COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State head coach Greg Beals has seen his Buckeyes advance to two-consecutive NCAA Regionals and three in the last four seasons. However, expectations are higher for Beals and his club heading into the 10th season in Columbus for the skipper.
“I’m really excited and hungry heading into this season,” Beals said. “This ball club has been in the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years. They’ve had a taste. While the expectation level at Ohio State always is high, I think this team has a greater understanding of those expectations because of what we’ve experienced over the last few years. We have a better realization as a ball club of what we need to do and that really drove our training this offseason.”
The 2019 team went 36-27, winning the 10th Big Ten Tournament championship in program history to advance to an NCAA Regional in Nashville, the second in a row and third in four seasons for the Buckeyes. Beals, now approaching 300 wins at the helm of the Buckeyes with 297 to his ledger, has tallied 72 victories and a pair of trips to the NCAA Tournament in the last two campaigns.
Ohio State enters 2020 returning 20 letterwinners, including six starting position players and all three weekend starters, to go along with 15 newcomers.
ON THE MOUND
A young staff in 2019 grew up quickly and Beals is confident in the growth of the Buckeye arms heading into the season. All three weekend starters are back along with a plethora of young members of the staff coming out of the bullpen. However, the Buckeyes will have to fill the hole vacated by left-handed reliever Andrew Magno, who earned Third Team All-America honors to go along with Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player laurels.
“To go into the year and know you have the entire starting rotation back from last year is huge,” Beals said. “It’s a rotation that was successful last year so that makes me optimistic. There’s always caution because we have to stay healthy and we have to keep progressing but I really like that factor.”
Left-hander Seth Lonsway, a Collegiate Baseball Second Team Preseason All-American, returns after picking up multiple Freshman All-America and Third Team All-Big Ten honors a season ago. A native of Celina, Ohio, Lonsway went 8-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 92.1 innings pitched over 17 starts. The left-hander led all Division I freshmen with 126 strikeouts and struck out 71 batters in Big Ten play, the most of any conference pitcher.
Right-hander Garrett Burhenn, a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2019, also returns after going 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA and 69 punchouts in 91.0 innings pitched over 15 starts, while left-hander Griffan Smith logged a team-high 96.2 innings pitched, striking out 96 and tallying a 7-5 record and a 4.66 ERA.
However, it’s the bullpen where Beals is looking for somebody to step up heading in to 2020.
“There’s a lot of depth and talent in this pitching staff but there’s also a significant amount of inexperience in the bullpen,” Beals said. “A bunch of those guys are sophomores who gained a lot of experience last year but somebody needs to take the reins in the back end after the departure of Magno.”
Sophomore right-handers Bayden Root (20 appearances in 2019), Will Pfennig (24 appearances, three starts) and TJ Brock (18 appearances) are back along with sophomore southpaw Mitch Milheim (16 appearances, one start) and senior right-handers Joe Gahm (18 appearances) and Jake Vance (11 appearances, nine starts). Five freshman right-handers (Tyler Kean, Wyatt Loncar, Cam Hubble, Yianni Skeriotis and Ethan Hammerberg) along with redshirt freshman right-hander Casey Maniglia and graduate transfer left-hander Patrick Murphy all will look to help contribute to the Buckeye staff entering their opening campaign.
Visit OhioStateBuckeyes.com Wednesday for a look at the Buckeye backstops.