By Joey Bennett
TERRE HAUTE — Two longtime Wabash Valley baseball teammates from many past stops together have reunited once again, as Terre Haute South grads Cole Vicars and Bobby Woods have both signed letters-of-intent to continue their careers at Division I Alcorn State in Lorman, Miss.
They took different roads to get to their new home, however.
After teaming up to help the Wayne Newton Post 346 team to a runnerup finish in the 2006 American Legion World Series, Woods moved on to Olney Central College and Vicars returned to South for a monster senior season. He went to Vincennes University the following year.
They wound up exiting junior college at the same time, though, as Woods missed a season due to injury.
Vicars was the first to land a spot this spring with Alcorn State, a highly-successful program that came within two runs last week of winning the Southwest Athletic Conference championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“They saw us play on our spring trip,” Vicars said. “My coach got talking to them, and they already had a couple of Vincennes guys on their team so that helped a lot. I got the best offer from there, and decided to go there.”
Collin Arnold, a pitcher from Lafayette, was Vicars’ teammate during his freshman season at VU and left-handed pitcher Jason Nantz of Blackford will be making the trip south with Vicars.
Vicars hit .409 and added three homers and 43 runs batted in for VU this spring.
“Vincennes was a really fun experience,” Vicars said. “I enjoyed playing there. I need to work on my game overall, and on my running speed,” he added. “They said I’d probably hit in the 2 or 5 hole in the lineup.”
Ninety percent of Alcorn’s 3,888 students are African-American, putting Vicars in the minority among the population there.
“That doesn’t matter to me at all,” he said about the student body makeup. “The school is different, and I’m looking forward to it.
“It’ll be nice going where I can now play year around and it’s a lot warmer,” he added. “They have a really good program.”
In talking with the Alcorn coaches, they mentioned a need for relief pitchers to round out their 2009 recruiting class. Vicars knew of one.
“I mentioned Bobby to them, and they talked to him and his coach,” Vicars said. “It’s nice knowing he’s going there too.”
Woods appeared in 15 games during his sophomore season at Olney, going 3-1 with a 4.20 ERA. He struck out 18 batters in 17 innings of work and only walked five.
“Bobby did a very nice job out of the bullpen,” OCC Coach Dennis Conley told the Olney Daily Mail. “He had one bad outing late in the season that raised his ERA, but he was very good early. I’m sure he’ll do well for them.”
Alcorn State went 29-19 this season and lost 12-10 to Southern University in the SWAC championship game.
“I chose Alcorn because it will be a great opportunity to play Division I baseball in some amazing southern whether,” Woods said. “I had shoulder surgery in 2007, and it was tough sitting out and missing a whole year of baseball. The more I sat out the more it made me work harder into getting better and becoming 100 percent again.
“I am ready to play D-I baseball,” he added. “It is going to be a great challenge that I believe I can compete in.”
• Bridwell to Indy — South senior Josh Bridwell, a state qualifier in both discus and shot put next weekend, will take both his track and field and football talents to the University of Indianapolis this fall to compete for the Greyhounds.
Bridwell was also a standout lineman for the South football team, starting every game at guard during this last three seasons and manning every spot from tackle to tackle at one point.
“I chose the U of Indy because when I took a visit it felt like home, and also I can do both the loves of my life: football and track and field.
“I love the fact that football is big there at the Division II level,” he added.
In Bridwell’s junior year, he was also a state qualifier in track and field and was the regional champion in the shot put. He knows it’s only going to get tougher.
“College track and field will be different than high school in the severity of it all, the lifting and the throwing,” he said. “The atmosphere will be great with a lot of excitement in throws. I have a chance to come in and be number one in shot put. I think that the coach from the U. of Indy can make me an All-American thrower and really bring out my potential.”
Eric Graves has been Bridwell’s track and field coach the past two years, and sees a bright future for him.
“Josh Bridwell has always been a competitor,” Graves said. “He has an extraordinary amount of talent and it shines brightest when the competition is close. I've seen him at meets when he wins by feet in throws and he enjoys those wins, but when he's behind on his last throw and it comes down to one performance, you can see the best of him.”
College also offers a sport not available in high school that Graves thinks may suit Bridwell’s talents.
