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).
Iliana Christian won its first Indiana High School Athletic Association sectional baseball title. Jasper hoisted the sectional championship trophy for a state-leading 40th time. Sixty-two other schools also reigned and moved on to regional play on Saturday, June 4. The IHSAA Class 2A Carroll Flora Regional features four teams from the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 10 — No. 1 Carroll, No. 3 Wapahani, No. 4 Eastern (Greentown) and No. 9 Delphi. The 2A Park Tudor Regional has No. 2 Cascade playing No. 7 Centerville in the first game followed by Parke Heritage and vote-getter Heritage Christian. The 3A Griffith Regional includes No. 1 Andrean, No. 2 Western and No. 7 Glenn along with South Bend Saint Joseph. The 3A Danville Regional includes No. 3 West Vigo and No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit in the opener followed by Lebanon and Beech Grove. The 4A Jasper Regional features No. 2 Mooresville, No. 8 Jasper and vote-getter New Albany plus Columbus East. The 4A Lafayette Jeff Regional opens with vote-getter Homestead against No. 6 Fort Wayne Carroll followed by Harrison against Zionsville. In 1A, the Loogootee Regional has No. 1 Borden meeting No. 2 Barr-Reeve in Game 2 after vote-getter Tecumseh plays New Washington.
The 1A he South Bend Washington Regional has three Top 10 teams — No. 4 South Central (Union Mills), No. 9 Caston and No. 10 Fremont — plus Morgan Township. The 1A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional features vote-getters Cowan and Rossville in Game 1 and No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic and No. 5 Union City in Game 2. Three teams at the 1A Morristown Regional received votes in the final regular season poll — Indianapolis Lutheran, Rising Sun and Shakamak. Traders Point Christian is also in the field. South Central of Union Mills (6), Indianapolis Cathedral (5), Silver Creek (5), South Bend Saint Joseph (5), Evansville Memorial (4), Shakamak (4) and Tecumseh (4) comes into regional play with the longest active sectional title streaks. 1A New Washington won its first sectional crown since 1998. It had been since 1999 that 2A’s Eastern (Greentown) and Winamac had won sectional titles. By the time three-team regionals in four classes are complete, there will be 16 teams left in the field. Semistates are scheduled for Saturday, June 11 with the State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis Friday and Saturday, June 17-18.
2022 IHSAA REGIONALS Saturday, June 4 (IHSBCA Ranking in Parentheses) Class 4A LaPorte Regional Crown Point vs. Lake Central (Receiving Votes) South Bend Adams vs. Penn Championship Regional titles (most recent): Penn 10 (2017), Crown Point 9 (2011), Lake Central 7 (2014), South Bend Adams 3 (1979).
Highland Sectional (1) Championship — Lake Central 15, Highland 12. Sectional titles through 2022: Highland (13) — Previous 2000. Trojans head coach: John Bogner.
Valparsaiso Sectional (2) Championship — Crown Point 12, Hobart 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Crown Point (22) — Previous 2019. Bulldogs head coach: Steve Strayer.
Plymouth Sectional (3) Championship — South Bend Adams 5, LaPorte 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Adams (10) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Mike Cass.
Penn Sectional (4) Championship — Penn 7, Northridge 5. Sectional titles through 2022: Penn (23) — Previous 2018. Kingsmen head coach: Greg Dikos.
Lafayette Jeff Regional Homestead (RV) vs. Carroll (6) Harrison vs. Zionsville Championship Regional titles (most recent): Carroll 5 (2011), Harrison 5 (1998), Zionsville 4 (2017), Homestead 3 (2015).
DeKalb Sectional (5) Championship — Carroll 7, Snider 6. Sectional titles through 2022: Carroll (15) — Previous 2019. Chargers head coach: Dave Ginder.
Huntington North Sectional (6) Championship — Homestead 10, Wayne 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Homestead (16) — Previous 2021. Spartans head coach: Nick Byall.
Logansport Sectional (7) Championship — Harrison 5, McCutcheon 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Harrison (13) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Pat Lowrey.
New Palestine Regional Anderson vs. Indianapolis Cathedral New Palestine vs. Brownsburg Championship Regional titles (most recent): Indianapolis Cathedral 14 (2018), New Palestine 6 (2014), Brownsburg 5 (2005), Anderson 3 (1995).
Mt. Vernon Sectional (9) Championship — Anderson 13, Mt. Vernon (Fortville) 7. Sectional titles through 2022: Anderson (8) — Previous 2012. Indians head coach: Adrian Heim.
Pike Sectional (10) Championship — Indianapolis Cathedral 10, Lawrence North 8. Sectional titles through 2022: Cathedral (25; five straight) — Previous 2021. Fighting Irish coach Ed Freje.
Roncalli Sectional (11) Championship — New Palestine 12, Franklin Central 2. Sectional titles through 2022: New Palestine (17) — Previous 2015. Dragons head coach: Shawn Lyons.
Terre Haute South Vigo Sectional (12) Championship — Brownsburg 13, Avon 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Brownsburg (15) — Previous 2013. Bulldogs head coach: Dan Roman.
Jasper Regional New Albany (RV) vs. Jasper (8) Columbus East vs. Mooresville (2) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Jasper 26 (2021), Columbus East 10 (2019), New Albany 6 (1995), Mooresville 4 (2004).
Center Grove Sectional (13) Championship — Mooresville 9, Martinsville 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Mooresville (11) — Previous 2004. Pioneers head coach: Eric McGaha.
Bloomington South Sectional (14) Championship — Bloomington South vs. Columbus East Sectional titles through 2022: Columbus East (20) — Previous 2019. Olympians head coach Jon Gratz.
Jennings County Sectional (15) Championship — New Albany 4, Bedford North Lawrence 0. Sectional titles through 2022: New Albany (23) — Previous 2016. Bulldogs head coach: Chris McIntyre.
Evansville Reitz Sectional (16) Championship — Jasper 5, Castle 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Jasper (40) — Previous 2021. Wildcats head coach: Terry Gobert.
Class 3A Griffith Regional Western (2) vs. Glenn (7) Andrean (1) vs. South Bend Saint Joseph Championship Regional titles (most recent): Andrean 14 (2019), Western 7 (2016), Saint Joseph 5 (2017), Glenn 3 (2006).
Griffith Sectional (17) Championship — Andrean 18, Calumet New Tech 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Andrean (30) — Previous 2019. 59ers head coach: Dave Pishkur.
Kankakee Valley Sectional (18) Championship — Glenn 9, Hanover Central 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Glenn (10) — Previous 2017. Falcons head coach: John Nadolny.
South Bend Clay Sectional (19) Championship — South Saint Joseph 18, New Prairie 5. Sectional titles through 2022: Saint Joseph (17; five straight) — Previous 2017. Indians head coach: John Smolinski.
Northwestern Sectional (20) Championship — Western 6, Northwestern 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Western (21) — Previous 2019. Panthers coach: Ryan Berryman.
Oak Hill Regional Wawasee vs. New Castle (RV) Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger vs. Norwell Championship Regional titles (most recent): Norwell 7 (2021), Dwenger 2 (2014), New Castle 2 (1996), Wawasee 0.
Jimtown Sectional (21) Championship — Wawasee 9, NorthWood 5. Sectional titles through 2022: Wawasee (8) — Previous 2021. Warriors head coach: Joe Salazar.
Angola Sectional (22) Championship — Bishop Dwenger 19, Leo 8. Sectional titles through 2022: Dwenger (12) — Previous 2016. Saints head coach: Jason Garrett.
Bellmont Sectional (23) Championship — Norwell 12, Heritage 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Norwell (18) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Dave Goodmiller.
Yorktown Sectional (24) Championship — New Castle 3, Guerin Catholic 2. Sectional titles through 2022: New Castle (14) — Previous 2014. Trojans head coach: Josh Cooper.
Danville Regional West Vigo (3) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (4) Lebanon vs. Beech Grove Championship Regional titles (most recent): West Vigo 7 (2015), Brebeuf 4 (2021), Beech Grove 3 (1990), Lebanon 0.
Crawfordsville Sectional (25) Championship — Lebanon 10, Northview 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Lebanon (12) — Previous 2014. Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray.
Danville Sectional (26) Championship — Brebeuf Jesuit 12, Tri-West Hendricks 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Brebeuf (16) — Previous 2014. Braves head coach: Jeff Scott.
