After a weekend to forget in which it suffered late-inning or walk-off losses in three straight games to Xavier, the Ohio State baseball team got some home cooking against a scuffling Youngstown State team at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Buckeyes pounded out a 12-8 win over the Penguins.
Headed to the ninth inning with a commanding 12-7 lead, it was hard not to think of Ohio State’s late-inning implosions of late. But it was not to be this time, though righty Seth Kinker did yield a solo home run to YSU’s Andrew Kendrick.
Ohio State, which improved to 9-11 on the season ahead of opening Big Ten play this Friday, was an outstanding 8-for-21 (.381) with runners in scoring position in this one and had four players with multi-hit games.
The top three hitters in the Buckeye lineup - Tre’ Gantt, Jacob Barnwell, and Jalen Washington - combined to go 6-for-11, scoring three runs, and driving in seven. Washington’s three RBIs give him a team-leading 19 for the season thus far.
Freshman Noah West, who seems to have played his way into a starting job at second base, had his best collegiate performance to date, going 2-for-4 with a double and a triple, scoring four runs, and driving one in.
The Buckeyes used a total of seven pitchers to get through the game, getting work for several arms that have seen limited action to this point in the season.
Fresh off an outstanding midweek start last Wednesday against Bucknell in which he allowed just four hits and struck out a career-high eight batters in 5.1 scoreless innings, sophomore Conor Curlis was on the bump for Ohio State. The southpaw had another solid outing, albeit a short one.
After tossing three scoreless innings, allowing only a single hit and striking out four, head coach Greg Beals pulled Curlis from what was called “a controlled start,” prompting questions of whether his performance thus far has merited a weekend start.
Right-handers Reece Calvert and Gavin Lyon followed Curlis, but couldn’t keep up the dominance. The pair gave up five runs in 2.2 innings, allowing YSU to hang around. Lefty Joe Stoll was effective in his 1.1 innings, but fellow southpaw Andrew Magno struggled with his control, walking three and giving up two runs while recording only one out. The bullpen for Beals still leaves a lot to be desired.
The Penguins handed the ball to right-hander Chris Sparks, who to date in 2017 had exactly 1.1 innings of work. The sophomore struggled, lasting just two innings, allowing three runs on two hits, with four walks and one strikeout.
Six others saw time on the mound for YSU, which has now lost four in a row and nine of its last ten, combining to give up nine runs on 10 hits.
The Buckeyes wasted no time in grabbing the advantage, scoring a run in the bottom of the first. Gantt and Barnwell both walked, and after a Washington strikeout, Noah McGowan singled to load the bases with one away. Zach Ratcliff then lifted a fly ball to medium left field, which scored Gantt.
Sparks was able to limit the damage, though, getting a flyout to center off the bat of Brady Cherry to strand a pair.
The YSU hurler wouldn’t be quite so lucky in the second. Bo Coolen and West worked back-to-back one-out walks and advanced into scoring position thanks to a wild pitch. Barnwell then laced a double into the left-center gap to plate the pair and push Ohio State’s lead to 3-0.
Penguins’ first-year head coach Dan Bertolini went to the bullpen for the third inning, but the result was the same. Sophomore lefty Collin Floyd took over and yielded a leadoff opposite field triple into the right field corner to McGowan, who came home to score the fourth run of the evening for the Buckeyes easily on a wild pitch.
Ohio State’s onslaught continued in the fourth as the scarlet and gray tacked on three more runs to its lead. Against senior reliever Ryan Smith, West reached on an error and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Gantt walked, and Barnwell laid down a bunt single to load the bases with nobody out. Washington delivered a sacrifice fly to center to plate West for the first run of the inning.
A failed pickoff attempt of Barnwell allowed Gantt to score, and after Smith hit McGowan with a pitch and walked Ratcliff to once again load the bases, Youngstown State went to junior Dion Felger to try to stop the bleeding. He got Connor Pohl to hit a groundball to second base, but a double play could not be turned, and Barnwell came home to make it a 7-0 ballgame.
In the fifth, YSU finally got on the board against Calvert thanks to a two-out, two-run triple by Anthony Rohan. The Penguins were unable to bring Rohan in from third, though, so the deficit stood at 7-2.
Felger’s troubles would continue in the bottom of the fifth, though, as the Buckeyes put two more runs on the board. Coolen singled and West doubled to lead things off. Gantt followed with a safety squeeze that failed in scoring the run, but resulted in a hit to load the bases, and after Barnwell struck out, Washington singled through the hole on the right side to bring both Coolen and West around.
To the credit of Bertolini and his Youngstown State team, they didn’t roll over. In the sixth, Kendrick worked a leadoff walk against Lyon, who had been newly inserted into the game from the bullpen, and two batters later, Trey Bridis launched a two-run homer over the wall in left field to once again make it a five-run game.
Lyon then walked Anthony Santoro and allowed him to move up to second on a wild pitch. After a groundout to first by Evan Cheng, Web Charles came through with a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to 9-5 and end Lyon’s outing. Stoll came on and ended the inning, but the Penguins had chipped away at the advantage.
But the theme of the day was Ohio State’s relentless scoring, and once again in the bottom of the sixth, the team put a crooked number on the scoreboard, this time against sophomore Zack Minney. Tyler Cowles had drawn a one-out walk, advanced to second and then third on wild pitches, but after Coolen was unable to drive him in, was in danger of being stranded. Then West and Gantt hit consecutive triples, accounting for two more runs and an 11-5 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Javier Alvarez managed to do what no YSU pitcher had done all game: keep the Buckeyes off the scoreboard. Youngstown State then followed the zero he put up with two runs in the top of the eighth, taking advantage of Magno’s command issues, to cut the lead to 11-7.
Ohio State scored its last run of the evening in the bottom of the eighth off junior Alex Bellardini, when once again, Barnwell delivered. This time, it was an RBI single to score Coolen, giving the Buckeyes a 12-7 lead headed to the ninth.
The Big Ten schedule gets started for Ohio State on Friday evening, when Minnesota comes to Columbus for a three-game weekend set at Bill Davis Stadium. First pitch in the lidlifter is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. ET, and the game will be streaming live on BTN Plus.