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 dual arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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Their post-season hopes took a devastating hit as the Buckeyes came up empty for Sunday, and the series, losing to Minnesota in a series finale double-header.

Minneapolis, MN – There was no excuse, except for the the possible exception of 18-inning hangover…from Saturday’s marathon.  But no one wanted to hear about that.

This time it was simply the matter of being out-hit, and out-played…..in a double-header loss, 11-2 in the first game, and a heart-breaking 3-2 decision in the second, in Sunday’s finale at Siebert Field in Minneapolis.

First game starter Seth Lonsway struggled again to throw strikes, lasting just three inefficient innings in which he threw 97 pitches – not near enough of them strikes.  The good news – he struck eight of the nine outs he recorded.  The bad news – he walked eight, as well.

Ironically, the Buckeyes scored first in game one on an unearned run in the first inning.  But Lonsway was in trouble immediately in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with a couple of walks.

Ditto in the second, as the Celina freshman walked another pair, but was able to strike out the final out to escape damage.

First game starter Seth Lonsway couldn’t find the plate, completing three innings with eight strikeouts and eight walks

But in the third he couldn’t wiggle out of a four-walk span, sandwiched around a run-scoring double by Minnesota’s Easton Bertrand.  The Gophers would ultimately score a second run to take the lead, and never give it up.  Lonsway came out for the fourth and quickly gave up a two-run homer to Eduardo Estrada and that signaled the end of his day.  Freshman T.J. Brock came on to finish the inning unscathed, and actually pitched scoreless ball over the next two innings…the fifth and the sixth.

But the second time through the Gophers’ batting order signaled doom for Brock as Minnesota struck for a pair of home runs in the seventh, and four consecutive hits in the eighth (two doubles and two singles) before Joe Gahm came on to retire the final out.  Brock’s line:  4.2 innings, 7 hits, 7 runs (all earned), 3 strikeouts and a walk.

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The Buckeyes would score their only other run in the sixth on a pair of Gopher walks from starter Sam Thoresen, a hit batsman, and a sac fly by Brent Todys.  But that was it…the sum total of their offense as they finished the game with just three hits of a trio of Gopher pitchers.  Thoresen went the first six to gain his fourth win of the season.  Seth Lonsway, for his troubles, suffered the loss and now drops to 5-4 for the season.

Minnesota had 11 runs on 11 hits and committed 3 errors.

Ohio state lost it with 2 runs on 3 hits and had 1 error.

Griffan Smith was again exceptional, throwing eight innings of five-hit baseball in a losing cause.

Greg Beals jumbled the lineup as much as he could in the second game, starting Marcus Ernst at third base, while Nick Erwin moved to shortstop to rest a slumping Zach Dezenzo, who went 0 for 4 in the first game and saw his average slump to .250.  Dezenzo entered the series hitting .268.  Matt Carpenter sat at second base while Scottie Seymour got the start.

The nightcap was a total flip in terms of pitching, as sophomore Griffan Smith delivered another quality, clutch performance, pitching a complete game 5-hitter, but like the rest of the weekend…he came up empty for his efforts.

The Buckeyes fell behind in the first, then scored a pair of runs in the top of the second on a pair of walks from Minnesota starter Joshua Culliver and a two-RBI double from Scottie Seymour.  It looked good, and promising, for more.  But it never came.  Culliver buckled down for the next 2.1 innings before surrendering the mound to reliever Ryan Duffy in the fourth.  And all Duffy would do is pitch the next 3 innings, giving up no runs on just two hits.

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Griffan Smith continued to roll, his only blemishes being a pair of solo homers to Eduardo Estrada in the first and shortstop Jordan Kozicky in the second.  From that point on…crickets.  The Gophers would get just three more hits off Smith.

He came out for the eighth and with one out gave up a walk to first baseman Cole McDevitt.  Then, on a 3-2 pitch to DH Andrew Willhite, Willhite flaired a ball off the end of the bat that landed just inside the foul line down the right field line, and just out of the reach of Dom Canzone.  It scored McDevitt all the way from first for the go-ahead run, and that, in summation, was the ballgame.  Closer Jake Stevenson pitched a scoreless ninth – 1-2-3 – and the weekend, and the series, was swept.

Greg Beals:  “You don’t like to lose at all, but it’s to the point now where close just isn’t good enough.  We need to find a way to make a difference.”

Greg Beals:  “It’s a tough series when you get swept with two one-run games in the sweep.  You don’t like losing at all, but it’s to the point where close just isn’t good enough anymore.  We need to find a way to make a difference, make the plays, because at the end of things we’re one big hit or big out from taking two out of three.  But you just can’t discount things like that because they pitched well in the series…it was a tough weekend on our hitters.  We’re responsible for that and we need to find a way to make things happen.”

And if there is any such thing as human carryover from 18 innings and 5 hours and 45 minutes of baseball from the night before…Beals was having none of it.

“I’m not buying that,”  he said smartly.  “That just can’t be the case, because if that’s the excuse we’re mentally weak and that’s not a place we can be.”

And to the point of pitching, and Griffan Smith in particular, who threw eight innings of quality, winning baseball only to board the bus with the loss, Beals was sympathetic.

“He pitched his tail off and I hate the fact that he gets on the bus disgusted because of the way we lost.”

But to his point about offense, the Buckeyes lost the Sunday doubleheader on a day when they collected just eight hits in 18 innings of baseball.  More, the big four in the middle of the lineup – Canzone, Cherry, Dingler and Conner Pohl – went just 4 for 24 on the day.  Canzone did extend his on-base streak with a pair of hits (one in each game), but that could hardly replace the satisfaction of winning.

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Final line for game two: Minnesota won it with 3 runs on 5 hits and no errors.  Ohio State lost it with 2 runs on 5 hits and no errors.  Griffan Smith falls to 5-3 by way of record.

The Buckeyes return home Wednesday for a date with Wright State, then next weekend’s three-game series with Penn State, and whether anyone admits it or not, the sun is setting on their post-season hopes.  With two series left, it is critical now…that they must win or sweep both to have a chance.  They entered Minnesota in eighth place with a 7-8 league record.

They went to the airport Sunday for the trip back to Columbus standing 7-11 in the Big Ten and having lost ground.  And, they’re now 24-23, overall.

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