Feb. 26, 2003

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No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes
(0-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
at Tournament of Champions Cardinal Classic
Lamar University
Beaumont, Texas

Friday, Feb. 28: Lamar (8-2)
8 p.m. (7 p.m., CST)
Saturday, March 1: No. 30 Oklahoma (3-1)
2 p.m. (1 p.m., CST)
Sunday, March 2: No. 29 SMS (3-1)
10:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m., CST)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 22 Ohio State baseball Buckeyes open the 2003 campaign Friday when it begins play at the Tournament of Champions Cardinal Classic in Beaumont, Texas. All four teams were participants in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. In fact, five of the first six games Ohio State will play are against teams which were among last year’s field of 64.

The Buckeyes are the last of the four teams to begin play in 2003. Incidentally, Ohio State is the last of the 35 teams ranked in the NCBWA poll to begin play. The other three teams in this weekend’s field have already played a combined 18 games and boast a record of 14-4.

OSU is coming off a 38-20-1 season that produced a Big Ten Tournament championship and automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, where it advanced to the championship game before falling to Notre Dame, an eventual College World Series participant, at the South Bend Regional.

Lamar, which will host the three-day tournament at Vincent-Beck Stadium, went 1-2 in regional play in Austin. The Cardinal finished the 2002 season with a 36-24 record after going 16-11 to finish third in the Southland Conference. So far this season, the Cardinals are 8-2 through the first 10 games this season. Lamar was to play a doubleheader Wednesday at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but inclement weather postponed the series until late April. Oklahoma went 0-2 in the regional at Wichita State after going 15-12 in a fourth-place Big 12 finish. The Sooners finished the season with a 35-27 record. OU is 3-1 this season.

Southwest Missouri State went 2-2 at the Lincoln Regional last year before falling to Nebraska, which wound up in the CWS after getting by Richmond in Super Regional play. The Bears ended the year with a 43-21 record after earning a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. SMS is currently 3-1 on the year and did not play a scheduled game at St. Louis on Tuesday because of inclement weather.

Ohio State will open the Tournament of Champions Cardinal Classic against host Lamar Friday at 8 p.m. (7 p.m., CST). OSU will then play Oklahoma at 2 p.m. (1 p.m., CST) on Saturday before wrapping up against Southwest Missouri State at 10:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m., CST) on Sunday. That final game was move up one hour to accommodate travel plans for the Bears.

Friday’s game at Lamar will be the first time this season Ohio State hits the diamond, literally. Not only is the Friday night game in Beaumont, Texas the first competition of 2003 for the Buckeyes, but the game also will mark the first time Ohio State has been outside, period.

Ohio State began practicing Jan. 27 and has seen nearly 27 inches of snow in Columbus since Feb. 1. That total includes almost 16 inches Feb. 14-17. This season has been the fourth-snowiest in Columbus with a little more than four feet (49 inches) of wintry precipitation.

The snow and cold has forced the Scarlet and Gray to rehearse inside the spacious Woody Hayes Athletic Center on artificial turf. Practicing in the WHAC in February is not out of the norm for the Buckeyes, but the unusual amount of snow prevented Ohio State from taking batting practice outside. Columbus received only 10 inches of snow in the winter of 2002.

Currently, about 5-6 inches of snow covers the playing surface at Bill Davis Stadium, where the Buckeyes are slated to first play their first home games on March 14 in a doubleheader against Detroit and Eastern Michigan.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Ohio State and Lamar, which have not met on the ball diamond in the Buckeyes’ previous 119 years of baseball. This will mark only the fourth time that OSU has ever played a team currently in the Southland Conference. All three previous meetings were against McNeese State, which holds a 2-1 advantage over the Buckeyes.

Lamar has already played 10 games this season and boasts a 8-2 record in those games. The Cardinals, which are 6-1 at Vincent-Beck Stadium, are led by Wade Pirkle, who leads the team with a .450 batting average in nine games. He is 9-for-20 with eight RBI and one home run. In all, three players are batting better than .400 and a total of six batters are hitting .355 or better. As a team, Lamar is hitting .349.

The Cardinals are expected to throw lefty Josh Gray against the Buckeyes. He is 3-0 on the year and has a 1.93 ERA. In 14.0 innings of work, he has struck out 15 batters while giving up only one walk. The Lamar pitching staff has a 1.51 ERA.

