The Ohio State baseball team bounced back from a disappointing trip to the Pacific Northwest in a big way over the past week. After dropping two of three to then-No. 11 Oregon and a winnable game against an Oregon State team that was ranked fifth in the country last week, the Buckeyes have won five in a row, and have momentum on their side as they take on Michigan State in the first Big Ten series of the season. Greg Beals' squad swept their weekend series against Siena College, then took back-to-back midweek contests from Akron and Xavier.
The midweek games were not without their tense moments. Ohio State needed extra innings to best the Zips, winning 6-5 thanks to a walk-off sacrifice fly by freshman Troy Montgomery in the bottom of the 11th. In a back-and-forth game, Akron took the lead in their first at-bat off starter Jake Post, when a two-out double by Devan Ahart was followed by an RBI single by Brady Stewart. The Buckeyes answered in the bottom of the second, when an RBI double by Conor Sabanosh scored Craig Nennig, but the Zips came right back to reclaim the lead in the top of the third on a run-scoring, two-out triple by Ahart. Another run in the fourth had the Buckeyes staring down a 3-1 deficit.
The lead became one after Troy Kuhn ripped a home run down the left field line. It was the sophomore second baseman's team-leading third dinger of the season, helping him continue his onslaught from the weekend. It was the last run either starter would allow in the game, as Akron's Pat Dyer went five innings, giving up just the two runs on seven hits, while striking out four. Post, who did not factor in the decision, also went five, allowing three runs on six hits with six punchouts.
After three scoreless innings of relief by Travis Lakins, the Zips added an insurance run in the top of the ninth off of Tyler Giannonatti courtesy of a two-out RBI single by James Sheltrown. Facing a two-run deficit and down to their final three outs, the Buckeyes needed a little more of the late-inning magic that propelled them to a sweep of the UCF tourney a few weeks ago. They got just that when a throwing error by Zips' pitcher Zach Beaver allowed Tim Wetzel to score on an infield single by Jacob Bosiokovic, who went to third on the errant toss. The sophomore third baseman scored one batter later, when Pat Porter hit a sac fly to left, knotting the game at four.
In extras, Trace Dempsey pitched a perfect 10th inning, before walking in the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th. Ohio State, again down to its final three outs, called up the magic once more, with one-out walks to Porter and Josh Dezse setting the table. Ronnie Dawson, continuing a torrid streak to kick off his college career, laced a ground rule double to left-center, which scored Porter. Jake Brobst, pinch running for Dezse, would easily have scored had the ball not hopped the fence. Montgomery made that a non-factor, though, plating Brobst on a fly ball to right.
In all, Kuhn, Bosiokovic, Dawson, Ryan Leffel, and Nennig notched two hits in the game for Ohio State, and Dempsey picked up his first win of the season out of the pen.
Wednesday evening's affair with Xavier provided fewer dramatics, but resulted again in a victory for the Bucks. Tanner Tully was impressive in his first collegiate start, and Kuhn kept his bat red-hot, as Ohio State downed the Musketeers, 10-3.
After Tully needed all of five pitches to retire Xavier in the top of the first, Kuhn led off the home half of the inning with his fourth homer of the season, giving him three during the five-game winning streak. The Buckeyes would run the lead out to 6-0 through two innings, and Tully was cruising. The freshman southpaw threw five shutout innings, scattering five hits while striking out two and not issuing a free pass.
The Buckeyes plated four more in the bottom of the eighth, and Shea Murray, Curtiss Irving, and Giannonatti combined for four innings of relief, yielding three runs, to seal the deal. Tully earned his first win as a starter, and Giannonatti picked up his first career save.
The wins against Akron and Xavier push Ohio State's record to 13-6 on the year. The Buckeyes stay at home with a weekend series against the Spartans, originally scheduled to be played in East Lansing but was moved this week due to unplayable field conditions in that state up north. The series will provide a barometer for Beals and his team in the Big Ten. As conference play begins, the Buckeyes are on-target to make the conference tournament, and to fulfill their larger goal of an NCAA postseason berth.