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Last updated: 02/19/2012 9:02 PM
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Buckeyes Open Season by Winning Two of Three in Big Ten/Big East Challenge
By Tony Gerdeman

The Ohio State Buckeye baseball team opened their season on Friday, playing in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge down in Florida.

Coming off of a 25-26 season in head coach Greg Beals' first year in the dugout, the Buckeyes are looking for bigger and better things in 2012. Starting the season winning two out of three is certainly one way to achieve those goals.

Ohio State has fourteen games scheduled before they finally play their home opener against Austin Peay on March 16th, and winning two or three games per weekend would go a long way in building this team's confidence.

With one weekend now in the books, next up is a trip to Atlanta for a three-game series against Georgia Tech this weekend.

Game One - OSU vsl South Florida

The Buckeyes dropped their 2012 opener against USF 5-3 Friday in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge in St. Petersburg, Fla.

USF took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. A double play erased a leadoff single by Chad Taylor, but Alex Mendez followed with a single to right and scored on an error Buckeye Brad Hallberg.  Ohio State starter Brett McKinney was able to strike out James Ramsay looking to end the threat, however.

McKinney walked Todd Brazeal and Buddy Putnam to lead off the fourth before a Matt Hart single scored Brazeal to make it 2-0. Andrew Longley then walked to load the bases with nobody out. McKinney responded by striking out Taylor and inducing a foul pop out by Luis Llerena.

Jaron Long then came on in relief for his first appearance in a Buckeye uniform. Long subsequently hit Mendez on his first pitch and allowed an RBI single by Daniel Rockhold, making it 4-0 Bulls before the sophomore struck out Ramsay to finally end the inning.

Ohio State answered back in a very big way in the bottom of the fourth. Ryan Cypret doubled to left to lead off the inning, advanced to third on a Josh Dezse single and scored on a single by Mike Carroll. David Corna then singled to left to load the bases before Hallberg drove in Dezse with a fielder’s choice. Brad Hutton then reached on a fielding error by Taylor at shortstop as Corna game around to score and cut the USF lead to 4-3. That was all the Buckeyes could muster, however.

USF then added an insurance run in the top of the seventh to make it 5-3, which eventually became the final.

Cypret and Carroll each finished 2-for-4 for the Buckeyes while Dezse went 3-for-5. Long gave up one earned through four innings while striking out three in relief of McKinney.

Gonzalez earned the win for USF, tossing 3.2 scoreless innings and striking out four. Brazeal finished the day 4-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.

Game Two OSU vs. Seaton Hall

The Buckeyes got their first win of the 2012 campaign, a 14-7 victory over Seton Hall Saturday evening at Bright House Field in Clearwater. With the win, Ohio State moves to 1-1 on the season while Seton Hall drops to 1-2.

“It was nice to see our offense break out a bit,” head coach Greg Beals said. “We gave some quality at-bats with several two-out hits and RBIs. We were unable to do that yesterday so it was good to come through tonight.”

Ohio State used two singles and two walks to take a 4-0 lead in the top of the first. With one down, Tim Wetzel and Ryan Cypret recorded back-to-back singles and Josh Dezse followed with a walk to load the bases against Seton Hall starter Ryan Harvey. Mike Carroll followed with a bases loaded walk to score the Buckeyes’ first run and a fielding error by Pirate third baseman Chris Selden on a hard hit ground ball by David Corna plated two more. Brad Hallberg then recorded an RBI groundout to give Ohio State the 4-0 advantage.

After Seton Hall tallied one in the bottom of the first, the Buckeyes answered back with two in the top of the second to extend the lead to 6-1. Pellant came around to score on an RBI single by Dezse after he had walked and Cypret scored on an RBI single by Carroll after reaching on a two-out walk.

Ohio State pushed the lead to 7-1 in the top of the fifth. With two down, Hallberg doubled to deep right-center and scored on an RBI single up the middle by Aaron Gretz. It marked the first collegiate RBI for the freshman from Apple Valley, Minn.

John Kuchno then came on to relieve Ohio State starter Brian King, who pitched very well in his first start in a Buckeye uniform.

“I really loosened up after the first inning and was able to throw a lot of strikes and get ahead,” King, a transfer from Paradise Valley CC in Arizona, said. “It was a good win for the team and hopefully we can keep it going tomorrow.”

The Pirates were able to muster a pair of runs on three hits and a walk in the bottom of the sixth off the sophomore right-hander to cut the Ohio State lead to 7-3 after six innings.

Seton Hall put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh to trim the Buckeye lead to 7-4. However, the Buckeyes responded with seven runs on six hits and two Seton Hall errors in the eighth to break the game wide open at 14-4. Hallberg singled twice in the inning while Dezse, Carroll and Corna each singled once and Pellant doubled to deep right-center to drive in Hallberg.

Seton Hall tallied three unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth to cut the lead to 14-7 but Kuchno closed the door with a strike out looking to end the rally.

Ohio State pounded out 14 hits in the win including three from Hallberg and two each from Dezse and Carroll. King earned his first win in his first start at Ohio State, going 5.0 innings and striking out three without allowing an earned run.

Game Three OSU vs. UConn

Ohio State defeated Connecticut 9-5 in a six-inning, travel-shortened contest Sunday afternoon at Jack Russell Stadium. The game was started late and was called to a halt after six innings and two hours and 28 minutes because of travel limitations. Ohio State improves to 2-1 while Connecticut drops to 1-2.

“We have talked about how Sundays will always be tough games,” head coach Greg Beals said. “The team that will grind it out and compete will be the team that wins. We beat two teams that played in NCAAs last year and UConn even made a Super Regional. They are the teams we want to play and we want to beat so it’s good to get off to a good start against them.”

The Buckeyes took the early 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Kirby Pellant walked to lead off the game, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on an RBI groundout to second by Tim Wetzel.

Connecticut was able to respond in the bottom of the second with a run of its own to tie the game. Ryan Fuller tripled off the wall in center to lead off the inning and after Joe Pavone was hit by a pitch, scored on an RBI single by Tom Verdi.

Connecticut starter Anthony Marzi retired eight Buckeyes in a row until Pellant reached on a throwing error with two down in the third. He then advanced to second on the throw and stole third but could not score as Marzi struck out Wetzel to end the Ohio State rally.

After a single through the left side by Ryan Cypret to lead off the top of the fourth, Josh Dezse hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to left-center, putting the Buckeyes on top 3-1.

Ohio State pushed the lead to 4-1 in the top of the fifth when Greg Solomon singled with one down, advanced to second on a groundout by Pellant and scored on a two-out RBI single up the middle by Wetzel.

Connecticut then answered with a three-run fifth to tie the game. The Huskies used a two-out RBI single from Verdi and a two-run double to deep center by John Sulzicki to even the score after five innings.

Ohio State bounced right back with a five-run sixth. Mike Carroll doubled to lead off the inning, David Corna followed with a single and Brad Hallberg walked to load the bases. After a lineout by Aaron Gretz, Solomon scored Carroll with a sacrifice fly, Corna scored on a wild pitch and Hallberg crossed home on a bases-loaded walk by Cypret. Dezse followed with a two-run single through the left side to score Pellant and Wetzel to push the Ohio State lead to 9-4.

Dezse came on in the sixth and gave up a run but was able to close it out for the Buckeyes.

Dezse finished 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBI while Carroll went 2-for-4 with a run scored. David Fathalikhani picked up the win for the Buckeyes while Carson Cross suffered the loss for Connecticut.

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