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Diamond Diary: MV has new coach, G-C's Irving is healthy

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New Palestine's Connor Swain will be looked on to fill one of the holes on the Dragons' pitching staff. DR file photo.
New Palestine's Connor Swain will be looked on to fill one of the holes on the Dragons' pitching staff. DR file photo.

Greenfield-Central's Curtiss Irving is now healthy after an arm injury limited him to 10 innings pitched last season. DR file photo.
Greenfield-Central's Curtiss Irving is now healthy after an arm injury limited him to 10 innings pitched last season. DR file photo.

New Mt. Vernon coach Scott Johnson. Photo provided.
New Mt. Vernon coach Scott Johnson. Photo provided.

Mt. Vernon has hired its fourth baseball coach in as many years.

Scott Johnson was approved by the Mt. Vernon School Board earlier this week. Johnson was one of nine applicants for the position.

Former MV coach Dustin Glant resigned in September after posting a 10-16 record in one season at the helm. Glant was a former professional pitcher who did not have any prior coaching experience.

Johnson coached at Hamilton Southeastern for the past four seasons before resigning in August. He had been at Angola for 14 years before moving on to HSE.

“It will be nice to have an experienced person,” said Mt. Vernon Superintendent Bill Riggs.

Brian Johnson, who headed the 2010 Mt. Vernon junior varsity team, coached MV travel teams from 2007-10 and is currently with the Indiana Bulls, was interviewed along with Nick Blomeke, presently the head coach of the Hoosier Diamond Trojans U15-U17 travel team.

The interview committee consisted of Bernie Campbell (principal), Greg Roach (co-athletic director), Derek Shelton (co-athletic director), Doug Peacock (former coach and faculty member), Randy Wilson (former baseball coach and faculty member), Todd Walrod (parent representative) as well as five current seniors on the baseball team.

The seniors met the interviewed candidates and gave the prospective coaches a tour of Mt. Vernon’s indoor facilities.

Last season, the 43-year-old Johnson led HSE to a 19-11 record and a fourth-place finish in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.

At Angola, Johnson won three sectional championships, one regional crown and three Northeast Corner Conference titles.

“I think they’ve done their homework,” school board member Bob Hiday said of the interview committee. “I think they knew the situation.”

Glant took the job last October after Eric Nielsen — who led MV to a sectional championship in 2011 — lost his position after one season because of budget cuts.

Nielsen had replaced seven-year coach Mike Gibson, whose contract was not renewed following the 2010 season. Nielsen was an assistant under Gibson.

Other applicants for the position were Ryan Carr, Josh Doane, Ryan Martin, Phil Webster, Brian Wichman and Joshua Zilafro.

The new man in charge is acquainted with the program’s recent history.

“It’s a tough situation. I feel bad for (the seniors). The first lesson I’m going to teach them is control what you can control,” said Johnson, who owns a career record of 301-192. “I can’t control the past. They can’t control the past. They can’t control all the things in their lives. What they can control is how they approach open gyms, practice, games, the way they give effort and treat their teammates.”

The Crawfordsville native and Western Boone graduate competed at Franklin College for a season before a torn labrum ended his playing career. Johnson also played golf and tennis at Franklin.

Johnson arranged a meeting Wednesday to gauge interest in the program and estimated that about 40 students attended. He’s still in the process of figuring out MV’s conditioning schedule.

The new Mt. Vernon skipper believes in an adaptable style of baseball, and plans on using that strategy to unite the Marauder baseball community.

“I’m going to have fun with this group because this group needs that,” explained Johnson, who will continue to teach English at the Hamilton Southeastern Freshman Center. “There have been a lot of different emotions with Mt. Vernon baseball, and one of the emotions I want to have is fun.

“We need to get the players and parents together; we’ve all got to be pulling on the same end of the rope.”

The Marauders’ returnees are headlined by senior outfielder Troy Montgomery, a two-time All-Hancock County selection and an Ohio State recruit.

G-C’s Irving: Arm is in “better shape than it ever was”

A healthy Curtiss Irving could make all the difference for Greenfield-Central and coach Brian Murphy.

Luckily for the team and its first-year manager, the Ohio State recruit appears to be in good physical shape following an injury-plagued 2012 season.

Irving, a two-time All-Hancock County selection, sprained his wrist while working out early last season, and played through the pain. By doing that, Irving wound up with a sprained ligament in his arm.

After recording a 1.91 ERA in 58 and two-thirds innings in 2011, the senior pitched just 10 innings last season.

