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Ohio State baseball: Spartans capture series in Columbus

In a battle of two clubs with sights set on a Big Ten championship and NCAA Tournament appearance, a back-and-forth weekend saw Michigan State return to East Lansing with two victories. Ohio State (16-8, 4-2) now sits two games back of Big Ten leading Indiana, ending the weekend where they entered with an RPI of 55.

Chris Webb

Game 22 8-7, L

With the aces of two of the Big Ten's top pitching team's on the mound a low-scoring quick-paced game was the forecast for the series opener.

It was anything but.

A Michigan State staff that entered the weekend with a 3.19 ERA matched up against Ohio State's team clip of 2.35. The two staffs combined to allow 24 hits lead to 15 runs as Michigan State downed the Bucks 8-7.

Neither Ohio State starter Jaron Long (6 IP, 8 H, 4 R) or Michigan State ace Andrew Waszak, (6.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R), were on their A-game, but both did enough to keep their club in the contest. It would be the Ohio State bullpen's undoing that decided the outcome.

Dominant all season, the Buckeye bullpen allowed four runs in the eighth inning, one that saw three pitchers unable to stop the Spartans.

After a 1-2-3 seventh inning, senior right-handed pitcher Brett McKinney allowed two hits in addition to walking and plunking a Spartan. With two outs, sophomore left-handed pitcher Ryan Riga allowed a 2-RBI double which tied the game at six. Sophomore right-handed Trace Dempsey relieved Riga after one batter and saw two runs on a pair of wild pitches.

Ohio State was led at the plate by senior DH Greg Solomon's 3-for-4 evening. Sophomore outfielder Pat Porter collected two hits in four at-bats, as senior shortstop Kirby Pellant.

Game 23 8-3 W

The unexpected pitching performances continued on Saturday. Behind fastballs that each would dial up to 95 MPH, Ohio State starter Brad Goldberg and Michigan State's David Garner both entered the weekend in the top 10 among Big Ten pitchers for strikeouts. In the end it would be the walks, seven, that more than double the strikeout total of three.

But the Saturday matinee saw the Ohio State bullpen return to form as junior right-handed pitcher Greg Greve and Riga combine to pitch three perfect innings to secure an 8-3 Ohio State win.

The Buckeyes jumped on Garner and Michigan State early with two runs in each of the first two innings, scores that were a byproduct of the team's speed.

Senior second baseman Ryan Cypret's one-out double was followed by a Porter seeing-eye single. A failed pickoff attempt of Porter by Garner scored Cypret and advanced Porter to third base. A two-out bleeder off the bat of freshman third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic would score Porter.

Ohio State's speed was on display in the second when seniors Joe Ciamacco and Solomon both followed classmate Brad Hallberg's single with bunt singles. Ohio State would score a run on a 4-6-3 double play before the inning closed on a double steal attempt where Cypret stalled between first and second long enough to score Ciamacco.

Michigan State would score a run in each inning from the third through fifth, but the Buckeyes responded with tallies in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings to keep the Spartans at bay. Goldberg improved to 4-0 on the season after his six-inning outing, carrying a 1.96 ERA into April.

Game 24 7-2, L

The weekend's finest pitching performance came from Michigan State sophomore Mick VanVossen. The right-handed wouldn't wow with raw stuff, a fastball that sat 87-89, topping at 92, but VanVossen controlled the strikezone, making the Bucks put the ball in play, often right at Michigan State fielders.

In a complete game, VanVossen allowed two runs off seven hits. A 96-pitch effort, where 18 came in the ninth inning, VanVossen went eight innings before issuing a walk or having the Bucks cross home. Prior to Ohio State's three-hit, two-run ninth, VanVossen had four 1-2-3 innings, the other four frames all consisted of four at-bats, the Buckeyes collecting only a single in each.

Ohio State senior left-handed pitcher Brian King worked around the plate as well, not issuing a walk in his six innings of work, but the Michigan State bats squared up King's offerings.

The Spartans collected two doubles in the top of the second to take a 1-0 lad. Michigan State senior catcher Joel Fisher picked up the first of his two doubles on the day in a three-hit, three-run third for the Green and White. Sophomore outfielder Jimmy Pickens put an exclamation point on the day with a two-run home run to right field, his second of the weekend, as King allowed six runs, four earned off seven hits in six innings.

Porter would lead the Buckeyes with a 2-for-4 afternoon.

Series notes

Friday's lost marked the second time all season the Buckeyes have lost a game when leading after the sixth inning. The Buckeyes are now 13-2 when ahead as the game enters the final three innings.

The Buckeyes and Spartans combined to walk only 14 batters over the three games.

The two pitching staffs could only record 15 strikeouts for the weekend.

Porter collected three doubles over the weekend, a three-game set that was capped by his team leading 10th multi-hit game.

With two stolen bases Saturday, Ciamacco is now 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts this season, a perfect 27-for-27 in his career.

More than 20 scouts, cross-checkers and scouting directors were on hand for Saturday's contest as Garner and Goldberg battled.

Who's hot

Pellant has collected 12 hits in his last 21 at-bats after a 6-for-12 weekend. The senior shortstop paces the club in average (.400), on-base percentage (.459) and slugging percentage (.564). Pellant's one error in 61 chances yields a .984 fielding percentage.

Senior captain David Fathalikhani pitched a perfect ninth inning on Sunday. Over eight appearances, the side-arm right-handed hurler has only allowed three hits in 17 at-bats, sporting an 0.00 ERA in 4.2 innings.

Around the Big Ten

Indiana swept Iowa on the road to stay atop the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have now won 15 consecutive games, ranked as high as No. 16 in the country with a 22-3 record, a perfect 6-0 conference mark. Nebraska slides into second place following a sweep of Northwestern. The Cornhuskers are 5-1 in Big Ten, rounding into form after a tough non-conference slate is shown in their 11-15 overall ledger. Purdue and Penn State saw the Big Ten's third weekend sweep, as the Boilermakers evened their conference record at 3-3 while the Nittany Lions remain winless in Big Ten play. Minnesota took two of three in Ann Arbor as the Gophers and Wolverines saw their first conference action.

What's next

The Buckeyes will play a pair of midweek games against in-state rivals at Nick Swisher Field. Ohio State welcomes Youngstown State on Tuesday before the RedHawks of Miami take to Bill Davis Stadium on Wednesday. First pitch for both contests will be at 6:35. Probables for the midweek contests follow:

Senior RHP Brett McKinney (2-3, 3.22) vs. Youngstown State Senior LHP Blake Aquadro (2-3, 4.36)

Freshman RHP Jake Post (0-0, 11.74) vs. Miami Sophomore LHP Brian Thene (1-1, 3.55)