Graduation day in Columbus was not kind to the Ohio State baseball team. Just a few hours after spring commencement, the Buckeyes were routed by Iowa, 17-2, at Bill Davis Stadium. The loss drops the Buckeyes to 7-10 in Big Ten play, and a game behind the Hawkeyes for seventh place in the conference standings.
Iowa entered the series leading the Big Ten in hitting and being among the leaders in just about every other offensive category. After dropping Saturday's series opener 9-4, the Hawkeyes came out and did damage from the get-go, and exploded in the middle innings to make the game a laugher.
Center fielder Eric Toole led the game off with a single off of Ohio State starter Ryan Riga, and immediately stole second. After a pair of ground outs, Riga was unable to escape the inning, giving up back-to-back RBI hits to shortstop Jake Yacinich and designated hitter Dan Potempa.
The Buckeyes answered back with a run of their own in the bottom half of the first. Second baseman Nick Sergakis led things off with a single just under Yacinich's glove at short, and then advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt by Iowa starter Sasha Kuebel. After Kuebel struck out catcher Connor Sabanosh, third baseman Troy Kuhn brought Sergakis home on a groundout to third, cutting the deficit in half, 2-1. It was the closest the Buckeyes would get all game.
A one-out single and another stolen base by Toole led to an RBI groundout by first baseman Tyler Peyton in the top of the second. After Kuebel and Riga traded 1-2-3 innings in three straight frames, the Iowa offense erupted. The Hawkeyes plated three runs in the fourth courtesy of a three-run bomb to right by Peyton, and five more in fifth, chasing Riga from the game. In the first of two innings in the game in which Iowa sent ten men to the plate, Riga gave up three straight singles to right fielder Taylor Zeutenhorst, catcher Jimmy Frankos, and left fielder Kris Goodman, and the lead was 7-1. After a two-out walk to Toole, Ohio State Head Coach Greg Beals went to the bullpen, bringing in Yanni Pavlopoulos in relief of Riga. The right-hander gave up two-run singles to second baseman Jake Mangler and Yacinich before retiring the side, and Iowa led 11-1.
Riga went 4.2 innings, allowing 10 runs, seven earned, on nine hits. Pavlopoulos went just a third of an inning, yielding a run on two hits.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Iowa wasn't done. The Hawkeyes added two more in the sixth off Michael Horejsei, and four in the seventh off Horejsei and Curtiss Irving. The seventh was the second inning in which the Hawkeyes batted around, aided by three Ohio State errors. After Yacinich doubled and scored on an error by center fielder Ronnie Dawson on a wind-blown fly ball off the bat of Frankos, Zeutenhorst scored on an error by Sergakis, and third baseman Nick Day roped a two-run single up the middle, extending the lead to 17-1.
Meanwhile, Kuebel was on cruise control. The southpaw gave up lone singles to Dawson in the fourth and first baseman Josh Dezse in the seventh, setting down 16 of 17 at one point. The Buckeyes did tack on one run in the eighth, when Ryan Leffel drove in Jacob Boskiokovic with a single to center.
Kuebel finished the game out, allowing just two runs in nine innings of work, improving to 6-3 on the season. Riga took the loss, falling to 4-2.
The rubber game of the series will take place on Monday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05. At this point in the season, getting a series win is of paramount importance for Ohio State, which will send senior Greg Greve to the mound against Iowa just a day after he received his diploma. The Buckeyes currently occupy 8th place in the Big Ten, and can ill afford to fall any farther behind the Hawkeyes.
Monday's game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network, with Kevin Kugler and Scott Pose calling the action.