Archive for April 16, 2013

FORMER LADY KAT ASHLEY HAYES REFLECTS ON HER CAREER, COACHING AT HINKLE FIELDHOUSE

Ashley Hayes

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – “Everyone is replaceable; make yourself unforgettable.”

Unforgettable is a word that will forever be used with the 2003 Kokomo High School girls basketball team after they ran the gauntlet unscathed and captured the IHSAA Class 4A state championship with a perfect 26-0 record. On that hallowed squad – the only undefeated basketball team in Kokomo history – was senior Ashley Hayes. The former Lady Kat star recently returned to the City of Firsts and talked about the Lady Kats, Murray State and her current profession at Butler University.

She started by recalling how she got her start – and toughness – in the sport she loves.

“Some of my first memories of basketball come from playing at Carver Center,” recalled Hayes. “One thing I learned about playing with the boys was if you wanted the ball, you had to go get the ball. They don’t like to pass. But it really helped to develop me, so I credit a lot of my good play to that. And it really helped me develop my rebounding.”

While she earned her statewide recognition as a Lady Kat, she earned her stripes as a Lady Panther at Western. Hayes played her first two years at the Howard County school before moving to Kokomo following her sophomore season.

“I really had a good career at Western, but at the end of my sophomore year my parents got a divorce,” recalled Hayes. “We needed a change and chose Kokomo to move into. And no, it wasn’t just for basketball.”

But her move to K-Town proved to be beneficial, not only for herself, but for the Lady Kats. In two season with the squad, Hayes and the Lady Kats were 43-4 with a pair of North Central Conference crowns and the 2003 state title. The title team featured Indiana All-Stars DeUnna Hendrix and Anne Thatcher and four NCAA Division I performers (Hendrix at Richmond, Thatcher at Indiana State, Ashley Johnson at IPFW and Hayes at Murray State). The squad also had future NAIA All-American and current Eastern assistant coach Lisa Thompson. Despite this talent, Hayes was still named second team all-state and a McDonald’s All-American nominee. She is also currently ranked No. 21 on Howard County’s 1,000 Point Club with 1,126 points.

“I am very glad I moved to Kokomo,” said Hayes, who grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in the title bout – thanks to playing against the boys at Carver Center. “That was an awesome experience to go undefeated. We had great players on the team, had a great coach (Charlie Hall) and we had fun.”

She continued her playing career at Murray State University in Murray, Ken. As she likes to say, “Most people have never heard of Murray, but it is about six hours from Kokomo and my grandparents had just retired to Murray.”

She played four seasons at MSU, but unfortunately broke her foot her senior season and missed on the opportunity to play in the National Invitational Tournament.

“I was already playing with a stress fracture, but I told my coaches and trainers I was gong to keep playing,” she said. “So in our exhibition game, I was dribbling and heard a crack and knew I had broken it. I decided not to redshirt, and that turned into a pivotal year for me. I got to sit on the bench and see what the coaches saw and that is when I realized coaching was something I might want to do. I also learned about my own attitude. I had a quick temper, but when I sat there and saw my teammates doing the same thing, I realized how it looked. Like I said, that was a pivotal year for me, and I truly believe things happen for a reason.”

Following graduation, Hayes accepted a position as a third coach at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the Southern Conference. One year later, she found herself back on the sidelines of Murray State – this time as an assistant coach. She helped guide Murray State to 45 wins in three seasons. MSU’s best season with Hayes on the bench was 2008-09, when the Racers finished 23-9 and advanced to the second round of the WNIT. The 2009 MSU team won the OVC regular season title and posted a 14-0 mark at home. The team was ranked in the nation’s top 10 in scoring and led the country in team free throw shooting (.826).

“I was really comfortable at Murray and really didn’t want to leave,” said Hayes. “But a coaching position opened at Butler; I knew I wanted to apply. Well, I got the job and now I get to pull up to my office in Hinkle Fieldhouse. I get to work in Hinkle Fieldhouse! How great is that? I am so blessed. And I get to walk by (men’s basketball coach) Brad Steven’s office every day and watch him practice. I get to be part of the Butler Way. It is awesome.”

