News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 21, 2013

Prep baseball coaches have prospects, hope for better weather

Craig Pearson
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute South, Terre Haute North, Northview and West Vigo return veteran pitchers to the high school baseball mound this spring, some more than others.

But all four coaches agree some actual spring weather would be nice so they can get their defenses out of the gymnasium and onto the baseball diamond to better help those pitchers out.

Braves’ coach Kyle Kraemer is fired up to have a senior trio of Cody Brock, Damon Olds and Pete Lannoo that had quality junior seasons on the hill. Terre Haute North features strong-armed junior Austin Hicks, West Vigo features a pair of southpaws — Brandon Calleja and Kevin Stewart — with vast experience, and Northview senior right-hander Craig Peters leads a staff that coach Scott McDonald says is seven or eight deep.

Let’s take a closer look (in alphabetical order) at the outlook for all four teams:

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n Northview — Coming off a 21-win season and Class 4A sectional title, the Knights are hoping to maintan a high level of success.

Northview will mix in several underclassmen on the mound with the aforementioned Peters, who doubles as the Knights’ shortstop, and senior righty Brock Smith, who is the likley No. 2 in the rotation.

Left-hander Damon Bass was a spot starter as a freshman in 2012, and freshman right-handers Tucker Stewart and Nathan Thomas will be in the mix this spring along with junior Trevor Hetrick.

“Don’t have anybody that will get a ton of strikeouts, but we’re around the plate a lot,” McDonald said.

At the plate, junior Connor Pierce returns to the middle of the lineup, and Devin Clark returns to the top of the lineup. Clark led the team in stolen bases.

“We’ll have a lot of team speed,” McDonald said. “Maybe the fastest team I’ve had. Just have to put the ball in play.”

Junior infielder Connor Ganly, who had a game-winning double in that sectional championship, and junior infielder Kyle Moore are also returnees.

Joe Ball and Bo Stewart are competitors for the starting catcher job, and Ball could also earn time in the outfield.

“I think our defense will be our strongest point. I can’t tell right now,” McDonald said.

Northview (21-9) plays in a scrimmage Thursday against Crawfordsville.

n Terre Haute North — The Patriots graduated a pair of Division I hitters — Tony Rosselli (Indiana State) and Cody Gardner (Wright State) — but coach Shawn Turner is excited about a good mix of veterans and young players who are looking to build on an 18-win campaign.

Hicks led North with a 2.14 earned-run average last season in 39 1/3 innings as a sophomore. Sophomore Greg Hannum, a “hard-throwing and heady” right-hander, could be the Patriots’ No. 2 pitcher, while Tristan Pate slots in at No. 3 on the mound, Turner said.

“He’s picked up velocity and added more movement,” Turner said of Hicks. “He mixes his pitches a little bit better. Any time you can throw three or more pitches where you want them, that’s a good sign.”

The Patriots also lost .300-hitting outfielder Nick Long to a knee injury this season, but senior Sam Wulf, junior third baseman Zach Milam and senior outfielder Colton Pittman all return after batting over .300 last spring.

Wolf is the top returning run producer who’s likely to bat cleanup this year. Milam was second on the Patriots in runs scored in 2012.

“We’re excited to see Wolf complete his high school career with a lot of success,” Turner said. “Zach has a very bright future. Colton is a very strong hitter, hits to all fields, runs well. And has a very hard-throwing arm.”

Junior Jonathan Eilbracht, sophomore Cody Maloon — who’s also a pitcher — Hicks and senior Gabe Sevigny will be in the mix in the middle infield.

“All four are pretty strong,” Turner said. “It’s a good problem to have.”

In the outfield, junior Lane Dransfield will move to center field after playing some in left last year. The lefty will also do some pitching.

“Pretty smooth kid, covers a lot of ground. We’ve had a lot of good center fielders over the years, and he’s another one that fits right into the mix,” Turner said.

Senior MacKenzie Minger looks to take over in right field.

