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Ohio State baseball struggles in first week of Big Ten play

The Buckeyes had a rough start to its conference schedule

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State baseball entered the season looking to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, having earned NCAA Regional appearances in two of the last three seasons. Before opening up Big Ten play against Rutgers last weekend, the team sat at 14-11, finishing their first home-stand of the season with a 7-2 record. Overall, it was a solid start to the 2019 campaign for an OSU team comprised of 15 letter-winners from a year ago and 16 newcomers.

It has been tough sledding since, however, as the Buckeyes began their conference schedule losing their last five games to open the Big Ten slate at 2-4, with a non-conference loss to Cincinnati thrown in the middle. Lets take a look at exactly what has gone wrong for Ohio State around the diamond against its three most recent opponents.

Three-game series at Rutgers

The Buckeyes got off on the right foot in their B1G opener, defeating the Scarlet Knights 5-3 in 11 innings at Bainton Field in Piscataway, NJ. Redshirt junior Matt Carpenter had a career-high four-hit game, including the game-winning, two-run double with one out in the top of the 11th to secure the extra innings victory.

Ohio State’s ace Garrett Burhenn went seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Left-hander Andrew Magno shut the door and got his first career win, throwing three innings in relief.

Ohio State would take Game Two as well, this one on the front end of a Saturday double-header. The Bucks won 2-0 on the strength of a gem from redshirt freshman southpaw Seth Lonsway. In his Big Ten debut, Lonsway threw a complete game shutout, striking out 12 while allowing only three hits and two walks as he got the job done in 115 pitches.

It was the first complete game shutout for the Buckeyes since March 2015, also coming against Rutgers. Both OSU runs came on one swing, a two-run homer in the first inning off of the bat of Brady Cherry, putting the senior over the 100 RBI mark in his career.

Despite the low offensive output in Game One of the double-header, the Buckeyes were able to get the job done. They were not so lucky in the second game, however, falling to the Scarlet Knights 3-2 in the 15th inning. After yet another early two-run bomb from Cherry — this one in the third inning — Rutgers would get a run back in both the second and third inning on RBI singles before the two teams were locked in a scoreless stalemate for the next 12 innings. Rutgers’ Tyler McNamara hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 15th to snag a win for the Scarlet Knights, with Ohio State winning the series two games to one.

One game vs. Cincinnati

Following the loss to Rutgers, the Buckeyes returned home for a one-game, non-conference matchup with in-state rival Cincinnati. The Bearcats jumped on OSU starter Jake Vance early, putting up six runs in the game’s first two innings, aided by five walks and a hit batsman.

Ohio State battled back in the third with three runs of their own, but UC would tack on a run in the fourth, and two more in the seventh, to push its lead to 9-3. The Bucks would get two more runs across in the eighth, but the comeback effort fell short as they went on to lose 9-5.

Three-game series vs. Northwestern

Having lost two straight, Ohio State hoped to turn things around in its Big Ten home opener against Northwestern. This would not be the case in Game One as the Buckeyes were dominated 13-5 by the Wildcats on Friday night.

OSU had a really tough night, registering four errors and blowing an early 4-1 lead. With the game tied at 5-5 through the sixth, NU would score two runs both in the seventh and eighth innings before a six-run ninth put the game way out of reach. The Buckeye bullpen had a particularly bad night, with three relievers combing to allow eight earned runs over just three innings of work.

Things did not get much better for Ohio State in Game Two, dropping its fourth straight as they again fell to the Wildcats, this time by a score of 7-2. After his complete game shutout in his last time out, Lonsway struggled early on, allowing three runs over the first four innings. He would rein it in, however, and retire 10 of his last 11 batters to finish allowing just the three runs over seven innings with six strikeouts. With OSU trailing 3-1 in the eighth, NU would put up four runs over the game’s final two innings to secure a second straight victory over the Buckeyes.

Unable to avoid the sweep, Ohio State lost its fifth straight contest on Sunday afternoon, dropping the series finale to Northwestern 10-4. The Buckeyes again got a good effort from their starter, as Griffan Smith allowed just one run over six innings of work. They also scored first for the second game in a row, leading 3-1 heading into the seventh.

However, the bullpen once again collapsed, as three different pitchers allowed a combined nine runs in the seventh and eighth inning as Ohio State was blown away by the Wildcats for the third-straight time. Dominic Canzone’s first-inning double extended his on-base streak to 28 games.

The Buckeyes now find themselves sitting at an even .500, with a record of 16-16 on the year and a 2-4 start in the Big Ten. This week’s slate features two solo contests against non-conference opponents — a road game Tuesday against Ohio and a home matchup Wednesday with Dayton— before opening a three-game series with Michigan on Friday.

The series against the Wolverines will be played at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus, with first pitch in Friday’s opener scheduled for 6:35 p.m. EST.