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IHSBCA coaches give opinions on IHSAA class baseball, tournament format

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

Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports?
Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time.
With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State.
In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships.
Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98.
There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward.
Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008).
A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system.
These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:

  • Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
  • Who benefits the most from class baseball?
  • If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
  • Anything else you’d like to say on the subject?

Some of the responses:

BRIAN ABBOTT (Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Executive Director and IHSBCA Hall of Famer)

“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion.
“The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s).
“Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”

DAN AMBROSE (Heritage Christian head coach)

“(Class baseball) is a positive.
“I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. 
“I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”

PATRICK ANTONE (Former Boone Grove and Columbus North and current Roncalli head coach)

“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. 
“For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional.
“The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period.
“It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. 
“Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question.
“Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely.
“There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds.
“It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it.
“But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball.
“The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into.
“The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”

RYAN BERRYMAN (Former Northwestern and current Western head coach)

“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system.
“All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting.
“I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete.
“We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament.
“We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”

DAVE BISCHOFF (IHSBCA Hall of Famer and New Haven head coach)

“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. 
“Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today.
“High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”

RYAN BUNNELL (Westfield head coach)

“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be.
“The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo).
“There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more.
“How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are.
“Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level).
“I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”

JAKE BURTON (IHSBCA Hall of Famer, former McCutcheon, North Newton and current Twin Lakes head coach)

“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. 
“Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball).
“I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down.
“I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”

MATTHEW CHERRY (Fishers head coach)

“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. 
“Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. 
“The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports.
“I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes.  The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. 
“I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A.
“Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). 
“You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw.
“Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”

JOE DECKER (Silver Creek head coach)

“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach.
“Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class.
Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference.
“(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc.
“Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”

GREG DIKOS (IHSBCA Hall of Famer at Penn head coach)

“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have.
“(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size.  
“Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools.
“As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting.  I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”

BRIAN DUDLEY (IHSBCA Hall of Famer and Wapahani head coach)

“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class.
“Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close.
“Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students.
“Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. 
“Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. 
“The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion.
Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”

DAVE GINDER (Fort Wayne Carroll head coach)

“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it.
“It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools.
“Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”

TERRY GOBERT (IHSBCA Hall of Famer and Jasper head coach)

“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis.
“Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”

DAVE GOODMILLER (Norwell head coach)

“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. 
“Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. 
“The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. 
“As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”

KEVIN HANNON (Knox head coach)

“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field.
“The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney.  Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers.
“We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up.  
“The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. 
“Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”

ERIK HISNER (Former Whitko and current Eastern of Greentown head coach and athletic director)

“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so.
“The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most.
“The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A.
“(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”

JOHN HUEMMER (Mishawaka head coach)

“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes.   
“I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.”
“It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.”
“Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”

DENNIS KAS (IHSBCA Hall of Famer, former Clinton Prairie and Noblesville head coach and current Lafayette Jeff assistant coach)

“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint.
“Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament.
I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals.
“A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment.
“Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300).
“If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth.
“At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth.
In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”

DARIN KAUFFMAN (Fairfield head coach)

There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class.
“If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win.
“At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game.
“The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools).
“In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up.
“I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”

JUSTIN KEEVER (Noblesville head coach)

“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same.
“Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes.
“Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”

KEVIN KINNISON (Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian head coach)

“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights.
“There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game.
“I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes.
“For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”

BRIAN KIRCHOFF (Former Northeast Dubois head coach and current Jasper assistant coach)

“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part.
“We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class.
“That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships).
“The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.”
“There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”

KYLE KRAEMER (Terre Haute South Vigo head coach)

“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. 
“Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’  We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team.  It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area.  
“The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”

BRIAN KUESTER (IHSBCA Hall of Famer and South Spencer head coach)

“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started.
“Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament.
“The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”

DEAN LEHRMAN (Heritage head coach)

“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular.
“In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland.  Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases.
“I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”

PAT LOWREY (Lafayette Harrison head coach)

“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. 
“While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. 
“At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.

CHRIS MAY (Gibson Southern head coach)

“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”

ANDY MCCLAIN (Former Brebeuf Jesuit, Norwell and Lawrence Central and current Indianapolis North Central head coach)

“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game.
“I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit.
“I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that.
“Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”

MARCUS MCCORMICK (Speedway head coach)

“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. 
Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools.  To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money.  
“The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. 
“I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball.  
“I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”

JEFF MCKEON (Former Plainfield and South Putnam head coach)

“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state.
“I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system.
“If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four.
“Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. 
“A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer.
“One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”

BLAKE MOLLENKOPF (Caston head coach)

“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist.
“Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success.  It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities.   
“I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs.  
“Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”

KEITH NUNLEY (Former Monroe Central and current Guerin Catholic head coach)

“(Class baseball) is positive overall
“Smaller schools who make runs (benefit most from class baseball). 
“Sectional and maybe even regional could be seeded.”

PAT O’NEIL (IHSBCA Hall of Famer, former Brownsburg and current Danville Community head coach)

“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney.
“The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success.
“My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well.
“IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”

JASON RAHN (Westview head coach)

“(Class baseball) is a positive.
“Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball.
“I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”

JOEL REINEBOLD (Former Bremen, South Bend Adams and current South Bend Clay head coach)

“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school.
“If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’
“If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’”
“If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”

A.J. RISEDORPH (NorthWood head coach and dean of athletics)

“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools.
“Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10!
“I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success.
“I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”

RANDY ROBERTS (Washington Township head coach)

“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. 
“All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”

GARY ROGERS (Former Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and current Leo head coach)

“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis.
“The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success.
“Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher.
“In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”

SCOTT ROST (Former Elkhart Memorial and current Elkhart head coach)

“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits.
“(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. 
“There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”

MARK SCHELLINGER (New Prairie head coach)

“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them.
“The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes.  The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all.  
“I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”

BRAD SCOTT (Rossville head coach)

“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. 
“I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. 
“I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community.
“With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”

CORY STONER (Jimtown head coach)

“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board.
“Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players.
“I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”

STEVE STRAYER (IHSBCA Hall of Famer and Crown Point head coach)
 

“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships.
“Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”

TIM TERRY (South Vermillion head coach and athletic director)

“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo).
“The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.


