In its storied baseball history, Shakamak Junior/Senior High School in Jasonville, Ind., has appeared in an IHSAA state championship game eight times. Dylan Collins was on three of those teams — 2012, 2014 and 2015. The Lakers reigned over Class 1A in 2014. Collins played catcher his first two varsity seasons, second baseman as a junior and shortstop as a senior. He was in the 2-hole in 2012 and at the top of his team’s batting order in the 2014 and 2015. His head coach for the first three seasons was Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Chip Sweet. Todd Gambill took over the program after Sweet’s retirement. “Coach Sweet was an all-around good guy,” says Collins. “We looked up to him as a father figure. He was very well-respected and we wanted to win for him. “We had only one year with Coach Gambill. He was energetic. He knew what he was getting and we produced for him.” Collins played two seasons at Vincennes (Ind.) University for Chris Barney and one at Purdue Northwest for Dave Griffin. “(Barney) wanted me from the first time he saw me,” says Collins. “He told you how it was and lived up to the promise. “(Griffin) was an honest guy and fun to play for.” Collins came back home to work at Jasonville Utilities and joined the Shakamak baseball coaching staff. After three seasons as junior varsity coach, Collins was named last week as head coach. As a product of a program that has has won 27 sectional titles (the last two in 2021 and 2022) with state championships in 2008 and 2014 and runner-up finishes in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2012, 2015 and 2021, Collins knows that expectations are high in the Shakamak community. “That’s what drives me to do what I do,” says Collins. “That’s the fun part of it.” Every time Collins comes to Shakamak on-campus diamond he recalls the Laker legacy. “It’s all the history there,” says Collins. “I remember 2004 and one of the first state runs. My brother (Class of 2006’s Derek Collins) was on the team. I was young and running around. “There are so many memories.” Collins’s 2023 coaching staff features Class of 2015’s Jake Walters and pitching coach Braxton Yeryar and Jason Pegg (Bloomfield alum) with previous head coach Jeremy Yeryar (Shakamak of Class of 1993) also helping out. Braxton Yeryar was Collins’ teammate at Shakamak and a teammate and roommate at Vincennes U. As the man in charge, Collins wants his Lakers to “refuse to lose” and play with confidence. Among returnees from a 2022 team that went 16-14 is Indiana Wesleyan University commit and senior Brady Yeryar (.559 with seven home runs and 34 runs batted in as a junior). Ethan Burdette (Class of 2021) is now at VU. Shakamak (enrollment around 200) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Central of Farmsburg, North Daviess and White River Valley). SWIAC teams meet each other one time. The Lakers are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping in 2023 with Bloomfield, Clay City, Dugger Union, North Central (Farmersburg) and White River Valley. Shakamak is to open the 2023 season March 31 at Jasper. There was weight training and conditioning for the Lakers during the fall IHSAA Limited Contact Period. Collins says hitting and other activities will take after the Christmas break. Shakamak has a junior high baseball team of seventh and eighth graders which play on the high school diamond in the spring. Another feeder is the Shakamak Youth League (T-ball through majors). Collins and girlfriend Bailey Scott have a 4-month son named Kooper Collins. Dylan’s parents are Jeff and Denise Collins. Jeff Collins (Shakamak Class of 1983) played for head coach Herschel Allen and once held batting records for the Lakers. Brooke Griffith (Class of 2007) is the sister to Dylan and Derek.
Has it really been a generation since Indiana widely adopted high school class sports? Of course there were classes in football going back to the 1970s, but check the records and you will find that 1996-97 (when Jasper outlasted Carmel 10-8 for the IHSAA baseball championship) was the last year that other sports were in the all-comers category at state tournament time. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 spring season, that makes 2023 the 25th year of class baseball in the Hoosier State. In the multi-class era, 56 different schools have won state baseball championships. Of that number, only Jasper, LaPorte and Penn earned titles prior to 1997-98. There are 22 schools with multiple state runner-up finishes. That accounts for 60 red ribbons — all but 12 coming from 1997-98 forward. Noting that some schools came about in recent years because of consolidation, unification or other reasons, those that won their first sectional championship during the multi-class era include 4A’s Elkhart (2021), Evansville Harrison (1999), Fishers (2017), Fort Wayne South Side (2012) and Michigan City (2002), 3A’s Angola (1999), Charlestown (1999) and Hamilton Heights (2006), 2A’s Austin (2002), Central Noble (2009), Clinton Central (2005), Covenant Christian of Indianapolis (2008), Delphi (2008), Fairfield (1998), Hanover Central (2011), Heritage Christian (2005), Illiana Christian (2022), Lewis Cass (2000), North Decatur (2011), Parke Heritage (2021), Sheridan (2004), South Knox (2004), Southwestern of Hanover (1999), Southwood (1999), Taylor (1998), Triton Central (2003), Whitko (2017) and Woodlan (2005) and 1A’s Argos (1998), Bethesda Christian (2008), Caston (2012), Christian Academy of Indiana (2004), Cowan (2004), Daleville (1999), Edinburgh (2009), Elkhart Christian (2013), Eminence (2005), Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian (2001), Fort Wayne Canterbury (2009), Greenwood Christian (2014), Hauser (2004), Henryville (1999), Indianapolis Lutheran (2017), Kouts (1998), Marquette Catholic (2002), Milan (1999), Monroe Central (2001), Morgan Township (2004), Morristown (1998), New Washington (1998), Northeast Dubois (1998), North Miami (2019), Oldenburg Academy (2003), Park Tudor (1998), Pioneer (2016), Randolph Southern (2010), Rising Sun (2002), Seton Catholic (2011), South Central of Elizabeth (2005), Southwestern of Shelbyville (1999), Tecumseh (2000), Traders Point Christian (2021), Trinity Lutheran (2009), Triton (2000), Washington Township (1999), Union City (2012), University (2012), Waldron (2001), West Washington (2021), White River Valley (2017) and Whiting (2008). A quarter century in, there are still plenty of opinions in the Indiana high school baseball community about the system. These questions were posed to several coaches around Indiana:
Is class baseball a positive or a negative?
Who benefits the most from class baseball?
If you could change anything about class baseball what would that be?
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has allowed schools of all sizes to be recognized and have some success at the state level while increasing fan interest in our sport. The players and the communities truly benefit the most from class baseball, in my opinion. “The IHSAA does a great job of administering the state tournament and ending each year at Victory Field allows our sport to be showcased on a big stage! However, the tournament format itself needs to be addressed, especially at the sectional level, and we can’t continue in a ‘one size fits all’ cookie-cutter format. Our sport is different than others and our tournament format needs to reflect that. Seeding, success factor, and travel also need to be looked at in light of the fact(s) that class sports are here to stay and there are geographical constraints/factors based on the location of the school(s). “Baseball in general is changing for the better in Indiana … the IHSBCA and the IHSAA need to continue to work together on formats/philosophies/participation guidelines that foster growth in our sport and develop a mutual relationship where everyone’s input is valued. We, the IHSBCA, have several ideas to share about the state tournament format/setup and how we can better grow our sport, in general. We are all stronger when we are working together and my goal as the Executive Director is to help facilitate positive changes that will grow our sport and unify our coaches at the same time.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “I assume that smaller schools are more likely to benefit so they play teams that are more competitive. “I would support adding a fifth ‘super class’ of the largest schools and then balance the rest of the four classes.”
