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Baseball: Ohio State’s top reliever Seth Kinker named second-team All-American

Senior reliever Seth Kinker snags a comeback hit to finish off Ohio State’s 5-4 win against Indiana on April 21. Credit: Mac Connor | Ohio State Athletics

Seth Kinker has a unique philosophy for a pitcher: he can’t get sore if he’s always pitching.

If the Ohio State baseball team were to have a game every day of the week, Kinker would want the ball in each of those games. He believes that if he pitches back-to-back days, his arm will only feel better. It’s when he has extended days off that his arm starts to feel what he calls “second-day soreness.”

And given his success, head coach Greg Beals would seem likely to want to give him the ball each one of those days. Kinker has been the most dominant pitcher for Ohio State the past three years, and that success was rewarded when it was revealed Thursday morning that he had been named a second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

“Really happy for Seth,” Beals said in a press release. “He means so much to the success of our team. We are here in a regional in large part to the year Kinker had on the mound.”

Kinker turned in his best season on the mound in 2018, recording a minute 1.49 ERA over 60.1 innings with a 59-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was among the best pitchers in the Big Ten, with his ERA ranked the lowest among qualifying pitchers, his .213 opposing batting average ranked second-lowest, his 15 saves tied for second and only teammate Kyle Michalik appeared in more games.

He has not been an ordinary closer for Ohio State this season, however. Beals has turned to him before as early as the seventh inning and had him close the game out from there. He pitched in Ohio State’s 2-1 extra-inning win against California State University, Northridge, arriving from the bullpen in the eighth inning and delivered 4.2 scoreless innings to secure the win.

“I don’t always know what the result of that back end’s going to be,but I know who’s going to be pitching for us,” Beals said Monday. “When we get to the eighth or the ninth inning, the seventh inning a few times and I call Kinker’s name, from a defensive standpoint, my job’s kind of done. We’ve handed the ball to our guy and we’re in position [to win].”

He added that for a time especially in tournament play where the value of each individual game is amplified due to the tough situation a team can be put in after a loss. When Beals needs his team to win, it becomes “incredibly valuable” to have someone as reliable as Kinker with whom Beals can place his full trust.

That ability for Kinker to give Ohio State multiple shutdown innings proved valuable in the Big Ten tournament, when he threw three shutout innings against Iowa to seal the 2-0 win for Ohio State and then pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings against Michigan the next day to help Ohio State advance to the semi-finals in back-to-back elimination games.

To recover from his three-inning, 50-pitch outing against Iowa, Kinker took “a very long nap,” ate dinner with his family “and then I came back and I chugged water.” Nothing special, but it aided him in staying ready for the next game his team played against Michigan.

“I avoid that second-day recovery so my arm felt better after the Michigan game — that Minnesota day — than it did the Michigan day,” Kinker said.

His work is far from over. Exactly one week from the team’s win against Michigan, Ohio State will be playing second-seeded South Carolina at 2 p.m. Friday in the first game of the Greenville, North Carolina, regional in the NCAA tournament.

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