Rademacher built Barr-Reeve into a winnerJune 30, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Success didn’t come overnight for legendary Barr-Reeve baseball coach Randy “Joe” Rademacher. Rademacher found himself thrown into the fray when he was hired to lead the baseball program fresh out of the University of Evansville in 1976.
“Joe Todrank, who had been my basketball coach at Holland my senior year, was back at Barr-Reeve coaching here, and so when I graduated, he told me that they would have an opening here if I would be interested, and I said yes,” Rademacher said.
Rademacher grew up in Dubois County and developed a love for America’s pastime. The memories of listening to St. Louis Cardinals games at home on the radio and growing up with older brother Terry and other kids in the neighborhood helped strengthen that passion.
Joe turned into a reliable starter for the Dutchmen, graduating in 1972. He believes his velocity was in the high-70s or low-80s, and he relied a lot on his off-speed stuff and curveball.
However, Holland never won a baseball sectional championship. The state tournament began in 1967, and Holland played its final season when Joe was a senior due to Holland and Huntingburg consolidating into Southridge after that point.
“In ’71, we beat Jasper in the regular season in a 13-inning game,” he said. “(Tom) Meyer went the first 10 [innings] and struck out 20, and then I threw the last three, and we ended up beating them in the regular season in 13 innings, but then they beat us in the sectional. But then Huntingburg had a really good ballclub in ’71, and ended up beating Jasper to win the sectional.
“Then in ’72, we did beat Jasper my senior year,” Joe continued. “We beat them on Tuesday night and then Huntingburg beat us, 4-2, on Saturday afternoon. That was the end of Holland and Huntingburg.”
It took time for Joe to tailor the Barr-Reeve baseball program to his liking. He had to change the culture to make baseball more important to the school. Joe found it easier to start at the bottom, but success did not come overnight. He began coaching the Vikings in 1977, but he didn’t lead them to a winning record until 1984.
Joe recalls being frustrated because he wanted things to happen quicker than they did. It took time to develop the youth league program, which only consisted of incoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders. High school players didn’t have summer baseball, but Barr-Reeve established a program for kindergarten through eighth graders in the early 1980s.
“That’s really, I think, when we started to become more competitive was once some of those players who had been playing more in the summer had gotten to the high school level,” he said.
Another thing Joe changed was spring sports involvement. Student-athletes at Barr-Reeve could partake in multiple sports at once. If an athlete competed in three sports in the spring, they’d seldom ever come to baseball practice. Barr-Reeve ushered in a gradual change where athletes may compete in two of three sports between baseball, golf and track, and then one sport, where practices became more inclusive.
The results of the rebuild trickled in, beginning in 1984. The Vikings won their first of four consecutive sectionals, with some freshmen playing a pivotal role in that first sectional season, and won championships all four years in high school.
“Part of it was I was along for the ride because we had some really good kids,” Joe said.
The Vikings won their first regional championship in 1990, but the 1998 season became something to behold. Barr-Reeve went 22-8 in 1997 with only two seniors on the team.
Players like Aaron Ash, Tyson Wagler, Jeremy Knepp and Landon Knepp helped Barr-Reeve make it to No. 1 in the Class 1A rankings in the first season of class baseball. Joe recalled not having any dominant pitchers, but had three or four arms that could throw strikes. The team had speed that could put pressure on the defense with base running.
The Vikings ran into some trouble toward the tail end of the regular season. They lost four of their final five regular-season games, but flipped a switch come tournament time.
“One of those was against Jasper, and we were ahead in the fifth inning in that one and had played pretty well, and Jasper had a big inning and ended up beating us,” Joe said. “Again, it is a situation where necessarily we didn’t win the ballgame, but we competed, we played well. So, then whenever we come back down and we’re playing 1A schools, the thought process is a little bit is, ‘We can play here.’”
Barr-Reeve won its first baseball sectional since 1991, and first regional since 1990. The Vikings took one more step into uncharted territory when they bested Rockville, 7-2, to win their first baseball semistate championship. All that stood in their way from a state title was a Tri-County team that had won 21 games in a row.
The Cavaliers made it 22 in a row. Rodney Benner stood on his head on the mound, getting the better of counterpart Keith Knepp in the matchup. Benner fanned six Vikings and shut them down for a 3-0 score, denying Barr-Reeve the state championship.
“He didn’t throw balls down the middle,” Joe said of Benner. “He moved the ball in and out. We had a couple of chances to score, and then we had a runner that was thrown out at the plate. But it was a good ballgame. We just couldn’t get anything across.”
That 1998 runner-up season remains the last time the Vikings got further than the regional round, with subsequent sectional championships coming in 2000, 2010, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
Joe’s accomplishments as coach of the Vikings garnered him induction into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
“The basis behind it was that I was the one being honored with this, but it was a culmination of all the people who got me to be in that position,” he said. “So, I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge coaches and players that I played with — just a quick trip of how I got from a 9-year-old playing Pee Wee League Baseball to where I’d been coaching high school baseball 30 years at that point in time.”
He stepped down as Barr-Reeve’s coach in 2009, citing how worn out he was at that point. However, he became willing to step in and help the team again following a six-year absence. Joe told of his successor, Nathan Lester, wanting to get out. He asked Lester to stay on, and he could help. Lester then proposed Joe step back in as head coach, and he be Joe’s assistant.
So, that’s the way it was. Joe was ready to go back in action. The Vikings got off to a slow start with an 0-5 in 2016, but he said they competed in spite of the losses.
“Had it been a little bit different group and we had started the season 0-5, maybe we would not have been able to rebound,” Joe said.
He noted they were confident, and knew Barr-Reeve would be OK. It would just take a little time. The Vikings proceeded to win sectional championships in three of the four years in Joe’s second stint as coach of the team. He stepped down a second time after the 2019 campaign.
Joe finds his ways to stay active these days. He’s a grandfather, and works part-time driving a pickup truck. The man who wanted to stay around baseball as long as he could is still finding ways to do so, as he was going to help out Barr-Reeve again this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Joe spent a lot of time with the pitchers during January workouts.
“They say that if you start sitting in your chair all the time, pretty soon you’re not going to get out of it,” he said. “And so I don’t want to be one of those people; and I’ve always been someone who has found things to do, and so, I think I want to be active; and so, I want to find something to do.”
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