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Baseball: Ohio State’s bullpen locks down 7-4 win against Nebraska for first Big Ten victory

Ohio State junior catcher Jacob Barnwell tips his cap following a three-run home run against Nebraska Saturday in Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Mac Connor | Ohio State Athletics.

The Nebraska baseball team seemed primed to bust the game wide open in the top of the seventh inning. Having come back from a 4-0 deficit, the Cornhuskers were back within a run at 5-4 with runners on second and third with no outs following a throwing error by Ohio State third baseman Conner Pohl.

However, the Ohio State bullpen had other ideas, shutting down the rally and holding Nebraska at four runs to give the Buckeyes (18-8, 1-1 Big Ten) a 7-4 win against the Huskers (14-13, 2-3 Big Ten) Saturday afternoon in Bill Davis Stadium, the first conference win for Ohio State.

Ohio State freshman pitcher Griffan Smith entered the game for junior starter Ryan Feltner to face pinch-hitting sophomore Joe Acker in the then-one-run game. Acker chopped a ground ball down the third-base line. Smith gloved it, looked the runner back to third, turned and fired a throw to first for the first out of the inning.

Nebraska sophomore left fielder Mojo Hagge flied out with no runners advancing. Senior pitcher Seth Kinker entered the game and finished the inning off by forcing a groundout for the third out.

“That’s the highlight of the game for me,” coach Greg Beals said. “You bring a freshman in, and his first series in Big Ten play with runners on second and third and nobody out, and he gets two big outs for us.”

Back-to-back singles began Ohio State’s fourth inning, which put runners on the corners with one out for junior designated hitter Nate Romans. Romans failed to deliver, striking out on a low breaking ball from junior Nebraska starter Matt Waldron.

Then junior catcher Jacob Barnwell turned on a 2-1 pitch and sent it over the left-field fence for a three-run blast to give Ohio State a 4-0 lead.

Hagge led off the game with a double. It took four innings before the Huskers recorded another base hit against Feltner, with freshman right fielder Jaxon Hallmark drilling an RBI triple to score Nebraska’s first run.

“[Feltner] left the fastball up there and they got the triple to right-center field,” Beals said. “One pitch he’d like to have back I think.”

Feltner struck out the next batter for the second out, and got ahead 0-1 on sophomore Ben Klenke. The following pitch hit the shoulder of home-plate umpire Wayne Harris and ricocheted over the netting behind the plate out of play. Hallmark was given home plate and the score was 4-2.

Feltner finished the game allowing just four runs (three earned) over six innings with five hits, two walks and six strikeouts.

“Every single out, [Feltner]’s just getting better and better,” Barnwell said. “He’s just got his confidence built up now where no matter what pitch we throw down, he’s gonna execute it where he wants it and get the batter out.”

Ohio State sophomore right fielder Dominic Canzone singled and stole a base in the fifth inning. McGowan brought him home with a double, his conference-leading 34th RBI of the season to extend the lead to 5-2.

Nebraska first baseman Scott Schreiber responded with his second home run in as many days to make it a 5-3 game.

With Ohio State adding two more runs for insurance in the seventh and eighth innings, Kinker hurled the final 2.1 innings of the victory for his fifth save of the season.

“[You’ve seen me go to Kinker] earlier than you’d ideally like to,” Beals said. “I thought that was game-winning situation though and I thought we needed to have our best guy out there at that time.

In addition to a 3-for-4 day at the plate, McGowan made a pair of key diving plays on ground balls during an all-around strong defensive performance at first.

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