Patrick Bailey / Lantern photographer
Ohio State baseball simply ran out of gas during its pursuit of a Big Ten Tournament championship.
OSU defeated Nebraska, 6-2, to stave off elimination in its first of two conference playoff games Friday at Huntington Park in Columbus. The Buckeyes (33-27) advanced to play Michigan State and took a 2-0 lead against the Spartans in the fifth inning of the team’s second game of the day. MSU stormed back to score six unanswered runs, however, and sent OSU crashing out of the Big Ten Tournament.
OSU freshman catcher Aaron Gretz put his team up, 1-0, in the fifth when with an RBI single that scored senior outfielder David Corna. Sophomore outfielder Mike Carroll’s single brought plated Gretz later in the inning, but the lead was short-lived for the Buckeyes.
“We came out of the gates pretty well,” OSU coach Greg Beals said. “We got solid pitching from (freshman starter) Trace Dempsey. We scored two runs in the fifth and Michigan State was able to answer back. We ran out of gas.”
MSU tied the game in the bottom of inning, and knocked Dempsey from the game – his second-ever collegiate start – before OSU junior reliever Brett McKinney (5-6) allowed the Spartans to take the lead in the very next inning.
The Spartans never looked back.
MSU answered OSU’s fifth-inning offensive burst with two runs of their own, and the eventual game-winning run came on a bang-bang play at home plate in the bottom of the sixth.
MSU freshman center fielder Anthony Cheky scored on a fielder’s choice – junior Kirby Pellant collected a softly-hit grounder and immediately threw home to Gretz. Cheky beat the through, though, and the Spartans led, 3-2.
Junior infielder Torsten Boss’ sacrifice fly later in the sixth scored MSU redshirt junior infielder Ryan Jones, and that was all the offense the Spartans would need with sophomore righty David Garner (6-3) on the mound.
Garner allowed one earned run in 6.1 innings of work while also allowing just six hits and striking out six Buckeye batsmen.
MSU senior reliever Bryce Jenney relieved Garner and thwarted any OSU comeback attempt during his 2.2 innings of work close out the win for the Spartans.
Jenney also recorded his second save of the year for MSU.
“We beat a good ball club, there’s no doubt about that … (Garner) is a very talented young man who has a bright future ahead of him,” MSU coach Jake Boss Jr., said of his starting pitcher. “And (Jenney) came in and gave us what a senior needs to give us out of the bullpen.”
OSU finished its stay at the Big Ten Tournament having played three games in about 21 hours before it was eliminated. The Buckeyes were sent to the elimination bracket after losing to Big Ten regular season champion Purdue on Thursday. The game against the Boilermakers began at 7:05 p.m., and was followed by OSU’s Friday games at 12:05 p.m. and 3:35 p.m., respectively.
Beals said it was a tough 24-hour period for his team.
“Going from 7:05 (p.m.) last night to a … doubleheader,” he said. “I really, really was proud of how our guys competed in this tournament. I felt like we ran out of gas a little bit today.”
Friday’s loss brought an end to Beals’ second season with OSU, and the coach spoke at length about the state of Buckeyes baseball.
Beals said the bottom line is that his program needs to continue to grow.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in my opinion,” he said. “On the field, in the game, we’re really close.”
Check The Lantern on Tuesday to read about about Beals and his players’ thoughts on the team’s progress in 2012.