The final series of the season for Ohio State baseball got underway with a 7-4 win over Indiana on Thursday night at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus. The Buckeyes got great starting pitching and timely hitting to improve their mark in Big Ten play to 8-14.
While 2017 has not been kind to Ohio State, this game served to highlight why the feeling around the program isn’t all doom and gloom. Several key contributions were received by the Buckeyes from underclassmen, the players that head coach Greg Beals will be building around moving into next season and beyond.
Highlighting those who Ohio State will be using as building blocks is right fielder Dominic Canzone. A leading contender for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Canzone extended his hitting streak to seven games and drove in a pair of runs.
Fellow freshman Connor Pohl added a three-hit night and scored a run as well. The Arcanum, Ohio product came to the program as a preferred walk-on, but has hit his way into regular playing time.
Sophomore Brady Cherry is a third underclass bat with potential in the middle of the order who has matured. He went 2-for-3 on the night with a double, a walk, and a run scored while serving as the designated hitter.
Another one of the player’s who has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the season has been sophomore left-hander Connor Curlis. Getting the game one start in the series, Curlis came out and threw a gem, starting the game by tossing 4.1 perfect innings. He left after a career-high seven innings, having yielded just two runs on four hits, walking one and recording four strikeouts, picking up the win to improve to 5-3 on the season.
The Buckeyes drew first blood, putting a run on the board against Hoosiers’ starter Jonathan Stiever in the bottom of the first. Tre’ Gantt singled to lead things off, stole second, advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and then came home on a Canzone RBI groundout.
Curlis set down the first 13 batters he faced, showing good tempo and solid command on the mound against a dangerous Indiana lineup. But that danger caught up to him with one out in the fifth when Craig Dedelow hit his team-leading 14th home run for the Hoosiers, tying things up.
That seemed to take the edge off for the visitors, who followed the blast with a single and a walk. But the Ohio State southpaw buckled down, getting a pop out and routine fly out to escape without further damage.
Stiever meanwhile settled in, retiring 13 out of the next 15 batters he faced after Cherry’s double in the first inning. The only time the Buckeyes threatened was in the bottom of the fourth when a Zach Ratcliff walk and Pohl single gave them runners on the corners with two down, but the clutch hit did not come to bring the run home.
The clutch knock did come in the bottom of the sixth, when senior co-captain Jalen Washington led off with a triple to the gap in right-center. Canzone knocked him in with his second RBI groundout of the game, putting Ohio State back on top 2-1.
The Buckeyes weren’t done applying pressure, either, as Cherry, Ratcliff, and Pohl racked up three consecutive singles to load the bases. Shea Murray, another senior, put together a solid at-bat after that, lacing a double down the left field line to plate Cherry and Ratcliff, extending the lead to three and ending the outing for Stiever.
Jacob Barnwell, the club’s sophomore catcher, greeted Indiana reliever Kade Kryzsko with a single that brought home Pohl, and fellow soph Andrew Fishel smacked a base hit of his own to score Murray, making it a 6-1 ballgame.
Dedelow did his best to try to keep the Hoosiers within striking distance, crushing his second homer of the game deep beyond the wall in right-center to cut the deficit to four. Aside from Dedelow’s dingers and a pair of singles by Logan Sowers, Indiana had no answer for Curlis on this night.
Curlis’ classmate Ryan Feltner took over in the eighth. After a forgettable season in which he struggled to harness his command, the big right-hander struck out the side, showing the potential that made him a preseason player to watch in the conference for the 2018 MLB draft according to Baseball America.
Ohio State added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth thanks in large part to Gantt’s legs. After pitcher Cameron Beauchamp fired an errant pickoff attempt with two outs, the Buckeyes’ leadoff man scampered all the way to third. He would score when Washington lined a single into right field just over the leaping second baseman, making it 7-2.
Feltner stayed on to pitch the ninth, and after retiring the first two hitters, gave up a solo shot down the right field line to Sowers and a single to Matt Gorski. Gorski would score on a throwing error by Pohl to make it 7-4, and Beals brought on Seth Kinker in relief. The junior righty closed things out, striking out Austin Cangelosi on three pitches.
The second game of the series is scheduled for a 6:35 p.m. ET first pitch on Friday evening. Ohio State will be looking to close out just its second Big Ten series win of the season, and first since early April. Redshirt senior right-hander Jake Post will be on the bump for the Buckeyes against Indiana’s Pauly Milto.