COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State dropped an 18-10 decision to Penn State in the middle game of a three-game set Saturday afternoon at Bill Davis Stadium.
With the loss, the Buckeyes drop to 22-12, 7-4 in the Big Ten while Penn State improves to 16-22 overall, 3-8 in conference play.
Michael Stephens went 3-for-4 with four runs batted in and scored a run for the Buckeyes. Elliot Searer finished the day 5-for-6 with a double and Ben Heath went 4-for-6 with two home runs and four runs batted in for the Nittany Lions. David Lutz picked up the win in relief for Penn State, going 4.2 scoreless innings, giving up a pair of hits.
It did not take long for the Nittany Lions to get on the board as the visitors took a 4-0 lead after the first half inning. After Searer and Steve Snyder both singled to start the game, Searer scored on an RBI groundout and Snyder scored on a passed ball. After a strikeout of Heath and a two-out single by Joey DeBernardis, Mario Eramo took the Drew Rucinski offering deep to right field for his fifth home run of the season. It marked the first home run the Buckeye junior has given up this season.
After Zach Hurley singled to lead off the bottom half of the inning and scored on an RBI single through the left side by Stephens, the Buckeyes were still threatening with runners on first and second with one out. However, Ryan Dew popped out to the catcher and DeBernardis, the Penn State first baseman, made an excellent catch reaching over the wall down the right field line to retire Cory Rupert and end the first inning.
Rucinski bounced back to retire the first two batters of the second inning but Searer and Snyder both singled with two down and Searer scored to make it 5-1 as the Buckeyes attempted to tag out a stealing Snyder.
After the first five Nittany Lions reached base safely to start the third, Rucinski was replaced by Eric Best who was greeted with a grand slam by Louie Picconi to push the Penn State lead to 11-1.
The Buckeyes then responded with five runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. After Hurley doubled to lead off the inning and Cory Kovanda followed with a double of his own, Dan Burkhart walked and Stephens singled to center and advanced all the way to third on a two-base error as Ohio State cut the deficit to 11-4. Stephens then scored on an RBI groundout by Dew and Rupert tacked on the sixth run on an RBI single through the left side by Tyler Engle.
After Penn State added two more in the fourth, Ohio State used four walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly to produce a pair and keep the Nittany Lions lead at five at 13-8 after four innings. The Buckeyes scored two more in the fifth on a two-run single by Stephens off reliever John Walter, driving in Chris Griffin and Kovanda who had both walked.
After that, however, the relievers settled down as Lutz and Best put up zeroes until the eighth when a leadoff home run by Penn State cleanup hitter Heath put the Nittany Lions up 14-10. The Buckeyes put the a runner on base in both the sixth and eighth but double plays cut short both of those rallies.
Penn State added four more in the top of the ninth to cap off the scoring, Heath adding another big blow with a two-out, three run home run to left.
The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will play the rubber game of the three-game series at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bill Davis Stadium.
– The Nittany Lions recorded four hits in the first inning after mustering just four in nine innings against Alex Wimmers Friday night.
– Hurley extended his team-leading hitting streak to 11 games.
– Can we please get two nice weather Spring Game Saturdays in a row?
– Chris Griffin ended both the second and third innings for the Buckeyes and Jordan Steranka ended the second and third for Penn State.
– Cory Rupert has now reached base safely in all 24 starts this season.
– Dan Burkhart, tied for the team lead with 23 walks heading into Saturday, received a free pass in each of his first four at-bats.