COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University baseball team travels to West Palm Beach, Florida for the third weekend of the young season to play in the fifth annual Papa John’s Palm Beach Challenge.  The challenge will be held throughout the month of March with teams from around the country playing a series of three games each weekend of the month. Ohio State will play at the Santaluces Sports Complex, a four-field wheel complex that is the former minor league spring training home of the Montreal Expos. The Buckeyes will first play Air Force on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.  On Saturday, Ohio State will face Maine at 5 p.m. before concluding the weekend on Sunday against Connecticut at noon.

Ohio State Buckeyes (4-2)
38-24, 15-15 Big Ten (2007)
at Papa John’s Palm Beach Challenge

March 7-March 9, 2008
Santaluces Sports Complex
West Palm Beach, Florida

Game 1: vs. Air Force
(2-4 in 08; 8-44, 0-23 MWC in 07)
Friday, Mar. 7, 7 p.m. ET

Game 2: vs. Maine
(4-3; 22-31, 12-11 Am. East)
Saturday, Mar. 8, 5 p.m. ET

Game 3: vs. Connecticut
(0-6; 34-27, 10-14 Big East)
Sunday, Mar. 9, Noon ET

Opp. records do not include mid-week games
Live Stats for all Three Games
After a 3-0 start to the season, the Buckeyes lost two of three tightly contested games in College Station, Texas last weekend at the Dominos Pizza Baseball Classic. Ohio State lost to host Texas A&M, 8-5, to open the tournament on Friday. The Buckeyes beat Louisiana Tech, 7-4, on Saturday behind a strong pitching performance from redshirt freshman Dean Wolosiansky and a four-hit, two-RBI day from junior J.B. Shuck. On Sunday, Ohio State fell to Arkansas, 8-6, in the first ever meeting between the two schools. 

Friday night’s game will be the second match-up all-time between Ohio State and Air Force.  Back in 2000 the Buckeyes beat the Falcons, 5-4, in the only previous meeting between the two teams. Air Force and head coach Mike Hutcheon are coming off a tough year in 2007 when they finished 8-44 overall and 0-23 in the Mountain West Conference. One of only four seniors returning for 2008 is outfielder Chay Derbigny, who batted .301 with three home runs in 2007. Representative of the rest of this very young squad is sophomore K.J. Randhawa.  In his freshman season Randhawa batted .280. In accordance with the rest of the team, the Falcons are short on experience when it comes to the pitching staff. Of the pitchers returning for 2008 junior Jake Petro is the top performer with a 2-10 record in 22 appearances and a 5.87 ERA in 2007. Desite the youth, Air Force has gotten off to a nice start in 2008 with a win over a Northern Colorado team that defeated Texas A&M twice and another win over perennial NCAA power Mississippi State. Nathan Carter (.417) and Matt Alexander (.385) lead the Falcons’ offense. Alex Truesdale has a 2.81 ERA.
Saturday evening the Buckeyes will be facing the Maine Black Bears for the first time. Steve Trimper is returning for his third season as the Black Bears’ head coach in 2008.  The team compiled a 22-31 record for the 2007 season and went 12-11 to earn a fourth-place finish in the American East Conference.  Senior infielder Curt Smith will look to match his 2007 season in which he batted .351 with eight home runs and 48 RBI.  Junior pitcher Alejandro Balsinde will be leading the pitching staff in 2008.  Last year Balsinde led the team in appearances with 20 while compiling a 3-5 overall record and a 4.40 ERA. The Black Bears are 4-3 entering their spring trip with four wins over Delaware State and three losses to UNLV. Curt Smith is leading the Black Bears with a .571 average, four home runs and nine RBI.

