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Jay County High School baseball players follow lead of coach Lea Selvey in staying calm for IHSAA semi-state

Jay County High School baseball players share a laugh while preparing to pose for a team photo Tuesday at Jay County. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Lea Selvey, Jay County baseball coach
Cole Stigleman
Ethan Myers
Gaven Hare
Max Moser

PORTLAND – The center of calm for the Jay County High School baseball team rests in its unflappable head coach.

Lea Selvey is a local boy, having played for Redkey High School before consolidation. He’s been at the Jay County baseball helm for 30 years. His late father, Don, was a longtime teacher and coach who drove the team bus for years, worked to build the school’s sweet baseball stadium and served as an assistant to his son for years. On the press box is the tribute to “Don E. Selvey Field.”

As Jay County prepares to play Class 3A No. 1 Andrean at 3 p.m. Saturday in the IHSAA semi-state at Kokomo’s Municipal Stadium, Lea Selvey exudes composure.

“He’s definitely a relaxed coach,” shortstop Cole Stigleman said. “He’s well experienced with everything. He’s cool and collected with everything. I love him. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone else. To have him with us is awesome.”

Selvey – whose sons Kyle and Josh coach with him, along with Todd Farr and Pete Byrum – teaches biology at the school and said baseball is his “hobby.” He undersells that a bit, considering his career record is 482-327 with seven sectional and three regional titles. The last time Jay County reached the semi-state was in 1993.

“When I come out here, it relaxes me,” Selvey said while watching his players ham it up for WANE-TV’s “Team of the Week” shoot Tuesday. “I enjoy the kids. I wish I knew 25 years ago what I know today. But a lot of people are that way. I’ve got some really good coaches with me, too.”

Selvey has a special group of players, led by Stigleman, who’s father Shannon played for Selvey and went on to play at Purdue University. Cole Stigleman has been a three-sport star for the Patriots after stellar football and basketball careers.

The Patriots have nine seniors, and they’re a tight-knit group of players. In fact, the football team’s quarterback Holton Hill, works as the team manager to be part of the baseball fraternity.

“The whole team, we’re pretty good friends,” senior Gaven Hare said. “We all hang out. The bus rides home, we’re talking and having a good time. It’s a great experience.”

Hare said many of the players played with or against each other in travel baseball as they grew up, molding into one team as they reached the high school level.

The Patriots are 20-6 and advanced to the semi-state with wins over Mississinewa, Norwell and Heritage in the Bellmont Sectional and NorthWood and Yorktown in the Bellmont Regional.

“At the beginning of the season, we struggled and we weren’t living up to expectations,” senior Max Moser said. “We lost (two early) games and got run-ruled in the second one (a 12-2 loss to Shenandoah) and that kind of woke up the season for us. Ever since then, we’ve got it rolling.”

Jay County won 12 of its last 15 regular-season games. The regional championship win over Yorktown was especially satisfying since Yorktown knocked Jay County out of the tournament in 2017. Jay County beat Yorktown 7-6 with four pitchers (Ryan Schlechty, Wyatt Geesaman, Hare and Noah Arbuckle) contributing to the win.

“It was really exhilarating,” senior Ethan Myers said. “The best part about it was beating Yorktown because they’re Yorktown. Getting beat by them last year in the sectional was a pretty sour way to end the season. It was really nice beating them this year, especially for a regional championship.”

Stigleman leads Jay County with a .429 batting average, with four home runs and 36 runs scored as the leadoff hitter. Arbuckle is hitting .424 with 20 RBIs. Moser leads the team with 26 RBIs, but five players have at least 19 RBIs in an example of the solid hitting throughout the lineup.

Arbuckle is 8-0 on the mound, Geesaman is 6-2 and Schlechty has a 1.93 earned run average.

“The goal is always to make it as far as you can,” Stigleman said. “After winning the first game, it was like ‘OK, we can actually do this.’ After each game, we keep building confidence and now we’re here, going to semi-state and trying to get to state.”

Andrean (29-6) is a formidable opponent with a long history of success. Andrean has five state championships, most recently in 2015, and has won six semi-state titles.

“How I look at it is, they should honestly be scared of us,” Myers said, then smiled. “We’re just some little town from backwoods Indiana. They’ve won multiple state titles. Here we are, hotter than heck. I think they should be scared of us. We have a really good chance if we play the game like I know we can.”

That quote probably sounds a little cockier than Myers intended it to be. He was having some good-natured fun.

But it also showed how loose the Patriots seem to be heading into the biggest game of their careers.

Selvey deserves credit for fostering an atmosphere that allows the players to perform at their best.

“He makes us relaxed and not think about it too much, the big games and stuff like that,” Stigleman said. “He always tells us it’s just another game, even if it’s semi-state.”