WINTER HAVEN, Fla. Alex Wimmers pitched his second consecutive gem, going the distance, striking out 14 and not walking a batter, and Ohio State scored twice in the seventh inning for a 2-0 win over Indiana Friday at Chain of Lakes Field. The win, in a wonderfully pitched ball game by both teams that did not feature an extra base hit, was Ohio State’s sixth consecutive and improved its record to 14-2. Indiana drops to 7-12.
“A great effort by Wimmers,” Ohio State coach Bob Todd said after the game. “He really pitched well and then he got stronger once we were able to give him the lead.”
One week after striking out 15 Pitt Panthers and earning a “Louisville Slugger” Player of the Week award, Wimmers was even more dominant as he allowed only five singles to an Indiana team that was hitting .338 overall, second in the Big Ten to Ohio State’s .357 average entering the game. His 9.0 scoreless innings lowered his earned run average to 1.85 on the season and his record improves to a perfect, 4-0.
But it wasn’t just Wimmers who was hot. Indiana freshman left-hander Blake Monar (2-1) was also cruising and in control. Monar went 7.0 innings and allowed just four hits while walking two and striking out six.
Both pitchers were so good, in fact, that the first real drama didn’t occur until the top of the sixth inning. Indiana stroked two singles in the inning sandwiched around two more Wimmers strikeouts Nos. eight and nine of the game and up to the plate came the dangerous All-American catcher Josh Phegley.
On a one-one pitch count, Phegley sent a high fly ball into right foul territory that sure-handed Michael Arp would have made the play on had he not tripped over the bullpen pitcher’s mound and taken a nasty, dirt-cloud forming spill. He got back up, though, dusted off and one pitch later Wimmers rewarded Arp’s hustle by slamming a one-two pitch by the .422-hitting Phegley to end the inning.
Monar came back with a three-strikeout bottom of the sixth and the two teams went into the seventh inning still tied at 0-0.
Not to be outdone, Wimmers got through his portion of the seventh by throwing just four pitches. After Alex Dickerson led off with a first pitch single, Wimmers got a two-pitch force play at second and a one-pitch, textbook, 6-4-3 double play by Cory Rupert, Cory Kovanda and Matt Streng to end the inning.
The breakthrough run came in the bottom of the seventh. Dan Burkhart and Rupert led off with singles and when Ryan Dew hit a screamer that the second baseman couldn’t handle, Burkhart scored from second and Rupert moved to third. Arp ripped a single to right to score Rupert and the Buckeyes had a 2-0 lead.
Looking as strong as ever, Wimmers retired the side in order in the eighth, including two more strikeouts.
The sophomore came out in the ninth to try and make it back-to-back complete game wins, but to do so, he would have to face the top of the Hoosiers’ order. T.C. Knipp led off with a single, but Wimmers got called third strikes on Jerrud Sabourin, who has led the Big Ten in hitting for much of the early spring, and Phegley to give him 14 for the game and 29 over the course of the last two games. Alan Dickerson then grounded out to Rupert and the Buckeyes had a terrific win in a classic ball game.
Ohio State continues its spring break games with a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday against Army. First pitch, in what we are learning will be seven-inning double headers, is set for 1 p.m. at Chain of Lakes Field.
Game Notes from Florida, Volume XIV…