The story remained the same for Greg Beals and company. The Bucks found themselves in position to take a road series against a quality opponent, but returned to Columbus with one win in three games. As the Buckeyes saw another opportunity fall by the wayside, only scoring seven runs in three games, here's what was learned from a weekend in Alabama.
1) Small samples sizes can deceive. The Buckeyes have only played nine games, less than one-sixth of the season. Statistics and numbers need viewed with the mind of a small sample size. Though three weeks have passed, we're still in the infancy of the season and numbers can fluctuate wildly. For example, junior third baseman Troy Kuhn entered the weekend with an .190 batting average. Three games later, the batting clip is more than respectable, up to .281. One rough four-run inning from freshman right-hander Kyle Michalik, and his ERA balloons from 0.00 to 12.00.
So it's advised to keep in mind numbers can change dramatically and quickly during this part of the season, and may not reflect the quality of the play.
But a small sample shouldn't erase all concern.
An 0-for-weekend can happen to anyone, even someone as physically gifted and talented as sophomore outfielder Ronnie Dawson. The concern isn't a hitless showing, a well-struck ball can be a lineout to the shortstop and the batter did nothing wrong; randomness and bad luck happens. But Dawson striking out seven times in 12 at-bats is concerning, small sample disregarded. Dawson has struck out 10 times on the season in 36 at-bats, going down on strikes in 28% of his at-bats. Last year Dawson struck out 35 times in 205 at-bats, 17% of his at-bats. The trend is one to watch.
There is some value to numbers early this season, one may just have to dig a bit deeper to find what matters.
2) Troy Kuhn is the make-or-break Buckeye. It seems the Buckeyes will go when Kuhn goes. Between Dawson and fellow outfielders sophomore Troy Montgomery and senior Pat Porter, a lot of the Buckeye power and extra-base hits comes from the left side of the plate. But Kuhn entered his junior year tied as the Big Ten's returning leader in home runs with six blasts a year ago.
As Beals deploys a L-R-L-R approach in his batting order, Kuhn provides the on-base ability to bat second, while also showing the pop to bat fourth, the two most important places in the order in terms of producing runs. As Kuhn's numbers start to normalize, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him elevated in the lineup, up from his recent slotting of sixth. Getting him back into the best run-producing spots will help a Buckeyes lineup which has averaged less than four runs a game. He of course can be a one-man wrecking ball as he showed Sunday, getting on base safely four times, totaling seven bases. A player of his caliber needs more at-bats.
3) The staff is not in panic mode. Maybe it's because of the small sample size, but the Buckeye staff has shown no panic, no detour from the course in the team's 5-4 start. Through nine games, six players have started all nine games, two players eight, and a ninth all but two. The consistency in the lineup carries to the top of batting order where five players have batted in a particular spot at least five times.
Similarly, Ohio State has shown no change to its rotation and it's bullpen. The weekend starters Tanner Tully, Travis Lakins, Ryan Riga, remain the same. As does the staff's use of piggybacking starters with particular relievers. Right-hander Jacob Post following the southpaw Tully, left-hander John Havird has followed the right-handed Lakins every Saturday thus far.
The lack of wholesale changes shows Beals and staff trust this team. The team is an older one with eight starters returning from a year ago, there isn't a lot of unknowns as to what the players can and can't do. Beals believes in his club and after three weeks feels now is not the time to panic.