Oct. 21, 2005

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State head baseball coach Bob Todd announced the 2006 schedule Friday, a 56-game slate that features eight games against five teams that played in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, including the second game of the season against Florida, which finished second at last year’s College World Series.

The Buckeyes travel to Gainesville, Fla., for the Pepsi Baseball Classic, Feb. 24-26, and it should prove to be one of the more challenging weekends of the schedule. Ohio State opens the season against Wake Forest Feb. 24 before meeting Florida, which swept through its own regional and super regional before reaching the final game in Omaha last June. The tournament closes against Missouri, which went 1-2 in the NCAA Fullerton Regional. Missouri is the alma mater of Todd and assistant coach Greg Cypret, a three-time All-Big Eight shortstop for the Tigers from 1975-78.

Other Buckeye opponents that reached postseason play in 2005 are Illinois-Chicago, Michigan and Miami (Ohio). Ohio State will play UIC in Bradenton, Fla., March 21 and will travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines April 14-16. The RedHawks will visit Columbus May 3.

“Overall this schedule will be challenging,” Todd, who is in his 19th season at Ohio State, said. “Every year we try to put together a schedule that will allow us to be competitive in the Big Ten. We start off with a tournament where two of the three teams we play reached the NCAA tournament and one of those teams, Florida, was playing for a national championship.”

The first 17 games of the season all take place in Florida. After the trip to Gainesville the opening week of the season, the Buckeyes return to Jacksonville March 3-6 for the Kennel Club Classic. Ohio State will call North Florida’s Harmon Stadium home for games against UNC-Greensboro, Bethune Cookman and Western Michigan. The fourth game will be the second game of a split doubleheader, but will be played at Jacksonville University against the Dolphins.

The next weekend, the Buckeyes will be play four games in Clearwater, playing a doubleheader with Lehigh and single games against Northern Iowa and Bethune Cookman. All four games will be played at Jack Russell Stadium, the former spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies. The next week it is back to Bradenton for the third time in four years for the annual spring break trip. From March 19-24, Ohio State will play six games at IMG Academy against Massachusetts, Cornell, Illinois-Chicago and Vermont, meeting both the Big Red and Catamounts twice.

The 18th game of the season will finally commence the 10th season at Bill Davis Stadium (capacity 4,450). Toledo will be the opponent for a 2 p.m. first pitch on Wednesday, March 29. Then Big Ten play begins.

The Scarlet and Gray open conference play at Iowa before returning home April 7-9 for a series against Illinois, the defending Big Ten regular season champion. Ohio State also takes to the road at Michigan (April 14-16) and Indiana (April 21-23). After tying for fourth in the conference in 2005, Michigan and Ohio State will again play in Ann Arbor this year. The Buckeyes and Wolverines, the conference’s only teams to reach the 2005 NCAA Tournament, played just one game of the four-game series at Ray Fisher Stadium in 2005 after snow cancelled the final three games. Ohio State beat Michigan in 13 innings at the Big Ten tournament and took three of four regular-season meetings from Indiana.

Three of the first four conference series will be played on the road, giving Ohio State a total of just seven home games before April 25. The good news from there, however, is that 15 of the final 19 games will be played at home, including the final nine games of the season.

The lone Big Ten road trip after that will be to Michigan State May 5-7, a series that could be played either at Kobs Field on the MSU campus or at Oldsmobile Park, the Single-A home of the Lansing Lugnuts. Purdue and Minnesota make return trips to Columbus. Purdue visits April 28-30 and Minnesota comes calling May 12-14. It marks the first time since 2001 that the Buckeyes and Gophers will not close the regular season against each other. This year, Ohio State will play host to Penn State (May 19-21) to close out the 32-game conference schedule.

“Our schedule should really please our fans,” Todd, who has guided the Buckeyes to seven Big Ten tournament titles, including three in the last four years, said. “From a fan’s perspective, the schedule works very favorable in that we play 15 of 19 games at home when we should have better weather and when we’re trying to put ourselves in position for a Big Ten championship.”

The Big Ten tournament will be played at the school that boasts the Big Ten’s best record.

Seven midweek games spatter the Buckeyes’ home schedule. Following the home opener against Toledo, March 29, Eastern Michigan will come to Columbus for a rare Tuesday game, April 4. From there the remaining midweek dates will be on Wednesday. Ohio State will welcome Central Michigan (April 12), Oakland (April 19), Cleveland State (April 26), Miami (May 3) and Pittsburgh (May 17). The first pitch for the Cleveland State game will be thrown out at 12:05 p.m., while five of the other six midweek games will begin at 6:35 p.m.

Of the 56 total games for Ohio State this season, 23 will be played at home, while 33 will be contested on the road, including 15 games that will be played at neutral locations.

The Buckeyes return five position starters, including a catcher, an outfielder and three infielders. Eric Fryer, who led the league with a .400 batting average in conference games, is back behind the plate, while Matt Angle returns to the outfield. Angle, who made four outfield assists, started 40 of his 54 games mostly in right field. He will move to center to take over for First Team All-Big Ten outfielder Mike Rabin. In the infield, Jason Zoeller, Jedidiah Stephen and Ronnie Bourquin all return. Ohio State will need to find a first baseman to replace three-year starter Paul Farinacci.

Two of the team’s four starting pitchers are back in Dan DeLucia and Cory Luebke. DeLucia finished 6-5 with 55 strikeouts and a 2.92 ERA in 95.2 innings. Luebke, a 2005 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, was second on the team with a 3.55 ERA to go with a 4-2 record and 54 strikeouts in 71.0 innings. Ohio State will have to replace Mike Madsen, a 21st-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics, and Trent Luyster, a 30th-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays. Additionally, relievers Trey Fausnaugh, who has 12 saves over his career, and Rory Meister, who was 8-2 with four saves and a 2.11 ERA last year, are back to bolster the pitching staff.

The Buckeyes welcomed 15 true freshmen this fall.