“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”

TED THOMPSON (Tecumseh head coach)

“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved.  The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. 
“The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.

“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”

CRAIG TROUT (Northview head coach)

“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs. 

“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.

“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.

“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”

TONY UGGEN (IHSBCA Hall of Famer, former Northfield and current Blackford head coach)

“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. 
“More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level.
“(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. 
“There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”

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.

Alum Reister emphasizes ‘little things’ with Henryville Hornets

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

Henryville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School’s uniforms say “Hornets.” But first-year head baseball coach and alum Cody Reister wants “guys that have the dog in them.”
“We want to be tough defensively and on the base paths — someone that executes all the time,” says Reister (Class of 2013). “That’s our focus. Everyone can hit to some extent, but not everyone can do the little things well.”
Reister played for and coached with Jeff Schroeder who led the Henryville for 27 seasons.
As a student and player at Hanover (Ind.) College — where pitched for Panthers coach Shayne Stock (the 6-foot-3 right-hander was 6-1 out of the bullpen as a senior) — Reister would help out Schroeder’s Henyrville teams when he could.
Reister was born in Jeffersonville, Ind., and moved from Salem, Ind., to Henryville in second grade. He played American Legion baseball for Doc Boyd’s Scottsburg Post 234 team and later Ricky Romans’ Floyds Knobs Post 42 squad.
After graduating HC in 2017 with a History degree, Reister came home and became a middle school science teacher and to coach in the boys basketball and baseball programs.
As Henryville approaches the start of official practice March 14, Reister sees six or seven players with mound potential.
During conditioning, his players have been throwing footballs to build up arm strength.
A year ago, Reister worked almost exclusively with pitchers and catchers.
“We threw a ton of fastballs and change-ups,” says Reister. “It’s just as effective as anything if you can do it correctly.”
The competitor in Reister would not have been receptive to the 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) when he played. But the coach in him understands.
“It puts you in-tune with development and what you’re guys can do,” says Reister. “I understand the reasoning for it.”
Reister, who is assisted by Henrville classmate Bailey Hall as well as Tim Hawkins, expects have have 12 or 13 players in 2022.
“We’re pretty light this year,” says Reister. “We have a bunch of kids in middle school. Hopefully we get them to continue on (with baseball).”
As a feeder system, there is Henryville Youth Sports (wee-ball to 12U) and Henryville Elite (a teams for Grades 6-8 not affiliated with the school that plays in the spring and summer).
The Hornets play on a diamond located on the west side of campus.
“Our field is very, very nice,” says Reister of the facility with Bermuda grass in the infield.
Henryville (enrollment around 300) is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Lanesville, New Washington and South Central (Elizabeth).
Other non-conference foes include Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central, Providence, Rock Creek Academy, Salem, Seymour, Scottsburg, Silver Creek, Southwestern (Hanvover) and Trinity Lutheran.
In 2021, the Hornets were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin) and Providence. Henryville has won six sectional titles — the last in 2008.
March 2 marked 10 years since a EF4 tornado caused extensive damage to Henryville, killing one person and destroying the schools.
Rise Above Mental Health/Illness is a podcast hosted by Henryville senior athletes Caleb Lehaceanu, J.D. Michael and Tyler Orberson. The latest episode was dedicated to the tornado. Senior Sam Gilles, who was inside the elementary on that unforgettable day in 2012, was a podcast guest.
Reister is to be on the student-led podcast in the near future.
To follow the Hornets, see the Henrville High School Baseball page on Facebook.

Cody Reister.
Henryville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School’s baseball field.

Inglels sees ‘special’ things at Southwestern (Shelbyville)

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Chris Ingels has watched an exceptional group of athletes make their way through Southwestern Junior-Senior High School near Shelbyville, Ind.

The Class of 2021 played a part in a 14-11 baseball season in 2018 — the first winning season in program history since 1976. The Spartans went 17-9 on the diamond in 2019 and lost the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far in 2020-21, Southwestern has earned IHSAA Class 1A sectional titles in boys soccer and boys basketball.

“They’ve contributed so much to our school,” says Ingels, who heads into his eighth season as Southwestern head baseball coach this spring and is also a boys basketball assistant and head cross country coach at the school where he is also a Social Studies and Physical Education teacher. “They’re pretty special kids and great students.

“When you have really good players it makes the coach look smart.”

Of the Spartans’ six seniors (Anick Harstell, Christian DeArmitt, Ethan Wending, Chance Johnson, Blake Dunbar and Kirk Van Gorden), five played as sophomores with Hartsell, DeArnitt, Wending and Johnson in the starting lineup. 

Two juniors (Aiden Hartsell and Jordan Jones) started as freshmen. Matthew Clements is a talented sophomore who grew up in the Indiana Bulls organization. Southwestern lost two players to graduation in 2020.

Ingels’ 2021 assistant is South Dearborn High School graduate and Franklin College senior Alex Smith.

Located seven miles from Shelbyville and close to the community of Marietta, Southwestern (enrollment around 175) is a member of the Mid-Hoosier Conference (with Edinburgh, Hauser, Morristown, North Decatur, South Decatur and Waldron).

