Three seasons into his rebuilding plan, Wilmington College baseball coach Dan Cleaver has a roster full of his recruits as the 2017 version will have zero seniors and just six juniors.
For the first time in his tenure, Cleaver will have a plethora of dedicated arms to turn to as Wilmington could have as many as 10 players strictly for pitching.
"That is one of the things that in the course of the rebuild you have to get here. When I got here, there were no POs (pitcher only's), now we are up to eight," said Cleaver. "Actually, we could go to ten here early in the season. We will see how things shake out. We added a pitching coach, Rhyker Miller, and he has done a terrific job for us this last month and a half. It's made a difference."
Sophomore Jarett Trautman (Hartville, OH/Field) will shed his catching gear, and focus solely on being the team's ace. He pitched in 12 games with five starts last season, posting a 7.45 ERA.
"Jarett can just focus on pitching," said Cleaver. "In Division III baseball, you can't have a potential number one pitcher be your third catcher as well. It just doesn't work."
Freshman Jacob Helterbrand (Hillsboro, OH/Hillsboro) has come in and made an immediate impression on the coaching staff, and will start the season in the rotation.
Sophomore Ryan Collette (Wilmington, OH/Clinton Massie), sophomore Joey Hollback (Salem, OH/Sebring McKinnley) and freshman Matt Oney (Carlisle, OH/Carlisle) will fight for the third slot in the conference rotation. The other two could slot into conference relievers or non-conference starters.
Hollback had an up and down freshman season, finishing with a 7.59 ERA over 14 appearances. The southpaw has worked hard in the offseason to be able to go deeper in games. Collette only hurled 7 2/3 innings before being lost to a season-ending injury.
Sophomore Jared Ferenchak (Concord, OH/Notre Dame Cathedral Latin) will find a spot on the mound this season. He is the top returning pitcher, ERA-wise for the Fightin' Quakers. Ferenchak made a team-high nine starts last season, posting a 6.75 ERA with 21 strikeouts. His strikeout total was second on the team.
One of the most important pieces of the staff will be junior Tyler McDaniel (Trenton, OH/Edgewood).
"I have told him several times how important he is to us this year," said Cleaver. "He has to just step up. He has done a really good job for us, but we are talking another junior who has been on the mound. This will be his third year on the mound, in the middle relief role to hold down the fort.
"In a close game, he has done it well in the past," Cleaver continued. "He is going to be asked to do it more often this year, and I do think that he is still going to swing the bat. He handles it well enough to move a runner, and he is also a left handed bat off the bench. I don't see him in the outfield very much so he is kind of a PO/pinch hitter."
For the first time in four seasons, Wilmington will not have Max Ramsey to turn to behind the plate as he graduated in 2016.
Junior Kyle Short (Trenton, OH/Edgewood) returns behind the dish after a one-year hiatus in which he played the outfield. He played in 23 games, hitting .200 (11-of-55). Short will provide needed experience as Wilmington has two freshmen catchers behind him in Kasey Bottorff (Columbus, OH/Hamilton Twp.) and Kendall Vilvens (Lynchburg, OH/Lynchburg-Clay).
"Catching depth has been an issue here for three years," said Cleaver. "The maturity of Kyle helps a lot. He has a high baseball IQ, makes good decisions behind the plate, he blocks the ball well and his arm has improved."
Wilmington will have a ton of college experience in the infield with two juniors and a sophomore that started every game as a freshman.
Sophomore Jake Hyatt (Madeira, OH/Madeira) led the team with 12 doubles and three homeruns in the middle of the WC lineup.
Junior Daniel Hayes (Beavercreek, OH/Beavercreek) returns for his third season as a starter, but will be moving to shortstop this season. He hit a team-high .315 in OAC action, and had a hit in 11 of the last 14 games for the Fightin' Quakers. He will be joined in the middle by second baseman Joshua Chua (Lancester, England/Claremont, CA), who transferred from Citrus Community College.
Rounding out the infield will be freshman third baseman Nick Silvis (Beavercreek, OH/Indian Lake).
Wilmington will have plenty of infield depth as junior Keith Hayes (Beavercreek, OH/Beavercreek), Shane Hale (New Lebanon, OH/Dixie) and Shawn Barnes (Columbus, OH/Whitehall-Yearling) will all find time in the lineup.
While the depth may not be as plentiful as the infield, Wilmington has some talent roaming the grass in returning starters Jake Robinson (Westerville, OH/Central), Antonio Miller (Cincinnati, OH/Northwest) and Gage Bley (Harrison, OH/Harrison).
Bley, who started at second base, moves to left field as the top returning bat. He hit .279 with nine doubles and 19 RBI in 2016. After hitting almost .300 as a freshman, Robinson took a step back a season – batting .245 in 112 at-bats. Cleaver expects him to return to his freshman form.
Rounding out the starters will be Miller, a sophomore, finished the season with hits in six of the last eight games to boost his average to .248.
Wilmington opens the 2017 season Saturday, February 18 with a three-game series at Sewanee in Tennessee.