Tag Archives: University of Southern Indiana

Coaching takes Gobert to Walters State Community College

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

Nick Gobert’s baseball coaching career has taken him from a powerhouse in the Midwest to an elite program in the South.
The graduate of Jasper (Ind.) High School and the University of Southern Indiana has gone from Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa, to Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tenn., which is located between Knoxville and Johnson City.
The 44-16 IHCC Warriors and 61-7 WSCC Senators both participated in the 2021 National Junior College Athletic Association Division I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
Married in June 2021 to the former Haley Brun, Nick followed her to Tennessee when she took a job at Colgate-Palmolive in Morristown. The Kansas State University graduate had worked at the company’s plant in Richmond, Ind., while having a long-distance relationship with Gobert. The couple was introduced by a mutual friend.
When relocating, Gobert looked for a new baseball home.
“I wanted to get to a competitive place,” says Gobert. “(Coaching) wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t (Haley) believing in me. She’s been a sports fan her whole life.
“It took two years to fully understand the time commitment.”
Gobert is a volunteer assistant on the staff led by David Shelton, who earned his 400th career victory in February.
“I do a little bit of everything,” says Gobert. “I’m in charge of base running and help with infield play and hitters.”
How does his last team differ from his current one?
“Indian Hills is a pitching and defensive-minded program though we did have guys who could hit a little bit,” says Gobert. “Walters State is more offensive-minded. We have the ability to drive the baseball with guys who can impact the game with doubles and home runs.
“It’s a place kids want to come to because of the great tradition.”
Since 1984, the Senators have made 10 NJCAA World Series appearances with one championship (2006), a runner-up finish (2018) plus finishing third outright (2003 and 2015) and tying for third (2019). Former WSCC head coach Ken Campbell went into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
While Walters State has a home field with a turf surface and many other amenities and played a fall game at the home of the Tennessee Smokies (Double-A South), there still a junior college baseball mindset.
“We still have the JUCO grind-it-out kind of guys and atmosphere,” says Gobert. “We practice quite a bit. Our mentality is that nothing is every given to us. We have to earn everything we have.”
Gobert, who turns 28 in May, appreciates the amount of time allowed at the junior college level for one-on-one instruction and evaluation.
“It’s that amount of hands-on time you get with each player,” says Gobert. “You’re watching everything and working with them. You get to connect with your players better.
“You make adjustments as needed because of those relationships.”
When Gobert is not involved with baseball activities or his wife, he earns a little extra cash as a Walters State mail courier.
Walters State, which heads into the weekend at 20-2, carries a roster of around 50 players. Among those are redshirts and players who took an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19.
“It’s an older bunch,” says Gobert. It’s big to have those guys around to help the younger (players).”
The Senators tend to use a wide variety of players in mid-week games with those competing for spots in weekend Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Region VII contests.
Gobert was an assistant to Matthew Torrez at Indian Hills. Torrez played for Tracy Archuleta at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Archuleta is now head coach at USI.
Nick is the son of Terry Gobert, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer with more than 800 victores, five state titles and four state runners-up to his credit. The two were featured together in the American Baseball Coaches Association Podcast hosted by Evansville, Ind., native Ryan Brownlee in October 2021.

Nick Gobert (Walters State Community College Photo)
Nick Gobert (Walters State Community College Photo)
Aerial view of the Walters State Community College baseball field in Morristown, Tenn. (Walters State CC Photo)

