CASEY-- Ryan High, the coach that led Salt Fork to its second-ever state baseball tournament where they finished fourth in Class 1A in 2016, has been hired as the new Casey-Westfield coach. High replaces Max Kirbach, who coached the Warriors for the last six seasons going 52-80 (.394).
High was hired at a special meeting of the Casey-Westfield board of education. High is also to coach the junior high baseball team and teach physical education.
"We feel most fortunate to have an excellent teacher and a very good baseball coach join our school," said Casey principal Jim Sullivan. "Coach High's parents are both educators and his father (Mike High) was a high school coach. We are very happy to have such a good family join our community."
Ryan High led the Storm to three 20-win seasons, two Vermilion Valley Conference titles, two Class 1A regional titles and a sectional and supersectional title. The 2016 team beat Okaw Valley 4-0 in the sectional championship and last spring Salt Fork went 20-10 reaching the sectional title game before falling to the Timberwolves 16-7 in eight innings.
"My goals include developing and sustaining a successful Warrior baseball program that everyone can take pride in for years to come," said Ryan High, a 1998 graduate of Danville Schlarman. "I hope to teach the game of baseball the right way and establish a winning culture of Warrior baseball that is taken seriously by the athletes, coaches, parents and communities."
Kirbach, who is from Henry, accepted a teaching and coaching job in Northern Illinois. He was an assistant girls' basketball coach under Glen McNeil from the 2008-09 through the 2010-11 season before being named the baseball head coach in 2011-12 where he went 6-22. The former girls' basketball coach at Ohio, Illinois (2006-07 and 2007-08), had one winning season in 2014 going 12-10, which was the only one since 2007 when Brandon Miller led the Warriors to a 17-9-1 season. He guided the 2017 junior high team a second place finish in baseball in Class 1A.
Mike High coached football at Martinsville in 2000 and 2001 going 2-16. He also coached at Danville Schlarman for a total of seven years (three different stints) including the 1988 team that reached the Class 1A quarterfinals finishing 9-3 after losing to Arcola, who went on to win state, 22-8.
Ryan High has 15 years of coaching experience and is to enter his 14th year in the classroom. He played baseball at Culver-Stockton College for two years and was on the team that finished third in the NAIA World Series. He graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a major in physical education and endorsements in health and drivers' education. He earned his masters in physical education and in educational administration in 2014.
"Coach High is a proven winner both in the classroom and on the baseball field," said Casey athletics director Mike Leichty. "His teams have experienced success and have played very well in the post-season tournaments. We believe that he will make Casey-Westfield a force in the Little Illini Conference and our players will enjoy playing in his system."
The Warriors were 9-13 last season and lose four seniors from that team, including second-team all-Little Illini Conference player Logan Hawker. Expected to return is honorable mention all-LIC player and the top hitter on the team Alex Rodriguez, who hit .407.
High, who has been the head coach at Salt Fork the last four seasons, and his wife Megan and their three children (Jackson, 9, Madison, 4, and Reagan, 3) plan to move to Casey prior to the school year starting.
"I also hope to help our student/athletes to continue their baseball careers and work towards a college degree," said High, who was an assistant when the Storm made their first trip to state in 2013 "And we hope to compete for hardware (Casey has not won a regional since 2003). Our goals will be compete for the conference titles and have post-season success."