“Class baseball is definitely a positive thing. It levels the playing field for teams when it comes to player depth and facilities. “For example, a school with an enrollment of 2,200 has a lot more players to work with and pull from than a school with an enrollment of 300. Both teams can be good and have good players, but the bigger school is very likely going to have more depth. The smaller school is likely to have one really good pitcher where the bigger school is likely to have two, or even three really good pitchers. As a result, the bigger school would have a big advantage in the sectional and regional. “The other way it levels the playing field is when it comes to facilities. Bigger schools tend to have nicer facilities to train and practice in during the off-season where some schools, usually the smaller ones, don’t have anything close to the facilities of larger schools. Many schools either can’t get access to the facilities they have during the off-season because other in-season teams are using them for practice or games, or they just don’t have the facilities or space period. “It can put teams at a big competitive disadvantage when they can’t train or practice the way they want to and need to during the off-season, and I think class baseball helps in this regard because schools that have similar enrollments tend to have similar facilities. “Everyone benefits from class baseball. The smaller schools obviously because of what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question, but also the larger schools. When you’re competing for anything, let alone a state championship, you want it to really mean something and be a challenge. It’s what competing is all about. It’s not going to mean as much when a school with an enrollment of 2,200 plus kids goes up against a school with an enrollment of 300 plus kids and beats them in a sectional or regional. They should be able to do that again referring back to what I mentioned in my previous answer to the first question. “Not only would they win but they wouldn’t have to throw their No. 1 pitcher to do so and would have them available for the next game, where the smaller school would likely need to throw their best pitcher in that situation. And if they did win, do they have a pitcher that could compete and win against another team with a large enrollment…not likely. “There are two things I would change about class baseball, and one of them is being talked about right now. First, I would seed the postseason. It’s frustrating when you have teams that have done really well during the regular season and they meet in the first or second round of the sectional, and there are teams that didn’t fair as well in the regular season getting a bye in the first round and/or playing another team that didn’t do as well in the early rounds. “It’s something I feel wouldn’t be too difficult to do or set up and it would make the postseason better and provide even more meaning to the regular season. I like that everyone makes the postseason because you can have something happen with injuries and get a player back, or a team hasn’t quite figured things out yet but later in the year they do and are still in it. “But, there needs to be something in place for teams that do better in the regular season. I think seeding the sectional would be really good for Indiana high school baseball. “The other thing I would change is going from four classes to five classes. Again, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned previously. Many times there’s such a large gap between the teams in 4A. I think going to five classes would help this and it’s something the IHSBCA and IHSAA are talking about and looking into. “The success factor has worked well and is set up well. How they have it set up is good and I think it’s accomplishing what they wanted it to.”
“There’s no doubt that class sports have provided more opportunities for athletes, coaches, schools, and communities by creating a level of fairness with classified state tournaments. I understand the traditional approach of one class and experienced it as a player as we advanced to the semistate finals as a small school (at Western) in ’93 and ’94. But as a coach, the class system allows for accomplished small school teams to aspire to be state champions instead of hoping to win a sectional in a one class system. “All stakeholders of a school’s baseball program (benefit most from class baseball). Having ranked teams and winning championships builds a greater sense of tradition within communities and raises interest amongst school children, faculty, and administration. Players and coaches benefit from the sense of accomplishment by developing a highly competitive team within a post-season setting. “I would make the tradition factor a four-year stay in an elevated class — not just two years. Those who are state champion caliber teams seem to continue to dominate the current landscape. Also, if a team moves up in class and wins a sectional, regional, etc., a system needs to be created to keep them in that class because they are showing the ability to compete. “We need to restructure our tournament. Six-team sectionals and format need to be uniformed. Only the sectional final should be played on Memorial Day. We’d have two-team regionals, four-team semistates and seed the tournament. “We are the only sport that, based on pitching restrictions (pitch counts and days rest) and may not have our best lineup on the field in a championship setting. Too many sectional championships are decided by Team 1’s ace dominating vs Team 2’s bullpen because of weather, graduation or the draw. Basketball will always have their point guard.”
“There have been a lot of positives (with class baseball). There have been some very good smaller schools that have gotten the chance to experience state tourney runs that might not have happened in areas where there were perennial large school programs had too much depth for the smaller schools. I think that has been a good thing for Indiana high school baseball. “Small schools with open enrollments and the ability to reach out from beyond what would be considered a normal attendance area have done extremely well (in class baseball). This, however, is not entirely the fault of class sports. Open enrollment and increased club and travel athletic teams have opened up a whole different experience for high school athletes today. “High school athletes are far more likely to travel further, meet and become friends with new teammates outside of their own school in the off-season and subsequently more likely to travel further away to attend a school of their choice. In a way I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, that choice often comes with a greater financial obligation and not all athletes and their families can afford to do so. Smaller schools have benefited in some areas directly. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the class sports, it’s the trend and we aren’t going to a one-class tourney.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. At times, schools being up a class or down a class will dictate how successful they can be. “The smaller schools probably benefit most (from class baseball). Winning a sectional would be a huge feat for a small school (during the one-class era). I know it was for us (at Northwestern) when we played in the sectional with Kokomo). “There’s talk of the IHSAA going to a five-class system. I’d probably be in favor of that. If you’re going to do class might as well break it up a little more. “How are sectionals are being distributed and seeding of the tournament would take much more priority over how many classes there are. “Let’s set up a season where the regular season is more meaningful and the better teams are meeting at the end (with semistate- and state-caliber games at those stages rather than at the sectional level). “I like the way Ohio (has seeded). The way I understand it, teams have been ranked off their MaxPreps ranking. Head coaches have a meeting. If you’re ranked No. 1 you pick your sectional. If you’re No. 2 you pick your sectional and you’re probably not going to put themselves in the same sectional as the No. 1 team.”
“(On the positive side,) class baseball provides more kids, coaches, and communities an opportunity to be a state champion. (On the negative side,) prior to class baseball we were used to minimal travel. We’ve also lost the local rivalries because of class baseball. “Good smaller programs who were fundamentally sound yet they usually didn’t have the pitching to advance deep into the tournament (benefit most from class baseball). “I would place all private schools into Class 4A or 2A. The success factor has helped every two years, but you still have those schools who dominate every two years they move down. “I’ve coached at the 4A and 3A level and even though I am at a 3A school, I would still rather compete against local rivalry teams rather than class baseball. However, we will never return to a one class system and I understand why!”
“Class baseball is a positive and helps balance the playing field. Since I’ve been coaching, I believe all but just a few schools that have made the State Finals in 4A are in the top 32 in enrollment in the state. “Baseball is a game where you are not always putting your best 9 or best team on the field depending on pitching rotation and availability of arms. “The larger enrollment typically means there are more available players trying out, which creates a greater opportunity to development quality depth in your pitching staff. That is one advantage that bigger schools have. So, the idea of class baseball helps to control some of the variables on both sides of the field. It is not perfect, but it is a way to try and help control some of the unique variables that are different in baseball than other sports. “I believe the top half of each class benefits the most from class baseball, especially at the 3A and 4A levels because the range of enrollment is so much bigger from the smallest school to biggest school in those classes. The range in enrollment in 1A and 2A is much closer from top to bottom. “I don’t really want to go down this path, but the private schools also benefit from class baseball, especially in 1A, 2A, and often 3A. Private schools are not limited to school district lines and are able to draw from a wider range of students compared to the smaller enrollment schools in 1A and 2A. “Not really answering the question, but if I could change anything about the IHSAA tournament, I would make the regular season matter and seed the tournament (or at least seed the teams that feed into the regionals). “You might not be in the same sectional each year if you are seeded from the regional level. I would also create double-elimination rounds at the different levels (sectional, regional, etc.). Similar to the thought above that you are not always putting your best team on the field depending on pitcher availability, a double-elimination tournament would help to insure the best team advances and not just the team with the best pitcher and the best blind draw. “Classes need to be set by a specific enrollment range and not try to keep every class the same size. I would add a fifth or even a sixth class and set the range for the enrollment so that each school in the class is close to the same enrollment size. If that means that one class only has 32 teams, another class has 48, another class has 64, and another class has 96, then that is what should be done and would help make the tournament as fair as possible.”
“Overall (class baseball) is a positive. It has given a lot of smaller schools a chance to be successful and show some of these coaches at smaller schools can really coach. “Smaller schools definitely benefit the most (from class baseball). Some of the teams that have won state championships would never make it out of their sectionals if we were one class. Nothing against them but when schools have 2,000 students to pick from they are going to have a lot more athletes and in the sports that require more players like baseball and football that makes a big difference. “(I favor putting) private schools in their own class. I think they have such a huge advantage. Not because they recruit or anything like that, but they tend to get the players that are more apt and able to do the extra things such as lessons, travel ball, etc. “Overall (class) been good for sports in Indiana. I know Silver Creek has won three state championships in boys and girls basketball in the past four years and made we have made some long runs in baseball. Not sure we would have been able to do that in one class. If you ask any of those kids that were on the state championship team and I am sure they could care less whether it was one class or four.”
“I have no issues with class baseball. I like competing against other schools my size because they have the same issues (positive and negative) that I have. “(Class baseball) definitely helps the smaller schools being able to compete against other schools their own size. “Baseball is a sport where a dominant pitcher can have a great bearing on the game. I remember playing Bremen in the semistate in ’94. (John Glenn head coach) John Naldony has had some very good teams that can compete against larger schools. “As far as changes, a double-elimination sectional would be interesting. I am not sure if a five-class baseball system could accommodate that.”
“Wapahani is in favor of class sports. I believe it makes sports a more even playing field. We won the state in 2014 in 2A, that would not have happened if there was one class. “Our girls volleyball just won state, which is a big deal for small communities, they lost to Yorktown twice and HSE (Class 4A finalists) all were sweeps and not really close. “Even though our team in 2014 and our girls last week were very good, competing against the bigger schools in the tournament would be very difficult. That being said, our State Championships are still a very big deal for our community, school, and students. “Therefore, class sports are a positive. As little league participation in small communities keep losing kids to travel ball and other activities small school numbers are seeing less kids playing baseball and softball unless they have a successful program which is a minority. “Small schools at least feel like they have a chance to win in the tournament and maybe even a state championship when they are playing schools close to their same size. Very few 1A or 2A teams can compete in the tournament with the bigger schools, once they realize that kids quit playing or go to another sport where they might have a chance to win. “The current format is fine for the tournament. Adding additional classes or a class would benefit big schools only in my opinion. Four classes has been a success. Can you tweak things? Maybe. But why change if it is not broken?”
“I like the one-class system but also know that class sports are not going anywhere so we can take the positives from it and live with it. “It is probably the small class schools and communities that benefit the most as they typically have a greater opportunity to advance when playing similar size schools. “Class sports are here to stay so one change I’d like to see for baseball would be the tournament run in some way that has a series feel to it as baseball is not a sport that is suited for a ‘one and done’ tournament.”
“I’m fine with class sports but concerned about the impact of some private and parochial schools that seem to put great emphasis on athletic success which can make it difficult for public schools to compete on an annual basis. “Class sports are here to stay but this situation and the number of transfers at public schools are the next challenges for the IHSAA.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It has created more excitement for more schools and their fans. “Probably the smaller schools feel as if they have a better chance to experience sectional and regional championships than when it was one class. “The only drawback (in class baseb all) I could see is you may have farther travel but in your sectional pairings than when it was one class. When I played in the single class, your sectional would be more local. It would have teams of various sizes, but we seemed have greater rivalries because many times you played against those teams in the regular season or against those players in your summer leagues. “As a coach today, I want to play the best schools we can (no matter the size). I want to prepare ourselves for our conference and sectional. When I was a player, we wanted to be able to compete with Logansport, Kokomo, Marion and LaPorte. Today, we want to compete with Andrean, Jasper, Brebeuf and Southridge.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. I witnessed first-hand what the state tournament does in small communities. The student-athletes have a more balanced playing field. “The benefits go to the teams that advance the furthest in the tourney. Without class baseball a 1A could defeat a 3A or 4A school in the tournament on a given day. However, in most cases those smaller schools don’t have the depth, especially with pitchers. “We are at the point that we need to look at the number of classes. I would be in favor of adding a fifth class. The current disparity in school sizes is extremely large in the upper class. With the growth and addition of smaller, private schools, other mid-size schools are being bumped up. “The biggest problem facing our tournament currently is the number of schools in the sectionals. Host schools have roughly a week to host a sectional tournament. “Depending on your sectional, you could have anywhere from 5-8 teams in that sectional. Huge difference between five and eight. In a five-team sectional the winning team would have to win two or at most three games, and could possibly do that with two pitchers. In an eight-team sectional, the winning team would have to win three games and would possibly need three if not four pitchers in that 5-7 day window for the games.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. It levels the playing field for all schools, especially the ones that are not in that top quarter or so. “The smaller schools and even the medium-sized schools benefit the most. “The thing that football did with the Top 32 (being in the largest or super class), I’d like to see that in the other sports. There are different things you could do with the other four (in a five-class system). You could divide it up evenly. There’s been discussion of capping 1A at 128. There’s a big discrepancy right now between the bottom of 4A and the top of 4A. “(The Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) has talked about running data and see how people would fall. There would not be (an) equal (amount of) schools in every class. We’re still in the process of gathering information. The IHSAA was at our last two athletic directors conferences and present for those discussions.”
“Class baseball will have a positive effect on high school baseball. I think that it levels the playing field for the state tournament. Also, having class baseball will allow more schools the opportunity to earn a state title just like with football’s six classes. “I believe that the smaller schools will benefit.” “It would be fun to see all state title teams play in a small tournament to see who is the best of all of the classes.” “Even with the change to class baseball, there are very good teams at each class level. It will still not be an easy road to get the opportunity to play at Victory Field.”
“Had class sports been in place (when I was at Clinton Prairie) I may have never left. One of the things class sports does is that you can achieve everything positive you want to achieve from a goals standpoint. “Class sports kind of levels the playing field during the state tournament. I had some terrific teams back at Prairie. In five years, we won two sectionals. “A disadvantage for class sports is that when you get to a bigger school like Noblesville there’s no ceiling on the enrollment. “Believe it or not once we went to class sports Noblesville had the smallest enrollment in our sectional at 1,250 (Clinton Prairie was around 300). “If I were at Clinton Prairie I’d welcome it as a smaller school. I might have one really good pitcher that could help me compete against anybody, but in most years would have a drop-off in pitching depth. “At Noblesville — a larger school — I have the chance to have more depth. In baseball it always comes down to pitching. You can be good in a lot of areas of the game. If you have a question on the mound you’re going to struggle.”
There’s positives and negatives for everything, but it’s good for baseball to have class. “If we expand to another class it’s going to be even better. It makes everyone feel like they have a chance. If you’ve got the right group of guys you can win. “At the State Finals you see a difference between the 1A game and 4A game. The lineups are deeper at the bigger level. The 4A game is little more of a college game than a high school game. “The smaller schools probably benefit more (in class baseball) than the bigger schools). “In baseball, it’s how the pitching lines up. “I like how Iowa does it. They don’t start baseball until the end of April and their tournament’s in July. I don’t know if that will ever happen here.”
“Class baseball is a positive (but classification should be addressed) … The number of schools in each class doesn’t need to be the same. “Breakdown of each class needs to be more than an arbitrary enrollment number. There needs to be thought into why the lines of demarcation are made (spread, standard deviations, range). Athletic department size (percentage of the student body participating in each sport should be used for classes) could be used to determine classes. “Many large schools have very small baseball programs. Some small schools have very large baseball programs in terms of numbers. The class system should be used to place a school into its appropriate level of competition, not just for the number of students that attend a school. There are many other variables to consider.”
