The Florida Sunshine Classic wasn’t all clear skies and balmy breezes for the Buckeyes. Ohio State left here Sunday afternoon forced to settle with a split in the four-game event and the full realization that much needs to be done.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Buckeyes dropped their finale, 3-2, to Kansas State, finishing 2-2 and revealing holes along the way that aren’t all that surprising.
“I said all along that we would have some bumps and take a few lumps early on, and I feel like that’s what’s happening,” Coach Greg Beals said.
Right now those bumps and lumps are showing up largely on the offensive side of the ledger.
In their last 18 innings—Saturday night’s 7-2 loss to Pitt and Sunday’s loss to K-State, the Buckeyes managed four runs and a total of 13 hits. To make matters worse, Sunday, they wasted a solid pitching performance by senior righty Jake Post.
Post, who’s battling for the third spot in the rotation, worked six innings allowing two runs on five hits. He did not walk a batter and didn’t allow an extra base hit.
“It was really great to see ‘Postie’ go out and have a good, solid outing like that,” Beals said. “That was the shining light of the day for me. He threw a good ball game. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get him the win.”
Post allowed a run in the first and another in the fifth to stake K-State to a 2-0 lead, but OSU broke through in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at 2-2.
Shea Murray started the scoring with a one-out triple down the right field line. Jacob Barnwell followed with a walk and Tre’ Gantt delivered OSU’s first run with a single to left.
With runners at first and second, co-captain Jalen Washington slashed a liner to left that scored Barnwell and tied the game at 2-2. But Washington’s drive took a bad luck bounce and Gantt’ had to hold at third.
“The ball Jalen hits clears the fence and is a ground rule double,” Beals said. “If it doesn’t, if it hits the wall, we score the go-ahead run. But we didn’t get the hit. They got they hit.”
Gantt was cut down at the plate on a fielder’s choice in the fifth and Ohio State could do no further damage—not then, not later.
K-State managed the game-winner in the eighth against freshman Jake Vance. It amounted to the simple matter of a leadoff single, a sac bunt and a clutch single to center by Blake Scudder, K-State’s leading hitter.
Saturday night Beals was clearly angry, criticizing his team’s approach at the plate—among other matters. On Sunday, his focus was on what needs to be improved with the Big Ten/Pac12 Challenge coming up next weekend in Surprise, AZ.
“The thing that concerns me are that some of our at-bats are no-contest at-bats,” Beals said. “We need to be tougher…The quality of our at-bats needs to improve.
“Like I said coming into the season, there are going to be some growing pains. You’re at Ohio State and going against top-line pitching. We came into this weekend and we got everybody’s best. We were the one team every body was shooting at…The ace comes at us.”
Sunday’s loss stung, but unlike Saturday night’s loss, which Beals referred to as a “flat” performance, this was different.
“This was a good baseball game,” he said. “They got the hit when they needed to. We didn’t…We were one hit, one pitch, one play away.”
The work this week will be on detail.
“We got to do little things better,” Beals said. “We have to improve our two-strike approach. We got to be sure on defense we are ready to make plays. A bunch of little things that we need to polish up: cuts and relays, game-situation stuff.
“I still feel confident in the big things: scoring runs, we’re gonna pitch. We just have to shore up all the little things that lead to winning ball games.”
Beals won’t have to rail at his players, not his veterans, at least. They are well aware of where this team stands.
“I think this weekend a big learning lesson for all of us,” said Washington, a senior co-captain.
“We saw the importance of the small things, the routine things and beyond that we learned more about playing together.
“There were some good things, like the comeback against Delaware, but there’s a lot of work to do. No doubt…Priority one this week, our mental approach (at the plate). In the early games, pitchers were starting us off with fastballs, but then they started pitching us backwards (off-speed pitches to start an at-bat). That kinda got us off our game. We’ve got to realize what we’re doing up there and stay with our approach.”
“It’s early,” Gantt said. “Those were our first four games. We did some good things. There are things we need to work on. We’ve got a long way to go…Mostly, it was good to be out there together. Right now that’s real important.”
NOTES: After what promises to be a focused week of practice in Columbus, the Bucks travel to Arizona for four games in four days. They meet Utah on Thursday and Oregon State on Friday. Saturday it’s the Utes and they wrap it up on Sunday with another game against Oregon State…In all likelihood, Beals will follow the same rotation: Adam Niemeyer, Yianni Pavlopoulos, Ryan Feltner and Jake Post as he did here…It’s pretty clear he will not decide on his third weekend starter until early March, if not later.