Bishop Chatard Sectional (27) Championship — Beech Grove 4, Bishop Chatard 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Beech Grove (7) — Previous 2014. Hornets head coach: Jacob Wickliff.
Edgewood Sectional (28) Championship — West Vigo 4, Edgewood 3. Sectional titles through 2022: West Vigo (15) — Previous 2018. Vikings head coach: Culley DeGroote.
Southridge Regional Evansville Memorial vs. Vincennes Lincoln Silver Creek (5) vs. Connersville Championship Regional titles (most recent): Evansville Memorial 17 (2016), Connersville 6 (2006), Vincennes Lincoln 4 (2002), Silver Creek 2 (2019).
Rushville Sectional (29) Championship — Connersville 7, Franklin County 6. Sectional titles through 2022: Connersville (19) — Previous 2010. Spartans head coach Michael Thompson.
Madison Sectional (30) Championship — Silver Creek vs. Corydon Central Sectional titles through 2022: Silver Creek (11; five straight) — Previous 2021. Dragons head coach: Joe Decker.
Princeton Sectional (31) Championship — Vincennes Lincoln 7, Southridge 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Vincennes Lincoln (18) — Previous 2019. Alices head coach: Tim Hutchison.
Evansville Bosse Sectional (32) Championship — Evansville Memorial 9, Boonville 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Evansville Memorial (31; four straight) — Previous 2021. Tigers head coach: Rip Collins.
Class 2A Whiting Regional Eastside (RV) vs. Fairfield (RV) Winamac vs. Illiana Christian Championship Regional titles (most recent): Eastside 1 (2021), Fairfield 1 (2010), Illiana Christian 0, Winamac 0.
Whiting Sectional (33) Championship — Illiana Christian 16, Wheeler 4. Sectional titles through 2022: — Illiana Christian (1) — Previous None. Vikings head coach Jeff VanderWoude.
Boone Grove Sectional (34) Championship — Winamac 8, Boone Grove 7. Sectional titles through 2022: Winamac (4) — Previous 1999. Warriors head coach: Marcus Kay.
Delphi Sectional (38) Championship — Delphi 9, Seeger 7. Sectional titles through 2022: Delphi (7) — Previous 2021. Oracles head coach: Ryan Long.
Eastern (Greentown) Sectional (39) Championship — Eastern (Greentown) 13, Eastbrook 4 Sectional titles through 2022: Eastern (Greentown) (3) — Previous 1999. Comets head coach: Erik Hisner.
Frankton Sectional (40) Championship — Wapahani 15, Frankton 10. Sectional titles through 2022: Wapahani (18) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Brian Dudley.
Park Tudor Regional Cascade (2) vs. Centerville (7) Parke Heritage vs. Heritage Christian (RV) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Heritage Christian 3 (2010), Cascade 0, Centerville 0, Parke Heritage 0.
Indianapolis Scecina Sectional (42) Championship — Heritage Christian 12, Indianapolis Scecina 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Heritage Christian (9) — Previous 2017. Eagles head coach: Dan Ambrose.
Park Tudor Sectional (43) Championship — Cascade 6, Covenant Christian 5 Sectional titles through 2022: Cascade (7) — Previous 2005. Cadets head coach: Ty Foster.
Parke Heritage Sectional (44) Championship — Parke Heritage 9, Southmont 8. Sectional titles through 2022: Parke Heritage (2) — Previous 2021. Wolves head coach: Charlie Martin.
Evansville Mater Dei Regional Linton-Stockton vs. North Decatur Forest Park (8) vs. Providence Championship Regional titles (most recent): Providence 7 (2021), Forest Park 1 (1976), Linton-Stockton 0, North Decatur 0.
South Ripley Sectional (45) Championship — North Decatur 5, Southwestern (Hanover) 1. Sectional titles through 2022: North Decatur (2) — Previous 2011. Chargers head coach: Christian McKinney.
Providence Sectional (46) Championship — Providence 9, Austin 8. Providence (20) — Previous 2021. Pioneers head coach: Scott Hutchins.
Mitchell Sectional (47) Championship — Linton-Stockton 8, Mitchell 7 Sectional titles through 2022: Linton-Stockton (11) — Previous 2021. Miners head coach: Jacob Harden.
