Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Three Wabash River Conference diamond standouts have decided where they will continue their careers collegiately after graduating this spring.
Riverton Parke baseball standout Tim Johnson will take his talents to Southeastern Illinois Junior College in Harrisburg, while softball standouts Kayla Wilson of Rockville (Indiana-Southeast) and Hailey Aukerman of North Vermillion (Bethel) will also continue their standout careers.
Johnson hit .437 last year with 11 doubles, 6 home runs and 24 RBI.
Heading into his senior season, Johnson has been named to the All-Wabash River Conference team three times and was a member of the Hoosier Diamond All-State team a year ago.
“It is an outstanding accomplishment for Tim and his family to earn an athletic scholarship,” said Johnson’s coach, Hank Lopez. “I have talked with Coach [Nico] Gregali, and he is very excited for Tim to be on their team for next season,” he added.
Wilson will be joining a tough Grenadier program that won the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last year and advanced to the NAIA national tournament.
Last season, the Grenadiers finished with a record of 33-15 and went 17-1 in conference play.
Wilson likes the idea that her new school will be a satellite campus of the Indiana University system.
“It’s a small, four-year NAIA College with all the benefits of being an IU student,” she said. “IUSE seems to be the perfect fit for me. It’s a small campus, small class ratio, it’s not too far from home and the softball program is very strong.
“Even though this is only their fifth year for softball, they have not had a losing season,” she added, noting the team has won four KIAC championships and made 2 NAIA national appearances.
“The coach [Todd Buckingham] is very competitive and expects his players to earn their positions on the field, for playing time, every week. It’s a very competitive softball team and I can’t wait to become an IUS Grenadier.”
Wilson credits her father, Chad, for being her biggest influence.
“I would not be where I am today without him,” she said. “He has sacrificed so much time to help me become a better and stronger softball player. Over the years he has been my coach, encourager, catcher, back stop, taxi, money tree, attitude adjuster and most of all… my No. 1 fan!
“There was nothing Dad would not do to help me pursue my dream of playing softball at the college level.”
Wilson is glad to have her college decision over with, and is looking forward to her final season with the Rox.
“It is a big relief, and I want to work even harder to become a good leader, role model and stronger player,” she said. “Our team has great talent and I want to challenge our team to make this year one of the best ever.
“I have very high expectations for our team. We only lost two seniors last year and we still have a lot of talented players that will make our team very well rounded. If everyone is willing to work hard, as a team, we will have a great season.”
Wilson will be a teammate next year of Terre Haute North’s Bethany Sullivan, who will be a freshman pitcher for the Grenadiers this spring.
In the team’s pre-season prospectus, Buckingham calls Sullivan the “best freshman prospect in the conference” because of her work ethic.
Aukerman is a centerfielder who has started for NV her entire career.
She won NV’s Mental Attitude Award and Golden Glove Award as a junior. She helped lead her team to a first-place finish at the Banks of the Wabash Tournament her freshman year and also helped guide the team to a sectional championship that year.
“I chose to go to Bethel because I love the energy that Coach [Anna] Welsh gives off and how supportive and caring the girls are as a team,” Aukerman said. “Once I stepped foot on the campus, I knew that Bethel was going to be my new home for the next four years. Growing up in a small rural farm town, it is heartwarming knowing that everyone around me is so helpful and positive.”
Welsh sees many good things about her new player.
“What appealed to me right away about Hailey was both her work ethic along with her athleticism. Her overall determination is second to none and the kid just cannot get enough. That’s one of the many attributes that I love about her! She’s a perfect fit for what Bethel stands for on and off the field.”
Aukerman played travel ball with the Stone City Sharks (Minooka, Ill.) for the past three years. She helped her team win AFA 16u National Tournament in Mustang, Okla., in 2008. The following year Aukerman and the Sharks placed second in the AFA 16u Tournament in Shawnee, Kan. This past summer, they were runner up in the AFA 16u Northern National Tournament in Shoreview, Minn.
