When John Smith took over as head baseball coach at Morgan Township Middle/High School on the south side of Valparaiso, Ind., the Class of 2022 was in their freshmen year. Two members of that class — left fielder Nate Hudkins and shortstop Nate Lemmons — are now seniors and the Cherokees are coming off the program’s fifth sectional championship and first since 2018. “The guys are proud of the accomplishment,” says Smith. “They see the fruit of their labors.” University of Dubuque (Iowa)-bound Lemmons (.388 average, 22 runs batted in, 28 runs, 20 stolen bases) plus Hudkins (.355, 18 RBI, 28 runs, 17 stolen bases) are part of a Morgan Township offense that also features sophomore Keagen Holder (.426, 15 RBI, 15 runs, 10 stolen bases), junior Jayke Putz (.414, 26 RBI, 29 runs), junior Max Rakowski (.406, 16 RBI, 20 runs), sophomore Grant Cowger (.389), freshman Chase Rosenbaum (.379, 17 RBI, 19 runs), junior D.J. Hand (.310, 16 RBI, 19 runs) and sophomore Jack Wheeler (14 RBI, 18 runs, 12 stolen bases). The mound crew features Wheeler (5-1, 0.92 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 20 walks over 45 2/3 innings) and Putz (3-2, 3.67, 42 K’s, 20 BB, 34 1/3 IP). The current crop of sophomores were eighth graders when Smith took over the school’s fall middle school baseball program. “Getting those players at a young age has been beneficial for me,” says Smith, who teaches high school and middle school Health and Physical Education. “We get with them early in their baseball careers and establish the culture and the ideals with we strive for. “We give them that knowledge and get them used to me and how I coach.” After winning the 2022 IHSAA Class 1A Westville Sectional, Morgan Township is bound for the South Bend Washington Regional (which is being played Saturday, June 4 at South Bend Clay’s Jim Reinebold Field). The first semifinal features No. 4-ranked South Central (Union) Mills) and No. 9 Caston at 11 a.m. Eastern Time/10 a.m. Central Time followed by the 17-8 Cherokees against No. 10 Fremont around 1:30/12:30. Morgan Township (enrollment around 240) is a member of the Porter County Conference (with Boone Grove, Hebron, Kouts, LaCrosse, South Central of Union Mills, Washington Township and Westville). The Cherokees went 5-2 in the PCC in 2022, finishing third behind Boone Grove (7-0) and South Central (6-1). Besides the hosts and Morgan Township, the Westville Sectional included 21st Century Charter, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Kouts, Marquette Catholic and Washington Township. Smith is assisted by Boone Grove graduate and Morgan Township P.E./Health teacher Dean Hill and Washington Township alum Levi Oman. Hill is in charge of the junior varsity team. In 2022, the Cherokees finished the regular season with 24 players in the program. Morgan Township calls Curtis C. Casbon Field home. The diamond on the east side of the school has a backdrop of trees in left field. The facility is shared with Morgan Township Summer League 8U and 10U teams. Smith is a 2010 graduate of Shakamak Junior/Senior High School in Jasonville, Ind. Chip Sweet, who was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2017, came back for his second stint as Lakers head coach when Smith was a senior, following three years with Matt Fougerousse rowing the boat. “He was very knowledgeable guy about baseball and life and how to carry yourself off the field,” says Smith of Sweet. “It was about character and how they represent themselves, their community and their school. “Coach Fougerousse was an extension of Coach Sweet. He wanted that fire to win and lead and be great young men. It’s something that program stands for.” At Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Smith earned an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and a masters in Kinesiology and Exercise Science. John and wife Megan Smith have been married nearly three years. They do not have children.
