With the most treacherous part of the Ohio State baseball team’s schedule already in the books, the Buckeyes are left with a severe limp.
After midweek losses at West Virginia and at home against Ball State, OSU sat only four games above .500.
The team’s preseason goal of making the NCAA Tournament was quickly slipping away.
But the coaching staff lightened the downtrodden mood of the team with a wiffle ball contest before its weekend series against the Murray State Racers, which might have helped the team pick up a pair of wins.
“I know we’ve been grinding lately and, obviously, losing isn’t fun. That was really nice to do,” redshirt-junior pitcher and first baseman Josh Dezse said on the team stepping away to enjoy the game of wiffle ball.
There were high expectations heading into the season for the Buckeyes, as they were picked to finish third in the Big Ten.
After a 4-0 win against Marshall on March 26, the Buckeyes sat at 16-7, and their goal was very much intact.
Then the wheels began to fall off.
OSU got swept at home in their next series against conference leader Indiana. The weekend after, they were swept on the road at Nebraska with each loss only coming by one run. The team was demoralized.
The Buckeyes seemed to put it behind them the next weekend, taking two of three from Penn State, but then losses to West Virginia and Ball State happened.
This means OSU likely has to win the Big Ten Tournament to achieve its goal of making the NCAA Tournament. The only problem is that the top eight teams in the conference make the conference tournament and the Buckeyes are currently tied for ninth with Purdue.
Before this past weekend’s series against Murray State, coach Greg Beals told his players to forget about every game they had played because they were going to start over. That was the reason for the wiffle ball practice Thursday.
“When we play wiffle ball, it’s just fun,” redshirt-sophomore utility infielder Nick Sergakis said. “We’re all goofing around and we get a feel for how the game should be played … there’s no pressure.”
They started they called a “new” season off well by taking two of three against Murray State.
“We had a different mindset this weekend,” Dezse said after Sunday’s rubber match victory against the Racers. “Coming into this weekend, it was the mentality that we’re just playing wiffle ball. That we’re just out playing a game with each other and it was nice to see us play loose, play fast and fun.”
Another thing the Buckeyes did Sunday before their series-clinching win was a “Remember the Titans”-esque warm-up.
After going through their typical pregame routine, the players got in a circle and began dancing.
“We were doing our doubles signs,” freshman outfielder Ronnie Dawson said. “We were just, like, ‘Let’s try something new today.’ We got in a circle, then we started clapping. It was right at that moment, we just made that up … just to loosen everybody up.”
The easier part of the conference schedule is set to begin with a road trip to Purdue this weekend and a series against Big Ten last place Northwestern May 15-17.
“The toughest part of our season is behind us,” Sergakis said. “We’re resurrecting our team … We just have to progress every day to get better for the Big Ten Tournament because that’s when it really matters.”
Currently the Buckeyes are 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the eighth spot in the conference standings, so OSU cannot afford another bad weekend that could drop it deeper in the standings.
Each game left could make or break their season.
“Playing one game at a time. These guys are very aware of what they need to do,” Beals said. “From a management standpoint, I got to keep them in their lane and keep them in their shoes … don’t think about all 15 (games left) we want to get.”
The Buckeyes’ first game against the Boilermakers is scheduled for Friday at 6:35 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind.