Humble pie does not taste good, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to get a dose of reality.
Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals knows this all too well after his alma mater Kent State provided that slice of truthful decadence with an 8-3 thumping Tuesday evening.
OSU (19-8-1, 2-1) had been riding a seven-game winning streak, and dating back to the March 15 win over UNLV, had won 12 of its last 13 games. But the throttling at the hands of the Golden Flashes provided a blinding reality check that Beals is using as a learning experience.
“It wasn’t just (Tuesday’s starter) Ryan Feltner, we all got punched in the mouth yesterday,” Beals said. “So it’s good. The competitors that we are, it’s not all bad.”
OSU hasn’t faced a Big Ten opponent on the road so far this season, and the nonconference loss to Kent State was its first matchup versus a road opponent with a winning record.
Now, OSU, which is 4-4 on the road, is getting set to head to College Park, Maryland, for its first-ever road series with the recently added Big Ten rival Maryland Terrapins (14-15, 1-2). Last season, the Terps took two of three games at Bill Davis Stadium in May, sending OSU into a tailspin that it couldn’t steer out of.
OSU co-captain and third baseman Nick Sergakis said the Buckeyes are looking for revenge against the Terrapins after they stole a series from the Buckeyes in Columbus.
“They came into our place and kind of handed it to us a little bit,” Sergakis said. “We wanna go out to their park and do the same thing to them. They’re a good team, we have not taken them lightly. It’s a big Big Ten series.”
Beals noted that OSU is more experienced and more potent on offense, leading him to believe his guys will be ready for the battle when junior ace Tanner Tully takes the mound on Friday.
Maryland enters the series as losers of three of its last four games, including a frustrating series loss to High Point at home. Maryland currently sits at 1-2 in the Big Ten after dropping two of three at Iowa, and the series this weekend against the Buckeyes will open a swing of conference games that make up nine of its next 10.
The Terrapins lean heavily on underclassmen for production at the plate, as their top three hitters — sophomore infielder Kevin Biondic, freshman infielder Nick Dunn and freshman outfielder Marty Costes — have accounted for a combined 11 home runs, 56 RBIs and a .325 average.
The Terrapin pitching staff sits in eighth place in the Big Ten with a 4.30 team ERA, but it’s loaded with top-notch talent. The pitching staff has been led by sophomore right-hander Taylor Bloom, who leads the team with a 4-2 record and a 2.36 ERA. Perhaps most impressively, Bloom leads the Terps with 8.5 strikeouts for each walk, which is tied for 16th in Division I.
“Their starting pitchers are good,” Beals said. “We’ve gotta be able to be fastball ready and make sure we’re able to capitalize on the good pitches that we do get to hit, and then most importantly, we’ve gotta stay off their breaking balls. If we can stay away from the chases and hit the pitches we’re supposed to hit, I think we’ll be good.”
Back on the right track
In the latest release of the RPI standings by the NCAA, OSU came in at 149th place out of 300 teams, meaning OSU will have to turn up the heat for the rest of the conference season in order to boost its tournament résumé.
Beals stressed the importance of getting back on the winning track against Maryland as a direct way to do that, as this series is the first of four consecutive Big Ten series for the Buckeyes.
A big factor for OSU to get back to their winning ways is whether redshirt sophomore pitcher Adam Niemeyer will be able to shake off the hamstring pull that caused him to exit his last start against Bethune-Cookman after just 4.1 innings of work.
“We’re going to bump him back to Sunday,” Beals said. “Right now we’re going to go Tully, (senior John) Havird and Niemeyer — just buying Adam another day. There’s still some soreness and tightness in that hamstring, we’re going to learn more about it today and tomorrow.”
Junior catcher and co-captain Jalen Washington said the team will be ready to open its first series in Maryland and stressed the importance of getting on a roll in the conference.
“Each Big Ten series is a big opportunity for us, so we just need to get out there and get ahead of it,” Washington said. “We don’t want to look back at the end of the season and worry about losing one to Maryland when we could have taken the series from them. Each opportunity is big for us.”
The first pitch in College Park is set to be thrown out at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, while Saturday and Sunday’s games are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.