The Buckeyes give up five unearned runs in a disastrous second inning and end up settling for series split against Bethune-Cookman in Daytona.
Daytona, Fla. – If there was a return of merchandise policy in college baseball, Ohio State would double-time it to the front desk with a receipt in one hand wanting to get a loss to Bethune-Cookman taken off its hands.
To be precise, coach Greg Beals would settle for a return of the bottom of the second inning on Monday at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
The Buckeyes had an error, lost a ball in the sun and could have used instant replay to check on whether a double into the right field corner was fair or foul during the inning. Starter Jake Vance walked a batter and hit a batter.
That added up to six runs – five of them unearned – for the Wildcats in giving them a turbo boost toward an 8-3 victory and split of the four-game series.
Ohio State (7-5) almost always sets its sites on getting into the NCAA tournament, and we won’t know until late May whether or not this split will affect its seeding or even if it gets in.
“We had six free bases the first two innings and five unearned runs in the second inning, but other than that we played a normal game of baseball,’’ Beals said. “You can’t do it, but if you could wipe out that second inning we played a solid game of baseball. We did leave guys on base – nine – and we were in a couple of situations where some hits could have changed the complexion of the game. That’s baseball.’’
The team conducted a brief meeting in the outfield before the players began to pack equipment for the bus ride to the airport in Orlando.
It was so quiet that one could hear the flags flapping in the strong breeze.
Captain Dominic Canzone, a junior, said it was time to remember what went wrong and get ready for the First Pitch Invitational in Greenville, South Carolina this weekend.
“We had a couple mid-week games last year like this,’’ he said. “You just move on and think about winning again. It was one inning. That ball down the line (for the double) didn’t help, and it just blew up on us.’’
There also was the Jordan Pinto factor. The short lefty from Bethune-Cookman (5-6) pitched his fanny off the first six innings in his first start of the season to keep Ohio State from playing catch-up. He gave up eight hits, two earned runs and two walks and struck out two with 74 pitches.
How big of a lift did he give his team with a slider, fastball and change-up?
Pinto had pitched seven innings in five relief appearances before yesterday and his highest pitch count was 35. His earned run average was 10.29 with eight earned runs allowed in seven innings.
“I was just trying to get it over the plate knowing I have a bunch of guys who can field any kind of ball hit their way,’’ he said. “I had a lot of support. Once our guys get hot they tend to keep putting the bat on the ball. We have guys who work and give it 110 percent.’’
Pinto has started games, but was sent to the bullpen this season to provide experience.
“We’re short-staffed and I’m doing what I have to do for the team,’’ he said.
Okay, let’s break down the awful second inning:
Vance loaded the bases with one out on a leadoff double into the right field corner by Over Torres and a one-out walk and hit batsman.
Beals came out to question first base umpire Kurt Branin about the double that landed on or close to the yellow line.
There was more hard luck when shortstop Noah West dove to his left to keep a grounder it by Zach Spivey in the infield. He narrowly missed getting a force at second, but a run scored anyway.
Vance struck out Silas Grinstead for the second out, but then utter disaster struck hard.
First, third baseman Marcus Ernst muffed a slow grounder, bringing in a second run scored. Second, center fielder Ridge Winand lost track of a lazy fly ball in the sun and wind in medium left-center that was hit by Danny Rodriguez to bring in three more runs.
Rodriguez scored on a single to right by Brandon Wilkes to finish the scoring.
Vance deserved better in that five of the seven runs he allowed in five innings were unearned. But Beals said there were too many free bases.
“We need Jake to command his fastball to keep them off his change-up, which is a really good pitch for him,’’ Beals said. “Jake does compete and finds way to get out of jams, but he has to pitch cleaner so he doesn’t have to pitch out of jams.’’
Ohio State had two chances to come back, but Brady Cherry was thrown out at the plate for the final out in the fourth on a single by Ernst and Conner Pohl hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the seventh.
It’s way too early, Beals said, to think about the NCAA tournament.
“There are so many more games to play, and they are a solid team,’’ Beals said of the Wildcats. “But I thought we missed one. It’s hard to sweep, but I was hoping for three out of four.’’
Canzone wanted to get on the bus and begin thinking about the next series.
“We have to stick with the process and keep believing in ourselves,’’ he said. “We have a lot of talent, but we’re a little inconsistent. That’s what you have sometimes with a young ballclub. We have do grow up quick and do the little things right. We have to lead a little bit better, too.’’