From 1991-2003, Ohio State made the NCAA baseball tournament 10 times.
The Buckeyes have only been invited to that big dance six times in the 16 years since, but 2019 marks the third in the last four years.
That begs an obvious question.
Are the Buckeyes back?
Coach Greg Beals hopes so.
“We’re doing it with a young, talented club,” said the 1988 Kenton Ridge graduate who had to replace four regulars in the field and all three of his primary starting pitchers this season. “The future is bright. Recruiting is going well. I’m excited for this weekend, but I’m excited about our future as well.”
>>READ MORE: Kenton Ridge grad Beals wins second Big Ten baseball title in nine seasons at Ohio State
Starting with a 6-5 win over Wright State on May 8, Ohio State (35-25) won seven of its last eight regular season games. Then the seventh-seeded Buckeyes went 4-1 at the Big Ten tournament, including a 3-1 triumph over Nebraska in the championship game that brought Ohio State’s 10th conference tournament title and 22nd NCAA tournament bid.
Next up is a 7 o’clock game Friday night in Nashville against Vanderbilt, the No. 2 overall seed and a three-time College World Series participation this decade.
The Commodores, who won it all in 2014 and finished second a year later, provide a measuring stick for an Ohio State squad looking for its first NCAA Super Regional appearance since 2003.
“We need to get there,” Beals said of the three-game second-round series that determines who makes the College World Series back on the same field where the Buckeyes surprisingly won last weekend. “We’ve got a bigger vision. The program has been to the national tournament three of the last four years and the next step is to get ourselves to the super regional. The competitor in me can think of nothing better than a three-game series to see how goes to Omaha.”
Outfielder Dominic Canzone credited Beals with getting the Buckeyes ready to go against the Cornhuskers after an emotional win over Minnesota on Sunday.
“We were obviously a little bit gassed and he told us, ‘You come here to play for championships,’” Canzone recalled. “I don’t know how everybody else felt about that, but it really got me going. It definitely gave me a little bit of a second life, gave me my legs back again, and we were pumped up and ready to go.”
Beals, who is 296-228-1 in nine seasons at Ohio State, fondly recalled his high school days playing for the legendary Tom Randall and noted Randall might have unknowingly prepared him for his time with the Buckeyes.
“Funny: The statement he always used to us and the statement he was always quoted with in the paper every time we won a championship was, ‘You win with people,’” Beals recalled. “It’s an old Woody Hayes quote. It’s in big letters in the athletic department, it’s in my office, so I learned at a young age you win with people. I learned an Ohio State motto from Coach Randall.”
» LOOKING BACK: Beals named OSU coach in 2010
Joining the No. 4 seed Buckeyes and Commodores (49-10) in the Nashville Regional are No. 2 seed Indiana State (41-16) and No. 3 seed McNeese (35-24), who will meet in the regional opener at 1 p.m. Friday. Ohio State is 4-0 all-time against Vandy, 0-2 against Indiana State and 2-3 against McNeese.
The winner of the regional will move on to face the winner of the Morgantown Regional, which consists of West Virginia, Texas A&M, Duke and Fordham.
One of those new starting pitchers for the Buckeyes is Seth Lonsway.
A redshirt freshman from Celina, he is 8-4 with a 3.65 ERA and a Big Ten-high 122 strikeouts.
A team spokesman said Lonsway's family home was not damaged by the tornado that hit Celina late Monday night, but he plans to recognize his hometown with the message, "#CelinaStrong," written on his hat.
>> PHOTOS: Daylight reveals widespread damage from Monday storms
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