For the second day in a row, a dramatic Ohio State rally was wiped out late in the game. This time, it could’ve very well marked the end of OSU’s season.
After senior closer Trace Dempsey blew a save with two outs in the bottom on the ninth in a 3-2 loss to Iowa on Wednesday, senior left-hander Ryan Riga was unable to keep the sixth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers at bay late in the game Thursday.
Indiana senior outfielder Scott Donley hit a bases-clearing three-run double in the bottom of the eighth to deliver the crushing blow in a 5-3 victory in the loser’s bracket of the Big Ten tournament at Target Field in Minneapolis.
With the Buckeyes’ second loss in the double-elimination tournament, they were knocked out of the bracket.
Riga entered his eighth inning of work with a 2-2 tie on the scoreboard, thanks to a pair of runs in the top of the seventh.
After a 1-2-3 seventh inning, Riga retired the first two in the bottom of the eighth. However, the senior then allowed a two-out single and a walk, before a second walk loaded the bases.
While Riga still needed just one out to get out of the jam, Indiana senior outfielder Scott Donley slashed a full-count opposite-field double into the left-center alley to clear the bases and put the Hoosiers up by three.
Junior first baseman Zach Ratcliff belted a solo home run off Indiana senior closer Ryan Halstead to lead off the ninth, but that was all OSU was able to muster off the Hoosiers’ all-time saves leader.
The game was deadlocked at zero until the bottom of the fourth, when Indiana senior catcher Brad Hartong hit a solo home run off Riga. Indiana then tacked on another run in the following frame to take a 2-0 lead.
OSU showed its resiliency for the second day in a row in the seventh, however. After a walk and double opened up the inning, junior infielder Nick Sergakis brought in the Buckeyes’ first run with a RBI groundout.
After an ineffective at-bat left the runner on third with two outs, junior shortstop Craig Nennig came up with the biggest hit of the game for the Buckeyes, a single through the left side of the infield to tie the game at 2.
The Buckeyes had nine hits, including a knock by each player in the lineup except for senior catcher Aaron Gretz. Junior infielder Troy Kuhn went 2-for-4 for OSU’s lone multi-hit performance.
Riga took the loss for OSU, surrendering five earned runs on six hits and three walks in 7.2 innings. The third-team All-Big Ten honoree struck out seven but dropped to 5-4 in his senior campaign.
Junior left-hander Kyle Hart was very effective for the Hoosiers, hurling six scoreless innings. Fellow junior Scott Effross surrendered the lead in his first inning of relief in the seventh, but the righty was still credited with the win.
Thursday marked the 10th loss in OSU’s last 11 conference games — including four losses in four tries against Indiana — as it went from a team that was likely a lock for an NCAA tournament bid to one very much clinging to the bubble.
The Buckeyes will learn their fate when the 64-team field is set to be revealed at noon on Monday.