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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It seems to follow at present.  The Buckeyes squander an early lead with sloppy play, fail to support great relief work with a lack of offense, and suffer the consequences of losing on a walk-0ff homer in the bottom of the ninth…to UC!

Cincinnati, OH – What’s that old adage about when it rains it pours?

You don’t have to remind Ohio State coach Greg Beals, who witnessed his Buckeyes (3-5) squander and early 4-0 advantage Wednesday night…then squander a sterling relief effort by Tim Baird and Nate Karaffa with an offensive power outage for 6.1 innings…then suffer the consequences of what else could you call it, but fate…when University of Cincinnati pinch-hitter Cam Scheler homered in the bottom of the ninth off Ethan Hammerberg to win the ballgame, 5-4.

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The loss marked the fifth straight by the Buckeyes after winning their first three in Florida, two weeks ago, and dropped their record to 3-5.

“We give them three free runs in the bottom of the third inning,”  said Beals, afterwards.  “We had a chance to double a guy up and end the inning.  Then we had a chance to field a ground ball and end the inning.  And after the error, they get a run on the error then a two-run homer and they put three runs on the board, instead of zero.”

All this in front of a record opening day crowd of 2,410 people at UC, who seemed to sense if they hung around long enough…if Ohio State allowed the Bearcats to hang around long enough…they might get to see something special at the end.  And that’s just what they got.

Arkansas-Little Rock transfer Aaron Funk got the start for OSU, hoping to turn his unfortunate debut against Brigham Young ten days ago into a distant memory.  He pitched a scoreless first and second.

He was rewarded with a four-run top of the third by his offense when Marcus Ernst doubled with one out, then scored on Zach Dezenzo’s fifth home run of the season off Cincy starter Alex Shea.  Then Drew Reckart walked, Hank Thomas was hit by a pitch, and Reckart scored on an error by UC third baseman Kerrington Cross to make it 3-0. Then Brent Todys walked, and Hank Thomas scored on a sac fly to center field by Trey Lipsey…4-0…before Kade Kern grounded out for the third out of the inning.

Aaron Funk reacts to a three-run third by UC that wiped out a 4-0 Buckeye lead.

Funk came out for the bottom of the inning with all the motivation in the world to roll a shutdown inning as a reward to his offense.  Not so fast.

He walked leadoff hitter Jake Hansen, then recorded the next two outs on a fly ball and a line out to Lipsey in left.  But Hanson, forgetting how many outs there were, ran to second base and was a dead duck to double off first for the third out…only shortstop Zach Dezenzo threw the ball over the head of first baseman Marcus Ernst and into the dugout, awarding Hansen third base.  Then UC right fielder Paul Komistek hit a ground ball wide of Colton Bauer at third, Bauer muffed it, allowing Hansen to score and Komistek to reach first.  A moment later left fielder Griffin Merritt picked on a fastball up in the zone and hit a moon shot to left for a two-run home run.

Due to the pair of errors, none of the runs were earned, but they cast a pall on the Buckeye bats as UC reliever Beau Keathley relieved Shea with two outs in the third, retired Kade Kern for the final out, and came out to pitch the fourth.  He preceded to pitch the next six innings, allowing no runs on four hits, and literally choked the offense like a boa constrictor.  He walked one, struck out eight, and allowed the Bearcats to hang around…gave them a chance to win!

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Beals took Funk down after three innings, and Tim Baird came out to pitch the fourth and fifth.  He was brilliant, allowing just one base runner on a walk, and struck out a batter.

Baird left after the fifth as Nate Karaffa came in, and picked up Baird with two scoreless of his own, allowing one hit, and struck out the side in the seventh.

Tim Baird and Nate Karaffa (above) each pitched a pair of scoreless innings in relieft – Karaffa striking out the side in the seventh.

Ethan Hammerberg would come on to pitch the eighth, only to have Komistek greet him with a solo homer to right center to tie the score at 4-4.  Hammerberg retired the side on three strikeouts, but the damage was done.

Failing to score for a sixth straight inning, the Buckeyes took the field in the bottom of the ninth with Hammerberg still on the mound.  He struck out leadoff hitter Kameron Guidry, but Scheler pinch-hit for shortstop Jake Hansen and took the second fastball he saw out to right field for an opposite field home run and the game winner.

UC won it with 5 runs on 8 hits and had 1 error.

Ohio State lost it with 4 runs on 6 hits, and had those 2 costly errors in the third inning.

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“Give Keathley credit, because he obviously pitched the ball very well,”  said a frustrated Beals, post-game. “But we’ve got to do a better job.  We can’t let some guy go six innings on us and we don’t get anything off him.

“We gave them a three-run inning, we didn’t score for six innings, and you wait around long enough in a ballpark like this…when we let them hang around…and you lose.  We’ve got to be tougher.  We’ve got to fight and work.  We’ve got to understand that we’re wearing Ohio State across our chests and we’re going to get everyone’s best.  And, we lost some winning energy in the middle of the game.  We had the lead, and we were pitching, but because our offense wasn’t doing anything we weren’t building off our pitching.  We need to learn to feed off of that, too, because it isn’t always the bats that you feed off of.

He stressed in the off-season the necessity for con-conference, and developmental games for the opportunity it affords young talent to play and compete.  But three weeks removed from the opening of conference play, Beals was asked about another priority…that of establishing a habit of winning weekend series, starting with the one this weekend in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“We’ve just got to get back into some winning ways,”  he said.  “Winning and losing is sometimes something you learn.  We came out hot in Florida, we win a game late with a big rally against Indiana State and you think you have a winning feeling…and now we’ve lost five in a row.  We’ve got it going the other way now, and we’ve got to get it back.”

It won’t be easy…against a perennial NCAA tourney team in Campbell, then Pitt on Saturday, and Army in the weekend finale on Sunday.  Weather conditions are supposed to be good…warm, and dry…and that’s good.

Enough with the old adages.

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