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Baseball: Buckeyes travel to face Florida Gulf Coast with new-look rotation

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Jake Post, redshirt senior starting pitcher throws a pitch during the game against Campbell Camels on Mar. 4, 2017. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

The Ohio State baseball team won its first series of the season against Campbell this past weekend. The Buckeyes lost their first game of the series, 7-2, but won back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, and seemed to start hitting their stride in the past two games.

Sophomore catcher Jacob Barnwell has taken over as the man behind the plate for the Buckeyes, and he said the pitching staff as a whole has started to shine for the team, especially redshirt senior starting pitcher Jake Post.

“They’ve been doing a really good job lately,” Barnwell said. “I think that pounding the fastball in and away, filling up the strike zone has been really key, especially for Jake (Post) that last game he had. He was able to establish his fastball early and then throw his curveball late when he needed to. I don’t think we even threw any changeups the entire game.”

With the newfound success from Post, the Buckeyes are going to mix the starting rotation up a bit this weekend.

OSU coach Greg Beals said Post will take over as the Friday night starter. Sophomore Ryan Feltner will start on Saturday and redshirt junior Adam Niemeyer will be moved back to Sunday.

“We wanted (Post) to get (in) Friday night. We weren’t able to do that last week because he had pitched on Sunday. It was going to be too quick of a turnaround,” Beals said. “Where Post is a command guy, fastball, curveball, changeup — all that, Feltner (has) little bit more juice with the fastball so we can add a little bit and then Sunday, Niemeyer is command and changeup.”

The Buckeyes hope to keep momentum on their side heading into a tough matchup against Florida Gulf Coast.

Scouting Florida Gulf Coast

The Buckeyes’ upcoming opponent has been clicking on all cylinders to begin the season, both offensively and on the mound.

Prior to their Wednesday night matchup against No. 2 Florida, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles had won seven consecutive games that included a resounding 7-3 victory over the Gators at home. As of the NCAA RPI released on March 7, Florida Gulf Coast is the No. 16 team in the nation.

The Eagles will bring to the game a potent offense, led by redshirt senior first baseman Nick Rivera. Despite his slow start, hitting just .235 with three home runs, the fifth-year Eagle continues to climb among the active NCAA baseball leaderboard in several categories. He leads the nation in career doubles (64), RBI (166), walks (130) and total bases (381). He is also tied for the lead in career games played (199), third in at-bats (720) and fourth in hits (226). He currently holds the FGCU record for career doubles (64) and ranks in the top-10 in seven other offensive categories.

And though the pitching staff does not stand out as much as other aspects of the team, junior starting pitcher Kutter Crawford has proven to be a force to be reckoned with. The Eagles’ ace has been near unhittable to begin the season. He owns a team-low 1.42 ERA across 19 innings with 27 strikeouts, three walks and only 13 hits allowed in three starts.

Beals said that while he believes Florida Gulf Coast should prove to be a challenging opponent, the Eagles’ Friday night starter is the only player who really stands out on the scoresheet.

“His numbers are really, really good,” Beals said. “Other than that, really solid up and down the lineup. Not really a feature so to say one way or the other, but just a solid ballclub that’s playing really good right now.”

Post-surgery Jake Post emerging as ace of staff

Returning to pitch after undergoing Tommy John surgery is no small task. It is even more daunting when you are asked to return immediately to the starting rotation.

But that is exactly the challenge confronting redshirt senior starting pitcher Jake Post this season. Post has rejoined the Buckeyes rotation for the first time since 2014 and has proved to be the most reliable starter for the team.

Among the three starting pitchers, Post has the lowest ERA at 3.38, the most strikeouts at 13, the fewest total baserunners allowed at 18 and his 16.0 innings pitched rank second-most on the team.

Post said he’s been glad to finally get back on the mound and hopes to continue to contribute to the team’s success.

“Sitting out last year, watching the success that we had last year, it’s kind of humbling and puts things into perspective a little bit,” Post said. “It’s just nice to be able to get out there and contribute firsthand to hopefully another championship run.”

Watching Post pitch and find success in the early going of the season has been fun to watch for Beals and he said he can’t wait to see what the fifth-year senior has in store for the rest of the season.

“Whenever you have a young man that goes through that surgery, goes through that rehab — and the amount of work that’s required to get back to the level where you’re ready to compete, you feel for that guy and you want him to have that opportunity,” Beals said. “So I’m excited about where Jake’s at right now and I’m really looking forward to him continuing to even get better as the season goes.”

OSU heads down to Fort Myers, Florida, on Thursday and begins the series on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and the starting pitchers will be Post and Crawford.

 

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