Ohio State tuned for a monumental series this weekend with #8-ranked Indiana by smacking Youngstown State. Everyone played, and a lot of people contributed…just what Greg Beals had in mind.
COLUMBUS—The Buckeyes made short work of Youngstown State Wednesday night, beating the Penguins, 12-3, banging out 14 hits and running their season record to 25-10.
Starter Jake Vance, who lasted just three innings, was tagged for two runs in the first—one earned—but from that point on, the Buckeyes ran away with the game.
“We weren’t nearly as clean as we’d like to be in a mid-week game,” said Greg Beals. “Offensively, I liked some things that we did, but there were too many free passes from the mound (seven walks). But we wanted to get guys work, so from that standpoint we got a lot of guys into the ballgame – a lot guys on the mound without it being too much – so we’re ready to go for the weekend.”
Once again, OSU showed their mettle with the bats. Five players had a multi-hit night: Noah McGowan (2-for-5, RBI), Conner Pohl (2-for-4, three runs, three RBI), Dillon Dingler 2-for-4, two runs, triple, RBI) and Nate Romans (2-for-3, RBI).
The Buckeyes scored three in the first, three in the third, three in the fourth, coming on Conner Pohl’s sixth home run of the season, one in the sixth, and two in the eighth.
Vance left the game after throwing 73 pitches. Austin Woodby followed and picked up his first win of the season with two scoreless innings. He was followed by what was essentially the entire bullpen: Thomas Waning, Griffan Smith, Yianni Pavlopolous, Andrew Magno, Curtis Irving and Seth Kinker.
Beals used seven pitchers and 15 position players.
“We made some situational changes in the game, for the sake of getting guys (pitchers) work in certain situations,” said the Buckeyes’ skipper. “But the idea was to get everyone in for some playing time.”
The win was Ohio State’s fifth straight and fifth since Beals’ realigned his entire infield and installed Dingler in center field.
In those five games Ohio State has committed five errors, while the offense—led by McGowan, Dom Canzone, Pohl, Tyler Cowles and Kobie Foppe—has continued to roll.
In the five-game stretch the Buckeyes have scored 41 runs, and the addition of Dingler to the starting line-up is a genuine plus. He’s 9-for-19, batting .473.
“I think he’s going to be a great baseball player,” Beals said, when he made the line-up changes. “I had to find a way to get him more reps…It’s saying something about his athletic ability when you can take your back-up catcher and put him in center field and without a second thought.
“But it’s also April now, and about this time last year Canzone and Pohl began to emerge (both freshmen). And now that he’s getting his chance, I think Dillon understands that, appreciates it, and he’s competitive enough to make the most of his opportunity.”
Pohl’s move from third to first also seems to have given him a boost. He’s 7-for-19 (.368) with seven RBI and two homers since the move.
But while it’s fair to say that Beals’ new alignment has led to positive results, it’s equally fair to say it hasn’t really been tested. The Buckeyes have not faced a team with a winning record since the changes were made.
The Penguins came into play 10-22. Three wins came against Penn State (7-22), while the streak began versus Ohio University (15-15).
That all changes this weekend when No. 8 Indiana comes to Bill Davis Stadium for what has to be considered Ohio State’s most important Big Ten series so far this season.
Indiana played Notre Dame Tuesday, beating the Irish 3-0 and doing so on just four hits.
The loss dropped Notre Dame to 15-22. It was Indiana’s 27th win of the season against just six losses. The Hoosiers followed the Notre Dame game with a meeting Wednesday against Ball State.
The Cardinals—where Beals coached eight years and won 243 games—brought a 17-17 record into the game, and gave Indiana all they could ask for. Ball jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the third, but IU tied it up with three in the bottom of the inning and two more in the fourth.
IU took a one-run lead, 8-7, into the eighth, but the Cardinals tied the game for a second time. The game ended up going 14 innings. Jeremy Houston’s two-out single with two on gave the Hoosiers the win, 9-8. Houston’s hit was only the fourth for Indiana in the last seven innings.
This weekend series will say a lot about Ohio State and where they stand at this point in the season.
IU’s numbers are solid and a little scary if you’re wearing scarlet and grey. The Hoosiers are hitting .300 as a team, while holding opponents to a .237 average. Their pitchers have a team ERA of 2.27. Opponents come in at 5.97.
Indiana has made 39 errors. Ohio State has committed 55.
“The best way to describe the weekend series with Indiana is opportunity,” said Beals. “It’s a great opportunity for our ballclub. We’re playing good baseball. We’re beating the teams we’re supposed to beat. Now we have a chance to play and beat a really great team. It’s a measuring stick for us and that’s the way we’ve got to look at it. It’ going to be a challenge, and an opportunity for us to make some noise here at home.”
And speaking of making some noise…Wednesday’s win over Youngstown marked another, more significant milestone – Greg Beals’ 250th win as coach of the Buckeyes.
Editor Sonny Fulks contributed to this story.