When the Big Ten announced the 2014 Big Ten Baseball Tournament was expanding to an eight-team field for the first time in conference history after previously having just six eligible teams, the Ohio State baseball team believed it could show up to Omaha, Neb., as the No. 1-seed.
Now three weeks into its conference schedule, the Buckeyes might soon be thankful for that expansion.
The Buckeyes (19-14, 2-7) currently sit 10th in the Big Ten standings heading into their weekend series at home against Penn State (16-14, 4-1, third in the Big Ten) Friday, a series some players are calling a must-win.
Last year, OSU swept Penn State in a three-game series at Bill Davis Stadium.
After the Buckeyes were swept in back-to-back weekends at home against Indiana and at Nebraska, they defeated Eastern Michigan, 8-1, Tuesday, and then were tripped up against Dayton the following day, losing 8-5.
OSU’s closer and preseason All-American junior pitcher Trace Dempsey got a rare start against the Flyers in the hopes of building confidence after a lackluster start to the season. Dempsey has recorded a 6.23 ERA, four saves, given up 15 earned runs while tallying a 1-3 record in 21.2 innings pitched so far this year.
After the loss to Dayton, Dempsey said the team cannot dwell on the past couple weeks and only look forward to its series against the Nittany Lions.
“Clean slate from here on out. You can’t look back on the last two weekends or even today, you’ve got to move on to tomorrow,” Dempsey said. “All three of those games at Nebraska, it’s in the past. Nothing really to hang our heads on, just a couple plays here and there. It’s not like we could have won just one of those games, we easily should have won all three of those games.”
The first pitcher OSU is set to send out to the mound against PSU is freshman Tanner Tully who has started the season with a 3-1 record and 1.91 ERA.
With a 2-7 in-conference record, junior catcher Aaron Gretz said it is imperative the team comes out hot against PSU Friday.
“It’s simple — we’ve got to win a series,” Gretz said. “It’s a must-win series. Our goal is to win all three games. Obviously that’s the goal for every weekend, but it’s magnified this weekend. We need to get some wins.”
The opener against Penn State is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Friday at Bill Davis Stadium.