BY STEVE KRAH
Mixing fun and a ferocious schedule, Linton-Stockton has launched into the 2018 high school baseball season.
The Miners, under the guidance of eighth-year head coach Matt Fougerousse and ranked in the top 10 in IHSAA Class 2A polls by Prep Baseball Report Indiana and the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association, are off to a 5-1 start.
Fougerousse, a 1991 Shakamak High School graduate, played three seasons for Herschel Allen and one for IHSBCA Hall of Famer Chip Sweet and gathered coaching wisdom from both men.
“They taught me a lot about how to run a program the right way,” says Fougerousse. “You keep things as simple as possible. You’re dealing with high school kids.
“We like laughing a little bit. We’re not not trying to be serious all the time. We tell them to go out there and have fun like you did in Little League.
“You try to make it as fun as you can for them and put the best schedule together you can.”
Linton, located in Greene County, has won nine sectional titles. Five of those have come with Fougerousse in charge — 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
The Miners, which went 22-9 in 2017 helped by all-state honorable mention selection Logan Hollingsworth (now a pitcher at Vincennes University), have not yet reigned at the regional level.
“Some point to winning 20 games. I’d like to win the (Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference), but I’m not concerned with rankings or records,” says Fougerousse. “We play the schedule that will help us in the state tournament. I look at the regular season like spring training.
“It’s paid big dividends at Linton.”
Fougerousse says the up side of rankings is the recognition it brings to his players and that it ups the level of the competition day in and day out, trying to beat his squad.
“But there are only two rankings that really matter,” says Fougerousse. “A north team and a south team will be clashing for the state championship.
“Everyone’s goal every year is to end at Victory Field (in Indianapolis) with a state championship.”
Linton-Stockton belongs to the SWIAC along with 2A’s Eastern Greene and 1A’s Bloomfield, Clay City, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley.
The Miners’ non-conference slate includes 4A’s Bedford North Lawrence, Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Castle, Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo, 3A’s Brown County, Edgewood, Mt. Vernon (Posey) Owen Valley, Sullivan, Washington and West Vigo, 2A’s Mitchell, North Knox and South Knox and 1A’s Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, Northeast Dubois, Orleans and Vincennes Rivet.
“I like to play as many teams as I can, maybe 20 different teams — quality teams with different pitchers,” says Fougerousse, who works with Miners athletic director Charles Karazsia.
In besting visiting North Central 12-0 in five innings Wednesday, April 11, Linton spread the offensive wealth among junior Tucker Hayes (home run, double, single, four runs batted in), senior Noah Woodward (two singles, two RBI), senior Dreyden Ward (double, single, RBI), junior Dane Witty (double, single), sophomore Kip Fougerousse (two singles, RBI) and freshman Josh Pyne (single). Pyne also pitched a no-hitter with nine strikeouts.
Fougerousse and Pyne have already verbally committed to play baseball at Indiana University.
SWIAC teams play one another once during the season. When possible, Fougerousse tries to schedule those games early.
This year, Linton is in a sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Mitchell, North Knox, South Knox and Southridge.
Led by Fougerousse and assistants Travis Hayes, Darren Woodward and Jared Pyne, there are currently 21 players in the Miners program, playing varsity and junior varsity schedules.
There is also a junior high program that is not directly affiliated with the school system but does use Linton facilities. That serves as a feeder system to the high school as does Linton Boys Baseball League, American Legion programs in Greene and Sullivan counties and various travel baseball organizations, including the Indiana Bulls.
Fougerousse went to the University of Southern Indiana and began coaching at the Babe Ruth level in the summer. He changed his major at USI from accounting to education for the opportunity to become a high school coach.
After graduating college in 1996, Fougerouse went to work at Shakamak where he teaches elementary physical education as well as junior high and high school health. He served 10 years on Sweet’s Shakamak coaching staff then succeeded Sweet when he stepped away from leadership of the program.
In Fougerousse’s three seasons at the Laker helm, he helped produce a 1A state runner-up in 2007, a 1A state champion in 2008 and a 1A Avon Semistate runner-up in 2009.
He left Shakamak to coach son Kip’s travel team (Sandlot) and then was coaxed back to the high school dugout at Linton, beginning with the 2011 season.
“I wasn’t looking to get back into head coaching at the time,” says Fougerousse. “But the previous coach — Bart Berns — had the program going in the right direction.
“I wanted to see that continue.”
Berns won a sectional in his final season and drummed up the community support to build a training facility next to Roy Herndon Field that the Miners can use year-round.
The Fougerousse family — Matt, Jill, Libbi and Kip — live in Linton. Jill Fougerousse was in the first graduating class at White River Valley. Libbi Fougerousse is a sophomore at Indiana State University.
Outside the high school season, Kip Fougerousse is in his fourth year with the Indiana Prospects organization.
“I like travel baseball,” says Matt Fougerousse. “You get to see different competition and make lifelong friends.”
The inaugural class of the Linton Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 included Roy Herndon, Paul L. “Tom” Oliphant, Dick Fields, Tom Wall and the 1967 sectional championship team.
Herndon played minor league baseball in the 1930’s and 1940’s and was the property of the St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves and Washington Senators. He later helped start Little League baseball in Linton in 1956 and was a big part of local Babe Ruth, high school and American Legion baseball.
Oliphant, great grandfather to Kip Fougerousse, coached Linton to three basketball sectional and the school’s first baseball sectional crown in 1967.
Fields helped revive the community’s Babe Ruth and American Legion programs.
Wall was instrumental in improvements to Roy Herndon Field.
The ’67 Miners went 13-3 and topped Worthington, Shakamak and Bloomfield on the way to sectional hardware.
In the fall of 2016, Linton won the school’s first state championship in 106 years when the Miners went 15-0 and took top honors in 1A football.
Matt Fougerousse is in his eighth season as head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School in 2018. The Shakamak High School graduate led his alma mater to an IHSAA Class 1A state title in 2008.