COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State head coach Bob Todd, beginning his 23rd year with the program and in the wake of another Big Ten championship and NCAA Regional appearance, welcomed 31 student-athletes Thursday for the start of fall ball, which will commence Sept. 14 and run for approximately five weeks. The fall practices will conclude the week of Oct. 12 with the annual Scarlet and Gray World Series.
“Welcome,” the 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year said Thursday morning to the team assembled around him in the clubhouse at Bill Davis Stadium. “It is your responsibility to get to know each other because these are your teammates, and make it a point to welcome these incoming freshmen. Help them out through these first few days of meetings and getting set up for the start of the school year.”
The team will be led by one of the larger senior classes in recent history: eight players, with all of them starters or key reserves on the 2009 team that posted a 42-19 overall record, won the Big Ten championship with an 18-6 mark and advanced to the championship round of the Tallahassee Regional in the NCAA tournament. The eight, in alpha order:
* LHP Eric Best – A starter in 2009 after an eight-save season in relief in 2008, Best made 20 appearances last year with 13 starts. He posted a 7-4 record and a 5.95 ERA.
* OF/DH Ryan Dew – First-team all-Big Ten designated hitter ranked fourth in the conference with a .388 average and was second on team in hits (85), on base pct. (.429) and doubles (15).
* C Shawn Forsythe – Made four starts as the back-up to Big Ten Player of the Year Dan Burkhart and played in 17 games.
* CF Chris Griffin – Dependable defensive and offensive reserve who played in 19 games and hit .333 with a pair of doubles, a triple and five runs scored.
* LF Zach Hurley – 59-game starter who hit .346 with 12 doubles, six home runs, 53 RBI and 89 hits from the leadoff position. Led the Big Ten with six triples and was second in hits.
* 2B Cory Kovanda – Second-team all-Big Ten pick led team with .431 on-base percentage while hitting .341 with 55 runs and 33 walks. He has started 160 games.
* 3B/SS Cory Rupert – played in 43 games, started 33 times (19 at shortstop, nine at third and five at second) and hit .279 with a .341 on-base percentage.
* CF Michael Stephens – One of three players to start all 61 games last year, Stephens was second-team all-Big Ten after hitting .346 with 63 RBI and team leading home run (14) and slugging pct. (.608) totals.
The leadership will be bolstered by an 11-member junior class that, collectively, boasts achievements to rival the seniors (although the seniors have two trips to the NCAA tournament). Leading the juniors are the reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and first-team All-American Alex Wimmers (9-2; 3.27 ERA; 104.2 IP; 136 Ks), reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and catcher Dan Burkhart (.354; 10 HR; 62 RBI; .589 slug. pct.), second-team all-Big Ten pitcher Dean Wolosiansky (11-2; 6.04ERA; 92.1 IP) and reliever Drew Rucinski (fifth nationally and first in the Big Ten with 12 wins; 5.54 ERA; 74.2 IP).
The junior class also features the return of two every day players from last season in 90-game starter at shortstop Tyler Engle (.285 with 12 extra base hits) and 1B Matt Streng (.308 with 8 HRs and 38 RBI in 2009), two pitchers with double-digit appearances in 2009 – RHP Jarred Strayer and LHP Theron Minium – and Brian DeLucia, who missed all but three games last year with a broken finger.
The team’s veteran makeup includes 10 additional players from last year who will be battling for playing time, including five freshmen who red-shirted the 2009 season.
Gone from the 2009 team are its three seniors – Michael Arp, Jake Hale and Justin Miller – as well as two fourth-year juniors who have graduated – Ben Toussant and Josh Barrera. A third underclassmen – T.J. McManus – elected to transfer. Miller, who is completing requirements for his bachelor’s degree in criminology, will serve as a student captain on the team this year.