Zach Tuggle / The Lantern
For the first time in 14 years, the Ohio State baseball team will not be playing in the Big Ten tournament, breaking the longest streak in league history.
The Buckeyes lost two of three games to Minnesota this weekend to end the season at 28-23 overall and 11-13 in the Big Ten, tied for seventh place.
The Gophers took game one Thursday night 16-2 with the help of five home runs.
The teams got through half of an inning Friday night before the game was postponed. They played a doubleheader Saturday afternoon.
The first game saw Alex Wimmers back on the mound after starting the game the night before. It was his first outing since injuring his left hamstring April 30 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Wimmers said he pitched through pain for six innings, as he allowed only one run.
Jared Strayer came in with a 3-1 lead in the seventh, but Minnesota put together three consecutive hits to tie the game.
The Gophers added another run in the eighth to take the lead for good.
The Buckeyes put up little resistance in the ninth as three batters struck out.
The win clinched the Big Ten regular-season title for Minnesota and ensured that OSU’s season would end with the second game of the doubleheader.
Though not all players knew their season was certainly coming to an end, “I think the team felt it,” said center fielder Michael Stephens.
As rain clouds cleared between games, the Buckeyes began to pour on the runs.
Stephens and designated hitter Cory Rupert both connected on two-run home runs in the first inning.
Minnesota fought back in a game that meant nothing for the standings to take the lead 6-5 in the fourth inning off of four singles.
The Buckeyes tied the game in the bottom of the inning and took the lead for good in the fifth with an RBI single from catcher Dan Burkhart.
Stephens added an insurance RBI in the seventh to end the scoring at 8-6.
“I just said don’t mail it in. You owe it to this program and to this university to give it a good effort,” coach Bob Todd said.
The game was Todd’s last after 23 years as OSU manager. He announced his plans for retirement earlier this month.
All of his children and grandchildren were in the crowd to see his career come to a close, he said.
Between games, they were treated to a ceremony honoring the coach and adding his number, 18, to the retired jerseys on the right field wall.
“We want him to go out on a high note. For him to go out as a winner, that is always a plus,” Stephens said.
Though he won his last game, this will be only the second time in his career that Todd’s squad did not qualify for the conference tournament.
“It just sucks because we came so close but we came up just a game short,” Wimmers said.
Todd said he didn’t think about the second game being his last, as he tried to block out any emotions.
“I looked up in the ninth inning and said, you know, three outs and it’s over with,” he said.
Now it is over for Todd and the eight seniors who won their last game for the Scarlet and Gray Saturday afternoon.