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Baseball: Ohio State brings early confidence into Big Ten opener against Nebraska

Then-junior relief pitcher Seth Kinker delivers a 1-1 pitch to UNCG sophomore second baseman Austin Embler in the top of the sixth inning. Credit: Edward Sutelan | Assistant Sports Editor

With nine wins in the past 10 games, the Ohio State baseball team will begin Big Ten play feeling confident.

The red-hot Buckeyes welcome Nebraska (13-12, 1-2 Big Ten) to Columbus Friday night for the first three games of Ohio State’s Big Ten conference schedule, hoping to carry over some of the momentum built up from the team’s out-of-conference success.

The Buckeyes’ most recent 19-4 win against Toledo on Thursday only helps matters.

“We’ve been playing pretty good baseball,” head coach Greg Beals said. “It was critical to keep that momentum going into conference play this weekend.”

Ohio State (17-7) gets production top-to-bottom in the batting order, with five hitters now batting above .310 and seven with double-digit RBI totals. The Buckeyes have averaged 10 runs per game in the past six matchups.

Nebraska’s primary strength is its pitching staff, which is headlined by Friday night starter Luis Alvarado and his 3.24 ERA. Junior Matt Waldron adds a 3.27 ERA to the starting rotation while fellow junior Zack Engelken and redshirt freshman Paul Tillotson have provided a combined 26 innings of relief with a cumulative 2.42 ERA.

“They’re going to pound the fastball at the bottom of the strike zone,” Beals said. “[Alvarado], their Friday guy, he’s got a real good arm.”

Senior right fielder Scott Schreiber provides the bulk of support for Nebraska’s pitching staff, batting .364 with six home runs. Junior catcher Jesse Wilkening (.330, 25 RBIs) and senior outfielder Zac Repinski (.321) also have the potential to damage Ohio State.

Outside those three, Nebraska could be at a real disadvantage in terms of quality at-bats throughout the lineup with only one other regular starter batting above .260.

Facing that lineup Friday night for the Buckeyes is junior Connor Curlis, who is off to an impressive 4-0 start. Junior Ryan Feltner (2-1) will take the hill Saturday, with redshirt senior Adam Niemeyer (1-2) going on Sunday.

“I think that no one on this team is complacent, and I think that’s a big part of how hard we work in the cages, how hard we work in our throwing program,” senior relief pitcher Seth Kinker said. “We’re gonna be ready to play Nebraska.”

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