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Dec. 2, 2004

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State head baseball coach Bob Todd announced the 2005 schedule Thursday, a 56-game slate that features eight games against five teams that played in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, including the fourth game of the season against Georgia, which was one of the four final teams in the College World Series.

“Since I have been here, we have always taken the philosophy to play a challenging schedule,” Todd, who is entering his 17th season at Ohio State, said. “This year’s schedule is aggressive. We play North Carolina, Arizona State and a Georgia team that advanced to the College World Series. All of those games will be on the road, so that will be a challenge for us.”

In fact, the Buckeyes begin the season with 18 straight road games and do not play a home game until March 30. Only 23 of the 56 games will be played in Columbus, forcing Ohio State to play 10 more games away from Bill Davis Stadium, the ninth-year, 4,450-seat home venue.

“There is no doubt that when a team has to play its first 18 games on the road, it throws the competitive advantage to warm-weather schools,” Todd, who serves on the NCAA Baseball Issues Committee, said. “It would be nice to play half of our games at home and only half of the games on the road. Until the NCAA addresses that it will always be an issue for us and all of the northern schools.”

The Buckeyes open the season Feb. 25-27 at Wiregrass Classic in Dothan, Ala. Ohio State’s first game is against Middle Tennessee, which played in the 2004 NCAA Athens Regional. Ohio State also will play Troy and Iowa, which is the lone team from the Big Ten not to appear on the team’s conference schedule in 2005.

The next weekend will perhaps be the toughest weekend of the season as the Buckeyes will participate in the Keith LeClair Invitational March 4-6 in Greenville, N.C. All three of the team’s opponents that weekend appeared in the NCAA tournament a season ago. Ohio State opens the tournament Friday against Georgia, which came within two wins of playing for the national championship. Saturday the Buckeyes will meet North Carolina, which lost to South Carolina in the final of the NCAA Columbia Regional. The team’s final game in the LeClair Invitational will be against Arizona State, which played in the NCAA Fullerton Regional. Michigan and host East Carolina also are in the tournament, though will not play Ohio State.

The Buckeyes travel to Jacksonville, Fla., March 11-12 to participate in the Kennel Club Classic. The team will play at North Florida on Friday before a doubleheader against Bradley and Rider on Saturday at the University of Jacksonville.

Ohio State returns to Florida March 18-26 for its annual spring break trip. The Buckeyes will play eight games in nine days in Bradenton. The trip opens against Northern Iowa Friday at McKechnie Field, the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ohio State will play two games against Dartmouth and one game each against Bucknell, Illinois-Chicago, Vermont, Cornell and Wisconsin-Milwaukee the remainder of the trip, playing every day at the IMG Academy, with the exception of Tuesday, March 22, a day off.

Toledo will visit Bill Davis Stadium March 30 when Ohio State finally opens its home schedule. It is the first of seven home Wednesday games in 2005. The Buckeyes will welcome Oakland (April 6), Malone (April 13), Bowling Green (April 20), Eastern Michigan (April 27), Cleveland State (May 4) and Miami, Ohio (May 11). Five of the seven Wednesday games will be played at 6:35 p.m. The Toledo game will begin at 2:05 p.m. while the Cleveland State game will be played at 12:05 p.m. on May 4 to allow 4,000 students from Columbus Public Schools to attend the game.

The Buckeyes open Big Ten play April 1-3 at Illinois, a team they defeated three of four times a season ago. Ohio State returns to Columbus for its next 11 games, the longest home stretch of the season. The Buckeyes will play Oakland April 6, Purdue April 8-10, Malone April 13, Michigan State April 16-17 and Bowling Green April 20. The Saturday doubleheader games of the Purdue and Michigan State series will begin at 1:05 p.m. instead of 4:05 p.m. Last year, Ohio State split the four regular-season games at Purdue, including a 16-inning marathon in the series finale won by the Boilermakers. The Buckeyes downed Purdue in the Big Ten tournament. Against Michigan State, the Buckeyes took three-of-four games in the regular season before beating the Spartans in the conference tournament.

Ohio State returns to the road April 22-24, traveling to Michigan for the first time since 2002 when the teams split four games. The Wolverines have taken three-of-four games from the Buckeyes in Columbus each of the last two seasons and is the only team to win a conference series against Ohio State at Bill Davis Stadium, which opened in 1997. The Buckeyes return to welcome Eastern Michigan at home April 27 and then host Indiana April 29-May 1 before ended a miniature six-game homestand against Cleveland State.

The next two weekends will send the Buckeyes on the road as they take on Penn State in State College, Pa., May 7-9 and Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., May 13-15. Ohio State will play host to Miami (Ohio) May 11 in between the Big Ten road series.

Without a midweek game, the Buckeyes will close out the regular season May 20-22 against Minnesota, which last year became the first Big Ten school to win both the regular season and tournament championships since Ohio State won both in 1995. Ohio State needed three wins in the final four games of the season to win the regular season championship, but the Golden Gophers took two-of-three games in a rain-shortened series. The Buckeyes finished second in the regular season and then pushed Minnesota to a second championship game after fighting through the loser’s bracket. With an eye on their third straight tournament championship, the Buckeyes lost 7-3 to Minnesota, which earned the Big Ten’s only berth into the NCAA tournament, playing in the Fullerton regional. This year’s meeting will be the first time since the 2002 season the teams will meet in Columbus and the fourth straight season the teams will close out the regular season against one another.

“Each of the last three years, the Ohio State-Minnesota series has determined the Big Ten championship,” Todd said. “Two times in the last three years, we had to play on the road and lost one year by percentage points and the other two years, we lost the championship by one game. Hopefully playing at home at Bill Davis Stadium will play to our advantage.”

The Buckeyes return five position starters, including all three outfielders. Steve Caravati, the 2004 Big Ten Player of the Year and 2005 NCBWA Preseason All-American, will move from left to right field, changing spots with Jacob Howell, the Buckeyes’ eighth Big Ten Freshman of the Year selection, who will move from right to left field. Mike Rabin will remain in center field. Also back are Paul Farinacci, who returns to play first base and Ronnie Bourquin, who returns at third base. Ohio State will have to make up for the losses of catcher Derek Kinnear, second baseman Drew Anderson, who was selected in the 13th round by the Cincinnati Reds, and shortstop Brett Garrard.

On the hill, Ohio State will rely on Mike Madsen and Trent Luyster to make up for the losses of Josh Newman, a 32-game winner and 19th round pick of the Colorado Rockies, and Scott Lewis, the 2003 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and First-Team All-American, who was drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Indians. Madsen has won 17 games his last two seasons, including nine games last season, while Luyster was a 39th-round draft selection by the Chicago Cubs. Other pitchers returning who made a significant number of starts in 2004 are Jeffrey Carroll and Dan DeLucia.