Trent Howard has been a high school assistant or travel baseball coach for about a decade. He assisted at Wheeler High School in Valparaiso, Ind., in 2021 and was with Portage (Ind.) High School during the 2020 season that did not happen because of COVID-19. Howard, 32, has also coached in the Morris Baseball organization with teams from 13U to 18U. He will take those experiences and that of playing for the Hammond (Ind.) Seminoles, Hammond Chiefs (now 5 Star Great Lakes), Hammond Clark High School, Central Michigan University and in the Baltimore Orioles organization to use them as the new head coach at Hobart (Ind.) High School. He was hired in August to lead the Brickies. “I was very fortunate to have coaches that had several different philosophies that handled players in different ways,” says Howard, a 2021 Hammond Sports Hall of Fame inductee who played for Dave Sutkowski with the Chiefs, Gary Ridgely and Pat Montalbano at Clark and head coach Steve Jaksa and pitching coach Jeff Opalewski at Central Michigan and later served with Jeff Enright at Wheeler and Bob Dixon at Portage. “I saw how they developed a culture and I’ll take take bits and pieces from each of them.” The first IHSAA Limited Contact Period in the fall saw Howard stressing fundamentals with his Brickies. “We went back to the basics,” says Howard. “We want to make sure we’re laying a solid foundation for these kids.” With winter workouts that recently began, it’s more of the same along knocking off the rust for players who have not swung the bat in awhile. “We want to develop a hitting philosophy and go to the plate with a game plan,” says Howard. “We want to understand what the pitcher is trying to do.” A former left-handed pitcher himself, Howard allowed his pitchers to rest their arms during the fall and the dead period that followed. “We wanted to take the time for our arms to fully recover (from spring and summer baseball),” says Howard. “Now it’s about building up arm strength.” Howard says bullpens will not begin until January. “Then the keys will be consistency and throwing strikes,” says Howard. “We want them hitting spots and moving the ball around.” Hobart (enrollment around 1,290) is a member of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (with Andrean, Highland, Kankakee Valley, Lowell and Munster). NCC teams play home-and-home series on Mondays and Tuesdays with a new opponent for five straight weeks. “We’re fortunate to be in a tough conference,” says Howard. “We play a pretty tough non-conference, too.” Among those foes are Boone Grove, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hammond Morton, Hanover Central, Illiana Christian, Lake Central, Merrillville, Michigan City, New Prairie, Portage, Valparaiso, Washington Township, Westville, Wheeler and Whiting. In 2021, the Brickies were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping with Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Lowell, Portage and Valparaiso. Hobart has won six sectional titles — the last in 2014. Howard’s coaching staff includes brother Trevor Howard (Clark Class of 2002), Scott Trcka (who was a pro scout for 27 years) and longtime Brickies assistant Bob Wineland with the varsity and Kyle Jenkins and Zak Pizer with the junior varsity. Hobart plays its home game on-campus. The diamond’s mound was re-built and the infield was re-leveled in the fall. Feeding and aiding the high school program are Hobart Little League, Hobart Baseball Club Storm, Hobart American Legion Post 502 Blaze and 5 Star Great Lakes Chiefs. “Kids are everywhere,” says Howard. “We make sure they are with good coaches and in a situation where they’re comfortable.” Jaden Deel (Hobart Class of 2021) is now on the baseball team at Huntington (Ind.) University. Ivan Balboa (Class of 2022) has signed to play at Ivy Tech Northeast in Fort Wayne. Howard says he sees college potential is other Brickies. Howard is a School Resource Officer at Portage. Trent and wife of seven years Alexandria live in Portage with sons Eli (5) and Ezekiel (2).
Randy Yager is now in charge of the baseball program at Kouts (Ind.) Middle/High School. The new head coach says the Mustangs will continue to emphasize “culture” — something they did with Jim Tucker as head coach and Yager an assistant the past five years. “We want to doing the right thing on and off the field,” says Yager, who was promoted at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. “Growing baseball players into young men, husbands and fathers and employees is more important than the current statistics. “Their lives mean more to me than winning baseball games.” Tucker and his wife have moved west. He is coaching junior varsity baseball at Douglas High School in Minden, Nev., and is on the phone multiple times a week with Yager. The owner of Yager Construction in Kouts and Ace Hardware stores in Kouts and Hebron and the chairman of deacons at First Baptist Church of Kouts, Yager was born in Valparaiso, Ind., spent most of the first 20 years of his life in Florida then moved back to northwest Indiana. He is a 1986 graduate of Ambassador Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, where he played baseball for four years. At Kouts, Yager has also served as an assistant boys basketball coach for five years. His baseball assistants are Doug Murray, who was on Tucker’s staff for thee years, and son Hunter Yager (21). The latter holds the school record for baseball games played. Randy and wife Traci have three children. Oldest Lauren (Yager) Kemp is 23 and the head softball coach at Kouts, her alma mater. Eric Yager (17) is a Kouts junior. The Mustangs play on Keith Nuest Field, an on-campus facility named for the alum and longtime scorekeeper. Randy Yager was a middle school coach this fall and there was no IHSAA Limited Contact Period baseball activity with so many fall athletes at Kouts (high school enrollment around 270). The Mustangs are members of the Porter County Conference (with Boone Grove, Hebron, LaCrosse, Morgan Township, South Central of Union Mills, Washington Township and Westville). In 2021, Kouts was part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with 21st Century Charter, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township and Westville. The Mustangs have won five sectional titles — the last in 2011.
Today (June 12) four semistates will be staged at LaPorte, Kokomo, Mooresville and Jasper to determine the teams competing int he 2021 IHSAA State Finals June 21-22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Here is a capsulized look at Final Four teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A:
Team By Team Washington Township Senators — Head Coach Randy Roberts. 1A Washington Township Sectional — Kouts 7-1, Westville 4-1, Morgan Township 4-1. 1A South Bend Regional — South Central (Union Mills) 6-3, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 10-1. Sectional titles (10) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (1) — 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2019 (Randy Roberts).
Cowan Blackhawks — Head Coach Aaron Wells. 1A Liberty Christian Sectional — Wes-Del 5-1, Daleville 4-3. 1A Carroll (Flora) Regional — Union City 3-0, Riverton Parke 9-3. Sectional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2008. Semistate titles (1) — 2008. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2008 (Camden Parkhurst).
Hanover Central Wildcats — Head Coach Ryan Bridges. 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional — Kankakee Valley 9-1, Culver Academies 10-0, John Glenn 8-4. 3A Griffith Regional — South Bend St. Joseph 6-1, Northwestern 18-1. Sectional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional tittles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Semistate titles (1) — 2011. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2011 (Doug Nelson).
Norwell Knights — Head Coach Dave Goodmiller. 3A Bellmont Sectional — Marion 10-0, Mississinewa 13-2, Oak Hills 15-10. 3A Bellmont Regional — Wawasee 7-2, Leo 5-3. Sectional titles (17) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2013. Semistate titles (3) — 2006, 2007, 2013. State titles (3) — 2003 (Kelby Weybright), 2007 (Kelby Weybright), 2013 (Andy McClain).
Eastside Blazers — Head Coach Aaron Willard. 2A Eastside Sectional — Adams Central 3-1, Bluffton 16-1. 2A Whiting Regional — Wheeler 7-1, Central Noble 18-3. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
Delphi Oracles — Head Coach Ryan Long. 2A Delphi Sectional — Fountain Central 14-2, Seeger 7-3. 2A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional — Rochester 12-5, Wapahani 7-2. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (1) — 2010. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — Delphi (Pat Lowrey).
Munster Mustangs — Head Coach Bob Shinkan (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee). 4A Merrillville Sectional — Highland 11-2, Merrillville 9-0, Lake Central 2-1. 4A LaPorte Regional — Valparaiso 6-3, South Bend Adams 9-2. Sectional titles (13) — last one before 2021 — 2016. Regional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (0). State titles (1) — 2002 (Bob Shinkan).
Fishers Tigers — Head Coach Matt Cherry. 4A Westfield Sectional — Hamilton Southeastern 7-1, Carmel 1-0, Noblesville 4-0. 4A Kokomo Regional — Homestead 8-4, Harrison (West Lafayette) 7-5. Sectional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Semistate titles (1) — 2018. State titles (1) — 2018 (Matt Cherry).
Shakamak Lakers – Head Coach Jeremy Yeryar. 1A White River Valley Sectional — White River Valley 14-0, Clay City 10-0, Bloomfield 4-1. 1A Morristown Regional — Southwestern (Shelbyville) 10-1, Oldenburg Academy 13-0. Sectional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (12) — last one before 2021 — 2015. Semistate titles (7) — 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015. State titles (2) — 2008 (Matt Fougerousse), 2014 (Chip Sweet). State runner-up (5) — 2004 (Chip Sweet), 2006 (Matt Fougerousse), 2007 (Matt Fougerousse), 2012 (Chip Sweet), 2015 (Todd Gambill).
Borden Braves — Head Coach Eric Stotts. 1A South Central (Elizabeth) Sectional — Lanesville 18-1, Orleans 3-0. 1A Lanesville Regional — West Washington 17-2, Loogootee 5-2. Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
University Trailblazers — Head Coach Chris Estep (1 state title). 2A Cascade Sectional — Covenant Christian 7-3, Cascade 8-2. 2A Cascade Regional — Centerville 12-5, Parke Heritage 8-2. Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (1) — 2019 (Chris Estep). State runner-up (1) — 2018 (Chris Estep.
Providence Pioneers — Head Coach Scott Hutchins. 2A Eastern (Pekin) Sectional — Henryville 10-4, Eastern (Pekin) 11-0, Austin 10-0. 2A Evansville Mater Dei Regional — South Ripley 5-3, North Posey 8-6. Sectional titles (19) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (1) — 2016. State titles (1) — 2016 (Scott Hornung).
Brebeuf Jesuit Braves — Head Coach Jeff Scott. 3A Brebeuf Sectional — Danville 5-0, Tri-West Hendricks 15-1. 3A Danville Regional — Indianapolis Bishop Chatard 10-0, Northview 17-2. Sectional titles (15) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2012. Semistate titles (1) — 2012. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2012 (Andy McClain).
Southridge Raiders — Head Coach Gene Mattingly. 3A Southridge Sectional — Pike Central 10-0, Washington 1-0. 3A Southridge Regional — Silver Creek 2-1, Evansville Memorial 7-2. Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (2) — 2018 (Gene Mattingly), 2019 (Gene Mattingly).
Mt. Vernon Marauders — Head Coach Brad King. 4A Pendleton Heights Sectional — Muncie Central 19-0, Pendleton Heights 8-0. 4A Mt. Vernon Regional — Franklin Central 6-2, Indianapolis Cathedral 6-3. Sectional titles (8) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 1971. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).
Jasper Wildcats — Head Coach Terry Gobert (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee; 5 state titles). 4A Evansville Reitz Sectional — Castle 6-1, Evansville North 5-4, Evansville Central 10-0. 4A Jasper Regional — Floyd Central 2-1, Center Grove 7-4. Sectional titles (39) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (14) — 1967, 1968, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017. State titles (5) — 1996 (Terry Gobert), 1997 (Terry Gobert), 1998 (Terry Gobert), 2000 (Terry Gobert), 2006 (Terry Gobert). State runner-up (4) — 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017.
