COLUMBUS, Ohio Jake Hale tied the school record with his 14th save of the season and Ohio State kept its Big Ten Conference title hopes alive with a 5-4 win over Iowa Friday before 2,500 fans at Bill Davis Stadium.
Hale worked the final 1.1 innings and got out of a jam with runners on the corners and nobody out in the ninth to tie the record set by Matt Davis in 2003 and to move within two of tying the Ohio State career mark of 27 saves.
“Jake competed for us,” Ohio State coach Bob Todd, who moved within seven wins of 1,000 for his career, said. “His getting the second out in the ninth by strikeout was really big.”
Hale was in a position to close out his Big Ten best 33rd consecutive game because Dean Wolosiansky worked a career-high-tying 7.0 innings and gave the Buckeyes an opportunity to win. He won his 11th game of the season best in the Big Ten in 12 decisions by scattering six hits and allowing three runs with one walk and five strikeouts.
“I liked the fact Dean didn’t walk many batters,” Todd said. “He was effective tonight and he gave us a chance to win the game after the seventh inning.”
The two teams engaged in a station-to-station baseball chess match through the first six innings. Iowa’s leadoff hitter reached safely and scored in three of its first six innings. Ohio State’s leadoff man reached and scored in the fourth and the fifth innings. Sum total through six innings: a 3-3 ball game.
Trailing 2-0, the Buckeyes scored two in the fourth as Ryan Dew and Justin Miller opened the inning with doubles and Miller eventually scored on a fielder’s choice to tie the score.
Iowa came right back with a run in the fifth, but so did the Buckeyes. Cory Kovanda opened the Buckeye fifth by getting hit by a pitch. He stole second and scored on Dan Burkhart’s single off the second baseman’s glove into right field, tying it up at 3-all.
After a couple quiet innings, Ohio State took its first lead of the game in the seventh. Burkhart sent a line drive shot off the right field wall for a one-out double. A balk call moved him to third and he scored on Dew’s single for a 4-3 lead. Dew then worked his way around to third on a groundout and a wild pitch, eventually scoring on Tyler Engle’s single to shortstop.
At that point, a 5-3 lead after seven innings looked secure for Ohio State, which is now 33-1 this season when leading after the seventh. The lead was secure, but by the slimmest of margins. Drew Rucinski came into the game in the eighth, gave up a two-out, run-scoring single and was replaced by Hale with a man on second and the Buckeyes leading, 5-4. Hale struck out Sean Flanagan to end the inning.
Little did Hale know, but his night would get even more difficult because Iowa put runners on the corners with nobody out to open the ninth. Dallas Burke doubled and Chet Zeise successfully bunted to get on board. Burkhart and Hale nearly collided before Burkhart dove for and caught a fouled off bunt attempt for the first out. Then Hale struck out leadoff hitter Kurtis Muller looking for out No. 2. Then he forced a ground out to short to end the game…and keep the Buckeyes’ Big Ten title hopes alive into the last game of the regular season.
Game Notes and Random Thoughts from the Press Box: