The Ohio State baseball team entered this season expecting to win another Big Ten title.
But with just three regular-season games remaining, the defending champions are fifth in the conference standings.
Instead of trying to close out another season atop the conference, the Buckeyes are fighting for their postseason lives.
“It’s definitely a bit of a change of pace for us,” senior Ryan Dew said. “I think we need to take two of three this weekend to be sure to get into the tournament.”
The Big Ten Tournament accepts only the top six teams from the conference. The Buckeyes are on the fringe as they are in a four-way tie for fifth place. Consequently, the Buckeyes need to win this weekend’s series in order to ensure themselves a spot in the tournament.
However, that will be no easy feat as the Buckeyes play host to first-place Minnesota, and the Buckeyes have lost their last four Big Ten series.
“This team has had a black cloud over it and I don’t know how to get out from under it,” coach Bob Todd said. He said all the breaks seem to be going the opponent’s way this season and that’s just the game of baseball.
One break that may go the Buckeyes’ way this weekend is the return of pitcher Alex Wimmers. The All-American ace has been sidelined the past four weeks with a hamstring injury, but might be ready to take the mound this weekend.
“We’ve got Dean (Wolosiansky) and (Drew) Rucinski pitching lights out. So if we get Wimmers back like he always is we can take three games this weekend,” senior Cory Kovanda said.
Although Todd was vague when addressing whether Wimmers would be ready to go this weekend, players hinted that he could be back. Wimmers’ return would serve as a huge boost as he is 9-0 on the season and injects confidence into his teammates whenever he toes the rubber.
“Obviously he’s a huge talent,” Dew said. “Every time he takes the mound we know we are going to win.”
Win is exactly what the Buckeyes must do if they wish to continue their season. And even with their recent struggles, the team is still confident in its ability to take this weekend’s series.
“We’re a very close team and we’re confident in ourselves,” Dew said. “When we play a complete game, most of the time we win. I know we can do it and the team is confident we can.”
Dew and Kovanda, two of eight seniors on this year’s team, expressed their desire to keep playing in their final season at OSU. They also want to send Todd, their storied head coach, off with another Big Ten championship.
Earlier this year, Todd announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season. In his 23-year tenure at OSU, the Buckeyes have missed the Big Ten tournament only once.
“I’ve only missed it once in my life,” Todd said. “For this team, that has so much potential and so many high expectations, which I thought were justified — For us to be in this position is very uncharacteristical.”
The Buckeyes open the three-game series against the Golden Gophers Thursday at 7 p.m. at Bill Davis Stadium.