(Photo credit to the Ohio University Baseball’s Twitter page, @Ohio_Baseball)
The 2017 season was a step forward for the Ohio University Bobcats baseball team. Despite a mediocre year on the field, leading to a 31-28 record, the Bobcats surprised everyone and captured the Mid-American Conference Championship. Their final loss of the season came at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers in the NCAA Championship Lexington Regionals. The Bobcats have a good collection of young talent coming back for the 2018 season to compete for another MAC Championship. Their notable losses include seniors Ty Black, a 3-year starter for the Bobcats, Spencer Ibarra, an outfielder who had a team leading 12 home runs, and Tom Colletti, who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Padres.
With a couple seniors gone from the lineup, the younger players are going to have to step up and perform. Rudy Rott was one of just three underclassmen to play every day. He had a breakout year in terms of power, hitting 11 home runs compared to just three the previous year. He was also a MAC All-Defensive Team selection. The Bobcats will look for Rott to step up even more in his junior year if they want to continue their success.
Devon Garcia, a sophomore in the 2017 season, really turned it on in the second half for the Bobcats. He can flat out run and get on base, which makes him very valuable at the top of the lineup, ending with a slash line of .273/.375/.330. With his stellar defense and top of the lineup bat, they will look for him to continue playing the way he did in the second half.
Tanner Piechnick was the only true freshman to play regularly in the lineup last season for the Bobcats. He was used mainly as a designated hitter, but will look to be the everyday catcher next season. Other position players looking to compete for spots are sophomores in next year’s lineup. Outfielders Jack Longo, brother of Cleveland Indians farmhand, Mitch Longo, and Ryan Sargent, along with infielder Gus Cunningham, and catchers, Dan McCauley and Devonte Washington. It will be a fun battle to see who wins a spot in the lineup for the 2018 season.
Pitching was a big reason why the Ohio Bobcats won the Mid-American Conference Championship last year. Jake Rudnicki and Tom Colletti are the two biggest names in the pitching staff to leave this year. The Bobcats have plenty of intriguing pitchers to step up in their place. There are dependable juniors in Butch Baird, Cory Blessing, Jake Roehn, and Michael Klein.
Baird was named a Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League All-Star, with a 2.19 ERA and 33 K’s. Cory Blessing will look to start more games for the Bobcats this year after striking out 11.34 per 9 innings. Jake Roehn, named to the 2017 First Team All-Mac, was arguably the best pitcher for the Bobcats last season. As the team’s closer, he had 15 saves, with a 2.34 ERA.
Last year’s sophomores, Nick Kamrada and Kenny Ogg could also have big years for the Bobcats. With a 3.74 ERA, Kamrada got 6 starts last season. He could look to expand his role next year and start more games. Ogg had a mediocre year with an ERA over four, but vastly improved in the summer for the Eau Claire Express, improving his ERA to 2.16. Freshman pitchers from last year didn’t get all that much action, but will be looking to expand their role in 2018. Despite that, all four freshman pitchers got some experience pitching for summer collegiate leagues. Cole Shinsky pitched in 8 games for the Southern Ohio Copperheads with a 3.95 ERA, Derek Carr also played for the Copperheads, pitching to an impressive 3-0 record with a 3.27 ERA. Nick Byrnes was a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Steam this summer, going 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA and striking out 35 in 43 innings. The other freshman who got a chance to play in the summer was Tony Iero, who played for the Lorain County Ironmen. He had a 3.19 ERA in 25.1 innings.
Though the incoming freshman for the 2018 season haven’t been announced, I wouldn’t expect them to take any playing time from the talented “veterans” on this team. Regardless, the 2018 Ohio Bobcats will be fun team to watch, and one that’s eyeing more than just a MAC Championship next season.