Not again. Those are the two words that had to be on the mind of Ohio State head coach Greg Beals and a team with nine seniors that have endured heartbreak the past two seasons in the Big Ten tournament on Friday afternoon after watching Iowa come back from a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game, and ultimately win 5-4 in extra innings.
After a sterling performance by starter John Havird, who threw eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball, the Buckeyes' bullpen imploded. Seth Kinker, Michael Horejsei, and Yianni Pavlopoulos could not quiet the bats of a Hawkeye squad that had seen just three baserunners through the first eight innings of play, and Ohio State was dealt a serious blow.
The Buckeyes had been one of the hottest teams in the country entering the Big Ten tournament, and after Wednesday night's dismantling of Michigan, looked to be on the verge of making a statement to the NCAA tournament selection committee. That all came to a screeching halt on Friday afternoon. The team will now have to play a second game on Friday night against the Wolverines to keep their season alive.
Kinker allowed four runs on five hits in 0.2 innings of work in by far his worst appearance of the season. After Horejsei hit the only batter he faced, Pavlopoulos allowed the tying run to score before getting out of the ninth. The righty then gave up a walk, committed an error, hit a batter, and yielded a single in the 10th inning to let the winning run score.
Ohio State squandered late leads twice in last year's tournament, including one in walk-off fashion to the Hawkeyes, and two in 2014. In all, the Buckeyes have lost five games by a total of six runs in the past three conference tournaments, adding insult to this game's injury.
Iowa's Tyler Peyton, who gave up three runs on five hits in seven innings, scored the winning run on a single by Mason McCoy.
After going hitless the first time through the order against Peyton, Ohio State notched back-to-back singles with one out in the top of the fourth by Craig Nennig and Ronnie Dawson to put runners on the corners. Troy Kuhn then sent a grounder to short and beat the relay throw on the double play attempt, allowing Nennig to score.
There was some angst among Iowa's coaching staff and fans in attendance caused by Dawson's slide into second, but the umpiring crew deemed it legal, and the Buckeyes had a 1-0 lead.
In the fifth, Ohio State's bats kept it going. With one out in the inning, Jalen Washington, Ryan Leffel, and Tre Gantt each singled to load the bases. Nick Sergakis was then hit by a pitch, forcing home the second run of the day for the Buckeyes.
Nennig followed with a sacrifice fly to center that brought Leffel plateward, and it was a 3-0 Ohio State advantage.
All was quiet until the top of the ninth, when the Buckeyes added an insurance run against reliever Luke Vandermaten to make it a 4-0 ballgame. Jacob Bosiokovic and Washington both singled and Leffel moved them into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Gantt then delivered a run-scoring single, and the game seemed to be well in hand.
In the bottom of the ninth, though, Iowa came back from the dead, and Ohio State was left with those two little words: not again.
The Buckeyes will be back on the field at 10:00 p.m. ET against Michigan on Friday night. The game will air live on Big Ten Network.