COLUMBUS, Ohio Put in an early 4-0 hole, Ohio State scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead and eventually win a back-and-forth game over Iowa, 8-6, Saturday at Bill Davis Stadium. The win clinched at least second-place in the Big Ten Conference regular season and, depending on the outcome of the Minnesota at Penn State game Saturday, possibly a Big Ten championship.
“We competed,” Ohio State coach Bob Todd said after his team improved to 39-15 overall and finished 18-6 in the Big Ten. “You could tell early in the game, even when we were behind, that this team had determination today.”
Shortstop Tyler Engle delivered a bases-loaded, two-run double and then in the eighth inning to give Ohio State its final runs and an 8-6 lead. Jake Hale pitched a flawless, 13-pitch ninth inning to set the school single season record with his 15th save.
Relief pitcher Drew Rucinski earned the win for the Buckeyes, working two innings and surrendering two runs. Starter Eric Best went six innings for his second consecutive solid outing. He allowed seven hits and four runs but struck out six and walked just one in the process.
The offense for the Buckeyes came from Engle, second baseman Cory Kovanda, and third baseman and captain Justin Miller. Kovanda recorded a two-run double in the sixth inning that scored Matt Streng and Zach Hurley. Miller delivered a two-run home run to cap off the five-run sixth inning that put the Buckeyes ahead, 5-4, and complete a comeback from being down, 4-0. Miller was 3-for-3 on the day with two runs and two RBI.
“That was the most emotion I have ever shown on a home run,” Miller said of his 10th home run of the season. “It was just unreal…senior day…to hit a home run to give us the lead…I don’t even know what I was thinking.”
After Iowa tied the game at 5-all in the seventh and regained the lead at 6-5 in the eighth on Sean Flanagan’s second home run of the game, Ohio State battled back in its half of eighth to put itself in position for the win. The team sent nine batters to the plate that inning with Ryan Dew singling and scoring, Miller walking and scoring, and senior Michael Arp singling and scoring. Dew’s run was the tying run, Miller’s was the go-ahead run and Arp’s was the clincher.
Miller, who has lead the Buckeyes the past week and is 17-for-25 (.680) over the last six games five of them BigTen wins with 11 RBI and nine runs scored, praised his teammates after the game for the tremendous season this team has put forth after being a .500 team in the conference the past two years.
“The team just battled and battled and battled all year and they gave us seniors a win on senior day and I am just so proud of them,” Miller said.
Ohio State, by virtue of finishing no worse than second in the Big Ten, earned a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, which will be played May 20-24 at Huntington Park indowntown Columbus. The Buckeyes play Thursday at a time and against an opponent to be determined.