COLUMBUS, Ohio. No. 24 Ohio State has a bunch of wins this season 30 to be exact but Friday at Bill Davis Stadium the team earned its first when trailing after the seventh inning with a hard-earned 5-4 victory over Northwestern in front of a season high 1,758 fans.
Trailing 4-3 entering the ninth inning and 0-9 in such situations this season, the Buckeyes manufactured two runs for the victory to improve to 30-9 overall and a Big Ten Conference-leading 10-3 in the league. Northwestern drops to 11-25 overall and 2-9 in the Big Ten.
“We need to win games like this,” said Ohio State coach Bob Todd, who has now guided all 22 of his Ohio State teams to 30 or more victories. “Zach Hurley set the stage in the ninth and Cory Kovanda did his job by getting Hurley into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.”
Here’s how the ninth played out:
- Hurley singled to left to lead off.
- Kovanda laid down a sac bunt his fourth of the year to move Hurley to second.
- Michael Stephens was hit by a pitch to put the winning run on first.
- Dan Burkhart laced a single to center to score Hurley from second with Stephens moving to third.
- Captain Justin Miller hit a soft roller to short with Stephens scoring from third ahead of the throw.
“That was a good comeback win,” Burkhart, one of four Buckeyes with two hits, said. “We needed to get that.”
Ohio State played from behind the entire game. Northwestern’s hitters were seeing pitches clearly in the first inning, collecting five hits to score three runs off Ohio State starter Alex Wimmers. Wimmers ended up striking out the side in the inning, but a three-run inning against Wimmers simply doesn’t happen much this year.
“Wimmers battled through even though he didn’t have his good stuff,” Todd said.
The runs didn’t faze Wimmers and the Buckeyes fought back. Burkhart doubled in the second and scored on Miller’s single to put the Buckeyes on the scoreboard. Matt Streng led off the fifth inning with his sixth home run of the season to close the gap to 3-2.
A two-out walk with a man on board, followed by a Hamilton Wise single, scored a Wildcat run in the sixth inning to give a boost of adrenalin to the Northwestern bench, along with a 4-2 lead.
Streng singled to lead off the Buckeye seventh and eventually scored on a wild pitch to close the gap once again to one run at 4-3. Midway through the inning Wildcat starter Joe Muraski was replaced by David Jensen. Mursaki went 6.2 innings and gave up seven hits, just two earned runs with four walks and three strikeouts.
Wimmers left shortly thereafter. After getting the first two batters out in the eighth, back-to-back walks prompted a visit to the mound from coach Todd and the end of the effort for Wimmers. The sophomore went 7.2 innings and scattered eight hits, gave up the four runs, walked three and struck out 10 Wildcats.
The score stayed at 4-3 into the bottom of the ninth inning, when Ohio State had the top of its order coming to the plate. And they did their job.
Drew Rucinski pitched the final 1.1 innings to pick up the win and improve to 7-2 on the season. Cole Livermore, NU’s third pitcher of the night, dropped to 0-2 with the loss.
Game Notes and Random Thoughts from the Press Box:
- Alex Wimmers’ 10 strikeouts was the fifth double-digit strikeout game of the season for the Big Ten strikeout leader. He has 89 in 71.2 innings pitched.
- Kudos to Matt Streng. He was involved in a nasty collision down the first base line late in the game Wednesday vs. Ball State and he wasn’t penciled into the lineup tonight until Tyler Engle became ill right before the start of the game. Feeling no ill effects, Streng had two hits, including his sixth home run of the season, and two runs scored.
- Also doubling up on hits were Justin Miller and Ryan Dew. Miller’s two RBI included the game winner.
- Significant stat of the game: three hits is all Northwestern had off Alex Wimmers the rest of the game and four total after getting five in the first inning.
- That 22 consecutive seasons of 30 or more wins in each of coach Bob Todd’s 22 seasons as coach jumps to 24 consecutive 30-win seasons when one adds in Todd’s last two years as Kent State coach 42 and 31 win seasons in 1986 and 1987, respectively.
- Assistant coach Greg Cypret, a Todd assistant for all 22 of his Ohio State years, on the 30-wins streak: “We are proud of the wins. It’s about getting solid players every year, and now the players have this kind of expectation as well.”
- Most importantly, the win improved Ohio State’s record to 10-3 in the Big Ten Conference and kept the Buckeyes in first place, a game in front of 9-4 Illinois and a game-and-a-half in front of 8-4 Indiana and Minnesota. Illinois defeated Penn State, 7-4. Indiana lost at Michigan, 6-2. Minnesota defeated Purdue, 4-3.
- Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. That was a keystroked re-creation of the Ohio State athletics personnel giving a nice round of applause to the season-high crowd of 1,758 fans who came out to enjoy the game and support the home team.
- Shortly after the above note was written, the crowd did the “Wave,” a Bill Davis Stadium first for 2009.
- An unfortunate situation for Northwestern during its pregame batting practice: starting third baseman Chris Lashmet , the team’s leading hitter with a .323 average who’s hitting .489 the last 12 games (22-for-45), took a bad hop ground ball squarely into the nose and ended up having to be scratched from the lineup.
- Stop by Bill Davis Stadium after the spring game Saturday. The weather is going to be fine and you can catch the second half of Game 2 between Ohio State and Northwestern. First pitch is 1:05 p.m.
- And Sunday is going to be so fine temperature-wise, too. First pitch for Game 3 between the Buckeyes and the Wildcats is 1:05 p.m.