They had ’em right where they wanted ’em, let it get away twice, and finished it with a flourish and Joe Gahm’s first career save. The Buckeyes take a series from Lipscomb when they needed a series in the worst possible way.
Columbus – There’s something to be said for being resourceful.
There’s something to said for being talented.
And, there’s something to be said for trusting in the ‘process’, as Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals is frequent to say.
They needed it all Sunday to take a 7-6, 40-degree, 3:13 minute win from the Lipscomb Bisons and improve their record to 9-10 at the 1/3rd mark of the season.
But they did it in a manner that’s becoming oh-so-frustrating, given the fortunes of this young, but talented baseball team.
“We needed this win,” said Beals in the post-game – an understatement. “But a win’s a win and sometimes you have to have a win and that’s what today was. Now we have to build on it. We needed a win, and we needed a series win.”
Given the ups and downs of the previous eighteen games, this, in capsule, was no different.
First, they got a quality – a quality – start from redshirt freshman Seth Lonsway, who pitched three-hit baseball through the first six innings, giving up four walks and an earned run, but striking five, as well.
“Quality start for Seth,” added Beals. “Great start for him. I thought from a pitching side we had three good things happen, and Seth’s ability to go deeper in the game was certainly one of them.
Second, there was a two-run second inning on a pair of solo home runs by Conner Pohl (his first) and Zach Dezenzo (his fourth).
“Just good to get more at bats, and more comfortable,” said Pohl. “The more pitching you see the better it looks and the better you start feeling. And that one today would have gone out of Arcanum (his high school ballpark and the biggest outfield in Ohio high school baseball).”
Third, after Lipscomb scored a run in the third to cut the margin to 2-1, the Buckeyes answered with a pair of 2-run innings in the sixth and seventh, highlighted by RBI singles in the sixth by freshman Nolan Clegg and shortstop Noah West (2 for 5), and back-to-back-to-back singles in the seventh by Brady Cherryg (2 for 5), Pohl (3 for 4), and catcher Brent Todys.
They added their seventh and final run in the bottom of the eighth on another Cherry single to score second baseman Matt Carpenter (1 for 3), who had walked to lead off the inning.
But as the 2019 season has shown, right when you think you have ’em…you don’t.
Leading 4-1 to start the seventh, freshman reliever Will Pfennig took over for Lonsway and promptly gave up two runs ( two unearned runs) on a single, an error by Carptener, a walk and another single. By the time he retired the final out it was 4-3, and it felt like a Buckeye baseball game.
Pfennig came out for the eight and quickly ran into trouble on a leadoff walk and a double by Lipscomb catcher Jarrett O’Leary. Andrew Magno came on retired the next three hitters on a pop foul to Todys behind the plate and a pair of ground outs.
Trying to find an extra arm – or an extra option out of the bullpen – Beals brought Brady Cherry out of the bullpen for the top of the ninth (his second mound appearance in the series) to protect what felt like a comfortable 7-3 cushion. And for the moment it looked great – comfortable. Cherry blew away the leadoff hitter, Tevin Symonette on five pitches, lighting up the radar gun in the mid-90s.
The next hitter grounded out to Noah West at short. A sigh of relief, everyone. We got ’em right where we want ’em.
But then…a walk, a single, then back-to-back walks, and suddenly the score was 7-5. Another walk made it 7-6, and Beals could no longer experiment. They needed an out.
In walks junior transfer Joe Gahm, and the crowd of 496 looked at each other as if to say, “Joe who?” But Gahm, making just his third appearance of the year, threw strikes and quickly got ahead of center fielder Maddox Houghton, 1 ball and 2 strikes. Then he broke off his signature pitch, a 12-t0-6 overhand curve, that froze Houghton for a called third strike to end the game. They had their win.
“One of the three pitching highlights,” said Beals. “Lonsway’s start, Magno’s three outs in the eighth, and Gahm’s curveball that buckled the last out of the game.”
It was a pitch that looked like an egg falling off a stove.
“It was one of my better ones, I guess,” said Gahm, shyly. “And I’ve never heard that description before. All I had on my mind was to come in and throw strikes.”
They won it with 7 runs on 12 hits, committed 1 error and left 11 men on base. Lonsway got the win to move his record to 2-2, and Joe Gahm recorded his first save as a Buckeye.
Lipscomb lost it with 6 runs on 7 hits, committed 1 error and left 12 men on base.
But bigger than the fact of the record was the confidence boost it gave a team that badly needed it, regardless of how it came.
“We’re a young team,” reiterated Beals. “But this was confidence for our entire club. We just can’t continue to pin things on the young guys, because we’ve got older guys that have been pressing at times, trying to do too much. We’ve got to trust ourselves, trust each other, and just go out and play.”
But more, the schedule is advantageous at this point. Lipscomb is a series they should have won. And next week Hawaii comes in for four, another series they need to win before opening Big Ten play in two weeks at Rutgers.
“The schedule favors us,” says Beals. “No doubt it’s set up for us to be good going in [to conference] and we need to establish some confidence. These next ten days will be critical for us to have the ‘right’ feeling as we start Big Ten play.”
Before Hawaii (and weather projected in the low 50s), Northern Kentucky comes to Bill Davis Stadium Tuesday for a 5:00 pm start. Hoping to build on Sunday, four out of five this week (at least) would give them a 13-11 mark for the trip to New Jersey (Rutgers), and they’d take that.
Right now they’re winning games like John Houseman talked about in the old Smith-Barney ads. Sunday…”they earned it”.