Tag Archives: Union City

Van Skyock preparing Centerville Bulldogs for 2023

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

Corey Van Skyock, who was officially named head baseball coach at Centerville (Ind.) Senior High School Sept. 28, was an assistant to John Cate at Richmond back in the early 1990’s.
Cate went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1997 and the RHS Coaches Hall of Fame in 2018. His baseball teams won 285 games, 12 sectionals and eight regionals and made a pair of Final Four appearances during two different stints from 1986-2008.
“Most of my coaching styles and beliefs come from Coach Cate,” says Van Skyock, who held his first team call-out meeting Sept. 30. “Work hard. Period. Prepare.
“The more that you can prepare and work hard the simpler games become.”
Cate also taught his players about field maintenance and Van Skyock plans to pass those lessons along at Centerville.
Van Skyock went from Richmond to a three-year stint as New Castle head coach. Two of his Trojans — Wes Ireton (Miami of Ohio) and Ben Smith (Indiana State) — went on to pitch at the NCAA Division I level.
Van Skyock, who earned a Secondary Education/English at Indiana University in Bloomington, spent 19 years as a teacher and/or administrator.
Later on, he coached at the youth and travel levels.
Corey and wife Christy Van Skyock — a financial services/insurance sales veteran — have three sons — Oran, Gaven and Arian. Oran Van Skyock (Class of the 2019) and Gaven Van Skyock (Class of 2021) played baseball at Centerville. Arian Van Skyock (Class of 2026) is planning to take the diamond for the Bulldogs.
Centerville — led for 10 seasons by Tracey Crull — is coming off a 2022 season in which the Bulldogs were 21-6 and IHSAA Class 2A state runners-up. Illiana Christian beat Centerville in the championship game.
Eight of the players playing for the Bulldogs that day were seniors — Logan Drook, Kasen Duncan, Devin Frazier, Jamari Pamplin, Javontae Pamplin, Bryce Robertson, Keegan Schlotterbeck and Zach Thompson.
Juniors included Collin Clark, Jacob Crowe and Alex Wandersee plus sophomores Kollyn Peed and Colton Rinehart.
Centerville (enrollment around 550) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City, Union County and Winchester).
The Bulldogs were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping in 2022 with Hagerstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah and Union County. Including 2021 and 2022, Centerville has won nine sectional titles.
Van Skyock says Wandersee is committed to Vincennes (Ind.) University and Clark and Crowe are college baseball hopefuls.
He plans to meet with parents and players to ask the question “what does your future entail and how can I help you get there?”
There will be work, but enjoyment is also the goal.
“You may not play baseball in college, but you’ve got to be able to look back and say ‘gosh, that was fun!,” says Van Skyock.
As a newly-minted head coach, Van Skyock has to have his assistant coaches approved before announcing his staff.
He has also reached out to the leadership at Centerville Youth League, which serves as a feeder system to his program. He helped coach a team with his youngest son this past season.
Van Skyock is a 1987 graduate of Union City (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School, where he played baseball for four years.
Kevin Lehman was the Indians head coach.
By throwing strikeouts and eliminating errors, Lehman saw the key to diamond success.
“The game’s a lot of simpler than people want to make it,” says Van Skyock. “Eliminate advantages that you give to the opponent and it makes the game a lot simpler.”

Corey Van Skyock (left), Oran Van Skyock and Christy Van Skyock.
Christy Van Skyock (left), Gaven Van Skyock and Corey Van Skyock.
Arian Van Skyock (left) and Corey Van Skyock.

IHSAA regionals will slice state tournament field from 64 to 16; preview of each site

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

Iliana Christian won its first Indiana High School Athletic Association sectional baseball title.
Jasper hoisted the sectional championship trophy for a state-leading 40th time.
Sixty-two other schools also reigned and moved on to regional play on Saturday, June 4.
The IHSAA Class 2A Carroll Flora Regional features four teams from the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 10 — No. 1 Carroll, No. 3 Wapahani, No. 4 Eastern (Greentown) and No. 9 Delphi.
The 2A Park Tudor Regional has No. 2 Cascade playing No. 7 Centerville in the first game followed by Parke Heritage and vote-getter Heritage Christian.
The 3A Griffith Regional includes No. 1 Andrean, No. 2 Western and No. 7 Glenn along with South Bend Saint Joseph.
The 3A Danville Regional includes No. 3 West Vigo and No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit in the opener followed by Lebanon and Beech Grove.
The 4A Jasper Regional features No. 2 Mooresville, No. 8 Jasper and vote-getter New Albany plus Columbus East.
The 4A Lafayette Jeff Regional opens with vote-getter Homestead against No. 6 Fort Wayne Carroll followed by Harrison against Zionsville.
In 1A, the Loogootee Regional has No. 1 Borden meeting No. 2 Barr-Reeve in Game 2 after vote-getter Tecumseh plays New Washington.

The 1A he South Bend Washington Regional has three Top 10 teams — No. 4 South Central (Union Mills), No. 9 Caston and No. 10 Fremont — plus Morgan Township.
The 1A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional features vote-getters Cowan and Rossville in Game 1 and No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic and No. 5 Union City in Game 2.
Three teams at the 1A Morristown Regional received votes in the final regular season poll — Indianapolis Lutheran, Rising Sun and Shakamak. Traders Point Christian is also in the field.
South Central of Union Mills (6), Indianapolis Cathedral (5), Silver Creek (5), South Bend Saint Joseph (5), Evansville Memorial (4), Shakamak (4) and Tecumseh (4) comes into regional play with the longest active sectional title streaks.
1A New Washington won its first sectional crown since 1998. It had been since 1999 that 2A’s Eastern (Greentown) and Winamac had won sectional titles.
By the time three-team regionals in four classes are complete, there will be 16 teams left in the field. Semistates are scheduled for Saturday, June 11 with the State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis Friday and Saturday, June 17-18.

2022 IHSAA REGIONALS
Saturday, June 4
(IHSBCA Ranking in Parentheses)
Class 4A
LaPorte Regional
Crown Point vs. Lake Central (Receiving Votes)
South Bend Adams vs. Penn
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Penn 10 (2017), Crown Point 9 (2011), Lake Central 7 (2014), South Bend Adams 3 (1979).

Highland Sectional (1) Championship — Lake Central 15, Highland 12.
Sectional titles through 2022: Highland (13) — Previous 2000. Trojans head coach: John Bogner.

Valparsaiso Sectional (2) Championship — Crown Point 12, Hobart 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Crown Point (22) — Previous 2019. Bulldogs head coach: Steve Strayer.

Plymouth Sectional (3) Championship — South Bend Adams 5, LaPorte 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Adams (10) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Mike Cass.

Penn Sectional (4) Championship — Penn 7, Northridge 5.
Sectional titles through 2022: Penn (23) — Previous 2018. Kingsmen head coach: Greg Dikos.