MHC games are played on consecutive days as home-and-home series.

“You have to have multiple pitchers, which I like,” says Ingels.

The Spartans are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown (the 2021 host) and Waldron. Southwestern won its lone sectional crown in 1999.

Southwestern is to open the 2021 season at home April 5 against Eminence.

Opponents not in the conference or sectional include Austin, Oldenburg Academy, Shelbyville, Brown County, Indiana School for the Deaf, Trinity Lutheran, Arsenal Tech and Herron.

The Spartans could see Triton Central in the Shelby County Tournament at Morristown on May 8.

There are 17 players in the Southwestern program. Ingels says a few junior varsity games will be sprinkled in to get younger players some playing experience.

The Spartans play home games on-campus at the Jeremy Wright Athletic Complex.

The high school program is fed by a junior high club. Seventh and eighth graders play some games in the spring then take part in the Babe Ruth League at Edinburgh during the summer. 

“It’s really beneficial,” says Ingels. 

Ingels, played tennis for Kevin Rockey, Rodney Klein and Pete Khensouri, basketball for Steve Todd and baseball for Derick Bright and Brian Ingels (his father) at Edinburgh High School and graduated in 2002.

Todd was the first to talk to Chris about coaching and gave him the opportunity to volunteer with the Lancers.

“(Bright) was a really good baseball coach,” says Ingels. “He changed the way we practiced. Everything was structured. In (batting practice), we’d have two-strike swings, hit-and-run swings, bunt, hit to the right side and swing away.”

Brian Ingels, who had been head football coach at Edinburgh when Chris was young and a longtime cross country and track coach at the school. He was Bright’s assistant before stepping in as head baseball coach for his son’s senior year. The Industrial Arts instructor is currently in his 43rd year of teaching at Edinburgh.

Ingels began coaching boys basketball before finishing at Franklin College in 2007 as an assistant to Edinburgh head coach Todd Tatlock. 

After that, Ingels aided Kerry Brown then Toby Carrigan at South Dearborn before helping Brent Keck at Perry Meridian. He is on Brady Days’ staff at Southwestern.

Lance Marshall, the Franklin College head baseball coach, has let Ingels sit in on Grizzlies practice and has offered advice.

“He’s a great guy,” says Ingels.

Ingels values his relationships and connections to his young athletes.

“Through baseball you are dealing with a lot of failure and adversity,” says Ingels. “You’re trying to get kids to be able to handle that and push their way through it and succeed in the end.”

Ingels sees a lot of lessons in baseball.

“It starts with preparation and having to put a lot of work into each little part,” says Ingels. “That adds up in the end.”

The coach appreciates the team aspect of the sport and that you’re 

“A lot of people think baseball is an individual sport on your own island at each position and getting your stats at the plate,” says Ingels. “It’s the ultimate team sport when it comes down to it.”

One player can’t carry the whole load.

On the offensive side, Ingels sees worth in batting average. But that doesn’t rank first in his eyes.

“On-base percentage is so much more important,” says Ingels. “We’ve got to get men on base.”

While the Spartans may not chart it in 2021, there will be discussions about quality at-bats.

“Sometimes a groundout to the right side can be productive,” says Ingels.

Chris Ingels

LaDuke offers life lessons to Floyd Central Highlanders

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Casey LaDuke grew up around Floyds Knobs in southern Indiana and played baseball and football at Floyd Central High School.

Along the way he decided he’d like to be a head coach in one of those two sports.

The opportunity came first in baseball. After earning his Industrial Technology degree at Ball State University, LaDuke spent one year teaching and leading the baseball program at Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School in French Lick, Ind. 

Bill Pierce, his baseball coach at Floyd Central, let him know about a teaching and coaching opening at Floyd Central and LaDuke came home. After a few years as an assistant, the 1984 FCHS graduate has led the Highlanders on the diamond since 1999.

LaDuke also spent about 15 years on the Floyd Central football staff — most of those with Ron Weigleb, a man he had been a wide receiver, kicker and punter for as a player (LaDuke played one season at Kentucky State University before transferring to BSU, where he decided on an education path as a junior and graduated in 1990).

“He’s my big influence as a coach,” says LaDuke of Weigleb. “Some of the things he instilled into the football program we try to do with the baseball program — things like discipline, responsibility and keeping kids accountable. There’s more to it than just playing the game.”

It’s the life lessons that last.

LaDuke appreciated how Weigleb created a family atmosphere. When his coaches went to a clinic, the wives came along and everyone got close.

Dora LaDuke, a 1986 Floyd Central graduate and former Highlander athlete, died after a long battle with Leukemia in 2012 at age 45. Casey and Dora’s daughter, Sydney, is now a senior Elementary Education major at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

Floyd Central is in the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation (along with New Albany High School) and serves Floyds Knobs, Galena, Georgetown and Greenville. Locals like to say Floyds Knobs is on the “hill” overlooking New Albany in the “valley.”

Built in 1967, FCHS was formerly called Floyd Central Junior-Senior High School until the opening of Highland Hills Middle School in 2004.

Floyd Central (enrollment around 1,900) is a member of the Hoosier Hills Conference (with Bedford North Lawrence, Columbus East, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, Madison Consolidated, New Albany and Seymour).

Bedford North Lawrence, Jeffersonville, Jennings County and New Albany all have turf on their home diamonds. 

Floyd Central plays at spacious Highlander Field.

“It’s one of the biggest fields at the high school level,” says LaDuke. “It’s one of the best natural surface fields in the area. We take pride in it.”