Evansville Mater Dei Sectional (48) Championship — Forest Park 10, Tell City 0. Forest Park (5) — Previous 2002. Rangers head coach: Jarred Howard.
Class 1A South Bend Washington Regional South Central (Union Mills) (4) vs. Caston (9) Fremont (10) vs. Morgan Township Championship Regional titles (most recent): South Central 4 (2011), Fremont 2 (1999), Caston 0, Morgan Township 0.
Westville Sectional (49) Championship — Morgan Township 16, Marquette Catholic 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Morgan Township (5) — Previous 2018. Cherokees head coach: John Smith.
South Central (Union Mills) Sectional (50) Championship — South Central (Union Mills) 10, Oregon-Davis 0. Sectional titles through 2022: South Central (18; six straight) — Previous 2021. Satellites head coach: Zach Coulter.
Fremont Sectional (51) Championship — Fremont 23, Bethany Christian 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Fremont (8) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Justin Bock.
Caston Sectional (52) Championship — Caston 3, North Miami 1. Sectional titles through 2022: Caston (2) — Previous 2012. Comets head coach: Blake Mollenkopf.
Lafayette Central Catholic Regional Cowan (RV) vs. Rossville (RV) Union City (5) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (3) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Lafayette Central Catholic 14 (2018), Cowan 4 (2021), Rossville 3 (2019), Union City 0.
Lafayette Central Catholic Sectional (53) Championship — Lafayette Central Catholic 10, Covington 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Lafayette Central Catholic (18) — Previous 2018. Knights head coach: Tim Bordenet.
Tri-County Sectional (54) Championship — Rossville 12, Clinton Central 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Rossville (7) — Previous 2019. Hornets head coach: Brad Scott.
Anderson Preparatory Sectional (55) Championship — Cowan 5, Wes-Del 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Cowan (8) — Previous 2021. Blackhawks head coach: Aaron Wells.
Seton Catholic Sectional (56) Championship — Union City 9, Blue River Valley 4. Sectional titles through 2022: Union City (4) — Previous 2021. Indians head coach: Jason Dowler.
Morristown Regional Rising Sun (RV) vs. Shakamak (RV) Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran (RV) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Shakamak 13 (2021), Indianapolis Lutheran 1 (2017), Rising Sun 1 (2013), Traders Point Christian 0.
Shakamak Sectional (57) Championship — Shakamak 14, White River Valley 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Shakamak (27; four straight) — Previous 2021. Lakers head coach: Jeremy Yeryar.
Indiana Deaf Sectional (58) Championship — Traders Point Christian 9, Bethesda Christian 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Traders Point Christian (2) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Jaylen Cushenberry.
Morristown Sectional (59) Championship — Indianapolis Lutheran 12, Edinburgh 2. Sectional titles through 2022: Indianapolis Lutheran (14) — Previous 2019. Saints head coach: Adam Gouker.
Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (60) Championship — Rising Sun 2, Jac-Cen-Del 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Rising Sun (8) — Previous 2019. Shiners head coach: Kevin Wirsch.
Loogootee Regional New Washington vs. Tecumseh (RV) Barr-Reeve (2) vs. Borden (1) Championship Regional titles (most recent): Tecumseh 10 (2019), Barr-Reeve 2 (1998), Borden 1 (2021), New Washington 0.
Lanesville Sectional (61) Championship — Borden 12, Lanesville 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Borden (6) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Eric Stotts.
Shawe Memorial Sectional (62) Championship — New Washington 8, West Washington 7. Sectional titles through 2022: New Washington (2) — Previous 1998. Mustangs head coach: Jeremy Bower.
Loogootee Sectional (63) Championship — Barr-Reeve 9, North Daviess 3. Sectional titles through 2022: Barr-Reeve (13) — Previous 2019. Vikings head coach: Trevor McConnell.
Cannelton Sectional (64) Championship — Tecumseh 11, Springs Valley 0. Sectional titles through 2022: Tecumseh (17; four straight) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Ted Thompson.
“We want to play hard and fast,” says Cushenberrry. “It’s cool to see kids come out and want to be part of something special.”
The Knights are in an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bethesda Christian (the 2021 host site), Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Prep, Providence Cristo Rey and Tindley. Traders Point’s first year in the state tournament series was 2019.
