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April 18, 2024

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Experience optional: the success of the youngest catcher room in the MAC

Catcher+Cooper+McKenzie+throwing+ball+back+to+pitcher+after+a+strike.
Keira Ellenberger, FMSN
Catcher Cooper McKenzie throwing ball back to pitcher after a strike.

Every baseball team in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) this season has a catcher older than a sophomore. 

Except for the first place Bowling Green Falcons. 

Longtime BGSU catcher Kyle Gurney hung up the cleats at the conclusion of the 2023 season after an illustrious four-year career with the Falcons, but if one was just looking at the stats and not the names, they may believe that he never left.  

Freshman Garrett Wright has stepped into a hole that many did not believe could be filled, proving the expectations that BGSU head coach Kyle Hallock had of him to be justified. 

“We knew when we recruited him, we were probably getting the best catcher in the state of Ohio,” said Hallock. “His success on the field has been happening since September and fall ball so, while we’ve been able to see it and we saw his talent coming out of high school, it’s nice that everyone else gets to see what we’ve been seeing.”   

Through his first 14 games in division one baseball, Wright has a batting average of .310, which is sixth on the team among hitters with more than 10 plate appearances. 

Wright also has 13 hits in 13 starts behind the plate while driving in 10 runs and getting his first two home runs in back-to-back games against Ball State.  

Wright hasn’t been fazed by the change from high school to college baseball and has been getting advice from his brother Trey, who is a catcher at the University of Toledo. 

“It’s been kind of what I expected,” Wright said when asked about the transition. “I came in here and I thought man, Gurney is leaving, I gotta step it up and work on myself. I’ve been looking up my brother, he catches at Toledo, so I knew what it took to play so I just had to put my practice into the game during the season.” 

Although Trey Wright is Garrett’s biggest motivator and teacher, he has had help from the two sophomore catchers Cooper McKenzie and Zack Horky, who both had the privilege of learning behind Gurney for a year. 

The information that McKenzie gathered from Gurney is helpful in teaching Wright about what it takes to play at the college level and the catcher’s performance has proved that McKenzie is a better teacher than he may think.  

“I learned a lot about taking care of my body and what it means to be healthy and knowing how good he was offensively and defensively and knowing how good I need to be to contribute to this team,” said McKenzie. “We all kind of learn off of each other, I mean Garrett’s good at one and I’m good at one thing and Horky is good at another so we all kind of work off of each other and try to get each other as good as possible.” 

When Wright was asked about the things he’s learned from McKenzie and Horky this year, he emphasized the importance of seeing a standard set by older players. 

“When I came in here freshman fall, that’s the biggest part of your career,” said Wright. “I was looking up to Horky and Cooper like I need to match them and try to see what they were doing.” 

McKenzie has been a key producer on his own to start off the year, hitting four hits in 16 at bats to give him a .250 batting average through seven games played this year.  

Hallock emphasizes the importance of the guys like McKenzie and Horky to the success of the young freshman and the success of the entire catching core, as he believes the things they learned from Gurney in his freshman year are valuable to what he brings to the team now. 

“Whenever Kyle was doing something, Cooper was his shadow and he was learning and he has come a long way since he rolled up on campus 18 months ago,” said Hallock. “Just watching him every day and seeing the steps he has taken has been very rewarding for him and also our team.” 

BGSU baseball has exceeded all expectations that were put on them through the first 19 games of the season, going 9-0 to start conference play for the first time in program history and the youngest catcher room in the MAC have been key contributors to their success. 

In a position where veteran presence is preferred at all levels of the sport of baseball, the BGSU catchers are defying the limits put on them and changing the game in the process.  

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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