Hayes is currently the recruiting coordinator for the Bulldog women’s team – a position in which she is either really happy or really sad, depending on the news a recruit gives her.

“It is either no or yes. In or out. There is no in-between,” she said with a laugh, before getting serious. “My stress level is very high.”

While speaking to a group of Howard County high school players, Hayes offered the girls sound advice on working hard, achieving success at whatever they do and to always strive to set themselves apart from the rest.

“Everyone is replaceable; make yourself unforgettable,” said Hayes. “That was first told to me by a coach at Murray State. A coach told me that there was a million Ashley Hayes’ out there. I was taken aback by that, but I realized I needed to set myself apart and make my own mark. I had to make myself different and make them not forget me.”

Ashley Hayes is one of the unforgettable ones who played on that magical unforgettable Lady Kats squad. Now, as a seasoned college assistant coach, she continues to successfully live by that mantra.

EXPECTATIONS ARE HIGH: 2013 HOWARD COUNTY BASEBALL PREVIEW

Western Wins

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – To say high school baseball expectations are high in Howard County would be an understatement. Expectations are Indy or bust as three local squads were ranked in their respective top six in the coaches’ preseason polls. And one – the Western Panthers – are not only the defending state Class 3A champions, they are perched as the top team in the 3A rankings.

WESTERN PANTHERS

Head coach: Ty Calloway (36th season, 640-304)

2012 season: 25-9, IHSAA Class 3A State Champions

Preseason ranking: Class 3A No. 1 (five of six first place votes)

With 13 returning varsity players – including its top three pitchers – Panther Nation is excited for the upcoming high school baseball season.

“This kids we have coming back are excited; they are motivated,” said Western head coach Ty Calloway. “We have a long way to go, but they are ready to play. We are looking forward to the season.”

One year after winning the programs first state title, championship game winning pitcher and seniors Ronnie Smith (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Cameron Kuntz join junior Evan Warden in one of the most talented staffs in the state. Smith returns as the No. 1 starter after a 9-5 season (2.34 ERA), while Kuntz was 5-1 (1.69) and Warden closed strong to post a 4-1 record (1.59).

“We have a solid pitching staff coming back,” said Calloway. “That is an area I don’t worry about, although we will need to decide who our other three or four pitchers will be.”

On offense, Heartland Community College recruit and Indiana All-Star candidate Marcus Pingleton returns his 10 home runs to the lineup. He will also lead the defense in centerfield.

Indiana Tech recruit Nathan Kirk will play first and see time on the hill, senior Dakota LaMott will cover second, Warden will play short and junior Drew Bellus will be at third as well as get time behind the plate. Joining Pingleton in the outfield will be seniors Mitchell Shahan and Austin Dukes and junior Devon Eaker. In addition, junior Cameron Herr will catch, senior Kyle Mendenhall will pitch and play some outfield and sophomore Austin Weaver will pitch and play infield.

Calloway cautioned the team will take one game at a time and will not look towards June too early.

“We are really excited about the upcoming season. The players are working extremely hard. We want very badly to experience the same success as last year,” said Calloway.  “We want to reclaim the (Mid-Indiana Conference title) and go from there.”

KOKOMO WILDKATS

Head coach: Tim Weeks (3rd season, 27-32)

2012 season: 13-16

Preseason ranking: Class 4A No. 6

The Wildkats enter the season with what they consider one of the best pitching staffs they have assembled in years. And considering the program currently has two players pitching on professional baseball mounds, that is saying something.

“The sky is the limit, but baseball can be a funny sport,” said Kokomo head coach Tim Weeks. “The best teams don’t always win, but I think we have looked really good in pre-season workouts. They are focused and hungry.”

Leading the way for Kokomo will be University of Arkansas recruit Parker Sanburn, who was 3-4 last year with a 4.95 ERA. Sanburn has a lively fastball, which helped him tally 85 strikeouts in 41 innings. Senior Jake McMain (Franklin College) will be the No. 2 starter while Draw Sale and Chase Hatfield will battle for the third starting spot. Preston Emmons returns to catch the pitching staff.

