Several teams in the Big Ten are in college baseball's spotlight. With four teams ranked in national polls, the conference sporting a No. 5 RPI and headline grabbing wins Tuesday night against Cal State-Fullerton and Louisville, the country is taking notice of what the baseball programs at Illinois, Indiana, Maryland and Nebraska are doing.
Meanwhile, outside of the spotlight, Ohio State continues to win. The latest triumph for the Bucks, a 9-2 dispatching of in-state foe Toledo, improved Ohio State's record to 8-2 at Bill Davis Stadium, 11-2 in March and 15-6 on the year. Toledo fell to 8-16 with the defeat.
"I thought we got off to a slow start today but finished really strong," head coach Greg Beals said. "We got some big two-out hits and quality at bats late in the game. Those are big difference makers on the scoreboard. Jacob (Niggemeyer) had a quality start and our bullpen really gained control of the game tonight. We have to come back out here tomorrow and bring our best against another in-state school."
The Rockets were the first team to stake a number on the scoreboard at Nick Swisher Field, tallying a run in the top of the first thanks to a one-out solo home run off the bat of freshman catcher A.J. Montoya, his fifth of the year.
After a quiet second, Ohio State secured a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
A one-out walk by junior shortstop Craig Nennig preceded a two-out walk by sophomore center fielder Troy Montgomery. With two on and two out, Ohio State's two-hole hitter, senior co-captain Connor Sabanosh picked up a two-bagger with his four double of the year to the left-center gap, driving in the Nennig and Montgomery to give Ohio State a 2-1 lead after three innings.
Making his first career start at first base, junior Troy Kuhn picked up the first home run of the year for a Buckeye first baseman, his third round-tripper leading off the Buckeye-half of the fourth inning.
A pair of singles and a stolen base saw Toledo generate a run in the top of the fifth. Senior third baseman Nate Langhals used a sacrifice fly to drive in junior first baseman Tyler Baar who opened the inning with a single down the right field line and put himself in scoring position with a stolen base. A bunt single by junior shortstop Deion Tansel was Toledo's third single of the inning, putting two Rockets on base with one out and a run already in. Niggemeyer induced a fly out to center before unleashing a wild pitch to put two runners in scoring position. But the freshman right-hander level the score with Montoya, getting the fellow rookie to fly out to right field to end the threat.
Back-to-back singles opened the home-half of the sixth to get the Bucks back in business, the first off the bat of Sabanosh, the second a base hit from senior right fielder Pat Porter. A fielder's choice by Kuhn erased Porter on the bases but moved Sabanosh to third where he scored in the next at-bat as sophomore left fielder Ronnie Dawson skied a sacrifice fly to left field, deep enough for Ohio State to regain a two-run lead.
The Buckeyes put the game away with two runs in the seventh, both a pair of sacrifice flies, and three in the eighth. The final three runs Ohio State scored came with two outs, the hosts picking up successive singles from Dawson, junior third baseman Nick Sergakis, senior catcher Aaron Gretz and Nennig.
After Niggemeyer worked around a two-out single in the sixth, three Buckeye pitchers combined to keep Toledo off the scoreboard over the final three innings. Junior right-hander Jacob Post worked 1.2 innings, striking out a pair of batters. Junior left-hander Michael Horejsei sat down three consecutive Toledo batters before freshman right-hander Kyle Michalik picked up the 27th out for the Buckeye win.
Niggemeyer moved to 2-0 on the year with his six innings of work, holding UT to a pair of runs off seven hits. Dawson and Sabanosh each picked up two hits for Ohio State as all nine starters picked up a hit in an 11-hit attack for the Bucks. Nennig and Sabanosh each drove in two runs while Sergakis was the lone Buckeye to cross home twice. Toledo starter Alex Wagner fell to 1-2 on the year, allowing three runs off five hits in five innings. The freshman struck out five Buckeyes, walked two.
A look at Akron
Ohio State concludes it 11-game homestand with a Wednesday evening contest against Akron.
The Zips head down to Columbus with a 10-11 record on the year, 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference. Rick Rembielak's club takes on the Buckeyes on the heels of a 8-7 loss against Youngstown State on Tuesday night, the home opener for the Zips. Akron went 2-1 last weekend to open conference play with a series win at Eastern Michigan. The Zips stand 2-0 on the year against the Big Ten, picking up wins on consecutive days against Michigan State and Michigan, taking down the Spartans 3-1 on March 7 before knocking off the Wolverines 2-0.
Akron will enter the contest with an equal batting to Ohio State at .268. Averaging five runs a game, Akron's attack is led by senior outfielder Joey Havrilak, the reigning MAC-East Player of the Week and junior outfielder Daulton Mosbarger. Each with three home runs on the year, Havrilak has a .360 average next to a pair of doubles and triples, scoring 18 runs on the year with 14 RBI, Mosbarger is batting .354 with a team-best five doubles and 19 runs scored. Pacing the club with 17 RBI, junior infielder Dom Iero is batting .305. Junior left fielder Kris Simonton makes it four Zips with an average of .300 or batting, hitting the mark right on the dot.
Akron's pitching staff holds a 4.79 ERA and .272 batting average against. Akron pitchers have been struck hard, surrendering 36 doubles, six triples and 17 home runs on the year. Yet to name a starter, a non-rotation arm with a start under his belt is senior right-hander Jon Pusateri. Pustarei has appeared in six games on the year with a pair of starts, holding a 2.63 ERA over 27.1 innings. With a 2-2 record, Pusateri has struck out 19 batters against seven walks. Junior right-hander Zach Beaver (0-1, 6.94 ERA) and freshman left-hander Josh Lapiana (0-1, 12.10) have each made a start for Akron. Senior right-hander Matt LaRocca is the UA closer, saving four games on the year in six appearances, pitching 6.1 innings where three earned runs have been surrendered for a 4.26 ERA.
For the 5:05 p.m. first pitch, Ohio State will send junior left-hander John Havird to the mound. Making his first start of the season last Wednesday against Rider, Havird allowed two runs off five hits in five innings of work, striking out eight batters in Ohio State's 7-2 win. Havird is 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA over 11.1 innings in four games.