Gusting winds on a cold 32-degree afternoon helped two fired-up freshmen pitchers shut out Michigan State for Ohio State’s first Big Ten series win of the season.
The Buckeyes (15-7, 2-1) won the rubber match Sunday against the Spartans (10-10, 1-2), who were playing as the away team after the series was moved from East Lansing, Mich., to Bill Davis Stadium because of weather conditions.
Freshman pitcher Tanner Tully started the game for OSU, throwing seven scoreless innings and giving up seven hits while striking out four. The dominant outing brings Tully to 3-0 on the season with a 0.96 ERA.
With so much riding on this game, Tully said he kept with the same approach he’s had all season.
“Just keep throwing up in the zone, letting them hit it and let the defense do the work,” Tully said.
Taking the mound in relief of Tully was freshman pitcher Travis Lakins, who tossed 2.0 innings with two hits and four strikeouts, with his last pitch reaching 96 mph.
“It just gives me more confidence in what I can do and I know my teammates are going to make plays behind me. You know I can’t go out there and strike out everybody, today was just a day that I did,” Lakins said.
Senior left-fielder Tim Wetzel said he talked to the team after the win about how special it was for the seniors to win a series against MSU for the first time in their career, thanking the freshmen for leading the way.
“In the huddle I said, ‘Way to pick the seniors up and get us a big series win against Michigan State. It’s the first one in my career,’” Wetzel said.
Coach Greg Beals said the low scoring, one-run game made for an exciting final game of the weekend because of the weather.
“It makes everything matter — a wild pitch, a walk, an error, a sacrifice bunt to get the guy over — every little thing comes into play in a one-run game and the fact that we only walked one guy and we didn’t commit any errors is big,” Beals said.
Saturday, the Buckeyes jumped ahead on the scoreboard in the fourth inning scoring five runs, including a grand slam over the right field wall hit by freshman centerfielder Troy Montgomery. OSU scored again in the seventh inning when junior right-fielder Pat Porter hit an RBI double down the right-field line, giving OSU a 6-2 lead, the eventual final score.
Though the weather made it tough to judge hitting this weekend, Beals said he was satisfied with his team’s offensive performance over the three games.
“Their lefties were tough on our lefties but overall I felt pretty good. I feel like we’re inching into an offensive approach that I’m comfortable with,” Beals said.
Senior Greg Greve took the mound for OSU Saturday, pitching six innings with two runs on six hits and two strikeouts. In relief of Greve, sophomore pitcher Jake Post threw three innings with one hit, no runs and three strikeouts.
“We received a really good pitching performance today,” Beals said after the game Saturday. “Outside of the one swing, we pitched a shutout. We got six strong innings from Greg Greve and Jake Post was able to come in and give us three more to finish the ballgame so that was just what we needed.”
The Buckeyes started the weekend off against the Spartans with a thriller on Friday night. MSU led 6-4 heading into the ninth inning, until the Buckeyes got runners on base early after sophomore shortstop Craig Nennig walked and Wetzel doubled off the wall in right-center. With runners on second and third for sophomore second-baseman Troy Kuhn, he smacked a ground-run double to left-center to tie the game at 6-6.
Unable to produce anymore runs, The Buckeyes hoped to stretch the game into extra innings, but MSU hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth by Spartan first-baseman Ryan Krill off OSU junior closer Trace Dempsey to give MSU the 7-6 win.
Junior pitcher Ryan Riga started the game for OSU Friday, throwing 6.1 innings, giving up eight hits, five earned runs and five strikeouts.
“We didn’t pitch the ball great tonight, but the story of the game from our standpoint is missed opportunities at the plate,” Beals said after the game Friday. “It’s a tough loss after fighting to get back in the ball game.”
OSU is set to return to action Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. against Marshall at Bill Davis Stadium.