A wearisome season draws a week closer to conclusion with a trip to Iowa City this weekend, and work to at least finish the year and the next two weeks with a positive vibe.
COLUMBUS — It’s Iowa next as this Buckeye baseball season grinds toward its conclusion. At 6-12 and 11th in the Big Ten standings, Ohio State can do little more than finish strong in a season that has been largely disappointing.
Over the coming weekend, OSU will go up against an Iowa club that’s tied with Michigan for fourth in the league behind Nebraska, Maryland and Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes are 11-7 in the Big Ten, and 29-17 overall. They are winners in six of their last eight and are decidedly better at home, where they’re a sparkling 16-3.
None of this bodes well for Ohio State that, for all its effort, cannot find or maintain a steady brand of baseball. The most glaring characteristic of this team has been its uncanny lack of consistency. This is a team that beat Oregon State, then ranked No. 2 in the country, but a team that also managed a single run in consecutive games versus Cincinnati and Eastern Michigan.
They’ve made a habit of raising expectations one day and slapping them right back down the next.
This past week offered still another example. On Tuesday night at Bill Davis Stadium, the Buckeyes bowed their backs and defeated Bowling Green, 7-6, in a 12-inning contest that required four hours and 17 minutes to decide.
They won it on Dominic Canzone’s walk-off, RBI single that capped a 3-for-6 night by the freshman right fielder, who OSU coach Greg Beals calls “the shining light for us this season.”
But the following night, Ball State came to town and it was not pretty, one of those games that was—plain and simple—hard to watch.
Ball State, a middle of the pack team in the Mid-American Conference, beat the Buckeyes, 14-4.
The Cardinals, 26-22 overall and 12-9 in the MAC, strung together 14 hits and scored in five different innings. They didn’t hammer away at Ohio State with a barrage of extra base hits. Instead, they picked and pecked away at the Buckeyes taking advantage of nine walks, three wild pitches, two hit batsmen and a passed ball.
This loss was like too many the Buckeyes suffered this season. It was another game in which they contributed to their own undoing.
This one dropped OSU to 19-30, overall, and along with Tuesday’s extra-inning affair, it thinned the pitching ranks. In the two mid-week games, the Buckeyes used 13 pitchers.
Wednesday night’s story line was a familiar one. They fell behind early, 2-0 in the second on a single, three walks and a passed ball.
They tied it up in the third on a Shea Murray’s triple to right-center and Tyler Cowles single through the left side of the infield.
But starter and loser Jake Vance (0-3) was touched-up for a two-run homer by Caleb Stayton, which keyed the three-run fifth. At that point, Ball State kept pulling ahead while Ohio State was—for the most part—spinning its wheels.
The Cards broke the game open with a four more runs in the sixth and that was that. Ohio State never came back after them—never really mounted an attack of any substance.
If there was a high point, it was Shea Murray’s performance. He tripled twice and drove in three of Ohio State’s four runs. But, it was hardly enough. Through 49 games this group of players has not reached a point or found the ability to play opportunistic baseball. They give away too much too easily and they don’t always show the fight you would expect from an Ohio State ball club.
It was another bothersome loss, one of those, “Oh, well” nights. It was another loss that led to still another lengthy post-game meeting between Beals and his players. It went on long after the game and the lights had dimmed.
The question is – what’s left to say?