Season Review: Baseball competes on a national level in 2015

Season Review: Baseball competes on a national level in 2015

By Tim Glon

ADA — The Ohio Northern baseball team competed on a national level in 2015.

Under fourth-year head coach Gene Stechschulte, the Polar Bears posted a 30-9 record, finished in a 4-way tie for second place in the very difficult Ohio Athletic Conference with a 12-6 record and were ranked No. 18 in the final regular season poll.

ONU enjoyed a 4-2 record in games against teams ranked in the top 25 nationally, which included a 3-2 record on the road in those games.

Northern set a school record by winning 58 games over the past two seasons.

Senior outfielder Dan Belliveau and junior pitcher/infielder Nick Eltzroth were each named First Team All-Conference and were Second Team All-Mideast Region in 2015.

Belliveau led the team and ranked among the league leaders with a .367 batting average, 8 home runs, 50 RBI, 54 runs scored and a .633 slugging percentage.

He ended his career as ONU's all-time leader in total bases (319) and at-bats (580) and tied for the top spot with 15 career triples.

Belliveau was also second in base hits (196) and runs scored (147).

Eltzroth was one of the top players in the OAC both on the mound and in the field.

On the mound, he led the Polar Bears with a 7-3 record, 51 strikeouts and 66.0 innings pitched and had a solid 3.41 ERA, earning a decision in all 10 of his starts.

When not pitching, he played first or third base and was second on the team in batting average at .364 with a team-best five triples and 26 RBI.

Eltzroth became only the third Polar Bear in school history to join the 100-Hit Club and the 100-K Club with 100 base hits at the plate and 100 strikeouts on the mound in his career.

Four other Polar Bears earned All-Conference accolades.

Senior Jack LaMarca, junior Alex Crabtree and freshman Jordan Bostater were named Second Team All-OAC and freshmen T.J. Storer was named Honorable Mention All-Conference.

LaMarca hit .320 with 4 home runs, 32 RBI and a team-high 19 stolen bases while starting all 39 games in center field.

LaMarca is the first ONU baseball player in at least a generation to hit for the cycle, and he did it on two occasions this year.

The first time was on March 2 in a 17-3 victory over Northland (Wis.) in Ft. Myers, Fla., and he did it again on April 19 in a 19-6 home victory over area-rival Bluffton.

Crabtree finished the season with a 6-0 record, a 3.20 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 50.2 innings of work.

He will head into his senior year with a 9-3 career record, 3 saves, 77 strikeouts and a 3.12 ERA in 89.1 innings.

Bostater started 34 games as a corner infielder and finished his rookie season with an impressive .361 average, 7 doubles and 37 RBI.

Storer was dominant out of the bullpen, posting a 2-0 record with a team-high 5 saves and a team-low 2.20 ERA.

He averaged a team-best 8.79 strikeouts per 9 innings, totaling 28 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.

Eight Polar Bears earned Academic All-OAC honors in 2015.

Crabtree, senior Derek Lenardos, juniors Ben Glischinski, Cody Meyer and Cal Von Stein and sophomores Zach Foster, Rob Cremeans and Brandyn Reinhart all earned the award.

ONU had a good balance of offense and pitching to key its success.

Offensively, Ohio Northern was solid, averaging 7.51 runs per game with a .298 team batting average. Seven ONU regulars hit .300 or better on the year.

On the mound, Stechschulte's group led the Conference with a 3.33 staff ERA and had 10 individuals with ERAs of 3.97 or lower.

The Polar Bears started the season strong, going 9-1 on its spring break trip to the Gene Cusic Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla.

ONU returned home to win its first seven games, including double header sweeps of Trine (Ind.) and Wilmington.

The 16-1 start was the best in school history and the 13-game winning streak was one shy of the school record 14 set by the 1974 NCAA III World Series squad.

ONU would suffer its only 2-game losing streak of the season to end March with a 16-3 record.

The OAC featured six different nationally-ranked squads during the course of the season, and the Polar Bears posted a 5-5 record against the other five teams in that category, splitting double headers with all of them.

Northern finished the season with seven double header sweeps and six double header splits and was not swept once all year.

ONU was 10-2 in the friendly confines of Wander Field, was 10-5 on the road and was 9-2 in neutral site games.

The Polar Bears had an outstanding final week of the regular season, defeating No. 7-ranked Wooster 3-1 and splitting a double header at No. 6 Heidelberg.

Northern appeared to be in position to make the 4-team OAC Tournament after the split at league champion Heidelberg.

But ONU lost the tie-breaker on run-differential and missed the tournament as the No. 5 seed, providing a disappointing end to an otherwise terrific 2015 season.