Buckeye baseball booming under Beals

After being hired as head coach in June 2010, the 1988 Kenton Ridge graduate has guided the Buckeyes to a 26-27 record the next spring. A year ago, they finished 33-27. With a 28-13 record coming into this week, they were well on their way to the best season of the Beals era and perhaps the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2009.

“I like our ball club,” Beals said. “We have pitching depth. We’re going to be somebody that you need to watch out for come tournament time. I’m looking at where we’re at overall: 28-13, 40 RPI. That puts on the bubble for getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, in case we don’t win the Big Ten tournament.”

The Buckeyes have to be considered a contender for the Big Ten championship. They were picked to finish fourth, and that’s just where they were at the beginning of the week. With a 12-6 Big Ten mark, they had more wins than any team in the conference, but they had also played more games than Minnesota (9-3), Indiana (11-4) and Nebraska (11-4).

Ohio State last won the Big Ten regular-season championship in 2009, and is last tournament title came in 2007. Both of those came under Bob Todd, who retired in 2010 after 23 seasons. Beals, then the head coach at Ball State, was hired to replace him.

“I think we are going to be a contender for sure,” Beals said. “There are some things as far as the schedule goes that are out of our control. We lost our series at Minnesota, and they’ve had some series snowed out. They don’t have many losses. They’re looking very good right now.”

Pitching and defense have carried the Buckeyes. They’re third in the Big Ten with a 2.96 ERA and tied for second in fielding percentage (.975). Closer Trace Dempsey, with 13 saves and a 0.33 ERA in 27 innings, and starters Brian King (7-4, 2.48 ERA) and Brad Goldberg (6-0, 2.91) have starred on the mound.

At the plate, the Buckeyes rank seventh in hitting (.270). Shortstop Kirby Pellant leads the team with a .345 average.

“We’ve got a workman’s style of baseball this year,” Beals said. “It’s not the flashiest bunch, especially when it comes to the offense, but we play a real clean game of baseball. We’re throwing a lot of strikes, and defensively, we’re playing very strong. From a coaching standpoint, we like that. Pitching and defense can be constants. Hitting has a tendency to come and go.”

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