Purdue opens 2022 season with four-game sweep

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

The state’s nine NCAA Division I baseball teams opened the 2022 this past weekend.
Purdue swept a four-game series against South Dakota State — 5-4, 11-1, 14-3 and 10-7 Friday through Sunday, Feb. 18-20 — in Sugar Land, Texas.
Mike Bolton Jr., Paul Toetz and Cam Thompson all went 4-of-11 (.364) at the plate for the Boilermakers. Toetz belted a pair of home runs. Thompson drove in nine runs. Ty Gill (Valparaiso High School graduate) homered in his first collegiate at-bat in Game 2.
Winning pitchers were right-hander Landon Weins (Frankton), left-hander Jackson Smeltz (McCutcheon), lefty Troy Wansing and righty Kyle Wade (Kokomo).
Ball State (2-2) bested Bucknell 8-7 and Army 10-6 and lost 11-1 to Iowa and 9-0 to Air Force in Charleston, S.C.
Amir Wright (Griffith) went 5-of-15 (.333) and Ryan Peltier 3-of-10 (.300) for the weekend while Hunter Dobbins (Mount Vernon of Fortville) clubbed two home runs in his first collegiate contest (vs. Bucknell) for the Cardinals.
Earning mound wins were lefty Jake Lewis (New Albany) against Bucknell and righty Andre Orselli against Army. Righty Sam Klein (Bloomington North) picked up the save vs. Bucknell.
Indiana State (2-2) won 3-2 against Brigham Young and 9-7 against Marshall and lost 9-3 and 9-8 to Ohio State in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Jordan Schaffer (West Vigo) went 6-of-14 (.429), Mike Sears 4-of-10 (.400) with two homers and four RBIs and Josue Urdaneta 7-of-18 (.389) for the Sycamores.
Winning hurlers were righty Matt Jachec against BYU and righty Brennyn Cutts against Marshall. Righty Connor Fenlong saved both victories.
Notre Dame (2-1) topped Manhattan 17-2 and Stetson 5-3 and lost 5-4 to Delaware in Deland, Fla.
David LaManna went 4-of-6 (.667), Brooks Coetze 5-of-17 (.417) with two homers, Carter Putz 4-of-11 (.364) and Zack Prajzner 4-of-11 (.364) for the Irish.
Winning pitchers were lefty Aidan Tyrell against Manhattan and lefty John Michael Bertrand against Stetson. Righty Ryan McLinskey got the save against the Hatters.
Valparaiso (1-2) lost 13-0 and 4-3 then won 10-8 in a three-game series at Memphis.
Kaleb Hannahs (West Vigo) went 6-of-13 (.462) with two homers and Kyle Schmack (South Central of Union Mills) 4-of-11 (.364) for the Beacons.
Lefty Jake Miller was the winning pitcher and righty Bobby Nowak (Hanover Central) notched the save in the series finale.
Butler (0-3) lost 6-4, 18-1 and 25-12 at Murray State.
Travis Holt went 4-of-10 and Ryan O’Halloran 3-of-8 for the Bulldogs.
Lefty Cory Bosecker (Evansville Central) struck out six in five innings on the mound.
Evansville (0-3) lost 24-6, 6-4 and 7-0 at No. 10 North Carolina State.
Brent Widder went 4-of-12 (.333) and Ty Rumsey (Evansville North) 3-of-10 (.300) for the Purple Aces.
Lefty Michael Parks fanned four in 2 2/3 innings.
Indiana (0-3) lost 9-0, 19-4 and 5-4 (10 innings) at Clemson.
Bobby Whalen went 6-of-14 (.429) and Brock Tibbitts 3-of-7 (.429) while Tyler Doanes, Matthew Ellis and Phillip Glasser homered for the Hoosiers.
Righty Jack Perkins (Kokomo) whiffed eight in 3 2/3 innings and righty Reese Sharp (University) seven in three.
Purdue Fort Wayne (0-4) lost 13-2, 12-2, 6-5 and 8-7 at Georgia State.
Jack Lang (Hamilton Southeastern) went 5-of-14 (.357) with one homer and six RBIs, Alex Evenson 4-of-12 (.333), Cade Nelis (Noblesville) 3-of-9 (.333) and Garret Lake plated five runs for the Mastodons.
In NCAA Division II, the University of Indianapolis (3-0) downed Notre Dame (Ohio) 5-0, 15-14 and 13-3 at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Drew Donaldson drove in four runs in Game 3 and three in Game 2 (when the Greyhounds scored in every frame but the fourth and fifth). Alex Vela (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter) scored four runs in Game 2. Brandon DeWitt scored three runs in Game 2 and plated three in Game 3.
Winning pitchers were lefty Xavier Rivas (Portage) in Game 1, righty Wyatt Phillips (Indian Creek) in Game 2 and righty Logan Peterson in Game 3.
Southern Indiana (3-0) won 19-6, 11-4 and 10-8 at Young Harris (Ga.).
Lucas McNew (Borden) knocked in six runs in Game 1 and scored four in Game 2. Adam Wildeman (Evansville Mater Dei) plated three runs and Ethan Hunter (Terre Haute South Vigo) scored four in Game 2. Daniel Lopez scored three times in Game 3 for the Screaming Eagles.
Winning hurlers were righty Tyler Hutson, lefty Blake Ciuffetelli (Castle) and righty Carter Stamm (Jasper).
Purdue Northwest is slated to open the season Friday, Feb. 25 at McKendree (Ill.).
In NCAA Division III, DePauw (2-1) lost 6-3 to North Central (Ill.) then routed Wilimington (Ohio) 16-0 and Blackburn (Ill.) 25-7 in Carbondale, Ill.
Cameron Allen and Brian May drove in three runs each and Allen, Kyle Boyer and Cameron Macon (home run) scored three apiece against Wilmington for the Tigers.
Against Blackburn, Macon plated five, May and Paul Jennewein three each while Allen, May, Macon and Evan Barnes all crossed the plate three times.
Lefty Michael Vallone and righty Will Lucas were winning pitchers.
While Anderson is 1-2, Hanover (Feb. 22 at Centre), Manchester (Feb. 25 vs. North Central at Grand Park), Wabash (Feb. 25 vs. Heidelberg at Grand Park), Earlham (Feb. 26 vs. Olivet), Franklin (Feb. 26 vs. Albion at Indianapolis Bishop Chatard), Trine (Feb. 26 at Asbury) and Rose-Hulman (Feb. 27 vs. Northern Vermont-Lyndon in Auburndale, Fla.) are nearing their season openers.
In the NAIA, No. 7 Indiana University Southeast (5-6) swept three games at Blue Mountain (Miss.) — 7-4, 14-6 and 9-4 — running the Grenadiers’ win streak to five.
In Game 1, Brody Tanksley plated three runs and head coach Ben Reel became the career wins leader at IUS with 478, surpassing Rick Parr. In Game 2, Marco Romero drove in two runs and scored four. In Game 3, Trevor Campbell knocked in three runs.
Taylor (6-5) downed Siena Heights (Mich.) 12-1, 4-0 and 4-3 and lost 9-3 in Hoover, Ala.
Kade Vander Molen (4 RBIs in Game 1), Bloomington South grad Mason David (homer in Game 2 to support righty and Mishawaka graduate Luke Shively) and Greenwood alum T.J. Bass (3 RBIs to back righty and NorthWood grad Matt Dutkowski in Game 3) were among key contributors for the Trojans.
Goshen (3-3) split four games at Toccoa Falls (Ga.), winning 11-7 and 6-3 in Game 1 and 3 and losing 3-0 and 14-3 in Game 2 and 4.
Camm Nickell (Northridge) is 7-of-18 (.389) with four RBIs on the season for the Maple Leafs.
Saint Francis (6-4) won 10-8 and 4-2 before losing 8-7 and 7-5 at Pikeville (Ky.).
David Miller homered and drove in three runs in Game 1. Sam Pesa (Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger) plated three runs in Game 2.
Indiana University South Bend beat Aquinas (Mich.) 11-7 and lost 15-14 in 10 innings at Grand Park.
Evan Allen (McCutcheon) drove in three runs while Owen Benson and Brenden Bell scored three runs each for the Titans in Game 1. Benson had two RBIs and three runs in Game 2.
Indiana Tech (2-3) beat Midway (Ky.) 5-3 and lost 6-5 to host Georgetown (Ky.).
Jacob Daftari is 7-of-14 (.500 and Manuel Ascanio 8-of-21 (.381) on the season for the Warriors.
Oakland City (5-3) split a doubleheader with Bethel, losing 7-2 and winning 7-6.
Sam Pinckert (Heritage Hills) drove in three runs in the Mighty Oaks’ win.
In the triumph for Bethel (2-8), Alex Stout (Benton Central) socked a three-run homer and wound up with four RBIs.
Marian (6-4) beat Carolina University 11-5 then lost 9-2 to Carolina U., in Winston-Salem, N.C., and 8-4 at No. 5 Tennessee Wesleyan.
Matteo Porcellato collected three hits and scored three runs in the Knights’ win against Carolina.
Righty Damien Wallace (Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter) was the winning pitcher.
Grace (5-7) lost 10-0, 9-5, 2-0 and 12-4 to Saint Xavier (Ill.) in White Pine, Tenn.
Alex Rich (Crown Point) is 17-of-43 (.395) for the Lancers on the season.
Among junior colleges, Nick Kapostasy lofted a walk-off sacrifice fly as Vincennes University (2-3) edged South Suburban (Ill.) 8-7 after beating Marian University’s Ancilla College 15-5.
South Suburban (Ill.) beat MUAC (0-5) by a 17-3 count. All games were played at Vincennes.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through Feb. 20

