Faced with the challenge of taking on a Michigan State team that ranked in the top two in nearly all statistics this season, the Ohio State baseball team managed to avoid a sweep after dropping the first two games in the series.
Despite losing the series to the Spartans, the Buckeyes managed to outscore their opponents 18-16 over the weekend, thanks almost entirely to their 13-8 victory in the final game of the series.
In the lowest scoring game of the Buckeyes’ season, only two runs were scored. Both came early from the Spartans in their 2-0 victory over OSU.
The Spartans first came in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs and a runner on first, freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley tripled to right field, scoring the runner from first base and giving MSU the early 1-0 lead.
Then, after the Buckeyes went down 1-2-3 in the top half of the fourth inning, the Spartans pounced again with another two-out RBI. This time it was sophomore shortstop Royce Ando who doubled into the left-center field gap to score MSU’s second run of the game from second.
Though OSU found little solace in their bats, they were again given a solid outing by the pitching staff. Making only his fifth career start, redshirt junior starting pitcher Yianni Pavlopoulos was able to limit a potent Spartan offense to just two runs off five hits and two walks over five innings of work. The bullpen for the Buckeyes followed Pavlopoulos’ footsteps and kept the game close late, providing three scoreless innings with just two hits and no walks allowed.
Michigan State piled on the runs early after OSU’s starting pitcher had to leave the game with an injury in the first inning, and the Buckeyes were unable to complete the ninth-inning comeback in their 6-5 loss to the Spartans.
Redshirt senior starting pitcher Jake Post started the game off with back-to-back strikeouts, but a comebacker to the mound that ricocheted off him and down the left field line (later ruled a double) forced him to exit the game, responsible for the runner on second.
That runner on second was driven in by the next batter in the inning; sophomore pitcher Ryan Feltner. A single to the next batter left a pair of runners on for junior first baseman Zack McGuire, who cleared the bases with a three-run home run to give MSU the 4-0 lead.
The Buckeyes responded the next half inning when junior first baseman Bo Coolen stepped up to bat with a runner on second in the top of the second inning. Coolen drove a double into the right-center field gap, scoring a run and bringing the score to 4-1. Coolen later scored on another double from freshman second baseman Conner Pohl.
A groundout in the top of the third inning off the bat of junior left fielder Noah McGowan drew the Buckeyes to within one with still six innings left to play.
The Spartans went scoreless for four innings after their four-run first inning, but they began to add to their lead again in the bottom of the sixth inning. With a runner on first base, redshirt sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski lifted MSU’s second homer of the day over the left field wall to give his team the 6-3 lead.
The next half inning, the Buckeyes found some power from their own right fielder when freshman Dominic Canzone launched his second-collegiate home run into right to bring his team within two.
The ninth inning could not have started any better for OSU. Senior co-captain and shortstop Jalen Washington homered on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the inning, and a double by the next batter put the tying run in scoring position. But back-to-back strikeouts shut down a lot of the momentum, and following a walk to Canzone, the Spartans’ closer struck out the final batter of the inning to slam the door shut on OSU’s potential rally and keep the final score at 6-5.
Needing to avoid the sweep, OSU brought their bats out in full-force and staved off a late Michigan State comeback to win the final game of the series, 13-8.
Washington homered in his final at-bat of Saturday’s game, and led off Sunday’s game with the very same. Launching a homer over the left-center field wall, he gave OSU the early 1-0 lead, its first lead of the series. Another run would score in the inning to make it 2-0.
The Spartans responded quickly, as a two-run home run from senior second baseman Dan Durkin knotted the game up at two apiece in the bottom half of the first.
OSU grabbed the lead again in the top of the second inning off a RBI single from Washington, his second RBI of the day to put his team ahead 3-2.
The Buckeyes would not lose the lead again.
In the top of the fourth inning with two outs, a single followed up by back-to-back doubles pushed OSU’s lead to 5-2.
The top of the fifth was when the Buckeyes seized full control of the game. A single from Pohl led off the inning, and redshirt senior right fielder Shea Murray homered for his first collegiate home run to extend the lead to 7-2. Five more singles in the inning led to three more runs going up on the board for the Buckeyes as they stormed ahead to an 11-2 lead.
Trialing now by nine runs, Durkin again stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning for the Spartans and crushed his second homer of the day, this time a three-run shot that sparked a potential Spartan comeback.
They scored another run in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth, but OSU scored in both the top of the eighth and ninth to seal its 13-8 victory over Michigan State.
With two home runs in the series, Washington set a new career-high in home runs with five in his final season of collegiate eligibility. He was the only player on either team with multiple hits in each of the three games played, and overall batted .429 (6-for-14) with three RBI, two runs scored, two home runs and a double in the series.
OSU kicks off a nine-game homestand on Wednesday when the team hosts Northern Kentucky, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m.