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Baseball: Ohio State prepares for first three-game road series of the season against Campbell

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Junior outfielder Tre’ Gantt is greeted by teammates outside the dugout after scoring a run over the weekend in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Surprise, Arizona. Credit: Courtesy of Press Pros Magazine

For the first time this season, the Ohio State baseball team will play a three-game weekend series against the same team rather than engage in a split-weekend series.

After dropping three of the four games in the Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge over the weekend, the Buckeyes (3-5) will again travel south, this time to Buies Creek, North Carolina, to take on the Campbell University Camels (4-3).

OSU coach Greg Beals said scheduling an away series this early was going to be valuable to the team in not only preparing for playing a full series in an away ballpark, but for playing against the same team three times in a weekend.

“In a series, you get an opportunity to make adjustments as a team to compete against them the next day,” Beals said. “You also get to see what adjustments the other team is going to make. That’s going to give you an idea (of) what you think your opponents are going to do in the future, so you can see how other teams go about playing you as well.”

Scouting Campbell

The Campbell Camels come into the weekend as match-up winners of their past two games, having combined for a total of 21 runs.

Offense is the name of the game for the Camels, as they rely more heavily on their bats than their arms. This season, they have a team batting average of .281 with 49 runs scored in seven games. They tend to find most of their offense not in the air, evidenced by their low total of four home runs on the season, but rather on the ground. They already have stolen 24 bases this season while having only been caught twice.

However, pitching has been an issue for them. The Camels’ pitching staff has a combined ERA of 5.43, and only four of their pitchers have an ERA below 4.50 (two of which have thrown fewer than three innings on the season).

Beals said the best way to beat the Camels this weekend will be to get the bats going early, and keep their opponents off the bases.

“Offensively, they like to run the bases. So we have to do two things to prevent that,” he said. “One, keep them off the bases. We pitch the ball well, play good defense and keep them off the bases. And then once they do get on base, we’ve just got to vary our looks and use things that we know. We have mechanisms for controlling the running game. We’re going to need to use those this weekend.”

Tighten Up Defensively

This past weekend, against two Pac-12 teams, the Buckeyes were not able to play the consistent, strong defense they demonstrated last season.

Over the weekend, the team combined for 10 errors and throughout the course of the season, those numbers are not looking much better. The team that last season had a fielding percentage of .975 has a team fielding percentage of .947 this season, with senior shortstop Jalen Washington and sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry tied for the team lead with five errors each. Last season, only three players had five or more errors.

And while the bats did not consistently put up the kind of run totals the team would like to see, junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt said he believes that if the defense tightens up, they will start to find more consistency at the plate.

“We just have to play clean baseball,” Gantt said. “I believe that when we play clean baseball and our defense is pretty solid, that’s when our bats really come alive because we’re not trying to focus on ‘we need to get runs, we need to get runs.’ We just focus on good (at-bats) and try not to stress ourselves.”

Redshirt junior pitcher Yianni Pavlopoulos agreed, saying that if OSU can improve its defensive play, the team will be capable of competing with anyone.

“I think, kind of like what we did against Oregon State Game 2, just play good defense, good all-around defense,” Pavlopoulos said. “If we can field the ball, I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat for sure.”

First pitch of the weekend is set for Friday at 6 p.m. with redshirt junior Adam Niemeyer taking the hill for the Buckeyes. Redshirt senior Jake Post will start on Saturday, with sophomore Ryan Feltner starting in the series finale on Sunday.

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