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Ohio's Isaiah Peterson (#5) swings against Milwaukee in the eighth inning of the last game ending with a winning score of 3-2 on Sunday, March 7, 2021. (FILE)

Baseball: Isaiah Peterson has found a home away from home in Ohio

Isaiah Peterson hasn’t played a complete season for the Bobcats but has stood out since the first time he showed up for practice. Known for his equally strong hitting and fielding abilities, the senior center fielder’s career began elsewhere before finding a home in Athens.

Peterson transferred to Ohio from Iowa Western Community College last season. While with the Reivers, he was a two-time NCJAA Division I World Series participant and a runner-up in 2019. Despite this success, Peterson wanted to take his baseball journey further from home. The Lincoln, Nebraska native then stumbled upon Ohio during his search. Despite never visiting Appalachia before, Peterson gave Athens a chance. 

Peterson fell in love with Ohio. He said that the most enjoyable thing about the visit was the atmosphere. Soon, he learned that playing for a Division I school is much different than a community college. The rules during practice were more strict and he was forced to follow new regulations that weren’t familiar to him while at Iowa Western. Despite the new rules, Peterson was just as determined to prove himself.

The hard work paid off and Peterson made a quick impact in his inaugural season with Ohio in 2020. He led the team in batting with a .295 average before the season was abruptly canceled after only 15 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before he even settled down in his new home, Peterson was on his way back to Nebraska. 

Peterson elected to spend his time away from Athens with his family. His many conversations back home with his parents made him realize how long it had been since he took a step away from baseball.

“That was probably the longest I’ve been without playing baseball since I was 10 years old,” Peterson said. “It took a while to adapt to that much time off.”

Taking a breather from the fast life of an athlete helped Peterson develop outside of baseball. He became skilled in the waiting game as the uncertainty around Ohio’s 2021 season grew. The pandemic was still raging and Ohio’s fall sports were either postponed or canceled altogether. There was a chance his senior season might end before it began.

And Peterson’s patience soon paid off. The Bobcats were invited back to campus and spring sports were given the all-clear for the 2021 season. With everyone back in Athens, the Bobcats began to prepare for their opening day game against Radford in mid-February. 

The senior earned the start at center field against Radford and hasn’t given up the spot since. In 30 games, Peterson has only committed two errors. He has a knack for making diving plays when the defense needs them most, and his glovework has eliminated several earned runs for the pitching staff. 

Peterson does the most damage at the plate, though. His .342 average is the second-highest batting average on the Bobcats’ roster and he boasts the highest slugging percentage at .640.

He doesn’t just hit to get himself on base, either. He has a team-high 24 RBIs and has contributed to the Bobcats’ offensive strategy with extra base hits to score more runs. This reflects well in the Mid-American Conference, as Peterson’s 11 doubles is the second-highest in the conference.

However, he doesn’t want to hog all the credit. When asked about his success, Peterson often credited his teammates for being the driving force behind his growth. 

“Having them stick around after practice, having them either talk me through (at-bats) and help me figure out things for myself…it really helps,” Peterson said.

Peterson has also found himself reciprocating the help. His leadership role as an upperclassman is ever-changing, but the senior does what he can to enhance the energy in the dugout. The challenges the team has faced in recent months due to the pandemic has given Peterson the chance to step up as a leader.

His goal is to make sure his younger teammates stay focused on winning the game in front of them. Focusing on one game at a time is more important than ever as the Bobcats enter the second half of the regular season.

Even though he has not played a full season for Ohio, Peterson has enjoyed his experience with the team. The Bobcats make every moment worth it for him and the general aura of the team has highlighted his Division I experience. Ohio has been a great fit for the senior. 

Peterson’s transfer to Ohio has been a reciprocal gain for both himself and the team. The senior’s transfer gave him a new home and gave Ohio a much-needed boost on the roster. Peterson has proven not only to be proficient in the box and on the field, but has also become a leader for his younger teammates.

He loves Ohio, it’s his home away from home after all.


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