“I know I will be welcomed into the Pilot family and I will get to continue my success in the game I love most,” Aukerman said. “Becoming a Pilot and playing for a great coach and being a sister in the Pilot family is such a great honor. I truly believe that God called me to Bethel when I stepped foot onto its campus.”
She plans on majoring in psychology at Bethel. Hailey will be part of a very talented Pilot squad as Bethel finished 48-9 in 2010 and was ranked as high as No. 3 in the country. On their fourth straight trip to NAIA Nationals, they made it to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Bethel also finished No. 6 in the country in team GPA last season with a 3.446/4.0.
Basketball injury report — Nate Blank was able to briefly return to action following knee surgery that cost him the first several weeks of his final season at the University of Indianapolis.
Blank, a 2007 Indiana All-Star performer for Terre Haute North, even was able to score 18 points against Missouri S&T following his first surgery and help the Greyhounds to achieve a No. 22 national ranking.
Blank’s career came to an end this week, however, after he had micro fracture knee surgery Saturday.
Blank played two seasons at Division I Gardner-Webb in North Carolina, being named the Atlantic Sun Conference “Freshman of the Year,” before transferring back to Indianapolis.
He had an excellent junior year with the Greyhounds, averaging 10.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Blank remained upbeat on his Facebook page with the surgery looming, even terming the procedure as “Greg Oden surgery.”
He thanked several people for helping him to achieve the excellent career he had.
“I want to think everyone who has been a part of my career and that helped me become the man I am today and the player I’ve become,” said Blank, an exercise science major. “To all my coaches and teammates I have ever had, I extend a personal thank you for helping me in every facet of my life and truly becoming part of my family! It was a great run!”
Terre Haute South grad John Michael Jarvis also saw his season come to an end last month at Olney Central when he suffered a broken wrist. Jarvis was second on the team in scoring at 12.0 points per game and was shooting 42 percent from the field (40.4 percent from 3-point range).
South’s Ike Worrell missed the pre-Christmas part of the schedule for Oakland City, but came back strong to start the team’s first game of the new year in an 85-40 win over Boyce College.
Worrell scored two points, grabbed two rebounds, notching two steals, handing out one assist and blocking a team-high two shots.
Throneburg to Butler – Casey-Westfield grad D.J. Throneburg, who helped lead Parkland College to the national junior college championship in 2009, has been named pitching coach for the Butler baseball program.
In addition to working with BU’s pitching staff, Throneburg will also help with recruiting, scouting and practice organization.
Throneburg comes to Butler after four seasons at Parkland. With Throneburg serving as pitching coach, Parkland went 50-13 last season and finished fifth in the nation. In 2009, the team posted a 49-9 record and captured the NJCAA National Championship.
“We are very excited to have DJ coming into our program. He was highly recommended by some outstanding college coaches and he comes from a great family,” head coach Steve Farley said. “The job he did with the pitching staff at Parkland College in 2009 was one of the primary reasons the Cobras won a national championship. He’s a proven recruiter and he can teach the fundamentals of the game. Our pitching staff and our entire team will gain from his expertise.”
Throneburg, who has also worked as an associate scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, played college baseball at Parkland and also Charleston Southern.
He pitched for Parkland from 2002-2005, making trips to the World Series in 2003 and 2005, after sitting out the 2004 season following Tommy John surgery. After graduating from Parkland, he pitched for two years at Charleston Southern University, an NCAA D-1 in South Carolina, before returning to head the Cobra pitching staff under both former coach Mitch Rosenthal and current head coach Matt Kennedy (a former Indiana State assistant).
Throneburg has camp experience at some of college baseball’s most storied programs, working as an instructor at Florida State, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Illinois.
Rox on the move — Rockville will have five college baseball players this spring who have all changed schools since last year.
Besides the previously reported transfers of Luke Greene from Lake Land to Northern Kentucky and Matt King from Indiana State to Siena Heights (Mich.), Taylor Harper will join Greene at NKU after playing for Ancilla College, Steven Ball has transferred from ISU to John A. Logan Junior College in Illinois, and J.J. Earl has transferred from Pikesville (Ky.) to Danville Area CC.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil.