The Buckeyes earned a 2-0 win against No. 3 Louisville on April 14 and followed that up by taking two out of three at then-No. 24 Nebraska on April 17-19. That series kicked off a seven-game winning streak for the Buckeyes that included a pair of midweek wins against Morehead State and a sweep on the road against Northwestern.
OSU entered its series against Illinois – which had won 18 games in a row prior to its trip to Columbus – riding high, entering top 25 polls for the first time all season. The series, billed as one of the Big Ten’s biggest, was the first meeting between top-25 teams at Bill Davis Stadium since 2009.
What could have been a launching point for the Buckeyes instead turned into a forgettable stretch. Ohio State was swept by the Illini and lost eight of its last nine conference games, falling all the way to the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We’re not hitting as well as we need to, we’re not pitching as well as we need to and we’re not fielding as well as we need to in order to beat those high-caliber teams like we did with Louisville,” senior catcher Aaron Gretz said. “In order to beat those teams you can’t slack on any of those things. You have to play to your absolute best.”
After going from an NCAA Tournament near-lock to a team that probably needs to win a game or two in the conference tournament to feel completely safe about their postseason odds, the Buckeyes might be getting back to the mind-set that drove them to their early season success.
“We got to the middle of the year and were nationally ranked there for a week and were starting to get publicity and maybe that’s not what makes us play best,” OSU head coach Greg Beals said. “I think the guys are digging into that preseason road they were on.”
Gretz echoed that sentiment, saying, “Earlier in the season we were playing with a chip on our shoulder because nobody was giving us any credit. When we finally got the credit… I think we’re not playing as well as we did when we had that chip on our shoulder. Basically, we’re kind of in the same spot as we were when we had the chip on our shoulder. People don’t think we’re as good, and we have to go out and prove to everyone that we are for real.”
Can the Buckeyes rekindle their earlier winning ways? They’ll have at least two more games to prove to the NCAA selection committee that they belong.
Game Schedule (all times EDT)
Game 1: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Indiana, 10 a.m. (BTN Plus)
Game 2: No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 7 Ohio State, 2 p.m. (BTN Plus)
Game 3: No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 8 Nebraska, 6 p.m. (BTN)
Game 4: No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Michiga State, 10 p.m. (BTN)
Game 5 (elimination): Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 10 a.m. (BTN Plus)
Game 6 (elimination): Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 2 p.m. (BTN Plus)
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6 p.m. (BTN)
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 10 p.m. (BTN)
Game 9 (elimination): Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 5, 4:30 p.m. (BTN)
Game 10 (elimination): Loser 8 vs. Winner Game 6, 8:30 p.m. (BTN)
Game 11: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 8, 10 a.m. (BTN)
Game 12: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 7, 2 p.m. (BTN)
Game 13 (if necessary): Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11, 6 p.m. (BTN)
Game 14: (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12, 10 p.m. (BTN)
Championship: Winner Game 11/13 vs. Winner Game 12/14, 2 p.m. (BTN)