Pitching and a little luck carry Buckeyes past Nebraska
By John Porentas
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota - A little bit of luck, a little bit of opportunism, and a whole lot of pitching.
That's been the formula for Head Coach Greg Beals' Buckeyes in fashioning a 34-21 regular-season record. It was also the formula for their 35th win, a 3-2 affair, against Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Senior Brad Goldberg started against the Cornhuskers and gave Beals and the Buckeyes another extremely effective performance. Goldberg went six and two thirds innings and gave up just one run and five hits. He did walk four which gave Nebraska opportunities to break through against him, but he always found a way to close the door when the chips were down.
The Buckeyes staked Goldberg to a one-run lead with a single run in the second on an RBI single by freshman designated hitter Zach Ratcliff. Cornhusker starter Aaron Bummer had very little trouble with the light-hitting Buckeyes after that until the sixth inning when OSU applied some of that opportunism.
A leadoff walk and a hit batsman gave the Buckeyes runners at first and second with none out. After Brad Hallberg struck out freshman third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic delivered OSU's only extra-base hit of the day, a ground rule double that bounced over the fence in the left field corner and drove in the runner from second. It also put the Buckeyes back up 2-1.
With Goldberg out of the game the Buckeyes were left relying on what has been the strength of their team, the bullpen. Ryan Riga had come in to retire the last Nebraska hitter in the seventh in relief of Goldberg. Brett McKinney pitched the eighth and retired the side while allowing one hit.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That brought the Buckeyes to the ninth and reliever Trace Dempsy, the Big 10's best closer. Dempsy entered the game with a .81 ERA in 33 innings and with 17 saves to his credit. He had, however, allowed a run last weekend against Indiana, a run that cost OSU a game.
Dempsy struck out the first runner he faced, but issued a walk to Austin Darby that turned out to be a disaster. Darby stole second. After a fly out for the second out of the inning, Bryan Peters singled to score Darby and tie the game at 2-2. Dempsy got out of the inning without any further damage.
"I think he was trying to hard after last week's game with Indiana I think he was trying too hard to get back in there," said Beals of Dempsey's performance.
"He was throwing hard and when he's throwing hard the ball goes uphill instead of downhill. He's a sinker baller. He's a power sinker and that's what he should be doing. When he rips through his Mechanics and overthrows the baseball it just goes uphill and doesn't have the sink to it. You saw some of that today. I think he got caught throwing a little bit and not pitching because he got the two strikes on a guy and I thought he should have gone to the slider a couple of times there to finish that ball game and he didn't. I think he was in "blow them away" mode and that didn't work out for him."
The Buckeyes got lucky in the bottom of the ninth.
Ratcliff led off the inning with what looked like a routine fly ball that Nebraska's outfield lost in the sun and the ball fell for a base hit. Patrick Porter came on to run for Ratcliff and moved to second on a sac bunt by left fielder Tim Wetzel. An intentional walk to pinch hitter Aaron Getz put runners at first and second and brought up OSU leadoff hitter Joe Ciamacco. Ciamacco fell behind early in the count, but eventually walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Second baseman Tony Kuhn then waked on four straight pitches to walk in the winning run.
"The last at bat a little luck goes a long way in baseball. It's better to be lucky than good sometimes," said Ratcliff who finished the day with three of OSU's six hits.
Kuhn's game-winning RBI walk was a result of good scouting and patience.
"I had seen him earlier in the game and his fastball had some sink on it. I was looking for something up but I never saw it, so I'll take it," said Kuhn.
The win puts OSU into the third round of the double-elimination tournament without a loss. They drew a bye in the first round by virtue of having finished in the top-two of the final regular-season standings. The unlikely result comes with the Buckeyes without the services of three key players.
"If you had told me I would be sitting in this seat and Josh Desze, Ryan Cypret and Pat Porter didn't do anything, and for me to be sitting here, I'd say you were crazy," said OSU Head Coach Greg Beals.
The three represent a great deal of offensive production on a team that has woefully lacked offensive production. All three are currently not available due to injury. That left Beals depending on some untested talent, and they came through just enough for OSU to claim the win.
"If you look at the lineup today Zach Ratcliff is a freshman who hasn't been playing every day but given opportunities in the right situation and the right matchup he's taken advantage of it.
"Troy Kuhn, the only reason he's playing is because Cypret has a broken finger and he had a fabulous game. He had two plays on defense that were big time plays;the ball he went in the hole to get and then the steal that he picked up on one hop and then put a tag on. Those are two big plays in a one run ball game."
The loss puts Nebraska into the loser's bracket and in a win or die situation. A loss would end their season.
"They're a scrappy team. We're a scrappy team too," said Nebraska left fielder Michael Pritchard.
"It was just a good baseball game today. Credit to Ohio State, they got the last run in, but it was back and forth all day."
The Buckeyes will play again tomorrow at 7:05 when they take on the winner of the Indiana vs. Minnesota game. It isn't lilkely the Buckeyes will score a lot of runs against whoever they play, but they will still have that pitching staff going for them.
"We can win with three runs," said Beals commenting on the difficulty his team has had scoring.
"We're going to run an offense out there that's going to get some guys on base, we're going to move them into scoring position, and we're going to score one run at a time, because we really trust our pitching and our defense."
That, coupled with a little opportunism and luck, just might get it done for the Buckeyes.
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