However, Irving thrived at the plate, posting a .495 average with 19 doubles and 26 RBIs.

Irving resumed pitching in the summer and threw five innings for his travel team, the Indiana Bulls, in the semifinals of a national tournament.

He has continued to rehabilitate his arm, and said he plans on pitching for G-C in the spring.

“My arm’s in better shape than it ever was,” Irving said.

Irving recently inked his letter of intent to play at Ohio State next year. He plans on rooming with Montgomery, a childhood friend and Indiana Bulls’ teammate, in Columbus.

“The atmosphere is awesome. It’s a winning atmosphere,” Irving said of Ohio State. “They’re big about their sports.

“They’re just good people. I couldn’t ask for a better location.”

Irving said the plan is for him to play third base, first base and possibly close at OSU.

Senior Cam Gruell gives Greenfield-Central two college signees, as the senior infielder recently signed his letter of intent to play at Marian University.

As for his current team, Irving and the rest of the Cougars will begin their winter workouts Monday. G-C is looking for its third consecutive winning season after finishing 14-13 in 2011 and 17-12 last season.

Murphy said the team will have twice a week sessions with strength and agility work. He added the team won’t begin throwing until after Christmas.

Irving likes what he has seen so far out of the team’s new coach.

“He seems like a great guy. He’s a hard worker,” Irving said of Murphy. “We’re going to get after it in practice. I’m ready for it.”

Dragons to hold unfamiliar arms race

Shawn Lyons is in uncharted territory.

The second-year New Palestine coach, who helped make mound dominance the hallmark of the Dragons program as its pitching coach before taking over as the head man before last season, finds himself with an unproven staff.

“I’ve been with the varsity program for 12 years,” he said. “This will be the most challenging year because we don’t have many returning pitchers with experience.”

Brian Page and Reid Clark, the team’s top two pitchers from last season, graduated in the spring.

Page was named The Daily Reporter’s Player of the Year after going 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 66 and two-thirds innings pitched. Clark was an All-Hancock County selection after notching a 7-2 mark coupled with a 2.64 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 55 and two-thirds innings pitched.

Ryan Evans and Stephen Ochs, who pitched the most innings after Page and Clark, also graduated.

Lyons listed junior Connor Swain and senior Tylar Ledford as two possible candidates to fill the spots vacated by Page and Clark.

Swain threw 13 and a third innings last season, while Ledford pitched 13 innings. However, neither pitched past May 17 for the Dragons, who are coming off a semistate appearance.

“That’s our biggest question,” said Lyons of his pitching staff. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.

According to Lyons, talent is not an issue with his green hurlers.

“If you can pitch, I’ll take that over anything. It’s been our M.O.,” he explained. “It’s going to be up to us to convince them of how good they can be so they can take off.”

In addition to Ledford, seniors Corey Lyons, Andrew Rejer, Ryan Snyder have been guiding the more than 50 turnouts for New Palestine’s conditioning and lifting workouts.

Lyons said he also expects senior Nick Ulrey, plus juniors Nick Butcher and Steven Clark to be solid contributors.

Come spring, the Dragons will be playing on a refurbished field in addition to trotting out new pitchers.

An early October visit from the Indianapolis Indians grounds crew resulted in a newly sodded infield, shrunken baselines and a sprinkler system.

Lyons said the project was financed by many generous contributors.

“We certainly appreciate that,” he said. “It’s looking really nice.”

Good news spreading for rising Royals

Eastern Hancock has added numbers to the junior high program and engaged in upgrades to the baseball field.

Coach Chad Coughenour said participation has increased in the seventh and eighth grades, so much so that they may be able to separate the grades into two teams.

Coughenour, who will be entering his eighth season at EH, said the team is running youth workouts this fall and spring to further encourage development of young Royal baseball players. The program also added teams into the Greenfield Youth Baseball Association for all age groups.

As for the actual diamond, the entire infield was re-worked along with the pitching mounds and the area around home plate. New covers were purchased to cover the mound and the plate.

A new drainage system was also installed.

“Drainage in front of the dugouts is due to water that has been trapped since (the field) was built,” Coughenour said.

Since Eastern Hancock joined the Mid-Hoosier Conference, the Royals were forced to drop games against Arlington, Cowan, Lapel, New Palestine and Triton Central.

Returning starters Cole Fout, Austin Denny, Dalton Korlowicz and Cody Wallace will combine with a talented group of youngsters.

“We have a strong freshman class coming in that may have a few players contribute to the varsity,” Coughenour said.

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