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Last updated: 04/02/2011 10:56 AM

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Baseball
Buckeyes Handle Adversity and Northwestern in Big Ten Opener 7-2
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sophomore catcher Greg Solomon had three hits and two RBIs, while five Ohio State (9-10, 1-0) pitchers scattered nine hits in the Buckeyes' 7-2 win in their Big Ten opener against Northwestern (7-15, 0-1) on Friday night.

Pitcher Drew Rucinski got the start for Greg Beals' crew and pitched 6.0 solid innings, but got the no decision as the Buckeyes didn't start crossing the plate at a rapid pace until he was gone.

Solomon got the scoring started for Ohio State in the second inning when he singled in first baseman Brad Hallberg, who scored twice in the game. Solomon was then thrown out trying to advance to second on the play ending the inning.

After that the pitchers took over and things went quiet. Rucinski gave up seven hits and one earned run in his 6.0 innings, striking out five in the process. Northwestern starter Luke Farrell didn't give up another run until the seventh inning.

Speaking of the seventh inning, that's when the quiet went away.

Rucinski started the inning, but was chased when he gave up a lead-off triple to Jack Livingston, followed by an RBI single by Geoff Rowan. Jared Strayer took the mound for the Buckeyes and got a ground out from the first man he faced. A passed ball allowed Rowan to move to third base. He would then score on a Patrick Miller single to make it 2-1.

Still in the top of the seventh, a Tyler Engle error at shortstop gave Northwestern a first and third situation with just one out. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Kyle Ruchim would ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. The damage was done, but it could have been much worse.

Beals used the seventh-inning stretch to deliver a message to his team.

“Every game there's going to be a point of adversity,” he said.

“Tonight we had that adversity in the top of the seventh inning. The guys came off the field and I said, 'That was it, there was our adversity point. We dealt with it, let's move on.' And the guys really responded. Of tonight's game, that was what I was most proud of is how we responded to the adversity.”

That response started with a blooping single from Josh Dezse, who went 3-4 on the night. Matt Streng then came up to the plate attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt. When he did, Luke Farrell tried unsuccessfully to get Dezse at second base. A successful sacrifice bunt from the next batter, Brad Hallberg, gave the Buckeyes men on second and third with just one out.

Solomon was intentionally walked. Left fielder David Corna was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to tie the game. Farrell then followed up his hit batsmen with a wild pitch, which scored another run for the Buckeyes. A Brian DeLucia single would drive in a third run in the inning, while yet another passed ball would allow a fourth Buckeye to cross the plate in the decisive seventh inning.

Ohio State didn't hit the ball hard, but they did enough with it to score four runs, and that's the design of this offense per Beals.

“We've got to be aggressive on the base paths,” he explained.

“With this new bat and this new bat era, it's not explosive baseball games like we're used to in college baseball. Baserunning has got to become a more offensive opportunity for us. It's not just the bat anymore. We've got to make sure that we're ready on the base paths to be offensive.”

It wasn't just offensive opportunities they were ready for, however, because the defense made the most of their opportunities as well.

In the top of the eight inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, new reliever David Fathalikhani threw a pitch to catcher Jake Straub, who popped it towards second base. Buckeye second baseman Ryan Cypret took an initial step in before realizing the ball was going to be over his head. He turned and recovered, making an over the shoulder diving catch in the outfield to save at least two runs and putting a possibly huge inning to bed before it got too cranky.

“I'm just glad I caught it because I misread it off the bat,” Cypret said.

“I knew we needed a play, and it ended up working out and being a big inning. I wasn't worried about the runs, I was just trying to catch the ball. After you initially misplay it, you don't want to look silly running after it.”

“Going over his head and ending up in a dive like that, that was a great play,” Beals said.

Ohio State would add two more runs in the eighth before Dezse came into the ninth to close it out for the Buckeyes. Jared Strayer ended up with the win in his one inning of relief. He moves to 1-1 on the season.

Solomon is leading the team in batting (.382), and to say it's a surprise wouldn't be misleading.

“This is actually one of the first years that I've been a good hitter,” he laughed.

“It's fun! I've just kind of been average the last couple of years, but I've been working really hard in practice and learning a bunch of new things.”

With a gametime temperature in the upper 40s, one thing the junior college transfer from Arizona is learning is how to deal with playing in the cold.

“I've never practiced in snow,” he said, referring to the recent accumulation in Columbus.

“I think tonight was the coldest night I've ever even played baseball. It was cold. Between each inning and each at bat, I was over by the heater just trying to warm up.”

Box Score

Game Notes

Ohio State’s corps of relievers – Jared Strayer, Andrew Armstrong, David Fathalikhani and Josh Dezse – limited Northwestern to two hits and two walks in three innings.

Love to see Ohio State student-athletes populate the stands at the ball park. Some who were spotted include swimming All-America Stephen Sakaris, football long snapper George Makridis and most of the women’s lacrosse team.

Northwestern pitcher Luke Farrell is from Westlake, Ohio and St. Ignatius H.S. His father was managing his first game tonight as the new manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Speaking of Luke: Luke Fickell, recently promoted to the position of assistant head coach of the Ohio State football team, also stopped by Bill Davis Stadium tonight to take in some baseball action.

Fickell is the football team’s co-defensive coordinator. No wonder there were so many outstanding defensive plays in the game tonight, including outfield gems by Brian DeLucia and NU’s Geoff Rowan and sweet infield stops by Ryan Cypret, NU’s Chris Lashmet, Tyler Engle and Matt Streng.


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