Prep Baseball Report

Ohio is Becoming a Target for Top Collegiate Programs

By Chris Webb

Gone are the days when Ohio State, if nothing else by name alone, could expect to be one of an Ohio prepster?s final choices when deciding where to play college baseball. As college baseball has reached new heights of exposure and interest, so to have the expectations of winning by enlarged fanbases. With the demand for success comes the desire to find, recruit, and bring in top players. While Ohio does not hold the raw number of top-end talent as warmer locales such as Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, and Arizona, the state?s elite can stack up pound-for-pound with players from around the country.

And colleges are noticing.

When Ohio State?s head coaching position was vacated with the retirement of Bob Todd, the five finalists were Ball State Head Coach Greg Beals, who ultimately was offered and accepted the position, Indiana Heach Coach Tracy Smith, Kent State Head Coach Scott Stricklin, and two assistants Louisville?s Chris Lemonis, and Virginia?s Kevin McMullan.  The first three have lengthy resumes of success as head coaches, many expected Ohio State to target those, while the latter duo speaks to the power of recruiting.

Though slightly south of Ohio, Louisville isn?t exactly graced with 70-degree days in March and April. Nor do they play in a power conference as the Cardinals call the Big East home. But since his arrival at Louisville, which coincided with the hiring of Head Coach Dan McDonnell, Lemonis has regularly brought in top-25 classes, helping Louisville emerge seemingly overnight into a consistent top-25 national contending team, highlighted by their 2007 trip to Omaha, and 2010 national-seed season.

Like Lemonis, McMullan has earned the reputation as one of the nation?s top recruiters. For the better part of two seasons Virginia has been atop of collegiate baseball polls, currently unanimously the top team in America sitting first in polls by Baseball America, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, College Baseball News, PerfectGame USA, and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches.

The similarities between Lemonis and McMullan do not stop with being finalists for the OSU vacancy and top recruiters, the two are part of big-time programs making in-roads in the Ohio recruiting scene.

Currently there are four players on the Louisville roster, two of which were top seniors last season in Adam Engel from Loveland and Dace Kime from Defiance. Louisville has already secured a commitment from top 2012 player Anthony Kidston.

While Virginia does not currently have an Ohio native on their team, the school was one of the final few in consideration for juniors Taylore Cherry and Matt Smoral. The Cavaliers are in the running for the top uncommitted junior in Tucker Linder, and are expected to be one of the frontrunners for top sophomore Walsh Jesuit catcher Cassidy Brown.

With teams such as North Carolina (Cherry, Smoral, and Allie), Tennessee (Schroeder, Martin, and Maloney), Georgia (Mancuso), LSU (Ware), and Georgia Tech (Lavisky and Dietrich), teams up and down the top 25 are aware of Ohio?s talent.

During a summer event, Lemonis was sitting beside McMullan when tounge-in-cheek he texted me, ?I hope they know that in turning us down we?re going to recruit that area even harder now.? As a loaded 2012 class prepares to hit the summer circuit, with a not-too-shabby sophomore class behind, expected more big-time schools to be in the hunt for big-time names here in Ohio.