Tag Archives: Wildcats

Demkovich powers Franklin during fruitful week

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

Franklin — with a 17-5 overall record — has gotten off to the best start of 2022 among the state’s NCAA Division III schools.
The Lance Marshall-coached Grizzlies enjoyed a 4-1 week (March 28-April 3). One of the highlights was senior Logan Demkovich’s four home runs in a doubleheader sweep of Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Bluffton. Munster High School graduate Demkovich is now hitting .410 with 12 home runs and 36 runs batted in.
Earlham (13-5) won its first two HCAC games. Quakers head coach Steve Sakosits reached the 200-win plateau earlier this season.
D-III Trine enjoyed a 3-1 week, including a three-game Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association sweep of Olivet. The first two games were the Thunder’s first home contests of the season.

With a win Sunday against Aquinas, Indiana Tech gave Warriors coach Kip McWilliams his 500th career victory.
NCAA Division I Ball State saw its 10-game win streak end with a loss Sunday at Toledo. The Rich Maloney-coached Cardinals (17-9) fashioned a 6-1 week and moved to 12-2 in the Mid-American Conference.
Griffith graduate Amir Wright (.344) leads the BSU attack for the lead-off spot. Hamilton Heights graduate Tyler Schweitzer (4-2), Lawrence North alum Ty Johnson (4-1) and Bloomington North grad Sam Klein (six saves) are among the leading pitchers.
A 4-0 week for Notre Dame included a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference sweep at Florida State. The Irish won 2-0 in 12 innings, 5-4 (with one run in the eighth inning and two in the ninth) and 9-7 (with two eighth-inning runs). ND head coach Link Jarrett played at FSU.
A 4-0 week for Evansville (13-14) included a three-game non-conference sweep of Michigan State. Wes Carroll’s Purple Aces are 7-4 on their home turf.
Butler (14-14) went 4-1 on the week. Dave Schrage’s Bulldogs have won five of their last six heading into a Tuesday game at Notre Dame. Schrage reached 850 career wins earlier this spring.
NCAA Division II Indianapolis won three of four Great Lakes Valley Conference games at Truman as part of a 3-3 week. Al Ready’s Greyhounds are 5-5 in away contests.
Inclement weather meant no games for Dave Griffin’s Purdue Northwest squad. The Pride is 10-7.
Following a 5-1 week NAIA Taylor (24-10) is tied atop the Crossroads League standings with Mount Vernon Nazarene at 14-4. Kyle Gould’s Trojans were to play two at Saint Francis today (April 4).
Also in the Crossroads League, Rich Benjamin’s Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (17-14) went 5-1 and Seth Zartman’s Bethel Pilots (13-21) went 4-2.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL
Records Through April 3
NCAA D-I
Purdue 18-5 (1-3 Big Ten)
Ball State 17-9 (12-2 MAC)
Notre Dame 16-5 (5-4 ACC)
Indiana State 15-8 (2-1 MVC)
Butler 14-14 (0-0 Big East)
Evansville 13-14 (0-0 MVC)
Valparaiso 11-11 (0-0 MVC)
Indiana 11-15 (1-2 Big Ten)
Purdue Fort Wayne 4-22 (2-7 Horizon)

NCAA D-II
Southern Indiana 13-13 (2-2 GLVC)
Purdue Northwest 10-7 (0-4 GLIAC)
Indianapolis 10-14 (5-3 GLVC)

NCAA D-III
Franklin 17-5 (2-0 HCAC)
Earlham 13-5 (2-0 HCAC)
Wabash 12-5 (0-2 NCAC)
Anderson 10-9 (2-0 HCAC)
Rose-Hulman 9-6 (0-2 HCAC)
Trine 8-10 (3-0 MIAA)
DePauw 8-10 (1-1 NCAC)
Hanover 7-12 (2-2 HCAC)
Manchester 5-10 (2-0 HCAC)

NAIA
Taylor 24-10 (14-4 CL)
Indiana University Southeast 22-10 (10-2 RSC)
Indiana University-Kokomo 20-11 (10-1 RSC)
Saint Francis 19-14 (8-8 CL)
Oakland City 19-15 (5-9 RSC)
Indiana Wesleyan 17-14 (12-6 CL)
Huntington 14-12 (12-6 CL)
Indiana Tech 14-15 (4-4 WHAC)
Marian 14-16 (6-10 CL)
Bethel 13-21 (7-11 CL)
Grace 12-19 (6-12 CL)
Indiana University South Bend 9-20 (3-10 CCAC)
Calumet of Saint Joseph 7-21 (2-9 CCAC)
Goshen 5-23 (2-16 CL)

Junior College
Vincennes 13-15 (6-6 MWAC)
Ivy Tech Northeast 9-6
Marian’s Ancilla 4-22 (2-4 MCCAA)

Week of March 28-April 3
NCAA D-I
Monday, March 28
Ball State 2, Western Michigan 0
Ball State 12, Western Michigan 5

Tuesday, March 29
Butler 7, Bellarmine 4
Evansville 10, Austin Peay 5
Notre Dame 11, Northern Illinois 2
Illinois-Chicago 10, Purdue 9
Purdue Fort Wayne 11, Valparaiso 3

Friday, April 1
Ball State 8, Toledo 1
Butler 1, Eastern Illinois 0
Evansville 7, Michigan State 2
Indiana 5, Northwestern 4
Indiana State 4, Illinois State 2
Notre Dame 2, Florida State 0 (12 inn.)
Illinois 8, Purdue 1
Wright State 5, Purdue Fort Wayne 3
Illinois-Chicago 9, Valparaiso 7
Valparaiso 8, Illinois-Chicago 3

Saturday, April 2
Ball State 7, Toledo 3
Ball State 10, Toledo 2
Eastern Illinois 3, Butler 2
Evansville 7, Michigan State 5
Northwestern 7, Indiana 6
Illinois State 12, Indiana State 2
Notre Dame 5, Florida State 4
Illinois 11, Purdue 10
Wright State 17, Purdue Fort Wayne 11

Sunday, April 3
Toledo 5, Ball State 1
Butler 2, Eastern Illinois 0
Butler 2, Eastern Illinois 1
Evansville 5, Michigan State 4
Northwestern 13, Indiana 6
Indiana State 5, Illinois State 2
Notre Dame 9, Florida State 7
Illinois 11, Purdue 8
Wright State 12, Purdue Fort Wayne 3
Valparaiso 5, Illinois-Chicago 2

NCAA D-II
Tuesday, March 29
Kentucky Wesleyan 8, Indianapolis 2
Kentucky Wesleyan 4, Indianapolis 1
Maryville 15, Southern Indiana 8

Friday, April 1
Truman 3, Indianapolis 2
Quincy 7, Southern Indiana 2

Saturday, April 2
Truman 3, Indianapolis 2
Indianapolis 4, Truman 2
Southern Indiana 5, Quincy 1
Quincy 5, Southern Indiana 3

Sunday, April 3
Indianapolis 9, Truman 3
Quincy 6, Southern Indiana 4

NCAA D-III
Monday, March 28
Franklin 9, St. Olaf 8

Tuesday, March 29
Carson-Newman 13, DePauw 3
Wittenberg 10, Earlham 5
St. Olaf 4, Franklin 3
Hanover 15, Mount St. Joseph 14 (13 inn.)
Hanover 9, Mount St. Joseph 5
Rose-Hulman 7, Wabash 1
Ohio Northern 12, Trine 11

Wednesday, March 30
Anderson 15, Greenville 5
DePauw 10, Earlham 3
Franklin 7, Williams 6
Heidelberg 8, Manchester 2