Lafayette Jeff Regional
Homestead (RV) vs. Carroll (6)
Harrison vs. Zionsville
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Carroll 5 (2011), Harrison 5 (1998), Zionsville 4 (2017), Homestead 3 (2015).

DeKalb Sectional (5) Championship — Carroll 7, Snider 6.
Sectional titles through 2022: Carroll (15) — Previous 2019. Chargers head coach: Dave Ginder.

Huntington North Sectional (6) Championship — Homestead 10, Wayne 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Homestead (16) — Previous 2021. Spartans head coach: Nick Byall.

Logansport Sectional (7) Championship — Harrison 5, McCutcheon 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Harrison (13) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Pat Lowrey.

Noblesville Sectional (8) Championship — Zionsville 6, Fishers 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Zionsville (15) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Jered Moore.

New Palestine Regional
Anderson vs. Indianapolis Cathedral
New Palestine vs. Brownsburg
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Indianapolis Cathedral 14 (2018), New Palestine 6 (2014), Brownsburg 5 (2005), Anderson 3 (1995).

Mt. Vernon Sectional (9) Championship — Anderson 13, Mt. Vernon (Fortville) 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: Anderson (8) — Previous 2012. Indians head coach: Adrian Heim.

Pike Sectional (10) Championship — Indianapolis Cathedral 10, Lawrence North 8.
Sectional titles through 2022: Cathedral (25; five straight) — Previous 2021. Fighting Irish coach Ed Freje.

Roncalli Sectional (11) Championship — New Palestine 12, Franklin Central 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Palestine (17) — Previous 2015. Dragons head coach: Shawn Lyons.

Terre Haute South Vigo Sectional (12) Championship — Brownsburg 13, Avon 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Brownsburg (15) — Previous 2013. Bulldogs head coach: Dan Roman.

Jasper Regional
New Albany (RV) vs. Jasper (8)
Columbus East vs. Mooresville (2)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Jasper 26 (2021), Columbus East 10 (2019), New Albany 6 (1995), Mooresville 4 (2004).

Center Grove Sectional (13) Championship — Mooresville 9, Martinsville 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Mooresville (11) — Previous 2004. Pioneers head coach: Eric McGaha.

Bloomington South Sectional (14) Championship — Bloomington South vs. Columbus East
Sectional titles through 2022: Columbus East (20) — Previous 2019. Olympians head coach Jon Gratz.

Jennings County Sectional (15) Championship — New Albany 4, Bedford North Lawrence 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Albany (23) — Previous 2016. Bulldogs head coach: Chris McIntyre.

Evansville Reitz Sectional (16) Championship — Jasper 5, Castle 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Jasper (40) — Previous 2021. Wildcats head coach: Terry Gobert.

Class 3A
Griffith Regional
Western (2) vs. Glenn (7)
Andrean (1) vs. South Bend Saint Joseph
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Andrean 14 (2019), Western 7 (2016), Saint Joseph 5 (2017), Glenn 3 (2006).

Griffith Sectional (17) Championship — Andrean 18, Calumet New Tech 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Andrean (30) — Previous 2019. 59ers head coach: Dave Pishkur.

Kankakee Valley Sectional (18) Championship — Glenn 9, Hanover Central 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Glenn (10) — Previous 2017. Falcons head coach: John Nadolny.

South Bend Clay Sectional (19) Championship — South Saint Joseph 18, New Prairie 5.
Sectional titles through 2022: Saint Joseph (17; five straight) — Previous 2017. Indians head coach: John Smolinski.

Northwestern Sectional (20) Championship — Western 6, Northwestern 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Western (21) — Previous 2019. Panthers coach: Ryan Berryman.

Oak Hill Regional
Wawasee vs. New Castle (RV)
Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger vs. Norwell
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Norwell 7 (2021), Dwenger 2 (2014), New Castle 2 (1996), Wawasee 0.

Jimtown Sectional (21) Championship — Wawasee 9, NorthWood 5.
Sectional titles through 2022: Wawasee (8) — Previous 2021. Warriors head coach: Joe Salazar.

Angola Sectional (22) Championship — Bishop Dwenger 19, Leo 8.
Sectional titles through 2022: Dwenger (12) — Previous 2016. Saints head coach: Jason Garrett.

Bellmont Sectional (23) Championship — Norwell 12, Heritage 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Norwell (18) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Dave Goodmiller.

Yorktown Sectional (24) Championship — New Castle 3, Guerin Catholic 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Castle (14) — Previous 2014. Trojans head coach: Josh Cooper.

Danville Regional
West Vigo (3) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (4)
Lebanon vs. Beech Grove
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): West Vigo 7 (2015), Brebeuf 4 (2021), Beech Grove 3 (1990), Lebanon 0.

Crawfordsville Sectional (25) Championship — Lebanon 10, Northview 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Lebanon (12) — Previous 2014. Tigers head coach Rick Cosgray.

Danville Sectional (26) Championship — Brebeuf Jesuit 12, Tri-West Hendricks 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Brebeuf (16) — Previous 2014. Braves head coach: Jeff Scott.

Bishop Chatard Sectional (27) Championship — Beech Grove 4, Bishop Chatard 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Beech Grove (7) — Previous 2014. Hornets head coach: Jacob Wickliff.

Edgewood Sectional (28) Championship — West Vigo 4, Edgewood 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: West Vigo (15) — Previous 2018. Vikings head coach: Culley DeGroote.

Southridge Regional
Evansville Memorial vs. Vincennes Lincoln
Silver Creek (5) vs. Connersville
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Evansville Memorial 17 (2016), Connersville 6 (2006), Vincennes Lincoln 4 (2002), Silver Creek 2 (2019).

Rushville Sectional (29) Championship — Connersville 7, Franklin County 6.
Sectional titles through 2022: Connersville (19) — Previous 2010. Spartans head coach Michael Thompson.

Madison Sectional (30) Championship — Silver Creek vs. Corydon Central
Sectional titles through 2022: Silver Creek (11; five straight) — Previous 2021. Dragons head coach: Joe Decker.

Princeton Sectional (31) Championship — Vincennes Lincoln 7, Southridge 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Vincennes Lincoln (18) — Previous 2019. Alices head coach: Tim Hutchison.

Evansville Bosse Sectional (32) Championship — Evansville Memorial 9, Boonville 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Evansville Memorial (31; four straight) — Previous 2021. Tigers head coach: Rip Collins.

Class 2A
Whiting Regional
Eastside (RV) vs. Fairfield (RV)
Winamac vs. Illiana Christian
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Eastside 1 (2021), Fairfield 1 (2010), Illiana Christian 0, Winamac 0.

Whiting Sectional (33) Championship — Illiana Christian 16, Wheeler 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: — Illiana Christian (1) — Previous None. Vikings head coach Jeff VanderWoude.

Boone Grove Sectional (34) Championship — Winamac 8, Boone Grove 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: Winamac (4) — Previous 1999. Warriors head coach: Marcus Kay.

