COLUMBUS, Ohio – Perhaps the biggest area of strength on the 2010 Buckeye roster is the group that roams the outfield. Three seniors and a junior lead this seven-man group and will combine to, hopefully, become one of the most productive groups in the Big Ten for the second year in a row.
Senior co-captain Zach Hurley leads a veteran unit from his spot in left field and senior centerfielder Michael Stephens looks to build on a strong first season in Columbus after transferring from Fullerton College a year ago. The duo combined to bat .346 with 22 doubles, 11 triples, 20 long balls and 116 runs batted in last season. Two more terrific athletes will see considerable outfield playing time as well: senior Chris Griffin and junior Brian DeLucia. Griffin is a centerfielder while DeLucia has transitioned from the infield and will battle for time manning right field. Both players were productive when called upon in 2009.
Hurley, a career .320 hitter, has improved each year in Columbus and will look to continue that trend in 2010. After batting a career-best .346 with 12 doubles, six homers and a Big Ten-leading six triples last season, the Springboro, Ohio native will again attempt to set the tone in the leadoff spot this spring. Hurley was crucial to the Buckeyes’ success last season as he proved more than capable of getting on base for the heavy hitters in the lineup as he batted .467 leading off innings and led the team with 14 stolen bases. The 2009 Academic-All Big Ten selection led the team with 29 multi-hit games and tied for second on the team with 16 multiple RBI games.
Stephens made quite the impression in his first season as a Buckeye, leading Ohio State with 14 home runs, 63 runs batted in and a .608 slugging percentage. The second-team All-Big Ten selection had 10 doubles and five triples while sporting a .346 batting average. While starting all 61 games, the centerfielder tore up right-handed pitching to the tune of a .369 average and came up big in the clutch, ranking second on the team with 26 two-out RBI. Stephens also went 10-for-26 with nine RBI in postseason play, including a two-home run effort to help eliminate Georgia from the NCAA tournament.
Griffin is an athlete who can play all three outfield positions but has seen his most extensive playing time in center. In limited action last season, Griffin batted .333 (10-for-30) with a pair of doubles, a triple and five runs scored while hitting .412 with runners on base. He has played in 24 career games, starting two, possessing a .314 career batting average. His most important asset however, is the ground that he’s able to cover in the outfield as he does an excellent job of reading and reacting to the ball off the bat.
DeLucia, now fully recovered from a broken finger that cost him all but three games of the 2009 campaign, will be making the switch from third base to the outfield. A tremendous athlete and competitor, DeLucia has played 48 career games, including 30 starts, batting .328 with eight doubles, two triples and four home runs. He also gets on base at a .409 clip and has posted a .529 career slugging percentage.
Vying for time in the outfield will be a trio of underclassmen: third-year sophomore David Corna, who got into two games last year as a redshirt freshman, second-year freshman Joe Ciamacco and true freshman recruit Hunter Mayfield.