(Photo credit to the Golden Grizzlies’ website, the shot can be viewed here)
The 2017 season was underwhelming for a talented Oakland squad, finishing 17-40 and 11-19 in the conference, winning their first Horizon League tournament game in the process. Despite the loss of their star hitter Zach Sterry, as well as other key players like senior Tyler Pangano, the Golden Grizzlies have returned with a strong core of seniors and talented underclassmen to form a team capable of capturing the Horizon League title and making a tournament berth in Omaha come June and July.
The pitching is led by senior pitchers Jake Lee and Nate Schweers. Lee led the Horizon League in batters struck out with 86, posting a 4.71 ERA in the process. Schweers posted a 3.34 ERA in conference play, allowing the fewest runs, hits, and second fewest walks of any pitcher in the conference. In addition, the team also returns PJ Piesko and Austin Sherry out of the bullpen. Sherry posted a 4.91 ERA with quality innings against conference opponents throughout 2017.
The Grizzlies field will be anchored by returning catcher Matt DiLeo, senior third baseman Ben Hart, and returning junior outfielder Emerson Misch. DiLeo is expected to handle most, if not all, of the catching duties with the departure of Ian Yetsko. Hart struggled in 2017 but is expected to bounce back following a quality summer season in the Northwoods League with the Green Bay Bullfrogs. Misch is expected to fill the power gap left by Zach Sterry and Tyler Pagano alongside underclassmen like Tyler Trovinger, who was brought in the replace Mike Brosseau after Brosseau departed to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays. Trovinger held his ground as a true freshman, posting an OBP of .355 and, after an impressive summer season, is likely to be the starter at the shortstop position.
Oakland also welcomes a stellar freshman class as well as two transfers. Beau Keathley and Jacob Raymond are expected to develop into solid additions to the pitching staff and Cam Post, the number three ranked catcher in Indiana, will most likely take up DiLeo’s position once he graduates. The transfers are Matt LeBrato and Austin Tangney, both of Mott Community College. LeBrato is expected to be a quality reliever out of the bullpen and Tangney will be the utility man for the Grizzlies.
The Golden Grizzlies look like a team that can have an impact on the Horizon League. Expectations are high and their early trip down south as well as conference play against rivals Valparaiso and UIC will be a good indicator of their potential going forward.