The Buckeyes’ failure to “put it away” in the bottom of the ninth cost them a sparkling win…with an agonizing loss…to 24th-ranked Florida Gulf Coast in their weekend opener.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — At bottom, it was an agonizing loss. Ohio State gave up six runs in the bottom of the ninth here Friday night, falling to 24th ranked Florida Gulf Coast, 10-9.
The final inning was a collection of disasters: six runs on three hits, two walks, a hit batsman and two throwing errors, which Coach Greg Beals referred to as “unacceptable.”
The collapse started with set-up man Seth Kinker, who—true to form—pitched a scoreless sixth seventh and eighth. He didn’t retire a hitter in the ninth. FGCU, which took two from No.2 Florida earlier in the week, loaded the bases and picked up a run on two walks and two singles.
The game ended with closer Yianni Pavopoulos on the mound. Pavlopoulos was charged with two runs, one earned. He gave up a hit, hit a batter and committed one of two errors in the inning, throwing away a come-backer to the mound that could have led to a 1-2-3 game-ending double play.
That was the first error of the inning and second of the game. The third, a throwing error by second baseman Noah McGowan led to the game-winning run.
It was a tortuous conclusion to what was—until the ninth—an impressive showing by the 5-7 Buckeyes, one that saw the bottom of the order come alive and solid hitting throughout.
“There were so many good things about this game,” Beals said. “That’s the worst part. We played really good baseball until the ninth inning. We just couldn’t put it away…We did everything but win the ballgame.”
With starter Jake Post struggling early, falling behind in counts, the Eagles, 13-2, took a 2-0 lead in the first. However, OSU picked up a run in the second on an RBI single by Tyler Cowles.
The Eagles reached Post for another run in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead, but the Buckeyes took a 5-3 lead with a four-run fifth. Jacob Barnwell started things with his second hit of the game. Jalen Washington, Zach Ratcliff, Bo Coolen and Brady Cherry contributed RBI singles, and OSU took a 5-3 lead.
FGCU scored one against Curtiss Irving in the fifth, but Kinker came on in the sixth and was nails until the ninth.
In the meantime, OSU stacked up some runs. McGowan homered to start the three-run seventh and Bo Coolen topped off the inning with a two-run double to left-center.
Barnwell singled down the left field line to start the eighth, stole second and scored on Washington’s double to right.
They went to the ninth with a cozy 9-4 lead. Five Buckeyes had two or more hits, Barnwell leading the way with a 3-for-4 night. Cowles was 2-for-4 with three RBI. Cherry went 2-for-5. Coolen was 2-for-3 and Washington was 2-for5 with two RBI.
Until the ninth, they played relatively clean baseball and free bases came at a premium.
In the ninth, the bottom fell out and questions arose. First and foremost, why leave Kinker in to start the ninth? Beals did not dodge the question.
“Seth was in command of the game,” Beals said. “He put up three zeroes. His pitch count was at a decent spot. I had some concern about sending him out for the fourth inning. He’s gone three for us a couple of times this season…He hadn’t gone four but his pitch count was in the low 40s. We had a five-run lead and I like the competitor I have there with Seth Kinker. We went with the flow of the game.”
The flow changed in a hurry. Pavlopoulos entered the game with the bases loaded, one run in and no outs. He was on a tight wire. He hit a man to make it a two-run game. His throwing error to the plate made it 9-7. A single tied the game and McGowan’s throwing error on a fielder’s choice scored the game winner. So much good was buried by the inability to get three outs.
“We played great baseball,” Beals said, “but we found a way to lose.”