Coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Ohio State baseball team needed to build some momentum before their next Big Ten series against the Purdue Boilermakers.
And though OSU’s offense did not muster many runs, the pitching staff of the Buckeyes was able to hold Ohio University to no runs on six hits in the team’s 3-0 victory. It was the first time OSU shutout their opponent this season.
For OSU coach Greg Beals, the most important part about Tuesday’s game was just getting the win ahead of a crucial Big Ten matchup.
“The biggest story for me in the day is that we got a victory, a much needed victory and a victory in which we pitched the ball very well and used multiple guys to do it,” Beals said. “It was one of those games where we wanted to get guys work, but we thought we needed to win also. We needed to get on winning ways. We needed to change the air and the only way to do that is to have some success and win a ballgame.”
It took a while, but the scoreboard was finally lit up in the bottom of the fourth inning. With one away in the inning, sophomore catcher Jacob Barnwell attempted a stolen base of third and was successful. The throw by the catcher was errant, deflecting off the third baseman’s glove into foul territory and allowing Barnwell to run home and score the Buckeyes’ first run of the game.
That one run was all the Buckeyes would need for redshirt junior starting pitcher Austin Woodby, who was lights out in his controlled midweek start.
He was limited to only 45 pitches by the coaching staff, but was able to make the most of those pitches. Woodby gave his team 4.2 shutout innings and allowed just three hits and no walks with one strikeout.
“Tonight was definitely a night where I felt confident in my fastball,” Woodby said. “I’ve been working on really just commanding the fastball in the bottom of the zone and just letting the defense work for me. I’ve got a great defense behind me and I felt very confident.”
One thing that really stood out to Woodby was his ability to limit the opposition to zero walks.
“Coach Stafford preaches no free bases. If you limit those walks then I think we’ll be in a good position to win,” Woodby said. “For me, this has been definitely a nice change as opposed to last year. I feel a lot more confident with the zone and throwing strikes and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
The Buckeyes got things going again three innings later. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Barnwell stepped up the plate and lined a base hit up the middle, scoring a pair.
That at-bat was crucial for OSU in giving them some added insurance runs headed into the latter innings of the game, and Beals felt that was a strong at-bat from his young backstop.
“Really just a quality at-bat,” Beals said. “The one thing I like about Barnie is I know where he’s going to compete . . . He’s a catcher first, he’s a catch-and-throw guy first, that’s what his bread and butter is, but he’s also given us a lot, just from a competitive standpoint in the batter’s box.”
With the Buckeyes leading 3-0, Beals turned to redshirt junior reliever Yianni Pavlopoulos to try and keep the Bobcats off the scoreboard.
Pavlopoulos surrendered singles to each of the first two batters he faced, the first hit being a line drive and the second being a bloop single.
But after the first two reached base, Pavlopoulos was able to strike out the next two and coerce a lineout from the final batter of the inning and strand the runners on first and second base.
Beals said Pavlopoulos has been going through a stretch with some pretty poor luck, but he was proud of the way his former closer fought back after the two hits and retired the side.
“Poor Yianni, (if) he’s got any luck, it’s not really good luck right now,” Beals said. “He beats a guy with the fastball in and he lobs it into left field and very easily could have been an easy ground ball, and probably should have been. But he battled and made a couple big pitches to get some strikeouts and get out of that inning so good for him.”
The key to getting the pitcher back on track will be to take them through step-by-step of what’s working and what isn’t, Beals said, and the same goes for Pavlopoulos’ struggles this season.
“I think the thing that’s going to be critical for us as a coaching staff is to pull Yianni aside and have him look at his process. Look at where he was, the quality of his pitches,” Beals said. “The first hit was a hung breaking ball. Not a quality pitch. When he made quality pitches, he had good results other than the bleeder. But in our opinion, the way we look at it, that’s a win. He beat the bat and it just happens that way sometimes.”
And for the first time in a long time, the bullpen was able to get back to 2016 form. As a unit, the bullpen allowed just three hits and one walk across five scoreless innings that included five strikeouts.
Coming off his spotless start, Woodby feels confidence by the way the team’s bullpen pitched and he feels they are ready heading into the big weekend.
“I’m feeling good about our bullpen,” Woodby said. “I think everyone threw well tonight so it just kind of gives us some confidence rolling into this weekend because it’s definitely three important games for us.”
OSU hopes to build off this victory when they host Purdue University in its second Big Ten series of the season over the weekend. That matchup starts on Friday with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m.