As the Big Ten season is now in full swing, the Ohio State baseball team has its rotation in order.
A trio of right-handers will likely toe the rubber for the Buckeyes in every series the rest of the way. The ‘Big Three’ of Alex Wimmers, Drew Rucinski and Dean Wolosiansky will be expected to be workhorses for the Buckeyes.
“Going into the year, Alex, Drew and Dean were three of our most experienced guys. And we’re expecting them to carry the load,” pitching coach Eric Parker said. “Obviously those three guys are big for us. Not only with their experience, but also their ability to eat up innings.”
The Buckeyes will need great starts from all three pitchers this weekend as they head to East Lansing, Mich., to face the Michigan State Spartans. The series will be a battle for first place as the Buckeyes are currently tied with the Spartans atop the Big Ten standings.
OSU and MSU are also atop the Big Ten standings in pitching and that could be the deciding factor in this weekend’s series.
“Getting a quality start from your starter every game is important,” Parker said. “So far, these guys have done a great job and we’ll need them to continue that.”
And while each of the three is expected to carry the load, they all do it in their own way.
Alex the ace
Wimmers’ dominant pitching has been well documented, and he continues to collect accolades for his performances. Last week, Wimmers was honored as the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week. It was the second time this season he’s received the award and the sixth time in his career. His potential to develop into a top-tier pitcher began to show when he was a freshman and he’s continued to develop that potential throughout his time at Ohio State.
This season serves as Wimmers’ second atop the Buckeye rotation. He is the defending Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Year. While his abilities on the mound are apparent, coach Bob Todd believes it’s not his pitches that separate him from the pack.
“I think the thing that sets Alex apart from other pitchers is that he’s such a great competitor,” Todd said. “He just does not want to lose.”
And Wimmers simply doesn’t lose. So far this season, the junior is 7-0 for the Buckeyes.
Parker echoed Todd’s sentiment on Wimmers’ mental edge.
“He not only has the stuff, but also the belief in himself,” Parker said. “He wants to be one of the best pitchers, and that drives him.”
Wimmers is the only pitcher in Ohio State history to record a nine-inning no-hitter, which he tossed last season against Michigan. And this year, it seems he’s even better.
Wimmers leads the staff in ERA, wins, complete games, strikeouts and opposing batting average. His 60 strikeouts are tops in the Big Ten, a number he’ll look to add to when he faces Michigan State this weekend.
Rucinski has filled many roles for the Buckeyes. Last season, the Oklahoma native pitched in relief, making 36 appearances, second in the Big Ten. He started this season in the same role before moving into the rotation at the start of Big Ten play.
“Coming into the season, we talked to Drew about what role would be best for him to help the team and he said, ‘whatever, I’ll do it.’ He’s always been a team-first guy,” Parker said.
Early in the season, the Buckeyes again needed him to come out of the bullpen.
“Drew’s kind of your rubber-arm guy,” Parker said. “He has the ability to bounce back and he was one of our most experienced guys in a relief role. So we knew early on that was going to be best for the team, but we also knew of his ability to help us as a starter.”
The Buckeyes have made full use of Rucinski’s ‘rubber arm’ as he leads the team in appearances for a second straight season.
While Rucinski has spent much of his career in relief, he’s back at home in the starting rotation.
“All through high school I started,” Rucinski said. “That’s what I like to do. I like being the guy getting the start.”
Unfortunately for Rucinski, in one of his first starts of the season, the first batter he faced at Northwestern lined a ball off his right leg. The injury threw off his mechanics, but he’s battled through it and says he’s back at full strength.
Rucinski attacks hitters with four different pitches, which he throws with lethal accuracy.
“He has four pitches and can throw strikes with all of them,” Parker said.
Dean the magician
Wolosiansky comes from a family of athletes. His father, Walt, and sister, Jill, both played collegiate volleyball. His grandfather played football at Miami University. So it comes as no surprise that the 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound junior is playing at Ohio State.
Wolosiansky is the biggest of the horses and fittingly receives the heaviest load. The right-hander leads the team in starts and innings pitched. He’s in his second season in the Buckeyes rotation, but brings a much different game to the mound.
While Wimmers dominates with his strikeouts and Rucinski keeps hitters off balance with a repertoire of pitches, Wolosiansky has his own method. Wolo, as he’s known by his teammates, attacks hitters with moving fastballs and pitches to contact.
“He’s more of a movement fastball guy,” Parker said. “He’s still working to develop that out pitch, but he gets a lot of ground balls.”
Due to his style of pitching, Wolosiansky leads OSU in another statistical category — hits allowed. But that doesn’t hamper him, as Wolosiansky might be the best pitcher on the staff at working out of jams.
“He always finds a way out of it and he keeps the damage down,” Parker said.
Wolosiansky’s pitching style also produces numerous double plays, which — along with his pickoff move — he uses masterfully to work out of trouble.
“Dean finds ways to win ball games for us. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but he is able to win and you can’t argue that,” Todd said.