In 2016, and for the three years before that, the Cincinnati Bearcats were blessed to have a steady presence at backstop in the form of Woody Wallace. The 5’9” Lewis Center, Ohio-native didn’t blow the world away average wise (.244 career) but he was a solid defender behind the dish, throwing out 31.1 percent of would-be base stealers while launching 37 extra base hits in four years. He also mashed six home runs as a senior, tying for the team-lead.
Wallace is gone now, however, which leaves a major question mark for Ty Neal and his staff for the 2017 campaign. There are four catchers on the roster to choose from, but it will take some time before the team forgets about Wallace.
In the meantime, junior Joey Thomas likely has the inside track to become the regular starter. As a sophomore he played in 19 games, including nine starts. His limited time yielded a slash line of .209/.227/.256 and two extra base hits, so there is clearly room for improvement with the bat. But he did throw out 37.5 percent of potential base stealers and committed only two errors in 91 chances, giving credence to the idea that he can at least be a secure defensive catcher.
Mason DeAnna, a sophomore, is the other returning player at the position. He only had seven plate appearances last season, paying in three games total. A 5’9” native of Olmstead Falls, Ohio, DeAnna won a number of regional and sectional championships in high school and was named St. Edward High School’s defensive MVP in 2014 and 2015, so there’s promise there at least in terms of defending.
Josh Wooten and Wyatt Schwing are the newcomers to the team who will try to get time behind the plate. Schwing is the more intriguing of the two, as a an All-Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference selection in 2016. Wooten was a three-year letterwinner for North Central High School in Carmel, Indiana.
Its clear that the catching post has been recharged but until one player separates himself, the Bearcats will be missing Wallace dearly.