The Ohio State baseball team (6-8) was probably hoping to carry momentum over from its previous series win into this matchup against a red hot Florida Gulf Coast team that had won eight straight, including two against No. 2 Florida in a midweek series.
But the Buckeyes got off to a slow start in this series, dropping the first two games against the Eagles.
After blowing a five-run lead in the first game of the series and suffering a blowout in the second game, the Buckeyes needed some help to avoid being swept. An early output of runs from the offense and solid pitching at the beginning helped give OSU the early lead and stave off a late comeback attempt from FGCU in the final game of the series.
The Buckeyes lineup was inconsistent over the weekend, with big performances coming from different players each night, but one bat who remained consistent was junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt, who rose his on-base streak to 14 games. Gantt had three hits and two RBIs in Game 3 of the series. He is currently the only player in the regular lineup batting over .300.
The Buckeyes led the game late, but the Eagles snatched a victory away from the jaws of defeat thanks to a six-run ninth inning that propelled them to the 10-9 win.
OSU started the game in a hole early. Through the first four innings, the Scarlet and Gray were trailing the Green and Blue 3-1.
But then the fifth inning came around and the Buckeye bats roared to life. They strung together five hits in the inning and scored a whopping four runs to take the 5-3 lead. The Eagles would get one back in the bottom half of the inning, but would still head to the latter half of the game trailing 5-4.
Another big inning came up quick, though, for OSU as the Buckeyes, again, got right back to crushing the Eagles’ pitching in the top of the seventh inning. With one away, junior second baseman Noah McGowan launched his second home run of the season on the third pitch he saw to expand the lead to 6-4. Later in the inning, junior left fielder Tyler Cowles came to bat with runners on the corners and he laced a line drive into left center that scored a pair and brought the lead up to 8-4. The Buckeyes scored once more in the top half of the eighth inning to jump out to a commanding 9-4 lead.
Then the ninth inning came rolling around and things started to unravel for the Buckeyes. A walk and back-to-back hits started the inning off with bases loaded for the Eagles. The next batter was walked, bringing the runner in from third. At this point, redshirt junior closer Yianni Pavlopoulos came in to pitch and try to get the Buckeyes out of the jam.
A hit-by-pitch scored the next run before Pavlopoulos finally registered a strikeout in the inning for the first out. Then the defense started to collapse.
A fielder’s choice that registered no outs and a throwing error plated two more runs for Florida Gulf Coast. A single from the Eagles tied the game up at nine before redshirt junior center fielder Gage Morey rolled a fielder’s choice to the shortstop who attempted to turn a double play to get the Buckeyes out of the inning, but McGowan overthrew the first baseman and the winning run came around to score for the Eagles, delivering them the 10-9 victory.
Despite the losing effort, sophomore catcher Jacob Barnwell turned in his second-straight three-hit game. Barnwell got off to a slow start, going 0-8 in the team’s first four games with only two walks, one run scored and no RBI while striking out five times. But since then, he has hit .440 (11/25) with two walks, five runs scored, two RBI and only six strikeouts.
Unlike the first game of the series, this one was all Eagles almost from the beginning as they went on to win by a decisive final score of 13-1.
Though the bulk of the scoring was done by the Eagles, it was the Buckeyes who were the first to jump out on the scoreboard. With a runner on second and one away in the top of the second inning, Cowles reached on a fielding error by the shortstop, allowing the first run to cross the plate and give OSU the early 1-0 lead.
From that point on, however, it was all Florida Gulf Coast. They answered with three runs on four hits in the bottom half of the inning. An inning later, they added to their total, scoring three runs on three hits and one error by the shortstop.
All was quiet in this game until the bottom of the seventh when a triple by Morey scored the Eagles’ seventh run of the game.
Then the eighth inning rolled around, and the Eagles completely buried the game. On the strength of five hits, two walks and an error, Florida Gulf Coast exploded for six runs, capped off by junior second baseman Matt Reardon’s bases-clearing double.
Reardon finished the game with four hits and eight RBIs, while falling a home run shy of the cycle.
Gulf Coast’s junior starting pitcher Kutter Crawford also turned in a sterling performance, as he held the Buckeyes in check, allowing only one unearned run on three hits and three walks across six innings of work. He struck out eight batters.
Trying to avoid the three-game sweep, the Buckeyes jumped out to an early four-run lead and narrowly escaped another ninth-inning comeback attempt from the Eagles and held on for the 5-4 victory.
OSU struck first in this game. After a leadoff single, senior shortstop Jalen Washington lined a triple into the left-center field gap to plate the game’s first run. Two batters later, junior first baseman Bo Coolen stepped up to the plate and launched the 3-1 pitch over the right field wall to give the Buckeyes the early 3-0 lead.
The Eagles had a difficult time getting their bats going, but they eventually put one run up on the board. In the bottom of the third inning, redshirt senior right fielder Corey Fehribach crushed a 1-2 pitch over the right-center field fence for Florida Gulf Coast’s first run of the game to bring the score to 3-1.
OSU added two more runs later in the game, but the real drama picked up again in the bottom of the ninth. Pavlopoulos entered the game, given a four-run lead and immediately allowed three consecutive doubles that brought the score to 5-3.
Washington then committed his eighth error of the season to put runners on the corners with nobody out and the winning run coming up to bat. A sacrifice fly brought the game to within one, though it did allow Pavlopoulos to register the first out of the inning. Finally, the OSU closer forced a pair of groundouts to retire the side and end the game.
Redshirt junior starting pitcher Adam Niemeyer delivered the shutdown performance the Buckeyes needed in Sunday’s game. He allowed only one run on three hits and three walks in five innings of work while striking out two batters.
The Buckeyes will hope to keep that Game 3 momentum rolling when they travel to Port Charlotte, Florida, for a pair of midweek games before coming back for their first home series of the season. OSU is scheduled to play Lehigh and Bucknell on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively in Florida. First pitch of the Lehigh game will be at 2:30 p.m.