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COLUMBUS, Ohio – We are at the halfway mark of the 2011 Big Ten Conference season and that means every series, every game, every pitch and every at-bat from here on out is going to be critical for the teams vying to make the Big Ten tournament…starting right here and right now. This weekend, Ohio State hosts Michigan in a three-game set that will have fans of both teams glued to their seats in Bill Davis Stadium or watching the games because all three will have a video broadcast element.

Game 1 – The Big Ten Network will televise the 7:05 p.m. game to a national audience.
Game 2 – Audio and video will be streamed to OhioStateBuckeyes.com and it will be free to watch. First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m. 
Game 3 – Audio and video for this 1:05 p.m. start will be streamed to BigTenNetwork.com.

FOR STARTERS
Ohio State is expected to go with the same weekend rotation for the Michigan series it has used throughout the Big Ten campaign. Michigan had not yet announced its Game 1 starter.

G1 – RHP Drew Rucinski (4-1 with a Big Ten-best for all games 2.22 ERA; he is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in Big Ten games only) 
G2 – RHP Brett McKinney (1-3 with a 5.77 ERA)  
G3 – RHP Greg Greve (1-1 with a 6.46 ERA)

The Wolverines are going to start either RHP Kyle Clark or RHP Brandon Sinnery in Game 2 with the non-starter of that duo expected to start Game 3. Clark is  2-4 with a 3.59 ERA. Sinnery is 2-2 with a team-best 2.56 SERA. Bobby Brosnahan has started a game in each of the Big Ten series so far and is 1-7 with a 7.41 ERA. Alex Lakatos has one Big Ten start and is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in five conference appearances.

OHIO STATE OF LATE
The Buckeyes dropped a series at Penn State over the weekend. Drew Rucinski tossed seven innings, giving up a run on five hits while striking out four to pick up the win in the first game. Tyler Engle went 6-for-10 with a double, two RBI and three runs scored while reaching base nine times in the three games.

The Buckeyes sit in a five-way tie for fourth at 6-6 in the Big Ten, only one game back of the leaders halfway through the conference slate.

STATS AND STUFF
Ohio State’s lineup features five batters with averages over the .300 mark while Rucinski leads the Big Ten with a 2.22 earned-run average. Some more info…

  • Ryan Cypret leads the team with a .351 batting average while Josh Dezse leads with 38 RBI and Brian DeLucia is tops with 27 runs scored.
  • Ohio State has the best batting average (.324) and best on-base percentage (.390) of any team in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes also lead the conference with 82 runs scored in conference play.
  • The Buckeyes’ five key relievers (Armstrong, Fathalikhani, Dezse, Minium and Strayer) have combined to go 7-4 with a 4.25 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 91 innings pitched.
  • Dezse is batting .404 with three doubles, two triples, a home run and 14 RBI in Big Ten play.

BASEBALL, BALL STATE, WOODY & BO
Everybody knows how Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler both initially worked at Miami of Ohio before their 10-Year War days on the gridiron. Well, Ohio State’s Greg Beals and Michigan’s Rich Maloney each had their first head coaching position at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Beals succeeded Maloney, who is now in his ninth year at Michigan. Some Ball State Cardinal quicks about the coaches:

Greg Beals – Coached eight years (2003-2010) … 243-202 record … three MAC West Division crowns (2003, 2005, 2009) … 2006 NCAA Lexington Regional participant … 2006 MAC Tournament champion.

Rich Maloney – Coached seven years (1996-2002) … 256-144 record … four MAC West Division crowns (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001) … 1999 MAC champion … two-time MAC Coach of the Year (1998, 2000). 

GAMES 256, 257 & 258…HOPEFULLY
Ohio State and Michigan have met 255 times on the baseball diamond. If weather cooperates and the teams play three times this weekend, the rivalry will tie the 258 games Ohio State has played vs. Indiana, a number  that currently ranks as the most games for Ohio State against one opponent. 

SERIES HISTORY
Michigan leads the all-time series with 160 wins against 93 defeats and two ties. The teams first played in the 1895 season. 

Ohio State had won just 11 of the previous 55 games vs. Michigan prior to Bob Todd taking over as head coach in 1988. For the next 15 years, though, Ohio State controlled the series with a 45-25 record vs. Michigan. But since Rich Maloney took over at Michigan in 2003, Michigan holds the upper hand with a 23-10 record vs. Ohio State.

Michigan won the series, 2-1, with a 4-1 Friday night win and a 6-5  get-away-day win last year in Ann Arbor. Ohio State won Game 2, 3-2 in 10 innings, behind a career-high 9.0 innings pitched and nine strikeouts from Drew Rucinski. Alex Wimmers pulled a hamstring in warmups and was scratched from the Friday night start. He would miss a total of three starts because of the injury. Dean Wolosiansky pitched a strong 7.0 innings in relief in Game 1, allowing just one run and three hits.

Ohio State won the 2009 series at Bill Davis Stadium with 6-0 and 9-6 wins. Michigan won Game 3, 9-2. Alex Wimmers threw the first nine-inning no-hitter in Ohio State history in the first game, striking out 14 in the process. Tyler Engle’s diving stop behind second base and toss to second to get the force out in the eighth inning was the defensive play of the game.

MICHIGAN MINUTES
Rich Maloney has his Wolverines also just a game out of first-place in the conference with a 6-6 mark and a 13-25 overall record. UM has won four of its last six games, including Big Ten series wins over Illinois and Iowa.

BIG TEN TEAM STATS
Looking at the statistics in Big Ten Conference games only, there are some rather notable numbers so far. Consider:

  • Ohio State leads in six major offensive categories, including hitting (.324), on-base pct. (.390) runs scored (82), RBI, (73), hits (136) and total bases (179).
  • Josh Dezse sits in the top five in the Big Ten in four offensive categories, including RBI (t-2nd, 15), batting avg. (t-5th, .404), slugging pct. (5th, .617) and on-base pct. (t-5th, .464)
  • Brian DeLucia is tied for first with a pair of triples and tied for third with 14 runs scored while Matt Streng is tied for sixth with 13 runs scored. Greg Solomon is tied for second with five doubles.
  • While leading the conference in overall ERA, Drew Rucinski ranks fifth in Big Ten play with a 1.98 ERA. Andrew Armstrong leads the Big Ten with nine appearances while Jared Strayer is tied for second with eight appearances and Theron Minium and David Fathalikhani are tied for fourth with seven.

OSU’s 2011 BIG TEN HONOREES
Josh Dezse – Freshman of the Week (2/21, 3/7, 4/18)
Josh Dezse – Player of the Week (4/18)
Greg Solomon- Player of the Week (4/4)
Tim Wetzel – Freshman of the Week (4/11)

HEAD COACH GREG BEALS
Head coach Greg Beals is just the 11th head coach in Ohio State history and only the fourth in the last 60 years. He has a 259-220 career record and is in his ninth season as a collegiate head coach.

15th SEASON AT BILL DAVIS STADIUM
Ohio State is 240-118 all-time at Bill Davis Stadium for a fine .670 winning percentage. Ohio State is 138-77 vs. the Big Ten Conference.

UP NEXT
The Buckeyes host North Florida for two midweek games before travelling to Champaign for a three-game weekend set at Illinois.