Now in his fourth season, Greg Beals has done a lot for Ohio State. He has lead the program to the Big Ten Tournament in each of his first three seasons. He's replenished the talent level, going head-to-head against regional and national powers, reasserting Ohio State as a top destination for premier student-athletes. He's led the Buckeyes to the cusp of the NCAA Tournament, falling painstakingly close to last year's field of 64.
But unlike horseshoes and grenades, close doesn't get it done. Ohio State's lack of a regional appearance rests next to a lack or signature moments for the Buckeyes. Sure the Bucks swept arch-rival Michigan in 2011, Beals' first year at the helm, but Michigan endured one of its worst seasons in program history finishing last in the Big Ten, going 17-37. A win over Michigan is great, but the beyond the theatricals of a rivalry, the three wins did little to prove Ohio State was on track to back towards the top of the conference.
Ohio State was on that track last year, in fact one inning away. But the Buckeyes were unable to capture the season-ending series against Indiana. A weekend defeat that not only ripped the conference championship out of their hands, but closed the door on their NCAA Tournament hopes.
It takes time to build a program in college baseball. Unlike basketball, one recruiting class pf phenomenal freshmen cannot change the fortunes of a program overnight. Unlike football and the sport's allowance of 25 scholarships where blue-chippers can speed up a turnaround process, with 11.7 scholarships over a 35-man roster, it takes multiple years for the program to reflect the coaches desire. There are no shortcuts in rebuilding a college baseball program, the only luxury a program may be provided is patience.
But the time comes where the players recruited under one's direction, developed and coached under their eye, are expected to produce, to win contests, take down top competition and return a once storied program to its prior level of prominence.
For Ohio State, there is no longer an ability to look at what is to come, the present is where the focus rests.
Be it the season-ending series against Indiana, the 2013 season's penultimate weekend against Oregon, contests against Louisville or uninspiring performances in the Big Ten Tournament, whenever a chance has been presented for Ohio State to seize an opportunity to show their mite as a program, the club has fell short.
In their return trip this past weekend, the Buckeyes did capture a road victory at No. 14 Oregon, a 5-0 blanking that showed the Buckeyes can go toe-to-toe with one of the nation's best. Unfortunately the win was sandwiched by a pair of forgettable blowouts, a 8-2 defeat and 20-4 pasting. Where Ohio State received votes in the NCBWA poll each of their two weeks prior, the blowouts at the hands of the Ducks showed Ohio State isn't yet worthy of an appearance among the nation's top 30.
But before they return to Columbus, the Buckeyes have a stop in Corvallis. A date with Oregon State, an OSU vs. OSU showdown with plenty at stake.
The Beavers are two-time national champions, the 2006 and 2007 winners of the College World Series. Pat Casey's club made a return trip to Omaha last season and have a veteran lineup loaded with professional prospects that saw them open the season ranked No. 2 by Baseball America, a program expected by many to once again play late into June. Oregon State is an elite program in the midst of another strong season, opening with 14 wins in their first 17 games.
Again, an opportunity is presented in front of the Buckeyes to show their growth as a program, where they can step on the same field as one expected to compete for a national championship and show they too deserve to have their name called on Selection Monday.
Encouraging, and perhaps adding more pressure to have a good showing, are the three losses Oregon State has encountered being to clubs Ohio State would call peers. Michigan State and Nebraska both knocked off the Beavers in the Big Ten-Pac 12 Challenge, the second weekend of the season in Surprise, Ariz. Oregon State's other defeat occurred when fellow Ohio program Wright State traveled to Corvallis last weekend, taking the third game of a four-game set.
If those three can manage a win against Oregon State, certainly the Bucks can, correct?
It will be seen whether the Buckeyes do beat the Beavers or if the hosts send back the Scarlet and Gray bruised and battered. But the time has come where Ohio State needs to win these contests, assert their will and show to all the Buckeyes are back.
Ohio State (8-5, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 4 Oregon State (14-3, 0-0 Pac-12), 8:30 p.m. ET
Probables: Soph. RHP Jake Post (2-0, 0.84 ERA, 10.2 IP) vs. Fr. RHP Jake Thompson (3-0, 1.42, 19.0)
Last meeting: 2005 Corvallis Regional, Oregon State victory, 4-3. Beavers lead series 3-1.