Ohio State entered its highly anticipated series with Illinois with the nation's seventh-best team ERA. With their sights set on a Big Ten championship and hosting an NCAA Regional, pitching had powered Ohio State through the first three-quarters of the season.
In the Illini's three-game sweep, Ohio State surrendered 20 runs, and did not receive a quality start from any of its three starting pitchers. The troubling trend continued against Maryland, with a 14-10 loss yesterday.
Though the Buckeyes gave up 25 runs in the series first two games, Ohio State was in a position to take the rubber match and secure a key weekend win.
Through six innings the Buckeyes appeared in control, receiving a quality start from senior left-hander Ryan Riga, and continued to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard against Maryland pitching, jumping out to an 8-3 lead. But a seven-run seventh put Maryland in front and the Terrapins didn't look back, spoiling Senior Day for Ohio State. With the defeat to close out the home season, Ohio State drops to 34-15 on the year, into a three-team tie for third in the Big Ten at 13-8, a conference record shared by Maryland and Michigan State.
"It was a heavyweight fight, and give them credit, they took punches for five innings and were able to stay in the game," head coach Greg Beals said.
After both pitching staffs struggled to slow the opponent's offense through the first two days, Riga appeared set to put an end to the offensive exploits. After back-to-back 1-2-3 innings to begin the game, Ohio State gave Riga an early 1-0 lead, junior first baseman Troy Kuhn and sophomore left fielder Ronnie Dawson collecting consecutive doubles to begin the bottom of the second before junior third baseman Nick Sergakis lifted a sacrifice fly to right to lift the lid on Sunday's scoring.
Working around an error and single, Riga struck out the side in the third inning before senior Pat Porter tallied his eighth home run of the year, a two-run, two-out opposite field home run, to give Ohio State and 3-0 lead. The Buckeyes made it 4-0 in the fourth when Dawson doubled down the left field line, the Bucks fifth hit and fifth extra-base hit of the game, scoring on a sacrifice bunt turned costly error, Maryland first baseman LaMonte Wade unable to corral the throw from third baseman Jose Cuas.
Riga picked up his season-best ninth strikeout in a scoreless fifth while Maryland freshman right-hander Brian Shaffer held the Buckeyes scoreless to take the game into the sixth 4-0.
Then the quick-paced, Ohio State-controlled game turned on its head.
Held to one hit through five innings, Maryland opened the sixth with a double from Wade before consecutive singles form freshman shortstop Kevin Smith and sophomore second baseman Brandon Lowe put the Terps on the scoreboard. A double-steal by Smith and Lowe propelled Maryland's three-hit, three-run inning.
Their lead down to 4-3, Ohio State responded right back.
A leadoff single by Porter ended Shaffer's day before Kuhn rudely greeted junior left-handed reliever Zach Morris with a two-run home run. Ohio State's extra-base hit barrage continued in the inning with senior catcher Aaron Gretz and second baseman L Grant David picking up two-baggers, with Sergakis adding a single, Ohio State jumped back in front 8-3. It would be the last time Ohio State led
An infield single was sandwiched by senior left fielder Tim Lewis sandwiched two putouts to Riga. Unfortunately the Buckeye senior would leave to a standing ovation before the inning's end, unable to get a third out. With two down, Wade, Smith and Lowe tallied three consecutive singles, cutting Ohio State's lead to 8-6, chasing Riga from the game.
"I had a thought to take him out about two batters before, but he entered the inning around 89 pitches," Beals said. "He's our senior, he was pitching well. I went to the mound and said that's on me, and he said "No, that's on me," and that's two competitors taking responsibility, wanting to win."
Freshman right-hander Seth Kinker entered the game and walked junior catcher Kevin Martir before Maryland grabbed the lead with a cloud-scrapping, three-run home run by Cuas, deep over Nick Swisher Field's left field wall. The Terps made it back-to-back home runs, with junior right fielder Anthony Papio taking Kinker deep to center field, closing the book on a seven-inning seventh for Maryland.
The inning saw Montgomery narrowly miss an inning-ending put outs at third, on Smith's single, advancing Lewis to third, and on Lowe's single up the middle, unable to throw out Smith.
In the bottom of the seventh Ohio State sought to answer Maryland's punch with one of their own. Reaching base on a two-out throwing error by Smith, Kuhn scored on a looped single to right field by Sergakis, bringing the Bucks to within one in the bottom of the seventh. Maryland intentionally walked Dawson with Kuhn on second, and he stood at third base following the Sergakis single but a first-pitch flare out off Gretz' bat ended the threat.
Still with the lead, Maryland put the game away, plating two runs in the eighth on a triple by Lowe, and two more in the ninth on a double by freshman center fielder Kengo Kawahara to jump out to a 14-9 lead. Kuhn homered with two down in the ninth to end the scoring on a wild day, giving Ohio State it's 10th and final run in the gut-wrenching loss.
After Ohio State roughed up Shaffer and Morris, Maryland closer Kevin Mooney pitched the final 3.2 innings, allowing two runs to pick up the win. A sterling line through six innings, Riga ended his final home game with seven runs off eight hits on his accord in 6.2 innings, striking out nine against one walk. Kinker received the loss, allowing three runs while only recording one out. Junior left-hander Michael Horejsei allowed one run off one hit, picking up two outs. Senior right-handed closer Trace Dempsey surrendered three runs in an 1.1-inning outing, closing a tough weekend on Ohio State pitcher.
In a game which saw both teams pick up 14 hits, five Buckeyes dialed-up multi-hit games left by Kuhn's 4-for-5, four-run, three-RBI game which included a double and a pair of home runs. Dawson, Montgomery, Porter and Sergakis each had two hits as Ohio State finished the game with nine extra-base hits. Lowe led Maryland with a 3-for-5 game with four RBI.
Ending the home season with five losses in six games, Ohio State travels to Eastwood Field in Youngstown, Ohio for a Tuesday game against Youngstown State before ending the regular season with three games against Indiana.
"We have a lot of baseball still to play this year," Beals said. "We need to finish strong in these last four games."