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Driven Mills takes advice from many baseball mentors

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

What drives Patrick Mills as a baseball player?
“My passion for the game is definitely No. 1,” says Mills, a 22-year-old outfielder/first baseman for Indiana University-Kokomo. “Every day I get up out of bed the one thing I want to do is go play some baseball.
“That’s the reason I keep playing. I enjoy the game. Everything else will follow. I will do everything I can to get better and keep playing it. It comes down to passion and discipline.”
Mills, a 2018 graduate of Western High School in Russiaville, Ind., spent two years at Olney (Ill.) Central College and the past two years at IUK. He plans to use his extra year of COVID-19 eligibility with the Cougars in 2022-23 while completing his Computer Science degree.
A lefty thrower and batter, Mills hit .374 (65-of-174) in 2022 while helping IUK go 26-22 overall and 16-7 in the NAIA River States Conference. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder belted 15 home runs, four triples and 16 doubles while driving in 44 runs and scoring 51 — all team-leading totals. His on-base percentage was .453.
“I make sure I stay balanced in my body and my mind,” says Mills of his approach at the plate. “I learn what the pitcher is throwing and try to hit the ball hard.
“When you hit the ball hard good things happen.”
Mills has had many mentors besides father Eric.
“It’s not just one person in particular,” says Mills. “It’s a collective of everybody I’ve met in the game.
“It’s little bit of advice here and there. I’ve put it together like a puzzle.”
Jeremy Honaker coached Cougar outfielders and hitters in 2022.
Mills credits him with helping him with the mental side of the game and bringing out his full potential during games.
“There were little snippets for me to think about during (batting practice),” says Mills. “They were more mental notes than actual physical cues.”
A lot was achieved during the fall and winter.
“All that work built up,” says Mills. “By the time the season came around it was second nature.”
Mills has head coaches at IUK with different styles. Matt Howard was intense and Drew Brantley is more laid-back.
“(Howard) lent a level of excitement and discipline,” says Mills of the man who is now a Kokomo police officer. “He wanted us to compete to the best of our abilities every single day. He wanted to make his players as tough as possible and he definitely did.
“(Brantley) has created an environment where we’re not afraid to fail. If we can control what we need to control, the results will follow. Follow the process and try to get better everyday. That philosophy — in my opinion — worked very well. Next spring it will be even better.”
Mills was born in Kokomo and got his formal baseball start at what is now Russiaville Youth Baseball League.
He played travel ball with the Westfield-based Stonecutters then went with the Indiana Eagles for his 14U to 17U summers.
“(Eagles coach) Jamie Roudebush gave us a platform to work on our skills and get better everyday during those years,” says Mills.
At Western, Mills played two years each for Quentin Brown then Ryan Berryman.
“(Brown) was all about passion when playing the game. He once jokingly said to me, ‘you care about this game too much. If you keep your passion like that you’ll go wherever you want to go.”
Mills and the Western Panthers were 2016 IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up.
“Playing for (Berryman) was a different experience from Brown,” says Mills. “He brought the intensity level, but also the technicalities of baseball. He challenged me to become better fundamentally. It was the mechanics and more than just the mental side.”
Mike Shirley, who at the time was a Chicago White Sox area scout and is now that organization’s director of amateur scouting, ran a fall league for high schoolers in Pendleton, Ind., in which Mills participated.
“He gave us a lot of information and where we need to improve,” says Mills of Shirley. “He was challenging us mentally and physically. It was a great experience.”
Mills played for Don Andrews-managed Kokomo American Legion Post 6 the summers before and after his first year of college.
“He was always supported me since I played for him,” says Mills of Andrews. “He was very similar to how Drew Brantley goes about his business. He’s calm and collected.
“Back then I was very intense and wild and wanted to do everything with one swing. He taught me how to handle my emotions. It went over my head then but I eventually learned from his teachings.”
At Olney Central, Mills played for veteran coach Dennis Conley.
“He definitely pushed his players to the limit and got the most out of them,” said Mills of Conley, who has been in charge of the Blue Knights program for 42 years and has a record of 1,530-773. “Junior college tests your love of the game. Do you really love the game or kind of like it?”
Mills was with the Portland (Ind.) Rockets during the COVID summer of 2020. One of his teammates was former Yorktown High School, Lincoln Trail College, Wright State University and independent pro player Zach Tanner.
“He took me under his wing and taught me about the mental game,” says Mills of Tanner.
Last summer he played for the Prospect League’s West Virginia Miners and manager Tim Epling.
The summer of 2022 sees Mills with the Northwoods League’s Battle Creek (Mich.) Battle Jacks. The team is managed by Caleb Long.
In 28 games with Battle Creek, Mills is hitting .360 (41-of-114) with two homers, 27 RBIs and 21 runs.
Eric and Sundai Mills have three children — Jaymee (Mills) Birky (28), Hayley Mills (24) and Patrick.
Jaymee is married and living in Madison, Wis. (where Battle Creek recently played the Madison Mallards), and competition in swimming, softball and track at Western. She also was part of a state championship marching band. Hayley nows teaches elementary school in Raleigh, N.C. She was in volleyball, basketball, swimming and softball during her school days.

Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (15) (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)
Patrick Mills (Indiana University-Kokomo Photo)
Patrick Mills (Battle Creek Battle Jacks Photo)

Wirsch, Rising Sun Shiners heading to regional again

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

Rising Sun (Ind.) High School has raised a sectional baseball trophy eight times — all on head coach Kevin Wirsch’s watch.
The Shiners have had Wirsch as head coach since the 2000 season and taken IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in 2002, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022.
The most-recent championship came at the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (which featured Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy and Trinity Lutheran) and earned Rising Sun a place in the Morristown Regional on Saturday, June 4.
The regional semifinals features 16-8 Rising Sun against Shakamak at 11 a.m., followed by Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran. The championship is slated for 8 p.m. All but Traders Point received votes in the final regular season Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association poll.
In 2013, the Shiners won a regional title and took part in the Plainfield Semistate, bowing to eventual 1A state runner-up Vincennes Rivet.
Rising Sun (enrollment around 230) is a member of the Ohio River Valley Conference (with Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, Shawe Memorial, South Ripley, Southwestern of Hanover and Switzerland County). The Shiners went 9-3 in the ORVC, finishing behind Southwestern (11-1).
“We’re one of the smallest schools in the state,” says Wirsch, who has also been an English teacher at the school just blocks from the Ohio River since 1999-2000. “I had to work to get players this year.”
Because of various factors, Wirsch expects to take 11 players to regional and one of those — senior center fielder Kendell Montgomery — has also qualified for the state track meet in Bloomington and will head there after the regional semifinal to compete in the long jump (his seed mark is 21 feet, 3 3/4 inches).
“Believe it or not, we have four and five-sport athletes here,” says Wirsch. “All the coaches (at Rising Sun) know each other and work together.
“That’s what makes it possible.”
While participation numbers are often an issue, Wirsch has enjoyed success.
“The kids that come out, buy in and work hard,” says Wirsch. “They do what we ask them to do.
“We try to do the little things right — throw strikes and make plays.”
The Shiners won the sectional with a 3-2 win against Hauser in 10 innings and 2-0 triumph against Jac-Cen-Del. Rising Sun is 5-2 in games decided by two runs or less and 1-3 in extra innings.
Senior and Earlham College commit Jonathan Jimenez (.431, 3 home runs, 27 runs batted in, 20 runs, 20 stolen bases) leads the offense, which also features junior Peyton Merica (.384, 27 runs, 18 stolen bases), Montgomery (.297, 17 runs), senior third baseman Ashton McCarty (.277, 18 RBI) and junior catcher Brady Works (.267, 21 runs, 17 stolen bases). First baseman Peyton Creech has already joined the National Guard.
Right-handers Merica (7-1, 0.53 earned run average with 98 strikeouts and 16 walks in 66 innings) and Jimenez (5-2, 1.83, 83 K’s, 29 walks, 49 2/3 IP) pace the Shiners pitching staff. Each generally takes turns at shortstop or is somewhere in the infield when not on the mound.
Wirsch’s assistants include Steve Jimenez, Keith Works, Jason Merica and one of Wirsch’s former players — Brandon Turner.
Rising Sun plays home games on its campus at Shiner Ballpark.
“It’s a nice field,” says Wirsch. “It’s been upgraded since I’ve been there. We’ve got new dugouts and lights.”
The school’s softball field is near the baseball diamond. The Shiners have won eight sectional softball titles.
A junior high program at Rising Sun was established about seven years ago. This feeds the high school. Many core players who hone their skills in travel ball in Madison, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
Recent graduates to move on to college baseball include Class of 2018’s Brent Turner (Huntington University), 2019’s Brayden Bush (Kentucky Wesleyan College), 2020’s Steven Jimenez (Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati) and 2021’s Landon Cole (Franklin College).
Wirsch is a 1993 graduate of East Central High School in St. Leon, Ind., where his baseball coach was Bob Benner.
He played football and baseball for two years at the University of Evansville. Jim Brownlee was the Purple Aces baseball coach. When UE dropped football, he transferred to Northern Kentucky University, where he earned an English degree.
Wirsch is also an assistant football coach at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School — where son Ashton (18) played and graduated last weekend — and has coached that sport at South Dearborn.
Besides Ashton, Kevin and wife Amy Wirsch have a daughter named Alexandra (23).

