After losing four straight road games last week, the Ohio State Buckeyes are relieved to be returning to the friendly confines of Bill Davis Stadium for two midweek games against the Morehead State Eagles.
OSU (19-11-1, 2-4) was swept by Big Ten foe Maryland in the Buckeyes’ first trip to College Park, Maryland, giving away a pair of wins on two blown saves by redshirt sophomore closer Yianni Pavlopoulos. OSU coach Greg Beals said the extra-inning loss to the Terrapins in Game 2 was the most deflating because OSU beat itself by committing mental mistakes that opened the door for the Terrapins to steal the game.
“Game 2 and Game 3 at Maryland, we had those games,” Beals said. “We had the lead and we’re headed into the ninth inning with the ability to win the ball game, and we let both of them go. That’s the frustrating part, to have a game in your grasp and not able to squeeze it and bring it home.”
The late-game struggles raise red flags for the team’s outlook moving forward, but Beals said he has been telling his players not to let a bad week of baseball define them for the rest of the season.
“I think that’s the critical part here,” Beals said. “We met a point of adversity this past week, and we’ve gotta respond. The nice thing is we get six games at home right now, which gives us a good situation to bounce back.”
Scouting the Eagles
Morehead State (19-13) heads into Columbus after winning back-to-back games over Xavier to claim the three-game series victory. The visitors from northeastern Kentucky will be looking to do the same against the Buckeyes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Eagles are exceptional at the plate, boasting a team average of .311. The lineup is led by the performance of redshirt junior third baseman Alex Stephens. The junior-college transfer from Pensacola State College is batting .353 with five home runs, 11 doubles and a team-leading 33 RBIs.
As a close second, Eagles freshman designated hitter Trevor Snyder has also been peppering the playing field with a .349 batting average, and he leads the team with seven homers. Perhaps most impressively, eight of the nine Eagles batters maintain an average above .300.
Pitching has also been a strong point for the Eagles, as they are second in the Ohio Valley Conference with a team ERA of 4.47. Beals said he expects his head coaching counterpart, Mike McGuire, to start junior lefty Curtis Wilson on Tuesday and junior righty Luke Humphreys on Wednesday.
Wilson is 0-3 in 11 appearances with a 5.61 ERA, while Humphreys is 4-2 in eight appearances with a 4.78 ERA.
Reaching deep in the rotation
Beals is short on pitchers after having to use freshman Ryan Feltner on Sunday to cover for the injured Adam Niemeyer. Due to neither pitcher’s availability, Beals said he plans to counter with redshirt sophomore Austin Woodby on Tuesday and is leaning toward starting freshman left-hander Connor Curlis on Wednesday. But Beals said he could be looking at pitching-by-committee situation in that game, but he won’t decide until game time on Wednesday.
If Woodby’s last start is any indication of how the Buckeyes will fair, OSU could be in trouble. Against Toledo on March 30, Woodby (3-1, 5.95 ERA), only lasted 2.0 innings, allowing eight hits and five earned runs. Curlis (1-0) has yet to start for the Scarlet and Gray but has been effective in limited action. In four appearances and six innings of work, the Findlay, Ohio, native has a 3.00 ERA while striking out 10 and only walking three with one hit by pitch.
Righting the ship at home
Beals said the Eagles will give the Buckeyes, who are 10-1 at home, another good test. But he added that he is hopeful that if his team can stick to its guns and play up to its capability and believe in the cultural blueprint his players have been given, OSU should be able to continue its winning ways at home.
“I think it’s critical, one, just to bounce back from a tough weekend,” Beals said. “Take this point of adversity and take it head on. The way you do that is to get back at it Tuesday. We get two games at home this midweek to right the ship and be ready to go for conference play again on the weekend.”
Both games against Morehead State are slated to begin at 6:35 p.m.