COLUMBUS, Ohio. — The Ohio State Buckeyes (19-7, 4-2 B1G) are in third place in the Big Ten standings, and have managed to quietly go unnoticed, for the most part, in a conference that—to steal a term from English class—is the collective noun of NCAA Division 1 baseball.
Every team in the conference seems to be uncannily equal taken together as one whole.
However, head coach Greg Beals (5th year) might have the most dangerous team in the B1G.
“We as coaches knew going in that it was going to be the best Big Ten in a long time, at least in my five years,” Beals told College Baseball Central. “With the new arrivals of Maryland, and Rutgers, we were trying to figure out who the four or five best teams were going to be, and we felt like we were getting to this spot.”
Statistically, OSU is eighth in the conference in batting (.266), eighth in hits (224), fourth in RBI (133), fourth in runs (144), third in home runs (16), and third in slugging percentage (.404). On the mound they are second in the Big Ten in ERA (.254), and they have only given up 65 earned runs as a whole which is first in the conference.
Here’s the catch, when OSU plays you they beat you in these categories, however large or small the numbers in the box score are at the end of the game. They say numbers don’t lie; however, have you heard the phrase “I didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell you the whole truth”? Well, that applies to OSU’s categorical rankings in the B1G.
“As a program we are starting to evolve,” Beals said. “We are getting better starting pitching, more extra-base hits than our opponents, our stolen bases are better than our opponents, our hits are more than our opponents, and we are doing the little things offensively to have the success we are having.”
Sophomore lefty Tanner Tully (Elkhart, Ind./Central), is the Friday night guy. Last year he was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball, and a second team Freshman All-American by Perfect Game. He was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Year (11th in school history).
Tully is 2-1 on the year with a 2.75 ERA in seven appearances. He has only walked eight batters while striking out 24.
“Tanner is a blue collar guy,” Beals points out. “He is not real sexy, but he creates balance and I like his demeanor.”
A draft-eligible sophomore LHP, Saturday starter Travis Lakins (Franklin, Ohio/Franklin) has posted a 1-2 record while sporting a 3.73 ERA over 41.0 IP, and has 34 strikeouts in seven appearances (tied for seventh-most in the B1G). His fastball sits at 91-94 mph, and along with his power breaking ball and great athletic ability, scouts are all over him.
Senior left-hander Ryan Riga (Fairfield, Ohio/Wabash Valley College) is the Sunday starter and his 0.76 ERA is second in the B1G and fifth in the nation. Riga also broke the OSU scoreless innings record at Rutgers on March 29 the 6 foot 175 pound three-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Week has now thrown 29.0 scoreless innings in 2015.
“Our one, three, and five holes in the lineup are all lefties,” Beals added. “They give us a lot of production.”
Senior outfielder Pat Porter (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Kenston), and sophomore outfielders Troy Montgomery (Fortville, Ind./Mt. Vernon), and Ronnie Dawson (Grove City, Ohio/Licking Heights) have collectively assembled 77 hits, 11 home runs, and 57 RBIs.
Coincidently, Porter is second in the B1G in triples (4), third in slugging percentage (.578), tied for third in total bases (52) and tied for fourth in RBI (23). Dawson’s five home runs is tied for second in the conference and he is also tied for second with 10 steals along with Montgomery.
B1G baseball is taking over the brunt of attention nationally, slowly but surely.
OSU is poised to be the focal point of much discussion as conference play starts to unfold. Nebraska, Iowa, Maryland, and Indiana are all strong B1G teams deserving of the highly touted talk they have been a part of, all the same, the Buckeyes silent new-kid-in-town persona is about to take center stage.
“The conference is just flat out getting better,” Beals indicated. “The commitment to baseball is getting better now.”