Head coach Kevin Wirsch and the Rising Sun Shiners, champions of the 2022 IHSAA Class 1A Jac-Cen-Del baseball sectional.

Hisner gets to see baseball from umpires’ view and more

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

Randy Hisner has viewed baseball from four angles — player, coach, umpire and reporter.
A 1976 graduate of Heritage Junior/High School in Monroeville, Ind., Hisner played for the Patriots and was a freshman when current Heritage head coach Dean Lehrman was a senior. They were later men’s league baseball teammates.
Hisner, 64, spent the first four years of his career as an English teacher at Monroe Central Junior/High School in Parker City, Ind., then taught at Bellmont High School and Bellmont Middle School 1984-2018.
He has been the Braves head boys cross country coach for 37 years and led the Bellmont baseball program for two seasons — winning 19 games in both 2009 and 2010. While at Monroe Central, he was a baseball assistant for three years and head coach for one.
Hisner started umpiring in the summer around 2008. After his prep coaching stint, he got his high school license. He has called games from youth league to college and 30-and-over leagues.
Many of his college games are in the NAIA-affiliated River States Conference, which has baseball-playing members in Indiana (Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University Southeast and Oakland City University), Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Semi-retired, Hisner plans to coach middle school track in the spring — cutting back his umpiring schedule during that season — and will continue to take sports assignments for the Decatur Daily Democrat.
Randy and wife Cheryl, who is part-time Title I elementary teacher, have four sons who all graduated from Bellmont — Erik (Class of 2001), Ryan (2002), Shane (2007) and Gavin (2009). All umpired as a summer job in high school.
Erik Hisner is athletic director and head baseball coach at Eastern High School in Greentown, Ind. He coached at Whitko for a decade and was the North head coach Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series in 2017.
Ryan Hisner and Gavin Hisner are both teachers in Adams Central Community Schools in Monroe, Ind. — Ryan Title I at the middle school and Gavin English at the high school. Gavin also does some umpiring.
Shane Hisner used to teach English overseas and now does so online.
Harley Parnell Hisner, Randy’s father and a graduate of Hoagland (Ind.) High School, pitched in the Boston Red Sox system. In his only big league appearance, he started the final game of 1951 season against the New York Yankees. Two of the three strikeouts for Hisner came in that Sept. 30 contest came against rookie Mickey Mantle. He also yielded Joe DiMaggio’s last major league hit.
When Randy Hisner stepped away from coaching baseball, he saw umpiring as a way to stay connected to the game.
“As umpires, we get paid to know the rules,” says Hisner. “A lot of coaches think they do.
“I re-read the high school and college rule books every year. You really have to be on top of that.”
Umpires must also be ready when they see a situation that rarely comes up.
For instance, the time Randy was working a college game together a few years ago. As the base umpire, he was positioned in front of the shortstop with a runner at second base.
The next thing Hisner knew the runner, third baseman and batted ball all converged near the third base bag.
The runner was attempting to steal and made his slide into the third baseman at the same time the ball arrived. The ball dribbled away.
“In all the years I’d played and coached I’d never seen anything like that,” says Hisner. “I called interference on the runner. The runner did not give the fielder a chance to field the ball.
“If the fielder had fielded the ball and then the guy had hit him and knocked it loose that would’ve been different.”
In a travel tournament a few summers back, Randy and Gavin were working the game and the hitter sent a long drive to left-center field.
The center fielder made a great back-hand running catch, took four or five steps and ran into the fence and dropped the ball over the barrier.
“We called a home run,” says Hisner. “We had a long discussion with the defensive coach.
“The rule is that the momentum of the play has to stop and has release has to be voluntary and intentional.”
Hisner says there’s sure to be an argument when it comes down to hit-by-pitch and calling it differs between high school and college.
“In high school games, as an umpire you almost have to be a mind reader,” says Hisner. “The way the rule book reads the hitter can’t permit the ball to let the ball hit him. In high school, it’s a really tough call.
“They made a change to the college rule a couple of years ago. If the ball is in the batter’s box, he can freeze (and be struck by the pitch and take his base). He can’t move into it and try to get hit. You don’t have to read anybody’s mind.”
Since three-man is usually not employed during regular-season games he works, Hisner is accustomed to two-man mechanics.
“I’ve done well over 1,000 games of two-man so I just react,” says Hisner. “I went to a college three-man camp one time. But until you’re used to it, it’s really uncomfortable.”
Preferring to watch Erik’s teams, Randy does not apply for the IHSAA tournament series.
One two-man mechanic that many non-umpires may not consider is the plate arbiter covering second base.
With no runners on base and the base umpire positioned near first base and the right field line, a hitter hits the ball to right field. It might be over the fielder’s head, call for a diving catch and come down near the foul line.
If the batter/runner continues to second base, the base umpire won’t be in-position to make the call. That’s the plate umpire’s duty. With all his protective equipment and steel-toed shoes, he must get to second base before then batter/runner. His path takes him to the right side of the mound to avoid tripping on the rubber.
“That had never ever crossed my radar until I had started umpiring,” says Hisner of the plate ump going to second base. “As soon as its hit, I’m taking my mask off and heading out that way anyway.
“Ideally, you get within 30 feet to make the call. You also have to be ready if (the batter/runner) heads back to first base. That’s a play I hope I have in the first inning if I have the plate.
“I want the coaches and players to see that I’m working hard. This guy is not just collecting a check. He’s hustling like we are. He might not be getting every call right but it’s not for lack of effort.”

