Baseball Looks Ahead After Bowing Out

The No. 23 Ohio State baseball team won the Big Ten regular-season title but couldn't achieve the double and win the tournament at Huntington Park. The Buckeyes bowed out of a losers bracket on Saturday afternoon with a 9-6 loss to second-seeded Minnesota. Now OSU looks ahead to a possible NCAA tourney berth, which will be announced over the next two days.

Minutes after Ohio State's run in the Big Ten baseball tournament came to an end, the Buckeyes turned their eyes to the next two days.

On Sunday afternoon, OSU will find out if it is one of 16 schools that will host an NCAA tournament regional. If Columbus is not on that list, the Buckeyes will have to wait another day to find out if their 40-17 record, No. 23 national ranking, top-35 RPI and Big Ten regular-season championship are enough to punch a ticket to the 64-team Big Dance.

"I think we will be playing next weekend," said head coach Bob Todd, whose teams have gone to 12 NCAA tournaments. "It's just a matter of whether it's going to be in Columbus or it's going to be somewhere else."

Todd added that OSU put in a bid to host the NCAAs, though the former member of the tournament committee said he is not sure if the money offered by OSU – which he estimated at $150,000 – will be enough.

The draw of sealing a bid into the event, punctuating their regular-season crown and christening the first Big Ten tourney in Huntington Park in downtown Columbus with a championship wasn't enough to bring the best baseball out of Ohio State, which dropped its losers bracket game Saturday afternoon to second-seeded Minnesota by s 9-6 score.

"We were trying to come out every game with our best intensity because we didn't want to rely on the committee to choose us," catcher Dan Burkhart said. "We were coming out every day trying to win the Big Ten tournament and we just came up a little short I guess."

For that, the Buckeyes can blame balky pitching and hitting that too often set the table before choosing not to eat. On Saturday, OSU had 15 hits but 13 singles and left 10 runners on base – including at least one in eight different innings.

"I think it's just the timely hits," second baseman Cory Kovanda said. "We had team hits on the scoreboard but it doesn't matter when you can't get them when there are runners on base."

On the mound, meanwhile, starter Eric Best couldn't get out of the fourth inning. In his final line, he was tagged for five runs on nine hits in 3.2 innings. In relief, usually dependable Drew Rucinski gave up four runs in 3.1 frames.

"We get a couple of base hits and all it does is put people on base," Todd said after 29 of OSU's 33 hits on the weekend were singles. "The teams that we played in this tournament not only have been putting people on but they've been coming through with the big base hits to drive in runs."

The Golden Gophers (38-16) started in the first inning with four runs off of Best. Derek McCallum brought in leadoff hitter Matt Nohelty with a double, then Nick O'Shea had a scored two with a two-bagger and Eric Decker singled in another run.

Decker, the All-Big Ten Minnesota football wideout, was a thorn in OSU's side the rest of the day. He broke a 4-all tie in the third with a home run off the right-center scoreboard, then walked and scored in the fifth and had a two-run single off of Rucinski in the sixth. He finished 4 for 4 with four RBI.

McCallum and O'Shea also had two hits and two RBI apiece.

Ohio State looked like it would equal Minnesota's offensive output early, tagging starter Scott Fern for five straight singles to begin the game, with the hits by Michael Stephens, Burkhart and Ryan Dew plating runs. But the Buckeyes left two runners on base that frame thanks to back-to-back strikeouts by Michael Arp and Tyler Engle.

An RBI single by Stephens in the second tied the game, but Ohio State was kept of the board until the seventh as Minnesota built a 9-4 lead. Burkhart homered in that inning off of Luke Rasmussen (2-0) and Kovanda batted in Arp in the eighth, but it was too little, too late.

In the ninth, Minnesota closer Scott Matyas got Arp to pop out to end the game and record his 14th save. OSU hopes it will get to fight another day.

"There's a lot of teams that haven't accomplished what this team has," Todd said. "I would be very disappointed if we're overlooked (for the NCAA tournament)."

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