They won two out of three. But needing three out of three it amounted to kissing your sister – not good enough. Now, they have one more shot and need a sweep at Purdue. And no sisters allowed!
COLUMBUS — Their needs were many. Ohio State not only needed to win the three-game series against Penn State, they needed a sweep.
Beyond that, impending weather forced the Bucks to play a doubleheader Saturday against the Nittany Lions, OSU’s fifth twin bill in the last seven weeks—all of them in Big Ten competition and not necessarily a good thing.
“We’ve played five doubleheaders,” Beals said. “We’ve swept one, got swept one and split three of them. The odds on a split—at the Major League level is 60-some percent—and that’s what we got.”
In short, their needs this day were too many and filled with long odds. The won the first game, 2-0, and were drilled in the second, 10-6. The day left them standing 27-24 overall and 9-12 in the Big Ten. Penn State left town 21-24 and 4-18.
“It’s hard,” said co-captain Dillon Dingler, “to keep your focus for that long. It just is. No matter how hard you try. It’s a long time to be out there.”
Now, the Buckeyes not only need to take three from Purdue next weekend in West Lafayette, but they need help from other teams to have a shot at a berth in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We know the situation we are in,” said Dingler. “It really doesn’t do any good to look back on how we got here or what we should have done. We just have to be ready to play and do what we can these last four games—Youngstown State and then Purdue.”
The day began in fine fashion.
Freshman Seth Lonsway put together an admirable start. He worked eight innings of shutout ball. He allowed just five hits and only four Penn State hitters reached second base. Ten were left on base.
“Really proud of him,” Beals said. “Pitched a great game.”
“I could have finished,” Lonsway said, shrugging his shoulders. “But my pitch count was up there (123) and, you know, I leave those decisions to others. Besides, I trust the guy coming in.”
Besides that, closer Andrew Magno—“the guy coming in”—was chomping at the bit to get another shot at Penn State. He closed Friday night’s game earning his ninth save of the season.
“He text me last night at 11:30, 12:00, I don’t know what time it actually was but it was late,” said OSU coach Greg Beals. “He said, ‘Coach I’ll be good tomorrow.’ I just gave him the thumbs up emoji.”
Magno, whose style is reminiscent of ‘80s reliever Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky, wasn’t on his usual game. Staked to a 2-0 lead, both runs the result of Matt Carpenter’s two-run double in the seventh, Magno yielded back-to-back base hits to start the ninth.
He got one out on a sac bunt, but then worsened the situation loading the bases with a walk.
Facing the eighth and ninth hitters in the Penn State lineup, Magno got out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts. He punctuated his 10th save and the win with a few left-handed upper cuts and charged the dugout.
A win is a win, indeed, but there was something troublesome about this one. Penn State pitching had held Ohio State to just six hits.
Through six innings, OSU had been held to just two hits and only one of those—Nick Erwin in the second—had reached second base.
As good as Lonsway and Magno had been on the mound, and as clutch as Carpenter was hitting a liner to left-center following a single by Erwin and a double down the right field line by Canzone, the performance in Game One offered an indication of what was coming in Game Two.
They barely hit enough in Game One and they didn’t hit in Game Two until it was too little and too late.
OSU’s only runs against Penn State starter Connor Larkin came on solo home runs by Brady Cherry in the third, his 12th of the season, and Canzone’s shot to right in the third, his 14th and the most by a Buckeye in 10 years.
Larkin lasted six innings and Bailey Dees added 2 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.
Four runs crossed in the ninth after three walks and a single by Kobie Foppe and doubles by Malik Jones and Andrew Fishel, all late inning replacements.
Beyond the lack of hitting, the usual steady Griffan Smith was touched-up for five runs in 3 1/3 innings. Matters worsened when Penn State rapped TJ Brock around for five runs on four hits and a pair of walks .
Bayden Root, Mitch Millheim and Joe Gahm managed 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball but the damage was done.
“We think,” Beals said of Smith’s uncharacteristic performance, “that they had something on Griffin; that he might have been giving his pitches away, maybe tipping his pitches. We’re going to dig in to some video and see if we can see something.”
Smith came into the game with a 5-3 record and a 3.52 ERA.
The day was done and ground was certainly lost, but Beals said he would not spend the night scoreboard watching.
“Nah, I think—in part—our destiny is still in our control,” he said. “We’re disappointed we didn’t get the sweep, but I’m proud that we won the series.
“I think if we go to Purdue and win two of three, we’re in a really good spot. Obviously, a little help wouldn’t hurt.”
Of course, he was playing in the world of speculation and nothing would truly be determined for the next few days.
“We can’t think about it too much,” Dingler said. “We just have to be ready to play.”