Badly needing a win to conclude a disappointing weekend, the Buckeyes combined solid pitching from Griffan Smith and ‘clean’ baseball to knock off Iowa Sunday, 5-1.
COLUMBUS — OSU coach Greg Beals has complete faith in his ballclub. So, Saturday night after a second straight less than stellar loss to Iowa, he laid it out. Put it this way, Beals was emphatic. The topic was the final game of the series against the Hawkeyes.
“Yeah, we knew we needed to play with a little more energy and a little more fight than we did,” said sophomore Brent Todys. “But he—uh—pretty much said, ‘You guys are better than this and it shouldn’t take two losses for me to have to tell you.”
Beals went further than that. He suggested—rather firmly—that the team might have been taking Iowa for granted.
“He said, ‘It shouldn’t matter who is in the other dugout,’” Todys continued, “’that we needed to come out and play like we did when we took 2-of-3 from Michigan and Maryland.
“He told us we were better than the way we were playing. He told us we had to pick it up and get back to playing Buckeye baseball.”
As a result, a different team took the field Sunday in the series finale. The outcome was a clean, crisp 5-1 win over Iowa.
It began with solid starting pitching by Griffan Smith, who earned his fifth win against two losses with a six-inning, one run effort.
It was fueled by a 3-for-4, three RBI day by Todys, and ended with three strong shutdown innings by Andrew Magno, who earned his seventh save.
“Yeah,” Beals said, following Sunday’s showing, “we needed to get one today. It was a big one in terms of our place in the (Big Ten) standings, and—just as important—to get them (his players) off Saturday night’s game.”
The Hawkeyes took the first game of the series, 4-2, largely a product of outstanding pitching by Iowa’s Cole McDonald, who held OSU to two runs on six hits through eight innings.
Saturday night’s loss was an 11-4 beating when all things seemed to come apart for the Bucks. It was the kind of loss that could affect the team’s approach to upcoming business.
Ohio State stands 24-20, 7-8 in the conference with 12 to play. Nine of those are in the Big Ten beginning next weekend at Minnesota.
“We’ve talked about this being a young team,” Beals said. “Well, it’s time to get over that. They are not freshmen any longer. We’ve played 44 games…These games coming up are critical. Now, the test is: Can you stay in it? Can you play it out through the dog days.”
Beals’ message seemed to hit the mark.
“He made it pretty clear we needed to step-up our game,” Todys said, “and from this point on.”
Todys, the Bucks’ DH and back-up catcher drove in OSU’s first run in the second with an RBI single to left and added a two-run double in the sixth to make it, 4-0.
“Todys has been very good,” Beals said. “He prepares himself very well. He gets himself ready to go and he competes. If you are prepared and you compete, it’s hard to beat.
“Eighteen guys started that game today and probably 12 of them are more talented than he is, but the guy has found a way to hit and he hits.”
OSU’s final run came in the seventh when Dom Canzone singled up the middle and scored on a fly ball to right that led to a hard collision between the Hawks’ second baseman Mitchell Boe and right fielder Ben Norman. Boe had to leave the game and Carpenter ended up at third.
Smith set the tone for the game. He threw 110 pitches, 62 for strikes and seemed to keep Iowa off balance all day.
“Maybe so,” he said, “but I really didn’t have my best stuff. I was having trouble getting a good grip on the ball (because of the cold) so my change wasn’t what it should have been.
“I felt like I was effective at the top and bottom of the zone. Maybe a little ‘effectively wild’. I just decided to grip it and rip it. Then, Magno stepped up.”
Magno has arrived as a reliever.
“We’ve loved his stuff from the get-go,” Beals said, “but he had to find himself. Now, he’s got that trust and confidence…He had to prove it and he did.”
Magno entered the game with men at first and second and no outs in the seventh. The Hawks lone run scored on the second fielder’s choice ground ball of the inning.
From that point on, Magno was money. He allowed a one-out double in eighth and a leadoff single in the ninth, but closed the game without damage.
“I had one thought coming in,” he said. “Shut it down.”
Magno’s favorite athlete is Tiger Woods. He tries to pattern his game to Woods’ example.
“He had a line once that I absolutely love,” Magno said. “He was at a press conference and he said, ‘If we are tied, I win.’ That’s the way I look at it now. All I can do is attack and that’s what I am going to do.”
That “attack” approach is in order down the stretch, Magno said.
“There is no choice,” he said. “We know the business ahead and what we have to do. You can’t do anything but win baseball games. Today, we looked and played like we did against Michigan and Maryland, and that’s good. That’s what we have to do.”
Todys is right there with him.
“We have to take a bulldog mentality,” he said. “We have to trust ourselves, get our heads right and believe we can beat anybody—cause we can.”