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Kirby Pellant: Ohio State baseball's silver bullet

The nail on the left index finger of Ohio State shortstop Kirby Pellant has a rainbow of black, blue and purple hues. More than a month after a pitch smashed Pellant's finger in a bunt attempt, the severity of the injury that forced the senior to miss nine games is clear. But in the seven games since his return from injury one may think Pellant's finger, hands and bats are pure gold.

Pellant leads Ohio State with .404 batting average
Pellant leads Ohio State with .404 batting average
Ohio State Athletics

It was an inning that encapsulates Pellant.

In the bottom of the fourth inning in Ohio State's 8-3 Saturday win over Michigan State, Pellant reached first base after dropping a leadoff bunt down the third baseline. A few feet from where the ball rested safely, Ohio State head coach Greg Beals called upon senior first baseman Brad Hallberg to put the ball in play as Pellant would be off and running on a hit-and-run.

Hallberg dribbled a grounder to Michigan State third baseman Justin Hovis. Hallberg was easily out on the play, but as Pellant rounded second base he noticed the vacancy left at third by the fielding Spartan. Without hesitation, Pellant continued his rounding of second all the way to third, catching Michigan State off guard. Hurried, Spartan first baseman Ryan Krill threw back across the diamond in an attempt to catch Pellant. The throw was off, unable to be corralled by Hovis, with the ball running into foul territory Pellant jumped up from his head-first slide to sprint 90 feet home, scoring on a play that for many others would have seen the player still at second base.

That is how speed can impact a game and few around the Big Ten have it Pellant does.

In his first season at Ohio State, a transfer from Chandler-Gilbert Community College after beginning his collegiate career at Marshall, Pellant finished second in the Big Ten in stolen bases, swiping 31 in 38 attempts. The 5'10, 175 junior would finish the 2012 season with a .274 average, .375 on-base percentage, scoring 32 runs.

With strong defense, an ability to get on-base and steal bases, Pellant entered the 2013 season expected to be a catalyst in Ohio State's to-be much improved, senior-laden lineup as the Buckeyes pursued a Big Ten championship.

Ohio State's leadoff batter, Pellant struggled out of the gate, opening the season 3-for-16 through Ohio State's first six contest. By the Buckeyes third weekend, Pellant's average was up to .280 after eight games. Ohio State's ninth game, a 3-2 12-inning loss which dropped the Buckeyes to 5-4, was the Stetson contest in which Pellant suffered the injury, halting any momentum he was encountering at the plate.

Sidelined for two weeks, Beals feels the time off the diamond was in a way beneficial.

"Kirby is at a point in his career where he doesn't want to miss games," said Beals of the senior. "It's his senior season, he wants to be out there competing."

Pellant, the Ohio State leader in average (.404), on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.561) and Big Ten Player of the Week for his first weekend back, March 22-24, agreed.

"I've never really had too many baseball-related injuries. I've been fortunate to play all of my life, never really sat the bench. It was tough, I definitely wanted to be out there with the guys."

"This is my last go-around, I'm taking every at-bat like it could be my last, but having fun at the same time."

In Pellant's first game back from the injury, he scored three runs as he drew two walks alongside collecting his first career home run in Ohio State's 10-1 Big Ten opening victory at Purdue. A career-best 4-for-4 effort was on tap in the series second game as Pellant collected his first double of the season, scoring two runs. The left-handed hitter ended the weekend with another two-run game as Ohio State swept the Boilermakers. Pellant's Big Ten honored followed a 6-for-9, seven run, 1.880 OPS weekend.

Receiving more than anxiety in not being able to play, the time on the Buckeye bench provided Pellant with insight.

"Early on I felt like I was taking too many good pitches," said the career .301 hitter. "Watching all of our guy's at-bats, I saw the frustration they had in taking a strike. I tried to learn from that where I'm up and ready for every pitch, seeing the ball real well."

Though Ohio State would twice see a midweek contest cancelled due to inclement weather, there would be nothing that slowed Pellant's streak as the Buckeyes welcomed the Spartans.

Another six-hit weekend was in store for Pellant as he scored two runs and drove in a pair in 12 at-bats. Michigan State would leave Columbus with the series victory, but the presence of other guests made the weekend memorable for Pellant.

"My mom saw me play for the first time in two years," the Chandler, Arizona native spoke. "Every time I got a hit, I found her in the stands and she was smiling."

Pellant's father Gary was also in attendance and his background can be seen in his son's play.

"With my dad being in baseball playing, now scouting, my knowledge of the game I think is something I can rely on," said Pellant of his father who spent six seasons in the Seattle Mariners minor league organization, now a professional scout for the Chicago White Sox.

"I'm not the biggest guy, not going to hit for power, but just knowing the game and how to play it right."

The instinctive nature of the game Pellant possesses along with his speed makes the shortstop one of the Big Ten's best. The speed is evident in Pellant's six career triples, but so too on the other side of the diamond. His quickness provides excellent range at shortstop, a defender that has been rock-solid for the Buckeyes with a .985 fielding percentage, committing just one error in 65 chances.

And on the bases, as the Spartans saw, Pellant can make something of nothing.

"You look at our team, we don't have multiple home run guys, we hit doubles and rely on team speed. That has been our philosophy all year, to put pressure on the other team, using our speed to our advantage."