The Ohio State baseball team’s offense appeared dead at the start, but came alive ferociously in the fourth inning.
The Buckeyes (19-8, 2-1 Big Ten) rode a tumultuous wave of momentum and held on for a 15-14 win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-14, 2-4 Big Ten) in a crazy Easter Sunday rubber match at Bill Davis Stadium.
It was an important series victory to open Big Ten play for the Buckeyes.
“Next two weekends are gonna be on the road,” head coach Greg Beals said. “You need to win your home series.”
The Cornhuskers responded to a 15-3 run by the Buckeyes that put Ohio State up 15-6 with eight unanswered runs to close the ball game. They had the tying run in scoring position in the top of the ninth with two outs, but senior Ohio State reliever Seth Kinker struck out sophomore Joe Acker to record his sixth save of the season.
Junior catcher Jacob Barnwell started the offensive fireworks with a bloop single that fell into right field, scoring third baseman Conner Pohl.
Sophomore right fielder Dominic Canzone laced a ball down the line two batters later, and the ball short-hopped a diving Mojo Hagge for a two-run double. He scored on a single through the left side by junior shortstop Kobie Foppe, ending a four-run Ohio State inning.
In the fifth inning, Canzone drove a two-run single with the bases loaded to increase his team’s lead to 8-3.
From there, the Ohio State batters continued to go ham on a variety of offerings from a smattering of Nebraska pitchers. Pohl punched a two-run single up the middle against freshman Paul Tillotson, then Barnwell sacrificed another home against junior Zack Engelken in the sixth.
Senior first baseman Noah McGowan bounced a three-run blast off the top of the right-center field wall off freshman Max Schreiber in the seventh for his team-leading sixth home run of the season.
“Hitting’s contagious,” Beals said. “Everything that happens in baseball is contagious.”
Nebraska’s offense resurrected itself soon after with a five-hit, six-run eighth aided by a Pohl throwing error and a pair of walks.
Kinker, arguably Ohio State’s best pitcher, entered to face Nebraska’s best hitter in senior Scott Schreiber. Schreiber represented the tying run with two outs, but Kinker was able to strike him out to end the eighth inning.
“Throughout the series, you try to find a hole in someone’s swing. There wasn’t a hole,” Kinker said. “So I was thinking in my head ‘I don’t want to let this guy get his hands extended. If I’m gonna throw this slider, I need to throw it maybe for a strike but just out of the zone where he can’t do much with it.’”
Schreiber provided the initial jolt for Nebraska with a two-run homer over the right field fence back in the top of the seventh, his third of the weekend to make it an 11-5 game.
Ohio State and Nebraska combined for an incredible 41 hits on the day.
Redshirt senior Adam Niemeyer recovered from his shaky start for the Buckeyes with a pair of eggs on the scoreboard in innings four and five. He finished allowing three runs on seven hits over five innings of work to earn his second win of the year.