The Buckeyes overcame an unsteady start by freshman Ryan Feltner to stage a finish to remember…and “Cherryish”!
Columbus – Ohio State coach Greg Beals had promised that freshman Ryan Feltner would come out like a house afire, throwing 92 miles per hour, hoping to extend the euphoria of last weekend’s three-game sweep of Hofstra.
True to form, Feltner did throw hard. He’s one of the impressive young arms that Beals and pitching coach Mike Stafford are touting as the pitching future of the program.
The problem was…he threw hard to the wrong spots in the strike zone. Xavier capitalized on a pair of first inning singles when shortstop Andre Jernigan jumped on a 92-mile-per-hour belt-high mistake and let it ride the crest of a 25-mile-per-hour wind blowing out to left field at Bill Davis Stadium Tuesday. Home run, 3-0 Xavier, and lesson learned.
Feltner came back to a scoreless second, but again had trouble locating in the third, giving up a single run on a pair of Xavier hits – hits that came on fastballs left up in the zone.
He survived a scoreless fourth before bogging down in the top of the fifth, yielding to teammate Joe Stoll with one out after surrendering his ninth and tenth hits of the game…and an eventual fifth run. Baseball can be cruel. You throw hard; and the other team hits it even harder.
Or, maybe it was just a twist of fate, retribution for assistant coach Chris Hollick ordering annoying public address music to be played while Xavier took infield. The Chipmunks singing The Beatles. Whatever! What goes around, comes around. Baseball’s cruel that way.
For their part the Bucks squandered early scoring opportunities off sophomore lelfthander Brad Kirschner, Ronnie Dawson twice striking out to end innings, before breaking through in the fifth on a pair of hits, a walk, and a fortunate call in center field on a ball hit by Brady Cherry. Xavier’s Matt Fallon appeared for all the world to have caught the ball off his shoe tops for the final out. The second base umpire said no. Two runs scored before Troy Kuhn popped up for the final out.
Stoll found his own challenge in the sixth, leaving a fastball out over the plate for left fielder Will Larue, who found the jet stream to left for a second time to extend the lead back to 6-2.
But Brady Cherry was not through. After loading the bases in the bottom of the sixth off reliever Trey Schramm, Cherry came to the plate again and this time took matters more seriously with a two-strike mistake from the Xavier freshman. Cherry unloaded a grand-slam homer to over the 370 mark in left center to tie the score at 6 and take Ryan Feltner off the hook.
What goes around does come around. Baseball is not only a cruel game, but a happy, mysterious game.
You’d think so, but Daulton Mosbarger followed Stoll to the mound in the seventh and quickly found himself with runners on first and second with two out…when Beals went back to the bullpen for sophomore Austin Woodby. Woodby induced Xavier’s Rylan Bannon to fly out to center for the final out…still 6-6!
Troy Kuhn came calling after Nick Sergakis lined out to left to open the bottom of the seventh…and the Bucks’ first baseman lined a ball up the alley to right center off another reliever, Taylor Williams, for a one-out double. Williams, another freshman from Castle Rock, Colorado had his own throw-hard-but-inaccurately moments, walking Jalen Washington on four pitches before right fielder Jake Brobst fanned on a Rocky Mountain high fastball. Shortstop Craig Nennig bailed him out.
Nennig picked on another fastball up in the zone two pitches later and dropped it over the left field fence for a three run homer, his first of the year…9-6 Buckeyes.
They added a pair of runs in eighth on an rbi single by Sergakis, plating Dawson, and an error that scored Sergakis for an eventual 11-6 win, their 12th of the season…and the 2,499th win in the history of Ohio State baseball, one shy of 2,500!
Woodby recorded the first two outs in the night before lefthander Michael Horejsei nailed it down.
Linescore: 11 runs, 13 hits, and 1 error for Ohio State….6 runs, 14 hits, and 1 error for Xavier. Austin Woodby recorded his third win of the season against one loss! And for the record, Cherry’s and Nennig’s home runs give the Buckeyes 21 for the season…tops in the Big Ten!
Ohio State improves to 12-6-1; while Xavier dropped to 7-13 for the season. The Muskies have yet to win on the road.
“Big win for our team,” said Greg Beals afterwards…the understatement of the year. “We had the win streak, we’re facing another Ohio team, so you want to be “the” Ohio team in a situation like this, and it was good to come back like we did. You want to fight those thoughts of being down 5-0 like we were, and it was nice to fight through it like we did.
“Feltner did not have his best night tonight,” he added. “Tough start because he didn’t have his command, the wind was a factor, and he didn’t have all his pitches. The home run in the first was on a hanging curve and that kind of set the tone of things for him. But he did come back. He’s competitor, and he gave us five innings of work. But you can see his upside and he’s going to have a great career at Ohio State.”
For the second time in as many games, Brady Cherry sprung the game with a timely hit, that like Ryan Feltner, gave plenty of indication of more, and even better, things to come.
“We all struggled the first couple of times against him (Kirschner), said Cherry, smiling broadly. “He threw a lot of tough pitches and he didn’t throw anything out over the plate.
“But the home run (grand slam) was a pitch you might get once or twice a season…a 85-mile-per-hour pitch right down the middle. When you square it up good you don’t even feel it hit the bat. That’s how it felt.”
And for Craig Nennig? Not only was his homer his first of the year…but the first of his collegiate career. Someone should have brought a cake!
“Huge at bat for Craig, and the team,” added Beals. “Craig was in early doing extra work today and I’m really happy for him. When he got to third base I told him, ‘Early work’, and there’s something to be said for that, and his internal desire to be prepared and ready to play. The payoff was there for us tonight when we needed it.”
“I did make some little adjustments in my swing before the game with the coaches,” said Nennig. “Just worked on getting my pitch, getting my foot down, and letting my hands work. I put a good swing on the ball and it worked out.”
It all sets up the Friday night opener now with Northwestern coming to town, and games that not only matter, but that must bring back some bitter memories of last year’s Big Ten finish. The Xavier win was a must in the sense of going to work this weekend with a positive frame of mind.
“I was proud of the team tonight,” added Nennig. “We got down, but we kept battling. The start didn’t go as we wanted, but that’s baseball. We ended up having a couple of big innings and winning the game. We’ve been playing good ball of late, so we’re going to put in the work this week and we’re definitely anxious to get Northwestern in here this weekend.”