Westview Sectional (35) Championship — Fairfield 6, Westview 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Fairfield (7) — Previous 2010. Falcons head coach: Darin Kauffman.

Eastside Sectional (36) Championship — Eastside 5, Woodlan 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Eastside (7) — Previous 2021. Blazers head coach: Aaron Willard.

Carroll (Flora) Regional
Wapahani (3) vs. Eastern (Greentown) (4)
Delphi (9) vs. Carroll (Flora) (1)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Wapahani 7 (2017), Delphi 2 (2021), Eastern (Greentown) 1 (1999), Carroll (Flora) 0.

Wabash Sectional (37) Championship — Carroll (Flora) 9, Whitko 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Carroll (7) — Previous 2015. Cougar head coach: Camden Parkhurst.

Delphi Sectional (38) Championship — Delphi 9, Seeger 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: Delphi (7) — Previous 2021. Oracles head coach: Ryan Long.

Eastern (Greentown) Sectional (39) Championship — Eastern (Greentown) 13, Eastbrook 4
Sectional titles through 2022: Eastern (Greentown) (3) — Previous 1999. Comets head coach: Erik Hisner.

Frankton Sectional (40) Championship — Wapahani 15, Frankton 10.
Sectional titles through 2022: Wapahani (18) — Previous 2021. Raiders head coach: Brian Dudley.

Park Tudor Regional
Cascade (2) vs. Centerville (7)
Parke Heritage vs. Heritage Christian (RV)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Heritage Christian 3 (2010), Cascade 0, Centerville 0, Parke Heritage 0.

Centerville Sectional (41) Championship — Centerville 14, Hagerstown 8.
Centerville (9) — Previous 2021. Bulldogs head coach: Tracey Crull.

Indianapolis Scecina Sectional (42) Championship — Heritage Christian 12, Indianapolis Scecina 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Heritage Christian (9) — Previous 2017. Eagles head coach: Dan Ambrose.

Park Tudor Sectional (43) Championship — Cascade 6, Covenant Christian 5
Sectional titles through 2022: Cascade (7) — Previous 2005. Cadets head coach: Ty Foster.

Parke Heritage Sectional (44) Championship — Parke Heritage 9, Southmont 8.
Sectional titles through 2022: Parke Heritage (2) — Previous 2021. Wolves head coach: Charlie Martin.

Evansville Mater Dei Regional
Linton-Stockton vs. North Decatur
Forest Park (8) vs. Providence
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Providence 7 (2021), Forest Park 1 (1976), Linton-Stockton 0, North Decatur 0.

South Ripley Sectional (45) Championship — North Decatur 5, Southwestern (Hanover) 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: North Decatur (2) — Previous 2011. Chargers head coach: Christian McKinney.

Providence Sectional (46) Championship — Providence 9, Austin 8.
Providence (20) — Previous 2021. Pioneers head coach: Scott Hutchins.

Mitchell Sectional (47) Championship — Linton-Stockton 8, Mitchell 7
Sectional titles through 2022: Linton-Stockton (11) — Previous 2021. Miners head coach: Jacob Harden.

Evansville Mater Dei Sectional (48) Championship — Forest Park 10, Tell City 0.
Forest Park (5) — Previous 2002. Rangers head coach: Jarred Howard.

Class 1A
South Bend Washington Regional
South Central (Union Mills) (4) vs. Caston (9)
Fremont (10) vs. Morgan Township
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): South Central 4 (2011), Fremont 2 (1999), Caston 0, Morgan Township 0.

Westville Sectional (49) Championship — Morgan Township 16, Marquette Catholic 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Morgan Township (5) — Previous 2018. Cherokees head coach: John Smith.

South Central (Union Mills) Sectional (50) Championship — South Central (Union Mills) 10, Oregon-Davis 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: South Central (18; six straight) — Previous 2021. Satellites head coach: Zach Coulter.

Fremont Sectional (51) Championship — Fremont 23, Bethany Christian 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Fremont (8) — Previous 2018. Eagles head coach: Justin Bock.

Caston Sectional (52) Championship — Caston 3, North Miami 1.
Sectional titles through 2022: Caston (2) — Previous 2012. Comets head coach: Blake Mollenkopf.

Lafayette Central Catholic Regional
Cowan (RV) vs. Rossville (RV)
Union City (5) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (3)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Lafayette Central Catholic 14 (2018), Cowan 4 (2021), Rossville 3 (2019), Union City 0.

Lafayette Central Catholic Sectional (53) Championship — Lafayette Central Catholic 10, Covington 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Lafayette Central Catholic (18) — Previous 2018. Knights head coach: Tim Bordenet.

Tri-County Sectional (54) Championship — Rossville 12, Clinton Central 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Rossville (7) — Previous 2019. Hornets head coach: Brad Scott.

Anderson Preparatory Sectional (55) Championship — Cowan 5, Wes-Del 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Cowan (8) — Previous 2021. Blackhawks head coach: Aaron Wells.

Seton Catholic Sectional (56) Championship — Union City 9, Blue River Valley 4.
Sectional titles through 2022: Union City (4) — Previous 2021. Indians head coach: Jason Dowler.

Morristown Regional
Rising Sun (RV) vs. Shakamak (RV)
Traders Point Christian vs. Indianapolis Lutheran (RV)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Shakamak 13 (2021), Indianapolis Lutheran 1 (2017), Rising Sun 1 (2013), Traders Point Christian 0.

Shakamak Sectional (57) Championship — Shakamak 14, White River Valley 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Shakamak (27; four straight) — Previous 2021. Lakers head coach: Jeremy Yeryar.

Indiana Deaf Sectional (58) Championship — Traders Point Christian 9, Bethesda Christian 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Traders Point Christian (2) — Previous 2021. Knights head coach: Jaylen Cushenberry.

Morristown Sectional (59) Championship — Indianapolis Lutheran 12, Edinburgh 2.
Sectional titles through 2022: Indianapolis Lutheran (14) — Previous 2019. Saints head coach: Adam Gouker.

Jac-Cen-Del Sectional (60) Championship — Rising Sun 2, Jac-Cen-Del 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Rising Sun (8) — Previous 2019. Shiners head coach: Kevin Wirsch.

Loogootee Regional
New Washington vs. Tecumseh (RV)
Barr-Reeve (2) vs. Borden (1)
Championship
Regional titles (most recent): Tecumseh 10 (2019), Barr-Reeve 2 (1998), Borden 1 (2021), New Washington 0.

Lanesville Sectional (61) Championship — Borden 12, Lanesville 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Borden (6) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Eric Stotts.

Shawe Memorial Sectional (62) Championship — New Washington 8, West Washington 7.
Sectional titles through 2022: New Washington (2) — Previous 1998. Mustangs head coach: Jeremy Bower.

