Fresh off its first Big Ten series victory of the 2016 season over Rutgers last weekend, the Ohio State baseball team (23-12-1, 4-5-0) is set to host the Cincinnati Bearcats (18-19) on Tuesday in a midweek meeting between in-state foes.
The two teams faced each other a season ago, when OSU claimed a 6-0 victory behind a strong outing from then-redshirt freshman Adam Niemeyer.
OSU coach Greg Beals will try to duplicate that performance by again sending a rookie pitcher to the mound, this time being Ryan Feltner in a controlled start against a to-be-determined Bearcat.
The Scarlet and Gray, who are 14-2 at home this season, will be hoping to continue their dominance over visiting opponents with another win against the Bearcats.
Scouting the Bearcats
Despite losing three of its last five games, Cincinnati enters Tuesday’s game leading the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats, however, are visiting with momentum behind them, as they won two of three games against conference foe Tulane over the weekend.
Games outside of the Queen City have not been friendly for the Bearcats. In road or neutral contests, they have a combined travel record of 4-15.
Cincinnati, statistically, is one of the worst hitting teams in all of Division I. Its team average of .239 ranks 267th of 295 teams. But the Bearcats have been able to produce some big runs courtesy of the long ball. Cincinnati has blasted 25 homers this season, good enough for third in the AAC.
The Bearcats are led at the plate by the performance of redshirt sophomore infielder Connor McVey. The Mason, Ohio, native has been clawing away at the baseball with a .301 average, including a team-leading 10 doubles and 21 stolen bases.
Cincinnati also has exceptional team speed along the base paths, having swiped 63 of 82 attempted bases to lead its conference.
The Buckeyes, in large part, have been powered by two things: controlled pitching and striking the long ball. OSU has already hit a Big Ten-leading 38 home runs, including a team-leading nine from newly converted first baseman Jacob Bosiokovic.
The move of Bosiokovic, a redshirt junior, from the outfield has allowed for more versatility in the OSU lineup defensively and is aimed at increasing the production at the plate for the bottom of the lineup. With the lineup switch, senior second baseman L Grant Davis moves into a utility role, senior infielder Troy Kuhn takes over at second, and sophomore Tre’ Gantt takes over for Bosiokovic in right field.
In total, OSU has four players with six or more homers, including junior center fielder Troy Montgomery and senior third baseman Nick Sergakis, who both have seven.
In four games last week, the pair each tallied two homers, providing OSU with a much-needed spark to an offense that has been cooling down over recent weeks.
Coming into this season, OSU’s pitching staff had several question marks surrounding the roles in the bullpen. Now, just past the halfway mark of the season, it would be safe to say the Buckeyes’ bullpen has performed well, outside of a disastrous two-blown-save series against Maryland.
Redshirt sophomore closer Yianni Pavlopoulos is in a three-way tie for the lead in the Big Ten with eight saves, while relievers Daulton Mosbarger, Seth Kinker and Michael Horejsei all have ERAs south of 2.50. Perhaps most impressively, the Buckeye pitching staff leads the Big Ten with 296 punch-outs.
On Tuesday, OSU will have to lean on its bullpen again, as Feltner will be on the hill on short rest after pitching the last three innings during Friday’s 7-4 loss to Rutgers.
The game against Cincinnati is set to begin at 6:35 p.m.