The Ohio State Buckeyes enter NCAA play as the No. 3 seed in the College Station regional. They finished sixth in the Big Ten regular season standings, but made an impressive 5-0 run through their conference tournament to earn the automatic bid.
OSU doesn't jump off of the table as a threatening team, and their resume supports that conclusion. A 37-22 overall record against the nation's 112th ranked schedule provided them with an RPI of 70, which is among the bottom third of the tournament field. They played no Top 25 RPI teams this year, like they'll face against ULL and possibly A&M later in the weekend, and were just 8-13 against Top 100 competition. Against their only common opponent with the Aggies, Kansas State, OSU dropped both contests. A&M went 3-1 against the Wildcats this year.
Make no mistake, though, OSU can play some baseball and has the tools to make a run at Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday. Three seeds make their hay in the tournament by having a dominant starting pitcher, another couple who are between fair and good, and putting the ball in play consistently. The Buckeyes have those tools.
The overall pitching statistics are not jaw dropping in either direction. The team sports a 4.38 ERA, strikes out almost twice as many as they walk (370-198), and opponents are hitting .277 against them. They do a good job of keeping extra base hits to a minimum, as just 25.1% of opponents' hits earn extra bags. But 56 unearned runs have crossed the plate courtesy of their .957 fielding percentage.
Toeing the hill on Friday night will likely be Cory Luebke, the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. The junior lefty returned to Columbus after being selected last season as a draft eligible sophomore, and has put together a stellar campaign. He's amassed an 8-1 record with 91 strikeouts to just 28 walks in 107.2 innings pitched. He's thrown a pair of complete games, and opponents hit a very meager .213 against him.
Likely to start on Saturday, regardless of Friday's result, is J.B. Shuck. Shuck has a 4.48 ERA in 74.1 innings, fanning 55 and walking 31. Opponents bat .284 against him.
Shuck doubles as a key offensive cog for a Buckeye team that's hitting .316 on the season. Like their pitching staff, you don't see many extra base-hits with OSU. They slug just 89 points higher than their batting average and have as many triples as homers (19). They tack 78 doubles onto that total, making just 18.83% of their hits go for extra bases.
It would be a stretch to call them small ball oriented with just 47 sacrifice bunts in 59 games, but they do move on the bases more than most teams (71 steals in 93 attempts).
Jason Zoeller (.352 avg, 9 HR, 40 RBI) leads the Buckeyes in homers, while Matt Angle (.365-0-29) takes the lead in batting average and runs scored. Eric Fryer (.331-3-49) and Justin Miller (.342-1-49) tie for the team lead in RBI. Fryer is also the team's catcher and has thrown out just under 30% of runners in motion.
As evidenced by their pitching stats, OSU does a pretty good job of keeping their opponents' run totals down. They're averaging 6.8 runs per game on the year, but just 6.3 away from home. Opponents are scoring 4.9 runs against them overall, compared to 4.1 on the road. That number flies all the way up to 7.0 runs per contest in losses, but still a respectable 5.4 runs in away losses.
The key for them to be successful in the regional, on a large scale, will be to score early and often. Things go from good to great or bad to worse for the Buckeyes, as they average 8.03 runs in winning contests, but just 2.77 runs in games that they lost.
Ohio State looks to continue hot streak
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