Ohio State baseball preview 2014: Relief pitchers

All-American closer Trace Dempsey is set to resume his role as Ohio State's stopper - (Ohio State Athletics)

A dominant force a year ago, the Ohio State relief corp saw the graduation of two linchpins, and a probable promotion to the rotation for another two. All-American stopper Trace Dempsey returns to anchor the bullpen, but a youth movement is in store.

After highlighting the players in line to battle for starting pitcher roles, we look at the Buckeyes expected to receive the bulk of the bullpen work. With six guys fighting for three weekend and a mid-week starter role, two of the previously discussed six will serve out of the bullpen. At the beginning of the season the two will be junior Josh Dezse, who is working on increasing his stamina and pitch count after missing all of the 2013 season due to a stress reaction in his back, and freshman Travis Lakins.

The Buckeye bullpen was an elite unit last year, as seniors David Fathalikhani and Brett McKinney joined sophomores Trace Dempsey and Ryan Riga to turn games into six-inning affairs, rarely relinquishing a lead they were provided. As McKinney now pitchers in professional baseball, Riga expects to be a weekend starter, youth will be served in the Buckeye bullpen for 2014.

Here is a look at who will be called upon to lock the opposition down, hang on to the lead and close out a win for Ohio State.

Junior right-hander Trace Dempsey

Few players in the country had a breakout season in the manner Dempsey did in 2013. A first-team All-Big Ten selection, third-team All-American, after Dezse was lost for the year and the closer's role opening up, Dempsey, who served in the setup role in his freshman season, seized the opportunity and had one of the best season's of a pitcher in Ohio State history. Finishing one save off of the single-season school and conference record, Dempsey recorded 17 saves next to a 3-0 record, 1.05 ERA and .178 batting average against in 34.1 innings. Appearing in 30 games, Dempsey struck out 28, walked 11 and surrendered only 21 hits, 17 singles and four doubles. Dempsey is back to take aim at the school career save mark of 29, entering with 18. Dempsey pitches from a dropped angle, a 3/4's slot, using a fastball with fading life that can be dialed up to 91, though usually sitting 87-89. Dempsey will mix in a change up, and a wipeout slider, possessing three pitches from an atypical angle that makes life difficult for batters.

Senior right-hander Tyler Giannonatti

After missing the 2012 season due to Tommy John, Giannonnatti, a transfer from Chandler-Gilbert Community College, saw his first action for Ohio State in 2013. Though he made two spot starts, Giannonnatti's role was primarily as a mop up or long relief guy, roles he will resume in 2014. In 31.2 innings the right-hander carried a 4.83 ERA as he allowed 39 hits, walked 11, struck out 17 and allowed the opposition to bat at a .305 clip.

Freshman right-hander Michael Koltak

Koltak was a student at Ohio State in 2013, a member of the baseball program during fall camp in 2012, but stepped away from the team for the season. Back, Koltak presents Ohio State with a type of player they have used well over the past three seasons. Koltak is a side-armed pitcher in the form of the graudated Fathalikhani. The arm action Koltak presents provides him with an opportunity to be a guy looked upon to get Ohio State out of a sticky situation against a right-handed hitter.

Freshman right-hander Adam Niemeyer

A walk-on, Niemeyer was recruited in part due to his overall athleticism and clean arm action. A graduate of Minster High, Niemyer is a three-sport standout out of northwest Ohio. The athleticism, along with stuff showed in fall as Niemeyer was up to 90, was too good for the Ohio State coaching staff to enter the season with plans of redshirting Niemeyer. There will be pitchers who are more often called upon than Niemeyer to pitch in high-leverage situations, but the freshman presents quality depth and Ohio State is excited about his future.

Freshman left-hander Tanner Tully

Tully has the stuff to one day be a rotation staple, but enters his freshman season as the top left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen for Ohio State. Stepping into the role Ryan Riga served impeccably in, Tully will have the opportunity to be the setup for Dempsey. Tully has a good feel for his secondary pitchers, presenting a breaking with offering with strong bite he can throw for strikes to compliment an upper-80s, occasionally touching 90 fastball. Tully has the makeup needed to take the ball in the late innings.

Freshman right-hander Shea Murray

There are a handful of pitchers in front of where Murray sits on the bullpen pecking order, but what he presents cannot be ignored. Walking onto the team last year out of Defiance High School, Murray is a 6'6, 205 string bean that can dial it up to 95. Unfortunately that is the only calling card Murray has currently, his command and ability to harness the premium stuff is a work in progress. More of a pitcher for the future, Murray may have the opportunity to come in for a batter or two, see innings out of the pen during mid-week contests and low pressure situations.

The rest

True freshmen Brennan Milby, Kyle Michalik and Yianni Pavlopoulous will likely garner redshirts this season. With the depth Ohio State has, and the promise each showed in the fall, Beals spoke to not burning a year of eligibility for the three over a handful of innings. Redshirt sophomore left-handed Matt Panek is a full year removed from shoulder surgery that sidelined him in all of 2013. Battling shoulder stiffness, Panek pitched just 5.1 innings as a freshman in 2012. After not seeing any playing time a year ago, junior Michael Horsejei and freshman Joe Stoll round out the Buckeye pitching staff.

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