Loogootee Sectional (63) Championship — Barr-Reeve 9, North Daviess 3.
Sectional titles through 2022: Barr-Reeve (13) — Previous 2019. Vikings head coach: Trevor McConnell.

Cannelton Sectional (64) Championship — Tecumseh 11, Springs Valley 0.
Sectional titles through 2022: Tecumseh (17; four straight) — Previous 2021. Braves head coach: Ted Thompson.

Alum Ashbrook teaching, coaching Union County Patriots

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

Jordan Ashbrook is invested in education and athletics in Union County, Ind.
The 2011 Union County High School graduate represents the third generation of his family to teach at Union County.
A physical education teacher, strengh and conditioning coach and head baseball coach at UCHS in Liberty, Jordan has a mother — Teresa Ashbrook — who teaches first grade at Liberty Elementary School.
Jordan’s grandfather — the late Norbert Bleill – was also a Union County teacher.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jordan moved to Oxford, Ohio, then to Union County as a preschooler. He played high school baseball then coached alongside Jeff Matthews and took over the Patriots program before the 2020 season canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ashbrook admires retired Navy Master Chief Matthews for his ability to motivate and to forge those with leadership leanings.
“You can talk about championships, but until you put in the work and effort to get there, it’s just talk,” says Ashbrook. “He really left it up to the guys he trusted in — his captains.”
A catcher and first baseman earlier in his prep career, three-year varsity player Ashbrook was an all-state second baseman as a senior.
At NCAA Division III Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Ashbrook was a corner infielder and designated hitter for head coach George Powell.
Coming to the Cardinals at 5-foot-10 and 180, Ashbrook was encouraged to add 20 pounds of muscle by the spring. He came close, getting up to 195.
The lefty swinger hit .287 with four home runs and 29 runs batted in as a sophomore in 2013 and .200 with two homers and 14 RBIs as a senior in 2015.
Ashbrook was a double major at Otterbein in Health Education and Physical Education.
“It’s good to bring knowledge from college and see the development we’ve been able to have in the last three years,” says Ashbrook the strength and conditioning coach for all Union County athletic teams. “I have pre and post data. We max out about every fourth week. It’s nice to see the steady increase throughout the year. You see the change in bodies from fall to spring.”
With an enrollment around 400, Union County is full of multi-sport performers.
“Sharing the athletes here is something we have to do if we want to be successful,” says Ashbrook. “I tell my (baseball players) to play at least one other sport and be an all-around athlete.”
Teacher Pat Tafelski handled strength and conditioning duties when Ashbrook attended Union County.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. For the final five weeks of the window, Ashbrook intends to have traditional baseball practices on Tuesdays and intraquad scrimmages on Thursdays. The past two weeks he was regularly getting 16 athletes at weight room sessions. He expects around 20 at LCP dates.
Union County is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City and Winchester). TEC games are generally played once a week.
In 2021, the Patriots are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern and Shenandoah. Union County has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2018.
Ashbrook is assisted by Union County teacher Daniel Taylor and longtime Pats assistant Ron Webb.
Union County plays on Bill Webb Field, which gives spectators, players and coaches a view of the Liberty water tower.
The varsity diamond is behind youth fields.
“It’s cool seeing all the kids you’re going to coach in the future playing alongside you,” says Ashbrook, who has ramped up to middle school baseball program at Union County and got 48 to come to a callout meeting last week. Those players are invited to participate in fall workouts with the high school.
Being a small school, Ashbrook says getting college exposure for his athletes calls for some grinding. He sends on profiles to help the process. Recent Union County graduates to move on to the next level include Mason Hornung (Wilmington College), Denton Shepler (University of Indianapolis) and Nate Webb (Ohio Northern University).
As a hitting and pitching instructor at the former Powerhouse Performance Training facility in Richmond, Ind. (now Morrow’s Yard), Ashbrook worked with several players who went on to play college ball.
Jordan and wife Shelby Ashbrook have a daughter — Mylee (16 months). Jerry Ashbrook is Jordan’s father. His younger sister is Taylor Ashbrook.

Jordan Ashbrook (Union County High School Photo)
Union County High (Liberty, Ind.) baseball.
Jordan Ashbrook (right) and Union County High School baseball players.
Feats of strength Union County High School (Liberty, Ind.) style.

Miller-led Knightstown Panthers win first sectional since 2016

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Robbie Miller experienced postseason as a head baseball coach at Greenfield (Ind.)-Central High School, helping the Cougars to an IHSAA Class 4A sectional title in 2017.

Miller, who led the GC program from 2015-18 and then assisted at New Palestine for the 2019, was hired at Knightstown (Ind.) Community High School for the 2020 campaign, which was taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Knightstown won the 2021 Class 2A Heritage Christian Sectional crown, beating Triton Central 9-6 and Heritage Christian 7-4 for the right to play Saturday, June 5 in the Cascade Regional. The 17-12-1 Panthers meet Parke Heritage (15-10) in the second semifinal. The first game at 11 a.m. features University (21-9) against Centerville (23-5). 

Miller has his team focused inward.

“I don’t care who’s in the other dugout,” says Miller. “I worry about us. If we do the things we’re capable of doing, we’ll be successful.

“Just be us and we’ll be fine.”

The Knightstown-Triton Central sectional game featured former Franklin (Ind.) College teammates as head coaches — Miller with his Panthers and Justin Bergman with his Tigers.

Miller called on senior workhorse Mason Muncy to take the mound against Triton Central.

“He threw a great game and he got big hits throughout the lineup,” says Miller of the comeback win. “We scored three in the first and gave up five in the top of the second.

“But the kids never quit.”

Muncy was able to pitch again in the Heritage Christian game. The Panthers faced sophomore Andrew Wiggins (an Indiana University commit) and were down 1-0. 

Senior Ben Newby hit a two-run home run and senior 8-hole hitter Robert Porter produced two clutch hits for Knightstown.

Then there was senior Aaron Reagan.

“He might be one of the best baserunners I’ve ever coach,” says Miller of Reagan. “He ade a great slide that put us ahead 6-3 in the sixth. We executed a suicide squeeze on the next pitch (for a 7-3 lead).”

The Panthers fields a team with experienced seniors and a mixture of freshmen and sophomores. Junior Carson Smith is the starting shortstop.

Knightstown (enrollment around 360) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City, Union County and Winchester).

TEC teams play each other one time in 2021 as it worked into their schedules. 

With the most-recent title, Knightstown has won seven sectionals. Three of those came back-to-back-to-back (2014, 2015 and 2016). The Panthers were regional victors in 2015 and 2016, losing to eventual state champion Providence in the Plainfield Semistate.

Miller, who resides in Greenfield with wife Allison and daughters Ella and Abbi and works for Anthem, enjoyed his time as a volunteer coach at New Palestine (he is a 1997 graduate) with Dragons head coach Shawn Lyons.

“I learned a lot from him,” says Miller. “I had been coaching against him for like 15 years.

