For lack of timely hitting, perhaps, the Buckeyes drop a second consecutive game to Northwestern. Will seek to salvage some momentum going forward with the series finale on Sunday.
COLUMBUS—There were two ways to look at Ohio State’s 7-2 loss to Northwestern Saturday at Bill Davis Stadium. Not surprisingly, Buckeye coach Greg Beals chose the more optimistic.
“There was a lot to like about today’s game,” Beals said. “We get two or three two-out hits and it’s a different ballgame. Today was a fix (in terms of focus and Friday night’s loss). If we just get a couple of hits, it changes everything. But, that’s just baseball.
“I thought we went about our business well. The result wasn’t what we wanted, but I like the way we went about our work.”
These are the words and the viewpoint of a coach dealing with a young, inconsistent ballclub, and once in awhile that leaks into his conversation.
“We’re developing,” he said Saturday afternoon. “But we are developing under fire—fortunately or unfortunately.”
Before we get to the other viewpoint—that this was another loss presents problems—consider where the loss leaves OSU.
They are 16-15. They have lost four in a row, none pretty. They are 2-3 in the Big Ten. They have 25 games remaining in the season, 19 of those against conference opponents.
As for the differing viewpoint on Saturday’s game, it wasn’t that OSU played poorly—nothing like Friday night’s implosion of errors, wild pitches, mental errors and what not—which led to a 13-5 loss.
This loss was nothing like that. It was, instead, a matter of being outplayed by a team that uses every tool at its disposal and never takes its foot off the gas. One example, the Wildcats scored two runs on safety-squeeze plays. They had three stolen bases. The Buckeyes had none.
“We limited our mistakes today,” said starter Seth Lonsway. “We were a lot more locked-in, a lot more focused. They just beat us, out-hustled us. Coach is right. A few timely hits and it’s different. But, it didn’t happen.”
OSU had eight hits, one for extra bases—a ninth inning double when the Buckeyes loaded the bases, but couldn’t manage to score a run.
After Canzone’s double, Kobie Foppe drew a walk and Brady Cherry was hit by a pitch.
But, Northwestern’s closer, Nick Paciorek, struck out the next three hitters: Conner Pohl, swinging; Dillon Dingler, looking; and Zach Dezenzo swinging. It took Paciorek 11 pitches to close the inning after the bases were loaded.
It was the second straight inning in which the Buckeyes loaded the bases with less than two outs. Yet, they managed just one run—a fielder’s choice ground ball to first by Andrew Fishel scored Pohl from third. After that, men were left at second and third when Ridge Winand and Nick Erwin went down swinging.
Ohio State left 13 men on base. They were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The most encouraging aspect of OSU’s performance was the work Lonsway. The redshirt freshman gave up three runs, one each in the second, third and fourth. He allowed five hits, walked three and struck out six and appeared to settle in as the game went on.
In the fifth, sixth and seventh he pitched shutout baseball, not allowing a hit. In that stretch, he retired 10 of 11, including the final out in the fourth.
But his pitch count reached 100, and Beals went to the bullpen.
“I felt good,” Lonsway said. “I was ready to go (back out) and put up zeroes. But I left that up to the coaches and they went to the bullpen.”
It didn’t work out too well. Thomas Waning opened the eighth and that’s when the game got away. The senior righthander gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Northwestern’s lead went from 3-1 to 6-1.
“He was just up in the (strike) zone and flat, ” Beals said. “He’s a sinkerball pitcher and he was up. That was the problem.”
Joe Gahm finished the eighth and yielded Northwestern’s final run in the ninth.
OSU’s first run in the first inning was the result of a bases loaded walk to DDingler by Wildcat starter Mike Doherty, who lasted just two innings.
Dingler’s walk was the third of the inning. The lone hit was Cherry’s single to short-center with one on and one out. Next came a walk to Pohl then Dingler. But that inning foreshadowed the remainder of the game, Dezenzo struck out and Nate Romans was out on a lazy fly ball to left.
Three were left on base. It was the first of those situations Beals referred to: a hit here, a hit there and it’s a different ballgame. If only…
“We needed some timely hits,” Lonsway said.
Sunday they will try to salvage something of this series that is lost. Next come mid-week games at Ohio (University) and against Dayton.
Next weekend, it’s Michigan. On Saturday, the Wolverines defeated Minnesota, 5-3. Michigan is 21-8 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten.