February 23, 2017
BLUFFTON, Ohio - With the winter sports coming to a close the 2017 baseball season is only days away. The Bluffton University Baseball Team is preparing for its spring break trip to Florida, taking advantage of an unseasonably warm month of February.
The Beavers will be looking to fill the shoes of seven seniors that played on three straight 20-win teams, the only 20-win seasons in Bluffton baseball history. With a disappointing 2016 in the rearview mirror, Bluffton will count on its 13 seniors to lead the charge this season. The 13 players that make up the largest senior class in Bluffton baseball history are: DYSON BOWMAN (Coshocton), AUSTIN EVERY (Zanesville/West Muskingum), KEVIN EVERY (Zanesville/West Muskingum), BLAKE FOX (Berne. Ind./South Adams), TAYLOR GAMBRELL (Bowling Green), LUKE HICKEY (Toledo/Whitmer), COREY JOHNSON (Waverly), JOHN LEONARD (Cincinnati/Elder), BLAKE MERRILL (Toledo/Whitmer), A.J. PHILLIMORE (Old Fort), AUSTIN PROSSER (Galion), CLAYTON SIDERS (Delaware/Worthington Christian), and JAYLEN VON SOSSAN (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf).
Three-time All-Heartland Conference honoree Luke Hickey, who hit at a .288 clip with 23 RBI as a junior, looks to return to the form he displayed when Hickey was the 2014 HCAC Freshman of the Year. He is part of Bluffton’s experienced core through the middle as senior Clayton Siders (25 runs and 12 SB’s) cleans up everything in center field and junior REID MAUS (Hamilton/Badin) is back for his third season behind the dish. “We are excited to have Luke Hickey back as the centerpiece to our lineup and our defense,” stated Coach Grandey. “He had an outstanding fall and has been impressive this pre-season as well. We like the leadership Luke brings to our team as he plays hard every pitch and embraces competition.”
Sophomore COLIN GREGORY (Fremont/Clyde) improved throughout his rookie campaign, becoming a mainstay in left field while hitting .278 as a freshman. Coach Grandey had this to say about his outfielders. “Gregory has worked hard to be more consistent offensively and will compete with JEFF ARNETT (Tecumseh, Mich./Tecumseh) and DENNY SZALAI (LaGrange/Keystone) for playing time in the outfield. It is good to see the improvements many of our sophomores have made as they compete for at-bats. Freshmen Adam Duncan (Northwood/Lake) has also emerged through the pre-season as someone who will be in the mix for playing time.”
“In the infield, seniors Austin Prosser and Blake Fox need to take their production to the next level for us to really get our lineup going. Freshmen Chase LAWNICZAK (Toledo/Whitmer) and LUKE KAIL (Waynesfield/Sandy Valley) are both young players we are excited about and we believe can be special over the course of their careers,” quipped Coach Grandey.
“Behind the plate, junior Reid Maus is the incumbent and he does a great job handling our pitching staff, but we will look for sophomore TANNER HODGES (Taylor, Mich./John F. Kennedy) and freshmen PARKER REYNOLDS (Avon) to push Maus,” Grandey stated. “Senior Blake Merrill is also in the mix and is an outstanding ‘team’ guy who understands how everything operates. We need to get more production both defensively and offensively from that position if we are to reach our goals and more than likely, over the course of 40 games, it will be a group effort to get it done.”
“On the mound, we return six seniors who have all logged innings since they were freshmen. We need those seniors to lead us and give us consistency each and every time they toe the rubber. Senior Taylor Gambrell is our most consistent arm and also our best competitor. We want him to have the ball as much as possible. Seniors Dyson Bowman, Austin Every, and Kevin Every have dynamite arms and can be lights out at any time, but need to be consistent,” added Coach Grandey. “Senior Jaylen Von Sossan has logged quality innings despite battling a variety of non-throwing injuries in his career and provides much needed depth to the staff. Corey Johnson has also pitched well over the past three years and we are expecting a big senior campaign from him.”
Grandey welcomes three new coaches to his staff for 2017, including graduate assistants Taylor Ellis and Brad Swavel, along with Nick Rush. “I am really excited for all that the new staff brings to the table this year,” stated Coach Grandey.
The baseball team kicks off the season when they travel down to Fort Myers, Fla. to face Anna Maria on March 5 at 12 P.M., the first of nine contests in the Sunshine State. After heading north, they make the short trip to Ohio Northern on March 14 at 4 P.M. The home opener is slated for 4:15 on Tuesday, March 21, when the Beavers welcome Albion College.