The Ohio State baseball team saw their regular season come to an end Saturday, concluding a three game series with Purdue in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes did just about all they could do on their own this weekend in their quest for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament, but had to wait to find out if they would qualify until the conclusion of the Minnesota-Northwestern game.
OSU had a very up-and-down season, with a bunch of twists and turns along the way. However, they were able to finish strong, ending with a 31-24 overall record and an even 12-12 in Big Ten play. It turned out they were able to do enough down the stretch, as with a Golden Gophers win over the Wildcats, Ohio State earned the No. 7 spot in the Big Ten Tournament.
Let’s take a look at the fantastic week the Buckeyes were able to put together to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Ohio State kicked off their regular season-ending four-game road trip with a one-game contest against the Penguins on Tuesday night. Things did not start off well for the Buckeyes, finding themselves in an early 4-0 hole. OSU starter Jake Vance went just three innings, allowing the quartet of runs on three hits and a walk, capped by a three-run homer by Jeff Wehler. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the game turned around in a big way.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Buckeye first baseman Connor Pohl launched a grand slam — the first by Ohio State this season — to tie the game up at four apiece. Dominic Canzone then took over late, gunning down a runner at the plate in the seventh before launching a game-winning two-run shot in the eighth, his 15th homer of the year. Canzone would add an insurance run in the ninth on a sac fly as the Buckeyes went on to win 7-4 to start their week off on the right foot.
Looking to carry on the momentum from Tuesday’s comeback win, Ohio State opened up a critical three-game series with Purdue on Thursday night. The Buckeyes sent ace Garrett Burhenn to the mound for the opener, and he did not disappoint. The freshman pitched eight scoreless, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out six. Boilermaker starter Trent Johnson was almost as good early on, allowing just one run — a Dillon Dingler solo shot — through the game’s first six innings. However, Johnson’s night would begin to unravel in the seventh.
After a Brent Todys homer in the seventh, Brady Cherry crushed a three-run bomb on a 3-2 pitch off Johnson to open up a 5-0 Ohio State lead. Canzone and Cherry added two more runs on a pair of RBI singles in the ninth, and with a scoreless inning from TJ Brock, the Buckeyes would put up a shutout in a 7-0 victory in the series opener.
Moving from one freshman starter to another, Ohio State looked to keep the good times rolling as they sent Seth Lonsway to the mound for Friday’s contest. Once again, a rookie Buckeye starter dazzled. The reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week tossed eight dominant innings, allowing one unearned run on two hits while striking out a career-high 14. His final strikeout in the eighth inning set an OSU single-season record, giving the Buckeye staff a combined 496 strikeouts — surpassing the 495 mark set in 2016.
Ohio State fell behind early on after a run scored on a wild pitch strikeout in the first inning, but they would not stay down for long. The bats got going in the third inning, and after an RBI single from Cherry to tie the game, Todys launched his second homer in as many days, this one a three-run shot, to give the Buckeyes a 4-1 lead. OSU would add two more runs in the fourth on a Dingler sac fly and a bases loaded walk to Todys to extend their lead to 6-1, and it would prove to be more than enough as Lonsway stymied the Boilermakers the rest of the way. A scoreless ninth by Thomas Waning put a cap on Ohio State’s second win in a row against Purdue, with a chance for a sweep on Saturday.
While the Buckeyes pitching staff was the key in the first two games of the series, it was a much different ballgame in the finale. Neither team’s starter faired particularly well, as Ohio State’s Griffan Smith allowed eight runs over 3.2 innings and Purdue’s Cory Brooks allowed eight runs in just 0.2 innings in a game that was nothing short of a slugfest.
The Ohio State offense put on an absolute clinic in the first inning, teeing off Brooks and knocking him out of the game before the opening frame even came to an end. The Buckeyes bashed three straight homers, beginning with a two-run shot by Dingler and followed by solo homers from Cherry and Pohl to take an early 4-0 lead. Later in the inning, Zach Dezenzo launched the team’s fourth home run of the inning to make it 5-0, and after a pair of RBI singles and an RBI double, Ohio State held a 8-0 first inning lead. However, the game was far from over.
Purdue got one run back in the first inning, and after the Buckeyes scored their ninth run of the game in the top of the fourth, the Boilermakers put up a seven-run fourth inning to cut the OSU lead to 9-8. An RBI double by Bryce Bonner in the fifth had things all tied up at nine, but Ohio State answered in the sixth on a three-run homer by Pohl, regaining a 12-9 lead. Purdue fought back with two more runs in the bottom of the frame, by Todys launched his third homer of the series in eighth to give the Bucks an insurance run, now leading 13-11. Andrew Magno pitched 5.1 innings in relief, as Ohio State held on to earn the series sweep.
The sweep was Ohio State’s first Big Ten sweep of the season, and it could not have come at a better time. The Buckeyes entered the Purdue series in ninth place in the conference, with six teams fighting for the final two spots in the conference tournament. At 9-12, OSU was competing with Northwestern (10-11), Rutgers (9-11), Maryland (9-12), Purdue (7-13) and Michigan State (7-13). The sweep was able to catapult the Bucks into the No. 7 spot, where they will matchup against the No. 2 seed Michigan Wolverines, whom they took two of three against in April.
Ohio State’s first game in the double-elimination tournament will take place at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, with all of the Big Ten Tournament games being broadcast live on BTN. The games will take place at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.