The game appeared to be all Ohio State early against Cincinnati, with a home run in the first inning and five scoreless innings to follow from the Buckeyes’ starting pitcher. But seven combined runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings turned the tide and the Buckeyes (14-18, 3-6 Big Ten) fell to the Bearcats, 7-1.
Coach Greg Beals said it just seemed like the team had little going for them Tuesday and that everything late seemed to go the Bearcats’ way.
“We went to (pitcher Kyle) Michalik and (pitcher Joe) Stoll, two guys that have been really good for us in the bullpen. Just didn’t have it tonight,” Beals said. “They got a couple big hits when they needed them. All the tweener things went their way, ball down the line, a hit batsmen on the check swing, a safety squeeze gone wrong, but they get on base. We just didn’t have any momentum going on tonight.”
The first two batters in the bottom half of the first were set down in order, but the third batter of the inning, sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry, got a hold of a 2-2 pitch and blasted it to deep left-center field for a solo home run.
“When I hit it, I knew it was gone,” Cherry said. “It was a fastball up, middle. What it really was — I expected a fastball for that pitch, especially with the 2-2 count and hadn’t seen anything but fastballs yet.”
Cherry continued his red-hot hitting with that home run. Over his past 11 games, Cherry is batting .300 (12-40) with five extra-base hits including two doubles, a triple and the home run.
The No. 3 hitter for the Buckeyes over the past three games, Cherry had spent most of the season batting sixth for the team, but his hot-hitting of late has put him in the spotlight for Beals and the rest of the team.
“We’re putting him in the situation behind Jalen (Washington) and Tre’ (Gantt) right there in that three-spot, hopefully we get some guys on base and draw him some good pitches to hit with,” Beals said. “We’ve been working hard with his swing and trying to level out his swing a little bit, and the work is starting to pay off for him.”
The Buckeyes held onto their 1-0 lead until a leadoff triple from senior left fielder R.J. Thompson in the top of the sixth inning gave the Bearcats their best chance of the game to score. A groundout to the second baseman drove in the runner from third, knotting the game up at one apiece.
The wheels started to come off for the Buckeyes in the next inning. Junior center fielder Treg Haberkorn stepped up to the dish with one away and the bases loaded and drove an 0-2 pitch into the right-center field gap to score all three runs and give Cincinnati the 4-1 lead.
Redshirt junior reliever Michalik was absent for a stretch of 10 games from March 19 to April 9 with an ankle injury, and though he threw 0.1 scoreless inning on Sunday, he appeared a bit rusty against Cincinnati.
“Kyle’s a guy that we need to get right. He’s one of our go-to guys in the bullpen. He’s healthy and ready to go,” Beals said. “We need to get him out there and get him work to get him back sharp so he’s going to get the ball again soon. Just tonight wasn’t his night.”
The Buckeyes escaped that inning without any added damage, but Cincinnati went right back at it in the top of the eighth. With a runner on third base, junior first baseman Ryan Noda drove a double down the right field line to expand the Cincinnati lead to 5-1.
A bunt advanced Noda onto third base for freshman designated hitter Jace Mercer who singled up the middle, driving in Noda from third. Another single in the inning advanced Mercer on to third and a sacrifice fly pushed him home to bring the score to 7-1 in favor of the Bearcats.
Though the Buckeyes’ offense struggled to get going, sophomore starting pitcher Connor Curlis did about all he could do to help his team come away with the win. He finished the night with a career-high six innings pitched and allowed just one run on two hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
“I struggled in that first inning, I just had to get that behind me,” Curlis said. “Then I was trying to get ahead with the fastball, I was getting a bunch of popups and then just trying to allow my defense to work for me, I thought I did well with that.”
The Buckeyes host Eastern Michigan on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. in their last home game before heading back out onto the road for a weekend matchup against Michigan State.