Ryan Riga stands alone.
A dominant month in a dominant senior year is now in the Ohio State record books, as the native of Fairfield, Ohio owns the longest scoreless inning streak in Ohio State history at 29 innings following a Sunday shutout at Rutgers. Powering Ohio State to a 1-0 win over the Scarlet Knights, Riga pushed Ohio State's record to 18-7 on the season, 4-2 in the Big Ten. Rutgers fell to 8-16, 3-3 in the Big Ten following Riga's fifth win in six decisions.
For a third consecutive Sunday, Ohio State head coach Greg Beals turned to the senior in a weekend rubber match and for a third time the southpaw answered the bell.
"To have your senior go out an put up nine zeros, that's exactly what you need," Beals said. "It was an awesome performance."
Entering the game with 20 consecutive innings without surrendering a run under his belt, pitching a 1-2-3 third inning, Riga broke Bob Spears record of 22.1 scoreless innings set in 1995.
Much like Saturday's matchup, the starting pitchers for both sides were firmly in control. Riga, who has been the undisputed ace of Ohio State's staff through the first month and a half of the season, tossed a complete game, giving up six hits and striking out five. For Rutgers, sophomore Gaby Rosa was nearly as impressive, going seven innings, allowing just one run on two hits.
The accomplishment grand, the Bucks needed Riga to be in the stellar form as Rutgers sophomore right-hander Gaby Rosa was equally impressive. For five innings the two dueled, matching each other with zeros on the board, each surrendering just one hit in two passes through the lineup.
The Buckeyes second hit of the game was the lone run-scoring hit of the contest, the two combining for only six hits on the day.
After working the count full, sophomore center fielder Troy Montgomery drew a one-out walk off Rosa in the sixth. After Rosa struck out senior DH Connor Sabanosh on three pitches, senior right fielder Pat Porter lined a triple to the right-center gap. A day after he set the Ohio State career record for triples, the 15th three-bagger of Porter's career plated Montgomery, giving Ohio State the 1-0 lead.
The Bucks would claw out on more hit, sophomore second baseman L Grant Davis leading off the eighth with a single to right field, but could not tally any more runs.
No matter, it was good enough for Riga who is pitching as well as any in the country.
Scattering six Scarlet Knight hits, Riga lowered his ERA to .76 over 47.1 innings on the year, the left-hander struck out six batters without issuing a walk.
But, before Riga could collect his second career shutout, the classmate who provided the winning run played a big role in securing the victory.
An infield single to Davis off the bat of freshman third baseman Mile Freeman opened the Rutgers ninth. The Scarlet Knights attempted to sacrifice pinch-runner TJ Perkowski to second but Ohio State senior catcher Aaron Gretz was able to cut down the sophomore throwing out the lead runner on the failed bunt attempt, senior first baseman Joe D'Annunizo reached first base. D'Annunizo took matters into his own hands, putting the tying run into scoring position with a stolen base. Sophomore right fielder Tom Marcinczyk drove a 1-1 single to right fielder where Porter picked it cleanly and came up firing, throwing out D'Annunizo at home, erasing the tying run and keeping it a 1-0 game. Riga forced Rutgers senior left fielder Vinny Zarrillo to close out the 1-0 win.
In addition to the Davis single and Porter triple, junior first baseman Ryan Leffel picked up a hit, singling in the second inning, as the Buckeyes were held to three hits on the day. Rosa received the tough-luck loss for Rutgers, pitching seven innings, allowing one run off two hits, walking three and striking out two.
For a second consecutive day the Buckeye bats were held in check. After opening the weekend with a 13-4 victory the Bucks fell 4-2 on a three-run walk-off home run Saturday. But Riga, the Bucks big game pitcher, came through to keep Ohio State above .500 in Big Ten play, collecting a fourth straight Sunday win.
"You need to win on the road," Beals said "This first road series was big, almost a must-win. It's early to say that but we felt it was a must-win to keep us in top-half of Big Ten, in championship contention."
Ohio State now heads back to Columbus for a ten-game homestand that will test the team's mettle. High-quality opponents Kent State, UNLV, and nationally-ranked Louisville will all be in town over the coming couple of weeks. The Buckeyes get the homestand started on Tuesday evening with Ohio University. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. ET at Bill Davis Stadium.
Freshman right-hander Jacob Niggemeyer is expected to take the mound for the Buckeyes against the Bobcats, sporting a 2-0 record and 2.12 ERA over 17 innings.