They were better than in their Thursday loss to Utah, but pitching and defense cost Buckeyes second loss in three days to the Utes.
Surprise, AZ – The weekend roller-coaster that seems to define Ohio State baseball took a precipitous dip again Saturday night, just twenty four hours after their glorious 6-1 win Friday over 5th-ranked Oregon State.
The on again-off again Buckeyes dropped a 6-4 decision to Utah at Surprise Stadium, and for the second time in three days suspect starting pitching and defense put them in a hole they could not ultimately escape, despite a late-innings rally.
Starter Ryan Feltner (Walsh Jesuit High School) gave a gutty effort for 4 2/3rds innings, but simply made too many mistakes in the strike zone. He surrendered a pair of runs in the top of the first on hits that came after two strikes…on a 1-2 hanging breaking ball, and an 0-2 fastball that was right down the middle of the plate. And as they found on Thursday…Utah hitters simply don’t miss opportunities like that.
It’s true that Tre Gantt and the Buckeyes’ offense countered with a run of their own in the bottom of the first, but for the second time in three days the defense behind Feltner (in this case) simply wasn’t supporting enough. The Buckeyes committed three errors in three innings to add stress to his inability to execute his pitches. It turned out to be an inescapable combination for the now 3-4 Buckeyes. They trailed 4-1 by the time he left in the fifth.
“We didn’t support our pitching very well early in the game,” said Greg Beals. “We committed some errors that helped fuel their fire. But Ryan wasn’t sharp, either, and those things kinda’ feed off each other at times, pitching and defense.
“Ryan has a good fastball, but for the second time in two starts he didn’t command it very well. He was up in the zone, behind in the count, and he has to be ahead in the count and down in the zone.”
While Feltner was struggling with command, Utah Starter Riley Ottessen was impressing major league scouts behind home plate with a fastball in the mid-90s and enough change of speeds to keep Buckeyes hitters guessing.
“We usually come out and give some pretty good at-bats early, but we couldn’t do that tonight,” added Beals. “But give their guy some credit for that. He threw hard and he spotted his breaking ball and changeup enough to keep us off balance.”
Utah scored two in the first, two in the fourth (off Feltner), then added one in the fifth and another single run in the seventh off reliever Joe Stoll. Those two runs turned out to be pivotal as the Buckeyes came back to score one in the seventh and two in the eighth, cutting the deficit to 6-4. Centerfielder Tre Gantt opened the ninth with a ringing double to left, but Oregon closer Dylan Drachler left him standing at second by retiring the next three hitters in a row.
“I loved the way we came back, and liked the fight that we gave,” said Beals. “But in the middle innings we seemed to lose a sense of urgency. We need to make sure that we take advantage on offense every time we have an opportunity.”
The Buckeyes used four pitchers…Feltner, Joe Stoll (1.1 innings), freshman Jake Vance (1.2 scoreless) and Kyle Michalik (1.1 scoreless).
Offensively they got great production again from Gantt in the leadoff spot (2 for 5), and Zach Ratcliff continued his consistency at DH with another 2-hit night.
Utah (5-1) won with 6 runs on 14 hits and committed a whopping five errors, which aided the OSU comeback.
The Buckeyes lost it with their 4 runs on 8 hits, committing three errors.
Ryan Feltner slips to 0-2 for the season in a game that took 3 hours and 28 minutes to play in 58 degrees…before 310 people.
Ohio State completes its weekend series in the PAC 12- Big Ten Challenge with a 10 am game Sunday against Oregon State.
“We need a win tomorrow to go home with a split for the weekend,” said Beals. “It’s a great opportunity for us. We get to suit up again in Buckeye uniforms and play a really good Oregon State team in a beautiful ballpark. Our guys will be up and ready to go at 9 in the morning.”
Off again, on again, and off again in their Saturday loss, they’re due for a good one.