2021 Baseball Outlook
The College of the Ozarks baseball team is coming off a partial 2020 campaign, which was ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. At the end of the season, the Bobcats had an 8-13 record. Heading into the 2021 season, the Bobcats and Head Coach Neale Richardson are hard at work to make themselves prepared for a hopefully deep postseason run.
Entering his seventh season, Richardson has tallied a 155-134 record, including three 30-win seasons and numerous post-season appearances. In support of Richardson, sixth-year assistant Justin McMillin returns to develop the Bobcat pitching staff this year.
Richardson and McMillin have worked endlessly recruiting quality players to help offset the loss of several key seniors from 2020, which include Westin Gann, Kyle Giefer, Joel Ogletree, and Connor Pomering.
The Bobcats’ 2021 roster is comprised of 27 eligible players, featuring five seniors and seven juniors who will provide leadership by example for eight sophomores, and seven new freshman recruits.
Sean Neal, a senior southpaw who had 4 starts on the mound and 4 pitching appearances from the pen last season, will look to continue to improve his ERA this season. Neal ended the limited season last year with 17 strikeouts over 25 innings pitched. Junior Ryan Daggs returns to the mound again this season after starting two games before injury last season. In those two games, he held a 2-0 record with 13 innings pitched and a 1.38 ERA. Trent Hyde, a junior, returns to the mound this season and hopes to capitalize on any opportunity he gets. In the limited season last year, Hyde struck out three over four innings. This season will feature seven sophomore arms. Rhett Hill leads the sophomores and had a great start to his career as a Bobcat on the mound last year. Hill pitched in three games and pitched a complete game last season. He finished with a 1-0 record with an ERA of 1.72. Joe Lee also returns this season as a reliable arm from the bullpen. Last year, Lee had 6 appearances and pitched an inning each game. Sophomore Tad Jones started 1 game last season and had 8 appearance in relief. He threw 20 innings and finished the season with a 2-2 record with 17 strikeouts. Sophomore Riley Loyd started in 4 games last season with 11 innings pitched. In those 11 innings, Riley struck out 5 batters. Colin Pyatt, Neco Lopez, and Tyler Buchanan are also sophomores who plan to see time on the mound this season. This year’s freshman class features a pair of promising arms for Richardson’s squad. Ryan Jones, a southpaw from Oklahoma looks to continue his promising career here at College of the Ozarks. Jones threw a perfect game in high school and the Bobcats coaching staff hopes to see that this season. Ivan Vuckovic, a righthanded pitcher from Serbia, hopes to also impress the coaching staff here after leading his high school team as captain. Paxton Smith, from Reeds Spring, MO, also joins the team in hopes to provide some quality innings on the mound.
Lincoln Rasmussen will continue to see time behind the plate as catcher. The senior is a noted hard worker that makes the most of his at bats. Last season, he hit .231 in 52 at bats, including a pair of homeruns. Chuck Hill, a sophomore transfer from Drury University, will enter his first year playing with the Bobcats. Hill looks to become another reliable catcher for Richardson’s squad after being named an All-Conference player at Ozark High School. Two freshmen join the squad this semester to provide additional depth behind the dish. Lane McLevain, from Cooter, MO, was named an All-State athlete in high school, and looks to bring this talent to the team this year.
Senior Dawson Nimmo will be a leader in the infield this year. Last season, Nimmo had 17 at-bats and hit .353 with 5 RBIs. Junior Ryan Daggs will continue to patrol the hot corner for the Bobcats when he is not providing innings on the mound. An injury in Daggs sophomore season limited him to only 10 games. In those games, Ryan contributed 3 homeruns, a batting average just shy of .300, and a slugging percentage of .594 from the plate. Junior Chandler Tidwell will continue to fight for playing time this season. Tidwell made an appearance in four games last season. Junior Spencer Greene will make a move from the mound to the field this season and hopes to also provide a steady bat for the Bobcats. Last season, Greene had an on base percentage of .333 in his 16 at-bats. Freshman Neco Lopez will play a role in the infield as well as the mound after redshirting the previous year. Three freshmen will also look to play a part in a stacked infield this season. Caleb Johnson, a redshirt freshman from Ava, MO, sat out last season to finish his National Guard training. Jacob Watkins, a true freshman from Caruthersville, MO, was an All-State baseball player and received All-Conference awards every year of high school. Finally, Cadan Kauffman, a true freshman from Weaubleau, MO, also received All-State accolades in high school, and hopes to show his talent on the diamond for the Bobcats.
Senior Max Pulley returns to right field to lead the outfield for his final season. In last year’s limited season, Pulley started in 19 of the 21 games played. He had a .328 average with 4 doubles and 3 home runs and was walked 13 times. Senior Zach Ford also returns to patrol left field. Last season he hit .326 with 2 doubles. He also led the team with 12 stolen bases. Junior Kyle Abrahamson is back to protect center field this season. Last season he hit .258 with 4 doubles. He also led the outfield in fielding and committed no errors. Junior Zac Salyers, a transfer from Three Rivers College, looks to make an immediate impact to the team. Last year at Three Rivers, Salyers had 4 RBIs in the limited season. One freshman will join the veteran outfield this season. Andrew Martinez, a freshman from Purdy, MO, was named an All-State player in high school, and hopes to provide additional depth in the outfield this season.
“I am excited to see this team take the field,” says Richardson. “It is a very talented group that works hard, has good chemistry, and is a good representation of the College. Our mix of returning offense, along with a talented young pitching staff, should be fun to watch.”
This year’s 48-game schedule will find the Bobcats at home for the majority of their season. Each year, Coach Richardson has continued to intentionally ramp up the Bobcats’ schedule, and this year is no exception. The 2021 schedule is designed to push the team toward continued improvement and prepare them for a deep post-season run. The Bobcats are set to face off with NAIA #9 Freed-Hardeman in four games, NAIA RV Concordia in three games, NAIA #2 Science and Arts in three games, and NCAA Division II Southwest Baptist in two games.
Richardson states, “We are going to use this season’s schedule to challenge our players to perform with the best and test our own mettle. Overall, the coaching staff feels really good about this group.”
We are looking forward to a great season. Come out and join us at Coach Bob Smith Field on the College campus, as we cheer on our 2021 Baseball Bobcats!