Courtesy of the Ohio State Athletic Department
Whether it’s track, football or baseball, the Southeastern Conference is often seen as the quintessential athletic conference, and sophomore first baseman and pitcher Josh Dezse of the Ohio State baseball team is sick of hearing about it.
“The SEC’s got the huge hype and these northern teams are looked down upon, but I think the talent, I wouldn’t say that it’s even, but I would say that there is just as good of players up here as down there,” Dezse said. “They may not all be on one team, but I definitely think that we can compete with those SEC schools, and it does frustrate us as a northern school hearing about that stuff.”
Heading into his team’s three-game series against No. 10 Georgia Tech, a former member institution of the SEC, Dezse said OSU is eager to show what they can do.
“Hopefully this weekend we can go down there and prove that the Big Ten can compete,” he said.
The team opened their season last weekend at the Big Ten/Big East challenge in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Fla., going 2-1. Their two victories came against Connecticut and Seton Hall, with the loss coming in the series-opening game against South Florida.
The fact that his team was still able to accomplish its goal for the weekend was reassuring for coach Greg Beals.
“We’ve set goals to win weekends and winning two out of three is the bare minimum,” Beals said. “Just because we lost the first game doesn’t mean we can’t still do that, and our guys bounced back and made sure we did that.”
Beals said the way his team responded to the series-opening loss didn’t necessarily impress him, but was glad to see that they did respond.
“It tells us a little bit about our character,” he said.
Georgia Tech is known for their strong pitching staff, something that Dezse and Beals said the team is preparing for.
“Georgia Tech is going to pitch the ball very well,” Beals said. “I don’t foresee us scoring 14 and nine runs to win games like we did this past weekend.”
Dezse called for his team to start quickly to counter the pitching they will see this weekend.
“We obviously know we’re going to see some good pitchers from Georgia Tech, so we need to strike early and fast,” he said.
Beals also wants to see his team play a cleaner game on both sides of the ball and eliminate errors that he saw in the season opening series.
“We’re going to have to play a little bit cleaner than we did this weekend,” he said. “We’re going to have to eliminate some of our errors on defense. In most of the innings where we gave up runs, we did something to help them.”
The team had a throwing error in the USF game that resulted in a run, and gave up a couple of walks with similar results, Beals said.
Junior pitcher Brian King said his team should be able to repeat their exploits from last weekend.
“We worked real hard as a team this past weekend and pulled two out of three, and I’m confident that if we do that again, we’re going to come out of there winning that weekend series,” King said.
Besides wanting his team to succeed this weekend, the series against Georgia Tech has special meaning for Beals. It will mark the first time he coaches against his former college coach Danny Hall, whom he played under at Kent State.
“Coach Hall is kind of a mentor of mine,” Beals said. “He’s kind of the one that orchestrated me getting into the college coaching profession, so I have a lot of respect for Danny.”
Beals said coaching against his former coach “is going to be exciting,” and that he and coach Hall “look forward to seeing each other.”
Beals said his team should be just as excited for the weekend’s series against Georgia Tech, even if it’s for different reasons.
“Great teams, teams that are looking to do something special, thrive with this opportunity to go against this team,” he said. “We work really hard and our guys have high expectations for our season, and this will be a good barometer for where we are at this time of the year.”
Opening pitches are set for 4:05 p.m. Friday, 2:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday in Atlanta, Ga.