“New Pal’s a great program. (Lyons) does things the right way. He wants to win as much as anybody and he prepares better than any coach I’ve ever been around. His other assistants are phenomenal. They made me feel wanted from Day 1.”

Miller wasn’t looking for another coaching gig when he was told about the opening at Knightstown. A basketball official in the winter, he happened to be going to Knightstown a few weeks after learning about the opportunity. He was hired in January 2020 by Panthers athletic director Matt Martin.

When the season was taken away and workouts were then allowed in July, Miller took the opportunity and had 10 or more at each session while sharing athletes with football and basketball.

“I was still trying to get to know the kids when they said baseball was done (in March),” says Miller. “The good news is a lot them played travel ball and I tried to see as many games as possible.”

Miller’s assistant coaches are John Walters, Nic Murray and Jim Kayajan.

Knightstown had 20 players in uniform this spring. The junior varsity schedule was clipped because of COVID contact tracing.

The Panthers play on a field that’s part of a complex that’s just a few years old.

“It’s a really nice facility,” says Miller.

High school baseball is fed by Knightstown Youth Sports and a middle school program. Those Knightstown Intermediate School students use the old varsity diamond.

Knightstown (Ind.) Community High School head baseball coach Robbie Miller with his wife Allison and daughters Ella and Abbi and the 2021 IHSAA Class 2A Heritage Christian Sectional trophy.
Allison and Robbie Miller with the 2021 IHSAA Class 2A Heritage Christian Sectional trophy won by Robbie’s Knightstown team.
The Miller home team: Robbie, Allison and daughters Ella and Abbi.
Knightstown won the 2021 IHSAA Heritage Christian Sectional baseball title. It was the first sectional crown for the Panthers program since 2016.

Dowler sees first Union City team win sectional title

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jason Dowler may be a “rookie” as first-year head coach of the Union City (Ind.) Community Junior-Senior High School baseball team.

But his relationship with many Union City players goes back to when they were little boys.

Freshmen Owen Dowler (Jason’s son), Zack Fulk and Corbin Richards and sophomore Jude Connor all played together on Dylan’s Dawgs — a team named in honor of Dylan Williams who was killed during an 8U all-star practice in 2013. Owen Dowler was Dylan’s rec ball teammate.

Dylan Williams would have been a sophomore in 2021.

Having coached and observed them for years, Jason Dowler knew those younger players very well.

“My job was to figure everybody else out,” says Dowler, who saw the Indians win the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional and punch their ticket to the Carroll (Flora) Regional on Saturday, June 5.

In winning the program’s third sectional title — and first since 2018 — Union City bested Tri, Seton Catholic and Blue River Valley by a combined 27-0 at Don McBride Stadium in Richmond.

Senior Hunter Reagan started on the mound and Owen Dowler finished against Tri. The Seton Catholic game began Friday and was postponed to Saturday because of rain. Sophomore Camden LaFuze started it Friday and Reagan finished it Saturday.

The postponement also meant that Seton, which beat Randolph Southern with Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District H Player of the Year and Miami (Ohio) University commit Luke Leverton, was able to go back to the hard-throwing right-hander at the beginning of Saturday’s game. 

As Leverton left the mound after three innings, Union City was up 1-0. When Leverton came to the plate in a key spot late in the game, Dowler had him intentionally walked and UC went on to a 5-0 triumph and the sectional championship game on Monday, which was pitched by LaFuze. The Indians blanked Blue River Valley 6-0.

“We’ve been dominant on the mound and our defense is playing very well right now,” says Dowler. “A lot of games we lost we beat ourselves (with errors and too many walks by the pitching staff).”

The Indians were 2-7 in the nine games heading into the tournament.

Dowler says there was a team meeting that turned things around.

“We said we can beat ourselves or start playing some good Indian baseball,” says Dowler. “It’s a very simple sport. We as players and coaches overthink it.

“We can make it difficult or we can make it easy on ourselves. We’ve tried to work smarter and not harder.”

Union City has operated by a motto: “Just compete, man.”

“If we lose, we lose,” says Dowler. “But we’re not going to beat ourselves.

“Go out there and compete and have fun.”

Dowler insists that his pitchers throw strikes and let their defense have the opportunity to get outs. 

Above all, he wants them to be bold.

“You are going to make errors and you are going to strike out,” says Dowler. “Baseball is a mindset. You have to be confident.”

There are 10 active players on the youthful Union City team. The starting lineup features freshmen Owen Dowler (first base), Fulk (second base) and Richards (catcher) and sophomores Connor (third base) and LaFuze (pitcher).

“It’s challenging mentally for these kids to walk up to a baseball field and other team is sporting 17 to 19 kids and we walk up with just enough to play,” says Dowler. “But we have a different mindset. We don’t let that effect us. It’s not your dream, but you deal with what you’ve got.”

Union City (10-13) takes on Cowan (13-13) at 10 a.m. Saturday. A win sends them into the 8 p.m. championship game against the winner of Riverton Parke (21-9) vs. Clinton Central (16-11). 

A wrinkle for the Indians is that graduation is at 3 p.m., so they would make the 2 1/2-hour trip each way from Flora to Union City and back — something that happened in 2018.

Union City (located on the Indiana-Ohio line with an enrollment around 240) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union County and Winchester).

With the latest trophy-taking, Union City has won three sectional titles. The previous championships came in 2012 and 2018.

Home games are played on the Union City campus. This year the team sold soap to raise funds to upgrade the facility.

Dowler says he wants to get the local Pony League thriving again.

“To be successful you have to have a feeder program,” says Dowler.

His assistant coaches at the high school are Rick Lacy, Kevin Lehman and Jacob Fulk. Lacy has been around Union City for about four decades in various capacities. Lehman keeps the scorebook for the Indians and was on South Adams’ state runner-up team in 1972. Fulk, the older brother of Zack, was on the 2018 sectional championship team and played one season and the University of Northwestern Ohio. He is Dowler’s pitching coach.

Dowler played soccer at Union City and graduated in 1998. He owns his own heating and cooling business in town — Comfort Systems.

Jason and wife Amy Dowler have two children — Kahlee and Owen. Jason coached daughter Kahlee in softball and transitioned to baseball with son Owen. Kahlee Dowler, who will be a senior at Ball State University in the fall, was a three-sport athlete at Union City — cross country, basketball and softball. She was a junior on the Class 1A state runner-up girls basketball squad in 2017.

Union City won the 2021 IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional baseball title. At far right in the back row is first-year coach Jason Dowler.
Head coach Jason Dowler (far right in back row) and his Union City (Ind.) Indians. The team is 10-13 as it heads to the June 5 IHSAA Class 1A Carroll (Flora) Regional.
The Union City (Ind.) Indians gather around the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional baseball trophy they earned in 2021.

Marker looking to make mark with Seton Catholic Cardinals

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dave Marker made a mark on the record books as a college pitcher.