Saturday, April 2
DePauw 12, Wooster 4
Wooster 13, DePauw 6
Earlham 7, Mount St. Joseph 4
Earlham 12, Mount St. Joseph 8
Franklin 16, Bluffton 4
Franklin 13, Bluffton 3
Manchester 6, Hanover 2
Manchester 6, Hanover 2
Trine 3, Olivet 0
Trine 13, Olivet 3
Allegheny 8, Wabash 3
Allegheny 11, Wabash 0

Sunday, April 3
Anderson 4, Rose-Hulman 3
Anderson 6, Rose-Hulman 5
Trine 4, Olivet 2

NAIA
Tuesday, March 29
Bethel 6, Marian 4
Marian 8, Bethel 0
St. Francis (Ill.) 7, Calumet of St. Joseph 1
IU Southeast 16, Campbellsville 7
Indiana Wesleyan 9, Grace 7
Grace 5, Indiana Wesleyan 3
Spring Arbor 16, Huntington 14
Huntington 15, Spring Arbor 2
Concordia 6, Indiana Tech 5
Indiana Tech 5, Concordia 3
Taylor 13, Saint Francis 1
Taylor 11, Saint Francis 0
Mt. Vernon Nazarene 5, Goshen 3
Mt. Vernon Nazarene 3, Goshen 1

Wednesday, March 30
Lawrence Tech 5, IU Kokomo 4
Lawrence Tech 10, IU Kokomo 4
St. Francis (Ill.) 12, IU South Bend 4
Indiana Wesleyan 18, Thomas More 4

Friday, April 1
Grace 9, Bethel 4
Bethel 13, Grace 3
Taylor 12, Goshen 1
Goshen 3, Taylor 2
IU Kokomo 15, Midway 5
Midway 5, IU Kokomo 4
Olivet Nazarene 10, IU South Bend 0
Olivet Nazarene 11, IU South Bend 3
IU Southeast 8, Oakland City 7
IU Southeast 16, Oakland City 4
Indiana Wesleyan 12, Saint Francis 1
Indiana Wesleyan 11, Saint Francis 5

Saturday, April 2
Bethel 4, Grace 2
Bethel 3, Grace 0
Taylor 13, Goshen 1
Taylor 10, Goshen 3
Huntington 10, Marian 6
Huntington 14, Marian 12 (8 inn.)
IU Kokomo 7, Midway 6 (10 inn.)
Olivet Nazarene 9, IU South Bend 5
Oakland City 10, IU Southeast 9 (11 inn.)
Cornerstone 5, Indiana Tech 4
Cornerstone 9, Indiana Tech 3
Indiana Wesleyan 11, Saint Francis 1
Indiana Wesleyan 13, Saint Francis 6

Sunday, April 3
Aquinas 5, Indiana Tech 2
Indiana Tech 7, Aquinas 5

Junior College
Tuesday, March 29
Marian’s Ancilla 2, Glen Oaks 1
Glen Oaks 5, Marian’s Ancilla 3

Friday, April 1
Muskegon 4, Marian’s Ancilla 0
Muskegon 11, Marian’s Ancilla 2
Vincennes vs. Danville Area 8, Vincennes 3
Vincennes vs. Danville Area 6, Vincennes 1

Saturday, April 2
Olney Central 3, Ivy Tech Northeast 0

Sunday, April 3
Marian’s Ancilla vs. Muskegon
Danville Area 7, Vincennes 5
Vincennes 7, Danville Area 6

Stoddard keeps communication flowing as North Central College assistant

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

More than five decades after he began, Tim Stoddard is still chasing championships.
The man who helped win a state basketball title at East Chicago (Ind.) Washington (1971), a national basketball crown at North Carolina State University (1974) and a World Series ring for the Baltimore Orioles (1983) has also been an assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., for five College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin regular-season crowns (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021) with three CCIW tournament trophies (2017, 2018 and 2019) plus an NCAA Division IIII World Series appearance (2017).
Stoddard, who turns 69 on Jan. 24, works primarily with Cardinals pitchers — something he did the previous 22 seasons at Northwestern University (1994-2015), where he was on the staff of fellow Central Illinois Collegiate League alum Paul Stevens (now a University of Chicago assistant).
More than two dozen of Stoddard’s pitching pupils have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Three former Northwestern arms — J.A. Happ, Bo Schultz and George Kontos — have pitched in the majors.
North Central head coach Ed Mathey was leading the Northern Illinois University program when he became acquainted with Stoddard and brought his friend in as a part-time coach before the 2016 season. Mathey and assistant Joe Heller are the full-timers among Cardinals baseball coaches.
Without motion-capture equipment to analyze deliveries, Stoddard takes an “old school” approach with his NCC pitchers.
“We work on mechanics as much as anything,” says Stoddard. “We do a lot of throwing.
“The biggest thing about sports is repeatability.”
While some occasionally touch 90 mph, most throw between 83 and 87.
“Then you make sure your change-up and breaking ball is working and concentrate on throwing strikes,” says Stoddard.
The coach is a big believer in communication with his players. He encourages his hurlers to come back the next day to discuss what happened in a game or practice rather than doing it in the heat of the moment.
“I like having two-way discussions so I know what they’re thinking,” says Stoddard. “I don’t want to talk at them. I want to talk with them.
“I’ve made that approach since I started coaching. I never liked it when I was told what to do. It’s the thought process of what went into it.
“I’m trying to get them to pitch more than rare back and throw.”
Stoddard appreciates the receptiveness of his players.
“They listen,” says Stoddard. “That keeps me doing this. They respect what I say.”
North Central went 38-9 overall and 27-5 in league play and led the CCIW in team earned run average (3.41) and batting average (.309).
Unique to NCAA D-III baseball is a Triple-A program (they don’t use the term junior varsity), which allows players to develop with games and practices. North Central carried 50 players on its roster in 2021.
“The only way to get better is to play,” says Stoddard. “We get all these guys an opportunity to play and get better.”
Per D-III rules which restrict the number of active weeks during the school year, North Central players practiced with coaches in the fall and have been training on their own until team activities resume again in late January.
Stoddard has been inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jake Arzumanian, who is also in the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, coached Stoddard on the diamond at East Chicago Washington and in American Legion baseball — both at Block Stadium.
“He was a great man,” says Stoddard of Arzumanian. “He treated me tremendously. He wanted the best for kids.
“He let us have fun and play.”
Indiana Basketball Hall of Famers John Molodet was Stoddard’s high school hardwood coach. Two of his Senators basketball teammates — Junior Bridgeman and Pete Trgovich — are also Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.
Another Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer — Norm Sloan — coached Stoddard, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Thompson, Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Monte Towe and the rest the NC State Wolfpack to the ’74 national hoops title, breaking UCLA’s string of seven straight championships. Sloan is a graduate of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. Towe is an Oak Hill alum.
Sammy Esposito, a former big league infielder, was a basketball assistant to Sloan in ’74 and was also NC State’s head baseball coach. He is in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
As a 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher, he made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago White Sox in 1975 and went on to make 485 mound appearances (all in relief). He was with the Orioles (1978-83), Chicago Cubs (1984), San Diego Padres (1985-86), New York Yankees (1986-88) and Cleveland Indians (1989).
Stoddard and fellow East Chicago Washington graduate Kenny Lofton — who played 11 seasons in the big leagues and is also in the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame — are the only two to have played in the World Series (2002 with the San Francisco Giants) and NCAA men’s basketball championship game (1988 with the University of Arizona).
Tim and wife Jane reside in Rolling Meadows, Ill. They have five children together — Laura, Anne, Ellen, Katie and Dan.

Tim Stoddard (North Central College Photo)

Fishers, Indiana Wesleyan alum Davis comes back to baseball as a coach

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

When Brice Davis got the call that led him into professional baseball he was busy on the field.
Davis was coaching third base for Indiana Wesleyan University in a doubleheader when the independent Frontier League’s Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers manager Jamie Bennett, who pitched of the DuBois County (Ind.) Dragons and Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats coached with the RailCats, and outgoing hitting coach Derek Shomon reached out about filling Shomon’s spot since he had taken a coaching job in the Minnesota Twins organization.
“They wanted to see if I’d get rattled,” says Davis of the timing. “It was a twisted joke.”
But Davis impressed and after the twin bill received text messages and got a good review. The next thing he knew he is joining the Boomers for spring training and after that came a 96-game regular season and the fourth league championship in franchise history.
“It was whirlwind,” says Davis of the 2021 baseball season began in early February with Indiana Wesleyan in Lakeland, Fla., and ending in late September with Schaumburg in Washington, Pa. “It was an incredible year and an incredible ride.
“It was a really special group (at IWU). To be leaving them at that time was incredibly tough. I’m in awe that we got to share all those runs together.”
Indiana Wesleyan wound up 2021 at 44-14, Crossroads League regular-season and tournament champions and an NAIA Opening Round host.
Davis, a four-year starter at IWU and a 2013 graduate with a Sports Management degree, spent three seasons on the staff of Wildcats head coach Rich Benjamin (2019-21).
“He’s a huge offensive mind and about hitting for power,” says Davis of Benjamin, who was an assistant at Fishers (Ind.) High School before moving on. “I saw it as an opportunity.
“I wanted to see if I could hack it at the college level.”
Davis first became a hitting instructor in 2009 (his training business is Davis Baseball LLC). But it was a big transition to working with professional hitters in 2021.
“You’re helping prepare guys to be successful (in pro ball),” says Davis. “At the college level, you’re doing a lot of development. They’re making strides every single month to be the best versions of themselves and trying to stay locked in.
“Guys at the professional level are already pretty talented. They want to take their skill level and apply it against a pitching staff (or individual). In both arenas the goal is to simplify life. You pick out an approach that is going to breed results and success.”
The difference between high school and college and pro baseball is that the pros play everyday with much more travel and they don’t have as much time to work on their craft.
“Learning how to hit when you’re only 80 percent or getting your two knocks comes in a lot of ways,” says Davis. “I was amazed how many guys played hurt.”
How a player felt on any given day is how they prepared for that day’s game. That might mean more batting practice or less.
“You can’t treat everyday like Opening Day,” says Davis. “It just doesn’t work like that.”
Since Schaumburg is an independent league team, scouting is done differently. Major League-affiliated clubs have access to plenty of stored data on opponents.
The only resource available to the Boomers staff was Frontier League TV (2021 was the first year that all league clubs broadcast games). Coaches and players spent a lot of time looking at video to find tendencies.
The Evansville Otters were the only team who put pitching velocity on the screen during their broadcasts, leaving Schaumburg to study those videos when teams took on Evansville.
In the league championship series against the Washington Wild Things, the staff was at a disadvantage. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boomers had not played anyone on Washington’s side of the league during the regular season. Also, there was no radar gun reading available at Wild Things Park.
“It was all hearsay. You had no more information than in a non-conference high school baseball game. It was ‘see it and hit it, boys!’
It was absolute gauntlet level from our staff and our players. It’s not copy-paste-print like it is at some of the other levels. It’s not like high school baseball where you can trade tapes.
“It was a big learning curve.”
Davis notes that the Frontier League is now partnered with Major League Baseball so maybe things will change for the better.
Not all pro players take to information the same way.
“This guy wants to know velo and out pitch and this guy wants to know as much as possible,” says Davis. “Other guys don’t want to know anything and just play the game.”
And if a pro hitter doesn’t want info, it’s not up to the coach to shove it down his throat.
“You have respect for what they’re trying to do,” says Davis.
While Schaumburg players hail from all over the country, there are also a number with ties to the area, including former Indiana Wesleyan pitcher Isaiah Rivera from Des Plaines, Ill.
“There are a lot of college players in the region,” says Davis. “You don’t want to miss on anything in your back yard. Chicago is a cool city with a lot of great athletes in it.”
Davis says many have the misconception that independent ball is full of 27-year-old has-beens. But a good deal have been selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft and spent time in the affiliated minors.
The Frontier League is unique because it puts players into Rookie, Experienced and Veteran eligibility classifications and there is a cap on veterans (those turning 29 by Oct. 1). Teams can also make just 30 transaction moves per season.
“The world of independent baseball is fascinating,” says Davis.
Another thing about 2021 in much of independent ball is that there was no season in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“They’re learning how to play baseball again and getting their timing back,” says Davis. “It’s like they’ve been waiting for the prom for two years.
“It was about managing emotions, telling them to enjoy the moment and don’t overthink it.”
There was a time when Davis didn’t want to think about baseball. It stung too much when his playing career was over and he did not watch a game for two years.
Brice’s father was a high school boys basketball coach for many years. Hagerstown, Ind., native Jerry Davis was a head coach at Triton Central and Wawasee and an assistant at Marion and Hamilton Southeastern. He came back to Indiana from Dallas, where Brice was born, to teach math and coach hoops.
“I grew up in the gym,” says Brice. “My safe place to process life was listening to bouncing balls. That’s a sanctuary few people understand.”
Davis, who did not play high school basketball to focus on baseball opportunities, joined the Hamilton Southeastern hardwood staff of Brian Satterfield and coached freshmen for two seasons.
“Climbing up the hard way in basketball appealed to me,” says Davis. “Going to clinics and studying tape was a journey in itself.”
Then came the call back to baseball and he answered it.
“I’m in a better head space when I’m going to the field,” says Davis, who received words of encouragement that still resonate with him.
Brian Abbott, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association executive director and a former IWU assistant, approached Davis at the IHSBCA State Clinic when the latter was on Matt Cherry’s Fishers Tigers staff.
“He was one of the first people who told me I needed to be in coaching,” says Davis of Abbott, the IHSBCA Hall of Famer. “It’s because of kids like myself. He said, ‘you belong in this industry. You might be the only person who gets to tell a kid that day that they matter.
“You have a purpose to connect with kids.”
Davis has taken that connection to heart.
“I love teaching the game,” says Davis. “I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. A lot of good can be done by powerful teaching and coaching.
“It’s a great profession.”
Davis, who was part of Fishers’ first graduating class in 2008, was reunited with Cherry for three seasons (2016-18) as an assistant coach. The 2018 team made an IHSAA Class 4A state title run.
“He’s single-most influential person in my life besides my dad since I was 15,” says Davis of Cherry. “He knows there’s more to people than baseball. He’s transformational.”
Cherry, who had coached Davis prior to the 2016 season he needed a freshman coach. Davis accepted the invitation.
“I’ll be darned if I wasn’t completely consumed,” says Davis. “I told (Cherry) the next year I want to be a varsity coach. I want to be with the older kids. I want to dive in and see where it could go.”
In 2017 and 2018, Davis was Fishers’ hitting coach. The latter team set 21 school records.
“We had all the fun in the world,” says Davis.
Now 32 and living in Wheeling, Ill., Davis is teaching at area facilities, including Parkway Bank Sports Complex aka The Dome in Rosemont, Ill., and East Sports Academy in Itaska, Ill., and helping at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. Owls head coach Bill Fratto is also an assistant/first base coach for the Boomers.
Through it all, Davis has developed a fraternity of brothers at each baseball stage and keeps in-touch with people on his high school, college and pro path. Kris Holtzleiter, the new Eastbrook High School head coach, played and coached with close friend Davis at IWU.
“Every season has a story whether it’s good or bad,” says Davis. “You must make the most of the moment you’re in.
“It’s not about the championships or the trophies.”
It’s the people.

