The Buckeyes’ recent nemesis came again to haunt. A seventh inning error opened the door for a High Point win in game two of the weekend invitational at Coastal Carolina.
Conway, SC – It started good, and it looked good against the High Point Panthers on Saturday…after five innings of three-run, five-hit pitching by right-hander Yianni Pavlopoulos.
But then…a pair of ‘old friends’ would show up – again. The ‘error bug’ being one…and too many strikeouts being the other…to eventually contribute to an 8-4 loss to the 7-7 Panthers, the same team the Buckeyes had beaten (8-6) just twenty four hours prior.
Pavlopoulos left the game trailing 3-2 after five innings, owing to an aggressive High Point lineup that scored two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth – on their second look at the Buckeyes starter.
Reliever Austin Woodby entered in the top of the sixth, and promptly gave up a mammoth home run to right center field by High Point designated hitter Joe Johnson. HPU took a 4-2 lead.
The Buckeyes answered in the bottom of the sixth on a single and rbi double by Noah McGowan…4-3, High Point.
But in the top of the seventh High Point loaded the bases with two outs on Woodby, and third baseman Blake Schunk came to the plate. He topped a high-hopping ground ball to shortstop Kobie Foppe, who charged the ball, made a clean grab, and in his attempt to make an off-balance throw to first for the final out…he threw ball wide and low of first baseman McGowan. McGowan tried his best, but the baseball ricocheted off his glove and trickled away, allowing a pair of unearned runs to cross the plate, extending the lead to 6-3.
It changed the complexion of the game, deflating the Buckeyes effort for a comeback. They scored a single run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double Tyler Cowles to cut the deficit to 6-4, but that was as close as they got.
After Woodby, left-hander Andrew Mango retired the first outs in the eighth before surrendering a two-out walk. Righthander Thomas Waning came on to record the final out.
In the ninth, however, Waning was struck on the elbow by a line drive off the bat of High Point’s Travis Holt. Forced to leave the game, he was replaced by Curtiss Irving, who was forced into ‘shock’ duty without the normal bullpen warm-up. High Point took advantage, scoring a pair of insurance runs to increase their margin to 8-4.
Panther reliever Grey Little then retired the side quietly in the bottom of the ninth to hand the Buckeyes their fifth loss of the season.
While one cannot say that Foppe’s error in the seventh was the determining factor of the game…it didn’t make it any easier to overcome the deficit that eventually cost the Buckeyes their fifth loss of the season. ‘Cleanliness’ in baseball, as in life, is next to Godliness.
That, plus the fact that after their robust start in the first two innings, the Buckeyes saw far fewer fastballs and more off-speed from High Point starter Andrew Gottfried and the succession of relievers that followed him.
The Buckeyes scored in the first on back-to-back hits from Brady Cherry and Noah McGowan.
They added on in the second on a booming home run by catcher Dillon Dingler, his first as a collegian – a ball that cleared the left field bullpen and the palmettos behind it. They would not score again until single runs in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Close at times, but no cigar, if you’re into cliches’. Greg Beals…is not!
“The thing that was really gut-wrenching is that you make a pitch, you beat a guy, and on the slow roller (to Foppe) your pitcher is thinking I’m out of the inning. And we throw it in the dirt and two runs end up crossing. The irony is that he (Foppe) had time to set his feet and make a more-controlled throw, no doubt.”
But there were other familiar patterns as well. The Buckeyes again hit double figures in offensive strikeouts (11), an issue that through 14 games doesn’t seem fixable. As a result, nearly half of the Buckeyes outs in the game were of the empty variety.
High Point (7-7) won it on 8 runs, 12 hits, and played error-free baseball. They scored 2 in the fourth, 1 each in the fifth and sixth, 2 in the seventh, and 2 in the top of the ninth.
Ohio State (8-5) lost it on 4 runs, 9 hits, and committed just that one error…but it was a big one. They scored one run each in the first, second, the sixth and the seventh.
“My message all week is that we’re close,” added a disappointed Beals, afterwards. “But we’re not there. We’ve got to find a way to thrive in critical situations…on offense. “We seem to be handling ourselves offensively. But we’ve got to find a way to be tougher on defense…and to support our pitchers better. The idea is to make that pitch when we need it…and we make that play when we need it.”
The Buckeyes had little time for reflection, as they were to meet host Coastal Carolina later in the afternoon in the finale of their Saturday double-header. Coastal (10-4), lost to the same High Point Club on Friday night, 8-5.