Finishing up the Palm Beach Challenge for Ohio State will be Sunday’s game against the Connecticut Huskies.  The Buckeyes lead the all-time series with Connecticut by a margin of 3-2.  The last meeting between these two teams took place in March, 2007 with Ohio State coming out on top 2-1.  At the helm for the Huskies is head coach Jim Penders, who returns for his fifth season.  In 2007 Connecticut recorded 10 wins and 14 losses while finishing eighth in the Big East Conference.  Overall the Huskies went 34-27.  Returning for his senior year, first baseman and left-handed pitcher Matt Karl is looking to match his 2007 season in which he batted .301 with four home runs.  Karl also made 22 appearances on the mound in 2007 and compiled a 2-2 record with 29 strikeouts and a slim 3.19 ERA.  UConn has started its season 0-6 with losses to Missouri, Stetson, Michigan State and three to UNC-Greensboro. Mike Oly leads the Huskies with a .409 average.

Ohio State redshirt freshman pitcher Dean Wolosiansky and true freshman first baseman Ryan Meade earned all-tournament honors at the Dominos Pizza Baseball Classic last weekend in College Station, Texas. Wolosiansky pitched five shutout innings against a powerful Louisiana Tech lineup in Ohio State’s 7-4 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday. Meade batted .462 (6-for-13) for the tournament with two doubles, six runs scored, and two RBI. Meade had his best game against Arkansas, scoring three runs with three hits and two doubles against the Razorbacks.

The Buckeyes continued the young season last weekend at the Dominos Pizza Classic in College Station, Texas. During the weekend, Ohio State played three tightly contested games against three teams that all could be playing in the NCAA Tournament come June.

Game 1: Senior captain Dan DeLucia pitched well through four innings, allowing just one run, as the Buckeyes had an early 5-1 lead. DeLucia gave up two runs before leaving with one out in the fifth, and the Buckeye bullpen allowed five runs over the final three innings as Texas A&M rallied to beat the Buckeyes, 8-5.
The Buckeyes jumped out early with three runs in the top of the first. Ryan Dew had an RBI double and Cory Rupert and Michael Arp each had run-scoring singles to help quiet the loud Aggie crowd. Rupert and Arp both drove home runs in the second inning to give the Buckeyes a 5-1 lead.
Ryan Meade, Cory Kovanda, and Michael Arp all had two hits for the Buckeyes. Meade also scored two runs.
The Buckeye pitchers walked a total of nine batters and hit three more in the game.

Game 2: Ohio State defeated an impressive Louisiana Tech Bulldog team, 7-4, behind solid pitching and a 15-hit offensive attack.
Red-shirt freshman Dean Wolosiansky shut out the Bulldogs, who were averaging 11.2 runs per game, through five innings to pick up his second victory of the season. His line for the day: 5.0 innings pitched with no runs, six hits, six strikeouts and no walks.
Offensively, the Buckeyes’ season-high 15-hit attack was keyed by a four-hit, two-RBI day from J.B. Shuck and three hits and two RBI from Justin Miller.
Zach Hurley and true freshman Tyler Engle also had a pair of hits for the Buckeyes with Engle and Cory Kovanda leading the way with two runs scored apiece.
Senior Rory Meister pitched the ninth for his second save of the season and 16th of his career.  After the leadoff batter reached on the last of Ohio State’s three errors, Meister struck out a pair of plus-.400 hitters for the Bulldogs Jericho Jones and Albie Goulder to end the game.

Game 3: Arkansas used the long ball to its advantage by generating seven runs off four home runs in its 8-6 win over Ohio State Sunday at the Dominos Pizza Baseball Classic. The win improved the Razorbacks’ record to 6-1 and Ohio State drops to 4-2.
J.B. Shuck dropped to 1-1 with the loss. Ryan Meade had three hits and three runs scored and Zach Hurley and Cory Kovanda had two RBI to pace Ohio State.

