Northwestern did something on Sunday that no other team in the program’s history had been able to accomplish: sweep the Buckeyes in a three or four-game series.
Ohio State (16-16, 2-4 Big Ten) dropped its fifth straight in a game against Northwestern (14-14, 4-2 Big Ten) 10-4 that was heavily dictated by the performances of both bullpens.
“Our talent is better. Their execution was better this weekend,” Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said.
Northwestern’s bullpen had been suffocating. In the first two games of the series, the relief pitchers went nine innings, allowing only one run.
On Sunday, the Wildcats pitched 5.2 innings of relief and allowed one run on four hits.
On the other side, Ohio State’s bullpen had struggled against the Wildcats. In the first two games of the series, the relievers allowed 14 runs, 12 of which were earned, in five innings of work.
The nightmare for the bullpen continued on Sunday, with the relief pitchers allowing nine runs in three innings of work.
“None of the straws I pulled worked this weekend,” Beals said.
The bullpen would finish the series with a 23.63 ERA.
“Everyone is here for a reason. We have a very talented pitching staff,” sophomore pitcher Griffan Smith said. “Guys need to go out there and pitch with more conviction. Just compete, have fun, and play the game.”
After winning his first three starts on the year, Smith has not been able to tally a fourth win. In his four previous games before Sunday, Smith had an 0-1 record and an ERA of 5.03.
Smith would not be able to break this winless streak, but he did pitch a career-long six innings, allowing only one run.
“At the end of the day it’s about the team and getting wins,” Smith said. “As frustrating as it is, the most important thing is that we stick together, especially with a big week coming up.”
The efficient outing was partly due to Smith’s ability to reduce his walks allowed. In his previous three starts, he allowed 11 total walks, but only one runner reached base on balls in Sunday’s start.
Northwestern decided to start freshman pitcher Tommy D’Alise in the game Sunday. The usual reliever had tallied only one start in his career, and his longest outing was three innings back on March 12.
Despite having only pitched 10.1 innings in his career, the right-handed pitcher had an ERA of 2.61.
In his first weekend start, the freshman went 3.1 innings and allowed three runs. D’Alise had allowed a total of three runs coming into the game.
From the opening at bat for the Buckeyes, the team appeared to have a sense of urgency.
Junior right fielder Dominic Canzone was fired up on second base after opening the bottom of the first with a stand-up double. Junior first baseman Connor Pohl would score Canzone on a sacrifice fly to center field later in the inning.
A two-out triple from sophomore catcher Dillon Dingler would result in another run. Dingler would come across home for the final run of the inning to make the score 3-0.
Ohio State would not be able to score another run until the ninth inning.
Northwestern would draw blood in the fourth inning with a solo home run from redshirt freshman center fielder David Dunn, his second of the season.With the Ohio State lead reduced to one in the seventh inning, senior left fielder Brady Cherry was called upon to pitch with runners at second and third with one out.
After a hit batsman loaded the bases, a three-run double from senior first baseman Willie Bourbon gave Northwestern its first lead of the game
Bourbon would finish the game with two hits and four RBIs.
A five-run eighth inning for the Wildcats buried the Buckeyes behind a seven-run deficit.
“The biggest thing is that there is no time to point fingers and blame,” Smith said. “Only [time] to get better.”
Ohio State will travel to Athens, Ohio to take on Ohio University at 6 p.m. Tuesday.