The Ohio State baseball team entered the stretch run of the Big Ten season on Friday night, traveling to West Lafayette, Indiana, for a three-game set with Purdue. The Buckeyes hoped to continue their success at Alexander Field, as the scarlet and gray had previously been undefeated at the venue.
Coming off of a conference championship season, the Boilermakers had hoped to christen their new digs with a sweep of the Buckeyes, but last year's squad had other ideas, as Ohio State outscored Purdue 25-4 on the way to a three-game sweep of its own.
This trip looks to be a little more competitive, however, as both pitching staffs have combined for 10 innings of scoreless baseball thus far.
Ohio State would take an early lead in the top of the second, as a pair of one out singles by Ryan Leffel and Troy Montgomery put runners on first and second. Designated hitter Josh Dezse would plate the pair on the next pitch with a blistering double to left-center field. The Buckeyes would tack on a third run in the inning when Craig Nenning, back at shortstop after missing the last 20 games with an injury, scored on a single up the middle from catcher Connor Sabanosh.
Although the Buckeyes would not score again, it seemed as if that's all they would need to win their second game in a row. Ohio State would receive a stellar outing from Tanner Tully for the second-consecutive Friday, as the freshman sat down the first 12 batters he faced before running into trouble in the fifth inning.
After allowing back-to-back singles by Kyle Wood and Kyle Johnson to open the frame, a sacrifice bunt from Ted Snidanko moved the runners into scoring position for the home team. The Boilermakers would capitalize on the next pitch, as Conner Hudnall's sacrifice fly to left field would score their first run of the game.
One batter later, the teams were tied on an inside-the-park home run. Outfielder Jeff Evak crushed a ball to the right-center gap, which took a strange bounce off the wall as Ronnie Dawson and Pat Porter gave chance. The relay to the plate was not in time, as Evak slide across the plate safely, knotting the game at three apiece.
Despite the rough inning, Tully would get back on track to pitch a scoreless sixth and seventh frame before head coach Greg Beals called upon his bullpen. Freshman Travis Lakins pitch a career-high five innings of relief, sitting down a career-high six batters along the way, but was tagged with the loss after the fatal 13th frame. A leadoff double by Cody Strong would set up Wood up for the game-winning base knock to left, handing Lakins his third loss of the season.
With the series-opening loss, Ohio State falls to 23-19 on the season, as well as 4-9 in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes continue to look up in the standings at Purdue, who, despite their 11-27 overall record, are 5-8 in conference play. Just a game and a half out of the crucial eighth spot in the standings, the Buckeyes must salvage a series win if they hope to gain seeding in the conference tournament.
The two schools will meet again on Saturday, with an early-evening first pitch scheduled for 5:30 pm. Ohio State will send left-hander Ryan Riga (3-1, 3.52 ERA) to the mound, while Purdue will call upon right-hander Gavin Downs (2-4, 3.88 ERA). This will mark Riga's first start since he suffered an injury in the Buckeyes' loss to Indiana last month.