Dustin Murray was hired this summer as the new head baseball coach at Mt. Vernon (Ind.) High School. His focus for the Wildcats this fall and winter is adding muscle and being in-shape. “The biggest thing that I’m going to bring is off-season expectations in the weight room,” says Murray, who is a certified strength and conditioning coach and a first-year Physical Education and Health teacher at Mt. Vernon Junior High School. “This is the part of the year where we’re going to get stronger. “We want to have accountability when it comes to athletic development.” Lifting at 6:15 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays have been drawing 25 athletes per session. “What we’re doing is baseball-specific,” says Murray. “But it’s helpful for all sports.” Murray has been facility director for 13 years at Athletic Republic Evansville, a sports performance training center. A few years ago, Murray did some volunteer work for Mt. Vernon head coach Paul Quinzer and takes over after Quinzer retired following the 2022 season after leading the program since 2002. Mt. Vernon (enrollment around 625) is a member of the Pocket Athletic Conference (with Boonville, Forest Park, Gibson Southern, Heritage Hills, North Posey, Pike Central, Princeton, Southridge, South Spencer, Tecumseh, Tell City and Washington). The Wildcats were part of an IHSAA Class 3A sectional grouping in 2022 with Boonville, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Memorial and Heritage Hills. Mt. Vernon has won 17 sectional titles — the last in 2015. Murray’s coaching staff includes Luke Harris and Derek Foncannon. Another assistant may be added. A exciting addition at Mt. Vernon is an indoor training facility near the football field. There will be batting cages that will benefit both baseball and softball. Construction on the building began a few weeks ago and could be available in late spring or early summer of 2023. Murray says there has also been discussion of adding a turf infield on the Athletic Park diamond. Mt. Vernon Cub Baseball offers playing time for eight graders and seventh graders in the spring. Murray was an assistant to Steve Ricketts at Evansville Mater Dei in 2019 and 2020. In 2018, he coached for Norris City-Omaha-Enfield in Illinois. He lives in Carmi, Ill., with wife Brittany, daughter Taytem (7) and son Jagger (1). Prior to his Norris City-Omaha-Enfield stint, he was involved strength and conditioning at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville from 2010-18 after coaching baseball 2006-10. He landed with the Screaming Eagles when following Tracy Archuleta. A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Murray graduated from Bishop James Mahoney High School in 2000. He attended Prairie Baseball Academy while going to Lethbridge Community College. After two years, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside where Archeluta was the coach. An “international” rule allowed him to play five years of college baseball, including three at UWP. He also helped coach the Rangers after his playing days. “I’ve never seen him have an ‘off’ day,” says Murray of Archuleta, who has won three NCAA Division II national titles at USI and is leading the Screaming Eagles into NCAA Division I status. “Every time he stepped on the field in was with intent. “He is always looking to better his program. He’s always high energy and ready to go in everything he does.” As the part of honored teams, Murray is in athletic halls of fame at both the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (2016) and the University of Southern Indiana (2020).
