Sunday, May 24, 2009
By Mark Znidar
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Ohio State baseball coach Bob Todd served on the NCAA Tournament committee for seven seasons. He has told his players that, in many ways, playing the game on the field is a lot easier than playing the waiting game while the 64-team field is being selected.
Todd has a pretty good idea what committee members should be saying about the Buckeyes during the next 24 hours.
Then again, he has seen some deserving teams turned away.
"My feelings would be very hurt if Ohio State is not playing next weekend," Todd said. "I would be very surprised if we were overlooked."
Minnesota banged out 17 hits to eliminate the Buckeyes 9-6 in the Big Ten tournament loser's bracket final before 1,892 yesterday in Huntington Park.
As was the case in a win over Illinois and a loss to Indiana, Ohio State did not play well -- leaving 10 men on base, making three errors and getting shaky pitching.
Still, Todd told the Buckeyes that he is "95 percent sure" they will receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the strength of winning the Big Ten regular-season championship, a 40-17 record and a No. 32 ranking in the Rating Percentage Index.
Ohio State could find out for sure as early as today when the host teams for 16 first-round regionals will be announced. The entire bracket will be unveiled at noon Monday.
"We're kind of in the dark now," second baseman Cory Kovanda said. "We're not really sure what is going to happen. We're going to have to take it as it comes."
Athletic director Gene Smith has put in a bid to play host to a regional tournament in Bill Davis Stadium. The Buckeyes were hosts in 1999 and 2001, to positive reviews from the NCAA.
Schools must put in a monetary guarantee to the NCAA for such tournaments, and Todd said he has heard there have been figures as high as $370,000. He doesn't know the dollar amount Ohio State has bid, but said it would be competitive.
"You're talking about a large amount of money that people are bidding, and hats off to Gene Smith and the administration for putting in a bid," Todd said.
Todd said the tournament committee wants to hold more regional tournaments outside the South, Southwest and West.
The last thing the Buckeyes wanted, designated hitter Ryan Dew said, was to put their fate in the hands of the tournament committee. The Big Ten tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"We came out not intense these last few games, and I think we've learned from that," Dew said. "I think we're going to come together (for the NCAA Tournament). Hopefully, (the regional) is at Ohio State. Wherever it is, we'll be ready to play."
The key to yesterday's loss was the Buckeyes' failure to really pound Gophers starter Scott Fern. He was making only his second start and had pitched 32 innings, but gave up four runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Todd said his players might have come into the tournament worn out mentally after a grinding regular-season race that saw them win the championship on the final day in edging Minnesota by a half-game.
"There was a huge emotional letdown for Ohio State and Minnesota," he said