In just the second week of the season, Ohio State will face one of the most complete teams in baseball.
The Buckeyes have a four-game weekend in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Surprise, Arizona, with two games each against Utah (0-3) and national title contender No. 2 Oregon State (3-0)
“We’ve gotta be ready to play defense and defend the small ball, the base running game, the bunt game,” head coach Greg Beals said.
Senior first baseman Noah McGowan is riding the biggest wave of momentum of any player for the Buckeyes (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten).He earned national player of the week honors for his 8-for-14 performance with two home runs and 13 RBIs in the season-opening week.
Even with that, McGowan is taking nothing for granted.
“Some weekends you get lucky and get a few bleeders that drop and get hits, and some weekends you just hit missiles at people and get out,” he said.
Game 1: Utah
Before taking on the highly-touted Beavers, the Buckeyes will face off against the Utah Utes at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Utes were swept in a season-opening, three-game series by Oral Roberts. Utah manufactured only seven runs across the three contests.
Based on those results, Beals said his team needs to be focused and not look ahead to the Oregon State game the next day.
“It should be relatively easy [not to look ahead] because it’s in our cultural blueprint,” Beals said. “We’ve gotta be ready for what’s next, and Utah’s what’s next.”
Junior pitcher Connor Curlis will take the mound for the Buckeyes, looking to improve upon giving up three earned runs in five innings his first outing of the season against UW-Milwaukee.
Game 2: Oregon State
The second-ranked Beavers are one of the premier programs in the NCAA. Last year, they went 56-6 with a Pac-12 championship and captured its sixth berth in the College World Series in program history.
They lost four key contributors from that team.
Ohio State will get an early look at how it stacks up with the nation’s best at 3 p.m. Friday. Junior Ryan Feltner is expected to take the mound for the Buckeyes. Rated as the Big Ten’s top prospect before the season by D1Baseball.com, he is looking to rebound from surrendering four earned runs in five innings against Canisius.
Game 3: Utah
The Buckeyes take on Utah a second time at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Redshirt senior Adam Niemeyer is set to take the ball for the second time this season after his season debut. His season debut against Canisius resulted in his first loss of the season, giving up five runs. However, only one of those runs was earned in his five innings of work and he struck out five batters.
Game 4: Oregon State
Rounding up the trip to Arizona is a second matchup with the Beavers at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Redshirt senior Yianni Pavlopoulos (1-0, 3.60 ERA) takes the hill for the Buckeyes.
Pavlopoulos was the starter for the Buckeyes last season when they delivered Oregon State one of its four regular-season losses, perhaps the highlight of an otherwise disappointing 22-34 year for Ohio State.
“Defense was really, really good behind me, tempo was good,” Pavlopoulos said. “A key to beating them is just let them hit it. Throw strikes and let them get themselves out.”