It was a team of firsts, but as it turned out, it was first of many.
The 1991 Crawfordsville baseball team was John Froedge’s 10th at the helm of the Athenians program.
It broke barriers left and right, and set a new standard of excellence.
It was the first 20-win team under the coach, and 23 more followed.
They won the first sectional championship under the coach, and 12 more followed.
They won Froedge’s third conference title, but the Sagamore title resided in Crawfordsville for 21 of the next 28 seasons.
So what happened?
Was there a catalyst or magic potion that upped the amperage?
For one of the seniors, it was the end of the previous season.
“I think losing to Western Boone in the (‘90) sectional hit us all pretty hard,” said Scott Motz, who was a senior. “I decided to spend the offseason hitting and throwing as much as possible. Several of us spent time in the winter hitting in a barn with a cage built inside. Our No. 1 goal as a team was to win the sectional.”
Another senior remembered that barn.
“The difference in our ‘91 season was the preseason.” said John Cummings. “A gentleman hooked us up with some space in a barn down at the end of Whitlock Street. We hit a lot of pitches when it was freezing or colder outside. The leadership on that team was also one to remember. We were all good friends on and off the field, and that led to our team unity. That camaraderie may have set the tone for CHS baseball to come.”
The third senior on that team, Eric Hopkins, put it simply.
“We seniors had tasted some success in other sports,” he said. “We felt it was our time to leave our mark on the traditions of CHS.”
Both Motz and Hopkins would be named to the Sagamore Conference first team, along with Jason Diebold. Cummings was named Second Team, along with freshman Matt McCarty.
Hopkins still remembers another award that season.
“Coach Froedge delivered my All-State award to my house.” he said of the Honorable Mention single class all-state award. I’ll remember it forever. He cares for his players, both spiritually and mentally. I feel like I gained a lifelong friend with Coach Froedge.”
McCarty would go on to three more all-conference first team awards, and was named All-State after his senior season.
“The ‘91 team was comprised of guys that had the same love for baseball and competition.” he said. “From the seniors down. They bought into Coach Froedge’s beliefs and philosophies about what it takes to be a champion through countless hours of practice and discipline. It gave us younger players more of a desire to work hard and that losing was not an option.”
The only junior on that team, Sean Tomey, said there was no other way.
“Coach Froedge had high expectations for us as baseball players, student-athletes and as young men,” he said. “He demanded attention to the small details, practicing with a purpose, listening to the coaches and taking pride in everything we did. That translated into quality performance on the field. The games were so much easier than practice and it made the game slow down. As a younger player, I had no idea there was any other way to do things.”
Tomey also had a moment with Coach.
“I was really struggling to hit,” he noted, “and in the second game of double-header at Greencastle, I struck out my first two times up. When I went up to hit the third time, I asked Coach if I could hit left handed (I had been doing this on my own in the batting cage). Coach said ‘it can’t hurt to try’ and I hit a double to left center. It was my only left-handed at bat in my career, and even though I begged for more lefty at-bats. Coach taught me how to be a serviceable hitter. I spent 10 years coaching softball at Gulf Breeze (Florida) High School and that experience helped make me more patient with the girls I coached.”
Four sophomores cut their varsity teeth with the ‘91 team, and followed it up with lots of success in their next two years.
“We not only had excellent veteran leadership, but we had a ton of talent,” said Darren Haas. “We didn’t take days off, and we worked very hard, whether it was in the rain or snow or sunshine. Coach Froedge and (Rhett) Welliever expected our best every day, just like they gave us best every day.”
“We were a band of brothers after the ‘90 season,” said Chuck Perry. “We started playing summer league as a team. We pushed each other each day and Coach Froedge pushed and challenged us every day. We got better and better and we played whiffle ball until the lights went out, either at Tuttle or in someone’s back yard. Coach gave us the greatest gift anyone could ever give – He Believed In Us.”
Shane Powell also knew that later success came from earlier work.
“The ‘91 season gave the underclassmen momentum,” he said. “In the ‘92 season we believed we could compete against bigger schools, and in ‘93 we just expected to win every game. Coach’s leadership influenced me significantly.”
Kevin Kirsch saw the change as well.
“The leadership from the seniors laid the foundation of how to prepare for and play every single game,” he said. “As I have umpired throughout the state of Indiana, I have come to appreciate how Coach Froedge has taught this great game to his young men.”
Jeff Bannon was the only other freshman to see varsity time that season.
“The ‘91 team was the culmination of what Coach Froedge and Welliever had been building over the years,” he said. “Coach was developing a program, but those things don’t happen easily or quickly. He kept building confidence into his players, doing things right day in and out. He took every opportunity to teach ownership, responsibility and discipline. Many of his players have been successful in life because of what they learned during our time with coach Froedge.”
They succeeded and set the new standard. Perhaps coach himself summed it up.
“I’ll never forget what the class of ‘91 did to set CHS Baseball on a course for the next three decades.”
More success follows
On top of 21 additional Sagamore Conference titles, 12 more IHSAA Sectional titles and 23 more 20-win seasons, the bar for success within Athenian baseball was raised even higher, as Crawfordsville became regular state contenders under Froedge.
The Athenians won their first regional title with a 30-win season in 1995, and added another regional championship in 2006, before breaking through with a pair of Class 3A semi-state and state championships in 2008 and 2001.
“Everyone deep down kind of expected it that year,” Cameron Hobson, who was the ace pitcher on the 2008 team, said. “I think in ‘08, we knew if we played our best game that we could beat anybody. It was not really a surprise to anyone when we won.”
Led by the pitching staff of Hobson, Andrew Swart, and Steven Rice, the 2008 Crawfordsville team posted a perfect 14-0 record in the conference, and was one of the top defensive teams in the history of the program. The 397 strikeouts by the pitching staff is good for third all-time in the history of Indiana High School baseball.
Rice, who came in to close the state title game, which was a 5-1 win over Mishawaka Marian, remembers the consistency and routine coach Froedge had with every single team.
“Andrew (Swart) was the No. 2 starter, but when you look at the whole year, I was the guy that was coming in and closing the door for both of their starts throughout the week,” he said of the state title game. “I think a lot of people were probably a little surprised by the move that coach made, but it goes back to the routine in what do you do day in and day out, and at the end of the day I was the guy that was coming in to close the door. It goes back to the trust that coach has that he sees throughout the year. He’s the type of the guy that’s going to go by his routine and do what he’s done all year.”
Hobson, who went on to pitch at Dayton University before being drafted by the Seattle Mariners, knew him and his teammates helped deliver coach Froedge his first state title, but he deserved all the credit.
“It wasn’t really my mark to leave,” he said. “It was really coach Froedge and his leadership that was the program. I was just kind of a piece and part of it. But if it wasn’t for the leadership, none of that would have happened.”
Rice, who has the ninth most career strikeouts with 521 in state history and went to Vanderbilt where he helped the Commodores to a College World Series title, formed a special bond with Froedge at an early age.
“I think it started when I was about 6 years old when me and my dad would go to the Hitting Streak,” he said. “Something about coach Froedge is he really respected guys who put the time in and wanted to be really good.”
While the 2008 team used pitching and defense to win the state title, in 2011, the Athenians powered their way to a second championship in four years.
Crawfordsville’s 91 doubles that season is tied for the sixth most all-time, while the 318 runs driven in is tied for the fourth most.
The younger brother of Cameron Hobson, Joel, had 21 of those doubles, which is a single-season record in Crawfordsville baseball history. The state championship season was the most fun I’ve had playing a sport,” Hobson said. “We actually started that season 2-3 through 5 games and weren’t sure about how the season would go. I remember coach Froedge just pushing us every day and he had confidence in our team when we were unsure ourselves. After we started winning that season our team had so much confidence. Every game we knew that we could score 8-10 runs because our lineup was so strong top to bottom.”
“It was really cool how our 2011 state championship team was so different than the 2008 team that my brother was on. I thought that really cemented how good Froedge was.”
Jordan Jackson and Chris Minks both drove in more than 50 runs that season, and Jackson’s efforts as a sophomore in 2011 followed by helping lead the Athenians to a fifth and final regional title under Froedge in 2013.
“I think a lot of guys attest that coach Froedge and the staff that he had, they ran a tight ship. They expected a lot out of guys, and everyone was really disciplined and he set the standard from day one, and he never budged either,” Jackson said. “He helped me become not only a better baseball player, but also a better person, and I think that’s the biggest impact he has on a lot of his former players.”
Trent Johnson, who graduated in 2017, never won a sectional title as a player, but now thanks in part to Froedge’s guidance and leadership, is one of Purdue University’s top pitchers.
“Coach Froedge has a ton of knowledge about the recruiting process and has helped so many players find the best place for them. In my process Coach played a huge role,” Johnson said. Late into my junior season and early in my senior year I was getting attention from maybe 4-5 schools at the NAIA and D2 and D3 levels. Coach’s message to me was very clear during my senior year. He would tell me all the time to be patient and that more schools would eventually give me a look. As it got later and later into my senior year Purdue’s head coach watched me on senior night and I committed a few days later. If it weren’t for coach Froedge I wouldn’t have been as patient and I never would have fulfilled my dreams of playing Division I baseball.”
Froedge produced a number of all-state players, both to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South Indiana All-Star team and first-team all-state selections, that included Matt McCarty, Brett Motz, Adrian Norris, Brandon Moore, Ross Wheeler, Andrew Swart, Brett McKinney, Brett Linn, Steven Rice, Joel Hobson, Chris Minks, Cory Rice, Caleb Rasmussen, Jordan Jackson, Trent Johnson, Cameron Saunders, and Caden Jones.
In total 221 players or managers have contributed and graduated from the Crawfordsville baseball program during Froedge’s 39-year tenure.
