DEFIANCE, OHIO – The Defiance College baseball brings back plenty of talent in the infield and a first team All-HCAC pitcher, but will look to rely on a fresh group of faces to build on their successes from 2017 and entering the 2018 season.
Head Coach Derek Woodley enters his 11th season leading the Yellow Jacket program and looks to improve on last year's mark of 14-25, as well as their 11-15 mark in HCAC play.
Defiance loses three of their four primary starters from a year ago, but returns first-team All-HCAC honoree Paris Creek (Bryan) from last year's staff. Creek started five games and pitched in 14 more in relief for the Yellow Jackets, accumulating 53 innings pitched and allowing just 11 earned runs. He finished the season with a 3-2 mark and a 1.70 ERA, the fifth-best in school history. Creek finished with a pair of complete games, and also added a save to his totals for the season.
Defiance only returns one other pitcher who threw more than 10 innings in 2017 in Troy Konwinski (Allen Park, Mich.). The junior made 11 appearances, all in relief, for Defiance and finished the year with a 2-3 record while collecting four saves. Konwinski allowed just seven earned runs and 16 hits in 18.1 innings of work, giving himself a 3.44 ERA.
Defiance has several players that will return to action and look to expand their roles in 2018, including Cody Nelson (Clayton, Mich./Hudson), Jon Brown (Haskins/Otsego), Parker Houk (Montpelier), Kody King (Cecil/Fairview), and Zac Brazen (Oxford/Talawanda).
A pair of transfers, Will Bohlman (Centerville) and Grant Curavo (Northwood/Cardinal Stritch Catholic), look to break into the rotation early and often. Freshman Daniel Tomalak (Tecumseh, Mich./Clinton), Jack Powell (Commerce Twp., Mich./Walled Lake Northern), Michael Reese (Constantine, Mich.) and Cohen Nies (Logansport, Ind./Lewis-Cass) will also look to earn innings in their first year wearing the Purple and Gold.
"We lost a large amount of innings on the mound, but I feel like we have more depth than we have had in the past," Woodley said of his staff. "We will need to take a look at a lot of pitchers early so we can settle in on a rotation and define some roles."
The Yellow Jackets have a new front runner to start behind the plate for the upcoming season, as sophomore Ben Bucklew (Archbold) moved over from the University of Northwestern Ohio and took the job by storm during the preseason.
There is plenty of depth returning, as well, for DC. Sophomre Everett Kissel (Defiance/Tinora) played in 27 games and hit .316 (24-for-76) with a double, a home run, and 19 RBI. Kissel also earned 17 walks while striking out only 10 times in his freshman campaign.
Senior Mac Edwards played in nine games in 2017 before an injury ended his season. Edwards returns with his extra year of eligibility and hopes to grab some innings behind the plate in the highly competitive group of catchers. Edwards hit .267 (9-of-30) overall with a pair of RBI before his injury.
Sophomore Kody Fuller (Wabash, Ind.) played in 10 games last year and will add depth, along with junior Mason Rapp (Fortville, Ind./Mt. Vernon), junior Derek Angelone (Gibsonburg), and freshman Zach Johnson (El Paso, Ill.).
The Yellow Jackets will rely heavily on their veteran infield, as they return three starters from last years' group.
Senior Glen Collier (Zionsville) will return to start at second base after he finished 2017 batting .276 (40-of-145) with a team-leading seven homers and 35 RBI. Collier also walked 12 times to bring his on-base percentage up to .359.
Junior Michael Gilliland (Napoleon) looks to be the starter at shortstop again this season. In the 2017 campaign, Gilliland hit .277 (36-of-130) and tied for the team lead with 28 runs scored. The junior also added 13 RBI.
Sophomore Jude Neary (Toledo/Cardinal Stritch Catholic) is the favorite to start at third base in 2018 after seeing playing time as a freshman. Neary played in eight contests and hit .143 (2-of-14) with a pair of walks.
Senior Alek Menyhart (Hartland, Mich.) is capable to play both middle infield positions and will provide plenty of depth in those spots. Freshmen Daniel Tomalak (Tecumseh, Mich./Clinton) and Michael Reese (Constantine, Mich.) will also battle for playing time.
Junior Tyler Weaver (Defiance) also returns for Defiance, as he was the everyday starter in 2017. Weaver batted .268 (33-of-123) in 35 games last year. He hit five doubles, scored 16 runs, and added 17 RBI. The junior also finished the year with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 2017 and looks to continue that trend.
Weaver will be challenged by Konwinski, who was the everyday designated hitter in 2017, as well as Brown for playing time at first base.
The outfield will look to continue to be a strong suit for the Yellow Jackets, despite the loss of first team All-HCAC performer Zack Reed to graduation.
Junior Tanner Stippich (Lima/Allen East) played in 21 games as he battled injuries through most of his sophomore season. He is the favorite to start in one of the outfield spots after hitting .210 (20-of-81) with a homer and 11 RBI.
Junior college transfer Garrett Sierra (Defiance) will be the starter in center field, while the third outfield spot will be a battle between junior Grant Vickery (Bellevue) and freshman Nate Kaffenbarger (DeGraff/Indian Lake). Vickery hit .278 in 12 contests in 2017.
Defiance has five other outfielders who will try to earn their way into the lineup as the season progresses, including senior Christian Meister (Ontario), sophomore Garrett Enders (Arcadia), and freshmen Lucas Thomeier (Wickliffe), Nolan Kestner (Mason), and Tyler Hines (Cincinnati/Northwest).
"We have very good positional depth with many players capable of playing multiple positions," Woodley said of his group. He is also excited about the athleticism the group possesses, as he believes they will be an "exciting group to watch."
Defiance will begin their 2018 season with their yearly spring break trip to Fort Myers, Fla. The opener will be on Monday, Mar. 5 with a doubleheader against Hiram College. DC will play eight games in Florida, culminating with a pair of matchups with Alvernia (Pa.) College on Friday, Mar. 9.
Upon returning north, DC will start the northern portion of the schedule on Tuesday, Mar. 13 with a double-dip at Taylor (Ind.) University. The home opener for DC will be played on Saturday, Mar. 17 with two games against Albion (Mich.) College.
A highlight of the non-conference schedule is their matchup at the University of Toledo at 3:05 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 27.
The HCAC portion of the 2018 schedule starts off on Saturday, Mar. 31 at Anderson (Ind.) University before the home doubleheader with Bluffton University comes on Tuesday, Apr. 3.
The regular season will wrap up on Friday, Mar. 4 with a senior day doubleheader against Franklin (Ind.) College.