ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball program has added catcher/infielder Zyon Avery (Indianapolis, Ind.), right-handed pitcher Matthew Brosky (Strongsville, Ohio), right-handed pitcher Randon Dauman (Columbus, Wis.), right-handed pitcher Eamon Horwedel (Ann Arbor, Mich.), right-handed pitcher Braxton Kelly (Ulysses, Ky.), left-handed pitcher Joe Rock (Aliquippa, Pa.), right-handed pitcher/outfielder Colin Sells (Lancaster, Ohio) and infielder Ryan Strittmather (Vermilion, Ohio), as announced by sixth-year head coach Rob Smith on Wednesday (Nov. 15).
"We're really excited about this class," said Smith. "Of all the classes we've brought in since we've been here, we're as excited about this one as any of them. I think it really address a lot of pitching needs. With as many guys as we're losing this year to graduation, we feel like some of these kids are going to be able to come in and help us right away."
A 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound righty at Ben Davis High School, Avery is coming off of a junior campaign in which he earned all-county and all-state honorable mention under head coach Dave Bear. He led the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference with 22 doubles and 30 walks in 2017. Avery was named an Underclass All-American by Perfect Game in 2016 and '17. Under Armour has named him a Preseason All-American entering his 2018 senior season, and he will serve as team captain for the Giants for the third year in a row. He has also competed for the Indiana Mustangs, the Indiana Bulls and the Cincinnati Spikes. Avery also played football at Ben Davis. Prep Baseball Report ranks Avery as the second-best catcher in Indiana. Born Oct. 20, 1999, he is the son of Dana and Kimberly Avery and has a brother, Jahmir. Avery will graduate from Ben Davis with honors and is ranked in the top 200 out of 11,000 in his class.
"Zyon is a big, physical player that we brought in here to give us some help in our lineup," said Smith. "He's an excellent hitter. He's going to provide some power as he continues to develop. He also has some versatility in that he can catch and play both corners. We're excited about what he's going to bring to our lineup."
A 5-foot-11-inch, 170-pound righty, Brosky attended Lutheran West High School his first two years of high school before moving on to Strongsville High School as a junior. He has gone 13-4 with two saves and a 1.72 ERA with 142 strikeouts over 105 innings of work in his high school career – including a 6-2 mark with one save and a 1.80 ERA and 68 strikeouts over 54 innings of work. Brosky has also competed for Ohio Select the last two summers after playing for the Lake Erie Warhawks in 2015. Prep Baseball Report lists Brosky as the 20th-best right-handed pitcher in Ohio. Born Sept. 15, 1999, he is the son of Dale and Christine Brosky and has a sister, Allison. Brosky has garnered merit roll honors in his first three years of high school.
"Matt is a really, really competitive pitcher,' said Smith. "He can be a three-pitch mix guy, which I really like. He just flat out competes. He's had a ton of success at the high school level. He throws a bunch of strikes. I think he's built to come in and help right away because of the fact that he does pound the zone."
A 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound right-hander at Columbus High School, Dauman has tallied 202 career strikeouts over 121 innings of work under coaches Bob Jansen, Reggie Dauman and Steve Manthey. He posted a 0.85 ERA as a junior in 2017, earning Capital Conference Player of the Year honors and first team all-conference honors for the third year in a row while guiding the Cardinals to a league title. Dauman has earned all-district honorable mention twice and has received honorable mention from Perfect Game twice. He has also competed for Grb Rays and the Wisconsin All-Stars Cooperstown Team and has participated in the Perfect Game WWBA in Jupiter, Fla. Dauman has tossed two no-hitters in his prep career. He is a multi-sport athlete, playing football and basketball and competing in track at Columbus. Prep Baseball Report ranks Dauman as the ninth-best player in Wisconsin and third-best right-handed pitcher. Born Sept. 29, 1999, he is the son of Reginald and Mary Dauman and has a brother, Ryan, and a sister, Rachael. His brother, Ryan, played football at St. Norbert College. Dauman has garnered honor roll distinction every quarter at Columbus.
"Randon was the first kid that committed to us in this class," said Smith. "He's a high-end pitching prospect out of Wisconsin. His upside is tremendous. He has the makings of not only being a three-pitch mix guy but also having good velocity. We're excited about what his development will bring."
