With just one game standing between the Ohio State baseball team and the start of its Big Ten season, it needed a win to help build some momentum.
And though the game took three hours and 41 minutes, the Buckeyes were able to pick up just that in their 12-8 victory over Youngstown State (2-15).
While his team did come away with the win, OSU coach Greg Beals acknowledged that this was not the greatest win for his team, but that they were happy to take the victory any way they could get it.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was a victory,” Beals said. “A win that we needed as we head into conference play on Friday, and then coming off a tough weekend, we needed a win.”
In a game that saw more than its fair share of scoring, the Buckeyes were the first to jump on the scoreboard. With the bases loaded and one out, senior designated hitter Zach Ratcliff lifted the first pitch he saw to left field for a sacrifice fly, giving the Scarlet and Gray the early 1-0 lead.
The offense just kept on coming for OSU. With runners on second and third and two down in the bottom of the second, sophomore catcher Jacob Barnwell lined a double to the left-center field gap to expand the Buckeye lead to 3-0. Another run would score on a wild pitch the next inning to put the Buckeyes ahead by four.
It was after the third inning that sophomore starting pitcher Connor Curlis left the game in what was a pre-determined exit. He was still credited with the victory for the Buckeyes.
Beals explained that the team limited Curlis’ outing to just the three innings and 44 total pitches in an effort to preserve his arm for the weekend.
“I thought we got a good start out of Curlis, doing what he wanted to do. We need Curlis to be ready for the weekend so he had (a) limited start today.” Beals said. “We’re banged up on our pitching staff. (Redshirt junior starting pitcher Adam) Niemeyer’s elbow is bothering him and (Redshirt junior relief pitcher Kyle) Michalik rolled his ankle, so those two guys are going to be out for the weekend. (Junior relief pitcher) Dustin Jourdan, one of our right-handers that pitched in the first couple of weekends of the season, is down with soreness in his elbow also. So we’re short, so we’re going to need some of those guys.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Buckeyes loaded the bases with nobody out for senior shortstop, and co-captain, Jalen Washington who drove in the team’s fifth run of the day on a sacrifice fly to center field. An errant pickoff attempt and fielder’s choice each added an additional run to OSU’s lead, bringing the game to 7-0.
The Penguins would eventually put a couple on the board. With runners on the corners and two away in the top of the fifth, redshirt junior left fielder Anthony Rohan tripled to the right-center field gap, cutting the score to 7-2.
OSU made sure to get those two runs back though in the bottom half of the inning when Washington grounded a single up the middle, plating runners from second and third.
It did not take long for Youngstown State to respond, however. In the top of the sixth, junior center fielder Trey Bridis stepped up to the dish with a runner on first and crushed the first pitch he saw for a two-run home run over the left field wall.
Later in the inning, Youngstown sophomore shortstop Web Charles came up with a runner on third and rolled a ground ball to the left side that made it between the third baseman and shortstop, scoring the Penguins’ third run of the inning and bringing the score to 9-5.
In this see-saw matchup, more scoring immediately followed the top half of the sixth in the bottom half. With a runner on third, freshman second baseman Noah West tripled off the right field wall to bring the score to 10-5.
On the very next pitch, junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt tripled off the top of the right field wall, missing a home run by a matter of inches, driving in West from third.
A pair of bases-loaded walks in the top of the eighth inning gave the Penguins their sixth and seventh runs of the game, but the Buckeyes added an additional run in the bottom of the eighth to make it 12-7.
A solo home run in the top of the ninth off the bat of the Penguins’ junior first baseman Andrew Kendrick brought the game to within four. However, the Buckeyes were able to escape the game and come away with the 12-8 win.
Usually teams do not expect a lot of production out of their No. 9 hitter, but that’s exactly what the team received today in its win over the Penguins.
Freshman second baseman Noah West, making only his fourth career start, finished the day 2 for 4 with his first-career double and first-career triple, while scoring a team-high in runs scored in a single game this season with four. He also drove in a run and took a walk.
For West, it has just been a fun time for him to get out there and play for his hometown team.
“It was just a dream come true. I mean, just trying to go out there and have some fun,” West said. “I was feeling really comfortable out there. I was just trying to put the ball in play.”
Beals, who recently started batting West ninth in the lineup in the first of this past Sunday’s doubleheader against Xavier, was excited by what he saw tonight out of the young freshman.
“Really liked the game that we got from Noah West, the freshman getting his feet wet, playing and scored four runs today,” Beals said. “When you can get your nine-hole hitter on base to turn the lineup over and get to the top of that order, you’ve got a chance to score some runs and he was able to do that for us tonight.”
Beals believes West will be a fixture in his lineup for a little while longer.
“He’s bringing a little offense, but primarily, he’s bringing defense,” Beals said. “I think he makes us a little more athletic in the infield.”
The Buckeyes will hope to carry this momentum into the start of Big Ten play against a matchup against reigning outright Big Ten champion Minnesota starting on Friday. That series will be at home with first pitch scheduled for 5:05 p.m.