Notebook: The State Of Midwest College BaseballNotebook
• Ohio State Bests Michigan
• Midwest Power Rankings
• Notebook: From A-to-Z
• What We’re Watching This Weekend
RIVALRY SERIES: OHIO STATE BESTS MICHIGAN
Despite being one of the most renowned rivalries in collegiate sports, Ohio State and Michigan didn’t play a series on the diamond last season, an unfortunate consequence of conference expansion.
With the Wolverines in town, the atmosphere was notably enhanced in Columbus last weekend. In 14 prior home games at Bill Davis Stadium this season, the Buckeyes had averaged 688 fans per contest, which isn’t out of the norm for them or their Midwestern counterparts given typical harsh springs native to the region.
Pleasant temperatures, paired with the renewal of this rivalry, brought the spectators out in droves this weekend. After drawing 1815 for the opener on Friday, a remarkable 5280 fans were on hand for the twin bill on Saturday, the second highest attendance mark in the history of Bill Davis Stadium. While attendance was bolstered from runoff from the nearby spring game on the gridiron, the crowd at first pitch was notably robust hours before the conclusion of the football game.
“That crowd helped us the whole weekend,” said Ohio State outfielder Dominic Canzone. “It was the most incredible crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”
As he’s done with regularity this season, true freshman Garrett Burhenn set the tone on Friday. Pitching against a potent Michigan offense, the righthander made one mistake early when he grooved a fastball to Michigan sophomore Jesse Franklin in the first inning. Franklin promptly deposited it over the fence in right center as his 60-grade bat flip temporarily silenced the home crowd. Burhenn settled down soon after. For the remainder of the start he pounded the zone with strikes, attacking Wolverine hitters with a three-pitch mix. He was particularly effective in locating his 89-92 mph fastball to either side of the plate. He showed a comfort level in his 82-84 mph changeup, with deceptive arm speed and late tumble, while his low 80s slider was a weapon against lefties and righties alike. Burhenn pitched better than his line (6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) would indicate, as a pair of inherited runners for which he was responsible came around to score on a bloop single after he was replaced by Brayden Root in the seventh.
Burhenn’s counterpart, Michigan ace Tommy Henry, didn’t fare as well. Identified as the top pitching prospect in the conference in our Big Ten Preview, the lefty is at his best when showcasing above average command to set up hitters with his fastball, while displaying advanced pitchability in sequencing his off speed pitches to keep hitters off balance. He frequently missed his spots in this showing, falling behind in the count, and the Buckeyes punished mistakes that caught too much of the plate. Henry allowed eight hits and seven runs over four frames, as Ohio State doubled up the Wolverines in game one by a score of 10-5.
Ohio State continued to swing it on Saturday, this time against Michigan righty Karl Kauffmann. Despite not allowing a homerun in 51 frames heading into this start, he got touched for three in this contest (Canzone, Zach Dezenzo, Ridge Winand). The outing was somewhat of a dichotomy for Kauffmann, who flashed swing-and-miss stuff for the duration, striking out nine with the help of a biting 84-to-85 mph slider that an NL Scout said could get presently get professional hitters out. Like Henry the night before, however, Kauffmann missed some spots up and over the plate and the Buckeyes made him pay. Ohio State starter Seth Lonsway worked around some command issues of his own, issuing four free passes over 5.2 innings but using his above-average breaking ball to work out of tough spots in the eventual 10-4 Ohio State win.
Michigan took the finale on Saturday evening to salvage a game. Although four errors from Ohio State were contributing factors, So. RHP Jeff Criswell was finally able to silence the Buckeye bats, holding them to just a pair of unearned runs on six hits over 6.2 innings. Additionally, toolsy outfielder Jordan Brewer was bright spot for the Wolverines on the weekend, collecting four hits in eight trips to the plate, while posting plus run times from home-to-first in the 4.14-4.16 range.
While the series win was undoubtedly the result of a team effort from the Buckeyes, Canzone earned some individual recognition in winning Big Ten Player of the Week honors following a 9-for-14 weekend, with a pair of homeruns, a double, a triple and five RBIs.
“I feel very loose right now at the plate and I’m trying to let my hands to do the work,” Canzone said. “I want to do anything I can to help our team win and get on base anyway I can.”
The Buckeyes will look to carry this momentum with them on the road to Maryland this weekend, while Michigan will look to rebound at home against Northwestern.
MIDWEST POWER RANKINGS
1. Indiana (25-12; PR: 3) The Hoosiers have won eight straight games and five straight series, propelling them to the top of our Power Rankings. The Indiana arms continue to thrive, with one MLB scout referring to the staff as “the most balanced in the [Big Ten]” and “well-constructed for the post season”. The club travels to East Lansing to take on Sparty this weekend before three tough weekend series against Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.
2. Dallas Baptist (25-11; PR: 2) The Patriots took two of three from the College of Charleston before dropping a mid-week tilt at Oklahoma State, holding fast at #2 in our rankings. Senior MD Johnson (5-1, 1.91 ERA) has held opposing batters to a .174 average over his 56.2 innings of work and is averaging over six innings per start. He’s massively raised his MLB Draft stock with evaluators noting he could fit as early as the third or fourth round given the quality of stuff and his ability to maintain it throughout the season.
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