Eric Brewer, Chuck Coltharp, Mike Kashon, Joe Mikesell, Jon Mills, Tom Mitchell, Mike Reath, Dave Henderson (Mgr.), Tom Eastman, Tome Fine, Danny Hutson, Rocky Nave, Tim Rauch, Craig Reeves, John Schilling, Craig Warbington, Scott Fendley (Mgr.), Jeff McIntyre, Ronnie Melvin, Tim Mitchell, Jeff Neal, Rick Schott, Andy Therber, Phil Lazuder, Brian Mendenhall, Brian Pursell, Bill Sering, Jeff Stewart, Chuck Thompson, Scott Thompson, Chris Arvin, Tony Bean, Steve Bova, Kevin Gallagher, Kevin Kellerman, Larry Minks, Brian Norman, John Walker, Scott Kinkead (mgr.), Jim Copeland, Dave Mason, Mike Therber, Chad Bir, Jeff Eastman, Jason Gould, Scott Laughlin, Scott Pearson, Matt Petty, Chris Sering, Chris Moore, Doug Sarver, Erin Pant (Mgr.), Jason Diebold, Jay Dieckmann, John Cummings, Eric Hopkins, Scott Motz, Jay Newnum, Scott Whalen, Laurie Macy (Mgr.), Sean Tomey, Aaron Utz (Mgr.), Joe Crane, Darren Haas, Kevin Kirsch, Tony Kriston, Chuck Perry, Shane Powell, Matt Voorhees, Tammy Hubbard (Mgr.), Erica Whitehead (Mgr.), Jeff Bannon, Ignacio Bravo, Matt McCarty, Adam Utz, J.D. Ames, Mike Depersia, Neal Dossett, Bryan Linn, Brett Motz, Ryan Proctor, Matt Walker, Heidi Hubbard (Mgr.), Mike Bannon, Rob Bowers, Curt Dyson, J.D. Flynn, Jay Strickland, Courtney Whitehead, Michael Lennartz (Mgr.), Ben Gowin, Nate Patton, Dustan Stevens, Mark Stockdale, Chris Chambers, Aaron Dossett, Josh Lighty, Dan Sadowski, Josh Wilson (Mgr.), Terry Baker, Andy Campbell, Matt Carlson, Brandon Froedge, Scott Gambrel, Lance Hart, Corey Staton, Phil Dennison, Nathan Hughes, Justin Humphreys, Cameron Starnes, Joel Wilson, Jason Lennartz (Mgr.), Justin Dugger (Mgr.), Ryan Brown, Justin Grimes, Jake Wilson, Jon Addler (Mgr.), Kyle Gobel, Collin Lanam, Travis Moore, Adrian Norris, Scott Sadowski, Caleb Wilson, Rich Fuller, Steve Hubbard, Eric O’Hair, Adrian Starnes, Evan Watson, J.J. Bell, Brandon Brennan, Brandon Bulcroft, Blake Cotten, Brandon Moore, Brandon Somerville, Frank Bowles, Jeremy Kline, Ryan Pruett, Ross Wheeler, Clay Williams, Ben Zachary, Jenny Davis (Mgr.), Logan Everett, Alan Griggs, Cody Dowell, Blake Harris, Cameron Hobson, Mitchell Ray, Jason Spurlock, Andrew Swart, Justin Wright, Quinten Anderson, Jacob Corbin, Brett Linn, Brett McKinney, Josh Rager, J.D. Rice, Andrew Allen, Kyle Covault, AJ Ehrlich, Austin Evans, Steven Rice, Rogge Merriman (Stats), Adam Boehm, Reece Heron, Jordan Kiger, Cory Rice, Craig Brainard, Alex Ehrlich, Joel Hobson, Caleb Rasmussen, Mitchel Reeves, Jordan Jackson, Chase Justus, Logan Meadows, Cam Monroe, Joel Monroe, Chandler Pursell, Casey Reeves, Austin Turpin, Jake Zurawski, Jaren Vaught (Video), Nathan Baer, Shad Conrad, Nick Page, Garrett Phelps, Dalton Scaggs, Connor Smith, AJ Baldwin (Stats), Andre Aaron (Mgr.), Brian Boehm, Nick Corbin, Dylan Mangold, Michael Minks, Sam Page, Justin Raters, Colton Smith (Stats), Westin Evans, Dalton King, Sam Lucas, Ethan McKinney, Tyler Reeves, Brendan Dowell, Tommy Edwards, Trent Johnson, Caden Jones, Ethan Pearman, Kaile Wendelin, Michael Smith (Mgr.), Weslee Zink (Mgr.), Cade Fitzwater, Josh Blackburn, Jake Decker, Will Kellerman, Cam Saunders, Owen Bennett, Tyeson Hendon, Gabe Joyner, Cale McCarty, and Carson Scott.
The John Froedge File
1982, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2019
1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
1995, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013