Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer
Josh Dezse’s name has been written on coach Greg Beals’ lineup card before all 25 games this season.
He begins each game as either the designated hitter or the first baseman. But when the eighth and ninth innings roll around, Dezse can be seen jogging down to the bullpen.
The 6-foot-5 freshman is a two-way player. In one game, he can play the field, get in some at-bats and make a relief appearance.
He is not used in these ways simply because he can do it. He has succeeded in all facets of the game, and the Buckeyes’ coaching staff recognizes that.
“He’s a great athlete, and when you have a great athlete like that, you need to get him on the field and use him as much as possible,” Beals said.
As of Saturday, he is batting .316, leads the team with 17 RBIs and has the team’s second-most hits (30) and third-most doubles (5).
In his 12 relief appearances this season, he has posted a 3-1 record with three saves, 13 walks, nine strikeouts and a 6.14 ERA.
“It’s a special tool to work with,” pitching coach Mike Stafford said. “He has got a lot of arm strength, he’s got a good frame and his ability is ahead of him. It’s very exciting to work with a guy at that high a caliber of talent.”
The Powell, Ohio, native was a three-year starter at Olentangy Liberty High School. As a high school junior, Dezse batted .348, drove in 19 runs and was 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA as a pitcher. His senior year he hit .410 with five home runs and 33 RBIs. On the mound, he was 5-2 with a save and a 2.44 ERA.
His performance as a senior earned him a spot on the All-District first team and an honorable mention for the All-State team. The New York Yankees drafted Dezse in the 28th round of the 2010 first-year player draft.
He turned down the pinstripes for the chance to be a Buckeye.
“It would be a dream to play pro ball. To play for the Yankees, it’s like a whole different level,” Dezse said. “It was tough, but I’m proud to be at Ohio State.”
He knew he was going to be a two-way player in college, and he was pleased to find out that Beals and Stafford had coached Kolbrin Vitek, a two-way player they trained while at Ball State.
“That made me feel pretty comfortable,” Dezse said.
Vitek was a second baseman and starting pitcher for the Cardinals. He, like Dezse, was drafted in 2010. The Boston Red Sox selected him with the 20th overall pick.
Dezse was used as a two-way player in consecutive games on April 3 against Northwestern and Wednesday against Miami (Ohio).
Dezse played an integral role in the 15-14 win against Northwestern. He was 1-for-3 as the designated hitter with an RBI, two walks and two strikeouts. With a 14-10 Buckeyes lead, Beals called for him to pitch the ninth inning.
“Your mindset is totally different,” Dezse said. “To jump on that mound, it’s almost like a different mentality, absolutely different. You just got switch it on.”
He struggled getting ahead early in the count and the Wildcats tied the game, 14-14. Dezse gave up four runs on as many hits, and walked a batter. He failed to preserve the lead, but he earned the win when OSU won the game in the bottom of the inning.
The Buckeyes did not have much to be happy about after a 12-4 loss to the RedHawks on Wednesday, but Beals said he was most pleased with Dezse’s performance on the mound.
“We had a little talk with him before the game about his mental preparations to pitch and handling the dual duties that he has,” Beals said. “Just being able to switch back and forth and be mentally prepared, and he had at it tonight.”
Dezse was 0-for-4 at the plate that night, but he showed poise as he transitioned smoothly to the pitching mindset. In his only inning of work, he gave up one hit but he struck out the side. He said the outing was a huge confidence booster for him.
“It’s challenging at times because two-way players in college are not around as much as single players,” Stafford said. “You have to manage your time wisely and put in double the work. It takes a special person mentally to do that.”
The freshman was selected as the Big Ten’s first Freshman of the Week. In that week, Dezse hit .583 at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge to lead the Buckeyes, and finished both games he entered as a pitcher.
Dezse had multiple hits in his first three games for OSU. He had two hits and an RBI in a loss to Cincinnati, two hits against No. 28 Louisville and three hits, a run scored and an RBI in the win against St. John’s.
The right-hander allowed one run in one inning of work against No. 20 Louisville. He also picked up the win in against St. John’s, a game in which he pitched two shutout innings.
He was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week again two weeks later, after leading the team offensively in its 7-1 victory against Army on March 13. He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Dezse scored the first two runs of the game, and broke the matchup open with a bases-loaded double that gave the Buckeyes a 6-1 lead.
He is the first two-time winner of the award.
“He has proven that he can hit, and has proven he could pitch at this level,” Beals said. “Now it’s just a matter of he and our coaching staff polishing him up and getting him the best he can be.”