A feeling of rejuvenation came over the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as the pitching staff of the Ohio State baseball team took the turf to begin practice.
After earning the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament last year, only to miss out on the NCAA Tournament, the team is looking to take care of some unfinished business.
Redshirt-junior pitcher and first baseman Josh Dezse, a third-team Louisville Slugger preseason All-American selection, said the team is aiming to get back in the spotlight this year.
“We didn’t have a bunch of little goals,” Dezse said. “Our main goal is to go out and represent Ohio State in the National Tournament this year.”
The program has enjoyed a resurgence under Greg Beals, who was named head coach in June 2010. The Buckeyes’ record has increased each year under his leadership and, even after coming so close to winning the Big Ten last year, Beals said he expects they should be an improved club this season.
“Our goals, right now, are just to keep getting better. This is a younger team, but a talented team,” Beals said. “Our mentality is to win today.”
The youth he is referring to can be largely found in the pitching staff. The team lost all three members of its starting rotation from last season. Losing that many innings from the rotation could be worrisome to most teams, but pitching coach Mike Stafford didn’t seem bothered by it.
“We have a whole mess looking like they’re ready for some competition,” Stafford said.
Freshmen pitchers Zach Farmer, Travis Lakins, Tanner Tully and Adam Niemeyer were specifically mentioned by Stafford as some of the young guns who are ready to bring some heat.
Junior catcher Aaron Gretz said he doesn’t think the players’ inexperience will be a problem at all.
“I think we’re going to have as good or an even better pitching staff than last year,” Gretz said. “Talent-wise I think they’re right there to being one of the top in the nation.”
While the rotation will start out with some new faces, the bullpen brings some star power late into games, specifically in junior pitcher and closer Trace Dempsey. Dempsey, who joins Dezse on the third team All-American list, finished last season with a Big Ten-best 17 saves. As long as the starters keep opposing offenses at bay and Dempsey continues to show an ability to come in and slam the door at the end of the game, opponents could have a very difficult time scoring runs this season.
The offense looks to put a lot of runs on the scoreboard at Bill Davis Stadium. Sophomore infielders Jacob Bosiokovic and Troy Kuhn, and junior outfielder Pat Porter, return after finishing in the top five in batting average last season. They also receive a boost from Dezse, who missed all of last season with a stress reaction in his back.
With the team set to begin play in just over three weeks, it is time to stop talking about goals and start chasing them.
“There’s no magical potion that you sprinkle on. It’s just good old blood, sweat and tears,” Beals said. “We have an expectation level … Ohio State has an expectation level of excellence. Combine the two of those and I think it broods for success.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to begin play in Port Charlotte, Fla., Feb. 14 against Connecticut as part of the Snowbird Classic.