The Ohio State baseball team was dealt a blow after the end of the 2017 season when senior shortstop Jalen Washington graduated and left for professional baseball.
The two-time captain was not only one of the most productive hitters for the team, but he also gave the Buckeyes a veteran dynamic it lacked.
“I think the thing we’ll miss more than anything is his leadership and his presence in our clubhouse,” head coach Greg Beals said.
One of the people tasked with helping replace him will be Kobie Foppe, a transfer from South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. It will not be easy.
Washington was a versatile defender who could play both catcher and shortstop. He consistently hit in the top two positions of the lineup, tying for the team lead with both seven home runs and 14 stolen bases. He led the Buckeyes with 38 RBI and was the only player to appear in all 56 games.
Foppe is set to be the team’s starting shortstop to open the season.
Despite being touted as the 10th-best high-school prospect from Arizona in the 2014 class by baseball scouting service Perfect Game, Foppe went the junior college route.
“I originally was gonna go to [Arizona State University] out of high school,” Foppe said. “Unfortunately there were a couple events that didn’t work out the way I would have wanted to, but going to South Mountain I think was actually probably better for me in turn.”
Beals said he and his staff do their best to maintain connections with junior colleges in Arizona. Beals specifically reached out to his junior college contacts for a shortstop to add to the Buckeyes’ 2017 recruiting class.
“We felt like that shortstop spot was somebody that we wanted to have some experience,” Beals said. “We felt like whomever was coming in needed to step in and play right away.”
Foppe was identified as having the abilities Beals wanted. Then it became just a matter of convincing the Phoenix native that Columbus was the place for him.
Foppe was sold on his visit.
“I came on a gameday when they played Purdue. It was what they say, what they preach here, a brotherhood,” Foppe said. “That was really appealing to me and that ended up being a deciding factor.”
In addition to a fielding style Beals termed “smooth,” Foppe has a vice grip on the mechanics required to play shortstop.
“Just his instincts around the position,” Beals said. “The angles that he takes, just a real solid feel for baseball and a knack for being in the right spot.”
Beals also is confident in the double-play combination created by Foppe and second baseman Brady Cherry.
“They’re doing really well together,” Beals said. “Cherry has a lot of arm strength, which is usually not a characteristic of a second baseman, so that facilitates a good double-play turn.”
Now that he’s earned his starting role, Foppe wants to improve his offensive consistency to help contribute to the batting order. He doesn’t expect to fully replace Washington in home run or RBI production, but Beals does not need that from him.
“This lineup, while it may not have a [former Ohio State left fielder] Ronnie Dawson in it, I like the one through nine and the depth within this lineup,” Beals said. “The vision of this offense is to be really tough, and wear down a pitching staff because of the quality of the at-bat we’re gonna be able to give top to bottom.”
Foppe’s debut with the Buckeyes occurs on Feb. 16 when the team opens the 2018 season in Port Charlotte, Florida, in the Snowbird Classic.