Friday’s deflating loss to Iowa put the No. 4 seed Ohio State Buckeyes on the brink of elimination, and just hours later, the Buckeyes squared off against the fifth-seeded Michigan Wolverines. Another loss in the Big Ten tournament would have sent the Buckeyes home and would have created tension on Selection Monday hoping to receive an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
At first, it appeared the pitching woes rolled over from the Iowa game as right-handed redshirt sophomore Adam Niemeyer ran into some early trouble, surrendering two earned runs on a hit and two hit batsmen in his first inning of work.
However, the Buckeye offense came out in the bottom of the first and scored five runs on six hits to chase the Michigan starter, right-handed sophomore Ryan Nutof, out of the game after only one out in the first.
This offensive onslaught was helped by the middle of the order when junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson, second baseman Troy Kuhn and center fielder Troy Montgomery recorded three consecutive RBI singles to score the first three runs. Senior co-captain Jalen Washington brought in the next two runners on a single through the right side to give the Buckeyes a 5-2 lead.
Thunderstorms rolled into TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, forcing the Buckeyes and Wolverines to continue play on Saturday. Niemeyer was relieved by freshman right-hander Ryan Feltner because of the weather delay.
On Saturday, Feltner got into some trouble in the top half of the fifth. Three straight Wolverines reached base off of a walk, a single and an error which loaded the bases with no outs.
After striking out Michigan sophomore Jake Bivens for the first out, Feltner gave up an RBI single to freshman second baseman Ako Thomas to cut the Buckeyes lead to three. Michigan centerfielder Cody Bruder then reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring freshman left fielder Jonathan Englemann, making the score 6-4 Buckeyes after five.
As the Buckeyes did in the bottom half of the first, they put any momentum on Michigan’s side into submission after a Dawson RBI single and Kuhn’s two-RBI single to extend the lead to 9-4 in OSU’s favor. The single by Kuhn was initially called foul by the first base umpire, but that was overturned when the OSU coach Greg Beals asked for the umpires to review the call.
In the bottom of the seventh, Nennig scored on an RBI double by Kuhn, who was then brought in by Montgomery’s RBI single and cruise to an 11-4 victory.
To say that the Buckeyes were hot offensively is an understatement. OSU recorded 18 hits and were 9-for-19 with runners in scoring position. Each Buckeye hitter recorded a hit in the game.
This offense helped the freshman, Feltner, have a career day in relief. In his 6.1 innings of work, Feltner gave up two runs, one earned, on six hits and three walks. He also struck out a career high 10 batters on 114 pitches.
The Buckeyes will face the No. 7 seed Michigan State Spartans later Saturday. If the Spartans win, they will face the No. 8 seed Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship. If the Buckeyes win, they will have to face the Spartans again tomorrow morning to decide who goes to the Big Ten Championship.