With all the small talk and joking, a visitor in the dugout might get the impression that Ohio State baseball players are leisurely to the point of being cavalier.
Once practice begins, however, the Buckeyes immediately begin to bear down.
“They are [all] business,” fifth-year coach Greg Beals said. “But they do a great job of having fun and then locking in for practice.
The environment has translated into outstanding chemistry nearing the midway point of the 56-game season.
Ohio State (19-7, 4-2) is 15-3 in its past 18 games and is tied for second in the Big Ten behind Nebraska and Iowa going into a three-game series against Penn State (8-15, 1-1) beginning Saturday at Bill Davis Stadium.
OSU hasn’t won a conference championship or played in the NCAA tournament since 2009, but players are quietly confident that they have a shot at ending that streak.
“We haven’t done well in the past dealing with adversity, but we do that now,” senior catcher Aaron Gretz said. “With our bats, we can put up runs at any time. That just comes from having confidence. Everyone is confident in our talent and the way we are going to take quality at-bats.”
The Buckeyes fought through such tough times on Tuesday, when they overcame awful weather and silent bats in a non-conference game against Ohio to rally for a 7-4 victory in 10 innings on a three-run home run by backup infielder L. Grant Davis.
“I didn’t get a sense of, ‘Oh, shoot,’ even when [the Bobcats] got the lead,” Beals said. “They were confident they were going to get back into it and win the ballgame.”
Ohio State ranks eighth in the Big Ten in batting (.266) and ninth in fielding percentage (.967), but outfielders Pat Porter and Ronnie Dawson, and shortstop Craig Nennig are having all-conference-type seasons. Porter is batting .304 with four homers and 24 RBIs, Dawson has five homers, 20 RBIs and 11 stolen bases and Nennig is batting .329.
Pitching, though, is what the Buckeyes do best. No. 3 starter Ryan Riga is 5-1 and ranks second in the conference in ERA at 0.76. Ace Tanner Tully is 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA. Midweek starter Jake Niggemeyer (2-0, 2.05) and reliever Jake Post (2-1, 1.90) also have been stout.
“If we can pitch and play defense, we can win,” Beals said.
This article was written by Mark Znidar from The Columbus Dispatch and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.