Buckeye pitchers have a total lapse in a Saturday loss to Lipscomb – twelve walks, two hit batters, and one wild pitch in a 9-3 loss at Bill Davis Stadium.
Columbus – There was a runner on first base with two out in the eighth inning when Kobie Foppe walked to home plate from the on-deck circle as a pinch-hitter for Nate Romans.
The outcome of the game was still very much in doubt with Lipscomb leading by two runs.
In any of the three previous seasons, Ohio State coach Greg Beals might have been questioned like a witness as to why Foppe wasn’t in the game in the first place.
Spectators knew better than to run for the restrooms and concession stands with a pure hitter like Foppe with a bat in his hands.
But this is not 2018, when Foppe batted .335, ranked first in the Big Ten with 14 sacrifices and ninth in runs scored with 47. It also isn’t 2017 when he batted .310 or 2016 when the average was .292.
The scoreboard read that Foppe, a senior from Phoenix, was almost 150 points under the Mendoza Line.
“Why am I pinch hitting a .056 hitter?’’ Beals said. “It’s because I have confidence in him. We’ve got to find a way to get him going. I’d love to get Kobie Foppe hitting again.’’
The Buckeyes were dropped 9-3 by the Bisons on another windy, frigid day on Saturday at Bill Davis Stadium, and perhaps the only positive takeaway was that Foppe got a clean base hit and kept the inning going.
He worked the count to 2-and-2 and stayed on the baseball to muscle it between the third base and shortstop hole. It was his third hit in 36 at bats.
“I’ll take anything at this point right now,’’ Foppe said. “I just want to see something go through. Anything will help my confidence.’’
Foppe has watched video of his at bats, hit off a tee and put in hours in the batting cage trying to become the real Kobie.
He has talked with his lifetime hitting coach, father Jerry, about how to turn it around.
Ohio State (8-10) has been maddening in playing so up and down since the second weekend of the season, and it would be a huge boost if Foppe returned to form.
“Obviously, I’ve had a tough start,’’ he said. “I’ve had some stuff mechanically that I was trying to find. I’m just trying to work through that. I’ve spent a lot of time in the cages. I’ve been trying to get that hand slide down and get my timing down. I’ve been working a lot off the tee more than anything.’’
Foppe has played in 166 college games, and it’s probably a matter of time until the hits start falling.
There are 38 regular-season games remaining – an eternity in baseball – but he’s a senior and it’s difficult to remain patient when a struggling team needs him.
Beals penciled Foppe on the lineup card at second base the first nine games. His other start came a week ago against West Carolina in The First Pitch Invitational in Greenville, South Carolina.
“It’s one of those things and we’ve got to get him back to being himself and not chasing hits,’’ Beals said. “He has to be the good hitter that he is, and you saw that today.
What is his take on the problem?
“If I knew we’d have the answer by now,’’ Beals said. “His strikeout number is up, but his walk number is okay. That’s not the problem. He is chasing some pitches. It’s competitive anxiety a little bit. He knows he is not right and tries too hard to get right. He has to let the game come to him.’’
No one on the team has been immune to a slump.
The coaches thought most of the Buckeyes were gripping their bats too tightly going into a four-game series against Bethune-Cookman two weeks ago in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Yesterday, they got six hits against four Lipscomb pitchers. The runs scored on sacrifice flies in the fourth by Romans and in the fifth by Dominic Canzone and a double to the wall in center by Canzone in the seventh.
“Definitely, it’s frustrating – really frustrating – starting out the way that I have,’’ Foppe said. “A couple of times I did want to throw a helmet or bat, but I try to refrain from that and keep working. I have to trust it. I got away from trusting myself and just trying to make things happen.’’
Ohio State left the bases loaded in the second. It scored a run in the fourth, but left two on.
Lipscomb (10-7) took a 3-1 lead in the fifth and was on its way.
Beals was scratching his head more over the pitching staff. Starter Griffan Smith walked six and first reliever T.J. Brock walked three.
“Sure, we could have got a big hit, but we walked 12 guys, hit two guys, threw two wild pitches and gave up five stolen bases and had two errors,’’ Beals said. “That’s a total of 23 free bases. For me, the story was the free bases we provided for their offense.’’
The team played beautifully in a 14-3 victory over the Bisons on Friday night. The free base count was four.
“Bats are going to come and go,’’ Beals said. “You’ve got to be able to play clean baseball consistently, and for me that was the difference between yesterday and today. We flash glimmers of having a really fun, really exciting baseball team and we flash glimmers like today. It seems like we’re fighting ourselves at times.’’
The three-game series concludes with a single game at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.