Ohio State baseball could have given up on Saturday night against Utah. After getting blasted 12-0 by the Utes on Thursday, the Buckeyes found themselves in a deep hole once again on Saturday night at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Surprise, Arizona.
Though they didn’t ultimately pull off the comeback, falling 6-4, head coach Greg Beals saw more fight from his team in this one than perhaps any other game thus far in the young season.
With one game remaining in the weekend, Ohio State now stands 3-4 on the year.
The Utes sent sophomore Riley Ottesen to the mound, and he was as good as advertised. A draft-eligible righty with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s on the radar gun, Ottesen went six innings, allowing just an unearned run on three hits, with two walks and four strikeouts.
Freshman catcher Alex Isola was one of six Utah hitters with a multi-hit game, driving in a pair of runs in the winning effort.
For the second straight start, sophomore Ryan Feltner had his difficulties for the Buckeyes. The right-hander allowed five runs, four of them earned, on eight hits in lasting just 4.2 innings. Feltner struck out one batter, walked two, and had a wild pitch, the fourth he’s uncorked in 10.1 innings of work in 2017 thus far.
Kyle Michalik continued his lights-out start to the season out of the bullpen, though, tossing 1.1 scoreless innings of relief. The side-winding redshirt junior righty has now gone three appearances without allowing a run.
The offensive bright spots for Ohio State were few and far between, but junior center fielder and leadoff man Tre’ Gantt continued a solid start to the 2017 campaign. The Fishers, Indiana native went 2-for-5 at the plate, doubling, scoring a run, and stealing a base. Redshirt senior designated hitter Zach Ratcliff also contributed a pair of hits.
Just as was the case in Thursday’s game, defensive sloppiness from Ohio State led to an early deficit. DaShawn Keirsey reached on a throwing error by third baseman Brady Cherry to lead off Utah’s first inning. After a fielder’s choice moved him to second, Dallas Carroll singled him home, and when the throw went to the plate, ended up on second base. As a result, Carroll came around to score when Hunter Simmons followed with a single, making it a 2-0 game.
Unlike Thursday, though, the Buckeyes responded. Gantt led off with a single, stole second base, and advanced to third when the throw from Isola went awry. Jalen Washington sent a fly ball to right field to bring Gantt plateward and cut the deficit in half.
Utah continued its assault on Ohio State pitching in the fourth, though, plating two more runs off Feltner. Chandler Anderson and Isola doubled back-to-back for the first of them, and after advancing to third on the Buckeyes’ third error of the game, Isola came home on a Keirsey single.
The Utes put another run on the board in the fifth, when a leadoff walk to Josh Rose paid dividends. After Feltner retired a pair, Isola notched a single to score Rose from second. A double by Ellis Kelly put two runners in scoring position with two outs and ended Feltner’s night after 92 pitches. Joe Stoll relieved, and the lefty got out of the jam with a Keirsey fly out to center.
Ottesen meanwhile was on a roll. After Gantt’s single to lead off the in the first, the Highland, Utah native set down 11 in a row and 15 of 17 in getting through five innings in 74 pitches.
Gantt put an end to that string by doubling down the line in left to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and Washington worked a walk to give Ohio State two on with nobody out. Noah McGowan followed with a grounder to second that resulted in a fielder’s choice and runners on the corners with one down, but Ottesen came back and beared down to strike out Tyler Cowles and Bo Coolen to end the threat unscathed.
Stoll got through 1.1 scoreless innings before running into trouble of his own in the seventh. Connor McNally singled to lead things off and Anderson walked, spelling the end of Stoll’s outing. He was relieved by freshman Jake Vance, and after a sacrifice bunt by Isola, Anderson singled in the sixth run of the game for Utah. Vance rolled a double play ball to end the inning two pitches later.
Junior Trenton Stoltz relieved Ottesen to start the seventh, and he abruptly gave up a run. Ratcliff led off with a double going the other way, and he went to third when Stoltz let loose a wild pitch. Isola made an attempt at throwing Ratcliff out at third and it got away, giving the Buckeyes their second run of the ballgame.
Chase Bauerle took over for the Utes in the eighth, and the freshman right-hander couldn’t finish the inning. Washington reached on an error with one out, stole second, and advanced to third on an error. The Ohio State co-captain came around to score three batter later when Coolen delivered an RBI single.
One batter later, Ratcliff singled home Dominic Canzone, who had walked and forced the Utes to turn to closer Dylan Drachler, closing the deficit to 6-4.
The Buckeyes got nothing more from there despite never conceding a thing.
Ohio State will round out its time in the desert with the final contest of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge on a quick turnaround on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. ET, with redshirt senior Jake Post making his second start of the season for the scarlet and gray. The Buckeyes dropped the No. 5 Badgers by a score of 6-1 on Friday.