On Friday night after Ohio State suffered its fourth loss in a row, and 28th of the season, head coach Greg Beals continued to stress the process. “It’s not like we’re going to change the gameplan or anything, we’ve just got to find a way to execute better,” he said.
The Buckeyes have a distinct style of play, stressing gap-to-gap hitting, aggressive baserunning, and playing sound defense. When those ingredients come together, the club has shown it can compete with anyone. But all too often in 2017, the execution has fallen below that line.
That was once again the case on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor, as Ohio State was beaten by Michigan 5-2. Another fairly tight game, but another L, another series defeat, another nail in the team’s postseason coffin. At 5-12 in conference play, the Buckeyes will need to play nearly flawless baseball the rest of the way, and get some help from teams ahead of them, to sneak into the Big Ten tournament.
Sophomore Connor Curlis turned in another solid start for Beals, but didn’t get the offensive support he needed to avoid taking the loss. The southpaw went five innings on the bump, allowing two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out four.
What little firepower the bats had for Ohio State came from freshman Dominic Canzone, who went 2-for-3 and drove in a run. Canzone has now hit in 12 straight games, the longest streak of the season for the Buckeyes.
After having been shutout for the first 11 innings of the series, Ohio State drew first blood in the top of the third. Singles by Andrew Fishel and Jalen Washington put two runners on with two outs for Canzone, who lined a single into left field. Fishel came around to score and give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead.
The team had an opportunity to put a crooked number on the board after a Brady Cherry walk loaded the bases. But the Wolverines’ Alec Rennard induced a routine grounder to second off the bat of Bo Coolen to escape the jam and keep the deficit at one.
That missed chance would, as has so often been the case, come back to bite the Buckeyes. In the home half of the inning, a ground rule double and stolen base by Jimmy Kerr and a sacrifice fly by Harrison Wenson tied the game.
Michigan would take the lead the next inning thanks to back-to-back doubles from Michael Brdar and Drew Lugbauer.
Rennard settled in after giving up the run in the third, setting down eight straight batters and putting zeroes on the board in the fourth, fifth, sixth. Just as Oliver Jaskie did on Friday, the right-hander had Ohio State swinging and missing regularly, striking out eight in his seven innings of work.
Ryan Feltner entered the game in place of Curlis in the sixth, and kept the Buckeyes within striking distance for a couple of innings. But in the bottom of the eighth, he lost his command, walking a pair and giving up a two-run single to Nick Poirier that pushed the Wolverine advantage out to 4-1. A fifth run of the game would come courtesy of a Connor Pohl error at second base before Kyle Michalik, on in relief, could end the inning.
Ohio State couldn’t overcome that large a hole. The Buckeyes got a run in the ninth thanks to an RBI double by Andrew Fishel, but it was, as usual, far too little, too late.
The scarlet and gray will look to avoid the sweep in the final game of the series on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET with the action available for live streaming on BTN2Go.