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Ohio State baseball falls flat in Big Ten tournament opener

The Buckeyes struck early, but then went cold, falling 8-2 to Purdue.

Ohio State baseball

Ohio State baseball’s road to another triumphant run in the Big Ten tournament at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha hit a bit of a dead end on Wednesday afternoon after an 8-2 defeat at the hands of Purdue. The seventh-seeded Buckeyes will now have to navigate the losers bracket if they hope to make some noise, and will take on No. 6 seed Iowa on Thursday morning.

The second seed Boilermakers, who entered play with a 34-18 record, 17-6 in conference play, used timely hitting to overcome an early deficit. They will take on third-seeded Michigan, who took down the Hawkeyes 2-1 in extra innings, on Thursday evening.

Purdue came in to the tournament as one of the hottest teams in all of college baseball, riding a four-game winning streak, and having gone 18-2 since April 20. Those two losses came at the hands of Ohio State, so this was something of an exorcism of demons for the Boilermakers.

Purdue starter Tanner Andrews, a third-team All-Big Ten selection on Tuesday, righted himself after a rocky start to claim the victory. Andrews allowed two runs on three hits in the first inning, then just three hits the rest of the way, as he threw a complete game.

Shortstop Harry Shipley powered the offense, driving in five of the Boilers’ runs, including a three-run double in his club’s five-run sixth inning that blew the game open.

Connor Curlis was on the bump to start for the scarlet and gray, and took the loss. The junior lefty went 5-plus innings, allowing five runs, four earned, on eight hits. Curlis struck out five and walked a pair in a game in which the Boilers put up tough at-bats throughout.

Tyler Cowles was the lone bright spot for Ohio State. The senior left fielder went 2-for-4 with the bat, including a two-run double, and also threw a runner out at the plate.

Ohio State got the scoring started in the top of the first against Andrews. Kobie Foppe singled through the hole between third and short with one away, then advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt. After Noah McGowan lined out, moving Foppe to third, and Connor Pohl walked, Cowles stepped up and shot a 1-1 pitch to the right-center gap, bringing both runners around.

Cowles was thrown out at the plate one batter later, though, when he tried to come all the way around to score on an infield single up the middle by Dillon Dingler. It was the last time the Buckeyes would really threaten.

Andrews settled in after the rocky start, thanks in part to second baseman Tyler Powers. The freshman made several sterling plays with the glove, showing off excellent range and stealing at least two hits from Buckeye batters.

The diminutive infielder played a part with the bat as well in helping the Boilers get on the board in the top of the third. After Evan Warden led things off with a double over the head of Cowles in left, Powers slapped a single to right to put men on the corners with nobody out.

Curlis, who sat 85-88 with his fastball but had some troubles with command, got Shipley to ground out weakly to second, but Warden scored and, more importantly, Powers made it to second safely. He would come around to tie things up at 2 on a single by Nick Dalesandro.

Dalesandro advanced all the way to third on the play thanks to a fielding error by Dingler in center, and tagged up on a liner to left off the bat of Skyler Hunter on the next pitch. That’s when Cowles made his second impact on the game, throwing a seed to the plate to cut Dalesandro down.

Curlis would not be so fortunate in the fifth, though, when Purdue took the lead. A single by Alec Olund and a base hit and stolen base from Powers put two runners in scoring position with one out. Shipley followed with a knock to center to bring Olund around and give the Boilermakers their first advantage of the game.

The day would end for Curlis the next inning after Hunter and Jacson McGowan reached base on a single and a walk, respectively, to start things off. Kyle Michalik relieved, and after a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk, was staring a bases loaded, one out situation in the face.

The sidewinding right-hander couldn’t escape it unscathed. Olund hit into a fielder’s choice to score Hunter, and McGowan came around on a Warden single. Michalik would then walk Powers to reload the bases, and watch as Shipley plugged the gap in right-center to clear them with a three-run double. When the dust settled, Ohio State found itself down 8-2.

For a team on the NCAA tournament bubble, it was not the sort of performance that inspires confidence. If the Buckeyes are unable to bounce back on Thursday, it could be the beginning of a long offseason.

Ohio State will face Iowa in an elimination game on Thursday morning. First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET, and the game will be televised live on Big Ten Network, with streaming on BTN2Go.