Beals spent time after each of the previous two games reviewing with his team what went wrong and how he thought improvement could be made. Following a 6-2 loss to the Illini on May 3 that completed a three-game sweep, however, he gathered his players in the outfield to speak about what laid ahead for the Buckeyes.
“We addressed it right there,” Beals said. “Our postgame speech was nothing about this weekend. Our postgame speech was totally and completely the fact that our goals for our season are still completely in front of us. This weekend will not define us unless we allow it to. What will define us is these last nine regular-season games. If we finish strong like we’ve been playing all year long, we’ll be fine.
“Great teams respond. We’ve done that before and I look forward to our team doing it again starting Tuesday night.”
Over the past couple of years, the Buckeyes have struggled to answer the bell when faced with adversity. The 2013 squad spiraled down the stretch, losing seven of its last nine regular-season games before flaming out in the conference tournament. Last spring, Ohio State was swept by Indiana at home in the second series of Big Ten play and then followed that up by getting swept again at Nebraska. Just nine games into a 24-game conference schedule, the Buckeyes were doomed thanks to a 2-7 start.
That hasn’t been the case thus far this season. After losing two games against UAB, the Buckeyes salvaged the series with a win to start a stretch in which it took home nine victories in 10 games. After dropping two of three games to UNLV, Ohio State responded by winning three of its next four games, all of which came against ranked opponents – a win against No. 4 Louisville and two out of three at No. 24 Nebraska.
“We just talk about being tough,” senior catcher Aaron Gretz said. “We dealt with some adversity right at the beginning of the year when we lost our first two games at UAB. We have kind of let things snowball the past two years when we had a bad weekend. We talked about it after the second game at UAB and said it wasn’t going to happen again this year.”
Although a regular-season conference title is almost certainly out of reach, Ohio State can still make good on its goal this season of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2009. Right now, D1Baseball has the Buckeyes projected as a No. 2 seed in the Louisville regional.
“It’s just something where you’ve got to tip your cap and move on,” Gretz said. “Like we talked about after the game, we’re still in a good spot for our season goal and making a regional. It’s just one of those things where you learn from it. They played well this weekend and we had some chances that we didn’t take care of. We just have to move on and keep winning baseball games.”
Ohio State took the first step towards returning to its winning ways with a pair of road victories against Miami (Ohio) and Cincinnati on May 5-6. It brought the Buckeyes’ record in midweek games to 11-0, an improvement over last year when OSU struggled against some in-state opponents.
With Maryland – another team projected as an NCAA tournament participant – coming to town, the Buckeyes have a chance to solidify an NCAA bid by continuing its rebound with a series win.
Kuhn Returns To Lineup
After missing 10 games because of an ankle injury sustained while running to first base in an April 10 loss to UNLV, Ohio State third baseman Troy Kuhn returned to the lineup for the Illinois series.
Kuhn is hitting .250 and is tied for the team lead in doubles, and his presence in the lineup was a welcome addition.
“It certainly allowed us to put our best lineup on the field, and we haven’t done that in a while,” Beals said. “Troy Kuhn is our four-hole hitter and is a good baseball player. To have him out for 10 games, we did well during that time but we had a makeshift lineup.
“He put some pretty good swings on the ball and also went and made a play on a short hop.”
The rest also recharged him for a critical stretch run that the Buckeyes are about to undertake.
“It’s really nice to just be back and playing again,” Kuhn said. “When I got hurt, I was on a roll. I was getting hits, so it’s really nice that I didn’t skip a beat. I feel good, other than my ankle being a little stiff. The rest of my body really needed the rest, so I feel really good and really refreshed.”
After going 1 for 8 with three walks and a run against Illinois, Kuhn collected a pair of hits and scored four runs in the midweek games against Miami (Ohio) and Cincinnati.