There are those in the sabermetric community of baseball who argue that the idea of momentum is a myth, that a quality performance by a team cannot be carried over to subsequent games. The Ohio State baseball team is currently performing a case study to prove those folks right.
After scoring 16 runs in a doubleheader sweep of Penn State on Sunday, the Buckeyes managed just four hits in a 7-1 midweek loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday night at home in Columbus, continuing their head-scratching trend in 2017.
The scarlet and gray now stand four games under the .500 mark at 14-18, while the Bearcats evened their record at 16-16. Ohio State had been 5-0 in midweek games this season before this setback, and have still not won more than two games in a row.
There were few offensive bright spots for the club. One was a solo home run by sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry in the first inning. The other was an infield single by freshman right fielder Dominic Canzone, which extended his hitting streak to a team-high 10 games. The Buckeyes collected just two other hits and got a total of one runner into scoring position.
Connor Curlis, who after a couple of quality midweek starts got a shot in the weekend rotation and struggled mightily, was back on the bump for Ohio State and regained his form. The sophomore lefty tossed six innings, giving up just a run on two hits, walking one and striking out three. But Curlis would not factor into the decision due to his team’s troubles at the plate.
Those troubles were due in large part to Cincinnati’s A.J. Olasz and Jarod Yoakam, who combined to yield a single run on three hits in a combined seven innings of work.
The Buckeyes took the lead early on Cherry’s third longball of the season, a shot to left-center off Olasz.
But Ohio State was held silent after that, managing just a single hit in the third inning, keeping the Bearcats in contact. In the sixth, that would pay off for the team from the south, as an R.J. Thompson leadoff triple against Curlis turned into a run on a groundout by A.J. Bumpass that tied the game.
UC took the lead for good in the top of the seventh against Buckeyes reliever Kyle Michalik. A hit by pitch, single, and bunt single with one out loaded the bases, and Treg Haberkorn, the ninth place hitter in the lineup, smoked a double to the left-center gap to bring all three runners around.
Joe Stoll, who was so effective on Sunday against the Nittany Lions, couldn’t keep the deficit where it was in the eighth. Connor McVey singled to lead things off, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a double by Ryan Noda to make it a 5-1 ballgame.
Jace Mercer followed two batters later with a single up the middle under the glove of a diving Jalen Washington at shortstop to score Noda and push the lead out to five. A sacrifice fly by Manny Rodriguez two batters later would bring home another run, and Ohio State had no answers.
Nathan Kroger and A.J. Kullman came out of the Cincinnati bullpen to toss the final two innings and cement the victory.
The Buckeyes will play another midweek game on Wednesday against Eastern Michigan before heading to that state up north for a three-game weekend conference set against Michigan State in East Lansing.