Seth Lonsway throws a complete-game shutout in first game and Cherry hits a two-run homer in each game, but for lack of more hitting than Brady Cherry the Buckeyes could only manage a split on Saturday against Rutgers.
Piscataway N.J. – Whoever said winning two out of three ain’t bad wouldn’t have dared stick his head into Ohio State’s post-game huddle in short left field Saturday evening and use those words as a verbal pat on the back.
Buckeyes pitchers had just given up a measly 13 hits in 24 innings, including a complete-game three-hitter by Seth Lonsway, but all it got them was a lousy split against a Rutgers team that has been pretty lousy since Opening Day.
The players quietly walked to the team bus, stowed their equipment, grabbed their boxes of pizzas and settled in for a long night of thinking about what went wrong in the batter’s box for almost 6 ½ hours.
The only runs came on two-run homers by left fielder Brady Cherry. The team left 11 men on base in the first game and 13 in the second.
Rutgers scratched for a split of the double-header and avoided a three-game sweep when designated hitter Tyler McNamara drove in Kevin Welsh from second with one out in the 15th for a 3-2 victory at Bainton Field.
Ohio State (16-12) won the first game 2-0 behind Lonsway’s career high 12 strikeouts.
A double-header was scheduled with weather forecasters calling for a 90 percent chance of rain on Sunday.
What had to be grating for the Buckeyes was that Rutgers (7-17) had lost nine of its last 10 games.
“Their pitching was solid,’’ Ohio State coach Greg Beals said of the Knights. “They did what they were supposed to do, but I was disappointed where we were offensively and the approach that we had. We hit some balls hard, but not nearly enough. We chased a little bit. We needed to be better. We got two runs in 15 innings in the second game.’’
It also might have been a costly loss with second baseman Matt Carpenter being lifted after five innings in the second game with a tight left hamstring. He was favoring the leg afterward.
First, let’s get on with the happy news.
Lonsway is a redshirt freshman, but looked like major league draft material in giving up singles in the first and sixth and a two-out double in the eighth. He walked two in throwing 115 pitches.
His wind-up, delivery and pace of play were so exceptional that Rutgers batters were guessing and uncomfortable in the box.
“Coach asked me if I felt good and wanted to go back out for the ninth and I said, ‘Yes, let’s do it,’’’ Lonsway said.
The season is at the halfway point, but Lonsway is still enduring growing pains with command and control issues.
Yesterday, he didn’t even step off the rubber between pitches. At one point, Rutgers coach Joe Litterio complained to the plate umpire about quick pitches.
“I’m always locked in every time I warm up and try to give it my best stuff every day, so credit all the guys in the field, my catcher and my pitching coach (Mike Stafford) calling a great game,’’ he said. “I’ve been trying to be very confident with my pace of play and attacking hitters right away. I like to get the ball back and go to it.’’
Lonsway started the season as the ace, but has been bumped down in order to let him get sorted out.
“When Seth is able to be in the advantage count and hit with both the fastball and curveball he’s going to be tough,’’ Beals said.
Ironically, the last Buckeye to pitch a complete-game shutout sat next to Lonsway in the dugout. Graduate assistant Ryan Riga shut down Rutgers five years ago on March 29 at the same field.
“I didn’t know that. Wow!’’ Lonsway said. “I was sitting next to him the whole game. He just told me to keep repeating and to be consistent.’’
Cherry provided the scoring when he stroked a home run to straight left field in the first inning with one out. Carpenter was on first after an error by the second baseman.
“He just hung a slider and I got the head of the bat out,’’ he said of Tommy Genuario. “There are big gaps here and if you hit anything out it has got to be down the lines. I made a good swing.’’
Then came offensive pain, and a lot of it. Runners were left on third base in the third, seventh and eighth, on second and third base in the second, on first and third base in the sixth and on first, second and third in the ninth.
It just didn’t matter with Lonsway mixing a fastball and breaking ball. Catcher Dillon Dingler didn’t have to move his mitt much, and that leather was popping.
In the second game, Cherry gave Ohio State a 2-1 lead with a two-run shot in the third.
A heavy wind was blowing from right field to left, and the baseball’s path wound up going from dead left to directly over the foul pole.
Third base umpire Tony Gisondi didn’t hesitate giving the circular motion with an index finger signifying a home run, but he did confer with the other three umpires before it was official.
“I didn’t think it was going to get overturned,’’ Cherry said. “It started out decently. I didn’t hook it – it was mostly backspin – and I thought as soon as the wind hit it that it was going to be a home run if it was fair.’’
Rutgers made it 2-2 in the bottom of the inning, and from there it was nothing but failure at the plate for both teams until McNamara came through to win the game and beat sundown by no more than 35 minutes.
Ohio State had five hits after Cherry’s home run.
The positives for the Buckeyes all came on the mound, beginning with starter Griffan Smith giving up five hits, two runs and two walks and striking out five in five innings.
There was a lot more to the arms race.
Freshman right-hander Will Pfennig gave up three hits and one walk and struck out two in seven innings, and hard-luck loser Andrew Magno gave up two hits and no earned runs and struck out two in 2 1/3 innings.
Pfennig’s previous longest outing was 3 2/3 innings against Brigham Young the second week of the season. That day he threw almost 60 pitches.
Yesterday, he acted like a starter in throwing 84 pitches.
“I felt like I wasn’t going to get strikeouts and pitched to contact so I could go far into the game,’’ Pfennig said. “I tried to give them my fastball and give them my curveball and just get people out.’’
How was he feeling being stretched out?
“I felt really good going into the last inning,’’ Pfennig said. “All of my stuff felt really good. The definitely was the aspect of adrenaline, especially in that situation where we’re tied in extra innings. I feel like I’m going to be pretty sore tomorrow. I’m glad I competed.’’
Welsh opened the 15th by reaching when first baseman Conner Pohl dropped a throw from shortstop Zach Dezenzo. He was bunted to second by Tim Dezzi and scored standing on McNamara’s single.
Magno deserved better in throwing 5 1/3 innings over two days.
“We pitched the ball really good all day long,’’ Beals said.