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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Stymied by fabulous pitching, and unable to cash in on a couple of pitching gems of their own, the Buckeyes drop a heart-rending doubleheader to Maryland.

College Park, Maryland – In a word, or two, there wasn’t much to say about Game One of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ double-header Friday afternoon with the Maryland Terrapins.

The Buckeyes got “pitched to”,  plain and simple.

Maryland sophomore Taylor Bloom pitched a three-hit shutout, threw 90 pitches, and made every advantage of a pair of unearned first-inning runs to cruise to an eventual 3-0 win.

Tanner Tully was equally effective as the Buckeyes’ starter, throwing a three hitter of his own, but the two runs in the first, and a booming home run into the teeth of a brisk win by Terrapin left fielder Marty Costes in the sixth was simply more than Tully could overcome.

There simply was no offense by the Buckeyes.  Bloom held them hitless until one out in the sixth, when shortstop Craig Nennig lined a clean single to right, following L Grant Davis being hit by a pitch.  But with runners on first and third Nennig got picked off first, and the inning fizzled.

An inning later the Buckeyes got the the lead-off hitter on, but Nick Sergakis bunted into a double play…and that was the sum total of Ohio State’s threat(s) for the game.

“Give their guy credit (Bloom),”  said Greg Beals after the game.  “Tully pitched great for us, but their guy was just better today.”

Bloom, a 6′ righthander from Crofton, Maryland, was outstanding, mixing a sinking fastball with a sharp slider, keeping the baseball in the nether reaches of the strike zone.  Forced to swing from behind in the count, Buckeyes hitters expanded the strike zone and played right into the plan.  The pitches they did hit hard…were right at Maryland fielders!

Plain and simple, it put the Buckeyes in a familiar position with Maryland, a team that more than played opportunely in their series last year in Columbus.  With Saturday starter Adam Niemeyer set back a day because of a hamstring pull suffered in last weekend’s series with Bethune Cookman, the game two duty fell on senior John Havird.

John Havird held Maryland hitless for eight innings before leaving in the ninth inning of Game 2.

John Havird held Maryland hitless for eight innings before leaving in the ninth inning of Game two.

And Havird pitched a gem.

The senior from Arizona no-hit Maryland through the first eight innings, carrying a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, the Buckeyes’ lone run coming in the top of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly to deep left center field that scored Nick Sergakis from third base.

But Havird went out for the ninth walking ground where he’d never strode before as a Buckeye – no-hitter in a bitterly contested game, the stress of needing a win to at least have a chance to win the series on Sunday, gathering darkness, falling temperatures…and his pitch count at 100!

His first pitch struck designated hitter Nick Cieri in the back and Greg Beals came to the mound to make a change.  No runs, and no hits through the eight innings, but Beals was sure that it was time.

Tough Call...Greg Beals walks to the mound to remove Havird in the ninth.

Tough Call…Greg Beals walks to the mound to remove Havird in the ninth.

“It’s tough to take a guy out when he’s pitching that well and has a no-hitter,”  said Beals.  “But he was getting up in the zone, he’d had some stress the inning before, and we had confidence in the guys in the bullpen.”

Michael Horejsei came on to retire the first out on a long fly to right field, a ball that Jacob Bosiokovic actually overran, then reached back to make a snow-cone catch.  One out!

Beals came back to the mound and brought in Yianni Pavlopoulos to pitch to consecutive right-handers.  Pavlopoulos got a ground ball out, and then on a 3-2 pitch to shortstop Kevin Smith he stuck Smith out with a ball in the dirt for what would have been the final out of the game.  But the ball eluded catcher Jalen Washington allowing runners at first and third with two out.

The ensuing hitter, Andrew Bechtold slapped a ground ball to third baseman Nick Sergakis, who mishandled it…and then overthrew first base allowing the tying run to score.  Pavlopoulos retired the final out on a ground ball to second to send the game to extra innings.

But on a day when momentum had been an uphill gain for the Buckeyes for 18 consecutive innings, there was simply none when they came to bat in the tenth.  Troy Montgomery opened with a hit, and Ronnie Dawson walked.  Sergakis came to the plate with an opportunity to atone for his error in the ninth…and struck out on a 93 mph fastball from the Terps’ stud reliever Mike Rescigno.

Buckeyes' third baseman reflects on the lost third out of the ninth that would have preserved a 1-0 win.

Buckeyes’ third baseman reflects on the lost third out of the ninth that would have preserved a 1-0 win.

Pavlopoulos came back out for the 10th, but gave up a lead-off single to center fielder Zack Jancarski, who stole second to set up what’s come to be the “groundhog day” moment for games between Ohio State and Maryland.  Right fielder Madison Nickens lined a fastball into center field to score Jancarski and just like that the Buckeyes had lost the double-header, and the series, 2-1.

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“The hard part of this is that Yianni ends up getting a loss, and John Havird doesn’t get a win, on a day when we had two opportunities to keep the ball in front of us in the ninth inning to win the game,”  said Beals.  “Our pitchers pitched their butts off all day long and it comes down to a couple of plays in the ninth – tough plays, but plays you got to make.  We had two shots to finish the game and we weren’t able to do it.”

With Saturday off due to forecast of un-spring-like weather, and the series dropped, it paints a challenging picture for a team that has to be mindful of its short, but unhappy history against Maryland…and now desperately needing Sunday’s finale for whatever cleansing measure they can exact from it.

Tanner Tully deserved a better fate.  "Our pitchers pitched their butts off today,"  said OSU coach Greg Beals.

Tanner Tully deserved a better fate. “Our pitchers pitched their butts off today,” said OSU coach Greg Beals.

Sixteen scoreless innings…shut out in the first game on three hits, and not scoring until the seventh inning of the second game, has to be a concern.  The Buckeyes finished game 2 with 6 hits, but just the lone run while leaving nine runners on base.

“Our hitters have to realize that we’re going to have some tough games where we’re going to see good pitching like we saw today,”  added Beals.  “But you can’t let that get in your head.  Frankly, their pitching was very good today, but we have to be better than that offensively, where one bad at bat affects your next at bat.  We have to be able to separate things like that.

“Now, without a doubt Sunday’s game is going to be huge.  We have to bounce back and the character of our ball club will be revealed on Sunday.”

For the day, 19 innings, 1 run, 9 hits, and 12 men left on base.  Ohio State drops to 19-10-1 for the season and 2-3 in the Big Ten.

The Terrapins improve to 17-15 overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten, and will enjoy a very pleasant off day on Saturday, regardless of whatever weather they get.

They say it was cold and nasty back in Ohio.  For the Bucks….it was a very tough day in Maryland, too!

 "The Spot" is proud to sponsor coverage of the Buckeyes on Press Pros Magazine.com.

“The Spot” is proud to sponsor coverage of the Buckeyes on Press Pros Magazine.com.

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