Ohio State baseball has a shot at a championship. The Buckeyes defeated Michigan State by a score of 7-3 early Sunday afternoon to advance to the Big Ten tournament title game against Iowa later in the afternoon.
As has been the case all tournament long, Ohio State executed well defensively and on the bases, got timely hitting, and capitalized on miscues by its opponents to pick a victory. The Buckeyes will now have a shot at revenge on the Hawkeyes, who came back from a 4-0 deficit in the ninth inning on Thursday night to claim a 5-4 win over the scarlet and gray.
The team's performance in the Big Ten tournament may also have solidified its NCAA tournament chances regardless of what happens the rest of the day.
Yes, I've got the Buckeyes as the top Big Ten at-large team on the board. Ahead of Minnesota and Nebraska for me now https://t.co/lujDdIdRGI— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) May 29, 2016
As was the case in Saturday night's 3-2 win over the Spartans, Ohio State's bullpen was terrific. Kyle Michalik and Seth Kinker combined to toss 6.1 innings of shutout ball, running their total to 12 scoreless in the two games.
Craig Nennig, Ronnie Dawson, Troy Montgomery, and Tre Gantt all contributed multiple hits in the effort as well.
Ohio State got to Michigan State starter Joe Mockbee right out of the gate, scoring twice in the top of the first inning. Nick Sergakis led off with a walk and was followed by back-to-back singles to left from Nennig and Dawson. Troy Kuhn and Montgomery followed with an RBI groundout and a well-executed RBI safety squeeze to plate the runs.
In the third, the Buckeyes strung together three straight two-out singles by Dawson, Kuhn, and Montgomery to add another run to the board and extend the lead to 3-0. Michigan State brought on Walter Borkovich from the bullpen to end the threat.
The Spartans came back in the bottom of the third to tie the game and chase Buckeye starter Austin Woodby. A leadoff walk by Kory Young and a single by Brandon Hughes set up Dan Durkin for a two-run double down the right field line. Durkin came around to score on a double by Dan Chmielewski to knot things up 3-3. Ohio State reliever Michalik came on to end the inning.
The Buckeyes used movement on the basepaths to grab the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth against Dakota Mekkes. After Gantt singled and Sergakis walked, the two took off on a double steal. The throw to third from Michigan State catcher Matt Byars sailed into left field, and Gantt trotted home with ease for a 4-3 lead.
More small ball and another error by the Spartans in the top of the seventh gave Ohio State another run. Montgomery singled and Bosiokovic walked to open the inning, and Washington squared around to bunt them over. He laid it down and Mekkes tried to cut down the lead runner at third, but the throw got away and Montgomery came plateward.
Mekkes then intentionally walked L. Grant Davis to load the bases with nobody out and Michigan State went to Jake Lowery out of the bullpen. Lowery's first pitch went to the backstop and Bosiokovic scored with ease for a 6-3 lead. Gantt sent a fly ball to center field after that to bring Washington home and extend the lead to four.
It was all the Buckeyes needed, as they navigated the losers bracket of the tournament for ta chance at the program's ninth tourney title. The game against the Hawkeyes is scheduled to get started at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET and will air live on Big Ten Network.