The Ohio State baseball team played host to Murray State on Friday night, in hopes that a break from the conference schedule would provide the Buckeyes a chance to right the ship in the stretch run of the season. Losers of four of their last six games, however, the Buckeyes have been unable to take advantage of their non-conference schedule this season.
Like their hosts, Murray State entered the contest on the wrong side in four of their previous six matchups. The Thoroughbreds, otherwise known as the Racers in every sport except baseball, traveled to Columbus sporting a subpar 16-18 record, 9-9 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Despite being picked tenth in the preseason, the Breds currently sit fourth in the OVC standings.
With the prospect of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament largely out of the question for both teams, this weekend’s series becomes about consistency. At 4-8 in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes must use the momentum gained this weekend towards their four remaining conference series in order to have a shot at making the conference tournament.
Before the schedule shifts, however, the Buckeyes and Thoroughbreds has to play each other for the first time ever.
Ohio State struck first against Murray State starter Cameron Finch in the bottom of the first. Finch, who tossed the first complete game no-hitter in school history, allowed a leadoff single to Nick Sergakis and a double to Ronnie Dawson to put runners in scoring position with no outs. The Ohio State shortstop would score from third, as Troy Kuhn’s sacrifice fly gave the home team a 1-0 lead through the first frame.
Ohio State would then tack on another run in the bottom of the third, as a leadoff single by Aaron Gretz, followed by a walk to Dawson and a single by Kuhn would load the bases against Finch. A sacrifice fly by Pat Porter would score Gretz, extending the Buckeyes’ lead to two.
Meanwhile, Ohio State starter Tanner Tully was flying through five scoreless innings. The freshman, starting in place of the injured Ryan Riga for the second weekend in a row, finally ran into trouble in the sixth frame, however. A leadoff double to left by Tyler Lawrence placed a runner in scoring position for the first time all game, before a bloop single would plate the freshman only pitches later.
The home team would answer right back, though, when Dawson notched his team-leading 15th base hit of the season before stealing second. The speedster would then advance to third on a groundout, before scoring on Porter’s second sacrifice fly of the game.
Neither team would score again, as Tully allowed only one run on seven hits, while striking out four through seven innings on the mound. All-Big Ten closer Trace Dempsey relieved the freshman of his duties in the eight, proceeding to toss two scoreless innings of his own on the way to his fifth save of the year.
With the win, the Buckeyes improved to 22-17 on the year, while the Thoroughbreds suffered their 19th loss of the season. The two teams meet up once again on Saturday, the middle game of their three-game set. First pitch is set for 3:05 pm at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, with the Buckeyes calling upon right-hander Greg Greve (4-2, 3.76 ERA), while the Thoroughbreds will send righty Cody Maerz (1-5, 6.61 ERA) to the mound. Coming off of an impressive outing against Penn State, one in which he tossed a complete-game shutout, Greve looks to add to his career-high 15-inning scoreless streak.