with their athletes and admitted when they made mistakes in 2018.

The lines of communication are kept open through that sincerity.

“Baseball is so mentally tough on people,” says Abrell. It’s not for everybody.

“Kids are more willing to come to us when they’re struggling. We’re seeing more players are consoling each other.”

Abrell, who teaches computer science at PHS, was a Plainfield assistant to Jeff McKeon (now head coach at South Putnam High School) for one season before taking over the program.

Prior coming to Hendricks County, Abrell was an assistant to Kyle Kraemer at Terre Haute South Vigo High School from 2001-14 and helped coach youth teams around Terre Haute including the Junior Sycamores and with the John Hayes-managed Wayne Newton American Legion Post 346 program.

Abrell played for Kraemer at South Vigo, graduating in 1998.

“Kyle is probably one of the most organized people I’ve come across in coaching,” says Abrell of Kraemer. “He is very meticulous. There was very little down time in practice. You were always moving.”

South Vigo has enjoyed continuity on the coaching staff with assistants like Brian Pickens, T.C. Clary, Todd Miles and Chad Chrisman serving for decades.

“(Kraemer’s) been a great mentor and friend to me,” says Abrell, who will take his Plainfield team to the 2019 Braves Bash at South Vigo. The event also features Munster and New Haven.

Plainfield (enrollment around 1,700) is part of the Mid-State Conference (with Decatur Central, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Perry Meridian and Whiteland).

The MSC plays home-and-home series on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to crown its champion.

The Quakers are part of the IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Avon, Brownsburg, Mooresville, Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo. Plainfield has won eight sectional titles — the last in 1997.

While in Terre Haute, Abrell had the opportunity to coach A.J. Reed and become close T.J. Collett and his family while coaching his brother Doug with the Post 346 junior squad and then as North Vigo athletic director.

Both A.J. and T.J. were Indiana Mr. Baseball honorees — Reed at South Vigo in 2011 and Collett at North Vigo in 2016.   

A walk-on at Indiana State University, Abrell’s coach with the Sycamores was Mitch Hannahs.

Abrell graduated from ISU in 2003 with a B.S. degree in Management Information Systems/Computer Science and worked various jobs, including web designer for Clabber Girl and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Reserve Deputy for the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department.

“That was an eye opener,” says Abrell of the issues he saw some students dealing with that have nothing to do with a baseball drill or home work assignment.

He makes a point of getting his players to give back by volunteering in the community at a food pantry or with Riley’s Children’s Hospital.

Gratitude is another life lesson Abrell teaches.

“We talk to the kids about thanking their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents for all the time and money they spend,” Abrell.

He was a football, basketball and baseball coach at South Vigo. North Vigo, coached by Shawn Turner and Fay Spetter and featuring Collett, were 4A state runners-up in 2014 and 2015 with Abrell as AD.

Along the way, he attended Western Kentucky University (Master of Education & Kinesiology) and Indiana Wesleyan University (Education Administration).

Baseball has long been a big deal in the Abrell family.

Shane’s grandfather, the late John Abrell, was a long-time Connie Mack baseball coach and sponsor in Terre Haute.

Rick Abrell, Shane’s father, coached youth baseball at Prairie Creek, Prairieton and Riley and was president of Terre Haute Babe Ruth. He now tends to the baseball fields at both South Vigo and West Vigo.

The Abrells are close with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famers Bob Warn and Steve DeGroote. Warn was head coach at Indiana State from 1975-2006. DeGroote assisted Warn at ISU and then led the West Vigo program.

Abrell says he took something from all the baseball men in his life.

“To be a good coach, you have to accept you’re not going to create something new in baseball,” says Abrell. “You take what you learn and you mold them all together.”

A love of tending the field was ingrained in Abrell. Kraemer had his team spend 30 minutes after each practice and game wielding shovels and rakes and Abrell does the same with his Quakers.

And there’s lots of time spent mowing and edging in the summer and fall.

“For every two hours practicing, probably another two hours working on the field,” says Abrell. “It’s therapy for me.

“We’re blessed at Plainfield. We have a beautiful complex and support from the administration.”

Principal Melvin Siefert and Assistant Principal of Athletics Torrey Rodkey are both former coaches.

The Quakers feeder system includes Plainfield Pee Wee Association, Plainfield Optimist Baseball League and Plainfield Teenage Baseball League (a Babe Ruth League) as well as a locally-based travel organization — the Plainfield Havoc.

“We’re trying to keep travel ball in the community,” says Abrell. “When they play together their whole life is when you have some of the better teams.”

When Abrell took over the program, he contacted Plainfield graduate Jeremy Kehrt. The right-handed pitcher was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 47th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and pitched in independent ball in 2017.

“He stops by a lot,” says Abrell of Kehrt. “He works with our pitchers. When he shows up, their eyes get huge.”

Connor Mitchell, a left-hander who pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2018, also visits to work on arm maintenance. His younger brother, Jackson Mitchell, was the Plainfield’s shortstop in 2018 and is now at Earlham College.

“It means a lot to have alumni reaching out,” says Abrell.

