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Baseball: A look at Ohio's 2023 season

Ohio coach Craig Moore looked out the window of his office in The Convo and smiled. The sun cascaded over the parking lot and a cool breeze moved the trees. Baseball weather had hit Athens just in time for the 2023 season.

"We've been at it for about three weeks, counting individuals and team practice," Moore said. "We've been fortunate enough to be able to get outside for a few days." 

The Bobcats are entering the season in good shape. They're returning 20 players from last season's roster — including All-MAC nominees Colin Kasperbauer and Mason Minzey. The returners are split even with upperclassmen and underclassmen, with the likes of A.J. Rausch, Brenden Roder and Braxton Kelly returning to the field. 

There will be a few new faces, too, mainly on the mound. Pitching was Ohio's kryptonite last season. By the time the fourth game of the weekend rolled around, the bullpen was spent. However, the addition of Luke Olson and others may alleviate that issue.

Roder became one of Ohio's go-to pitchers last season and is excited to see the new pitching staff compete.

"The've been huge, our (junior college) pitchers," Roder said. "They've been our saving grace this fall and kind of gotten our old guys, our freshman (and) our sophomores to really step up, too. We have a deep pitching staff. We have 17 and seriously all 17 could probably pitch the first weekend. It's really exciting."

New faces will help the Bobcats as they take on a few familiar nonconference opponents, such as Kentucky, which Ohio defeated last season and Morehead State. Ohio will also take on Indiana in the middle of MAC play. 

Ohio's MAC schedule starts on March 10 with a series against Bowling Green, followed by MAC Tournament Champions Central Michigan the next weekend. Ohio is fortunate to start the season at home and it's also happy with the league's new format. 

Rather than play a doubleheader on Saturday, the MAC has chosen to play a single game. 

"That's very exciting news when we heard that from the conference," Moore said. "It was unanimous that every coach wanted to go back to that three-game set… It will be a lot easier going into the weekends to manage the pitching staff and then not have too many position players come out of those weekends just completely drained."  

Last season, Ohio's bats carried it to the MAC Tournament for the first time since 2017. Ohio had the second-best batting average in the MAC. However, when Ohio didn't hit, it didn't win. Ohio lost two of its power hitters — Isaiah Peterson and Spencer Harbert — to graduation at the end of the 2022 season. Although the losses are felt, Moore is confident in Ohio's emerging leaders. 

"We feel like we've got a solid group there, now we just need a couple of guys to step in and amp their game up a little bit," Moore said. 

Moore looks for redshirt sophomore Nick Dolan, senior Alex Finney and fifth-year Will Sturek to have larger roles this season at the plate and in the field. 

The new Bobcats are going to help at the plate, too. Ohio added Alec Patino and Gideon Antle, both junior college transfers. Patino hit .338 with 63 RBIs in 79 games at Iowa Western Community College and Antle hit .331 with 38 RBIs in 55 games at Jefferson College.

Ohio will get to see its new additions in action this weekend. It is set to start its season at the Hugh Brothers Challenge at UNC Wilmington on Friday. It will be tasked with two games against the host, a game against Navy and one against Virginia, which was cast at No. 19 in D1Baseball's preseason poll. 

However, the feat of a new season or ranked opponent isn't too tall. The Bobcats are confident they'll succeed. 

"I'm excited to prove people wrong and do the same thing we did last year," Roder said. 


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