Randy Hisner.
The Hisners on a Disney vacation.

Former Castle, Virginia righty Messinger excited for opportunity in Yankees system

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

Three years of showing what he can do pitching in the power-packed Atlantic Coast Conference, University of Virginia right-hander Zach Messinger was selected in the 13th round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees.
“I’m extremely excited and honored to play for a team like the New York Yankees,” says Messinger, 21. “They have 27 World Series championships for a reason.”
A 2018 graduate of Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Messinger was part of a Virginia program that won 82 of 137 games during his time in Charlottesville and made it to the 2021 College World Series.
Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor, who was the pitching coach at Notre Dame for nine seasons (1995-93) under Irish head coach Paul Mainieri, has led the Cavaliers to five CWS appearances with a national title in 2015.
The 2021 season was Drew Dickinson’s second as Virginia pitching coach.
“He’s already done a phenomenal job,” says Messinger of Dickinson. “He’s one of the best college pitching coaches in the country.
“Statistically, we’re one of the best pitching staffs in the ACC because of it.”
UVA ranked in the top three in the conference in several categories in 2021, including wins, earned run average, opposing batting average, strikeouts and innings pitched.
Assistants Kevin McMullan and Matt Kirby have also helped get the most out of the Cavaliers.
“We put full trust in the coaches for their game-by-game and series-by-series preparation,” says Messinger.
In his three collegiate campaigns, Messinger made 51 mound appearances (11 starts) and was 5-3 with a 4.42 ERA. He racked up 107 strikeouts with 47 walks in 99 2/3 innings.
In 2021, he got into 28 games (24 as a reliever) and was 3-2 with a 4.89 ERA. He fanned 64 and walked 21 in 57 innings.
Does Messinger consider himself a starter or reliever?
“I can be put out there no matter what,” says Messinger. “I have the mentality, endurance and pitchability to be a starter.
“I also also have the capability to come out of the pen in high-stress situations. I can come on with short rest and deliver for the team. It comes down to where the organization thinks is the best fit for me.”
Signed on July 22, Messinger is now at the Yankees training headquarters in Tampa, Fla., getting to know personnel and the way the system works and expects to be there into the fall.
“The Yankees don’t tend to send new draft guys off to a (minor league) team,” says Messinger. “They like to have guys in-house throwing in front of coaches.
“I want to find a good base strength-wise and be where the coaches want me to be by spring training.”
The Yankees’ top four affiliates are the Low Class-A Tampa (Fla.) Tarpons, High Class-A Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades, Double-A Somerset (N.J.) Patriots and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Railriders.
Messinger employs four pitches from a high three-quarter overhand arm slot — four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and change-up.
The four-seamer sat at 93 to 95 mph and touched 97 while Messenger was at Virginia.
“The slider has more horizontal break and plays well off the fastball with the same release point,” says Messinger. “It’s late-breaking when I throw it correctly. It has become a pretty good ‘out’ pitch for me.”
Messinger calls his “12-to-6” curve “Ol’ Reliable.”
“I’ve had it since I was 15 years old,” says Messinger. “I’ve used the same grip ever since I was a kid.”
He uses a “circle” change.
Born in Evansville, Ind., Messinger moved into the Castle district while in elementary school. His family resided in Chandler, Ind., until his mother accepted a job offer and they moved to Richmond, Va., at the end of Zach’s senior year.
Dennis and Lisa Messinger have four sons — Zach and 17-year-old triplets Eli, Lucas and Tyler.
Dennis Messinger is a job site supervisor for Shurm Homes. Lisa Messinger is director of environmental sciences at Dominion Energy. He played basketball at Olney (Ill.) Central College. She was a volleyball player at the University of Evansville.
Heading into their junior year of high school, all three triplets are athletes — Eli and Lucas in basketball and baseball and Tyler in track.
Zach Messinger got his organized baseball start at what is now Evansville East Youth Baseball, but played at what is now Newburgh Junior Baseball from 8U to 11U.
Dennis Messinger coached Zach and the Ohio Valley Vipers for his son’s 12U and 13U summers.
At 14U and 15U, Zach was with the Cory Luebbheusen-coached Jasper J-Cards.
He spent two seasons with the Indiana Bulls (Dan Held at 16U and Sean Laird at 17U).
Curt Welch was Messinger’s coach for four varsity seasons at Castle.
“That man taught me how to be a man while on the baseball field,” says Messinger. “Behind my father Curt Welch is the second-most influential man in my life. He was tough on me. He saw the potential that I had. It was going to take hard work and focus.”
Messinger says Welch taught him how to treat the game and the opposition with respect and how to carry himself on and off the field.
“He taught me more than how to hit a baseball or how to pitch,” says Messinger, who played third base when not on the mound. “What stands out is the stuff that was outside the lines.”
After going 7-1 with a 1.66 ERA, Messenger was the 2018 Courier & Press All-Metro Player of the Year (he was first-team All-Metro three times) and was named to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series and was a Prep Baseball Report Indiana first-team All-State selection.
Also a three-letterwinner in basketball, he was Castle’s 2018 Lonnie Fisher Male Athlete of the Year Award winner and graduated with a 3.97 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and was a four-time Scholastic “C” Academic Letter recipient.
His major at Virginia is Media Studies. He plans to complete that in the near future.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to play professional baseball,” says Messinger. “Academics has always important to me and my family.”
In the summer of 2018, Messinger went to Virginia early to take summer classes and to train. He played for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats in 2019, but did not play in the summers of 2020 or 2021.

