Baseball team enters season with high hopes



Senior pitcher Chance Hitchcock.

John Margida, Reporter

After competing in the Division II College World Series with a 48-15 overall record last season, the Ashland University baseball team is primed for battle entering their 2020 campaign.

The Eagles were able to overcome slow starts in both the Regional and Super Regional last summer to get themselves to Carry, N.C. for the 2019 College World Series. They ran into contender Central Missouri twice and were able to win a game, making sure they didn’t go home empty-handed.

“We are bringing back a lot of guys with great postseason experience we can build on,” head baseball coach John Schaly said. “Hopefully, we will be a little better offensively and defensively because of the experience with our position players. But the key to our season is bringing along some of our newer pitchers we have gotten through transfers; we hope that the veteran lineup we have coming back will take some of the pressure from the pitching staff.”

This season, the Eagle team returns eight of the nine starters from last year’s lineup. Leading the lineup this year will be senior first baseman Carson Mittermair and senior outfielder Michael Rogers.

Senior pitcher Chance Hitchock will be leading the rotation again this season for Ashland. Coming off a year where he finished with a 9-2 record as a starter in 15 starts and finished with a sub 3.00 earn run average (ERA).

“He has gotten even stronger over the off-season picking up a 2 to 3 mph velocity wise on his fastball,” Schaly said. “We think he could be even better this year than he was last year. He should have better command and got some great experience last year getting our win at the World Series. He will definitely help some of our new pitchers come along as well with his leadership.”

At the helm of the pitching staff, Hitchock is confident approaching the new season and challenges it might pose.

“I’m definitely ready to go for this season,” Hitchcock said. “I just want to help my team win ball games and get back to the World Series.”

With Hitchcock leading the starters, the bullpen will be looking to replace closer Chris Slavik who had a fantastic season in that role a year ago. The team intends to replace Slavik with redshirt senior Josh Smith. Smith played middle reliever last season but had a pivotal role in the teams’ successes, according to Schaly.

The AU baseball team will undoubtedly learn what is working well and not-so well for the team over the first month of the season, as they play a brutal schedule against many skillful teams.

“This is the toughest beginning of a schedule that I have ever coached,” Schaly said. “Out of our first 16 games, we are playing 13 of them against teams that are currently ranked or currently receiving votes.”

They open the season at Charleston (WV), whose team was one game away from the World Series last season. Southern Indiana, the second competitor, has won two national championships and been to the World Series five times in the past decade.

The Eagles will then travel to Florida for their spring break trip where they will play Minnesota State-Mankato twice during their time there. Also on the schedule in Florida is St. Cloud State who won over 40 games last season, West Chester who has won two national championships in the past decade, and Seton Hill who is also receiving votes in Division II preseason rankings.

“Our goal is the same every year: take it one step at a time, win the conference regular season, then win the conference tournament, win the regional, win the super regional, and get back to the World Series and win the World Series. That never changes,” Schaly said.

The Eagles will open the season up as the No. 7 ranked team in the country and will travel to Charleston, W.V. to take on the No. 24 ranked University of Charleston on Feb. 22 with the first pitch of game one set for 1:00 pm.