CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Ohio State pounded out 16 hits, including four by team captain Justin Miller, and rebounded from its Friday loss to defeat league-leading Illinois, 10-7, in Game 2 of the series Saturday at Illinois Field. The win keeps Ohio State in third place in the Big Ten standings, 1.5 games behind the new leader, Minnesota. Illinois falls one-half game back of the Golden Gophers with the loss.
There were seven ties and lead changes in the contest, but this game changed within a 60-second span of the first inning. That’s how long it took for Ohio State to get out of a serious situation.
Illinois, sky high after its come-from-behind ninth-inning win Friday, loaded the bases with nobody out in the first, courtesy of a leadoff walk and a pair of singles. But Dominic Altobelli hit a hard bouncer right back to Ohio State starter Dean Wolosiansky, who snapped the ball out of the air and teamed with catcher Dan Burkhart and first baseman Matt Streng to complete a textbook, 1-2-3 double play. Wolosiansky then fielded Aaron Johnson’s grounder and threw to first to get out of the inning without allowing a run.
Wolosiansky, the sophomore who was seeking to become the first 11-win pitcher at Ohio State since Justin Fry in 1999, pitched well enough to get a win, but after giving up two walks in the fifth inning, he yielded the game to reliever Drew Rucinsky, who pitched 3.2 innings to get the win and improve to 8-2 on the season. Jake Hale pitched a perfect, seven-pitch ninth inning to record his 12th save of the season.
This game, unlike Friday night, was more about the hitting than pitching, though. A game-long breeze reaching speeds of 15-to-20 mph out of the west made for a precarious afternoon with every well-hit fly ball. Advantage Ohio State in that department. Miller hit a two-run home run and had a double as part of his four-hit day, which included three runs and three RBI. Tyler Engle had two doubles, three hits and three runs scored and Ryan Dew also had three hits and three runs to lead the Buckeyes offensively.
Two of the biggest hits of the game came from Cory Kovanda and Matt Streng. Kovanda had the big hit in a three-run fourth inning…a two-out, two-strike, two-out single to give the Buckeyes a 4-3 lead. Zach Hurley, who had two hits and two RBI, drew a two-out, bases loaded walk to bring home the first run of the inning…a play that won’t be in the headlines but one that was certainly crucial at a critical point of the game.
Streng’s big hit came in the ninth with the Buckeyes clinging to an 8-7 lead. He singled to right, driving home two insurance runs to increase the lead to three at 10-7.
“My first few at-bats I had some good swings but things didn’t work out,” Streng, a sophomore from Upper Arlington said. “I was looking for a good pitch to drive in my last at-bat. I fouled a few pitches off and then I worked into a deep count and was able to drive one up the middle. I saw it get past the second baseman and I had to clap and cheer a little because I was excited. We needed those two runs.”
The win not only improved Ohio State’s record to 35-14, but it also stopped the only losing streak the team has been on all season at four games.
In addition to the earlier written about runs and excitement, here’s a snapshot of the back-and-forthness of this game:
Then Ohio State scored its two insurance runs in the ninth. Miller led off with his fourth hit of the game, beating out a check-swing hit back to the pitcher. Engle’s second double of the game off the left center field wall put runners on second and third. Streng then came through with his hit to right that scored two.
Game Notes and Random Thoughts from the Press Box: