Talkin’ Baseball: Bullpen Lets Opportunity Slip Away
By Andrew Lind
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State baseball team returned to Columbus over the weekend to open up the home slate of its Big Ten schedule against the Michigan State Spartans.
Picked third in the conference, the Spartans offered a challenge unlike any the Buckeyes had seen this season. They came into the series winners of seven straight, while Greg Beals and the Buckeyes were coming off of a sweep of Purdue.
For both teams, the pitching staff is the motor that keeps the wheels turning, and it seemed like the weekend was sure to be full of low scoring affairs. Instead, it turned into a good old fashion slugfest at Bill Davis Stadium over the weekend.
It wasn’t the series Ohio State was hoping for, however, as they lost two of three to the Spartans before righting the ship in a 3-0 win over Youngstown State on Tuesday.
Game 1: Spartans 8, Buckeyes 7
To lead off the series, the Buckeyes sent All-Big Ten pitcher Jaron Long to the mound. Long came into the game with a 4-1 record, but was not his consistent self on this night. He went six innings, but he loaded the bases on multiple occasions and gave up a season high eight hits.
Despite his struggles, Long was in line for his fifth win of the season when he handed the ball over to Brett McKinney in the seventh. Inheriting a slim 5-4 lead, McKinney blew past the Spartans in his first inning of relief. Kirby Pellant added an insurance run for the Buckeyes in the home half of the inning, but it wasn’t enough.
McKinney was one out away from getting out of the eighth, but the Spartans were able to rally off of the hard-throwing pitcher. A single, double and a walk loaded the bases. Beals had seen enough. He called on reliever Ryan Riga to get the last out, but Riga gave up a two-run double down the line to tie the game at six a piece.
That was the only batter Riga faced as closer Trace Dempsey came to the mound. Dempsey, second in NCAA in saves, looked as if he wasn’t completely warmed up as he came into the game and threw two pitches to the backstop, allowing the Spartans to take an 8-6 lead.
The Buckeyes fought back when Greg Solomon tripled and eventually scored in the bottom of the eighth, but were unable to complete the comeback, eventually falling to the Spartans 8-7.
Game 2: Buckeyes 5, Spartans 3
When the two teams met Saturday afternoon, Ohio State made sure they wouldn’t be beaten on a late-game rally.
The Buckeyes took an early lead when Ryan Cypret doubled and eventually scored on a pickoff throw at first base. Jacob Bosiokovic added an RBI single to give the home team a 2-0 lead after the first frame.
Thanks to some heads up base running, the Buckeyes doubled their lead in the bottom of the second. While the defense was keyed in on Cypret, who was caught in a rundown off of first base, Joe Ciamacco scored from third to give Ohio State a 4-0 advantage.
With such an advantage, Ohio State starter Brad Goldberg didn’t need to have his best stuff, but still earned his fourth win of the season. Goldberg went six strong innings, something Ohio State starters are accustomed to this year, giving up only two earned runs on six hits.
As expected, Spartans rallied from an early deficit, but could not get any closer than 5-3.
Greg Greve pitched a scoreless seventh, the Buckeyes tacked on some more runs, and Ryan Riga redeemed himself from the night before as he pitched two perfect innings and closed the door on any hopes the Spartans had of winning their ninth straight game.
Game 3: Spartans 7, Buckeyes 2
In the rubber game, nothing went right for the Buckeyes as they fell to 16-8 on the season.
Michigan State flipped the tables on Sunday, as it took the early lead and never looked back. Timely hits and costly throwing errors by the Buckeyes allowed the Spartans to break open the game off Ohio State starter Brian King. King went seven innings, but put the Buckeyes in a hole, allowing six runs.
King was given no run support on Sunday, as the Buckeyes weren’t able to string anything together off of Michigan State starter Mick VanVossen until the bottom of the ninth. Pat Porter singled and Mike Carrol walked, putting runners at first and second for Jacob Bosiokovic. Bosi singled to score Porter and Brad Hallberg followed that up with an RBI single of his own.
The rally fell short as the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
Midweek Special: Buckeyes 3, Penguins 0
The Buckeyes should have taken the series, but couldn’t sulk for long as they had a quick turnaround before their next game. After a pair of cancellations last week due to inclement weather, the Buckeyes welcomed the Youngstown State Penguins for a midweek contest.
Youngstown State entered the game with a 7-18 record and offered no test to the Buckeyes. Five relievers combined to throw nine scoreless innings as the Buckeyes cruised to a 3-0 victory. Trace Dempsey pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his Big Ten leading eighth save of the season.
Up next, Ohio State plays host to the Miami University Redhawks. The game is scheduled for Wednesday night at 6:35 p.m. The Redhawks are 12-11 on the season and are coming off of a weekend where they took two of three against the Toledo Rockets. The Buckeyes are 30-16 all-time against the Redhawks, including a 9-2 win in Oxford in their last meeting.