COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State Buckeyes are the 2009 Big Ten Conference baseball champion!
About four hours after Ohio State completed a three-game sweep over Iowa to improve to 18-6 in the Big Ten and 39-15 overall, Penn State came-from-behind to defeat league-leading Minnesota, 10-8, to drop the Golden Gophers’ record to 17-6 the team lost a game with Indiana due to inclement weather the first weekend of the season and deny them the title when a win would have clinched it.
Head coach Bob Todd: “I always say never give up hope.’ I am just so happy for this team. The team has done everything the coaches have asked, and I am so proud right now for all the players and the coaches on this team and especially for the seniors.”
Eight days ago, the Buckeyes looked to be out of title contention after losing the first game of a series at No. 1 (at the time) Illinois to drop to a game out of the lead. At that time Todd told the players: “The coaches felt coming into this series we’d need to win five of our last six Big Ten games to have a chance at winning the Big Ten championship. We can still do that even with this loss.”
The team, led by the hitting of senior captain Justin Miller and the clutch finishing of senior stopper Jake Hale (school record 15 saves with four in the last five Big Ten wins), did its part by winning the next two games against Illinois and then sweeping Iowa this weekend, but it needed help coming into this final weekend of Big Ten play in the form of a Penn State win. And the Nittany Lions came through.
Ohio State now will receive a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, May 20-24 at Huntington Park in downtown Columbus, Ohio, and will face the lowest seed winner of the games pitting No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 5 Michigan State and No. 3 Indiana vs. No. 6 Purdue in a 7:05 p.m. game Thursday. All the games of the tournament will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
The Big Ten championship is the seventh for Coach Todd at Ohio State and the first since the 2001 season, and it is the 15th all-time in school history. The team will now head into the Big Ten tournament for a Big Ten-record 13th consecutive year and the 21st time under Todd.
Miller, the team captain who is on fire with hits in 17 of his last 25 at-bats (.680) with nine runs scored and 11 RBI over the last six games (five of them Big Ten wins), credited his teammates for the championship.
“I am so proud of these guys,” Miller said. “This probably isn’t the most talented team I’ve been on here the 2006 team was incredibly talented but we had a disappointing season but we just battled through and did all the little things right and it paid off.”
To view the 2009 Big Ten tournament bracket, click on the attached PDF.