At catcher, freshman T.J. Collett, junior Jake Schlosser, Hannum and junior Nathan Will are all in the mix.

Left-handed pitcher Nick Norton will also add depth for North on the mound.

“I think going in that we have the most talent that we’ve had across the field since I’ve been there. We may not have the dominating one, two or three presence we had when [Josh] Phegley and [Nick] Ciolli were playing. This is a very tallented group.”

n Terre Haute South — Terre Haute South came up short in a bid for a sixth straight Class 4A Sectional crown, but the Braves are enthusiastic about getting back to work on starting another streak.

Brock went 7-0 on the mound in 2012 with a 2.32 ERA, while also batting .300 with five home runs and 26 RBIs.

Lannoo chipped in three wins, four saves and a 3.30 ERA, while Olds struck out 49 in 34 1/3 innings to get three wins. Throw in sophomore left-hander Timmy Herrin, who got some experience as a freshman, and freshman right-hander Logan Ames and Kraemer likes the looks of his staff.

“I don't know that we’ve ever had three senior pitchers,” Kraemer said. “They’ve all logged considerable innings. We're interested in seeing what those pitchers can do this year.”

South’s lineup features some veteran returnees as well. Brock, Lannoo (.387, 17 RBIs) and senior catcher Preston Tofaute (.330, 3 homers, 28 RBIs) will make up a formidable middle of the order.

Shortstop Jacob Johnson (.348, 19 RBIs, 57 runs, 18 stolen bases) will be the South table-setter once again.

Kraemer is looking to fill holes at second base, third base and all three outfield spots.

Senior Cam Higgins and sophomore Jared Wolfe are vying for second base, while Zach Donnally and sophomore Conner Shipley — also a potential pitcher — are battling at third base.

In the outfield, freshman Justin Jenkins and junior Nathan Reed are potential starters in center field, while Sander Downs and Clayton Streeter are working in left field. Austin Slover, a junior, could man right field.

South has the makings of a successful team, but “we have to have guys step up and earn the other spots,” Kraemer said.

n West Vigo — The Vikings have 12 players that started at least one game last season, coach Steve DeGroote said, meaning he expects improvement on a 20-10 campaign. The Vikings finished second in the Western Indiana Conference.

Twin brothers Kevin and Kyle Stewart are two key leaders for the Vikings, DeGroote said. Kevin, a left-handed pitcher, finished strong in 2012 on the mound. He’s joined by Calleja, a southpaw who won seven games.

Kyle Stewart batted third for the Vikings, finishing with a .439 average. He and senior outfielder Kade Lindsey — a .305 hitter in the leadoff spot — are key to making the Vikings offense go.

Senior infielder Lucas Fagg batted .450 as a sophomore and .325 last season with 21 RBIs, DeGroote said.

“He really worked on his pitching. He can throw hard, he’s a prospective pitcher and probably bats among the top five,” DeGroote said.

Sophomore infielder David Inman hit .345 as a freshman with 25 RBIs.

“We’ve had an awesome offseason and worked so hard in the weight room. We’re going to be tough,” DeGroote said.

Austin Wallace and sophomore Donnie Ames split time behind the plate for the Vikings.

Braiden Cardinal is also hoping to return to the lineup at third base as a “much improved” player, DeGroote said.

Brandon Behringer and Alex West will battle for playing time at first base, DeGroote said.

“Behringer really came on in the summer. Some of these kids just put time in. He’s a left-handed hitter that realy improved. West started last year as a freshman,” DeGroote said.

Freshman Jordan Schaffer could fill in at second base when Fagg is pitching. Freshman Bryson Scank is another potential contributor as an infielder/pitcher.

“I’m just ecstatic. I’ve got more kids than I can mention. I couldn’t ask for more to work with and better attitudes and better leadership,” DeGroote said. “I’ve got speed. I don’t have a [Jeremy] Lucas or a [Tyler] Wampler, but I’ve really got some talent here. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”