Brice Davis.
Jerry Davis and Brice Davis.
Brice Davis with mother Jerry and mother Paige.
Brice Davis and M.J. Stavola.
Bill Fratto and Brice Davis.
Young Schaumburg (Ind.) Boomers fan and Brice Davis.
Former Indiana Wesleyan University players Isaiah Rivera and Brice Davis a player and coach with the Schaumburg Boomers.

Righty Ledbetter’s route leads to Indiana

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

Collin Ledbetter was born and raised in Arizona, but the Midwest has also been pretty good to him as he has pursued higher levels of education and baseball.
In the summer of 2021, the right-handed pitcher experienced his first opportunity to play for pay in the United Shores Professional Baseball League.
The 25-year-old arrived this week back in his adopted hometown of Indianapolis where he will plot his future.
Ledbetter is a 2015 graduate of Northwest Christian School in Phoenix. He arrived at the same time as head baseball coach and former Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Rod Bair and was with the varsity for four years.
“We’re still great friends until this day,” says Ledbetter of Bair. “He had a great impact on me as a player and on my growth as a man as well.”
Starting out his college baseball journey in the Valley of the Sun, Ledbetter joined the Dave Grant-coached Glendale (Ariz.) Community College team and pitched for the Gauchos in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“(Glendale) has a great reputation — not only in Arizona — but around the country,” says Ledbetter. “I remember being intimidated going into the program. Coach Grant was a real encourager.
“He always gave guys a chance to prove themselves and was always there for help when you needed it.”
Ledbetter was recruited out of high school by Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. David Mitroff was the Golden Eagles head coach at the time. In Ledbetter’s second year at Glendale, Mitroff moved to Phoenix and became a reference for the pitcher’s next move.
Mitroff connected Ledbetter with coaching friend Rich Benjamin at Indiana Wesleyan University. After visiting the IWU campus in Marion, the player decided that it was the best fit for him and came to the Midwest.
“(Indiana Wesleyan) was an up-and-coming NAIA program looking to add pitching depth,” says Ledbetter. “It was the right place for me. It is Christian and a private school. My faith is very important to me.
“Coach Benjamin focused on creating an atmosphere where Jesus was first before baseball. Obviously, he wanted to win. He wanted us to use our talent to the best of our ability to God’s glory.”
Kris Holtzleiter was the Indiana Wesleyan pitching coach during Ledbetter’s time with the Wildcats.
“He’s one of the best encouragers I know,” says Ledbetter of Holtzleiter. “There’s nobody that doesn’t like him. He focuses on the positives, never the negatives.
“As someone who is hard on myself and expects a lot out of myself, I appreciated that.”
Ledbetter herniated a disc in his back that required surgery and redshirted in 2018 – his junior year — after playing in just six games.
At about the same time, Collin’s parents Paul and Deb and younger siblings Lauren and Carson moved from Arizona to Indianapolis to be closer to extended family.
Collin pitched for IWU — getting into eight games (five in relief) with a 0-2 record, 8.47 earned run average, 17 strikeouts and 10 walks in 17 innings – and received a bachelors degree in Sports Management in 2019.
Wishing to pursue a Masters in Sport Management on an accelerated timeline with cost in mind, Ledbetter opted to transfer to Campbellsville (Ky.) University and used his redshirt senior season with the NAIA Tigers in 2020.
“(Head coach Beauford Sanders and pitching coach Brett Neffendorf) loved to win more than anyone I’ve ever played for,” says Ledbetter, who pitched in three games and 2 2/3 innings with a 0.00 ERA during the truncated 2020 campaign. “That’s a great thing. That was important to me.”
Ledbetter said the coaches were no-nonsense and helped players focus on short-term and long-term goals.
After his time at Campbellsville was there more baseball for Ledbetter?
He sure hoped so.
“The goal was always to play professional baseball and keep playing as long as I can,” says Ledbetter.
But there was plenty of uncertainty. Minor League Baseball canceled its 2020 season and many independent leagues followed suit.
Ledbetter kept himself in shape and began training with Jay Lehr at Pro X Athlete Development in Westfield, Ind.
“Jay really took me under his wing,” says Ledbetter, who had the chance to play catch with former big league pitcher Drew Storen and central Indiana minor leaguers like Parker Dunshee and Nolan Watson. “I saw a lot of development as a pitcher.
“I started showing signs of improvement and that I had the stuff to play at the next level.”
Ledbetter reached out to teams and leagues, including the four-team, Utica, Mich.-based USPBL (Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers, Utica Unicorns and Westside Woolly Mammoths).
It was only a matter of hours when director of operations Jason Orenduff replied to his email and he soon found himself headed to Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, about 25 miles north of Detroit.
Assigned to the Woolly Mammoths, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder Ledbetter was a relief pitcher for a team co-managed by John Dombrowski and Taylor Grzelakowski.
“They definitely had our best interests in mind at all times,” says Ledbetter. “It was a fun atmosphere at the field every day.”
USPBL games were played Thursday through Sunday. There was no practice on Mondays and it was an optional weight room day. There were practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“We were split into position groups,” says Ledbetter. “Pitchers went through an extensive stretching routine. As a reliever I had to be ready at all times. Tuesday was usually my bullpen days with 20-25 pitches and weights. Wednesdays I’d play catch and work on off-speed grips from 60 feet.”
Ledbetter said gameday routines were based on the individual needs of each player. Some recovered faster than others.
“We would hold each other accountable,” says Ledbetter, who made 21 mound appearances (20 in relief) with a 2-4 mark, three saves, 2.78 ERA, 23 K’s and 22 walks in 27 2/3 innings.
While Ledbetter has received an invitation to return to the USPBL in 2022, the league does have a two-year cap.
“Their goal is to push guys out of their as quickly as they can,” says Ledbetter. “They want everybody to be signed my an affiliated team.
“They saw a lot of growth in me as a player. They want the best for everyone. They’ve encouraged me to look at my other options.”
Taking a break to re-set physically and mentally, Ledbetter does not plan to begin throwing again for three or four weeks.
Meanwhile he will pursue a part-time job and may give private lessons.
He will also take the time to enjoy family. Paul Ledbetter is in the insurance business. Deb Ledbetter is a former flight attendant. Lauren Ledbetter (21) is a radiology technician. Carson Ledbetter (19) is attending trade school to become an electrician.
Collin is not related to twins Ryan and David Ledbetter, but he has formed a relationship with the former pitchers at Heritage Christian High School, Cedarville (Ohio) University and the Texas Rangers organization.
Ryan Ledbetter works for a company that has done business with Paul Ledbetter’s firm. Over time, Collin got to know both Ryan and David.
“We hit it off,” says Collin. “We’ve kept in-touch ever since.”

