Head coach: Greg Beals, second year at Ohio State
2011 Record: 26-27, 13-11 Big Ten, fourth
Returning All-Big Ten Players: Second-team: Josh Dezse (1B). Freshman: Dezse, Greg Greve (SP), Tim Wetzel (OF)
2012 Prediction: Third in Big Ten
AVG- Dezse (.332)
HR- Dezse (4)
R- Ryan Cypret (37)
RBI- Dezse (42)
SB- Tim Wetzel (6)
IP- Greve (68.1)
W- Dezse (4)
SO- Brett McKinney (49)
SV- Dezse (6)
ERA- McKinney (4.48)
Projected lineup (2011 stats)
C- Fr. Aaron Gretz (N/A)/ Jr. Greg Solomon (.273 AVG/.298 OBP/.430 SLG)
1B- So. Josh Dezse (.332/.427/.472)
2B- Jr. Ryan Cypret (.323/.400/.428)
SS- Jr. Kirby Pellant (Transfer)
3B- Jr. Greg Solomon (.273 AVG/.298 OBP/.430 SLG)/ Fr. Ryan Leffel (N/A)
OF- Jr. Mike Carroll (Transfer)
OF- Sr. David Corna (.264/.344/.415)
OF- So. Tim Wetzel (.278/.373/.318)
DH- Jr. Brad Hallberg (.254/.381/.296) Sr. Brad Hutton (.205/.367/.385)
Projected rotation (2011 stats)
Jr. Brett McKinney (3-3, 4.48 ERA, 64.1 IP, .265 BAA)
Jr. Brian King (Transfer)
So. Greg Greve (3-3, 5.00, 68.1, .314)
Closer- So. Josh Dezse (4-2, 5.53, 6 SV, 27.2, .286)
RHP Drew Rucinski second-team All-Big Ten
RHP Jared Strayer (4-3, 3.41, 29.0, .240)
3B Matt Streng (.303/.320/.417)
OF Brian DeLucia (.276/.357/.381)
Injuries of note
RHP Tyler Giannonatti, out for season, Tommy John
Top 2012 draft prospects
King, Pellant, McKinney
3 Keys to 2012 Success
1. Transfers perform as expected.
2. Goldberg’s availability
3. Sophomores take next step
5 Notes from coaching staff
1. McKinney, 100%, throwing great in individuals.
2. Dezse, like McKinney fully recovered from minor knee surgery.
3. Gretz too good to keep out of line. When in, will move Solomon to third.
4. Carroll has all-conference wrote all over him.
5. Dezse coming along in developing of second pitch, slider.
For backers of Buckeye baseball, 2011 was a weird year.
First, longtime head coach Bob Todd did not patrol the third base dugout in Bill Davis Stadium. For the first time in 23 years Ohio State a man other than Todd was at the helm of the baseball program, that being Greg Beals.
Second, Ohio State’s 26-27 record was the first sub.500 record since 1987.
The 2011 also marked the first time since 1986-87, Ohio State did not reach a Regional in either of two-consecutive years.
You can say Ohio State supporters have been spoiled by the success of the Scarlet and Gray. Spoiled that a season which finished with the four-seed in the Big Ten Tournament, two games, games that fans can look back on ninth-inning failures, back of co-champions Michigan State and Illinois left a really sour taste in the mouth of.
But for all that went wrong or was not accomplished, the fact is just three teams finished with a better Big Ten record, and it is hard to point to a team that is expects such an improvement from 2011 to 2012 the way Ohio State does.
A big reason for the optimism and belief in better days comes from a slew of transfers itching to make their Ohio State debut.
2011 marked the Big Tend debut for catcher Greg Solomon. As a sophomore, Solomon carried a .273 batting average with 15 doubles and threw out 25 of 74 attempted stolen bases. Solomon was a transfer from Arizona Junior College Paradise Valley, a place that will produce another Buckeye in 2012, Brian King.
King a junior southpaw from Chandler, Arizona, is one of four players who enrolled in Columbus from an Arizona JUCO. King was selected by Baseball America’s as the Big Ten’s top newcomer and is penciled in as Ohio State’s number-two starter. Joining King on the Buckeye mound from the JUCO ranks will be sophomore Jaron Long, a right-handed pitcher from Chandler-Gilbert Community College, the same school for which OSU junior shortstop Kirby Pellant was playing for last year.
The final member of the Arizona four, right-handed pitcher Tyler Giannonatti, also from CGCC, will not take to the mound this year after fall Tommy John surgery.
The infusion of new blood doesn’t stop there.
In the outfield, Ohio State believes they have an all-conference performer in sophomore Mike Carroll. The product of Granger, Ind., first attended Duke University before pursuing baseball and an education closer to home. For 16 months now, Carroll has abused and bruised Ohio State pitching in practice and intra-squad, showing a skill set of speed, power, patience and toughness. Carroll will be entrenched in the three-hole spot for the Buckeyes.
Hoping to sneak-up on Big Ten pitching, Carroll will be in prime position to receive good pitches with first baseman Josh Dezse batting behind him. Dezse, a freshman All-American a year ago and preseason All-America by both Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, is coming off of a sterling freshman season in which he led Ohio State in hitting, slugging, on-base percentage, home runs and RBI, on his way to being name the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year. With a cleaned knee following minor offseason surgery, expect Dezse to use more of his lower body, which in addition to lightning quick hands, is a scary preposition for the opposition.
