Ohio State bounced back from Friday's disappointing extra innings loss in a big way on Saturday against Illinois. The Buckeyes beat the Illini 9-1 in Champaign to even the series and give themselves a chance for the series win on Sunday.
Ronnie Dawson stayed red hot, extending his hitting streak to eight games and reached-base streak to a career-high 16 games with a 4-for-5 day. The junior left fielder hit a mammoth home run, drove in two runs, and scored a pair. Dawson has raised his batting average to .316 during his recent tear.
Junior Jalen Washington, who had two hits in Friday night's loss, also continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-2 and driving in the Buckeyes' first two runs. His fellow co-captain, senior Nick Sergakis, and junior leadoff man Troy Montgomery each also had a pair of RBIs in the game.
John Havird kept up his string of quality starts, tossing five innings of one-run ball. The senior lefty allowed five hits and three walks in improving to 4-1 on the season.
In the top of the second, Ohio State was able to put its first run on the board. Craig Nennig led the inning off with a bunt single and eventually came around to score on a two-out single to left by Washington for a 1-0 lead.
It was Washington who came through in the clutch again in the fourth inning, extending the lead to 2-0. After Ryan Leffel doubled to left center, the Buckeye catcher delivered another two-out RBI single, this time to short right-center.
Ohio State added another one in the top of the fifth thanks to a couple of defensive miscues by the Illini. Jacob Bosiokovic reached on an error by Illinois shortstop Adam Walton and moved to third when Dawson picked up a double on a chopper that got through the infield and died in short right. Sergakis then hit a groundball to Walton that brought Bosiokovic plateward.
Illinois put a run on the board in the bottom of the sixth, but it could have been much worse. A single, a walk, and a hit by pitch loaded the bases against Havird with nobody out, and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Luke Shilling after freshman Ryan Feltner relieved made it a 3-1 ballgame. But a laser line drive off the bat of Pat McInerney was caught by Bosiokovic at first, who stepped on the bag to complete a double play and end the threat.
The Buckeyes got that run right back in the top of the seventh on an RBI double by Sergakis. Dawson had singled and stolen second to lead the inning off and made it a 4-1 advantage.
In the eighth, Ohio State tacked three more onto its tally. Tre Gantt walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Washington, and went to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Montgomery.
After a Bosiokovic walk, Dawson destroyed a ball, hitting it over the scoreboard in right field, as the Buckeyes lead grew to 7-1.
The final two runs crossed the plate in the top of the ninth. Nennig led off with a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Gantt walked and came around on a Montgomery double, making it 9-1.
Feltner threw the final four innings in scoreless fashion, yielding just two hits while striking out four and walking two.
Sunday's rubber match will get started at 2 p.m. ET and will stream live on BTN Plus. Ohio State will send Adam Niemeyer to the hill against Illinois' Cole Bellair.