Senior third baseman Noah McGowan pulled a ball hard off of Hoosier reliever Grant Sloan in the the bottom of the seventh inning, and it cleared the left-field fence by a foot to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the day.
Ohio State (26-11, 7-5 Big Ten) needed every inch to mount a 5-4 comeback win in spite of itself against the No. 8 Indiana Hoosiers (29-7, 7-3 Big Ten) Saturday at Bill Davis Stadium.
“It’s such a fine line [between winning and losing],” head coach Greg Beals said. “We came out on the good side of the line today.”
It was an important victory for what Ohio State wants to accomplish this season.
“I would say it was a must-win,” senior reliever Seth Kinker said. “We want to prove that we can beat the best teams out there.”
After McGowan launched the home run, Kinker came out from the bullpen in the next half inning and delivered his ninth save of the season with two innings of shutout pitching.
It seemed for much of the game that Ohio State was just beating up on itself. The Buckeyes had issues with fundamental baseball plays during the second inning, leading to all four Indiana runs.
It started on a one-out RBI triple by junior second baseman Matt Gorski. West had the Hoosier beat on the throw to third, but McGowan failed to cover the bag.
Next batter, Buckeye starter Ryan Feltner leapt up to grab a chopped ground ball and fired home well ahead of Gorski. Catcher Jacob Barnwell was unable to handle the rushed throw from Feltner and could not make the tag.
Indiana scored its final run of the inning on a hit batter with the bases loaded.
“[Baseball]’s not really like football, [where] if you have the best athletes you’re going to win every game,” McGowan said. “It’s more of, you’ve gotta play clean, whoever makes the least amount of mistakes is probably gonna win.”
Then the game of inches began.
A ball off the bat of Barnwell skirted inches wide of the diving glove of Indiana first baseman Scotty Bradley for an RBI double to start the rally in the second inning, scoring freshman center fielder Dillon Dingler from second.
Feltner worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third without giving up a run on a strikeout and a double play.
“To put that zero up in the third was huge,” Beals said. “I think that double play ball was maybe the turning point in the ball game.”
Indiana center fielder Logan Kaletha made diving catches and outfield assists throughout the contest, but a fourth-inning single by Kobie Foppe fell inches in front of him to tie the game and drive home Barnwell from third.
Kinker left no inches to spare on a snow-cone comebacker snag he flipped on to first to close out the win.
“It was a slider away and he tried to pull it, and I was like, ‘Oh it’s coming right back at me,’” Kinker said. “It was smoked.”
Freshman Griffan Smith picked up his second win as a Buckeye after 1.2 innings of shutout relief. Feltner finished off 5.1 innings of work, surrendering four runs (two earned) and striking out five. He walked five and gave up five hits.