There were five home runs, two by Zach Ratcliff; and three grand slams, one each by Brady Cherry and Noah McGowan… It was literally a career day for Ratcliff. The redshirt senior had a career high in hits (four), runs scored (four), home runs (two) and RBI (six).
KISSIMMEE, Fla – This was Jekyll and Hyde come to the baseball field. Ohio State could not have played two more dissimilar games, and Coach Greg Beals was none too pleased.
On day two of the Sunshine Classic, the Buckeyes staged an impressive late-inning comeback to drop Delaware, 15-10, scoring 11 unanswered runs. But they followed that with a shoddy showing against Pitt that ended in a 7-2 loss, punctuated by five errors and just five hits.
Beals was as proud of his team’s play against Delaware as he was disgusted by its execution against Pitt.
“Our guys fought their butts off, played their tails off,” Beals said. “When it looked things were not good at all, played like Ohio State Buckeyes in game one to win a baseball game. I was very, very proud or how we competed in the first game.
“Then,” he continued, “we came out really flat in the second game. No excuses. No understanding of how we had an opportunity to represent Ohio State tonight in the second game and we didn’t do a good job of that.”
Beals was particularly disturbed with his team’s defensive play against Pitt. “The errors, the walks, the free bases. We need to make teams beat us,” he said. “If we don’t play good Ohio State baseball and make teams beat us, it is going to be rough.”
There was no mistaking Beals’ displeasure, and he was in no mood for apologetics. For instance, had the “high” of the win over Delaware drained his club, or was it early in the season to play a doubleheader. He was having none of that.
“No, no way,” he said. “It can’t be, can’t be. Pitt played two games today. They played a doubleheader. You know what we did last year in the (Big Ten) tournament (when the Buckeyes won four games in essentially 30 hours). We’ve got to be able to do that. We’ve got to be tough enough to respond in given situations.”
Beyond Ohio State’s poor hitting and fielding in the Pitt game, it came down to a fine pitching performance by Panthers starter Josh Falk. The right-hander worked eight innings allowing one run on three hits, the single run the result of a scratch run that scored on a sac fly by Josh McGowan.
The bulk of the damage was charged to sophomore starter Ryan Feltner, who was charged with four runs scored. However, only two were earned.
Five of Pitt’s seven runs were earned, as a result of those five errors—three of those charged to sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry—but Ohio State pitchers hurt themselves, as well, issuing a total of eight walks.
Unfortunately, the Pitt game cast a long shadow over what was a dramatic come from behind win over Delaware in the day’s first game.
The early game against Delaware was anything but a tribute to quality pitching. A total of 10 pitchers were used. Twenty-nine hits were allowed.
There were five home runs, two by Zach Ratcliff; and three grand slams, one each by Brady Cherry and Noah McGowan.
Jordan Glover clubbed a grand slam off Pavlopoulos in the Hens six-run third.
Four Ohio State players had two or more hits. Ratcliff was 4-for-4, leading a total of four Buckeyes with two or more hits.
Cherry was 3-for-5. Jalen Washington was 2-for-3 and Tyler Cowles carded a 2-for-4.
If there were questions about whether or not the Buckeyes would score runs, they would appear to have been answered. But it was Ratcliff, the redshirt senior DH, who kept OSU in this one until late in the game.
Pavlopoulos, last year’s closer and a candidate for the third spot in the weekend rotation, cruised through the first and second, pitching scoreless ball.
Meanwhile, Ratcliff, whose bat was silent in Friday’s opener against K-State, gave the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot off starter Nick Spadifino in the bottom of the second.
However, in the following inning Pavlopoulos lost his grip on the game, allowing six runs on four hits, including Glover’s slam, and a pair of walks.
Kyle Micahelik closed the third, but gave way to Reece Calvert two hitters into the fourth, when Delaware added another run making it a 7-2 game.
Ratcliff belted his second homer of the day in the fourth to pull OSU within three. But Delaware kept pulling away. The Hens scored two in the fifth and took a 9-4 led to the bottom of the seventh.
Then came OSU’s seven-run eruption. The Buckeyes batted around, but ironically the inning began with a hit-by-pitch, a walk and another HBP. McGowan followed with his “granny,” pulling the Bucks within one (9-8).
Cowles followed with a double. Bo Coolen was hit by a pitch and Ratcliff doubled putting OSU on top 10-9. By the time the inning was over, the Bucks had taken the lead, 11-9.
Cherry’s grand slam in the bottom of the eighth put it on ice.
It was literally a career day for Ratcliff. The redshirt senior had a career high in hits (four), runs scored (four), home runs (two) and RBI (six). But he was just as happy to see his team comeback so strong late in the game.
“That was incredible,” Ratcliff said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something like that. It just kept building. That was unheard of…Unfortunately, we had opportunities early in the second game and we didn’t take advantage of them.”