The moment is upon us.
When Ohio State announced on June 17, 2010 that Greg Beals was selected as the 11th coach in history of the baseball program, those within and supporters from the outside knew where the Buckeyes stood. As Bob Todd's retirement ended his 23-year career, Todd's tenure ended on a whimper. The Buckeyes failed to make the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 1996, an embarrassing tied-for-seventh place finish a season removed from capturing a Big Ten championship.
The floor had bottom out. It was the third fifth-or-worse finish in the four seasons, and with the graduation of eight seniors along with the departure of junior All-American Alex Wimmers and his battery mate Dan Burkhart, the 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year, the cupboard was bare.
Senior Associate Athletics Director Chris Schneider, the baseball program's sport administrator, spoke highly of Beals' ability to recruit and develop talent as reasons why the university chose the then Ball State coach. Those attributes were deemed necessary for Ohio State to return to the 1990s-early-2000s level of success where the program won six conference championships in an eleven season stretch, appeared in eight NCAA Tournaments from 1991 to 2001, the hosts of two NCAA Tournament regionals, 1999 and 2001.
But they are also attributes that need time to come to fruition.
When fully-funded, Division I baseball programs have 11.7 scholarships to disperse over 27 players on a 35-man roster. For programs that have fallen off of the winning track there is no a quick fix.
Unlike basketball where a Thad Five can change the course of the program in an instant, or football where upwards of 25 scholarships can be dispersed to blue-chippers and speed up the rebuilding process, multiple years of recruiting and development is needed for the course to change in baseball. All under the yearly backdrop of elite prospects having the ability to opt for professional baseball over the college game out of high school.
With where the program stood upon Beals' inheritance, the necessary time needed to stock the program with players he recruited, developed and play the game as he desires, a couple of seasons would be needed for the ship to be righted. For many, 2013, after three recruiting classes, a roster with all but five hold-overs from the previous staff, was the year felt the efforts of the new staff would show, the results would turn around and Ohio State baseball would show it is back.
And here we are today.
Ohio State enters the final weekend of the season at 33-19, 14-7 in the Big Ten, one game behind No. 15 Indiana, 38-12, 15-6. The Buckeyes are riding a season-worst four-game losing streak after a pair of top-ten foes in Oregon and Louisville dropped the Bucks. The Scarlet and Gray collected just one win, by splitting a mid-week series with Georgia Tech, in six opportunities against ranked teams, all at home, that could have solidified Ohio State's spot in the NCAA Tournament. While national publications and writers still have the Buckeyes in tournament projections, that focus is for another time.
At hand is an opportunity for the program to claim its 16th Big Ten Championship.
At hand is moment to show that the program will not sustain title droughts that extend beyond four seasons, to show the want is there in equal measure, if not more, to that of Indiana and their conference-worst 64-season dry spell.
At hand is a chance for Ohio State to show to a national audience, with the final two games of the season to be shown live on BTN, the tradition and excellence of Ohio State athletics are not reserved for the gridiron and hardwood.
At hand is a curtain, a cloth ready to be turned back for Ohio State baseball to show itself as back.
With what Indiana returned following a second-place 2012 club, one full of underclassmen headlined by the Big Ten Freshman of the Year Sam Travis and classmate catcher Kyle Schwarber, one of the projected contenders for Big Ten Player of the Year, Indiana was selected as the preseason favorite by coaches and media alike. That the series between the Buckeyes and Hoosiers came following the daunting six-game non-conference stretch, there was no overlooking this three-game set that figured to be instrumental in determining the Big Ten champion.
But this isn't a moment that has been circled season Ohio State announced its schedule in the fall. No this is a moment that has been three years in the making for Greg Beals, his staff, the 35 student-athletes and all of those who support Ohio State baseball.