To Dezse’s right will be red-shirt junior Ryan Cypret. In his first full-year as a starter, Cypret finished second to his former high school teammate, carrying a .323 average and .828 OPS. Cypret, who had an offseason wrist injury but now healthy, has the ability to become the Big Ten’s top offensive second baseman if his progression continues.
Cypret’s middle infield counterpart, Pellant, will be the table-setting for the Buckeyes. A twice drafted player, the left-handed hitting shortstop was the leadoff hitter for Marshall in 2010 where he batted .293 overall, .337 in Conference USA play.
The lone question for Ohio State comes at third base. With the graduation of Matt Streng, and the loss of expected freshman Eric Haase to the Cleveland Indians, there is a void at the hot corner. As a result of his quick hands, quick feet and overall athleticism, Solomon has been receiving reps at the third base. While this is a product of the vacancy, it doesn’t hurt that freshman catcher Aaron Gretz is a player many cannot stop raving about.
Be it the way he controls the running game, the command of the pitching staff he takes, or his left-handed hitting abilities, Ohio State feels they have a star in Gretz. Freshman Ryan Leffel is another player who will see time at third base. Leffel is coming off a fall intra-squad series where only Carroll shone brighter. Leffel collected three home runs and brings a bat that the Buckeyes will want in the lineup.
Joining Carroll, who will man left field, in the outfield will be sophomore Tim Wetzel in center and senior David Corna in right. An All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection, Wetzel was the two-hole hitter a year ago where he finished the season with a .378 on-base percentage. Though he .264 average was eighth among OSU regulars, after entering 2011 with just three games under his belt, Corna led Ohio State with 16 doubles, producing a team-best .151 ISO.
Ohio State is in the same boat on the mound as at the plate with transfers powering rejuvenation.
But first, it will be a returner who is expected to be the Friday night guy.
With the departure of Friday starter and second-team All-Big Ten Drew Rucinski, right-handed Brett McKinney will be called upon by Ohio State in conference lid-openers. The Saturday starter in 2011, McKinney went 3-3 with a 4.48 in 64.1 innings, striking out 49 while walking 20. The left-handed JUCO transfer King will be called upon on Saturdays, while the Sunday spot will be filled for the second-season in a row by sophomore righty Greg Greve. In 2011 Greve was 3-3 with a 5.00 ERA overall, but showed signs of turning the corner as the season progressed, going 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in Big Ten play.
Like Greve, classmate Dezse will reprieve the same role he had as a freshman. The flame-throwing Dezse, if you haven’t heard he hit 100 in a game against Oklahoma State last year while pitching 96-98 most of the time, looks to improve on his rookie year. As he continues to develop offspeed and breaking pitches, Dezse should produce better numbers than last year where he went 4-2 with six saves and a 5.53 ERA in 27.2 innings as he struck out 32 and walked 22.
Beyond those three starters and closer, Ohio State has a deep staff. Setting up Dezse will be senior left-handed pitcher Andrew Armstrong who pitched in 33 games last year, finishing the season with a 3.68 ERA and .239 BAA in 29.1. Side-arm junior right-handed pitcher David Fathlikhani kept the opposition off-balance as he carried a 3.86 ERA and .235 BAA over 25.2 innings in 26 games. Ohio State will receive a boast from a fellow side-arm dealer in freshman Trace Dempsey.
In roles of long relief and midweek use, the transfer Long as well as sophomore right-handed pitcher John Kuchno will be utilized. In fact, Long and Kuchno are not far, if at all behind the weekend arms. Ohio State feels they truly can go five deep with quality arms.
Then there is a big mystery. One final transfer, right-handed pitcher Brad Goldberg may not be available for at least the first four weekends. Goldberg transferred in from Coastal Carolina, and after sitting out last year because of the transferred, if he is able to pitch, he gives Ohio State another potential number one.
In viewing the enter staff, the Buckeyes like the mix of different angles from Dempsey and Fathlikhani, the precision of Armstrong and Long, the ability to reach 94 and stay low that Kuchno and Greve showed this fall, McKinney’s experience (he too can hit 92), King’s ability to pitch at 89 with cut from the left-side, and the triple-digit closing heat from Dezse.
There is a lot of good happening in the Ohio State program. Be it the financial gift from alum Nick Swisher which helped fund a new synthetic playing surface or the recruiting prowess, Ohio State is making progress in trying to restore the claim of premier northern program.
For that moniker to be accurate they knew that they need on-field success to follow what is being done in other areas.
While a lot hinges on what the transfer can and will do, a fortune none know with certainty, as far as Ohio State have fallen, if last year was the bottoming out in terms of talent, the coaches hit every button to get the team in the Big Ten title hunt and with the fourth-place finish.
The Buckeyes did lose a chunk of experience with the departing class, but those losses, and more, are believe to be made up by the transfers. While many of the successes around the Big Ten is based on returning talent, here is a team that has the greatest ceiling in terms of improvement with the transfers, plus Corna, Dezse, Wetzel, Greve and company have their first year of college baseball under their belt. Ohio State feels they have a more athletic team as the talent base is replenished. If Goldberg is able to take the mound, all the more reason to believe in a big turnaround.
A Regional appearance may be too much to ask for in this stage of the turnaround. A top three finish and solid 35-area win season would get Ohio State back on track.