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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The start of the 2011 Ohio State baseball season, and the game-day coaching debut of first-year head coach Greg Beals, is one week from today. To be a bit more specific…the date is Friday, Feb. 18. The time is 1 p.m. EDT. The location is Al Lang/Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg, Fla. And the opponent is the Cincinnati Bearcats.

And for those interested in following the action of the game and the rest of Ohio State’s weekend at the 2011 Big East/Big Ten Challenge, Live Stats will be running at OhioStateBuckeyes.com and one can also follow a little less objective, and a touch more subjective, commentary of the on-field activities on Twitter at @BuckeyeNotes.

The start of every new season brings with it loads of thoughts, notes, numbers, statistics, recaps, quotes and, quite simply, tons of information that every fan, alum, friend and reporter who follows the Buckeyes should know. So…here is a start of things to know about the 2011 Ohio State baseball season: from hello to Huntington Park.

“Hello coach”  Beals was hired from Ball State University this June after a national search to find a successor to Hall of Fame coach Bob Todd, the winningest coach in Ohio State history. Beals played collegiately at Kent State, where he also received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and for three years in the New York Mets farm system.

“Staff” & the staff  Beals brought with him to Ohio State his pitching coach and recruiting coordinator the last seven years with him at Ball State: Ohio State graduate Mike Stafford. Chris Holick, from Westlake, Ohio and a Kent State grad, is the other fulltime assistant. Josh Newman, a 32-game winner for the Buckeyes in the early 2000s and a young man who knows what it takes to pitch in the big leagues because he made 14 starts for Colorado and Kansas City, is the team’s volunteer assistant coach. 

The energy to bring it…  Commenting one day last week on the makeup of his coaching staff, Beals said the most important attribute of his staff was that, collectively, they had the “energy to bring it every day,” meaning he wanted a staff that develops a practice plan and then executes it with high energy on a daily basis. Just watch a practice sometime. They bring it!

128  Baseball, the oldest sport on Ohio State’s campus with a beginning in 1881, will open its 128th season of play this season.

33  There are 33 members on the team. In terms of eligibility: the team is comprised of seven seniors, six juniors, nine sophomores and 11 freshmen.

Vets and rookies  Eighteen players who were with the team last year return and there are 15 student-athletes who were new to the team when fall baseball practice started. The returnees include 12 lettermen.  

Returning starters  Three players who were considered everyday starters last year – SS Tyler Engle, RF Brian DeLucia and 1B Matt Streng – return from last season; only three. Streng has switched positions: he’ll play third base this season.

Now starting for the Buckeyes  In addition to Engle, DeLucia and Streng at the positions noted above, here’s who to expect in the opening day lineup:

  • LF will be a platoon situation initially with junior David Corna and sophomore Joe Ciamacco sharing starts and helping each other through the game-day learning process. They have one game and one at-bat between them.
  • CF will feature true freshman Tim Wetzel, a left-handed hitter who has speed and defensive prowess.
  • RF is all DeLucia’s. Citing the jumps he gets on the ball, his speed and his arm strength, Beals says DeLucia is “as good a defensive outfielder as I’ve been around in my coaching career.”
  • 3B will be Streng’s position. The senior is called “steady” by Beals.
  • SS will be manned by Engle, the anchor of the infield according to Beals, for a fourth consecutive year.
  • 2B was seized by sophomore Ryan Cypret. A coaches’ son – his Dad, Greg, the longtime Buckeye assistant is now an assistant at Akron, Cypret won the position, according to Beals, by making huge strides over the offseason both offensively and with his athleticism. “He has been leading the charge in our conditioning drills,” Beals said. “And the reasons behind that are his improved athleticism and he is a great competitor.”
  • 1B will feature Brad Hallberg, the converted third-baseman whose bat “has to be in the lineup for us,” says Beals, with freshman Josh Dezse also playing the position. Expect when one is at first, the other will be in the designated hitter role. “Both have shown they can hit,” said Beals.
  • C will be sophomore juco transfer Greg Solomon who Beals says is a “great athlete behind the plate who can really catch the ball, has quick hands and feet and can make all the throws.”
  • DH, for starters, will be either Dezse or Hallberg.

In summary, that’s two starters returning to their everyday position from 2010; a third returning starter making a switch to third base; five first-year starters and a new designated hitter.

137 starts  Engle has made a team-high 137 starts with Streng (88) and DeLucia (74) next on the list. Hallberg (28) and Cypret (nine) are the only other position players who have started a game for Ohio State.

