In a ‘must’ situation, Ryan Feltner and Jacob Bosiokovic lead the charge in an impressive doubleheader sweep over Purdue.
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN—The situation is clear to all concerned. The Ohio State Buckeyes need to gain ground in the Big Ten Conference standings to secure a spot in the post-season tournament, and time is growing short.
They took a big step in that direction Friday at Alexander Field, sweeping a doubleheader against Purdue. Riding a wave of solid pitching and the resurgent hitting of Jacob Bosiokovic, Ohio State claimed the first game 3-1 and took the second, 3-2.
“These were exactly the kind of games that got away from us (against Maryland and Illinois),” said OSU coach Greg Beals, “tight games that came down to the last inning or last at-bat, but this—this feels pretty good. We played good solid baseball and came away with a pair or wins.”
Against Purdue, struggling along at 7-33 overall, and 2-15 in the conference, the Bucks needed two and they took two. Starter Tanner Tully was true to form in game one, combining with Seth Kinker, Michael Horesjei and Yianni Pavlopolous to hold Purdue to a single run on five hits, while John Havird and Ryan Feltner worked their particular magic in game two.
Havird, a lefty who befuddles opponents with off-speed, breaking pitches, started things with five innings of five-hit ball, and Feltner, a freshman who pumps gas at hitters, followed with four shutout innings. He didn’t allow a hit until the ninth, when he was most impressive, clamping down on the Bucks 3-2 lead.
With one out, he allowed a double down the right field line by Ryan McGowan. The next hitter, Daniel Sander, singled to left, but McGowan had to hold at third.
“At that point,” Feltner said, “I’m just thinking keep the ball down in the strike zone and get the double play.”
Instead, he struck out Cody Strong.
Eric Olund followed with a sharp grounder that Craig Nennig gathered in the hole and threw to first from one knee for the final out in the game.
“That was a helluva play by Nennig,” Beals said. “Getting himself up to a position where he can make the throw to first for the out—great play.”
“He (Nennig) has had my back all season,” Feltner said. “He’s done that for all of us all season…Tonight, though, everybody was all-in…I mean, we know what’s at stake. That was a very big win, felt really good.”
“We’ve been on the other side of that situation,” Bosiokovic said, “and it didn’t go our way, but it was great to see him do what he did – get those last two outs.”
“To me,” Beals said, “Ryan Feltner was the story of the night. The young man comes in and gives us four innings of shutout baseball with serious command on that fastball. He gave us exactly what we needed…and he shut ’em down in the ninth when they had something going…Tonight was just a big-boy, grow-up game for him. To pitch like that in an important conference game, a big time situation, that was really something.”
At this point, they grow weary of hearing it. They entered play Friday tied with Rutgers in 10th place. Eight teams advance to the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha. Including tomorrow’s series finale with Purdue, OSU has 10 more league games: three with Iowa at Bill Davis Stadium; three with Michigan in Columbus; and three at Minnesota. After the sweep, they stand 27-14-1, overall; and 7-7 in the Big Ten. Still, not quite good enough. So, they do the only thing they can.
“You’ve heard it before—it’s cliché’—but we just got to take them one game at a time, one at-bat at a time,” said Bosiokovic. “That’s all we can do.”
What he did Friday was good enough. The junior first baseman was 5-for-10 with three RBI. His two-run homer in the fifth—his 10th which ties him for the Big Ten lead—gave the Buckeyes the lead for good in Game One. It was also his first home run since April 3rd against Bethune Cookman. His RBI single capped the Bucks’ three-run second in Game Two.
He strained a hamstring in the first weeks of the season, but it flared-up recently and hampered his swing. “It was pretty sore last week,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to battle through…Tonight, I was seeing the ball pretty well and I felt like I was making some good contact.”
On this night, they were good enough all around.
Tully was superb. The junior lefty, now 5-and-3, had Purdue under his thumb all afternoon. He retired the first nine hitters he faced before giving up a ground single to right by Cody Strong.
That began the only gap in his performance. Strong moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored when Kyle Johnson singled to center, giving Purdue a 1-0 lead.
Tully walked the next hitter he faced but pitched out of the jam with a strike out and a routine fly ball.
Tully finally got some help from the Buckeyes’ offense in the fifth, after squandering two scoring opportunities:
- In the first, Troy Montgomery singled and took second on Jacob Bosiokovic’s ground out. Ronnie Dawson drew a walk and Nick Sergakis moved the runners to second and third with a sac bunt. However, Troy Kuhn popped out to end the inning.
- With two outs in the third, Dawson ripped a single to right. Sergakis doubled, sending Dawson to third. Again, Kuhn came to the plate with runners in scoring position. He grounded out, ending the threat. In the first three innings, Ohio State left five runners on base and four in scoring position.
Purdue starter Gavin Downs was beginning to look like an escape artist, despite his 1-3 record and a 5.27 ERA.
The Bucks finally reached him in the fifth.
Tully worked a scoreless fifth, sixth and seventh, allowing just one hit, and in the eighth the Bucks managed another run. Bosiokovic opened the inning with a ground single to right. Dawson drew his second walk of the game.
With Sergakis coming to the plate, Purdue went to reliever Tanner Andrews. Sergakis’ sac bunt moved the runners up and this time, Kuhn delivered. The senior second baseman singled to left scoring Bosiokovic. That made it 3-1.
Beals went to his bullpen in the eighth, and the combination of Kinker, Horejsei and Pavlopoulos closed it out. Kinker gave up a single sandwiched between a routine fly ball and a strike out. Horejsei closed the third, and Pavlopoulos went through the Boilermakers in the ninth, allowing a two out single and nothing more.
They go back after Purdue Saturday afternoon, gunning for the three-game sweep. Again, it’s an important game. Of course, they’ve heard it. They know it, and they know what’s at stake.