The Ohio State baseball team was held hitless with two runs on Friday night and ended the day trailing 5-2 to Nebraska. Then the weather hit and suspended the game until Saturday afternoon.
The Buckeye bats must have found some life over the 19-hour break as they piled on six runs in the bottom of the fifth on Saturday to win the first game of the series 9-7.
In their second game on Saturday, the Buckeyes were engaged in a pitcher’s duel between the two starters, but ultimately came out on the losing end in a 3-1 loss to Nebraska.
OSU coach Greg Beals said Saturday was just about hits coming at the right times for both teams. In the first game, his team found the lucky hit. In the second game, Nebraska found that hit.
“It certainly was a catapult for game one, and you know we strung together great at-bats and it just shows you how contagious hitting can be and it’s contagious both ways,” Beals said. “And really, in Game 2, we were in position — I think we left nine guys on base I think the difference in Game 2 was they got a two-out double and we didn’t.”
The Sunday game appeared to be all Cornhusker for most of the game until the Buckeyes rallied for eight runs in the eighth inning to draw within two runs late in the game, but Nebraska held on late to secure the series win over OSU.
The Cornhuskers did not wait long before lighting up the scoreboard. Junior Jake Meyers led off the inning with a double down the right field line and advanced on to third on a sacrifice bunt. A sacrifice fly from the next batter scored Meyers, giving Nebraska the 1-0 lead.
Trailing 1-0 early, the Buckeyes responded fast with a pair of sacrifice flies to push their team ahead 2-1.
The second inning got started for Nebraska the same way they kicked off the first: with a double. Pavlopoulos then uncorked a wild pitch that sailed behind the batter at the plate and immediately reached for the back of his thigh. He limped off the field, and was replaced by sophomore Ryan Feltner on the mound.
“He’ll be fully evaluated (on Monday) by doc,” Beals said after Sunday’s game. I’m sure he’ll have MRIs and stuff to see the extent of the tear that’s in that hamstring. We’re pretty sure there’s a tear of some type, so it’s really still too early to tell what the extent of that injury is going to be.”
Feltner struck out the first batter he faced, but a bloop single to center scored a run and a weak grounder to short gave the Cornhuskers runners on the corners with the game now tied. The next batter doubled off the wall, scoring the runner from third, bringing the score now to 3-2 in favor of Nebraska. A bases-loaded hit-batsmen brought home one more runner in the inning.
The Cornhuskers would later add another run to their lead in the top of the fourth.
Then the rain came postponing the game until Saturday afternoon.
When the game resumed in the bottom of the fourth, the Buckeyes were shut out, but they roared to life in the next inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, senior shortstop Jalen Washington singled to right to drive in a run. Freshman right fielder Canzone then followed up Washington with a bases-clearing double into the right-center field gap, giving the Buckeyes a 6-5 lead. Another double and a single brought in two more runs to expand the lead to 8-5.
The Cornhuskers scored a run off a throwing error in the top of the seventh, but the Buckeyes responded just as quick when Washington scored on a single in the bottom half of the seventh after hitting a triple to lead off the inning.
Heading into the ninth inning down by three, Nebraska started a comeback, rallying for a run off two hits and an error. But a pair of strikeouts and a groundout helped the Buckeyes escape the jam and come away with the 9-7 victory.
Coming on the heels of a 9-7 OSU victory, Saturday’s scheduled game was a pitcher’s duel that ended with the Cornhuskers winning 3-1.
Nebraska’s starting pitcher senior Derek Burkamper was locked into a battle with redshirt senior Jake Post through five innings until Burkamper’s team piled on three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the lead for good.
Neither team had a real run-scoring opportunity until the top of the sixth inning. With two outs, the Cornhuskers strung together a pair of hits and a walk to load the bases for junior left fielder Luis Alvarado. A wild pitch from Post allowed the first run to come around to score, giving Nebraska a 1-0 lead.
Alvarado followed that wild pitch up with a double to the left-center field gap that bounced off the wall, scoring two more runs and extending his team’s lead to three runs.