LaDuke, his assistants and players have put in many hours maintaining the field.

“It’s my place to get away,” says LaDuke.

The FCHS sports complex includes two fields each for baseball, softball and soccer next to a stadium used for football and track and field.

Tennis courts are less than a mile away at the middle school, which has club baseball with two eighth grade squads feeding the three at the high school — varsity and two junior varsity teams.

LaDuke says 72 players signed up for fall activities. About 60 participated in tryouts this spring, leaving about 45 players.

The coach says the numbers going into tryouts were higher since cuts were not made prior to the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown and loss of season and many of those players came out again in 2021.

Highlander Youth Recreation sponsors baseball teams from age 5 to 13.

Floyd Central is part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Bedford North Lawrence, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany (the 2021 host) and Seymour. The Highlanders have won 13 sectional crowns — the last in 2015.

The 2013 squad was ranked No. 1 in the state. The Highlanders lost to Jeffersonville in the Bedford North Lawrence championship game.

Tell City, Fort Wayne Carroll, South Dearborn, Corydon Central, South Spencer, Owensboro (Ky.), Castle, St. Xavier (Ky.), Columbus North, Trinity Lutheran, Lanesville, Brownstown Central, Evansville North, Evansville Mater Dei, Providence, Seymour, Charlestown, Heritage Hills, Bloomington North, Bloomington South and Clarksville are also on the 2021 slate.

LaDuke’s main 2021 assistants are Floyd Central graduates Jamie Polk and Chris Hogan. With a hiatus as head coach at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., Polk has been with LaDuke since he took over the Highlanders. Hogan came on board about three of four years in.

Seniors Evan Goforth (Indiana University) and Casey Sorg (Bellarmine University in Louisville) have made college baseball commitments. Caleb Slaughter has drawn collegiate interest.

Tristan Polk is planning to attend Marian University in Indianapolis to play quarterback on the football team.

There are many recent Floyd Central graduates on college baseball rosters, including Philip Archer (Southern Illinois University), Alex Lozado (University of South Florida), Max Meyer (Indiana State University), Jon Cato (Bellarmine), Adam Spalding (Bellarmine), Joel Archer (Oakland City, Ind., University), Joe Harrington (Oakland City), Daly Skees (Hillsdale, Mich., College), Blake Barrett (Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.) and Josh Gross (Glen Oaks Community College in Centerville, Mich.).

“I take pride in helping kids find schools,” says LaDuke.

He notes that college coaches — particularly at the NCAA I level — are reaching out to players at earlier and earlier ages while recruiting on the travel ball circuit.

Says LaDuke, “Coaches don’t like it, but that’s what their competitive is doing so they have to do it to keep up.”

Casey LaDuke

’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. 

Indiana baseball teams coping with COVID-19 separation

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

UPDATE: Since this story was published, the spring sports season has been canceled by the Indiana High School Athletic Association. The announcement came shortly after Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced that there would be no more in-person classes for the 2019-20 school year.

This was supposed to be the first week of the 2020 Indiana high school baseball regular season.

But the game is on hold while the world deals with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic through social distancing.

In a landscape that is ever-changing, many states have already closed down for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has ruled that all Indiana schools be closed until May 1.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association has stated that there is hope for shortened regular season beginning with five required practices — rather than the usual 10 — after schools are allowed to re-open. The state tournament series would follow.

Right now, sectionals are slated for May 27-June 1 with regionals June 6, semistates June 13 and the State Finals June 19-20 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

The Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Futures Game and North/South All-Star Series is to be the next week in Evansville.

Time will tell if any of that happens.

How are some coaches and teams dealing with the quarantine?

Crawfordsville coach John Froedge has his Athenians working together though they are physically apart.

“Our players have been strongly encouraged to follow all local, state and federal guidelines in helping to not spread the virus,” says Froedge, an IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “We are beginning to ramp back up this week with anticipation of a May 4 start.”

The Athenians, ranked No. 3 in the IHSBCA Class 3A preseason poll, have been communicating via calls, texts and Zoom video conferences and had a meeting scheduled to share team and position workouts through Google Sheets that includes links to instructional and motivational videos, articles etc.

“The workouts are all the things they can do by themselves or with a brother or dad,” says Froedge. “The idea is that we’re all working in the same things remotely. They then long each day what they’ve done and share with teammates in various ways, short videos included.

“Our hope for the players — especially seniors in all spring sports — is that they will get some kind of season, however brief it might be. But even if we don’t have a season, we still have a team and are creating memories and imparting life lessons.”

Jon Gratz coached Columbus East to a 4A state runner-up finish in 2019.

He has communicated with his Olympians, ranked No. 3 IHSBCA 4A preseason poll, through texting. He suggests things players can do as individuals since school and other facilities are now off limits.

“It’s about getting creative,” says Gratz. “It’s tough to know what guys are doing.

The biggest concern is that if we have five days of practice and play games to know that guys are in shape to throw and do all that stuff.”

A math teacher, Gratz has been using a platform called It’s Learning three days a week to lead AP and lower level classes. He has made some videos and shared them with his students.

Remind is a platform that is used for group messages.

Gratz says he is taking advantage of the extra time at home to spend with his family and learn things about baseball that he normally would not have time to learn.

At 4A Lake Central, fourth-year head coach Mike Swartzentruber was a few days from beginning tryouts at a school of 3,300 when the shutdown came.

The Indians were return seven starters from regional finalist squad and is ranked No. 2 in the preseason 4A poll.

“You feel for the kids, especially the seniors who have put in so much time and done what you’ve asked them to do for four years,” says Swartzentruber. “It’s hard trying to find the words to say to kids.