Home baseball games this spring will be at Roundtripper Sports Academy or Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. Cushenberry says a new turf field on the TPCS campus is expected by the end of this year.
“It’s going to be a very special time,” says Cushenberry. “The good Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to be part of something special.”
Traders Point added a high school program in 2008 and had its first graduating class in 2012. A junior high building was opened in 2020.
As a feeder for high school baseball, Grades 5-8 play on “A” and “B” junior high teams.
Jayden Cushenberry played recreational baseball at Warren Township Little League then travel ball from 10 to 13 with the Oaklandon Bombers and 14 to 17 with the Tom Caster-coached Irvington Rattlers.
“I coach exactly how I played,” says Cushenberry. “We’re going to be tough. We’re going to be gritty.
“We’re going to go after you every single inning.”
It’s all about hard work and dedication and reaping what you sew.
Cushenberry knows he’s one of the younger coaches on the scene. But he sees that as an advantage.
“I’ve always been called wise beyond my years,” says Cushenberry. “We’re in a time now where the young coaches do a better job of relating to their players.
“Everybody wants to know why. I can let them know why and still coach them hard. I believe they respond better to hard-nosed coaching. We’re preparing them for life and creating a family atmosphere.”
Jaylen comes from a large extended family. His mother, Donnice Cushenberry, is a former cheer and dance coach who instilled competitiveness and the willingness to understand people in her oldest son.
“I truly want to thank my family for engraving some core values that I live by,” says Cushenberrry, who is a brother to Jordan Cushenberry and stepson to Michael Howe.
When he’s not working at Zionsville or coaching at Traders Point, Cushenberry gives lessons at Roundtripper. He is heading into his fourth summer as a coach for the Indiana Mustangs. He leads a 17U squad.
“I want to thank (Roundtripper and Mustangs founder) Chris Estep,” says Cushenberry. “He believed in me when other people wouldn’t.
“He’s treated me like a son.”
Reid Andrews is Director of Baseball Operations at Roundtripper and coaches with the Mustangs and University.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” says Cushenberry of Andrews. “He’s a good source of information.
“I’m thankful to be colleagues with Reid.”
Cushenberrry was an assistant to Estep for two seasons at University, helping the Trailblazers win an IHSAA Class 1A state crown in 2019.
Stevens took over the Patriots just a few months before the 2019 campaign, got through a year without games because of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) and expects up to 20 players in 2021 at a private school of about 85 students.
“I’m trying to make this program relevant again,” says Stevens. “Baseball has been an afterthought for awhile.”
Bethesda Christian’s junior high baseball coach for a few seasons, Stevens was asked to head up the varsity in January 2019.
“We had to circle the wagons and get some practices going,” says Stevens. “We had no equipment and no set routine for the varsity schedule.
“We started building it basically from scratch.”
The school has replaced its rickety press box and Stevens would like to get a new backstop.
The Patriots began workouts for 2020-21 in October and just finished the latest IHSAA Limited Contact Period for bat-and-ball activities. Players are now using a speed and agility routine devised by strength and conditioning expert Zach Dechant and a throwing strength training course put together by Jason Taulman, a former college coach who runs the Indy Sharks travel organization.
“I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in the speed on my baseball team,” says Stevens of Dechant’s system. “It really works.
“I use (the throwing program) with the entire team. We use med balls and J-bands and do core work.”
With Bethesda’s basketball teams getting first priority on gym time in February, a handful of baseball players were at the school a 6 a.m. Friday workout.
Stevens’ assistant coach is Bethesda Christian graduate Josh Stroud.
Besides the junior high team, Stevens would like to establish a feeder system at the elementary level.
“I want to get them younger if I can,” says Stevens. “You have to build a program from the bottom up.”
“Before that Southmont played Crawfordsville and North Montgomery (school system players) and that was it,” says Stevens, who helped the league branch out to find a variety of competition around Indianapolis.
Tom and wife Christy’s daughter, Madi, transferred to Bethesda when she was a ninth grader. She’s now an elementary education major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
When their sister changed schools, brothers Garrett and Wyatt — who began playing T-ball at Southmont — decided to also make the switch.
Garrett Stevens is now a Bethesda senior. Bethesda is preparing to put stage “Beauty and The Beast” in March and Garrett is to play The Beast.
The Patriots’ top pitcher touches 90 mph on the radar gun, Garrett will be a teammate of freshman Wyatt.
