Todd Avery / Lantern photographer
The Ohio State baseball team’s whole season has come down to one series.
OSU (31-22, 11-10 Big Ten) can secure its spot in the Big Ten Tournament against the Hoosiers (27-26, 13-8 Big Ten) in Bloomington, Ind., this weekend. The Buckeyes have a one-game lead in the standings against Minnesota for the sixth and final Big Ten Tournament berth. Should the Buckeyes clinch the postseason spot, they would stay in town and play their tournament games at Huntington Park May 26-28.
Sophomore centerfielder Tim Wetzel said the team is embracing the pressure of competing for a playoff berth.
“That’s what athletes want. You want to be playing under pressure,” Wetzel said. “We like to think of it as an opportunity situation more than a pressure situation.”
OSU is riding a hot streak into Bloomington, having won seven of its last nine games coming into the series. Coach Greg Beals said he wants his team to continue building momentum this weekend against Indiana and head into the tournament with an edge.
“We haven’t won a road series yet, so I want us to go on the road and win this series,” Beals said, “because I think we’re a scary team in tournament time.”
Junior shortstop Kirby Pellant said he has seen improvements in the team and that OSU is playing its best baseball late in the season.
“Our pitching and defense have been huge for us lately, all the guys have really come together and we’re playing well as a team now,” Pellant said.
Beals said he wants the team to continue doing a solid job of pitching and playing defense against Indiana because that aspect of the game will ultimately determine the team’s fate in the tournament.
“Hitting comes and goes, but we can be consistent with our pitching and defense, and it’s easier to build around that part of the game come tournament time,” Beals said.
Indiana, tied for second place in the conference, hasn’t clinched a tournament spot either. Playing a team that is also fighting for its playoff life could increase the intrigue this weekend, but Beals said he doesn’t need to remind his team about what’s on the line because they know where they’re at and what they have to do.
“Their No. 1 goal for the season is to play for a Big Ten championship,” Beals said. “So we need to take care of business this weekend, get our spot in the tournament and play for a championship.”
OSU’s three-game series against Indiana begins at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Buckeyes right-handed sophomore pitcher Jaron Long (6-2, 1.85 ERA) will face Hoosiers left-handed sophomore Joey DeNato (7-3, 2.70 ERA) in the series opener.