“Everyone knows we start with Parker Sanburn and he has a lot of potential. We expect him to go out there 10 or 12 times this year and we expect him to win,” said Weeks. “McMain was our closer last year but will start this year, and he throws very hard and has some good off-speed stuff.”

McMain is also the leading offensive threat for the Kats after batting .429 (second best in Howard County) with 15 RBIs last season while playing first base. Fellow Franklin College recruit Cody Shipley returns a .324 batting average at second base, Goshen College recruit Eli Grimes batted .333 a year ago and will play shortstop and Sale hit .358 and will play third.

The outfield will consist of Hatfield in left, Jesse Broomfield in center and Drew Guge in right. Bo Baker and Isaac Turner will also see time in the field.

TAYLOR TITANS

Head coach: Brent Owens (3rd season, 43-17)

2012 season: 16-12

Preseason ranking: Class 2A No. 5

Two years ago, the Titans found themselves in the Class 2A Final Four, and many of the players on this squad were around for that memorable run – including three starters. This year, they want a return trip – and more.

“I really like the senior leadership that I have seen in the open gyms we have conducted,” said Taylor head coach Brent Owens. “I want to get our 2013 team to look more like our 2011 team in terms of 20-plus wins and another deep run into the state tournament.”

Leading the way will be All-Mid-Indiana Conference performer Logan Barnes – a key member of the 2011 Final Four squad. Last year the shortstop batted .443 with seven doubles, four triples, two home runs and 10 stolen bases. On the mound he pitched 30 innings and tallied a 2.31 ERA with 23 strikeouts, 13 walks and 27 hits.

 

The second starter from the Final Four team is third baseman Drew Hansen, a second team all-MIC performer. He hit .362 with five doubles, three triples and team leading 19 RBIs and five stolen bases. He also pitched 27 innings and garnered a 2.33 ERA with 21 strikeouts and 14 walks. The third Final Four starter was catcher Trevor Marler, another second team all-MIC player who hit .305 and had a contact percentage of .940.

Owens said Nick Hoover will see time on the hill after striking out 34 hitters in 42 innings a year ago. He also cited Tyler Gatlin at first base after a freshman season in which he belted six home runs and drove in 18 RBIs with a .293 batting average. He also had a fielding percentage of .957.

NORTHWESTERN TIGERS

Head coach: Mike Brazel (2nd season, 17-8)

2012 season: 17-8

Preseason ranking: None

While not ranked in the pre-season, Northwestern head coach Mike Brazel thinks the Purple Tigers could find success if they can find one key ingredient – a No. 1 pitcher.

“Our season will hinge on how quickly we can find a number one pitcher and nail down the bullpen,” said Brazel. “We will also need to find a catcher to replace Tanner Martin. Both will be keys to our season. We have adequate depth in the infield and outfield. Several players will vie for playing time and make practices very competitive.”

Vying for time on the hill will be Conner Milligan (3-0, 2.36 ERA and thee saves), Trevor Richmond (4-2), James Herrington (2-1, 3.16 in a relief role), Austin Bowley, Austin Pyle and Logan Macaluso.

In the field and at the plate, Mr. Everything Trenton Brazel should lead the squad while playing shortstop. A year ago, he batted a solid .380, and after the season he will take his athletic talents to Wabash College to play football and basketball.

Brazel also cited to Milligan at first base (.345 batting average), Richmond at first and third (.313), Kristian Simmons at second, Craten Brown in center (11 RBIs), Keagan Downey as a utility player (.316), Erick Vas in the outfield and Michael Plummer in the infield. Evan Matlock is the potential starting catcher.

EASTERN COMETS

Head coach: Nick Sale (2nd season, 13-15)

2012 season: 13-15

Preseason ranking: None

Second year coach Nick Sale is excited about this years Comet squad, especially since he has several returning players. In fact, he is optimistic the squad should be competitive when it comes to the Mid-Indiana Conference and during tournament play.