A 5-foot-11-inch, 160-pound right-hander at Ann Arbor Skyline High School, Horwedel notched first team all-conference and all-district honors after going 6-2 with a 0.64 ERA and 69 strikeouts under head coach Frank Garcia. He held opposing hitters to a .155 batting average. Horwedel pitched a no-hitter against Bishop Foley in the Michigan Division 3 state championship. Horwedel has set school records for strikeouts in a single game (13), fewest walks in a single season (5), strikeout-to-walk ratio in a single season (13.8), ERA in a single season (0.64), WHIP in a single season (0.64), opponent batting average in a single season (.155) and wins in a single season (6). He will serve as team captain for the Eagles in 2018. Horwedel has also competed for Ann Arbor A's and the Michigan Sports Academy. Born Feb. 1, 2000, he is the Lon Horwedel and Julie Fremuth and has a sister, Ella. Horwedel comes from a family with plenty of athletic pedigree. His father, Lon, golfed at Ohio while his mother, Julie, golfed at Michigan. His uncle, Mike Fremuth, pitched collegiately at Princeton and professionally for the Detroit Tigers organization. His uncle, Tim Fremuth, pitched collegiately at Duke. His uncle, Andy Fremuth, competed in track at the Naval Academy while his uncle, Terry Fremuth, competed in track at Michigan State. Horwedel has earned National Honors Society distinction at Ann Arbor Skyline.
"Eamon was kind of a later pickup for us," said Smith. "He came to a camp of ours early in the fall and really, really showed well. He's got a plus slider that can play now and has shown the potential to increase his velocity as he gets stronger and continues to develop. As far as having a pitch that's college-ready, we feel his slider is ready to go right now."
A 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound right-hander at Johnson Central High School, Kelly has gone 18-8 with a 1.28 ERA and 272 strikeouts over 197 innings of work under head coach Shawn Hall. He earned first team all-state honors as a junior in 2017 after receiving second team all-state recognition in '16 and third team all-state laurels in '15. He was named a Preseason All-American by Rawlings in both 2016 and '17. Kelly has helped lead the Golden Eagles to a 118-49 record in his high school career and three district titles. He has also competed for the Ohio Warhawks. Prep Baseball Report lists Kelly as the 12th-best player in Kentucky and fourth-best right-handed pitcher. Born Aug. 29, 1998, he is the son of Ron and Anita Kelly and has two brothers, Ryan and Toby.
"Braxton was also a late pickup for us," said Smith. "We had recruited him for quite some time and were able to get his commitment before the signing period. He's a big right-hander. He's been up to 92 miles an hour at some of the Perfect Game events. We're really excited about his upside and feel like he's a guy who can definitely be an impact player for us."
A 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound southpaw at Hopewell High School, Rock earned all-section honors as a junior in 2017 after going 8-3 with a 1.30 ERA and 108 strikeouts after going 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA and 34 strikeouts as a sophomore in '16 under coaches Mike Shuleski, Brad Fox, Rich Absey and Dave Dennistion. He has thrown a pair of no-hitters in his career -- one of which sent the Vikings to the state playoffs. Prep Baseball Report ranks Rock as the ninth-best left-handed pitcher in Pennsylvania. Born July 29, 2000, he is the son of James and Cindy Rock
"Joey is a big, physical left-hander out of western Pennsylvania," said Smith. "We really think his potential is unlimited in a lot of ways. He's already starting to get some interest from some professional scouts. That's only going to continue as he develops here as he gets stronger and his velocity increases. He's definitely a guy that has a chance to be a very high draft pick in three years."
A 6-foot-4-inch, 195-pound righty at Bloom Carroll High School, Sells received first team all-league, first team all-district and third team all-metro honors in 2017 under head coach Jason Vest. He went 7-2 on the mound with a 0.83 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 53 innings as a junior last year. He also recorded eight saves. At the plate, Sells hit .425 with a .520 on-base percentage and a .612 slugging percentage and posted 37 hits -- including five home runs -- to go along with 25 RBIs. He has also competed for the Triple Crown Royals. In addition to playing baseball, Sells has played football at Bloom Carroll. Prep Baseball Report lists Sells as the 150th-best right-handed pitcher in the nation, 20th-best player in Ohio and ninth-best right-handed pitcher in Ohio. Born July 15, 1999, he is the son of Brad and Chris Sells and has a sister, Morgan. Sells has earned honor roll distinction each of the last three years at Bloom Carroll.
