A hot lefthander made short work of the Buckeyes in the opening game of their series with Michigan, magnifying an old familiar issue.
Ann Arbor – The sum of Michigan’s 6-0 triumph over the now 17-28 Buckeyes Friday afternoon can be characterized, frankly, in two words…Oliver Jaskie.
Jaskie (6-2), a junior lefthander with five wins under his belt already for the season, simply put a strangle-hold on the Buckeyes’ bats, limiting them to seven hits in his first – the Wolverines first – shutout of the 2017 season. On a day when you could literally see your breath (42 degrees at game time), Jaskie was hot as a ‘match’, striking out 14, walking one, and was in a word…dominant!
“Give him a lot of credit,” said OSU coach Greg Beals. “He pitched a great game because he pitched ahead. He threw strike one all day and he mixed his pitches well. The one thing we should have done a better job with was make him be in the zone more late in the count. Of his 14 strikeouts 11 of them were chases. There’s a lot of arms and legs with his delivery. He had some deception – our scouting report said he had a ‘funky’ delivery.”
But in the shadow of Michigan Stadium OSU starter Jake Post matched Jaskie’s effectiveness for the first five innings, giving up just three hits over that span, along with a single run in the bottom of the second inning. Post was very, very good!
“Jake pitched well for a long time today,” said Beals. “We just didn’t support him much offensively.”
Which is, if you’re following the tribulations of the 2017 Buckeyes, the seeming recurring problem. There hasn’t been much offensive support…for anyone.
The roof caved in on Post in the sixth, when Michigan strung together three hits, punctuated by a wind-aided solo homer by catcher Harrison Wenson, to put four runs on the board…and Post out of the game.
The Buckeyes had some opportunities, principally in the sixth and eighth and ninth innings, but for a base-running decision – and for want of that two-out hit…..
In the sixth second baseman Noah West led off with a ringing base hit and was standing on second base with none out when the next hitter, Jalen Washington, struck out. The ball got away, necessitating a throw to first to retire Washington, but West tried to go to third and was thrown out easily for the second out of the inning. It seemed to deflate the urgency, or enthusiasm, of the moment.
“He (West) made the right read,” said Beals later, of the possible missed opportunity to put points on the board. “But he hesitated just enough to get thrown out.” And he who hesitated, in this case…was indeed lost.
In the eighth the Buckeyes loaded the bases and left them loaded when left fielder Shea Murray struck out for the final out in the inning.
And again in the ninth, they loaded the bases on a pair of hits and Jaskie’s only walk of the game…but came up empty again on a groundout to third for the game’s final out.
Jaskie needed 118 pitches to retire the 34 hitters he faced, and did it in 2:41 minutes. His 14 strikeouts were a season-high against the Buckeyes.
It was again the all-too-familiar scenario for Beals, who again cited that his team starts late, and needs a greater sense of urgency to make the most of opportunities at any point in the game – and especially this weekend, against this team, and in the shadow of ‘The Big House’.
“We simply have to do a better job than we did today,” he said, repeating what he’s said so many time this season during the course of their 28 losses.
“Jaskie pitched well, but we have to do a better job of recognizing the arm action and finding the ball when you face a guy like him. We knew that coming in, that there was some funkiness to the way he threw, but give him credit…but we have to do a better job.
“Tomorrow and Sunday are big games for us because of the point in the season. But we’re playing here against Michigan in the greatest rivalry in college sports. You know it doesn’t matter where we are in the standings, tomorrow is a big day because we want to be good every time we play against these guys. Like I said before, it’s not like we’re going to change the game plan or anything, we’ve just got to find a way to execute better.”
And start sooner, to highlight his concern over the urgency with which they’ve played during many of those 28 losses. If not now – this weekend – when?
And if when isn’t now – does that say something about the culture of things that means so much to Beals and the blueprint for the future?
Indeed, Oliver Jaskie was very good on Friday. But that’s nothing compared the interest and observation given to the next two days. Connor Curlis gets the ball for the Buckeyes in Saturday’s 2 pm start for game 2. He’s been very good of late. But can he be like Oliver Jaskie?
The Buckeyes need him to be. Urgently!