Oct. 28, 2013
Smith Q and A on Fall Ball
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio University baseball team concluded it's annual fall ball practices earlier this month, which included 12 scrimmages, the first ever Alumni game and a two-game series with Marietta College.
Following a disappointing 2013 season, the Bobcats worked hard through the summer and fall months to ensure a successful 2014 campaign.
"We saw a lot of growth in a lot of areas. Not just on the field, but in the overall enthusiasm of the team," said head coach Rob Smith. "We're anxiously awaiting the spring to get here so we can get out and play an outside opponent and see what we can do."
Pitching was one of the main focuses for the Bobcats this fall. In 2013, the team finished with a 5.68 ERA. With a limited pitching staff a year ago - having only six pitchers available at one point last year - the Bobcats are in much better shape as they enter the 2014 season, sporting 15 pitchers on the roster.
"We definitely have a lot more depth on the mound and it's going to make a huge difference," Smith said. "We can really start to formulate a good bullpen plan, and that'll allow us to manage the game much differently than last year, for sure."
Several Ohio newcomers have already made a name for themselves on the mound during fall practice. Jake Roehn, Corey Wells and Gerry Salisbury all saw action in the fall.
Roehn, a projected starter, pitched his team to three wins this fall, while Wells proved worthy of a potential relief role this spring as he earned the save in the team's annual #Wrenfest scrimmage.
"I thought Corey Wells did an excellent job this fall," Smith said. "He showed he's a guy we can count on to pitch in the back end of games and we hope that he can continue to do that come spring."
With the return of Jake Miller to the Bobcat rotation, Ohio appears to have carved out a strong rotation for this spring. In 2013, Miller led the team with 55 strikeouts and was second on the team with 77 innings pitched. He finished the 2013 season 2-6 with a 4.91 ERA.
Despite losing two regular infield starters from last year's squad, the Bobcats will have several options for their 2014 squad in the form of newcomers Ty Black, Tyler Finkler and Connor Callery. The squad also will turn to veterans John Adryan and Garrett Black, who return to the lineup after they missed all of last year with an injury.
Black was very impressive in the squad's third practice of fall ball as he went 7-for-10 at the plate and appears to be well on his way to his 2012 form where he collected 38 hits and scored 21 runs.
Adryan finished the 2013 season on a high note as he collected four hits in the season finale against Miami. This fall, Adryan showed flashes of potential throughout fall practice, which caught the eye of Ohio's coaching staff.
"He's shown that he's really competing for that job and if he continues to do so, he'll be our opening day third baseman," Smith said. "He's hit the ball extremely well and if he continues to hit like that, he's definitely going to be a valuable part of our offense."
One sure thing about this year's infield is the return of junior first baseman Jake Madsen. In 2013, Madsen led the team in 11 offensive categories and was the only player to appear in all 53 games. This past fall, Madsen drilled a pair of home runs and appears poised to post his third straight season with a batting average of .300-or-better.
Freshman Mitch Longo, senior Scott White, junior Tyler Wells and junior Chandler Geller have positioned themselves well to compete for starting jobs this spring following their spring campaign.
Wells, who made 48 starts in 2013 with 21 RBI, had an extremely productive fall as he collected two homers and five RBI.
One of the team's biggest priorities has been to continue improving the defense. The Bobcats finished the 2013 season with 79 errors, nearly a 25 percent reduction from the previous year.
"We had a significant reduction in errors and we're hoping we can see an additional growth in that area. From what we saw of the interior defense this fall, I think it's promising that we'll be able to lower that error total again this year," Smith said. "If you're going to play championship baseball, you've got to be able to defend."