The calendar may have read March 1-3, but one can forgive the Ohio State coaching staff if they thought it was mid-Feburary. The Buckeyes traveled to DeLand, Fla., over the weekend for the BrightHouse Invitational hosted by Stetson. Week three saw the Buckeyes performed in the same manner as they did over college baseball's opening weekend:
-An extra-inning loss to an Atlantic Sun opponent.
-Held at bay a Big East foe.
-Needing a strong Sunday pitching performance to avoid a weekend sweep.
And the result was the same, another 1-2 weekend for the Buckeyes. Now 6-4 heading into a spring break trip through the Carolinas, the weekend recap shows the Buckeyes are a work in progress.
Game 8 vs. Connecticut, 6-2, L
The Buckeyes fell to the perennial Big East power, 5-2, to open the weekend in DeLand. While a better showing on the scoreboard than their 13-3 opening weekend drubbing by Notre Dame, Connecticut was clearly the better team.
Though each team finished with a double, triple and home run, the three extra-base hits would be half of the Buckeye hit total for the day, while the Huskies more than doubled them up with 14 balls safely put in play. Junior right-handed pitcher Jaron Long surrendered 10 hits, allowing four runs in 6.2 innings. With one walk, two hit batsmen and five strikeouts, Long received his first loss of the season. The Buckeyes made a bad inability to turn batted balls into outs worse by adding three errors to their rap sheet.
The contest saw the first 2013 action for junior right-handed pitcher Greg Greve. The expected Ohio State closer, with incumbent Josh Dezse sidelined at least two months with a stress reaction from a bulging disc in his back, Greve allowed a run off two hits, walking one and striking out a batter, pitching the ninth inning.
Game 9 vs. Stetson 3-2, (12), L
Senior right-handed pitcher Brad Goldberg, entering the weekend as the reigning back-to-back Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, allowed a run after opening his career with 15.1 scoreless innings. Taking on the host Hatters, Stetson opened the bottom of the third with a triple before a sacrifice fly made the score 1-1. The Buckeyes drew blood first in the second when Ryan Cypret scored on a double steal, two batters after reaching base with a double.
Stetson's third-inning tally would be the lone earned run the Buckeyes allowed, but in the 12-inning affair, two unearned runs pushed the Scarlet and Gray to defeat.
The Buckeyes committed four errors on the vening, the final coming in the 12th inning when a Cypret error allowed the leadoff batter to reach base. An ensuing sacrifice fly and walk-off double squandered a brilliant effort by the Ohio State bullpen. Senior right-handed pitcher Brett McKinney pitched five scoreless innings in relief, allowing just one hit while striking out five. In the no-decision, Goldberg allowed two runs, one earned, off five hits and four walks, striking out five.
Ohio State's 6-7-8 batters, Cypret, junior DH Mike Carroll and senior left fielder Joe Ciamacco each went 2-for-5 as Ohio State recorded 10 hits, but left 11 runners on base.
Game 10 vs. Central Michigan 8-1, W
Trying to avoid the goose egg, Ohio State received a strong start from senior southpaw Brian King. In seven innings, King held the Chippewas to one run, scattering four hits while issuing two walks, striking out seven.
Though the Buckeyes would record a hit in less than one-fourth of their at-bats, 8-for-33, finishing the weekend with a .226 average (24-for-106), their eight hits would produce eight runs. With single runs in the third and fourth innings, behind a three-run triple by Cypret and three Central Michigan errors between the seventh and eighth, Ohio State scored three runs in each frame to secure the victory.
As the Buckeyes played a clean game, the Mid-American Conference club committed four errors. The free bases aided the efforts of Cypret and junior Tim Wetzel and sophomore Aaron Gretz, who each finished with two hits in leading Ohio State at the plate.
Bullpen bullies. Ohio State's bullpen has been dominant. A perceived strength in the offseason, the relief corp has been stellar, turning perception into reality even without it's top two back-end arms. Between seniors David Fathalikhani and Brett McKinney, junior Tyler Giannonatti and sophomores Trace Dempsey and Ryan Riga, the Ohio State quintet has surrendered just seven runs, five earned, in 29.2 innings for an ERA of 1.51, while holding the opposition to a .179 average.
Gretz' groove The breakout season for the sophomore has continued, sitting with a cool average of .400 after 10 games. As the backstop carries a slugging percentage of .533 and on-base clip of .517, his seven base-on-balls outnumber the seven strikeouts. The left-handed hitter looks to be developing into the middle-of-the-order threat the Buckeyes envisioned when recruiting the Wisconsin product.
Speed demons With an 8-for-11 effort, Ohio State now has 27 stolen bases in 33 attempts. Trailing only Michigan in both categories, the Buckeyes are on pace to run more than any team in recent history. The Buckeyes were 86-for-114 a year ago, and are only three years removed from a paltry 28-50 2010 campaign.
Hot corner, hot mess. There yet appears to be a solution for what Greg Beals is to do at third base. The Buckeyes top defensive option, freshman Craig Nennig continues to struggle at the plate, 2-for-19 (.105), as does uber-athletic classmate Jacob Bosiokovic, 5-for-27 (.185). After making two starts last weekend, in which he went 6-for-8, Beals elected to go with fellow rookie Troy Kuhn. Kuhn went 0-4 against Connecticut, doing the same against Stetson, a game in which he committed three errors as the Hatters only scored one earned run in the OSU defeat. Sophomore Ryan Leffel, the likely best option for a bit of offense to go along with solid defense, is still on the mend with a wrist injury.
Unlucky bounces Ace Jaron Long sits with a 3.93 ERA after three starts. While his K/9 and BB/9 have been strong, 7.8 and 1.96, balls that are being put in play are falling for hits at a much high rate than last season. Long's BABIP for 2013 is .396. In 2012, when he carried a 2.66 ERA on his way to receiving All-Big Ten First-team honors, the batting average on balls-in-play was .328, a pretty normal rate as the Big Ten average tends to hover between .320, .330. Even though his ERA may not be the best, one can't readily say Long is pitching worse than last season, a year in which he posted a 1.15 BB/9 and 5.59 K/9.
The Buckeyes travel to Myrtle Beach to take part in the Coastal Carolina Invitational. Ohio State will play a single game over the four-day event, opening with a date against Harvard. Beals takes on his former program, Ball State, on Saturday, before the Buckeyes closing the event taking on the hot Chanticleers Sunday and Monday. Ohio State will head to Charleston Southern on Tuesday before returning to Columbus.