Collin Ledbetter (USPBL Photo)
Collin Ledbetter (United Shores Professional Baseball League Photo)
Collin Ledbetter (United Shores Professional Baseball League Photo)

Ball State right-hander Johnson impresses in College Summer League at Grand Park

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

It’s hard not to stand out when you are 6-foot-6. But Ty Johnson did little to rise above as a baseball pitcher until his junior year at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.
Johnson entered high school in the fall of 2016 at 5-10. By the end of freshman year he was 6-2. By the close of his sophomore year in 2018 he was 6-6.
“I got hurt a bunch freshman and sophomore year,” says Johnson. “I had growing pains. My body wasn’t ready for it. I was goofy and awkward.
“My junior year I got a little more athletic.”
The right-hander saw some varsity action as a sophomore for Richard Winzenread’s Wildcats then was a regular as a junior in the spring of 2019. He went 3-0 in seven games with an 0.88 earned run average. In 39 2/3 innings, he struck out 60 and walked 20.
That fall he played for Team Indiana, coached by Phil Wade and Blake Hibler.
The COVID-19 pandemic took away the 2020 season — which would have been Johnson’s senior campaign.
The lanky hurler attracted interest from scouts leading into the five-round 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but was not selected.
By this time he had impressed enough to be signed by Ball State University. An injury kept him out of early action, but he did get into three games for the Ben Norton-coached Local Legends of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
At Ball State, Johnson got to work with Cardinals head coach Rich Maloney and pitching coach Larry Scully.
“He trusts me,” says Johnson of Maloney. “He’s always believed in me. He has my back.
“That’s reassuring.”
Johnson and Scully have grown close.
“He checks in all the time,” says Johnson. “We work on my weaknesses. He’s brutally honest. It’s what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.
“I respect that.”
Scully has helped Johnson develop a longer delivery to take advantage of his length.
“I can maximize my velo potential,” says Johnson. “It will pay off in the long run.”
In the spring of 2021, Johnson made 15 mound appearances (11 in relief) and went 4-2 with a 6.83 ERA. In 27 2/3 innings, he recorded 34 strikeouts and 14 walks.
In the fall, there was work on a glide step to help in holding baserunners. In-season, there was an emphasis on developing an off-speed pitch and curveball.
His three pitches thrown from a high three-quarter overhand arm slot are a four-seam fastball (which sits at 91 to 93 mph and has reached 94), a change-up and curve.
By the spring, 195-pounder Johnson’s vertical leap was up to 36 inches.
“I’m pretty fast off the mound,” says Johnson. “I’m a lot more athletic than people think.
“This summer I got a lot better at fielding my position.”
Johnson says he would rather be a starting pitcher. He knows there were several on the BSU staff that had earned their way into that role last spring.
“I was suited to be a reliever freshmen year,” says Johnson. “I had no problems with it. I helped them best out of the bullpen.
“I prefer starting. That’s what Ball State wants me to do next year.”
Back in the CSL in 2021 — this time with the Caleb Fenimore-coached Bag Bandits — Johnson pitched in nine games (all starts) and went 5-1 with one complete game and a 2.03 earned run average. In 48 2/3 innings, he fanned 66 and walked 17. He posted a 0.99 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and opponents hit .176 against him.
Johnson was named College Summer League at Grand Park Pitcher of the Year. The Bag Bandits beat the Snapping Turtles in the league championship game.
The Ball State staff wanted Johnson to play in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League on the East Coast, but the pitcher opted to stay home. He trained in his basement or local gym and was allowed by Winzenread to do his throwing at Lawrence North with Bag Bandits teammate and 2021 LNHS graduate and University of Illinois recruit Cal Shepherd.
Academically, Johnson is undecided on his major. But he has declared Coaching as a minor.
“I could see me doing that the rest of my life,” says Johnson. “I would enjoy my time.”
Johnson was born in Rockwall, Texas, and moved with his family to the Lawrence Township area of Indianapolis when he was 2.
At 6, he played Coach Pitch at what is now Fall Creek Softball and Baseball. From 9U to 12U, he played travel ball for the Indiana Kodiaks, Indiana Mustangs and Oaklandon Youth Organization Bombers.
Johnson was with the Indiana Bulls from 13U to 17U. His head coaches were Tony Cookery, Ryan Bunnell, Dan Held and Troy Drosche.
Basketball was another sport for Johnson until seventh grade. He then decided to concentrate on baseball.
Ty (19) is the youngest of three children born to Rick and Lisa Johnson. There’s also Elle (24) and Pierce (22).
Salesman Rick played football in high school. Part-time receptionist Lisa played basketball.
Elle was born in Wisconsin where she was a high school swimmer. Pierce was born in Texas where he played high school basketball.

Ty Johnson on FOX 59.
Ty Johnson (Ball State University Photo)
Ty Johnson (Ball State University Photo)

Semistates to determine IHSAA State Finals participants

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

Today (June 12) four semistates will be staged at LaPorte, Kokomo, Mooresville and Jasper to determine the teams competing int he 2021 IHSAA State Finals June 21-22 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Here is a capsulized look at Final Four teams in Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A:

IHSAA SEMISTATES
Saturday, June 12
LaPorte
(Schreiber Field)
Class 1A
Washington Township (25-7) vs. Cowan (15-13), noon East Time/11 a.m. Central Time
Class 3A
Hanover Central (28-3-1) vs. Norwell (20-9), 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT

Kokomo
(Municipal Stadium)

Class 2A
Eastside (22-5) vs. Delphi (26-6), 1 p.m. ET/noon CT
Class 4A
Munster (22-11) vs. Fishers (22-12), 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT

South
Mooresville

Class 1A
Shakamak (16-7) vs. Borden (22-6-1), 1 p.m. ET/noon CT
Class 2A
University (23-9) vs. Providence (20-6), 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT

Jasper
(Ruxer Field)

Class 3A
Brebeuf Jesuit (20-11) vs. Southridge (24-7), noon ET/11 a.m. CT
Class 4A
Mt. Vernon (Fortville) (26-6) vs. Jasper (29-2), 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT

Team By Team
Washington Township Senators
— Head Coach Randy Roberts.
1A Washington Township Sectional — Kouts 7-1, Westville 4-1, Morgan Township 4-1.
1A South Bend Regional — South Central (Union Mills) 6-3, Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 10-1.
Sectional titles (10) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (1) — 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2019 (Randy Roberts).

Cowan Blackhawks — Head Coach Aaron Wells.
1A Liberty Christian Sectional — Wes-Del 5-1, Daleville 4-3.
1A Carroll (Flora) Regional — Union City 3-0, Riverton Parke 9-3.
Sectional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2008. Semistate titles (1) — 2008. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2008 (Camden Parkhurst).

Hanover Central Wildcats — Head Coach Ryan Bridges.
3A Kankakee Valley Sectional — Kankakee Valley 9-1, Culver Academies 10-0, John Glenn 8-4.
3A Griffith Regional — South Bend St. Joseph 6-1, Northwestern 18-1.
Sectional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional tittles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Semistate titles (1) — 2011. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2011 (Doug Nelson).

Norwell Knights — Head Coach Dave Goodmiller.
3A Bellmont Sectional — Marion 10-0, Mississinewa 13-2, Oak Hills 15-10.
3A Bellmont Regional — Wawasee 7-2, Leo 5-3.
Sectional titles (17) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2013. Semistate titles (3) — 2006, 2007, 2013. State titles (3) — 2003 (Kelby Weybright), 2007 (Kelby Weybright), 2013 (Andy McClain).

Eastside Blazers — Head Coach Aaron Willard.
2A Eastside Sectional — Adams Central 3-1, Bluffton 16-1.
2A Whiting Regional — Wheeler 7-1, Central Noble 18-3.
Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).

Delphi Oracles — Head Coach Ryan Long.
2A Delphi Sectional — Fountain Central 14-2, Seeger 7-3.
2A Lafayette Central Catholic Regional — Rochester 12-5, Wapahani 7-2.
Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (1) — 2010. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — Delphi (Pat Lowrey).

Munster Mustangs — Head Coach Bob Shinkan (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee).
4A Merrillville Sectional — Highland 11-2, Merrillville 9-0, Lake Central 2-1.
4A LaPorte Regional — Valparaiso 6-3, South Bend Adams 9-2.
Sectional titles (13) — last one before 2021 — 2016. Regional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2010. Semistate titles (0). State titles (1) — 2002 (Bob Shinkan).