Decades later, he is looking to have an impact as first-year head baseball coach at tiny Seton Catholic School in Richmond, Ind.

The Cardinals are in the IHSAA Class 1A Seton Catholic Sectional at Don McBride Stadium this week. Among the 14 on Seton Catholic’s roster is senior right-handed pitcher/second baseman/third baseman and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association District H Player of the Year Luke Leverton (a Miami of Ohio commit). 

“Last year we didn’t get to play,” says Marker. “We’re very young this year.”

Louie Falcone, a Seton Catholic graduate, was a freshman on the baseball team at Hanover (Ind.) College this spring.

Seton Catholic (enrollment around 90) wrapped the 2021 regular season with a 7-6 win against Union County. Patriots head coach Jordan Ashbrook, a former Richmond assistant, helped get the game moved to Day Air Ballpark — home of the High-A Central League’s Dayton (Ohio) Dragons.

The Cardinals are a member of the Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference (with Anderson Prep, Bethesda Christian, Central Christian Academy, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Shortridge, International, Liberty Christian, Muncie Burris, Park Tudor and University). Each baseball-playing league team sees each other one time.

The Seton Catholic Sectional also includes Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Randolph Southern, Tri and Union City. The Cardinals have won three sectional titles — the last in 2014.

Seton Catholic, which has three buildings in downtown Richmond (elementary, middle school and high school), has added a middle school baseball program of grades 6-8 in 2021.

“There’s work to be done to grow the program,” says Marker.

Marker, who teaches K-5 physical education at Test Intermediate School and is in his 23rd years in Richmond Community Schools, was a baseball assistant to Shawn Turner for four seasons (2016-19) at Richmond High after 10 seasons as assistant to Red Devils softball coach Kyle Ingram. His assistants at Seton Catholic are Ingram, Robert Cornell and Brice Brown. 

A few summers back, Marker coached for the Midwest Astros travel baseball organization.

A graduate of Randolph Southern Junior/Senior High School in Lynn, Ind., where father Larry was a longtime athletic director, Marker played for the Rebels and for the John Lebo-managed Richmond Post 65 state runner-up team.

Marker walked on at Anderson (Ind.) College (now Anderson University). 

From 1984-88, Marker went and went 27-10 in 63 mound appearances for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Don Brandon.

“He never recruited me,” says Marker. “But he redshirted me and taught me how to pitch.”

Marker also spent two summers with the Front Royal (Va.) Cardinals in the Valley League learning from Gary Gilmore, who went on to coach Coastal Carolina University to the College World Series title in 2016.

“I’ve had some pretty good coaches who took me under my wing,” says Marker.

It was in March 1986 while Marker was away playing baseball that his hometown was rocked by a tornado.

“That was before cellphones,” says Marker. “For three days, I did not get ahold of mom and dad.”

When he got back to Lynn, his parents were fine.

After college, Marker had a few professional tryouts and hurt his arm. He played for the Portland (Ind.) Rockets and in fast pitch softball with K&G Sporting Goods (Seymour) and New Construction (Shelbyville).

Marker also teaches summer school P.E., umpires church league softball and likes to run haunted houses.

Dave Marker

Alum Hale takes over reins of Hagerstown Tigers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Hagerstown (Ind.) High School has enjoyed plenty of diamond success over the years, particularly in the past 15.

Since 2006, the Tigers have earned six sectional title and one regional crown racked up many victories.

Hagerstown was ranked No. 1 among IHSAA Class 2A teams for much of 2019 and wound up 28-2, losing to Indianapolis Scecina Memorial in the semifinals of the Park Tudor Regional.

With two young daughters, Tigers head coach Brad Catey opted to vacate the head baseball post and concentrate on softball.

New head baseball coach Jay Hale, a 2006 Hagerstown graduate, looks to keep program momentum going by emphasizing organization, discipline and fundamentals just like his high school head coach Lloyd Michael, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

“He taught the fundamentals of baseball better than anybody,” says Hale, who expects to have eight players back who dressed for varsity in 2019.

A left-handed pitcher, outfielder and first baseman when he played for the Tigers, Hale was part of a team that won 26 games with sectional and regional titles his senior season.

Catey was a Hagerstown assistant in 2006.

“I was always hitting my spots,” says Hale of his pitching. “I had four pitches in high school and college.

“I always adjusted to my scenario.”

Hale pitched two years at Vincennes University for head coach Jon Adams. Ted Thompson, who is now head coach at Tecumseh High School, was a Trailblazers assistant and Hale credits him for teaching him much about catching.

Hale spent his last two collegiate seasons at Northern Kentucky University for head coach Todd Asalon and pitching coach Dizzy Peyton.

“He taught me more about staying focused, being relaxed and having fun with the game,” says Hale of Peyton for whom he pitched sidearm as a senior to get more playing time. The two have stayed in-contact. “I take a little bit from all the coaches I’ve played for or coached with.

“I have to put the puzzle together and figure out what works. Some don’t respond to a mellow voice. Some crawl into the turtle shell when you yell. Those are the things I have to work through.

“I knew this opportunity was going to arise. I had to step up my game. There are so many different techniques.”

Hale’s goal the past two years is to focus on hitting fundamentals.

“There’s always something knew,” says Hale. “Those old-school guys stick with what they’ve known for years and it still seems to work. Hit the ball where it’s pitched.”

Hale notes that most high school pitchers want to throw outside so he will encourage his hitters to go the other way if that’s where they are pitched.

“We’ll play small ball and hit-and-run,” says Hale. “We’ll spread out (in our stances) and work on firing that back hip over the top of the plate and not pull out the front side. We’ll be more of a linear hitter and try hit the ball up the middle.

“It’s all about timing, balance and making good contact. We’re pounding those three things. We’re aiming to put the ball in play and hit line drives from gap to gap. We’re focused on the fundamentals of the lower half.”

With pitchers, Hale breaks it down into three sections: lower half, middle with the shoulders going last.

“A lot of kids want to leak that front shoulder and hip open,” says Hale. “You’re losing that energy.”

That’s where hitters lose power and pitchers give up velocity.

Hale’s coaching staff features varsity assistant Andy Senese, pitching coach Danny Davis, junior varsity coach Jared Ward and assistant/scorekeeper Kelly Bicknell.

Hagerstown (enrollment around 350) is a member of the Tri-Eastern Conference (with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Knightstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City, Union County and Winchester).

The Tigers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Centerville, Northeastern, Shenandoah and Union County. Hagerstown has won 11 sectional titles, including six since 2006.

Hale has been to vice president the past couple years at Hagerstown Little League, where Shawn Lieberman is president. Lieberman was part of Hagerstown’s IHSAA Final Four team in 1999.

A few years ago, the Hagerstown Tigers travel team began as an 8U squad and are now up to 10U. Nate Logston, a member of the 1999 team, and Patrick Vinson, who coached Major division state champions in 2019 and the father of recent graduate Grant Vinson, run that squad made up of all Hagerstown players.

