Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer
After missing out last season, the Ohio State baseball team is making its return to the Big Ten Baseball Tournament at Huntington Park on Wednesday.
“I’m really excited to play in the Big Ten Tournament and have an opportunity to win the Big Ten Championship,” coach Greg Beals said.
The Buckeyes (25-25, 13-11) clinched a tournament berth with a series win at Minnesota over the weekend. OSU secured the No. 4 seed with a 3-0 win Saturday behind a strong outing from freshman starter Greg Greve, who threw eight shutout innings.
“I liked most that we decided our fate on the field ourselves,” Beals said. “We needed to win Saturday and played probably our cleanest game of the season all year long.”
It was the first time in program history that OSU won a series at Minnesota.
“When you think about all the great teams OSU has had and to have never won there before, it’s crazy to think about,” Beals said. “For us to accomplish that this year, it’s something great.”
Beals credited his seniors for helping give the team momentum down the stretch.
“It’s senior leadership,” Beals said. “They can see the light at the end of the tunnel and they’re trying to push that light further and further away. They want to play as long as they can and they’re just playing with great determination.”
OSU, making its 14th tournament appearance in 15 years, has to travel just a few miles away from campus for a chance at the Big Ten Championship.
“We’re playing in home in Columbus,” Beals said, “and it is as friendly an environment as it can be for a conference tournament.”
OSU will face a familiar opponent in its opener against the No. 5-seeded Golden Gophers (22-22, 13-11). Minnesota, which was the Big Ten coaches’ preseason favorite to win the league, is the reigning conference champion and has the most tournament championships and appearances, with nine and 27, respectively.
“Our game plan against this Minnesota weekend was solid,” Beals said. “We’re going to go out and run the same plan again.”
Senior pitcher Drew Rucinski, who will start against the Golden Gophers, said it shouldn’t be too difficult facing a team again so soon.
“It’s a little bit tougher,” Rucinski said. “But it’s just another team lineup that’s trying to hit the ball. They’ve got to hit the ball just like I’ve got to throw the ball.”
Greve, who the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week, said he is excited for his first experience in tournament play.
“I can’t wait,” Greve said. “It’s been our goal all year to make the tournament, and now we have to go out and make the most of this opportunity.”
Illinois (25-25, 15-9) and Michigan State (34-19, 15-9) were awarded the top seeds of the tournament after finishing as Big Ten regular-season co-champions. The Fighting Illini were given the No. 1 seed after winning their season series against the Spartans.
No. 3 seed Purdue (36-18, 14-10) is making its fourth straight tournament appearance, the longest active streak of any Big Ten team. Purdue faces No. 6-seeded Penn State (32-20, 12-12), which returns to the tournament for the first time since 2008.
The double-elimination tournament, which started in 1981, will run Wednesday through Saturday.
OSU and Minnesota will open up tournament play at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday.