Dominic Canzone was fed a complimentary statistic Tuesday afternoon and the Ohio State freshman turned on it like a belt-high fastball thrown across the heart of the plate.
The right fielder downplayed the fact he hadn’t committed an error in 83 chances spanning 46 games this season.
“The transition hasn’t been bad,” said Canzone, who played first base and pitched in high school. “Fly balls are generally easy to catch.”
Coach Greg Beals added context to Canzone’s fielding performance, which includes tracking wind-aided balls slicing toward the foul line.
“Right field is the toughest position in (Bill Davis Stadium),” Beals said. “Dom is often looking into a setting sun and the wind here often blows from left to right.”
In what has been an otherwise challenging season for the Buckeyes, Canzone is making the difficult look routine.
Freshmen don't often lead a team in batting average (.348) and slugging percentage (.471), but the Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit product has been excelling since mid-April. Canzone ranks second in the Big Ten in batting average in conference games and is among the favorites to win freshman of the year honors.
“There is a fire in him,” Beals said. “He’s a quiet leader being a freshman, but there’s (a fire) burning inside him that fuels his competitiveness. He has earned the respect of all of our team, but especially our hitters because they see the success he’s having and the rate he’s having it.”
Canzone is a cornerstone in the Buckeyes’ rebuilding project. A year after winning the Big Ten tournament, Ohio State (21-32) won’t even quality for the tournament.
The Buckeyes lost seven starters from the 2016 club, including the top six hitters. Beals saw six players selected in last summer’s major-league draft, including four underclassmen.
The coach said early season struggles led to a collective loss of confidence. The Buckeyes, who are 7-14 in conference play, conclude their season with a three-game homestand against Indiana starting tonight. Underclassmen such as Canzone, Noah West, Conner Pohl and Jake Vance are keys to helping Ohio State return to its winning ways.
“We definitely have the talent,” Canzone said. “It’s about sticking with the process and understanding that we are good enough. More than anything, it’s really going out and doing it. We have the guys to compete for another Big Ten championship.”