News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 2, 2009

College Report: Phegley, Cummins square off in IU-PU series

In the last regular-season tangles between former North Patriots Josh Phegley and John Cummins, Indiana and Purdue are tangling in a three-game college baseball series this weekend at West Lafayette.

A doubleheader was scheduled for Saturday after a Friday night rainout, with a single game set for today at 1 p.m. That game will be carried live on the Internet via

At 10-4 in the Big Ten, Indiana was just half a game behind first place Ohio State and Illinois entering the weekend series. The Hoosiers are seeking their first Big Ten regular season championship in 60 years.

Phegley enters the weekend among the league’s top 10 in average (sixth, .379), slugging (second, .689) on-base percentage (second, .485), home runs (tied for first, 13), RBI (second, 54), runs (tied for first, 45) and walks (tied for third, 32).

Recently against Michigan, Phegley had a big series both at the dish and behind it. The junior went 6-for-11 with a pair of solo home runs on the weekend. The second bomb, in the eighth inning of Sunday’s contest, shifted the momentum back in Indiana’s favor after the Hoosiers surrendered a run in the bottom of the seventh in a tight ballgame. The catcher also threw out four of seven Wolverines trying to steal off of him.

Phegley posted his fourth career five-hit game against Morehead State on March 10, hitting three home runs and adding a double and single for six RBIs. The huge game vaulted Phegley to his second career Big Ten Player of the Week mention and he was named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Star Lineup for Week Four.

Cummins ranks second on Purdue’s team in hitting at .387, with five doubles, one triple and 12 RBIs. Purdue is 18-21 overall and 5-9 in the conference.

Comings and goings — Cleaning out the Yahoo! Mail and Facebook inboxes of stuff from everywhere:

• Willis to Taylor — Versatile Terre Haute North football standout Frank Willis, who excelled as a receiver last year and even saw some emergency quarterback action, has signed to play for Taylor University in Upland.

As a junior, Willis caught 17 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns with a long catch of 65 yards. Last fall, he caught 30 passes for 589 yards and three scores, including a 70-yarder.

North Coach Chris Barrett hasn’t played a game without Willis yet, and misses him already.

“Frank is an outstanding young man who will be as difficult to replace off the field as he will be on the field,” Barrett said. “He is a natural leader who is not afraid to do the right thing as well as an outstanding receiver. He will have an outstanding career at Taylor.”

Willis is looking for the opportunity to continue his career.

“I picked Taylor because God called me there and they also have a pretty rockin’ football team,” he said. “I think the transition will be easy because people that go on to the next level in football have the will power to do anything that crosses their path, and to make a family and fight with them every week.”

n Pilipovich to Rose – North senior baseball standout Nick Pilipovich will be taking his talents to Rose-Hulman next year to compete for Coach Jeff Jenkins’ Engineers.

This season, Pilipovich is hitting .343 with four doubles, one home run, four RBIs and a .465 on-base percentage.

North Coach Shawn Turner also predicts good things for the versatile Pilipovich on the college diamond.

“Nick is a hard-working young man in the classroom and on the field, and he will give Rose-Hulman a player with the ability to play behind the plate, at first base, and in the outfield,” Turner said. “He has above-average footspeed and a strong arm and is dedicated to being the best player he can be.

“We are very proud of Nick for taking careof business academically as well as athletically to gain this opportunity at Rose-Hulman, and look forward to seeing his many accomplishments over the next four years.”

Pilipovich likes Rose for a variety of reasons.

“The main reason I picked Rose was because of the reputation Rose has upheld both with academics and athletics,” he said. “Rose has a very strong baseball program that is on the rise, and I want to be a part of it. I think the transition will be somewhat smooth, but I know that I have a lot to work on with my game to compete well on the next level.”

• Blank still thinking — Former North basketball standout Nate Blank has not yet decided on his next collegiate home since deciding to transfer from Gardner-Webb after two seasons.

The former Indiana All-Star is still mulling over several options.

“I still havent decided if I want to sit at a Division I school [after transferring] or play right away at a D-II,” Blank said.

D-I schools he’s been talking to are Ball State, Valparaiso, Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky, while D-II schools on his list are Indianapolis, Hillsdale and Findlay.

• OCC hoops news – Former Shakamak standout Jared Rehmel has completed his eligibility at Olney Central and has not yet decided on his next home, either.

He plans to visit Central Arkansas in the “next week or so.” All good basketball trivia experts know that Central Arkansas is where Scottie Pippen began his basketball career as a walk-on.

UCA was an NAIA school then, but has moved up to Division I and is in the Southland Conference. The Cougars have already signed Rehmel’s backcourt mate from last year, 6-0 guard Ryan Daniels — who starred at Drake in 2007 on the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament team.

Two other OCC Blue Knights from this year’s 20-10 team have also signed to play Division I next year.

Hoping to join that list are incoming freshmen Austin Akers, a 6-2 point guard from Northview, and 6-1 guard Chase Brinkley of Paris.

OCC Coach Mike Burris of Eastern Greene wore out the highways between Olney and Indiana this winter, coming to watch Akers a total of 12 times. Burris knows he found an overlooked gem in Akers, who has excellent point guard and shooting guard skills.

Brinkley was a two-time All-Apollo selection in basketball who averaged 20 points, five rebounds and four assists per game during his senior campaign as Paris went 17-12 and advanced to the championship game of the Class 2A Robinson Sectional.

He was also a standout football player at Paris.

“Chase is a tough kid who we think can come in and earn good minutes from day one,” Burris told the Olney Daily Mail. “He’s a strong guard who plays extremely hard. He was a two-sport star at Paris and his football experience has helped him be successful on the basketball court.”

• Axtell to SMWC – North Vermillion’s Derryn Axtell has decided to play college basketball at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

“I chose SMWC because I’ve always focused mainly on my academics and my goal is to attend medical school, and SMWC seemed like the correct avenue to choose to lead me there. Also after spending many years playing basketball, being offered to play there was just an added bonus to the school.

Hard work and unselfishness are two of Axtell’s best qualities.

“I played four years of varsity basketball, and I received the assist award every year. I’ve always known that I wasn’t the most talented team member, but I made it my goal to be the hardest worker and along the way learn as much as I could. As far as competition goes I’m ready for the challenge!”

• Brandenburg to McKendree — Casey senior Kaleb Brandenburg will take his football talents to the McKendree Bearcats this fall.

A co-captain of the 2008 IHSA Class 2A state runner-up football team, Brandenburg played many roles for Keith Sinclair, including starting fullback and starting linebacker.

“Kaleb was an improved player and student throughout his high school career,” Sinclair told the Mattoon Journal-Gazette. “Kaleb played a leading role this season as a captain of our team and developed good leadership qualities which were very important to our success.

Brandenburg scored 10 rushing touchdowns for the 13-1 Warriors and had one defensive touchdown and a safety. He finished his senior season with 110 tackles, two tipped passes, one interception, a quarterback sack and a blocked kick.

Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches and coaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at