For the second straight day, the Ohio State baseball team staved off elimination in the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes used a solid pitching performance from Adam Niemeyer and the bullpen, and actually showed some offensive firepower, in knocking off Michigan, 5-3.
After not having met during the Big Ten regular season, it seemed almost predestined that the conference’s two biggest rivals should meet in a game with everything on the line. The three-seed Wolverines are now going home to await their NCAA tournament fate.
Seventh-seeded Ohio State had scored just four total runs in its first two tourney games, and will now play another elimination game on Saturday against Minnesota.
“We’ve got nothing to lose, so we’re just playing loose,” said sophomore Dominic Canzone after the game. “We’re all just coming together. That’s just who we are.”
Niemeyer, the redshirt senior co-captain, took the ball for the first time at TD Ameritrade Park since starting the championship game in 2016. Much as he did that day, the right-hander gave his club a great chance to win, allowing just one run on five hits in five innings. Neimeyer walked one and struck out four to earn the victory.
The Buckeyes’ seniors came through in a big way offensively, as Tyler Cowles, Noah McGowan, and Bo Coolen all produced runs in the victory. Cowles has now driven in five runs in Omaha, making a push for the All-Tournament team.
Junior Kobie Foppe also drove in a run, and Canzone had a multi-hit day and was on base four times, despite dealing with a thigh contusion that has forced him into the designated hitter role.
Now three games into the tournament, Ohio State has scored first in each. In the bottom of the third, Canzone doubled and Foppe singled to give the Buckeyes runners on the corners with one out. Cowles then delivered an RBI double, and McGowan followed with a run-scoring single.
Two runs was all they would muster, though. A poor squeeze bunt attempt by Connor Pohl resulting in Cowles being cut down at the plate, and a liner off the bat of Jacob Barnwell snared by pitcher Ben Dragani ended the threat with no further damage.
Michigan would get on the board in fifth against Niemeyer, cutting the Ohio State lead in half. Harrison Salter doubled to lead things off, moved to third on a single by Dominic Clementi, and came home on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Engelmann.
The Buckeyes would get that run back a couple of innings later, though, when Coolen launched a first-pitch fastball into the right field bleachers. It was the first home run of the tournament for the scarlet and gray, as the park plays very big.
Ohio State wasn’t done, either, tacking on another two runs to make it a 5-1 ballgame. Noah West worked a four-pitch walk and Canzone singled and stole a base to put two runners in scoring position with one out. A Foppe single and a sacrifice fly by Cowles brought the two runs home.
Head coach Greg Beals relied on his bullpen to bring the win home, as he’s done all season long. Senior Austin Woodby tossed a scoreless sixth inning before running into some trouble in the seventh, allowing a two-run single to Brock Keener that cut the lead to two.
But Beals went to his relief ace Seth Kinker after Woodby issued a one-out walk in the eighth. Kinker struck out the first two batters he faced to end the frame, then came back in the ninth and worked around a one-out double to retire the side, earning his second multi-inning save in as many days and 15th on the year.
The Buckeyes are still alive for a tournament title, and more importantly, the two wins in Omaha have likely solidified Ohio State’s case for an NCAA regional bid.
Saturday’s first pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET, with the game being televised live on Big Ten Network.