Trailing by just a run, a costly eighth inning denies the Buckeyes a chance to tie in the ninth, and sends them to a series loss to the Wolverines.
Ann Arbor – It was everything you’d expect when Ohio State plays Michigan.
For five innings lefthander Connor Curlis gave the Buckeyes a competitive start.
The defense made plays behind him, Jalen Washington ranging up the middle to make a play in the second that even drew the appreciation of a packed partisan Michigan crowd crammed into Fisher Stadium.
The Buckeyes got four early hits in the opening three innings off Michigan starter Alec Rennard (6-1) – and scored the game’s first run in the top of the third when they strung together a pair of singles, a walk, and another RBI single from Dominic Canzone.
But some of those issues from Friday – from so many other games past, came back to haunt them – the lack of a timely hit when it would have meant the most. The Buckeyes, despite their 17-28 record, had not had a five-game losing streak prior to Saturday. They do now, losing the second game of their weekend series against Michigan, and the series, 5-2.
Curlis (3-3) gave Greg Beals an heroic effort through five innings, but simply ran out of room on his pitch count. Sitting at 72 pitches through the first four innings, one Michigan hitter after another scored laborious at bats, fouling off one pitch after another. The pitches added up. Surrendering single runs in the each of the third and fourth innings, he pitched through a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth, and again in the fifth, trailing 2-1.
But the offense, the bane of Greg Beals’ existence through 45 games, continued to languish, not withstanding another two-hit day by freshman Dominic Canzone…and DH Andrew Fishel, who singled to start their run-producing rally in the third, then doubled to extend hope in the top of the ninth – had a pair of knocks, as well. After that, it was a hit here, and there. Between the top of the third and the top of the ninth…nada! That means nothing in Spanish.
Trailing 2-1 after five, Beals went to the bullpen and summoned sophomore Ryan Feltner, whose seasons of ups and downs continued. The ups? He neatly navigated the sixth and seventh inning, largely throwing his 90s fastball by the Wolverine hitters.
But in what became a fateful eighth, the downs. He lost command, and walked a pair of Michigan hitters after retiring the leadoff hitter on a routine fly to Tre’ Gantt in center. He fell behind DH Nick Poirier 2-0, before pouring a fastball down the middle that Poirier attacked, lining an RBI single to center. Kyle Michalik came on to retire the final two outs, but not before an error through the legs of second baseman Conner Pohl let in another pair of runs to run the deficit to 5-1.
The Buckeyes, as is their custom, rose up to put runners on base in the ninth – Bo Coolen reached on an error, and Pohl singled off the wall in left after Jacob Barwell struck out. Fishel then doubled with two outs to drive in Coolen, and Tyler Cowles flew out to right for the second out. Tre’ Gantt came to the plate representing the tying run…but grounded out harmlessly to second for the final out.
There comes a point in this season where the daily issues become not only exasperating, but inexplicable…like a haunting scene from a movie or book.
“It’s a lot of the same,” said Beals in his post-game remarks. “That’s the disappointing part, and we know that. It’s a young ballclub, yes, but still, we have to make better and more adjustments in order to compete. We have to do that to have better success than we’re having presently. You see signs throughout a game, positive things, but when the going gets tough we need to be the ones to find a way to get the hit or the big out when we need it. We’re just not doing that right now.”
Signs? Connor Curlis was a bright spot for Beals and the Buckeyes.
“He sure was,” Beals assured. “And I really like the way Connor competes, no doubt about that. And it’s been challenging for him because we’ve moved him back and forth from starting to the bullpen and back, from role to role. And you saw a little bit of the effects of that today because we didn’t have a lefty to go to in the ‘pen, having used Stoll yesterday. He (Stoll) will be available again tomorrow, but Connor gave us a great effort today.”
He (Beals) has talked repeatedly through the year of his passion for players who compete, those who display an urgency to make a difference when that big hit or out is needed. He’ll get that tomorrow when reliever-turned-starter out of necessity, Seth Kinker, gets the ball for the start in the series finale.
“Seth will get the ball tomorrow and given the way he’s pitched all year we hope he can give us a quality start and give us five or six good innings, get us deep in the ballgame.”
And Kinker, who’s continually shown the ability to play big in big situations, leaves very little doubt with respect as to what Beals and the Buckeyes need most on Sunday afternoon.
The Buckeyes lost it Saturday with 2 runs on 7 hits and committed a costly 3 errors.
Michigan won it with 5 runs on 6 hits and had one error.
“I know he’s going to compete,” said Beals speaking of Seth Kinker and his Sunday assignment. “No doubt about that.”
Sunday’s game will be aired on the Big Ten Network starting at 4 pm.