Friday, March 22, 2024
Corey Branigan
Banner Graphic/TRENT SCOTT

Of the surprises of the 2022-23 sports calendar, one of the biggest came right at the end when Cloverdale rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring four runs and swiping the Parke Heritage Sectional title out from under the nose of North Putnam.

The Clovers caught fire at the right time, having lost 10 games in a row at one point, but won their last two games of the regular season and carried the momentum into postseason play for a title before falling to Class 2A state runner-up Covenant Christian in the Loogootee Regional.

The Cougars, who won the Putnam County Baseball Tournament, and Greencastle, who finished the season with the Putnam County Bucket, bring back young rosters while South Putnam will look to retool its lineup and get back into contention.


The Clovers finished the 2023 8-14 but timing is everything and the team found the right moment to make its move and break a near four-decade sectional drought.

To repeat as champions, Cloverdale will look to its pitching depth with returning arms in Layton Allen, Drake Hoffa and Landon Duncan all logging more than 15 innings last year while Caiden Watts will look to add to the rotation.

Ben Campbell and Cory Branigan return in the infield and are among the leading returning batters for Cloverdale with Campbell having led the team in RBIs a year ago (15).

While losing key players in Levi Hilton, Mcguire Lee and Jayden Sturges, nine returners in total give the Clovers depth to work around with four freshmen joining the squad and three newcomers filing in.

“We have nine guys back from last year’s team and we will look for them to step up, be leaders and help the new guys that are coming in,” Cloverdale head coach Charlie Lee said. “With 16 guys on the roster, we hope to get some JV innings/games in to help them grow and get some game action.

“We hope to compete and be competitive in all our games this year.”

North Putnam

The Cougars will aim to shake off what was a devastating end to the season as the team, despite winning the county tournament, was two outs away from a sectional title.

Pitching will also be a strong point for North Putnam with Jaylen Windmiller and Kaden Helderman both logging significant innings, though filling the departed Brayden Monnett’s 40 innings will need to be done with several younger arms.

Both players are also important battling pieces alongside Brogan Woodall, who co-led the team in hits (31), while Braxton Woodall matched Windmiller for the most RBIs on the season (16).

Several other returners in Alex McKenzie, Jayce Monnett, Chase Barber and Griffen Star, along with freshman Brayden Chew solidifying the catcher spot, position North Putnam to look for a more stable season after finishing 13-14 in 2023, having flitted between wins and losses for most of the year.

“The guys are taking reps in practice a little more seriously,” North Putnam head coach Chris Geeser said. “We’re a lot more focused this year as we saw that all it takes is one error or a mistake that can cost you a game.

“We did have a young team last year and still do have a young team, having played a handful of freshmen every game, but that experience helps and these guys are hungry to get back, fix their mistakes and get over the sectional hump. I’d like to see us make some improvements at the plate, which could help us get a couple more wins.

“That said, the WIC is a very good baseball conference top to bottom and we play very good non-conference teams, so there are no easy wins out there,” Geeser added. “We want to see these guys take the next step.”


While the Tiger Cubs ended the year back in possession of the Bucket, losses to North Putnam in both the Putnam County Baseball Tournament final and in the Parke Heritage Sectional saw the team finish without a title.

Though Greencastle had six seniors, freshmen largely held down the starting positions with Chase Carrington and Ethan Hamm the starters who departed from last year.

Nathan Sutherlin, returning Putnam County Player of the Year, brings back plenty of offensive punch, having led the team in hits (37) and RBIs (31), while Treyten Clark, Trevin Long, Owen Huff and Sam Gooch also provide plenty of punch at the plate.

Clark will need time to get back into the rotation though Gooch, Sutherlin and Huff all saw plenty of time on the mound a year ago and will be able to bridge the gap early in the season with Aston Dayhuff returning behind the plate after injury halted his freshman campaign.

Despite being the only team in the county with a winning record in 2023 (13-12), Greencastle lacked consistency as well as the Tiger Cubs did not win more than two games in a row and will be looking for its sophomore core to use last years’ experience to smooth out some of the rough edges.

“Last year we were a very young team,” Greencastle head coach Ben Wells said. “Having only graduated two starters, I have high expectations for this season and am very excited to see what these guys can do.

“We will be a very versatile team having a lot of guys who can play multiple positions. Our pitching is probably deeper than it has ever been and our team speed will be one of our biggest strengths.

“This is a very talented group but more importantly they are a great group of guys who have a lot of fun and enjoy playing together,” Wells added. “This is a great group to coach and can’t wait to get the season started.”

South Putnam

The Eagles had moments when they played solid baseball in 2023, picking up a win over Parke Heritage late in the year and forcing Greencastle to extra innings, but were also on the end of several heavy defeats, falling by 10 or more runs on 10 separate occasions.

Like the rest of the county schools, experience was in short supply with Ethan Harcourt providing a big bat in the middle of the lineup, one that will need to be replaced this year.

Wyatt Mullin returns as both the leading batter (20 hits, nine extra base hits) and pitcher with Kyle Glasson the other returning arm with more than 10 innings of work last season.

Several players reached double-digits in hits but none hit double-digits in RBIs, an area South Putnam will have to fix if it wants to improve on its 3-17 record from 2023.

“We’re more focused to start the year with less me and more us attitudes,” South Putnam head coach Kurt Kyle said. “The older guys are helping the younger guys out, showing them how to do things and being more communicative with each other.

“We have about five to six arms we can throw with Wyatt being our No. 1. We’re still young and we’re going to need a No. 2, which we’ll find as we go. We have a solid starting nine and backups at every position as guys can play multiple spots.

“We’ve already improved from what I’ve seen at the start of the year with our hitting,” Kyle added. “We’re able to do multiple hitting stages instead of trying to hit on the field the whole time.

“We’re looking at a .500 season with Kyle and Isayah (Hardwick) both stepping up as seniors. We’ve got some good players returning and the incoming freshmen have some talent as well.”

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