Mark Walther helps run a business dedicated to the improvement of those who move and compete, particularly those in baseball, softball, football and golf. He is the Director of Operations at Pro X Athlete Development, which is at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. “I wear a lot of hats here,” says Walther, a former collegiate and professional pitcher. “There isn’t much that I don’t do here.” Walther, 33, started as a lead instructor and taught velocity programs for pitchers and position players and gave pitching lessons. As Director of Operations, he is charged with everything from scheduling cages and turf time to making sure machines are in order to the cleanliness of the facility. He makes sure financials and daily reporting lines up with what’s coming into Pro X. After coaching at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and the University of Indianapolis, Walther worked briefly for Bullpen Tournaments at Grand Park and still helps with that company while also serving as the commissioner of the College Summer League at Grand Park, which had its third season in 2022. The CSL came about out of players needing a place to compete and train (at Pro X) with many leagues being shut down in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of athletes had spring seasons that were cut short or didn’t start at all. “We had a lot of time on our hands,” says Walther. “Both of our businesses were shut down about the time (Indiana) opened up (from the lockdown) is when we were able to open up the league.” Walther says he was one of six people who created the CSL and other people were brought in to make it a reality. “To start up a league like that you want high-profile players,” says Walther. “It’s tough to get high-profile players if they’ve never heard of your league before. “Right way we wanted to be able to compete with the Northwoods, the Prospect and the Coastal Plain. I don’t know if anybody’s ever going to compete with the Cape, but we wanted to be up there.” Walther says getting the amount of players and talent that the CSL did (in 2020) is the whole reason it still exists. “We just want to make sure that the product we’re putting out there is good for college players as a whole,” says Walther. “It’s good for their development in games and while they’re training (at Pro X) and getting better. “We want to meet every ask of a college coach. If they have a redshirt and they need them ready for sophomore year when they return to school then we can get them 30, 40, 50 innings. If they want them to throw 20 innings and two innings a week in relief, we’ll follow that, too. “That’s really what’s set the College Summer League apart.” Over the past two years, Walther’s commissioner responsibilities have included finding and getting commitments from coaches, recruiting and placing players and taking care of everything from payments to jersey sizes to host families. He coordinates gameday operations and hires sports information interns for the eight-team league. Those positions are posted in November and December with interviews coming in January and February. Walther grew up on a farm on the west side of Kankakee, Ill., and is a 2007 graduate of Herscher (Ill.) High School, where his head coach was Eric Regez. His junior year, Walther was the last one to make cuts for the Tigers varsity and helped his team as a right-handed reliever. As a senior, he was a starter. “I played the underdog throughout my entire college career,” says Walther, who worked hard to grow his knowledge base while improving his athletic skill set. “I was a P.O. (Pitcher Only) before P.O. was even a thing. I think I had seven career varsity at-bats. “I just kept working at it.” Mark is the son of Eugene and Beth Walther and is about six years younger than brother Todd Walther. Eugene Walther died of brain cancer when Mark was 18. “Going into college that pushed me forward,” says Walther. “It always gave me something to work for: Trying to make him proud.” Walther showed up at walk-on tryouts at Parkland. “I wasn’t a preferred walk-on or anything,” says Walther. “I found a way to earn a spot.” The Cobras coaching staff changed Walther’s arm slot from overhand to sidearm/submarine. “That gave me a whole new life in college baseball,” says Walther, who was frequently used as a freshman and was on scholarship as a sophomore. The latter team won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championship. After two years at Parkland playing for Mitch Rosenthal and Matt Kennedy, Walther transferred to NCAA Division II University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. He came out of the bullpen for Tracy Archuleta’s Screaming Eagles (which won an NCAA Division II national crown in 2010). “I tried to just extend the game and get us to the next guy,” says Walther. “My job was to get us out of jams. There’s not better feeling in the world than coming into the game with the bases loaded and one out and you’re trying to get a ground ball. I lived for those moments. “Being out there when the adrenaline’s pumping, I’ve yet to find anything to match it.” After pitching at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., Todd Walther wound up on the baseball operations side with the Texas Rangers. Mark used the connection to his advantage. “I was able to bounce ideas off of him when thing weren’t going my way in bullpens or games,” says Walther. He got to see video of major league pitchers like Cody Bradford, Darren O’Day and Pat Neshek and could study their mechanics, grips and release points. Walther was on a path to become a Physical Education teacher and high school coach when a curriculum change at USI