In a season in which Ohio State had to replace its entire starting weekend pitching rotation from a year ago, the Buckeyes' hurlers were a bright spot for the team. Finishing the season with a solid 3.61 team ERA, a pitching staff that began as a big question mark back in February became a team strength. Ohio State picked up four Pitcher of the Week honors throughout the season, placed two starters on postseason All-Conference teams, and witnessed the emergence of a star-in-the-making on the mound.
We begin our recap of the Buckeyes' season by taking a look at the arms that out-performed expectations and were critical to the team's success.
Tanner Tully, LHP
Any discussion of Ohio State's starting pitching must begin with Tully, who joined the weekend rotation once the team reached conference play and claimed Big Ten Freshman of the Year and second-team All-Conference honors. The lefty from Elkhart, IN made 16 appearances for the Buckeyes, 11 of them starts, covering a team-high 93.1 innings of work. Tully finished up his rookie campaign with a 6-3 mark and a 2.22 ERA, limiting opponents to a .253 batting average, sporting a WHIP of 1.05, and posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7.57 to 1. As impressive as those numbers are, though, the most staggering stat is the fact that the southpaw walked a meager seven batters all season, ranking him second nationally in walks per nine innings at 0.675.
In conference play, Tully pitched well beyond his years, throwing at least seven innings in seven of eight regular season starts to lead the Big Ten in innings pitched with 58.1 en route to being tabbed the top newcomer. The left-hander is the second Buckeye to win the award in the past four seasons, and was one of two on the roster to make both the All-Freshman and second-team All-Big Ten teams this year.
After such a successful season, and with such command of his repertoire of pitches, Tully's pro potential is extremely high. Luckily for head coach Greg Beals, the lefty will be in Columbus for at least two more seasons, and will be expected to lead the front of the rotation.
Ryan Riga, LHP
Junior Ryan Riga entered the rotation coming off a sophomore season in which he logged 28 appearances out of the bullpen, third-most in the Big Ten in 2013. Stepping into a starting role brought questions, and the left-hander seemed well on his way to answering them in the non-conference portion of Ohio State's schedule, taking home Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors in two of the season's first four weeks thanks to shutouts against nationally-ranked Auburn and Oregon squads. He added a third in late-April after blanking Purdue on the road.
Riga's story is really a tale of two seasons. The southpaw was cruising early in the season, establishing himself as the Buckeyes' number one option on the bump, before arm fatigue put him on the shelf for a month. Once he returned to the mound, Riga was much less effective. He finished the season 4-4 with a 4.33 ERA, logging a career-high 68.2 innings in 11 starts. The opposition hit a healthy .311 against Riga, who gave up a team-worst five home runs and had a WHIP of 1.53.
Still, the experience Riga accumulated in his first season as a starter should set him up well for his senior campaign. He and Tully will be expected to anchor the weekend rotation, and with a full offseason to prepare, will hopefully get his conditioning to the point where the stress on his arm as the innings pile up will not send him to the bench.
Greg Greve, RHP
As the lone senior in the rotation, and the only one with previous starting experience, team co-captain Greg Greve was nothing but steady throughout the season. Taking the ball on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at various points, the Walsh Jesuit grad provided the calming influence that Beals so badly needed.
A third-team All-Big Ten selection, the righty posted a record of 7-4, never missing a start. In 85.2 innings of work in 14 appearances, Greve had a 3.36 ERA, held the opposition to a .266 average, and allowed just 1.23 walks and hits per inning. A former All-Freshman team selection, he picked up Pitcher of the Week honors after a mid-April shutout of Penn State that ended a skid in which Ohio State had lost five of six, and finished out his career with a win on senior day against Northwestern.
Greve, who was a 45th round selection of the San Francisco Giants out of high school, leaves Columbus with a 17-11 career record, having started 34 games in 60 appearances. His baseball future may be tough to pinpoint, but he graduated with a degree in business, and will be missed as a steady hand on the pitching staff.
Zach Farmer, LHP
The story of Zach Farmer's freshman season for the Buckeyes is not one that is likely to be remembered for anything that happened on the mound. It was announced on May 1st that the Piketon, OH native had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and was done for the season, a reminder that baseball is just a game in the grand scheme of things.
The lefty, who was one of the top prospects in the nation coming out of high school, began the year in the weekend rotation, making his collegiate debut against NCAA Tournament-bound Indiana State, and was later moved to midweek starting duties. His strongest outing of the year turned out to be his last. Despite taking a 4-1 loss at West Virginia, Farmer tossed seven innings, striking out nine and walking just one.
For the season, Farmer was 6-4, getting a decision in all ten of his appearances, nine of which were starts. He had a 3.28 ERA in 49.1 innings of work, and flashed the potential that had intrigued professional scouts, limiting opponents to a .234 batting average and posting a 1.30 WHIP. It is unknown what Farmer's status will be going forward, but the young man is staying positive, and from all accounts is fighting his disease head-on.
Jake Post, RHP
Coming into the season, it was believed that Jake Post was poised to push for a regular spot in the starting rotation following a freshman campaign in which he went 2-1 with a 4.99 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 30.2 innings pitched over eight appearances, including seven starts. Though he was passed over for a spot when the year got underway, the right-hander was a critical component of the pitching staff, providing depth in a season in which two Buckeye hurlers missed significant time.
Post finished out the year going 3-3 with a 3.35 ERA in fifteen appearances. He made six starts, filling in for both Riga and Farmer, giving up a .276 opponents' batting average, 1.51 walks and hits per inning, and a two-to-one strikeout to walk ratio in 48.1 innings of work.
The Chesterton, IN native will be in the mix for a spot in the rotation, either on the weekend or during the midweek, next season, and can also provide long relief as he did at times in 2014. With the departure of Greve, Post is a right-handed option for Beals to put on the bump.