COLUMBUS, Ohio – After falling just shy of a GLIAC Tournament bid in 2012, Ohio Dominican's baseball team has one goal in mind for the upcoming season: consistency.
The Panthers closed last season with a 24-24 overall record, with a 16-18 mark in GLIAC play. With several key upperclassmen returning, the development of a large contingent of freshmen and sophomores and several transfers, head coach Paul Page believes ODU has the talent to succeed this season – if the Panthers can achieve their day-in, day-out goals.
"We feel like we have a number of guys who have potential to be exceptional players, whether they're freshmen, transfers or returners," said Page, who begins his 26th year at the helm of the Panther program. "But they simply haven't done it yet at this level, and that's going to be our biggest challenge this spring is for them to play at that consistent level."
Last year, ODU ranked third in the GLIAC in batting with a .302 average, but was just seventh in total runs scored. The pitching staff, meanwhile, was fifth in earned runs allowed, but also walked the third-most batters.
"Our team average and offensive numbers were close to top of league, but our runs weren't," Page said. "We didn't do a good job with runners in scoring position and we didn't have guys who could drive the ball into the gap or out of the park with consistency. This year, we think we have guys in the program who ability to do that."
Ohio Dominican begins the 2013 campaign with a trip to Bristol, Tenn., to take on King College in a Friday doubleheader starting at noon and Glenville State for a noon game Saturday.
The following is a positional breakdown of the Panthers entering 2013.
A mixture of veteran players and newcomers will comprise the four infield positions for ODU, led by sophomore Vince Bartolone (Broadview Heights, Ohio) at second base.
Bartolone had a stellar start to his rookie campaign, batting .333 with eight RBI in 12 games before an injury derailed his season.
"Vince's return is tremendous because he's very knowledgeable," Page said. "He knows how to go about his business in the batter's box and he's reliable in the field."
At first base, junior Anthony Raschilla (Girard, Ohio) will be joined by sophomore Austin Butler (Pickerington, Ohio) and freshman Collin Parcher (Napoleon, Ohio). Raschilla batted .314 with a pair of home runs last season, while Butler hit .327 with a pair of homers as well.
"Anthony has continued to work hard and improve," Page said. "Butler did a nice job last year and was a dependable hitter for us. Collin has shown flashes of being a middle of the lineup type hitter. He's a big guy who has pop in bat and a good understanding in the box."
With the graduation of Tyler Zaidel, a pair of players will vie for time at shortstop in senior Chase Westphal (Brecksville, Ohio) and freshman Jacob Horsley (Thornville, Ohio). Westphal made 26 starts, primarily at second base, last season.
"Chase was a really good role player for us at second and short last year who has good hands, can turn double plays and is a real asset to the ballclub," Page said. "Jacob was a surprise to us because his growth has been off the charts. He's a big, strong player who can hit in the middle of the lineup."
At third base, sophomore Phil Jaskot (Upper Arlington, Ohio) will have a chance to be the everyday starter. A transfer from Ohio State, Jaskot appeared in nine games for the Buckeyes last spring.
"Phil has the potential to be a big bat," Page said. "He's a very strong guy who wants to succeed and has the tools to be a run-generator."
Also in the mix for playing time in the infield this season is freshman Dylan West (Westerville, Ohio), a speedster who can play up the middle, and sophomore Ian Sullinger (Lexington, Ohio), who did not see game action in 2012.
Tisdale, who split time between the dish and the outfield in 2012, hit .340 with two homers and 17 RBI while earning honorable mention All-GLIAC and Daktronics All-Midwest Region Second Team honors for his utility role.
"Kyle has been consistently good for us," Page said. "He'll be our starting opening day catcher and hit in the middle of the lineup. He had a really nice freshman year and is more mature now."
Lydic missed last spring with an injury but brings a strong presence behind the plate.
"Kevin is a very good defensive catcher," Page said. "He's a very good receiver, can block pitches in the dirt and he can throw the ball."
John Bowron and Evan Shaw combined to make 91 starts in the outfield for the Panthers last season, and their departures have opened up playing time for several returners and a transfer as well.
Senior Ryan Rovnak (Poland, Ohio) will move from the hot corner to left field this season. He batted .287 in making 29 starts in 2012. Junior Jossue Delgado (Barinas, Venezuela), meanwhile, is projected to take over in center field after earning All-American honors at the junior college ranks.
"Ryan has really improved offensively," Page said. "He's a really good athlete and good baseball player. Jossue has the talent to be the best position player in our program for the last five or six years. He can run, throw and hit with power. If he doesn't press and try to do too much, he is an All-GLIAC type performer, a game-changer."
Competing for time in right field will be junior Bryan Rudolph (Pickerington, Ohio) and sophomore Marcus Schluessler (Zanesville, Ohio), while freshman Austin Greene (Dublin, Ohio) and sophomores Matt Jurevicius (Broadview Heights, Ohio) and Kyle Suminski (Fraser, Mich.) will also vie for time in the outfield. Rudolph batted .304 with a team-high four home runs last season, while Jurevicius and Schluessler combined to make 16 starts in the outfield.
Junior Christian Prince (Hudsonville, Mich.), who saw time at first base and at DH in 2012, could also earn some innings in the outfield this spring. Prince batted .362 with 17 RBI last season.
Venditti led the Panthers with 12 starts and 77.1 innings, tallying a 5-5 record with a 4.42 ERA and punching out 61. He ranked in the top 10 in the GLIAC in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts. Borgan missed most of 2012 with an injury but did register a 3-1 record in his limited time.
"Nick had a great year last year and we know he's capable of doing that again because of how hard he works," Page said. "Alex has a chance to be an all-conference pitcher. We thought that last year because he really developed his breaking ball and was prepared to be a No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher."
The Panther staff has more depth this year than in the recent past, bolstered by the development of sophomores Cole Carpenter (Zanesville, Ohio) and Daniel Mooney (Wauconda, Ill.). Carpenter made eight starts and Mooney appeared in three ballgames last season, but both have taken big strides in their offseason work.
"Cole and Dan have really shone so far," Page said. "They have the tools to be elite pitchers at the D-II level. They've taken big steps forward in command and understanding and patience and poise and the things that make pitchers successful."
Also returning to the Panther rotation is junior Sean Blackburn (Wadsworth, Ohio), who followed up a strong freshman campaign by winning four ballgames last spring, and sophomore Alberto Canales (West Park, Fla.), who paced the Panthers with a 6-1 record last season.
"Both Sean and Alberto are returning from injuries in the offseason but are both working hard and capable of putting up big numbers," Page said. "We're looking for more consistency from Sean this season. Alberto has thrown the ball well at times and also needs to be more consistent."
A slew of other pitchers will also earn time on the mound, led by Bartolone in relief. He did not allow an earned run in his seven outings last season and Page called him "the most poised pitcher on our staff."
Also returning is sophomore Tucker Hughes (Sabina, Ohio), who made 10 appearances last spring, along with classmates Marques Pagan (Cleveland, Ohio), Austin Monnin (Napoleon, Ohio) and Josh Henderson (Fairfield, Ohio). Freshman Ryan Colegate (Centerville, Ohio) has a chance to make an immediate impact, while freshman Drew Murray (Somerset, Ohio) can earn innings along with sophomore Sam Bohon (Worthington, Ohio) as a left-handed reliever.
Contact: Scott Miles