Garrett is committed to play baseball at Anderson (Ind.) University.
“(Ravens head) Coach (Matt) Bair knows baseball, but he’s a good mentor and cares about the boys,” says Stevens. “I’m more interested in these boys become good young men and that they become all-stars at leaders in their communities and their families.”
Bethesda Christian graduate Brayden Sayre is on the baseball roster at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.
Stevens is a licensed electrician, but has not worked in that field for about five years. He had a home improvement company in Crawfordsville. For the past three years, he’s been an apprentice to his wife in Winding Creek Ranch, a Crawfordsville-based dog breeding business specializing in Goldendoodles and Labradoodles.
Stevens has coached travel ball, but he’s partial to the community leagues for younger players.
“Travel ball has no place for any kid below the junior high level and that’s pushing it,” says Stevens. “Let’s play ball locally.”
Hickman played baseball for the Rensselaer Central Bombers. Craig Grow was the head coach in Hickman’s freshman year then left for Loogootee and other coaching stops. Kent LeBeau was RCHS head coach in Hickman’s last three prep seasons.
“Both men were mild-tempered and highly-respected individuals,” says Hickman of Grow and LeBeau. “I learned that winning the right way is the only way to win.
“Winning at all costs will catch up to you in life.”
Hickman played at Missouri State (then known as Southwest Missouri State) and was a senior captain for Keith Guttin, who had led the Bears since the 1983 season and racked up more than 1,200 victories during his coaching career.
“I am very proud to have played for Coach Guttin,” says Hickman. “He had a massive impact on my life. I’ve met no one who desires to win more than he does, but he has the same beliefs as my high school coaches.
“You win with hard work, commitment, dedication and grit. No short cuts.”
Faith Christian (enrollment around 220) is an independent with no conference affiliation.
“It is a challenge being an independent and getting teams on our schedule,” says Hickman. “Most schools’ first priority is their conference games.
“I would be in favor at some point of belonging to a conference.
We currently play a good mix of Christian and public schools in the area.”
The Eagles are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Attica, Covington, North Vermillion and Riverton Parke. Faith Christian has not yet won a sectional title.
In 2019, there were 19 players in the program.
“My hope is that the numbers will steadily grow so that we can have a consistent junior varsity schedule that will feed the varsity,” says Hickman.
There is a also a middle school team for seventh and eighth graders which plays games from mid-April to June.
What drives Hickman and the Eagles?
“Our goal is simple,” says Hickman. “To compete in baseball at a high level so as to attract kids in our area to FCS schools.
“We see value in a Christian education and we want to do everything with a spirit of excellence. I have a passion for baseball and want nothing more than to pass that on to our local youth.
“To be able to use baseball to advance my faith is a true gift.”
Hickman is hoping to know who his 2020 assistants will be in the coming months.
Dan and Alicia Hickman have three children — Amanda, Cole and Jonathon. Alicia works at BACA, a Autism center for kids in Fishers, Ind. Amanda is married and living in Carmel, Ind. Cole, a 2010 Wabash (Ind.) College graduate, works for Geico in Carmel. Jonathon is a Wabash junior.
“(Jonathon) is a massive sports enthusiast and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pursue a career in the sports industry,” says Dan Hickman.
Dan Hickman is the head baseball coach at Faith Christian School in Lafayette, Ind.
Dan Hickman passes on his passion for baseball as the head coach at Faith Christian School in Lafayette, Ind. He played at and graduated from Rensselaer (Ind.) High School and Missouri State University.
Hardy teaches his youngsters how to play the game. But the teaching and the mentoring to does not end with a game or practice.
“I’m very involved with the boys,” says Hardy. “I’m not just a coach between the lines. I’m their coach all the time.
“I’ll help in any way.”
Hardy has his own remodeling business and he has some of his players help with cleaning up job sites, painting, drywalling and other handy skills.
“It keeps them out of trouble,” says Hardy. “We’re constantly stressing the importance of being a good person.
“It’s God, family, baseball and the classroom. It’s the total package.”
For players wishing to go to college, he will do what he can to make that happen.
“I’ll help in getting them tutoring,” says Hardy. “We stress the student-athlete.”
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson, who lives in Fishers, Ind., came by practice last week to talk about faith, family and baseball with the IPA crew.
