Ohio State baseball snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Friday night, giving up six runs in the bottom of the ninth to Florida Gulf Coast to lose 10-9. Management of the bullpen in the ballgame by Buckeye head coach Greg Beals is going to be questioned for a long time to come.
Needing just three outs to secure an upset of the No. 24 team in the country, Beals elected to send junior right-hander Seth Kinker out to the mound for his fourth inning of relief. Kinker has been Ohio State’s most reliable reliever since he set foot on campus, but he ran out of gas, giving up four runs without recording an out in the final frame. Closer Yianni Pavlopoulos couldn’t stop the bleeding after entering the game, and a double play that couldn’t be completed allowed the winning run to score.
The Eagles now own a nine-game winning streak, while the Buckeyes fell to 5-7 on the season. The loss overshadowed an excellent offensive performance for the scarlet and gray.
Tyler Cowles led the offensive charge for Ohio State, going 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and three runs batted in. Noah McGowan homered and scored a pair of runs and Bo Coolen had a 2-for-3 night with an RBI and two runs scored, as the Buckeyes rapped out 13 hits and saw five players have multi-hit games.
Also of note was a 3-for-4 performance with a pair of runs scored by sophomore Jacob Barnwell and a pair of RBI doubles from senior co-captain Jalen Washington. The scarlet and gray went 7-for-17 in the ballgame with runners in scoring position, and 7-for-15 with two outs, putting together the quality clutch at-bats that Beals has been preaching.
Redshirt senior Jake Post was on the bump for Ohio State after looking extremely sharp in his first three starts of the season. The right-hander, who has issued just four walks in his first 16 innings pitched in 2017, yielded four in this one, driving his pitch count up and limiting his length. Still, Post left the game with a lead, having tossed four innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on five hits.
Post’s counterpart for FGCU, senior Garrett Anderson, had his difficulties as well. The righty gave up five runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings of work, striking out four and walking one. Reliever Christian Townsend also got tagged for three runs in his 1.2 innings on the hill.
Trouble found Post almost immediately, when after striking out FGCU’s leadoff man Matt Reardon, he gave up a single to Julio Gonzalez and a walk to Nick Levine. Jake Smith followed with a chopper to Coolen, and the Ohio State first baseman made an errant throw to second trying to get the runner, allowing Gonzalez to score and Levine to advance to third. Eli Lovell then singled home Levine for a 2-0 lead.
After a lineout and a walk, the Eagles had the bases loaded with two outs, threatening to blow things open. But Post hung tough and struck out Alex Brait to escape with no further damage.
The Buckeyes managed to get one back in the second. Coolen worked a one-out walk against Anderson, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Brady Cherry sent a hard grounder to Reardon at second, Coolen was standing on third. That’s when Cowles got jammed on an inside fastball and fought off the most improbable infield bloop single this writer has ever seen. It goes down as a liner in the scorebook, though, and made it a 2-1 game.
The two pitchers kept things quiet the next couple of innings until Florida Gulf Coast’s No. 9 hitter, center fielder Gage Morey, sent a Post offering over the wall in right field, his first home run of the season. A solo shot, it pushed the Eagles’ advantage to 3-1.
Once again, Ohio State came right back to score. Barnwell collected his second hit of the night with one down in the top of the fifth, and moved up to second when a pickoff attempt from Anderson got a away. The Buckeye catcher advanced to third on a groundout by Tre’ Gantt and came home to score when Washington delivered an RBI double off the wall in right field.
Ohio State wasn’t done, either. After McGowan was hit by a pitch, Zach Ratcliff did what he’s been doing since game one: driving in runs. A single to left brought Washington plateward to tie the game at three, Ratcliff’s team-leading 10th run batted in on the year. Coolen followed that up by ripping a single to right to score McGowan, giving the Buckeyes the lead and ending Anderson’s night.
Townsend relieved for FGCU and couldn’t hold the deficit to one. Cherry hit a rope that was knocked down by Smith at third base, but the throw to first wasn’t in time, allowing Ratcliff to score the fourth run of the inning and give Ohio State a 5-3 lead.
The Eagles trimmed that lead to one in the bottom half of the frame. Post walked Smith to lead things off, at which point his pitch count had reached 87. The Buckeyes called on Curtiss Irving out of the bullpen, and after a walk and a sacrifice bunt, FGCU had a pair of runners in scoring position with just one out. Spencer Levine then brought Smith home with a groundout to McGowan at second.
After a scoreless sixth for both teams, Ohio State tacked on another run. With one down in the seventh, McGowan crushed his second longball of the season, a deep shot to left-center that was never in doubt off Townsend.
Ratcliff followed with a walk and Coolen singled, forcing the Eagles to go to the pen once again. Parker Hamilton took the ball and once again, an FGCU reliever couldn’t stop the bleeding. Hamilton struck out Cherry, but Cowles scorched a ball to the gap in left-center to plate both runners and give the Buckeyes an 8-4 advantage.
Barnwell picked up his third single of the game in the eighth, and Washington struck again, doubling down the right field line to extend the lead to 9-4. But the implosion was coming, and all Ohio State could do was endure it.
A schedule change has moved up game two of the three-game set on Saturday. Originally scheduled for 6:00 p.m. ET, first pitch will now take place at 1:00 p.m. ET in Fort Myers.