“I don’t know if (class baseball) is a positive or a negative per say. I played when there wasn’t any classes and I think the class system has taken away for the local rivalries. Now depending on your class and the location of your sectional, you may have to travel up to an hour to play in sectionals, although more teams have the opportunity to win a state championship, a win over a neighborhood rival might mean more, bragging rights. “There are eight teams every year who have the opportunity to play in a state championship game so that’s a benefit (to class baseball). More players, coaches, and schools who have a chance to experience a state championship game. “I’m not sure that I agree with the success factor movement (for all schools), aside from private schools you may be punishing kids who aren’t even in high school because current classes are winning. In small towns you may have a group of kids who all hit at once and then the next year they have nothing, those young men, in the current format are being punished for the success of prior classes. “For me it comes down to the local excitement, the rivalries, the competition between kids who know each other, who’ve grown up playing each other since little league. That’s what’s I believe is missing with the class system. Coming from a coach at a small school I know that if there wasn’t a class system the likelihood of us winning a sectional would go down dramatically, but just think if we would ever knock off one of the local big boys, it would be remembered forever.”
“Overall you can’t make a real argument that (class baseball) is a negative. You’re putting more kids and more schools in successful situations. I get that part. “We were fortunate enough to win eight sectionals (at Northeast Dubois) which wouldn’t have happened in single-class. “That being said, I’m not sure its been a positive for small-school athletes as far as recognition goes (for all-star consideration or scholarships). “The smaller schools were the target when this all started 25 years ago.” “There are private schools that have it better than other private schools (some have thrived and others have had a hard time fielding a team).”
“Class baseball is a positive for the most part. The obvious plus is that there are more ‘winners.’ The big negative in my opinion is that schools lose local rivalries. Pre-class era, we had great rivalries with all the local schools because you were going to potentially play one of them at the sectional or regional level. Those teams and games are now just another game on the schedule unfortunately, especially in my neck of the woods. “Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North are on a ‘big school island.’ We have to travel at least 50 miles to play another 4A baseball team. It was much easier to have a rivalry with say a West Vigo, South Vermillion, Sullivan, etc. before class baseball because we would most likely see them in the state tournament. It is difficult to have a rivalry with a school that is located in or around the Indianapolis area. “The IHSAA can expand to five classes for baseball — that’s fine. But, in my opinion, the private schools need to have their own class/classes.”
“I think class baseball has been positive even though I was a little skeptical when it first started. “Class baseball probably benefits the smaller schools the most because it gives them a realistic chance in the tournament. “The biggest thing that I think that could help class baseball would be looking at creating a separate parochial school class.”
“Having been a high school football coach for 40 years and a head high school baseball coach for 45 years, I have seen the ‘evolution’ of class sports here. My connection to friends and relatives in neighboring Ohio and Michigan has also allowed me to ‘watch’ the evolution of class sports there. In my early years (1981), I was part of Leland Etzler’s Woodlan football staff that went to the Class A state championship game vs. Hamilton Southeastern. There were three classes of football at that time compared with the six we have now. The game was played outdoors in a blizzard on November 20, 1981 (the night before my wife and I were married). It was an awesome experience for everyone connected to the small town communities of Woodburn and Harlan, Indiana. That puts my vote on the positive side of class sports in general and class baseball in particular. “In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Class 2A baseball championship game at Victory Field with my Heritage Patriots. We came up short to a powerhouse from South Spencer, but once again it was a tremendous experience for the communities of Monroeville and Hoagland. Players, parents and fans were the biggest beneficiaries in both cases. “I have seen point systems both here and in Ohio. I have seen other limited entry systems where not everyone gets to participate. I have seen ‘seeded’ systems (currently in Ohio) where top seeds are given regional choice and early round home games. Later rounds are played at ‘neutral’ sites. There are good and bad characteristics to all of these hybrid systems — depending on where you fall in the ‘rankings.’ I feel that things continue to evolve and therefore should only get better in the future — as long as we keep all kids in mind.”
“I believe it to be positive for the student-athletes throughout the state as class baseball has provided opportunities for schools of all sizes to compete with more of a level playing field. Being at a smaller school for five years (Delphi) and now at a bigger school for the last 11 (Harrison), I have been lucky enough to see several outstanding programs and coaches at all levels. “While at Delphi, we were fortunate enough to advance to the 2010 2A state championship game. While I would like to say we’d compete well in a one-class system, the truth of the matter is, we would have struggled to compete against bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional) due to the differences in depth of our roster in comparison to bigger schools. “At Harrison, we have been lucky enough to have several arms that we could run out in an elimination game. At Delphi, that number is quite smaller, which would have really hurt us if we were to play vs. bigger schools in a two- or three-game sectional (or regional). That is a huge competitive advantage for the larger schools and something that is beyond the control of smaller schools. When class baseball started, it provided schools of all sizes the ability to compete on a level playing field in each of the four classes.
“I really see (class baseball) as a positive for the lower classes. Class A and AA have the opportunity to get a State Championship and not have to butt heads with the larger schools. In Class AAA and AAAA, there’s not as big a difference in talent.”
“Class baseball is both positive and negative in my mind. You lose some of the regional rivalries although you could still play local/smaller and larger teams on your regular season schedule. We certainly have more sectional champions and more kids are able to enjoy success playing baseball so that is a huge plus. It leaves more kids with positive experiences while in high school and playing our great game. “I would have to think that the smaller schools benefit the most from class baseball with all respect to them. Our state has tremendous coaches and programs at all levels. Again the opportunity for kids at those schools to be able to compete in the state tournament and enjoy success is a great benefit. “I’m not sure there is much to change for the better — possibly a Champions Tournament but on the flip side it may be rough to win a title and then turn around and possibly get beat. Basketball got away from it, obviously. Some schools have to travel quite a bit for sectional play, but again not sure if there is a way around that. “Baseball at the 3A level on a whole rivals the baseball being played at 4A. Jasper and Andrean’s success when they bumped up is a testament.”
“As in other sports, classification was created to level the playing field keeping schools with similar enrollment sizes within the same bracket and to also create more winners per sport. Classification has added hope to teams who may otherwise not have it if they are put into a sectional with bigger schools. To be perfectly honest most of the time the bigger schools just have access to more choices, such as players, facilities and money. “The smaller schools benefit the most from classification. It has allowed talent to grow and flourish, as having an opportunity to win a sectional breeds hope, which makes it easier to get kids out to play. “I would create a separate class for private schools, the advantage that they have can not be matched by the public school. I will say open enrollment has helped, but the private schools have distanced themselves a lot especially in baseball. “I like where we are at with baseball in the state of Indiana. The training facilities and opportunities that our kids have after high school has grown since I have been in the game the last 20 years.”
“I am somewhat of a traditionalist, so a single class had a little soft spot in my heart. That said, there are some benefits to a class system. The class system allows for: 1. More state winners, 2. A chance for smaller schools to compete at a high level, 3. It helps promote the game of baseball in the state. “I would say the smaller schools and the schools that fall just under the class limits (benefit the most from class baseball). What I mean by that is if the top 101 enrollments go to 4A, school number 102 has an advantage because they are playing in 3A. The private schools also benefit from the class system. “If we are to stay in the class system (which we will), I would say that for baseball there needs to be five classes instead of four. “Another change I would enact would be to not separate by an equal number. If there are 400 schools, it doesn’t need to be 100 in each class of four. “A final change would be the success factor rule. The requirements need to be adjusted, mainly the length at which they must stay up a class should be longer. “One thing that class baseball hurt (along with class basketball) was the community sectionals. I graduated in ’93 when it was still one class and I remember that all the sectionals in every sport were heavily-attended. The attendance has gone down in terms of sectionals.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing, especially for schools with lower enrollment. It helps create a somewhat even playing field for tournament play. Class sports have allowed for multiple smaller enrollment schools to have teams thrive and have success that may not happen if class sports didn’t exist. “Class baseball has allowed our kids to compete against schools of like enrollment. It has allowed our school to enjoy tournament success. It has allowed our school and community to host sectional and regional tournaments, whereas without class sports, we may have not had these opportunities. “I understand the log jam in class sports that occurs at the 4A level, especially in larger city schools. Oftentimes top teams match up early in a tournament, which I am sure is frustrating for those programs. “Overall, class baseball has been a positive thing, especially from the Caston baseball programs perspective. We feel as though it provides parity for our kids, and it gives them a chance to be successful in tournament play. Like in any system, there are pros and cons, but our feel is this has more pros than cons for our student athletes.”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. Teams get a chance to play vs comparable sized teams, better chance for success in state tourney. “The lower classes (benefit most from class baseball) as they all have a legitimate chance for tourney success. “My thoughts about change, which I presented to LaPorte AD, Ed Gilliland, over five years ago is this: All classes play their sectionals. Winners would then meet up in a demographic regional competing with those winners meeting in a four-team semi and finally in a final four State Championship tournament. I actually broke it down statewide with who goes where potentially each stage. This give each class a chance for a sectional title and a tourney overall state champion. I also put this idea for basketball as well. “IHSBCA has done a tremendous job in supporting high school baseball. Baseball and basketball are sports where small schools can compete vs. larger schools. My format would appease all schools with a chance for a sectional trophy, but let’s see one overall state champion.”
