Aug 31, 2013
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio University baseball team returned to the diamond this past week for the start of fall practice under second-year head coach Rob Smith.
Although the Bobcats are coming off a disappointing 2013 season, which ended with a 14-39 record a year ago, Smith believes his club is ready to take a giant leap forward for the 2014 campaign.
Over the summer months, Smith kept the Bobcats in Athens to work on improving the team's strength and conditioning. After spending months on the field and in the weight room, the team is revitalized and eager to improve during fall practice.
"This summer allowed us to spend a lot of time focusing on individual development on a strength perspective," Smith said. "It really allowed us to repair and rebuild physically as a team. We've had guys make tremendous gains this summer from working with our strength coach."
This fall, Ohio returns seven everyday players who combined for 152 runs, 311 hits and 140 RBI.
By the Numbers
5 - Pitcher Sean Kennedy posted a team-best five wins a year ago.
6 - Ohio University Baseball players received Academic Honorable Mention by the Mid-American Conference for the 2012-2013 year.
14 - Total number of home runs hit last season.
15 - Number of pitchers entering fall practice. At one point last year the Bobcats had only six available pitchers.
33 - Number of pitching appearances by sophomore Logan Cozart - the most of any Mid-American Conference pitcher in 2013.
53 - First baseman Jake Madsen was the only player to appear in all 53 games.
56 - Total number of stolen bases by the Bobcats' offense.
224 - Number of runs batted in by Ohio's lineup.
247 - Total number of runs scored by the Bobcats in 2013
.373 - Jake Madsen's average with runners in scoring position, the highest on the team.
465.2 - Number of innings pitched by Bobcat pitchers.
472 - The team's total number of hits in 2013.
Veteran catchers Kyle Dean and Cody Gaertner return to the Bobcats after a positive 2013 season. The two combined for 45 appearances behind the plate out of 53 games, and Gaertner's .278 average was the team's second highest.
Smith on the Catchers: "Our most veteran part of our team resides in our catchers. They have a lot of experience between them. They were very solid last year and I think they'll continue to bring that experience and leadership to the team."
The 2014 infield will feature many new faces. The only definitive returner will be junior Jake Madsen at first base, who led the team in 11 offensive categories last year and was the only player to appear in all 53 games.
Smith on Jake Madsen: "Obviously Jake is a premium player. As someone who's been successful and batted over .300 in his first two years in college, it's nice to have somebody that has the kind of experience he does. He's a huge asset to us."
There is a possibility that second baseman Garrett Black also will return to the lineup, after missing the majority of the 2013 season due to an injury. Sophomore Nate Squires is also expected to see time at second base. In 2013, Nate Squires batted .277 and started in 37 games.
Several newcomers also are under consideration for positions in the infield. This fall, infielders Connor Callery, Tyler Finkler, Ty Black, Austin Rieman and junior college transfer Tirey Burch will all battle for time.
Smith on the infield: "We'll see a lot of changes in our infield and I'm excited about it. I think we have a lot more depth and a lot more competition. I'm convinced it's going to make us a better team."
Several outfielders return to the fold this fall, including Tyler Wells and Nick Squires. Wells made 50 starts in the outfield, finishing with a .251 average and 21 RBIs, while Nick Squires made 47 starts and a .276 average, the team's fourth highest total at the plate.
Pitching will be one of the main focuses for the Bobcats this fall. Sophomore Jake Miller returns to the Ohio rotation after leading the team with 55 strikeouts and the second most appearances with 77 to conclude his freshman year. He finished 2-6 with a 4.91 ERA.
Sophomore Connor Sitz also returns to the mound following a freshman campaign where he logged 71.0 innings.
Although he struggled in the early portions of the season, Sitz rebounded strong to post a team-best 2.58 ERA over his final six starts. He also posted a team-best 38.1 innings pitched, tallied a pair of wins and recorded a complete game.
Smith on the pitching staff: "It's as wide open as any pitching staff I've ever had in my entire career and that's exciting. We now have a lot more to work with and develop."
Larry Day - Larry Day joins the Bobcats for his first season as an assistant coach, working primarily with the pitchers and catchers. Prior to his move Athens, Day spent five seasons working with the Vanderbilt Commodores, leading the school to its first College World Series and four NCAA Regional championships.
Smith on Larry Day: "I'm a big believer that if you're going to be successful you have to have been exposed to other successful people. For Larry to come from arguably one of the best programs in the country and bring those experiences to us in our developing state as a program is huge. He'll bring a lot of tremendous ideas and I know our players will appreciate what he's going to do for us as well."
Mark Paliotto - Paliotto, a 2013 Ohio University graduate and former Bobcats pitcher, has been added as the new Director of Operations.
Smith on Paliotto: "Just having him around the program I think is really important. He understands some of the issues student athletes go through on a day-to-day basis and can certainly help us keep that in perspective and help us maintain a positive culture for our team."
Coach Smith's Final Thoughts
"While last year was certainly disappointing from a record standpoint, I think our returning players can appreciate what we had to go through last year given our roster challenges. They're very excited about the work they put in during the summer and because of that I think our morale is very high. There's a lot of excitement about building a championship team."
"I think one of the things we'll see this year is a greater expectation to win the games. I feel very confident on where the team stands from a physical standpoint and from a chemistry standpoint. I know the guys are very hungry to get started with fall practice."