Hardy has watched his players come so far in the time he has been at Irvington Prep.
“Now that my (original class of) freshmen are juniors, I’m seeing a pay-off,” says Hardy. “That’s my satisfaction.
“That’s a W in my book.”
The inner-city high schools in Indy include Indianapolis Public SchoolsArsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, Shortridge and Washington. Besides Irvington Prep, others include Herron, Howe, Manual, Providence Cristo Rey, Purdue Poly and Tindley. This spring, Howe and Washington did not field a baseball team.
What is now known as Irvington Prep Academy opened in 2006 as Irvington Community High School. The original location was on East Pleasant Parkway and is now home to Irvington Community Middle School on East Pleasant Run Parkway. IPA is housed in the former Children’s Guardian Home on University Avenue.
Baseball and softball teams play about three miles away in Irvington Park on Raymond Street.
Before landing at Irvington Prep, Hardy was an assistant to Jerry Giust at Broad Ripple.
The IPA Ravens went against the Broad Ripple Rockets a couple times before the latter IPS high school was closed.
Giust was the one who suggested that Hardy look into becoming a head coach.
“He knew I had been around the game for a long time and saw the enthusiasm I approach the game with and my knowledge,” says Hardy of Giust. “I loved him for it.”
Hardy graduated from Broad Ripple in 1997 after moving from South Bend, where he grew up. He went to South Bend Washington High School for three years and was drawn to swimming to fight his asthma. He was also drawn to baseball. He competed in summer ball before leaving for Indianapolis. Washington’s varsity and junior varsity both won summer titles.
“I loved the way the game was broken down,” says Hardy, who played as a sophomore and junior in a program then led by Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Ric Tomaszewski, who learned much from South Bend coaching legends like Jim Reinebold and Len Buczkowski and LaPorte’s Ken Schreiber.
“The knowledge T gave us was phenomenal,” says Hardy. “He told us everybody has a job to do.”
Players at each position were supposed to know the duties of the other players on the diamond.
Rain in the first half of the season means IPA will be trying to make up many games leading up to the postseason.
The Ravens are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown and Triton Central. Irvington Prep has been competing in the tournament since 2013 and has not won a sectional title.
Hardy and fiancee Sandi have been together for seven years. They have one child together — Isaiah. He has three other children (Josiah, Iyanah and Ariyana) and she has two (Sylvanna and Gianna). Josiah plans to play baseball next year at Herron.
Davon Hardy (foreground) is the head baseball coach at Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis.
Former major league pitcher Justin Masterson delivers the baseball during an Irvington Prep Academy practice.
Former major leaguer Justin Masterson visited coach Davon Hardy and his Irvington Prep Academy baseball team to talk about faith, family and the game.
In more than two decades guiding a high school baseball program, Dan Ambrose has learned that the X’s and O’s are important.
But in the last decade of so, Ambrose has begun to place his emphasis on building and maintaining a winning culture. He wants opponents to notice the way his Eagles go about warming up, how they hustle on and off the field and how they treat each other.
“That’s a big part of my coaching now,” says Ambrose. “I want to have a culture that is strong and healthy.”
Ambrose’s Indy-based program has won eight sectionals, three regionals, two semistates and a pair of IHSAA Class 2A state titles (2009 and 2010) while always being competitive in the Circle City Conference (which along includes 3A Brebeuf Jesuit, 2A Covenant Christian, 3A Guerin Catholic, 3A Indianapolis Bishop Chatard and 4A Roncalli).
Heritage Christian (a pre-kindergarten through senior school with a current enrollment about 460 in the top four grades) has appeared in the last three city championship games against Indianapolis Cathedral, winning once.
Ambrose, who also teaches social studies at the high school level, has used different key words over the years and currently centers his team philosophy around the acronym E-A-G-L-E-S.
E — Each other.
A — Attitude.
G — God first.
L — Little things are Big things.
E — Effort.
S — Service to others.
The idea is to be both competitive between the while lines while still embracing and displaying Christian values.
“If you don’t care about winning, it’s easy,” says Ambrose. “But can i hold onto to my Christian character traits in the midst of an intense competitive situation?”
First acquainted with the Lebetter boys as junior high youth group members at church, Ambrose later got to coach them when they transferred from Hamilton Southeastern to Heritage Christian after their sophomore year.