“(Class baseball) is a positive. “Smaller public schools definitely benefit the most from class ball. “I don’t feel there is anything wrong with our classification system. There will always be some argument that private schools should perhaps have their own division.”
“I am from the group that favors the one-class system when it comes to the tournament. I think in baseball you can still be competitive with bigger schools if you are a smaller school. “If you have four or five classes then you really don’t have a ‘state champion.’ You have four or five ‘state champions.’ “If you want a true state champion then, let the class winners compete against each other a week later and really come up with a ‘state champion.’ Until then, you just have ‘class champions.’” “If you are going to have class state champions, why are big schools and little schools playing during the regular season?”
“Class baseball is a positive thing. I would say I grew up as a traditionalist and loved the single-class basketball era; however, I’ve grown to appreciate the advantages/disadvantages that come with the size of schools. “Classifying baseball is something that benefits all programs, schools and communities. At the end of the season, eight communities get to compete for the state title at an amazing stadium. Maybe that will soon expand to 10! “I am excited to see the potential of a fifth class built into the state tournament. This would help create more balance among the classes once it is all said and done. It would be interesting to see how things would shake up if multipliers were given to various things like private/public schools, free/reduced percentages, etc. I’ve heard arguments for the success factor to be implemented differently as well. I am not sure it’s entirely fair that the success of graduated juniors and seniors determines the fate of the rising freshman and sophomores who were not directly a part of that success. “I would love to see consistent sectional/regional alignments across as many team sports as possible. I feel this would enhance the rivalry aspect of the state tournament from a sectional/regional standpoint.”
“For us, class baseball has certainly been a positive. Realistically we don’t have the manpower to compete in a tournament with the larger schools. It gives us something to shoot for, and a legitimate chance to win tournament championships. “All small schools benefit from class baseball. Even at the state tournament there is a very noticeable difference in the talent level between the class A game, and the Class AA game. Larger schools have 4-5 times more kids try out for their team. Valpo has over a hundred, we typically get 20 boys out per season.”
“(Class baseball) has been a real positive for high school baseball. Although every once in awhile you have a team you feel can compete in any class, the class system gives teams a level playing field on a more consistent basis. “The kids and community benefit most (from class baseball). At the end of the day when you are a state champion, none of those kids or community identify as a class state champ, they identify as a state champion and the memories from that success. “Baseball should be a double-elimination tournament in order to get a true team champion. A team can eliminate a really good team in a single-elimination tournament with a dominant pitcher. “In 2008 we had Tyler Watts and Kevin Kiermaier get seen by the Parkland College coach because we had the opportunity to advance in the state tournament in Class 2A. They both went to Parkland and Kevin is having a pretty good major league career.”
“In our area, the vast majority of schools are 3A and 4A. I’m not sure it makes a ton of difference one way of the other. I’m sure for many small schools, (class baseball) provides some positive benefits. “(Class baseball) is beneficial for some of the smaller schools that may not have a chance for success against bigger schools. “There should be other factors involved in the equation when classifying schools. You’re not always comparing apples to apples when you look at enrollment numbers. You can compare similar-sized schools and athletes in one district that do not necessarily have the same opportunities and resources that athletes in another district do.”
“(Class baseball is a) very positive thing. Enrollment is definitely not the only factor, but it does make a big difference. It’s not realistic to think that small schools can compete consistently with the higher enrollment schools. The depth that the larger schools have because of numbers and the in-team competition that brings gives them a major advantage. Larger schools often have more resources — including indoor facilities and more coaches that is also advantageous for them. “The benefits from class baseball can be seen throughout all classes. The idea is that schools are competing against similar schools is good for all. “I would actually like to see five classes. The descepancy between the biggest schools in 4A and the smaller schools in 4A is very large. We have schools with over 3,500 students competing against schools that have less than 1,500 students. That is a major difference that brings some big advantages for the larger schools.”
“At Rossville, we benefit from class baseball. I cannot speak for any other coaches or programs but my guess is most would say that smaller schools and/or private schools benefit from the most. With that said, sectionals are generally aligned by geographical location so my guess is a 4A Sectional in the Indianapolis area might not see significant change if we had one class. I could be wrong though. “I would love to see baseball do something like basketball did for a short time with the Tournament of Champions. Baseball — unlike basketball or football — has what I consider to be an equalizer with pitching. It would be neat to see it played out. “I am a fan of the old school single-class system as well. I don’t know what it feels like winning a sectional in a single-class system and I do not want to undermine how special winning a sectional championship is. It is a great accomplishment and there is a great amount of pride felt from the program, school and community. “With that said, I would think winning one in a single-class system would feel different for small schools because of the enrollment differences with the teams you would have to beat.”
“Class baseball is a positive. It creates an opportunity for more competition across the board. “Smaller schools with fewer arms benefit the most from class baseball. Larger schools with more pitchers only are at a great advantage over the smaller schools whose best position players are typically also their best arms and usually have far fewer pitcher-only type players. “I would love to play three-game series in the postseason rather than the one-and-done model. I’m not sure it is even possible and have no idea how they could arrange it but I think it better fits baseball. You would get the better TEAMs winning sectionals as opposed to the team with the best arm or two winning them.”
“(Class baseball) is mostly positive. It gives hope for many of the smaller schools to earn a sectional, regional, semi-state ,and state championships. “The negative would be private schools seem to be earning most of these championships. “Private schools (benefit most from class baseball). In the lower classes, private schools have been piling up the state championships. “I would like to have three classes of public schools and one or two classes of private schools.”
“I am old-fashioned, I began coaching when it was a one-class system. I liked the rivalries and going to the local areas to play the sectional games (playing at home or in Terre Haute or Brazil against Northview, Terre Haute North Vigo, Terre Haute South Vigo or West Vigo). “The reason I bring it up, I felt that it was some Hoosier Hysteria in baseball. It was the local teams playing in a sectional and no one had to travel a great distance.
“It is a benefit for a smaller school to advance farther in the (class baseball) tournament. It takes away the big upsets, but more have a chance to reach the state.”
“Class sports has worked out to be a good thing for everyone involved. The competitive nature of each class is relative and that gives everyone the opportunity to see different teams in different years be successful. “The smaller schools most definitely benefit the most due to the shear numbers that are limited they have to choose from. This allows them to compete against like size schools and provide a great experience for the athlete.
“I think the way the IHSAA has it set up is good and there’s not really much to change.”
“Overall class baseball is a positive. It allows for a more-even level of competition. If we look at the schools with larger enrollment it is more common (especially now with pitch count rules) for them to compete with schools their size who have a similar pitching staffs.
“(Who benefits the most from class baseball is a two-pronged answer. On one hand you have smaller schools 1A, 2A, even 3A who have had more of a chance to compete and have success against schools their size. Again, looking at depth of pitching on those levels it creates a more even playing field. Second answer would be the private/parochial/preparatory schools. They have had more success than most public schools in the tournament, yes they fluctuate in classes because of success factor, but also they have the advantage of being able to set an enrollment where public schools do not.
