Finally, the heroes emerged – Seth Kinker with six innings of ‘winning’ relief…and a key lead-off double in the bottom of the eighth by Brady Cherry that ultimately proved to be the winning run over UNC-Greensboro.
Columbus – Understand now, when you’re not going good – when routine mole hills become not-so-routine mountains – any sign of relief is celebrated, and welcomed.
Such was the Buckeyes’ 5-4 win Sunday at Bill Davis stadium in the finale of their weekend non-conference series with University of North Carolina- Greensboro.
“We need that win,” said OSU’s Greg Beals. “What I’m sharing, and what I told the team is…we all know that we’re kind of losing the war right now, as far as our season is going. All we can do now is win little battles, and today we won a little battle. All we can do right now is win one game at a time, little battle after little battle, and claw ourselves back in.”
Just 24 hours after Beals said following Saturday’s 11-4 loss…that his team was at a point of “cleansing their minds”, of “believing in their blueprint” for success, that point became manifest through a a trio of key contributions.
First, trying to stand tall for a patched-up pitching rotation, missing two of the projected starters from back in February, JUCO transfer Reece Calvert stepped in again and gave Beals and crew three innings of three-run, five-hit baseball.
Second, the offense became more timely, with multi-hit days from captain Jalen Washington (2 for 4), centerfielder Tre’ Gantt (3 for 5), second baseman Conner Pohl (2 for 4)…and third baseman Brady Cherry, who having struck out six times in his first eight at bats in the series, led off the eighth inning with a double and later scored what proved to be the game’s winning run on a wild pitch.
Last, Cabell County native Seth Kinker, from Huntington West, Virginia, came out of the bullpen prematurely, in the fourth inning, and tossed the final six innings to gain the win, and, the satisfaction of claiming the first of those little battles that Greg Beals has his eye on. A pre-season selection for the National College Baseball Writers Association for Stopper of The Year honors, Kinker gave up just one run on seven hits, struck out five and walked none, throwing 87 pitches in the process.
“Today was great,” said Kinker in post-game remarks. “We’ve been struggling the last two weeks. We weren’t having a lot of fun, but today, to go out on a beautiful Sunday and have fun playing baseball…we were ready to battle and we showed that today. The best part of it…we could turn on the music in the clubhouse after a big weekend win.”
What Beals, Kinker, and crew hope for now…is that this Sunday’s win carries more confidence and momentum into next weekend’s series with Nebraska than they’ve been able to do from their last two Sunday wins (against Penn State (both games of a double-header) and Michigan State).
Beals talked about confidence at length after Saturday’s loss.
“I think the lack of confidence simply becomes self-doubt,” said Beals. “And that makes you question whether a person was REALLY confident in the first place. How real was that confidence? Are you confident just because you got a hit, or are you TRULY confident? Confidence doesn’t come from a result, or from a coach, or a mom, or a dad. Confidence is squarely inside each human.”
He surely got a glimpse Sunday of what he hopes to see much more of over the course of the next four weeks. A confident Seth Kinker gave them that spark, and that blueprint that Beals talks so much about, proved to be a plan on which to build…at least for a day.
They won their 16th game of the year against 24 losses…with 5 runs on 9 hits and committed one error.
UNC-Greensboro lost their 15th game of the season, against 24 losses…with 4 runs on 12 hits and likewise, committed one error.
OSU now has four days off until Nebraska (23-15-1, 7-4-1 in Big Ten) comes to Bill Davis Stadium on Friday for the start of a three-game series – three “little battles” in Greg Beals vernacular.
But with war-like consequences on the Buckeyes’ tournament hopes.
Notes: Jacob Barnwell (11), Tre’ Gantt (6) and Dominic Canzone (6) each extended their game streaks of having reached base safely. Sunday’s win also marked multi-hit games for Jalen Washington (12) Tre’ Gantt (14), and Conner Pohl (4). Seth Kinker’s 6-inning relief stint was a career high, and he tied his career high in strikeouts with 5.