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Baseball: Scarlet and Gray World Series gives Buckeyes first glimpse of touted recruiting class

Ohio State freshman starting pitcher Seth Lonsway delivers a pitch out of the windup in the first inning of Game 3 of the Scarlet and Gray World Series. Credit: Edward Sutelan | Assistant Sports Editor

Ohio State’s baseball team brought in one of its best recruiting classes in team history, landing the top prospect in Ohio — and the highest-ranked recruit signed by a Big Ten school — in freshman starting pitcher Seth Lonsway.

Overall, Baseball America listed this as one of the best recruiting classes in the conference, citing Lonsway as the clear headliner, but also highlighting touted freshmen like catcher Dillon Dingler and Jake Ruby as potential impact players for the Buckeyes next season.

Though the Scarlet and Gray World Series was just a scrimmage for the team, the performances of some of the younger players could lay the groundwork for upcoming position battles in the 2018 season.

Nearly all of Ohio State’s top recruits had a chance to play in Tuesday’s game, with the star of the class — Lonsway — opening the game on the mound.

Here are some thoughts on the performances of the younger players:

LHP Seth Lonsway

To find any faults with the starting pitcher for the Scarlet team would be to knitpick. Lonsway entered the game with the loftiest expectations of any newcomer in the class. He was regarded as the No. 148 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s 2017 Top 200 Draft Prospects and was drafted 557th overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the MLB draft.

The southpaw fanned six batters in the outing and allowed just one run on three hits and two walks over four innings of work.

It is clear why the Buckeyes are excited about his potential. Lonsway immediately flashed his dynamic stuff, spotting a low-90s fastball (it touched 94 a couple times) with plenty of life that he located effectively. If he ever fell behind in the count, he found he could come back to that pitch and help put himself back in the count. It is the most electric left-handed fastball to come out of an Ohio State arm in a long time, and it kept hitters off balance all day.

“It was working inside, working outside. At times, I left it up a few times out of the stretch, which I’ve been working on quite a bit,” Lonsway said.

The secondary offerings were about as steady as would be expected. His changeup was spotty at times, and it was clear the pitch is a work in-progress. When he had the pitch working, it kept both right- and left-handed hitters off balance, but often he lost his touch with it and bounced it in the dirt. The second-best pitch in his repertoire was his curveball. He located the pitch well — though he occasionally lost the grip on it — and it always seemed to keep hitters off balance.

Lonsway is far from perfect, but head coach Greg Beals knows he could be a star player for the Buckeyes. It took him a few moments to ponder what Lonsway needed to improve on before citing the inconsistency in the southpaw’s secondary pitches as the key to improving.

“He’s got a good changeup to go with his breaking ball, just a little bit better command of his offspeed stuff to go with the explosive fastball that he has,” Beals said. “That’s his next evolution is just the command part of his game and getting that intact because he’s got all the tools necessary to be a great pitcher at this level.”

C Dillon Dingler

Lonsway’s battery mate did not have quite the same impact on the game the starter had, but his tools jumped out. The swing was easy and fluid, and built to make plenty of contact. He combined that swing with a patient approach at the plate and a good eye. And though he was never a great power hitter in high school, his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame gives him space to develop some pop in his bat.

What stood out the most about Dingler was his defense. He is athletic for someone of his size, and his above-average speed and athleticism helped him block pitches in the dirt and serve as an effective receiver for his pitchers. He possesses a missile for an arm, though the accuracy wavers at times. Base-runners will have a tough time running on him once he is able to harness the power in his arm.

Lonsway said he feels comfortable with Dingler catching behind the dish, and said the freshmen tandem could be a dynamic pairing for the Buckeyes.

“He’s got a great arm behind the plate, just very smooth and very fundamentally sound,” Lonsway said. “I have a lot of confidence when I’m on the mound and he’s behind the plate. I love throwing to him. He’s caught me quite a few times this fall, so it’s been a pretty good duo for us.”

OF Jake Ruby

Ruby enters his freshman season competing to fill a critical spot in the Buckeyes’ lineup. A natural center fielder, he will compete with transfer Malik Jones for the vacancy left by Ohio State’s Tre Gantt, who left early for the 2017 MLB Draft.

The 6-foot, 190-pound outfielder showed off what made him such a highly regarded recruit in the state of Ohio, flashing well above-average speed both in the field and on the basepaths. In center, he had great jumps on nearly everything hit his way and his speed helped him catch up to everything.

His speed also showed up on the basepaths, though likely not in the way Beals would have liked to have seen. He was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double on his first hit of the evening. Even when he safely reached first base, it was clear Ruby was an aggressive baserunner, though it seems only because his speed affords him the opportunity to test the limits.

At the plate, he was able to make some contact, though he often appeared too patient. He was struck out looking once in the game. The swing is clearly designed to make plenty of contact, but there could be some raw pop to be channeled.

The key for Ruby to win the battle as the starting center fielder will be to wait on some of his decisions and step into the batter’s box ready to hit rather than expecting to take, Beals said. The Buckeyes’ head coach said Ruby will need to make quicker decisions at the plate to be a fixture in the lineup.

“Two-way decisions take too long and it’s that amount, that difference in time in the decision process is the difference between being on-time or being late in the batter’s box,” Beals said. “So we talked about that yesterday and I was excited to see him make a good adjustment live at game time today.”

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