Strong Pitching Carries Buckeyes Past Georgia Tech
By John Porentas
Sometime it's a fine line between hero and goat, and sometime it takes a teammate to prevent a player from crossing it.
After suffering a decisive 9-2 defeat at the hand of Georgia Tech (30-19) in game one of their two-game series the Buckeyes (33-15) were doing much better in game two. In the first start of his career, OSU pitcher Ryan Riga had limited the hard-hitting Yellow Jackets to just one run on five hits through six innings. The problem was that the Buckeyes had yet to score and trailed 1-0.
Enter senior second baseman Ryan Cypret.
With two outs and and first baseman Brad Hallberg on at first Cypret delivered a shot in the gap between the center fielder and right fielder that went all the way to the wall. Despite not being known for his speed, Hallberg was able to score all the way from first, and the Buckeyes had finally broken the ice thanks to Cypret's two-out RBI triple.
"What a big hit," said OSU Head Baseball Coach Greg Beals.
"'Cyp' has been 'that guy'.
"It's probably the only place in the ball park that ball can get hit and score Brad Hallberg from first base. It's got to get to the deep part of the park away from the center fielder who is shading left-center field. That was the right place to hit it. Ryan did a great job of hitting. He took a fast ball on the outer half of the plate and smoked it all the way to the fence."
The Buckeyes followed up with two more runs in the seventh inning on a two-out RBI single by left fielder Tim Wetzel to take a 3-1 lead. Riga pitched through the seventh inning and gave way to Brett McKinney in the eighth inning with the Buckeyes still leading 3-1. McKinney got all three hitters he faced setting up Trace Dempsey, perhaps the most effective closer in college baseball, to close out the game in the ninth.
The Buckeyes were one out away from a big win after Dempsey retired the first two batters he faced. Georgia Tech third baseman Sam Dove was the Yellow Jacket's last hope. Dove hit a slow, high chopper to second. The ball seemed to hang in the air forever, but Cypret grabbed then promptly air mailed his throw past the first baseman. The errant throw allowed the runner to advance to second with two out.
"I probably went just a hair to quick with my throw," said Cypret.
"He's a fast guy. I knew the speed of the runners so that clock in my head was ticking, ticking, ticking and I didn't get any seams on my grip, so it just slipped and of course it hit the edge of the bars (in front of the dugout) and bounced way behind home plate."
"That was a tough play," said Beals.
"The speed of the ball, the bounce of the ball forced him into a little bit of a hurry, but it's a play he makes 9.5 times out of ten probably. The excitement of everything sped him up more than we'd like."
To make matters worse, the next hitter hit a ground ball that found it's way between the infielders for a single. Dove scored on the play, and all of sudden it was a tense game, particularly when the runner at first stole second to put himself in scoring position with two out. It also left Cypret sweating bullets over the possibility that his miscue could cost his team the game.
"The good thing is I could tell from the first pitch that (closer) Trace (Dempsey) was on. I was getting nervous because you don't want to let the team down like that but I was honestly pretty confident because Trace had his A-game going," said Cypret.
Dempsey didn't let Cypret down. He took him off the hook when he got Tech right fielder Daniel Spignola to strike out swinging for the final out of the game and secure the 3-2 win for the Buckeyes.
Cypret and Wetzel were the hitting stars, but the real Buckeye star of the game was the OSU pitching staff. The Yellow Jackets are hitting .313 as a team and have scored 337 runs in 49 games for an average of nearly seven runs a game. Riga, McKinney and and Dempsey combined to limit them to two runs on seven hits, with just one of those runs being earned. Riga in particular was very effective with his breaking ball and changeup.
"Anything to keep them off balance. Anything that moved," said Riga when asked what was effective for him in the game.
"A lot of off-speed, anything to keep them off balance, then stay true, show them the fastball inside."
Riga's role this season has been strictly in releif and Beals had indicated on Monday that Riga would probably be on a pitch count of around 60 in his first start of the season. Riga's effectiveness caused that plan to be abandoned.
"He went 87," said Beals.
"Sometime all you have to do is whip the horse a couple times when he's running good.
"Guys come to Ohio State to play in games like today. Today was an opportunity for Ryan Riga. When you're in the moment and thriving like he was in the moment you let him go a little bit. He went a little more that we anticipated. How do you take him out when he had them absolutely coming and going?"
The Buckeyes will next be in action this weekend when they take on national powerhouse Oregon at Bill Davis Stadium in a three-game series. The Ducks currently rank No. 8 nationally in the RPI rankings and have a record of 37-11 overall and 19-5 in PAC-10 conference play. Infielder Ryon Healy leads the Ducks with 10 homeruns and a .342 batting average that has produced 42 RBI.