(Photo credit to @OhioState_BASE)
This year’s Ohio State Buckeyes are hoping to return to their winning ways after their worst year under head coach Greg Beals in 2017. A 22-34 record, and subsequent 11th place finish in the Big Ten, left the team out of the conference tournament just one year after winning the tournament as a four-seed in 2016.
What will it take for the Buckeyes to turn it around? Quite simply, they need to hit and pitch at a much higher level than they did in 2017. As a team, Ohio State finished 10th in the Big Ten in hitting as well as in ERA, a recipe for a disappointing season. The good news is that when the 2018 season rolls around, everyone begins with a blank slate.
What They Return
- Their top hitting production in two sophomores: outfielder Dominic Canzone and infielder Conner Pohl. As a freshman in 2017, Canzone led the team in batting average at .343, finished second in slugging at .458, and was third in on-base percentage with a .390 mark. Also as a freshman, Pohl put up similar numbers, finishing second in average (.325), third in slugging (.450), and fourth in on-base percentage (.386). With one year of experience under their belts, these two look to put up even better numbers this year.
- A team ace in junior starting pitcher Connor Curlis. Having a true number-one pitcher is huge for a young team trying to make some noise and Curlis gives them just that. In 2017, he tied for the team lead in innings pitched at 62 2/3, led the team with five wins, while also having the best ERA of all starting pitchers used last year at 4.02.
- Shutdown bullpen option, senior pitcher Seth Kinker. Used as the primary closer, Kinker led the team with seven saves and was also first with 8.3 K/9. He tied for second in appearances last season at 24, one off the team lead, and was second on the team in ERA at 2.95. As a senior, Kinker is going to be leaned on as a leader on this team and should be used plenty out of the bullpen as a late-inning weapon.
What They Lose
- Their biggest power threat, Jalen Washington. He lead the team in home runs, RBIs, and slugging, and was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 29th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Obviously, Washington’s production is going to be hard to replace. Also lost to graduation is Zach Ratcliff, the 2017 team’s other power bat. Ratcliff tied Washington with seven home runs and had 32 RBIs, good for third on the team.
- Their best on-base threat, Tre’ Gantt. Gantt led the team in many categories a year ago including on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, total bases, and stolen bases. This led to Gantt being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 2017 MLB Draft, also in the 29th round. If all goes well, Canzone is the most likely to step up and replicate Gantt’s season this year.
- Not much is lost on the pitching side, with only one starter (Jake Post) and one reliever (Joe Stoll) graduating. All of the young arms could help explain the lackluster performance of a year ago.
What can be expected of Ohio State this year? Certainly an improvement on their 22-win campaign. While they are losing important pieces on offense, they have capable young players ready to fill those holes and improve a mediocre offense. The pitching should see a major upgrade as most of the team from 2017 returns for 2018 with another year of experience under their belts. The Buckeyes are shooting for a return to the Big Ten Tournament, with this year’s finals being held in Omaha. Beals has only made one NCAA Tournament in his tenure at Ohio State. If some things fall their way this year, the Buckeyes could find themselves fighting for two trips to Omaha.