Fishers Tigers — Head Coach Matt Cherry.
4A Westfield Sectional — Hamilton Southeastern 7-1, Carmel 1-0, Noblesville 4-0.
4A Kokomo Regional — Homestead 8-4, Harrison (West Lafayette) 7-5.
Sectional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Semistate titles (1) — 2018. State titles (1) — 2018 (Matt Cherry).

Shakamak Lakers – Head Coach Jeremy Yeryar.
1A White River Valley Sectional — White River Valley 14-0, Clay City 10-0, Bloomfield 4-1.
1A Morristown Regional — Southwestern (Shelbyville) 10-1, Oldenburg Academy 13-0.
Sectional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (12) — last one before 2021 — 2015. Semistate titles (7) — 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015. State titles (2) — 2008 (Matt Fougerousse), 2014 (Chip Sweet). State runner-up (5) — 2004 (Chip Sweet), 2006 (Matt Fougerousse), 2007 (Matt Fougerousse), 2012 (Chip Sweet), 2015 (Todd Gambill).

Borden Braves — Head Coach Eric Stotts.
1A South Central (Elizabeth) Sectional — Lanesville 18-1, Orleans 3-0.
1A Lanesville Regional — West Washington 17-2, Loogootee 5-2.
Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2018. Regional titles (1) — 2021. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).

University Trailblazers — Head Coach Chris Estep (1 state title).
2A Cascade Sectional — Covenant Christian 7-3, Cascade 8-2.
2A Cascade Regional — Centerville 12-5, Parke Heritage 8-2.
Sectional titles (5) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (1) — 2019 (Chris Estep). State runner-up (1) — 2018 (Chris Estep.

Providence Pioneers — Head Coach Scott Hutchins.
2A Eastern (Pekin) Sectional — Henryville 10-4, Eastern (Pekin) 11-0, Austin 10-0.
2A Evansville Mater Dei Regional — South Ripley 5-3, North Posey 8-6.
Sectional titles (19) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (7) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (1) — 2016. State titles (1) — 2016 (Scott Hornung).

Brebeuf Jesuit Braves — Head Coach Jeff Scott.
3A Brebeuf Sectional — Danville 5-0, Tri-West Hendricks 15-1.
3A Danville Regional — Indianapolis Bishop Chatard 10-0, Northview 17-2.
Sectional titles (15) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (4) — last one before 2021 — 2012. Semistate titles (1) — 2012. State titles (0). State runner-up (1) — 2012 (Andy McClain).

Southridge Raiders — Head Coach Gene Mattingly.
3A Southridge Sectional — Pike Central 10-0, Washington 1-0.
3A Southridge Regional — Silver Creek 2-1, Evansville Memorial 7-2.
Sectional titles (6) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Regional titles (3) — last one before 2021 — 2019. Semistate titles (2) — 2018, 2019. State titles (0). State runner-up (2) — 2018 (Gene Mattingly), 2019 (Gene Mattingly).

Mt. Vernon Marauders — Head Coach Brad King.
4A Pendleton Heights Sectional — Muncie Central 19-0, Pendleton Heights 8-0.
4A Mt. Vernon Regional — Franklin Central 6-2, Indianapolis Cathedral 6-3.
Sectional titles (8) — last one before 2021 — 2011. Regional titles (2) — last one before 2021 — 1971. Semistate titles (0). State titles (0).

Jasper Wildcats — Head Coach Terry Gobert (Indiana Baseball HOF inductee; 5 state titles).
4A Evansville Reitz Sectional — Castle 6-1, Evansville North 5-4, Evansville Central 10-0.
4A Jasper Regional — Floyd Central 2-1, Center Grove 7-4.
Sectional titles (39) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Regional titles (26) — last one before 2021 — 2017. Semistate titles (14) — 1967, 1968, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017. State titles (5) — 1996 (Terry Gobert), 1997 (Terry Gobert), 1998 (Terry Gobert), 2000 (Terry Gobert), 2006 (Terry Gobert). State runner-up (4) — 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017.

IU-Kokomo runs win streak to seven; Plesac fans 14

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Jared Heard’s two-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning helped Indiana University-Kokomo (22-16, 10-8) to a walk-off 2-1 baseball victory against Brescia Saturday, April 17 at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.

It was the Cougars’ seventh straight victory — the longest current streak among Indiana’s 38 collegiate programs.

By beating Brescia 8-1 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, IUK gave head coach Matt Howard his 100th career victory.

Indiana Wesleyan (36-11, 25-3) built a three-game lead in the Crossroads League standings  with a four-game sweep of Huntington. The Wildcats have won six in a row.

Frank Plesac pitched a seven-inning complete game with 14 strikeouts as Bethel (13-30, 10-18) completed a four-game sweep of visiting Crossroads League foe Goshen and ran the Pilots’ win streak to five.

Indiana State (20-8, 7-1) finally played games at Bob Warn Field after opening the season with 24 on the road. The Sycamores swept a four-game Missouri Valley Conference series against Valparaiso.

Ellis Hanna II drove in four runs in a 12-1 win in the series finale. ISU has won five straight.

Clay Woeste collected nine hits, scored nine runs and drove in seven as Indiana University Southeast (32-13, 20-1) racked up 41 runs in a three-game River States Conference series sweep at West Virginia Tech. 

IUS also got eight hits, four runs and eight RBIs from Marco Romero, five hits, three runs and six RBIs from Derek Wagner, seven hits, four runs and five RBIs from Matt Monahan and five hits, seven runs and five RBIs from Brody Tanksley.

The Grenadiers have won four in a row.

Purdue (9-15, 9-15) ran its win streak to four by beating Michigan State twice and Illinois once during a three-team Big Ten Conference pod in Champaign, Ill.

Joe Moran smashed three homer runs as Taylor (33-12, 22-6) wrapped a four-game Crossroads League sweep of visiting Spring Arbor. Moran pushed his season homer total to 12.

INDIANA COLLEGE BASEBALL

Records Through April 18

NCAA Division I

Ball State 21-11 (11-4 MAC) 

Indiana State 20-8 (7-1 MVC) 

Evansville 19-15 (4-7 MVC) 

Notre Dame 18-7 (16-7 ACC) 

Indiana 15-8 (15-8 Big Ten) 

Purdue 9-15 (9-15 Big Ten) 

Purdue Fort Wayne 9-18 (6-14 HL) 

Butler 7-15 (2-6 Big East) 

Valparaiso 5-20 (0-8 MVC) 

NCAA Division II

Southern Indiana 19-13 (15-9 GLVC) 

Indianapolis 13-13 (11-7 GLVC) 

Purdue Northwest 8-13 (2-10  GLIAC) 

NCAA Division III

Earlham 16-11 (16-11 HCAC) 

DePauw 16-12 (7-5 NCAC) 

Wabash 16-12 (7-5 NCAC) 

Hanover 16-13 (16-13 HCAC) 

Franklin 15-7 (15-7 HCAC) 

Anderson 15-10 (15-10 HCAC) 

Rose-Hulman 12-10 (12-10 HCAC) 

Manchester 12-16 (12-16 HCAC) 

Trine 5-16 (5-7 MIAA) 

NAIA

Indiana Wesleyan 36-11 (25-3 CL) 

Taylor 33-12 (22-6 CL) 

Indiana University Southeast 32-13 (20-1 RSC) 

Saint Francis 28-16 (18-10 CL) 

Huntington 24-12 (17-11 CL) 

Indiana University-Kokomo 22-16 (10-8 RSC) 

