Sunday, November 15, 2009 Sports: Five Keys Ohio State

By Kendall Rogers

1. Alex Wimmers needs to be Alex Wimmers -- This key may sound like common sense or even be strange to some people, but there have been plenty of times in the past when a pitcher expected to throw exceptionally well cratered the next season. Wimmers can't do that if the Buckeyes plan on reaching the College World Series. As a sophomore last season, he had a 9-2 record and compiled a 3.27 ERA in 104 2/3 innings. He also struck out 136 and walked 55 and limited opposing teams to a .211 clip. Wimmers will be a preseason All-American and will have much pressure to succeed. It'll be interesting to see how the talented pitcher handles the spotlight.

2. Rest of the weekend rotation needs to be much better -- Wimmers is Ohio State's bell cow and one of the nation's best, but the same can't be said for the rest of the Buckeyes' weekend rotation. Eric Best was good at times last season. But another starter, Dean Wolosiansky compiled rather unimpressive numbers. Best started 13 games last season and had a 5.95 ERA in 75 2/3 innings. He also struck out 55 and walked 34 and limited opposing teams to a .315 batting average. Wolosiansky, meanwhile, started 16 games and had a 6.04 ERA in 92 1/3 innings. He struck out 55 and walked 34 and teams hit him at an incredibly high .330 clip. There's no question this unit must improve if Ohio State is to make a trip to Omaha next June.

3. Build more quality bullpen depth -- The bullpen is OSU's only major of concern with the season a couple months away. The Buckeyes finished last season with a 6.39 ERA and the bullpen is to blame for much of that calculation. Drew Rucinski is the top returning reliever. Joining him are Ross Oltorik, Andrew Armstrong and Jared Strayer. Rucinski made 36 appearances last season and had a 5.54 ERA in 74 2/3 innings, Oltorik made 11 appearances and had a 9.58 ERA in 31 innings, Armstrong made 11 appearances and had an 11.51 ERA and Strayer made 20 appearances and had a 10.55 ERA in 29 innings. We can't stress enough how much better this unit must be in the spring, both from a production and quality depth standpoint.

4. Offense needs to meet expectations -- This certainly will be the Buckeyes' strength in the spring. The Buckeyes had one of the nation's youngest offensive lineups last season and still managed to finish the campaign with a .328 batting average. The Bucks welcome back five hitters that finished '09 with batting averages better than .340. The list includes Ryan Dew, Dan Burkhart, Zach Hurley, Michael Stephens and Cory Kovanda. Dew led the team in hitting with a .388 batting average. Burkhart and Stephens, meanwhile, are the team's leading power hitters. It wouldn't surprise me if the Buckeyes finish the '10 season with a batting average equal to or better than .328.

5. Embrace the high expectations -- There have been times in the past when teams with incredibly high expectations folded like a cheap tent once the season began. Ohio State definitely hopes to avoid that fate. Ohio State hasn't been to Omaha in 42 years and would love nothing more than to end that hiatus in the spring. Accomplishing that goal will be a long and potentially rugged road with every team on the schedule gunning for them. Still, this is a team that gained a lot of experience by reaching the Tallahassee Regional final last season. There's no need for the Buckeyes to get overwhelmed by the high expectations. They need to embrace the publicity.

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