They got a great-pitched game and could not take advantage of it – the Buckeyes don’t hit in a 2-1 “rubber game” loss to Purdue.
Columbus – Sometimes the less said the better.
That seemed to be the point following Ohio State’s 2-1 loss Sunday at Bill Davis Stadium, losing the weekend series to the Purdue Boilermakers, as Coach Greg Beals made quick work of his post-game remarks to reporters.
“Our guys pitched their hearts out for us today,” he said quietly. “We give up one earned run, two total, on getaway day and that should be enough to win a baseball game.
“No doubt we were in situations where we could have won this game today, but we’ve got to find a way for our guys to compete with some confidence. That’s what we’re missing right now…that sense of confidence, that belief that you’re going to find a way to win. We’re missing that when we get into key situations – our guys are pressing too hard, trying to do too much.”
Needing a well-pitched game to bounce back from Saturday night’s outing against lefthander Gareth Stroh, senior Jake Post gave them just that. He was as sharp as he’d been in three years, commanding his fastball in the zone, and hitting spots with his secondary pitches, principally a sharp-breaking curveball. He pitched six innings, struck out five, walked one, and give up just five hits.
But two of those five hits came in the top of the sixth when Purdue put its leadoff runners aboard with a single by Evan Warden and then an error by Brady Cherry on a sac bunt attempt by shortstop Harry Shipley. Cherry’s throw pulled first baseman Zach Ratcliff off the bag. Following another successful sac bunt by Nick Dalesandro, freshman centerfielder Skyler Hunter grounded a single into right field to score both Warden and Shipley.
For the fact of the matter that was the sum of Purdue’s offense on the day. Starting pitcher Mike Cornacker, who pitched into the sixth – and relievers Ross Learnard and Cam Williams – made it stand.
But Ohio State had its chances – multiple chances.
Their lone run came in the fourth when Jalen Washington was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and wound up scoring on a sac fly by Zach Ratcliff.
But they squandered a golden opportunity an inning later when freshman Dominic Canzone tripled with one out and was left standing at third when Noah West popped up and Tre’ Gantt (who went 0 for the series) struck out.
An inning later Jacob Barnwell walked, and moved to third base on Jalen Washington’s second double of the day. Noah McGowan came to the plate and stuck out. But on a ball in the dirt that got away from catcher Bryce Bonner, Bonner had to leave home plate to retrieve the ball and throw McGowan out at first. The plate unprotected, Barnwell thought he could make it from third and set sail. Unfortunately, Bonner was not that far away and had the throw back from first baseman Jacson McGowan and waiting for him by the time he arrived – a costly double play. The succeeding hitter, Ratcliff, flew out to center field.
In the meantime Seth Kinker came on to relieve Post, who left the game due to pitch count.
“I felt great,” said Post, who missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery and rehab. “I could have stayed out there but they told me my pitch count had reached where they wanted me to be.”
Kinker was nails, giving up two hits over three innings, while striking out five. His was a ‘confident’ effort, enough to buoy a would-be comeback in the eighth inning.
Noah West led off with a walk against reliever Cam Williams, who was obviously fighting control issues. Tre’ Gantt put down a perfect sac bunt attempt that moved West to second base ahead of Williams’ throw, trying to knock off the lead runner. With runners at first and second and no outs Barnwell could not get a bunt down to move both into scoring position. He struck out. Then Jalen Washington popped up – and McGowan struck out to stall the rally, and for all intents it let the air out of the Buckeyes’ balloon for the day. They went out harmlessly in the bottom of the ninth.
To the issue of confidence – a matter in which Greg Beals recently spoke about, saying that last year’s team found a way to win games…while this is a team that finds way to NOT win games…they did it Sunday with 1 run, on 4 hits, and committed 2 errors.
Purdue won it with 2 runs, 7 hits, and played error-free baseball.
Jake Post said last week that it’s a matter of time when they put it together – the fact of good hitting and good pitching on the same day. But that time is still to come. Sunday, they could not get it done!
“I still believe we will,” said Post with conviction after Sunday’s loss. “I feel like we have a better ballclub that Purdue had today. Don’t get me wrong, because theirs is a good ballclub. But the sun’s gonna’ come up tomorrow. You wash this weekend away and move on. I still feel confident that our guys are gonna’ figure it out before Penn State. We’re gonna’ work on it this week and I trust that.”
“We’ve just got to stick to our approach,” said a dejected Jalen Washington. “We were trying to do a little too much today, it seemed like. We had a decent number of opportunities to score with none or one out and we just didn’t execute. We just have to do a better job of executing.”
And to Washington’s point, Beals concurred.
“That sense of confidence,” he reiterated. “We’re missing that. Our guys are trying too hard. They’re not trusting themselves, they’re not trusting the system. We came out of the system today on the play at the plate (Barnwell). Just trying too hard.
“The sacrifice bunt in the eighth – again we don’t get it down. Our guys have got to find a way to be comfortable in those key situations – they’ve got to want to be in those situations, to thrive in them. To have an opportunity to make a difference in a ballgame. And that’s the challenge for us as coaches and as a team to develop that confidence going forward.”
And quick. Kent State comes in Wednesday as the only tune-up between now and next week’s road series against Penn State.
“Kent State’s solid,” added Beals. “They’re a good ballclub and they’re gonna’ come in here believing that they’re the best baseball school in the state of Ohio. They’re gonna’ try and prove that and it’s an opportunity for us to defend ‘THE’ (Ohio State University).”
With that he bristled out to set about what he and his assistants can do between now and Wednesday to capture some magic. What Jake Post swears is still possible, despite their 1-5 Big Ten record. What Jalen Washington calls the need to keep working, trust the system, and put things together.
“We haven’t done that yet,” he said, concluding the post-game press conference.
And halfway through their schedule just about all of the 1,053 that saw Sunday’s game might have made the statement, confidently…that it’s getting late.