OSU senior first baseman Zach Ratcliff (32) takes a cut during a game against Hofstra on March 18. OSU won 12-1. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi | Lantern reporter

OSU senior first baseman Zach Ratcliff (32) takes a cut during a game against Hofstra on March 18. OSU won 12-1.
Credit: Giustino Bovenzi | Lantern reporter

The Ohio State baseball team is set to play two games over the next two days: at Ohio University on Tuesday before returning home to face Toledo a day later. The Buckeyes are packing their bags with a little extra momentum after a solid start to Big Ten play over the weekend.

On Sunday, the Scarlet and Gray claimed their first conference series win, thanks to a walk-off home run by redshirt junior right fielder Jacob Bosiokovic. The two-run dinger was Bosiokovic’s team-leading sixth of the season, also ranking No. 2 in the conference.

The 2-1 series win over Northwestern moved OSU’s overall record to 14-7-1 on the year. The Buckeyes have won seven of their last eight games dating back to March 12 when they toppled UNLV.

Hitting the sweet spot

The Buckeyes’ keys to victory over their improved play as of late have been staying out of their own way by playing clean baseball through limiting errors and finding timely hits to win in come-from-behind fashion.

Senior third baseman Nick Sergakis is tied for first in the Big Ten with 37 hits and leads OSU with a .420 batting average. The co-captain of the team on Sunday said OSU has to get a more balanced production up and down the lineup.  

“It just seems like we’re ‘live by the long ball, die by the long ball,’” Sergakis said. “That needs to turn around. We need to find ways to manufacture runs without doing it all with one swing. We need to go out there and be scrappy.”

OSU coach Greg Beals said he would like to see a more balanced attack from his hitters as well, as the team’s .265 batting average ranks just ninth in the Big Ten.

“That’s something that we certainly need to figure out,” Beals said. “We don’t need those guys to tear it up, but we need something. We need the bottom of the order to be productive. I think more than anything is we need to get them at-bats and get them into a comfort zone and get them as many reps as possible.”

Scouting Ohio

OSU’s toughest test of the next two matchups will perhaps come against the Bobcats, who enter the showdown in Athens, Ohio, with a record of 10-13. The Bobcats carry a team batting average of .292, although more than half of their starting lineup bats over .300.

The Bobcats are led at the plate by redshirt senior catcher Cody Gaertner. He leads the team with a .340 average, while senior infielder John Adryan leads the team with seven home runs and 21 RBIs.

Rob Smith is in his third year as coach and led the Bobcats to a 25-win improvement last season, which was the largest increase in the NCAA last year.

Ohio’s pitchers hold a team ERA of 4.34, limiting opposing batters to a measly .223 batting average. Beals said the Bobcats do look good on paper, but the biggest thing the Buckeyes can do is worry about what they can control: themselves.

“We’ve just got to go play good Ohio State baseball and play up to our capability,” Beals said. “(We have to) make sure we’re ready to answer the bell, even though it’s not a conference game, but it is a road game against an in-state rival.”

A look at Toledo

Toledo is amid a tough start to the season, with 22 of its 25 games being played away from home, resulting in a 4-20-1 record. That recipe for disaster could continue, as the Rockets are set to head to Columbus to face the Buckeyes on Wednesday at Bill Davis Stadium, a location where OSU is 6-1 to start the season.

Toledo and OSU have faced off twice already this season, both times during the opening series in the Dodgertown Classic in Vero Beach, Florida. OSU won the first matchup 7-1, while the two teams tied 5-5 in Game 2, as the game was called because of time constraints for return travel.

Freshman outfielder Ross Adolph is one of Toledo’s lone bright spots, as he leads the team with a .294 batting average, but overall Toledo as a team is batting a lowly .196 for the season.

The pitching staff as a unit sports an eye-popping ERA of 5.79, and OSU’s hitters are looking to be able to capitalize on the mismatch.

However, in an attempt to stay grounded, Beals said his team will have to focus on taking games one at a time, as his players have been coached all offseason to not overlook their opponents.

“I think the important thing is that we just stay in the moment and don’t look too far ahead and take care of it one game at a time,” Beals said. “The thing that our guys understand is that these midweek games with two in-state rivals, those are big games. They’re games that these schools look at as marquee games on their schedule playing Ohio State.”

Pitchers’ chance to shine

Freshman righty Ryan Feltner (0-1, 6.30 ERA) is scheduled to be on the bump for the Buckeyes against Ohio. He will be trying to improve upon his last outing versus Xavier. The Musketeers chased him after 4.1 innings after he allowed 10 hits and five earned runs. Beals said Feltner’s inconsistent start to the season can be attributed to his freshman’s adjustments to the college game.

“I think the thing with freshmen that you always battle is consistency,” Beals said. “(Feltner’s) had really, really good outings, and his last outing he was just up in the zone. I think the thing that we’re talking to Ryan more about than anything is just trusting his stuff and executing his quality pitches. He’s got good stuff. He’s going to have a great career here at Ohio State.”

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Austin Woodby is lined up to get the spot start for OSU against Toledo. Over his nine appearances this season for the Scarlet and Gray, Woodby has compiled a 3-1 record and a 4.6 ERA, including a 2.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The midweek start for Woodby would be his first of the season, which could lead to an increased role for the Hudson, Ohio, native if Feltner’s struggles continue.

The game against the Bobcats is set to begin at 6 p.m. in Athens on Tuesday evening, while Wednesday’s home tilt against the Rockets is slated for a 6:35 p.m. first pitch.