COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State Buckeyes, after playing their first 21 games over the course of five weekends in the state of Florida, open their 2009 Big Ten Conference campaign at Penn State Friday thru Sunday. The three-game series will be played at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, on the Penn State campus. Game times are 6:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 1 p.m., respectively, Saturday and Sunday.
The Buckeyes’ starters for this weekend are to be determined.
THREE-GAME SERIES RETURNS
Big Ten Conference series will consist of three nine-inning games. The league has ended its four-game series format that included a 7-inning, Saturday doubleheader and had been in place since 1981.
This Week in Ohio State Baseball
No. 16 Ohio State (18-3; 15-15/5th Big Ten Conference in 2008)
Game 22: at Penn State (13-8 2009; 27-31; 17-15/3rd in 2008)
Friday, March 27 – 6:30 p.m.
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
Game 23: at Penn State
Saturday, March 28 – 2 p.m.
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
Game 24: at Penn State
Sunday, March 29 – 6:30 p.m.
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
103.9 WTDA Talk FM
BACK-UP LIVE STATS
THE RETURN OF RADIO
This games will be broadcast over the air on 103.9 WTDA Talk FM and they can also be heard over the internet at OhioStateBuckeyes.com. Frank Fraas and Marty Bannister will describe the action once again this season with expert commentary by former Buckeyes Brian Mannino and Bob Spears.
The Buckeyes will depart Columbus via charter jet Friday morning and return Sunday evening.
Ohio State has been nationally ranked five consecutive weeks by Collegiate Baseball and this week the team comes in at No. 16 in its poll. Ohio State is also ranked No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and No. 28 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
2nd-BEST PRE-BIG TEN START
Ohio State’s 18-3 record is the second-best mark heading into the start of Big Ten play for a Bob Todd-coached team. The top pre-Big Ten starts under Todd plus a key season note:
1. 1991* 19-2; School record 52 wins
2. 2009 18-3; 7-1 win at No. 2 Miami
3. 1994* 14-3; Big Ten record 25 wins
2007* 14-3; Won conf. tour. as 6th seed
5. 2001* 17-4; Big Ten champion
* Years played in the NCAA tournament
HOW’D THE BUCKS GET TO BE 18-3?
One can point to three areas to see why the 2009 Ohio State team is off to such a good start:
1. Consistent, competitive hitting/at-bats.
Eight everyday players are hitting at least .300, led by outfielders Zach Hurley (.389) and Michael Arp (.388) and catcher Dan Burkhart (.378) and the .339 team average leads the Big Ten Conference.
Six players have 15 or more RBI; Burkhart and Hurley are on top of the Big Ten with 30 and 29, respectively.
The team has 84 extra base hits with a triple threat mix of 40 doubles, 16 triples & 28 HRs.
2. Leadership on the hill.
The excellent pitching of Alex Wimmers, Drew Rucinski and Jake Hale has carried the staff to rankings of 3rd in the Big Ten in opposing batting average (.271) and 5th in ERA (4.92).
Wimmers’ hot start – 3rd in the Big Ten with a 1.62 ERA and first with 49 strikeouts – has included 15- and 14-strikeout games.
Rucinski is 5-1 with two saves coming out of the bullpen and ranks 6th in the league with 31 strikeouts.
Hale, back as the team’s closer after starting Friday nights last year, has finished 11 consecutive games and leads the Big Ten in saves (four), appearances (12) and finishes (11).
3. Successful tinkering.
Injuries to 2008 starting SS Tyler Engle and key infield contributor Brian DeLucia has forced the coaches into some unforseen lineup changes. So far, their lineup calls have been spot on with multi-position players Justin Miller and Cory Rupert playing well defensively regardless of their position of the day. The typical starting outfield of LF Zach Hurley, CF Michael Stephens and RF Michael Arp has also performed well, with only two errors combined in 115 chances with about 10 diving catches.
WIMMERS IS BIG TEN PofW…AGAIN
Alex Wimmers is this week’s Big Ten pitcher of the week for a second consecutive week, the first time since 2006 a Big Ten pitcher has picked up the weekly honor consecutively. Wimmers struck out 14 Indiana Hoosiers, didn’t walk a batter and scattered five singles in a complete game, 2-0 win. This came one week after a 15-strikeout effort vs. Pitt earned him a “Louisville Slugger” national player of the week accolade.
BUCKEYES ONE-HIT No. 2 MIAMI
The Buckeyes are coming off a 7-1 win over No. 2 Miami Tuesday in Miami with Alex Wimmers, Drew Rucinski and Jake Hale combining on a one-hitter. Dan Burkhart had two hits and two RBI and Michael Arp hit a two-run home run and scored twice to lead the team offensively.
TODD 27 WINS FROM 1,000
Coach Bob Todd is just 27 wins from 1,000 for his career. He is 973-520-2 in his 26th season.
NICE SPRING BREAK ON THE MOUND
The Buckeye pitchers combined for a 3.12 earned run average on the team’s most recent six-game spring trip. Opponents hit .212. Indiana was held to five singles by Alex Wimmers and, as previously mentioned, Miami was one-hit. Additional news from the break…
Michael Stephens led the hitters with a .400 average and eight runs scored with Zach Hurley second at .320 and eight runs scored.
Michael Arp and Dan Burkhart led with five RBI. Justin Miller and Matt Streng had four apiece.
THIS YEAR vs. LAST YEAR
With only one new everyday starter in the lineup – CF Michael Stephens – Ohio State’s 2009 lineup of players looks similar to the 2008 lineup. Comparing the 21-game stats from the two seasons, there are even more similarities:
Batting averages are virtually the same: .339 in 2009 to .334 in 2008;
Fielding pct. is the same; .955 to .958;
The 2008 team ERA was 3.39 at this point whereas the 2009 ERA is 4.92. So what’s up with the 2009 Buckeyes having an 18-3 record at this point when the 2008 Buckeyes were only 13-8?
IT’S THE POWER NUMBERS
Through 21 games in 2008, the Buckeyes had 50 extra base hits (39 doubles; five triples and only six home runs). The 2009 Buckeyes have 84 with 40, 16 and 28 respectivley. Most impressively, the power numbers are team-wide.
Team slugging is 100 percentage points higher this year with a Big Ten-best .537 pct.
Buckeyes rank 1-5 in the Big Ten in triples;
Nine players have multiple home runs, 15 or more runs and at least 10 RBI apiece.
OHIO STATE vs. PENN STATE
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Penn State, which began in 1958, 51-27. The teams split four games last season in Columbus. The teams are 6-6 in the last 12 games dating back to 2006. Ohio State has won nine and lost only two of the 17 four-game series with the Nittany Lions. There have been six series ties. Also:
Ohio State is 20-12 in Big Ten series games played at State College.
Penn State won the only series the two teams have played at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, 3-1 in 2007. The Ohio State win came in the last game and secured a spot in the Big Ten tourney.
Ohio State is 20-14 in games at Penn State.
Ohio State leads, 3-1 on neutral fields, and 28-12 in games played in Columbus.
For more Ohio State notes and a bunch of stats, please click on the pdf release above. For Big Ten stats, click on the Big Ten pdf.