Buckeyes bats go silent against the strong effort of Iowa starter Cole McDonald, and some late failures cost them the series opener against the Hawkeyes.
COLUMBUS—Ohio State came up a little short Friday night dropping the opener of a three-game series against Iowa, 4-2, a series that most consider pivotal in the Bucks drive for position in the Big Ten Tournament field.
Iowa came into the series two games behind Big Ten leading Nebraska while Ohio State was tied with Illinois and Maryland for a share of seventh.
The loss drops OSU to 6-7 in the conference and 23-19 overall. Iowa enters tomorrow’s 3:05 game at Bill Davis Stadium 10-6 in the Big Ten, 25-15 overall.
Not long after the last out Friday while fireworks echoed through the stadium, Bucks coach Greg Beals was hit with a question he dislikes.
“Is this,” he was asked, “a series you have to win?”
He looked up from his copy of the box score with a half smile. “You guys ask that question all the time, all the time,” he said. “I don’t know what it means. I don’t. What does it mean?”
At this point, there was laughter because the discussion had entered the territory of philosophy. Reporters tend to see things in the long term, pieces fit—or don’t, in this case—into the overall goal.
Beals does not view things that way. He sees a process. His players talk about it constantly. It works like this. Focus on the immediate. Take care of the now and the greater goal will be achieved.
“Honestly,” he said, “I don’t know what that (the question) means. I know that we need to win a ballgame tomorrow. I know that’s what we got to do.”
That was as far as he would go. That’s as far as the process takes one.
All that said, the Buckeyes will have to be better than they were Friday night, and they can hope they do not face the kind of pitching they faced in the series opener.
Senior right-hander Cole McDonald worked eight plus innings (He faced one hitter in the ninth.), allowed two runs on six hits. He struck out eight, including four of the first six hitters he faced, and did not walk a man.
“Give McDonald his due,” Beals said. “He’s a senior. He’s been around the block. He used all four of his pitches tonight and did a good job of it. He kept us off balance in some cases and he had some of our guys guessing, I thought.”
OSU starter Garrett Burhenn was nearly as good. The freshman righty worked eight innings, allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven while walking two.
“Garrett is pitching well beyond his years,” Beals said.
The primary difference between McDonald and Burhenn came down to extra base hits. In the third, Iowa’s Brendan Sher reached Burhenn for a wind-blown home run to right. Batting in the nine hole, Sher hit a high fly ball to right that caught a ride on 26 mile an hour winds and cleared the wall.
It was Sher’s first home run of the season and part of an impressive showing by the bottom third of Iowa’s line-up. The seven-thru-nine hitters went 5-for-10 and drove in three of Iowa’s four runs.
After Sher’s homer in the third, Iowa made it 2-0 in the fifth on a double by Zeb Adreon, a hard hit ball to left that got past Brady Cherry, a single by Mitchell Boe and a sacrifice fly.
OSU cut the lead to a run in the eighth when Ridge Winand led off the inning with a single and moved to second on Nick Erwin’s hit-and-run ground out.
Dom Canzone scored OSU’s first run with a double to center scoring Winand. But with just one out, Canzone was left stranded.
Matt Carpenter grounded out and Cherry struck out for the third time in four at bats.
Iowa countered with two runs in the ninth when Adreon hit his first home run of the season, a two run, two out shot to right off Will Pfennig.
OSU mounted a rally in the ninth. Conner Pohl opened the inning with a double to left-center. One out later, Brent Todys brought him home with a double to left to make it 4-2.
But Todys was left stranded. Zach Dezenzo grounded out and Winand flew out.
Ohio State left six men on base, five of those in scoring position.
“The difference in the ballgame was two-out RBIs,” Beals said. “They got two-out RBIs. I don’t know that we did (OSU did not)…We get a two-out home run (in the eighth or ninth, when that possibility existed) we win tonight. They got a two-out home run. They won tonight.”
“You got to give McDonald credit,” Canzone said. “He pitched a nice game but I feel like we missed a lot of our pitches. We got to do a better job of that tomorrow.”
He, too, believes in the process.
“We have to come out tomorrow and win a ballgame,” he said. “It’s that simple.”