Riding high after big wins last week against nationally-ranked Louisville and Nebraska and a two-game midweek sweep of Morehead State, the Ohio State baseball team kept the momentum going on the road against Northwestern on Friday. Led by a career afternoon for senior co-captain Aaron Gretz, the Buckeyes polished off the Wildcats with ease, winning 9-2.
With the win, Ohio State improved to 29-10 on the season, just one victory shy of last year's total, and more importantly bumped its record in the Big Ten to 10-3.
"We had a big inning in the third and answered again in the fourth," head coach Greg Beals said. "When you are able to give our pitching staff a lead like that, it's going to be tough to beat us. It was also great to see Aaron Gretz have a career day at the plate."
For Gretz, it was a game to remember. The catcher from Apple Valley, MN had a career-high four hits in extending his hitting streak to 10 straight game, scored three runs, and drove in two. In his final year in Columbus, Gretz is hitting .276 with a home run and 12 RBIs while managing one of the top ten pitching staffs in the country.
The Buckeyes put up at least one run in five of Friday's nine innings, banging out 14 hits. Gretz got the scoring started with a one-out double to left-center in the top of the second off Northwestern starter Brandon Magallones. A single by shortstop Craig Nennig and an error by Wildcats' catcher Jack Claeys on a Tre' Gantt bunt brought him around to score and gave Ohio State a 1-0 lead.
Another four runs were put on the board in the third, giving the Buckeyes and starting pitcher Tanner Tully a 5-0 lead. Right fielder Pat Porter reached base on an error by first baseman Zach Jones and moved to second on a bunt base hit by left fielder Ronnie Dawson. Third baseman Nick Sergakis then delivered a scorching double off the wall in right to bring both runners around. After Gretz singled to put runners on the corners, an RBI ground out by Nennig and a run-scoring single by second baseman Jalen Washington put things out of reach.
Tully worked effectively from the outset, putting up another quality start. The southpaw allowed two runs on six hits in seven innings of work, improving to 4-2 on the year and reducing his ERA to 2.76.
"It started on the mound," Beals said. "Tully gave us a great start today,"
Sergakis and Gretz were at it again in the fourth inning, both driving in a run and pushing the lead to 7-0. Sergakis, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs in the game, followed a two-out single and stolen base by Dawson with a single of his own, then scored when Gretz hit his second double of the game off the wall in right-center.
Ohio State's catcher wasn't done, though. He scored the Buckeyes' run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Washington, then drove Porter home in the seventh with a sac fly of his own.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Kyle Michalik and redshirt sophomore Shea Murray worked a scoreless final two innings to close out the win. The pair scattered three hits and struck out two apiece.
The Buckeyes and Wildcats will resume the series Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. ET at Rocky Miller Park. Sophomore Travis Lakins (2-2, 3.38 ERA) will be on the bump for Ohio State, while junior Matt Portland (1-5, 4.29) will take the ball for the home team.