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Last updated: 04/16/2011 11:01 PM

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Buckeye Bats, Bullpen Best Spartans 9-8
By Tony Gerdeman

With the wind whipping throughout, the Buckeyes (14-15, 4-4) managed to overcome a four-run deficit and then a three-run deficit in their 9-8 come from behind win over the first-place Spartans (22-9, 6-2) on Saturday afternoon.

Buckeye leadoff hitter Brian DeLucia went 2-3 on the day, collecting three RBIs in the process. Center fielder Tim Wetzel went 2-5, including the game-winning RBI single in the eighth inning.

Ohio State had their work cut out for them from the outset when Buckeye starter Brett McKinney gave up a grand slam to the fourth batter he faced. That homerun by Torsten Boss was then followed by a double from Jared Hook, but McKinney got the next three batters before any further damage was done.

One of Buckeye head coach Greg Beals' main talking points to his team is overcoming adversity and they went right to work in the bottom half of the first inning. With two outs, Ryan Cypret singled and then came home on a Josh Dezse double to make it 4-1 Spartans.

After a quiet top half of the second, the Buckeyes really started overcoming adversity when Brad Hallberg and David Corna led off the inning with base hits. Both scored on a Matt Streng double.

Shortstop Tyler Engle bunted Streng over to third and DeLucia's sacrifice fly brought Streng home, tying the game at 4-4.

“It's definitely a shocker,” said Wetzel of falling down 4-0 after just one inning.

“You never want that to happen. But we've been really good about picking eachother up lately. And we just kind of rallied around it and just knew that we had to get some back. And in the bottom of the second we came right back and tied it up.”

The third inning was quiet. Both teams went three up and three down, but things got crazy again in the fourth.

With two outs in the inning, Michigan State managed a single and a double that brought in a run. Then following a walk, Boss hit a fly ball to Corna who committed a wind-aided error allowing two more runs to score, making it 7-4 Spartans.

“The wind was blowing hard,” explained Beals.

“It was blowing out, and sometimes it was blowing the ball down faster because the wind was actually driving the ball down. I think Corna saw it, he thought it was going to be up in the air, calls it, comes after it, and the wind just drove it down faster. It's a play we gotta make, obviously the wind is a factor in it, but the wind was blowing that way all day and it was blowing that way for both teams. We gave them two runs there, and fortunately our offense and our bullpen guys were able to overcome that.”

They wasted no time in doing so.

In the ensuing half-inning, with Hallberg on third following a walk and a single, and Streng on first following a fielder's choice, Engle hit a double to centerfield, scoring Hallberg and moving Streng to third. DeLucia then singled home both Streng and Engle to tie the ballgame at 7-7.

The Buckeyes weren't done. DeLucia moved to second on a Wetzel ground out and scored on a Cypret single. That happened to be the final straw for Spartan starter Tony Bucciferro, who came into this game with an 0.53 ERA in his two Big Ten games and 2.05 ERA and 6-1 record overall. His final line for the game was 3.2 innings pitched, ten hits and eight earned runs.

“Our hitters were good all day today,” Beals said.

“I really liked our approach offensively. We got a lot of hits against a guy whose numbers have been very, very good. We chased him out of the ballgame early. We rallied off a bunch of hits and were able to get back in that ballgame. We got punched in the mouth in that first inning with those four runs right out of the gate, but our guys handled that adversity and kept fighting back.”

McKinney went one more inning. His day was done after five innings pitched. The Buckeyes then went to their matchup bullpen, with Theron Minium coming into the game in the sixth inning. He immediately gave up two singles before forcing a double-play ground out that scored the tying run for the Spartans.

Minium walked two more in the seventh inning before giving way to David Fathalikhani who proceeded to throw a wild pitch and walk Justin Scanlon to load the bases. Jeff Kinley then hit a slow grounder to Cypret who tossed it over to Engle at second. Engle threw to first to get the double play, but his throw was late. Scanlon, however, was called for a very controversial interference trying to break up the play which gave the Buckeyes the double play they were looking for, ending the inning.

The Spartans went 1-2-3 in the eighth. Andrew Armstrong came in for Fathalikhani for the final out of the inning.

With the game still tied at 8-8, Tyler Engle led the eighth inning off with a single. Engle advanced to second on a DeLucia sacrifice bunt. On the first pitch that he saw, Wetzel singled to right field, bringing Engel home for the eventual winning run.

“It was a change up, which I actually surprised myself that I hit that well because usually I'm a little out in front of those,” Wetzel said of the pitch he hit.

Armstrong came out for the ninth inning and struck out Boss before hitting pinch hitter Andy Johnson. Jared Strayer came in for Armstrong and induced a foul out to Joel Fisher. Grant Newsome, who came in as a pinch runner for the pinch hitter Johnson, was then gunned down by catcher Greg Solomon on an attempted steal to end the game.

Armstrong collected the win in his 0.2 innings pitched. Strayer earned his second save of the season. With the wind howling out for most of the game, the bullpen pitched four innings of two-hit ball and only gave up one earned run.

“It's good to see our team bounce back,” said Beals.

“Before the game we got together and talked about the fact that we've played good games and been in good games, we just haven't found a way to win and get some of the situational hits. What this team needs to do is just learn how to win. We're playing good enough and we have ourselves in all of the games, just find a way to win the baseball game.

The Buckeyes next play on Sunday at 1:05 pm in the rubber match of this series.

Box Score

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