Times Sports Editor
Northview High School's baseball program has had a long standing tradition of winning under its only head coach, Gary Witham.
Witham has coached for more than 30 years between Brazil and Northview High Schools, racking up 581 wins during his tenure as head coach.
But the 2008 season concluded Witham's acclaimed career as coach and next season, long-time pitching coach and former Knight player, Scott McDonald, will assume the head coaching position.
Since taking over the duties at Brazil in 1978, Witham compiled an overall record of 581-274-1 that included five county, three conference, 11 sectional and two regional championships.
"He's a good coach," said Northview Boys' Athletic Director Charley Jackson on Wednesday evening. "He's probably in the top-10 in all-time wins. He's been great for the community and the kids. He is a great teacher of the game and he always taught the players to be disciplined on and off the field."
Northview's most recent success included a five-year stretch from 2002-2006 where the Knights racked up a 115 wins against just 29 losses. During that period, Witham led the team to a school record 26 wins during the 2005 season in which Northview won a sectional and regional championship and advanced to the semi-state before falling to Indianapolis Cathedral.
The trip to the sectional championship at Plainfield was especially memorable as Northview powered to a 13-1 win in its opener over Martinsville before dropping rival Terre Haute South, 6-4 to advance to the championship game against a powerful Terre Haute North squad.
In that title game against the seventh-ranked Patriots, Northview's season looked to be on life support when North took an 8-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
T.J. King got the Knights going with an RBI single before Brady Shomaker blasted a three-run homerun to tie the game. Craig Trout came through with a go-ahead RBI single to five the Knights a 9-8 lead.
Nick Wells came in to get the final three outs to send Northview into the regional where they pummeled Shelbyville in six innings, 15-3.
"That was a tough year," said Jackson. "We lost Andrew (Griffin) that year and the kids dedicated the season to him. But I'll always remember that home run that Brady hit."
Witham also led the schools to sectional titles in 1978-1981, 1984, 1987, 1994, 1996-97, 2001 along with 2005.
There has been no shortage of talent that has come through the program during his tenure as three players were either drafted or played professional baseball. Chad McDonald played in the Montreal Expos organization in 1986, Andy Lumsdon was drafted by the New York Mets in 1987 and David Ullery played professionally for Kansas City and Baltimore's organization in 1993. Jeff Buell and John House also saw time professionally.
Thirty-seven players graduated from Northview High School and went on to compete in college, including three members of the 2003 and 2005 teams and an impressive five from the 1999 squad that went 22-6 and won the Big Four title.
Witham has long been known for holding free youth clinics for players from this area that, not only provided instruction for younger players, but helped build a bond between current Knights and future Northview players.
Beginning the 2008 season, Witham ranked seventh amongst all active coaches in victories with 571 and a .690 winning percentage. Witham is also one of only 12 Indiana High School baseball coaches to have reached 500-plus wins in his career.
Gary Witham's Career Coaching Record
* - Sectional Champion
$ - Regional Champion