Todd Avery / Lantern photographer
The Ohio State baseball team (24-20, 8-10 Big Ten) is making a run for the Big Ten tournament – literally.
OSU was eighth in the Big Ten as of Wednesday and one-and-a-half games behind Nebraska, Michigan State, Penn State and Illinois, all tied for fourth place in the Big Ten. The eighth-place Buckeyes are trying to steal their way back into the race for sixth place and qualify for the Big Ten tournament.
The Buckeyes have been tearing up and down the base paths so far in 2012, and were third in the Big Ten in stolen bases as of Wednesday, according to bigten.org.
OSU, with 17 stolen bases, is just seven behind Big Ten leader, Illinois.
The Buckeyes have blown past their base-stealing pace from last season, in which OSU tallied 35 total steals in all competitions.
Players and coaches alike said stealing bases is important to a team’s offense and has multiple benefits.
“Stolen bases help us out a lot as hitters,” said sophomore center fielder Tim Wetzel. “It gives us RBI chances and the whole point of the game is to score runs. And as a defense, when a team runs on you, you can’t be as loose because you have guys running around. It just helps the flow of the game and helps the offense perform.”
OSU coach Greg Beals said stolen bases can influence a game and throw off an opposing defense.
“As a catcher, I have a great understanding of what (a stolen base) does to an opponent’s defense,” Beals said. “What it does to pitch calling and what it does on the field, taking away from double play opportunities. It does a lot for you offensively and affects their defense quite a bit.”
Beals said he likes having the ability to steal bases, but a team needs the right personnel to do so. Of the team’s 68 overall steals, 23 have come from junior infielder Kirby Pellant, a transfer in his first year with OSU.
“You have to take advantage of every little opportunity to steal a base” said Pellant, the starting shortstop. “Stolen bases are a big part of the game. If you hit a single and steal a bag, it becomes a double. When you can get one to start an inning it gets the whole team going.”
Wetzel, who has 10 stolen bases in 2012, said it’s important for a team to be in sync before a steal.
“We talk about it a lot if we think we have a good read on a (pitcher),” Wetzel said. “Second time through, we’ll talk it out and say, ‘First pitch I’m going,’ so we’ll just know to take and let him steal a bag.”
OSU’s next game is Friday at home at 7 p.m. at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium against Northwestern, the first game of a three-game weekend series with the Big Ten opponent.