At 3-6, Ohio State baseball is searching not only for its identity, but a chance to return its record to .500 this weekend.
The Buckeyes, who were ranked No. 24 in the country in the preseason, have performed under expectations to this point, dropping five games of their past six.
But just as students need a spring break to clear their minds from school, maybe a trip to Florida, where the Buckeyes can concentrate on their game, is just what the doctor ordered.
“We’ve got five games on the road and no school to work with so we’ll be able to focus on baseball, and I’m hoping we get our team really going,” head coach Greg Beals said.
To get going, the Buckeyes are hoping to establish their brand of baseball.
“The identity is always evolving during the season and we haven’t gotten to the point where we have been able to really entrench that identity,” Beals said.
In Game 1 Friday, the Buckeyes will face Stetson (8-2), which has not lost consecutive games yet this year, bringing strong momentum into the weekend.
The Hatters will face Ohio State redshirt sophomore ace Seth Lonsway, who has collected double-digit strikeout performances in his past three appearances. The southpaw, who is regularly the Saturday starter, will be first on the mound on Friday, Beals said.
“Seth is as good as he’s been and he’s certainly going to give our ball club a chance to win,” Beals said.
Lonsway leads a Buckeye pitching staff that is fanning batters at a high rate to this point. They lead the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.2, but it’s all for naught if the batters can’t manufacture runs.
“We have to take advantage of opportunities on offense,” Beals said. “We have to capitalize on good pitches to hit and we need to get some big hits.”
The Buckeyes have yet to hit their stride on offense, but senior infielder Connor Pohl said offensive identity is something that didn’t come to fruition until the Big Ten tournament this past year.
With a younger roster and a developing team, Pohl said the team feels confident it will find its groove offensively.
“I think it takes a little bit especially with a new team and younger guys to figure out what exactly our offensive identity is,” Pohl said.
Two weaker pitching staffs could provide an opportunity to get on track, as Ohio State plays Harvard and Fairfield Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Harvard’s team ERA is 8.25, while Fairfield’s is 9.75.
Both teams are winless, but Beals said the Buckeyes won’t take their opponents lightly.
“They can’t be can’t hungrier than we are. That can’t happen,” Beals said. “We certainly can’t take anything for granted ever, and certainly not now.”
Beals said his team is almost where it needs to be, but has to capitalize at the right times.
“It’s all about freeing ourselves up and allowing ourselves to be great and to succeed in moments,” Beals said. “It’s about us and being who we are.”
Ohio State will face Stetson at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Harvard at noon Saturday and Fairfield at 7 p.m. Sunday in DeLand, Florida, hoping to return to the win column.