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November 27, 2013

College report: Gardner jumps at chance to play for ISU

TERRE HAUTE — Cody Gardner enjoyed his freshman baseball season at Wright State and earned more time on the field than he honestly expected to get.

Coach Rob Cooper departed WSU after last season to take over at Penn State, however, and Gardner jumped at the chance to return to his hometown as an Indiana State Sycamore and perform for the school where two members of his family previously excelled.

“I learned a lot about the game last year,” said Gardner, who will have three years of eligibility left after sitting out next spring as a transfer. “I didn’t expect a starting position going in, but as I proved myself I earned a starting job in left field.

“Soon after I was moved to second base for the heart of the season and finally I was the designated hitter during the conference tournament. I couldn’t have asked for a better freshman year.”

Like many college athletes, the coach was a primary reason for Gardner choosing to go to the Dayton, Ohio, school. Mitch Hannahs took over for Rick Heller earlier this year, and that change led to Gardner’s decision to transfer.

“I’ve always wanted to play in the legacy of my father [John] and grandfather [Harlan Lautenschlager] at ISU, but coming out of high school I was not given the chance,” he said. “Coach Hannahs was given the head-coaching job and I saw a great opportunity to play for my hometown and under a great baseball mind. Not only was coach Hannahs a deciding factor, but the whole coaching staff is very knowledgeable in the game and I knew I would learn a lot about the game. My family has great respect for the current coaches at ISU.”

John Gardner was a standout pitcher on ISU’s only College World Series team in 1986, while Lautenschlager was an NAIA All-American infielder for the Sycamores in 1963.

Last season at Wright State, Cody Gardner played in 37 games (starting 30) and hit .222 with three doubles and 14 RBI.

He hopes to continue the family legacy in blue and white.

“As far as accomplishments go, personally I would like to earn an everyday starting position,” he said. “But I think I can speak for the whole team by saying we would love to bring another championship to the Wabash Valley and go back to the World Series like the 1986 team.”

I I I

n Valley athletes moving on — Former Terre Haute North basketball standout Jake Newton is one of several Wabash Valley athletes to make college choices this fall and sign national letters-of-intent.

Newton, a 6-foot-6 wing forward, is one of the leading scorers for Lincoln Trail Community College. He is coming off an excellent freshman season in which he was a first-team All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference selection and a second-team All-Region selection, in which he averaged 11.2 points and four rebounds per game.

Newton will continue his career next fall at Division I Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Jake is a very good shooter,” SIUE Coach Lennox Forrester said of Newton. “He has an incredibly high basketball IQ. He is a very skilled and savvy player.”

Newton, who helped lead the Patriots to the sectional championship in high school, had a great impression when he visited SIUE.

“I really enjoyed my visit,” he said. “The campus was very nice and the people there were first class. It felt like a great fit in every aspect of the process, basketball as well as getting my degree.

“It’s also going to be nice to finish my college career close enough to home that my family can make it to watch some games.”

In an era when great outside shooters are not easy to come by, Newton will help fill a need for his new team.

“They were looking for a guard to come in right away and contribute,” Newton said. “Coach Forrester and his staff are looking for me to be able to score when needed and also add to rebounding from perimeter. My goal right now is to continue to get better and win a national championship here at LTC.”

n Paris baseball standout Hunter Morris also will play at the Division I level in Illinois in the spring of 2015 as an Eastern Illinois Panther.

Morris was a first-team All-Apollo selection as a sophomore and junior and holds four school baseball records. A team captain, he has helped his teams to three winning seasons.

The hard-hitting catcher was named the Terre Haute Tribune-Star Area Player of the Year in 2013 after posting a .539 batting average last season.

“Hunter is exactly the type of player you want leading your team, especially as a catcher,” Paris coach Creighton Tarr said. “His work ethic, his leadership abilities and his commitment to the game make him not only a top player in the area but also the state. Once he gets to EIU and works with coach [Jim] Schmitz and his coaching staff, I really feel he will develop into something special.”

Schmitz agrees.

“Hunter has been to our camps for years,” he said. “We knew he could hit but didn’t know where to play him defensively. Over the past year, his catching skills improved where he has a chance to come in and play right away.

“He has an above-average arm and is a great leader behind the plate. He gives us left-handed power.”  

n Kelsey Marlow of Terre Haute South is yet another Valley standout heading to the Land of Lincoln and will play softball for Western Illinois in 2015.

Marlow comes to Macomb after being named All-Vigo County in each of her first three seasons at Terre Haute South. She led her team in batting average during her freshman year and won the team’s Gold Glove award the following season.

Last year, she was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. In her first three seasons, Marlow hit .416 with 53 stolen bases, driving in 58 runs and scoring 86 runs.

“Kelsey caught our eye with her presence on the field and her approach at the plate,” coach Holly Van Vlymen said. “She plays all out no matter where she is on the field and has a great knowledge of the game.”

I I I

Another Mount Union familiar face — North Putnam grad Hank Spencer, a sophomore starting linebacker for the defending NCAA Division III national football champions, was named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-District Football Team selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Spencer is a computer-science major with a 4.00 grade-point average. He graduated from high school a semester early last December after excelling for coach Greg Barrett and enrolled at Mount Union last January.

A key contributor and team captain on the nation’s No. 2-ranked defense, Spencer played in all 15 games as a freshman and started the final six games as he finished third on the team in tackles. This season, he has started seven games and has 20 tackles and two forced fumbles.

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