The Ohio State baseball team came away from a wild weekend in Orlando with three wins, improving their mark to 5-2 on the young season. There was plenty of drama as Greg Beals' squad defeated Central Florida, The Citadel, and Oklahoma, with bullpen and bench depth coming up big.
The Buckeyes played host UCF on Friday, using a 9th inning rally to force extra innings before exploding for six runs in the 13th to pull out a 9-3 victory. Freshman right-hander Travis Lakins pitched three scoreless innings of relief to earn his first college win, with junior closer Trace Dempsey shutting the door on the Knights in the 13th for the save.
"It's always good to beat the home team at their own tournament on Friday night so it's a big win for us," Beals said. "More importantly is how we won the baseball game. The depth really shined tonight. We had depth in our bullpen and our bench. We used a lot of different pieces to win the game tonight and that's the most satisfying part for me."
Ohio State got the scoring started with an RBI double from freshman Ronnie Dawson in the top of the fourth off UCF starter Eric Skoglund, which plated junior Josh Dezse who had been hit by a pitch. Buckeyes starter Greg Greve, a senior righty, scattered five hits and gave up two runs in 5.1 innnings, but left the game trailing 2-1 and in line for the loss. Greve was relieved by freshman left-hander Tanner Tully, who allowed one run in 3.2 inning of relief, and kept the team within striking distance.
Down 3-1 and facing their last chance, the Buckeyes plated two in the 9th to even the score and force extra innings. A lead-off single from Dawson and a walk of sophomore first baseman Zach Ratcliff gave Ohio State two on with no out and ended the day for Skoglund. After a sacrifice by junior catcher Aaron Gretz moved the runners into scoring position, sophomore shortstop Criag Nennig struck out. Down to their last out, the Buckeyes needed heroics, and got them in the form of a Tim Wetzel single. The senior outfielder brought Dawson and pinch runner Jake Brobst around to score and keep the team alive.
Lakins shut down the Knights for three innings, not allowing a hit, though he did issue four walks. The Buckeyes finally broke through in the top of 13th, when a lead-off walk by Dezse led to a one-out RBI single by redshirt sophomore Ryan Leffel, who had come off the bench to play first base in the 10th. An errant throw by UCF's catcher on a Nennig bunt single allowed Leffel to score and push the lead to 5-3. The wheels came off for UCF at this point, as two walks and wild pitch brought around another run, before sophomore third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic doubled to right-center to drive in two more and a sacrifice fly by junior rightfielder Pat Porter brought home the sixth run of the inning.
Dempsey worked around a walk in the bottom half of the frame to seal the 9-3 win.
After such a wild game Friday night, Ohio State had quite the encore on Saturday against the Citadel, using a 9th inning walk-off single by Dawson to down the Bulldogs, 5-4.
"We got the wins in our last at-bats the last two nights but I'm excited about the character we're showing and the identity we're developing off of that," Beals said after the game. "The experience we're getting in tight ballgames is really important for us early in the season and should pay off for us down the line."
Junior southpaw Ryan Riga, who was named Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday after shutting out Auburn last weekend, was on the bump for the Buckeyes. Riga went six innings, giving up four runs. After three consecutive singles gave The Citadel a 1-0 lead in the first, Ohio State answered with four of their own in the second, thanks to a Wetzel fielder's choice, an infield RBI single by sophomore second baseman Troy Kuhn, and a two-run single by Porter.
The Bulldogs tied the game at four with a three-run fifth inning off of Riga, before both teams had their bats go cold. Sophomore righty Jake Post pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Riga, surrendering just two hits and two walks, while striking out six, while earning his first win of the season.
In a game that was delayed three and a half hours because of heavy rains in the area, Dawson delivered the win with his single after Kuhn was hit by a pitch and Porter and Dezse walked to load the bases, improving the Buckeyes' record to 4-2.
Sunday's final tilt in Orlando proved to be slightly less dramatic, but was not without its tense moments. The Buckeyes, looking for a bounce-back game out of freshman lefty Zach Farmer, defeated Oklahoma 6-3 to complete the weekend sweep. The win was Farmer's first as a collegiate hurler, as he surrendered just two runs on two hits in 5.1 innings of work. The performance was encouraging after he had given up four runs in just four innings a week ago against Indiana State.
"It's huge to get the sweep and finish the weekend," Beals said. "We didn't finish last weekend the way we wanted to, so it was big to make a statement against three good opponents. Zach Farmer bounced back with a really good start today and we were able to use our bullpen the way we wanted."
The Sooners scored first in the game, using a double-steal in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead, and starter Jake Elliott set the down the first nine Buckeyes he faced. Three runs in the fourth for Ohio State, courtesy of a Kuhn hit by pitch, a Bosiokovic infield single, and a Porter single to right field that ended with a throwing error, put the Buckeyes on top for good. They added another in the fifth when Bosiokovic beat a double play ball with the bases loaded.
Beals got 3.2 innings of one run relief out of redshirt senior righty Tyler Giannonatti, redshirt sophomore southpaw Michael Horejsei, and Dempsey. The win over the Sooners pushed Ohio State's mark to 5-2 on the year, and the weekend sweep gives the team momentum as they head to Greenville, North Carolina next weekend to take part in the Keith LeClair Classic. The Buckeyes will take on Pittsburgh on Friday, Western Kentucky on Saturday, and East Carolina on Sunday.