Ohio State baseball got beat up in its first two games of the weekend by UNC Greensboro. So it says something about the character of the team that the Buckeyes fought back again and again on Sunday to claim a 5-4 victory and avoid being swept.
On three separate occasions in the ballgame, Ohio State found itself trailing the Spartans. And in every case, found a way to scratch out some runs. The Buckeyes’ perseverance was a welcome sight after a tough past month of the season.
A leadoff double by Brady Cherry in the eighth inning gave Ohio State a chance to break a 4-4 tie, and after advancing to third on a groundout, the Buckeye sophomore sprinted home to score the game-winner on a wild pitch.
Ohio State was in position to grab the win thanks to a tremendous performance out of the bullpen by junior Seth Kinker. The side-armer threw six innings of one-run ball, scattering seven hits and striking out five in earning his second win of the season.
Senior co-captain Jalen Washington broke out of a recent slump with a 2-for-3 day, doubling, driving in a run, and scoring a pair. Tre’ Gantt added a 2-for-4 day, getting a double of his own, scoring a run, and driving one in.
Freshman Dominic Canzone also extended his recent hitting streak to six games, going 1-for-2 with an RBI, while fellow frosh Connor Pohl had a pair of hits of his own.
Ohio State handed the ball to junior Reece Calvert, who was fresh off the finest performance of his career in scarlet and gray. Last Sunday against Michigan State, the righty yielded just two hits in 5.1 innings, retiring 15 in a row at one point. In this one, Calvert had a much shorter outing, going just three innings, but he kept the Buckeyes in the game, allowing three runs and departing with the score tied.
The loss went reliever Andrew Wantz, who gave a pair of runs in his 2.2 innings of work.
Right-hander Dan Loats got the start for UNCG, and had more trouble holding the scarlet and gray bats down than did his teammates Bryce Hensley and Matt Frisbee. In 5.1 innings, Loats allowed three runs on five hits, walking a pair and striking out six, but left the game with the lead.
Right out of the box in the first inning, Greensboro asserted itself offensively. Three straight one-out singles loaded the bases and Cesar Trejo sent a sacrifice fly to center field to give his team a 1-0 lead. Calvert was able to escape without further damage, but it was clear from the outset that UNCG was hungry for the sweep.
In the home half of the frame, though, the Buckeyes came right back to tie things up. Washington singled and Canzone walked. The pair orchestrated a double steal on a swinging strike three by Cherry, and catcher JoJo Underwood’s throw to third was wild, allowing Washington to trot home and make it a 1-1 ballgame.
Things wouldn’t stay knotted for long, as Greensboro reclaimed the lead in the top of the third. A pair of one-out singles and two stolen bases put two runners in scoring position. Michael Goss then grounded out to plate Caleb Webster.
Calvert looked to be out of trouble when Trejo sent a grounder to Cherry at third, but the throw across the diamond was in the dirt and first baseman Bo Coolen couldn’t pick it, allowing Andrew Moritz to score and give the Spartans a two-run advantage at 3-1.
Once again, Ohio State answered UNCG’s scoring in the club’s next trip to the plate. Gantt and Washington doubled back-to-back with one down in the bottom of the third, cutting the deficit to one. Washington would then steal third and come home to tie the game up once more on a Canzone sacrifice fly.
Kinker took the mound in the top of the fourth and recorded two quick outs. But a double by Underwood and a single by Ben Spitznagel gave the lead right back to Greensboro.
The game stayed 4-3 for the next few innings, but the Buckeyes had their chances. In the fifth, they stranded a runner in scoring position, and in the sixth, after singles by Canzone and Coolen, a double play ball ended an excellent chance to pull back to even.
They finally cashed in against Wantz in the bottom of the seventh. Pohl doubled to lead things off, moved to third on a fielder’s choice, then came home to tie the game for the third time on an RBI single back up the middle by Gantt.
The performance from Kinker kept Ohio State within striking distance, which they did with Cherry’s mad dash in the bottom of the eighth.
The Buckeyes do not have a midweek game this week, so their next time on the field will be Friday evening, when a three-game weekend series with Nebraska gets underway.