NCAA D-I
Purdue 4-0
Notre Dame 2-1
Ball State 2-2
Indiana State 2-2
Valparaiso 1-2
Butler 0-3
Evansville 0-3
Indiana 0-3
Purdue Fort Wayne 0-4

NCAA D-II
Indianapolis 3-0
Southern Indiana 3-0
Purdue Northwest 0-0

NCAA D-III
Anderson 1-2
DePauw 0-0
Earlham 0-0
Franklin 0-0
Hanover 0-0
Manchester 0-0
Rose-Hulman 0-0
Trine 0-0
Wabash 0-0

NAIA
Marian 6-4
Saint Francis 6-4
Taylor 6-5
Oakland City 5-3
Indiana University Southeast 5-6
Grace 5-7
Goshen 3-3
Indiana University-Kokomo 3-4
Indiana University South Bend 2-3
Indiana Tech 2-3
Huntington 2-6
Bethel 2-8
Indiana Wesleyan 1-3
Calumet of Saint Joseph 0-0

Junior College
Vincennes 2-3
Marian’s Ancilla 0-5
Ivy Tech Northeast 0-0

Saint Francis slugger Brunson collects six hits in season-opening sweep

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

More Indiana college baseball teams got into the 2022 act this past week.
Saint Francis won 8-4 and 9-3 at Bethel (Tenn.) Sunday, Feb. 6.
Alec Brunson went 6-of-7 with a home run and four runs batted in on the day. Kaden Sullivan, David Miller and Tyler Prince also went deep for the Cougars.
Grace went 3-1 Feb. 4-5 against Trinity International in Hoover, Ala., winning 22-1, 5-1 and 17-2 and losing 3-0.
Chris Griffin (7-of-13 with three RBIs), Alex Rich (6-of-13 with five RBIs), Austin Carr (6-of-15 with a homer and six RBIs), Patrick Danforth (4-of-12 with four RBIs) and Sam Newkirk (4-of-12 with a homer and six RBIs) were among the hitting leaders for the Lancers.
Indiana University-Kokomo opened its season by going 1-3 Feb. 5-6 in Shreveport, La., splitting two games with LSU Shreveport and dropping a pair to Loyola New Orleans.
Oakland City edged Johnson University 11-10 Feb. 6 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Bailey Falkenstien (2-for-5 with a homer and a double) and Treven Madden (1-fo-2 with a double) both knocked in three runs for the Mighty Oaks.
Marian went 1-2 Feb, 4-5 against Truest-Mcconnell in Emerson, Ga. The Knights lost 5-2 and 9-4 and won 4-1. Bryce Davenport went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and two runs scored for Marian in the victory.
Bethel’s games at Champion Christian in Hot Springs, Ark., and Vincennes U.’s contests at Motlow State (Tenn.), were canceled.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through Feb. 6

NCAA D-I
Ball State 0-0
Butler 0-0
Evansville 0-0
Indiana 0-0
Indiana State 0-0
Notre Dame 0-0
Purdue 0-0
Purdue Fort Wayne 0-0
Valparaiso 0-0

NCAA D-II
Oakland City 1-0
Indianapolis 0-0
Southern Indiana 0-0

NCAA D-III
Anderson 0-0
DePauw 0-0
Hanover 0-0
Manchester 0-0
Earlham 0-0
Franklin 0-0
Trine 0-0
Wabash 0-0
Rose-Hulman 0-0

NAIA
Grace 3-1
Saint Francis 2-0
Taylor 2-2
Huntington 1-3
Indiana University-Kokomo 1-3
Bethel 0-0
Calumet of Saint Joseph 0-0
Goshen 0-0
Indiana Tech 0-0
Indiana University South Bend 0-0
Indiana University Southeast 0-0
Indiana Wesleyan 0-0
Purdue Northwest 0-0

Junior College
Ivy Tech Northeast 0-0
Marian’s Ancilla 0-0
Vincennes 0-0

Huntington, Taylor play first games in Arizona; other teams open this month

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

Two NAIA teams got a head start on the rest of the state’s 38 college baseball programs in starting the 2022 baseball season.
Huntington University and Taylor University of the Crossroads League got going in Mesa, Ariz., the Foresters going 1-3 (HU beat Benedictine at Mesa 14-10 in 10 innings Feb. 20 and lost 19-4 to Arizona Christian and 13-9 to Benedictine at Mesa Feb. 21 and 15-3 to Arizona Christian Feb. 22 ) and the Trojans 2-2 (TU beat Kansas Wesleyan 6-2 Feb. 26 and San Diego Christian 20-8 Feb. 27 and lost 7-5 to Arizona Christian Feb. 28 and 10-8 to The Master’s Feb. 29).
Oakland City, Bethel, Grace, Indiana University-Kokomo, Marian Saint Francis, are scheduled to lift the lid Friday, Feb. 4 and Vincennes Saturday, Feb. 5.
For many other teams, the first game of 2022 is a few weeks away. See below:

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through Jan. 30

NCAA D-I
Ball State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Bucknell at Charleston, S.C.
Butler (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Murray (Ky.) State.
Evansville (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at North Carolina State.
Indiana (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Clemson.
Indiana State (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Brigham Young at Port Charlotte, Fla.
Notre Dame (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. Manhattan at Deland, Fla.
Purdue (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 vs. South Dakota State at Sugar Land, Texas.
Purdue Fort Wayne (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Georgia State.
Valparaiso (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Memphis.

