For some members of the Ohio State baseball team, the 2014 regular season wasn’t enough to fulfill their baseball fix. Several chose to spend the summer playing the sport as well.
Of the 25 OSU ballplayers who participated in summer league baseball, five were named all-stars in their respective leagues.
Outfielder Ronnie Dawson particularly stood out. The now-sophomore was named the No. 1 prospect of the Prospect League by Baseball America after batting .303 with 11 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 57 games for the Chillicothe Paints. The outfielder turned some heads during his freshman year for OSU, earning everyday playing time as the season wore on.
“I just worked hard every day, and the whole winter,” Dawson said. “I wasn’t expected to start any, so I just had that push me so I could continue to work hard, so that hopefully when I got the opportunity I could take advantage of it, and I did.”
Dawson kept that same mindset throughout summer ball.
“I was working on just getting better as a player, and as a teammate,” Dawson said. “A lot of opposite field, speed, my arm, just little things that are going to pay off in the long run.”
Senior outfielder Pat Porter and sophomore pitcher Travis Lakins also enjoyed a successful summer. Porter was named a first team summer collegiate All-American, while Lakins threw a perfect game against the West Virginia Miners on June 20.
“Over the summer, I definitely cleared my mind and had a great summer,” Porter said. “I’m ready to keep going this year.”
Porter batted .324 with 63 RBIs in 70 games, making him the league’s RBI champion. The senior said he worked on alleviating the pressure he put on himself and waiting for the right pitches to swing at.
“I definitely had the best summer of my career, best baseball season of my career, and that was against the exact same or better talent that I played my entire school year,” Porter added.
Coach Greg Beals made it no secret that he was tracking his players’ success closely over the summer.
“I wake up every morning and get on my iPad while I’m still in bed and check box scores from the night before,” Beals said. “So I know how many hits we’ve got as a team before I get out of bed the next day, and that’s how important it is to track our guys.”
The Buckeyes went 30-28 overall and 10-14 in Big Ten play last season and lost their two games in the Big Ten Tournament. However, Beals said he feels a major turnaround could be in store for his squad.
“This team is going to be at the top of the conference this year,” he said. “If we can stay healthy and win some big games, I think we’ve got a chance to play for a championship.”
Along with the disappointing on-field results, last season was marred by the health of then-freshman pitcher Zach Farmer.
The left-hander told the team trainers in late April that he was feeling weak and dizzy after throwing. After tests, Farmer was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on April 29.
Farmer tweeted a message from his account, @zfarm34, Sunday saying he has been cancer-free for 100 days.
“We’re really excited that Zach is doing as well as he is,” Beals said. “He had his bone marrow transplant, they let him out of the hospital earlier than what was expected, and he seems to be doing very well. He’s definitely ahead of schedule.”
Despite the health improvements, Farmer is not expected to rejoin the team until the 2016 season. Beals said the lefty was still able to attend a practice with the team once this fall.
Beals said the Buckeyes are set to return all but three players this season, with just six new players in the fold. Senior pitcher Trace Dempsey said he feels last season was simply a building block to set up success in his senior year.
“Last year was kind of a bridge year for us,” Dempsey said. “We had a lot of new guys, lost a lot of old guys. But the talent level now — it’s unbelievable. This might be the most talented team we’ve had in my four years here.”
OSU’s season is scheduled to start with three games at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., from Feb. 13-15.
Correction: Sept. 18, 2014