that would have taken him longer to get his degree caused him to change his major to Sport Management. “I started learning more about facility management and running a sports business,” says Walther, who took classes on sports marketing and sports law — things that help him in his position at Pro X. But Walther did pursue coaching out of college. He was an assistant at Parkland for a year and helped Kennedy with outfielders, operations and recruiting. He started what turned out to be a four-year stint at the UIndy as a volunteer learning from Greyhounds pitching coach Jordan Tiegs and serving for head coaches Gary Vaught and Al Ready. When Tiegs left for Indiana State University, Walther took became pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. Tiegs is now Drector of Pitching Research and Development for the Rangers — Todd Walther’s former job “I loved college baseball,” says Mark Walther. “I loved coaching it. “I really loved the recruiting aspect of college. (Players) need to come to us because we’re going to do a better job of developing them as a player. “I’m very appreciate of Coach Vaught and Coach Ready for everything they did for me.” Walther then went into tech recruiting for three months and decided he wanted to get back into baseball. Pro X has just launched into the travel world with its Phoenix softball teams. While travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls, Indiana Nitro and Indiana Prospects, partner with Pro X, there is currently no plans to field travel baseball teams under the Pro X banner. “Travel baseball really wasn’t a thing when I grew up,” says Walther. “I played community baseball until I was 16 years old. Shortly after that it began to grow a little more.” His first experience came when the Indiana Bulls and others brought teams to play fall exhibition games his first year at Parkland. Walther notes that he was lucky enough to be on a winning team from age 10 on. But that was not the case in his early community baseball days. “I got put on a terrible team,” says Walther. “I had to find a way to try to help the team win and to help players develop themselves and rely on our coaches to do the same. “Depending on where your talent is you can be put on an elite team and rarely ever have to deal with failure, losing or any kind of adversity and learn to overcome that. “Being on winning teams is also a positive because you learn what it takes to win. Whether you’re on the field or not you can find ways to help the team win.” Walther says travel ball is all about finding the right fit for you as a player. “You want to go where you have a chance to play or have a chance to compete for playing time,” says Walther. “You should never shy away from competing and trying to beat someone out to earn playing time. “In the game of baseball you’re going to have guys on the bench no matter what. It’s what type of bench guys you have. Do you have guys who are going to work and push themselves and the people that are technically in front of them? Or are they going to just roll over and complain until they move on or join another team?” Players should make sure the team will be doing what they want to do. Will it be mostly local tournaments are really hitting the road? Is the coaching staff going to help develop them as a player? Among the things coming up at Pro X are “Hard 90” classes with about 30 minutes each of hitting, defense and speed and agility. In September, the pitching academy and elite training academy for offense and defense cranks up. Pro X — with its staff of instructors including Jay Lehr, trainers and medical professionals and former big leaguer Joe Thatcher as president — is also an off-season place to train for professionals, including major leaguers Tucker Barnhart, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon and minor leaguers Parker Dunshee and Collin Ledbetter. Rodon came to Pro X while doing rehab from Tommy John surgery. “He learned a lot about the body and how it moves and how to become efficient on the mound and use his lower half to try to stay as healthy as possible,” says Walther. “We just do whatever we can to service them whether that’s completely help them with their program or stay out of their way and let them use the weight room.”
Harrison Pittsford is soaking up the knowledge of veterans while getting in his summer reps as a first-year player for the South Bend Royals, members of men’s wood bat leagues in both South Bend and Fort Wayne. At 20, Pittsford is younger than most of his Royals teammates. That includes 53-year-old Jayson Best. “It’s cool learning from guys like Bestie,” says Pittsford, who completed his second year at NCAA Division III Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., in the spring. “I see how they play the game. “It’s a great experience playing with those guys.” Best, who was born in Lafayette, Ind., played professional baseball from 1989-97. He ascended to Double-A in the Minnesota Twins organization as a pitcher and later was head baseball coach at Goshen (Ind.) College. He pitched a no-hitter for the Royals in Mishawaka, Ind., on July 10. Pittsford, a 2020 graduate of Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Ind., comes up to play mostly weekend doubleheaders with former GC hitting star and current Eastern (Greentown) head coach Erik Hisner-managed Royals and Manchester teammate/roommate Hunter Aker (a South Bend Clay High School graduate). While he does some catching, Pittsford is getting playing time in the outfield since he expects to be there much of the time at Manchester. The Royals are to compete in a National Amateur Baseball Federation regional in Fort Wayne July 28-30. The