Riding a five-game winning streak into conference play, the Ohio State baseball team looked to start it's Big Ten slate off on a positive note against Michigan State on Friday night.
Originally scheduled for East Lansing, the three-game set was moved to Columbus as inclement weather left the Spartans' home field unplayable. Although the game was played at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, the Buckeyes were designated the road team.
While the Spartans came into the series with only nine wins out of a possible 17 games on the season, one bright spot has been Friday's starting pitcher, Mick VanVossen. The junior from Ada, Michigan, was 4-0 with a 1.91 earned run average on the year. Last season, VanVossen tossed his first-career complete-game against the Buckeyes, allowing only two runs, as the Spartans took the season series.
Opposite of VanVossen, the Buckeyes sent Ryan Riga to the bump for the fourth time this season. Coming into Friday's game, Riga was 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA in his first full season as a starter. The last time these teams met, Riga allowed two runs on three hits in three innings pitched. It should be noted, however, one of those runs was allowed in a bases loaded jam that Riga inherited.
Like they did earlier in the week, the Buckeyes feel behind early against the Spartans, as Riga served up a lead off home run to Cam Gibson. Riga was able to escape any further damage in the inning, as the Buckeyes trailed by one heading to the second inning.
A single and two walks in the top of the third inning loaded the bases against VanVossen and gave the Buckeyes their first scoring opportunity of the game. VanVossen plunked Pat Porter, scoring Connor Sabinosh from third and tying the game at one apiece.
The Spartans answered right back with a leadoff triple to open the fourth, with a sacrifice fly from Anthony Cheky, giving the de facto home team the lead. A base knock and a double put Riga in a jam and gave the Spartans to extend their lead.
A base hit just past Jacob Bosiokovic at third base brought home both runs, giving the Spartans a 4-1 lead. Riga settled down after he received a mound visit from Ohio State pitching coach Mike Stafford, inducing a pop out and groundout to get out of the inning. The bullpen became active in the top of the fourth inning, but Riga stepped back on the mound for the bottom of the frame, with the Buckeyes trailing by three.
Riga then recorded his fourth strikeout of the game, but allowed another runner to reach scoring position. However, a gold glove play by Josh Dezse at first took away a sure base hit and eventual run, keeping the score at 4-1.
Feeding off of that play, the Buckeyes answered right back. Craig Nenning walked and stole second, adding pressure on VanVossen, who served up a fat pitch to Pat Porter. The junior crushed the ball over the right field fence, bringing Ohio State within one.
When the Buckeyes stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning, VanVossen had been pulled from the game in favor Anthony Misiewicz. VanVossen left after five innings in position for the win, recording five strikeouts for the Spartans. With runners on first and second and the Buckeyes threatening, Misiewicz struck out the side.
After a leadoff single by the Spartans, Riga was pulled in favor of Travis Lakins. The junior from Hamilton also recorded five strikeouts in his longest outing of the season (6.1 innings), but left with the Buckeyes trailing by one. Michigan State immediately took advantage of Lakins' slow delivery, as the runner took second and third on consecutive pitches. A double on the third pitch of the at-bat brought home the runner from 90 feet away, giving the Spartans a much-needed insurance run in the seventh inning. Michigan State would take on another run in the frame, leaving an uphill battle for the scarlet and gray.
Pinch hitter Ryan Leffel led off the eighth inning with a base hit, which put him in scoring position. Dezse followed that with a double of his own, crushing one over the chasing center fielder, bringing the Buckeyes back within two. It looked as if Ohio State was about to tie the game, but the center fielder crashed into the wall to make an amazing catch and save a possible in-the-park home run.
Tyler Giannonatti replaced Lakins for the Spartans' last at-bat, quickly running into trouble. Two base hits put runners on the corners and it looked as if the game would come unraveled, but three quick outs, including a play at the plate, kept the Buckeyes in striking distance.
Ohio State had one final chance in the top ninth and threatened to tie the game with runners on second and third with no outs after a double that involved the center fielder crashing into the wall a second time. This time, however, he was unable to make the catch and the Buckeyes were in business. A ground-rule double from Troy Kuhn tied the game at six, bringing the remaining fans at the stadium to their feet. A sacrifice fly moved Kuhn to third, but the Buckeyes left the game-winning run 90 feet away.
Ohio State sent All-Big closer Trace Dempsey to the mound, but a base hit and walk put the game-winning run in scoring position. A base hit from Ryan Kill brought the runner across the plate, giving the Spartans and Cam Vieaux the win, while Trace Dempsey suffered his second loss of the season.
With the loss, the Buckeyes' winning streak ends at five games, as they fall to 13-7 on the young season. The series continues on Saturday, with first pitch set for 3:05 pm. Ohio State will send senior right-hander Greg Greve (2-1, 4.85 ERA) to the mound, while the Spartans will call upon sophomore Justin Alleman (1-0, 2.10 ERA). Like Friday's game, admission is free throughout the series.