Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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The fortunes flipped from Friday, and the Purdue Boilermakers evened the weekend series with Ohio State with a commanding win over the Buckeyes.

Columbus – Lest anyone wonder, baseball giveth, and baseball taketh away.

In a manner very reminiscent of Friday night’s 11-2 Ohio State win over the Purdue Boilermakers when the Buckeyes took the weekend series opener, Purdue turned the tables in game two Saturday evening before 683 frozen fans to win 6-1.

Where Purdue starting pitcher Tanner Andrews struggled at the outset on Friday, this time it was Buckeye righthander Ryan Feltner’s turn, watching his recent fate turn from bad to worse.  0-4 entering Saturday’s start Feltner hit the leadoff hitter, Evan Warden, and proceeded to see Warden eventually score on a stolen base, a ground out, a walk, and another RBI ground out.

Feltner gave up three more in the top of the second on a single, a double, a triple and another hit batsman – and another single run in each of the third and fourth innings.  By the top of the fifth, when he finally retired the side in order, he was down 6-0.

In the meantime, the sun dropped, the temperature dropped with it, and the mood of those who came to see a Buckeye win topped with post-game fireworks became as quiet as an evening at Schoedingers.

In terms of efficiency, Feltner’s night was a lot like Andrews’ on Friday.  In 6.2 innings of work he allowed six hits, three walks, threw three wild pitches, and hit three batters.  And hit batsmen appear to be a big part of the Purdue attack as the top two men in their batting order, Evan Warden and shortstop Harry Shipley have now been hit 30 times between them in the Boilers’ first 26 games.

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Nonetheless, like Tanner on Friday, all those free bases came back to haunt Feltner.

“In terms of the game it’s always disappointing to lose,”  said Greg Beals in the post-game meeting with writers.  “In terms of Ryan, you love the way he throws between starts in the bullpen.  He’s a very talented young man and I think when he tries to bring that into the game he just comes in too amped up.  He seems to settle down a bit in the back end of his starts, but we have to find a way for him to settle into the ballgame faster.”

Purdue right fielder Alec Olund comes up with a diving play to rob Noah McGowan of a hit in the sixth inning.

Purdue right fielder Alec Olund comes up with a diving play to rob Noah McGowan of a hit in the sixth inning.

And reminiscent of the way Yianni Pavlopoulos pitched on Friday for OSU, on Saturday lefthander Gareth Stroh (no relation to the brewing family) was just as efficient.  A tall blonde who looks and pitches a lot like the old Dodger and Pirate lefthander, Jerry Reuss, he pretty much dominated things for the first 7.2 innings with…the fastball.

He was seldom in trouble of any kind, giving up a single run in the fifth when Brady Cherry, Tyler Cowles, and Shea Murray strung together a single, single, and a double to break the ice and bring some life to the crowd.  But Tre’ Gantt ended the rally with a popup to third base.

The only other significant noise came in the bottom of the eighth when Stroh gave up leadoff singles to Murray and Noah West before retiring the next two – and then giving the ball to reliever Ross Learnerd who retired Noah McGowan on a loud fly ball to center field.

“Their pitcher did a nice job, a typical lefthander with some deception and he had some angle to his pitches,”  added Beals.  “I was disappointed that we didn’t get things going a little earlier, because he was throwing a lot of fastballs and I thought we’d make the adjustment quicker than we did.  We got ourselves in position in three different innings where if we could have gotten a two-out hit it would have changed the ballgame.  But we didn’t.”

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It negated an outstanding night at the plate for right fielder Shea Murray, who got a rare start and made the most of it with three hits – hard-hit balls that for a moment seem to bring some life to a struggling batting order.

“Yeah, in the fifth there were runners on the corners and I felt like I could hit something far and deep.  I hit it down the line for a double, but credit their pitcher…he bore down when it mattered and he kept us right where we were after that hit.

Shea Murray does his best to break up a double play attempt by Purdue's Harry Shipley.

Shea Murray goes in spikes high to break up a double play attempt by Purdue’s Harry Shipley.

“He (Stroh) actually kept us off balance tonight by throwing so many fastballs.  He’d get ahead in the count by throwing fastball after fastball and when you’re looking for something off-speed then it just never came.”

Murray’s three-hit night was the only multi-hit performance for the Bucks, who saw the top four in the lineup go collectively 1 for 16 in the game.

In losing, the Buckeyes drop to 11-15 for the year and 1-4 in Big Ten play – on 1 run, 8 hits and 1 error.

In winning, Purdue advances to 14-12 (their first winning March record since 2012), and improve to 2-3 in the league – on 6 runs, 7 hits, and 2 errors.  They also fulfilled the prophecy of head coach Mark Wasikowski who was anything but pleased when he left the Boilers’ clubhouse for the team hotel on Friday.

“I guarantee you’ll see a better baseball team tomorrow night,”  he assured.

He was right.

The series concludes on Sunday with a 1 pm start and a projected high temperature of 60 degrees.  Jake Post is slated to make the start for the Buckeyes after a bout with what Greg Beals termed as “old man back” earlier this week.  It’s the rubber game of the three-game set and back to embracing the challenge that Beals spoke about prior to Friday’s opener.

These are “get” games for the ‘on-again, off-again’ Buckeyes this weekend, and road dates next weekend at Penn State – prior to the heavier lifting yet to come against the likes of Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan. 2-4 sounds a whole lot better than 1-5.

“Last night it was all Buckeyes,”  said Beals.  “Tonight it was all about them.  Tomorrow has to be all about Ohio State again.”

Notes:  Shea Murray’s 3-hit game was the first of his career, naturally, having spent the last four years as a pitcher.  It also marked an outstanding relief appearance by Austin Woodby who threw the final 2.1 innings of one-hit baseball without allowing a run.  This follows his four-innings of shutout baseball on Tuesday against Ohio University.  Woodby’s ERA drops to 2.03 and his record now stands at 2-0.  Jake Post takes the mound Sunday with a 1-1 record in six previous starts, with a 3.48 ERA.

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