Under the guidance of 14th-year head coach Matt Palm, the Heidelberg baseball team returns 19 letterwinners from a team that finished 27-17 overall and 11-7 in the Ohio Athletic Conference and returned to the OAC championship game for the fifth straight year.
The 2013 season begins in Florida on March 3. The Student Princes will play 10 games in the Sunshine State as part of the Gene Cusic Classic in Ft. Myers and the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte.
Upon returning to Ohio, Heidelberg will host Manchester for a three-game weekend series. Following a Saturday doubleheader, Sunday's 1 p.m. game will be preceded by the dedication of Patriots Park at Peaceful Valley at noon. Patriots Park, a tribute to the United States Armed Forces, is a gift from Bob and Julie Lowe.
Ohio Athletic Conference play begins on March 29 at Wilmington. Palm's squad will host four conference doubleheaders, highlighted by a visit from defending national champion Marietta on April 13.
All totaled, Heidelberg is slated to play 13 games at renovated Peaceful Valley. In addition to Patriots Park, a synthetic-turf "halo" was installed around the home plate area, while the dugouts were given a facelift.
Even with all of the peripheral upgrades to the program, Heidelberg baseball is focused on the season at hand.
“We have high expectations for this season, as we do each year,” said Palm. “We return a lot of quality young men who gained valuable experience. In this conference and in the region, depth is critical.”
The starting rotation will feature four returning pitchers. While the order of the rotation has yet to be set, Tyler Fruwirth (Beavercreek), Ethan Holt (Galion/West Holmes), Ryan Minteer (Venetia, PA/Peters Township) and Chris Thomas (Canton/Perry) will be in the mix. Holt, who, as a freshman, started Heidelberg’s first game at the 2010 World Series, returns after missing 2012 to injury. A battle for the fifth spot in the rotation will come down to freshmen Alex Zander (Brooklyn Heights/Cuyahoga Heights), Kyle Fluharty (Plymouth/Willard) and redshirt-freshman Adam Manner (Bellevue).
Reliever Teddy Lowe (Fort Wayne, IN/Carroll) returns to the bullpen after a breakout 2012 season. Lowe will be joined by a host of young arms, including Zander, Fluharty and Manner. Freshmen Nick Reiter (Whitehouse/Anthony Wayne), Steve Huber (Pataskala/Watkins Memorial) and Travis Gray (Markle, IN/Norwell) will likely see innings out of the ‘pen.
Behind the plate, Golden Glove winner Jordan Martin (Powell/Olentangy Liberty) returns for his third season as a starter. Martin’s defense and ability to control the running game are major assets for the Student Princes. Last season, Martin enjoyed his best season offensively, hitting .263. In addition to seeing time at DH, Alex Grove (Canal Fulton/Canton Central Catholic) will provide relief at catcher.
Second baseman Joe Staab (Bellville/Clear Fork) and shortstop Andrew Zenczak (Brunswick) will return as middle infielders. Last season, they sparked a nine-game winning streak when inserted into the starting lineup late in the year. At first base, Eric Monroe (Chagrin Falls/Kenston) will return following an all-conference freshman campaign. At third, Doug Miller (West Friendship, MD/Glenelg Country School) and Steve Morse (Scottsdale, AZ/Orchard Lake St. Mary's) will split time. Miller and Morse might also see time at first. Freshmen George Marsico (Wexford, PA/North Allegheny) and Curtis Moore (Sheridan, IN) will provide infield depth.
All three outfield spots are vacant, as Ross Pruitt, Ricardo Lizcano and Elvin Williams Jr. graduated after the 2012 season. Juniors Arneal Squibb (Mishawaka, IN), Ben Blystone (Brownsburg, IN/Brownsburg) and Joe Chiarappa (Clinton/St. Vincent - St. Mary's), with sophomores Trevor Oldham (Akron/Hoban) and Austin Fleming (Clinton Township, MI/De La Salle Collegiate) should provide experience in the outfield. Freshmen T.J. Harkness (Fremont/Ross) and Derek Hug (Bryan) will challenge for at-bats, too.
“We’re fortunate to have three weeks of non-conference action to settle these spots,” said Palm. “We want to be at our best as we begin OAC action.”
Despite the uncertainty, Palm remains excited about the 2013 season.
“Our staff feels comfortable with all of the student-athletes on our roster,” he said. “They are great young men, on the field and in the classroom.”