In the Ohio State baseball team’s first taste of Big Ten play for the season, little went right for the Buckeyes.
Over the three-game sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Buckeyes surrendered a total of 26 runs on 41 hits and managed to produce only 12 runs on 19 hits over the weekend.
With another chance to pick up some wins in conference play this upcoming weekend against Purdue, the Buckeyes must first gain some momentum against the 11-11 Ohio University Bobcats at home on Tuesday.
Coach Greg Beals believes the team is currently missing that one hit and that his offense will need to start finding some consistency in order to find its stride again.
“Offensively, we’re always searching. We need to get better,” Beals said. “I thought we had some quality at-bats, but … we’re missing the hit when we really need one.”
Scouting Ohio University
OSU has not been playing its best baseball of late, but OU has itself been finding difficulties making it into the win column. After starting the season 11-7, the Bobcats have lost each of their past four games, including a three-game sweep at home to Butler University.
The 11 wins the team has compiled at this point have been derived largely from the success of its pitching staff. As a unit, the team has a combined ERA of 3.65, Of the nine pitchers who have contributed double-digit inning totals to the team so far, only one has an ERA north of 3.50 while five of the pitchers have sub-3.00 ERAs.
A big reason the team’s pitching staff has found so much success so far is its ability to miss bats. In 202 innings pitched this season, the Bobcats have struck out 199 batters (8.87 batters per nine innings) and have held opposing hitters to a measly .243 batting average.
While the pitching staff has been able to keep runs off the scoreboard, the Bobcat offense has had an equally challenging time bringing runners across the plate. The lineup does not have a single batter with a batting average over .300 and, as a unit, the team is batting just .254.
OSU has struggled to make consistent contact, as well as the inability to make much out of the contact it makes. While the team’s on-base percentage is at .333, its slugging percentage is actually a point below, sitting at .332 on the season. They have 10 home runs, less than half of the 22 accumulated by the OSU offense.
The star on the team this season has been redshirt junior pitcher and designated hitter Michael Klein. As a batter, Klein is slashing .299/.371/.517 with team-leading totals in walks (nine), hits (26), RBI (13) and slugging percentage. He is also tied for the team lead in batting average and home runs (four).
On the mound, Klein has been the top starting pitcher for the Bobcats. Klein has the lowest ERA of any of the weekend starting pitchers at 2.19 and has allowed just 22 hits and six walks with 27 strikeouts in his 24.2 innings of work.
Injury-riddled Bullpen Needs Arms to Step Up
The Buckeyes were missing two key arms in their bullpen over the past weekend, and it certainly did not help an aspect of the team that has struggled this season.
With redshirt junior starting pitcher Adam Niemeyer out with an elbow injury, sophomore pitcher Connor Curlis was forced to shift from bullpen arm to starting pitcher on Saturday. Redshirt junior relief pitcher Kyle Michalik was also out over the weekend with an ankle injury. His status for Tuesday’s game against OU remains uncertain.
After his team’s bullpen was unable to keep the game close in Saturday’s 15-5, Game 1 blowout, Beals said his team needs to get healthy soon in order to help alleviate some of the woes of the pitching staff.
“We’re a little banged up in our pitching staff and when we put together the travel roster opening day, there’s four guys that as far as the pitchers, the 12 pitchers, there’s four guys that we had on that opening day travel roster that were not available to us this weekend,” Beals said. “So we need to get healthy to help us on the mound, so that we can keep ourselves in ball games better than we did there in Game 1.”
Junior relief pitcher Seth Kinker is currently the only healthy Buckeye reliever owning a sub-3.00 ERA and one of only three arms with a sub-4.00 ERA.
And as one of the leaders in that bullpen, Kinker is trying to help the inexperienced arms develop that relief mindset of trusting their stuff and being ready for any moment to be brought into the game.
“Some of the leaders in the bullpen have also brought everyone together and we’re talking about certain situations where your name is going to be called and you need to be able to step up and command that situation,” Kinker said.
Kinker also emphasized that the only way pitchers will develop confidence in their skill is by continuing to work on it and gaining experience on the mound.
“You’ve got to be out there to get that confidence. And the only time you get that confidence is going day in and day out, working day in and day out and in the end, you’re going to find that confidence in your stuff,” Kinker said. “Rather than going out there, not being ready for that situation. I think that everyone just needs to calm down a little bit, it’s the first weekend. We’re going to find that confidence here in a little bit.”
The two teams will look to get back to their winning ways on Tuesday with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. at Bill Davis Stadium.