NCAA D-II
Oakland City (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Johnson University (Tenn.).
Indianapolis (0-0) —Opens Feb. 18 vs. Notre Dame (Ohio).
Southern Indiana (0-0) — Opens Feb. 18 at Young Harris (Ga.).

NCAA D-III
Anderson (0-0) — Opens Feb. 12 at Sewanee (Tenn.).
DePauw (0-0) — Opens Feb. 19 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Carbondale, Ill.
Hanover (0-0) — Opens Feb. 22 at Centre (Ky.).
Manchester (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 vs. North Central (Ill.) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park).
Earlham (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Olivet (Mich.).
Franklin (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Albion (Mich.) at Chillcothe, Ohio.
Trine (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 at Asbury (Ky.).
Wabash (0-0) — Opens Feb. 26 vs. Heidelberg (Ohio) at Westfield, Ind. (Grand Park).
Rose-Hulman (0-0) — Opens Feb. 27 vs. Northern Vermont-Lyndon at Auburndale, Fla.

NAIA
Taylor (2-2) — Next game Feb. 4 at Tennessee Southern.
Huntington (1-3) — Next game Feb. 11 vs. Ottawa (Kan.) at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Bethel (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Champion Christian (Ark.).
Grace (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 vs. Trinity International (Ill.).
Indiana University-Kokomo (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Louisiana State-Shreveport.
Marian (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Brewton-Parker (Ga.).
Saint Francis (0-0) — Opens Feb. 4 at Bethel (Tenn.).
Indiana Tech (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 vs. Columbia (S.C.) International at Emerson, Ga.
Indiana University South Bend (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Rio Grande (Ohio).
Indiana University Southeast (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Louisiana State-Shreveport.
Indiana Wesleyan (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)
Goshen (0-0) — Opens Feb. 12 at Oakland City.
Calumet of Saint Joseph (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 at Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.).
Purdue Nortwest (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 at McKendree (Ill.).

Junior College
Vincennes (0-0) — Opens Feb. 5 at Motlow State (Tenn.).
Marian’s Ancilla (0-0) — Opens Feb. 11 at Southeastern Illinois.
Ivy Tech Northeast (0-0) — Opens Feb. 25 vs. Jackson (Mich.).

Former UIndy assistant Hutchison now running the baseball show at Lake Erie

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

Landon Hutchison spent five seasons (2017-21) as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Indianapolis.
The former right-handed pitcher graduated from Liberty Union High School in Baltimore, Ohio, then played four seasons at the University of Rio Grande (Ohio). He followed that up with two seasons a Red Storm graduate assistant before UIndy, where he worked primarily with pitchers.
Last July, Hutchison followed former Greyhounds head coach Gary Vaught as the leader of the program at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, 30 miles northeast of Cleveland.
“I’m extremely excited for this opportunity,” says Hutchison, who attended the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. “I can’t thank all the guys who coached with me (including Vaught, Al Ready and Trevor Forde at Indianapolis and Brad Warnimont at Rio Grande).”
While he was still in Indianapolis at the beginning, Hutchison started at Lake Erie in the middle of the summer recruiting season.
“I immediately started hitting the needs,” says Hutchison. “We have a very strong 2022 (recruiting class) and we got the pieces that we needed to be competitive.
“It’s looking bright for the future.”
Besides Ohio, Hutchison counts players from Indiana (Calumet New Tech’s Caleb Deel), California, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Argentina, Canada and Mexico on the published roster.
Hutchison says he wants to carry a large number of players.
“Division II schools typically get more arms and having that depth helps a lot,” says Hutchison.
There is also competition with the team.
“(Players) know that there’s guys that are going to try to take their job and then next year it’s going to be the exact same way,” says Hutchison. “But I’m trying not to over-recruit and be as honest as I can during the recruiting process. The recruiting board is sitting right there for any guy that comes to visit.
“Once that position’s done, that position’s done. I don’t want a situation where I have six shortstops, 18 outfielders or anything like that. Once that (desired) number is hit that class is done.”
Through his involvement with Pastime Tournaments while in Indiana, Hutchison was able to cultivate relationships and identify some talent.
“(Pastime Tournaments president) Tom Davidson was unbelievable in helping me get to where I am now with my career,” says Hutchison. “He knew that was the end goal.”
Like UIndy, Lake Erie is an NCAA Division II school (the Storm are in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference).
The difference for Hutchison is that he now has a hand in all aspects of the team — from scheduling and travel accommodations and all facets of the game. With that in mind, he attended many ABCA Convention sessions on the position player side of things.
“The relationships are a little bit broader now,” says Hutchison, who has hired two graduate assistant and a volunteer coach to help him. “Rather than just the pitching staff and a handful of position players, it’s every guy.
“It’s been my goal to create a great culture and the guys understand that we really care about them. We’re trying to have their best interests with everything we do with the development side of things and education.
“We had one of the highest team GPA’s (last semester) that we’ve had in a long time.”
Hutchison will also be able to use technology and training aids in his new position, including products from Rapsodo, Blast Motion and Driveline.
Lake Erie is to open the 2022 season Feb. 25 in Evansville against the University of Southern Indiana.

Lake Erie College head baseball coach Landon Hutchison at the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago. (Steve Krah Photo)

