BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University baseball team made its first HCAC Tournament appearance in school history last season and the Beavers have set their sights on going even further in 2019. Narrow losses to Manchester and Anderson in the conference tournament have fueled a Bluffton program that eclipsed 20 wins for just the fourth time last season. Coach Grandey and his team are excited to get back on the field and show that 2018 was no fluke as the Beavers are just days away from kicking off the season in Fort Myers, Fla.
Colin Gregory (Fremont/Clyde) led the 2018 Beavers with a .359 batting average, .564 slugging percentage, 39 runs scored and 13 doubles. His four homers were just one shy of 2018 senior Ryan Golden's team-high five round trippers. Gregory's experience and arm in the outfield helped him to All-Heartland Conference honors as a junior. Senior hurlers Dante D'Andrea (Westerville/North), a Second Team All-HCAC selection and pre-season honorable mention D3 baseball podcast All-America selection, and Jack Bondy (Avon) both tossed over 30 innings in 2018. D'Andrea finished with a miniscule 2.59 ERA while holding the opposition to a team-best .214 batting average thanks to 42 punchouts. Also looking to return to the form he displayed before suffering a season-ending injury last year is Brantley Curnutte (Hilliard/Davidson) who posted a microscopic 1.54 ERA in 24.2 innings on the mound.
Tommy Siemer (Liberty Township/Lakota East), Cam Clark (Cairo/Bath) and Mike Aman (Dublin/Coffman) give the Beavers an experienced trio of junior pitchers who all saw significant action in 2018. Siemer took over as the ace following Curnutte's injury, throwing a team-high 52.1 innings with 40 strikeouts and a 3.44 ERA. Clark and Aman combined for 46.1 innings of work over 24 appearances, primarily out of the bullpen.
Two-sport standout Adam Duncan (Northwood/Lake) hit .280 with seven sacrifice bunts and just one error in 30 games as a sophomore. A starting outfielder in the spring, Duncan led the football team with 32 receptions for 481 yards last fall. Juniors Bryce Fink (Medina) and Alex Lemanski (Miamisburg) give the Beavers experience and depth in the middle infield after combining for 26 starts in 2018. Junior Parker Reynolds (Avon) saw time behind the plate a season ago, hitting .308 with 10 RBI.
A talented 2018 freshman class is ready to pick where it left off after it accounted for three of Bluffton's top six hitters. Jacob Latkofsky (Temperance, Mich./Ida) was named the Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year after hitting .319 with 45 hits, 24 runs scored and 19 RBI. Latkofsky drew a team-high 19 walks and finished the season with a .417 on-base percentage. Versatile sophomore Garrett O'Reilly (Galena/Orange) got it done on the mound and at the plate, finishing 2018 with a 3.05 ERA and a .306 batting average. He allowed only eight extra-base hits in 41.1 innings en route to First Team All-HCAC honors. Lenny Winiarski (Cincinnati/LaSalle) split time between catching and first base, starting 27 games while hitting .236 as a freshman. Sophomore Jaxon Rogan hit .317 with a .453 on-base percentage in 41 at-bats during his freshman campaign.
Franklin College has been tabbed to repeat as Heartland Conference champions following a 17-1 mark in HCAC play a season ago when the Beavers handed FC its lone conference loss. Anderson and Rose-Hulman also garnered first place votes in the coaches' poll with Bluffton coming in seventh when the projections were released. The Beavers will tee it up with 11 games in Florida at the Gene Cusic Classic, starting on Saturday, March 2, against Elms in Fort Myers. A short trip to Ohio Northern is slated for Tuesday, March 12, before the home opener with Hiram on Thursday, March 14. Conference action opens with a home doubleheader against Earlham College on Saturday, March 30. Rival Defiance College is at Memorial Field for a twin-bill on Tuesday, April 2, as HCAC action takes over the schedule.