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Ohio State baseball opens conference slate with series win

Buckeyes shut out Spartans in rubber match to open conference slate on a positive note.

Ohio State Athletics

If a trip to the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate goal, the Ohio State baseball team must take advantage of every opportunity given. When the 2014 schedule was released, the Buckeyes were expecting to spend this past weekend on the road in East Lansing. However, inclement weather caused unplayable field conditions, forcing Michigan State to travel to Columbus.With the switch in location, Ohio State was allowed three additional home games against a team that took two of three from the Buckeyes last season.

Friday night's contest was a back-and-forth affair, as Ohio State fell behind early and tied the game in the ninth inning, only to watch Michigan State walk off with the win.

The Buckeyes rebounded in a big way on Saturday, as freshman Troy Montgomery blasted his first-career grand slam in the 6-2 win. Just like last season, when the Spartans took Friday night's game and the Buckeyes were the victors on Saturday, the series came down to Sunday's rubber match.

Just two days after being credited with a win, the Spartans sent Cam Vieaux to the mound for the finale. After Ohio State tied Friday's contest in the ninth inning, the freshman struck out all three batters he faced. Like their opponents, Ohio State would also rely on a freshman on Sunday afternoon. Looking to improve upon his perfect record, the Buckeyes put Indiana native Tanner Tully on the bump.

It wasn't until the third inning that Ohio State threatened to take the lead. If not for a ridiculous diving stop by shortstop Ryan Richardson, the Buckeyes would have had a two run lead. Instead, they stranded runners on second and third as the game moved to the bottom of the frame.

The Spartans returned the favor in the fourth inning, placing runners in the corners and pressure in Tully. With one down, the freshman was able to strike out Ryan Krill and forced a pop fly to escape trouble.

Feeding off of that energy, the Buckeyes took the lead in the top of fifth. Junior college transfer catcher Connor Sabinosh led off the inning with a base knock before moving over to second on a sacrifice bunt. A single from Nick Sergakis, playing at shortstop in place of the injured Craig Nenning, moved Sabinosh to third. In their last scoring opportunity of the game, a Tim Wetzel sacrifice fly have the Buckeyes a one run lead they would not relinquish.

Like his teammates before him, Tully added a quality start for the Buckeyes, striking out four batters over the course of a career-high seven innings. Travis Lakins came in relief of Tully, retiring the side in order in the eighth. Facing a jam in the bottom of the ninth, with runners on the corners, Lakins would strike out the final three batters of the game to record his second save and seal the series win for the Buckeyes.

With the shutout victory, the Buckeyes improved to 15-7, 2-1 in the Big Ten, on the season. The current 14-game homestand continues on Tuesday, as Ohio State plays host to Marshall. First pitch against the Thundering Herd is scheduled for 6:35 pm at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium.

Update: Tuesday's game against Marshall has been cancelled due to cold temperatures and snow expected in Columbus. No makeup date has been announced.