Going yard  Current players have hit a total of 23 home runs as Buckeyes. DeLucia (10), Streng (nine) and Engle (three) are the only Buckeyes who have multiple career home runs. Juco transfer Brad Hutton hit 24 in his two seasons at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Fla.  

Staff’s staff  Pitching coach Mike Stafford, along with Newman, have 16 pitchers on staff but only five have worked 20 or more innings. A sneak peek of who the Buckeye coaches expect to utilize early in the season:

  • Three young men – seniors Drew Rucinski and Dean Wolosiansky and freshman Greg Greve – have risen to the top of the starting rotation group, according to Beals. Rucinski has pitched 175.0 innings and has 28 Big Ten Conference appearances among his 71 total appearances. He has 17 career wins. Wolosiansky has logged 258.0 innings and has 22 victories, including 15 vs. Big Ten teams.
  • Sophomore Brett McKinney is coming off a minor knee surgery in the offseason that has slowed him a bit. Regardless, Beals says he is throwing well and will be available to pitch at the start of the season.
  • Beals expects plenty of innings out of the bullpen from senior Jared Strayer. He was lights out the second half of the season last year – after having a minor surgery in March – with a 3.30 earned run average, 15 strikeouts and only six walks in the second half of the season.
  • Dezse is a talented freshman in more ways than one and he is the leading candidate to be the Buckeyes’ closer. Beals is certainly aware of the adjustments and preparation it will take he and Stafford to manage if Dezse is playing first or is in the lineup as a DH, but he is ok with it. They have managed similar scenarios before with excellent results.
  • The coaches will look to a couple of veteran lefties – fifth-year senior Theron Minium and fourth-year junior Andrew Armstrong – to throw quality innings and create favorable matchup opportunities.

Two other pitchers – junior Brian Bobinski and sophomore Cole Brown – pitched in limited roles for the Buckeyes last year which leaves the coaches with five available pitchers who have yet to pitch in a collegiate game.

The wild card  That would be junior right-hander Brad Goldberg, a transfer from Coastal Carolina who is seeking to be eligible this season to pitch for the Buckeyes. If he is granted a waiver, he fits in with the top three starters on the team, according to Beals.

Two you won’t see  Two transfers from Division I schools are not eligible to compete this year because of transfer rules: Mike Carroll, an outfielder from Duke University; and right-handed pitcher Brock Trimbur, from Ohio University. Both players will have three years of eligibility starting with the 2012 season.

Brothers  Two sets of brothers are on the team. Ben and Josh Bokor are true freshmen twins – Josh is older, by three minutes – from Gahanna and Brad and Blake Hutton are from Orlando, Fla. Brad is a junior and Blake is a true freshman.

Going west  Ohio State will make a west coast swing during spring break with three games at California, two at Fresno State and three at Cal State-Bakersfield. It is being reported that this will be the last season of baseball at Cal…a stunning development in the college baseball world.

Exhibition vs. the Clippers  For the first time in a long, long time, Ohio State will play an exhibition game against the Columbus Clippers. Clippers President, GM and good guy Ken Schnacke, who’s been with the team 33 years, could not recall the last time the teams played. They’ll play an exhibition game April 5 at Huntington Park starting at 6:35 p.m.  

1460 AM The Fan  Starting with the home opener March 29 vs. Xavier, 1460 AM The Fan will carry 28 regular season games and all of the Buckeyes’ post-season tournament action. The veteran Buckeye announcer Frank Fraas will handle most of the play-by-play with Marty Bannister taking over for most of the road Big Ten games.  

Lots of visual opportunities  For those who can’t make a game at Bill Davis Stadium, at least 15 Ohio State home games and possibly one or two more will be available for viewing on either the Big Ten Network or streamed to BigTenNetwork.com or OhioStateBuckeyes.com. A number of road games in the Big Ten will be streamed – by our opponents Student U broadcast teams – to BigTenNetwork.com as well. Complete broadcast info will be released within the next couple of days.

Schedule same but different  Ohio State will face the same eight Big Ten teams in the same order as it did last year, but the location is reversed. The Buckeyes will host Northwestern, travel to Indiana, host Michigan State, travel to Penn State, host Michigan, travel to Illinois, host Iowa and close the regular season at Minnesota. Ohio State does not play Purdue in the regular season.

Huntington Park  The Columbus Clippers’ lovely, two-year-old stadium in downtown Columbus’ Arena District will host the 2011 Big Ten tournament May 25-28.

###OhioStateBuckeyes.com###