“Maybe add one more class, I’d like to see just what that would look like. Northview is at the top of the 3A scale so that may move us to the bottom of 4A. I don’t know how that would effect everyone. Also maybe look at a multiplier for the private/parochial/preparatory schools in sports like other states have done. Other states have done it and I think it does create a more even system.
“Overall I think class baseball is great. I think however we could all look back to the days of the David vs. Goliath matchups which brought in huge crowds. I would also like to say that I’m not trying to bring anyone down in this because right now I would argue the state of Indiana has as much baseball talent as any state in the Midwest. The coaching in our state has been really great. I enjoy competing against these coaches from all the different classes and I think baseball in Indiana is as good as it has ever been and I think with the classes we’ve seen some great tournaments and will continue to do so in the future.”
“I think (class baseball) is a positive. I was fortunate to have some teams make deep runs in the tournament during my career that likely would not have happened under a one-class system. In fact, one of my best teams at Northfield was during the one-class era and we were beaten by what is now a 4A school. Had that been a class season, we may have had a chance to win state, minimally, made a deeper run. It provides a few more teams the chance to finish as champions thanks to a more level playing field. “More communities (benefit from class baseball). When we came back into town after our first championship years ago, there were thousands of people in the Kmart parking lot waiting for us. Then we took the fire engine ride through town and spent the next week getting treated like royalty … That was a great experience for the community of Wabash and the players and their families. All have a memory that will last a lifetime. In the one-class era, very few small communities got to experience the state level. “(Class baseball) is pretty good overall, but I would like to see a more consistent schedule set at the sectional level for all sites as much as possible. That is hard to do since some sectionals have lights, others don’t, and trying to work around graduations. But host schools have the slight advantage of setting a schedule that best suits their pitching staff. Of course, weather can play havoc to the best of schedules and no matter how the schedule is set, someone will still likely be unhappy. “There’s some talk about a slight revamp of the class system to help break down the large enrollment gap between the top and bottom 4A schools. Like most, those at the bottom of 4A just want to have a more balanced system. I appreciate the IHSBCA and IHSAA exploring possible options.”
Joe Kutch has long taken a leadership role in youth sports in and around Sullivan County, Ind. Kutch (pronounced Kootch) is entering his eighth season as head baseball coach at North Central Junior/Senior High School in Farmersburg. He was junior high coach for about five years before taking over the varsity Thunderbirds. After years as an assistant, Kutch became North Central’s head football coach midway through the 2021 season. The Thunderbirds won their two sectional football titles with Kutch on the staff — 2018 as defensive coordinator and 2021 as head coach/offensive coordinator. COVID-19 hit Kutch the first week of September and he was in the Intensive Care Unit for nine days and missed three football games. He is still on oxygen. But he still coaches, teaches Automotive classes at North Central (through a co-op with Ivy Tech in Terre Haute) and works for Sullivan Auto Group. The Nashville (Tenn.) Auto-Diesel College graduate got his teacher’s license through Ball State University and began teaching eight years ago. Kutch is an alum of Terre Haute North Vigo High School (Class of 1988). While still in high school he started organizing non-high school athletics. As an adult, Kutch once ran the Northeast Youth League, Tri-Towers Softball League (which once had 500 players and was a pilot site for Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit & Run contest) and is still on the board of the Southwest Youth Football League (formerly Quad County). Joe and Dianna Kutch have been married 28 years and have two sons — Austin Kutch (North Central Class of 2014) and Brayden Kutch (Class of 2017). Both played football and baseball for the Thunderbirds and graduated from college (Austin from Indiana State University and Brayden from Indiana University). North Central (enrollment around 260) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley) for baseball and basketball. Eastern Greene and Linton-Stockton have been IHSAA Class 2A schools on the diamond. Shakamak was a 1A state runner-up in 2021. “I like the competition,” says Kutch, 52. “We take our sports serious. We compete every year in every sport.” In 2021, the Thunderbirds were part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eminence, Shakamak and White River Valley (the 2021 host). North Central has won eight sectional titles — the last in 2011. During the IHSAA Limited Contact Period, North Central has 26 athletes who have indicated that they plan to play baseball in the spring. “Most of my key players are playing basketball, like six of the starting nine,” says Kutch. “(Our numbers) will will drop when we get to mandatory practice (March 14).” Kutch, pitching coach Andy Fuson and hitting coach Brian Raber make up the current Thunderbirds staff. A few volunteers when official preseason practice begins. The Thunderbirds play home games on-campus. A ball over the right field fence could reach U.S. 41. A few years ago, infield dirt was upgraded. The facility has a grass infield with brick dust running lanes. About a decade, a brick press box was installed. The high school shares the field with the independent junior high program. “You need junior high baseball,” says Kutch. “You need a feeder system to keep your program going.” Connor Strain, a 2012 North Central graduate, pitched at the University of Evansville and in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.
Accountability, positivity, a spirt of competition and excellence are qualities Jacob Harden is looking to instill as the new head baseball coach at Linton-Stockton High School in Indiana’s Greene County. “I’m big on holding (players) accountable,” says Harden, who was hired to lead the Miners program in July. “I’ll be the first one to get on their tail when they’re doing something wrong, but I’ll be the first one to build them back up. All the coaches I’ve been around cared and still held me to realistic standards. “Positives need to outweigh the negatives.” Harden, who is also a Project Lead The Way computer science teacher at Linton-Stockton Middle School, had players conditioning shortly after the school year began and led players in grades 7-12 during the IHSAA Limited Contact Period in the fall and since the first week of December. “I want to be the program coach,” says Harden, 25. “I don’t want players to meet me for the first time when they’re freshmen.” Besides the middle school program for seventh and eighth graders, the Linton Youth League (T-ball though Grade 6) feeds the high school Miners. Recent graduates moving on to college ball are 2021 graduates Josh Pyne and Kip Fougerousse (son of former Linton-Stockton head coach Matt Fougerousse) to Indiana University. Bracey Breneman (Class of 2022) recently signed with Vincennes (Ind.) University. Harden did his best in the fall to simulate what spring practices will be like with position group work followed by team activity. He set the tone from Day 1. “I set the standard for how I expect things to go,” says Harden. “I mean business. I want us to win state championships. That means working hard. “We’re doing something every minute of our practices and everybody is going to get better.” Harden has players trying to beat one another in cut-off and bunt drills. “Scoop Tennis” — which promotes quick hands and feet and proper glove work — is both fun and competitive. “When guys compete with everything they do that’s going to transfer over to the game,” says Harden. “You want to be be a competitor and find ways to win. “It’s a competitive atmosphere and we’re paying attention to the fine details.” Fall World Series teams vied for the “Folger’s Cup” — an old coffee can found in a dugout. There’s also social media salutes to the “Grinder of the Week” complete with honoree pictured with a coal miner cap. Linton-Stockton baseball embraces the hashtag #PreparingForReign. “Everybody want to be the best they can be, but who’s going to prepare?,” says Harden, who also has his team breaking huddles with a chant of “618.” What’s significant about that number? June 18, 2022 is the date of the IHSAA State Finals at Victory Field in Indianapolis and that’s where the Miners want to be — #Destination618. Harden wants “The Miner Way” to be personified by players who are gritty with good attitudes. “It embodies what this town is all about,” says Harden. “These people have to work for a living. That’s how this community is. “These guys are starting to believe they can do it.” Linton-Stockton’s new uniforms will feature “MH” on the right shoulder to honor baseball backer Mark Hollingsworth, who died at the beginning of the school year. While he’s not on his staff, Harden has got plenty of support from former Miners head coach Bart Berns. Linton-Stockton (enrollment around 390) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Bloomfield, Clay