After an up-and-down weekend against Bethune-Cookman, the Ohio State baseball team will attempt to regain the momentum from its opening weekend success.
The Buckeyes (7-5) will travel to Greenville, South Carolina, to participate in the Greenville Drive First Pitch Invitational. Ohio State will take on Furman (2-8) on Friday, Michigan State (2-9) on Saturday, Western Carolina (6-5) on Sunday and Wofford (7-6) in a true road game on Tuesday.
Ohio State split its four-game series in Daytona Beach, Florida, against Bethune-Cookman. Coming into this weekend, the Buckeyes hold a 3.12 ERA and a .231 batting average.
Although the games on Friday and Saturday are not against teams with exceptional records, their own expectations will fuel the Buckeyes each game.
“It’s more about us performing up to our ability than really playing against our opponent at this point,” Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said.
Furman comes into the weekend struggling on the mound. Allowing 6.6 runs a game, the Paladins are coming into Friday on a five-game losing streak.
Redshirt sophomore pitcher John Bertrand has the best ERA of any starter for Furman at 4.72.
Despite the strong play of senior first baseman John Boswell, who boasts a .395 batting average and nine RBIs, the Paladins’ offense only produces 4.8 runs a game.
On Saturday, Ohio State will play a struggling Michigan State squad. The Spartans do not have a single starter batting above .280, coming in with a team batting average of .207.
Their defense has not fared any better, allowing an average of 8.18 runs a game. Despite the team’s rough start, junior pitcher Mike Mokma holds a 2.60 ERA through three starts on the mound.
Western Carolina will bring a more dangerous offense against the talented pitching staff of Ohio State on Sunday. The Catamounts will come into the weekend averaging 8.72 runs a game with a .309 team batting average.
The Catamounts have four starters hitting above .300. Sophomore third baseman Justice Bigbie leads the team with a .429 batting average and 16 RBIs.
Western Carolina also has a fair amount of power in its lineup. The team has hit 15 home runs this season, which ranks them in the top 25 for home runs in the country.
The Buckeyes have allowed an average of 6.4 walks in their losses and only three walks a game in the games they have won this year.
Not playing clean baseball is something that Beals pointed to as a big reason behind the losses.
“When you look at our losses, you see big innings,” Beals said. “Those big innings have all been fueled by free bases, either by walk, hit batsman or error.”
Eliminating mistakes is always important, Beals said, and it will be especially important against a dangerous Western Carolina team.
“They get 27 outs,” Beals said. “We can’t give them extra outs and extra opportunities.”
Wofford will host the Buckeyes on Tuesday in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Terriers come into the weekend with a 3.25 ERA.
Freshman starting pitcher Hayes Heinecke has burst on the scene with a 2.70 ERA and two wins in three starts for the Terriers.
Wofford’s offense, which holds a .286 batting average, is led by sophomore catcher Lawson Hill, who has a .420 batting average. Sophomore outfielder Colin Davis, who bats .391, has five stolen bases this season.
The Terriers rank among the best in the nation in stealing bases, swiping 29 bases in 34 attempts this season.
Redshirt sophomore catcher Brent Todys will be charged with throwing out runners throughout the game, but he said the mindset does not change when going up against a more aggressive team.
“Our number one focus is the batter,” Todys said. “Get him out. Get that guy out pitch by pitch. If a runner happens to go, then that’s when I deal with it.”
Beals said the best way to combat solid base running is to stop them from getting on base. In order to do this, getting ahead against the batter is important.
Redshirt freshman pitcher Seth Lonsway’s focus is about starting the at bats strong.
“Key one is establishing a first-pitch strike on hitters and that just kind of helps the whole at bat, as far as attacking the hitter and just setting ourselves up for success,” Lonsway said.
Ohio State will start off the Greenville Drive First Pitch Invitational against Furman at 6 p.m. Friday. They will follow up with a 6 p.m. Saturday game against Michigan State and a 5 p.m. Sunday matchup against Western Carolina.
The Buckeyes will then travel to play Wofford at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.