The Eagles go on a Dominican Republic mission trip every other year and the Ledbetters went that first year and bonded with their new teammates.
“We were a good team without them,” says Ambrose. “We were a great team with them.
“They were high energy, which can drive a coach crazy,” says Ambrose of the Ledbetter twins. “But I’d much rather pull back on a thoroughbred than kick a mule.
“They added that winning edge. Their teammates loved them.”
Team building is also done through a World Series party (scheduled for Friday, Oct. 26) and a leadership retreat for juniors and seniors and other events.
Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Ambrose sees a young team with plenty of freshmen and sophomores in the mix. The Eagles will field two high school teams — varsity and junior varsity.
With Rob Barber going to part-time status, he is looking for another top varsity assistant to pair with Nick Hibner, who is also head JV coach. Gary Vaughan is a JV assistant. Bryan Baker heads up the middle school program (Grades 7-8) with help from Jonathan Baker and Travis Willman.
Ambrose does have a veteran returning in Cooper Williams. The senior right-hander has already verbally committed to Xavier University in Cincinnati.
In order to get him used to being a college closer, Ambrose is thinking of using Williams in short starting stints of about 35 to 50 pitches, where he can use all his arsenal in the first inning if he so chooses.
Circle City Conference games are played at Tuesdays and Thursdays in home-and-home series. CCC coaches have been talking about adding an end-of-season conference tournament.
With the help of director of athletics Michelle York, Ambrose builds a non-conference schedule that includes as many sectional opponents as possible (HC is grouped with Eastern Hancock, Indianapolis Howe, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Irvington Prep Academy, Knightstown and Triton Central) plus neighboring rival Park Tudor as well as Faith Christian, Liberty Christian and Traders Point Christian.
Dan Ambrose graduated from Parma (Ohio) Senior High School in 1989, where he played for varsity coach Conrad Pokorski and JV coach Tim Tomc (who later took over the Redmen varsity).
Ambrose credits Tomc for teaching him the importance of an organized, focused practice.
“Baseball wasn’t just taking BP while people stood in the outfield,” says Ambrose. “(Tomc) was very structured.”
A full-squad Heritage Christian practice usually features multiple stations with players doing something different at each one.
“Every minute, every kid is doing something,” says Ambrose. “(Baseball coaches) gained a lot from football coaches. With so many kids in football, you have to be organized.”
During the fall, Ambrose had about eight or 10 players two hours two days a week to get in individual skill work while others were occupied with a fall sport. The same will be true in the winter, when the IHSAA practice window re-opens the first week of December.
“I encourage guys to play another sport,” says Ambrose.
Heritage Christian plays its game on-campus. A few years ago, a clubhouse was built near the baseball field and the net backstop — higher than the previous fence — was added last year.
“We lose a lot of foul balls in the neighborhood,” says Ambrose, who raises money for the upgrades through donations, the sale of hats and the Heritage Christian Youth Baseball League.
Started about a dozen years ago, the league for pre-K through fourth grade meets twice a week in the summer on the HC softball field. It is coach-pitch and score is not kept.
“My main goal is to allow kids to get a taste of baseball and realize how fun it can be,” says Ambrose. “If I’ve them them well and they keep playing, I hope they’ll come back to me in the seventh grade.”
Most seasons, the majority of Heritage Christian’s high school players take part in summer travel baseball.
“There’s a big difference when a kid plays the game all summer long,” says Ambrose. “His instincts are better.”
Dan and Amy Ambrose (a Brownsburg, Ind., native who went to Bethesda Christian) have three baseball-playing sons.
Jadon Ambrose is a freshman at Cedarville. Seth Ambrose is a 6-foot-6 sophomore first baseman. Will Ambrose is in the sixth grade.
Coaching for USAthletic (a travel organization started by Barber), Ambrose began coaching Jadon in the summers when he was in junior high and plans to do the same with Will’s 12U team next summer.
Ambrose’s rule of thumb with travel ball is one out-of-town tournament per season.
Dan Ambrose is the head baseball coach at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis. His Eagles have won eight sectionals, three regionals, two semistates and a pair of IHSAA Class 2A state titles (2009 and 2010) during his tenure. (Heritage Christian School Photo)