Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has an arts degree (music) from Ohio State University.

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In a fall exhibition with Indiana State, the new-look Buckeyes failed to impress head coach Greg Beals – offensively and with new pitching – in an “glass-half-empty” loss to the Sycamores.

Columbus – Yes, it’s only September.

Yes, it was only an exhibition game against Indiana State from the Missouri Valley Conference.

And yes, more than one ISU player admitted to having the ‘big eye’ over coming to Columbus and experiencing the facilities and the ‘big time’ of Ohio State University and Big Ten baseball Saturday at Bill Davis Stadium.

But, they got over all that, and impressively, with a 10-2 win over the Buckeyes Saturday in a game that left Buckeyes coach Greg Beals with something less than a good taste in his mouth.  He didn’t expect filet mignon, perhaps, but he wanted a helluva’ lot more than hamburger.

“I’m not a glass-half-full kind of guy,”  said Beals afterwards, referring to an impressive performance by pitchers Seth Lonsway (Celina) and Griffan Smith (CHCA), both who figure prominently in the Buckeyes’ rotation options for next spring.

But Beals was also disappointed in an offense that could muster just two runs (home runs by second baseman Kobie Foppe and right fielder Dom Canzone) and six hits against a continual stream of lefthanded pitchers from ISU – and a poor showing from some of the freshman pitchers recruited to take the place of drafted Connor Curliss and the graduated arms of last year’s 36-24 team.

Combined, over the last five innings Saturday the newbies who got their feet wet gave up seven runs while walking nine.  And the offense went hitless over the last five innings.

Indiana State won it with 10 runs on 10 hits and committed no errors.

Ohio State had 2 runs on just 6 hits, and committed three errors.

“I’m incredibly disappointed in the outcome today,”  said Beals.

Freshman Garrett Burhenn showed well with a pair of scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth.

“The flow of the game and the fact that we played the last five innings as poorly as we did – no hits, three errors, and nine walks in the last five innings.  You’re not going to beat anybody like that, and we gave Indiana State the game.  You know the NCAA gave us the opportunity to play some games in the fall, and I don’t know what our guys thought, but I wanted to play and win while getting some guys in the game and mixing up the lineup with some of the young guys in the back half of the game.

“But those young guys…we have to be able to count on them to play.  The entire roster has to be able to play.”

While not a “half full” guy, Beals was impressed, and heartened, by the performance of Lonsway and Smith, who combined to pitch one-run baseball (a solo home run surrendered by Smith in the top of the third) over the game’s first four innings.

Lonsway, a 19th round draft choice of the Reds in 2017, threw hard, was efficient with his pitch count, and showed a devastating curve that he spotted in the bottom of the strike zone.

Smith, likewise, threw strikes, and showed promise of one that will compete for one of the three weekend rotation spots come February and March.  And while it was just an exhibition, one cannot make too much of the importance of what Saturday’s sneak peak represented.

Versailles freshman Cole Niekamp made his Buckeye debut, retiring the final out of the game on a strikeout.

“They pitched well,”  Beals admitted.  “In fact, we pitched well for the first six innings (freshman Garrett Burhenn, from Indianapolis, pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth).  Those three were all solid and that was very positive to see.”

Burhenn, a 6’3″, 210-pounder from Lawrence North High School, threw hard and threw strikes, getting ahead and pitched without signs of nervousnesss.

“But the other three guys (freshmen Will Pfennig, Bayden Root, and T.J. Brock), we need those guys,”  said Beals.  “Those guys were recruited in as highly talented pitchers that we have expectations for, and they showed today that they’re not ready.  Now we have to work the rest of fall ball to get them ready.”

Of the six hits collected, two were by red-shirt sophomore catcher Brent Todys (pronounced Toe-diss, from Westerville) who had a double and a single while catching the first five innings – Lonsway and Smith.

“Those guys were good,”  said Todys, who will compete for the back-up catching role behind Dillon Dingler come spring.  “When Seth throws strikes in the bottom of the zone like he did today he’s really tough, and his curveball was devastating.  He throws it hard and it really has a sharp break.”

“Brent Todys is solid,”  said Beals, finally cracking a smile.  “He’s exactly what we need until Dillon (Dingler) gets healthy (meniscus surgery), so I feel confident in the corps we’ll have behind home plate.”

Actor Jackie Coogan, who played the bald Uncle Fester on the Addams’ Family series, called balls and strikes.

So, while not to make too much of a September exhibition game, it was a peak at the future and one that can change dramatically over the course of the next month as the Buckeyes play the University of Dayton in a couple of weeks, as well as their upcoming five-game Scarlet and Gray series.

“We did get some quality at bats from the top of the order from our veterans,”  added Beals.  But in the next breath he served notice for the remainder of fall baseball…that these exhibition games will determine the pecking order of things come winter and the opening weekend in February, just eighteen weeks away.

“Those guys (Foppe and Canzone) did what they needed to do,”  he assured.  “But we need a 35-man roster [to contribute], and I warned the guys in our meeting after the game…that they’d better fasten their seat belts next week.  We’re going to get better, starting Monday.”

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