In the midst of a slump on the field, the Ohio State baseball team decided to loosen things up in order to get back on track.
The Buckeyes were playing tight in their losses to West Virginia and Ball State earlier in the week, redshirt-junior first baseman Josh Dezse said. So to loosen players up and help boost team morale, the coaches decided to have the team play wiffle ball during practice Thursday, which Dezse said helped against Murray State this weekend.
“It was nice to just have fun all of us together, I know we’ve been grinding lately. Obviously losing is not fun so that was really nice to do,” Dezse said. “Coming into this weekend, it was the mentality that we’re just playing wiffle ball, we’re out playing a game with each other and it was nice to see us play loose, play fast and play fun.”
The Buckeyes (23-18, 4-8) got themselves on the winning side over the weekend, taking two out of three against the Murray State Racers (17-20, 9-9) at Bill Davis Stadium. After cruising to a 3-1 victory Friday, the Buckeyes lost 7-5 Saturday and had to fight to win rubber game Sunday, ultimately winning, 7-3.
After Sunday’s win, OSU coach Greg Beals said the team entered the weekend with a new mentality that stayed with it throughout the series.
“I liked how our team played today, it was a game that was kind of a must-win situation for us,” Beals said. “When you look at it one walk, no errors, when you look at our team when we do that and force our opponent to get everything on their own, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
In Sunday’s game, OSU’s starting pitcher sophomore Jake Post threw three scoreless innings before being pulled because of a back injury.
“We’re not exactly sure what it is but we’re erring on the side of caution and got him out of there and started some treatment on him and hopefully we’ve got him back for next weekend,” Beals said.
Offensively, freshman outfielder Ronnie Dawson notched his team-high 17th multi-hit game of the season Sunday. One of those hits appeared to be a two-run homerun in the first inning, however Dawson overran redshirt-sophomore shortstop Nick Sergakis who was standing near first base in case the ball was caught. Dawson was given an RBI-single because Sergakis still scored.
Dawson attributed the team’s success against Murray State to “just having fun.”
“Everyone was like, ‘Let’s just slow down and go back to the way we were playing at the beginning of the season,’” Dawson said. “We were just having fun down in Florida, everyone is laughing and dancing and just having a great time and that’s what we started doing again.”
Sergakis was also efficient at the plate going 3-for-4 with a walk and one RBI.
Freshman Zach Farmer came in to relieve Post, pitching five innings, giving up three runs and throwing three strikeouts to pick up his team-high sixth win of the season.
Saturday, OSU trailed 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth when the team began mounting a comeback. A pair of errors and a walk loaded the bases with no outs, however, the Buckeyes only got three runs across before recording their final out, losing 7-5.
Friday’s game was dictated by OSU’s starter pitcher. Freshman Tanner Tully went seven innings and gave up seven hits, one run and four strikeouts.
“We recharged our batteries (Thursday), cleaned our slate and I like how the guys played,” Beals said after the win Friday. “When you’re scuffling a little bit, you need your starter to come out and do what Tanner Tully did tonight. He really set the tempo by throwing strikes and forcing them to do something offensively.”
Junior pitcher Trace Dempsey picked up his fifth save of the season after recording three strikeouts as he closed out the game’s final two innings in relief of Tully.
Next for the Buckeyes is a weekend series on the road against Purdue. Game one is scheduled for Friday at 6:35 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind.