As excited as I had been after three weekends and a 5-3 start, I made sure to drive home the point that four of the five wins have come against pretty bad competition. Even the win against St. John's doesn't appear to be what it was thought to be. Regardless, Ohio State had beat bad teams as a good team does.
But they're still a bit from keeping up with the good teams as today's 12-1 loss to Illinois State proves.
With the win Illinois State improved to 9-4, a ledger that includes a midweek split against Miami, two wins over the Horizon League's 2010 NCAA Regional Participant Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and wins against in-state Bowling Green and Xavier.
The Redbirds are a good team, not of the likes Ohio State will face in Berkeley and Fresno, but much better than Army, Yale, Western Michigan, and Cincinnati. They are the Missouri Valley favorite with a preseason All-American in Kevin Tokarski leading off their lineup. I would have put in a 70-30 game in favor of Illinois State so the loss doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me, surprise may not be the right word, what does provide a cause of concern after today's game is the expected flaws of Ohio State this season were exposed.
Concern #1: The offense. Ohio State did manage three doubles in their eight hits, but they could not string together hits as they left 13 men on base. Engle's slump is now 2-for-17 as he went 0-for-2, and though he does have six base-on-balls drawn to this point, his .259 average doesn't sit well in the two-hole, especially when it is on the heels of Tim Wetzel's .182 clip. Wetzel is a freshman and there is no telling what the future holds for him. Engle however is a senior and though it is just nine games, his average is right inline with his career average.
It's not all of Engle though as Brian DeLucia has stumbled out of the start. The captain who was expected to lead Ohio State's offense is batting just .257 after an 0-for-2 day. But DeLucia did draw three walks.
Concern #2: Infield defense. For the second time this year Drew Rucinski was the victim of spotty defense behind him. A error by Cypret in the bottom of the third accounted for two unearned runs as ISU scored three in the frame. An inning later, Engle had a throwing error that was one of the final blows in Rucinski's outing. For the season Cypret has two errors at second while Engle has four at shortstop. Six errors through nine games for your twin-killing combo isn't a good sign. Neither is the unearned runs the Bucks have allowed which stands at 12 compared to just four for the opposition. That's 1.3 unearned runs an outing. Needs addressed.
Concern #3: Overall talent. After Rucinski exited with no outs in the third, John Kuchno allowed two runs in getting just one out by walking three. Paul Guey followed with four walks over 2.2 innings as he allowed a run. Brian Bobinski rounded out the Bad News Bears trio with a five-out outing in which he walked three and gave up six runs, four earned, off six hits. Brett McKinney stopped the bleeding by not allowing a run or hit over the final four outs.
10 walks in 4.2 innings by your bullpen is slightly an embarrassment. Ohio State's strong bullpen start to 2010, while again against inferior competition, was mostly composed by Andrew Armstrong, McKinney, David Fathalikhani and Josh Dezse. Add in Jared Strayer and Theron Minium, and those are your core relievers. That group will help be key in Ohio State winning its share of games and their absence today in a 12-1 shelling is one bright spot. But the pitchers that did pitch show OSU's talent level isn't where it needs to be as a program that should be a regional power. I know those three represent options 7-9 out of the bullpen, but when Ohio State has an upcoming stretch where they play eight games in nine games against ranked teams and depth, depth, and more pitching depth is needed, today's showing doesn't bode well for where OSU stands on a national level.
Again I wouldn't read much into the bullpen issues today considering who was throwing so it is the last and least issue of concern, but if a pitcher or two go down in the bullpen, this concern could amplify.
To the game...
As you can see by the box score, it wasn't pretty.
I do like that once the game was out of hand and Beals turned to mop-up guys, he gave quite a few players time in the field and at the plate. Freshman Blake Hutton had his first at-bat and hit. Fellow newcomers Greg Solomon and Josh Dezse continued their hot starts as they both picked up a double.
Brad Hallberg and Ryan Cypret each went 2-for-4 at the plate. Cypret has the lone RBI as he drove in Dezse in the eighth.
Rucinski was struck with the loss as he pitched into the third with a final line of 2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. His record falls to 2-1. Ohio State finished the game with three errors, walked 13, and allowed four unearned runs. That will lose you 98% of your games.
Tomorrow Ohio State will play Yale with Dean Wolosiansky on the mound. If this isn't a win my confidence crashes. Yale was beat 14-1 today by Michigan State and are 2-4 overall. Game time is 9 a.m. live stats can be found here.