“But, in the grand scheme of things, people’s health is greater than playing a game. The trend is not very good right now. But we’re trying to stay positive.”

Swartzentruber has shared workouts that players can do in their basement, garage or driveway. He asks them all to find regular cardiovascular exercise.

“It’s all up to them,” says Swartzentruber. “We say whatever you do, make sure you do don’t put yourself in jeopardy from a health standpoint.”

Swartzentruber teaches seven classes and is now doing that from home since Lake Central adopted eLearning. Assignments are given through the Canvas platform.

“Its a little tricky,” says Swartzentruber. “I know there’s going to be some things lost in translation when you’re not face-to-face.”

Shane Edwards, head coach at 3A Oak Hill and a member of the IHSBCA executive council, has kept plenty busy fielding questions from other coaches from around the state.

“Coaches are nervous,” says Edwards. “They’re concerned and want to be informed.

“We’re kind of in the dark about where this is going.”

Edwards has stayed connected to his players with weekly emails to suggest workouts they can do on their own or with a parent or sibling. The Golden Eagles coaching staff uses group texts to stay on the same page.

“We still hold out hope that we’re going to play,” says Edwards.

With a late start and an abbreviated season, Edwards says many teams will be doing in May what they normally do in March and April.

“Usually by May, you feel comfortable with your lineup and pitching staff,” says Edwards. “So now do you try to get a lot of games in or make progress for when the tournament comes? It’s a delicate balance we’re all going to have to play.”

Oak Hill typically has in-season hitting sessions a couple of times a week during the season. Edwards says that time might be used to bring his young players up to speed on varsity baseball.

“You can’t replace game situations,” says Edwards. “I would want as much coaching time as I could have in those practice situations.”

Also an assistant high school principal, Edwards says Oak Hill is looking to supply some district students with laptops will begin online learning next week.

IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph is just three career wins shy of 800.

When he’s not home tending to projects ordering puzzles or watching TV with his wife, Gandolph has been going to Indianapolis Scecina Memorial High School two or three times a week to work on the Crusaders’ facility.

“I’m just by my lonesome,” says Gandolph, who has mowed grass and done work on Scecina’s new hitting building in the block house where the old weight room was located.

March 16 was supposed to be the first official day of IHSAA practice. During the Limited Contact Period, the Crusaders got a chance to work out on the grass.

2A No. 3-ranked Scecina’s first game was slated for this Saturday at the end of spring break.

Should the season begin in early May, Gandolph foresees his team hosting a Saturday doubleheader against Providence and then getting in one round of Indiana Crossroads Conference games before the postseason.

“I don’t get too hung up on planning,” says Gandolph. “It’s a day-by-day type thing anyway.”

He takes that same attitude about the milestone victory in his future.

“(No. 800) will come whenever it comes,” says Gandolph, who has been a his alma mater since the 2014 season after years at Center Grove, where he also taught for 40 years.

Gandolph says he has kept in-touch with players through texts and Twitter posts.

“I give suggestions to keep them busy and healthy and, hopefully, keep them positive,” says Gandolph.

While the team has not yet done any Zoom conferences, the Gandolph family has used the technology and is planning to do so this week to celebrate the seventh birthday of one of Dave’s grandsons.

Washington Township was 1A state runner-ups in 2019 with Randy Roberts as coach. The Senators are No. 1 in the IHSBCA preseason rankings.

Like many, Roberts has seen the levels of coronavirus restriction increase. Until the latest constraints were put in place, some players were going to the homes of teammates with batting cages at their homes and conducting their own practices.

“Parents are now following the guidelines that have been set down and keeping their kids at home,” says Roberts. “They’re in that better safe-than-sorry mode.”

Roberts says he has witnessed two extremes on social media regarding COVID-19.

“It’s not that big a deal and no more than flu and older people with prior health issues (are at risk) or on the other side, it’s serious, don’t mess with it,” says Roberts. “We’re expecting the worse and hoping for the best.”

Roberts says many of his players put in plenty of off-season work before the interruption.

“I keep hoping that this thing will level off and we can get back to school,” says Roberts. “Our boys and their parents were pretty devastated when they got sent home from school.

“If theres a glimmer of hope, the boys will start hooking up and getting in their time before I can be with them.”

Roberts has been home with two baseball-playing sons. Max Roberts is a pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization. William Roberts is a 2019 Washington Township graduate who sat out a year while getting ready to go the junior college route.

Randy and William went to see Max, who was attending a Mariners “gas” camp in Arizona, when they began to shut things down and send players home as minor league spring training was about to start.

Roberts says some in his area have talked about playing two or three games a week prior to the sectional. If possible, he can see the Senators playing just about everyday leading into the postseason.

A teacher at Washington Township Elementary, Roberts has been instructing via laptop.

Having taken online classes himself, he is convinced of one thing: “Kids need to be in school.”

“You find yourself doing assignments just to get them done,” says Roberts. “Without the interaction, I never thought there was a whole lot of learning getting done.”

Daleville, with Terry Turner at the helm, is ranked No. 2 in the IHSBCA 1A poll.

“My heart goes out to all these high school seniors in all spring sports if they don’t have an opportunity to participate,” says Turner. “It’s just an awful feeling.

“I guess I’m being selfish here, but in the last four years I’ve won two (1A) state titles (in 2016 and 2018). We have the possibility of a third one (with six players, including five starters, from the 2018 team). I was really excited about it. We have right group of kids with the right mentality.

“I have my doubts we’ll even get to see what would happen.”

Turner has had little contact with his players since the lockdown began and has been doing his best to teach online to his pupils at Anderson High School.

