Ohio State is no longer undefeated against Michigan under Greg Beals. Winning the first five games against their rivals under the guidance of the fourth-year head coach, Ohio State was unable to crack Michigan sophomore Evan Hill in a 5-1 defeat. Ohio State fell to 28-23 on the season, 9-11 in Big Ten play with Michigan improving to 25-26-1 in 2014, 12-11 in conference action heading into Sunday's rubber match.
A crowd of 2,064, the largest to attend a Michigan home game since May 1, 2010, when Ohio State defeated Michigan 3-2, witnessed the sophomore left-hander carve the Ohio State lineup while Buckeye starter Ryan Riga struggled with control.
Reaching a three-ball count only twice through the first five innings, Hill attacked the Buckeye batters throwing 69 of 105 pitches for strikes. Using a heavy fastball to pound the lower-half of the strike zone, the 6'5 left-hander continually induced weak contact, every out recorded through the first five innings were ground outs, save a pair of Tim Wetzel fly outs. When Ohio State made contact and avoided a Wolverine glove, of the five hits allowed on the afternoon by Hill, only Josh Dezse's second inning leadoff double carried through Ray Fisher Stadium and went for extra bases.
With Hill cruising against Ohio State batters, fellow southpaw Ryan Riga was able find his command against the Wolverines.
Pitching 4.1 innings, Riga scattered seven hits in allowing three runs. Assisting the Maize and Blue effort with four walks, a hit batter and wild pitch, the junior nearly splitting the 86 pitches thrown, 46 strikes against 40 balls.
But clean defense behind Riga was used to keep the game tight as Ohio State, held to 12 hits and one run through the series first two games, hoped it found its stroke.
Michigan junior right fielder Kevin White put the first run on the scoreboard with a leadoff home run to right center field in the bottom of the third inning, Michigan's first run of the weekend in 11-plus innings.It appeared it would take Michigan no longer than one out to before their second run of the weekend came.
A bunt single down the third base line from junior second baseman Eric Jacobson preceded a single to right off the bat of sophomore shortstop Travis Maezes and walk to sophomore third baseman Jacob Cronenworth to load the bases. Entering the game as the team's leading hitter, three-hole batter Jackson Glines grounded into a 1-2-3 double play. Maezes at third and Cronenworth at second, the inning ended with senior left fielder Tim Wetzel making a sliding grab on a slicing liner from freshman left fielder Carmen Benedetti.
Any momentum Ohio State gained in halting the Michigan rally died when Dezse grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to erase a leadoff single from junior right fielder Pat Porter to begin the fourth. There would be a double play turned for the third consecutive at-bat as a lunging grab by sophomore shortstop Craig Nennig initiated a 6-4-3 double play for the Bucks, getting the Scarlet and Gray out of Michigan's half of the fourth which began with a pair of singles.
Where Michigan provided Ohio State an out at third base with a fielder's choice on a sacrifice bunt attempt in the bottom of the fourth, Ohio State returned the favor in the fifth. A two-out single from sophomore second baseman Nick Sergakis moved Nennig from first to third after the shortstop picked up a one-out single up the middle. Looking to manufacture a run, an attempted double-steal was stopped dead in its tracks as Michigan catcher Cole Martin throw back to Hill, not Jacobson or Maezes covering second, where Hill tossed to Cronenworth at third catching Nennig too far off the base for the inning's final out.
Unable to tie the game at one, Ohio State saw the deficit grow with Michigan scoring a pair of runs in a fifth inning Riga was not able to complete.
With one out, Maezes was plunked by Riga and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Cronenworth walked to put two on in front of Glines who doubled to the right-center gap, scoring Maezes. A four-pitch walk to Benedetti loaded the bases and forced Beals to summon freshman right-hander Travis Lakins from the bullpen to relieve Riga. Lakins forced Martin to fly out to left, but it was deep enough to score Cronenworth, before picking off Glines at second to end the threat.
Michigan's final two runs followed suit in the way Cronenworth scored, a sacrifice fly from Benedetti scored Cronenworth in the seventh, and a White sacrifice fly to center scored junior first baseman Kyle Jusick who led off the eighth with a double down the right field line.
Hill's outing done after eight innings of five-hit, scoreless baseball, Cronenworth moved from the corner of the diamond to the center to close the game. Looking for the rivalry's first alternating back-to-back shutouts since May 10, 1975, the Buckeyes did not let their rival claim the feat they did in Friday's 1-0 win.
Sophomore second baseman Troy Kuhn reached first on an E5 to begin the ninth. Porter walked to put two runners on base before Dezse struck out and freshman center fielder Ronnie Dawson flew out to left field. Pinch-hitter Aaron Gretz collected his 11th RBI of the year when the junior catcher drove an opposite-field single to right, scoring Kuhn. Ohio State's rally was short-lived as Cronenworth struck out freshman pinch-hitter Troy Montgomery to end the inning.
Picking up two strikeouts to close the game, after Hill tallied three against one walk, Cronenworth scored two runs in a 1-for-1 game with three walks. Jusick collected three hits in four at-bats while Glines record two hits in four official trips to the plate. White's two RBI lead the Wolverines.
Ohio State returns to Michigan's Wilpon Complex home to Ray Fisher Stadium for a noon first pitch on Sunday, the series tied 1-1. Ohio State will send senior right-hander Greg Greve (6-3, 3.39 ERA) to the mound with Michigan countering with freshman left-hander Brett Adcock (6-3, 3.31). An Ohio State win and a Purdue loss in one of their final two games at Minnesota would secure Ohio State's place in the Big Ten's eight-team postseason tournament.