Victors in 10 of their last 12, weekend winners of their last four Big Ten series, the Ohio State baseball team is trending up. Currently 33-15, 14-7 in conference action, with two weekends remaining in the regular season the Buckeyes sit a half game out of first place, in hot pursuit of a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Following a mid-week set with No. 30 Georgia Tech that saw the Buckeyes and Yellow Jackets claim a victory each, the schedule provides no relief as Ohio State welcomes No. 6 Oregon. On the heels of the Ducks' visit to Bill Davis Stadium is a mid-week date with No. 10 Louisville before No. 16 Indiana is the guest in a season-ending Big Ten-title-implicating series. In total, four programs with top-25 RPI, will have arrive in Columbus for nine games in 12 days.
What lies ahead in the remaining days of the regular season in an opportunity for the Buckeyes to show who they are. A moment where the club can show how far the program has come in three years, when the program fresh off its 16th Big Ten championship, laid an egg in failing to make the six-team Big Ten Tournament.
What is in front of Ohio State is course, rocky as it may be, that weathered will put Ohio State baseball back on the map. An opportunity to propel the Buckeyes back atop the peaking order when it comes to Midwest baseball, position sustain all through the 1990s and into the 2000s.
Latest postseason projections from Baseball America and Perfect Game have Ohio State in the field of 64. But with an psuedo-RPI of 48, the Buckeyes remain on the bubble, not yet safely in the field. A weekend series victory over Oregon, which would be the club's third in addition to Illinois and Nebraska, would all but removed doubt from Ohio State's postseason fate as the club seeks its first NCAA Regional since 2009.
The Ducks and Bucks are meeting on the diamond for the first time. While the two clubs have never played game, Oregon head coach George Horton has history playing against the Buckeyes, in Columbus to boot.
The closest Ohio State has come to the College World Series since 1967, the year after the program's sole national championship, was 1999. Led by Bob Todd, Ohio State blitzed through the regular season en route to a 50-14 campaign, a 25-3 Big Ten-title bearing season. After sweeping the field in the first ever NCAA Regional played in Bill Davis Stadium, Ohio State took on Cal State-Fullerton for the right to travel to Omaha. The Titans, led by Horton, dropped the first game to the Buckeyes 10-7, before winning 11-5, 13-2 to end Ohio State's season.
The 1999 College World Series would be the first of six for Fullerton under Horton who led the Titans to a 2004 national championship.
Moving up the Pacific Coast, Horton has a club in the Ducks that could make its own College World Series history. Horton is in his fifth season in charge in Eugene, taking over an Oregon program that was reinstated at the varsity level in 2009 after serving as a club sport since 1982.
Leading Civil War-rival Oregon State by a half game in the Pac-12, Oregon is led by junior first baseman Ryon Healy. Twice a Pac-12 Player of the Week, Healy is batting .342 with 15 doubles, 10 home runs and 42 RBI as his 1.002 OPS produced a selection to USA Baseball's mid-season Golden Spikes watch list.
Also honored on the rolling top amateur baseball watch list was junior right-handed closer Jimmie Sherfy. A 2012 All-American and finalist for the Stopper of the Year award, Sherfy has 16 saves alongside a 1.09 ERA, with 45 strikeouts in 33.0 innings.
In addition to a slugging first baseman and rock-solid closer, the Ducks have a premier rotation.
Leading an Oregon squad with a cumulative 2.78 ERA, third in the Pac-12, Cole Irvin, Tommy Thorpe and Jake Reed has been Horton's 1-2-3 all season.
Thorpe, a sophomore left-hander that will square off against Ohio State senior right-handed pitcher Brad Goldberg, is 5-4 on the season with a 2.54 ERA over 75.2 innings. Goldberg counters with a team-high 53 strikeouts in 61.2 innings enjoying a 6-1 season with a 3.79 ERA.
Following the 64 strikeouts and .245 opponent's average of Thorpe will be Irvin. Another southpaw, in his first season of collegiate baseball the 6'4 Irvin is 9-2 with a pair of complete games to his credit. Holding the opposition to a .259 average with a 2.93 ERA in 83.0 innings, Irvin has walked only 18 batters as he has struck out 40. With senior left-handed pitcher Brian King set to toe the rubber for Ohio State in the middle match, his numbers run almost identical to Irvin's as King has struck out 45 in 83.1 innings, carrying a 2.59 ERA with only 11 walks.
The series finale is set to pit the sophomore Reed against Ohio State junior Jaron Long. The only righty-righty pairing of the weekend, Reed is 5-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 77.0 innings of action. Where Reed has a 3.27 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 22 walks, in 78.2 innings Long is carrying a 3.89 ERA as he has struck out 50, walked 15.
Though Oregon saw freshman Mitchell Tollman selected as the NCBWA Hitter of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week thanks to a 9-for-19, 14 RBI week, the club is batting .268, a clip identical to Ohio State's.
Oregon edges the Buckeyes in slugging and on-base percentage, .375 to .360 and .356 to .349, with 83 doubles, 11 triples and 21 home runs to the Buckeyes extra-base tallies of 63, 13 and 19. The clubs both play strong defense with Oregon posting a .980 fielding percentage and Ohio State with a .976 effort. The host hold an edge on the bases stealing 74 in 103 attempts to Oregon 67 stolen bases in 90 attempts.
Junior Brett Thomas (.326, 15 doubles), senior J.J. Altobelli (.303) and sophomore Scott Heineman (.283, 13 doubles) are other Ducks with impact bats. Ohio State will counter with a quarter in senior second baseman Ryan Cypret (.270, 14 XBH), classmate shortstop Kirby Pellant (.320, three triples, 12 stolen bases), sophomore outfielder Patrick Porter (.301, 12 doubles, four triples, four home runs) and freshman third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic (.287, five doubles, four home runs)
Oregon checks in ninth in the psuedo-RPI, providing the Buckeyes with three games against a possible NCAA Tournament National Seed that can all but lock up its own spot in the tournament with a series win.
Oregon and Ohio State will open their three-game set with a 7 p.m. Friday first pitch to be televised live on BTN. Saturday's contest is set to begin at 3:05 p.m. with a 12:05 date set for the Sunday finale.