City, Eastern Greene, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley). In 2021, the Miners were part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Eastern Greene, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli and South Knox and beat North Knox 10-0 in the championship game. Linton-Stockton has won 10 sectional titles. Harden’s assistants are Mike Walters, Craig House and Brian Reel. Walters was a Harden teammate at Northview High School in Brazil, Ind. House is a longtime Linton-Stockton coach who is employed as a coal miner. Reel is the father of Indiana University Southeast head baseball coach Ben Reel. Harden graduated from Northview in 2015. Besides playing Knights head coaches Scott McDonald (2012 and 2013) and Craig Trout (2014 and 2015), he was in the Clay Youth League and was in travel ball as a middle schooler with the Indiana Redbirds and American Legion Baseball for Clinton Post 140 the summer before his senior year and Clay County Post 2 the summer after graduation. He played for Ben Reel at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany in the spring of 2016 and went back that fall. “I had a lot going on,” says Harden. “My grandpa passed away late that fall and one thing led to another. “I was led to step away and come back closer to home.” Harden, who is the son of Brazil’s Mark and Jaime Harden and older brother of sister Kennady Harden (now 19 and an Indiana State freshman) transferred to Vincennes U. “Coach (Chris) Barney took a chance on me,” says Harden, who went in as a walk-on in the fall of 2017 and left in the spring of 2018 as a scholarship player. He became a 4-2-4 player (four-year school, two-year school and four-year school) when he went to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs convinced him it was not worth the risk since Harden had open heart surgery at 16 in 2013 and he was a student manager the rest of the first semester for an ISU team that went on to win a Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship in 2019. Trout invited Harden to be an assistant at Northview and he helped at the varsity and junior varsity levels in 2019 and leading up to the COVID-19-canceled 2020 season. “I’d always known I wanted to coach,” says Harden. “That was the first time I got to put my imprint on something.” In 2021, Harden was an assistant to longtime Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology coach Jeff Jenkins in what turned out to be Jenkins’ final season at the Terre Haute school. Harden assisted manager A.J. Reed of the summer collegiate Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex in the summer and was on a bus heading to Champion City (Springfield, Ohio) when he got the call from Linton-Stockton asking him to join the Miners. We got to grow real close together,” says Harden of Reed. “He was fighting very hard for me. I got great references and guys on the team pulling for me. It felt so good. “I’ve met a lot of people along the way. I can’t think of too many 25-year-olds has the network I do. I’ve got to learn some much. It’s been a chaotic journey. But you have to have some chaos to get that goal accomplished.” The holder of an associate degree in General Studies from Vincennes and degree in Sports Management from Indiana State, Harden is working toward certification through the Indiana Teachers of Tomorrow program. This semester, his PLTW class is creating apps. Next semester, it will be computer science for innovators and makers. “It gives kids a moment to shine,” says Harden of the STEM students. “It makes them feel good.”
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.
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.
Wesley Arthur peeks at his calendar and sees April 5 , 2021 as a special day.
That’s when the first-year head baseball coach at Eastern Greene High School near Bloomfield, Ind., is scheduled to coach his first game.
The Thunderbirds are slated to visit Owen Valley in Spencer, Ind. The Patriots are led by Eastern Greene alum Ryan Wilcoxen.
Arthur is a 2013 graduate of Owen Valley, where he played football for Duane Potts and baseball for Brian Greene. He was an OV assistant on the gridiron for Potts and helped on the diamond with Greene, Brad Garrison and Wilcoxen.
A corner infielder and designated hitter as a high school baseball player, Arthur also excelled in football as a lineman and received college interest in that sport.
Arthur opted to pursue an associate degree at Ivy Tech in Bloomington, Ind., and go into sales while beginning his coaching career.
He enjoys getting out on the field with his young athletes, creating a game plan and the chess match with the opposing players and coaches.
“I like to see what my kids can do and put them in the right place to be successful,” says Arthur.
Greene was the one that gave Arthur the opportunity to be a coach and both have shared time guiding players in baseball and football.
“We’re still really close,” says Arthur. “I consider him a close friend. He’s a mentor to me.
“We bounce ideas off each other.”
Besides high school assistant, Arthur has also been a head coach at the 12U and 13U levels for the Columbus-based Demand Command travel baseball organization.
Arthur, 26, is eager to make an impact on Eastern Greene baseball.
“We want to instill some continuity,” says Arthur. “We’ll probably have a younger roster.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 season, Arthur says he will have essentially two freshmen groups (Class of 2023 and Class of 2024) that will be new to high school baseball.
“We look to get our culture set,” says Arthur, who has seen some players during open gyms but not an entire group with many playing basketball and the school using a hybrid in-person class schedule (one half the student body comes two days and the other half comes two days). “We’ll look for upperclassmen with high school experience to be leaders.
“We’ll do what it takes to grind out some wins. We’ll be growing our baseball I.Q. We may take some lumps along the way.”
Arthur, who is assisted by Casey Bybee, hopes to have enough players for a junior varsity schedule.
“We want to grow the program and have fun,” says Arthur. “We want to keep the kids excited.”
The Thunderbirds are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Linton-Stockton, Mitchell, North Knox, Paoli and South Knox. Eastern Greene has won five sectional crowns — the last in 2013.
Home games for the Thunderbirds are played on a field next to Eastern Greene Middle School and just over a mile down S.R. 54 from the high school.
“It’s been there forever,” says Arthur. “I think it looks nice.”
The field has dirt base paths leading from home plate and a “key hole” from the mound to the plate. Though its more work to maintain, Arthur appreciates the look it creates.
The middle school has seventh and eighth grade baseball teams.
At the younger ages, there is an Eastern Greene Youth Baseball with multiple teams in 8U, 10U and 12U divisions. A separate Thunder Travel baseball program sends players in those age groups out to take on teams around Greene County and the surrounding area.
“I want to build that chemistry and get it started early,” says Arthur of youngsters playing together who will eventually play at EGHS. “We want to get that momentum going.”
Thomas Wesley Arthur is the oldest of Tommy and Tina Arthur’s five children. Wesley’s four younger sisters are Tristany, Tori, Tiana and Teagan.
Holtsclaw, who was recently named as the Cardinals head coach, is a 1991 Bloomfield graduate and recalls the competitive teams of the past. In the pre-IHSAA class days, the Cards went to Bedford for the sectional.
These days, Bloomfield is part of a Class 1A sectional grouping with Clay City, Eminence, North Central (Farmersburg), Shakamak and White River Valley. The Cardinals’ two sectional titles came in 1970 and 1971.
Bloomfield (enrollment around 250) is a member of the Southwestern Indiana Conference (with Clay City, Eastern Greene, Linton-Stockton, North Central of Farmersburg, North Daviess, Shakamak and White River Valley).
“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” says Holtsclaw. “But we want to get back to playing good, solid baseball.”
Holtsclaw has coached travel ball with the Washington-based Bombers, in the Bloomfield youth league (which spans from T-ball to major league) and, the past couple of springs, with the junior high program at Bloomfield. It was started a few years ago as an independent organization by Shane Evans and is now affiliated with Bloomfield School District.
The coach notes that it’s important that the gap between major league and high school is filled to build and keep some kind of momentum for the sport.
“We have to keep as many kids involved in baseball as possible,” says Holtsclaw.
Some years, there have been enough sixth, seventh and eighth graders for an A and B squad. Last year, there was just an A team playing games between April and early June on the high school field and high school rules.
“We want to get them used to expectations of the high school kids,” says Holtsclaw.
What about the Cardinals’ home facility?
“It’s a quirky little field,” says Holtsclaw. “It has fairly short dimensions. The school property ends at the right field fence.”
The right field fence has been raised and there is talk of raising it again.
“Maybe we can sell sponsorships and have our own Red Monster in right?,” says Holtsclaw.
After IHSAA Limited Contact Practice this fall, the school plans to put down new sod and refresh the dugouts. On the wish list is also the expansion of batting cages and an upgraded sound system.
