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Ohio State baseball team continues to struggle as season moves to Big Ten slate

Ohio State can’t seem to put good pitching together with good hitting.

Kade Kern is in the midst of an impressive hitting streak.

At about the midpoint of the 2022 baseball season, the Ohio State Buckeyes find themselves near the bottom of the Big Ten standings with a 2-5 record. If you’re interested, Rutgers at 8-1 and Illinois at 7-3 lead the pack, and only Minnesota (1-5) sits below the Buckeyes. (Note: this was written prior to the OSU-Maryland game on Friday night.)

With the loss to Dayton this past Tuesday, the Buckeyes are 11-18 overall for the season. It’s hard to pinpoint a single, or even a consistent area of concern. Rather, OSU just seems to have difficulty combining their pitching with their hitting. A strong pitching effort won’t get any run support, as the Dayton game well illustrates, and when the Buckeye bats are hot, so too are those of the opposing team. The Bucks have participated in a ton of high-scoring slugfests.

Since my last baseball report a couple of weeks ago, Ohio State got swept in a three-game series by Big Ten rival Nebraska. Then the Bucks nearly blew a game to in-state foe Youngstown State, only to come back and win the game in heroic fashion. Michigan State came to Columbus for a three-game weekend series, and, my oh my, there were three wild games, as the Buckeyes took two of them. But the loss at Dayton would appear to be another setback, as the team continues to look for a winning streak. We’ll see. Here’s a recap of the games.

April 1: Nebraska 5, Ohio State 3. The Bucks got very strong pitching from starter Isaiah Coupet, who struck out a career-high 14 batters in his seven innings pitched. Reliever Nate Karaffa, however, couldn’t match the effort and gave up three runs in the 8th and 9th. Cornhusker starter Shay Schanaman won the pitcher’s duel, giving up only one run in his 6.1 innings.

April 2: Nebraska 10, Ohio State 5. The second game of the series displayed the Cornhuskers’ power. The visitors put 10 runs on the board, produced by 11 hits that included two homers. Starting Buckeye pitcher Nate Haberthier got rocked for six runs in his five innings pitched, and reliever Tim Baird didn’t do much better. Kade Kern, after a long batting slump to start the season, continued his hot hitting with a double and a single in the game.

April 3: Nebraska 17, Ohio State 5. The Bucks used nine pitchers in this one, but they’d probably prefer that I leave their names out. The Huskers scored two runs in the 1st, seven runs in the 9th, and eight more in between. Trey Lipsey, Archer Brookman, and Kern all had multiple hits for the Buckeyes.

April 5: Ohio State 5, Youngstown State 4 (10 innings). This one almost got away. Buckeye relievers allowed Youngstown to tie the game with two runs in the 9th and then to take a one-run lead in the top of the 10th. Then, following a walk, Colton Bauer blasted a shot over the fence for a walk-off victory. Exciting stuff!

April 9: Ohio State 13, Michigan State 5. The Buckeyes got decent enough pitching from Nate Haberthier and Aaron Funk, but it was the OSU offense that put on a show. The 13-hit attack was achieved by a fairly long list of Buckeye batters. Lipsey went 5-for-5 with four RBI; Kern, Marcus Ernst, and Zach Dezenzo all went 3-for-5 for the game. They should have saved a couple of runs for the next game, though.

April 10 (1st game): Michigan State 10, Ohio State 8. The Bucks took an 8-3 lead into the top of the 8th in this one. But Wyatt Loncar’s strong outing went for nothing, as relievers Karaffa and Ethan Hammerberg got bombed by the Spartans in the 7th and 8th innings. On offense, Buckeye sluggers Dezenzo and Kern each had a homer, and Kern went 2-for-4 with four RBI.

April 10 (2nd game): Ohio State 8, Michigan State7. Senior lefty Griffan Smith looked very good in his 5.1 innings of relief, and Kern kept on hitting. Kern and Brookman each had two hits, and second baseman Tyler Pettorini had a couple of RBI.

April 12: Dayton 6, Ohio State 0. In mid-week, non-conference games, we don’t see the top three starting pitchers, who are saved for the weekend series. So, on Tuesday, freshman Jacob Gehring made his second career start for the Buckeyes and was, once again, impressive. In his five innings, Gehring gave up only one run and one hit, a home run. His ERA, over 10 innings this season, is a striking 1.80.

Unfairly, he took the loss when the Buckeye offense managed a woeful five hits, only one for extra bases. Flyer pitcher Kenny Serwa threw seven innings of shutout ball, striking out 11 Bucks. Meanwhile, once Gehring took to the dugout, OSU relievers Tim Baird and Aaron Funk were torched for five runs in three innings.

Team Leaders

Batting Average: Marcus Ernst (.380)

RBI: Zach Dezenzo (26)

HRs: Zach Dezenzo (8)

Starting Pitchers:
Isaiah Coupet (2-3, 4.58 ERA)
Wyatt Loncar (1-3, 5.40 ERA)
Nate Haberthier (0-3, 6.29 ERA)

Relief Pitchers:
Ethan Hammerberg (2-2, 2.45 ERA)
Jake Johnson (2-2, 2.91 ERA)

Other Pitchers of note:
Griffan Smith hasn’t given up any earned runs in 8.1 innings of work.
Last year’s ace reliever T.J. Brock has a 4.97 ERA.
Nate Karaffa has a 9.98 ERA and 15.1 innings pitched.

Next up: A three-game series (April 15-17) in College Park, MD, against the Maryland Terrapins.