Ohio State is prepared to head south for another three-game set, this time taking on the University of Alabama-Birmingahm, victors in six of their first seven contests.
As the Buckeyes look to capture a quality road series, here's a notebook on the Buckeyes after six games
Local products leading the way
The friendship between juniors Nick Sergakis and Zach Ratcliff helps get the best out of each other. But the two Columbus Academy products aren't the only Central Ohio natives leading the way. When sophomore outfielder Ronnie Dawson, a graduate of Licking Heights, is added to the mix, the three are a formidable trio, accounting for a sizable chunk of Ohio State's production, leading the charge for the Buckeyes.
Dawson, Ratcliff and Sergakis have a combined 18 hits between them over six games. Though their combined at-bats of 63 are 32% of the team's total, their combined seven doubles are 44% of the team's tally. Dawson and Sergakis have the only Buckeye home runs to date, and when added with the two-baggers, the trio's combined nine extra-base hits are 45% of the team's total. The local products account for 10 of the team's 24 RBI and 12 of the team's 27 runs scored.
To have local products produce in the fashion the three are solidifies Ohio State's approach in recruiting.
"We want to get the best players from Central Ohio, we feel like we're doing a pretty good job," head coach Greg Beals said. "We may have still missed a guy here and there over the last couple of years we'd like to have got, but we're going to continue to fight those fights and win as many of those battles in our backyard we can."
Having Lakins trust his stuff
Sophomore right-hander Travis Lakins is one of the Big Ten's top prospects, yet a glance at his statistics could make one question his professional stock. Fortunately, professional scouts do not scout by stats, they try to project what a player is to become by evaluating what he can do on the diamond, the prospect's athleticism, his physical tools, mental makeup and more.
The disconnect between Lakins the stuff he possesses and his success may be a lack of turning to what made him jump on the scout's radar as a draft-eligible sophomore in the first place: an electric fastball.
Lakins can run his fastball up to 96 miles-per-hour and comfortably pitch for multiple innings between 92-94 MPH. Compared to a Major League Baseball pitcher, Lakins possesses a fastball with well above-average velocity. But it's been a reluctance to use it which has Lakins sporting a 6.75 ERA over 10.2 innings, issuing four walks with only one strikeout.
Ohio State coaches speak to Lakins pitching backwards, a baseball term meaning a pitcher throws his secondary or offspeed pitches first. While Lakins has a slider scouts speak highly of, if he throws it first pitch, which he has done a lot of to start the season, it almost guarantees he has to come back with a fastball as the batter has seen his breaking ball, can pick up the spin and get a handle of the action it has. If Lakins were to throw a ball with his slider, and offspeed pitches are generally harder to command than a fastball, it puts him behind the hole.
Ohio State wants Lakins to trust his fastball, his midweek bullpen on Wednesday was one where he near exclusively threw fastballs. The desire is for Lakins to command his fastball then put batters away with his secondary offerings. Then, as he works a second time through a lineup, he can mix in more offspeed and breaking pitches to keep hitters honest. That was the recipe which led to 55 strikeouts in 55 innings as a freshman, carrying a 2.45 ERA.
Preseason trip to Florida helped
Before Sunday's finale at Florida Atlantic, Ohio State was playing pretty clean baseball. The Buckeyes committed only five errors through the first five contests and had issued only 12 walks. The Bucks did commit three errors in the 2-1 loss to the Owls, a less-than-stellar effort where the little things cost the Buckeyes.
But for two weekends in the middle of February, the Buckeyes have played sound baseball. To Sergakis, the showings in Florida aren't accidental.
"The trip to Florida for practice (helped)," the junior said. "Seeing live pitching down there, we didn't just jump into things right away and when the actual season came around it was natural."
Ohio State went to Port Charlotte Feb. 6-8, a weekend before the season opened at the same location, to have outdoor intra-squad games, practice fielding and hitting in a live setting not able to be duplicated by an indoor cage and bullpen session or a team scrimmage inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Coaches and players alike speak to having the three days of baseball, and a little fun in the sun, as aiding their early season start, which produced the first perfect weekend since 2010.
By the numbers
A quick look at Ohio State's season to date and a few numbers pop out.
The difference in batting average and on-base percentage for junior Troy Kuhn. The third baseman is only batting .190, but has been hit by four pitches to reach base safely in all six contest.
The Buckeyes have only produced two sacrifice hits this season, the Buckeyes had 35 sacrificed at-bats a year ago.
Buckeyes have pitched in relief this season without an earned run between them. The sextet have combined to pitch 14 innings, strike out 13 batters and issue only one walk.
The number of position players who have started each game this season as Ohio State rolls out a consistent lineup.
The difference between the total of Ohio State extra-base hits and the opposition's total, the Bucks holding a .95 edge in slugging percentage.