The bullpen comes undone and loses a ninth-inning lead as the Buckeyes get swept in their weekend series with Maryland.
College Park, Md – It wasn’t the kind of finish that Greg Beals wanted, or even one he might have imagined. It was…the worst possible scenario!
Simply put, there’s no way to reconcile giving up three runs in the bottom of the ninth to lose…or be swept.
Talking of exhibiting character after Friday’s devastating doubleheader loss to the Maryland Terrapins, Beals made a point of mentioning the importance of coming back on Sunday…of coming home with at least one win from their weekend series. After all, there wasn’t anything egregiously wrong with the way they had dropped the first two games – and the age-old axiom about good pitching beating good hitting every time!
But Sunday was another, different story.
For the first seven innings the Buckeyes did exhibit that character of which Beals spoke.
First, they got a courageous starting effort from freshman Ryan Feltner, who shut down the Maryland offense for the first four-plus innings, leaving in bottom of the fifth with a 2-1 lead.
Second, the middle relief of Daulton Mosbarger and Seth Kinker brought them through the sixth and seventh innings, having preserved that lead.
Third, the Bucks added to their lead in the top of the seventh, principally around a leadoff double by catcher Jalen Washington, an expertly executed suicide squeeze with a bunt from shortstop Craig Nennig, and another run scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball.
They were still alright after Kinker gave up a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh…to make the score 4-2.
Setup man Michael Horejsei came out to pitch the eighth, and preserved the 2-run advantage. And came back for the bottom of the ninth, presumably to retire lefthanded-hitting leadoff man Nick Cieri.
But then…a problem. Horejsei somehow couldn’t figure out what had been a transitioning strike zone all afternoon with home plate umpire Brian Drury. He walked Cieri, and out of the dugout came Beals to bring in closer Yianni Pavlopoulos.
The rest of this story is where the character of this baseball team becomes something yet to be determined.
Pavlopoulos couldn’t find the strike zone, transitioning, or otherwise. There was a base hit to right, another walk to load the bases…and a base hit to center to tie the game at 4-4. And then, after another walk on four pitches to load the bases again, third baseman Andrew Bechtold lined a clean single to right to score the winning run for the Terrapins…5-4.
And one very long ride to the airport and flight back to Columbus.
After a short, but to the point, meeting with his team in right field, Beals did his best to find some kind of silver lining in the dark clould that suddenly shrouds the Buckeyes.
“I thought we did some good things today…thought we played a good baseball game,” he said. “For the most part we pitched the ball well. We played good defense. And we executed some offensive situations.
“It just came down to the ninth inning. We didn’t throw enough strikes. We had the three walks. We were behind in the count. And we let them become more offensive than what they’d been throughout the rest of the weekend. It’s just relative to bad counts and letting them rip off better swings.”
Maryland came away with the win, and the series, on 5 runs, just 6 hits, and played error-free baseball. They now stand 18-15 on the year, and 4-2 in Big Ten play.
Ohio State came home winless for the weekend, on 4 runs, just five hits, and likewise, played error-free baseball.
But, they had chances to do better than four runs, leaving runners on second and third in the top of the ninth and Jacob Bosiokovic at the plate. Maryland coach John Szefc brought flame-throwing Mike Rescigno in to counter…and he struck Bosiokovic out!
Old adages frequent conversations about baseball, and Beals borrowed on that as he spoke about the immediate future of his baseball team, now 2-4 in the Big Ten, 19-11-1, overall.
“We gotta get back on the horse with our mid-week games this week,” he said, his voice trailing off. “We need those games (with Morehead State) to get some confidence back going into next weekend with Rutgers. We need to get rolling and be ready for Friday night.”
On the other side of Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium Sunday, John Szefc was telling reporters not to make too much of the way his Terrapins had won three straight in such dramatic fashion.
“First of all, that’s a great baseball team that Greg has and he does a great job with them. We respect the hell out of those guys,” said Szefc. “But I’ve been in his shoes today. I know how that feels. We’ve been up and down all year and this was a huge weekend for us, not just wins and losses, but for confidence, as well. It isn’t very often when you get a walk-off hit like that more than once in a series. Once in a while, yes. But not very often.”
And so, they come home for a tough week of soul-searching, some reflection, and as Beals puts it …to get back on the horse. At this point, after this experience, there are no words to help. Character, as murky as the term can be, has to come of its own volition.
“There really is nothing to say to your guys after a situation like this,” added Beals. “There are no words to make you feel better. We have to stay together. We have to stay tight. Our character will be revealed and we have to respond now, starting Tuesday.”
And one last adage, the oldest of any relative to the weekend: “That which I have greatly feared has befallen me.”
So said the prophet Job. And so it was in Maryland.
The worst possible scenario!