“This season provides a lot of promise with eight returning varsity starters,” said Sale. “In addition, we have two key returning pitchers in (sophomores) Caleb Aaron and Kerrigan Forgrave.

Other key players returning to the Comets lineup include seniors Connor Young, Hayden Vint, Josh Keith and Ryan Lindsay; juniors Braden Gibson and Austin Chase and sophomore Cree Johnston. He will also look to senior Austin Forgrave and sophomore Alex Downing to provide key pieces to the puzzle.

“We have a strong group of seniors that we look to lean on for leadership and provide necessary experience to compete for MIC and sectional championships,” said Sale. “This year’s team is built on our pitching and defense and our season success will be dependent on how well we execute the routine plays.”

(WIOU Sports Director Chris Lowry and the Kokomo Herald contributed to this story)

GOLDEN VOICE: CHRIS LOWRY SAYS BREAK-UPS ARE HARD

 

THE GOLDEN VOICE WITH CHRIS LOWRY

Radio voice of Howard County Sports

Well, there goes another one. Even though I am starting to get older, every time a relationship ends it still causes me pain. I guess when I enter into a relationship I always have the thought in the back of my mind that maybe this is “The One.” And when you realize that this isn’t The One, it hurts.

This last relationship started around October and became official on Nov. 1. Things started off very well – almost too well. It moved quickly, but I didn’t mind because everyone seemed to have fallen in love with this one, not just me. Friends and family alike all had high hopes. Heck, even complete strangers could see there was some definite chemistry there. There was a lot of attraction and a lot of admirable qualities.

I won’t pretend that I haven’t thought this before with others in the past, but for whatever reason things just never quite turned out the way I had hoped. Maybe it was my fault for putting too much of my heart and soul into those relationships. If I had tempered my expectations a little, maybe it would have worked out. At least I wouldn’t be so devastated. Or maybe it was their fault, because they all certainly had their own unique flaws. But I tended to overlook those shortcomings. When you are desperate for something and put a lot of time and money into furthering things, you don’t want to start over and think about moving on. But never before did I feel this strongly about something as I did throughout the majority of this last relationship.

There were certainly hiccups at times, but nothing too alarming – at least not until the last month or so. It was in the past month that I started hearing whispers from those close to me that maybe there were others who were better suited and more well-rounded options that could present me a more fulfilling relationship. I was starting to hear that there were other “fish in the sea,” so to speak. I’m just not wired that way though, because I tend to be a very loyal person. When I commit, I commit for the long haul. The good times weren’t quite as good as they had been in the past, but that was no reason to give up hope.

There were times, though, that I felt like I was the only one focused on improving things and that I cared more than they did. Really though, I think perhaps we just peaked too soon. Valentine’s Day weekend was an absolute blast, but a couple weeks later things started to cool down. The chemistry just wasn’t there like before and things started to seem a bit off. Maybe I took things for granted.

We still did alright up until the very end and created memories that will last a lifetime for which I am grateful. March 10 is a day I will certainly always remember. But before long it seemed like all I did was reminisce instead of create new and better memories.   That’s when I knew that we were in trouble. I began spending more time casually looking at others who were a bit more attractive and would briefly lust after them, but like I said, I’m a loyal guy. And now I’m left with that hollow feeling again. Although some might say it’s actually been over for about a month now, our relationship officially ended late last Thursday night. Might have even been early Friday morning, I’m not real sure. It’s still a bit hazy and I’m still dazed.

But it will be ok. I still have hope. We have a top-notch recruiting class coming in to Bloomington next year when once again Indiana University basketball and I will be joined together at the hip just like old times. “Next Year”. The words that spring eternal.

Speaking of spring, it’s baseball season now! It’s time to pull for my Red Sox and enter into another new and exciting relationship. It may just be another six-month fling, but who knows? And then it will be IU basketball season again, and maybe this next season will be The One. Although if my girlfriend beats me again next year in our bracket challenge, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle it. My column in 12-months might have to be about ending a real relationship!

(Chris Lowry is the radio voice of the Kokomo Wildkats and Howard County athletics on AM 1350 WIOU. He contributes a monthly column to the Sports Journal.)