News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 10, 2010

Amey Takes Aim: Wabash Valley is a softball powerhouse

Andy Amey
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Greetings from the high school softball capital of Indiana.

Your Tribune-Star will be spending all day Saturday at Ben Davis, dominating the press box and elbowing those other newspapers to the back row where they belong. No other paper has as many teams to cover as we do (go Panthers, go Miners and go Patriots); The Times and Post-Tribune get off to a good start with Whiting (against Riverton Parke) and Wheeler (versus Linton), but couldn’t get anything going among the bigger schools (now that my cousin Keith Hauber no longer coaches at Lake Central).

This should be fun. You probably all know by now the names of the pitchers — Bethany Sullivan of North, Stephanie Fougerousse of Linton and Haley Chambers of Riverton Parke — but all three teams appear to have the defensive standouts that are a must in this sport as well.

I haven’t seen enough of any of the three teams to be definitive about their defensive leaders, but I’m pretty sure shortstop Danielle Ketner of the Patriots, double-play combination Sam Butt and Savannah Mason of the Miners and center fielder Sheldan Falls of the Panthers would be names that would come up pretty quickly.

I want to see more of Falls, in fact; she’s the first outfielder I’ve seen in 14 years that reminds me a little bit of Kim Newlin (Turkey Run ‘96), the gold standard for defensive outfield play.

I don’t ever anticipate seeing a better defensive outfield — softball or baseball — than the Warriors had that year, with Angie Crum in left and Melanie Newnum in right.

I wouldn’t mind a few more memories like that by the end of this weekend, however.

One more softball defensive thing: I never found a way to mention the best defensive play on a diamond that I saw all season, so I’ll do that now.

This one came against the Miners, in fact. West Vigo shortstop Cassidy Carlson dove to her left, stopping a hot smash up the middle with her glove while flat on the ground. Her momentum carried her to a supine position, from which she somehow threw the batter out a first while lying on her back.

n Tennis stuff — If you didn’t think South Bend was the girls high school tennis capital of Indiana, you were not alone, and the 5-0 wins by St. Joseph’s on Saturday over Center Grove and Columbus North were surprising to a lot of people.

The Indians had actually shared the first girls championship in 1975 with Bloomington South and Crawfordsville (coached by Lowell’s own Anita Rupar), when the tournament was in an entirely different format, but their wins Saturday made them the first state champion from north of Hamilton County since then.

Undoubtedly they were good — their losses coming by 3-2 scores to No. 1 Indianapolis Cathedral, No. 3 Park Tudor and perennial power Munster — but having witnessed the three previous matches played by both Columbus North and Terre Haute South, I have to wonder how much the Bull Dogs (or the Braves, had they reached the championship match) had left in their tank. More dramatic, draining tennis than those two teams played you couldn’t find — or perhaps even want to watch.

Terre Haute Junior Tennis Association gets a lot of well deserved recognition for turning out so many great players over the years. Even better, the THJTA — with considerable help from the parents involved — also seems to turn out a classy bunch of athletes on an annual basis.

I have seen opponents of our teams who don’t deserve the same praise.

n Not only that — Those tennis players are pretty good in the classroom too. Of the six valedictorians from North and South earlier this week, five — Andrew Huh, Sangeeth Jeevan, Eesha Purohit and two-time Mr. Math Sachin Shinde of South and Paige Cook of North — were tennis players.

And North’s prestigious Riddle Scholars were both athletes too — Cook and Dougie Collett. Sara Baugh won North’s Tim Sullivan Award.

n President Mitch? This is NOT a reference to our governor, but to someone I consider to have had a far better record of achievement.

Mitch Hannahs is stepping down as baseball coach at Lincoln Trail College, after many seasons of turning the Statesmen into a junior college powerhouse, and is now the school’s president.

“Interim president,” he corrected me by telephone earlier this week. “There’s a big ‘I’ in front of that title.”

The job is not necessarily temporary, however. It could be his permanently “if I don’t screw it up,” he said.

The fact that his son Derek, the clutch performer in Robinson’s Illinois Class 2A basketball championship a few months ago, is leaving home to play baseball at Ball State is part of the decision.

“That’s a piece of it,” he said. “I have a family that’s made sacrifices [for my coaching career] for so many years, and I hope this can give them some normalcy.

“I’ve tried moving [to another coaching job] a few times, but it didn’t work out,” he continued. “This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

n Closer to home — And this is not a flashback Grand Funk reference, but news about Terre Haute North graduate Josh Conder.

One of the many great basketball managers of the Jim Jones era at North (and it takes one to know one), Josh has parlayed his hard work into a career that’s taken him several places and enabled him to do laundry for a lot of high-priced athletes.

Most recently with the Texas Rangers, Josh is now the head equipment manager for the Indiana Pacers. So he’s back in the Midwest and working his butt off doing something he loves.

Just don’t ask him to dance, Larry.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.