After sweeping a winless Siena team over the weekend, the Ohio State baseball team is looking to continue defending its home turf.
The Buckeyes (11-6, 0-0) are preparing for their last two non-conference games — against in-state opponents Akron Tuesday and Xavier Wednesday — before kicking off their Big Ten schedule with a weekend series against Michigan State.
Senior outfielder Tim Wetzel, who is hitting .417 (10-24) with runners on base, said the team is concentrated on taking things one game at a time.
“One thing that is big with this year’s team is we’re just treating every game the same, whether it’s the Big Ten or a midweek game like we’ve got coming up this week. Every game is just as important as the next,” Wetzel said. “We’re not going to jump ahead to the Big Ten this weekend. We’ve got to take care of these two games first.”
Coach Greg Beals said he expects his players to bring a lot of energy into both of their games this week.
“I just want to see us keep the winning streak going, I want to see the quality of at-bats continue to grow, I’d like to see us hit some extra base hits. If we get some extra base hits, we usually score runs in those innings,” Beals said.
Sophomore pitcher Jake Post is slated to start the game against the Zips (7-8, 0-0). After two starts and also coming out of the bullpen as a relief pitcher twice, Post is currently 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and said he is confident heading into the game against Akron.
“They look like a beatable team. If I execute my pitches and our hitters come through and we play good defense, we’ll come out with a win,” Post said. “I just want to go as deep as I can, have a good game, throw good pitches and execute to put the team in a good situation to win.”
Numerous freshmen have emerged as key players for the Buckeyes in the early season. The Big Ten announced Monday that freshman pitcher Travis Lakins earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. Lakins recorded a perfect 1.2 innings pitched in the latter game of a doubleheader with Siena Saturday after striking out a career-high five hitters and only allowing a pair of hits in 3.2 scoreless innings at No. 7 Oregon State Tuesday.
Other freshmen producing for OSU include outfielder Ronnie Dawson, who is currently third in the Big Ten with a .393 batting average and leads the team with 22 hits. Freshman pitcher Adam Niemeyer struck out a career-best eight while allowing just one hit over 4.1 scoreless innings of relief against No. 9 Oregon March 7.
“They’re huge, we knew that we were going to need them coming into the season big time,” Wetzel said. “The (freshmen) pitching staff has really been stepping up, (Troy) Montgomery and Dawson in the lineup have been huge, we knew that was going to be the case. We’re just excited they’re producing.”
Beals said a key to succeeding in the conference is getting the younger players as much playing time as possible.
“I think we’ve been able to get production from the younger guys but most importantly, we’ve got them experience and they’ve gotten a good number of at bats, so they’re going to be ready to go now that we start conference play,” Beals said.
Beals added that OSU is healthy and ready to make an impact in the Big Ten when the conference portion of its schedule begins this weekend.
“Physically, we’re in really good shape so as you transfer from preseason into the conference season, that’s something that’s always a concern and we’re healthy right now,” Beals said.
First pitch against Akron is set for 5:05 p.m. Tuesday at Bill Davis Stadium.