top two finishers move on to the NABF World Series Aug. 2-5 in Battle Creek, Mich. Pittsford was named to the 2022 all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team at designated hitter. The righty swinger played in 30 games (28 starts) and hit .327 (33-of-101) with six home runs, eight doubles, 29 runs batted in, 27 runs scored and a 1.002 OPS (.418 on-base percentage plus .584 slugging average). Rick Espeset competed his 26th season as Manchester head coach in 2022. “Espy got my attention in the recruiting process,” says Pittsford. “His success and longevity eye-catching for me.” Espeset’s Spartans have won 619 games with six national tournament appearances, including two trips to the D-III World Series (2004 and 2013). As much as Pittsford appreciates all the knowledge that Espeset shares, he is also grateful for the insights on the mental approach. “We’re taking time to detach from baseball with breathing and mindfulness,” says Pittsford. As a D-III program, Manchester conducts four weeks of fall practice with the whole team and coaches. Players are then on their own for a few months until everyone reconvenes shortly before the start of the season. “Nothing’s really forced on us,” says Pittsford. “If guys want to get better they are going to get better. I get motivated seeing my teammates working out. “We have good leadership from underclassmen.” A Sport Management major, Pittsford was named Academic all-HCAC in 2022. “I want to stay involved in sports in some capacity,” says Pittsford of his post-college path. “That could be coaching, running a sports facility or being an athletic director. I want to be involved in sports and make a difference for kids and make sure the next generation has the same opportunities I had coming up. “Sports can teach you a lot of life lessons like building character and making friendships.” Born in Bloomington, Ind., and growing up in Ellettsville, Pittsford participated in baseball and basketball through Richland Bean Blossom Youth Sports and was also part of Monroe County Youth Football Association. He was in travel ball with the Ellettsville Explosion, Diamond Dynamics and then Tier Ten. It was with Diamond Dynamics that Pittsford met coach/instructor Tony Kestranek. “He was passionate about baseball,” says Pittsford of Kestranek. “He taught us when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.” At Edgewood, Pittsford played four years each of football and baseball and two of basketball. A special teams player as a freshman, he was the Mustangs’ starting center for three seasons. Brian Rosenburgh was defensive coordinator Pittsford’s freshman year then head coach for the last three. “I loved him as a person and a coach,” says Pittsford of Rosenburgh, who was also a Physical Education teacher at Edgewood. An football coach was Mychal Doering. “He’s an amazing guy,” says Pittsford of the father of classmate Izaiah Doering and JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) specialist at Edgewood. “He was high-energy and he motivated you. He was always checking on people outside of school and he taught me about life and handling the ups and down. “He’s going through chemo (for cancer). It’s cool to see how he’s battling through that.” Pittsford considered playing college football, but decided to go with his first love of baseball. Besides, at 6-foot, 230 pounds he is considered to be undersized for a college lineman. Bob Jones, who has been a Business teacher for more than 40 years and head baseball coach for 36, passed along many diamond lessons to Pittsford. “He knows a lot of baseball,” says Pittsford of Jones, who went into the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame last week. “It’s nice to learn from a guy who’s been around the game for so long.” One of Jones’ more than 500 victories came during the first game of 2019 — a season that ended with the Mustangs finishing as IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up. Playing in a tournament at Vincennes University, Edgewood fell behind 11-0 to Terre Haute North Vigo after four innings. The Mustangs chipped away and eventually won 20-18 in a game that was played in a steady drizzle. “It was a pretty crazy game,” says Pittsford, who started at catcher and batted No. 2 that day and drove in two runs. Later moved to the No. 9 hole, it was there that Pittsford smacked a walk-off home run against West Vigo in the semifinals of the Owen Valley Sectional. Several other Edgewood players wound up playing college baseball, including Class of 2019’s Joe Kido (Indiana State University), Ethan Vecrumba (Indiana University), Cooper Thacker (University of Southern Indiana) and Blake Deckard (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology), Class of 2020’s Pittsford and Sam Kido (Indiana University South Bend) and Class of 2021’s Luke Hayden (Indiana University). Satoshi Kido — father of Mac, Joe and Sam — was an Edgewood assistant in 2019 and has been Pittsford’s hitting coach since he was 7 or 8. “He’s helped me so much with my swing over the years,” says Pittsford. “He always knows how to fix my swing when I get in a slump.” Pittsford spent much of 2021 dealing with a torn right shoulder labrum. Harrison is the youngest of 1986 Edgewood alums Jay and Cheryl Pittsford’s two sons. Alex Pittsford (25) is a graduate of Edgewood (2016) and Wabash College (2020) and is now pursing his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame. He was in football and swimming in high school. Jay Pittsford taught English for 19 1/2 years and then served as an assistant principal. Cheryl Pittsford is an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Physician’s Assistant.
