The annual Buckeye Diamond Club golf fundraiser drew an enthusiastic turnout, doubleheader weather, and a pledge from Coach Greg Beals that the Buckeyes best baseball for 2017 is as close as fall practice.
Columbus – It was, to paraphrase Buckeye Diamond Club president Frank Fraas, a good thing to do for the good of the order – or in this case, program.
Monday afternoon marked the annual Diamond Club golf fundraiser at the York Golf Club in Worthington, an event, as Fraas and Buckeyes’ head coach Greg Beals pointed out, that simply adds to the already rich tapestry of support for Ohio State baseball.
“We’re fortunate at Ohio State, there’s not doubt about that,” said Beals. “To be part of an institution with the facilities and advantages to do what’s necessary to help our student athletes become better students, better athletes, and better people. But we could not be what we are without the support and help of the Diamond Club – for the little extras and last-minute details that simply make our agenda run better. We’re thankful, and grateful, for the Diamond Club and what it means to Buckeye baseball.”
In all, 21 foursomes showed up to play in a scramble format on a glorious July day. And as for the golf, a low score of 55 on the par 71 York layout took home first place honors.
But the talk of day, and throughout the post-golf dinner, was baseball, past, present and future. Beals and his coaches mingled, chatted up the interested, and frankly, addressed the issues that saw the sophomoric Buckeyes go from Big Ten Tournament champions in 2016…to an eleventh-place finish in 2017 (22-34) and miss the tournament altogether.
“It wasn’t the year we wanted, but some times it’s good to get a good butt-kicking the way we did,” smiled Beals while addressing the group of golfers. “We were young, but that young talent has gone out and had a tremendous summer of baseball. We have the talent to compete, and I can’t wait to get those kids back on campus and back to work come September.
“I can promise you this. We WILL be back in the Big Ten race for a championship in 2018.”
That list of promising talent begins with sophomore Dominic Canzone, who hit .343 last spring and bested that with a .400 average over the summer in the Shenandoah Valley League.
Another sophomore, Conner Pohl, played with Canzone in the Valley League and hit well after a .323 freshman campaign for the Buckeyes.
Junior pitcher Ryan Feltner played in the Cape Cod League and according to Beals lit up the radar guns on the Cape with a 95-98 mile-per-hour fastball.
“They actually had him closing games out of the bullpen up there,” added Beals. “But we’ll have him starting for us come spring.”
Locally, lefthanded junior Connor Curliss, and sophomore righthander Jake Vance, made huge strides pitching in nearby Springfield, in the Midwest Prospect League.
And, outfielder Tyler Cowles, returning for his senior season, hit like a new man in the Prospect League after suffering through (in his own words) an embarrassing sub-.200 batting average last spring.
In addition, for the second year in a row Beals and his staff have brought on board a most enviable freshman recruiting class.
The record raises the hackles on the neck of Greg Beals, but it’s all a part of the changing landscape of Division I college baseball that now sees top prospects like Hunter Greene sign professionally out of high school…and top collegiate talent sign and leave now after their junior year. Ohio State lost six to the major league draft after their Big Ten Tournament title run in 2016.
Mix in the academic part of the equation, weather, and the assimilation to a year-round commitment to baseball for the first time, and there’s simply no such thing as a sure thing in Division I Big Ten baseball.
Illinois, for instance, won 36 games in a row in 2015, the Big Ten title, and was a regional finalist vying to play in the College World Series. But just two years later, in 2017, the Illini finished 10th in the Big Ten, just one place ahead of the Buckeyes.
But the tone was pure optimism on Monday as Beals pressed the flesh while pressing the point to the eagerly-assembled…that the Buckeyes precipitous fall in 2017 is not to be expected come 2018.
“I want to thank all of you for your support,” he added in closing. “Just being here today means a lot, and without mentioning everyone…you know who you are and your contribution to Buckeye baseball. See you all next year.”
With a new story to tell, and the promise of a good thing…getting better!