"Colin was the last player to get added to the class, as recently as just a week ago" said Smith. "We'd been recruiting him for quite some time. He's a two-way guy that absolutely has huge upside on the mound. From a hitting standpoint, he provides a left-handed bat that also has upside. He's a good, athletic player who can also do some things in the outfield. We're going to have to figure out how to balance him as a two-way player, but he's definitely somebody who brings both sides of it to our class."
A 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pound right-hander from Elyria Catholic High School, Strittmather is coming off of a junior campaign in 2017 in which he hit .367 with a .439 on-base percentage and 29 hits -- including six doubles and two triples -- to go along with 15 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 11 walks and 19 stolen bases en route to earning First Team All-Lorain County honors. He was named Second Team All-Lorain County as a sophomore in 2016 after hitting .395 with a .504 on-base percentage and 36 hits -- including eight doubles and five triples -- to go along with 18 RBIs, 33 runs scored, 16 walks and 20 stolen bases. He was a First Team All-Great Lakes Conference selection in both 2016 and '17 and helped guide his Elyria Catholic to conference titles each of the last two years. Strittmather has helped lead the Panthers to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Regional Finals in 2016 as well as to the district finals in '15 and '17. He has received several honors from Prep Baseball Report, including All-Winter Showcase Team in 2015 and '16, D-III Preseason All-State in '16 and '17 and D-III All-State in '16 and '17. Strittmather has also competed for the Lake Erie Warhawks. Prep Baseball Report ranks Strittmather as the top second baseman in Ohio. Born March 31, 2000, he is the son of John and Julie Strittmather and has three sisters, Megan, Katelyn and Erin. Strittmather has garnered First Honors for his academics throughout his career at Elyria Catholic.
"Ryan is coming in as a middle infielder for us," said Smith. "He was also one of the earlier guys to commit to the class. He's a very athletic kid, very solid defensively. He's somebody we think is going to fit right in to our system."
The Bobcats are coming off of a 2017 campaign in which they finished with 31 wins -- including 11 in Mid-American Conference play, which placed Ohio fifth in the overall league standings. Under the direction of Smith, No. 5-seeded Ohio capped an improbable league postseason run by defeating No. 3-seeded Eastern Michigan, 7-4, to clinch the 2017 MAC Championship title on May 28 at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio. Ohio earned its third MAC tournament title (1997, 2015, '17) with the victory. The Bobcats opened 2017 MAC Championship play by beating No. 4-seeded Ball State, 4-3, on May 24. Ohio then advanced to the winner's bracket final thanks to a late-night 5-3 win over No. 1-seeded Kent State the following day. The Bobcats eliminated the Golden Flashes with a 7-2 victory on May 27, marking the fourth time in five tries Ohio emerged victorious over MAC regular season champion Kent State in 2017. After missing the national postseason tournament 17 years in a row, Ohio punched its second NCAA Regional ticket in the last three years as the MAC's automatic bid with the victory over Eastern Michigan, advancing to the 2017 NCAA Championship Lexington Regional. The No. 4 regionally-seeded Bobcats fell to No. 1 regionally-seeded Kentucky, 6-4, on June 4, then dropped an 11-2 decision to No. 2 regionally-seeded Indiana the following day.
Smith has led Ohio to two MAC tournament titles and two NCAA Championship appearances over the the last three years. Ohio had made just two NCAA tournament appearance in the 43 seasons prior to the 2015 campaign.
Among the returners from last year's championship team are a pair of 2017 First Team All-MAC selections in redshirt senior infielder/right-handed pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) and a MAC All-Defensive Team selection in junior infielder Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.).
For the second year in a row, Ohio begins the year in Lexington, S.C., to take on Rider (Feb. 16-18) in a four-game neutral site series to start the 2018 campaign.