Ohio State baseball: Riga takes sting away from Georgia Tech in win

For the umpteenth time this season, a backs-to-the-wall Ohio State baseball team followed a disheartening blowout loss with a gritty victory, last night against their toughest competition to date.

Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern and now Georgia Tech.

Five times this season has Ohio State been whitewashed in the opening game of a series. Falling 7-0 to the Gophers, 11-2 to the Cornhuskers, 9-2 to the Illini, 8-0 to the Wildcats and Tuesday's 9-2 defeat to Georgia Tech, on five separate occasions have the Buckeyes looked like a team that has no place when discussing the Big Ten title race or an NCAA Tournament berth.

Yet after each blowout loss the Buckeyes have responded with a hard-fought win. Wendesday's 3-2 victory over Georgia Tech the most impressive to date.

Taking nothing away from extra-inning wins against Illinois and Nebraska or the respective next-day 5-2 and 5-3 wins over Minnesota and Northwestern, Wednesday's win was special, a critical tally to the left-hand column of the team's win-loss ledger.

Unlike their Big Ten series, there is no rubber-game, a third game to salvage the mid-week series. Georgia Tech was prepared to fly back to Atlanta with two wins in its first ever visit to the Buckeye State. Two losses and Ohio State could be facing an mountainous climb off the bubble, into the NCAA Tournament field with its final seven games coming against top-15 clubs.

But the Buckeyes got the win and in the process showed they belong in the field of 64.

Twenty-four hours after Georgia Tech, the nation's 12th-best hitting club entering the week with a .313 average, battered Buckeye pitching for nine runs off 14 hits, six extra-base knocks, in his first Ohio State start sophomore left-handed pitcher Ryan Riga was brilliant. In a career-best seven innings, Riga scattered five hits, allowed one run as he struck out five, walked one.

But for most the contest the one run that Riga conceded appeared to be too much for Ohio State to overcome.

In Tuesday's loss Ohio State mustered only seven hits, two through the first five innings. Where Georgia Tech freshman left-handed pitcher Jonathan King left off, sophomore right-handed pitcher Josh Heddinger picked up for Danny Hall's club.

Four of Heddinger's first five innings ended with Ohio State retired after three batters. When the Buckeyes saw Tim Wetzel walk in the third inning, the Buckeyes left their left fielder on second base. Thanks to a double from shortstop Mott Hyde, who scored on a Kyle Wren fielder's choice, Georgia Tech's 1-0 led at the game's midpoint was on the verge on feeling insurmountable.

Yet as the team showed over the next two innings, there is a never-say-die vibe to these Buckeyes, that when they seem out of the contest they find a way to come through.

On Monday, in the series finale against Northwestern, Ohio State had one run off two hits through seven innings against Northwestern, trailing the Wildcats 2-1. With six outs left, Ohio State opened the eighth with back-to-back singles before senior shortstop Kirby Pellant used his second career home run to put Ohio State in front 4-2 in a contest they would win 6-2.

On Wednesday, a two-out triple to center from senior Ryan Cypret scored first baseman Brad Hallberg evening the score 1-1. After Riga worked around a leadoff infield single to keep the game 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, Wetzel drove a 2-1 offering up the middle of Georgia Tech reliever Alex Cruz, scoring Jacob Bosiokovic and Mike Carroll after the freshman drew a walk and the junior singled to right in front of sophomore Aaron Gretz putting two in scoring position with two outs.

In a blink of an eye a dormant offense pieced together just enough to get the job done.

After a 1-2-3 inning from senior right-hander Brett McKinney, Georgia Tech threatened in the ninth. A two-out single from Georgia Tech third baseman Sam Dove put a runner in scoring position for the visitors as Cypret's throw to first was offline. A.J. Murray would score Dove with a single through the left side and find himself in scoring position following a stolen base.

But sophomore right-handed pitcher Trace Dempsey closed the door on the Yellow Jackets, striking out pinch-hitter Daniel Spingola for his Big Ten-leading 16th save.

The win for Ohio State pushed their record to 33-15 as the club notched a key victory over the 30-19, RPI top-25 Georgia Tech club as it seeks to enhance its post-season resume over the final two weeks.

The Scarlet and Gray will have another chance to do just that as Oregon visits Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, a Duck club that is ranked No. 10 in the nation by Baseball America, sitting eighth in the country in Boyd's World Psuedo-RPI. Friday's 7 p.m. start will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.

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