Runs were plentiful on Saturday afternoon at Bill Davis Stadium, as Ohio State and Maryland combined to push 25 runners across home plate. The Buckeyes withstood a furious Maryland rally, and outlasted the Terrapins by a score of 13-12, improving to 34-14 on the season and pulling into third place in the Big Ten all alone at 13-7.
"It was a draining game and it took a lot of the guys, but it was a win we needed to get," head coach Greg Beals said. "We got to a point where we were playing afraid to lose instead of playing to win, but it's a win, and a win against a good ball team."
Ohio State staked an early lead against Maryland starter Robert Galligan, scoring two runs in each of the first two innings. In the home half of the first, seniors Connor Sabanosh and Pat Porter had back-to-back singles, and both came around to score on a two-out double by sophomore Ronnie Dawson off the wall in right field.
"I knew we had the ability to get the win," Dawson said after the game. "They were hitting, but we just settled down and played our game. I think we gained some confidence today after dropping our last few league games."
After the Terps touched up Travis Lakins to tie the game in the top of the second on a two-run single by center fielder LaMonte Wade, the Buckeyes got some more two-out magic going. A single by shortstop Craig Nennig and a hit by pitch for first baseman Ryan Leffel set the table for leadoff man Troy Montgomery, who tripled off the wall in center. The three-bagger extended the center fielder's reached base streak to 25 straight games.
RBI singles by DH Zach Ratcliff in the third and Sabanosh in the fourth gave Ohio State a 6-3 lead trough four innings, but Maryland cut the lead to two in the top of the fifth on a solo home run from third baseman Jose Cuas, his ninth of the season.
That's when things started get wild. The Buckeyes put up seven runs in the fifth, surging to a 13-4 lead. Dawson doubled with one away, advanced to third on a passed ball, and came home on a grounder by second baseman Nick Sergakis. Sergakis ended up on second on the play thanks to a throwing error by Terps' shortstop Kevin Smith, but was erased trying to advance to third on a ground ball by Ratcliff.
With Ratcliff aboard, Nennig singled, Leffel walked, and Maryland reliever Jake Drossner uncorked a wild pitch to give Ohio State its second run of the inning. After Montgomery worked a walk and Taylor Bloom replaced Drossner, Sabanosh crushed an 0-2 offering for a grand slam, his second homer of the year. The Buckeye co-captain went 3-for-5 on the day, driving in five runs and scoring a pair.
"He fooled me with a changeup on the previous pitch," Sabanosh said. "I just stepped out of the box and took a second and told myself to see the ball and get my foot down. I was able to capitalize and it's nice to get a big hit like that. That was fun."
A free pass to Porter and an RBI double by third baseman Troy Kuhn finished off the scoring in the inning and left Ohio State with the 13-4 advantage.
Normally, a nine run lead would seem pretty safe, but the Terps showed a lot of grit in chipping away. Solo home runs from Jalen and LaMonte Wade off Lakins in the sixth cut the lead to seven. A run-scoring single from catcher Kevin Martir, an RBI double by left fielder Tim Lewis, and an RBI ground out by the younger Wade against relievers Kyle Michalik and Michael Horejsei in the seventh got it down to four. Finally, a two-run double by second baseman Brandon Lowe and an RBI ground out from Cuas brought Maryland back to within just one against senior closer Trace Dempsey, who Beals brought on in the eighth.
After getting out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth, the Terps had one last chance to complete their comeback, but came up just short. Dempsey allowed the winning run to reach first base with one out, but got the elder Wade to fly out to center and Smith to foul out to Kuhn at third to earn his eighth save of the season.
Lakins got the win, moving to 4-3 on the season with his six innings of work. The Buckeye righty allowed six runs, five earned, on 10 hits while striking out six.
The rubber match of the series will be played at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday in Columbus, the final home game of the season and Senior Day for the Buckeyes. Senior lefty Ryan Riga (5-3, 2.30 ERA) will get the start for Ohio State against Maryland freshman righty Brian Shaffer (4-0, 4.97).
"Our biggest thing for tomorrow is for us to get a win for our seniors and not look at the big picture," Beals said. "These seniors have spilled a lot of blood, sweat, and tears over the past four years, and that's what we are going to be ready to play for tomorrow."