Southern Ohio Copperheads

The Southern Ohio Copperheads are a collegiate summer baseball team based in Athens, Ohio. The team is a member of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, one of 11 leagues in the National Alliance of Summer Baseball. In 2018, Southern Ohio won its first GLSCL Championship in franchise history.

Southern Ohio Copperheads
LeagueGreat Lakes Summer Collegiate League
LocationAthens, Ohio
BallparkBob Wren Stadium
Year founded2002
League championships2018
ColorsGreen, Gold, and Orange
OwnershipSouthern Ohio Copperheads Limited Partners
ManagerAustin Dunfee
General ManagerKayla Hunter
PresidentBill H'eureux

The Copperheads play their home games at Bob Wren Stadium, which is also the home of the Ohio Bobcats baseball team. The current General Manager of the Copperheads is Kaleb Sislowski and the Head Coach is Phil Butler.


Early Roots

The inception of the Southern Ohio Copperheads baseball team began in the spring of 2002, with a conversation between two prominent Ohio University officials. Dr. Andy Kreutzer, director of the Sports Administration program at Ohio University and Alan Geiger, assistant to the president of Ohio University, began a discussion about summer in Athens, Ohio and the need for affordable, family entertainment. Their conversation slowly drifted to other university officials and civic leaders looking for activities in the summer and the idea of a baseball team in Athens started to gain momentum. It really picked up when Joe Carbone, head baseball coach Ohio University, recommended the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League because it was coming to town for a weekend in the summer of 2001.

Bob Wren Stadium, the home park of Ohio University baseball), played host to an exhibition game between Team USA and the Great Lakes League All Stars on July 15, 2001. Nearly 1000 fans came out to enjoy a day of summer baseball, and the game was considered a great success. Following the game, Dr. Andy Kreutzer stated, “We received a lot of really positive feedback from the all star game and the success led us to believe that southern Ohio would support a team."

Slowly, the small group started to grow through phone calls and recruitment. John Wharton, former Chairman of the Copperheads Board of Directors, was recruited because of his ties to Ohio University baseball. As a major fundraiser for the Bobcats, he was a natural supporter of a new initiative for summer baseball in Athens.

Other board members came in slowly in the drive to make summer baseball a reality. Dave Palmer, current team general manager and owner of local radio station WXTQ/WATH, wasn't involved at the beginning, but after seeing the exhibition game he became convinced that a baseball team in Athens was a viable idea. "The summer months here are slower paced and more relaxed," Palmer said. "I saw this as an opportunity to bring an athletic event to the summer months that will really enrich the region's life."

With a full roster of business, academic and community leaders in place, the group decided to come together formally at the end of the summer of 2001 and create an organizational structure. The non profit organization listed three goals for the team: Providing family entertainment in southern Ohio, offering a great opportunity for collegiate players to develop and improve their skill levels, and creating a laboratory learning environment for students at Ohio University. The next step was gaining acceptance into the Great Lakes League as a new franchise, and that word came in September 2001. With acceptance from the league, the board now had just over nine months to make baseball in Athens a reality. With a structure in place, the team needed a business plan, which they got by working in conjunction with the Ohio University Master's of Business Administration program. A group of eight students, which included three sports administration students, worked closely with the board for eight weeks and produced a 157-page business plan that the board has followed closely in building the team.

As the winter months were passing, the team named Scott Googins, then an assistant coach of the Miami Redhawks baseball team, as its first head coach. Googins started to put his roster together for the new team, while the Board of Directors organized a contest to name the team and after two weeks of suggestions the Copperheads was chosen as the team's name. Local artist Tad Gallaugher was called upon to create the logo that would grace the team's uniforms, caps and merchandise.

The team began to take shape, and work was being done around the clock, fitting in between business meetings and classes. The board continued its strong leadership and several sports administration students were called upon to take the lead in finding sponsorships, selling tickets and various other duties. To assist Andy Kreutzer, who was named the team's General Manager, a handful of sports administration students took positions with the team. Nathan Kievman, a second year sports administration graduate student, was named Assistant General Manager. Two first year students were also named Assistant Managers: Steve Frohwerk, Operations, and Chris Boggs, Merchandise and Concessions.

Inaugural Season

Under the leadership of Coach Googins, the newly formed team first took the field on June 12, 2002 against the now-defunct Youngstown Express. The team lost by a margin of 6-4, and followed up with another loss to the Pittsburgh Pandas. The Copperheads played their first home game at Bob Wren Stadium on June 15, 2002 in a doubleheader against the Delaware Cows, ultimately losing both games by scores of 4-2 and 14-3. On June 16, the team finally broke into the win column with a 7-6 victory over the Northern Ohio Baseball Club. The Copperheads ultimately ended with an 18-22 record, finishing in seventh place out of ten clubs. Five future professional players suited up for the 2002 Copperheads, including current White Sox pitch Adam Russell.

