The woes of the Ohio State baseball team in May continued today at the Big Ten tournament, as the Buckeyes lost to Iowa, 3-2, in walk-off fashion. The team is now down to its last life in the double-elimination tourney, and will face Indiana on Thursday morning at Target Field.
"Really good college baseball game today," Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said after the game. "We don‟t feel good about losing, obviously. No moral victories, but really good college baseball game. Played well on both sides and pitched well on both sides. I give Iowa credit, they played well."
Leading 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth innings, Ohio State closer Trace Dempsey walked pinch hitter Eric Schenck-Joblinske and then gave up a two-run home run to third baseman Nick Day, leaving the scarlet and gray stunned.
"I think we missed a pitch there in the 9th inning that we'd really like to have back and it ends up being the difference in the ball game," Beals said of Day's blast.
The game had been quite the pitchers' duel until the late innings, with Ohio State's Travis Lakins and Iowa's Tyler Peyton both shutting down the opposing bats. Lakins went eight innings, allowing just the one run on six hits while striking out six. Peyton was equally tough, giving up one run on eight hits with seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work. Neither starter figured in the decision.
Iowa got their lone run off Lakins in the bottom of the second on an RBI groundout by catcher Jimmy Frankos.
"The thing [Lakins] did today was he pitched very effectively with his fastball, which means he was pitching ahead in the count, which also allows him to control his pitch count," Beals said.
Peyton held the Buckeyes scoreless until the seventh when junior Zach Ratcliff led things off by lacing his second double of the game off the wall in left-center. Pinch runner Jake Brobst came around to score two batters later on a sacrifice fly by freshman Tre' Gantt.
In the eighth inning, Ohio State took the lead in dramatic fashion against Hawkeye reliever Nick Hibbing. Senior right fielder Pat Porter, who just a day earlier had been named first-team All-Big Ten, launched his 11th home run of the season to right, giving the Buckeyes a 2-1 advantage.
Dempsey quickly retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth, but the struggles of Ohio State's bullpen continued. The Buckeyes have now lost nine of their last ten Big Ten games.
Ohio State's NCAA tournament hopes are now in doubt, and it will be interesting to see if the team can rebound from this gut-punching loss. The Hoosiers, who lost Wednesday morning to Michigan, 4-1, just swept the Buckeyes last weekend in Bloomington. First pitch for the loser's bracket game is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. ET. Senior Ryan Riga is the probable starter for Beals, while junior Kyle Hart is most probable to be on the bump for Indiana.
"It‟s just a matter of executing," senior co-captain Aaron Gretz said. "Today it was one pitch and the last three weeks it‟s been one or two plays away, and we need to play a full baseball game in order to beat all these good teams. We‟re right there. That‟s the most frustrating part."