With under a week remaining in the regular season, the Ohio State baseball team hoped that a struggling in-state foe could provide batting practice and help build momentum for the conference tournament. After a short trip up Interstate 71, the Cincinnati Bearcats came to Columbus occupying the cellar of the American Athletic Conference. However, the trip wasn’t all about baseball to the Bearcats, who honored Ohio State freshman pitcher Zach Farmer, diagnosed with myeloid leukemia last month, with an "11" patch on their right sleeves.
Although they received a heartfelt gesture from their opponents, the Buckeyes were not so congenial during the game. Ohio State struck first against Cincinnati right-hander Grant Walker, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Nick Sergakis led off the frame with a seeing-eye single up the middle and Ronnie Dawson was plunked in the back to put runners on first and second before a groundout by Troy Kuhn advanced both to scoring position. One pitch later, Pat Porter broke the scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly to right field, plating Sergakis from third.
A walk to Josh Dezse, followed by a double to center from Troy Montgomery would score two more and extend the lead to three. Walks to Aaron Gretz and Craig Nennig would load the bases for Jacob Bosiokovic, whose single to right field would score Montgomery, forcing Cincinnati to pull Walker from the game. Relief pitcher Colin Hawk would induce a groundout on his first pitch for the Bearcats to escape the inning without further damage.
After breezing through the first, Ohio State starter Curtiss Irving would struggle when he returned to the mound, allowing consecutive walks to open the frame and a bloop single to load the bases with no outs. Three straight RBI singles to left field would bring the Bearcats within one run before Irving received a visit from pitching coach Mike Stafford. Irving would settle down, striking out the next batter before forcing two pop outs to end the inning.
The 4-3 lead would hold until the Buckeyes came to bat in the bottom of the fifth. A leadoff double from Gretz and single up the middle by Bosiokovic placed runners on the corners with one down before Sergakis laid a perfect safety squeeze to score the lead runner. Dawson would follow that up with an RBI base knock of his own, scoring Bosiokovic and doubling the Buckeyes' lead. The single would mark Dawson's team-leading 19th multi-hit game of the season.
The Buckeyes would continue the offensive onslaught in the late innings, scoring three more runs in the bottom of the sixth. A single by Dezse and walk to Gretz put runners on first and second before Nennig's two-out single scored Dezse. A two-run double down the left-field line by Bosiokovic extended the Ohio State lead to six and chased Hawk from the game.
Meanwhile, Ohio State's Yianni Pavlopoulous tossed his third consecutive scoreless inning, putting himself in line for his first-career win. The freshman had appeared in only five games this season, with his previous high outing a two-inning appearance against Toledo.
The Buckeyes would tack on two more in the bottom of the seventh inning against reliever Mitch Patishall. A leadoff single by Dawson and walks by Kuhn and Porter loaded the bases for Montgomery, who laced a double down the left-field line to score two and cap the scoring for the Buckeyes. The double gave Montgomery four runners batted in on the day, equaling his career-high.
With an 11-3 lead, Tyler Giannonatti, Jake Post, and Trace Dempsey would each toss a scoreless inning of relief to give the Buckeyes the win.
With the win, Ohio State improves to 29-24 on the year, while Cincinnati falls to 22-28. The game marked the end of non-conference slate for the Buckeyes, who host Northwestern this coming weekend to end the regular season. With a conference tournament bid already secured, a fourth-straight appearance for Greg Beals' squad, the series with the Wildcats is about final positioning in the standings. The Buckeyes are a game ahead of Michigan State and a game and a half ahead of Iowa for the sixth seed, meaning the team would avoid reigning-conference champion Indiana and Nebraska, who will likely have a home-field advantage with the tournament to be played in Omaha.