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Baseball: Ohio State takes final game in trip out West

The Buckeyes played four games out in Arizona against Gonzaga and GCU over the weekend.

Buckeyes infielder Marcus Ernst
via @OhioStateBASE on Twitter

Thursday, Feb. 23: 1-0 Grand Canyon

In the first game of the four-game road trip, Ohio State dropped a 1-0 pitchers duel. Despite the loss, Buckeyes’ ace Isaiah Coupet was brilliant once again.

The 6-foot-1 southpaw tossed a gem, going seven innings allowing just one run on six hits while striking out nine. Unfortunately for Coupet, the Ohio State offense let him down, only mustering five hits with no runs to show for it to back up his efforts on the mound. Second baseman Josh McAlister led off the game with a triple, but that would be the only time a scarlet and gray player would reach third base on the day.

In his first two starts of the year spanning 13 innings, Coupet has now allowed just one earned run while striking out 18 and walking only one.

Friday, Feb. 24: 11-9 Gonzaga (10 innings)

Friday’s game was nothing like the day prior, as Ohio State and Gonzaga combined for 20 total runs in what would wind up an extra innings win for the Bulldogs in a back-and-forth affair.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a four-run lead right away on a 1st inning grand slam by freshman catcher Matthew Graveline — his first collegiate home run. Gonzaga chipped away in the 3rd and 4th innings with a run apiece to cut the OSU lead to 4-2, and the Bulldogs jumped out to a lead after a four-run 5th made it 6-4 Zags. Ohio State responded right away with two runs in the bottom of the frame to tie things up, highlighted by an RBI double from Mitchell Okuley, but by the time the 9th inning came around, the Buckeyes found themselves in a 9-7 hole.

The good guys were not going down without a fight, and after a leadoff walk by Marcus Ernst, Kade Kern delivered a game-tying two-run home run to even things back up at 9-9. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they would be unable to answer Gonzaga’s two-run double in the top of the 10th inning, ultimately leading to an 11-9 loss in extras.

Graveline and Kern stole the show with their big home runs, but it was quietly a nice day for Okuley, who finished the game 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, an RBI and a stolen base. Ohio State used eight different pitchers on the mound in this one — with all but Landon Beidelschies and Jake Johnson allowing at least one run — compared to just four pitchers for Gonzaga.

Saturday, Feb. 25: 7-5 Grand Canyon

In another back-and-forth game on Saturday, again it was the Buckeyes coming up just short despite getting out to an early lead.

McAlister opened up the scoring in this one with an RBI single in the 2nd inning, and the Buckeyes doubled their margin in the 4th inning on a solo home run by DH Cole Andrews to take a 2-0 lead. It wasn’t until the 7th inning that Grand Canyon got on the board, but when they did it was a two-run double to get things back even.

Ohio State took the lead right back in the following frame, grabbing three runs in the top of the 8th inning on a bases loaded walk by Okuley, a sac fly by Nick Erwin and a fielders choice by Henry Kaczmar to make it 5-2 Buckeyes. That lead would not on for long, and after the Lopes knotted it back up with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning, Grand Canyon walked it off with a two-run home run in the bottom of the 9th.

Despite the loss, OSU once again got a great outing from its starting pitcher. Gavin Bruni tossed six scoreless frames, allowing just three hits but navigating five walks to keep GCU off the board. Andrews led the way offensive, going 3-for-4 at the plate including the home run and scoring three runs.

Sunday, Feb. 26: 8-2 Ohio State

After dropping the first three games of the road trip, Ohio State finally got back in the win column on Sunday.

With the two teams going scoreless through the first two innings, Ernst changed that with a solo home run in the top of the 3rd inning. The Buckeyes tacked on three more runs in the top of the 4th inning, highlighted by a two-run double by Kaczmar, as Ohio State jumped out to a 4-0 lead. The scarlet and gray were not done scoring just yet, as they would push four more runs across in the top of the 7th on a pair of bases loaded walks, an RBI single by Erwin, and a sac fly from Caden Kaiser to extend the lead to 8-0.

Gonzaga would get two runs back in the bottom of the 7th, but that would be all as Ohio State came away with a relatively no-sweat 8-2 victory.

The Buckeyes used four different pitchers in the game, starting with George Eisenhardt’s four scoreless innings, allowing no hits and fanning a pair. Blayne Robinson added 1.2 scoreless frames in relief and was credited with the win, tying for a team-high three strikeouts with Jonah Jenkins, who allowed two runs (one earned) over 2.1 innings in relief. Jaylen Jones closed the game out with a scoreless bottom of the 9th.

Ohio State now sits at 3-5 on the young season, but will look to build off their series-ending win against Gonzaga, as well as the earlier series split with UConn.

Nick Erwin and Matthew Graveline currently lead the team with seven RBIs apiece, and they are both among the six different Buckeyes to hit a home run thus far. Cole Andrews has taken over as the team’s batting average leader, hitting .375 over his five games played with a home run and four walks. Kade Kern and Marcus Ernst continue to be right in the middle of things as well, with Kern posting a team-high nine walks to go along with his home run and five RBIs and Ernst the only player on the team to hit two home runs while also owning a .290 average.

The aforementioned Coupet leads the way in the pitching department, but fellow lefty Gavin Bruni is off to a hot start to the year as well with a 1.93 ERA (two earned runs allowed) over 9.1 innings of work. University of San Francisco transfer Jonah Jenkins is the only pitcher on the roster to throw multiple innings without yet allowing a run, holding opponents scoreless over five innings pitched with five strikeouts and just one walk.

Up next for the Buckeyes is the Frisco Classic, where they will play three games — one apiece — against Mississippi State, Cal and Oklahoma, in that order, beginning this Friday, March 3 down in Texas.