A dramatic ninth inning helped Iowa overcome a 4-0 deficit to send the game into extra innings…and that momentum broke the Bucks’ hearts in the 10th.
Omaha – What goes around, comes around, they say.
What could have been, wasn’t. What should have been, well…there simply was no rational explanation for what happened Friday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Ohio State Buckeyes squandered a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning that saw Iowa send nine men to the plate, saw six of them single, and another reach base hit by a pitch. When it was all said and done Iowa had erased that 4-0 advantage against what’s been one of the Buckeye strengths throughout the year…their bullpen!
Disappointingly enough…it eradicated one of the brilliant starting performances of the year. Senior John Havird carried a two-hit shutout into the ninth, threw 95 pitches, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.
Offensively, the Buckeyes had played it picture perfectly, making the most of their opportunities, scoring a single run in the 4th when Craig Nennig singled and later scored on a Troy Kuhn ground ball.
In the fifth the Bucks plated another pair of runs on consecutive singles by Jalen Washington, Ryan Leffel and Tre Gantt. Nick Sergakis was hit by a pitch, scoring Washington, and Leffel scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Nennig.
They would add what seemed to be nothing more than an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Tre Gantt drove in Jacob Bosiokovic with a single to right field.
For his part, Havird was cruising on the mound, throwing 95 pitches, but never in stress. And Beals’ decision to go to the bullpen was according to script.
“He was at that pitch count where his track record said he was pushing his limit,” said Beals. “John did exactly what we needed him to do and our bullpen has been the identity of our pitching staff this year. The bullpen has been so good to us I absolutely thought it was the right move to do.”
But not on this day.
Seth Kinker was first in line, but he threw strikes that became line drives, four consecutive singles and a run scored before inducing a 4-6-3 double play to catcher Daniel Moriel. Two outs and two runs scored to that point, and what should have been from that point…couldn’t be done on this day.
Pinch hitter Austin Guzzo singled and Beals went to the bullpen again for lefthander Mike Horejsei to pitch to lefthander, pinch-hitter Jimmy Frankos.
Horejsei couldn’t throw strikes. On a 2-0 count he hit Fankos in the right shin.
Beals went to Yianni Pavlopoulos who gave up a tying single to little-used Devin Pickett, his first career RBI in four years at Iowa. Pavlopoulos then struck out Rob Neustrom for the final out.
“It just didn’t work today,” said Beals. “Do I have second thoughts about taking out Havird? You wouldn’t be human if I said I didn’t, but that formula and the success rate that those guys have had lead us to make the moves we made today. Today, it just didn’t work out.”
To a man, the Iowa Hawkeyes were surprised, and delighted, to see John Havird leave the game.
“He pitched a great game,” said Hawks lead-off hitter Tyler Peyton, who has career record of making life miserable for the Buckeyes. “I thought he was throwing great and looking at his line that’s pretty unbelievable what he was doing against our lineup.”
“He pitched a heckuva’ game and we were lucky that they took him out,” said shortstop Nick Roscetti. “We hit some hard balls off him, but he pitched a great game and that’s just how the ball falls some times.”
“I guess his pitch count was in the 90s,” said third baseman Mason McCoy, “but I was really surprised that they took him out.”
To the 10th, Craig Nennig singled with one out, his second hit of the day, and Troy Kuhn followed with a walk against reliever Josh Martsching. But Troy Montgomery lined to left and Jacob Bosiokovic took a called third strike to end the inning.
Pavlopoulos came out for the bottom of the 10th and it was a continuation of Iowa’s momentum from the previous inning. He walked Tyler Peyton on four straight pitches, none of them close. Roscetti reached on a fielder’s choice. He hit center fielder Joel Booker to load the bases. It brought McCoy to the plate with the sacks and the raucous Iowa crowd juiced…and McCoy delivered. He lined a center to scored Peyton with the winning run – elation for the Hawkeyes, dejection for the Buckeyes.
It was, perhaps, Beals’ most disappointing loss in his six seasons at Ohio State, given the record of his club and the remarkable run of momentum with which they’ve played since the Purdue series.
“And that’s the thing,” he admitted. “That’s the hard part of this, and I hope it doesn’t break that run that our guys have been feeling going into this game and into the ninth inning. Now our character and our training is going to be challenged going into tonight’s game with Michigan.
“Obviously the biggest challenge for us now is to bounce back in a short span of time. We’ve got to come back and recover on the psyche side of things. Our pitching is such that we’ve got plenty of bullets to handle a good ballgame.”
“I don’t want to be negative about this,” added third baseman Nick Sergakis, who had a rare “ofer” Friday afternoon, hitless in four at bats while hitting the ball hard, but right at Iowa fielders.
“We didn’t get it done in the ninth inning and that’s all you can say. I want to be positive and ready to go for the next game tonight. It’s a big game, our fifth game against Michigan this year, we’d like to keep a clean record against them and stay alive in the tournament. Today was just baseball. Our bullpen has been doing the job for us all year, but give Iowa some credit. They came back with some great at bats in the ninth inning. That’s baseball.”
The Bucks go from the top of the heap of the undefeateds…to survival mode in a matter of hours. They face Michigan in an elimination game at 10 pm, Columbus time, with plenty of bullets (pitching), in Beals’ words.
He also talked about character and the off-season training to handle situations exactly like this one. Time (about four hours) will tell!