Season-Defining Weekend on Tap for Baseball Buckeyes at Minnesota
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tuesday’s rainout at Bill Davis Stadium may have washed away the last home game of the year, but that doesn’t mean the season is over.
Not yet, anyway.
It has been an up and down first season under new Head Coach Greg Beals, but the Buckeyes still have three critical games to play at Minnesota this weekend with a post-season berth on the line.
At 23-24 overall and 11-10 in the Big Ten, Ohio State is currently tied for fourth-place in the conference standings with Indiana and Purdue. They will need to finish in the top six of the conference if they want a chance to play in the Big Ten Tournament at Huntington Park in downtown Columbus May 25-29.
That means the Buckeyes will need to win at least one, if not two games at Minnesota, where they have traditionally struggled against the Golden Gophers. Although the all-time record is close, with Minnesota holding a slight 82-79-2 edge, Ohio State has not won a series against the Gophers since 2008. They have won only two series in the last decade.
It was the Gophers who denied the Buckeyes a Big Ten-record 14th consecutive appearance in the Big Ten Tournament last season by taking two of the three games in Columbus. Needing a series victory to keep their post-season hopes alive in Bob Todd’s last season at the helm, Ohio State was blasted 16-2 in the first game of the series. They followed it with a 4-3 loss in game-two of the series before capturing a 9-6 victory in the season-finale.
With a whole new coaching staff and largely remade roster, the Buckeyes find themselves back in a similar position to end this season. Coming off a weekend in which they dropped two of three to the Iowa Hawkeyes at Bill Davis Stadium, the Bucks will need a much better showing against the Gophers, who are currently 21-20 overall and 12-9 in the Big Ten.
That record is good enough for a second-place tie with Illinois, as both teams trail first-place Michigan State by just one game. That is how close the standings are heading into the final weekend, with just four games separating the top nine teams in the conference.
Only Michigan, at 16-35 overall and 6-14 in the Big Ten, will not have a chance to play for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. The other matchups will feature Iowa (9-12) at Purdue (11-10), Illinois (12-9) at Indiana (11-10), Penn State (10-11) at Michigan and Northwestern (9-11) at Michigan State (13-8).
Most of this weekend’s three-game series will be played Thursday through Saturday, but Ohio State and Minnesota will have to get three games in by Friday. That’s because the Gophers share a ballpark with the city’s professional team, the Minnesota Twins. They began playing their home conference games at Target Field after the Metrodome roof collapsed this past winter.
The Twins don’t play at home until Monday, when they start their three-game series with the Seattle Mariners, but asked that a game not be played at Target Field on Saturday. As a result, the Buckeyes will play a double-header Thursday, with ace Drew Rucinski (5-2, 2.82 ERA) pitching the series-opener at 4:05 p.m. ET.
The Buckeyes will throw Brett McKinney (2-3, 5.16 ERA) in game two of the series, which will start at approximately 7:05 p.m. ET, depending on the conclusion of the earlier game. Despite the scheduling change, both games of the double-header will be nine-inning games.
The series will conclude Friday night with Greg Greve (2-2, 5.43 ERA) taking the mound in the regular-season finale.
Player Spotlight: Josh Dezse
If you haven’t been following the 2011 Buckeyes, keep an eye out for freshman Josh Dezse. Not only does the Columbus native lead the Buckeyes with a .341 batting average and 39 RBI, he also has a team-high four saves.
Along with playing first base, he was recently clocked at 100 miles per hour, and had his streak of 10-consecutive scoreless appearances snapped May 14 vs. Iowa. Dezse struck out 20 batters over those 10 appearances .
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