Zach Messinger (University of Virginia Photo)
Zach Messinger (University of Virginia Photo)
Zach Messinger (University of Virginia Photo)
Zach Messinger was drafted and signed by the New York Yankees.

Leadership development priority for Kindig’s Argos Dragons

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Developing leadership is an emphasis as the Argos (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School baseball program comes back from a season without games with a familiar face leading the Dragons.

Joe Kindig, an assistant in 2017 and head coach in 2018 and 2019, has adopted Bill Walsh’s Standards of Performance as part of Argos baseball.

Copies hang in the Dragons dugout and a point or two is highlighted on a daily basis during practice. 

“You only get to do sports for so long and then you are put into the working world, I would like to see my players be good men in society,” says Kindig, who has two sons — junior Dylan and freshman Jackson — on the team and another — Ian (pitching and catching coach) — on a staff that also features Chris Lacher (bench coach) and Todd Montgomery (assistant head coach and father of Dragons batboy/manager Brady). “This helps with that foundation, not just by talking for a few minutes but emphasizing that is also carries over into the classroom as well.

“It is a very good approach and if you live, breathe and adopt those 19 standards not just in baseball but work/job, any other leadership role they have later in life, then they are going to be great contributors to society and leaders down the road.”

Kindig notes that leadership is not just for captains, it’s for everybody.

And it’s not just about bats and balls at Argos.

“We take academics serious, we follow up with kids who may be struggling with grades and try to get them help if needed via tutoring, or any other program that may help them get a better understanding of the subject matter,” says Kindig.

The 2021 Dragons have 17 players — three with previous high school experience — for a varsity-only schedule.

“We’re trying to understand how the game works, situations and things like that,” says Kindig. “We’re basically trying to build everything from the ground up.

“We want to get kids started (playing baseball) as young as we can and bring them up through the ranks. We want to make things as fun as possibly and see if we can start competing again for those sectional and regional titles.”

Argos (enrollment around 150) is a member of the Hoosier Plains Conference (with Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Career Academy of South Bend, Lakeland Christian Academy and Trinity at Greenlawn). Career Academy is not fielding a team this spring. LCA and Trinity do not have baseball programs.

The Dragons are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Culver Community, LaCrosse (the 2021 host), Oregon-Davis, South Central (Union Mills) and Triton. Argos won its lone sectional title in 1998.

Besides conference and sectional foes, the ’21 schedule includes Caston, Covenant Christian, John Glenn, Kouts, LaVille, North Miami, Tippecanoe Valley and West Central.

Argos plays its home games behind the school building. The wish list for the field is new bullpens, a fresh coat of paint on the dugouts plus new dirt for the infield.

During the summer, Argos enters a team in the wood bat Plymouth Junior League. There’s also an Argos Youth League for younger players.

There has been talk of establishing an Argos American Legion Post 68 team for high school age players.

Post 68 was going to field a team in 2020 until COVID-19 came along.

Another way to build up and spark interested in the sport is through winter camps.

Sam Rowe, a 2020 Argos graduate, is on the baseball team at Bethel University in Mishawaka. 

