After a stirring sweep for three games at Purdue the Buckeyes find themselves solvent again in the Big Ten race. Only thing is, they’re going to have to beat some odds to beat the remaining teams they “have” to beat.
Seriously, the Ohio State Buckeyes dodged the bullet over the weekend, taking three straight from the lowly Purdue Boilermakers.
Except, they really didn’t “dodge” the bullet. They took it head on; because they had to. There’s was no other choice.
Lose the series and you drop out of the running for the Big Ten tournament race – and any chnce to finish as one of the top eight who qualify.
Win the series and you live to play another day, against the likes of Michigan next weekend, then Iowa, and Minnesota.
But that’s not automatic, either. All three are ahead of OSU in the tourney race. All three have played well throughout the year. And a single win won’t come easy in any of the next three weekend’s series.
But for the moment…the sweep against Purdue, and even that wasn’t so easy. Purdue didn’t hit a lot, but they did pitch and the scores reflected that…3-1, 3-2, and 5-1. Backs against the wall, the Bucks got it done.
I was reminded Sunday after the final out of the series finale of Greg Beals and his Navy seals training he turned to back in the winter, to help his team deal with adversity, or at least adverse situations. It’s pretty adverse when you’re three games away from elimination with three weeks to play. Deal with what you can control…that was the message imparted from those sessions…and that went through my mind, as well. Didn’t matter what Michigan, Iowa or Minnesota did this weekend. They had to go out and win.
In times like these coaches and mere mortals like to pander to the term “character”, and frankly the term as applied to baseball, or sports, has more meanings than relevance. I’m not a great proponent of it. You can talk about not quitting, about believing in each other, about every man doing his job…whatever. “Refuse to lose” is also popular, but just so much lip service when you’re not talented enough to win.
But here’s where I buy in with the Buckeyes, at least this group of Buckeyes. They are talented. And at this stage of the season, they’re experienced. They know the ropes after six years of Greg Beals. They’re his recruits and they bear his stamp.
They haven’t been the luckiest group this year. Home run leader Jacob Bosiokovic has missed a lot of at bats with a hamstring. And starting pitcher Adam Niemeyer went down early at Purdue with an aggravation of a hamstring of his own. To the issue of character, as a team or individually, I’ve seen teams fold from less.
They’re young, and inexperienced where it matters most…on the mound. But credit Ryan Feltner, John Havird, Seth Kinker, Kyle Michalik, Mike Horejsei, Austin Woodby, and Yianni Pavlapoulos for seizing opportunity and sticking their foot in the door when it came their way.
To the point about character, the reason I most dread the word is because in the absence of performance it’s soon forgotten about, anyway. My idea of character is someone who has your back in bar fight; or in baseball terms someone who says “gimme the damn ball” and do what I do. And while Beals can recruit actual baseball talent, our culture has slipped away from the attitude of being the toughest, meanest SOB in the locker room and on the field…an intimidator to the others if they don’t follow. That’s what great teams need, my friends. And it’s hard to even talk about nowadays, much less recruit it!
They’re going to have to have some of it, starting with these week’s non-con games with UAB, the dress rehearsal for Michigan. Call it character, call the Navy, or call 911, this is your season on the line, and for seniors playing their last organized ball, their final baseball legacy in these next three weeks.
BUT by all means…feel good about the three-game sweep at Purdue, too, because games against Hofstra don’t matter. Purdue did. Michigan does.
You can write about it, or talk about character leading up to Friday’s 6 pm opener (and I hope the weather’s good), but Gawd…I hate the mortal “C” word when it comes to winning yourself a tough ballgame. I’d rather see someone come out and do something “immortal”. It means more, and it lasts longer. I still remember pitching against Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor when they played at Minnesota. Frankly, I remember them kicking my butt.
I don’t remember a thing about beating…Marietta!