Normally, one of the few things that is wild and unpredictable in Ohio is the weather. But Sunday afternoon, fans at Bill Davis Stadium were in for a surprise.
The Ohio State baseball team defeated Northwestern, 15-14, in walk-off fashion after a Northwestern error on a sacrifice bunt attempt allowed the winning run to score all the way from first.
The game, which lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours, was a wild slugfest in which both teams combined for 37 hits and six errors.
“This is my 18th season in coaching college baseball,” OSU coach Greg Beals said. “There’s been some crazy games, but this one’s up there.”
It was a fitting way for the Buckeyes to kick off Big Ten conference play, as they won their weekend series against the Wildcats.
The Buckeyes won the first game of the series behind a strong effort from sophomore catcher Greg Solomon, and shutdown pitching helped lead OSU to a 7-2 win on a frigid Friday night.
The game’s first six innings saw senior Drew Rucinski and the Wildcats’ Luke Farrell locked in a pitchers duel as the Buckeyes held a 1-0 lead.
After Northwestern took a 2-1 lead in the seventh, the Buckeyes responded with four runs, and added two more in the eighth en route to the victory.
Solomon went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, and freshman Josh Dezse added three hits along with an inning pitched in relief for the Buckeyes.
Saturday afternoon proved to be a different story for OSU when wild pitching and missed opportunities were costly as Northwestern rebounded for a 7-3 win.
OSU starter senior Dean Wolosiansky started the game with three walks and a wild pitch as Northwestern jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first.
After OSU cut the lead to 3-2, Northwestern scored two runs in each the sixth and seventh inning as it was able to hold the Buckeyes to only two runs despite nine hits.
Junior second baseman Ryan Cypret had four hits for the Buckeyes, but the 1-2 hitters went a combined 1-for-9 on the day, taking away several RBI chances from Cypret.
The rubber match of the series started off similar to Saturday as the Wildcats put two runs on the board before the Buckeyes even came to bat.
But unlike the previous game, OSU answered with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first, and followed with four more in the second as it chased Wildcats starter Francis Brooke.
After the Wildcats scored three unearned runs in the fourth to cut the lead to one, the Buckeyes answered with a run in the fourth and two in the fifth, courtesy of senior shortstop Matt Streng’s two-run home run.
“I thought it was going to go foul and told myself to not even look at it,” Streng said. “But I rounded first base and saw the umpire wave his hand signaling home run, so I was definitely happy that ball stayed fair.”
Northwestern answered with a two-run shot of its own in the top of the sixth, but the Buckeyes would take advantage of two more Wildcat errors and a wild pitch to plate five more and lead, 14-7.
Even with a seven-run deficit, it never seemed like the Wildcats were out of the game.
Northwestern used timely hits, along with a Buckeye error, to score three runs in the seventh.
In the ninth, the Wildcats were able to overcome a base-running blunder and score four runs off of Dezse (3-1), thanks to a two-out, three-run home run from pitcher Jack Havey, silencing the Buckeye crowd.
Beals said the team had been talking about adversity and that he would not let his team be defeated by the stunning rally.
“That was our adversity right there,” Beals said. “I told them to deal with it and let’s go win the ballgame.”
After senior outfielder Brian DeLucia led off the ninth with a walk, freshman outfielder Tim Wetzel laid down what is normally a routine bunt to move the runner into scoring position. But the Northwestern reliever made a poor throw, and the ball sailed into right field, allowing DeLucia to score in dramatic fashion and give the Buckeyes the win.
“I thought the right fielder had the ball right in front of him,” DeLucia said. “When I saw coach Beals was sending me, I couldn’t believe it and just ran as fast as I could.”
DeLucia also said adversity was important, emphasizing how big this win was to the team.
“Every win is important,” DeLucia said. “Even though we didn’t have our best game yesterday, there is nothing you can do but bounce back, and that’s what we had to do.”
The win improved OSU to 10-11 (2-1), while Northwestern dropped to 8-15 (1-2).
The Buckeyes next will face off in an exhibition matchup against the Columbus Clippers at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at Huntington Park.