Some familiar struggles, and a familiar finish marked the Buckeyes’ opening against Big Ten competition Friday. In the end…the only thing “not hot” was the temperature.
COLUMBUS — Their coach said he was “irate.” Their co-captain said his team needed more “wants”.
The mood was not a good one after Ohio State dropped its Big Ten Opener to Northwestern Friday night, 6-5, and rightfully so.
The loss ended the Buckeyes five-game winning streak and came against a team that was 5-16 entering play, losers in six straight and 12 of their last 13.
It was a game with an odd feel. It started poorly for Ohio State and—despite a late comeback, the Buckeyes scoring all their runs from the sixth on and tying the score 4-4 in the eighth—ended in disappointing fashion, and with an ominous turn.
Closer Yianni Pavlopoulos took a line shot off the leg after two pitches in the ninth that set up the winning rally, and may put him on the shelf for sometime. He left the field under his own power and Ohio State coach Greg Beals said the injury was “muscular…nothing serious.” But it didn’t look like small change and it just made matters worse.
After Ben Dickey singled off Pavlopoulos, Seth Kinker entered the game. Two runs scored in the inning on three hits, a sac fly and a walk.
Northwestern took a 6-4 lead to the bottom of the inning, but OSU could manage just one run in response.
With two outs, Nick Sergakis singled and pinch-hitter Ryan Leffel followed with a run-scoring double. Dan Kubiuk came on to face Troy Kuhn and struck him out in short order. That was ball game.
But while the drama took place in the later innings, the game was decided early. That’s why Beals was irate.
“I’m irate,” he said, “with five zeroes in the first five frames. We fueled the fire in the first inning. We got an error to start the game (a ground ball to Craig Nennig at short). We have a passed ball (Jalen Washington) that scores a run…They played well. They played good baseball. (Starter) Reed Mason did a good job (six innings, two runs on four hits, two walks and six strikeouts). But, we have to be better than that.”
In one stretch, Mason retired 10 in a row and 12 of 14. The Buckeyes threatened in the fourth when Ronnie Dawson doubled with one out, but Brady Cherry and Kuhn went down on strikes.
OSU finally got on the board in the sixth when Jacob Bosiokovic, back in the lineup after a 10-game absence with a torn hamstring, doubled to left. Sergakis, who was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBI, brought him home with a home run to left, his second of the season.
Dawson engineered the first run in the eighth. He reached first on a walk, got a green light from Beals, and proceeded to steal second and then third. Sergakis brought him home with a ground-single to right. He stole second and later scored on an error.
But as daring as Ohio State was late in the game, they could not get over the hump, something they have been able to do of late—but not Friday night.
“We played well enough to win the last four innings, but it was 4-nothing before we started,” Beals said. “On a cold day (38-degrees at first pitch) when offense isn’t going to be abundant, that’s a big spot…”
As Beals mulled through what happened and didn’t happen Friday night, the question was raised as to whether or not he needed to address his team on what can take place in Big Ten play—that a 5-16 team can come around and pop you in the mouth.
He paused for a moment, then said: “That’s a mature team in there. If I need to tell them that, we are in big, big trouble.”
“There may be a silver lining,” said Sergakis, who continues to lead this team and shine at the plate, batting .442. “But at this point it is pretty much kick it into gear or take your lumps. We got to find a way to go out there and want it more from the beginning, a little faster,
“I’m not going to be one to make excuses,” he continued, “but the ball wasn’t carrying. The weather wasn’t that great, but we needed to find a way—point, blank…
“Really, we need to find more ‘wants’. This is an older team, a lot of seniors and I don’t really see why we don’t have that because for a lot of us, this is the end of our careers, not just Ohio State baseball—our baseball careers. We need to figure it out…We need to put pressure on the other team from the start, not waiting until the last few innings.”
They get another shot at Northwestern Saturday at 3:05 and again Sunday at 12-noon.