“I’m bored out of mind,” says Turner. “I can’t get out to talk to these kids. That’s the worst part.

“Some of the kids have texted me. I have great senior leadership. They’ve gotten together a few times to go throw and stuff. I tell them to do the best they can to stay in baseball shape.”

Daleville was fundraising to pay for its overnight trip to Jasper, but for safety-sake, Turner put an end to that.

Turner had beefed up the Broncos schedule to get them ready for the state tournament.

“I wouldn’t have done that unless I felt like I had a team that could compete,” says Turner. “I said, ‘let’s have a challenge.’”

Regardless of what happens this year, Turner says he has decided that 2021 is going to be his last spring as a coach and teacher.

“I have grandkids I want to spend some time with,” says Turner. “I have a bucket list I want to do.”

At 4A Terre Haute South Vigo, the Braves were hoping to dedicate a full season to Brian Pickens, a 25-year assistant coach who died of throat cancer Jan. 28.

“I still think about him everyday,” says South Vigo head coach Kyle Kraemer. “It’s all perspective.

“The biggest thing is the fear of the unknown. There are so many what-ifs and unknowns. It’s just crazy.

“We are living through history. You’re talking about fighting something you can’t see.”

The Braves spent to winter building up a library of Hudl videos of themselves hitting and pitching that can now be used as references for at-home workouts.

“I’m trying to be prepared,” says Kraemer, who is hopeful that South Vigo might be able to play Conference Indiana opponents and some others prior to the postseason — if there is one.

When the IHSAA ruled this past winter that teams can have 10 summer practices with four contest dates, Kraemer says he didn’t think much about it.

“Now I think a lot of coaches are going to take advantage of that if possible,” says Kraemer.

Also a teacher, Kraemer says eLearning is to kick in Vigo County on April 6. This is spring break. There were eight waiver days prior to that.

Mark Schellinger, head coach at 3A New Prairie, has spent part of his days tending to eLearning — either from home or at the school — and has joined with his assistants in working on Harry “Bear” Tolmen Field.

“It was weird, knowing (players) could not be out there with us,” says Schellinger, whose Cougars are No. 10 in the 3A preseason rankings. (It’s tough for everybody, but it’s really tough for the kids.

“But we have to take a step back and see there is a bigger picture.”

Schellinger says safety and health are the first priority for players, followed by staying on top of their eLearning and then staying in shape, especially with throwing.

“We’re hoping to be proactive so we have a plan in place,” says Schellinger. “But it’s hard to make those decisions or make those plans.

“There’s just so much unknown right now.”

Should the season get started in early May, Schellinger says he favors playing as many regular-season games as possible.

“The kids want to play, especially in a short time span,” says Schellinger. “Hopefully our pitchers are ready for that.”

New Prairie does have pitching depth, though Schellinger hardly expects 100 from anyone out of the gate.

IHSBCA RANKINGS

(2020 Preseason)

4A

1. Penn

2. Lake Central

3. Columbus East

4. Crown Point

5. Hamilton Southeastern

6. Andrean

7. Columbus North

8. Center Grove

9. Carmel

10. Noblesville

Receiving votes: Avon, Carroll (Fort Wayne), Fishers, Homestead, Jasper, Jeffersonville, Munster, New Albany, Northridge, Westfield.

3A

1. Edgewood

2. South Bend St. Joseph

3. Crawfordsville

4. Western

5. Silver Creek

6. Brebeuf Jesuit

7. West Vigo

7. Yorktown

9. Lebanon

10. New Prairie

Receiving votes: Danville, Evansville Memorial, Griffith, Guerin Catholic, Hanover Central, Heritage Hills, Indian Creek, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Kankakee Valley, NorthWood, Norwell, Providence, South Dearborn, South Vermillion, Southridge.

2A

1. Alexandria-Monroe

2. Lafayette Central Catholic

3. Indianapolis Scecina Memorial

4. Lewis Cass

4. North Posey

4. Speedway

7. Wapahani

8. Delphi

9. University

10. Linton-Stockton

Receiving votes: Blackford, Boone Grove, Covenant Christian, LaVille, Monroe Central, South Adams, Wheeler.

1A

1. Washington Township

2. Daleville

3. Tecumseh

4. Lanesville

5. North Miami

6. Shakamak

7. Rossville

8. Riverton Parke

9. Barr-Reeve

10. Kouts

Receiving votes: Clinton Central, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fremont, Hauser, Loogootee, North Daviesss, North White, Rising Sun, South Central (Union Mills), Trinity Lutheran, Wes-Del.

IHSAABASEBALL

Ingram looking to grow the game with West Washington Senators

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brent Ingram went to Indianapolis to attend college.

His first two teaching jobs were in Gas City, Ind., and Switz City, Ind.

Then the Washington County, Ind., native came back south and became an educator and a coach at a school just up the road from where he grew up.

Ingram is a 2011 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School. He had three coaches in four years. The last one was Brett Miller.

The Lions’ two county rivals were West Washington and Eastern (Pekin). His father, Larry Ingram, was head coach at Eastern for 29 seasons, concluding in 2011.

After earning his degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on physical education at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2015, Brent Ingram worked one year each as a teacher only at Mississinewa High School and White River Valley High School.

Then West Washington Junior-Senior High School principal MaryAnne Knapp called to say that the Senators needed a P.E. teacher and a head baseball coach.

To his his, he is just the second head baseball coach in the history of the program that was also a teacher.

“That’s a big deal to be able to recruit kids,” says Ingram. “Our numbers are better. We expect to have eight or nine freshmen.”

Ingram took both teaching and coaching positions in 2017-18 and made his father one of his assistants.

