When Ohio State opens its season on Friday, it will do so with big expectations from its catching corps. With a pair of seniors splitting duties behind the plate, experience and leadership should not be a problem. The tandem of Aaron Gretz and Connor Sabanosh were named co-captains for the Buckeyes after fall practice, and head coach Greg Beals feels the team is in good hands with them.
"I am excited about the leadership on this baseball team," Beals said. "It became evident that Aaron and Connor had the pulse of this team."
With a pitching staff that is expected to be a strength of the team, Ohio State's signal callers are poised to have a good year. We continue our positional preview of the 2015 Buckeye nine behind the plate.
The left-handed hitting member of Ohio State's catching platoon, Gretz brings a wealth of experience. The Minnesota native has started 92 games behind the dish in his career, and proven to be capable behind the mask and at the plate.
Gretz started 33 games behind the dish for the Buckeyes in 2014, mostly against right-handed pitching, and put up solid offensive numbers. He batted .284 with 12 runs scored, seven doubles, and 12 RBIs. Gretz also displayed a quality arm on defense, throwing out 10 of 28 would-be base stealers.
Beals will likely continue to give Gretz the lion's share of the at-bats against righties. If he can put up similar solid numbers to his 2014 campaign and manage a talented pitching staff, the veteran backstop should be one of the rocks of this Buckeye team.
When Sabanosh showed up in Columbus last season after a successful junior college career, he was slated to be the backup to Gretz. But with a solid approach at the plate and a NJCAA DII Rawlings Gold Glove to his credit, the Arizona native forced his way into the lineup.
Sabanosh hit .291 while making 25 starts behind the dish, adding 12 runs scored, two doubles, a triple, and nine runs batted in, against mostly left-handed pitching. His defense lagged a bit behind his bat, as he threw out just 6 of 27 baserunners attempting to steal, and is an area where there is room for improvement.
Pairing Sabanosh with Gretz gives Ohio State a stable foundation both behind the plate and as a ballclub in general. If the two seniors can set the tone for the Buckeyes, the team should be steady all season.
Providing depth and soaking in the experience of Ohio State's two senior catchers is the freshman McDonough. A product of Cincinnati St. Xavier High School, McDonough struggled a bit during the Scarlet and Gray Series last fall, going 3-15 with an RBI, while splitting time between catcher and third base. That one run batted in, however, was a walk-off game-winner that came when the newcomer lined a double off the left field wall against closer Trace Dempsey.
McDonough may not see much playing time in his first season in Columbus, but he has the opportunity to sit and learn behind two of the Buckeyes' best.