Focus, ability has Elkhart Central graduate Tully contributing for Ohio State

Tanner Tully, who hit a home run and struck out 13 in Elkhart Central's 1-0 Class 4A state baseball championship victory in 2013, has become one of the Buckeyes' top pitchers as a freshman.

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.

Ask Tanner Tully what his favorite class was during his freshman year of studies at Ohio State University and he will tell you that it was English.

"I liked English a lot," said Tully. "It had a smaller class size and you got more attention (than in a lecture hall of 200 to 300 students)."

In other words, it was focused.

Focus has also helped the 2013 Elkhart Central High School graduate excel on the baseball field for the 2014 Buckeyes.

Tully has broken into OSU's starting rotation and is among Big Ten Conference leaders in earned run average. The left-hander is currently 5-2 with a 2.02 ERA to go with 39 strikeouts and six walks in 71⅓ innings. Opponents are hitting .245 against him.

In late March, Tully was the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

The past few weeks, Tully has taken the ball in the Buckeyes' first game of each conference weekend series.

"Tanner has taken the Friday night gig pretty good," said Ohio State pitching coach Mike Stafford. "It doesn't look like it fazes him. He has a job and knows what it is.

"He's one of our better pitchers."

Tully began the season in the bullpen, but soon showed enough to earn a spot in the rotation. Citing injuries to other OSU pitchers and the desire to keep starters on consistent rest, he doesn't put too much stock in where he fits into the mix.

"There's no real top," said Tully. "Everyone is everyone pretty much the same. We're just looking for wins.

"It's going well."

The reason for his success?

"I'm throwing a lot more strikes," said Tully.

But not more strikeouts.

At Elkhart Central, where Tully helped the Blue Blazers to a Class 4A state championship in 2013, Hoosier Diamond's Mr. Baseball racked up plenty of whiffs (120 in 70 innings, including 13 in the state final to go with a home run in a 1-0 win against Indianapolis Cathedral).

"I just let them hit the ball and get outs with the defense," said Tully. "I'm just letting the defense work."

Working quickly and getting a high percentage of first-pitch strikes has helped Tully be efficient and effective for head coach Greg Beals' squad.

"I try to keep up the pace and get us back in the dugout as fast as possible," said Tully. "I try to go out there and stay focused and get the job done."

Stafford appreciates Tully's consistency.

"One of the big things that Tanner does well is throw strikes down in the zone on both sides of the plate," said Stafford. "He goes deep into games and gives us a chance to win every time he goes out there."

Tully said the college strike zone tends to be smaller than that in high school.

"I have to be a lot more precise," said Tully, who gained a no-decision in a seven-inning outing Friday, April 25, at Purdue.

It was during that weekend that the whole Ohio State team got a shock. Freshman left-hander Zach Farmer became ill and was later diagnosed with leukemia. He was scheduled to begin treatment at OSU's Wexner Medical Center on Monday, May 5.

"It took us all by surprise," said Tully of Farmer's sickness. "We're keeping him close."

Stafford said Tully and the rest of the team are rallying around their teammate.

"(Zach and Tanner) are both close," said Stafford. "They worked together everyday as pitchers. Our guys are doing what they can for Zach, showing him their support. They are a family."

Ohio State has two more weeks left in the regular season. The eight-team Big Ten tournament is scheduled for May 21-25 in Omaha, Neb.

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