A recurring pattern of men left on base, untimely errors, and the bullpen…led to a massive Iowa win and series win on Saturday.
COLUMBUS — It was damp. It was dreary. There was a nasty little chill in the air, and the performance Ohio State offered at Bill Davis Stadium Saturday afternoon was just about as appealing.
For a second straight day the Buckeyes fell to Iowa. This time the final was 11-4. The win gave Iowa its first series win here since 2011. It was also Iowa’s fifth straight winning series in Big Ten play this season.
The Hawks now stand 11-6 in Big Ten play and 26-15 overall. Ohio State, on the other hand, is 6-8 in the conference and 23-20 overall.
It also leaves the Bucks looking down the barrel of a possible series sweep. Northwestern came to town and swept the Bucks in three straight April 5th-thru-April 7th, and no one affiliated with the program wants to experience another sweep.
“I will say this,” OSU coach Greg Beals said, “we have to win tomorrow’s game. Have to.”
It’s a “must” win because OSU can’t allow itself to fall too far behind in the race for slots in the Big Ten Tournament. Perhaps just as important, this is a very young team and confidence must be preserved and cultivated on the way to maturity.
Beals doesn’t like to dwell on the youth of his team—15 newcomers joined the club this year—but 43 games into the season it is fair to say the learning process continues. Players are still learning about themselves and playing at the Division I level.
There was ample proof of that conjecture Saturday afternoon. For five innings it was a real ballgame. Freshman Seth Lonsway allowed a run in the first but then pitched scoreless ball through the fourth, allowing just three hits and striking out five.
Iowa’s first inning run was the result of a walk, a stolen base, a passed ball and a single to left by Izaya Fullard.
Ohio State took a 2-1 lead in the third on Brady Cherry’s two run homer, his 11th of the season, a shot to dead center.
But the hinges started to come off in the fifth when Iowa tied the game, 2-2. Matt Carpenter dropped a pop-up for the first error of the inning putting the leadoff man aboard. Then came a sacrifice, a single and the second error of the inning and the game was tied.
Those two errors were the first of four, two of which were throwing errors that discounted as not too costly. But they shared a picture that included 16 hits, five walks—two of those coming in the sixth when Iowa took a 3-2 lead and pushed them along with a pair of doubles.
In the seventh, Iowa blew the game open. The Hawkeyes scored four runs on five hits, two errors and a pair of walks.
Four more Iowa runs crossed in the ninth on five hits and the fourth error committed by OSU.
True enough much seemed to go Iowa’s way. The Hawks had two hits that bounced off OSU pitchers. Another banged off first base and shot back into short right field.
“How about the one that flew about 70 feet over the pitchers head and fell for a base hit on an absolute jam-job,” Beals said. “Our pitcher just absolutely destroys the hitter and it’s a hit…I don’t want to say everything went Iowa’s way. That sounds like an excuse, but it seems like it did.”
The Hawks did make a practice of “hitting them where they aren’t,” but that always raises the question. Is that good hitting, or is that just baseball?
Most of the time the answer to that question lies on which side of the win/lost column you happen to be on.
In many cases Friday night and again Saturday, OSU didn’t capitalize on opportunities.
The Bucks were 3-for-12 with two outs, 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They had two two-out RBIs: one by Matt Carpenter in the sixth and Dom Canzones solo homer in the eighth, his 12th of the season.
By comparison, Iowa was 7-for-16 with two outs, 11-for-21 with runners in scoring position and had five two-out RBI.
“They found every hole,” Beals said. “The nicked us, nicked us, nicked us…every ball found a hole and we couldn’t stop the bleeding. Their hitters seemed to be gold today.
“We got to own our piece of this, though,” he continued. “We got to make better pitches and make better plays, and find a way to string some more hits together.”
That has been a recurring theme for Beals, thoughts and statements that have come up here and there throughout the season.
They are words and thoughts that apply to a lack of experience, to youth, and they may be the words most apropos of the ups and downs of this baseball season.
The question now is how much can be learned in the remainder of this 2019 season, lessons that might prove to be invaluable in seasons to come.