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Last updated: 04/16/2011 1:37 AM

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Buckeyes Fall in Extra Innings to First-Place Spartans 5-4
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Under the constant threat of rain, Michigan State (22-8, 6-1) came into Columbus and picked up a 5-4 extra-inning win over the Buckeyes (13-15, 3-4) on Friday night.

Pitcher Kurt Wunderlich, who entered the game with a 6-1 record and a 2.29 ERA, gave up ten hits and four earned runs over eight innings. Reliever Tony Wieber pitched the ninth and tenth innings, striking out five for the win, moving him to 4-0 on the season.

“Those two pitchers we saw today are very good college pitchers,” said Buckeye coach Greg Beals.

“Those guys are sharp. They're almost professionals. They know what they're doing.”

Despite the talent on the mound, Ohio State got the scoring started early when Brian DeLucia led off the bottom half of the first inning with a single. Freshman Tim Wetzel then brought him home with a triple on a 2-2 pitch. The Buckeyes couldn't muster any more offense in the inning and left Wetzel stranded at third.

The game was a pitchers' duel for most of the night, and Ohio State starter Drew Rucinski was up to the task. He faced the minimum over the first three innings before the Spartans finally got to him in the fourth with back-to-back singles and a sacrifice fly from Jeff Holm to tie it up at 1-1.

The Buckeyes would respond in the sixth inning when DeLucia led off the inning with a triple and was again brought home by a Wetzel base hit. For the game, DeLucia and Wetzel combined to go 6-9 with three runs scored and two RBIs.

“Timmy's getting better and better,” Beals said of his talented center fielder.

“You're starting to see the college baseball player he's going to be. He's starting to be aged and matured. DeLucia's been working hard as well. He had his hits, stayed on the ball and took what they gave us. Some of our guys didn't do that.”

Rucinski basically breezed through the first six innings before running into legitimate trouble in the seventh. Ryan Jones led the inning off with a double for the Spartans, then Jeff Holm coaxed a walk. Torsten Boss then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third.

Rucinski hit Jared Hook to load the bases. He forced a pop up out beyond second base from Joel Fisher, which was converged on by four Buckeyes, yet caught by none of them. The fluke single brought Jones home to tie the game at 2-2.

Jordan Keur broke the game open with a two-run single, making it 4-2 before Rucinski finally got out of the inning without any further damage.

Ohio State responded well in the following half inning with two singles, but just couldn't get that necessary third hit to bring a runner home. In the eighth inning, freshman DH Josh Dezse decided not to wait for a third hit, and instead took 2-2 pitch over the left field wall and off of a light post for a two-run home run to tie the game at 4-4.

“That's something that we've been talking about as a club is to be able to respond to that and have that competitive toughness,” Beals said of his team overcoming adversity. “Our guys are showing that.”

Both teams went peaceful in the ninth inning, but the same can not be said for the tenth.

Jordan Keur, who came into the game batting .263, followed up his earlier two-run single with a leadoff homerun off of reliever Jared Strayer, making it 5-4. Strayer then gave up another single before forcing a double-play after a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk.

The Buckeyes came to bat in the bottom of the tenth with the top of their batting order due up. DeLucia and Wetzel hit back-to-back singles, giving Ohio State men at first and third with nobody out.

Ryan Cypret struck out, but Wetzel was able to advance to second on a wild pitch. Dezse was then walked to load the bases, but the Buckeyes just couldn't make forward contact. Greg Solomon and Brad Hutton both struck out swinging to end the game.

“You gotta give their pitching some credit,” Beals said.

“The story was our inability to execute when we had guys in scoring position. We had guys on third base. We left many opportunities out there. You have to give their pitching credit, they made quality pitches when they were in jams. They pitched the outer half of the plate, pitched with good command and didn't make many mistakes.”

“We knew they were hot. Our thought was we were gonna come in here and get 'em. Come in here and surprise them and knock them on their heels. I think we did a little bit of that, but we weren't able to deliver the knockout punch. We had them on their heels a few times, and we were one shot away.”

Up next for the Buckeyes is the second game of the series, slated for a 2:05 pm start on Saturday, weather permitting.

Box Score

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