The pitching was exemplary, but no offensive support. The Bucks bats were again silent in the series opening loss to Michigan State.
East Lansing – Yogi Berra was once famously quoted for referencing a win streak by the Yankees, saying, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
Greg Beals knows something about that, too, only his issue is 180 degrees from what Yogi was talking about.
The Ohio State Buckeyes continued in their now familiar “funk” of non-offensive baseball Friday afternoon, dropping the first game of a three-game set with the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, 2-0.
The Buckeyes (14-20) could muster but four hits for the afternoon off Spartan pitchers Alex Troop (6 innings, no runs and 3 hits), Jake Lowery (2.1 innings, no runs and 1 hit), and Joe Mockbee (.2 innings, no hits). Jalen Washington had two of those hits (a double and single), while Zach Ratcliff (double) and pinch hitter Bo Coolen (single) were the other two to reach on a base hit. That was the sum total of their hitting.
“We had our chances, and some chances early in the game,” said a frustrated Greg Beals. “In the first and third innings we had runners in position to score with the infield back and simply couldn’t put the ball in play. If we score in those situations and go up 2-0 then the ballgame is an entirely different scenario. We just have to find a way to be better offensively.”
The Buckeyes squandered another opportunity in the six when after a walk to Noah McGowan and a double by Zach Ratcliff, Troop induced a popup for the third out.
You hope for solid pitching with any series on the road against a good opponent…and the Buckeyes and Beals got that. Starter/reliever/and starter again Yianni Pavlopoulos (2-4) threw the first five innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits. He struck out one and walked a pair. Exemplary.
More, the bullpen did their part, as well. Kyle Michalik, back from injury, threw 1.1 innings of one-hit scoreless baseball, followed by Joe Stoll, who matched without so much as giving up a hit, and Curtiss Irving recorded the final out after giving up a hit.
“Yianni more than gave us a chance,” added Beals. “But our pitching overall was great. You can’t ask for much more from your bullpen than the innings they gave us. Our issue is finding a way to become more offensive at the plate.”
Hitting just .238 as a team entering the weekend, the Buckeyes face an awesome task against the now 19-11 Spartans (4-3 in Big Ten) who as a team rank first in the league in hitting (.298), and third in overall pitching numbers.
And Friday’s loss snapped an emotional feel-good two-game win streak dating back to last May’s Big Ten tournament as the Buckeyes rallied to win over Sparty in the elimination round, 3-2, on a Ronnie Dawson 10th inning home run. Twelve hours later the two teams met in the semi-final round and the Bucks won again, 7-3, to move on to the championship round against Iowa.
The Buckeyes now fall to 3-7 in Big Ten play and realistically face a ‘must’ scenario with the remaining games of the series to keep spirits alive, as well as their hopes for Big Ten tournament berth. It doesn’t get an easier.
There could be some individual and collective soul-searching before Saturday.
“Well, I would hope there is and our captains are important in that respect,” added Beals. “Ironically, Jalen Washington had two of the four hits today and that gives him some added status for the sake of the leadership we need for the remainder of the weekend.”
Jake Post (1-2, 3.21 ERA) goes to the mound Saturday in game 2 of the series, opposed by Michigan State’s Ethan Landon (2-1, 4.67 ERA).
The series will conclude on Sunday with Reece Calvert (1-0, 8.51 ERA) getting the start for the Buckeyes. Andrew Gonzalez (3-1, 4.40 ERA) will pitch for MSU.
* Associate Editor Julie McMaken Wright contributed to the content of this column.