Shakamak Junior-Senior High School in Jasonville, Ind., has established a tradition of excellence on the baseball diamond. As the Lakers go into the one-game IHSAA Class 1A Mooresville Semistate against first-time regional winner Borden (22-6-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12, they can count all-time totals of 26 sectionals, 13 regionals, seven semistates and two state titles (2008 and 2014). The Shakamak-Borden winner moves on to the State Finals to play Washington Township (25-7) or Cowan (15-13) either Monday or Tuesday, June 21 or 22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. In 2021, Shakamak beat White River Valley 14-0, Clay City 10-0 and Bloomfield 4-1 to win the White River Valley Sectional and Southwestern (Shelbyville) 10-1 and Oldenburg Academy 13-0 to reign at the Morristown Regional. The Lakers were 2-4 in the six games before sectional. “We got hot at the right time,” says Jeremy Yeryar (pronounced YIRE), Shakamak’s first-year head coach. “The kids got hot at the right time. The way we approach it we’re 5-0. “The postseason. That’s when it really matters. “The pitching’s been really good and solid. The defense and the bats have really come alive lately. We switched up things in practice and kept us in game mode. “We’re playing for those seven seniors. Everybody who’s been at this school would like to put that uniform on one more time. I don’t want to let go of the seniors just yet.” The Class of 2021 is represented by Ethan Burdette, Logan Burris, Trevor Ellingsworth, Brevon Fulford, Bryce Jenkins, Clayton “Buddy” Stone and Peyton Yeryar (cousin to Jeremy). There have been plenty of success, but Yeryar is not taking credit for those. “It’s my motto: Players win; Coaches lose,” says Yeryar. “If we lose, that’s on me. If we win, that’s on the kids.” Yeryar, a 1993 Shakamak graduate who played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chip Sweet. “The program that I played under him is a lot of the program I’m running,” says Yeryar. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. “We teach more than a game. We teach life lessons along the way. Baseball is not fair at times and neither is life. You can come up short at times. Baseball is a game of failure. “We hold our athletes to a high standard. You should lead at school or anywhere out in the public.” Yeryar, who was a Lakers assistant for Sweet and his successor Todd Gambill, asks his players to give their all each time out. “They know what’s at stake,” says Yeryar. “We lost a whole year last year (to the COVID-19 pandemic) and it can happen again. “So if this was the last time I got to play this game was I satisfied with the way I did it?” Shakamak graduates Dylan Collins (Class of 2015), Jake Walters (Class of ’15), Brent Yeryar (Class of ’95), Brett Yeryar (Class of ’14), Braxton Yeryar (Class of ’15) and Tanner Yeryar (Class of ’17) and Bloomfield alum Jason Pegg (mid-1990’s) are also part of the 2021 coaching staff. Brent and Brett are Jeremy’s cousins. Braxton and Tanner are the youngest sons of Jeremy and wife Stacy (a Shakamak cafeteria worker). The oldest son — Braden Cox (Class of ’13) — also played baseball for the Lakers. Collins played at Vincennes University and Purdue Northwest. Brett and Tanner Yeryar played at VU. Another former Laker player — Braden Scott (Class of ’16) — pitched out of the bullpen the past few seasons for Indiana University. While not committed, Burdette and Peyton Yeryar have drawn interest from college program. Shakamak (enrollment around 200) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess and White River Valley). The Lakers are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, North Central and White River Valley (the 2021 host). Besides conference and postseason opponents, Shakamak has played Bloomington North, Jasper, Martinsville, Owen Valley, Riverton Parke, Sullivan, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo, Washington and West Vigo. “We play a very brutal schedule,” says Yeryar. “We always have.” The Lakers play just one game each against SWIAC teams to free them up to play a strong non-conference slate. It gets them ready for the postseason and is beneficial to their opponents. “Shakamak travels well,” says Yeryar, who also does utilities for the City of Jasonville. “Coaches always keep us on the schedule. They say, ‘you make a game out of everything.’ “We take a lot of pride in that.” The Lakers plays home games on-campus. The field got plenty of attention from coaches and players the past year. “The kids do the field work with me,” says Yeryar. “If you work on the field you’ll respect it and take pride in it.” Shakamak Youth League (T-ball to age 12), the Shakamak Lakers travel team and a junior high program (grades 6-8) all go into feeding high school baseball.
Braden Cox (left), Stacy, Jeremy, Tanner and Braxton Yeryar.
Shakamak baseball seniors for 2021 (from left): Logan Burris, Trevor Ellingsworth, Brevon Fulford, Buddy Stone, head coach Jeremy Yeryar, Peyton Yeryar, Bryce Jenkins and Ethan Burdette.
This winter was his 53rd season of keeping the book for boys basketball (he has not missed a game in that span and tracked the digits for the IHSAA Class 1A state runners-up in 2020-21) and the 43rd for girls basketball. He compiles stats for basketball, baseball, softball and track and field.
