It was a week to circle on the calendar. A trip to the Pacific Northwest where four games over five days would provide Ohio State baseball with a measuring stick, a quartet of games against national contenders where the growth and return to prominence of the Buckeye program would be on the display, opportunities to place a gold stars upon and strengthen a postseason resume.
In the end it turned out to be a spring break to spring ahead over.
In its second year of existence, the adjusted RPI formula lessened the sting of the west coast swing. In the RPI's eye it was 1.3-2.1 trip, as road wins are weighted 1.3, road losses count only .7 against a record. Thanks to the gaudy records Oregon (12-4) and Oregon State (15-3) boasting Ohio State's strength of schedule, removing three-game-played Dartmouth, the Buckeyes sit 10th in Boyd's World psuedo-RPI -a number soon to plummet as Ohio State hosts an 0-14 Siena club.
But beyond the mathematical equations, the two ugly losses to bookend the Oregon series, 8-2 and 20-4, are hard to skip over. And the manner in which the Buckeyes loss the game against the Beavers was a tough one to swallow.
With a chance to make a statement, the Buckeyes fell short. Here's a rundown of the shortcomings, but also the good that occurred three time zones away.
Riga was nothing short of masterful in the lone Buckeye win. In the middle game of the series with the Ducks, Riga pitched a shutout, fanning 10 batters while scattering five hits, walking only one. Eighty of Riga's 120 pitches were strikes, the southpaw rolling up 10 groundouts in the 5-0 win.
Riga became the first Big Ten player to garner two weekly awards, taking home conference pitcher of the week honors after first doing so in the season's opening week following six shutout innings against Auburn. Through a team-high 25.1 innings, Riga now holds a 2.25 ERA with a team leading 18 strikeouts.
Another weekend, another weekend with freshmen stepping up. By now Ronnie Dawson's exploits are a thing to be expected, along with death and taxed. The center fielder went 5-for-11, three walks and a double, set to enter his first home game as a Buckeye with a .400 average, .460 on-base percentage and .533.
But Dawson wasn't the only rookie to shine.
Fellow outfielder Troy Montgomery had a successful stint against Pac-12 pitching, a 4-for-9 run with a double and a triple.
Right-handers Travis Lakins and Adam Niemeyer were exceptional. Relieving starter Greg Greve in the weekend lid-lifter, Niemeyer sawed down eight Oregon batters, allowing only one hit in 4.1 innings of relief work. Lakins combined for 5.1 innings of relief duty, a 1.2-inning outing in the Sunday loss to Oregon, coming back to close the midweek contest against Oregon State with a 3.2-inning effort. Lakins allowed a hit while striking out two Ducks before striking out five Beavers, conceding only two hits. Neither Lakins or Neimeyer issued a walk.
It's probably time to move Wetzel up in the lineup. The senior left fielder continued strong season, upping his average to .390 with a 6-for-12 four-game run. Wetzel now leads the team with a .468 on-base percentage.
As the nine-hole hitter, Wetzel provides the Buckeyes with a player getting on base at a sterling rate in front of the top of the order. But for a team lacking punch offensively, getting Wetzel one, more at-bats, and two, closer to the Dawson, the team's only other consistent performer, needs considered by Beals. A player with a .390 cannot continue to receive the least amount of at-bats.
Failure to execute
While the Buckeyes aided their onslaught with errors and walks, the losses to Oregon were thorough, they were not close contests with a singular moment where Ohio State could kick itself and think what if.
Ohio State had it chances against Oregon State, while too unfortunately spurring the Beaver effort.
The final two Oregon State runs in a three-run second inning scored on a two-out throwing error by sophomore second baseman Troy Kuhn. The throw wasn't terribly off line, but seeing his first action of the season in the field, junior first baseman Josh Dezse was unable to corral Kuhn's throw, allowing runners from second and third to score.
Trailing 4-3 in the eighth, junior right fielder Pat Porter opened the inning with a triple. Ninety feet away, Porter stayed put as sophomore third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic, Dawson and Dezse went down in order with three fly outs, unable to bring home the tying run.
With one last opportunity to tie it in the ninth, pinch-hitter Jacob Brobst drew a leadoff walk. A second pinch-hitter, junior Connor Sabanosh was unable in two attempts to sacrifice Brobst over, fouling off a pair of bunt attempts before striking out. Brobst would be thrown out attempting to advance on a ball in the dirt before sophomore Craig Nennig ended the game with a line out to left.
Already highlighted, Lakins, Niemeyer and Riga were magnificent on the mound. The rest of the Bucks? When not falling victim to spotty defense behind them, they were often falling behind in the count. The non-Riga starters
Greve: 3.2 IP, 2 BB, 0 K.
Zach Farmer: 1.2 IP, 4 BB, 1 K.
Jake Post 4.1 IP, 4 BB, 1 K.
In total, Ohio State pitching issued 16 walks and hits seven batters over the four games, overshadowing the 30 strikeouts.
Over the four games, Ohio State's 3-4-5 hitters collected seven hits in 40 at-bats, a .175 average, With Dawson responsible for five of the hits, the player around him in the lineup were unable to enjoy the same success. Bosiokovic went hit without a hit in 10 at-bats, striking out six times with two walks. Dezse could only collect one hit in 11 at-bats, going down on strikes four times. While Porter tripled in his final at-bat of the roadtrip, he was held with a hit in his previous 11 at-bats with four strikeouts and two walks.