A late rally for Ohio State baseball ultimately came up short on Sunday as the Buckeyes lost to Illinois by a score of 5-3. With the win, the Illini claimed the series victory, and pulled to .500 in Big Ten play.
A home run by Ohio State's Craig Nennig to lead off the ninth inning against Illinois closer Nick Blackburn pulled the Buckeyes to within two. A single by Jacob Bosiokovic and a double by Jalen Washington put the tying run in scoring position with one out, but Blackburn buckled down and retired Troy Montgomery and Ryan Leffel to end it.
Ohio State is now 5-7 in conference games, and faces an uphill battle to earn a berth in the Big Ten tournament.
The Illini's freshman starter Cole Bellair kept the Ohio State bats very quiet, as he yielded just a run on five hits in 7.1 innings of work. The right-hander improved to 2-2 while walking one and striking out four.
Buckeye left fielder Ronnie Dawson continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, and two RBIs on the day. Dawson extended his hitting streak to nine games and reached-safely streak to 17.
Starter Adam Niemeyer allowed five earned runs on six hits in 6.2 innings, walking two and striking out six. A two-run first inning and a three-run seventh proved to be Niemeyer's undoing, as he fell to 3-2 on the year.
Illinois wasted no time in scoring against Niemeyer. Leadoff man Jack Yalowitz singled and Doran Turchin followed that right up with an RBI triple to right center. Next up, Jason Goldstein sent a groundball out to Craig Nennig at shortstop and Turchin came home for the early 2-0 lead.
Dawson gave the Buckeyes their first run of the day with his solo shot to left in the top of the sixth, which made it a 2-1 game at the time.
In the bottom of the seventh, though, the Illini broke it open. A bases loaded double by Yalowitz brought three runs plateward and ended Niemeyer's day.
It was Dawson who again came through for Ohio State in the eighth, driving in Montgomery with a double off Illinois reliever J.D. Nielsen that short-hopped the wall in left-center.
There is no midweek game for the Buckeyes this week. They'll be on the field again on Friday in West Lafayette to kick off a conference series with Purdue.