The 2014 season was expected to be a breakout year for Ohio State senior Trace Dempsey, but the outcome was disappointing.
After coming into last season with several preseason award nominations, Dempsey stepped on the mound under pressure. Then he posted the worst numbers of his collegiate career. With a 5.94 ERA and four losses in 33.1 innings pitched, Dempsey lacked confidence as he entered his senior season.
“I struggled on the mound, it was tough to go through,” he said.
But the 2015 season has proven to be a career changer for the right-handed pitcher, as he made his way into the OSU record books.
On Sunday afternoon, Dempsey tallied the 30th save of his career, the most in Buckeye history. Former Buckeye Jake Hale’s record of 29 had stood since 2009.
With his name fresh in OSU history, the senior said he does not view the record as an individual achievement. Instead, Dempsey said he looks at the accolade as a message from his coaching staff, most importantly from coach Greg Beals.
“Coach Beals has stuck with me, he’s had confidence in me,” Dempsey said. “I had a pretty down year last season and for him to keep putting me back out there and having the faith in me, that’s the accomplishment I’m actually proud of.”
Dempsey added that the accomplishment goes far beyond the mound.
“I don’t get in the game unless we are up by three runs and the guys out on the field are making the right plays, its not just a one guy thing, it takes the whole team,” Dempsey said. “Bottom line, if I’m in the game, we are winning and that’s what counts.”
With the Buckeye closer having an impressive season, his team is looking to close it out with a Big Ten championship.
The Big Ten appears to be in its banner year with eight teams ranked in the Top 100 RPI, including the Buckeyes.
“This is my fourth year in the Big Ten. Every team is solid and every team is battle tested,” Dempsey said. “You become a grinder in the Big Ten, every game is a grind and every single game counts if you want to win the championship.”
With the team motto “everyday,” the Buckeyes have emphasized that winning every game is important no matter who the opponent is.
“We have the same mentality every game: we want to get to 40 wins and ultimately the other team is in the way,” Dempsey said.
The Buckeyes are set to host in-state rivals Toledo and Akron on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, with both games starting at 5:05 p.m.
“We take the in-state games extremely seriously. They want to beat us, we are going to get their best,” Dempsey said. “That’s why we have to be in the same mentality and defend our season.”