TIFFIN, Ohio—The Heidelberg University baseball team will open the 2012 season Sunday, March 4 by playing a combined 10 games at the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. and the Gene Cusic Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla. between March 3-12. Twelfth-year head coach Matt Palm returns a strong nucleus of players and welcomes a young, energetic group of freshmen to the mix as the Student Princes look for their fourth Ohio Athletic Conference title in five years and a return to the NCAA Division III World Series.
Palm returns nine letter winners from a team that finished 36-13 overall and 13-5 in the Ohio Athletic Conference and advanced to the NCAA Mideast Regional championship game for the second straight year. Among Palm’s top returnees is senior preseason All-American outfielder Ricardo Lizcano (Toledo/Start), the 2010 OAC Player of the Year. After setting several single-season school records in 2010 and batting .402 with 34 runs batted-in, nine home runs, 23 extra base hits and 55 runs scored in 2011, Lizcano begins the 2012 season as a .410 career hitter with 196 hits, 156 runs, 11 triples, 26 home runs, 128 RBI and 334 total bases, all of which are within reach of school career records.
Despite losing 11 lettermen, including four All-Americans, Heidelberg returns a wealth of depth and experience to the lineup, including senior outfielder Elvin Williams (Euclid) and junior catcher Jordan Martin (Powell/Olentangy Liberty), who started a combined 78 games a season ago. Sophomore infielders Joe Staab (Bellville/Clearfork) and Andrew Zenczak (Brusnwick), sophomore outfielders Ben Blystone (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) and Arneal Squibb (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka), and junior outfielder Zach Colatruglio (Brunswick) each saw significant action as underclassmen a year ago, and are expected to have a positive impact in 2012.
On the mound, senior Sylvester Nino (Willard), junior Ethan Holt (Galion/West Holmes) and sophomore Zach O’Driscoll (Hudson/Walsh Jesuit), all right handers, will form the core of the pitching staff. The trio combined to go 16-5 in 37 appearances with a 3.52 earned run average in 2011.
The freshman contingent of right handed pitcher Ryan Minteer (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township), infielders Steve Kisan (North Royalton/Lakewood St. Edward), Steve Morse (Scottsdale, Ariz./St. Mary’s) and Bryan Peters (Cuyahoga Falls/Woodridge), outfielders Dylan Cooper (Macomb, Mich./Stevenson) and Austin Fleming (Clinton Township, Mich./De La Salle), and catcher Alex Grove (Canal Fulton/Canton Central Catholic) is expected to have a significant impact this season.
The Student Princes open the season with games against Moravian (Pa.) College (Sunday) and Medaille (N.Y.) College (Monday) at the Snowbird Baseball Classic before traveling to the Gene Cusic Classic for a March 6 doubleheader against Widener (Pa.) University and Wheaton (Ill.) College. Heidelberg then returns to Port Charlotte for games against Bluffton College (March 7), Moravian (March 8), Denison University (March 9), a doubleheader against Montclair State (N.Y.) University and Ohio Wesleyan University (March 11) before wrapping its southern trip with Rhodes (Tenn.) College (March 12).
The Berg’s non-conference slate includes a three-game series at Manchester (Ind.) College (March 16-17), home games against OWU (March 21), Case Western Reserve University (March 24), Adrian (Mich.) College (March 27), The College of Wooster (April 24) and Wittenberg University (April 25), and road contests at Denison (March 20), CWRU (March 25) and Defiance College (May 1).
Heidelberg hosts Muskingum University (April 6), Baldwin-Wallace College (April 17), John Carroll University (April 28) and Capital University (May 5) in OAC home dates, while facing Otterbein University (April 3), Ohio Northern University (April 11), Marietta College (April 14) and the University of Mount Union (April 21) on the road.
Entering the 2012 campaign, Palm, who has been OAC coach of the year by his peers on five occasions, owns a 381-159 career record and needs 19 wins to become the just the fifth coach in league history to win 400 games.