Buckeyes Sweep Twin Bill to Sweep Series
By John Porentas
Ohio State (28-13, 12-6 Big Ten) took two from Penn State (11-28, 2-13 Big Ten) ) to sweep both the doubleheader and the three-game weekend series against the Nittany Lions.
In game one the Buckeyes jumped all over the Lions with a three-run second inning and seven more runs in the fourth to take a 10-0 lead.
The bulge gave starter Brian King plenty of breathing room, but also led to a rocky inning or two for the crafty left hander. After sitting in the dugout during OSU's long fourth inning King appeared to have lost his edge and gave up two runs in the fifth then one more in the sixth.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"I think you get a little bit of that," said OSU Head Coach Greg Beals.
"The longer the inning, the lactic acid starts to build up, so your warm up pitches aren't as sharp maybe, and then you've got a team that has nothing to lose, and you've got a pitcher that's got a seven-run lead and throwing first-pitch strikes and they ripped off some good swings late in the game. There was nothing to lose, and we're up in the score, so we're trying to fill up the strike zone and they're just letting it go."
King then settled in again and held Penn State scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings.
King gave way to reliever Tyler Giannonatti in the ninth. Penn State knocked Giannonnatti around to the tune of five runs on three hits and a walk. Three of those runs came across the plate after Giannonatti was lifted in favor of closer Trace Dempsey. Dempsey struck out the first hitter he faced for the second out of the inning, but then gave up a double that drove in three runs, all charged to Giannonatti. Dempsey ended the rally and the game with a strike out to preserve the OSU win at 10-8.
"I thought we lost focus," said Beals.
"I challenged our guys, told them we hung around, stuck around and almost caused ourselves a problem in game one there.
"I think part of that is the trust and confidence we have in our pitching. We get a three or four run lead and it's like that's it, the pitching will take care of business. Then the pitching let us down," said Beals.
With the big lead in the middle innings, Beals had removed a number of starters from the game, specifically to try to avoid a letdown with a lead.
"I actually did it because we had two scoreless innings before the subs went in and I wanted to try to change and speed the game back up again. It was a benefit to get two innings off our guys (starters), a little extended break between the games, but there's another part of it to put the young bucks in there and let them play faster and go it the last couple innings.
"We finished that game with five freshmen, three sophomores and a junior on the field."
Game two started out as a tight, pitching dominated affair. Both teams were scoreless through three inning, but the Buckeyes broke through for a run in the bottom of the fourth when surprise starter freshman Zach Ratcliff hit is first career home run, a solo shot over the left field wall, to stake the Buckeyes to a 1-0 lead. OSU added four more in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Starter Jaron Long, who had surgery on his ring finger on his throwing hand earlier this week to remove a wart, cruised through six scoreless inning, but gave up a solo home run the seventh that cut the lead to 5-1.
Long struggled in the eighth as well and left the game with one out and a 5-2 lead. That brought on Greg Greve in relief for the Buckeyes. Greve got the second out on the inning with a strikeout, but then gave up a run-producing double to make the score 5-3. He ended the inning with another strikeout.
For Long, it was a gratifying performance after being relatively ineffective recently due to the medical problem. The wart on his hand prevented him from throwing his change up which is his out pitch.
"I think it (the finger) is going to be 100 percent by next week," said Long.
"It only bothers me on my change up, and I didn't throw that pitch today, not one. I expect to throw a lot more next week. I came into the game and I could have used it today, but if I didn't have to I wasn't going to throw it. I threw zero change ups today, which is normally a pitch a throw 20 or 15 times a game.
"On a scale of 1-10, that pitch is an 8 or 9 in importance to me and the way I pitch. The majority of my swing and misses come off that or it sets up my fastball for a swing and miss. It hasn't affected anything else. It just felt nice to get back out there and have a good one."
The Buckeyes put the game out of reach with three more runs in the eighth. Brett McKinney pitched the ninth and allowed one base runner on a walk before retiring the side and giving the Buckeyes the double header and series sweep.
"We've played well in double headers. We had a double header at Purdue and we won both games, we had a double header today and we won both games, so we've got four of our conference wins as part of double header sweeps," said Beals.
"To play 18 innings and ask the guys to be sharp and be motivated for 18 innings is a task, especially art the end of exam week.
"We're in the middle of exams, we have guys that still have exams Monday and Tuesday of this week, so to have a long day in the middle of that was challenging for our guys, but we took care of business today."