Oppel welcomes opportunity with Lanesville Swingin’ Eagles

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

Greg Oppel, who was hired as head baseball coach at Lanesville (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School in the fall of 2021, has long been part of the bat-and-ball scene in the southeast part of the state.
A 1987 graduate of North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind., where he earned Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association honorable mention all-state and IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series status as a senior for Cougars coach Danny Smith, left-handed pitcher Oppel went on to play at the Indiana State University-Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) for Screaming Eagles coach Gary Redman. Rotator cuff surgery limited his college playing career to 2 1/2 years.
Darren Oppel, Greg’s cousin, graduated from North Harrison in 1989 and was a first-team all-state shortstop and played in the IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series. He went on to play at the University of Louisville and was a Colorado Rockies scout.
As a baseball coach, Greg Oppel has been an assistant (2008) to Rick Parr and head coach (2009-11) at North Harrison (Cody Johnson was the IHSBCA North/South Series MVP in 2008) and assistant to Grenadiers head coach Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany (2012-15) and assistant to Lions head coach Jason Pepmeier at Salem (Ind.) High School.
It was when Reel was new at IUS and Oppel was on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board that the new formed a friendship.
The idea of building an indoor hitting facility was explored and the process really took off when Oppel became North Harrison head coach. It happened through private donations and matching funds from the Harrison County Community Foundation.
Reel inquired about using the hitting building for his IU Southeast team in winter months.
“I said heck yeah — with one stipulation,” says Oppel. “I want your players and your staff to work our kids out with your knowledge.”
When Oppel joined Reel’s staff he got even more access to his know-how.
“Coach Reel is one of the top baseball minds in the country,” says Oppel. “Sitting in a session and listening to him talk and picking his brain was such a great opportunity for me and still is today.”
Having traveled all over the country following daughter Kyia’s softball exploits, Oppel became head softball coach at North Harrison in her senior year (2017). A torn patellar tendon limited her season and ended her hopes of playing in college.
“She’s handled adversity very well with her knee over a period of time,” says Oppel. “I think it hurt me more than it did her.”
Greg Oppel and joined Kyia Oppel when the middle school special education teacher became head coach at Crawford County High School in Marengo.
“We had a blast,” says Oppel of his time with his daughter and the Wolfpack, which went 8-14 in 2021.
With Christopher Broughton and Jason Sturgeon leading the charge, an indoor facility push was made at Crawford County.
Then came Greg Oppel’s chance to lead Lanesville Swingin’ Eagles baseball. He met four times with athletic director and former baseball head coach Zach Payne before taking the position.
“I wanted to made sure it was the right thing for Lanesville and the right thing for me,” says Oppel. “It’s tight-knit community. It’s almost like a throwback to years ago. It sounds like a cliche’ but they welcomed me with open arms.”
It’s a community that likes its sports and has enjoyed — and has come to expect — baseball success. Lanesville has won five sectionals, including those in 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Regional and semistate titles came in 2016 and 2017. The Eagles were Class 1A state runners-up in 2016 and 1A state champions in 2017.
The Harrison County school with an enrollment around 240 is a member of the Southern Athletic Conference (with Borden, Crothersville, Henryville, New Washington and South Central of Elizabeth).
In 2021, the Eagles were part of an 1A sectional grouping with Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Orleans and South Central (Elizabeth).
Oppel’s assistants for 2022 include Jeff Cockerham, Tyler Cockerham and Aaron Lockman. Jeff Cockerham played at Jeffersonville High School. Tyler Cockerham played for Oppel at North Harrison then at Hanover (Ind.) College. Lockman is 2020 Lanesville graduate.
A campaign to bring an indoor facility to Lanesville is now in the works.
“This will be a win-win for the Lanesville community,” says Oppel. “We are fortunate to have such a backing at Lanesville. The following for baseball alone at Lanesville is astronomical.
“I’m very blessed to have this opportunity.”
Oppel, who is also a 29 1/2-year employee of Ford Motor Company in Louisville, where he builds the Escape and Lincoln Corsair, served 12 years on the North Harrison Babe Ruth League board. He began coaching at the 10U and 12U level.
Says Oppel, “At 14U we had tremendous success because we did everything fundamentally sound with lots of drills and going things at game speed.”

Greg Oppel
Kyia Oppel and Greg Oppel.
Chad Eveslage (left) and Greg Oppel at North Harrison High School.

Hafele, Rock Creek Academy just getting started

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

Rock Creek Community Academy in Sellersburg, Ind., fielded its first baseball team in 2021.
The Jay Hafele-coached Lions played at the junior varsity level and did not participate in the IHSAA tournament. RCCA ended the season with 13 players. More than half of the team had played little or no organized baseball.
“A lot of people came out because they wanted to try it,” says Hafele, who expects the numbers and Baseball I.Q. to climb.
“I think we’re going to have 20 this year,” says Hafele, a 1998 Evansville Harrison High School graduate who played three years of college baseball and is teaching Physical Education, Health and Life Skills to high school and middle school students at the K-12 institution (it became a charter school in 2010). “We’ll have more knowledgeable people than we’ve ever had that played Little League and (baseball’s) been a part of their life.
“We don’t have a field (on-campus) yet, but that’s in the works.”
Rock Creek played and practiced last spring at Silver Creek Township Park, which is less than a mile from the school.
Two public high schools — Silver Creek and Charlestown — are 1.3 and 6.1 miles away, respectively.
More participation means the possibility of more pitchers which will help with the IHSAA pitch count rule.
“Our rule of thumb is let the hitter get himself out,” says Hafele. “Throw strikes. That’s all we need.”
Other concepts that the coach sees as important are sportsmanship, leadership, fun and the ability to move on from mistakes.
“We’re not letting the last play effect your next play,” says Hafele. “I can’t emphasize that enough.
“Just get the next out.”
Hafele hopes his team — which again play a JV slate in 2022 — will be able to scrimmage Charlestown in the preseason to more-prepared for games.
B.J. Paro is one of his assistants and Hafele hopes to have more.
The Lions’ 2021 schedule included Indiana’s Cannelton, Columbus Christian, Crawford County, Henryville, Jennings County, Lanesville, Perry Central, Providence, Scottsburg, Shawe Memorial, Springs Valley and West Washington and Kentucky’s Whitefield Academy.
Rock Creek Community Academy (enrollment around 180) is an independent with no athletic conference affiliation.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. With Rock Creek’s size (about 180 in the top four grades) and many players in football (seven of nine 2021 baseball starters played that sport and Hafele has been on the coaching staff) or soccer, the Lions have not worked out in the fall.
RCCA’s football team practices on-campus, but rents space at Woehrle Athletic Complex, which is five miles from campus in Jeffersonville, Ind., for home games.
An outfielder as a player, Hafele played for head coach Andy Rice at Harrison then for one season for Mike Goedde at the University of Southern Indiana before transferring to John A. Logan College, a National Junior College Athletic Association member in Carterville, Ill., and played one season for Jerry Halstead.
From there, Hafele went to NCAA Division I McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La., but never suffered a shoulder injury and never played for the Cowboys.
He played his final college season for Rick Parr at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
Jay and wife Jill, who also teaches at Rock Creek, have three children — son Cooper (12), daughter Skylar (7) and son Chase (2).

