TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Ohio State found itself in a huge first-inning hole that it could not recover from and ended up losing a first round NCAA tournament game to Georgia at Dick Howser Field, 24-8 in front of 3,101 fans. The teams waited through a severe weather suspension of play for more than five hours. The game was suspended at 1:48 p.m. in the bottom of the fifth inning with Georgia leading, 10-2, and didn’t resume until 7 p.m., a span of 5:12.
Ohio State, 40-18, now plays the loser of the game pitting No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Marist in a noon elimination game Saturday. That Florida State/Marist game began about 9 p.m.
Baseball is a funny game. Ohio State had ace, second-team All-American Alex Wimmers on the mound against a solid hitting Georgia team, but the Bulldogs came into the game hitting just .203 as a team over their last 10 games. So no one expected that Georgia would have its biggest inning of the season against Wimmers…and in the first inning, no less.
Georgia scored eight runs in its first at-bat the most runs in an inning Ohio State has surrendered this year off six hits and an error to grab a numbing, 8-0 lead after one.
Baseball is a strange game, too. The strangest of strange runs put the Bulldogs on the board and on their way: a four-base error. Peter Verdin raced around the bases on a throwing error by shortstop Tyler Engle. Matt Streng lunged for the ball, tried to catch and swipe at the runner at one time and the ball shot out of his glove and into foul territory down the right field line. Catcher Dan Burkhart was doing his job by backing up first on the play but ended up chasing the ball and Wimmers was doing his job by backing up third as Verdin charged around second. By the time Ohio State players reached the ball, no one was left to cover home plate and Verdin beat the throw with third baseman Justin Miller running stride-for-stride trying to cover.
Baseball is a game of momentum. Matt Cerione followed with a home run, first-team Louisville Slugger All-American Rich Poythress doubled, Bryce Massanari walked, Colby May singled and Joey Lewis hit a three-run home run to make it a 6-0 score. A walk, two singles and a fielders’ choice added two more runs before the Buckeyes could get out of the inning.
Ohio State cut into the lead a bit in the third inning. Ryan Dew came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out and ripped a double off the fence in right center field to make the score 8-2. Scoring was Zach Hurley, who had his second single of the game in the inning, and Cory Kovanda, who walked.
Poythress and Lewis hit solo home runs in the fourth to give Georgia a 10-2 lead and a school record-tying 102 home runs on the season.
After Ohio State left two runners on base in the fifth its seventh and eighth stranded runners of the game play was suspended.
When it resumed seven hours after the first pitch Wimmers’ day as well as that of Georgia starter Justin Grimm was over, having been replaced by Josh Barrera. Wimmers’ line: 4.0 innings pitched with 10 hits, eight earned runs, seven walks and five strikeouts. He took the loss to drop to 9-2 this season. It was his first loss since April 3 at Minnesota. Grimm improved to 4-4 with the win.
Baseball can be a power game, especially in a power park like Dick Howser Stadium, with its shorter than short right field. Poythress hit two more home runs after the delay, a two-run shot in the seventh and a grand slam in the eighth after the Bulldogs showed off their small ball skills and southern charm by continually bunting for hits after leading big. Poythress finished with four hits, four runs and seven RBI. Matt Cerione had two home runs and five RBI and Lewis also had two home runs and four RBI to lead Georgia’s 23 hit attack.
Ohio State, which scored a run in the seventh, three in the eighth and two in the ninth, was led by three hits from Dan Burkhart, two hits and two runs by Zach Hurley, three RBI from Ryan Dew and a couple of hits and a run scored by Engle.
Notes and Random Thoughts from the Dick Howser Stadium Press Box: