Southern Ohio Copperheads

The Southern Ohio Copperheads is a community-owned, student-operated collegiate summer baseball team based in Athens, Ohio. The team is a member of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League (GLSCL), one of 11 leagues in the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball (NACSB). In 2018, Southern Ohio won its first and only GLSCL Championship in franchise history.

Southern Ohio Copperheads
LeagueGreat Lakes Summer Collegiate League (South)
LocationAthens, Ohio
BallparkBob Wren Stadium
Year founded2002
League championships2018
ColorsGreen, Gold, and Orange
ManagerJonathon Shiver
General ManagerCharlie Clegg

The Copperheads play their home games at Bob Wren Stadium, which is also the home ballpark of the Ohio Bobcats baseball team. The current executive director is Annie Valeant, the General Manager of the Copperheads is Charlie Clegg, and the head coach of the Copperheads is Jonathon Shiver.


Early RootsEdit

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 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 SeasonEdit

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 AdditionsEdit

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 in 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 pitcherDavid Rubenstein.

2007: A Near MissEdit

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.

2008: A Year of Promise and DisappointmentEdit

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, the 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 streak in late July to force their way back into playoff contention. Only needing to win one game of an August 3 doubleheader against Lima Locos 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 by losing the season series 3-1.

2009-2010: The Florak EraEdit

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 Steam 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 HeightsEdit

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 to 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 55-34.

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 was 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 Licking County 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. In his second year at the helm, the Copperheads went 31-10 on their way to winning their first and only GLSCL Championship. Butler would end his career at 59-28 record.

2018: GLSCL ChampionsEdit

The 2018 Southern Ohio Copperheads.

The Copperheads capped off a historic season by bringing the first GLSCL Championship to Southern Ohio. Highlighted by a franchise record of 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.

2019: Dunfee EraEdit

Austin Dunfee, a Pomeroy, Ohio native who has played and coached for the Southern Ohio Copperheads for over 6 years, will take on the role of head coach for the 2019 GLSCL Season.

Dunfee graduated from Shawnee State University in 2013 with a Sports Management degree. He played his first season for the Copperheads in 2011. After graduating, Dunfee went on to work as an assistant coach for both the Copperheads and the Shawnee State Bears.

“I grew up down the road, watching the Copperheads play as a kid. Seeing the lights on, driving past, I always hoped that one day I’d be a part of their program,” said Dunfee. Now, with over six Copperheads seasons under his belt, Dunfee said being named head coach is “everything he’d hoped for.”

Dunfee is “ecstatic” for the upcoming season and has two main goals in mind: to bring home another championship, and for his players to return to their respective schools with more experience, skills, and knowledge.

Dunfee ended his 2011 season playing for the Copperheads with a 0.48 earned run average. He still holds the Shawnee State University records for career wins (27), strikeouts in a season (82), and complete games in a season (13). During his time playing for the Bears, the team brought home one conference title and one championship title.

The Copperheads finished the regular season 23-18 but missed the playoffs.

2020/2021: Covid-19 CancellationsEdit

On March 11, 2019, the sports world shut down uncertain when baseball will return. But as days past the probability of playing in the summer of 2020 wasn't looking very clear and on May 20, 2020, the GLSCL official announced the cancellation of the 2020 season.

"In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting government regulations, the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League Board of Directors has voted to cancel the 2020 season. The directors determined it would be impossible to operate effectively while ensuring the safety of all involved. The GLSCL would like to thank our dedicated directors, officers, volunteers and sponsors for their loyalty and support. We look forward to bringing you the best summer collegiate baseball in the Midwest in 2021."[1]

On 22 February 2021, while the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League returned for the 2021 season the Southern Ohio Copperheads announced that they will not be playing in 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic and for the long-term financial success of the franchise.[2]

In the Summer of 2021, without baseball, the Copperheads went back into the communities of Southeast Ohio to give back to the fans and community that has supported them. They held youth camps[3][4] throughout the local area and each athlete got to hang out with the Copperheads students and staff while improving their skills. In July they held the first annual Copperheads Community Cup.[5]

2022: The Return Of Baseball To AthensEdit

After not being able to play ball for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Copperheads were excited to return in 2022 under second-year head coach TJ Lanning of Montreat College, the Copperheads entered the summer with unknown expectations after not being able to play the past two summers. Under the direction of second-year head coach TJ Lanning of Montreat College, the Copperheads would finish the season 15-23 overall and finish last in the GLSCL. Despite the poor overall record, the Copperheads were setting new records in the record books led by GLSCL Offense Player of the year in Kyle Ratliff of SIU Edwardsville who would go on to crush the franchise home runs record and reset it at 11. Carson Shepard of Ohio University would set the Hit by Pitch record which now sits at 13.

Some of the most memorable moments of the season were "The Return" aka the first home game where the Copperheads won on a walk-off sac fly by Joshua Steidl scoring Ian Krump.

Another memorable moment came when the team celebrated their 20th-anniversary game which included inviting back former key figures who got the Copperheads started back to be recognized and celebrated. The Copperheads also held an international night which involved having student groups from Brazil at the game who went crazy as they were experiencing their first American sporting event in person. The Copperheads held a game where they invited the Ohio University Marching 110 to come and perform.

The Southern Ohio Copperheads partnered up with Turn It Gold (TIG), a non-profit organization that raises awareness with families impacted by childhood cancers, which included the help of local business Precision Imprints, which made custom gold uniforms for the Copperheads players and staff, along with Passion Works Studio who help decorate the stadium. The players, coaches, staffers, and the community recognized that tonight's game was much more than a baseball game and not only for childhood cancer but to shine a light on cancer and other causes in general. The Copperheads won the game 14-3 over Grand Lake Mariners when Kyle Ratliff hit a walk-off game-ending grand slam to end the very special night.

Off the field, the Copperheads staff of Ohio University students had the challenge of reuniting a community of a team that had been the lifeline of town in the summer times which was gone the previous two summers without a local baseball team to cheer for. With many unknowns, the Copperheads staff put together a marketing plan to reunite the community with their favorite local team. The plan and community support were alive still, after not playing the previous two years. The Copperheads lead the league in attendance this season which was surprising to some. The staff also held many community events such as tabling at local events such as little league games and local farmers markets, along with reading days, baseball camps, and pool days with thought the season.

The 2022 team and staff were recognized by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce as the 2022 winners of the Community Support Award, which was created in 2014 to honor a business or individual who exemplifies community by going above and beyond to support the Athens Area for a variety of causes in the area.

2023: Shiver EraEdit

On September 28, 2022, the Copperheads announced that Jonathon Shiver, a 27-year-old native of Jacksonville, Florida will be at the helm of snake baseball for next summer. Shiver is currently the Hitting Coach / Transfer Recruiter for Olivet Nazarene University, a private institution in Illinois that competes in NAIA.

Shiver himself was a collegiate baseball player, having played at Lander University for one year, and Trinity Baptist for four years.

This upcoming summer will be Shiver’s first opportunity to coach a summer league collegiate organization, and he could not be more excited to take on the role. Shiver states, “I think summer ball is a great time for players to relax, have fun and really work on their game. It is the perfect environment to just enjoy baseball and be a college athlete. I want to help kids who need to develop but also make it to where the kids show up every day knowing they’re going to enjoy the day.”[6]

Season RecordsEdit

(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
  • 2019: 23-18 (3rd), manager Austin Dunfee
  • 2020: NO SEASON COVID-19 pandemic
  • 2021: NO SEASON COVID-19 pandemic, manager TJ Lanning
  • 2022: 15-23 (7th), manager TJ Lanning
  • 2023: TBD (TBD), manager Jonathon Shiver

Totals: 414-348 (.543)

GLSCL Playoff AppearancesEdit

  • 2002
  • 2004
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2009 - GLSCL Runner-Up
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2013
  • 2014 - GLSCL Runner-up
  • 2015
  • 2017
  • 2018 - GLSCL Champions

Playoff Appearances: 13

Major League Draft PicksEdit

















  1. ^ "GLSCL 2020 Season Cancelled | Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League".
  2. ^ "Southern Ohio Copperheads on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2022-04-30.[user-generated source]
  3. ^ "Southern Ohio Copperheads Give Back to Community Through Youth Clinics". 29 June 2021.
  4. ^ "Southern Ohio Copperheads on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2022-04-30.[user-generated source]
  5. ^ "Southern Ohio Copperheads on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2022-04-30.[user-generated source]
  6. ^ "COPPERHEADBASEBALL.COM". Retrieved 2023-01-05.

External linksEdit