Current Plainfield outfielder/first baseman Jacob Sims is drawing interest from college programs.

A wedding is planned for Shane Abrell and Shannon Bormann in the fall of 2019. Shannon is a nurse anesthetist at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette.

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T.C. Clary (left), Shannon Bormann, A.J. Reed and Shane Abrell meet at the 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. Clary was a baseball teammate and coached with Abrell at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. Bormann is engaged to Abrell. Reed played at South Vigo and was a Pacific Coast League all-star. Abrell is now head baseball coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School.

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Shane Abrell is heading into his second season as head baseball coach at Plainfield (Ind.) High School. He is also a computer science teacher at PHS.

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Scott wants Clinton Prairie Gophers to go, go, go on the bases

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Aggressiveness on the bases.

That’s what Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School baseball coach Matt Scott emphasizes with his Gophers.

“We put pressure on the defense,” says Scott, who enters his seventh season in charge at the Frankfort, Ind.-based school in 2019. “We do a lot of hit-and-run and bunt-and-run. We find ways to make the defense make the play.”

Led by seniors Kameron Peters (30) and Sam Schoonveld (10), the 2018 Gophers collected 83 stole bases while going 10-14. Clinton Prairie swiped 70 bases in 2017 (led by Peters’ 18) and 75 in 2016 (paced by Peters’ 14). Schoonveld went on to play football at the University of Indianapolis.

Scott is a 1998 Frankfort High School graduate. His baseball coach with the Hot Dogs was Torrey Rodkey. Scott earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations (2002) and master’s degree in political science (2003) and now teaches social studies to both junior high and high school students at Clinton Prairie.

It was while doing his practicum and student teaching at Frankfort that Scott was bitten by the baseball coaching bug. He spent a couple years on the staff of Andy Dudley.

After that, Scott was an assistant to Dan Hilgediek at Clinton Prairie for six years before taking over the Gophers program.

Scott says he learned things from each coach that helps him in his current position.

“(Dudley) is very detail-oriented,” says Scott. “He let’s the kids play the game, but there’s a sense of fundamentals,” says Scott. “He showed me organization and how to run a practice.”

Dudley was able to get his players to understand concepts like footwork and the intricacies of hitting.

Scott says Hilgidiek’s strength was as an in-game tactician.

“He knew when to go to the mound vs. letting the kids work through it,” says Scott. “He handled situations with umpires and with kids.

“He got the kids to understand that you play the way you practice.”

The IHSAA now allows a coaches to work with the team for two hours a day two days a week during certain windows rather than just two athletes at a time.

During the fall, Clinton Prairie (enrollment of about 330) had baseball players involved in football and other sports, but up to 10 participated in baseball workouts.

“We’re a small school. It’s difficult to have a lot of kids,” says Scott. “But we were able to get into individual groups, scrimmage and work on different things — like hitting the ball to the right side.”

Winter workouts are held early in the morning. One week there will be a defense/pitching session on one day and hitting the next. It flips the following week. This allows athletes in wrestling and basketball who show up once a week to get work in both areas.

In recent seasons, the Gophers have had about 25 players for varsity and junior varsity squads.

Varsity assistants Brian Hennen and Kip Skinner and JV coach Jonas Lenehan are on Scott’s 2019 coaching staff. Jerrad Blacker runs the junior high program (separate teams for seventh and eighth grade) with oversight by Scott.

Besides the junior high, the Gophers’ feeder system includes Frankfort Little League and Town & Country leagues at Colfax and Mulberry plus various travel organizations.

All Clinton Prairie teams play on the same on-campus diamond. With former McCutcheon baseball coach and current CP athletic director Brian Eaton leading the way, sponsorships have been formed with local businesses to fund projects like double bullpens on both the home and visitor sides. There are also plans to skin the infield and re-plant sod and re-do the backstop.

Scott says baseball, football and softball are combining forces to seek a rural water grant that would bring irrigation to all their playing fields.

Clinton Prairie is a member of the Hoosier Heartland Conference (with Carroll of Flora, Clinton Central, Delphi, Eastern of Greentown, Rossville, Sheridan, Taylor and Tri-Central). Each team plays once to determine the champion. Delphi becomes a full HHC member in team sports in 2019-20.

Among the Gophers’ non-conference opponents are Frankfort, Covington, Fountain Central, Hamilton Heights, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Covington and Southmont.

The Gophers are in an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Carroll of Flora, Delphi, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger and Western Boone. Clinton Prairie has won four sectionals — the last in 1993.

Matt and Megan Scott have two children — Cooper (5) and Lynnlee (14 months).

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Matt and Megan Scott share a moment together. Matt is a teacher and head baseball coach at Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School in Frankfort, Ind.

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Matt Scott goes for a winter stroll with son Cooper and daughter Lynnlee. Matt is a teacher and head baseball coach at Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School in Frankfort, Ind.

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Three generations of Scott men attend a Chicago Cubs game (from left): Matt, Cooper and Richard. Matt is a teacher and head baseball coach at Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School in Frankfort, Ind.