Post’s night ended after this inning with three runs allowed on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts over six innings. Beals said he was happy with the way his started battled through the game and was disappointed he did not come away with the win.
“Jake Post gives us a really good ball game,” Beals said. “Five scoreless and then things just got a little bit loose. I thought he made some good pitches in that sixth inning and didn’t get rewarded for them. And then they got the big hit, they got that one big hit where that cleared the bases, but really overall, strong performance by him.”
OSU eventually jumped on the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh inning when Washington singled to left, scoring the runner from third, but that would be the only run scored by the Buckeyes.
An eight-hit, eight-run eighth inning was not enough for the Ohio State baseball team (17-26, 5-10) to overcome an early deficit to Nebraska (26-16-1, 9-5-1) in its 11-9 loss.
The Buckeyes have now lost every weekend series played at home with just one more home series remaining on the last weekend of the season, starting on May 18 against Indiana.
OSU coach Greg Beals said he was proud of the way his team fought back, and that they just needs to find a way to play with that same level of intensity for all nine innings instead of just one.
“I liked the fight. I like the gumption in our guys,” Beals said. “We’ve just got to have that sense of urgency from start to finish, for all 27 outs and we give too many outs, easy outs early in the game. We allow a starting pitcher to settle in a little bit more than I’d like to.”
It didn’t take long for the Buckeyes to find themselves in their first jam of the day when the first three Nebraska batters reached base via a single, walk and hit-by-pitch. Senior first baseman Ben Miller singled to left, scoring a pair and giving the Cornhuskers an early 2-0 lead. Another run would later come around to score.
OSU was in a similar jam in the top of the second inning, this time bases loaded and two outs. An infield single from junior right fielder Scott Schreiber followed up by a hit-by-pitch scored two more runs and expanded Nebraska’s lead to 5-0.
During the middle of the second inning, Beals opted to turn to his relief ace, junior Seth Kinker. Last Sunday against UNCG, Kinker gave the Buckeyes a career-high six innings of one-run, seven-hit baseball while tying a career-high with five strikeouts.
Again entering the game early for the Buckeyes, Kinker came in and provided the team with 4.1 shutout innings, allowing just four hits and no walks while tying his career high with five strikeouts.
Kinker has twice in two weekend’s provided a starter’s workload out of the bullpen, and Beals said there will be consideration towards moving him to the starting rotation in the near future.
“Seth Kinker’s our best, and we’ve got to find a way to get him in situations where he can make a difference in the ball game and our starting pitching is struggling to provide those opportunities,” Beals said.
The Buckeyes were held shutout until the bottom of the sixth inning when sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry tripled to right-center field, driving in junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt from first.
The next half-inning, however, the Cornhuskers responded emphatically. With the bases loaded and one out, a hit-by-pitch drove in one run and a single from senior second baseman Jake Schleppenbach brought the score to 8-1. After a strikeout, Schreiber then drove a two-run double into the left-center field gap to make it 10-1.
Nebraska tacked on another run on an RBI-double from Schleppenbach in the top of the eighth, but senior shortstop Jalen Washington doubled down the left field line to bring the score to 11-2. Washington then scored on a single up the middle by Cherry to cut into the deficit further. Two more hits up the middle set up junior first baseman Bo Coolen with a chance to bat with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a single up the middle to cut the Cornhusker lead down to six runs.
A walk loaded the bases for redshirt senior left fielder Shea Murray who crushed a two-RBI double to center field, drawing the Buckeyes closer. Washington punched another single — the team’s eighth hit of the inning — scoring two more runs and cutting the deficit down to 11-9.
And though the rally ended there, Beals was encouraged by what he saw from his team in the eighth inning and believes
“I believe that what that eight-run inning speaks to more than anything for me is the culture, Beals said. “And while the culture in the locker room, the culture room in the program may not be showing up on the field every day and may not be showing up in the wins and losses category, it certainly it showed up in the eighth inning that we’re down 11-1, but we’re not going to quit. And Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t going to quit, they’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue to compete all the way through.”
The Buckeyes return to Bill Davis Stadium on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. when they host No. 6 Texas Tech in the first of a two-game series.