The Ohio State baseball team hadn’t lost a midweek game since 2014, translating into 16 straight contests in which OSU was declared the victor.
But that streak, along with the Buckeyes’ run of seven consecutive victories, was snapped on a chilly Tuesday evening against Kent State. The Golden Flashes throttled the Buckeyes 8-3 in a game that was lopsided from the start and was the latest installment in the turbulent freshman campaign for pitcher Ryan Feltner.
The loss dropped OSU’s record to 19-8-1 and improved the mark of Kent State, OSU coach Greg Beals’ alma mater, to 20-8.
From the first pitch, the Golden Flashes smelled blood in the water with Feltner on the mound for OSU. Prior to the game, Feltner held a 5.26 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance. Immediately, the Golden Flashes took advantage of the struggling freshman from Hudson, Ohio.
A leadoff double by redshirt junior right fielder Luke Burch opened a small gash in the freshman’s confidence. Already known for having control issues, Feltner hit senior first baseman Zarley Zalewski to put two runners on, widening the wound in Feltner’s confidence. Burch was then brought around to score on a RBI single through the left side by sophomore third baseman Dylan Rosa to put Kent State up 1-0.
After Feltner eventually got out of the first frame, OSU’s bats were silenced for the second straight inning by opposing freshman starter Connor Wollersheim, forcing Feltner, still shaken by the bad start, out once again.
The bleeding for the Scarlet and Gray then turned from a small wound to a large gash as Feltner self-destructed. The rookie lost his control and walked the first two batters, then allowed a bunt single to redshirt sophomore outfielder Mason Mamarella to load the bases. With the bags juiced, Burch hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring junior left fielder Connor Simonetti and pushing the lead to 2-0.
Desperate to get an out, Feltner then attempted a pickoff move that failed, scoring another run to put OSU behind 3-0. Feltner managed to wiggle his way out of the second inning by striking out junior infielder Zach Beckner and Rosa, but his day was done as OSU coach Greg Beals had seen enough after just 53 pitches.
Feltner was tagged with the loss, dropping his record to 1-2 for his 2.0 innings of work.
Feltner’s replacement, redshirt junior reliever Joe Stoll, didn’t fare any better for OSU. Down 3-0 in the third inning, Stoll allowed a leadoff double to freshman catcher Pete Schuler. After a groundout, Simonetti doubled to left center, scoring Schuler. Junior infielder Sam Hurt then singled to bring Simonetti home and push the lead to 5-0.
Three batters later, with the bases loaded again, Zalewski’s two-out, two-run single vaulted the home team’s lead to an insurmountable 7-0.
Meanwhile, Wollersheim (3-1) was in the midst of a scoreless 5.2 innings of work in which he only allowed three hits and one walk. The Neenah, Wisconsin, native also struck out four Buckeyes before being pulled.
OSU’s normally potent offense fell completely silent for eight innings, only managing to put five runners on base. The Buckeyes’ biggest threat over the first eight frames came in the top of the fourth when freshman designated hitter Brady Cherry struck out looking, stranding OSU’s captains Nick Sergakis and Jalen Washington on second and first base, respectively.
OSU finally grasped a hold on its pitching in the fourth inning when redshirt sophomore reliever Austin Woodby took the mound. With the game well out of reach, Beals then changed pitchers every inning for the rest of the game, as if to preserve his pitching staff for this weekend’s matchup with Maryland.
Kent State struck again as Schuler added another insurance run for the Golden Flashes in the eighth inning. The Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, native rocketed a double down the right-field line off redshirt sophomore reliever Yianni Pavlopoulos, plating Zalewski for Kent State’s final run of the game.
With OSU down to its final three outs, the Buckeyes finally broke through. In the top of the ninth inning, facing redshirt sophomore reliever Zach Spangler, junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson and Sergakis were each hit by pitches. Both runners advanced on a groundout by senior first baseman Troy Kuhn. Washington then put OSU on the board with a sac fly to right field, scoring Dawson and spoiling the shutout.
Feeling the momentum, Cherry stepped up to the plate and crushed a 3-1 delivery to left field for his fifth homer of the season. With the lead trimmed to 8-3, senior infielder Zach Ratcliff worked a two-out walk to keep OSU’s waning hopes alive.
OSU’s last gasp continued, as sophomore outfielder Tre’ Gantt, a pinch runner, advanced to second. Senior shortstop Craig Nennig then singled to put runners on first and third, before Nennig advanced to second base on defensive indifference with junior center fielder Troy Montgomery at the dish for OSU.
Montgomery worked a 2-2 count, but he eventually flew out to the right-field warning track to end the Buckeyes’ scrappy ninth-inning comeback attempt.
With its winning streak history, OSU is now set to travel to College Park, Maryland, for a three-game series with the Maryland Terrapins. OSU junior Tanner Tully is slated to take the mound in Game 1 of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.