The Ohio State baseball team got the 2017 season started in style, rolling to a 6-3 win over Kansas State on Opening Day at the Sunshine State Classic in Osceola, Florida. This marked the fourth consecutive year that the Buckeyes opened the season in the win column.
Ohio State got big contributions from a host of newcomers as three runs apiece in the third and fourth innings were enough to secure the victory. Juniors Bo Coolen and Noah McGowan each had doubles in their debuts, with Coolen knocking in a pair, while classmate Tyler Cowles plated an RBI with a walk and freshman Dominic Canzone picked up a pair of hits in his first college game.
Senior co-captain Jalen Washington also knocked in a run with a double, and junior leadoff man Tre Gantt reached base three times, scoring twice.
Starting pitcher Adam Niemeyer was efficient and effective, tossing six innings and allowing just an unearned run while scattering six hits. The junior right-hander struck out one and didn’t walk a batter in earning the win.
The Wildcats sent sophomore righty Bryce Ward to the mound to start, and he lasted just three innings, giving up three runs, only one earned, on three hits with two walks. Ward, one of five KState pitchers on the afternoon, took the loss.
Ward yielded a leadoff walk to Gantt to start the game, then abruptly retired eight in a row. It wasn’t until Gantt’s spot in the order came up again in the third that the streak was broken. Ohio State’s center fielder lashed a triple down the right field line with two away in the third, and scored the Buckeyes’ first run of the season when Wildcat second baseman Josh Ethier misplayed a ball off the bat of Washington.
It was just the opening Ohio State needed, and three new faces took advantage. McGowan followed with a double and Cowles drew a walk to load the bases. Coolen then doubled down the left field line to plate Washington and McGowan, expanding the lead to 3-0. McGowan, Cowles, and Coolen are all junior college transfers in their first season with the Buckeyes.
In the fourth, KState went to the bullpen, bringing on freshman righty Tyler McKay, and the youngster had a debut to forget. Brady Cherry worked a leadoff walk, Canzone singled up the middle for his first collegiate hit, and Jacob Barnwell laid down a sacrifice bunt to put two runners in scoring position with one out. McKay then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Cherry to score and Canzone to advance to third.
After Gantt walked to reach base for the third straight time, Washington lashed a double down the line in left to bring Canzone plateward. McGowan was intentionally walked to load the bases and Cowles worked a walk to score Gantt, pushing the advantage to 6-0. McKay lasted just two-thirds of an inning before giving way to senior right-hander Nick Jones, who struck out Zach Ratcliff to escape without further harm.
Meanwhile, Niemeyer was cruising, needing just 52 pitches to get through the first five innings, scattering four hits in the process.
There was trouble looming in the bottom of the sixth, though, as a leadoff single by Cameron Thompson and an error by Washington at short on a ball off the bat of Jake Wodtke gave the Wildcats two on with nobody out. Steve Serratore delivered an RBI single after that to put an unearned run on the board, but Niemeyer beared down and retired the next three batters to escape the jam.
Freshman right-hander Jared Marolf was able to stymie the Ohio State bats out of the bullpen for the Wildcats, tossing four innings of scoreless relief, allowing one hit and striking out six. But the Buckeyes went to their relief ace, junior Seth Kinker, to keep the game out of reach, and he delivered three innings to notch the save, giving up just a pair of unearned runs.
Ohio State will hit the field twice on Saturday, taking on Delaware at 2:00 p.m. ET and Pittsburgh at 5:00 p.m. ET, as the Sunshine State Classic rolls on.