“We want to keep the kids together and grow the third, fourth and fifth graders,” says Hale.

Jay and Abby Hale have three boys — fourth grader Jaxon, third grader Jonah and kindergartener Jace.

Jaxon Hale and his father picked the Los Angeles Angels with Mike Trout as their favorite Major League Baseball team.

A construction management major major at NKU, Hale works as a project manager for Duke Energy.

A 8U Hagerstown team was Coach Pitch district champions in 2019.

Hale umpired Major division games at Hagerstown Little League and got to know some of the junior high players.

The Jeff Combs-coached Hagerstown Heat 14U team has been together since players 8 or 9. This year, they will play in a junior high league in east central Indiana.

“We’ll see if we want to start a team at the school level,” says Hale. “The gap now is to keep junior high schoolers involved.

“The idea is to develop and challenge them for the next level.”

JAYHALE

Jay Hale, a 2006 Hagerstown (Ind.) High School graduate, is now head baseball coach at his alma mater.

 

Todd entering second season in charge of Wes-Del Warriors baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Defense is a priority for head coach Bob Todd and his Wes-Del Middle/High School baseball team.

Entering his second season in 2019, Todd is emphasizing defensive communication and execution at the school in Gaston, Ind., northwest of Muncie.

“If you’re defense is bad, it’s hard to win even if you do hit,” says Todd. “We try to limit the free 90’s and win that battle every game.

“That gives us a chance to at least be in the game.”

During this IHSAA limited contact period, Todd’s Warriors have been in the small middle school gym on Wednesday or Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.

“We usually have stations for defensive reps or conditioning for an hour then do hitting and flat-mound bullpens for an hour,” says Todd. “We keep them working. Everybody is doing something. We don’t want anybody standing around. We’re getting a lot of things accomplished and getting better at all times.”

Todd counts himself as a proponent of the arm care program discussed by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association and Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

In the future, Wes-Del baseball may benefit from a new auxiliary gym in the works at the Delaware County school.

Wes-Del (enrollment around 280) is in the Mid-Eastern Conference (with Blue River Valley, Cowan, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union-Modoc and Wapahani).

MEC teams play each other once at various times during the spring to determine a conference champion.

Todd says it has been announced that beginning in 2021 conference games will be played every Tuesday and Thursday with schedules being laid out around those days.

Non-conference opponents include Alexandria-Monroe, Anderson Preparatory Academy, Blackford, Delta, Eastbrook, Elwood, Frankton, Liberty Christian, Madison-Grant, Muncie Burris, Seton Catholic, Southern Wells, Union City and Yorktown. The Delaware County tournament is slated for May 7 and May 11.

The home field is located behind the school on North Yorktown-Gaston Pike (North 600 West).

The Warriors are in an IHSAA Class 1A grouping with Anderson Prep, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells and Tri-Central. Wes-Del last won a sectional title in 2011.

Todd is assisted by Ken Zvokel (varsity) and Zach Tanner (JV) with occasional help from other volunteers. Mary Helen Bink has been a scorekeeper for Wes-Del for more than three decades.

A year ago, Wes-Del had 20 players in the program. Nine of those have graduated and two others are not expected back. Based on call-out meetings, Todd says he may have as many as 24 this spring.

The first official day of practice is March 11. Spring break for Wes-Del Community Schools is March 22-29. The baseball team is slated for open its season April 2 and have six games scheduled in the first eight days.

“Players have 10 practice to get before spring break,” says Todd, referring to the IHSAA rule for participation. “It’s imperative that they come to all practices.”

Wes-Del Youth Athletic Association provides baseball and softball for T-ball through age 12.

To provide baseball opportunities for middle schoolers, a team has been organized for Wes-Del boys that plays in the spring and summer.

Others Wes-Del athletes participate in the summer in the East Central Indiana League and in travel baseball.

Bob and Felicia Todd have two children — McKenzie (20) and Zack (15). Zack Todd is a freshman baseball player at Wes-Del and plays with the Indiana Nitro during the travel ball season.

Bob Todd is a 1996 graduate of Muncie South Side High School, where he played freshmen baseball when Larry Lewis was head coach.

Before taking the job at Wes-Del, Todd had coached in area travel ball organizations, including the Indiana Mojo.

Todd is employed as a general manager for American Pest Professionals, which has offices in Muncie and Marion.

WES-DELWARRIORS

FELICIAZACKBOBMCKENZIETODDThe Todd family (from left): Felicia, Zack, Bob and McKenzie. Bob Todd is head baseball coach at Wes-Del High Sch

Hardesty brings passion to diamond for Knightstown Panthers

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Daren Hardesty played for a passionate coach in high school and looks to bring some of that intensity in his role as head baseball coach at Knightstown (Ind.) High School.

Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Stoudt led the program at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Ind., when Hardesty was there.

“He’s just a student of the game,” says Hardesty of the now-retired Stoudt. “He’s always reading and learning and passes that stuff on to former players who are coaching now.

“He just never stops. He loves the game of baseball.

“He’s a competitor to the extreme. I loved playing for Coach Stoudt. He got so fired up. Doing things the right way was so important. His passion and drive was infectious. I hope my players get that from me from time to time.”

The 2019 season will be Hardesty’s sixth as Knightstown’s head coach. An impact player expected back from a 15-11 team is senior right-hander/shortstop Jose Olivo. The athletic Olivo is currently the starting quarterback on the Panthers football squad and Hardesty says he will likely be the school’s No. 1 pitcher in the spring.

Knightstown (enrollment around 380) is an IHSAA Class 2A school which has been in a sectional pairing with Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Scecina, Irvington Preparatory and Triton Central.

Despite being a smaller school, the Panthers have been able to develop some quality pitching depth with Hardesty in-charge and he looks to beef up the non-conference schedule with bigger schools when possible.

“We’re blessed to have three of four quality starters,” says Hardesty. “We have good enough pitching to keep us competitive.

“We stress, stress long toss, arm bands and arm strengthening.”

The Panthers are members of the Tri-Eastern Conference (along with Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Tri, Union City, Union County and Winchester). Union County, Hagerstown and Knightstown placed 1-2-3 in the TEC in 2018.

“It’s competitive,” says Hardesty of the conference. “Everybody’s good.”

The Panthers have sent players on the college baseball in recent years, including Drake Peggs at Eastern Michigan University.

“He was our shortstop  and difference maker,” says Hardesty of Peggs. “He has great hand-eye coordination.”

Hardesty graduated from Pendleton Heights in 2013 and played four seasons at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., where he earned his diploma in 2007 and his head baseball coach was Mark DeMichael (now IWU’s athletic director).

“He was short-staffed for a college staff,” says Hardesty of DeMichael. “He did an excellent job of organizing practices.

“He is a Godly man who valued his relationship with his players and exhibited a good, Christ-like demeanor.

