A little execution went a long way for the Ohio State baseball team Friday.
OSU sophomore pitcher Jaron Long (2-1) allowed a single run on three hits over eight innings of work to help the Buckeyes (16-12, 3-4 Big Ten) to a 2-1 win against Big Ten conference-leading Minnesota (17-14, 3-1 Big Ten) at Bill Davis Stadium.
Long allowed a game-tying run in the eighth inning, but OSU fought back to score the eventual game-winning run on a suicide squeeze by sophomore outfielder Tim Wetzel that scored junior catcher Greg Solomon in the bottom of the inning.
Long out-dueled Minnesota’s junior starter, T.J. Oakes (5-2), who threw a complete-game loss, allowing five hits to the Buckeyes.
In the top of the ninth, sophomore Josh Dezse, who drove OSU’s first run across in the fourth inning with an RBI double, moved from first base to the pitcher’s mound and set the Golden Gophers down in order to secure the win. Dezse also recorded his first save of the season.
“I was just hoping my teammates could come back and get the one run back for me, and they did a great job,” Long said after the game.
OSU coach Greg Beals said he was pleased with his team’s execution.
“We pitched the ball extremely well. We played good defense,” Beals said. “And we executed. When we had opportunities to do things offensively, we were able to do them.”
After catching every OSU pitch in the contest and scoring the game-winning run, Solomon said the win set the Buckeyes up well for the remainder of the series.
“It was a good win because it’s the Big Ten,” Solomon said. “Any win in the Big Ten’s going to be a good win. Winning the first game against a (Minnesota) team that’s pretty decent is good.”
Game two of the series will see OSU junior left-hander Brian King (2-3) battle Minnesota left-hander D.J. Snelten (3-1). First pitch of Saturday’s game at Bill Davis Stadium is set for 3:05 p.m.
Long and Oakes had no problem executing their pitches early in the the series-opener – the first hit of the game didn’t arrive until in the third inning when OSU sophomore designated hitter Mike Carroll tallied a single.
OSU broke through in the fifth when Dezse drove a hit to the left-center gap. Junior third baseman Brad Hallberg, who reached on a walk, scored to break the scoreless tie.
“That’s what we want the big fellow to do,” Beals said of Dezse’s performance at the plate, as well as on the mound.
Long made the lone run standup for seven-plus innings as he stranded four Minnesota base runners.
The eighth inning was a different story.
Long allowed his only run of the night on an RBI single by Golden Gophers junior outfielder Andy Henkemeyer that scored junior second baseman Matt Puhl.
Henkemeyer then moved into scoring position on the throw to home plate before Long struck Golden Gophers sophomore catcher Matt Halloran out to end the frame.
OSU came right back at the bottom of the inning with a lead-off double by Solomon, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by junior Kirby Pellant.
Next up was Wetzel, and his well-executed squeeze bunt plated Solomon to restore OSU’s lead heading into the ninth inning.
Wetzel said Minnesota likely knew the bunt was coming and he was thankful he got it down.
“(The pitch) was kind of up and in, but that’s ideal for that bunt, actually,” Wetzel said. “He threw the fastball … it was just a perfect pitch to bunt.”
Beals said Wetzel was the player he wanted at the plate to execute the suicide squeeze.
“Timmy’s a great bunter. Handles the bat very well,” Beals said. “It was something that we practiced and prepared to be able to do. We executed it very well.”
In the ninth inning, Beals said there was no question Dezse would come on to close out the win.
Dezse executed too, sandwiching two fly-outs around a strikeout and sat Minnesota down in order to clinch the win.
Long said that winning a game on Friday, which sometimes sees college teams each throw strongest pitchers, is big for OSU.
“If you can just find a way to win on Friday, however it is,” Long said, “it takes a lot of pressure off of your team.”