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Baseball: Ohio State midweek series in Columbus

Senior shortstop Jalen Washington singles to third on a 0-1 pitch in the bottom of the first inning against Purdue on Sunday. Credit: Edward Sutelan | Lantern reporter

The Ohio State baseball team (14-17, 3-6 Big Ten) seems to have found some momentum at just the right time ahead of a pair of midweek opponents and another road trip to Michigan State (18-10, 2-3 Big Ten).

For the first time since its March 3-5 series against Campbell earlier this season, OSU was able to come away with a series victory over a weekend opponent, taking two of three from conference rival Penn State.

Now, for the first time this season, the Buckeyes will host two teams in a midweek matchup when Cincinnati (15-16, 2-4) comes in on Tuesday and Eastern Michigan (12-19, 4-2) on Wednesday.

Scouting Cincinnati

The Bearcats have endured an up-and-down season that has included key wins against then-No. 1 Louisville and then-No. 25 Tennessee. But they have struggled in conference play, resulting in a 2-4 record in the American Athletic Conference.

Cincinnati’s lineup has seen notable production from a handful of players, but as a unit has struggled to consistently put runs up on the scoreboard. Despite having five batters with batting averages above .270, the team is batting just .249 with 18 home runs. The Bearcats have demonstrated promising plate discipline on the season with 120 walks, and taken advantage of those opportunities on base by converting them into 35 stolen bases in 45 attempts.

The offensive leader of the Bearcats has been sophomore outfielder A.J. Bumpass. The team’s No. 2 hitter has posted a robust .360/.456/.596 slash line, leading the team in all three categories. He is only one of three players on the team with double-digit extra-base hit totals and is currently third on the team with three home runs this season.

The team’s pitching, on the other hand, has been slightly above average compared with most Division I schools. The Bearcats’ 4.28 ERA ranks 105th in the country and their 8.52 hits allowed per nine innings is good for 75th in the nation. Their rotation has not been a particular strength, but six of their relievers (maximum four starts this season) have ERAs below 3.30 and have proved reliable for Cincinnati so far this season.

Scouting Eastern Michigan

The season has not been the prettiest for Eastern Michigan, but the team has started to find its stride. The Eagles opened the season 3-15 in their first 18 games, but are currently on a 9-4 run in their past 13 games, outscoring their opponents 66-52 in that span.

Despite the recent success, Eastern Michigan has not derived much production from its offense this season. The Eagles have only a .242 batting average and only 13 home runs with 233 strikeouts (19.5 percent strikeout rate). They have stolen their fair share of bases this season — 37 — but have been caught stealing 24 times already.

Senior right fielder John Montgomery has provided the bulk of offensive production this season. Montgomery possesses team-highs in batting average (.295), home runs (five), total bases (54) and RBIs (22) while batting third for his team.

While success at the plate has been up and down this season, production on the mound for the Eagles has been consistently lackluster. Of pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched, only three have ERAs below 4.00, while six pitchers have ERAs above 5.00. Their team ERA is at 5.71 on the season, largely the result of a .309 opponents’ batting average.

Canzone named Big Ten Freshman of the Week

Coming off a nine-game hitting streak and a dominant week in which he nearly hit .500, freshman right fielder Dominic Canzone was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week, the first Buckeye to receive the award since Brady Cherry back in 2016.

During his nine-game hitting streak, Canzone is batting .484 (15-for-31) with five runs scored, a double, a home run and 11 RBIs. He was bumped up to the fifth spot in the batting order for the Buckeyes on Sunday and hit in that spot for both games, helping lead OSU to two critical victories over Penn State. Since Canzone’s hit streak began, OSU is averaging 5.50 runs per game, up nearly a half-run from its 4.95 runs-per-game average prior to the hitting streak.

Canzone and the rest of the Buckeyes will take on Cincinnati at home with first pitch slated for 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday. Their game against Eastern Michigan is on the following day at the same time.

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