After an offensive explosion on Friday afternoon that propelled Ohio State to a 13-4 win over Rutgers and a season-high five-game winning streak, the Buckeyes lost a heartbreaker on Saturday in Piscataway. A walk-off home run by the Scarlet Knights in the bottom of the ninth snapped the team's streak and sent it to 17-7 on the season.
The starting pitchers for both teams had the bats stymied for the majority of the afternoon. Ohio State sophomore Travis Lakins went six innings, allowing just an unearned run on two hits, while striking out five. The right-hander did not factor in the decision. His counterpart for Rutgers, junior Howie Brey, threw 7.1 scoreless, allowing five hits and striking out five in a no-decision of his own.
The Scarlet Knights got on the board in the fourth inning when left fielder Ronnie Dawson dropped a fly ball off the bat of right fielder Tom Marcinczyk. The sophomore ended up on third base as a result, and scored on a ground out by second baseman Chris Suseck for a 1-0 lead.
That's how things stayed until the top of the eighth. After Dawson struck out to lead things off, second baseman Nick Sergakis and first baseman Ryan Leffel each singled to put runners on the corners. Shortstop Craig Nennig then knotted the game by laying down a safety squeeze, Sergakis sliding into home plate head-first just ahead of the throw to tie things up.
Leffel advanced to second on the bunt, and was pinch run for by freshman Tre Gannt. Gannt then showed off his elite speed, scoring all the way from second on a fly out to deep right center by fellow freshman Jordan McDonough, putting Ohio State in the lead by a run.
Junior righty Jake Post relieved Lakins, tossing two shutout innings and delivering the lead to senior closer Trace Dempsey for the ninth inning.
Dempsey had troubles with his command from the start, falling behind left fielder Vinny Zarrillo 3-1 before inducing a fly out, giving up a one-out double to Suseck, and walking catcher R.J. Devish on five pitches. With the winning run at first, freshman DH Kyle Walker sent a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right for a 4-2 Rutgers come-from-behind victory.
Dempsey suffered his first loss of the season, dropping to 3-1, while senior reliever Jon Young picked up his first win for the Scarlet Knights this year after throwing 1.1 scoreless innings.
The rubber match of the series is scheduled to get started at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. Senior Ryan Riga will be on the bump for Ohio State with sophomore Gaby Rosa taking the ball for Rutgers.