Season Review: Baseball ends 18-year hiatus from OAC Tournament, posts fifth consecutive winning season in 2018

Season Review: Baseball ends 18-year hiatus from OAC Tournament, posts fifth consecutive winning season in 2018

By Caleb Scott

ADA -- The Ohio Northern baseball team lived up to its high expectations in 2018 as it ended an 18-year Ohio Athletic Conference tournament drought and posted its fifth straight winning season under the guidance of seventh-year head coach Gene Stechschulte.

The Polar Bears finished the season 27-15 overall and 11-7 in the OAC and were tied for third in the OAC standings as it punched it ticket to the OAC Tournament for the first time since the 2000 campaign.

Six athletes were named All-OAC in 2018 for their efforts during the season.

Juniors Luke Klinehoffer (Zanesville/John Glenn) and Caleb Thomas (Strongsville) and sophomore Josh Mohr (Oregon/Clay) were each named First Team All-OAC, while senior Hayden Shenefield (Powell/Worthington Kilbourne) and junior Austin Frey (Peoria, Az./Sunrise Mountain) were named Second Team All-OAC and sophomore Nate Bye (Thorntown, Ind./Western Boone) garnered Honorable Mention All-OAC honors.

Klinehoffernow a 2-time All-OAC honoree, was named First Team All-OAC for the first time in his career after being named Honorable Mention All-OAC in 2017.

The junior ranked second in the OAC with a .399 batting average and led the league with 71 hits. His 71 hits this season broke a 14-year old school record for most hits in a single season. Klinehoffer also led the charge as Northern set a new team record for hits in a single season (466), breaking the former school record from 1986.

Klinehoffer moved into 28th place all-time at ONU with 134 career hits, while his 48 runs scored this season ranks fourth all-time at ONU in a single season.

Luke was also named to the 2018 OAC Tournament All-Tournament team and earned ABCA/Rawlings Third Team All-Mideast Region and D3baseball.com Second Team All-Mideast honors for his efforts.

Thomas made his debut on the All-OAC list, being named First Team All-OAC after a strong season for Northern.

The junior led the team with 38 RBI this season and wad tied for second on the team with four home runs.

He saw career-high numbers this season in hits (48), RBI (38), home runs (4) and doubles (12).

Mohr also made his debut as a member of an All-OAC team this season after being named First Team All-OAC in 2018.

The sophomore had a career year on the mound for Northern, arguably becoming the ace of the staff.

Josh led the team and ranked second in the OAC this season with a 1.93 ERA and led the team with 57 strikeouts in 10 appearances this season.

His .215 opponents batting average ranks eighth all-time at Northern in a single season.

Mohr was also named Second Team All-Mideast Region for his efforts.

Shenefieldthe OAC's batting average champion in 2018, was named Second Team All-OAC, earning an All-Conference nod for the first time in his 4-year career.

The senior second basemen led the league and was the only player in the conference to hit above .400, finishing the season with a .426 batting average. He now owns sole possession of tenth place on ONU's all-time single season batting average list, while his 63 hits ranked second on the team and is tied for the fourth best mark in a single season in school history.

Shenefield also ended his career as a member of ONU's .300 Club, posting a career batting average of .338, which is tied for 22nd place all-time at Northern.

Frey also earned his first All-Conference accolade in 2018 after being named Second Team All-OAC.

In 10 appearances, Frey boasted an impressive 7-2 record on the mound with 44 strikeouts. His seven victories led the team and were tied for the third best mark in the OAC this season.

The junior tossed two complete games and threw a career-high 11 strikeouts in a victory at Bluffton this season.

Bye became a big piece of the Polar Bear pitching staff as he earned his first career All-Conference honor after being named Honorable Mention All-OAC in 2018.

After only throwing 9.0 innings his freshman season, Bye saw significant time on the mound and posted career high marks in innings pitched (52.2), appearances (11), victories (4), and strikeouts (42).

The sophomore was impressive on the mound with a 4-1 record this season. He was also named to the 2018 OAC Tournament All-Tournament team.

Senior Brandon Kasberg (Mentor), juniors Blake Lester (Chesepeake), Jackson Buda (Norton), Thomas and Frey, and sophomores Scott Beaton (Novi, Mich.) and Tommy Vlasek (Richfield/Revere) all earned Academic All-OAC honors for Northern.

After being named First Team Academic All-District 7 by CoSIDA, Thomas moved on to the All-America ballot, where he was voted to the Second Team.

Thomas was named Second Team Academic All-America by the College Sports Information Directors of America, becoming only the second player in school history to earn Academic All-America status for the ONU baseball program.

ONU opened the season with a solid performance during its annual spring break trip in Florida as it returned home boasting a 7-3 record.

After an impressive 3-game series sweep over Thomas More (Ky.) to open the northern part of its schedule, Northern dropped the next three contests on the schedule.

The Polar Bears were able to rebound by winning eight straight and nine of their next 11 contests.

ONU was able to keep in the hunt for the OAC Tournament before dropping back-to-back contests to end its regular season.

Facing a 3-way tie for third place in the OAC standings, Northern earned the No. 4 seed in the OAC tournament to earn a spot in the OAC tournament for the first time in 18 years.

The Polar Bears dropped back-to-back contests to No. 1-seeded Otterbein and No. 2-seeded Marietta to end its season.