2003-2006: New Editions

The 2003 Copperheads were coached by University of Dayton Assistant Coach Todd Linklater. Paced by Ohio University star Anthony Gressick and his .353 batting average, the team finished with a 19-20 record and made the league playoffs for the first time in team history. Featuring 9 future professional players, the 2003 team would prove to be the best Copperheads squad until 2006.

In 2004, the Copperheads also featured 9 future professional players, but struggled throughout most of the season with a 16-23 record. Despite finishing the season with a 5-game winning streak, the team just missed the playoffs and finished in eighth place out of nine teams. Coached by University of Kentucky assistant Brad Bohannon, the squad was led by current minor league stars Ryan Norwood, Victor Alvarez, and Joe Mihalics.

The lowest point in Copperheads’ franchise history was undoubtedly the 2005 season. Under the direction of current Ohio University assistant Andrew See, the team lumbered to a 17-25 finish that placed them seventh out of eight league teams. Featuring just five future professionals, the squad was led by Ohio University star and current Cincinnati Reds minor leaguer Matt Stiffler.

The resurgence of the Copperheads began with the 2006. Winthrop University assistant coach Stas Swerdzewski brought in a talented group of players and coaches that led the team to its first winning record and a league playoff appearance. The Copperheads would go on to post a 21-19 record, and ultimately produced four professional players. The team once again was paced by Ohio University star Matt Stiffler, and also enjoyed the services of Appalachian State star pitcher David Rubenstein.

2007: A Near Miss

The Copperheads’ 2007 squad proved to be the best in the brief history of the franchise. Led by Marietta College assistant coach Mike Deegan, the team finished 23-15, good for sixth place out of eleven league teams. For the third year in a row, Ohio University outfielder Matt Stiffler led the team in hitting, while John Karr and Chuck Boring paced the Copperheads’ pitchers. The team ultimately advanced to the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League playoffs, winning its first two games over the Lima Locos and the Cincinnati Steam. A loss to eventual champion Columbus forced the Copperheads into a must-win game over the Delaware Cows, which they lost 9-8. Despite going into the ninth inning with an 8-3 lead, poor relief pitching by Kyle Cowden and a fielding error by Zach Hartle cost the team a spot in the league championship game.

2008: A Year of Promise and Disappointment

On paper, the 2008 season had the potential to be the best in Copperheads history. Esteemed Shawnee State University head coach Ted Tom led the team along with talented assistants Andrew Engebretson and Chris Moore. Featuring Northwestern University star outfielder Jake Goebbert, University of North Carolina at Asheville slugger Phillip Vaughn, and Ohio University pitcher Joe Stover, the squad started out the season strong. The Copperheads posted a 5-1 mark in their first six games, but faltered into a 7-game losing streak in early July. Proving resilient, however, Coach Tom's team posted a seven-game winning steak in late July to force their way back into playoff contention. Only needing to win one game of an August 3 doubleheader against Lima to enter the GLSCL playoffs, the Copperheads stumbled in both games to finish the season with a 19-21 record. Though tied for the sixth and final playoff berth, the squad lost the tiebreaker to Lake Erie through losing the season series 3-1.

2009-2010: The Florak Era

On October 30, 2008, Mike Florak was named the eighth manager of the Southern Ohio Copperheads. Florak coached the Youngstown State Penguins baseball team for nine years, leading the team to their first Horizon League title and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004. Coach Florak came to the team with a litany of off-field accomplishments as well, including being the author of the critically acclaimed autobiography "Healthier than Normal". Detailing his struggle with Crohn's disease, battle with depression and life in baseball, it has led to Florak's budding career as a motivational speaker.

Florak led the team to the best season in franchise history in 2009. The Copperheads' finished the regular season with an 18-16 record, including a season sweep of the Xenia Scouts and a 3-1 record against the league-leading Lima Locos. The Copperheads featured dominant starting pitching, led by Northwestern University pitcher Dave Jensen. Jensen set the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League ERA record, posting just a 0.30 ERA in 30.1 innings pitched. The Copperheads were also strong in the bullpen, featuring Marion Military Institute closer Jordan Langley and Marshall University set-up man Tyler Gatrell. The offense was led by Ohio University outfielder Jerod Yakubik, Southeast Missouri State infielder Trent Moses, and Sinclair Community College utilityman Justin Marerro.

The Copperheads' first season under Florak was highlighted by a run in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League Playoffs. The Copperheads defeated Licking County and Grand Lake to advance to their first-ever GLSCL title game. The team fell 4-2 to Cincinnati in a battle for the championship, finishing with a season record of 20-18.

On August 12, 2009 it was reported by Athens radio station WATH that Mike Florak and assistants Chris Moore and Tim Culver would all return for the 2010 season. The 2010 Copperheads finished third in the league with a 24-16 record, narrowly missing the playoffs.

2011-2017: New Heights

For the 2011 season, Chris Moore, an assistant at Shawnee State University was brought on as manager. The 2011 Copperheads were the best team in franchise history, finishing atop the GLSCL standings with a 29-13 record. Despite the record-setting regular season, the team was unable to advance in the playoffs. Moore returned in 2012 and led the team to a 22-17 record and a second consecutive playoff appearance, again ending in a first round loss. The 2012 edition of the Copperheads were powered by catcher Blaise Salter who batted .319 and led the club with 7 home runs and 26 RBI. Justin Brantley led the pitching staff with 32.1 IP and a 5-1 record as a starter. 2012 would be Moore's last season in Athens, finishing his Copperheads career with a record of 51-30, best in team history.

Jonathan Nichols, an assistant under Florak and Moore, took the reins in 2013 and extended the Copperheads winning tradition. Jesse Puscheck was an offensive machine all year for Southern Ohio, with a .321 average and 44 RBI. Jordan Peterson, Alex Winkleman, and Eddie Fitzpatrick were standouts on the mound, combining for 83 strikeouts and a 12-4 record. The team again finished first in the GLSCL standings, but were upset by the Lima Locos in the first round of the playoffs.

The team would rebound in 2014 under Nichols, making the playoffs for the fourth straight season at 23-16. A balanced offense in which no player hit more than 3 home runs or 22 RBI and a pitching staff led by aces Brandyn Sittinger and Jake Miller took the Copperheads to the league championship series for the second time, and first since 2009. The Copperheads swept the Xenia Scouts in the league semifinals before falling to the Licking County Settlers in the finals.

For the 2015 season, Nichols again returned as manager along with veteran copperheads Brett Impemba, Roscoe Blackburn, Grant Wruble, and Eddie Fitzpatrick. The team was led by Ohio University's Connor Callery, who batted .359 and was named 2nd Team All-GLSCL. Callery was joined by ace pitcher Andrew Gonzalez and reliever Zach Moore on the All-League team. Trent Astle was named a GLSCL All-Star and had a bare-handed grab featured on ESPN's "Top 10 Plays." The Copperheads finished 4th in the league at 22-17 (unable to finish the final game due to rain) and fell in a one-game playoff to a familiar nemesis, the Settlers.

Phil Butler took over for Nichols in 2016, going 20-22 in his first season. The Copperheads missed the GLSCL playoffs for the first time in seven years in Butler's first season, but are hopeful 2017, his second year at the helm, will be different.

2018: GLSCL Champions

The Copperheads capped off a historic season by bringing the first GLSCL Championship to Southern Ohio. Highlighted by a franchise record 31 regular season wins, the Copperheads, under the reign of GLSCL Coach of the Year Phil Butler, finished first in the Southern Division. With the leadership of returning players Ty Suntken of Bowling Green State University and 2018 GLSCL Most Valuable Player Blaine Crim of Mississippi College, the Copperheads swept both the Hamilton Joes and Saginaw Sugar Beets en route to claiming the elusive league title on August 8, 2018.

At the conclusion of the 2018 season, seven Copperheads were presented with First Team GLSCL Honors: Michael Darrell-Hicks of Western Kentucky University, Gus Cunningham of Florida Southwestern State College, Blaine Crim of Mississippi College, Blake Holub of St. Edward's University, Joe Stewart of Michigan State University, Austin Weaver of St. Edward's University, and Thomas Zazzaro of Lee University. Zazzaro was also awarded the 2018 GLSCL All-Star Game MVP at the GLSCL All-Star Game on July 17, 2018.

Season Records

(Place listed is finish in Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League)

  • 2002: 18-22 (7th), manager Scott Googins
  • 2003: 19-20 (6th), manager Todd Linklater
  • 2004: 16-23 (8th), manager Brad Bohannon
  • 2005: 17-25 (7th), manager Andrew See
  • 2006: 20-19 (6th), manager Stas Swerdzewski
  • 2007: 23-15 (6th), manager Mike Deegan
  • 2008: 19-21 (T-6th), manager Ted Tom
  • 2009: 20-18 (5th), manager Mike Florak
  • 2010: 24-16 (3rd), manager Mike Florak
  • 2011: 29-13 (1st), manager Chris Moore
  • 2012: 22-17 (4th), manager Chris Moore
  • 2013: 25-15 (1st), manager Jonathan Nichols
  • 2014: 23-16 (2nd), manager Jonathan Nichols
  • 2015: 22-17 (4th), manager Jonathan Nichols
  • 2016: 20-22 (5th), manager Phil Butler
  • 2017: 24-17 (2nd), manager Phil Butler
  • 2018: 35-10 (1st), manager Phil Butler

Totals: 376-307 (.550)

GLSCL Playoff Appearances

  • 2003
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2009 - GLSCL Runner-Up
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2013
  • 2014 - GLSCL Runner-up
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018 - GLSCL Champions

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