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Baseball season is upon us: A look at Ohio State on the diamond

In honor of MLB Opening Weekend, let's take a look at where the Ohio State baseball team is at.

MLB: Spring Training-San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

We have reached a tough part of the year for college athletics fans across the country. Unless you support one of the remaining teams in the NCAA Tournament, your basketball season has come to an end. College football has been over for nearly three months, and does not return for another five. Even ice hockey is down to the postseason. With very few of the most popular sports remaining, we turn our eyes to America’s pastime: baseball.

Ohio State baseball went 36-24 a year ago, good enough to make the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes are returning 15 letter winners from the 2018 team, as well as welcoming 16 newcomers this season. They are led by ninth-year head coach Greg Beals, who owns a 261-203-1 record as OSU’s skipper. Beals has gotten his team to NCAA Regional appearances in two of the last three years.

The Bucks have the benefit of experience this season around the diamond, returning five starting position players — including three guys who earned conference honors last year in Dominic Canzone (All-Big Ten), Connor Pohl (Third Team All-Big Ten) and Dillon Dingler (All-Big Ten Freshman). On the pitching side of things, however, it is almost an entirely fresh start. Ohio State lost over 83 percent of its total innings pitched from 2018, and have to replace three starting pitchers.

This weekend

On the horizon, the Bucks will open up their conference schedule with a three-game road series against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are just 6-15 this season, but have won both of their first two games in Piscataway. As a team, Rutgers is hitting .230 with 25 doubles, five homers and 85 walks. The Scarlet Knights pitching staff has a combined 5.51 ERA with 172 strikeouts in 181.1 innings of work.

The Rutgers batting order is led by Tim Dezzi and Mike Nyisztor. Dezzi, a redshirt freshman infielder, has a team-high .342 batting average to go along with 10 walks and seven RBI. Nyisztor, a sophomore utility outfielder, is just behind Dezzi hitting .307 on the year with four RBI and five doubles. The Scarlet Knights are a team that can wreak some havoc on the base paths with their speed, registering 24 stolen bases on 31 attempts so far this season.

Friday’s game will be a matchup of Aces, as Burhenn will take the mound opposite Rutgers’ Harry Rutkowski. The sophomore lefty is 0-2 this season with a 2.50 ERA with 35 Ks in six starts totaling 36 innings of work. First pitch in Friday’s opener is set for 2 p.m. ET, with all three games in the series being streamed on BTN Plus ($).

This season so far

The team began the season with 16-straight road games, opening up at the Snowbird Classic on Feb. 15 against Seton Hall in Port Charlotte, Fla. Beals entered the year 3-0 against the Pirates in his coaching career, and that domination continued as his team swept Seton Hall in the three-game series. Ohio State continued its hot start with a 2-0 win over FGCU before suffering its first loss of the season, 5-1 to BYU.

From there the Buckeyes hit a bit of a rough patch, losing 9-of-13 to close out the long road trip. After splitting two games apiece in a four-game series with Bethune-Cookman, OSU lost four straight one-game bouts against Michigan State, Western Carolina, Furman and Wofford before returning home to Bill Davis Stadium, where their luck has since turned around.

Opening up the home schedule against Lipscomb, Ohio State took two out of three in the series, including a 14-3 victory in its first game back in Columbus. Following a win in a one-game matchup against Northern Kentucky, the Buckeyes rattled off three Ws in a row before losing the final game of a four-game series with Hawaii, following up with a win over Toledo on Wednesday to finish the homestand 7-2, now owning a 14-11 record on the year.

Thus far, the team has been led offensively by utility man Brady Cherry. Primarily playing in left field, the senior leads the Big Ten in batting average (.385), hits (37) and doubles (10). The 6-foot-2 righty out of Pendleton, Indiana has six homers and 22 RBI on the season, while also making two relief appearances on the mound. Right behind Cherry is Canzone, who is hitting .316 with seven homers and 21 RBI as the team’s starting right fielder. Canzone is phenomenal defensively as well, being listed as the “Best Outfield Arm” in the Big Ten by Baseball America.

On the mound Ohio State has been led by Garrett Burhenn. The freshman leads all OSU starters with a 3.38 ERA, going 4-1 with 26 strikeouts and 11 walks in 37.1 innings pitched. Burhenn has been dominating ever since his collegiate debut against Seton Hall, wherein he threw eight scoreless one-hit innings with six Ks and no walks. Starter Seth Lonsway has been the strikeout king for the Buckeyes, leading all OSU pitchers with 39 Ks. Bayden Root has been the main guy out of the bullpen thus far, owning a 2.60 ERA with 26 strikeouts in eight appearances this season.