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Ohio State baseball battles big league teams for big league talent

Todd Avery / Lantern photographer

Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals and his players agree that the team has made progress in 2012, but Beals said the program needs to continue to grow and the road to growth is littered with “major” obstacles.
The Buckeyes ended their 2012 season May 25 with a 6-2 loss against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament at Huntington Park. The team finished with a 33-27 record compared to the 25-26 record the team posted during Beals’ first season in 2011. OSU snuck into the postseason as the Big Ten Tournament’s sixth and final-seeded team.
The Buckeyes played on the tournament’s opening day – a 12-5 win against Penn State on May 23 – while the conference’s top two seeds – Indiana and regular-season champion Purdue – earned byes.
Beals said earning a first-round bye is a key step his squad needs to make in the future.
“Our program at Ohio State needs to get back into a situation where we’re getting the bye (on) opening day and that we’re able to keep ourselves in the winners’ bracket,” Beals said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, in my opinion.”
After beating Penn State, OSU lost against Purdue, then the 18th-ranked team in the country, on May 24. The narrow 5-4 loss sent the Buckeyes to the tournament’s losers’ bracket, and was the first of three games the team played in the span of about 22 hours.
The Buckeyes were finally knocked from the double-elimination tournament in the loss to the Spartans, and Beals immediately turned his attention to recruiting.
Beals and sophomore pitcher and first baseman Josh Dezse both said signing recruits is a struggle because of the allure of Major League Baseball.
“At Ohio State University – our baseball program – they expect me to recruit the best student-athletes in the world. That’s what I’m going to do,” Beals said. “We’ve got to get that top-shelf player.”
Beals said he was “burned” last year when some of the top-shelf talent he had recruited – three players signed National Letters of Intent on Aug. 15 – signed professional contracts and opted not to attend OSU.
Beals said two of the players were seventh-round MLB picks while the other was a ninth-round selection.
“All three of them (the players), their total signing bonuses were over three-quarters of a million dollars,” Beals said. “That was tough for us. I’ve got to do more homework to learn about these guys to see how important education is to them.”
Dezse said competing with professional baseball clubs for talent is part of the reality OSU and other college teams face.
“Who knows for recruits,” Dezse said. “We see them in and out of Bill Davis Stadium. We’re hoping we can get away without the (MLB) Draft taking them. That was one of our issues this year, and you fight it every year.
“It’s just one building process, and I’m sure coach is finding great kids out there.”
In spite of the on-going struggle against professional clubs and falling short of the Big Ten’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, junior infielder Brad Hallberg said definite progress was made in 2012.
“We’re more comfortable (with the coaches),” Hallberg said. “More time will be more success, but we’re going to have to work hard for that too. So it’s not just going to come, we know we’ve got to put in the hours.”  

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