“Josh has always been a consistent performer even under the most pressured situations, and that's what you need to compete at the college level,” he continued. “Josh will most likely stay in the shot put and discus. Depending on how well he can get his spin technique down, he may also throw hammer.
“Training in college will do him well. I expect Josh Bridwell is far from his peak.”
South football coach Mark Raetz used a similar word in describing Bridwell.
“Josh was a three-year starter for us on the offensive line,” he said. “He is a strong, athletic player and is definitely a tough competitor. He will be a great addition to the University of Indianapolis program."
• Rehmel signs with UCA — The long road to Division I basketball for 2006 Shakamak grad Jared Rehmel, detoured for a year by a broken back in a car accident, has finally gotten the sharpshooting guard to Conway, Ark., where he will perform for the Central Arkansas Bears.
Rehmel, a 6-foot, 160-pound guard, is transferring to UCA from Olney (Ill.) Central College. As a sophomore at Olney, Rehmel averaged 21.3 points per game and was the 12th leading scorer in the nation among junior colleges.
“Jared is coming off an outstanding career at Olney Central,’ said UCA head coach Rand Chappell. “He’s a guy that’s been extremely successful on every level he has played on.
“He led his high school team to a Final Four appearance. He was runnerup MVP this past year on a 20-win team. He’s produced on every team and we’re excited to bring a guy like that into our program."
Rehmel was named the 2009 Illinois Junior College Player of the Year, and will join backcourt mate Ryan Daniels as members of the Bears.
“Jared is a very good shooter,’ Chappell said, ‘but he also is a guy who is creative and plays with a high level of energy. He is good at creating baskets for himself and for everyone else around him.”
OCC Coach Mike Burris, who took a similar route from Eastern Greene to Olney Central and eventually to D-I at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, is going to miss Rehmel and his toughness.
“I’m really happy for Jared,” Burris said. “He had a great two years for us. He's been a winner everywhere he's been. He is a great kid from a great family. We will miss him and off the floor!”
Rehmel also fills a need for UCA.
“They needed a shooter and I think Jared has a chance to go down there and earn some minutes,” he continued. “They are getting a winner and I’m excited to follow Jared's progress down there.”
• Richards ready for new experience — Terre Haute North senior Emily Richards signed to swim for Ball State, but her comments were not received in time for the May 17 “College Report.”
“I chose Ball State because it is a small school that can give me the individual attention I am seeking without being as overwhelming as a huge state school,” she said. “The facilities and campus are beautiful and everyone I met on my visits was warm and welcoming.”
She regrets not being able to set a school record in the backstroke, but enjoyed her time as a Patriot.
“My high school career has been one filled with ups and downs, but overall I have learned a lot about myself,” she said. “This year I came within .18 of my goal time of the school record (59.25) which was disappointing, but I am still very proud of how I hard I worked over the past year to get to that place.
“Although I will miss swimming for North, I will be very pleased to swim for a new coach and on a new team and in a new pool to give me variety which I think will help my training,” Richards added.
• Snyder to Rose-Hulman — Rose-Hulman’s football team has enjoyed tremendous success at the quarterback position with eastern Illinois product Derek Eitel of Marshall.
Eitel has just one season remaining at the Engineers’ helm, but an heir apparent from a rival Illinois squad may be waiting in the wings.
Casey-Westfield’s Mitch Snyder, who led the Warriors to three straight runs deep into the Class 2A Illinois state tournament and a 2008 runnerup finish, has decided to become an Engineer both on and off the field.
“I really looked at the education side of the school before I made my decision,” Snyder told the Mattoon Journal-Gazette, noting that he also considered Eastern Illinois University and Drake University. “I want to be an engineer so Rose Hulman was really the perfect fit.”
Snyder set a state record for passing yardage in the state championship game and led the Warriors to a 46-6 record in his career. He was also a standout in basketball, and does not rule out a return to the hardwood at some point in his collegiate career.
Rose Hulman head coach Steve Englehart predicts success for Snyder in his program.
“I think he is going to be outstanding,” said Englehart. “He is a great young man that any program in the country would be proud to have and I think he can be just as good of a quarterback. He has great size and strength with enough athletic ability to make him a threat in a variety of different ways. He is going to have the chance to come in and learn behind a four-year starter and I think be the top contender to take over at that position in the future.”
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 email@example.com.