Between the lines: Baseball coach looks back on storied career and the one loss he still cant shake


Keelen Barlow, Managing Editor

He can’t quite put his finger on why they can’t win there.
Maybe it’s the field, maybe it’s the lights, maybe something in the air. Whatever it is, baseball coach Richard Winzenread is 0-3 at Victory Field, home of the minor-league Indianapolis Indians. Two losses have come in the Marion County Finals, one to his alma mater Southport and one to his high school rival Perry Meridian. One came in a game with higher stakes–the state championship, in perhaps one of the biggest let downs of his coaching career. One loss that to this day he can’t look past.
“All we talked about all summer was going to the state finals, and we thought we had the team to do it,” Winzenread said. “They were really focused and really good, and unfortunately it came down to one little snafu in the state championship, and we ended up second place.”
After a 25-3 regular season, the 1999 baseball team was poised for a deep run in the state tournament. Lead by team MVP pitcher/right fielder Kenny Hughes, the team paved their way to the state championship and a date with the McCutcheon Mavericks. But everything was not right with Hughes come the big day.
“Before the game started our MVP pitcher wasn’t there mentally,” Winzenread said. “He was a great athlete but he seemed not out there, and I remember being really nervous before the game because he had to change his shirt because he was sweating so much.”
After a two run first inning from LN, McCutcheon used a pair of runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings to level the score at 2 heading into the fifth inning: where the Cats broke through. LN used two singles and a double down the left field line to grab a 6-2 lead.
“I felt pretty good because up to that point we had only given up four runs in the whole tournament and our pitching had been tremendous,” Winzenread said. “So my thought process was business as usual and was no different than any other game. We’ve got a lead now we’ll smell it and put our foot on their throats and finish the game.”
But Hughes was rattled in the bottom half of the 5th. After McCutcheon loaded the bases, Winzenread pulled Hughes and placed the senior in right field. The Cats nearly got out of the jam, but a ball was hit into right field, where Hughes didn’t make the catch, allowing two runs for the Mavericks.
“He was a tremendous player, and I would say nine times out of 10, or even 10 times out of 10, he makes that catch,” Winzenread said. “I’m sure the pitching got into his head, and unfortunately we didn’t make the play we needed to to win the game.”
After three runs in the 5th inning, McCutcheon tacked on two more to take a 7-6 lead. Down by a run, LN loaded the bases in the top of the 7th, but McCutcheon pitcher Pat Lowrey retired LN third-baseman Derek Hays on a called third strike to send LN home without a state title.
“Riding home I was pretty upset about what happened and I never have quite gotten over it; I don’t really think any coach really ever does,” Winzenread said. “I wasn’t sure if we would ever have a team that good again or a team that was that well rounded and talented so I wasn’t sure if we’d ever get back there.”
Years later, Winzenread is still in search of that lucrative IHSAA state title–not that he’s short of accomplishments. All but one of the schools eight sectional crowns have come under his tutelage, including a back-to-back stretch during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Last season, Winzenread passed the 400 win mark in a 6-1 victory over Warren Central. Winzenread believes he owes his success to his work ethic.
“More than anything else I would say my work ethic has allowed for my success here at LN,” Winzenread said. “I tell the kids all the time and they know that I’m going to work just as hard as they do to make sure they are prepared to play baseball and to win games.”
Senior pitcher Garrett Burhenn believes winzenread has contributed to his growth on the field.
“Every year I’ve grown mentally and physically under coach Winzenread,” Burhenn said “I feel like he’s taught me the will to compete in my time at LN.”
To this day, after 28 years at the helm of the program, Winzenread says he still has a fire to compete and win baseball games, which he credits to his youth.
“I grew up in Little League, and every game and pitch was so important, and I wanted to win at everything,” Winzenread said. “My family was competitive, so anything that I was going to do, I was going to try and do it the best I could and I was going to try and beat everyone. I still have that mentality in my job today.”