Rock Creek Community Academy’s 2021 baseball team coached by Jay Hafele (back right) and B.J. Paro (back left). (Lowe Sports Media Photo)
Rock Creek Community Academy’s Kendrick Payton and Chris Graham in 2021. (Lowe Sports Media Photo)
Rock Creek Community Academy’s Jonah Cannon in 2021. (Lowe Sports Media Photo)
Rock Creek Community Academy’s Johny Knuckles and Kendrick Payton in 2021. (Lowe Sports Media Photo)
Rock Creek Community Academy’s Jaleb Treat in 2021. (Lowe Sports Media Photo)
Rock Creek Community Academy’s Chris Graham and head baseball coach Jay Hafele in 2021. (Lowe Sports Media Photo)
Rock Creek Community Academy’s Brenden Short in 2021. (Lowe Sports Media Photo)

Former Indiana University player McConnell leading baseball program at Barr-Reeve

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

A former Indiana University baseball player is sharing his experience and knowledge as head coach at Barr-Reeve Middle/High School in the tiny Daviess County town of Montgomery.
Trevor McConnell, who graduated from Bloomington (Ind.) High School South in 2005 and earned his IU degree in December 2008, enjoyed his first on-field season with Barr-Reeve in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic took away 2020. He was an assistant to Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Joe Rademacher during the 2019 season.
Before Barr-Reeve, McConnell spent five seasons as an assistant to Bloomington South head coach Phil Kluesner (2014-18) and five as head coach and athletic director at Eastern Greene (2009-13).
A center fielder in high school, McConnell played for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Grier Werner at Bloomington South and was recruited to play at IU by Bob Morgan.
“(Werner) was an old-school guy,” says McConnell. “He had that football mentality. He wanted physical and mental toughness from his teams and pushed us to take on that mentality because baseball is a game of failure.”
By the time McConnell joined the Hoosiers, Tracy Smith was head coach. He saw action in 65 games from 2006-08 and counted future big leaguer Josh Phegley as a teammate. Michael Earley went on to be a college coach (he’s now at Texas A&M).
“I learned a ton from Coach Smith in my time around the IU program,” says McConnell, who picked up pointers in practice planning, strategy and all facets of running a baseball team. “(Werner and Smith) are responsible for molding my coaching mindset more than anybody.”
McConnell sustained a career-ending arm injury and served as a volunteer assistant to Smith in the fall of 2008.
By then, McConnell saw his path as a teacher and coach and took the job the Eastern Greene positions at 23.
McConnell played summer ball for Kluesner with the Bloomington Wizards and accepted an invitation to coach with him.
“He welcomed me with open arms,” says McConnell of Kluesner. “He’s one of my best friends.”
At Barr-Reeve, McConnell teaches junior high school education and has a coaching staff that features pitching coach Rademacher, varsity assistant/infield coach Nathan Lester and head junior varsity coach Joe Cummings. All three have been head coaches at the high school level — Rademacher in two stints at Barr-Reeve, Lester at Barr-Reeve and Cummings at Pike Central.
There’s also JV assistant Ryan Graber, who played for Rademacher and Lester, former Vincennes Lincoln and University of Southern Indiana national championship player Craig Heinz, Beau Sluder, Trevor Yoder and Kraig Knepp. Chris Winkler runs Barr-Reeve’s junior high baseball program (Grades 7 and 8).
“I appreciate having experienced guys with me in the dugout,” says McConnell, who works with Vikings hitters and outfielders. “I have no ego. Joe Rademacher has been a good mentor for me. He’s been super gracious.
“He told me has still has a fire for the game and would like to be around if you want me.”
The Vikings play on Joe Rademacher Field. An old agriculture building was recently converted into a hitting/training facility for Barr-Reeve baseball and softball.
“We have four full-length (batting) cages,” says McConnell. “We are spoiled.”
A T-ball league is hosted by Barr-Reeve. Coach Pitch leagues start at Chuck Harmon Little League in nearby Washington, Ind.
The Viking Baseball Club sponsors teams of local students from second grade through 12U.
“They play together as a group with ‘Barr Reeve’ across their chest,” says McConnell, who attends and runs some VBC practices in the winter to show players the way he does it at the high school. A three-week fall camp for Grades 2-6 ran by McConnell and his assistants and players just concluded.
An IHSAA Limited Contact Period goes from Aug. 30-Oct. 16. Starting after Labor Day, McConnell has been leading close to 20 baseball players two days a week. Those practices are on Mondays and Wednesdays and many also participate in basketball activities with Josh Thompson on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thompson guided Barr-Reeve to an IHSAA Class 1A state championship in 2020-21 and a state runner-up finished in 2018-19.
“I like the fact we can instruct and be more hands-on with our players,” says McConnell of the current off-season set-up. “There’s less quantity but the quality is a lot better.
“We can coach them up.”
Barr-Reeve (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Blue Chip Conference (with Loogootee, North Knox, Northeast Dubois, Shoals, South Knox, Vincennes Rivet, Washington Catholic and Wood Memorial). In recent years, Washington Catholic has not fielded a baseball team.
In 2001, the Vikings were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Loogootee, North Daviess (host site), Shoals and Vincennes Rivet. Barr-Reeve has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2019 — Rademacher’s last season as head coach. A senior on that ’19 team — Gage Wilson — went on to Vincennes (Ind.) University for baseball.
The youngest child of former college football coach Bob McConnell and wife Barbara, Trevor was born in Amherst, Mass., when his father was on the staff at the University of Massachusetts.
About the time Trevor went into kindergarten, his family (including older brother Ryan) had moved to Nashville with Bob McConnell joining the football staff at Vanderbilt University.
From 1995-2001, the McConnells were in Baton Rouge, La., and Bob was coaching at Lousiana State University.
Trevor McConnell’s freshmen baseball season was spent as a varsity role player at Parkview Baptist High School, where Eagles head coach and Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee M.L. Woodruff was on the way to one of his 11 state championships. His 27-season record was 603-163-2.
“I learned a lot of fundamentals,” says McConnell of Woodruff. “He was super-organized and super-efficient.”
The McConnells wound up in Bloomington when Bob was hired by Hoosiers head football coach Gerry DiNardo, who also coached at Vandy and LSU.
After years of the gypsy lifestyle of a college football coach, Bob McConnell went into financial services and retired last fall. Barbara McConnell is a Muncie, Ind., native. Ryan McConnell (38) resides in Baton Rouge.
Trevor (35) and wife Jessica both went to Bloomington South and began dating at IU. They have been married since 2009. The couple have two children — second grader Nolan (who turns 8 in October) and kindergartener Lauren (5).

