After being postponed the night before, the fourth-seeded Ohio State baseball team took the field against the No. 8 seed Iowa Hawkeyes trying to move two games closer to a Big Ten championship.
Greg Beals’ team had been riding high coming into Friday winning 13 of its last 15 games. Senior starting pitcher John Havird retired Hawkeye after Hawkeye while the offense dug in and capitalized on nearly every presented opportunity. OSU tacked on two runs in the sixth, and sophomore right fielder Tre’ Gantt singled to straight-away center in the top of the ninth to pad the cushion for OSU, extending the lead to 4-0 over Iowa.
However, the smooth-sailing through eight and one-half innings quickly capsized the Buckeyes in the bottom half of the ninth.
After receiving eight scoreless innings from senior starter John Havird, OSU called upon sophomore reliever Seth Kinker to finish the game. Kinker, who entered the day with an ERA of 1.33, struggled right out of the gate as he faced the top of the Iowa order.
The Hawkeyes strung together four consecutive hits to lead off the inning to cut the deficit to 4-1. Kinker forced senior catcher Daniel Moriel to ground into a double play which did allow one extra run to score. Sophomore first baseman Austin Guzzo singled up the middle to drive in a run and draw Iowa within one.
With a runner on first and the score now 4-3, the Buckeyes called on senior left-handed reliever Michael Horejsei to come in and get the final out of the game. The first batter he faced, senior pinch-hitter Jimmy Frankos, was hit by a pitch, putting the winning run on first base.
Redshirt sophomore closer Yianni Pavlopoulos was the third reliever of the inning brought in to try and nail down this game. With runners on first and second, Pavlopoulos surrendered a single to redshirt junior Devin Pickett that tied the game up at four.
Following a scoreless tenth inning from the Buckeyes, Iowa would load the bases on the strength of a four-pitch walk, a fielder’s choice bunt, and a hit-by-pitch. With a 1-1 count, junior infielder Mason McCoy singled to right center field to send the Hawkeyes home as winners, 5-4 in extras.
For many, this harkened back to the demoralizing loss in the first round of last year’s Big Ten tournament with OSU pitted against Iowa. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, then OSU’s senior closer Trace Dempsey walked a batter and surrendered a walk-off two-run home run to Iowa’s senior infielder Nick Day. OSU was eliminated from the tournament on the next day against No. 6 seed Indiana.
Against Iowa, John Havird gave up only two hits with no walks and four strikeouts in eight scoreless frames while Iowa senior starting pitcher Tyler Peyton struck out five and issued no walks over seven innings of five hit, three run baseball. Peyton struck out five and walked none, but hit two batters with pitches. Neither starter factored into the decision.
The Buckeyes will hope to stave off elimination and continue their run in this year’s Big Ten tournament where they will take on the fifth-seeded Michigan Wolverines at 10 p.m. on Friday. OSU defeated the Wolverines 8-3 on Wednesday night.