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Baseball: 2022 season preview

It has been almost a year since the crack of a bat rang through Bob Wren Stadium. But the wait will soon be over. 

Bobcat baseball is back, and, this time, Ohio has an official head coach. 

Craig Moore was announced July 20 as the 10th coach in Ohio’s program history. He was the interim coach last season and assistant coach for eight seasons prior to the retirement of former coach Rob Smith in January 2021. Now, it's his turn to lead the Bobcats in an official capacity.  

Moore led Ohio to a 28-25 record last season, which was its first winning record since 2017. Ohio also gained a foothold in the Mid-American Conference. It managed to split its series against conference giants Ball State and Central Michigan. 

There has been a slight shake-up with the coaching staff since last season. Ohio announced Tim Brown had been hired as the assistant coach in mid-January. Brown was the former assistant coach at Eastern Illinois, where he worked with the pitching staff. 

One thing that hasn't changed for the Bobcats is their core group of players. There are 27 returning players from last season and all but two starting position players. 

Eddie Kutt IV, Isaiah Peterson, Chace Harris, Brett Manis and Treyben Funderburg are all returning as fifth years due to having an extra year of eligibility. The group is bolstered by redshirt seniors Trevor Lukkes, Jack Liberatore, Michael Richardson and Spencer Harbert. 

Kutt IV and Manis were instrumental in the Bobcats’ success last season. The duo was a relief one-two punch for the better half of the spring. Kutt had the third-lowest opposing batting average in the MAC, and Manis led the league in saves. However, the pair broke up in the last half of the season because the Bobcats needed to use Kutt as a starter. 

Ohio’s offensive production was held in the hands of Peterson and Harbert last season. Both boasted on-base percentages over .380. It was not unusual for either to snag an extra base hit, either. Harbert led the team with 10 home runs, and Peterson followed him with nine. Peterson, however, led Ohio in doubles with 13. 

There’s a few new names in the hat, too. Ohio welcomed a graduate transfer from Ole Miss, Cael Baker, in August. Baker was a regular starter at first base for Ole Miss during his two seasons there. Ohio also has 10 freshmen joining the pack. 

Despite the additions, Ohio did lose a handful of its best. Sebastian Fabik transferred to Ashland as a graduate and left an empty spot in the outfield lineup. Also, Ohio lost its best pitcher. Joe Rock was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the Competitive Balance B round of the 2021 MLB Draft. Ohio is now in the market for a new starter. 

The Bobcats will get to return to their spring trips of past seasons this year. They are set to begin their season with a three-game series at South Carolina Upstate on Friday. From there, they will travel to face opponents like Eastern Kentucky, Evansville and Kentucky before MAC play begins. 

Ohio’s first home series of the year will also be its conference opener. It will take on Northern Illinois for a four-game series starting March 11. 

There are a few nonconference one-off games worked into Ohio’s schedule this season. It will face familiar foes Marshall and Morehead State twice each. Last season, Rock no-hit Morehead State for a 6-0 win in the first game of a doubleheader, but Ohio went on to lose the second game in extra innings. 

Last season’s series against Marshall was canceled due to roster issues with Ohio’s program due to positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent contact tracing. It was Ohio’s only series to be canceled last season. 

The seats at Bob Wren sat half-full in 2021, but Ohio will be able to have a packed stadium this season. Ohio will be able to host more than just a group of close relatives and friends.

The Bobcats worked with what they were given last season and earned their first winning season in four years despite road blocks along the way. This year, the Bobcats have a chance to fare well in the MAC.

@ashleybeachy_

ab026319@ohio.edu

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