“I grew up around a baseball coach and a baseball setting and I loved every minute of it,” says Ingram, who counts Larry Ingram, Tim Barksdale and Lincoln Jones as West Washington assistants.

Barksdale is the former director of the youth league in Campbellsburg and a school board member. Jones teaches business at West Washington. The North Harrison High School graduate pitched for four years at Franklin (Ind.) College.

The 2000 baseball season will be Brent Ingram’s third at the IHSAA Class 1A school of about 290 students.

The first season saw the Senators on the wrong end of many run-rule games. That only happened a couple times last spring.

“They’ve improved,” says Ingram, who has had about a dozen players in the program and on a few occasions — such as days when baseball games and track meets fell on the same day — went into games with just nine. There was a time he his left fielder was playing with the broken arm. “It makes you sweat a little bit. If the guys are willing to put the time in, they’re going to play.”

Moving players around the diamond is the norm.

“We’ve had bunch of different lineups in the last few years,” says Ingram. “That’s for sure.”

Baseball is a priority at West Washington as evidenced by the building a junior high diamond next to the high school facility — Claude C. Combs Field (named for the former Senators head coach and current school board member).

The junior high team is affiliated with the school system and coached by West Washington Elementary principal Tom Rosenbaum and West Washington Community Schools superintendent Keith Nance.

A training building with indoor mounds and batting cages will also benefit the Senators.

Whether that will translate into any home runs at Combs Field remains to be seen. While is is 300 feet down the lines and 350 to center, the field sits up on a hill and the wind seems to always be blowing in.

Ingram has never witnessed a game-time home run there.

Combs Field is lighted and has brick dugouts, raised fences all the way around and, recently, a turf home plate area was added.

“For a 1A, we have awesome facilities,” says Ingram.

The Senators are part of a sectional grouping with Crothersville, New Washington and Shawe Memorial. West Washington, a sectional host the past two years, has yet to win a sectional title.

As a member of the Patoka Lake Athletic Conference (with Crawford County, Mitchell, Orleans, Paoli, Perry Central and Springs Valley), the Senators play home and away games against each league team.

Besides Eastern (Pekin) and Salem, past non-conference opponents have included Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Clarksville, Crothersville, Evansville Christian, North Harrison, Orleans, Scottsburg, Shoals, Southwestern (Hanover) and Trinity Lutheran.

IMG_20190319_063532

INGRAMS

The Ingrams (from left): Brooke, Nick, Dustin, Larry, Luke, Janis and Brent. Brent Ingram is head baseball coach at West Washington High School in Campbellsburg, Ind. Larry Ingram, who was head coach at Eastern (Pekin) for 29 years, is one of his assistants. Brent and Dustin are the sons of Larry and Janis. Nick and Luke are the sons of Dustin and Brooke.

Southpaw Hougeson experiencing pro baseball with Gary SouthShore RailCats

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Seth Hougeson is always looking for a challenge.

The Indianapolis native grew up playing multiple sports, trying to become proficient in each of them.

He competed in soccer, football, tennis, bowling and volleyball and wound up being the best at baseball and that’s what took him to various collegiate levels and now has the left-hander pitching as a professional.

Hougeson (pronounced Ho-geh-sin) is in the starting rotation for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association. He is scheduled to take the ball today (Aug. 1) when Gary plays host to Winnipeg.

The youngest of Richard and Cara Hougeson’s three sons behind Japheth and Caleb, Seth attended Calvary Lutheran and Trinity Lutheran schools, where his mother was a teacher, before going to high school at Indianapolis Lutheran.

Seth could walk a few blocks from Calvary to participate at the Edgewood youth league on the south side. He later played travel ball for the Adam Robertson-coached Indy Bats.

“That’s where I learned and developed at an early age,” says Hougeson of the Bats. “(Robertson) brought out my competitive side. He was a very awesome coach.

“I owe a lot to him. We still stay in-touch.”

Hougeson says competitiveness is his No. 1 strength as an athlete.

“I never give up,” says Hougeson. “I’m always trying to complete that task in front of me.

“I’m hard-working and always doing the little things right. In college, I always prided myself on PFPs (Pitchers Fielding Practice drills).

“It was about fielding my position as a pitcher and being athletic enough to get off and field that bunt and throw it to first.”

Like a fifth infielder?

“Absolutely,” says Hougeson, who turned 22 on April 25.

Indianapolis Lutheran won four sectional titles with Honor Roll Student-Athlete Hougeson on the team and head coach Dick Alter leading the Saints.

“He expected a lot,” says Hougeson of Alter. “He wanted to push you until he got what he was looking for — the best out of your every single day.

“At first, I was a little standoffish. I didn’t know how to respond to it. But, as a I grew up and I matured, it’s just kind of clicked with me. He’s not against me. He’s for me and wants the very best for me.”

Hougeson came to appreciate Alter’s years of experience and it helped groom him for college and beyond.

“I’m always looking for the most competitive baseball and trying to better myself,” says Hougeson. “I continue to get better with the higher level of competition because it continues to push me to get to that next level.”

Concordia University Wisconsin is an NCAA Division III program. In his freshmen season (2016), Hougeson earned honorable mention on the all-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference and was on the NACC all-freshman year, going 3-3 in nine mound appearances (eight starts) with a 3.35 earned run average. In 40 1/3 innings, he struck out 38 and walked nine.

Next came Dyersburg (Tenn.) State Community College. In his one season with the Eagles (2017), Hougeson was named National Junior College (NJCAA) National Pitcher of the Year after going 14-1 with a 1.49 ERA. The southpaw struck out 107 and allowed just 74 hits and 35 walks in 92 1/3 innings.