“Indiana Wesleyan athletics are getting better and better and it doesn’t surprise me a bit with Mark in charge.”

Hardesty joined the Wildcats as a corner infielder and pitcher and became a set-up man on a pitching staff led by future major leaguer Brandon Beachy, who was one year behind Hardesty.

“I had to really learn how to pitch to be effective,” says Hardesty, who ate up many relief innings. “That’s why I love to be a pitching coach. Learning a good change-up was huge for me.”

Hardesty began his coaching career at Greenfield-Central High School. He served five years as pitching coach to Pendleton Heights graduate Travis Keesling then spent one season with head coach Keesling at PH before landing at Knightstown.

He has really come to appreciate what it means to be a coach and educator at that size school.

Hardesty teaches math at KHS.

“We have small class sizes and the kids all work hard,” says Hardesty. “I’ve fallen into a really good situation here.”

His baseball coaching staff includes Knightstown graduate and former Hanover College catcher Nolan Hall plus teachers Nic Murray (a former Eminence assistant) and Darren Kessler.

In 2018, the Panthers played all their home games on a new on-campus field which Hardesty had the chance to help design.

“It’s awesome,” says Hardesty of a facility which includes a net and brick backstop, open-concept dugouts and fan-friendly berms around the field. “They don’t have to look through chain link fences.

“It’s got some unique features like Pendleton Heights and Wapahani. It’s not a cookie-cutter field.”

The former varsity field is located about about two miles from campus at what is now Knightstown Intermediate School.

Hardesty says the new field should have lights installed by next fall with the hopes Knightstown, which moved into its newer high school building on U.S. 40 in 2004, will be able to become an IHSAA postseason tournament host.

Since Hardesty took over the program, the Panthers have won three of their six all-time sectionals (2014, 2015 and 2016) and two of three regional crowns (2015 and 2016).

Daren and Morgan Hardesty celebrated four years of marriage this year. The couple have two children — son Bridger (2) and daughter Elliott (6 months).

DARENHARDESTY

Daren Hardesty, a graduate of Pendleton Heights High School and Indiana Wesleyan University, is heading into his sixth season as head baseball coach at Knightstown (Ind.) High School in 2019. (Knightstown Photo)

 

Conwell stays positive with his Cowan Blackhawks baseballers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball is a game filled with moments of failure.

Even the very best players and teams will inevitably have plays or games that don’t go their way.

Ryan Conwell chooses not to dwell on the negatives.

The Cowan High School head baseball coach always looks for the silver lining.

“I’m constantly trying to stay positive — no matter what,” says Conwell, who was hired in the fall of 2014 and heads into his fourth season of leading the Blackhawks program in 2018. “Baseball is such a mental sport. Kids get down on themselves enough. They don’t need me mashing it into their heads as well.

“If you fail 7 out of 10 times at the plate, you’re doing well. We have to find something good out of every at-bat and find what we can do better the next time.”

Conwell is a 2002 graduate of Wapahani High School, where he played four baseball seasons — three on varsity — for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Brian Dudley. After graduation, Conwell coached junior high baseball for the Raiders for seven years.

By observing Dudley, Conwell saw the importance of fundamentals and mental toughness.

“We did a lot of reps of everything,” says Conwell. “Almost every practice there was a drill that focused on the mental part of the game, not just the physical part.”

One drill called for nine players to start in the dugout and sprint to nine different positions on the field then spring back to the dugout. Then players had to quickly figure out the next position they would take and then run there. The object was for everyone eventually being at all nine positions.

If two players ever landed at the same place, the mental toughness/communication drill would start over from the beginning.

There was always a lot of work on defensive situations.

What might happen next?

Where does the throw go if the ball is hit to me?

“(Dudley) also insisted that every player on the field needed to be moving on every play,” says Conwell.

After his time with Wapahani, Conwell moved across Delaware County to Delta High School for four seasons — two as a junior varsity coach and two as a varsity assistant on the staff of Terry Summers.

“He went a lot more into the details of the game,” says Conwell of Summers. “He wanted to make sure things were covered. It could be something as small as the wheel play or certain pick-off moves. We worked a lot on situational hitting.”

Conwell has taken what he’s learned about the game and molded it into his own style, which focuses on positivity and fundamentals.

“We do some team building exercises early in the year,” says Conwell. “We frequently stop during a practice to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“Several players play multiple positions. My whole infield can be different depending on who’s pitching that day.”

At a Class 1A school with an enrollment around 230, the Blackhawks have not fielded a JV team since Conwell has been in charge. He is hoping that might change this spring and get his younger players some more playing experience.

“I have a really good incoming freshmen class,” says Conwell. “I think I’ll have eight or nine freshmen. We could have 20-22 kids total.”

The Blackhawks had 18 players in 2015 (including Luke Miller, who is now on the Indiana University team) and 16 in both 2016 and 2017.

Feeding the program is the emergence of a junior high team in 2017. Playing on the varsity field from late May to early July, a combined squad of seventh and eighth graders is expected to play again in 2018 in the Eastern Central Indiana Junior High Baseball League. It’s a circuit that has been headed up by Wapahani’s Jason Dudley.

Cowan plays its games on-campus.

“Every year, we try to do something (to the facility),” says Conwell. “Money is always an issue.”

In Conwell’s second season, a four-foot fence was put up in front of the dugouts. It enlarges the bench area and brings players a little closer to the action.

Re-surfacing of the infield is on the wish list for after the 2018 season.

The Blackhawks play in the 10-team Mid-Eastern Conference (along with Blue River Valley, Daleville, Eastern Hancock, Monroe Central, Randolph Southern, Shenandoah, Union of Modoc, Wapahani and Wes-Del). Eastern Hancock and Shenandoah joined the MEC in 2017-18.

Conwell also likes to get many of the traditionally-competitive 1A and 2A teams in the area on his non-conference schedule, including Seton Catholic and Union City in 1A, Burris, Centerville, Eastbrook, Hagerstown, Lapel, Northeastern and Winchester in 2A. Cowan is also slated to play 3A schools Delta and Mississinewa.

The Blackhawks are grouped in a 1A sectional with Anderson Prep Academy, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central and Wes-Del. In the future, Conwell would like to get more sectional opponents on Cowan’s regular-season schedule.

Not currently in the classroom, Conwell is taking online classes from Western Governors University toward a teaching certificate. Away from coaching, he works I work LifeTouch, a senior portraits lab in Muncie. Ryan and Katlyn Conwell have a daughter named Kinley. She was born in April of 2016 — in the midst of her daddy’s second season at Cowan.

Former Blackhawks baseball player Justin O’Conner is a minor league free agent who began his pro career right after the catcher was selected in the first round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.

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RYANCONWELL

Ryan Conwell, who heads into his fourth season as head baseball coach at Cowan High School in 2018, shares a moment with wife Katlyn and daughter Kinley (born in April 2016).