This will be the third-ever meeting between Ohio State and Oklahoma. The last time the two schools met was in 1982, a 5-2 Sooner victory in the opening game of the NCAA Central Regional in Austin Texas on May 28. Florida State eliminated the Buckeyes with an 8-3 setback the next day and Ohio State ended the season with a 45-14-1 record. The 45 wins were the most in school history until Bob Todd’s 1991 team won 53 games. OSU has topped 45 victories just two other times (1994 with 49 and 1999 with 50). The other Sooner victory was 9-8 decision in the 1951 College World Series. Ohio State is 18-17 against teams currently in the Big 12 Conference.

Oklahoma, ranked 30th in this week’s NCBWA poll, has played four games this season and boasts a 3-1 record in those games. The Sooners, which split two games with Texas-San Antonio before sweeping two games from Sam Houston State, are led by Tyler Johnson. Johnson is 4-for-10 (.400) in three games with a pair of doubles and one RBI. As a team, the Sooners are batting .265. Fourteen (nine doubles and five home runs) of the 36 hits have gone for extra bases. On the mound, the Buckeyes are likely to face lefty Buddy Blair. Blair, is 0-1 in his previous outing and owns an ERA of 3.00. In 6.0 innings, he struck out five and walked two in losing to UTSA.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Ohio State and Southwest Missouri State. Ohio State is 9-15 all-time against the teams that currently comprise the Missouri Valley Conference. This will be the first of two contest against MVC teams this season. Next Sunday, the Buckeyes will face Wichita State, which has a 3-1 lead.

Southwest Missouri State is ranked 29th in the most recent NCBWA poll after starting 3-1. The Bears went 2-1 at the Texas-Arlington/Dallas Morning News Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas, taking wins against Arkansas State and UT-Arlington before stumbling against New Mexico. SMS pulled an upset of then-No. 25 Mississippi. Leading the way offensively for the Bears is Clay Wheeler, who is 8-for-16 (.500) in the first four games of the season. SMS is hitting .303 as a team with four players batting .429 or better. The Bears will likely throw a right-handed pitcher against Ohio State based on the rotation the team used in Fort Worth. In the third game of that weekend tournament, Bob Zimmerman pitched 4.0 innings in getting the loss. He gave up four earned runs despite eight strikeouts. He is 0-1 on the year with a 9.00 ERA.

Since Bob Todd took over the program prior to the 1988 season, the Buckeyes have gone 8-7 in season openers, including last season when they defeated UAB 2-0 on Feb. 22 in Starkville, Miss. Ohio State started 2002 without a loss in its first seven games, claiming a pair of wins over UAB, then beating Mississippi State before a tie in the fourth game of the season. The Buckeyes added victories over North Florida, Toledo and New Mexico before falling to the Lobos in the eighth game of the year. In 119 years of Ohio State baseball, the Buckeyes are 73-44-2 (.622) in season openers.

The mound will be the strength of the Buckeyes in 2003 as they return a pair of eight-game winners and another who did not lose a game until his final outing of the year. Preseason All-America pick Scott Lewis, who earned the distinction as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was a first-team all-league selection last season, led the team in ERA (2.84) and in strikeouts (91). He was 8-2 on the year, winning his last eight decisions.

Also back are right-handed pitcher Nate Smith, a First Team All-Big Ten selection, and left-handed pitcher Josh Newman, who earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors. Smith went 6-1 with a 3.12 ERA as the Buckeyes’ fourth starter and Newman finished 8-4 with a 4.47 ERA in a team-high 94.2 innings.

At the plate and in the field, junior Christian Snavely is the top returnee. With a batting average of .360, the second team all-conference selection is at the top among returning players and had 81 hits in 2002, the most of the team. He had a team-high five triples and added 13 doubles and 10 home runs. He is expected to move from second base and his athleticism will allow him to play in the outfield or in the infield at first or third.

Sophomore Drew Anderson and junior Brett Garrard anchored the left side of the infield, but Anderson, who had 37 RBI and made the Big Ten All-Tournament Team, will move to second base in place of Snavely.

Joining sophomore Mike Rabin in the outfield will be sophomore Steve Caravati. Caravati, a Big Ten All-Tournament selection in 2001 who batted .346 for the year, but missed the 2002 season because of an elbow injury, will take over in centerfield. Rabin, who batted .391 for the year, was a clutch performer at the plate in Big Ten games, when he had a .373 batting average.

