Ohio State baseball jumped on Minnesota early, but one bad inning for Buckeye starter John Havird led to a 4-3 defeat and a series even at one game apiece. The Gophers scored all four of their runs in the sixth to claim the victory.
The Buckeyes are now 13-9 in Big Ten play, and depending upon the outcome of other conference games on Friday, could find themselves in third or fourth in the standings heading into Saturday. Minnesota improved to 16-6 and will remain in the top two.
Havird cruised through the first five innings before the Gophers got it going in the sixth. The senior lefty finished with four runs on 10 hits in 6.2 innings of work, striking out four and not issuing a walk.
Senior shortstop Craig Nennig hit his fifth home run of the season, but it wasn't enough on a night when Ohio State went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, left five men on base, and hit into three double plays.
Minnesota's Dalton Sawyer went seven innings and made only one real mistake in the pitch to Nennig. The left-hander allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits in 7.2 innings, striking out nine and walking five.
The Buckeyes took the early 2-0 lead when Nennig took a hanging breaking ball from Sawyer out to left field with Tre Gantt aboard.
Ohio State extended the lead to 3-0 thanks to a passed ball in the top of the sixth. Troy Kuhn walked to lead the inning off, and Troy Montgomery had a bunt single. A groundout by Jalen Washington advanced both runners, and a Sawyer fastball to Ryan Leffel glanced off catcher Austin Athmann's glove, allowing Kuhn to trot home.
The Gophers finally got to Havird in the bottom of the sixth and put up a crooked number.. Three straight singles, including two bunt singles, opened the frame and loaded the bases with nobody out. Matt Fiedler grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, which scored a run, then an infield single from Athmann on a close play at first scored a second, trimming the lead to 3-2.
Micah Coffey then stepped in and lined a ball into the right field corner which went for a triple and scored Athmann to tie the game. A wild pitch from Havird brought Coffey home and gave Minnesota a 4-3 lead.
The Buckeyes had their chances in both the seventh and the eighth, but in both innings saw a double play extinguish the rally. Minnesota closer Jordan Jess recorded the final four outs of the game to earn his ninth save of the season.
The rubber match of the series, which is the regular season finale for both clubs and will carry major Big Ten tournament implications, is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. ET on Saturday and will stream live on BTN Plus.