Mere hours earlier, the Buckeyes led top-seeded Illinois going to the ninth inning and looked like a true contender in the Big Ten tournament in Huntington Park. By the time 3 p.m. Friday rolled around, the dream was dead.
Victimized by a stunning comeback by Illinois on Thursday night, OSU came back but 12 hours later to face Minnesota in an elimination game and fell short, giving up six runs in the sixth inning and dropping a 9-4 decision in Game 6 of the tournament.
"That's baseball," sophomore catcher Greg Solomon said. "It's not always going to go your way. We played our best we could today and it wasn't good enough to get the win, but that's baseball."
With the loss, OSU finished the year at 26-27, posting its first losing season since 1987, but finishing fourth in the league and battling to the end in every game left head coach Greg Beals proud of his team in his postgame news conference.
"I'll remember these kids for fighting," a teary-eyed Beals said. "They just fought and they fought and they fought, and you saw that time and time again from these guys, and somehow we got it done.
"You can see I'm emotional. I talk to my guys about spilling blood, sweat and tears, and I do it too."
Ohio State entered the game having won three of four against the Golden Gophers since May 19, including the opening game of the tournament Wednesday, but Minnesota used the big inning to pull away.
The Buckeyes took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double by senior Brian DeLucia and a two-run single by freshman Tim Wetzel, but Minnesota replied with six in the top of the inning to finally get to OSU freshman righthander Greg Greve, who had hurled 13 innings of one-run ball at the Golden Gophers up to that point.
Cleanup hitter Nick O'Shea tied the score with a looping liner to right field, scoring A.J. Pettersen and Andy Henkemeyer with one out. Two batters later, third baseman Kyle Geason crushed a two-run homer to left, giving Minnesota the lead for good at 5-3.
The next batter, center fielder Troy Larson, tripled off the wall in the gap in left-center field, prompting Beals to pull Greve (3-3) for senior lefthander Theron Minium. However, Minium was greeted rudely by second baseman Matt Puhl, who snuck a homer just over the wall in left-center to make it 7-3.
"(Greve's) ball got up in the zone a little bit," Beals said. "They got some big hits. We've held that offense at bay for four games, and that sixth inning, I think it was four games of offense they threw at us all in one inning right there."
Ohio State got one back in the sixth off starter Austin Lubinsky (5-6) when Josh Dezse scored on a throwing error by Minnesota catcher Kurt Schlangen, but more damage was averted when Puhl leapt to snag Brad Hallberg's liner out of the air for the third out with Matt Streng on third.
Minnesota then went to Tom Windle in the seventh, and he threw a perfect last three innings. In the meantime, the Gophers (24-23) finalized the score in the eighth when Pettersen lined a bases-loaded, two-run single off David Fathalikhani.
DeLucia and Wetzel each had two hits, while the game was the last for seniors DeLucia, Streng, shortstop Tyler Engle and pitchers Minium, Jared Strayer, Dean Wolosiansky and Drew Rucinski.
"Today didn't go the way we wanted it to go," Beals said. "We hoped to stay in the tournament longer than we did, but it didn't work out that way for us. On days like today, you look back at the body of work that we had this year, and I told the guys I was proud of how far we came as a team in my first year."
Minnesota previously knocked out the Buckeyes in 2009, the last time the event was held in Huntington Park.