They'll continue to play ball at Ivy Tech after this season.
Following the acceptance of a resolution by the board of Ivy Tech's Fort Wayne campus Monday and the state board of trustees Thursday, the school announced that the baseball program, currently in the second year of a two-year pilot program, will continue on after this school year. Jerrilee Mosier, chancellor of the Fort Wayne campus, also confirmed that the school has begun plans to add a women's intercollegiate athletic program for the 2019-20 academic year.
“We're examining a couple options at this point, then we'll proceed with the process to see what (sport) might be most attractive to the Northeast (Indiana) region,” Mosier said. “The sky's the limit at this point.”
While plans to expand to a full athletic program were described by Mosier as “premature,” she did note the region's “strong support for intercollegiate athletics” as an indication that the potential at least exists to continue to add sports, both at the Fort Wayne campus and potentially at some other of Ivy Tech's 18 campuses statewide.
“The College will maintain a single membership for Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana with the National Junior College Athletic Association,” Ivy Tech president Sue Ellspermann said. “Our goal at Ivy Tech is to offer opportunities that foster student success.
“(This) decision creates a pathway to support intercollegiate athletics at the college. We have no immediate plans to expand athletics on any specific campuses, but the plan opens the door.”
Regarding which women's sport would be added, Mosier did not specify, as the school has just started its exploration. As of now, Ivy Tech plans to announce the sport in July, with Mosier mentioning volleyball, soccer, softball, golf, track or cross country as potential options.
The decision to extend the baseball program past the current pilot term rests largely with head coach Lance Hershberger, Mosier explained. When the program was first announced, an agreement was reached concluding that no taxpayer dollars or student fees would be spent on baseball.
Through “external philanthropic support by way of community partnerships, sponsorships and private donors,” the baseball program met the agreement's terms, according to a statement issued by Andrew Welch, Ivy Tech executive director of communications.
But Hershberger's imprint on the program reaches far beyond the wins and losses, though the Titans finished their 2018 campaign with a 25-18 record and currently sit over .500 this season. With a team GPA over 3.0, his emphasis on players not only attending classes but also staying engaged fits with Ivy Tech's mission of providing an opportunity for students to grow on the field and in the classroom.
“He really focuses on the student first,” said Mosier, who also noted that the baseball program has exceeded the pilot's established metrics. “He helps his players understand that going to class is most important.
“Coach Hershberger has been a wonderful mentor coach to the players, and I cannot thank him enough for the time, expertise and passion he brought in helping develop a stellar intercollegiate baseball program while remaining committed to academic excellence as his first priority.”
That growth extends to the community as well. Through a partnership with the Urban Initiative Program, in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne, Hershberger's players have clocked over 1,000 hours of community service by teaching baseball fundamentals to Fort Wayne's youth.
“We're baseball players, but we want to give back to the community as much as possible,” said Josh Smith, a 2018 South Side graduate and freshman on the baseball team. “It really does make us better people. These kids, we're trying to teach them to be young leaders. We're trying to help them, to just show them the things we've been taught from our coaches. We just want to give back.”