The chance for revenge can drive any team to push a little harder against an opponent, no matter the sport.
That element is surely to be on minds of the members of the Ohio State baseball team this weekend as it is set to take on a team that assisted in ending its chances of playing in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The Buckeyes are scheduled for a weekend series with Indiana opening Friday, a team they lost to, 11-3, on the second day of the Big Ten Tournament. OSU lost the next day to Nebraska in an elimination game, but a win against the top-seeded Hoosiers would have done great things to help boost the team’s NCAA Tournament résumé.
After thinking about the loss to Indiana all offseason, senior outfielder Tim Wetzel said these three games are as big as it gets for the team this year — games that could again be the difference between OSU getting in the NCAA Tournament or not.
“Needless to say, this is the only one that matters. You know we’ve got to win this series. It’s the most important one of the year by far,” Wetzel said.
Since the loss in the Big Ten Tournament, a lot has changed for OSU — including a lineup that features a handful of freshman standouts and an entirely different rotation of starting pitchers.
OSU (16-7, 2-1) has won eight of its last nine games heading into the series against the Hoosiers (12-10, 2-1), the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten.
Now with a chip on their shoulders heading into this weekend, Wetzel said the Buckeyes have already proven they’re good enough to win this series — they just have to execute.
“Last season we lost the Big Ten in the last weekend to Indiana,” Wetzel said. “But if you go back, we really lost that Big Ten (title) in the second weekend against Michigan State when we lost a game on Friday night that we shouldn’t have lost, so with that mindset we need to go out and we need to at least take two out of three, hopefully a sweep.”
Sophomore infielder Jacob Bosiokovic got his first look at the Hoosiers last year and he didn’t like the results. He said OSU has to beat teams like Indiana to get into the NCAA Tournament.
“Those are the guys that stopped us last year and that’s definitely a bitter taste in our mouth,” Bosiokovic said. “We’re pushing to be a national caliber team and when we get our chance, we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Among the freshman players on the Buckeyes’ roster Indiana has not seen are pitchers Tanner Tully and Travis Lakins and outfielder Ronnie Dawson.
Coach Greg Beals said this is a chance for his team, which is tied for first in the conference with three other teams including Indiana, to separate itself atop the Big Ten standings.
“It’s early but I think every series that you play in conference is kind of a statement series, every series that you get is an opportunity to solidify your spot,” Beals said.
The weekend starting pitching rotation for OSU is set to be junior Ryan Riga Friday, senior Greg Greve Saturday and Tully Sunday for the second weekend in a row. Since losing the top of its pitching staff last season, Riga, Greve and Tully worked hard throughout the offseason to prove they were the top three starters on the team, Beals said.
“‘We graduated 280-some innings — who wants them?,’ that was the message that was up on the board the whole offseason,” Beals said.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Friday at Bill Davis Stadium.