Suspect decisionmaking and an inability to get a hit when one was needed led to Ohio State baseball losing a very winnable game on Sunday afternoon at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus. The Buckeyes were topped by Purdue, 2-1, losing the series and falling to 1-5 in Big Ten play.
The game turned on a questionable baserunning decision in the bottom of the sixth. With the score 2-1 in favor of the Boilers, the Buckeyes had runners at second and third with nobody out. Noah McGowan struck out on a ball in the dirt, and ran to first to force a throw from the catcher. Jacob Barnwell broke for the plate, but the throw back home was on target. He was called out, and the momentum was gone.
An inning prior, a Dominic Canzone triple to left-center with one out and a 1-0 lead seemed to have Ohio State poised to expand its lead. But a foul out by Noah West and a strikeout by Tre’ Gantt ended the threat.
A third scoring chance went by the wayside in the bottom of the eighth due to another puzzling decision. West walked and Gantt got aboard on an error by pitcher Cameron Williams on an attempted sacrifice bunt, giving the Buckeyes two on with nobody out. Barnwell was up next, and attempted unsuccessfully to bunt the runners over twice.
With a full count, the bunt was still on, though, and he failed to get it down, striking out. Washington and McGowan failed to come up with the clutch hit that was needed after that, and the Boilermakers escaped once again.
Unlike the first two games of the series, there were no early offensive fireworks in this one. Ohio State starter Jake Post and his counterpart for Purdue, Mike Kornacker, were firmly in command, each throwing up zeroes on the scoreboard through the first three innings.
Post, who was a question mark coming into the weekend due to back spasms, gave his club exactly the kind of start expected of a redshirt senior. He finished allowing two runs, one earned, on five hits in his six innings of work, and gave Ohio State a chance to win.
After Post tossed a scoreless fourth as well, the Buckeyes broke through. Kornacker briefly lost his command, hitting both Washington and McGowan with pitches back-to-back. Washington stole third, then came plateward on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Zach Ratcliff for the 1-0 lead.
The failure to score Canzone in the fifth immediately came back to bite Ohio State. Evan Warden led off the top of the sixth with a single and Harry Shipley attempted to bunt him to second. Third baseman Brady Cherry couldn’t make the play, though, and after a successful sacrifice by Nick Dalesandro, the Boilermakers had two runners in scoring position.
Skyler Hunter then delivered a single back up the middle, which scored both runners, and the Buckeye lead became a deficit.
Kornacker was every bit as good as Post, going five innings and allowing one run on just two hits. A leadoff walk to Barnwell in the bottom of the sixth fresh off claiming the lead caused Purdue to go to the bullpen.
Lefty Ross Learnard yielded a double into the left field corner to Washington, putting two runners in scoring position with nobody out. That’s when McGowan went down swinging and Barnwell got erased at the plate, two straight innings of golden opportunities going for naught for Ohio State.
Seth Kinker threw three scoreless innings of relief, keeping the Buckeyes within striking distance, but a scoreless ninth inning for Williams and the Boilers closed things out in disappointing fashion.
Ohio State, which now sits 11-16 on the year, has a tough in-state midweek date with Kent State on Wednesday night to round out its homestand before hitting the road for a three-game conference tilt with Penn State in Happy Valley next weekend.