In South Carolina for their final southern tuneup, the Buckeyes look to for some last-minute fixes before coming north next week to what promises to be a frigid home debut. And Mother Nature is doing her part here in the Smokies.
Greenville, S.Carolina – On the way down Interstate 26 yesterday afternoon the scene through the Carolinas was breath-taking. The Smokey Mountains don’t get near the publicity of the country’s other grand landscapes, but they should. A picture (above) is worth a thousand words.
And, the snow on the peaks of those mountains have turned out to be a harbinger of what we were to find when we stepped out of the car last night in Greenville, South Carolina. The forecast for this weekend’s final southern tuneup is not particularly good – temps in the 50s and rain. With the Buckeyes here for this four-game series is…Michigan State, Western Carolina, and the host school, Furman University, the ‘Purple Paladins’.
Greg Hoard, who questioned me for my prediction of 9-7 for the first month (after the Buckeyes swept their opening weekend in Port Charlotte), was asking me yesterday during the ride down yesterday if I was still convinced.
More or less…yes. They stand 7-5 as they enter weekend #4, and should, by rights, be as good as 9-3. The bullpen let a couple of games get away, but there is by no means reason for concern over their record after three weeks, and here’s why.
One, twelve games is hardly a barometer of what’s to come – not much of a sample size. There’s a reason major league teams play thirty spring training games. And even then it takes some as much as three months to really hit their stride after the season opens.
Two, from my perspective the Buckeyes have seen some very good arms – fastballs in the 90s and veteran experience on the mound. The starter from Brigham Young was particularly good, and looked old enough to have three kids. And Texas A&M (Corpus Christi) seemed to have one pitcher after another capable of throwing lightning bolts.
And last, baseball is a game of failure to begin with. Even hitters who miss seven times out of ten are considered to be elite, and there’s little doubt that Dom Canzone (.209), Kobie Foppe (.063) and Conner Pohl (.171) are going to warm, and well before the climate change that we’re told is about to scorch the earth.
I would imagine there is some of the same thinking going on in East Lansing, where Michigan State (here this weekend) is off to a 2-8 start. Farther north, Minnesota, one of the league favorites, is 2-9. Rutgers, who the Buckeyes see early in Big Ten play, is 2-7. Only Illinois (7-3), Michigan (8-2), and Iowa (6-4) have comparable records to OSU, and another league favorite, Indiana, is only 6-5 after their first three weekends.
So, if the Buckeyes split here, or even win three of four over MSU, Furman, Western Carolina, and Wofford on Tuesday, my prediction looks pretty solid.
Congrats to Coldwater coach Nick Fisher and the Cavaliers for their thrilling Thursday night win (35-34) over #1-ranked Archbold. You don’t hear much about Fisher in comparison to the other, more well-known coaches in the MAC and the SCL, but there is no better guy to hang out with, talk basketball with, or one more deserving of a win that big. Glad I didn’t bet on the ‘over’, but the Cavaliers’ win certainly changes the look of things in Division III.
Now, the weekend’s attention turns to UD Arena, where Division IV Jackson, Loramie, and Division III Anna and Versailles take center stage this weekend. And with the state being as unpredictable as it has been all winter, anything is apt to happen.
Farther north, another ‘titanic’ struggle tips off later this evening when Marion Local and St. Henry tee it up for the district title at Wapakoneta. As they like to say…plenty of good seats are still available. But in this case, I wouldn’t be so sure of that. You might want to go early if you want to sit.