Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Ohio State baseball had a commanding lead over Iowa late in the ballgame on Sunday, but was left watching helplessly as the Hawkeyes set the bullpen on fire and came from behind for a walk-off 11-10 victory.
The deciding knock was a two-run home run by Robert Neustrom in the bottom of the ninth off Buckeye reliever Adam Niemeyer.
It was a fitting way for Ohio State to wrap up their final roadtrip of the season, a perfect encapsulation of the issues that have plagued the team since February. Now 7-14 in Big Ten play, the squad’s slim dreams of reaching the conference tournament are all but dead.
Leading 9-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the bullpen imploded. Kyle Michalik gave up a three-run homer to Jake Adams in the seventh and Niemeyer gave up an RBI single to Ben Norman and a three-run bomb to Corbin Woods to allow the Hawkeyes all the way back.
The Buckeyes had taken a 10-9 lead in the top of the ninth courtesy of a Tre’ Gantt bases loaded sacrifice fly that scored Connor Pohl.
A sucker-punch of a loss, it overshadowed a host of fine offensive performances for Ohio State. Pohl was 4-for-4 on the day, driving in a run and scoring three times.
Alongside Pohl’s impressive game, Dominic Canzone continued to make his case for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Walsh Jesuit High School product hit a grand slam, scored twice, and drove in four runs on a 2-for-5 afternoon, his team-leading 17th multi-hit game of the season.
Zach Ratcliff had a three-hit game and drove in a run, and Jalen Washington and Gantt each drove in a run and scored a pair of runs in the losing effort
After throwing the final 2.1 innings (36 pitches) and earning the save in Saturday’s game, junior Seth Kinker turned right around to make the start for the Buckeyes. The side-winding righty lasted just two innings, allowing two runs on two hits while walking one and striking out one, but set down six of the final seven batters he faced.
It was up to the bullpen to do the heavy lifting, and the results were baffling, as they have been all season. Sophomore Ryan Feltner tossed 4.1 incredibly solid innings, but most everything after that was pure disaster.
For the third straight game in Iowa City, Ohio State scored first. Washington walked, Gantt pushed a bunt single up the first base line, and Canzone sacrifice bunted to put two runners in scoring position. A Brady Cherry groundout brought Washington home.
Ratcliff, who has been on a hot streak of late, followed that with a two-out bloop double into short right-center that scored Gantt to make it 2-0 right out of the chute.
The Hawkeyes answered right back in the home half of the inning, though, getting nearly identical doubles into the left field corner by Chris Whelan and Mason McCoy to lead things off and cut the deficit to one. After an Adams groundout moved McCoy to third, a Neustrom sacrifice fly brought him home to tie things up.
But Ohio State stormed right back. Pohl and Washington each singled and Gantt walked to load the bases with two down. That’s when Canzone turned on the first pitch of the at-bat and blasted it deep over the wall in right, his third longball of the season, putting the Buckeyes back on top 6-2.
That lead became 7-2 in the third when Pohl and Noah West each singled to put runners on the corners for Washington. The co-captain sent a groundball to short, and after the throw to first was made, Pohl broke for home, sliding just under the catcher’s tag.
The Buckeyes scored for a fourth straight inning to start the game thanks to a throwing error by by Iowa backstop Tyler Cropley. After back-to-back singles by Canzone and Cherry to lead things off, the former stole third. Rather than trying to throw him out, Cropley threw behind Cherry at first, and the ball sailed into right field. Canzone scored easily, making it an 8-2 ballgame.
Ratcliff helped tack on another one in the sixth, doubling, advancing to third on a wild pitch, and scoring on Pohl’s third base hit of the day.
Feltner had come in to relieve Kinker in the third, and gave Ohio State some quality innings through the middle of the game. At one point, the lanky righty set down nine straight Hawkeyes, but ran into a jam in the bottom of the sixth. Iowa loaded the bases with one out, but Feltner buckled down to strike out two straight and escape with the seven-run lead intact.
Much like Saturday’s game, though, the Hawkeyes refused to roll over, and another wild finish was on. They scored nine runs in the final three innings, torching Niemeyer for six of those, and pulled out a series win.
The Buckeyes have just four games remaining in their season, all being played at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus. Toledo will visit for a midweek contest on Wednesday before Indiana comes to town to close out the Big Ten schedule.