Senior pitchers Kyle Brown, Greg Prenger and Nate Smith, as well as junior infielder/outfielder Christian Snavely will share captain duties for the 2003 Buckeyes. All captains were selected by a vote of the team at the conclusion of fall practice in October.

Ohio State is ranked 22nd in the most recent National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll. The Buckeyes were ranked 25th by the organization in its preseason poll. OSU, which was ranked 29th in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, fell one spot to No. 30 in the Feb. 24 poll. The Buckeyes are receiving votes in the USA Today Sports Weekly/ESPN coaches poll, formerly known as the USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN poll. Baseball America picked Ohio State to finish 35th in its preseason poll, which consisted of 50 teams. The newspaper ranks only 25 teams in the regular season and does not have the Buckeyes ranked this week.

Left-handed pitcher Scott Lewis received preseason mention as a Third Team Preseason All-American as selected by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Lewis, the 2002 Big Ten Freshman of the Year was a First Team All-Big Ten selection and finished the year with an 8-2 record and a team-best 2.84 ERA. Lewis finished the year with a Buckeye-best 91 strikeouts in 92.0 innings and was named to the all-tournament teams at the Big Ten Tournament and at the South Bend Regional.

Ohio State will be aided by the return of six All-Big Ten selections. Nate Smith and Scott Lewis were First Team All-Big Ten honorees last season, while Christian Snavely and Josh Newman garnered second team mention. Add Steve Caravati, a second team selection in 2001 and Greg Prenger, a third team honors recipient from 2001, and the Buckeyes will be bolstered by a total of six former all-conference selections.

Christian Snavely owns a .340 career batting average, which is the 16th best average in OSU history… Snavely also has seven career triples, which ties him for 12th in the school record book… Nate Smith is 14-6 as a Buckeye pitcher, good enough for a .700 win percentage, which ranks 23rd in school history.

Two current Buckeyes ended the 2002 season on hit streaks. Terry Pettorini and Mike Rabin each had hits in their final eight games last season. Rabin finished the year with three multiple-hit games, going 2-for-6 against Kent State, 2-for-4 against South Alabama and 3-for-5 against Notre Dame in the championship game of the South Bend Regional. Rabin was 8-of-19 (.421) in regional play last year.

The 18 conference wins by Ohio State in 2002 where the seventh most in school history… The team had 1,956 at bats a year ago, which ranked sixth… OSU had 18 triples in 2002, a total which was fifth best in school annals… The 269 bases on balls drawn by the Buckeyes was the seventh highest season total… Ohio State stole 79 bases, which was the fourth most in a season… The 10 saves equaled the seventh most in a season by a Buckeye pitching staff.

Christian Snavely finished with 81 hits in 2002, which ranks as the seventh most by a Buckeye… Drew Anderson had four triples last season, which tied him for the 14th best season in school history… Snavely finished with 10 home runs, to tie for the 25th best season total by a Buckeye… The 225 at-bats by Snavely last year were the sixth most ever taken by a Buckeye and were only 28 at-bats from the all-time record (253) set by Mike Lockwood in 1999… Anderson stole 20 bases last year, a total that is 11th best of all-time… Brett Garrard had 17 stolen bases to tie for 16th.

Josh Newman pitched 94.2 innings in 2002, a figure that was the 16th highest in school annals… Scott Lewis’ 92.0 inning was 19th best… His 91 strikeouts ranked him 17th in the record book… Chris Hanners made 22 appearances last year, which ranked 18th in school history.

For the past four years and seven years since the inception of the award in 1988, Ohio State has been the home of the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. No other school has had more than two recipients.

Last year for the Buckeyes, it was left-handed pitcher Scott Lewis. Other previous winners include: Doug Deeds (2001), Nick Swisher (2000), E.J. Laratta (1999), Dan Seimetz (1995), Matt Beaumont (1992) and Scott Klingenbeck (1990).

Ohio State welcomes nine freshmen for the 2003 season: pitchers Doug Carpenter and Trey Fausnaugh, catchers Phillip Mattingly and Greg Uland, infielders Kris Moorman, Wes Schirtzinger and Jedidiah Stephen, and outfielders Jacob Howell and Drew Thomas.

Team Gray defeated Team Scarlet 5-1 in game three to win the Scarlet and Gray World Series at Bill Davis Stadium, 2-1. The Gray squad took a 2-1 victory in the opener, but dropped a 2-1 decision to the Scarlet in the second game.

