Ivy Tech Community College Northeast announced this morning it will begin an intercollegiate men’s baseball program at its Fort Wayne campus. The College has been exploring the process of becoming a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II team and has submitted a letter of intent to the association.
The College named Lance Hershberger as head coach, a well-respected baseball legend of northeast Indiana. He began recruitment efforts for the inaugural team earlier this spring. In June, Hershberger will be named to the Northeast Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame. He is currently the Executive Director of Community Impact Zone and has many years of coaching experience at many levels of play, including Indiana Tech, Concordia High School, Bishop Luers, Bishop Dwenger, and the Wildcat Baseball Organization. At Indiana Tech, his teams appeared in five consecutive NAIA World Series from 1998 to 2002. (see provided detailed biography)
State Representative Bob Morris has been involved in making this become reality, and his commitment and vision to help get the program started is an example of his support of Ivy Tech furthering the future of northeast Indiana and the state.
“Under Lance’s leadership, Titans Baseball will provide a new opportunity for Ivy Tech students in northeast Indiana, allowing them to develop their potential on the field and in the classroom, as they prepare for their future,” says Ivy Tech Northeast Chancellor Jerrilee K. Mosier.
Ivy Tech Northeast will be able to provide student athletes the opportunity to compete at an intercollegiate level while also focusing on their academic studies at Indiana’s most affordable college, which makes the opportunity and experience more accessible for regional athletes.
Head Coach Lance Hershberger (left) with Ivy Tech’s first commit, Alec Agler, from Northrop High School
Titans Baseball mark
As a Division II-sponsored program, Ivy Tech would be eligible to provide athletic scholarships limited to tuition, books, fees, and course required supplies. The College is also researching the possibility of joining a conference in the region. Both Ancilla College and Vincennes University sponsor Division II baseball teams in Indiana.
Ivy Tech Northeast’s Titan baseball program will play and practice outdoors at Shoaff Park, which is home to Bishop Dwenger High School. Winter training programs and practice will be at Strikezone Training Center. The use of Strikezone is being provided to Ivy Tech Northeast at no cost thanks to the local non-profit organization Community Impact Zone.
The baseball program will largely be supported through sponsorships, private donors, and fundraising efforts at the College. Student activity fees will provide some support as part of student programming. Several donors have already made pledges to the program, such as Representative Bob Morris, who is a proud supporter of this new venture at Ivy Tech Northeast. Currently, the College is crowdfunding for student scholarships and more than $6,000 has been raised to date. Donations to the Ivy Tech Titans Baseball program can be made at impact.ivytech.edu.
For additional information about NJCAA, visit www.njcaa.org.
A few years ago, Ivy Tech Northeast’s Student Government Association and Campus Activities Board voted to name the Fort Wayne campus mascot “Titans” for the club basketball and soccer programs.
About Lance Hershberger
Lance was born and raised in Fort Wayne and has lived in Fort Wayne his entire life, other than a short stint in Kansas City after college. Lance played Little League for PAL at the Fraternal site first behind WANE-TV and then at the Elks Country Club (his dad was president of the league when they built the field at the Elks and moved). He also played Wildcat Baseball at Franke Park, where he credits his Wildcat coach there, Mark Henry, with keeping alive his passion for the game even when he wasn’t “very good.” He went on to play in high school, junior college (team was ranked in NJCAA and went to the JC World Series), and four-year college. Lance then moved back to Fort Wayne, where he played for Leo and Joe Ochoa on the Blackie’s Corral / La Margarita, Stan Musial teams. He played on the Blackie’s team that was the first Stan Musial Team from the city of Fort Wayne to win the Stan Musial State Title.
Lance began his baseball coaching career at Bishop Luers as an assistant coach in 1982. In 1984, Coach Hershberger was named the fourth head baseball coach at Bishop Dwenger High School. In 1986, the Saints went 27-4, finishing the regular season with 17 straight wins and ranked sixth in the state (still in a single-class format). Coach Hershberger was named IHSBCA Regional Coach of the Year and The Journal Gazette Regional Coach of the Year. His 1987 Dwenger team was ranked 2nd in the state preseason and went on to win a sectional championship before losing in the regional championship.
During this time coaching baseball, Lance was also a teacher, a high school basketball coach for 13 years, and a long-time Wildcat Baseball League Director at Hamilton Park in Fort Wayne. In 1988, Coach Hershberger was featured for his work in both an article on the Wildcat League in Sports Illustrated magazine and an Assignment America segment on NBC Nightly News.
In 1990, Coach Hershberger started the baseball program at Indiana Tech. The Warriors showed steady improvement by increasing their victory totals each year until winning the NAIA Great Lakes Sectional and qualifying for the regional for the first time in 1996. From 1998 to 2002, Coach Hershberger’s teams won five consecutive Great Lakes Regional and Super Regional tournaments, qualifying for the NAIA World Series each of those years. These consecutive World Series appearances are more than any other Indiana college team on any level. The 1998 Indiana Tech team lost in the NAIA Championship, finishing as National Runner-up. Their second place finish along with St. Joseph’s NCAA Division II runner-up finish that same year (Indiana Tech beat St Joe 7-6 that year in a regular season game) are the highest finishes by Indiana college baseball teams in a national tournament. The 2000 Indiana Tech team finished third in the NAIA World Series.
During Coach Hershberger’s 13 years at Indiana Tech, he was named NAIA Great Lakes Sectional Coach of the Year, Wolverine-Hoosier Conference Coach of the Year four times, and NAIA Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year four times. He also served a term as NAIA Great Lakes Regional Chairman and as an associate scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Under Coach Hershberger’s guidance, the Warrior Program progressed from one with no baseball facilities at all, to one that included a stadium and indoor facility. Eight former players of Coach Hershberger went on to play professional baseball. Numerous players went on to coach high school and college baseball, including Division I baseball. Coach Hershberger has won more than 600 games at the high school and college level. Coach Hershberger has served in other baseball related capacities in the Fort Wayne area. He has overseen the building or refurbishing of many baseball diamonds in the area. He founded the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne / Coach Pitch Baseball Program. He served a term as President of the Summit City Sluggers travel baseball organization. He currently oversees the diamonds at Summit Middle School and Indian Trails Park for the Aboite Township Trustee. Coach Hershberger has coached teams from 4 year-olds in the Y coach pitch through college players who have gone on to be professional players. Lance has a daughter, Maddie (17), and a son, Grant (15).
- Connor Wilkins: All-SAC catcher at Concordia High School; played at Indiana Tech; previous assistant coach at Northrop High School
- Dru Sebastian: Played at Blackhawk Christian High School; played at Owens Community College; was a pitcher at IPFW
- Todd Armstrong: Played at DeKalb High School; has been an assistant coach or head coach for various high school and collegiate teams; currently works with Summit City Sluggers
- Mark DeLagarza: Founder of Summit City Sluggers travel baseball organization; was assistant coach at Manchester University and head coach at Southern Wells High School