Seeking a road win and termination of a five-game losing streak, the Buckeyes started a telling week of baseball with a road date with the Ohio University Bobcats.
Athens – It is, without risk of overstatement, a critical week of baseball for Greg Beals’ Ohio State Buckeyes.
One, there is the issue of a five-game losing streak, going back to the final game at Rugters, last week’s non-con loss to UC, and the galling sweep by Northwestern last Friday, Saturday and Sunday in which the Buckeyes were outscored 30-11.
Contributing to the angst, at the moment, is how to restore confidence in a recently battered pitching staff, especially the bullpen, which surrendered 25 hits and 23 runs during the Northwestern raid. The cumulative ERA of that group over that five-game span is a ‘skosh’ above 6.00.
Two, there was the issue of momentum, with ‘winable’ weekend games against Ohio University Tuesday (8-21, 3-game losing streak) and a home encounter Wednesday at Bill Davis against Dayton (17-13, 3-game win streak). The Buckeyes currently stood at 16-16 (2-4 in Big Ten play), and can use some positive mojo, because…..
Three, the league-leading Michigan Wolverines come to Columbus this weekend with the Big Ten’s best record (22-8, 4-1 in Big Ten). And…is there anymore that needs to be said about teeing it up with TTUN than having some positive in your pocket?
That said, Beals, looking for innings along with a win, sent freshman Will Pfennig (0-2, 3.29) to the hill Tuesday at Bob Wren Stadium to bring back both. He got part of it… as the Buckeyes squandered an early 3-0 lead, then came roaring back from a 7-3 deficit in the middle innings to blow up OU’s bullpen and eventually win, 10-8.
The former Mason Comet was aces for the first three innings, striking out five while walking two…supported by a two-run home run by another freshman, Nolan Clegg, in the top of the second inning following a double by Brent Todys.
But in the bottom of the fourth OU loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a walk, and cleared the bases with a wind-blown grand slam by designated hitter Cole Revels. Thomas Waning took over for Pfennig to retire the side, but by the time the dust cleared the Bobcats had scored five times on four hits, and led 5-3.
They added to that lead in the fifth scoring on a solo homer by Rudy Rott, a hit batsman, and a throwing error on catcher Brent Todys on a steal attempt of third, allowing Rott to score.
After those early three runs OU starter Joe Rock settled down to pitch into the seventh, allowing the Buckeyes just two more hits after the fourth, and finished his night with 6.2 innings, 4 runs on 7 hits, and struck out 4.
Bayden Root came out of the bullpen to pitch a scoreless sixth and seventh, and the Buckeyes got one of those runs back in the bottom of the sixth on a Nolan Clegg double, a ground out to third, and then a wild pitch that scored Clegg from third.
It got better in the eighth. Dillon Dingler walked with two outs, Zach Dezenzo lined a single of the shin of reliever Emen Horwedel…and then Todys, two for three for the night, lofted a majestic homer just over the left field fence, scoring Dingler and Dezenzo to tie the game at 7-7.
OU used five different relievers from two out in the sixth into the eighth, and Bayden Root pitched two outs deep into the eight (2.2) before turning the ball over to Andrew Magno with the potential go-ahead runner (via a walk) on second and Cole Revels at the plate. Revels lined the third pitch he saw into right field to drive in Mike Richardson with that run, the Bobcats taking an 8-7 lead.
OU’s Brett Manis came on in the ninth, their fifth reliever, to try and make the lead last. Leadoff hitter Nick Erwin grounded a single to left (Ridge Winand pinch ran). Dom Canzone grounded into a fielder’s choice. Kobie Foppe walked, putting runners at first and second. Brady Cherry popped out, bringing Conner Pohl to the plate with the game on the line. Manis nibbled, and Pohl fouled off a couple before lining a shot to center to score Canzone from second with the tying run.
Dillon Dingler hadn’t hit a ball hard all night, although he had singled earlier in the game. But on Manis’s second pitch he lined a shot up the alley in left center to score both Foppe and Pohl with the go-ahead runs, 10-8.
A determined, and efficient, Andrew Magno came out in the ninth and summarily retired the side…the final out on a called third strike. The losing streak was over, and at least for a night, some good feeling was restored.
It was a much happier post-game meeting in right field as Buckeye players came roaring out of the dugout after the final out – no one more so than Brent Todys, whose homer in the eighth gave his team a chance.
“I missed a fastball early in the count, and I really didn’t expect to get another one to hit,” he said, post-game. “But I got one with two strike and it made it out…I thought it might have been to high. But to tell you the truth, the at bats Pohl and Dingler had in the eighth were bigger.”
Pohl’s single, off the lefthander Manis, was huge, tying the score to even get Dingler to the plate.
“I’d seen lefthanders all night,” said the junior from Arcanum. “I just put a good swing on that fastball and hit it back through the middle.”
“That got everyone up,” said Dingler who followed with his two-run double. “I think everyone on this team would have wanted my at bat, and I just got a fastball to hit and drove it.”
Greg Beals looked relieved, even rejuvenated, to have come back from another deficit after losing an early lead. A proponent of playing clean baseball, on this night his team did just that by making the most of those three game-saving at bats in the eighth and the ninth.
“We got into straight compete mode at the end,” said Beals. “And to me the story is the belief factor. We needed a belief factor ballgame and we got it. It’s not fate, it’s belief because we just did it.
“Big at bats, and we didn’t just dink balls around. We stayed offensive, we competed, and we hit some balls hard when it meant the most in a comeback ballgame. Now I’m hoping this really helps to grow that belief factor.”
They won it with 10 runs on 12 hits and committed 1 error. Andrew Magno gained the win, his record now moves to 2 wins and 3 losses.
OU lost with 8 runs on 8 hits and played error-free baseball. Brett Manis took the loss for OU.
The Buckeyes are home on Wednesday with another chance to grow that “belief factor”, facing a much-improved Dayton team at Bill Davis, first pitch scheduled for 6:35.