An outstanding performance by Purdue starting pitcher Tanner Andrews and an inescapable sixth inning lead to an Ohio State loss in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament, forcing the Bucks into the losers’ one-and-done bracket.
By Andy Anders for Press Pros
Omaha, Nebraska – It seemed so right and then, it didn’t.
Senior left fielder Tyler Cowles jumped on a 1-1 pitch from Purdue starter Tanner Andrews and appeared to jump-start the Ohio State offense in the top of the first inning. The ball fell on the warning track in left-center field to score junior Kobie Foppe and sophomore Conner Pohl.
Cowles almost scored on an infield single by freshman center fielder Dillon Dingler to make it a three-run inning, but Purdue first baseman Jacson McGowan cut him down at the plate.
It’s almost as if that throw also cut down any rust Andrews may have been experiencing, because he was untouchable from the second inning on.
A Boilermaker victory felt inevitable once Purdue’s bats got started. And get started the bats did, more than enough to hand an 8-2 opening-round loss to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten tournament.
“Once he started locating that breaking ball we kind of started chasing a little bit,” Cowles said.
Andrews threw eight consecutive shutout innings to dust off a complete game, striking out seven Ohio State batters. That included a string of four straight strikeouts between the fourth and fifth innings.
“The first inning I was falling behind hitters,” Andrews said. “Once you get ahead it’s a lot easier to keep them off-balance and keep ‘em guessing.”
With the loss, Ohio State drops into the loser’s bracket of the Big Ten tournament and faces an elimination game against the sixth-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes Thursday morning. (The Buckeyes took two of three games from the Hawkeyes at Iowa City April 7-8.)
“Obviously not the way we wanted to open up tournament play,” Ohio State coach Greg Beals said.
After a clean first couple innings by Ohio State starter Connor Curlis, Purdue’s offense started ticking in the third. Opening on back-to-back hits by Evan Warden and Tyler Powers, the Boilermakers earned their first run of the ball game on an RBI groundout by Harry Shipley. Catcher Nick Dalesandro followed with a single into center field, but the ball rolled under the glove of Dingler and allowed Powers to score while Dalesandro advanced all the way to third base.
Everything felt about ready to explode for Purdue, but Cowles tracked down a fly ball by center fielder Skyler Hunter and gunned down Dalesandro at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
Purdue scored again early in the fifth on an RBI single by Shipley. Runners now on the corners with one out, another near-explosion happened when Dalesandro smoked an elevated pitch from Curlis. Directly in the flight path was first baseman Bo Coolen, who snagged the liner and stepped on first for a double play to bail out his starter.
After a single and a walk to open the sixth, Curlis was cooked.
“A couple batters right there I wasn’t getting ahead, [I was] getting behind in the count,” Curlis said. “Just wasn’t getting the off-speed over that I should have in those counts. But those clean innings I was getting the off-speed over and making them battle.”
But the sixth inning was far from over. In fact, it’s when the Boilers claimed the game.
With the bases loaded and one out, senior right fielder Alec Olund got a run home on a fielder’s choice to extend the lead to 4-2. Warden singled home another, then Powers walked to load the bases once again.
Shipley cleared them with a three-run double to make it a five-run frame.
“We couldn’t get out of that sixth inning, sixth inning wound up being the difference in the ball game,” Beals said.
After a groundout finally ended the madness, the final three innings felt like a reluctant and dreadful formality for the Buckeyes.
Their redshirt senior reliever Yianni Pavlopoulos entered for two innings of shutout work, but the bats refused to break their silence against Andrews. Ohio State finished with a total of four base runners from the second frame onward.
On a positive note, Ohio State was at least able to save most of its bullpen for a deeper tournament run if it is able to capture a few wins. Seniors Kyle Michalik and Yianni Pavlopoulos were the only two relievers who appeared in the loss. The Buckeyes have are the ready arms of Seth Kinker, Austin Woodby and Griffan Smith if starter Ryan Feltner falters in tomorrow’s must-win.
“One thing that we talked about, especially during the middle of the year when we were playing really good baseball is the fight that we had in our ballclub,” Beals said. “Our guys need to come out in fight mode tomorrow and play to keep themselves in the tournament.”