Ohio State baseball may have officially lost its fourth game in a row and third Big Ten series of the season on Saturday, but the Buckeyes showed tremendous fight. A ninth inning rally came up just short, though, and the club fell to Michigan State by a score of 6-5.
Behind 6-4 in the final frame, a leadoff solo home run by Jalen Washington cut the lead to one. Tre’ Gantt followed with a double to put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out, but the club’s continued struggles to cash in on such opportunities proved to be its undoing.
The scarlet and gray went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and went down on strikes 14 times.
The real story for Ohio State had little to do with what went on in the ballgame, though, as starting pitcher Jake Post appeared to be hit in the head by a comebacker in the bottom of the first inning and had to leave the game. After spending some time on the ground, the redshirt senior was able to stand up and walk off the field under his own power, but it was a scary moment.
Ryan Feltner took over on the mound and after an extremely shaky start, settled in. The sophomore right-hander allowed four runs (one of which was charged to Post) after being rushed into duty in the first, but then set down eight straight batters. His final line included five runs on seven hits in five innings of work, with seven strikeouts, but more importantly no walks.
Despite the loss, it was an encouraging outing for Feltner, who has had major issues with command all season long and lost his spot in the weekend rotation a few weeks ago.
There were more offensive bright spots in this one than the club has experienced of late as well. Freshman Connor Pohl, getting the start at second base, had his best day as a collegiate player, going 2-for-3 at the dish with a run batted in and his first career double. Fellow frosh Dominic Canzone, who on Wednesday night against Eastern Michigan had his 10-game hitting streak snapped, started a new one, collecting a pair of walks and two hits in five trips to the plate, including a solo home run.
Bo Coolen was also on base two times and drove in a run, and Gantt had a 3-for-5 effort, as Ohio State, which has been in a major funk offensively, banged out 12 hits and scored more runs than it had in the past three games combined.
The ball that struck Post came off the bat of Michigan State’s Dan Durkin after two strikeouts in the home half of the first. Durkin ended up on second base on the play, and in a classy move, he approached Post and shook his hand before he exited the field.
Once Feltner entered the game, MSU scored the first of four runs of the game before the inning ended. Matt Byars singled up the middle to drive Durkin home, and after another two-out single, Zack McGuire hit a three-run homer deep to right-center.
The Buckeyes were able to respond in the second. Canzone singled to lead things off and stole second base. He would score two batters later when Coolen doubled to the right-center gap. Two batters after that, Pohl doubled to the other gap to bring Coolen home, cutting the deficit in half.
Ohio State crept closer the next inning, thanks in large part to the legs of Gantt. The junior center fielder singled, stole second, stole third, and scored on a Noah McGowan RBI groundout off Spartans’ reliever Walter Borkovich to make it a 4-3 ballgame.
Borkovich had entered the game in place of starter Ethan Landon, who lasted just just two innings and struggled with his command. The righty gave up three runs on four hits, walking a pair and striking out three.
Driving in runners in scoring position, particularly with two outs, has been a consistent problem for the Buckeyes in 2017, and it persisted on Saturday. In the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, the team had chances, but came up empty.
Despite those missed opportunities, Feltner kept the team in the game, working around fourth and fifth inning scoring chances for the Spartans. He threw 64 of 89 pitches for strikes, and in addition to the punchouts, induced a high rate of weak contact.
But Michigan State entered the weekend with one of the top two offensive attacks in the Big Ten, and couldn’t be held down forever. In the sixth, a two-out single by Royce Ando preceded a home run to left by Dan Chmielewski, pushing the lead out to 6-3.
Canzone got one back with his second home run of the season, a shot to right field off Spartans’ lefty Joe Mockbee. Washington got his off closer Riley McCauley, but after Gantt’s double, the right-hander struck out the side to end the game.
To avoid the series sweep, the Buckeyes will need to pull out a win in the third game on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET in East Lansing, with the game streaming live on BTN Plus.