Much of what Earl Mishler has on his high school baseball website — ETPearl.com — came from Nuest.
His interest in the sport and numbers once had Nuest scoring Chicago Bulls and Indiana University games on the radio.
The 2020 season would have marked his 50th as statistician for Kouts baseball. But he doesn’t count that one since the COVID-19 pandemic took the season, making 2021 the half-century mark for that job.
But it’s not really a job. Nuest has never taken any pay for scoring or coaching baseball and minimal for basketball over the years.
It’s about helping the community and being close to things he enjoys.
“I’ve always had a love of numbers,” says Nuest, a 1961 Kouts graduate who went on to work 39 years in the financial department at Midwest Steel in Portage, retiring at 60. “Math always came easy to me.”
About five years ago, Nuest completed a 40-year run of coaching Kouts in high school summer ball. He ran the area league — which at various times included teams from Culver, Kankakee Valley, Knox, Renselaer Central, Wheeler, Valparaiso and beyond — for about 25 years, scheduling all the games.
“I always tried to make it fun for the kids,” says Nuest. “Just being around the kids was enjoyable for me. I watched them grow and improve as individuals.”
In the spring, he has worked under 11 head coaches. Don Spoerner was the first. Jim Tucker is now in charge of the Kouts baseball program.
“I really love the game of baseball,” says Nuest. “I love the strategy that goes into it. Anything can happen on any given pitch.
“People think bas ball is boring and slow. But you never know what’s around the corner.”
As a scorekeeper, Nuest came up with a way of doing it and stayed with it.
What makes it unique?
“I don’t know that there’s any specific thing, but you should be able to read it like a book,” says Nuest. “You should be able to tell batting average and earned run averages of your team and your opponents.
“It all flows together. It you leave something out it’s like you left out a page.”
This spring, Kouts named its baseball diamond in honor of their longtime contributor.
“It’s a wonderful community,” says Nuest. “I was never a teacher at the school and never an official coach.
“It was kind of an overwhelming honor at the time. I’ve donated hours and hours of work. But I certainly never expected anything like this.”
Nuest was born in Valparaiso and except for a few years in Lake Village when he was in school and two years in Valparaiso when he married second wife Lana, he has resided in Kouts.
“(Sharnowski) taught us to just be tough,” says Atwood, who is now in his second stint as head baseball coach at North Newton Junior-Senior High School in Morocco, Ind., where he was an assistant then a head coach in the mid-1980’s to the late-1990’s and is now also athletic director and dean of students. “You have to be mentally tough in baseball. You’ve got to be ready at all times.”
Atwood calls Urban “a heckuva a baseball guy.”
“Basics were key to everything,” says Atwood, who experienced an intense coach in Naylor.
“He was a pretty hard-nosed little character,” says Atwood. “(Brandon) was all of the kids.”
The 2020-21 school year is Atwood’s second back at North Newton, where he is now athletic director. The COVID-19 pandemic kept him from coaching the Spartans in the spring 2020. If the weather cooperates, North Newton could open the season Thursday, April 1 against Hebron. The team is slated to visit Harrison in West Lafayette Saturday, April 3.
With 24 players in the program, the Spartans will field varsity and junior varsity teams, playing home games on the campus located at the school.
Mike Atwood has three adult children — Michael (32), Brittney (30) and Braden (29).
Michael is in the U.S. Army serving in Kuwait. Britney works as a technician at a Lafayette, Ind., hospital.
Braden Atwood was a three-time placer at the IHSAA State Finals (fourth as a sophomore, fifth as a junior and second as a senior) at Delphi and went on to a be a four-time placer and NCAA Championship qualifier as well as a three-time team champion at Purdue University. He took part in the U.S. Team Trials and was later a volunteer assistant coach at West Point (Army). He is married and living in Connecticut and has a daughter.
There’s a place where a baseball can be pitched and struck in Indiana and land in Illinois.
That place is Hermits Park in the 4200 block of Dearborn Avenue on the north side of Hammond, Ind.
In the spring of 2021, the big diamond — where a home run to left field or deep center can clear the state line which cuts through the outfield — will be home to the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology (HAST) baseball program. The school’s softball team will also play at Hermits.
“We started a partnership last year then COVID hit and everything stopped,” says Hensley. “We were one of the last (youth baseball/softball) associations to fold. We were down to only our high school level team that traveled.”
In the fall, Hermits Outlaws played in a fall league at the Ho Chunk Sports Complex in Lynwood, Ill., which is 12 miles southwest of Hermits Park.
Hensley, who is assisted by Travis McKimmey and Ryan Massey, held his last HAST baseball call-out meeting March 11 and has had 10 coming to conditioning sessions. There is hope that more will joint the team. The first IHSAA practice is Monday, March 15.
“We have a real fresh batch,” says Hensley, noting there a a few players who’ve played high school baseball with others who have been away for years or are fairly new to the sport.
“We’ll start with new or younger guys,” says Hensley. “But we gladly accept that challenge.
