The heartbreak continued for the Ohio State baseball team on Thursday morning in Minneapolis. The Buckeyes suffered another late-inning loss, falling 5-3 to Indiana, and was eliminated from the Big Ten tournament. An NCAA regional bid is now severely in doubt for the boys from Columbus.
"I really felt like that they deserve better than what this month of May has brought us," head coach Greg Beals said after the game. "These last three of four weeks have been tough. We just haven't been able to find a break."
For the second straight day, Ohio State found itself in a pitchers' duel. Buckeye starter Ryan Riga was solid until the eighth, and finished his day allowing 5 runs on 6 hits in his 7.2 innings of work. But Hoosier lefty Kyle Hart was even better, working out of trouble in the early innings and throwing six innings of shutout ball.
Indiana took a 1-0 lead in the fourth thanks to a solo home run from catcher Brad Hartong. That lead was extended to 2-0 the next inning on an RBI single by third baseman Brian Wilhite.
Ohio State, to their credit, fought back to tie things up in the seventh. A leadoff walk by left fielder Ronnie Dawson was followed by a single from third baseman Troy Kuhn. Dawson ran into Hoosier shortstop Casey Rodrigue on the play, and was awarded third base. He came home to score on a groundout by second baseman Nick Sergakis.
Kuhn came plateward on a two-out single to left by shortstop Craig Nennig, making it a brand new ballgame.
The wheels came off for Riga in the bottom of the eighth, though, as Indiana scored three runs on a bases loaded double by DH Scott Donley. Riga retired the first two batters in the inning, but a single by Rodgrigue and back-to-back walks filled the bases with Hoosiers.
Senior closer Ryan Halstead came on for Indiana in the ninth and abruptly gave up a leadoff homer to first baseman Zach Ratcliff. But it was too little, too late, as Halstead set down the next three Buckeyes in a row to seal the Hoosier victory and bounce Ohio State from the tournament.
"We're not playing bad baseball, but in the middle of the season, we found ways to win games," Beals said. "And down the stretch, we weren't able to get that figured out, coming up on the bad end of it."
The loss culminates a putrid May for the scarlet and gray, who went 4-10 during the month, losing their final five games. Four of those five losses came at the hands of Indiana, which probably stamped its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State will now wait for Monday's announcement of the field of 64, but the team's chance of making a regional seems bleak.