Baseball: Three pitchers headline Ohio State’s 2021 MLB Draft class

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Ohio State redshirt then-junior left-handed pitcher Seth Lonsway (11) throws a pitch during the Ohio State-Iowa game on March 27. Ohio State lost 5-1. Credit: Casey Smith | Asst. LTV Producer

Little did the Buckeyes know that their original 2021 weekend starting pitchers would hear their names called in this summer’s draft.

Junior right-handers Garrett Burhenn and Jack Neely as well as redshirt junior lefty Seth Lonsway were the three Ohio State Buckeyes selected during the 2021 MLB Draft. Ohio State now has 110 players selected in the draft since 1966, and 26 Buckeyes selected since head coach Greg Beals took the helm in 2011.

The three combined to make 34 of the 42 starts last season for the Buckeyes, throwing well over 189 innings together. The trio were the top three among the team’s strikeout leaders after the season, and two earned all-conference honors while the other used Ohio State as a launching pad for his professional career.

Lonsway led the way and was selected in the sixth round with the 176th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants. He was named to the All-Big Ten First Team by finishing fourth in the conference with 98 strikeouts and holding opposing teams to just over five hits per game, second-best in the conference. His signing bonus has a slot value just over $281,000.

Beals described Lonsway’s curveball as elite and “one of the better breaking balls in the draft.” The Celina, Ohio, native used his stellar breaking ball to finish No. 6 all-time in career strikeouts at Ohio State, and spun a 7-inning complete-game gem with 17 strikeouts against Indiana April 3.

“Scouts are aware of Seth’s ability with that breaking ball which should allow him to pitch in the big leagues,” Beals said. “He has major league stuff. He works tirelessly on his craft and the quicker his fastball evolves and he commands his fastball, you’ll see Seth Lonsway in the big leagues. I have no doubt about that.”

The Detroit Tigers chose Burhenn with the 255th overall selection in the ninth round Tuesday. He was also named to the All-Big Ten Third Team and tied for the conference-most with seven wins. His signing bonus has a slot value near $160,000.

Burhenn opened the 2021 season as the Buckeyes’ Opening Day starter and was relentless in all 13 starts, completing five innings in each and allowing more than four runs just once. The 6-foot-3 righty tallied a season-high 11 strikeouts in each of his final two outings last spring, punching out the final batter in his complete game May 23 against the Hoosiers in his home state of Indiana.

His reliability allowed him to get the ball most Friday nights for Ohio State, and Beals described Burhenn as a “steady Eddie” and perhaps one of the better starting pitchers in the Midwest.

“He just takes the ball and gives his team a chance to win every game,” Beals said. “He is in absolute control of himself all week long and when I say that, his preparation is top notch. His awareness of who he is and how he pitches successfully, is at an extremely high level. He has command of four pitches which pro teams are going to like as a future starter. Garrett’s a guy that the scouts believe can be a starter in the big leagues for a long time.”

Neely was the lone Buckeye selected on Day 3 of the draft, taken by the New York Yankees in the 11th round with the 333rd overall pick.

Having twice transferred in his college career, Neely found a home at Ohio State. He began as a starter in 2021 before finishing the season out of the Buckeyes bullpen, and fired 62 strikeouts across 41 1/3 innings.

Neely stands 6-foot-8 and powers a triple-digit fastball. Beals said he thinks Neely’s heater can play well in pro ball, “to the wooden bat and the higher strike zone in professional baseball.”

“Jack’s a big, tall guy with a power arm. He’s fun to watch out there,” Beals said. “The scouts see the big numbers and the power arm, and I think that’s going to get Jack his opportunity to go out and evolve his game at the professional level.”

This year marked the first draft in which a Buckeyes position player was not selected since 2014, when right-hander Greg Greve was the only Ohio State draftee.

Now, Ohio State will be tasked with replacing the arms who began over 80 percent of the team’s games. Junior right-hander Will Pfennig and senior southpaw Griffan Smith are possibilities to return to the rotation, and freshmen lefty Isaiah Coupet and right-hander Nate Haberthier also made one start in 2021.

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