When announcing his retirement, Ohio State baseball coach Bob Todd mentioned the fact that baseball is something most people think about a half hour before a game, but is something on his mind when he first wakes up and as late as 3 a.m..
If true, I hate to say the fruits are hardly yielding of his labor.
In a season full of lows, another was added as Ohio State was held to just three hits in a 5-2 loss to Illinois. As if losing to a DII and NAIA school wasn't enough of an black eye, Ohio State is now showing they are struggling to beat DI competition, dropping their eighth game in their last 10 contests, falling below .500 in Big Ten play at 8-9, and 6-8 at home. Some much for the thought of "our honor defend".
The latest loss seemingly showed a lack of urgency and desire from the players, and well the same from Bob Todd and staff.
There's no way around it, Ohio State sucks on offense right now. With two runs today, Ohio State has scored a whopping 14 runs in it's last five Big Ten games. After harping on pitching for most of the season, the bats need addressed. They needed addressed now.
If not 2010 will go down as Ohio State's most disappointing season in program history. Not the ideal season for Todd to go out on, leaving his legacy a bit tarnished as the Bucks are staring a .500 Big Ten season in the mirror for the third time in four years, with needed to win six of the last nine games to continue the program's run of 30-win seasons.
While players will go in slumps, there is little reason for Ohio State's continued trend of offensive offense. Little reason beyond Coach Todd's desire to find a solution that is.
43 games into the season, and little adjustments have been done.
Hell would quicker freeze over before you see a Buckeye line-up that is not led off with Hurley, Kovanda, Burkhart, Stephens, and Dew. Though it is becoming blatantly obvious the quintet is not structured in a fashion to exposure their All-Big Ten caliber, yet Coach Todd still thinks the L-R-L-R-L is the right thing to do.
As lineup card is filled out with the same regularity game after game the an inconsistent offense is trotted unto the field seemingly unaware that:
* The Buckeyes are receiving no power from their three-hole hitter
* The team's clean-up hitter was thriving in the three-hole a year ago
* The team's leadoff hitter is the biggest extra-base threat and follows two players in prolonged slumps
* The top run-producer bats 7th
* The five-hole hitter is mainly a singles hitter with a bad habit of rolling into double-plays
* The six-hole hitter has one of the top three OBP on the team
* The number nine hitter has yet to prove he can consistently bat above .250 in three seasons, with younger more successful options sitting on the bench. (Of course there is no reason now to look at the future)
While not a baseball coach, let alone one with 37 years of experience, there has to come a time when one realizes change is needed. Surely there are reason's behind Todd decision making, but at this point, what do you have to lose? Another game? Ohio State has done that eight times in 10 trips to the diamond, whats another at this point? The current structure is not working and it needs addressed.
While it can be debated if they are being put in the best position to succeed, the players are not immune from the criticism, as this is a team of talented individuals and eventually someone needs to make a stand.
It is painfully obvious there little joy and confidence amongst the team as a bleak atmosphere has settled in, the players still need to make plays and find ways to get the job done. Unlike Coach Todd who has 19 years of solid baseball to bask in outside of the recent struggles, the seniors from the HS class of 2006 are staring a tenure with three .500 seasons in the face, and potentially being the first group of seniors in countless years to fail to lead their team to a Big Ten Tournament. It's time for someone to step up.
For today's game here is the recap from Ohio State's Athletic Communications..
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State dropped a 5-2 decision to Illinois in the middle game of a three-game set Saturday afternoon at Bill Davis Stadium.
Three Illinois pitchers, led by freshman starter Kevin Johnson, held the Buckeyes to a season-low three hits on the day.
It did not take long for the Illini to get on the board, taking advantage of an ordinary fly ball turned wind-aided triple off the top of the right field wall be leadoff hitter Willie Argo. The sophomore center fielder was promptly driven two pitches later on a sharp single to left by Craig Lutes as Illinois took the 1-0 lead. After a strikeout of Casey McMurray and a walk to Illini cleanup hitter Aaron Johnson, first baseman Michael Giller extended the Illinois lead to 2-0 with double to left-center, driving in Lutes. However, with runners on second and third and just one down, Ohio State starter Dean Wolosiansky responded with a pair of punchouts to end the top of the first.
The Buckeyes answered back to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning. Zach Hurley was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, moved to third on a Dan Burkhart single to right and was driven in on an RBI fielder's choice by Michael Stephens.
After a quiet second inning, Wolosiansky got two outs in the third but that is when the Illini did their damage. Brandon Hohl singled, Christian Cummins doubled to right-center, Adam Davis followed with a walk and Josh Parr provided the big blow with a three run triple just over the outstretched arm of Hurley on the warning track in left to give Illinois the 5-1 lead after three.
After the RBI fielder's choice in the bottom of the first by Michael Stephens, Johnson settled down to retire 14 of the next 15 Ohio State hitters before a Cory Kovanda single with one out in the sixth.
The Buckeyes were able to cut into the Illini lead and make it 5-2 in the top of the seventh when Matt Streng's two-out single to center drove in Cory Rupert, who had reached on a fielder's choice.
Jared Strayer did a solid job in relief for the Buckeyes, tossing five scoreless innings in the longest outing of his career. Dan Burkhart extended his team-leading hitting streak to eight games, going 1-for-3 on the day.
The Buckeyes and Illini will wrap up the three-game set Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at Bill Davis Stadium.