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 a music degree from Ohio State University.

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They needed pitching, and they got it.  They needed some timely hitting, and they got that, too.  The Buckeyes open their weekend series on the panhandle with a ‘timely’ win over Nicholls State.

Pensacola, FLA – The good news is…the Ohio State Buckeyes opened their weekend series in Pensacola Friday afternoon with a 6-3 win over Nicholls State.

The better news is…the way they did it.

They needed a quality start on the mound from lefthander Connor Curlis, and he gave it to them – 6.1 innings of 2 run, 2 hit baseball.  He gained his second win of the season.

They needed timely hitting, and the core of their batting order to be heard.  They got that, too.  A five run fifth inning erased a 1-run deficit, highlighted by a Brady Cherry three-run bomb, his first of the season.

They needed dependable defense, and they got that – highlighted by a dazzling play by shortstop Kobie Foppe to rob a base hit with a diving catch in the fifth;  and an even better backhand play by third baseman Conner Pohl in the top of the ninth to rob a probable extra base hit to start the inning.

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But most of all…they needed a win and a standard by which to pursue Southern Mississippi tomorrow afternoon, and Eastern Michigan in the series finale on Sunday.  No problem…at least for this day!

Except for walking the leadoff hitter in the first inning, and that free base eventually scoring on an RBI single by Nicholls catcher Kyle Knauth, Connor Curlis was sterling – 6.1 innings of two-run, two-hit baseball, striking out 7, while walking two.  He threw 100 pitches…and 75 of them were probably in the category of ‘quality’.

“I just came out after the first inning and got into a better tempo,”  said Curlis after the game.  “I wanted to attack the hitters.  I was out on the mound ready to go between innings while their hitters were getting their batting gloves on.  I just felt it was my game.  I had a good fastball – the natural lefty fastball.  The fastball was just working up in the zone for me with late movement.”

Connor Curlis pitched into the seveth, giving up two runs on two hits, to record his second win.

In short, he couldn’t have been much better, pitching into the seventh before tiring, and replaced by reliever Kyle Michalik.  Greg Beals, however, had at least one point of dissent.

“Well, I’d beg to differ,”  said Beals with a grin.  “He walked the leadoff  hitter of  the game, who scored, and then he had a throwing error on the slug bunt in the seventh inning…and those were the two runs they got off him.  But you’re right…he pitched the ball very well.  He used his changeup, and his breaking ball…but he had really good late life on his fastball.  He got them off-balance, and then zipped the fastball right by ’em.”

Curlis needed to be sharp to keep his team in the game, because Nicholls State starter Alex Ernestine, another lefty, was matching Curlis pitch for pitch into the fifth inning – striking out 4, walking 2, while scattering four hits.  In short, through the first four innings he was puzzle to the Buckeye batting order.

Kyle Michalik got in some work, pitching 1.1 innings in relief of Curlis.

But the fifth inning, and his second time through the order proved to be his undoing, as the Buckeyes sandwiched a pair of doubles by Kobie Foppe and Jacob Barnwell around a walk to Malik Jones and a base hit by Dom Canzone, setting the stage for Brady Cherry’s first home run of the year.

“He was deceptive,”  said Beals.  “He gave us some problems the first couple of times through the order.”

But tiring by the fifth, Ernestine began elevating his pitches, and Cherry picked on a high fastball and tomahawked it out over the right center field wall, scoring three runs.  It was a timely, not only for the fact of the padding the lead, but for Cherry, personally, whose batting average coming in was flagging around the .210 mark.

“It was a good at bat for me,”  said Cherry.  “The pitch was a little up, kinda’ middle-away, and I just tried to stay through it.  Today it went in my favor.  But we had a lot of good things happen in our favor today.  Connor had a great game, Kobie Foppe had a pair of hits, and everyone’s playing pretty well right now.”

Beals was particularly glad to see the middle of his order – Foppe, Cherry, and Tyler Cowles – continue a consistent approach at the plate.

“We were at bay offensively, and we come out and get the two doubles in the fifth to score the first run, and I love those.  If we can continue to hit the gaps and drive the baseball this team’s got a lot of potential offensively.  Brady’s home run was great to see because he’s working hard.  We have confidence in him, and today helped him to get off the schneid a little bit.”

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They added a late run in the seventh when Nicholls’ bullpen was less than sharp;  and Kyle Michalik and Seth Kinker combined to pitch 2.2 innings of one-run, one-hit baseball to nail it down.

The Buckeyes (6-3) won it with 6 runs, on 6 hits, they committed two errors and left six on base.

Nicholls lost it with 3 runs on just three hits for the day, they committed one error and left four men on base.

Some highlights:

Tyler Cowles drives a double to the gap in left center, one of six Buckeye hits on the day.

Kobie Fobbe didn’t have the biggest hit, but he did have two more hits (single and a double) to pad his team-leading .412 average.

Conner Pohl didn’t have a hit in the game, but outside of Cherry’s home run he hit two of the hardest outs of the game…line drives that were run down and caught in right field by Nicholls’ Dane Simon.

Jacob Barnwell had a big double in the five-run fifth.

And Seth Kinker retired the side in the top of the ninth – 1,2,3 – on just ten pitches to gain the save.

They come back on Saturday to take on Southern Mississippi, out of Conference USA, a team that Beals referred to as a step up in competition, and another early challenge to the quality of this Ohio State team.  They pitch well, they hit well, and they compete well.

Righthander Ryan Feltner (0-1, 6.55 ERA) gets the starting assignment for the Buckeyes, scheduled for 4 pm.

Dominic Canzone slips in ahead of the throw to score an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh.

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