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Ohio State baseball looks to bounce back from first two losses of the season

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OSU junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson (4) takes a swing during a game against Coastal Carolina on Feb. 27 in Conway, South Carolina. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

OSU junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson (4) takes a swing during a game against Coastal Carolina on Feb. 27 in Conway, South Carolina. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

The Ohio State baseball team, coming off a 2-2 split in the Coastal Carolina Tournament, is set to head south again, this time to Port Charlotte, Florida, for the Snowbird Classic. A trio of games preside on the docket for the Buckeyes against Seton Hall, Illinois State and Boston College.

OSU coach Greg Beals said he is impressed by his team defeating a Top 25 opponent, then-No. 19 Coastal Carolina, but the sixth-year coach said he sees plenty of room for improvement from his players.

“It lets us know that we’re right there, where we can play against anybody in the country,” Beals said. “It also gives us an idea that in order to be there and get over that hump, we’ve got to win that one-run game, that extra-inning game, and find a way to get that done. It just makes us even (hungrier) to keep working and keep getting better.” 

Sizing up the competition

None of the Buckeyes’ scheduled opponents are ranked this weekend, but Beals said each team will present a true test to OSU. Seton Hall enters the series at 2-5, having lost three of four games to Florida International by a combined score of 24-6.

Illinois State also enters the weekend with a 2-5 record, off the heels of dropping three of four games against No. 9 Oregon. Boston College likely poses the biggest threat to OSU, as it enters its second leg of the Snowbird Classic at a perfect 7-0.  

Beals said despite each team’s record, he expects all three opponents to come out and give the Buckeyes their best shots.

“(Seton Hall and Illinois State have) played good competition,” Beals said. “I’m not reading a whole lot into their win-losses at this point right now. On the flip side with Boston College, their schedule hasn’t been as strong, but they’re winning ball games, so you’ve got to respect the fact that they’re winning.”

Beals said he plans to attack the weekend with his normal pitching rotation of junior Tanner Tully on Friday versus Seton Hall, redshirt sophomore Adam Niemeyer on Saturday against Illinois State and senior John Havird on Sunday versus Boston College.

Pitching staff showing flashes

OSU’s pitching staff leads the Big Ten in strikeouts with 95. A chunk of that can be attributed to the hot start of Tully. The lefty from Elkhart, Indiana, has a 2-0 record, including a 1.59 ERA and 12 strikeouts. OSU redshirt sophomore Yianni Pavlopoulos has also excelled in his role as OSU’s closer, earning two saves while allowing no earned runs and striking out nine.

The man behind the plate, senior Jalen Washington, said the pitching staff is still developing, but he is encouraged by the team’s ability to show flashes early on.

“I believe coming in, we thought pitching was going to be one of our struggles, but especially this (past) weekend they’ve shown that they’re ready for the challenge,” Washington said. “Especially the latter part of our bullpen came through and showed that they can manage with some of the best teams in the country.”

Buckeye bats top the Big Ten

Over the first two weekends of the season, the Scarlet and Gray have shown why they are being considered as one of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten. OSU leads the conference with 11 home runs. A large portion of that offensive explosion has come from two players: senior third baseman Nick Sergakis and redshirt junior outfielder Jacob Bosiokovic. Sergakis, a team captain, leads the Buckeyes with a .455 batting average, while Bosiokovic leads the team with four homers and 10 RBIs.

However, Sergakis said he finds the term “hot start” amusing because the team isn’t living up to its own expectations when it comes to production at the plate.

“It’s pretty cool to see when you’re leading the Big Ten in certain categories, but you’re like, ‘Man, how are we doing that when we’re not playing near where we should be,’” he said. “It’s an exciting feeling being a part of that, and hopefully we continue to do what we do, but a lot better.”

The already-powerful Buckeye offense should get a boost when its leadoff hitter, junior center fielder Troy Montgomery, returns to action this weekend. Montgomery missed OSU’s last three games due to a head injury, but Beals said the Fortville, Indiana, native has been cleared and is good to go this weekend.

Bouncing back

Having lost their first two games of the season this past weekend, the Buckeyes will look to turn the page on the losses with a fresh start this weekend.

Sergakis said the walk-off 3-2 loss to now-No. 18 Coastal Carolina in 10 innings served as a learning experience for the team.

“It really just leaves a salty taste in our mouths, really,” Sergakis said. “Those types of (losses) always suck, but it’s something you have to learn from, you have to mature. We had a lot of those last year, and really it’s about coming back and rebounding as soon as possible.” 

Washington said coming off the tough loss to end the series will provide motivation for the Buckeyes heading into the Snowbird Classic.

“We have three big opponents coming up this weekend,” Washington said. “We see them as playing No. 18 Coastal Carolina. Every game is big and every game is important.”

The first pitch of the three-game series is set to be thrown at 11 a.m. on Friday versus Seton Hall. Saturday’s matchup with Illinois State is slated for 2:30 p.m., while Sunday’s contest against Boston College is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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