Ohio State split a pair of midweek games at home this week, hammering Eastern Michigan 8-1 on Tuesday, but dropping Wednesday's contest against Dayton, 8-5. The two games were a microcosm of the season so far, showing a team that can dominate when everything is clicking, but also one that struggles when they fall behind.
A five-run fourth inning got the Buckeyes off and running against the Eagles, chasing starting pitcher Sam Delaplane. A leadoff triple by Nick Sergakis and a walk by Troy Kuhn put EMU's hurler in trouble from the beginning. Singles by Pat Porter and the red-hot Ryan Leffel plated Sergakis and Kuhn, and a sacrifice fly and a single from Troy Montgomery and Tim Wetzel notched two more. A two-out double by Aaron Gretz brought around the final run of the inning, and Ohio State never looked back.
Porter and Leffel were at it again an innings later. After another Kuhn walk, Porter doubled to left field, and a single to right by Leffel brought them both around to score. Porter also came plateward for the final run of the game in the eighth thanks to a Zach Ratcliff single, capping a 3-5 day with three runs scored and an RBI. Leffel finished 2-3 with three driven in.
Freshman Zach Farmer continued his hot streak on the mound, throwing seven innings of two-hit ball, allowing just one run. Farmer, who improved to 5-3 on the season, lost his spot in the weekend rotation a few weeks and has responded. The lefty has given up just two earned runs while striking out 16 in 21.1 innings (0.84 ERA) over his last four starts, going 4-0 in that span. Fellow freshman Curtiss Irving pitched two scoreless innings to close things out.
After dispatching EMU, the meeting with Dayton followed a familiar recent trend, with the Flyers coming out on top. Starter Trace Dempsey gave up two unearned runs in the first inning, courtesy of a double error by the Buckeyes, and another two runs in the third, as Ohio State fell behind 4-0. Dempsey, who has failed to recapture the form that made him a preseason All-American, lasted just three innings and took the loss, dropping to 1-3 on the year.
The Buckeyes rallied for three runs in the third, cutting the deficit to one. A leadoff double by Gretz and back-to-back doubles from Sergakis Kuhn plated the first two, while a sacrifice fly by Montgomery rounded out the scoring.
The Flyers responded with three more runs in the fourth off Yianni Pavlopoulos, and would add one more in the eighth off Travis Lakins. An RBI single by Leffel in the fifth and Ronnie Dawson's second home run of the season in the sixth would not be enough for Ohio State, who fell to 19-14 for the season.
Penn State comes calling with the Buckeyes' season at a critical juncture. Just one spot from the cellar in the Big Ten, Ohio State must begin turning things around if the team hopes to reach the conference tournament. The Nittany Lions currently occupy real estate in the standings that many in Columbus expected, and come in winners of eight of their past ten.
The Buckeyes are dealing with some uncertainty on the mound, as junior Ryan Riga continues to deal with shoulder soreness. Freshman Tanner Tully, who has allowed just six runs in his four starts this season (2.05 ERA), has been moved up to Friday in the weekend rotation. Senior Greg Greve remains on the bump on Saturday, but Beals has a decision to make on Sunday, with Farmer and junior Jake Post being the most logical options. Penn State doesn't have the most robust offense, but has scored seven or more runs in nine of their sixteen wins, including four in their past seven games.