Loiusville Sluggers Down Buckeyes
By Tony Gerdeman
It was a beautiful afternoon on the diamond, but not so much on the scoreboard as Ohio State (24-17, 8-7 Big Ten) and #10 Louisville (38-7) littered the light bulbs to the tune of a 10-8 Cardinals’ win.
Combined, eleven pitchers took the mound for the two teams, with nobody throwing more than three innings. The plan all along for both teams was to heavily employ the bullpens, but it’s doubtful either team wanted to do it as quickly as they did.
Buckeye junior pitcher Eric Shinn got the first start of his career in what was his sixth appearance of the season. He gave up a quick three runs in the first, and it looked like it was going to be another long afternoon of baseball.
And while the game did clock in at 3:07, there was still some excitement ahead
Ohio State catcher Dan Burkhart hit a solo homerun in the first inning, just his first of the year. It got the scoring started for the Buckeyes and was a welcome change after getting shutout the night before.
“It definitely brought a spark,” said Brian DeLucia. “I know we were still down, but that was Dan’s first homerun, so that was big for us. I think that made us a little more comfortable at the plate. I think once he rises at the plate, it makes everybody else more comfortable.”
And for Burkhart, it was definitely a welcome relief.
“I couldn’t get that one homerun out of the way,” he said. “I had ten last year. But it was a good feeling to finally get that ‘0’ off of the stats.”
But as quickly as the joy came, it faded when Louisville batted in the second inning. They put up four more runs and chased Shinn after just 1.2 innings pitched. He gave up three hits and five runs (three earned) on the afternoon.
Shinn was replaced by Theron Minium who saw only 1.1 innings of action. He allowed three runs (one earned) and give up four hits. Heading into the bottom of the third inning, the Buckeyes were trailing 8-3.
Ohio State put up two runs in the third inning, two in the sixth and one in the seventh to cut Louisville’s lead to 9-8. The seventh inning was particularly interesting. Brian DeLucia was hit by a pitch leading off. Or was he? The home plate umpire called it a foul ball, but DeLucia pleaded that he was hit on the wrist. All four umpires then convened and ruled that he was indeed hit by the pitch.
After the game, DeLucia showed up with his pinky wrapped. What actually happened?
“Took a fastball to the pinky,” he confessed.
“I had to sell it. I said it hit me in the wrist and it definitely didn’t, but that’s part of baseball--just some of the things you’ve got to do. Coach Todd tells us all of the time you’ve got to sell it because that’s a base that we needed, and it ended up scoring a run. So hey, why not take one for the team, I guess.”
It would have taken a few more hit batters to garner a win for the Buckeyes, however.
The Cardinals added an insurance run in the eighth and then brought in their outstanding closer Neil Holland, who came into the game with a 7-0 record a 2.20 ERA and eleven saves. He did not disappoint. He closed out the game for Louisville, pitching two innings while striking out two and giving up no hits.
Eric Shinn took the loss for the Buckeyes. Pitchers Brett McKinney, Jared Strayer and Eric Best managed to give up just two runs over the final six innings for Ohio State.
Catcher Dan Burkhart went 5-5 at the plate, though his hits came rarely with anybody on base as his two RBIs will attest.
The inconsistency on the mound on Wednesday and at the plate on Tuesday have become almost routine for the Buckeyes.
“I liked the way we competed a little bit,” said Buckeye Head Coach Bob Todd.
“But it’s the same old story, we dug too big a hole for ourselves.
"Our pitchers gave up too many runs.
"And numerous times this year, our hitters have kind of fought back to get us in a position where we’re back in a game and we’ve had the tying run in scoring position and we just can’t seem to get that big hit.”
The same thing happened again against Louisville. The Buckeyes had the tying run at the plate in both the eight and ninth inning, but couldn’t manage to capitalize.
But at least the bats came back to life. And with Illinois coming to town this weekend, every conference win is a must-have. Bob Todd is hoping things start to shape up here as the season winds down, and if it does, he feels he has a team that can do some damage.
“If we could ever start running on all cylinders the same, this team has the capability of doing some things on the national scene.”
And how do you manage to do that?
“Take it one game at a time,” he said, smiling. “[And] get Alex Wimmers healthy.”
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