The Ohio State baseball team officially begins its season Friday when it travels to Port Charlotte, Florida, for the Snowbird Classic. For a team that fell far short of its goals last season, the opportunity to face live pitchers and hitters ends months of anticipating.
“As a pitcher, you love to see another opponent in the batter’s box,” senior pitcher Seth Kinker said. “We get to go down there, we get to wear shorts and a T-shirt after a game, you get to sweat during a game. Heck, even when we play [at Bill Davis Stadium] we don’t even get to sweat or anything.”
The Snowbird Classic occurs over three days, featuring the Buckeyes’ opening four games of the season. They will take on two teams twice during the weekend.
The Buckeyes kick off their season at 11 a.m. Friday against UW-Milwaukee, then take the Panthers on in the fourth game of the season at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Panthers’ 22-34 record in 2017 was the same as the Buckeyes, but the schedule was easier given their Horizon League slate. The Panthers finished 10th in the Horizon last year.
UW-Milwaukee lost a bulk of its hitters from a season ago with nine players leaving. Returning for the Panthers will be senior infielder Ben Chally, who slashed .327/.394/.421 with no home runs and four stolen bases.
Junior Connor Curlis (5-3, 4.02 ERA, 58 strikeouts in 2017) is expected to start for the Buckeyes Friday, with redshirt senior Yianni Pavlopoulos (2-5, 6.53 ERA, 24 strikeouts last season) likely to take the mound Sunday.
The Buckeyes play Canisius in the second half of a double header at 2 p.m. Friday, and then again at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Canisius could present a somewhat greater challenge for Ohio State, after finishing 2017 with a 35-22 record, earning second place in the Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Though Canisius lost its top hitter from last year, redshirt senior utility Liam Wilson will return to the lineup for the Golden Griffins. Wilson slashed .343/.422/.505 with three home runs and a pair of steals last season.
Ohio State junior Ryan Feltner (1-5, 6.32 ERA, 57 strikeouts in 2017), recently rated as the Big Ten’s top prospect by both D1Baseball.com and Perfect Game scouting services, will start the second half of Friday’s double-header with redshirt senior Adam Niemeyer (2-4, 4.67, 23) going on Saturday.
Overall, head coach Greg Beals wants to see some fight out of his team now that it finally gets to compete against non-teammates.