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Local College Coaches Show Appreciation for Baseball in Fort Wayne


It is officially baseball season for local colleges in Fort Wayne, and has been for a few weeks. Since the season starts earlier for college than professional, most of the Midwest colleges set their schedule to start their road games down south where it is warmer and make their way home in Mid-March.


We’re blessed in the 2-6-0 with three quality college baseball programs with the Purdue Fort Wayne (Division 1), and two NAIA schools with Saint Francis Cougars, and the Indiana Tech Warriors. We were able to chat with both Cougars’ baseball coach Dustin Butcher and Warriors’ coach Kip McWilliams to look ahead to the 2024 season for their respective programs.


Butcher steps into his 6th season as the head coach of the Cougars. A former Cougar and spent some time as an assistant at Marian University alongside McWilliams. Currently, Butcher believes he has a talented group of guys. A few of them, we watched them play their high school ball right here in Fort Wayne.


“This is a very talented area. You look at each high school in any shape or form and they all have talented players. You look at our roster, my top three players are South Side kids. My center fielder (Xavier Croxton) is the freakiest athlete I have ever seen. My number one pitcher (Perry Stow) was a South Side pitcher. My number three pitcher (Blaine McRae) is also a South Side kid. If he was a businessman, you would think that guy is a self-made millionaire. And that is the way he is on the mound. My backup catcher (Gabriel Oliva)  is a North Side kid, he is going to be a stud,” says coach Butcher



As the coach was alluding to, these aren’t the top high school baseball programs in the area. In recent history, the most successful programs have been Carroll, Homestead, Snider, and Bishop Dwenger. It proves that there is talent in the area all across the board.


As a team, the Cougars have had a good start to the 2024 season. Their sophomore third baseman Ayden Lichtensteiger just a few days ago was named Crossroads League’s hitter of the week. Currently, he leads the teams in hits, homeruns (tied), RBI’s, and batting average. The starting junior catcher Eli Riley played at Norwell High School, and is second in nearly every hitting category on the team. Junior first baseman Sam Pesa (Bishop Dwenger HS) leads the team in walks and doubles as well. Many Fort Wayne fans likely remember Brenden Lytle as the quarterback for a talented Bishop Dwenger football team, but is on a tear on the baseball field for the Cougars as well hitting .358 at the plate. 


Stow leads the team in strikeouts. Meanwhile junior Deron Swanson (former Snider HS pitcher) leads the team with a 5-0 record on the mound.


With a couple of consecutive wins, the Cougars continue their climb up the Crossroads League Standings as they challenge a deep and loaded conference in 2024.Check out the Cougars schedule and be sure to catch this team in action at the Cougar Baseball Field. 



Indiana Tech Kip McWilliams


We’re blessed to have two great NAIA baseball programs right in our backyard of Fort Wayne. While the Cougars have had a good start to their season, the Warriors haven’t started the season quite like they wanted to. This is Coach McWilliams’ 17th year as the coach for the Warriors.


“It’s been a pleasure to coach these young men. To be a part of the black and orange. It’s always had great tradition even before I got here. I was tickled 17 years ago when they asked me to become the head coach.Without hesitation I accepted it. Even though I have been here for 17 years, I am still a small part of this program. Some of the best people I know, and who I’ve met in my lifetime are from Indiana Tech. So, I’m looking forward to the next 17 years,” says McWilliams reflecting on his career so far at Tech.


While the team has struggled so far this season, coach McWilliams and the team remains optimistic about this season.


“We’re struggling as a team right now. The guys’ spirits are up, we’re still optimistic about our season. The guys love each other, they play hard for each other. We’ve been pretty beat up to start the season. We’ve got a lot of freshmen playing right now. I think things will get better with more time on the field. The bullpen just needs to get a little sharper. But that will come with time,” says McWilliams.



Ben Morrison, Eli MacDonald (Homestead HS), Patrick McGinn, and Parker Bates (Adams Central HS) lead the way for the Warriors at the plate. MacDonald has a .306 average, leads the team in homeruns, and RBI’s so far this season.


Zach Zaborowski leads the way for the Warriors on the mound with a 1.04 WHIP and leads the team in strikeouts. South Adams grad Grant Besser enters the team transferring from Rutgers has also put together some quality innings on the mound and is second in strikeouts. 


For many years coach McWilliams has made it a priority to recruit the Fort Wayne area and the talent that we have coming up in the city. . 


“Great talent in Fort Wayne. I’m a Southern Indiana guy and even growing up I always heard about baseball in the Northeast region. It’s got a lot of great history and tradition in this city. Not just the high school level, the professional level. They’re so many talented players in Fort Wayne. You look at the rosters. Small college baseball, Division 1 baseball. There’s Fort Wayne kids all over the place on these rosters. Not just in Fort Wayne, everywhere. It’s fun following them, we’ve all got great stories about them. It’s just a great history, a great tradition. We work the Fort Wayne area hard when we recruit for a reason,” says McWilliams.

Make it a priority to check out the Warriors this season as well at Warrior Baseball Field. Check out their schedule. 



 

Dedrick Hendrix is a contributor to Old Baseball Co. As a Fort Wayne native, he grew up playing in Elmhurst Little League, Wildcat Baseball, and two years at South Side High School. He is also a baseball writer for Just Baseball and Fansided.


 


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