It was a tale of two halves in Ohio State's opening weekend. In a 8-2 season-opening win against Connecticut, and a 1-0 shutout of Auburn, Ohio State used timely hitting and stout pitching to record two wins. But as Ohio State met Midwest peer Indiana State, it was the Sycamores that collected the clutch hit, had starting pitchers that were tough to crack, knocking off the Buckeyes 7-3 and 8-6.
Trekking to Orlando for weekend two, taking part in a weekend tournament that features host Central Florida, Oklahoma and The Citadel, here's the good from the season's first four games the Buckeyes look to continue in the Sunshine State, and the bad the Buckeyes hope to find a remedy for, set for another weekend of quality competition.
Ohio State is needing freshmen to deliver if hopes of the program's 16th Big Ten championship are to become reality. With 12 true freshman and three redshirt freshmen, first-year players represent a significant portion of the Ohio State roster, a collection of players with great potential as the weekend showed.
Outfielder Ronnie Dawson received starts in the last two games, putting together back-to-back performances that will make it hard to keep him out. Debuting with a three-hit, three-RBI effort, Dawson homered in his first collegiate game. That was followed by a 2-for-4, two-run game as he started in center field in the weekend finale.
Right-hander Travis Lakins recorded a save in the win over Connecticut. Pitching the final three innings, Lakins allowed only one hits, walking two with three strikeouts. Ohio State's staff reports Lakins was 90-94 on the bump in his outing.
Though his velocity was a tick lower, 88-92, left-hander Tanner Tully was near as strong in his debut. Against Indiana State, the native of Elkhart, Ind. pitched four innings, allowing one run off four hits, walking none, striking out two.
Starters Greg Greve and Ryan Riga provided the starts Greg Beals and staff wanted of their upperclassmen, going deep into the game, holding the opposition at bay, limiting free bases. Greve, a senior captain, finished with six strikeouts without issuing a walk in the season's opener against Connecticut, scattering five hits, allowing just two first inning runs. Riga earned shared the Big Ten's Pitcher of the Week honor after his six-inning effort fueled Ohio State's shutout of Auburn. The junior lefty allowed four hits, walked one while striking out three.
Ohio State was provided a quick reminded of what they missed last season as Josh Dezse redshirted due to back surgery. Resuming his role as the linchpin in the Buckeye batting order, Dezse went 4-for-14 over the opening weekend, collecting a double while drawing two walks without striking out, putting the ball in play 14 times in 17 plate appearances, Dezse was also struck by a pitch. Dezse is one of the Big Ten's top power threats, the return of his greatly aids Ohio State's pursuit of a place in the NCAA Tournament.
It wasn't all gold for the Ohio State newcomers.
Left-hander Zach Farmer surrendered hits to three of the first four batters he faced, the other was hit by a pitch, allowing two first-inning runs to Indiana State. There would not be an inning Indiana State did not record a hit against the Piketon, Ohio product, chasing Farmer before he could record an out in the fifth inning, allowing four runs off seven hits, as he walked two, struck out two and hit two batters.
Farmer was relieved by Adam Niemeyer who didn't fare much better, allowing three runs in two innings off five hits.
Troy Montgomery collected a double in the win over UConn, but it was his only hit of the weekend, finishing with a 1-for-10 effort with four strikeouts.
There figures to be better days for three, but week one provided a reminder that baseball is a humbling game.
Though he recorded a two-inning save against Auburn, Trace Dempsey had an atypical outing, showing a lack of command as he walked two, threw only 11 of his 21 pitches for strikes.
The Buckeye closer had a troubling outing against Indiana State as he was unable to close the game out, ISU tacking four runs off the all-america closer. Throwing strikes at a slightly better clip, 16 in 29 pitches, Dempsey's control was still an issue as he hit two batters. Though he did not walk a batter, Dempsey finished the weekend without a strikeout in three innings, allowing four hits to the Sycamores.
Middle comes up empty
Looking at the production, of lackof, from the core of his lineup did, Beals may be at a lost for how his club finished with more doubles and home runs than its opponents.
Ohio State's No. 2. Jacob Bosiokovic, No. 3 Pat Porter, and No. 5 Zach Ratcliff, combined for seven hits in 45 at-bats, a .156 average, only ten total bases and five RBI. Bosiokovic provided the weekend's biggest hit, a grand slam against Connecticut, but recorded only one hit the rest of the weekend. Porter did only strikeout once, but Ohio State's leading slugger a year ago only finished with three bases in 16 at-bats. Ratcliff collected a pair of singles in 14 at-bats, the same number of double plays he grounded into.
The good news is the weekend does nothing to change the double-digit home run potential all three have. More good news is how often the trio put the ball in play, Bosiokovic did have four strikeouts but drew three walks. The hits will fall, and all baseball players encounter slumps. But it's not good for Ohio State to have all three cold, or with bad luck, at the same time against quality competition.