Senior staff writer
The numbers tell the early season success of Manual High School baseball.
The Redskins are undefeated through eight games and have outscored six foes 106-24. The team batting average through seven games was .432 behind junior Richard Markle (.714), senior captain Fabion Ricks (.688) and Ezzell Murrell (.589).
Ricks leads the pitching staff with two wins and a 0.64 earned run average, and senior Tommy Melvin is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA while hitting .417. Markle has is 1-0. The Redskins won by forfeit over Marshall and Arlington Prep.
“We weren’t expecting this start,” said first-year coach Matt Thompson, who teaches physical education and serves as the strength and conditioning coach. “We have 13 guys who have bought into the system. We have a couple of kids (Melvin and Ricks) who definitely have some talent, and we’ve been able to piece together a pretty strong group.”
Melvin, a Tech transfer, also plays shortstop. Ricks has played baseball since he was a youth and already has received college offers. Returnees are leadoff hitter Markle, catcher Murrell and sophomores Werner and Colin McGehey (.353).
“Our leading hitters can drive the ball to the fence, but they also show tremendous patience at the plate,” Thompson said. “Our pitchers worked hard in open gym, took lessons and had been throwing for three months before the season began. The teams we’ve played so far don’t seem to be as prepared as our arms are.”
Team members include senior Duvashia Garrett, junior Guadalupe Sales, sophomores DJ Webb, Jamonie Norwood and William Clark and freshmen Jeremy Wood and Ervin Crabtree.
Thompson is assisted by volunteer coach Stephen Oswald and University of Indianapolis baseball player Derek Dennis.
“We’ve had to work harder as coaches to teach the game, the basic fundamentals,” Thompson said. “We have dedicated our time to this team and to make each player a useful part of the team. We are finding spots where they can each help the team.
“These kids are big men on campus; they wear their baseball jerseys to school. The kids take pride in that and so do the teachers. We are holding them to a higher standard in school, and they are emerging as leaders.”
Thompson, a second-generation coach, played baseball at William Woods College and semipro in Missouri. He founded an American Legion Post baseball team and coached at a private school and at Bismarck High in Missouri.
“I was excited to be at a school in a big city,” he said. “This is more than I could have possibly asked for. It has been an absolute blast.”
The Redskins’ team is part of the resurgence of athletics at Manual, one of the few high schools in Indiana under state control.
The football team won three games last season for the first time since 2007, and the boys and girls basketball teams posted their best seasons in several decades. In addition, the wrestling program was above .500 for the first time in several years.
Athletic director Aaron Sembly praised the entire faculty and staff for a resurgence in academics and athletics.
“It all starts from the top and from the staff who realize that you want to start with good academics to have a strong athletic program,” Sembly said. “I commend the staff and teachers for getting it turned around academically. Also the discipline that we have in place makes it easier for coaches to coach, to teach and to build the programs.”
Sembly emphasized that all coaches work in the school building, which helps them build stronger relationships with student-athletes.
Manual is eager for the city tourney and will face Herron May 4. The Redskins compete in 3A and in the Chatard Sectional.