When the Big Ten announced its 2018 baseball individual award winners and All-Big Ten teams on Tuesday, a few things stuck out for the players, coaches, and fans of Ohio State. Chief among them was the omission of senior do-everything pitcher Seth Kinker from the all-conference first team.
Kinker, who a couple of weeks ago broke the program record for career appearances, has taken the mound in every conceivable role throughout his career, serving as setup man, closer, multi-inning fireman, and even spot starter. A strong argument can be made that the West Virginia native has been more valuable to his team than any pitcher in the Big Ten. Yet despite a season that saw him go 6-1 with 13 saves, a 1.62 earned run average, and a 0.90 WHIP, Kinker was passed over in favor of Minnesota freshman Max Meyer.
“The post-season honors went exactly the way I thought it would go outside of Kinker,” head coach Greg Beals told Press Pros Magazine. “I’m obviously disappointed that Kinker’s not first-team all-conference.”
This isn’t to slight what Meyer did for the Gophers. The newcomer was excellent, going 1-2 with a 1.60 ERA and 14 saves. The catch is that Meyer tossed just more than half the innings Kinker did, and had a few more plus arms around him in the bullpen to shoulder the load.
The Buckeyes did have one player receive first-team All-Big Ten honors: senior Noah McGowan. After transferring from McLennan Community College in Texas last season, McGowan suffered through a poor first year in Columbus. The versatile infielder-outfielder slashed .214/.352/.405 with five home runs amd 19 runs batted in, and was suspended near the end of the schedule.
“I went off,” McGowan told Greg Hoard prior to the season. “I called-out a teammate and I did it in front of the whole team. I was wrong. I let it all get to me, the frustration. But, I was thinking about myself, not the team.”
A new season meant a fresh start for the Houston native, and he took advantage of that from Game 1. In the season opener against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, McGowan went 2-for-4 and drove in six runs. He followed that up in Game 2 with four more RBIs, and would go on to be named National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball following the opening weekend. Entering Big Ten tournament play, McGowan ranked in the top 10 in the conference in a host of offensive categories, slashing .368/.456/.603 with nine homers, 19 doubles, and 54 RBIs.
Also bouncing back after a tough transition from junior college to Division I was senior Tyler Cowles, who earned third-team all-conference distinction. Cowles has posted a .324/.398/.512 slash line, with seven home runs, 16 doubles, and 43 runs driven in. Those represent immense improvements over last season’s .190/.320/.314 performance.
“I’d never played baseball like that,” the Grove City product said. “I’d never been that bad before.”
Rounding out Ohio State’s All-Big Ten nods were sophomores Dominic Canzone and Connor Pohl, who received second-team and third-team honors, respectively. Both players had impressive freshman campaigns a season ago, and only built upon their success. Batting leadoff, Canzone tied for the conference lead with 79 hits, slashing .332/.397/.462, and more than doubling his extra-base hits from 2017.
For his part, Pohl saw a big jump in his power numbers, tying Cowles for second on the team with seven homers, driving in 48 runs, and seeing his on-base percentage climb above the .400 mark. Both players will be getting their first taste of the postseason, which will benefit the team beyond this season.
One final award for the Buckeyes was the inclusion of Dillon Dingler on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team. Dingler, the team’s backup catcher and a prized recruit out of Massillon Jackson High School, actually took over the starting center field duties midway through the season. The rookie showed good pop in his bat, putting up a .240/.328/.351 slash line, with 10 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 47 games.
The recognition these players received reflects well on how Ohio State has rebounded from its disappointing 2017 season. But for the turnaround to be considered a full success, the Buckeyes still have work to do, starting today in Omaha.
No. 7 seed Ohio State takes on No. 2 seed Purdue in the Big Ten tournament at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday. The game will be televised on Big Ten Network and streaming on BTN2Go.