Talkin’ Baseball: Buckeyes Take Home-Opening Series
By Andrew Lind
This past weekend, the Ohio State baseball team returned to Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium for the first home series of the season. It was a chilly weekend in Columbus, but the Buckeye sluggers took two-of-three from the Bryant Bulldogs.
OSU came into the series as winners in five of their past six games and with a 10-5 record after a month-long trip to Florida and South Carolina.
Bryant came into the contests with a 4-7-1 record, but had won four of their last five games during their trip to the Buckeye State. The Bulldogs hoped to make the Buckeyes suffer the same fate that Wright State, Ohio and Dayton had before them.
On Friday, Ohio State sent All-Big Ten pitcher Jaron Long to the mound. Long came into the game with a 2-1 record, his most recent win being a complete-game shutout of Harvard. The shutout was the first from a Buckeye starting pitcher since Long tossed one at Michigan State last season.
Thanks to some timely hits from Brad Hallberg and Pat Porter with runners in scoring position, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Bryant and never looked back. Given a two-run advantage, Long was able to throw some of his best stuff, striking out five batters through seven innings.
Porter finished the day 2-for-4 with a triple, an RBI, and a run scored, accounting for two of the four runs the Buckeyes scored in the 4-1 win over the Bulldogs.
“If we continue this (excellent starting pitching), we are difficult to beat,” said Ohio State head coach Greg Beals.
“It was good to open our home slate with a win to get the weekend started right.”
The Buckeyes are, in fact, getting quality starts out of their starting rotation this season. Long, Bradley Goldberg, and Brian King are averaging over six innings per start with a 2.29 earned run average in 2013.
Goldberg came into his start on Saturday leading the Big Ten with 26 strikeouts and was fourth with a 1.09 ERA. On this cold, windy day in Columbus, Goldberg was not quite himself. After pitching two more scoreless innings against Bryant, Goldberg surrendered a solo homerun to Kevin Brown in the top of the third.
While the Bulldogs doubled their lead in the fifth, the Buckeyes fought back in the final four frames. When Bryant starter Kevin McAvoy allowed Porter to double and eventually score, he was pulled in favor of reliever John Healy, who gave up the tying run.
The 2-2 score made for a no decision for both starting pitchers, and Ohio State relievers Brett McKinney and Healy tossed a pair of scoreless frames until Bryant scored a run on a botched double-play.
That unearned run proved to be the difference, as the Bulldogs defeated the Buckeyes by 3-2 margin.
In the rubber match, the Buckeyes came back strong with a 6-4 win over Bryant to capture the series and improve to 12-6 on the season.
“It was kind of an ugly win today,” Beals said, “but when you’re playing in 35-degree weather and no sun, you aren’t expecting a very pretty game.”
Early on, it was.
After two perfect frames, Bryant was able to get to Ohio State starter Brian King. A bases-loaded double, suicide squeeze and double steal gave the Bulldogs an early 4-0 lead.
The Buckeyes were able to claw back and take the lead with a six-run frame in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on first and second, Joe Ciamacco ignited the Buckeye offense with a two-run single. Hallberg and Greg Solomon both reached base, scoring Ciamacco, and then Craig Nenning singled to score Hallberg. Tim Wetzel capped the scoring when he came up with a two-run single, giving the Buckeyes the final 6-4 lead.
After the offensive explosion, King was able to get back into a groove. King pitched six innings, five of them scoreless, allowing four runs while striking out five.
The Buckeyes begin Big Ten play this weekend. The team travels to West Lafayette, Ind., for a three-game series against Purdue. The defending Big Ten Champion Boilermakers are 7-11 on the season and are looking to open up brand new Alexander Field with a win on Friday night.
Expect Ohio State to go with Long for the opener, followed by Goldberg and King in the final two games of the series. The Buckeyes will return to Columbus next Tuesday for an in-state battle with Toledo at Bill Davis Stadium.
They play at Ohio University in Athens on Wednesday before opening the home conference schedule on Friday against Michigan State.