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Baseball: Buckeyes improve in Big Ten play with series win over Penn State

Junior outfielder Tre’ Gantt is greeted by teammates outside the dugout after scoring a run over the weekend in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Surprise, Arizona. Credit: Courtesy of Press Pros Magazine

The Ohio State baseball team improved their Big Ten record to 3-6 by taking two out of three from Penn State (11-19, 2-4), improving to 14-17 overall.

The Buckeyes dropped the first game in the series 6-2, but outscored the Nittany Lions 16-4 over the next two games to salvage the series win.

Game 1

OSU gave up four early runs to the Nittany Lions and couldn’t make the comeback as the Scarlet and Gray lost the first of the three-game set, 6-2.

The scoring started for Penn State in the bottom of the second inning when back-to-back batters reached base on singles. Sophomore catcher Ryan Sloniger laid down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded and overthrown by the pitcher, allowing the runner from second to score. Freshman shortstop Joe Weisenseel singled to the shortstop, allowing the Nittany Lions’ second run of the inning to come across.

With one out in the bottom of the third, Penn State again threatened after stringing together back-to-back hits. Sloniger, already with one RBI earlier in the game, laced a triple into left-center field to score both runners from first and second and giving Penn State the 4-0 lead.

Down four runs in the top of the fourth inning, the Buckeyes were finally able to jump on the scoreboard when freshman right fielder Dominic Canzone grounded out to the second baseman, scoring the runner from third base.

Penn State was quiet for two innings, but they got back to scoring in the bottom of the sixth inning. Sophomore center fielder Jordan Bowersox singled to left with runners on the corners, driving in the Nittany Lions’ fifth of the game run. A run scored later in the inning on an errant pickoff attempt, bringing the score to 6-1.

Canzone led off the top of the ninth with his first collegiate home run to draw the Buckeyes to within four, but the next three OSU batters went down in order to end the game.

The Buckeye offense struggled for the most part Friday, but its freshman right fielder had himself a career game. Canzone, making only his 14th collegiate start, finished the game with two hits in three at-bats with his first collegiate home run and racked up a pair of RBIs. Over his last 11 games, Canzone is batting .483 with nine RBIs, one walk and only five strikeouts.

Game 2

The Buckeyes trailed for most of the second game in this series with Penn State, but rallied in the top of the ninth to score four runs and take the game 5-2 and even the series up.

The first scoring of the game came in the top of the second inning when with a runner on second and two out, redshirt senior first baseman Zach Ratcliff sent a single right up the middle to give OSU the early 1-0 lead.

It wasn’t until the bottom of the third inning that Penn State would respond to the early Buckeye scoring. A pair of singles and a walk loaded up the bases, and a wild pitch during the next at-bat allowed freshman shortstop Logan Goodnight to score and tie the game up at one. The next batter lifted a sacrifice fly out to right field, allowing the second run of the inning to come home and score.

The score remained at 2-1 in favor of Penn State until the top of the ninth inning. Junior first baseman Bo Coolen led off the inning for OSU and launched the 3-2 pitch over the right field wall for a solo home run to tie the game up at two. A strikeout and a pair of walks later, sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry roped a triple into right, scoring two and giving OSU the 4-2 lead. A sacrifice fly later scored Cherry and expanded the OSU lead to 5-2.

The Buckeyes received a tremendous outing from their bullpen in redshirt junior relief pitcher Kyle Michalik’s first outing back from an ankle injury. Michalik picked up the win after facing one batter in the bottom of the eighth inning and retiring him on one pitcher. Redshirt senior reliever Joe Stoll gave the Buckeyes 2.2 shutout innings with only one hit and two walks allowed, while junior reliever Seth Kinker picked up the save in one hitless inning of work in the bottom of the ninth.

Game 3

The Buckeyes received a steady pouring of runs, scoring their second-highest total of runs in conference play this season to win the game 10-2 and seal the series victory against Penn State.

OSU might have run away with the game, but the team began the game in a 1-0 hole in the bottom of the first when Hughes crushed a 1-1 fastball over the left field wall for a home run.

The Buckeyes were quick to respond however, scoring two runs in the top of the second inning when Coolen reached base on a fielding error. A groundout by Penn State in the bottom half of the inning tied the game at two.

It was the top of the fourth inning when the Buckeyes really started to hit their stride. With runners on first and second and two down, Cherry drove a single up the middle, scoring Coolen from third and giving OSU the 3-2 lead. A walk loaded up the bases for Canzone who drove in a pair of runs with a single to the left side.

The offense of OSU took a break in the fifth inning, but went right back to work in the top of the sixth inning. A walk gave Cherry a baserunner with one away, and Cherry doubled down the left field line to cash in on the scoring opportunity. Junior left fielder Noah McGowan followed that up with a single to left field, scoring Cherry from second. Later in the inning, McGowan would come around to score on a wild pitch to give OSU the 8-2 lead.

The Buckeyes continued their trend of scoring in even-numbered innings when they plated two more runs in the top of the eighth off a throwing error and double off the bat of McGowan. The next inning, the Buckeyes scored one more run off a fielder’s choice off the bat of Cherry to bring the score to 11-2.

Receiving consistent production from the middle of the lineup has been an issue this season for OSU, but it was not a problem Sunday. The No. 2 through 5 hitters racked up two hits apiece, accounting for eight of the Buckeyes’ nine hits on the day. Those batters also scored seven of the team’s 11 runs and drove in seven total.

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