The McConnells (from left): Jessica, Trevor, Nolan and Lauren.
The McConnells (clockwise from upper left): Trevor, Jessica, Nolan and Lauren.
Trevor (left) and Ryan McConnell.
Trevor McConnell (30).
Trevor McConnell directs traffic.
Trevor McConnell swings the fungo.

Michigan middle infielder Bertram spending summer with Lafayette Aviators

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

Riley Bertram is spending the last summer before his final college baseball season in the same town where he began playing the game as a boy.
The 21-year-old switch-hitter has been leading off and playing shortstop for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators at new Loeb Stadium.
Through 17 games for head coach/manager Michael Keeran’s Aviators, Bertram was hitting .273 (15-of-55) with two doubles, eight runs batted in, 12 runs and four stolen bases.
Bertram, a 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate who has played three seasons (2019-21) at the University of Michigan (he started 31 of the 37 games in which he played in 2021 at second base), was born in Noblesville, Ind., and introduced to the game while father Vince Bertram was the principal at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
“I’m a middle infielder,” says Riley. “I play both second base and shortstop — whatever position the team I’m on needs.”
A year ago, Bertram was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Riley is the youngest of Project Lead The Way president and CEO Vince and Western Governors University advisor Jill Bertram’s four boys, behind Josh, Ryan and Drew.
Josh Betram played basketball and baseball at Lafayette Jeff.
Ryan Bertram played three baseball seasons at Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School and one at Zionsville Community. He was part of the University of Southern Indiana’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 2014 and later an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University and director of operations at Campbell University in Buis Creek, N.C.
Drew Bertram played at Purdue and was a manager for the Boilermakers when Mark Wasikowski was head coach. Drew is a Purdue graduate and is going to graduate school at the West Lafayette school.
It was in the back yard with his brothers that Riley first experimented with switch-hitting. He has been doing it in games since about 13.
At Michigan, Bertram has played in 70 games (49 as a starter) and is hitting .236 (43-of-182) with 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. On defense, he has 95 putouts, 136 assists, five errors and a .979 fielding percentage. He led the team in stolen bases in 2021, swiping eight in nine attempts.
Bertram has played three seasons for Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and assistant Nick Schnabel. Pitching coach Steve Merriman and volunteer coach Brandon Inge joined the staff for the 2021 slate.
“I’m very fortunate to have this coaching staff,” says Bertram. “They know what they’re talking about.
“Coach Bakich is awesome to play for. He is trying to find the best for you. He knows everything about your family. He has your back. He’s someone you could reach out if you need to get something off your chest. He does a good job of building a culture.”
Schnabel works with Michigan infielders, including Bertram.
“He knows the game at a higher level than a lot of people,” says Bertram of Schnabel.
Merriman has made a point of bonding with all UM players and not just pitchers.
“At the college level you need to have at least a baseline relationship with all players if you want to have a culture,” says Bertram. “Everytime Coach Inge talks you have to listen because whatever he’s going to say is going to beneficial to your performance.
“He keeps things loose. He’s bought into the culture Coach Bakich and Coach Schnabel have built.”
Bertram is on pace toward a Communication and Media degree from Michigan in the spring of 2022. He was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2021.
Riley played Little League baseball in Evansville, Ind., when his father served as superintendent of schools. After the family moved to Zionsville, he played for Zionsville Baseball Club and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 15U to 18U, playing for teams with Dan Held, Sean Laird, Jered Moore and Jeremy Honaker as coaches.
Bertram played four seasons for Moore at Zionsville Community and was part of IHSAA Class 4A sectional champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, regional winners in 2016 and 2017, a semistte title-taker in 2016 and state runner-up in 2016.
In 2018, Bertram was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-State selection and IHSBCA North-South All-Star as a third baseman as well as a Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American.
“I’ve always been close with Coach Moore and his family,” says Bertram. “Jered was not only was my coach, but I’ve reached out to him for many things.
Last week I texted him about hitting facilities in (the Lafayette) area and he hooked me up.
“It’s a really strong relationship.”

Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)
Riley Bertram (University of Michigan Photo)

