During the weekend of the Oscars, the Ohio State baseball program continued its ways of high-drama performances. Taking part in the Keith LeClair classic alongside host East Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Western Kentucky, Ohio State received a standout individual performance from senior captain Greg Greve against the Panthers before late-inning rallies finished games against the Hilltoppers and Pirates. Here's what happened.
Friday vs. Pittsburgh, 6-2, W
Ohio State moved to 20-1 all-time against the first-year Atlantic Coast Conference program. In the weekend-opening victory, Ohio State excelled in all three aspects, pitching, hitting and defense.
Greve solidified his spot as the Buckeye ace, opening the game without surrendering a hit until the first batter of the seventh inning. Removed thereafter, Greve moved to 2-0 with a brilling six-inning, one-hit outing. The right-hander struck out nine Pitt Panthers, walking only one, facing two batters over the minimum over 103 pitches.
The Buckeye bats provided Greve with an early lead, opening the game with four consecutive hits. Second baseman Troy Kuhn opened the game with a single, followed by an RBI-triple from fellow sophomore Jacob Bosiokovic. A second consecutive extra-base hit was tallied with junior outfielder Pat Porter doubling down the right field line, scoring Bosiokovic. Junior DH Josh Dezse singled up the middle before three consecutive outs ended the inning.
With Greve in cruise control, Ohio State doubled it's lead with a two-run fifth behind singles from shortstop Craig Nennig and senior left fielder Tim Wetzel. The first home run of Kuhn's career, a solo shot to right-center with two outs in the seventh, and a Zach Ratcliff RBI-single in the eighth pushed Ohio State's lead to 6-0.
Relieving Greve, freshman right-hander Travis Lakins allowed a run in two innings of work. Pitt tallied a run for the second consecutive inning with a ninth inning run off redshirt-freshman Shea Murray. Pitt threatened against Murray, chasing him with the score 6-2 and runners on first and second and no outs. Closer Trace Dempsey relieved Murray and surrendered a single to load the bases, bring the tying run to the plate with nobody out before a backward's K, F4 and 3U ended the game.
The Buckeyes belted out 12 hits, which each of the first three batters recording multi-hit games. Between Kuhn, Bosiokovic and Porter, the trio went 6-for-15 with two doubles, a triple and home run.
Saturday vs. Western Kentucky, 5-4, W
It was Western Kentucky's turn to deal with the never blink ways of Ohio State baseball.
Taking the early lead again, Ohio State put the first run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second. Reaching on an E6, Nennig moved to third on a single to right field by junior catcher Connor Sabanosh. Ohio State put a safety-squeeze on, scoring Nennig on a perfectly placed bunt by Wetzel.
For the next five innings, Ohio State was rocked to sleep by WKU starter Austin Clay. The Buckeyes record three hits between the third and seventh innings, middle frames that saw the Hilltoppers take the lead.
WKU quickly responded with a run in the third off two hits to make Ohio State's lead last one-half inning. Using three hits in the fourth, Western Kentucky plated a run, taking a 2-1 lead. The fifth marked the third consecutive inning Ohio State starter Ryan Riga allowed multiple hits, though the two in the inning did not lead to a bigger deficit for the Buckeyes. The same fortune would not find Riga in the sixth, relieved after a walk, single, sacrifice bunt punt two in scoring position with one out. Sophomore Jake Post relieved Riga and walked the bases loaded. A fly out to left put two outs on the board, but a single to left field made it a 3-1 game, the Buckeyes able to escape the inning with no further damage as Wetzel threw out an advancing runner at third.
Down 3-1, Ohio State found its mojo in the eighth. A one-out single by Ratcliff was followed by a walk drawn by Nennig. Sabanosh collected his third hit of the day with an RBI-single to left field, scoring Ratcliff. The hit parade continued with a single up the middle by Wetzel, scoring Nennig. A single by Kuhn loaded the bases before Bosiokovic singled to right field, scoring Sabanosh and Wetzel, putting the Buckeyes in front. The Buckeyes carried the one-run margin into the ninth, unable to tack on more runs with the bases loaded again following a Porter walk, leaving three on base.
Dempsey made the lack of insurance runs a non-issue with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, recording his fourth save of the young season.
Riga would not receive a decision, going 5.1 innings, allowing three runs off eight hits and two walks, striking out four. Earning the win was Post with a 2.2-inning, one-run relief outing. For a second consecutive day, Bosiokovic went 2-for-5. Sabanosh finished 3-for-3 on the afternoon and Ratcliff enjoyed a two-hit day.
Sunday at East Carolina, 3-2, L
The Buckeyes couldn't find enough magic in the weekend finale, having a ninth-inning rally come short against the host Pirates.
Before the game came down to the last at-bat again, Ohio State made it a 3-for-3 weekend in scoring the game's first run. The visiting Buckeyes opened the game with a boom when Kuhn recorded his first career triple. Flip-flopping in the lineup with Bosiokovic, Porter pushed Kuhn home with a single to center, giving Ohio State the early 1-0 lead.
Similar to Saturday's game, Ohio State's offense went missing in the middle innings as the opponent captured the lead.
ECU scored two runs in the bottom of the second. After two one-out singles and an error by Kuhn loaded the bases, freshman left-handed pitcher Zach Farmer walked in ECU's first run. A fielder's choice brought home the next run for East Carolina before the Buckeyes were able to get out of the inning. The deficit grew to 3-1 in the third with the combination of a walk, wild pitch and double bringing home a run with two outs for ECU.
From the fourth inning to the eight, the teams would combine for only four hits, two to a side. Ohio State getting singles from Ronnie Dawson in the fourth and sixth, ECU getting a pair of singles off reliever Tanner Tully in its half of the sixth.
In the ninth, Ohio State again found a way to amplify the anxiety. Freshman center fielder Troy Montgomery opened the inning with a double down the right field line, scoring on an Aaron Gretz' single in the next at-bat. A Nennig single put two aboard for the Bucks and the tying run in scoring position. Beals called on Wetzel to sacrifice, an effort successful as Jacob Brobst, pinch-running for Gretz move to third and Nennig to second. The tying run would remain 90 feet away as Kuhn's fly out to left was not deep enough to score Brobst, the game ending on a Porter fly out to the center fielder.
Farmer received the loss, all three runs falling on his accord, two earned. The southpaw allowed only three hits, but walked three with only one strikeout. Tully pitched three scoreless innings, only allowing the pair of sixth inning hits, walking none with two strikeouts. Dawson's 2-for-4 day was the lone multi-hit outing for the Buckeyes, the team leaving nine runners on base as they out-hit ECU eight to five.
The Buckeyes fly to the Pacific Northwest next week for a series at Oregon. The Ducks entered the weekend ranked No. 5 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, but were swept in a home series against No. 9 Cal State-Fullerton. Last year Geroge Horton's club swept the Buckeyes, taking all three games in Columbus. The 3-1, 4-0, 1-0 losses providing a vital blow to Ohio State's NCAA Tournament hopes.