Half of the players currently on the Ohio State baseball team did not play in any of the club’s 65 games last season. Eight of the 17 players looking to take the field for the first time in an OSU uniform are true freshmen, seven are transfers and two are redshirt freshmen.
With the amount of turnover the Buckeye baseball club saw from the end of last season to the beginning of the upcoming campaign, it can be difficult to maintain an identity from one year to the next. The team does expect to find one relatively soon, though.
“I think we’re a very talented team,” said junior relief pitcher Seth Kinker on Wednesday. “There really isn’t an identity. You have 17 new guys that are around that locker room. You have 17 new names. But this team’s identity is going to be proven in the next few weeks.
“As the season goes on, we’re definitely going to mold into that identity. I think that’s key to the success of the team, and I think that throughout the season you’re going to see more of a team that’s going to form together as a whole. I wouldn’t expect here in the first weekend, but this is definitely experience that we’re going to need to figure out an identity.”
The Buckeyes open the season against Kansas State on Friday in Osceola, Fla. Kinker noted that starting the season against a team like the Wildcats that is from the Big 12 Conference is a great starting point in the search for the 2017 baseball team’s identity.
“Kansas State is going to be a wake-up call, they’re a good program,” Kinker said. “They’re Big 12. It’s not like we’re going out there and playing a scrappy scrimmage against a (Division III) school. This is a Division I school and finding that identity is key.
"I think we just need to go out there and play like we know how to play baseball. I think the Buckeye way that we’ve been taught, the blueprint that we’ve been preached throughout the entire year, if we believe in that, if we stick to our basics, I think we’re going to be able to find that identity sooner than we expect.”
Though the eight true freshmen and the two redshirt freshman have yet to play in a collegiate baseball game, redshirt junior starting pitcher Adam Niemeyer said they are itching to get out on the field.
“We’re a pretty determined team, I think," Niemeyer said. "We’ve got a lot of young guys that are ready to compete, and we’ve got a lot of guys from last year, too, that have experience and have been able to show the young guys the ropes and teach them throughout this fall and this winter. We’re looking forward to the spring.”
With so much alteration in the offseason, some players have had to make position changes. One of those student-athletes is Jalen Washington. He was a catcher last year but will now play shortstop for the 2017 campaign.
Washington seconded Kinker’s assessment of the team not having an identity yet. But similar to how Niemeyer described the club, Washington said this 2017 squad is motivated.
“It’s obviously a new team,” Washington said. “We’ve got a lot of guys out there ready to make a name for themselves and represent the Buckeyes. It’s to be determined (the identity). We’re going to be competitive, we’re going to be scrappy and we’re just going to find ways to get the job done. Guys are going to make names for themselves throughout the season and that’s what we’re excited about. We know the guys can go out there and play, we’ve seen them all fall, all winter so we’re just excited.”
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