Ohio State baseball: Indiana stands in way of Big Ten title
When Greg Beals became Ohio State baseball coach three years ago, the walls in the players’ lounge were covered with photos of Buckeyes teams celebrating Big Ten championships.
Beals had them taken down because he and most of the remaining players had nothing to do with those accomplishments.
Now there is an opportunity to put up picture No. 1 for being Big Ten regular-season champions for the first time since 2009 and the third time since 2001.
Ohio State (33-19, 14-7) is tied for second place with Nebraska and Minnesota and one game behind Indiana (38-12, 15-6) going into the final series, against the Hoosiers. The first of three games is tonight at Bill Davis Stadium.
“We’re close, and we can do it,” Beals said. “If we view it as a process, we’re gaining ground on it. If we win it, we’ll take a picture and put it on the wall in the office.”
Indiana has a formidable 1-2-3 punch in starting pitchers Joey DeNato, Kyle Hart and Aaron Siegers. The Hoosiers, who are ranked 21st by Collegiate Baseball, won two of three games against powerful Florida and have taken six of seven series in the Big Ten.
Ohio State was swept by Indiana last season in Bloomington, Ind.
“We owe them big-time,” Buckeyes senior shortstop Kirby Pellant said. “These are the three biggest games of the year. We have to look at them as opportunity.”
By taking two of three games, the Buckeyes would hold a tiebreaker over Indiana. They hold a tiebreaker over Nebraska for having won that series, but they lost two of three to Minnesota.
The top two finishers receive first-round byes in the Big Ten tournament next week at Target Field in Minneapolis. A regular-season championship probably would not guarantee Ohio State an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“This is what we train for — putting in all those hours,” senior first baseman Brad Hallberg said. “This is what our mission has been all year. It’s an exciting time. It’s a Big Ten battle. When you play Big Ten games, it’s a (different) beast.”