He’s waited and worked for four years, and now the Buckeyes’ anything-you-need man is reaping the rewards of his commitment. Marcus Ernst has become hard to miss, and hard to pitch to.
Columbus, OH – No one had a better opening series in Florida than Marcus Ernst, teammate or foe.
The Buckeyes’ first baseman, third baseman, outfielder, or anything-you-need man sizzled at the plate and played dependable defense wherever he was asked to play.
Officially, he had 8 hits in 16 at bats, including a pair of triples, and drove in a pair of runs.
Of course, someone from Indiana State, Marshall, or Brigham Young may have matched his numbers, offensively…but it’s questionable if anyone from those schools has had the path, the patience, and commitment of Ernst in hanging around long enough to prove that he belongs among the Big Ten’s best all-around hitters. Many would have taken a different path. Not Ernst!
With Minster, Ohio roots, he was recruited as the Ohio Capital Conference Player of The Year out of Dublin Coffman High School in 2019 and hit .257 in 14 starts as a freshman, but only had 70 at bats to get his feet wet.
In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, he hit .250 in 14 games, but only had eight at bats.
Last year, shuttling between starts in left field, third, and second base, he was often the odd man out in the lineup, hitting .205 with 17 hits in, again, limited opportunities.
So it comes as some surprise that among a handful of Buckeyes off to fast starts offensively in 2022, Ernst would head the list with a .533 on base percentage, and an .833 slugging percentage. Or does it? Is it just his time having finally arrived?
“I’ve waited my turn a little bit,” he said as he packed gear after Monday’s loss to BYU. “I got some opportunity last year in different positions, and it’s been that way for a couple of years now. So to see my name in the lineup on opening day was awesome, and I’m just trying to prove myself day-by-day and game-by-game. With the depth we have on this team no spot is ever safe, so I’m just trying to be my best every day.”
His utility and experience has been in the mind of coach Greg Beals since fall baseball. His commitment to Ohio State baseball has never gone unnoticed. As early as January Beals was talking about ‘Ernie’ in terms of how to find a spot for his bat, his versatility, and his dedication in the lineup.
“He’s worked his butt off,” said Beals in a January interview. “If there’s such a thing as a professional approach to hitting in college baseball, it would be Marcus Ernst. He’s earned this opportunity and he’ll probably start out as our first baseman…until we need him to play someplace else.”
That’s exactly what transpired during the four games in Port Charlotte, as he played first base in the win over Marshall, then moved to third for the three games against Indiana State and BYU.
As to commitment, he’s spent every summer since his freshman year working on his craft as a hitter in the Prospect League (Springfield) and the Great Lakes League (Lima). He’s a tough and frustrating out, fouling off endless pitches in a Saturday at bat against Indiana State.
He’s a line drive machine, never wasting an at bat or an opportunity to swing during batting practice, always intent on hitting the ball hard to whatever field, according to the location of the pitch.
“I learned to work growing up while playing multiple sports,” he says. “My coaches back then instilled that in me, my family instilled that in me with the things they do, and teammates I’ve had have impressed me with the importance of work. Just learning from the people around me has been my model of how to compete.”
He’s presently earning the respect of coaches and teammates alike with his own model of endurance during at bats, recognition, and the ability to spray the ball to all parts of the field.
“It’s great that they notice. Obviously the coaches, Angle (hitting coach Matt Angle) and Beals, have worked with me a lot throughout the fall to get my swing right, fine tune some things, and it’s paying dividends so far. It worked during the fall and I’m just building now on what I’ve learned from them.”
He’s a jack of all trades defensively, but the amiable Ernst smiles when he tells you…it doesn’t matter where he plays, as long as he plays.
“It really doesn’t. Anywhere on the field is good with me,” he says. “Anywhere I can help this ballclub, absolutely.”
He’s been the young guy, and the overlooked guy, for three long frustrating years of work and waiting his turn. Now he’s a senior statesman in the Buckeyes’ clubhouse and talks with admiration about the ever-changing assortment of new talent around him.
“We’ve got great talent up and down the lineup, both veterans and new guys. Everyone contributed this weekend. Young guys stepped up in big situations, and veterans stepped up in big situations, young arms and veterans coming out of the bullpen…it’s been awesome to see all levels contributing.”
They won three of four on the road on the road, and a positive start bodes well for confidence and continuance.
“Obviously we would have liked to have gotten the last one, but we’re 3 and 1, and I thought we competed well. I saw a lot of fight in this ballclub this weekend.”
Hard work rewarded, he’ll still be in the cage tomorrow, working, refining his swing, correcting whatever .500 didn’t cover in Florida. He’s hard to miss. No spot is safe. He’s there to be his best.