Ohio State’s offensive production cooled down with the weather over the past week, with the team averaging just three runs a game the last four games in sub-40 degree temperatures.
Now the Buckeyes (21-10, 3-3 Big Ten) travel to State College, Pennsylvania, for a three-game series with the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-19, 1-8 Big Ten). Seventy-degree highs and a Nittany Lion staff ERA of 5.83 roar with potential for an Ohio State offensive revival.
“In all due respect, Penn State is ripe, I should say, for us,” head coach Greg Beals said.
Even with the recent lapse in production, the Buckeyes still have four of the top 10 hitters in the Big Ten in batting average and the conference’s RBI leader in senior utility man Noah McGowan.
One change to facilitate more offense has been to move freshman backup catcher Dillon Dingler to center field.
“I’m a little nervous out there,” Dingler said. “But after a couple catches [Tuesday against Ohio] I feel like I’m getting the hang of it.”
Penn State’s primary threat on the mound is Friday night starter Justin Hagenman, a junior who is 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA and 42 strikeouts. Senior Taylor Lehman, who will start Saturday, brings a 4.15 ERA into his start.
The bullpen is where the Nittany Lion pitching staff really falls apart. Freshman Mason Mellott has anERA of 3.72 after 19.1 innings of work this year, but beyond him, no Penn State reliever with at least 10 innings of experience has an ERA lower than 5.50.
That doesn’t match up well against the best run-producing team in the conference.
It’s not just at the plate Ohio State could see success though. Penn State has the Big Ten’s worst team batting average at .212, and will face a Buckeye pitching staff fresh off a combined shutout against Ohio.
The only Nittany Lion hitter above .265 on the year is junior catcher Ryan Sloniger, who bats .290 with three home runs and 19 RBIs. Ohio State has six hitters above .265 by comparison.
Squaring off with the Penn State lineup will be Ohio State’s usual weekend rotation. Junior Connor Curlis (5-1, 3.21 ERA, 53 strikeouts) will kick things off Friday with junior Ryan Feltner (3-2, 5.11, 45) going on Saturday and redshirt senior Adam Niemeyer (2-2. 5.06, 31) closing things out Sunday.
“We’re not gonna roll. Nobody in our conference allows you to do that,” Beals said. “But it’s a great opportunity for us to have a good weekend and get ourselves right back in a championship look.”