With threatening weather in the forecast for Saturday in Bloomington, Ohio State and Indiana adjusted the schedule of the final series of the regular season to play a doubleheader on Friday. By the end of the night, the dark clouds were hanging low over the heads of the Buckeyes.
The Hoosiers picked up a series sweep, sending head coach Greg Beals's squad to a 1-8 finish in the final three conference weekends, and a 13-11 record. With the Big Ten tournament beginning Wednesday at Target Field in Minneapolis, Ohio State is reeling. As the calendar turned to May, there was talk of a regional being hosted at Bill Davis Stadium, but now an NCAA tournament appearance is no longer a sure bet.
There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but the Buckeyes need to find a remedy for their struggles in a hurry.
The first game in the doubleheader found Ohio State's bats in an anemic state against Indiana starter Kyle Hart. Hart gave up six hits and just one unearned run in his six innings of work, improving to 4-0 as the Hoosiers dominated the Buckeyes for a 9-1 win.
Ohio State's lone run came in the top of the third when sophomore center fielder Troy Montgomery laid down a bunt single, advanced to second on a fielder's choice, and stole third. The throw from Indiana catcher Brad Hartong was errant, allowing Montgomery to score. The stolen base for the Buckeye leadoff man was his 35th of the season, tying the program's single season record.
Travis Lakins was on the bump for the scarlet and gray, and the Hoosiers knocked him around. The sophomore righty allowed seven runs in six innings, though only four were earned.
Indiana took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Left fielder Logan Sowers, who's solo home run in the eighth inning last night tied the game, led off the inning with a ground ball to Buckeye shortstop Craig Nennig. Nennig committed an error on the throw, allowing Sowers to reach base. He would eventually score the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Austin Cangelosi.
Center fielder Craig Dedelow, who's three RBIs in Thursday's game were critical to the Hoosier win, followed Sowers in the order with a walk, and eventually came home on a single by Brian Wilhite.
In the third, Sowers got involved once again, delivering an RBI single that plated Hartong, who had doubled two batters earlier, and pushed the lead to 3-1. A two-run home run by Wilhite in the fourth extended things to 5-1, and gave Hart all the breathing room he would need.
Two more unearned runs came home against Lakins in the sixth, after Dedelow reached on an error by first baseman Troy Kuhn to lead things off. The final two runs scored in the seventh when Dedelow hit a two-run homer to right off sophomore Shea Murray.
Sophomore Jake Kelzer tossed three shutout innings, striking out seven, for Indiana to close the game out and send Ohio State to its seventh Big Ten loss in eight games.
The second game of the double dip can be summed up by a single line on the stat sheet: Ohio State left 14 runners on base in a 6-4 loss. As a team that has relied on attention to detail and doing the little things to manufacture runs, a number that gaudy simply could not be overcome.
The Buckeyes got on the board first, taking advantage of command issues by Hoosier starter Christian Morris. Senior catcher Aaron Gretz led the second inning off with a walk, followed by singles from freshman DH Tre' Gantt and sophomore second baseman L. Grant Davis to load the bases. Morris then walked Montgomery to give Ohio State a 1-0 lead, but induced a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Kuhn to limit the damage.
Indiana did not stay behind for long, though, getting yet another big hit from Sowers in the bottom of the third. Ohio State starter Ryan Riga worked his way to two outs in the inning, but along the way walked two and hit another with a pitch, putting the Hoosier left fielder in a bases loaded spot. Sowers delivered on the second pitch of the at-bat, knocking a grand slam out to left and putting his team up 4-1.
It was the only mistake Riga made in his final regular season start for Ohio State, working five innings, giving up the four runs on four hits, striking out three and walking two.
Riga did not figure into the decision thanks to some timely hitting from the Buckeyes in the seventh. Porter was hit by a pitch, Dawson reached on a fielder's choice and error by second baseman Casey Rodrigue, and junior third baseman Nick Sergakis smacked a single to load the bases for the third time in the game. This time, the team cashed in.
Gretz singled to drive in Porter and keep the bags full. Junior Zach Ratcliff, who pinch hit for Gantt, was robbed of extra bases by right fielder Will Nolden, but it was enough to score Dawson and allow Sergakis to advance to third. Nennig then followed with a bunt single, allowing Sergakis to tie the game at four.
But, as has been the case the past three weekends, Ohio State did not have enough to get the win. The Buckeyes had runners at second and third with one out in the eighth, but failed to push the go-ahead run across. Indiana followed up with a pair in the bottom half of the inning off of senior closer Trace Dempsey, and the sweep was complete.
Dempsey took the loss, falling to 9-2 on the season. Senior Ryan Halstead, who held Ohio State scoreless the final three innings, picked up his second win of the season in relief for the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes will now wait to find out their seed for the Big Ten tournament, which will be determined at the conclusion of Saturday's conference games.