A Bethel graduate — Eric Stults — graduated from Argos and pitched in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves and in Japan with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

Kindig grew up in Mishawaka, Ind., and played in the Inter-City Catholic League. In 1998, he graduated from Mishawaka (Ind.) High School, where he ran track and played football. He lives in Argos with wife Amy and sons and is a cost account for Valmont Industries in Plymouth.

Argos (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School baseball coaches (from left): assistant Chris Lacher, head coach Joe Kindig and assistants Todd Montgomery and Ian Kindig. (Steve Krah Photo)

’21 season is Schroeder’s 27th leading Henryville Hornets

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Lining up schools that are bigger and ones with traditionally-strong baseball programs is the way Jeff Schroeder has built his schedule at Henryville (Ind.) Junior & Senior High School for years and its paid dividends.

makes us better playing tougher competition,” says Schroeder (pronounced SHRAY-der), who is heading into his 27th season leading the Hornets. His teams have won 13 Southern Athletic Conference titles and six IHSAA Class 1A sectional crowns (the last in 2008). 

The 2021 Hornets are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin) and Providence

Henryville (enrollment around 350) counts Borden, Crothersville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central of Elizabeth as SAC rivals. 

Conference teams play each other one time each. That suits Schroeder because he can beef up the Hornet slate.

In 2021, non-conference games include 4A’s New Albany (as part of the Stan Szajko Invitational) and Seymour and 3A’s Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Scottsburg and Silver Creek as well as 2A’s Paoli and Southwestern (Hanover) and 1A’s Orleans and Trinity Lutheran.

Prior to 2020-21, Henryville, Borden and Silver Creek were in the same school district. There’s now the Borden-Henryville School Corporation and Silver Creek School Corporation.

Schroeder, who was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gary O’Neal while doing his student teaching at Madison Consolidated in 1992 led led the Hornets from 1993-2012 and came back in 2014, emphasizes a commitment to the Henryville program.

“You should be putting forth your best effort everyday,” says Schroeder. “To be successful in life you have to work hard. 

“You shouldn’t expect a hand-out. That’s a life lesson.”

Assisted by Brian Consley and Cody Reister (a Henryville alum who pitched at Hanover College), Schroeder expects to have 21 or 22 players to play varsity and junior varsity schedules.

With many playing soccer or tennis in the fall, only a handful participated in fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period workouts. Since the winter window opened Dec. 9, there have been more practicing while some have been busy with basketball.

Schroeder appreciates the multi-sport athlete who can develop a variety of skills while still competing.

Henryville plays its games on-campus. The field was renovated in the fall of 2011. A devastating tornado hit the school and community in the spring of 2012.

“That was a bad situation,” says Schroeder. “Everything you know is gone. They school is demolished. What is going to happen next? We didn’t know what direction we were going to take.

“It took the work of lot of people to put things back together and got things looking good again.”

With much effort, the Hornets were able to take the diamond that year.

“It’s really nice,” says Schroeder. “I’ll put our baseball infield up against any around.”

Bill Miller, who was a very successful coach at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Ky., ran Mid South Baseball until his death in 2018 and his company — a frequent vendor at the IHSBCA State Clinic each January — did the laser grading at Henryville.

The high school program is fed by Henryville Youth Sports, which hosts baseball for ages 3/4 and 5/6 and grades 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6 in the summer and separates seventh and eighth grade junior high teams in the spring.

Schroeder has a number of former players who are now parents and coaching at the youth league and junior high levels.

“They teach these kids the things I expect so they’re not totally lost when they get to high school,” says Schroeder.

Besides Reister, another recent Henryville graduate to move to on college baseball is all-state catcher Luke Stock. The son of Lance Stock and grandson of IHSBCA Hall of Famer Wayne Stock was at Vincennes University.

Current Henryville junior left-hander Dawson Hope has been drawing collegiate interest.

Schroeder is a graduate of Jennings County High School in North Vernon, Ind. (1984) and Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (1988). He earned a Secondary Education degree with an emphasis on Language Arts in Grades 5-12 and currently teaches Junior and Senior LA classes at Henryville.

His high school coach was Bob Howe.

“He was very direct with players,” says Schroeder of Howe. “If he had something on his mind that was bothering him, he was going to tell you.”

That was the same kind of hard-nose approach taken by Jeff’s father Don Schroeder as a long-time baseball and basketball coach at Jennings County. 

“You’d better play hard for (my father) or you weren’t going to be on the team,” says Jeff Schroeder.

The elder Schroeder coached Howe.

Jeff Schroeder played one year for Dennis Bohr and three for Rick Parr at IUS.

He describes Bohr as a carefree guy who are also very competitive. Schroeder learned much about the game from Parr, who played in the Boston Red Sox organization.

