Todd's Buckeyes captured the second game of what essentially turned into a doubleheader after Friday night's game was suspended by rain, but Todd's biggest rival of his career, Minnesota, won the first game of the day – and captured the Big Ten title along the way – with a 4-3 triumph.
As the Golden Gophers raced onto the field to celebrate their championship, the opposite fate befell the Buckeyes. The loss officially knocked the team out of Big Ten tournament contention and made the results of the second contest a moot point.
Rather than make the league tourney and have a chance at NCAA play, the loss meant the Buckeyes' season and Todd's career would end later that day.
"I looked up in the ninth inning and said, ‘Three outs, it's over,'" he said. "I tried to block it out. There's certainly going to be some emotion tonight. My whole family is coming to the house. We'll reminisce about a few things."
The Buckeyes finished the year 28-23, falling short of 30 wins for the first time in Todd's tenure. He also failed to direct the Buckeyes to the league tournament – this edition of which will be held at Bill Davis Stadium starting Wednesday – for only the second time ever and the first time since 1996. OSU placed tied for seventh in the Big Ten at 11-13, while Minnesota, Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue and Indiana will compete on the Buckeyes' home diamond for an NCAA bid.
"You always want to go as far as you can, especially for the players," Todd said. "The players are the ones that have worked so hard. I've said all year that I like the character of this team. They've done an awful lot of positive things, but it's a shame they didn't have more things go their way."
Still, there was plenty to celebrate. Ohio State handed out free T-shirts to all fans with Todd's name and number on the back. The program honored seniors Cory Rupert, Zach Hurley, Cory Kovanda, Ryan Dew, Michael Stephens, Chris Griffin, Shawn Forsythe and Eric best between games, then turned its attention to the 61-year-old coach.
Nearly 50 former players took the field along with his wife, Glenda, and all of his children and grandchildren. After words from Kovanda and associate athletic director Pat Chun, it was announced that Todd's No. 18 would be retired effective the end of the day. Team boosters Bill Wells and Pete Hauck presented him with a framed version of the uniform he wore for 23 years, and a plaque with his number was unveiled on the right-field wall.
"I am very fortunate that the sport I coach allows the coaches to put a number on their back, thus the retirement," he told the crowd. "There are many great coaches all around the country and baseball coaches are some that are very fortunate that they get to wear a uniform and a number. I feel very privileged to have coached baseball and to have coached it here at Ohio State."
Afterward, the Buckeyes sent him out in style with a 9-6 win. Michael Stephens and Cory Rupert blasted two-run homers to give OSU a 4-0 lead in the first inning. After Minnesota took a 6-5 lead in the fourth, the Buckeyes took over. Dan Burkhart doubled in Kovanda to give OSU the lead for good in the fifth.
Shortstop Tyler Engle also drive in two runs, while Stephens, Dew and Hurley completed their careers with two-hit games. Dean Wolosiansky went eight innings to move to 4-8, and Eric Best got his fifth save.
"You have to go out there and play every game like it's your last," Stephens said. "You never know what's going to happen. You want to go out thinking … I put it all out there."
The Buckeyes' win in that game came in sharp contrast to the opening 4-3 loss that knocked the team out of postseason contention. OSU took a 1-0 lead at the start Friday night before rain postponed the rest of the contest to Saturday afternoon, and the Buckeyes chose to put ace pitcher Alex Wimmers – making his first start in nearly a month because of hamstring injury – back on the mound.
He clearly started to labor as the day went on Saturday but held it together, throwing 99 pitches – 69 on Saturday – in six innings of work, striking out eight and allowing a single run. Afterward, he admitted the hamstring hurt badly but that he knew his team needed him on the field.
"There were multiple things that could have happened, but I didn't think about that at all," said Wimmers, a probable first-round draft pick in the upcoming June MLB draft. "I took my team into consideration. I tried to do the best I could and put a W up on the board. Unfortunately it didn't work out, which sucks because we came so close."
Wimmers left with a 3-1 lead, but it could have been more. The Buckeyes left the bases loaded in the first inning Friday night, scored only one run with the bases loaded and no out in the third today after Stephens was picked off first base and turned a sacrifice fly by Engle in the fourth into a double play when Matt Streng was caught off first base on the shortstop's blast to left. Ohio State also left eight runners on during the final five innings.
That proved to be fatal when Jared Strayer, battling his own knee injury, entered in relief in the seventh inning. The Golden Gophers tied the score in that frame thanks to a pair of two-out RBI hits, then DH Trip Schultz singled in Matt Puhl in the eighth for the winning run off Strayer (2-2).
By the time Scott Matyas closed out the Buckeyes for his sixth save of the year, the Buckeyes' season – and Todd's career – were down to nine more innings.
"I cannot believe the luck that we've had and the run we've had and the way it's ending now," Stephens said. "It's just incredible."