Adam Enright is immersed in college baseball. The Munster (Ind.) High School and University of Southern Indiana graduate is in his second stint head coach of NAIA member Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., and manages the Northwest Indiana Oilmen in the summer wood bat Northern League. Enright managed the East to a 5-4 10-inning win over the West in the 2022 NL All-Star Game July 12 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. He’s been the in the circuit formerly known as the Midwest Collegiate League for eight years. What brings Enright back? “The people in the organization and the players you get to interact with over the summer,” says Enright, 33. “You see a pretty wide range of players from all levels of college baseball that go to school all over the country. It’s an interesting dynamic.” Enright takes the opportunity to pick the brains of these players. “They’ve all got good information for me,” says Enright. “I ask them how they do things in games and practices and how they run their programs. “As far as information goes, if it’s not nailed to the ground, you can have at it. We try to take all the good stuff that we can.” Enright has witnessed an era in college baseball where the Transfer Portal is as active as ever. It’s been fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic where many players have been given extra years of eligibility. “All these student-athletes, they want to play,” says Enright. “They want to go somewhere they fit in and where they’re going to get a chance to grow, develop and actually play.” The added eligibility has led to more players extending their time in college, taking spots that might have been filled by other players. The Northern League — and other summer college loops — are full of players in the portal and seeking a landing spot. “In my 12 years in college baseball I’ve never seen anything like this as far as how late into the summer it is and a lot of players are waiting or trying to find out where they’re going,” says Enright. “It’s made a very interesting recruiting landscape for us all. “It changes the timing of it a ton. In the past because of supply and demand that colleges had to players wanting those spots, you could put a little more pressure on players to make decisions and put more of a timeline on them — like you have two weeks to make a decision. “Now, it’s not as advantageous to do that because there are so many good players who have to wait longer based on opportunities they might find elsewhere.” Enright understands the stress this causes for players and coaches. “There’s less time to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s and admissions and all those things,” says Enright. “But it will shake itself out.” He also subscribes to the same notion as he did before the explosion of transfers. “I’ve always believed that everyone ends up where they belong,” says Enright. “(That is) if they do their homework and they make sure that where they’re going is a place that they’re 100 percent committed to before they go and they’re not jumping at the first offer.” Enright played for Tracy Archuleta at Southern Indiana and was chatting recently with the Eagles head coach. “He said something that made sense,” says Enright. “We’ve had one relatively normal season of college baseball that didn’t have a whole lot of COVID rules and things attached to it. Players transferring for next year need to be in a place where they’re not going to need to or want to transfer again. That’s got to be the driving force for not only their decisions but our decisions as coaches to take guys on. “Some schools might take more than they need and (players) will be right back in that situation where they’re not playing and getting the opportunities and want to transfer again. We as coaches need to make sure the guys — and especial the Transfer Portal guys — are satisfied and they’ll stay where they’re at.” The Northern League regular season is to conclude Aug. 6 with the playoffs Aug. 8-11. Through games of July 14, the first-year Lake County CornDogs (based in Crown Point, Ind.) are in first place at 24-8, followed by the Southland Vikings 20-13, Northwest Indiana Oilmen 19-14, Joliet Generals 14-17, Crestwood Panthers 14-18 and Chicago American Giants 4-24. Games are streamed on YouTube.
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.
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.
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.
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-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.
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.
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.”