Dix ‘walks in his purpose’ with Region Legion Expos, Calumet New Tech

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

Ray Dix III is using baseball and education to help youngsters in northwest Indiana.
A 2001 Merrillville High School graduate and former East Chicago American Legion Post 369 player, Dix guides to diamond programs for the Region Legion Expos (E.C. Post 369/Lake Station Post 100) and Calumet New Tech High School in Gary.
“Post 369 is near and dear to my heart,” says Dix. “Bob Castillo, (father) Alonzo Olvera and (son) Juan Olvera kept it going for a long time.”
Dix expresses his gratitude to the late Joe Kusiak.
“My organization does not exist without Joe,” says Dix of the man who died in 2019. “He made it his personal mission to make sure some inner city kids got the same opportunities as suburban kids.”
The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost.
“We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.”
Dix notes that there was an Chamber of Commerce event with Gary native and former big leaguer and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer LaTroy Hawkins.
Initiatives by the Gary SouthShore RailCats, Home Field Advantage and MLB’s Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) were gaining traction before the pandemic.
The Region Legion Expos are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Each player is charged $200, but can sell $1 raffle tickets throughout the season to off-set the cost.
“We don’t turn kids away because of money,” says Dix. “I accept anything they come up with.”
The 2021 season marks the fifth for the Region Legion Expos and there are senior (19U) and junior (17U) squads. While recent rains have taken games away, both teams scheduled around 20 regular-season games.
Most senior games have been played at the Kenny Lofton Baseball Complex in East Chicago with junior games at the former Lake Station Little League.
In the future, Dix expects that the Region Legion Expos will play home games at Calumet New Tech (the field was built on the campus just a few years ago) and renovated E.J. Block Stadium in East Chicago. Tim Stoddard played for Post 369 and East Chicago Washington High School (later consolidated into East Chicago Central) at Block on his way to the majors.
RLE are in the Michiana League along with Bristol Post 143, Highland Post 80, South Bend Post 151 and Valparaiso Post 94 in Indiana, Stevensville Post 568 and Three Oaks Post 204 in Michigan and Palos Park Post 1993 in Illinois.
“We hope to grow the league,” says Dix, who is assisted by East Chicago Central High School head coach Jimmy Flores. “We stay away from days that Babe Ruth games are scheduled to give kids more chances to play baseball.”
The plan is for league coaches to meet this fall to map out an even larger schedule for next season.
“We hope to get more Legion teams,” says Dix. “We’re growing every year. We have more junior teams.
“When I played 20 years ago almost everybody had a Legion team. It’s great competition. We don’t see a bad team all summer. Nobody’s bad. That’s what I love about it.”
The 2021 junior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Post 100 Region Riptide, South Bend Post 151, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is scheduled for July 8-11 at Hobart.
The senior sectional (Post 369/100 Region Legion Expos, Highland Post 80, South Haven Post 502 Blaze and Valparaiso Post 94) is slated for July 15-18 at Highland.
While the COVID-19 pandemic took away what was going to be Dix’s first season at Calumet in the spring of 2020, the Legion team had an abbreviated season without a state tournament last summer.
“We were wiping down everything,” says Dix. “We had no (COVID) cases.”
The ’21 Calumet New Tech Warriors had 15 players on the roster. Dix was assisted by former Gary Roosevelt and Bowman Academy head coach Kevin Bradley (who had Dix as an assistant at Bowman) plus Daniel Wendrickx and scorekeeper Steve Heck.
This week after the Region Legion Expos played Palos Heights the two sides went through an actual handshake line — something not allowed during the high school season in the spring though teams tipped their caps at the end of games.
“I didn’t know how much I missed the handshake line,” says Dix. “We show each other respect for what you just went through.
“Even at the MLB level, guys shake hands with (their teammates).”
The Region Legion Expos have sent Gary West graduates Antonio Reed (Clark Atlanta University) and Zamare Vincent (Calumet College of Saint Joseph), Merrillville alums Thomas Butler (Ancilla College and University of Indianapolis), Darius Kendall (Purdue University Northwest) and Thomas Smith (Bethel University) and Portage grads Shayne Devine (Trine University) and Kody McGuire (Goshen College) on to college baseball while Christian Ayala (Hammond Bishop Noll) and Dylan Coty (Merrillville baseball and basketball) have received offers.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have some talented players,” says Dix, who has watched others stay out of trouble, go on to trade schools and become productive citizens.
Dix, son of former Gary and current Fort Wayne minister Ray Dix Jr., and retired secretary Jewel Cody and grandson of former steelworker and court bailiff Ray Dix Sr., makes sure players are making their grades and get SAT preparation assistance.
He is three semesters from his education degree, which he will likely complete at Purdue University Northwest.
“If I get to teach high school and coach baseball I will not work for the rest of my life,” says Dix. “I will be walking in my purpose and be forever grateful.”
Dix says area youth coaches and organizers at all levels try to stick to together for the good of the kids.
“The goal to always have a safe space,” says Dix. “We all see the writing on the wall.
“We don’t want to see it die.”
It’s people like Bentley Ellis at Glenn Park Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken in Gary and Tracy Brough, president of Calumet Region Little League, which in 2021 included Duneland Park, Lake Station and Roosevelt Park and had about 150 players at all ages. Bradley, Ellis and Brough are on the CRLL board.
“We’re a feeder group for American Legion ball,” says Brough. “Players age out of Little League (4 to 16) and can keep playing.”
During the offseason, a group called the Gary United Baseball Collaborative was formed to meet in the offseason and discuss options for area youth.
“We see how can we increase the opportunities for kids with their skill levels, training and experiences,” says Brough. “We cross-post (on social media) and communicate in the offseason so (players and their families) know what’s going on.”
At Merrillville High, Dix played two seasons for Fenton Macke and two for Zac Wells.
“Other than with Coach Castillo, I have not learned more on the mental side of baseball than I did in the few conversations I had with Coach Macke,” says Dix. “He had an amazing way of getting young people to think the game. This is how you stay in the lineup.
“That is what you want once you get to the high school level and beyond. You find your niche and work it and that trickles to life. That stuck with me as a 14-year-old kid.”
Dix admires Macke and current Washington Township head baseball coach Randy Roberts — men who know what its like to each at the middle school level and coach high schoolers.
“If you have them from sixth grade on, they already know what you want (in high school),” says Dix, who plans add a middle school baseball at Calumet in the fall. “They know the style.
“Everything is about relationship-building.”
Wells, who also coached Ray’s little brother Rahdric Dix (Merrillville Class of 2007 who went on to play at Butler University and the University of Southern Indiana), was a three-sport start for the Pirates who had the ability to break down the intricacies of an athletic task.
“Absolute tactician,” says Dix of Wells. “He had that Innate ability to show you the technical part of the game.
“I use his hitting methods to this day.”
Rahdric was Ray III’s first trainee and he’s had many since. Dix indicates that he would like to eventually be able to direct a program that includes players as young as 8.
“It’s about being able to create uniformity and consistency,” says Dix.

Ray Dix III (left) celebrates a Region Legion championship with his team.
Ray Dix III, Gary Chamber of Commerce president Chuck Hughes and former big league pitcher LaTroy Hawkins appear at a Chamber event prior to Gary native Hawkins being inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Baseball organizers in northwest Indiana collaborate as evidenced by Calumet Area Little League president Tracy Brough (left) and Region Legion Expos manager and Calumet New Tech High School head coach Ray Dix III.
Ray Dix III at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., home of the indepedent pro baseball Gary SouthShore RailCats. He is the manager of the Region Legion Expos and head coach at Calumet New Tech High School.