Indiana Tech 21-20 (8-4 WHAC) 

Marian 19-24 (12-16 CL) 

Indiana University South Bend 16-18 (12-7 CCAC) 

Oakland City 15-23 (8-13 RSC) 

Bethel 13-30 (10-18 CL) 

Grace 11-28 (8-20 CL) 

Calumet of Saint Joseph 4-25 (4-14 CCAC) 

Goshen 3-34 (2-26 CL) 

Junior College

Ivy Tech Northeast 18-18 

Vincennes 16-19 (4-12 MWAC) 

Ancilla 6-21 (2-10 MCCAA) 

Conferences

NCAA Division I

Big Ten

Atlantic Coast (ACC)

Big East 

Horizon (HL)

Mid-American (MAC)

Missouri Valley (MVC)

NCAA Division II

Great Lakes Valley (GLVC)

Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

NCAA Division III

Heartland Collegiate (HCAC)

Michigan Intercollegiate (MIAA)

NAIA

Crossroads League (CL)

Chicagoland Collegiate (CCAC)

Wolverine Hoosier (WHAC)

River States Conference (RSC)

Junior College 

Mid-West Athletic (MWAC)

Michigan Community College (MCCAA)

Thixton going out with a bang at Indiana Wesleyan

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Tye Thixton figures he was born to play baseball.

He is named for his great grandfather on his mother Amy’s side — Leonus “Tye” Goheen, a standout pitcher in Kentucky in the 1920’s and 1930’s who once was matched up against a young Hall of Famer-to-be Dizzy Dean

Goheen led the Dawson Springs Daylight Ball Club to the state championship in 1932 and an appearance in the Little World Series in Battle Creek, Mich., in 1937.

When Tye Thixton was but a tyke his father — Jeff Thixton — introduced his oldest son to the game with wiffleball and followed him all the way through youth and travel ball and college until his passing at 50 on Jan. 10, 2020 with wife Amy and sons Tye and Trey surviving. 

“We bonded a lot of the time through baseball,” says Tye, who was granted an extra year of eligibility at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind,, because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shortened the 2020 season and is shining in 2021 (Trey Thixton, 20, is a sophomore on the IWU men’s tennis team). “I want to leave it all on the field for dad.”

Tye has his father’s initials — JLT — on his wrist tape and writes them in the dirt each time he comes up to bat.

Thixton’s Indiana Wesleyan team, which also features “COVID seniors” Tanner Killian, Austin Swift and Jon Young, goes into a Crossroads League series today (April 16) and Saturday (April 17) against visiting Huntington at 32-11 overall and 21-3 in conference play. The team has its sights on being the program’s first 40-game winner.

Center fielder and lead-off man Thixton is hitting .349 (60-of-172) with 11 home runs, one triple, 11 doubles, 45 runs batted in, 48 runs scored and is 15-of-15 in stolen bases. He sports an 1.039 OPS (.423 on-base percentage plus .616 slugging average) with 20 multi-hit games.

For his IWU career, Thixton is hitting .360 (151-of-419) with 21 homers, three triples, 28 doubles, 96 RBIs, 106 runs and is 29-of-32 in stolen bases. His OPS is 1.020 (.428 on-base percentage plus .592 slugging average).

Thixton’s most-recent circuit clout came Monday, April 13 in Game 1 of a CL doubleheader against Taylor. The two-run shot in the fourth inning to left field cut through a steady cross wind and landed on the football stadium next to Wildcat Field.

“Off the bat I was thinking, ‘get on 2,’” says Thixton. “The fact that it got out gave us a lot of momentum and helped us get into their pen.

“My whole game has changed. I’m a little bit of a power threat this year. I think the COIVD year helped guys develop. We got to spend more time in the weight room and more time to work on the swing.

“Across the board players progressing and numbers on the pitching and hitting side a lot better.”

A center fielder and No. 1 hitter in the batting order since his days at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., Thixton relishes both roles.

“I like being able to run the outfield,” says Thixton. “It’s fun playing gap-to-gap.

“I’ve always loved being a lead-off hitter — just being able to set the tone of the game.”

Thixton, 23, is finishing up his Business Management degree. Commencement at IWU is slated for May 1.

“I’ll be done,” says Thixton of his college days which began with two years at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College, including a team MVP season in 2018. “Then I get on to the real world.”

Competing against NAIA No. 1-ranked Southeastern in Florida and No. 6 Faulkner in Alabama to begin the season in February, the Wildcats got off to an 0-7 start.

“We got walked off three times in seven games,” says Thixton. “But we knew we could compete with the highest level. We could’ve easily won three of four of those games.

“Nobody’s head was down. It was time to go on a win streak.”

And that’s just what IWU did. 

The Wildcats won their next 16 under the guidance of head coach Rich Benjamin.

“He loves all of his players,” says Thixton. “He’s done such a good job of bringing a team together and making guys want to play for each other and for him.

“We’ve got a good mix of all ages. Guys able to learn from each other. That’s really contributed to this year.”

Going through the uncertainty of the pandemic has also impacted the team’s outlook.

“We’ve played every game with the thought it could be our last,” says Thixton.

Born in Greenwood, Thixton started school at Clark Elementary in Whiteland and played at Whiteland Little League then moved to the Center Grove area as a third grader and he attended the former West Grove Elementary. 

He played in the Center Grove Little League then travel ball with a Center Grove team coached by Mike Chitwood that morphed into Indiana Elite Baseball and Pony Express Baseball, where his coaches were Kyle Beachy, Quentin Brown and Grant Bellak

“(Brown and Bellak) were a blast to be around,” says Thixton. “They helped me develop my game so much. 

Thixton graduated from Center Grove High School in 2016. Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph was in his final season with the Trojans while Thixton played on the junior varsity as a freshman. 

Keith Hatfield was Thixton’s varsity coach for three CG seasons.

What is Thixton’s impressions of Hatfield?

“It’s his passion for the game,” says Thixton. “We had so much fun playing with Coach Hatfield (in 2016).

“We had a talented group of seniors. We lost to (eventual IHSAA Class 4A state champion) Roncalli in the (Plainfield) Semistate.”

Clayton Hicks, who is now head coach at Danville Area, was an assistant when he recruited Thixton for the Jaguars and got him to play for head coach Tim Bunton.

“He’s the best baseball mind I’ve ever been around,” says Thixton of Bunton. “He took my game to a completely different level mentally.

“It was about winning every pitch and winning the little things in baseball.

“There are so many metrics now. But the game still comes down to the mental side and what to do when the ball is in play

“What you can do at-bat to help your team team?”

In two seasons at Danville Area (2017 and 2018), Thixton hit .376 (139-of-369) in 101 games (98 starts).

In the summers after his freshman and sophomore years, Thixton played for the Hicks-managed Hannibal Hoots in 2017 and the St. Louis Kats in 2018.

Tye Thixton (Indiana Wesleyan University Photo)

Ohio State righty Burhenn focuses on pounding strike zone

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Garrett Burhenn likes to get the plate umpire throwing up his right hand on a regular basis.

If arbiter is that means the Ohio State University junior is accomplishing his goal of pitching for strikes.

“I want to fill up the zone,” says Burhenn, a right-hander at the top of the Buckeyes starting rotation. “Walks kind of bug me a little bit.”

The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder with the low three-quarter arm slot wants to establish command with his fastball.

“All my other pitches play off of it,” says Burhenn, who sports a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, slider and curve. “I pitch to contact and trust my stuff to get those outs.”

Burhenn, an Indianapolis native, is 2-1 with a 4.15 earned run average as Ohio State (13-9) heads into a Big Ten Conference series April 16-18 at Maryland. 

