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McLaren steps down as baseball coach at SHS to take job at Richland County

By B.J. Hargis
Photo by B.J. Hargis: Matt McLaren coached the SHS baseball team to 110 wins over the past six seasons.

Even if you are happy where you’re at, sometimes the allure of going home is too much to resist.
That was the case for Sullivan baseball coach Matt McLaren. After six seasons, 110 wins, ending a 20-year plus sectional drought and winning a conference championship for the first time in almost 20 years, McLaren has accepted the head baseball coaching job at Richland County High School in Olney, Ill., his alma mater.
“Richland County baseball is the only high school coaching position that would be worthy of leaving what we have built here at Sullivan because of many factors,” said McLaren, who was approved as the new coach on Aug. 17. “The biggest factor is that my wife Krista and I both graduated from Olney and consider that home.
“Her immediate family resides in Olney and we have many lifelong friends in the community.”
Before McLaren came to Sullivan, the Golden Arrows had seven consecutive losing seasons and had not won more than 10 games in any of those years.
The Arrows won 16, 14, 18, 21, 20 and 21 games in his six seasons. They had winning records in five of six.
This past season the Arrows went a perfect 6-0 and won the Western Indiana Conference championship, the first such title since 1999. Winning 20-plus games in three consecutive seasons was the first time a SHS team had ever achieved that feat.
They beat Linton for a Class 2A Sectional title at home, the first since coach Otto Clements led the Arrows to a sectional and regional championship in 1993
“Winning the first sectional in over 20 years, winning the conference last year or 20 wins back-to-back-to-back are things I am very proud of,” said McLaren. “It was something else to win the sectional two years ago and win the conference last year for the first time in 18 years.
“We were able to win 20 games in each of the past three seasons for the first time in school history. We had some big wins over state power programs during the past six seasons including Center Grove, Brebeuf Jesuit and Andrean to name a few.”
McLaren said those accomplishments were great, but he said there is something much more important.
“The thing I am most proud of though is the fact that we have helped develop some fine young men over the years,” said McLaren. “The motto at Sullivan baseball during my tenure was ‘if a student played four years of baseball they would be a great baseball player and a better person.’”  
The coach said that Rich McPhail was his right-hand man his first few years at Sullivan.
He added that Bryce Bement was a senior on his first team at Sullivan and joined the staff one year out of SHS.
“Bryce will make a great head coach someday, if he chooses,” said McLaren.
He added that Tony Steimel served as a volunteer the past four years and his main role was to coach junior high players and prepare them for his school.
The coach added that Tom Hanks, Tom Hannon and former player of his, Dan Middleton, were other  volunteer assistants who were limited because of their primary jobs and academics.
“Those three guys were a great asset to the program and would jump in wherever needed,” he said.
McLaren will continue working as offensive coordinator this season through the end of the football season.
“Trent Olson and Blaine Powell have had a great impact on my coaching life, and it has been a pleasure working with them on the football side of things,” said McLaren. “I will miss working along with all those guys but they will all continue to be great friends and family to me.”
McLaren said one of the keys to turning around the baseball program was simply having greater expectations of the students.
“The fact that the players bought in to those higher expectations was the difference,” he said. “We expected them to train almost all year long in the weight room.
“We called it the ‘process.’” The process was simply to improve every day which requires the player to approach it with greater effort and a good attitude.  Through this process of preparation we developed a confidence to perform on the field.”
The program at Richland County has had a lot of success through the years, led earlier by now assistant principal Andy Julian. McLaren is replacing former teammate Brandis Grove.
McLaren said he will miss working with the players and coaches the most.
“We spent a lot of time together overcoming obstacles and adversity,” he said. “I  view many of the relationships that were built with players as a brotherhood type bond.
“I can’t thank the administration at Southwest School Corp. enough for giving me the opportunity to coach at Sullivan High School. I had applied for several high school positions and did not even get an interview before I found Sullivan. Their support during the past six years was amazing and I am very thankful for everything they did to help rejuvenate Sullivan baseball.”
The SWSC is current accepting applications for the baseball job until 3 p.m. Sept. 1.
Interested candidates should contact Otto Clements, Athletic Director, Sullivan High School, 902 N. Section St, Sullivan, IN 47882, in writing, or by e-mail at oclements@swest.k12. Please indicate on the outside of the mailing envelope “Application for Sullivan High School Head Baseball Coach’s Position”  
Matt McLaren
Coaching record
Sullivan baseball
2012 — 16-12
2013 — 14-16
2014 — 18-10
2015 — 21-9
2016 — 20-9
2017 — 21-6
Six seasons, 110-62.
2015 Class 2A Sectional champion.
2017 Western Indiana Conference champion.

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