COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio State baseball team heavy on newcomers – there are 15 – and returning only three position starters from 2010 will open its season in challenging fashion this weekend at the 2011 Big East/Big Ten Challenge in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater areas of Florida. The Buckeyes, under the direction of new coach Greg Beals, will start the season off against in-state rival Cincinnati and then meet two 40-plus win teams from a year ago that each made NCAA Regionals: No. 20 Louisville and St. John’s.
“We’ll be ready for the challenge,” Beals said during his team’s season-opening “meet the team” dinner Saturday evening. “We’re ready to stop throwing at each other and swinging at each other. We need an opponent.”
Games This Week:
Following the Action:
Ohio State is coming off a 28-23 season in 2010 and it went 11-13 in the Big Ten Conference for a seventh-place tie that snapped the team’s record run of 13 consecutive Big Ten Conference tournament appearances. The team was 21-9 midway through the season but hit a funk, losing five consecutive Big Ten series and 14 of its final 21 games. Hall of Fame Coach Bob Todd announced May 6 that the season – his 23rd at Ohio State and his 39th in the baseball coaching profession – would be his last.
Quick Hitters …
Bearcats: Cincinnati is coached by Brian Cleary, a 1990 Farfield graduate who is 364-432-1 in 15 years. UC was 29-29 last season and went 13-14 in the Big East Conference. Key returnees include outfielder Justin Riddell, who hit .312 last year with eight home runs, starting pitcher Dan Jensen (4-2 with a 4.02 ERA) and reliever Andrew Strenge (7-1 with a 1.93 ERA).
Cardinals: Louisville has been a dominant program in Dan McDonnell’s four seasons, amassing an average of 44 wins per season with a College World Series appearance plus two Super Regionals and an NCAA Regional. The Cardinals were 50-14 last season and reached the final of its own Louisville Regional. RHP Tony Zych (5-2 with a 5.13 ERA last season as a freshman All-American) and second baseman Ryan Wright (.366 with 16 HR and 80 RBI in 2010) have each picked up multiple preseason All-America accolades so far.
Red Storm: St. John’s is under the direction of Ed Blankmeyer, who is 513-305-3 in 15 seasons as coach. His Red Storm are coming off a 43-20 season in 2010 that included a Big East tournament championship and an invite to the NCAA Charlottesville Regional. All-American outfielder Jeremy Baltz, just a sophomore, hit .396 last year with 24 HRs and 85 RBI. Three teammates – shortstop Joe Panik, first baseman Paul Karmas and second baseman Matt Wessinger – combined to hit 25 home runs and drive in 161. Sophomore RHP Kyle Hansen was a freshman All-American last season after going 8-3 with a 3.71 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 94.2 innings.
Ohio State and Cincinnati are meeting for the 89th time in a series that dates to the first year of baseball at Ohio State: 1881. Ohio State leads, 65-21-2. This is the third consecutive season the teams have played with Cincinnati winning last year at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in St. Petersburg at the Naimoli Complex, 12-4.
Louisville and Ohio State are meeting for the 10t time. Louisville leads the series, 6-3, and has won five consecutive games dating to the 2008 season, including 6-0 and 10-8 wins last year.
Ohio State and St. John’s have met just three times with Ohio State leading the series, 2-1. St. John’s won the last meeting, 7-1, in the NCAA Corvallis Regional in 2005.
Ohio State Coach Greg Beals
Beals is just the 11t head coach in school history and only the fourth in the last 60 years. He was hired from Ball State University this June after a national search to find a successor to Bob Todd, the winningest coach in Ohio State history. Beals played collegiately at Kent State, where he also received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and for three years in the New York Mets farm system. He was 243-202 with three MAC West Division championships and one NCAA appearance in eight seasons at Ball State.
“Staff” and the Staff
Beals brought with him to Ohio State his pitching coach and recruiting coordinator the last seven years at Ball State: Ohio State graduate Mike Stafford. Chris Holick, from Westlake, Ohio and a Kent State grad, is the other fulltime assistant. Josh Newman, a 32-game winner for the Buckeyes in the early 2000s and a young man who knows what it takes to pitch in the big leagues because he made 14 starts for Colorado and Kansas City, is the team’s volunteer assistant coach.
Seasonal Notes …
33 There are 33 members on the team. In terms of eligibility: the team is comprised of seven seniors, six juniors, nine sophomores and 11 freshmen.
Vets and Rookies Eighteen players who were with the team last year return and there are 15 student-athletes who were new to the team when fall baseball practice started. The returnees include 12 lettermen.
137 Starts Engle has made a team-high 137 starts with Streng (88) and DeLucia (74) next on the list. Hallberg (28) and Cypret (nine) are the only other position players who have started a game for Ohio State.
Going Yard Current players have hit a total of 23 home runs as Buckeyes. DeLucia (10), Streng (nine) and Engle (three) are the only Buckeyes who have multiple career home runs. Juco transfer Brad Hutton hit 24 in his two seasons at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Fla.
Two You Won’t See Two transfers from Division I schools are not eligible to compete this year because of transfer rules: Mike Carroll, an outfielder from Duke University; and right-handed pitcher Brock Trimbur, from Ohio University. Both players will have three years of eligibility starting with the 2012 season.
Brothers Two sets of brothers are on the team. Ben and Josh Bokor are true freshmen twins – Josh is older, by three minutes – from Gahanna and Brad and Blake Hutton are from Orlando, Fla. Brad is a junior and Blake is a true freshman.
Going West Ohio State will make a west coast swing during spring break with three games at California, two at Fresno State and three at Cal State-Bakersfield. It is being reported that this will be the last season of baseball at Cal…a stunning development in the college baseball world.
Exhibition vs. the Clippers For the first time in a long, long time, Ohio State will play an exhibition game against the Columbus Clippers. Clippers President, GM and good guy Ken Schnacke, who’s been with the team 33 years, could not recall the last time the teams played. They’ll play an exhibition game April 5 at Huntington Park starting at 6:35 p.m.
1460 AM The Fan Commencing with the start of Big Ten Conference play, 1460 AM The Fan will carry 28 regular season games and all of the Buckeyes’ post-season tournament action. The veteran Buckeye announcer Frank Fraas will handle most of the play-by-play with Marty Bannister taking over for most of the road Big Ten games.
Schedule Same but Different Ohio State will face the same eight Big Ten teams in the same order as it did last year, but the location is reversed. The Buckeyes will host Northwestern, travel to Indiana, host Michigan State, travel to Penn State, host Michigan, travel to Illinois, host Iowa and close the regular season at Minnesota. Ohio State does not play Purdue in the regular season.
Huntington Park The Columbus Clippers’ lovely, two-year-old stadium in downtown Columbus’ Arena District will host the 2011 Big Ten tournament May 25-28.