The Buckeyes put their game together to salvage the swing game in their series with Campbell….JUCOs make a big contribution…Pavlopoulos returns to the pen to anchor the win.
BUIES CREEK, NC — Ohio State has had bigger wins in the early days of this season, none more impressive than the victory last weekend over Oregon State, then No. 5 in the country.
But this one—this 7-6 road win over Campbell Sunday afternoon—may stand as a turning point in the season. In this one, all the pieces came together.
Ryan Feltner provided a solid start. “His best of the season so far,” Coach Greg Beals said. “No doubt. He was better than his line shows. He gave up five, but his process: his first pitch strikes, his command of his fastball, hitting with his off-speed pitches. I just thought he was way, way better on the process side.”
The offense generated 13 hits. “We had better quality at-bats throughout the game and up and down the line-up today,” Beals said. “Besides the hits we had eight guys reach base by a walk (six) or being hit by a pitch (2). That tells you something about the quality of our at-bats and makes for a pretty offensive day.”
The bullpen was stellar. “It was awful nice to have that bullpen set up like we had it, too,” Beals said.
Seth Kinker worked two innings of one-run ball in relief of Feltner and Yianni Pavlopoulos, last year’s closer, shut the door requiring just 11 pitches.
It was Pavlopoulos first appearance out of the pen after making two starts. Beals and his staff considered moving the senior right-hander into a starting role, but it looks like he might be back in the closer’s role for the long run.
“I sure like it like that,” Beals said. “I don’t know about you, but I sure like it like that. It’s nice to know you got the last three innings you can lock down and feel really good about it.”
There was nothing easy about this game even though OSU scratched out four runs in the second, the result of three hits, three walks, two passed balls, a hit batsman and a sac bunt. All runs came after two were out.
Campbell countered with a run in the second and third to pull within two, but OSU kept a foot on the throttle. Jacob Barnwell, 3-for-4, doubled with one out and scored on Tre’ Gantt’s single to left, giving OSU a 5-2 lead.
“Tre’ is just comfortable in himself right now,” Beals said. “He had a couple of hits again today, drove in a couple runs. He’s just really playing good baseball…I really like where he is right now.”
OSU rode Feltner and the 5-2 lead into the sixth, but that’s where the game turned. Feltner gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning and then walked a man to load the bases.
The sophomore right-hander retired the next hitter on a soft fly ball to center and followed that with a strike out.
“My impulse was to go get him (Feltner) at that point,” Beals said. “He had spent a lot of energy with that strike out and getting those two outs with the bases loaded. I probably should have got him then. It was probably a tactical error on my part, but his velocity was still really good and his command was really good, so I held on.”
The next hitter, Christian Jones roped a doubled down the third base line, clearing the bases and tying the game, 5-5.
At that point, Beals was left with two thoughts:
The first, “Take that double away and Feltner had a great start..”
The second, “In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t (left Feltner in). You can always hindsight it, but hindsight will kill ya.”
On came Kinker, who pitched a scoreless seventh, and in the eighth the Buckeyes went back on top.
JUCO transfer Tyler Cowles opened the inning with a single to center. Dominic Canzone’s sac bunt attempt led to a throwing error to second by Harry Thomas. With runners safe at first and second, Barnwell singled loading the bases.
Gantt’s sac fly to right made it 6-5 OSU and Jalen Washington added a single to give the Buckeyes a two-run lead.
Kinker’s only flaw came with one out in the eighth when Matthew Barefoot connected for a solo homer on a 1-1 pitch. Zach Minnick followed with a single up the middle, but Kinker avoided further damage striking out the next hitter on three pitches and getting a ground ball to end the inning with two on.
Pavlopoulos cruised through the ninth and the Buckeyes claimed the series, taking two of three. It was the second time this season the Buckeyes have won two in a row.
“You think it might be easy, you go up 4-0, they’re not getting a quality start, but don’t count your chickens,” Beals said, reflecting on the game. “They’re never easy.”
NOTES: Contributions from the newcomers were noticeable and welcome in Sunday’s game. Juco transfers Noah McGowan was 2-for-5 with a double; Bo Coolen went 2-for-4 and Tyler Cowles was 2-for-3. In addition to that, first year starter Jacob Barnwell was 3-for-4 with a double. “Our JUCO guys, a lot of our younger guys are learning and gaining experience,” Beals said. “It’s an adjustment and it’s not always easy.”…Up next for the Buckeyes, a weekend set in Ft. Myers, Florida, against Florida Gulf Coast…The Buckeyes will go with Adam Niemeyer, Jake Post and Ryan Feltner.