After an afternoon (and weekend) of frustration at the plate, a Zach Ratcliff grand slam in the sixth inning gave Ohio State baseball what it needed to avoid a sweep on the road against Michigan. The Buckeyes held on to win 4-2, improving to 6-12 in Big Ten play in 2017.
The win went to Seth Kinker, who made the first start of his career in his 75th appearance. The redshirt junior righty went six innings, allowing just two unearned runs on four hits while walking two and striking out three.
The four runs that came home on Ratcliff’s blast doubled the number Ohio State had scored in the previous 2 games against the Wolverines. The Buckeyes had gone 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Sunday before the redshirt senior connected.
Ohio State had a chance to grab the early lead right off the bat in the first inning when Jalen Washington doubled and stole third with one out. But neither Dominic Canzone nor Brady Cherry could do what was needed to bring him plateward, and Michigan starter Michael Hendrickson was let off the hook.
In the second, it was more of the same. Ratcliff and Bo Coolen both singled to start the frame, but Tyler Cowles, Jacob Barnwell, and Noah West were all retired consecutively, leaving another opportunity squandered.
Kinker did exactly what he’s done throughout his career, though, making life miserable for opposing hitters. He faced the minimum through three innings, yielding nothing but a walk and a hit by a pitch.
Hendrickson settled in as well, overcoming the early traffic on the bases to set down 10 straight Buckeyes between the second and fifth innings.
The Wolverines finally plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, taking advantage of a Washington error at short. Miles Lewis and Nick Poirier both scored unearned, giving the home team a 2-0 advantage.
Ohio State loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth, ending Hendrickson’s day, and Michigan reliever William Tribucher was greeted by Ratcliff’s bomb. It was a little bit of catharsis delivered in one swing for the scarlet and gray, who had lost five games in a row coming in.
Michigan threatened to strike right back in the bottom of the frame, getting the first two men aboard. But Kinker didn’t lose his poise, and Coolen made a diving stab of a liner to end the inning.
Adam Niemeyer, making his second appearance after missing a month of time with an elbow injury, came on out of the bullpen in the seventh for the Buckeyes, and breezed through his first five hitters. He ran into trouble with two outs in the eighth, ultimately loading the bases before getting Poirier to pop out to Washington to escape the jam.
The redshirt junior co-captain worked a 1-2-3 scoreless ninth, striking out the final two batters, to earn the first save of his career and send Ohio State back home with a win.
A pair of midweek games against MAC opponents await the Buckeyes this week at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus. Bowling Green visits on Tuesday, with Ball State coming to town on Wednesday.