“There might be more of a level playing field since everybody did not play last year.”
While the focus this spring will be on a varsity team, Hensley says he hopes to bring baseball to middle schoolers — at HAST and the surrounding area — through the partnership with Hermits.
The IHSAA announced this week that Washington Township will be sectional host.
HAST’s first appearance in the state tournament series was in 2017. The Hawks have not won a sectional championship.
While changes continue to be made to the schedule, Hensley says he expects his club to have around 20 regular-season games.
HAST, which was established in 2010, is a charter school focused on both science and technology with a heavy emphasis on a small teacher-to-student ratio. It is both a high school and middle school with grades ranging from 6-12.
Not affiliated with HAST, School City of Hammond currently has four high schools — Hammond, Clark, Gavit and Morton — and will cut down to two.
The district is scheduled in 2021-22 to have Hammond and Clark combine into the new Hammond Central with current Gavit students being divided between Hammond Central and Morton.
“It’s always sad to see a part of someone’s history go,” says Hensley, a 1988 Clark graduate. “But we’re looking for change and something new.”
Dennis and Gail Hensley have been married for 26 years. The couple has two adult children — Taylor (25) and Dennis (20).
Those questions were answered as IHSAA Executive Committee minutes from Feb. 19 were released March 8.
According to the IHSAA website, Assistant Commissioner Robert Faulkens reported on the general format, sites and other preliminary plans for the 2020-21 Baseball Tournament Series.
Faulkens was notified by the Indianapolis Indians that their schedule is now set by Major League Baseball rather than the International League and has the team set for home games on the dates of this year’s IHSAA State Finals. The plan now will be to play this year’s state championship games on the following Monday and Tuesday (June 21-22).
The first IHSAA practice date is March 15. The first contest date is March 29.
Sectionals Class 4A 1. Merrillville (6): East Chicago Central, Hammond Morton, Highland, Lake Central, Merrillville, Munster. 2. Chesterton (7): Andrean, Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lowell, Portage, Valparaiso. 3. Plymouth (6): LaPorte, Michigan City, Mishawaka, Plymouth, South Bend Adams, South Bend Riley. 4. Northridge (6): Concord, Elkhart, Goshen, Northridge, Penn, Warsaw Community. 5. Carroll (Fort Wayne) (5): Carroll (Fort Wayne), DeKalb, East Noble, Fort Wayne Northrop, Fort Wayne Snider
6. Huntington North (6): Columbia City, Fort Wayne North Side, Fort Wayne South Side, Fort Wayne Wayne, Homestead, Huntington North. 7. Lafayette Jefferson (5): Harrison (West Lafayette), Kokomo, Lafayette Jefferson, Logansport, McCutcheon. 8. Westfield (6): Carmel, Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield, Zionsville. 9. Pendleton Heights (6): Anderson, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon (Fortville), Muncie Central, Pendleton Heights, Richmond.
10. Ben Davis (7): Ben Davis, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical, Indianapolis Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central (Indianapolis), Pike 11. Warren Central (6): Franklin Central, New Palestine, Perry Meridian, , Roncalli, Southport, Warren Central. 12. Plainfield (6): Avon, Brownsburg, Decatur Central, Plainfield, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo. 13. Mooresville (6): Center Grove, Franklin Community, Greenwood Community, Martinsville, Mooresville, Whiteland Community. 14. Bloomington North (6): Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus East, Columbus North, East Central, Shelbyville. 15. New Albany (6): Bedford North Lawrence, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, New Albany, Seymour. 16. Evansville F.J. Reitz (6): Castle, Evansville Central, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Jasper.
Class 3A 17. Griffith (6): Calumet, Gary West Side, Griffith, Hammond, Hammond Clark, Hammond Gavit. 18. Kankakee Valley (6): Culver Academies, Glenn, Hanover Central, Kankakee Valley, Knox, River Forest. 19. South Bend Clay (5): Mishawaka Marian, New Prairie, South Bend Clay, South Bend Saint Joseph, South Bend Washington. 20. Northwestern (7): Benton Central, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Peru, Twin Lakes, West Lafayette, Western.
21. Wawasee (6): Jimtown, Lakeland, NorthWood, Tippecanoe Valley, Wawasee, West Noble. 22. Garrett (7): Angola, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran, Garrett, Leo, New Haven. 23. Bellmont (6): Bellmont, Heritage, Marion, Mississinewa, Norwell, Oak Hill. 24. Yorktown (6): Delta, Guerin Catholic, Hamilton Heights, Jay County, New Castle, Yorktown. 25. North Montgomery (6): Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Lebanon, North Montgomery, Northview, South Vermillion.
