Written by CBBSN Scout, Matt Johnson
(Photo via the Ohio University Baseball website, seen here)
This year in Appalachia Ohio comes big expectations for the Ohio University Bobcats. Coming off the heels of their second MAC championship in three years, and a trip to the NCAA Regionals, Head Coach Rob Smith will try to take the experienced Bobcat team back to the playoffs. With a lot of key contributors returning this year, including Rudy Rott, Tanner Piechnick, Devon Garcia, Jake Roehn, and an influx of new talent, the Bobcats look to be well on their way.
For the Bobcats to be successful in bringing another MAC championship back to Athens, they need their young players to take the next step in their development, and their veterans to have strong seasons.
Rudy Rott, a Junior from Wisconsin, needs to have a consistent season to take his game to the next level. Last year, there was a direct correlation between how Rott was hitting, and how the team was doing in the standings. Rott started off slow, but once he got going, so did the team. He ended up with a .303/.395/.504 stat line to go along with 11 home runs. Rott has a short, balanced swing, with a lot of carry in his bat, as well as outstanding defense on first base. I think if he stays consistent we could see him put up a monster year in 2018.
Another guy it seemed to click for late last year was center fielder Devon Garcia. Garcia’s stat line won’t jump out at you, but his raw tools are all you could want in a center fielder. His speed and athleticism in the outfield allow him to get to any ball in his vicinity. Though he doesn’t steal many bases, I feel that as he matures and his instincts on the base paths improve, he could be a real threat on the bases.
Other players that could really help the Bobcats this year like, Jake Roehn, a Senior from Sandwich Illinois, will look to close out games for the second year in a row. Under head coach Rob Smith, there have been four players signed by Major League Baseball organizations, including three pitchers. If Jake Roehn puts up similar numbers to last year that led him to be one of the most reliable closers in the MAC (2.28 ERA, 15 SV, 3.7 K/BB), then he could be well on his way to be the fifth player signed under Smith.
Tanner Piechnick, a Sophomore from Canonsburg, PA, is a young player that the Bobcats will look at to help carry their offense in the 2018 season. As a Freshman last year Piechnick was mainly used as a DH. This year he will be taking over full time as catcher. Piechnick has a nice fluid swing, gets the barrel of the bat on the ball, and hits the ball to all parts of the field. He didn’t generate much power in 2017, but with a good frame to grow in to and good bat speed, look for the ball to carry a little farther for him this season.
The 2017 Ohio Bobcats had two qualities that made them the best team in the MAC. Their top-rated defense and good pitching led them to a great year. This year however, they lost most of their infield, and some key contributors on the pitching side including, Tom Colletti who was signed by the San Diego Padres as an undrafted free agent. The Bobcats could face some challenges with a lot of new faces in the infield and on the pitching staff. One factor that could help remedy the uncertainty that comes with inexperienced younger players is their offense. If core players such as Devon Garcia, Rudy Rott, and Tanner Piechnick continue to improve this 2018 season, then we could see them potentially carry the team into the playoffs for a second straight year.
As for replacing the graduated Seniors, head coach Rob Smith had this to say, “We’re really excited about this class. Of all the classes we’ve brought in since we’ve been here, we’re as excited about this one as any of them. I think it really addresses a lot of pitching needs. With as many guys as we’re losing this year to graduation, we feel like some of these kids are going to be able to come in and help us right away.”
Under Coach Smith’s leadership, he will look to guide an influx of new talent, along with the existing talented roster, to another MAC championship, and back to the regionals for another shot at Bobcat history.