Even though Columbus is currently experiencing some of its warmest temperatures this winter, the Ohio State baseball team isn’t quite tepid enough.
A week after splitting a four-game tournament slate in Florida, OSU (2-2, 0-0) looks to bounce back as it returns to the Sunshine State this weekend for its second tournament in as many weeks.
The Buckeyes are set to be a part of the UCF Tournament in Orlando, playing host Central Florida Friday, The Citadel Saturday and Oklahoma Sunday.
Redshirt-junior pitcher and first baseman Josh Dezse said it is important OSU has a productive week of practice and rolls into this weekend with a mindset to win.
“They are going to be three great teams. These are teams we can’t take lightly. Any games we can’t take lightly if we want those 40 wins to get into the national tournament at the end of the year,” Dezse said. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to play Buckeye baseball like we know how to play, and hopefully the outcome is in our favor.”
Even though Central Florida has a reputation for a being a strong ball club — one that has made it to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years — junior outfielder Pat Porter said OSU should be in the thick of it Friday.
“It should be a good game. I hear they have some pretty good guys and they’re a pretty solid team,” Porter said. “I think we’re a really solid team too though and we can definitely hang with them.”
Senior pitcher Greg Greve and junior pitcher Ryan Riga look to set the tone for the Buckeyes in Orlando as the top two starting pitchers in OSU’s rotation.
Riga, who led the Buckeyes to a 1-0 win over Auburn Feb. 15 with six shutout innings was named Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Week, the conference announced Tuesday.
“Riga was just on point against Auburn. We couldn’t ask him to throw a better game than that. It was very impressive,” Dezse said.
Junior pitcher and closer Trace Dempsey said the Buckeyes have to work on slowing down the game and other fundamentals this week in practice.
“We got exposed in a couple areas of the game. It showed there is always stuff to improve on,” Dempsey said. “We’re going to work on that this week here at practice, get a good week of practice in and head down to Orlando.”
Scoring no runs in the first or second innings of their first four games, the Buckeyes are aiming to get baserunners on early in Orlando, Porter said.
“We talked about how important each pitch of the game is and how important getting the first batter on base is,” Porter said.
Dempsey added that even if the Buckeyes do get behind early, they have the ability to compete in any situation.
“We can play from behind and we can come out hot early — we can play all facets of the game,” Dempsey said.
After missing all of last season with a stress reaction in his back, Dezse said he was relieved to get a hit in the Buckeyes’ first game of the season against Connecticut last weekend.
“It was really nice because I know I was stressing just a little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the field and getting that (hit) out of the way really loosened me up,” Dezse said.
With the first weekend behind them and the season underway, all that matters for OSU moving forward is getting victories, Dezse said.
“Obviously, we started out hot with two wins and we played OK, but then OK wasn’t to our expectation,” Dezse said. “We expected to play a little bit better than that. What we take away is we have some things to work on.”
First pitch between OSU and Central Florida is set for 7:05 p.m. Friday.