26. Brebeuf Jesuit (5): Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory, Danville Community, Greencastle, Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter, Tri-West Hendricks. 27. Beech Grove (5): Beech Grove, Herron, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, Indianapolis Emmerich Manual, Indianapolis Shortridge. 28. Owen Valley (6): Brown County, Edgewood, Indian Creek, Owen Valley, Sullivan, West Vigo. 29. Lawrenceburg (7): Batesville, Connersville, Franklin County, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Rushville Consolidated, South Dearborn. 30. Silver Creek (8): Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Corydon Central, Madison Consolidated, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg, Silver Creek. 31. Southridge (6): Gibson Southern, Pike Central, Princeton Community, Southridge, Vincennes Lincoln, Washington
Class 2A 33. Whiting (6): Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary Roosevelt, Hammond Bishop Noll, Lake Station Edison, Wheeler, Whiting.
34. Hebron (6): Boone Grove, Hebron, North Judson-San Pierre, North Newton, Rensselaer Central, Winamac Community. 35. Westview (6): Bremen, Central Noble, Fairfield, LaVille, Prairie Heights, Westview. 36. Eastside (6): Adams Central, Bluffton, Churubusco, Eastside, South Adams, Woodlan. 37. Wabash (6): Carroll (Flora), Lewis Cass, Manchester, Rochester Community, Wabash, Whitko. 38. Delphi (6): Clinton Prairie, Delphi Community, Fountain Central, Lafayette Central Catholic, Seeger, Western Boone. 39. Eastern (Greentown) (6): Blackford, Eastbrook, Eastern (Greentown), Madison-Grant, Taylor, Tipton. 40. Lapel (8): Alexandria Monroe, Elwood Community, Frankton, Lapel, Monroe Central, Muncie Burris, Wapahani, Winchester Community. 41. Centerville (5): Centerville, Hagerstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah, Union County. 42. Heritage Christian (6): Eastern Hancock, Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Scecina Memorial, Knightstown, Triton Central. 43. Cascade (6): Cascade, Covenant Christian (Indpls), Monrovia, Park Tudor, Speedway, University. 44. Southmont (5): Cloverdale, North Putnam, Parke Heritage, South Putnam, Southmont. 45. South Ripley (6): Milan, North Decatur, South Decatur, South Ripley, Southwestern (Hanover), Switzerland County. 46. Eastern (Pekin) (6): Austin, Clarksville, Crawford County, Eastern (Pekin), Henryville, Providence.
47. Mitchell (6): Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli, South Knox. 48. Tell City (6): Evansville Mater Dei, Forest Park, North Posey, Perry Central, South Spencer, Tell City.
Class 1A 49. Washington Township (8): 21st Century Charter-Gary, Covenant Christian (DeMotte), Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, Kouts, Marquette Catholic, Morgan Township, Washington Township, Westville.
50. LaCrosse (7): Argos, Culver Community, LaCrosse, Oregon-Davis, South Bend Career Academy, South Central (Union Mills), Triton. 51. Fremont (7): Bethany Christian, Elkhart Christian Academy, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Fremont, Hamilton, Lakewood Park Christian 52. Caston (7): Caston, North Miami, North White, Northfield, Pioneer, Southwood, West Central. 53. Riverton Parke (5): Attica, Covington, Faith Christian, North Vermillion, Riverton Parke. 54. Frontier (6): Clinton Central, Frontier, Rossville, Sheridan, South Newton, Tri-County. 55. Liberty Christian (7): Anderson Preparatory Academy, Cowan, Daleville, Liberty Christian, Southern Wells, Tri-Central, Wes-Del. 56. Seton Catholic (6): Blue River Valley, Cambridge City Lincoln, Randolph Southern, Seton Catholic, Tri, Union City. 57. White River Valley (6): Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak, White River Valley 58. Bethesda Christian (6): Bethesda Christian, Indiana School for the Deaf, Irvington Preparatory Academy, Providence Cristo Rey, Tindley, Traders Point Christian. 59. Morristown (6): Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian Academy, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown, Southwestern (Shelbyville), Waldron. 60. Jac-Cen-Del (6): Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, Oldenburg Academy, Rising Sun, Trinity Lutheran. 61. South Central (Elizabeth) (5): Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Lanesville, Orleans, South Central (Elizabeth). 62. West Washington (4): Crothersville, New Washington, Shawe Memorial, West Washington. 63. North Daviess (5): Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, North Daviess, Shoals, Vincennes Rivet. 64. Northeast Dubois (5): Cannelton, Northeast Dubois, Springs Valley, Tecumseh, Wood Memorial.
1. LaPorte Feeder Sectionals: Chesterton, LaPorte, Merrillville, Northridge. 2. Kokomo Feeder Sectionals: DeKalb, Huntington North, Lafayette Jefferson, Westfield. 3. Plainfield Feeder Sectionals: Ben Davis Pendleton Heights, Terre Haute South Vigo, Warren Central. 4. Jasper Feeder Sectionals: Bloomington North, Evansville F.J. Reitz, Jennings County, Mooresville.
5. Griffith Feeder Sectionals: Griffith, Kankakee Valley, South Bend Clay, Northwestern. 6. Bellmont Feeder Sectionals: Wawasee, Garrett, Bellmont, Yorktown. 7. Danville Feeder Sectionals: Beech Grove, Brebeuf Jesuit, North Montgomery, Owen Valley. 8. Southridge Feeder Sectionals: Evansville Bosse, Lawrenceburg, Silver Creek, Southridge.
