At the very least, Ohio State baseball has stayed true to form to the very end of the season. Watching a commanding late-game lead disappear against Toledo at Bill Davis Stadium on Tuesday night, the Buckeyes were forced to scratch and claw their way to an 11-8 victory.
After a four-run seventh inning by the Rockets tied the game at 8-8, a Bo Coolen pinch hit RBI triple in the bottom half of the frame scored Shea Murray to deliver the game-winner.
Joe Stoll and Thomas Waning made the lead stand up over the final two innings, working around traffic on the bases to secure the win. Waning rolled two double plays in his 1.2 innings, earning the first save of his career.
Ohio State finishes the nonconference portion of its schedule with a 4-2 record against MAC opponents, and a 14-18 record overall outside the Big Ten. The overall record now stands at 21-32.
With their respective careers winding down, seniors Murray and Zach Ratcliff continued their recent hot streaks at the plate. Both players had two hits, including a home run, two runs scored, and three runs batted in.
Freshmen Dominic Canzone, Noah West, and Connor Pohl showed why the future for the scarlet and gray may be brighter than the 2017 campaign would lead one to believe, combining for three hits, four runs scored, and an RBI. Junior Tre’ Gantt also drove in two runs, reached base safely four times, and stole three bases.
A Toledo team that entered the ballgame hitting just .246 as a team and averaging fewer than five runs per game, took advantage of a Buckeye pitching staff that has struggled all year long. The Buckeyes utilized four pitchers total on the night, with freshman Jake Vance making the start and giving up four runs on six hits in four innings of work.
Austin Woodby relieved Vance and needed just 13 pitches to record his first six outs and set down the first seven he faced before the wheels came off. Protecting a four-run lead, he yielded a sacrifice fly and three-run home run in the seventh to allow Toledo to tie things up.
The Rockets struck early, putting Riley Campbell into scoring position in the top of the first by way of a hit by pitch and a passed ball, and scoring him on a Dalton Bollinger bullet double into the left-center gap.
Ohio State grabbed the lead in the bottom of the second, scoring a pair of runs. Ratcliff led off with a double down the left field line, Pohl walked, and both moved up a base thanks to a balk by Toledo pitcher Joey Prechtel. Murray followed by hitting a ground ball to second baseman Casey Gose, who made a low throw wide of first, allowing Ratcliff and Pohl to score.
But Vance ran into trouble in the fourth, yielding three runs and the lead. Three straight singles to lead off the inning brought home the first, a squeeze bunt the second, and a fourth single the third before a 6-4-3 double play ended the threat.
The Buckeyes came right back and tied the game in the home half of the frame, though, with Murray smoking his third homer of the season with Pohl aboard.
They weren’t finished, either, loading the bases on a West single, a Gantt walk, and a Jalen Washington hit by pitch. Canzone then walked on four pitches against Rockets’ reliever Austin Calopietro, forcing in West for a 5-4 lead.
In the sixth, Ratcliff delivered his team-leading seventh longball of the year, a three run shot with two outs that extended the advantage to 8-4.
After setting down seven in a row, Woodby had issues in the seventh, loading the bases with one out. A sacrifice fly by A.J. Montoya trimmed the deficit to three, and a three-run bomb by Ross Adolph knotted the game.
In the bottom half of the inning, though, Murray led off with a single against Toledo reliever Casey Johnson before Coolen sent a fly ball to center that was badly misjudged and went for a triple. He would score on a Gantt RBI single, pushing the lead back out to two.
The Buckeyes’ tacked on an insurance run in the eighth after a pair of walks by Pohl and Murray to start the inning, a West sacrifice bunt, and a Gantt line drive single off pitcher Jordan Kesson’s leg.
Ohio State wraps up its season with a three-game home series against Indiana beginning on Thursday evening. The Buckeyes haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the Big Ten tournament, though their magic number is down to one.