In six appearances (all starts), he has 36 strikeouts and 13 walks in 34 2/3 innings. The opposition is hitting .258 against him.

Ohio State head coach Greg Beals has given Burhenn the baseball 25 times — all as a starter— since the hurler began his college career in 2019.

“Coach Beals tells me to go out there and compete and to trust the process and the work I’ve put in since freshman year,” says Burhenn, who is 10-7 with a 4.59 ERA with 134 K’s and 48 base-on-balls in 147 career innings with close to two-thirds of his more than 2,300 pitches going for strikes. “He puts trust in me. 

“I take my work very seriously and I think he sees that.”

Burhenn credits OSU pitching coach Dan DeLucia and director of pitching development Brad Goldberg for their roles in making him a better moundsman.

“They’ve helped me to understand and have a purpose in each pitch I throw,” says Burhenn. “I don’t go out there (to the mound) with no game plan.

“I mix pitches and pound the zone.”

While many summer college leagues shut down in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burhenn spent eight weeks learning about pitch design and developing his craft at FullReps Training Center in Camp Hill, Pa., near Harrisburg. His Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft advisor Sam Samardzija Jr. (brother of big league pitcher Jeff Samardzija) is good friends with FullReps owner Scott Swanson.

Burhenn, 21, hopes to be selected in the 2021 MLB Draft, but if that doesn’t happen he expects to pitch somewhere this summer though he does not yet know where. 

He says he was thinking about going to the Cape Cod League, but did not play in the summer after his OSU freshman season because he logged 91 innings — nearly twice what he pitched as a senior at Lawrence North High School in the spring of 2018.

Burhenn played three varsity seasons for the Richard Winzenread-coached Wildcats.

“I started seriously pitching with him,” says Burhenn of the veteran coach. “I started getting pitching tips as a freshman. He’s developed me and helped me understand things.

“I’m very grateful for everything he’s taught me.”

Seeing some varsity mound action as a sophomore, Burhenn also played center field his last two high school seasons. The two-time all-Marion County honoree posted a 1.76 ERA and 88 strikeouts as a junior and went 6-1 with an 0.76 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings as a senior while earning Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association first-team all-state distinction. He’s been a pitcher-only at Ohio State.

“I kind of miss swinging the bat,” says Burhenn. “I know it’s extremely hard at this level.”

Growing up in Lawrence Township, Burhenn’s first organized baseball came at Skiles Test Little League. He played travel ball for the Indiana Bandits and Indiana Mustangs.

Mike Farrell coached him with the Mustangs.

“My presence on the mound, I learned that from him,” says Burhenn. “He taught me to be a better player and better teammate. He’s very blunt and straight to the point, which I liked about him. 

“He’s very honest. I really appreciate Mike.”

In a 2021 regular season with only Big Ten games and no conference tournament, Burhenn has started against Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan. He racked up a season-high nine strikeouts and seven innings pitched March 26 against Iowa.

Attendance at Big Ten games has been restricted to family members and those on the guest list.

“It’s enjoyable when your family and loved ones are there at least,” says Burhenn.

He’s also relished the opportunity to compete against players he knows from high school or travel ball.

“It’s fun playing against familiar faces in an elite conference,” says Burhenn, who saw many of those in the Indiana lineup and counts Kokomo (Ind.) High School graduate and junior right-hander Bayden Root as an OSU teammate.

On the academic side of things, Burhenn is majoring in Operations Management as part of Ohio State’s Max M. Fisher College of Business.

Dave and Heather Burhenn have two sons — Garrett and Nick. The latter is a soccer player and Lawrence North junior.

Garrett Burhenn (Ohio State University Photo)

Kentucky’s Collett making most of his extra time on diamond

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

T.J. Collett was not sure he’d still be playing baseball a year ago and the University of Kentucky slugger is enjoying the opportunity.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Collett and the rest of the Wildcats were getting ready to leave for a trip to Nashville, Tenn., to play Vanderbilt.

The series with Vandy was postponed. Then the players were sent home for two weeks. Then the season was called off and the rest of the spring semester was completed through online classes.

“For all I knew — for about a month — I’d never play baseball again,” says Collett. “I’m glad the NCAA gave me the chance to come back and finish my career on my terms.”

Offered an extra year of eligibility after completing his undergraduate Communication degree, Collett took it and pursued his Masters in Communication while also playing as a graduate student in 2021. He’s about four weeks from completing his work.

He began his college career as a Finance major, but changed.

“I went with Communication because I love people,” says Collett. “I can interact in a business environment and there’s wide variety of jobs.

“I’m not sure what I want yet.”

In 29 baseball games (all starts), the lefty-swinging first baseman is hitting .301(31-of-103) with nine home runs (including two in his first multi-homer game March 16 against Murray State), one triple, five doubles, 20 runs scored and 36 runs batted in to go with a .425 on-base percentage and .631 slugging average.

Kentucky is 20-9 heading into a Tuesday, April 13 non-conference home game against Bellarmine.

Collett (pronounced Caw-LET) has played in 147 games at UK (120) starts and is hitting .276 (135-of-490) with 35 homers, two triples, 22 doubles, 133 RBIs, 87 runs, a .373 on-base percentage and .543 slugging average.

He sits eighth on Kentucky’s all-time homer list behind John Wilson (50), Terre Haute South Vigo High School graduate and good friend A.J. Reed (40), Aaron McGlone (39), Collin Cowgill (37), Jeff Abbott (37), Randy Clark (37) and Jeff Shartzer (37). 

Most of the time Collett is in the No. 3 or No. 4 slot in the batting order. Recently, he’s been in the 2-hole.

“There’s not a huge difference,” says Collett. “I’ve noticed my at-bats come around a little bit quicker. I like it.

“But responsibilities don’t change. I do anything I can anything to get a run in — anyway we can score.”

Collett was recruited to Kentucky out of Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo High School as a catcher. He recovered fine from hip surgery his senior year but four more procedures had him switching to first base. 

He played summer ball for the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Mohawks of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League in 2017, recuperated from surgery in 2018 and was with the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League in 2019 and in the College Summer League at Grand Park in 2020.

At North Vigo, Collett played for IHSAA Class 4A state runner-up teams in 2014 and 2015 and was 2016 Indiana Mr. Baseball. As a Patriot he was coached by Shawn Turner and Fay Spetter

“They were two of the most influential people in my baseball people,” says Collett of Turner and Spetter. “They poured into me as much as they could.”

In travel ball, Collett spent his 14U through 18U summers with the Indiana Bulls and counts former Bulls coach and director of player development and current Indiana University assistant Dan Held as another who made a big impact on his game.

Collett’s first year at Kentucky was also the first for Wildcats head coach Nick Mingione.

“He’s a man of faith,” says Collett of Mingione. “He really has everybody’s best intentions at heart.

“When I first met him he had this insane energy. The past five years that energy has stayed up.”

Collett has put his energies into his studies and his play as well as community service and his a nominee for the 2021 Senior CLASS Award.

“It means a ton to me,” says Collett. “It’s more than just playing the sport.

“Maybe some younger players can be inspired by that.”

UK’s Troy Squires was the Senior CLASS Award winner for baseball in 2018.

“He told me that’s one of the coolest awards he’s ever received,” says Collett, who has spent much of his community service time with the NEGU/Jessie Rees Foundation helping children fighting cancer to “Never Ever Give Up.”

Notre Dame’s Daniel Jung is also on the 2021 Senior CLASS nomination list.

Timothy John Collett, who turns 24 on June 26, is the son of John and Sallee Collett. His older brother is Doug Collett (29).

T.J. Collett (University of Kentucky Photo)