Hougeson landed at NCAA Division II Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., for his final two college seasons.

As a junior in 2018, Hougeson went 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA in 12 games (eight starts) for a DSU team that went 42-11 and played in the NCAA Division II South Regional. In 35 1/3 innings, he fanned 39 and walked 22. As a senior in 2019, he made 14 appearances (10 starts) and went 9-0 with three complete games (one shutout) and a 2.44 ERA. In 59 innings, he whiffed 55 and walked 14. The Statesmen went 42-14 and played in the D-II South Super Regional.

Mike Kinnison retired as Delta State head coach at the end of the season and will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January 2020.

“He’s one of those old-school, hard-nosed coaches,” says Hougeson of Kinnison. “He’s not going to stop until he gets the best out of you.”

Hougeson began his 2019 summer with the Palm Springs Power in the Southern California Collegiate Baseball League.

“I went out there with no expectations,” says Hougeson. “I was just going to play the best baseball I could possibly do. If I was going to get signed by a team, I was going to be very, very grateful for that.

“If nothing happened out of the summer, I was just going to hang it up and say I gave it all I had.”

He is 15 credit hours plus an internship short of his sports management degree and plans to finish with online classes. He sees himself using his many baseball connections to get job in front office job in baseball which could lead to becoming a general manager.

Or he could follow a long family tradition and go into military service.

“I’d love to join the Air Force and become a fireman,” says Hougeson, noting that his father is currently active in the Air Force and serving overseas. Both brothers (including Caleb Hougeson, who was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 46th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft as an Indianapolis Lutheran third baseman) are in the Army. A grandfather and uncle served in the Marines and a cousin is currently with that service branch. An aunt is in the Air Force.

But sports management or military service are in the future. Hougeson’s present is focused on baseball.

The southpaw pitched in three Palm Springs games and signed with Gary on June 30. That same day, he made his pro debut, tossing four shutout innings while giving up two hits with one strikeout and one walk in a no-decision start against the Kansas City T-Bones.

Altogether, Hougeson has appeared in six RailCats games (five starts) and and is 1-1 with a 6.65 ERA. In 23 innings, he has racked up nine K’s and issued nine free passes.

A 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, Hougeson possesses a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, “circle” change-up and curve ball. He usually has an over-the-top release, but sometimes drops down a little and gets arm-side run with his fastball.

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Seth Hougeson, an Indianapolis Lutheran High School graduate who played college baseball at Concord University Wisconsin, Dyersburg State Community College and Delta State University, is now with the independent professional Gary (Ind.) South Shore RailCats. (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Numbers up for Behlmer, Oldenburg Academy Twisters

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The Twisters of Oldenburg (Ind.) Academy enjoyed the highest number of participants and victories in a number of years in 2019.

The IHSAA Class 1A member in Franklin County near Batesville had 24 players in the program and followed up two straight five-win seasons by going 16-8-1.

The Twisters fell to Rising Sun in the championship game of the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional. The win total is two shy of single-season school record.

“We’re on the uptick with enrollment and with kids being interested (in baseball),” says Doug Behlmer, who just finished his 19th season as OA head coach (the private school went coed 19 years ago). “Hopefully, it keeps going.”

Drawing from area parter Catholic elementary and middle schools (St. Louis in Batesville, St. Nicholas in Sunman, St. Mary’s in Greensburg, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Aurora, St. Lawrence in Lawrenceburg, St. Michael in Brookville and St. John the Baptist in Harrison) and public schools in Indiana and Ohio, Oldenburg Academy (enrollment around 225) is an independent in baseball.

The Twisters’ schedule includes 1A’s Blue River Valley, Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Jac-Cen-Del, North Decatur, Rising Sun, Seton Catholic, Shawe Memorial, South Decatur, Trinity Lutheran and Waldron, 2A’s Centerville, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover), Switzerland County and Triton Central 2A, 3A’s Lawrenceburg and Rushville.

Besides Rising Sun and Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy is in sectional grouping with Hauser, North Decatur and South Decatur. The Twisters have won  four sectional titles (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010).

The Twisters play home games at Liberty Park in Batesville — the same facility used by Batesville High School.

With more than a dozen incoming freshmen indicating a desire to play baseball in 2020, Behlmer says the program could have an all-time high of more than 30 players and could even have to make cuts for the first time.

When the program began, there was just 13 freshmen and the Twisters played a junior varsity schedule. That moved toward a full varsity schedule in the next few years.

The 2019 team was led on the mound by sophomore right-handers Chris Hautman, Andrew Oesterling and Riley Schebler and in the batter’s box by Oesterling, Hautman, Schebler, sophomores Race Carle and Patrick Thompson and juniors Matt Sedler, Adam Huber and Michael Hoff.

Senior Hunter Sullivan has committed to play baseball for Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Behlmer’s coaching staff included former OA players Spencer Gommel, Patrick Kolks and Matt Bohman and pitching coach Jeff Ahaus (a Lawrenceburg eye doctor who had two sons play for the Twisters). Bohman is in charge of the junior varsity team.

Points of emphasis include dependability and hard work.

“If you say you’re going do something, make sure you do it,” says Behlmer. “Family, faith and academics all come in front of baseball.”

A 1988 graduate of Greensburg (Ind.) High School, Behlmer played for head coach Roger Cash.

“Coach Cash was an old school guy,” says Behlmer. “He believed in fundamentals and making the routine play. I’ve carried that over to our guys. Nothing too flashy. Be solid. Throw strikes. That sort of thing.”

Doug and Judy Behlmer have been married 21 years and have no children. He is employed by Hill-Rom in Batesville.

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