Daniel Zaas / Lantern photographer
Facing the Minnesota Golden Gophers (24-23, 13-11 Big Ten) in a Big Ten Tournament elimination game, the Ohio State baseball team (26-27, 14-11 Big Ten) fell, 9-4, on Friday.
Illinois took the championship and automatic conference bid for the NCAA Tournament.
This was Greg Beals’ first season as coach of OSU, after replacing Hall of Fame coach Bob Todd. The team finished one game below .500, marking the first time the Buckeyes had a losing record since 1987.
Beals did lead OSU back to the Big Ten Tournament, however, after Todd’s team missed the cut last season.
Beals said he was proud of how far the team came in his first year at OSU.
“Of all the great teams in Ohio State baseball history, this team, this year, was the first team to sweep Michigan at home in Bill Davis Stadium,” Beals said. “This was the first team to go up and at Minnesota, and win a series on the road at Minnesota — first in history.”
Freshman outfielder Tim Wetzel said the team had a lot of guys fitting into new roles and that they all matured over the year.
“We all found our roles pretty early in the season, and then we all really stuck to that,” Wetzel said. “I think, in a game like this, that’s going to take us a long way.”
Beals said the players knew who they were and fought their “tails” off.
“I’ll remember these kids for the fight they had,” Beals said. “Whether they were as good or better or not as good, they just fought, and they fought, and they fought.”
The Buckeyes will lose seven seniors, including three everyday starters. This includes two starting pitchers and two relief pitchers, one of whom was Drew Rucinski, a second-team All-Big Ten selection.
Beals said the team has eight incoming players signed to national letters of intent and seven verbal commitments.
“I’m looking forward to next year, playing with all these guys — except for those seven seniors that will be gone,” sophomore catcher Greg Solomon said. “They did a hell of a job this year.”
Beals said the bar has been set high for OSU baseball and that, in the future, the team needs to take care of business so chances to make the Big Ten Tournament are not in jeopardy.
“Playing baseball the right way and maximizing the game of baseball is what me and my coaching staff are going to push every day in this program,” Beals said. “It was something that was an absolute necessity for this season, and it’s something that I think for great baseball, where we want this program to go, it’s going to be a necessity in the future also.”