On April 25, third baseman Cory Rupert belted a pitch off Penn State pitcher Ryan Ignas over the left-field wall for a home run. Rupert’s long ball was one of six runs the Buckeyes scored in the loss, but it was also a snapshot of how Rupert does everything in his power to help his team win.
Rupert, one of eight seniors on this year’s baseball team, is putting together his best campaign in his four-year career for the Scarlet and Gray. However, Rupert’s track has not always been easy, as he has weathered many highs and lows while playing for the Buckeyes.
As a freshman, the Mansfield, Ohio, native instantly earned playing time at shortstop for the Buckeyes. Starting for a perennial Big Ten power would be nerve racking for any freshman, much less Rupert, who came from a high school with an enrollment of a little more than 800.
“It was exciting and nerve racking at the same time, coming here as a freshman and being put at short,” Rupert said. “I just went out there and tried to help the team out as best I could.”
Rupert handled the pressure well and had a great freshman season, which led to increased playing time during his sophomore campaign. In his second year in the program, he moved to third, where he made 39 starts for the Buckeyes.
As a sophomore, Rupert was one of the Buckeyes’ most productive offensive players.
However, as a junior, he was, in a sense, demoted, as his starts were reduced from 48 the previous year to 33. As the season wore on, his playing time continued to diminish, and his offense struggled accordingly.
“It was definitely hard on me,” Rupert said. “I started the first 20-some games and after that I was pretty much a role guy from the dugout. It took a while getting used to. I’m not going to say I liked it. It was really tough. But when I got in there I tried to do the best I could.”
Like any competitive athlete, Rupert wanted to be on the field helping his team but accepted his role and helped his team as much as possible from the sidelines when he wasn’t playing. He is described by his teammates and coaches as a great team player and a high-quality character. Those traits allowed Rupert to stay positive and fill in wherever needed.
“Wherever the coaches want me to play, that’s fine with me. As long as I’m playing, I’m happy,” Rupert said. “I’m just out there to help the team. If I’m not playing that day I’ll be in the dugout cheering on my teammates.”
Rupert returned for his senior season with a renewed vigor and has found himself back in the starting lineup for the Buckeyes. This season, the right-hander’s role has been reversed. He has developed into the everyday third baseman for the Buckeyes and has started all 12 conference games.
Coach Bob Todd believes Rupert’s experience played a big role in his development.
“One of the things for Cory Rupert is he really started to mature,” Todd said. “I think that there have been a lot of things he needed to do to kind of understand how to play the game a little better.”
Rupert has certainly learned, as this season is by far his best at the plate. He has the highest on-base percentage on the team and the team’s second highest batting average.
The third baseman credits his consistent playing time with his offensive explosion.
“Last year I wasn’t in the lineup everyday,” Rupert said. “It’s kind of tough to get on a roll when you’re not playing everyday. And it’s my fourth year. Being a senior, I know what to expect now. Being in the lineup everyday and having the experience definitely helps.”
If Rupert continues to be as productive as he has been this season, there’s no question he will be a mainstay for the Buckeyes at third base. He has reached base in all 25 of his starts this season and will look to continue that streak this week against foes Marshall and Michigan.
“I’m glad to be back in the lineup everyday,” Rupert said. “I just go out there and do the best I can and hopefully I can stay in the lineup the rest of the year.”