Ryan Feltner and Seth Kinker delivered exactly what the Ohio State baseball team needed in Thursday’s do-or-die win against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Consequently, the Buckeyes are still alive in the Big Ten tournament.
By Andy Anders For Press Pros
OMAHA, Nebraska – Post-season tournaments like the Big Ten’s Show here stand as the great magnifying glass of a college baseball team. The true talents and stars typically shine the brightest, but conversely such strings of high-stakes contests can bring a club’s every flaw to the forefront.
Today was the former for Ohio State. Top-rated big-league prospect Ryan Feltner delivered the masterful start his team so desperately needed in Thursday’s elimination game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Then, star senior reliever Seth Kinker went three innings to save a 2-0 shutout win against Iowa and advance the Buckeyes to the next round.
“[Feltner] was hiding his offspeed pretty well,” Iowa right fielder Robert Neustrom said. “His [velocity] wasn’t up, but his pitches were hitting his spots.”
Forget home plate, no Iowa baserunners touched third in Feltner’s six innings of work. He terrorized the Iowa order with blazing high fastballs and a dastardly changeup until the seventh inning, when he plateaued, giving up a walk and a self-inflicted fielding error to open the frame.
Then it was the Seth Kinker show.
“I told the guys ‘We’re gonna get out of it, and we’re gonna go hit,’ just like I always do when I come in,” Kinker said. “I had one thing in mind and that was it. Shut the door and move on to the eighth.”
Forget third base, no Iowa baserunners touched second in Kinker’s three innings of work. Coach Greg Beals’ go-to-guy out of the bullpen was locked in tighter than a baby in a booster seat.
Kinker fanned three and surrendered only a measly single with no walks. Among the three strikeouts was a ten-pitch battle against Hawkeye freshman Trenton Wallace, a key out after Feltner left runners on first and second in that seventh inning.
“I wasn’t gonna give in,” Kinker said. “But [Wallace] was fighting, and I knew that when Barney [catcher Jacob Barnwell] called the inside fastball it was about time that we sat him down.”
A double play later, Kinker was out of the inning without a blemish on his or Feltner’s stat line.
Second-team all-Big Ten right fielder Dominic Canzone, typically the team’s fastest player and best defensive outfielder, could be seen visibly hobbling around the bases both times he reached as the designated hitter. His first-inning walk and fifth-inning single started rallies that resulted in the two Ohio State runs.
“His desire and willingness to give whatever he had for the team today was really, really critical,” Beals said.
Sophomore Matt Carpenter pinch ran for him in the fifth. In terms of speed, it was hard to tell the difference.
Carpenter stole second base the next pitch and advanced to third via throwing error. Junior second baseman Kobie Foppe came through immediately after, flailing his bat at a 3-2 pitch on the outside corner and looping the ball in front of right fielder Robert Neustrom. Carpenter came home, expanding the lead to 2-0.
“[Carpenter’s] name hasn’t been called a lot this year, but he was chomping at the bit to play baseball,” Beals said. “Slides in there hard and pops up and gets to third base.”
Canzone is questionable for tomorrow’s elimination game, based on comments from Beals.
For a second straight day it was senior left fielder Tyler Cowles who produced first for the Ohio State offense. With Foppe standing on first after a fielder’s choice in the top of the opening inning, Cowles skied one over the head of Iowa’s sprinting center fielder Justin Jenkins. The result was an RBI double.
As a whole, Beals loved his team’s performance in this win-or-go-home situation.
“Probably the best baseball game we’ve played this year,” he said. “We got absolutely great starting pitching, we defended the baseball very, very well behind our pitching staff, and you knew it was just a matter of time until Kinker was gonna get in the ball game today. We got him in at just the right time.”
Now the Buckeyes await the loser of Thursday evening’s game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Purdue Boilermakers for a 4:30 p.m. eastern time elimination contest Friday. Thursday’s star starter has a message for the group of hurlers throwing tomorrow.
“Attack the zone,” Feltner said. “When we’re throwing well as a pitching staff, we’re attacking the zone, we’re getting ahead of hitters and not worrying about what’s gonna happen if they hit the ball. Let our defense work.”