Jeff’s wife, Jenny, was head softball coach at Henryville for a decade and earned much success. The couple has four children — Floyd Central High School graduates Haley (25) and Braden (21) and Silver Creek students Isabel (16) and Olivia (15). The two youngest girls are cheerleaders. Isabel also runs cross country and track.


The Henryville (Ind.) High School baseball field was renovated in the fall of 2011 then came a devastating tornado in the spring 2012 and the facility needed a lot more work for the Hornets to play there.
Jeff Schroeder is the head baseball coach at Henryville (Ind.) Junior & Senior High School. 

Love lending a coaching hand at Grace College

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Justin Love has been offering his baseball expertise at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., since the spring of 2018 and was doing the same at nearby Warsaw Community High School for the prior 19 years.

As a Lancers assistant, Love is in charge of outfielders and base runners and assists head coach Ryan Roth with hitters. Roth works with pitchers and infielders. Assistant Ryan Moore handles catchers. Graduate intern Josh Thew is also on the coaching staff. Tom Roy is a special assistant to head coach.

Love first served on the Grace staff of Cam Screeton before Roth was promoted.

“I want my outfielders to be aggressive and to understand the game,” says Love, 45. “I want them watching hitters and understanding what pitchers are trying to do to hitters.

By doing this, the outfielders have a good idea of where the ball might go.

“Outfielders very aware of what’s coming (in terms of pitch type and location),” says Love, who leads drills for tracking and footwork. 

At this time of year, much of the work is done indoors. But the Lancers will bundle up and go outside if the weather allows.

“It’s definitely a challenge being an outfielder in northern Indiana,” says Love, who sometimes uses a light in the gym to simulate tracking a ball in the sun.

Love knows that coming from high school baseball, some of his runners are aggressive and some are timid.

He teaches them about getting a good lead-off without getting picked off. He wants them to know what the pitcher and catcher are trying do.

What made Love a good base stealer when he was playing?

“It comes down to confidence and feeling comfortable,” says Love, who instructs his Grace runners in the proper footwork and the mental side of the running game — what pitches and situations are best for stealing.

Love has his runners get a feel for how much time it will take them to get from first to second or second to third once the pitch crosses home plate. Then they calculate the pitcher’s delivery and the catcher’s Pop Time — the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment it reaches the intended fielder.

For Lancer hitters, Love and Roth go over the mental approach and the mechanical side. It comes down to hitting balls hard as often as possible and having gap-to-gap power.

Grace, an NAIA school, is scheduled to open the 2021 season Feb. 19 against Trinity Christian University at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.

Love was a standout outfielder at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind., and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., where he graduated in 1998. He also spent the summer of 1998 with the independent professional Richmond (Ind.) Roosters then began his business management career while also coaching football (three years) and baseball at WCHS — first on the staff of Will Shepherd and then Mike Hepler.

A 1994 Northridge graduate, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Love earned three letters each in football for Dennis Sienicki, basketball for Tom Crews and baseball for Rollie Schultz and Mike Logan.

Love, who is in the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame, was a three-time all-Northern Lakes Conference performer in football as well as an IHSAA Class 3A all-stater and team MVP in 1993. He set school records for receiving yards, receptions, interceptions and scoring and was chosen for the Indiana Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game. 

He helped Northridge to a basketball sectional title in 1993 — the Raiders’ first since 1975 — and was all-sectional and a team captain and defensive player of the year in 1994.

On the diamond, Love was a two-time all-NLC honoree and was all-state, all-regional and all-sectional as well as team MVP and captain in 1994. He set school records for stolen bases, runs, walks and triples.

Love considered a few offers to play football in college before setting on Ball State University for baseball. He played one season with Pat Quinn as Cardinals head coach and three with Rich Maloney in charge.

A four-year starter at Ball State, Love set a single-season stolen base record in 1997 with 44, leading the Mid-American Conference and helping him earn a spot on the all-MAC team. Overall his junior year, he hit .346 with 71 hits and 67 runs in 59 games.

As a senior in 1998, Love swiped 30 stolen bases to rank second in the MAC. The first-team all-MAC selection led the conference with 62 runs scored and was sixth with 120 total bases and 10th with nine home runs. He batted .344 in 57 games.

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Cate was the manager in Richmond when Love hit .288 with three homers and 25 RBI in 95 games.

Love gives a nod to all his coaches — high school, college and pro.

“I appreciate every one of them — the time they put in to help me with my dreams and aspirations,” says Love. “They were passionate for the sport they coached.

“Pat (Quinn) was pretty direct. He knew the game. He had a fiery spirit to him. Rich (Maloney) was very intense, very knowledgable and very caring also.”

