An emotional week ended on a high note for the Ohio State baseball team, as they edged out Iowa in the rubber match of a three-game series at Bill Davis Stadium on Monday night.
After being informed that freshman pitcher Zach Farmer had been diagnosed with leukemia on Tuesday, and dropping a midweek contest to No. 8 Louisville on Wednesday, the Buckeyes came home for commencement weekend against the Hawkeyes in a critical conference series. Ohio State soundly beat Iowa 9-4 on Saturday before suffering their worst loss in Big Ten play in seven years, falling 17-2 on Sunday. Head Coach Greg Beals' squad found their resolve on Monday night to take the series, though, getting timely hitting and another outstanding pitching performance en route to 3-2 victory.
"This has been a tough week but it's allowed the guys to put baseball in perspective," Beals said. "They're allowed to just go out and play baseball and realize how fortunate they are to be playing this game. Although we're in a big part of our season, these young men are learning an incredible lesson right now that will benefit them for a long time on the baseball field and off."
Ohio State has now won four consecutive series, but another big test looms in Ann Arbor this weekend. Before the Buckeyes head to that school up north, though, they host in-state Miami in their fourth game in as many days.
Here's a preview of the Redhawks.
Tuesday, May 6th 6:35 p.m.
After locking up with the Hawkeyes and their first year head coach, the Buckeyes face a Miami team with a rookie skipper of their own. This is Danny Hayden's first year at the helm of a program after a three-year stint as an assistant at Xavier. He has the Redhawks running third in the Mid-American Conference's East Division, at 12-9 in conference play, and 22-25 overall.
As has been the case for many of Ohio State's opponents lately, Miami does a good job of scoring runs, but has a pitching staff that has had trouble quieting opposing bats. The Redhawks average over five runs per game, but give up over six, getting outscored 297-248 on the season entering Tuesday evening's game.
Miami is hitting .276 as a team, and places among the MAC leaders in a variety of offensive categories, including hits, runs scored, slugging percentage, doubles, and home runs, and leads the conference in triples. Leading the charge at the plate for the Redhawks is senior Dan Walsh. The third baseman paces the team in hitting with a .335 average, 61 hits, and 30 runs scored, while adding five doubles, three triples, two homers, and 28 driven in.
Sophomore Gary Russo has provided the most pop in Hayden's lineup, tallying team-leading marks in doubles (15), home runs (6), RBIs (30), and slugging (.503), while hitting .291 in his first season of playing time. Junior catcher Max Andresen is also enjoying a breakout season, hitting .319 with seven doubles, three triples, two homers, and 28 RBIs.
Slightly disappointing has been junior Matt Honchel, a First Team All-MAC selection in his first two seasons in Oxford. After hitting .340 a year ago, Honchel is batting .276 with just three extra-base hits and 21 runs batted in. Last year's MAC Freshman of the Year, Jake Romano, has also seen a dip in production, hitting .252 after raking at a .370 clip in his first collegiate season, and is now out of the lineup due to injury.
While Miami's offense has been respectable, its pitching staff has had trouble shutting down opponents. The Redhawks' hurlers have a 5.25 ERA, giving up 1.54 walks and hits per inning and yielding a .279 batting average against. The staff only boasts two members with more than ten appearances who have ERAs under 4.00, and is near the bottom of the MAC in most pitching measurables.
On the bump on Tuesday will be Charlie Suich. The senior is 1-2 on the season in 15 appearances, including two starts. A righty from Powell, OH, Suich has a 6.43 ERA, allows the opposition to hit .291, and sports a 1.95 WHIP.
A midweek victory against Miami, coupled with a big series win against Iowa, would help Ohio State build momentum as it makes a push to climb the Big Ten standings in the regular season's final two weeks. The players' stamina - both emotional and physical - has been tested this week, and the team's resolve should serve it well as the Buckeyes finish out the schedule and prepare for the conference tournament at the end of the month.