Sophomore Ben Toussant made his first career start in the Arkansas game. He had a single and a run scored in three ABs as the DH. … Zach Hurley made his first position start of the season in left field against the Hogs. It was his ninth career start. Hurley had a run-scoring single in the third inning and an RBI triple in the seventh. Hurley hit .667 on the trip, going 4-of-6 at the plate, slugging 1.167 and with an on-base percentage of .714. … Michael Arp (.600; 3-for-5 with two RBI), Ryan Meade (.462; 6-for-13 with six runs scored), J.B. Shuck (.455; 5-for-11 with two RBI), Tyler Engle (.400; 2-for-5) and cory Kovanda (.364; 4-for-11) also had nice offensive weekends as the Buckeyes hit .327 as a team. … The staff ERA, a sweet 1.33 after the first three games, is now still a very respectable 3.46 after a 5.76 ERA weekend in Texas. 

Coach Bob Todd has played six freshmen already this season, including five true freshmen. Ryan Meade has started all six games with five starts at first base. Dan Burkhart has made four starts at catcher. Tyler Engle has started once at second and once at shortstop. Dean Wolosiansky is 2-0 with one start on the mound. Alex Wimmers and Drew Rucinski have three and two appearances, respectively, in relief. Wolosiansky is a red-shirt frosh while the other five are true freshmen.

Tony Kennedy is the only Buckeye to have hit safely in all six games so far this season. The senior left fielder is a career .321 hitter entering the season but is hitting .240 to date. That will improve. Cory Kovanda has a four-game hitting streak, during which time he is hitting .333 (5-for-15 with three runs scored and three RBI). Ryan Meade and Cory Rupert each have three-game hit streaks going. A few more notes about the team’s plate appearances:

The Buckeyes are hitting .296 as a team with two six-game starters – J.B. Shuck (.429) and Justin Miller (.409) – each hitting over .400.
Zach Hurley has played in three games and is hitting .444 with the team’s only triple.
Michael Arp (.333) and Ryan Meade (.320) are each hitting better than .300.
Miller and Cory Ruppert lead the team with six RBI apiece and Meade leads with seven runs scored.

Ohio State pitchers have combined for a 3.46 earned run average after the first six games and have limited opponent bats to a .244 average. Despite a nine-walk, three-hit-batter game vs. Texas A&M, the pitching corps still boasts better than a 2-1 strikeout to walk ratio (46 Ks vs. 21 BBs). Some individual highlights:

Ohio State starters have lasted an average of 4.2 innings per start with the shortest start 4.0 innings.
Eric Best and Drew Rucinski have yet to give up an earned run.
Rory Meister has  been effective as the closer with two saves and a 2.45 ERA in his three appearances.
Dean Wolosiansky leads the starters with a 1.12 ERA and a 2-0 record.
J.B. Shuck (11.0), Dan DeLucia (8.1) and Wolosiansky (8.0) lead in innings pitched.

The Buckeyes do not make it easy for their opponents. This year, Ohio State has scored 57 percent of the time in its next at-bat after  a run-scoring inning by the opponent. Opponents have scored in 14 innings so far this year and Ohio State has come back to score runs in the next inning eight times. Conversely, when Ohio State scores a run, it has held its opponent scoreless in its next at-bat 89 percent of the time. Ohio State has scored runs in 18 innings and opponents have countered with runs in their next at-bat only twice. Way to go Bucks! 

It took six games before an opponent hit a home run against Ohio State. Arkansas cracked four in  its 8-6 win. Ohio State has gone deep just twice on the season. Sophomore Brian DeLucia, vs. Arkansas State, and junior Michael Arp, vs. Seton Hall, hit their first collegiate home runs the first weekend of the season.

Although Ohio State baseball has been the best in the Big Ten in the Bob Todd era with 14 combined Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, 12 NCAA tournament berths and an average of 40 victories per season, the team’s 3-0 start marks only the fourth such start in Todd’s 21 seasons. The other years Ohio State started 3-0: 2002, 1997 and 1991. Perhaps this universal starting date is already working.

Please see attached PDF for more notes, stats and good stuff on the Buckeyes.