It took four and a half hours, and 20 runs and 24 hits to do it, but the Buckeyes took another step forward in the desert Saturday night, outlasting Utah for the second win in the Big Ten-Pac12 Challenge.
Surprise, AZ—The Ohio State Buckeyes won one of those unusual baseball games here Saturday night – unusual to say the least.
OSU, now 5-2 and still gaining its footing in these early days of the season, defeated winless Utah, 20-13.
It was quite an affair. The game required four hours and 21 minutes to conclude. In addition to the 33 runs, there were 43 hits, five errors and 22 men left on base.
Of the 43 hits 24 were struck by Ohio State players, and it’s not too much of a stretch to say they needed nearly all of them.
The game was tied, 12-12, going to the ninth, but Ohio State, continued to swing the bats and scored eight runs on five hits. Thomas Waning closed the Utes out in the bottom of the ninth, allowing a single run and that was game.
“A long one,” OSU coach Greg Beals said. “But I tell you what. I was proud of our guys and their willingness to play all night—whatever it took—to win a game. Bottom line. We scored seven more runs than our opponent.
“We just squared up a lot, a lot of baseballs tonight. We had a fabulous approach, and put really good swings on the ball all night—consistently, and up and down the line-up.”
The go-ahead run in the ninth scored on Jacob Barnwell’s two-out, bases-loaded walk, but the next hitter was Malik Jones, who entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch runner.
Jones slapped a two-run single through the right side of the infield, giving Ohio State a 15-12 lead, and the Bucks kept coming.
Kobie Foppe’s single to right scored two more. It was 17-12 when Brady Cherry, who had another rough night in the field committing three errors, doubled down the left field line. That made it 19-12.
Noah McGowan, who continues his impressive start, reached on an error, but got caught up in a rundown trying to advance to second base. That allowed Cherry enough time to score and Ohio State had a cozy eight run lead.
It was the second time OSU batted around in the game. (They sent 13 hitters to the plate in the seven-run sixth.) It was the first time since May 5, 2015, they scored 20 or more runs, and the first time since last April at Michigan State they had had 20 or more hits.
Leading the barrage—McGowan. He had five hits, a double, a home run—his third of the season—and four RBI. His 19 RBI equals his 2017 total and leads the nation.
“I can say this about Noah, I can say it about a lot of our guys,” Beals said. “I don’t know that he is any different from last year, he’s just more comfortable. He’s more mature. It’s the second time around the block. Noah—a lot of the guys—are just in a whole lot better situation than last year, and that makes our team better.”
Besides McGowan, Dom Canzone was 4-for-6 with two RBI. Foppe was 3-for-6 with three ribbies, Cherry had one hit and four RBI, Tyler Cowles was 3-for-6 with two runs driven in and Bo Coolen was 3-for-4. Ten different players had base hits. A coach, any coach, can’t ask for much more than that.
“As I said, ‘We scored seven more runs than our opponent’,” Beals said. “We won a game. It was that type of game, that kind of game…Yeah, we need to pitch better. We will pitch better…Sure, you are always concerned about pitching. You never have enough pitching. You’re never deep enough. You are never consistent enough.
“But more than being concerned about that and our defense at second base, I’m happy and excited about our guys willingness to just play all night and simply wear somebody out.”
At this stage of the season, Ohio State is refuting the baseball adage that pitching is always ahead of hitting in the early going.
“We’re swinging it really, really well right now,” Beals said. “It’s like I told the guys, ‘Hopefully, this is beginning to take root inside, starting to grow—this feeling of belief and confidence.’”
Ohio State took a 3-0 lead in the first but, Utah hung around with two in the bottom of the inning. Each team scored a run in the second but Utah jumped out to a 6-4 lead with three runs in the fourth.
The Buckeyes put up seven runs and it’s 11-6, Ohio State. However, Utah climbed right back in it with six in the seventh for a 12-11 lead. The Buckeyes tied it in the eighth with a run, setting the stage for the deciding ninth-inning rally.
Clearly, the hitting is there. Pitching is a different matter. In two straight games, it’s been less than stellar. Oregon State got to closer Seth Kinker Friday night and the showing in Saturday’s game—albeit a win—was a little shaky.
Starter Adam Niemeyer allowed six runs, four earned in four innings. Griffin Smith followed and gave up three runs in two innings.
Surprisingly, Kyle Michalik was tagged for three runs in an inning. “It was uncharacteristic,” Beals said. “They get three runs off Michalik and nobody had scored on him this year. It was just one of those offensive days, just one of those days.”
And, it was a day and a game that comes just seven games into the season. In many ways, this is the preface to the 2018 season. The story is still way down the road.
Sunday at 11 o’clock Eastern, Ohio State gets another shot at Oregon State.
The Beavers, ranked No. 2 in the nation, topped OSU Friday night 10-8, scoring six runs in the eighth inning.
Oregon State dropped Nebraska 10-3 Saturday. They come into the game, 7-0.