With their final series this weekend before entering the meat of their conference schedule, the Buckeyes have a chance to make a powerful impression on Big Ten opponents, and themselves, against Bethune Cookman.
This may be a silly thought, but one wonders if OSU baseball coach Greg Beals might be looking for something more challenging than an 11-17 record and a sky-high earned run average from Bethune Cookman this weekend.
You see, it’s the Buckeyes’ last dress rehearsal before embarking on the meat of their Big Ten schedule next week, and well…one questions if Beals knows all he needs to know about his own club; if he’s seen all he needs to see.
The Bucks are 17-7-1 by way of record. They’ve won more than a few hearts with their last-at bat heroics of late to beat the likes of Northwestern and Toledo. And more than one pre-season hopeful has come forth to show that he’s the man for the moment…when the moment is his.
But not against the likes of Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan, all contenders for the Big Ten title this spring, and all looming as conference play continues beginning next weekend.
Questions about the starting pitching have been silenced, at least for the moment. Junior Tanner Tully has been as good as expected. Senior John Havird has been a model of consistency. But the emergence of redshirt sophomore Adam Niemeyer has been more than advertised in his last three starts against Nevada-Las Vegas, Hofstra, and Northwestern. In those 20 innings Niemeyer has amassed a 2-0 record, given up 14 hits, just six earned runs, but more impressively, has struck out 18 against just one walk. He leads the staff in innings (37) and has an overall era of 3.14. His consistency over that span must have created some comfort in the minds of Beals and pitching coach Mike Stafford.
And the bullpen, a matter for some pre-season nail biting has anchored around three principles…Seth Kinker, Michael Horejsei, and Yianni Pavlopoulos.
Offensively, the continued emergence of redshirt junior Jacob Bosiokovic, who leads the club in home runs (8), has hit .334, and has 18 rbis – this after missing ten games with a hamstring injury.
In addition, no one saw the kind of contribution at the plate that senior co-captain Nick Sergakis has supplied. The utility man-turned third baseman has hit .417, banged out 4 home runs, and is tied for club lead in rbis with left fielder Ronnie Dawson (23).
Dawson has slowly emerged from a dreadful start to sit this weekend at .278 and 5 home runs.
And freshman DH/first baseman Brady Cherry continues to produce by hitting .264, with 4 homers, and 18 rbis.
Add the expected .303 average with 5 home runs from pre-season All-American center fielder Troy Montgomery and you have an attack that leads the Big Tens in power and threats to be considered throughout the lineup.
But there are questions.
They have not seen the elephant in terms of front line competition on a league or national scale. And you only change minds and attitudes through doing it against the best.
Maryland came to Columbus last year and abused Buckeye pitching in a three-game series for 7 home runs and 39 runs. That has to be in the minds of all who lived through it as they travel to College Park next weekend.
It’s a club that’s committed 40 errors now in their first 25 games, an issue quelled as of late by the consistency of playing on the artificial surface of Bill Davis Stadium, but still a matter to put behind them for good.
And how good is the overall pitching (3.64 era) against the stress of conference play and the offenses of teams like Maryland (.277 team avg.), Illinois (.242), and Michigan (.303).
As good as they’ve been through 25 games, Beals must surely want to see yet more consistency in order to compete against the heavy lifting yet to come. And frankly, one wonders if they shouldn’t have dusted some of the lessers before now…instead of winning by the narrowest of margins. But if comfort comes through dominance, they have one shot remaining…against Bethune Cookman, and next Tuesday in a single road game at Kent State.
BC has struggled at times in all phases of the game. As a team the ‘Cats are hitting .260 against MEAC competitition (Mid-East Ath. Conference), but their pitching has been the achilles heel. Their staff era is nearly 6 runs per game, and prime for the likes of Bosiokovic, Montgomery, Cherry, Sergakis, Dawson and Montgomery.
If you’re Beals have you seen enough?
And is seeing more against the likes of what you’re about to see…enough?
You couldn’t have known when this year’s schedule was put to paper. It is, as we say, what it is.
It is…the final tune-up!