COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State Buckeyes, under first-year coach Greg Beals, open the 2011 Big Ten Conference season with a three-game series this weekend at Bill Davis Stadium against the Northwestern Wildcats, who are under the direction of 24th-year coach Paul Stevens. All three games will have a video element for those fans unable to make it to the park:

– The 6:35 p.m. game Friday will be streamed live to;
– The 3:05 p.m. game Saturday will be streamed free to; and
– The 2:05 p.m. game Sunday will be nationally telecast on the Big Ten Network.

Here is who is expected to start in the three games this weekend for each team:

– RHP Drew Rucinski & RHP Luke Farrell
Sat. – RHP Dean Wolosiansky & LHP Dan Tyson
Sun. – RHP Greg Greve & RHP Francis Brooke

Rucinski and Wolosiansky are seniors for Ohio State with eight and 23 Big Ten starts apiece, respectively … Greve will be making his first Big Ten start … NU’s Farrell and Tyson will also be making their first Big Ten starts … Rucinski is making his first start since 3/11 vs. Illinois State. He has appeared in 28 Big Ten games … Wolosiansky is T-14th at Ohio State with 23 wins. He is 15-6 vs. Big Ten teams … Greve has pitched five consecutive scoreless innings, all vs. No. 15 Cal … Farrell is from Westlake H.S. and St. Ignatius H.S. … Tyson is from the same H.S. – Cathedral Catholic in San Diego – as big-leaguers Barry Zito and Mark Prior and pro golfer Phil Mickelson … Brooke was second in the nation last year by averaging just 0.71 walks per nine innings.

Ohio State has won two consecutive games to improve to 8-10 on the season. The Buckeyes have played only 18 games (third-fewest in the Big Ten) so far because four games were cancelled over the course of 19 days in three different cities because of rain. After opening the season 1-2 at the BIG EAST/Big Ten challenge with a come-from-behind win over St. John’s that gave Greg Beals his first win as Ohio State coach, the team won four of its next five games to improve its record to 5-3. But a 12-1 loss to a fine Illinois State team started a run of seven losses in eight games before the team stopped its six-game losing streak with a spring trip-closing 10-8 win over CSU Bakersfield. Then, Tuesday night, Ohio State opened its home season with a well-played, 4-1 win over a good Xavier team that entered the game 16-9 and with a series win over ranked Louisville.

Starting pitcher Brett McKinney pitched five solid innings of two-hit, one-run baseball and four relievers were nearly perfect in relief to spark Ohio State to a 4-1 home-opening win over Xavier Tuesday before 867 fans at Bill Davis Stadium. Ohio State scored three runs in the third inning with Josh Dezse driving in two with a single and Tim Wetzel, who had the first two-hit game since the opening game of the season, scoring on a wild pitch. Catcher Greg Solomon tripled in the seventh and also scored on a wild pitch. Theron Minium, David Fathalikhani, Andrew Armstrong and Jared Strayer each pitched an inning in relief and collectively allowed just three hits with four strikeouts and no walks. 

The Wildcats played Valparaiso Wednesday night – a 5-2 loss – and enter the weekend with a 7-14 record. Senior third baseman Chris Lashmet paces the Northwestern offense with a .361 batting average which ranks seventh in the Big Ten. He is tied with teammate Chris Kontos for fourth in the conference with eight doubles. Kontos paces the squad with 14 runs batted in. The Wildcats are hitting .255 as a team and have a 4.71 team ERA.

Ohio State and Northwestern are playing on the Big Ten’s opening weekend of play for the second consecutive season. The teams have met 130 times since 1913 and the Buckeyes own an 86-44 series edge, including 2-1 series wins the last two seasons. A couple more series notes:

– The 1989 season was the last time Ohio State lost a series to Northwestern (3-1 at Troutman Field).
– Ohio State has won eight series and the teams have tied three series since 1989.
– Nine times in the last 14 games – dating to the 2005 series – Ohio State has scored 10-or-more runs vs. Northwestern.
– Ohio State only has a 5-4 edge in wins over the last nine games.

Head coach Greg Beals is just the 11th head coach in Ohio State history and only the fourth in the last 60 years. He has a 251-212 career record and is in his ninth season as a collegiate head coach. 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.

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 from Wheelersburg, Ohio, 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. 

For the first time in a long, long time, Ohio State will play an exhibition game against the Columbus Clippers. The game will be played April 5 at Huntington Park starting at 6:35 p.m. Tickets are $5. 

Josh Dezse – Freshman of the Week (2/21, 3/7)

Ohio State is 233-124 all-time at Bill Davis Stadium for a fine .652 winning percentage.

The Buckeyes take on the Columbus Clippers in an exhibition game at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at Huntington Park before hosting Miami (OH) at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday at Bill Davis Stadium.