Buckeyes Pull Off Their Biggest Comeback of the Year with 12-5 Tournament Victory Over Penn State
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes opened the Big Ten Tournament as the low man on the totem pole, but they closed Wednesday's first-round game against Penn State strong by scoring nine runs over the final two innings to get a 12-5 win over the third seen Nittany Lions.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Penn State carried a 5-3 lead into the eighth inning, but the wheels fell off for the Nittany Lions as the Buckeyes simply never stopped battling. Ohio State put up twelve runs on twelve hits, and also took advantage of some wayward pitching and fielding along the way.
“We continued to believe and scoring nine runs in the final two innings proves that,” Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said. “We were fortunate enough to get their starter’s pitch count up, get to the bullpen and do some damage in the late innings.”
The Buckeyes started well, as Tim Wetzel walked to lead off the game but he was then caught stealing. Ohio State then went down in order to end the inning. Penn State also got their leadoff man Sean Deegan on in the bottom half of the first inning via a single up the middle, but the Nittany Lions wouldn't go out scoreless.
Deegan advanced to second thanks to a sacrifice bunt from Steve Snyder, then took third when he tagged up on a Joey DeBernardis pop out to first baseman Josh Dezse. A Jordan Steranka single up the middle brought Deegan home to score giving the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead.
Brad Hallberg singled to lead off the second inning for the Buckeyes. A sacrifice bunt from Mike Carroll sent him to second base, then a Patrick Porter single brought him home tying the game at 1-1.
Jaron Long, Ohio State's ace, gave up three more singles in the second inning, but the Nittany Lions failed to score. The final out came when Porter gunned down Alex Farkes at the plate following an Elliot Searer single to left field. Penn State was right back at it again in the third inning as a walk and two consecutive singles brought Steranka home to score. A double for Aaron Novak scored J.J. White, and a sacrifice fly to left field scored Luis Montesinos from third base. Long finally got out of the inning, but not before giving up three runs to make it 4-1 Nittany Lions.
Penn State chased Long in the fourth inning. Deegan led off with a single and Snyder followed him with a double, putting men on second and third with nobody out. Brett McKinney came in for Long, and managed to hold the Nittany Lions to just one run. Long's final line was three innings pitched, eleven hits and five earned runs.
The Buckeyes stranded a pair in the fifth inning, but put two more on in the sixth. David Corna brought Brad Hallberg home with a single to right making it 5-2. A sacrifice fly from Porter scored Carroll, but the Buckeyes couldn't bring anybody else around.
McKinney gave up just two hits in his first four innings of relief and stopped the bleeding in the process. That allowed the Buckeyes to get back into the game down the stretch. The only glitch was a one-out double by Steranka in the seventh that saw him advance to third on an error. McKinney stiffened and forced a pop out then got a strikeout to end the threat.
McKinney's seventh-inning performance seemed to rejuvenate the offense. Dezse and Hallberg led off the eighth inning with back-to-back singles. Carroll came on to try and bunt the pair over, but walked and loaded the bases with nobody out.
Penn State closer Dave Walkling came into the game following the walk by Greg Welsh, who had relieved starter Joe Kurrasch an inning before. Walkling immediately gave up an 0-2 single to David Corna driving home Dezse. Porter grounded into a fielder's choice that scored Hallberg. Corna was thrown out at second on the play, but an errant relay to first base led to Carroll scoring the go-ahead run making it 6-5 Buckeyes.
McKinney continued to deal in the eighth inning, getting a flyout from Farkes and then striking out Searer. Beals then brought in left-handed reliever Andrew Armstrong to face the left-hand hitting Deegan. McKinney finished with 4.2 innings pitched, allowing just two hits and no earned runs. He struck out five and walked one. Armstrong walked Deegan, then forced a ground out by Snyder.
“We stuck to it offensively,” Beals said, “but I’m really impressed with what Brett McKinney brought to the table on the mound. He was a difference-maker for us today.”
“Coach gave me the opportunity to put me in the game in a big situation,” said McKinney, who moved to 5-5 on the season with the victory. “I was just trying to do everything I could to help the team win. I knew at that point in the ballgame we had to limit as much damage as possible.”
Wetzel walked to start the ninth and advanced to second when Ryan Cypret laid down a bunt and Walkling committed a throwing error. Walkling then hit Dezse to load the bases, and then hit Hallberg to bring Wetzel home.
Casey Kulina then came on in relief of Walkling. Carroll came to the plate and popped out, but Corna, who finished the game 3-5 with four RBIs, followed with a single to left field which scored two more to make it 9-5. Porter, who also drove in four, then singled to left scoring Hallberg. Runners advanced to second and third on the throw home. Both runners scored following a Kirby Pellant single to right field which made it 12-5 and chased Kulina in favor of Evan Dixon. Dixon got Wetzel to fly out to end the top half of the ninth.
Dezse came on to close out the game, sewing up the 12-5 victory for the Buckeyes.
“After last weekend, I was concerned about how our guys were playing in competition,” Beals said. “I felt like they were putting too much pressure on themselves and we were questioning our belief in our ability to win a game, our ability to play for a championship.
“That was what we talked about for the last four days was finding a way to get ourselves playing in the right frame of mind to allow ourselves to be our best. Today was a great example of continuing to believe.”
The Buckeyes next play top-seed Purdue at 7:05 pm on Thursday.
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