After having its four-game winning streak snapped by Michigan State in the Big Ten opener on Friday evening, the Buckeyes were back in action against the Spartans on Saturday afternoon. Looking to even up the series, Ohio State sent sophomore Travis Lakins to the mound fresh off two straight solid starts. The highly-touted righty had a rocky start to the season, but had allowed just three earned runs and struck out 17 in his past 13 innings of work.
Taking the ball for Michigan State was another well-regarded prospect in sophomore Cam Vieaux. The southpaw entered the game with a 2.08 ERA and a one-to-one strikeout-to-inning pitched ratio.
After solid starts from Tanner Tully and Mick VanVossen on Friday, Saturday's tilt had all the makings of another pitchers' duel. After the second inning, the game had other ideas, though.
The Spartans got on the board first when shortstop Ryan Richardson sent a fly ball over the wall in left for a solo home run and a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.
Ohio State answered right back in the home half of the inning, though. Left fielder Ronnie Dawson walked on four pitches and second baseman Nick Sergakis singled through the right side to put two on for DH Jordan McDonough. After the freshman was unsuccessful in trying to bunt the runners over twice, he sent a double to left-center, scoring Dawson and advancing Sergakis to third.
Shortstop Craig Nennig followed McDonough and gave the Buckeyes the lead with a sacrifice fly to center. After Vieaux got first baseman Ryan Leffel to strike out swinging, center fielder Troy Montgomery hit a long fly out of the park to right for a 4-1 advantage. The homer was Montgomery's second of the season.
Lakins ran into some command problems in the top of the third, walking three in the inning, but catcher Connor Sabanosh threw out Spartan leadoff man Cam Gibson trying to steal second, and Ohio State kept the threat at bay with a fielder's choice groundout from third baseman Mark Weist and a fly out to right by Richardson.
Dawson had the Buckeyes threatening again in the bottom of the third after singling, abruptly stealing second base, and being awarded third due to interference by second baseman Kory Young. An infield hit by Sergakis brought Dawson home and extended the lead to 5-1.
Michigan State answered right back in the top of the fourth. Center fielder Anthony Cheky hit a one-out triple down to the right field corner and scored on right fielder Brandon Hughes' single back up the middle. A single by Young and a four-pitch walk by Gibson loaded the bases, but back-to-back fine plays by right fielder Pat Porter against Spartan thumpers Ryan Krill and Blaise Salter helped Lakins to escape with minimal damage.
Singles by Sabanosh and Porter to lead off the bottom of the fifth ended Vieaux's day, as sophomore Walter Borkovich came out of the bullpen in relief. Vieaux finished giving up six runs on nine hits in four innings of work.
A bunt single off Borkovich by third baseman Troy Kuhn loaded the bases with no one out, and Michigan State went back to the bullpen. Freshman Andrew Gonzalez entered the game in a tough spot, but struck out Dawson looking to get the first out of the inning. Sergakis smacked a single to left-center, though, and Sabanosh scored to push the lead to 6-2, before Gonzalez induced a double play off the bat of McDonough.
The Spartans responded in the top of the sixth. After Lakins set down the first two batters, Young singled and advanced to second on an error by Kuhn, then came plateward on a Gibson single. Krill then destroyed a 1-1 pitch to right, reducing the lead to just one.
Freshman Kyle Michalik relieved Lakins in the seventh. The Franklin, Ohio native finished with five runs on 10 hits, walking four and striking out three, in six innings of work. Michalik faced the minimum and gave way to junior Michael Horejsei in the eighth, who gave up a double but nothing else.
Nursing a one-run lead in the ninth, Horejsei walked Krill to open the inning, and senior closer Trace Dempsey entered the game to try to shut the door. After fly outs by Salter and Weist, Richardson singled to center on the 3-2 pitch, sending pinch runner Chase Toth to third. With the tying run ninety feet away, Dempsey induced a ground ball to third off the bat of catcher Chad Roskelly for the force out at second base and a 6-5 Buckeye victory.
Lakins picked up his first win of the season despite the rough outing, and the save by Dempsey, his third of the season, put him in a tie for the all-time career record at Ohio State with 29. The Buckeyes improved to 13-6 on the season, while Michigan State fell to 9-10.
The rubber match is scheduled to get started at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Bill Davis Stadium. Senior Ryan Riga will be on the bump for Ohio State against the Spartans' Anthony Misiewicz.