The Ohio State baseball team is returning 20 letterwinners for the 2016 season, giving coach Greg Beals plenty of hope that his team will be able to improve upon last season’s 35-20 finish.
To bolster their record, the Buckeyes will be looking to their newly appointed team captains, senior infielder Nick Sergakis and junior catcher Jalen Washington.
For the pair of upperclassmen, each said they were humbled by being selected captains by their teammates, but for Columbus native Sergakis, it stands for a little bit more.
“It meant the world to me,” Sergakis said. “I respect these guys more than anyone, and for them to vote me into this position, it means a lot. It’s something that you dream of when you’re a little kid to grow up and be the guy that everyone looks up to — that leader. It’s a position that I’ve worked hard for. I appreciate (being) the leader of these guys.”
For Washington, the 2015 offseason included moving from infielder to catcher, a position which he’s never played for OSU. Beals said that his unselfish mindset, paired with his relentless work ethic, are the main reasons why Washington was named a team captain.
“Jalen’s going to be the No. 1 catcher this year,” Beals said. “He’s been a utility player in his previous time here. He had a great summer and he had a great fall. I’m really excited about him.”
Beals said he knows if the Buckeyes want to reach their team goal of bringing home a Big Ten championship, his captains will have to lead the way for a team that finished 13-11 in conference play last year.
“I love those two guys,” Beals said. “I love all the guys on our team, but those guys really exemplify great, hard-working guys that are willing to do whatever it takes for the ball club. Both of them have earned their captains nominations vote by what they’ve done on the field.”
Washington, however, wasn’t on the field all that much for OSU in 2015.
He played sparingly, appearing in only 15 games, mainly as a utility infielder. He had a .280 batting average in 25 at-bats.
“I think what’s really special is a guy like Jalen Washington, who’s not been a regular player in his time here, to be voted captain speaks a lot for the young man and the type of work he does on a daily basis,” Beals said.
Washington said the switch to catcher has been a grind, but he is excited for his chance to be an impact player for the Buckeyes.
Sergakis, perhaps known more for his defense thanks to a No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 last year, closed out 2015 with a .957 fielding percentage over 51 starts at second and third base. Sergakis said he hopes to return to form at the plate after his average dipped from .318 in 2014 to .250 in 2015.
“I’m trying to get back to the same hitter I was when I first came in and through the first portion of last year,” Sergakis said. “I think hitting has been a big part, and I think I’ve improved my game.”
Washington said the team is hungry and will be ready to get the 2016 campaign underway.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to begin their 133rd season of baseball in the Dodgertown Classic, where they are set to play three games against Niagara, Pittsburgh and Toledo on Feb. 19-21 in Vero Beach, Florida.