Offensively they played well, their hitting continued to be on key. The pitching lined up like it was supposed to. All the positives were there. But turn of events just seem to end up going to the wrong way by game end for the Buckeyes.
IOWA CITY — It was a game they should not have lost and a series that slipped away, but such is the season for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Adam Niemeyer, who has battled arm problems much of the season, gave up six runs over one inning-plus, including Robert Neustrom’s two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth, and Ohio State fell to Iowa, 11-10, Sunday at Duane Banks Field.
Niemeyer was the fifth OSU pitcher to enter the game. He opened the eighth with a 9-5 lead.
“The pitching actually lined up the way we wanted it to,” OSU coach Greg Beals said. “But ‘Nemo’ just didn’t have his good stuff today.”
The redshirt junior co-captain gave up back-to-back singles to start the eighth. One out later, Ben Norman singled through the left side to cut OSU’s lead to three, 9-6.
The next hitter was Corbin Woods, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh.
Woods banged a three-run homer to left and the game was tied, 9-9. It was his second home run of the season.
This turn of events was an eerie reflection of Saturday night’s 12-7 win over Iowa. In that game, Ohio State led 8-1 in the sixth and had to hurry to hang on for the win.
Ironically, Seth Kinker—Sunday’s starter—entered that game in the seventh, the Bucks clinging to a two-run lead, and finished with 2 1/3 innings of stellar work. He allowed one hit, one unearned run, didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.
Unfortunately, Kinker—who Beals openly refers to as the best pitcher in his fleet—can’t be there at the beginning and the end of the game. (For those old enough to remember, that’s Bugs Bunny territory.)
Kinker gave Ohio State two innings and gave up two runs. Beals went to Ryan Feltner for the third. Feltner was money. The sophomore right-hander worked four shutout innings, allowing two hits and pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth.
A pair of walks and a single loaded the bases with one out. Feltner, who has been off and on this season fighting his fastball, settled in and struck out Grant Judkins and Matt Hoeg to get out of the inning. Both Judkins and Hoeg went down swinging.
When Feltner started the seventh by hitting a batter with one out, Beals called for Kyle Michalik.
With two outs and two on, Matt Adams, who leads the Big Ten in home runs, tagged Michalik for his 20th of the season. It was a three-run shot to center.
Joe Stoll closed the seventh, and Beals handed the game to Niemeyer. OSU needed six outs. They held a four-run cushion.
After Niemeyer yielded four runs on four hit in the eighth, OSU and Iowa went to the ninth tied, 9-9.
Conner Pohl doubled to start the ninth and wild pitch got him to third. Jalen Washington drew a walk to keep the inning going. Tre’ Gantt was the next hitter. His fly ball to right scored Pohl and Ohio State, regained the lead, 10-9.
They needed three more outs.
They didn’t get any.
Adams singled through the left side and then it was Neustrom. His home run was his sixth of the season.
There were positives in the game: 16 hits, nine more innings without an error, and—once more—when the game got tough, the Buckeyes, as they did Saturday night, kept after it, kept fighting.
“We played a good baseball game,” Beals said. “Our free bases were down. We had just three walks and one hit batsman. We played clean baseball, offensively.
“From a pitching standpoint, we got ourselves where we wanted to be. We got six outs to get and a four run lead. As a staff, we felt good about that. ‘Nemo’ just didn’t have his good stuff.
“I don’t think he (Niemeyer) has lost velocity. I think the time off affected his command, and he’s a command guy. He’s not a power pitcher…His off-speed stuff is his strength. So, he’s a ‘feel’ guy. The time off affected that more than his strength…He just didn’t have his best stuff today.”
Still, it was another bitter pill, and there have been quite a few this season.
“There were a lot of positives about how we played the game here,” Beals said. “You hate not winning today and this series getting away. Yeah, there were positive things, but we came up shy…And you got to give Iowa credit. They hit their way back into it. We didn’t give them anything.”
NOTES: In the three game series here, Ohio State had 47 hits and scored 27 runs…The nature of Sunday’s loss obscured many things, including Dominic Canzone’s grand slam in the second and Pohl’s four-hit performance…Make no mistake, at this point in the season spots are being secured for 2018…Up next for the Buckeyes, Toledo Tuesday at Bill Davis Stadium…First pitch is 6:35…Indiana comes to Columbus for the final three games of the regular season. That’s a Thursday through Saturday series.