Ohio State baseball went toe-to-toe with Texas Tech, the fourth-ranked team in the country, on Wednesday night in Columbus, and though the Buckeyes ultimately fell by a score of 5-3, they gave a potential national championship contender all it could handle.
There’s something about elite national programs that seems to bring out the best in Ohio State. Three seasons ago, the Buckeyes took a game from 9th-ranked Oregon. Two seasons ago it was No. 4 Louisville. Last year it was eventual College World Series champion Coastal Carolina. Just two months ago, Ohio State took down Oregon State, a program that has spent a good chunk of the season atop the national polls.
But this one goes in the loss column, which drops the scarlet and gray to 17-27 on the year. The team had its chances, ultimately failing to cash in due in large part to a 2-for-14 effort at the plate with runners in scoring position and 10 runners on left on base.
Dominic Canzone continued his tear at the plate for the Buckeyes, going 3-for-5 with a pair of runs batted in. The freshman right fielder extended his hitting streak to ten games, the second time he’s done so this season, giving him the two longest streaks on the team in 2017.
Redshirt junior Adam Niemeyer, making his first appearance in over a month after dealing with an elbow injury, took the loss. The team co-captain allowed a run on three hits in 1.2 innings of relief in his return to action.
Freshman Jake Vance was the first man on the mound against a Texas Tech offense hitting over .300 collectively and averaging 7.5 runs a game. Vance, perhaps making a play to see a weekend start, threw a solid 3.2 innings, yielding just two runs on three hits, striking out a career-high five.
Ohio State rewarded his efforts, grabbing the early lead. Tre’ Gantt led off the home half of the first with a walk and stolen base and Canzone ripped a line drive single to center to score him. Canzone would pick up his second RBI of the night in the second with a single to right that scored Shea Murray.
But the lead should have been far greater. Ohio State had two runners in scoring position with one out in the first inning after Canzone’s first single, a bases loaded nobody out situation in the second, and a runner on third in the third, but found itself in front just 2-0.
Texas Tech would finally break through in the fourth, getting an RBI single from Michael Berglund and a run-scoring double from Cody Farhat with two outs in the inning to tie things up and end Vance’s outing.
The Buckeyes once again had a scoring opportunity in the bottom half, but with two on and two out, Ryan Long ran down another rope off the bat of Canzone in the right-center gap to keep the score deadlocked.
Niemeyer came on in the fifth, and was immediately greeted by a leadoff double from Grant Little. He eventually came around to score on a Josh Jung groundout, giving the Raiders the lead at 3-2.
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s bats went cold against TTU bullpen arms Jacob Patterson and Jose Quezada, mustering just a single hit and a trio of walks over 4.1 innings by the pair. The club would have another golden opportunity in the seventh, though, against Dylan Dusek. Canzone’s third hit of the night put runners on the corner with one out, but one more time, the chance was squandered.
The Raiders tacked on an insurance run against sophomore Ryan Feltner in the top of the eighth, and while the Buckeyes answered with a Murray sacrifice fly in bottom of the inning that scored Noah West, they just couldn’t get the clutch hit required to tie the game. Gantt struck out, leaving the tying run stranded at third. It was another case of so close yet so far for the team, a common theme this season.
The final run of the game was charged to redshirt junior Kyle Michalik in the ninth thanks to a throwing error by Jalen Washington at short.
Things don’t get any easier for Ohio State, as the team will travel to Ann Arbor this weekend for a three-game Big Ten series with 19th-ranked Michigan. The Buckeyes won all five contests between the two sides a year ago, including two in the Big Ten tournament, so expect the Wolverines to be hungry for revenge.