Justin and wife Rosemary have three children — Kendra (18), Jordan (16) and Spencer (12). Kendra Love is a senior volleyball and track athlete at Warsaw. Jordan Love is a sophomore soccer player and trackster. Seventh grader Spencer Love is involved with football, wrestling, track and baseball.

Justin Love, a graduate of Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind., and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., is an assistant baseball coach at Grace College, an NAIA program in Winona Lake, Ind. (Grace College Photo)

Bye getting small pack of Orleans Bulldogs ready for 2019

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Numbers might be low, but baseball spirit is high at Orleans (Ind.) High School.

The Bulldogs won an IHSAA Class 1A West Washington Sectional championship in 2018 and senior Duncan Gerkin was honored as an all-state catcher.

In 2015, Orleans went 26-6 and produced three all-state players — senior second baseman Burton Gerkin, senior first baseman Cale Hall and senior outfielder Jason Mosson. Other recent first-team all-staters include junior outfielder Steven Phillips in 2014 and junior shortstop Terry Bradley in 2012.

Jeremy Bye was an assistant to Mark Wheeler for 10 years then took over the Bulldogs program for the 2016 season.

“I had no intention of ever coaching high school baseball,” says Bye. “But as the cards were dealt, I came to love it.

“I’m very fortunate to spend 10 years under a tremendous coach and motivator and learn from him.”

Bye heads into 2019 with 13 players in the program. For the for the first time since he has been in the program, Orleans does not plan to field a junior varsity team.

Off-season workouts have drawn five boys. These twice-a-week sessions include 45 minutes of throwing and 45 minutes of running or weightlifting.

The other baseball players are busy with basketball.

“In southern Indiana, basketball is king,” says Bye.

Basketball the winter sport for boys at Orleans. Cross country is offered in the fall with baseball, track and golf in the spring. There is no football and some potential students go to nearby schools that do have football.

With an enrollment around 225, Orleans is the member in the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference, which also feature Crawford County, Mitchell, Paoli, Perry Central, Spring Valley and West Washington.

PLAC teams play each other twice during the season in home-and-home series. Only the first meeting counts in the standings.

The Bulldogs are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Crothersville (enrollment around 100), Medora (50), Trinity Lutheran (150) and West Washington (280).

Orleans has won nine sectional titles, including four since 2006 (2006, 2014, 2015 and 2018). The Bulldogs won regional crowns in 2006 and 2015. The 2006 team bowed out to Hauser in the semifinals of the Avon Semistate. Eventual 1A state runner-up Shakamak bested Orleans 3-2 int he 2015 Plainfield Semistate.

Graduate Adam Poole was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 32nd round of the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but did not sign. The left-handed pitcher played at Lincoln Trail College and Indiana University.

Platted in 1815, Orleans stands as the oldest town in Orange County. Founded two months after Andrew Jackson’s famous victory over the British at New Orleans, the settlers named their new town to honor this event.

For the third season, IHSAA teams will abide by a pitch count rule (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days).

“We have always used a pitch count,” says Bye. “Our issues is having enough pitchers to play a 28-game schedule and be effective. It’s always been like that.

“Our better athletes are our pitchers and they are also shortstops, center fielders and third basemen. It’s harder to manage the other positions the kids have to play.”

While its not a school-sponsored sport, Orleans does have junior high baseball. Bye says 22 boys have signed up to play from April through early June. There will be 11 on the eighth grade squad with nine seventh graders and two sixth graders on the seventh grade team.

“The boys have to play,” says Bye. “It’s the only (baseball) avenue they have (from age 13 to high school).

The Orleans Baseball League is a recreation organization that starts with T-ball and goes through sixth grade.

Jeremy and Kristin Bye’s sons play both rec league and travel baseball — Breckin (10) with the Louisville-based Ironmen and Brayson (7) with the Southern Indiana Strikers of New Albany.

Orleans plays its home games on a lighted on-campus diamond. In recent years, the outfield fence has been raised and pushed back and dugouts have been replaced.

Bye mows the field himself and his players help line it and rake it.

“We’re our own field maintenance crew,” says Bye. “Everybody does their own spot. We take pride in it.”

Bye is a 1996 Paoli (Ind.) High School graduate. He played four years of baseball for the Rams — two for Tom Stuckwich and two for John Hahn. He earned a electronics technology degree at Indiana State University and works for Jasper Group in Orleans.

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Orleans (Ind.) High School won an IHSAA Class 1A sectional baseball title in 2018. It was the third season as head coach for Jeremy Bye. He joined the program as an assistant in 2006.

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The Byes (clockwise from left) — Jeremy, Kristin, Breckin and Brayson — celebrate a 2018 IHSAA Class 1A sectional baseball championship. Jeremy Bye has been a coach in the program since 2006 and head coach since 2016.