Daniel Eddy / Lantern photographer
The Ohio State baseball team (23-13, 7-6) took six innings to record its first hit in a sluggish offensive display as it lost the first of a three-game weekend series against Illinois, 9-2, Friday night at Bill Davis Stadium.
OSU coach Greg Beals said his team came into the game with the wrong attitude, and it showed on the scoreboard.
“It’s very disappointing,” Beals said. “They know what’s at stake and they can’t handle it … if they need their coach to yell at them every day, then they’re not going to be successful, in their season or in life.”
OSU’s offense has struggled at times during the season, and a visibly upset Beals wasn’t shy about voicing his frustration with the Buckeyes’ performance against the Fighting Illini.
“The offense absolutely sucks the air out of the team,” Beals said. “We hit, maybe, three balls hard tonight. You can swing with no plan and do better than that. This is the worst offensive team I’ve ever coached in my 20 years. That’s a fact and you can print it, I don’t mind.”
The night began with a standing ovation for departing OSU men’s basketball forward DeShaun Thomas, who threw out the first pitch, and ended with the Buckeye baseball team unable to draw such applause after managing a mere two hits on the night.
Illinois senior pitcher Kevin Johnson was the difference in the contest as he recorded his sixth win of the year, yielding only two Buckeye hits in his 5.1 innings of work. OSU junior Jaron Long struggled, though, giving up seven runs on ten hits in 5.2 innings of work.
“I feel like I missed a few pitches over the plate and they hit a few balls hard,” Long said. “I gotta get back to work this week and go back out next week and have a better outing.”
Neither team could muster much offense until the fourth inning when Illinois broke the seal on the scoreboard. The Illini plated four in the frame, aided by senior third baseman Brandon Hohl’s two RBI double and redshirt sophomore second baseman Reid Roper’s RBI triple.
The rout was on.
Illinois added another run in the top of the fifth, taking a 5-0 lead. Long was chased out by Illinois in the sixth after giving up another run. His replacement, redshirt junior pitcher Tyler Giannonatti, gave up three more runs in the sixth when he yielded a three RBI triple with the bases loaded, bringing the scoreboard to 9-0.
The bottom of the sixth saw the Buckeyes garner their first hit (redshirt senior second baseman Ryan Cypret’s infield single) and first two runs (one via a bases-loaded walk and another from freshman third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic’s RBI single) of the game. Johnson left the game at the end of the inning.
Neither team scored after the sixth.
The loss seemed similar to last weekend’s 11-2 fall against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. The Buckeyes then rallied to take the Saturday and Sunday affairs and win the series.
Cypret said OSU has to have the same mindset as last weekend if they want to take the Illinois series.
“It’s kind of a similar situation to last weekend in Nebraska,” Cypret said. “They punch us in the mouth early, and then we fold. Hopefully we can respond like we did last weekend. We absolutely battled our tails off, and that’s the only option to do for the next few days. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s the only thing we got.”
Long said effort wasn’t the team’s problem, despite Beals saying the team had had the wrong mindset since arriving at the stadium at 3 p.m.
“I wouldn’t question our effort as a team,” Long said. “Everyone is here to work hard, I wouldn’t question any of the 34 other guys in that locker room’s effort … I think we’re playing hard, we’re just not seeing the results right now.”
OSU takes on Illinois in game two of the series Saturday at 3:05 p.m. at Bill Davis Stadium.