BEREA, Ohio – Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Brian Harrison, the Baldwin Wallace University baseball team will use its depth to seek a return to the top of the Ohio Athletic Conference in 2018.
Harrison returns 16 letterwinners, including five four-year athletes, and four All-OAC players from last year's team that finished 22-17 overall and tied for fourth at 10-8 in the OAC. Ten new faces join the team this spring and will look to make an immediate impact on the lineup and in the field.
"It's not common to have this many seniors on a team, much less the quality of people that we have," Harrison remarked. "It says a lot about how much our guys have enjoyed their experience at BW and the relationships they have built with their teammates. Having five four-year athletes in the lineup every day will bring the leadership that's needed to have a successful season."
On the mound, BW returns top pitchers in senior American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-Mideast Region and All-OAC left-hander Evan Lovick (Mentor) and junior hard-throwing right-hander Danny Cody (Medina/Brecksville-Broadview Heights). Lovick appeared in 12 games last year, making 10 starts, and had a team-high eight wins and the second-lowest ERA at 2.47 in 73 innings while Cody had a team-high 18 appearances with five stats and recorded a 4.70 ERA. Lovick and Cody tied for the team-high in strikeouts with 49.
Also competing for a spot in the starting rotation are junior left-hander Jack Raines (Akron/Archbishop Hoban) and sophomore left-hander Michael Hubert (Cincinnati/Oak Hills). Raines appeared mostly in relief a season ago, recording 15.2 innings of work, 16 strikeouts and a 3.45 ERA. Hubert made one start in OAC action as a freshman and appeared in nine other games for a total of 24 innings. Sophomore pitcher/catcher Max Adams (Massillon/Washington) also had a solid freshman campaign, making 12 appearances and recording a 3.32 ERA. He will look to provide a steady presence on the mound for the Yellow Jackets.
Freshmen right-handers Nick Smith (Mentor) and Jeremy McClure (Mentor) join the Yellow Jackets this spring after leading the Cardinals to one of their best seasons in recent history and will also look to compete for innings.
Senior right-handers Nick Patrone (Bellaire) and Brandon Wysong (Bradford) along with sophomore pitchers Spencer Aukerman (Medina) and Spencer Berg (New Albany) each saw some time last season and will compete for more innings in 2018.
Senior left-hander Chad Kuebler (Toledo/Central Catholic); junior right-handers Eric Baumgart (Mundelein, Ill/Carmel Catholic), Matt Kocur (Rocky River) and Dylan Nieto (Brunswick/St. Ignatius); and sophomores Justin Miller (Hilliard/Hilliard Darby), Greg Zahradnick (Doylestown/Chippewa), Ty McKinney (Uniontown/Canton South) and Michael Pagacik (Littleton, Mass./St. John's) round out BW's 2018 pitching staff.
Anchoring a fairly young infield will be senior All-OAC third baseman Spencer Badia (Bellaire) after losing All-OAC second baseman Cole Nieto, All-OAC first baseman Kevin Hagen and shortstop Steve Montgomery to graduation. Badia hit for a .323 average last season while blasting a career-high six home runs and finishing tied for third on the team with 27 RBIs. Junior first baseman Philip Wells (Buffalo, N.Y./St. Joseph's Collegiate) and sophomore second baseman Jacob Bonner (Akron/Archbishop Hoban) made important contributions last season, appearing in 37 and 28 games, respectively. Both Wells and Bonner bring consistent offense with Wells being more of a power hitter while Bonner hits gap-to-gap.
Freshman shortstop Tony LoParo (Avon/Elyria Catholic) and freshman utility player Alex Ludwick (Brunswick/Padua Franciscan) could see significant playing time this season. LoParo will bring some solid defense up the middle while Ludwick will use his fearless approach to the game to bring a whole new level of energy to the team.
Rounding out the infielders are senior Matt Koskinen (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan), junior Griffin Watterson (Bay Village/Bay), junior Kyle Pennington (Wadsworth), sophomore Lane Niemann (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale South) and freshman Luke Razzante (Highland Heights/Mayfield).
Veterans will roam the outfield as senior All-OAC right fielder Alex Marcum (Granville), junior left fielder Reese Albright (Parma/North Royalton) and senior Chase Knodle (Poland/Seminary) all return in 2018. Marcum's numbers have gotten better each year and he had a standout junior season where he tied for the team lead in batting average at .347 and hits with 50. Albright had a lot of big hits in key situations last year and is always aggressive on the basepaths, stealing 14 bases on 16 attempts. Knodle battled through injuries last year and still batted .342 as he looks forward to having a consistent senior season.
Senior Ian Forster (North Olmsted), junior Andy Blough (Wooster/Smithville), sophomore Dudley Taw (Sheffield Lake/Brookside), sophomore Brandon Dim (Solon) and freshman Jack Lehew (Wexford, Pa./North Allegheny) will have an excellent opportunity to learn from their experienced teammates and translate that to their play on the field.
Returning for his final season behind the plate is senior All-OAC catcher Trent Kaltenbach (Plain City/Jonathan Alder). Kaltenbach had a stellar season offensively, hitting .345 with a second-best 49 hits. Defensively, the senior is one of the best catchers in the conference at one of the most important defensive positions as he recorded only five errors in 285 chances for a .982 fielding percentage.
Sophomore utility players Racco DiLauro (Akron/Springfield), Kane Zellers (Salem) and Scott Kirchhoff (Toledo/Sylvania Northview) round out the roster. All will use their defensive abilities to fill any holes the Yellow Jackets might have on the season.
BW will open the 2018 season on Sunday, February 18, with a non-conference doubleheader against Anderson (Ind.) University at the UC Health Stadium in Florence, Kentucky.