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Ohio State baseball: Buckeyes blank Purdue, force rubber match

Ryan Riga tosses seven-plus scoreless innings as Ohio State evens series with Purdue.

Ohio State Athletics

The Ohio State baseball team improved their postseason chances on Saturday evening, shutting out Purdue behind a stellar outing from Ryan Riga. After missing almost a month with an undisclosed injury, Riga returned to the rotation to toss 7 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out nine on the way to his fourth victory of the season.

In the left-hander's last appearance, a loss to defending-Big Ten champion Indiana, Riga allowed a season high five earned runs over seven innings on the mound. Unsure how long he could rely upon his ace entering Saturday's matchup, head coach Greg Beals was pleased to see Riga in control all game.

Riga effortlessly threw strike after strike through the first seven frames, striking out the aforementioned nine Boilermakers, allowing only two runners to reach scoring potion. However, in the eighth inning, Riga seemed to lose his command, walking two batters before giving way to reliever Tyler Giannonatti, who induced an inning-ending groundout on the first pitch he threw.

Meanwhile, the Ohio State offense had no trouble breaking through early against Purdue starter Gavin Downs. A sacrifice bunt following back-to-back singles by second baseman Nick Sergakis and centerfielder Ronnie Dawson put two runners in scoring position with one out, before Pat Porter's sacrifice fly scored the first run of the game. Designated hitter Josh Dezse followed that with a two-out double down the left field line, extending the lead to two.

Similarly to the previous night, the Buckeyes offense would not plate another run for the remainder of the night, as Downs would rebound from the inning to pitch a complete game. Luckily, the two-run lead was more than enough on Saturday, as the three Buckeyes' pitchers combined for the shutout. In addition to the previously mentioned Riga and Giannonatti, Trace Dempsey closed out the home team with a perfect ninth frame to earn his sixth save of the season.

The Buckeyes improve to 24-19, as well as 5-9 in the Big Ten, with the 2-0 victory on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers fall to 11-28, 5-9 in conference play. The series concludes on Sunday, with first pitch at Purdue's Alexander Field scheduled for 1:05 pm. With the teams now tied for eighth in the conference standings, Sunday's matchup has postseason implications. Senior right-hander Greg Greve will be on the bump for the Buckeyes, while the Boilermakers have yet to determine their starter for the crucial third game of the series. Sunday's game also marks Purdue's annual "Bark in the Park" promotion, where fans are permitted to bring their dog to the ballpark.