Buckeyes Make Big Ten Tourney Despite Being Swept by Hoosiers
By Tony Gerdeman
Rarely does a team on a tournament bubble reach said tournament after being swept to end the season, but thanks to the Big Ten's tiebreaking procedures, that's exactly what happened to the Buckeyes this past weekend.
Ohio State went into Saturday's season finale at Indiana thinking that they needed a win in order to secure the sixth and final position in the Big Ten Tournament, so when they took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning in Bloomington, they had to feel pretty good.
That lead disappeared as the sixth wore on, and then became a 4-2 Indiana lead in the eighth, which was the eventual final score.
Illinois, which was also vying for the final spot, fell to the Gophers on Saturday, creating a three-way tie between the Illini, Minnesota and Ohio State, who all had equal 11-13 conference records on the season.
Despite winning the season series from both the Gophers and Buckeyes, Ohio State won the tiebreaker between the three schools because of a superior record between common opponents.
The tiebreaker situation was a confusing one for most. Illinois' loss to Minnesota, which happened while OSU and Indiana were still playing, actually clinched the final spot for the Buckeyes.
Both Ohio State and the Big Ten Network weren't initially aware that the Buckeyes had won the tiebreaker until the Big Ten passed along the information towards the end of their game.
A tiebreaker that ignores head-to-head results is odd to say the least, and it certainly wasn't met happily by the Illini. Illinois outfielder Willie Argo took his frustrations to Twitter after the game.
"What a joke! Ohio State gets swept to make B1G tourney, AND we beat BOTH teams in the tie with us. That is NOT RIGHT!"
The Big Ten tiebreaker rules state that the first tiebreaker is head-to-head, but that is only between two teams. The tiebreaker between three teams also goes head-to-head, but only as a composite record between the three teams in question.
Illinois and Ohio State each finished 4-2 in this scenario, while Minnesota finished 1-5. Even though the Illini beat OSU, Ohio State's sweep of Minnesota evened them up with Illinois.
The second tiebreaker was record against the top six teams (including ties) in the conference, and both Illinois and Ohio State finished with the same 8-13 mark there as well.
Common opponents eventually won the tiebreaker for the Buckeyes, as they finished 10-8 against the same teams that Illinois and Minnesota went 9-9 and 6-12 against, respectively.
Had Ohio State not swept Minnesota a month earlier, they wouldn't have won the tiebreaker over Illinois.
"When you control your own destiny, you wish you could control the outcome, too," Illini designated hitter Thomas Shelton told IlliniHQ.com.
"We had opportunities to win other games, so you can’t blame it on how the book is laid out," Illini coach Dan Hartleb said after the game. "But it’s something I think we need to look at as a coaching group."
"I was aware of all the tiebreakers,” Hartleb told IlliniHQ.com, “but when you’re actually put in that situation and there’s a chance that the team that goes ahead of you is the team you beat head-to-head, that’s kind of tough for everybody to swallow.
It was quite a different reaction for the Buckeyes.
"We did not play loose and relaxed in our final conference series this weekend and we need to change that heading into this week,” Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said.
“We’re very fortunate that we have been given another opportunity and we need to come out re-energized on Wednesday."
As the sixth seed, the Buckeyes will face the third seed Nittany Lions Wednesday at 3:35 pm at Huntington Park in downtown Columbus.
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