It’s starting to look as though college baseball is the only game in town. Major League Baseball has pushed back the date for the start of the season, and as owners and players continue to negotiate, we’re wondering if there will even be a season — and, if so, what it might look like. But college baseball is off and running; even cold-weather Ohio State has played 11 games (all away, all in the South) into this year’s record book. Unfortunately, the win-loss column reads 4-7.
After “winning” the Snowbird Classic with a 3-1 record, the Bucks headed to San Marcos, Texas at the end of February for a three-game series with the Texas State Bobcats. It wasn’t pretty. Don’t get me wrong; Texas State is a pretty good team. They’re currently 10-2, took two out of three from Arizona last weekend, and dropped a thriller, 9-8, Tuesday night against No. 1 Texas. The Cats silenced the previously hot Buckeye bats and feasted off of Ohio State pitching.
Friday (2/25): Texas State 9, Ohio State 1
The Buckeyes, after averaging about 10 runs a game down in Florida, got one run on four hits in this one. Isaiah Coupet, who had pitched so well in his first start of the season, gave up five runs in 4.2 innings pitched, although he did whiff eight Bobcat batters. Scoreless through the first four innings, the Bobcats’ five-run fifth inning ran Coupet off the mound and closed the deal on this one.
Saturday (2/26): Texas State 8, Ohio State 5
This game was much closer, and the Buckeyes showed some batting strength, led by Zach Dezenzo’s double and homer. But starting Ohio State pitcher Nate Haberthier got rocked in the first two innings, and OSU was never able to catch up.
Sunday (2/27): Texas State 6, Ohio State 4
Desperate for starting pitching, Ohio State started ace reliever T.J. Brock. Pitching 3.1 innings, Brock yielded only one Bobcat hit, but he walked five. The control problems hurt. Drew Reckart and Colton Bauer homered for the Buckeyes. Otherwise, they didn’t have much success in advancing runners across the plate. The losing streak extended to four, and the Bucks stood 3-4 at the end of the San Marcus trip.
Wednesday (3/2): Cincinnati 5, Ohio State 4
This mid-week game was added recently to the Ohio State schedule, and witnessed the in-state rivals battle out a close one. The Bucks got some pitching in this game, but gave up a run in the eighth and another one in the ninth to allow the Bearcats the victory. The losing streak hit five.
Friday (3/4): Campbell 7, Ohio State 2
An ugly game through and through as the Buckeyes started out the Armed Forces Invitational in Fayetteville, NC with a pretty one-sided loss. Ohio State managed only five hits for the game, and Coupet had another troublesome outing, again giving up more than a run per inning. He was supposed to be OSU’s No. 1 starter, and he now has to get back on track.
Saturday (3/5): Pitt 6, Ohio State 5
A heartbreaker when the Bucks badly needed a victory. With T.J. Brock on the mound in the ninth, Brock Franks smacked a walk-off homer to give the Panthers the win.
Sunday (3/6): Ohio State 12, Army 7
At last. The streak ends at seven, and the Bucks improve their season record to 4-7. The Ohio State offense finally returned to form, as Marcus Ernst, Reckart, Dezenzo, and Trey Lipsey led the way with multiple hits each.
After their first four games, the Buckeyes sported some impressive batting statistics. Obviously, they’ve moved down over the cumulation of losses over the past couple of weeks. The Bucks now have only two players batting above .300: Marcus Ernst at .425, and Bauer at .318. Reckart (.263) and Dezenzo (.238) lead the team in home runs, with five each. Dezenzo’s 13 RBI (in 11 games) sets the mark in that category, with Lipsey (12) and Reckart (9) following.
Much was expected of Kade Kern this season, but so far he’s disappointed. Starting 10 of the 11 games, Kern is batting only .103 (4-for-39) and has struck out 17 times. Another very troubling stat is one that I mentioned in my last baseball article: Dezenzo’s fielding. The shortstop has started every Buckeye game this year, and of course we want to see him at the plate. But Dezenzo has committed 10 errors on 54 chances for an .815 fielding percentage. I’m not sure that I’ve seen an average that low at the collegiate level. No doubt it’s gotten to be a bit psychological too at this point.
Pitching was the main worry for the Buckeyes coming into this season, and it continues to be — especially starting pitching. Coupet has three starts and a 5.02 ERA, not bad in the college game. Brock started one game and, combined with his relief appearances, carries a 3.86 ERA. The other pitchers who have started games this season – Nate Haberthier (3 starts), Aaron Funk (2 starts), Will Pfennig (1 start), and Wyatt Loncar (1 start) – all have ERAs over 9.0.
Trent Jones, Nate Karaffa, Jake Johnson, and Tim Baird have all looked good in relief, but by the time that they enter the game, it’s often out of reach. Brock should be a closer, but to get a save you need to have the lead.
Glad to break that long losing streak. But baseball is a game of streaks, so maybe the Buckeyes have begun a winning one. The Bucks head to Morgantown this coming weekend to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in a three-game series. On the following weekend, OSU travels to Wilmington, NC to play four games against UNC-Wilmington. Circle your calendars for Tuesday, March 22 at 6:00 pm. The Buckeyes will host the Wright State Raiders in the first home game of the 2022 season. That should come as a relief. There’s nothing like an 18-game road trip to start the schedule.