Ohio State began its 2023 season on Friday as part of the Snowbird Classic, finding themselves pit against Big East foe UConn.
It was no easy debut for Bill Mosiello in his first year as the Buckeyes’ head coach, as the Huskies come off a 2022 campaign wherein they finished with a 50-16 record and made it to the NCAA Super Regionals. Last year’s Big East champs, they enter this season as the favorites in the conference once again.
Ohio State, meanwhile, is coming off a year where they finished with a 20-30 record, going 8-14 in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes return 20 players from last year’s squad, in addition to 18 newcomers.
On the mound, Ohio State returns left-hander Isaiah Coupet, who struck out 98 batters in 64.2 innings a year ago and was named the No. 12 2023 Big Ten prospect by D1Baseball. The Buckeyes also add Justin Eckhardt, a Texas transfer, who made five starts for the Longhorns in 2022. Out of the bullpen, Landon Beidelschies is a name to keep an eye on. The first-year southpaw was named one of the Big Ten’s impact freshmen by D1Baseball, and is anticipated to be one of Ohio State’s top relief pitchers.
Offensively, the Buckeyes are led by Marcus Ernst and Kade Kern. Ernst, a third baseman, led the team a year ago with a .337 average, and was named Third Team All-Big Ten. Kern, a center fielder, was one of the best hitters in the B1G last season, batting .298 with nine homeruns and 49 RBIs, and is the projected No. 10 2023 Big Ten prospect by D1Baseball.
So, how did Ohio State fare in their first series of the 2023 season against a real tough opponent?
Friday, Feb. 17: 3-0 Ohio State
Ohio State opened the 2023 season with a bang, collecting their first win under new head coach Bill Mosiello with a 3-0 shutout win over the Huskies. UConn never really threatened in this one, as the Buckeyes carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning and allowed just four hits in the game overall.
OSU opened up the scoring right from the jump, plating a run in the 1st inning on a single by catcher Cole Andrews in his first at-bat as a Buckeye. The score would remain 1-0 in favor of Ohio State until the bottom of the 6th, when freshman Henry Kaczmar smacked a two-run double to make it 3-0. Nick Erwin led the team in the hits department, going 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base.
On the pitching side of things, Isaiah Coupet was brilliant, striking out nine and allowing just one hit over six innings of work. Landon Beidelschies put up two scoreless frames in the 8th and 9th inning to earn the save as Ohio State opened up the year at 1-0 in the shutout victory.
Saturday, Feb 18: 9-6 UConn
Saturday’s game featured a lot more offense, and while the Buckeyes scored first and battled back late, it would not be enough to overcome the deficit in their first loss of the year.
Ohio State got things started quickly, as Marcus Ernst launched a solo home run in the 1st inning to make it 1-0 good guys. UConn got the bats going in the 3rd and 5th inning, scoring three runs in each frame to sandwich a Kaczmar RBI groundout, as the Huskies jumped out to a 6-1 lead. A two-run homer for UConn in the 7th put the Buckeyes in an 8-1 hole, but Ohio State battled back.
In the bottom of the 7th, the Buckeyes worked the count and drew a pair of bases loaded walks to cut the deficit to 8-4. They added two more runs on an error and a sac fly, and just like that the deficit was cut to two skinny runs in an 8-6 game. However, UConn added another run in the 9th, and Ohio State did not have another rally in them as they fell 9-6.
The Buckeyes only put together six hits in the game, but they did manage to draw 10 walks. Kade Kern got on base four times with three walks and a hit, and also stole a pair of bases. Erwin picked up the team’s only extra-base hit on the afternoon, hitting a double and also walking twice. Justin Eckhardt let up six runs in his 2023 debut, but only three of those runs were earned. Nolan Clegg pitched 1.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, fanning a pair.
Sunday, Feb 19: 8-6 UConn
In another relatively high-scoring contest, Ohio State came up just short in what turned out to be an exciting back-and-forth affair. Unlike Saturday’s game, it was the Huskies taking an early lead and the Buckeyes rallying back from behind.
With UConn holding a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th inning, Ohio State got two runs back on an RBI single by Kern and a solo home run by Erwin. Then, in the bottom of the 6th inning, it was Kern and Erwin yet again, with the center fielder picking up another RBI single and the third baseman coming through with a two-run single to put OSU in front, 5-4.
Unfortunately, the lead would not hold, as UConn, aided by an error, tallied three runs of their own in the top of the 7th to go back on top, 7-5. Erwin picked up his fourth RBI of the game in the bottom of the frame to get things back within a run, but the Huskies would add one more and Ohio State could not rally in the 9th in an 8-6 loss.
Erwin and Kern drove in all six runs for the Buckeyes, with eight of the team’s nine hits coming from the top four batters in the order. It was a rough outing on the mound for Josh Timmerman, who allowed four runs in his start that lasted just 3.1 innings. His four strikeouts were a team-high on the day, however, as Ohio State racked up 15 Ks on the mound.
Monday, Feb 20: 10-5 Ohio State
Ohio State’s bats really came alive on Monday, as the Buckeyes defeated UConn to earn a split in their opening series of the season.
The scarlet and gray fell behind early, allowing a pair of solo home runs in the 1st inning, but regained the lead in the 3rd inning on a trio of RBI singles by Josh McAlister, Ernst and Kern. The Huskies tied it back up in the 4th with a sac fly, but Ohio State pushed four runs across in the 5th, highlighted by a two-run double by catcher Matthew Graveline . The Buckeyes tacked two more runs on in the 8th on a two-run single by Ernst to make it 10-3. UConn added a pair of runs in the 9th, but their comeback was short-lived as the Buckeyes held on for the 10-5 dub.
It was a really strong outing out of the pen for Jonah Jenkins, who tossed 4.2 scoreless innings in relief while allowing just one hit and one walk while punching out four. Gavin Bruni started the game and struck out six over 3.1 innings.
It was a great start to the new campaign for Mosiello’s team, splitting the series against a really strong opponent.
Ohio State’s infielders really showed out at the plate in the opening series, with Nick Erwin and Marcus Ernst leading the offense. Erwin went 7-for-13 (.538) at the dish with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs. Ernst went 6-for-16 (.375) with a homer and four RBIs. Joining the offensive output was center fielder Kade Kern, who hit 6-for-13 (.462) with three RBIs and also drew a team-high six walks while striking out only once. Kern also leads the Buckeyes with three stolen bases.
Isaiah Coupet and Landon Beidelschies were the stars on the mound. Coupet started the opening game of the series, allowing just one hit and one walk over his six innings of work while striking out nine. Beidelschies, the owner of the team’s only save thus far, pitched 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing three hits with four punch outs. Jonah Jenkins (4.2 IP) and Nolan Clegg (2.0 IP) are the only other Buckeyes to pitch multiple innings thus far without allowing a run.
As a team, Ohio State hit .273 compared to .209 for UConn, and the Buckeyes struck out 37 times with 23 walks compared to the Huskies’ 42 strikeouts and 15 walks. As a result, OSU put together a much higher on-base percentage (.380) than UConn (.304) and had the better pitching between the two teams in this series. To the Huskies’ credit, they brought the power to the Snowbird Classic, launching six home runs in contrast to just two for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will now head to Phoenix, where they are scheduled to take on Grand Canyon and Gonzaga in a pair of two-game series beginning this Thursday, Feb. 23.