For the series, Paul Farinacci of Team Gray, went 5-for-9 with a pair of runs batted in. Four other players had four hits apiece, including Christian Snavely, who had a home run and double in the first game of the series. Derek Kinnear, Drew Anderson and Doug Larason also had four hits in the series.

Scott Lewis earned the win in the opening game for the Gray team. He struck out seven batters in 6.0 innings. In Game 2, Kyle Brown evened the series after going the distance. He scattered six hits with two strikeouts. Freshman Doug Carpenter got the decisive win for the Gray in Game 3. In 6.0 innings, he allowed five hits, the solo Scarlet run and recorded three strikeouts.

Ohio State might not have won the 2002 Big Ten regular season championship, but the Buckeyes got the better end of the deal when they qualified for their 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. That reward came when Ohio State claimed the Big Ten Tournament Championship May 25 at Minnesota’s Siebert Field with a 6-3 victory over the Golden Gophers, which had won the regular season championship by .22 percentage points in front of the Buckeyes the final weekend of the regular season at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus.

OSU was the only team from the conference to earn a bid to NCAA Tournament. Ohio State drew the third seed at the South Bend Regional, but lost its first-round game to second-seeded Notre Dame before bouncing back to win elimination games over Kent State, the fourth seed, and top-seeded South Alabama. Notre Dame beat the Buckeyes to advance to the Super Regional and ultimately the College World Series.

Along the way, several Buckeyes picked up honors. Eight OSU players were named to the All-Big Ten teams, including Nick Swisher, Scott Lewis and Nate Smith, which all three garnered first-team honors. Lewis was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year (the fourth straight such honoree from Ohio State) and Joe Wilkins was voted the Most Outstanding Player at the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes landed six on the 12-member all-tournament team. Additionally, Lewis was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.

Three Buckeyes were selected in the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft, including first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher, who was the 16th overall selection by the Oakland Athletics. He is the highest draft selection in OSU history. Additionally, outfielder Doug Deeds was taken in the ninth round by the Minnesota Twins and right-handed pitcher E.J. Laratta was taken in the 26th round by the San Diego Padres. Catcher Joe Wilkins signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This season, Ohio State will retire the baseball jerseys of players Fred Taylor and Steve Arlin and player and coach Marty Karow. The three jerseys will be the first retired in the Ohio State baseball program.

Taylor (1947-50) is best remembered as the head coach of Ohio State’s golden era of basketball after his teams made four Final Four appearances and won the 1960 NCAA Championship. However, Taylor wore No. 27 as a baseball player and became the school’s first baseball All-American in 1950.

Arlin (1965-66) is considered the top pitcher in Ohio State baseball history after posting a record of 24-3 in two his two years as a Buckeye. He held OSU marks for victories and strikeouts (294) until 1999 and his .889 winning percentage is the best in school history. He led the nation in strikeouts as a sophomore with 165. Arlin wore No. 22.

Karow (player 1925-27 and coach 1951-75) began his coaching career in 1951 and retired as the winningest coach in the history of the program in 1975 with 478 victories. Karow, who wore No. 13, guided the Buckeyes to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the College World Series in his first season, but his career did not reach its peak until the mid-1960s when the team made three straight appearances in Omaha in 1965, 1966 and 1967. The 1966 season marked the only National Championship in school history.

2003 marks the 120th season of Ohio State baseball, which first took to the field in 1880, though did not play any games in 1887, 1908 and 1910. Ohio State won its 2,000th game last season and entered this season with an overall record of 2,032-1,306-4, a win percentage of .607.

The Buckeyes have been to the NCAA Tournament of 15 times, four of which have ended with a trip to the College World Series. After finishing second in 1965, Ohio State won the 1966 CWS, its only national championship in baseball. Other appearances in the CWS were in 1951 and 1967. In the NCAA Tournament, OSU is 35-31 (.530)

In Big Ten play, the Buckeyes own a 751-561-2 record, a win percentage of .572. A total of 15 times, Ohio State has won the regular Big Ten title and another six times has won the Big Ten Tournament, including last season when it won the tournament championship at Minnesota.

Ohio State continues its stretch of games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2002 when it travels just 130 miles east on Interstate 10 next weekend. Of course, the Buckeyes will return to Columbus for a few days of classes before taking part in the Mardi Gras Ball on the campus of Louisiana-Lafayette. OSU will meet the host Ragin’ Cajuns Friday before meeting McNeese State Saturday and Wichita State Sunday. Louisiana-Lafayette, Wichita State and Ohio State were all NCAA Tournament participants last year.