10. Lafayette Central Catholic Feeder Sectionals: Delphi, Eastern (Greentown), Lapel, Wabash. 11. Park Tudor/Cascade Feeder Sectionals: Cascade, Centerville, Heritage Christian, Southmont. 12. Evansville Mater Dei (Bosse Field) Feeder Sectionals: Eastern (Pekin), Mitchell, South Ripley, Tell City.
13. South Bend Washington Feeder Sectionals: Caston, Fremont, LaCrosse, Washington Township. 14. Carroll (Flora) Feeder Sectionals: Frontier, Liberty Christian, Riverton Parke, Seton Catholic. 15. Morristown Feeder Sectionals: Bethesda Christian, Jac-Cen-Del, Morristown, White River Valley. 16. Lanesville Feeder Sectionals: North Daviess, Northeast Dubois, South Central (Elizabeth), West Washington.
1. LaPorte 2. Kokomo 3. Mooresville
Victory Field (Indianapolis), 501 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis The eight (8) winning teams of the semi-state tourneys shall constitute the participants in the state tourney.
Hired prior to 2020, there was much anticipation with a talented group coming back.
The Satellites won the Porter County Conference for just the third time (2009 and 2017 were the other title seasons) and the IHSAA Class 1A South Bend Career Academy Sectional before losing in the South Bend Regional championship to eventual state runner-up and fellow PCC member Washington Township in 2019.
Several key starters from that squad returned in 2020.
But the Satellites never took the field in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” says Coulter. “Like everyone else.”
Coulter and company now getting ready for 2021 with more high hopes.
“I think we’ll be a dark horse this year,” says Coulter. “We’ve revamped the entire program and internally changed our mindset.”
“We’re the sectional favorite or co-favorite almost every year,” says Coulter. “We don’t want winning sectional defining our season.”
When the Satellites break a huddle in practice, the chant is “138.”
That’s the number of miles from Satellite Field to Victory Field in Indianapolis — site of the IHSAA State Finals.
“We have a very talented group,” says Coulter. “It’s an exciting time to be a South Central baseball player.
“We’re more poised now to make a pretty deep (tournament) run.”
Last summer, South Central took part in five travel tournaments. No players were turned away. There were 32 taking part in games and workouts.
With the majority of the varsity lineup committed to other travel teams, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds played in 17U events.
With all the players together, a title was won at the On Turf Sports Classic in Columbia City, Ind., beating a team made up of Avon and Plainfield high school players for the championship. There was also a squad from Cincinnati and the Harris Storm (Penn High School players).
There are currently 38 identified with the program, including 18 freshmen. One member of the Class of 2024 — pitcher Bradley Ferrell — shined at a recent Perfect Game event in Florida.
Coulter is a 2009 LaPorte High School graduate. Other LPHS alums on his Satellite coaching staff include pitching coach Tony Ferrell (a member of the 1992 state champions and father of Bradley), Dave Santana and Garrett Kautz with the varsity. Alex Rochowiak is the JV head coach. Zach Lee is the JV pitching coach. Chesterton High School graduate Rochowiak played is the son of Michigan City High School head coach Jeff Rochowiak.
South Central has also gotten new uniforms for its varsity and junior teams and put a new windscreen completely around its home park.
The coaching staff donated their 2020 salaries to pay for infield playing mix, which helps with turnaround time on rain days.
The grass baseline have been replaced with dirt.
“It looks more like a baseball field now,” says Coulter.
Boone Grove won the IHSAA Class 2A state championship in 2018 with Washington Township making it to the Class 1A finale in 2019.
“It’s a pretty solid conference in baseball,” says Coulter. Currently the largest of Indiana’s 1A schools, South Central has yet to win a PCC tournament.
Recent South Central graduates now in NCAA Division I college baseball are Carson Husmann (Bradley University) and Kyle Schmack (Valparaiso University).
The Satellite Series — a competition among groups — was launched in November and will continue until tryouts in March. Upperclassmen drafted teams of underclassmen. Teams compete for weekly points based on attendance, Baseball I.Q. sessions, in-person hitting sessions and school grades.
“The kids have absolutely eaten it up,” says Coulter, who adds that they are vying for a letter jacket patch and a steak dinner grilled by the coaching staff.
South Central players build their Baseball I.Q. with Zoom sessions that have included guests like Evan Miller (a pitcher in the San Diego Padres system who starred at LaPorte High and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne) and Rob Younce (a Philadelphia Phillies scout and national travel coach with the Canes).
“It allows us to grow and stay current with the times,” says Coulter.
After playing football and lacrosse and a few seasons of basketball in high school, Coulter went to Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., where he pursued a Business Management degree and served as a student assistant football coach on the staff of Shannon Griffith.
After a season a junior varsity baseball coach at LaPorte, Coulter led the South Shore Smoke 13U travel team.
Coulter and partner Kevin Tran are Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance agents based in LaPorte.