Seth Kinker is not the first Ohio State pitcher from Huntington, West Virginia.
When the now-senior pitcher arrived at Ohio State, he was following in the footsteps of Huntington native Trace Dempsey, a reliever who played from 2012-2015 and held the record for most career appearances in a Buckeye uniform.
That is, until Kinker broke his record in Friday’s 4-2 win over Purdue.
“He texted me the other night and he said, ‘Man, I never thought it would be broken, especially this fast, but I am damn happy it was you who broke it,’” Kinker said.
Entering the game in the sixth inning of Friday’s matchup with the Boilermakers, Kinker broke the school record with his 103rd career appearance, throwing three innings for his 12th save of the season.
Kinker knew this day was coming. This accomplishment was something he had been working towards. However, that did not change his persona on the mound.
For Ohio State head coach Greg Beals, that level of consistency helped develop a trust in his reliever to put him in many different situations throughout his college career.
“At this level, at a program like Ohio State, we don’t just run guys out there,” Beals said. “You are pitching the guys and putting them in situations and that tells you that Kinker has been competitive, really competitive for a long time here.”
For the past four seasons, Kinker has developed into the more consistent options out of the Ohio State bullpen, posting a 2.07 ERA and a .232 opponent’s batting average in 186.2 career innings.
Kinker felt like he physically had the ability to break the record for most appearances in Ohio State history, but he wasn’t sure he would get that many chances.
“I knew I had the capability to,” Kinker said. “Was I going to be put in the position that early to be able to rack up that many in the span of a year between last year and junior year? No, not really. There were a lot of better arms in front of me.”
What he felt he needed most was a change in mindset when he was on the mound. Kinker found the perfect example of what he needed in his roommate: former Ohio State pitcher Jake Post.
“He’s taught me everything I needed to know when it comes to a mentality, when it comes to being a pitcher at Ohio State,” Kinker said.
As he watched Post become a leader in the dugout for the Buckeyes, Kinker solidified his own confidence, therefore establishing his role in the bullpen.
That confidence is something he still utilizes to this day.
“If you are confident in yourself, you trust yourself. No one is going to take that away from you,” Kinker said. “That’s why I was able to be put in that situation. I trusted myself, I had confidence in my teammates and myself, so there’s nothing really holding me back.”
With the senior leading the team with 24 appearances and a 1.22 ERA in 51.2 innings of work, Beals said he sees how the mix of confidence and composure Kinker brings to any in-game situation.
“He plays with a great deal of confidence and a great deal of awareness of who he is and a trust in his ability and knows how he is going to go about doing it and does it,” Beals said. “You have heard me say it before, it’s one thing to have awareness and it’s one thing to know how and it’s another thing to be able to execute and he executes. That’s what makes it special.”
Execution. No matter what the situation is, this is something that Kinker will always strive for each time he comes out of the bullpen for Ohio State.
“I was going to be the same person,” Kinker said. “I always am and I have been for 102 appearances prior to that one.”