Nathan Sutherlin named Putnam County Baseball Player of the Year

Friday, July 5, 2024
Greencastle sophomore Nathan Sutherlin repeated as Putnam County Baseball Player of the Year following a 2024 season where he helped lead the Tiger Cubs to their first sectional title in 30 years, second-ever regional title after a 35-year wait and, by advancing to the semistate final, reached the furthest point in the state tournament in program history. Sutherlin hit .443 with 35 hits, 33 RBI, 25 runs scored, three doubles, three triples and a grand slam, walking 16 times against 10 strikeouts for rates of .531 on-base, .557 slugging and 1.088 OPS. Sutherlin fielded at a .886 rate with 20 putouts and 42 assists in 70 chances while striking a 2.31 ERA over 30.1 innings, allowing 21 hits, 15 runs, 10 earned, while walking 14 batters against 37 strikeouts
Banner Graphic/TRENT SCOTT

Greencastle’s 2024 baseball season looked as though it would be a moderate improvement over its 2023 campaign, a sign of progress for a team still mainly manned by underclassmen.

Then the postseason began and what followed turned an above-.500 season into a magical run to a semistate final, a run away from playing in a state title game.

Right in the middle of everything was reigning Putnam County Baseball Player of the Year Nathan Sutherlin.

The Tiger Cub sophomore largely maintained the same level of production he showed as a freshman with incremental improvements in other areas and minor drops in others.

Importantly, Sutherlin was one of the most dangerous bats when runners were on base, doubling the RBI total of all bar one player in the county, while also a strong secondary option on the mound and ever-present in the infield.

Sutherlin’s efforts see him retain the title of Putnam County Baseball Player of the Year for the 2024 season.

The sophomore batted .443 for the 2024 season with 35 hits, 33 RBI, within the top-30 in the category in the state according to MaxPreps, scoring 25 runs with three doubles, three triples and a grand slam.

Sutherlin drew 16 walks against 10 strikeouts, finishing with .531 on-base, .557 slugging and 1.088 OPS rates for the season, stealing 15 bases while on the basepaths.

In the field, Sutherlin fielded at a .886 rate with 20 putouts and 42 assists in 70 chances.

On the mound, the sophomore finished with a 3-0 record and two saves with a 2.31 ERA over 30.1 innings, allowing 21 hits, 15 runs, 10 earned, while walking 14 batters against 37 strikeouts, allowing a .175 batting average against.

Following Greencastle’s 13-13 2023 season, Sutherlin changed his summer baseball team, working on several assets of his game, particularly his own physical traits.

“I went and played travel ball with Indy Nitro, focusing on hitting, power, strength and gaining weight,” Sutherlin said. “We played in several tournaments and it was really a lot of fun with a lot of good teammates.

“I was also working on my pitching as (Greencastle baseball head coach Ben) Wells wanted me to be our No. 2 or 3 pitcher this year. He was also on me about gaining weight as it would help me run faster, harder and, if you’re small, you’re not going to play at the next level.”

A member of the Greencastle basketball team as well, Sutherlin said he allowed himself some time following summer ball to recharge before picking back up in January.

“During the fall, I had about a two- or three-week break to just get away from baseball,” Sutherlin said. “I wanted to hang out with family and friends, go out and watch some games and then get into basketball season.

“After winter break, I started to ramp back up, hitting, running and throwing more to get used to baseball again.”

Greencastle’s roster featured a pair of seniors to start the year and one junior, meaning the team was once again going to be manned mainly by sophomores and freshmen.

Sutherlin said the team didn’t have the same issues figuring out where players were supposed to be and how to be organized.

“It helped a lot,” Sutherlin noted. “We faced some adversity last year and that shaped us into a good team, helping us build tremendously as players and a squad.

“Our first goal is always to win county and that didn’t happen but that was all right. Our focus after that as a team was to win a sectional and, after that, the goal kept getting bigger and bigger.”

The weather didn’t cooperate for much of the early season, leaving Greencastle with just one game played, a lopsided loss to Northview, heading into the Putnam County Baseball Tournament.

“It was definitely a slow start for everyone this year, hitting especially, going into the county tournament with just one game and that being against a good Northview team,” Sutherlin said about the lack of rhythm and play after the first two weeks. “It was tough to make the adjustments but we got it done in the first game at least.

“It wasn’t frustrating but it was definitely a challenge. We felt like we had a good chance going into the final against North Putnam, even if they had played five or six games at that point, but Jaylen (Windmiller) pitched a great game that day and you have to tip the cap to him.”

Somewhat worrying was that Sutherlin was pulled from an appearance on the mound against Linton after just a few pitches, an event Sutherlin said was beneficial in the long run.

“It wasn’t a huge thing,” Sutherlin said about his arm issues. “It was a two-three day thing and not a huge bother.

“What it did do was help me realize I needed to take better care of my arm. This helped me as the season went on as I did more warmups to keep it healthy.”

The result of the game, a 10-2 win over the Miners, was a key moment for the squad down the line according to Sutherlin.

“It flipped a switch in all of us,” Sutherlin said about the win over Linton. “It showed us we belong with the best teams in big moments.

“As we were going on our tournament run, that game was a big part of the reason as we saw that anyone could step up and help the team, no matter if they were a starter, coming off the bench, pitching, etc.”

As the team had done the previous year, Greencastle dragged North Putnam to extra innings and won back control of the Putnam County Bucket with a 3-2 win, another important victory as Sutherlin said many thought it would be the second of three meetings between the two teams.

“The games against North Putnam went the exact same way as the previous year,” Sutherlin said. “That game meant a lot at the time but there was a bigger picture in place because we expected to play them in the sectional later in the year, even though it ended up not being that way.”

Following the win, the Tiger Cubs hit a rough patch, going 2-6 across their next eight outings, going 0-4 in WIC contests, as well as falling to Covenant Christian and Lafayette Central Catholic in close outings.

Five of the losses came by three runs or less with Sutherlin noting the team play needed to win wasn’t quite there yet.

“Honestly, it felt like we were playing pretty good baseball,” Sutherlin pointed out. “We just weren’t winning and that was something we had to learn as a team.

“It wasn’t just about playing good individually. We needed to be able to step up when needed as it wasn’t about one person because the team is bigger than that.”

A win over Brown County on May 16 sparked a 4-1 finish to the regular season.

“It was very important as the wins helped our confidence a lot,” Sutherlin said about the win streak. “Everyone started hitting, fielding and pitching better.

“The wins got us rolling and kept us rolling.”

Weather delays meant the Greencastle Sectional got off to a delayed start for the final three games but the Tiger Cubs held their nerve after a shaky start against Southmont, defeating the Mounties 7-2 and later blasting Cloverdale 12-0 in five innings to win their first baseball sectional title in 30 years.

“It was definitely one of the most fun days of baseball of my life,” Sutherlin said about the sectional. “Every part of it was enjoyable.

“The bad inning against Southmont told us we needed to get it together and we did that. We also wanted to win a trophy, both for coach Wells but also for our senior, Owen (Huff), as neither of them had won one.”

A rematch with state runner-up Covenant Christian awaited in the regional round.

In the first matchup, the Warriors scored two runs in the top of the first and held the Tiger Cub offense in check the rest of the way.

Greencastle’s 7-3 win in the regional came down to getting off to the quick start instead according to Sutherlin.

“The good start to the Covenant game was the main reason we won it,” Sutherlin said. “We went in really expecting to come out fighting with an edge.

“With (Bryton) on the mound, we just needed a couple-run lead and we’d be safe. Guys were doing everything out there, getting walks, hits with two outs and making plays in the field.

A trip to the semistate for the first time in 35 years saw Greencastle match up with No. 1 North Posey in the first round.

The 3-0 win over the Vikings was not only a sign for Sutherlin and the team they had a real chance to win it all but also showed the best in the squad’s ability to make contributions when needed.

“We showed we belonged there,” Sutherlin said. “That was a big jump in competition level and we realized we could win it all at that point.

“A lot of people stepped up in that game. Due to an injury, (Colton Sprinkle) came in for a few innings, making two big catches and laying down a perfect bunt.

“It was another opportunity for people to step up and everyone produced,” Sutherlin added.

The semistate final against Providence saw Greencastle shoot out to an early 5-0 lead but, as they had done in the first round against Knightstown, the Pioneers rallied to take a 6-5 lead and, when the Tiger Cubs tied it and the two teams headed to extra innings, found the run they needed to win 7-6 and advance to the state title game, one in which Providence would defeat Illiana Christian 9-0.

“It was a heartbreaker,” Sutherlin said about the loss. “We definitely could have won that game but there are some things we couldn’t do anything about.

“There were a lot of emotions after the game. There were a couple things that could or couldn’t have gone our way but you have to control what you can control.

“On the mound, I felt it was a solid performance,” Sutherlin added, having started and pitched seven innings after not throwing since facing Southmont in the sectional. “I walked a few too many and, without a couple of those walks, you never know what happens in (Providence’s) big inning.

“The one pitch that helped them win that game was the home run. It changed my whole confidence level and perspective.”

Greencastle finished the season 17-11, sectional and regional champions, with a 5-5 mark in WIC play, all with a team that will still look very familiar to opponents next year.

“A lot of people stepped up for us and we had a solid season,” Sutherlin said. “We have all but one or two people coming back, so we expect a lot of big things next year.

“We expect to be in the same spot again but to go even further.”

While his numbers at the plate, in the field and on the mound were steady from his freshman to sophomore season, Sutherlin said he produced well in games but lacked certain intangibles at times.

“I feel I met the expectations set for me but, as a team, we exceeded our expectations,” Sutherlin said. “I met what Wells wanted me to do, though I feel I could have stepped up more and been a better leader sometimes.

“My performance in games wasn’t terrible but I could have been a better teammate at some points. At the same time, a base hit gets us going and I wish I would have brought more energy and been a sparkplug more often.”

Sutherlin’s offseason has already gotten off to a good start with Indy Nitro again with a pair of tournaments still to come in July though he added bulking up was still a priority.

“I still need to gain more weight, the same as last year,” Sutherlin said. “That will help with the other stuff like running faster and hitting.

“I’ve already been pretty solid with Nitro this summer, enjoying being with the team and going out of state for a little bit. It’s a fun team and I enjoy playing with them.”

Along with his physical features, Sutherlin said it was important to fine tune some of his technical aspects become mentally stronger before next season, traits that would help him kick on as a junior.

“I feel I need to be more consistent,” Sutherlin said. “At some points, my swing would change and the same goes with my pitching mechanics; some innings I would throw hard and the next not hard at all.

“I also need to be more consistent on the mental side of the game, not being aggravated or angry when I hit a hard ball right at someone. I need to be able to control what I can control and keep taking good swings.”

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  • Congrats, on a great season, Tiger Cubs, and Nathan Sutherlin!!

    -- Posted by Snowman1955 on Sat, Jul 6, 2024, at 4:56 PM
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