Being a small school, sharing of athletes is a must at Bloomfield. This fall, Holtsclaw has had 16 athletes come to voluntary baseball workouts. Of that number, 14 are in one or more fall sports.
“Time on the diamond is so limited,” says Holtsclaw. “But we can work on defense and arm strength.”
Pitching and defense will be a priority for the Cardinals on Holtsclaw’s watch.
“That will keep you in every ball game,” says Holtsclaw. “Over the years here, we’ve had struggles developing enough pitchers.”
The coach says he approves any steps the IHSAA will take to assist in arm care and development.
“They could give us a little more time to get kids’ arms ready to go,” says Holtsclaw.
With one spot yet to be filled on his coaching staff, Holtsclaw counts Mike Sherrard and Bill McIntosh as Bloomfield assistants for 2019-20.
Holding undergraduate (1995) and law degrees (1998) from Indiana University, Holtsclaw became a deputy prosecutor in Greene County in 1998 and has been the county’s elected prosecutor for the past 13 years.
Jarrod Holtsclaw is the new head baseball coach at Bloomfield (Ind.) Junior/Senior High School. He is a Bloomfield graduate.
His first two teaching jobs were in Gas City, Ind., and Switz City, Ind.
Then the Washington County, Ind., native came back south and became an educator and a coach at a school just up the road from where he grew up.
Ingram is a 2011 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School. He had three coaches in four years. The last one was Brett Miller.
The Lions’ two county rivals were West Washington and Eastern (Pekin). His father, Larry Ingram, was head coach at Eastern for 29 seasons, concluding in 2011.
After earning his degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on physical education at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2015, Brent Ingram worked one year each as a teacher only at Mississinewa High School and White River Valley High School.
Then West Washington Junior-Senior High School principal MaryAnne Knapp called to say that the Senators needed a P.E. teacher and a head baseball coach.
To his his, he is just the second head baseball coach in the history of the program that was also a teacher.
“That’s a big deal to be able to recruit kids,” says Ingram. “Our numbers are better. We expect to have eight or nine freshmen.”
Ingram took both teaching and coaching positions in 2017-18 and made his father one of his assistants.
“I grew up around a baseball coach and a baseball setting and I loved every minute of it,” says Ingram, who counts Larry Ingram, Tim Barksdale and Lincoln Jones as West Washington assistants.
Barksdale is the former director of the youth league in Campbellsburg and a school board member. Jones teaches business at West Washington. The North Harrison High School graduate pitched for four years at Franklin (Ind.) College.
The 2000 baseball season will be Brent Ingram’s third at the IHSAA Class 1A school of about 290 students.
The first season saw the Senators on the wrong end of many run-rule games. That only happened a couple times last spring.
“They’ve improved,” says Ingram, who has had about a dozen players in the program and on a few occasions — such as days when baseball games and track meets fell on the same day — went into games with just nine. There was a time he his left fielder was playing with the broken arm. “It makes you sweat a little bit. If the guys are willing to put the time in, they’re going to play.”
Moving players around the diamond is the norm.
“We’ve had bunch of different lineups in the last few years,” says Ingram. “That’s for sure.”
Baseball is a priority at West Washington as evidenced by the building a junior high diamond next to the high school facility — Claude C. Combs Field (named for the former Senators head coach and current school board member).
The junior high team is affiliated with the school system and coached by West Washington Elementary principal Tom Rosenbaum and West Washington Community Schools superintendent Keith Nance.
A training building with indoor mounds and batting cages will also benefit the Senators.
Whether that will translate into any home runs at Combs Field remains to be seen. While is is 300 feet down the lines and 350 to center, the field sits up on a hill and the wind seems to always be blowing in.
Ingram has never witnessed a game-time home run there.
Combs Field is lighted and has brick dugouts, raised fences all the way around and, recently, a turf home plate area was added.
“For a 1A, we have awesome facilities,” says Ingram.
The Senators are part of a sectional grouping with Crothersville, New Washington and Shawe Memorial. West Washington, a sectional host the past two years, has yet to win a sectional title.
Besides Eastern (Pekin) and Salem, past non-conference opponents have included Borden, Christian Academy of Indiana, Clarksville, Crothersville, Evansville Christian, North Harrison, Orleans, Scottsburg, Shoals, Southwestern (Hanover) and Trinity Lutheran.
The Ingrams (from left): Brooke, Nick, Dustin, Larry, Luke, Janis and Brent. Brent Ingram is head baseball coach at West Washington High School in Campbellsburg, Ind. Larry Ingram, who was head coach at Eastern (Pekin) for 29 years, is one of his assistants. Brent and Dustin are the sons of Larry and Janis. Nick and Luke are the sons of Dustin and Brooke.
After competing for Matt Fougerousse in his senior year and reaching the IHSAA State Finals for the third time (2004, 2006, 2007), McNabb played one season at Oakland City (Ind.) University and one at Olney (Ill.) Central College before receiving his degree at Indiana State University and joining Sweet’s coaching staff as junior varsity coach (2010-14) in his second stint at Shakamak.
“He is definitely my mentor and role model,” says McNabb of Sweet. “A lot of my style is like what his was.
“I can’t say enough about what he meant to my playing career and my coaching career. I’m super close with his whole family.”
McNabb says Sweet was not a screamer and yeller, but demanded much of his players. He was a disciplinarian when he needed to be there with tough love.
“We was ultra-competitive and that oozed through,” says McNabb. “He treated everybody as part of the team, regardless of ability level.”
Fougerousse is now head coach at Linton-Stockton. He and McNabb talk frequently about diamond matters.
The 2019 season was McNabb’s fifth in charge of the North Daviess program.
The Cougars are part of an IHSAA Class 1A sectional grouping with Barr-Reeve, Loogootee, Shoals and Vincennes Rivet. North Daviess has won seven sectional crowns — the last in 2015. The Cougars were North Daviess Sectional runners-up to Barr-Reeve in 2019.
Being in such close proximity to one another, there is a fierce three-headed rivalry between North Daviess, Barr-Reeve and Loogootee.
“The community really takes off with it,” says McNabb.
His first ND team won the 2015 Loogootee Sectional. A senior on that squad — Logan Wagler — went on to play a season at Bethel College (now Bethel University).
McNabb’s coaching staff in 2020 will include local minister Ashley Shurtz, former North Daviess and Oakland City University player Lucas Swartzentruber and North Daviess teacher John Mullen.
Matt Sims, McNabb’s cousin and a Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Athletic Hall of Famer (baseball), was the Cougars pitching coach the past five seasons. Mullen moves up from the junior high staff and takes over those duties.
For eight years, McNabb has been his school’s Project Lead The Way teacher, providing instruction in computer science, robotics, electronics and CAD 3D modeling, which helps prepare students for a career at Crane.
North Daviess plays baseball on Wayne Davis Field. The facility is part of a baseball/softball/tennis complex which was established in 2004. The baseball diamond is fairly large in dimension (330 feet down the lines and 380 to center).
An indoor hitting facility shared with softball helps the Cougars get better even when the weather does not cooperate.
Feeding the high school are the Frank Roberts Youth League in Odon and a junior high program. McNabb just had a call-out meeting for seventh and eighth graders that drew more than 20 players.
“Numbers at the (youth league) are always high,” says McNabb. “Baseball is something people get behind. I have a lot of support.
“It’s a great place to be.”
Steven and Amanda McNabb have been married nearly four years. They reside in Bloomington.
The 2015 IHSAA sectional baseball champions from North Daviess High School.
North Daviess High School head baseball coach Steven McNabb stands with Class 1A honorable mention all-staters Shom Berry (left) and Brandon Craven (right).
Steven McNabb (left) and Caleb Wagler share a moment on North Daviess High School’s Wayne Davis Field.
Steven McNabb, a graduate of Shakamak High School and Indiana State University, enters his sixth season as head baseball coach at North Daviess High School in Elnora, Ind., in 2020.