ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.– Ohio State jumped out to a 5-0 lead over Cincinnati after three innings in the opening game of the 2011 season, but the Bearcats clawed back with 11 unanswered runs to claim an 11-5 season-opening win in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge at Al Lange Field.
“That early lead generated a lot of energy which is lot like what is going on around here,” head coach Greg Beals said of the enthusiasm and excitement and effort surrounding the program. “I feel like we let down in the middle of the game, though. We took that early lead but then down shifted into a cruise mode. You just can’t do that in a baseball game. You only get so many opportunities and you’ve got to be ready for every one of them.”
The Buckeyes only managed two more hits and just five base runners after the third inning while Cincinnati got hot with 14 hits and its 11 runs from the third inning on.
Ohio State did come out swinging, though, including first at-bat hits from three first-time starters: CF Tim Wetzel, LF David Corna and C Greg Solomon.
And despite not scoring in the first inning with two men on, the team came right back in the second inning to grab a 3-0 lead. After Matt Streng led off the inning with a single, three consecutive two-out hits – doubles by Corna and Solomon and a single by Wetzel – plated three runs.
Five more hits in the third inning – all singles – and including run-scoring singles by Josh Dezse and Streng bumped the Ohio State lead up to 5-0.
“I liked how we came out swinging the bats,” Beals said. “Our guys had a solid approach to their at-bats.”
The Beacats’ road to recovery started with three unearned runs in the fourth inning to close the Buckeye lead to 5-3. A two-out throwing error allowed two runs to score and Jamell Cervantez followed with an RBI single.
Two more UC runs in the fifth tied the score and then with two out in the sixth, Cervantez drew a walk off Jared Strayer, in for starter Drew Rucinski, and Chris Peters laced a double down the left field line to score Cervantez and give the Bearcats their first lead of the season.
A two-out RBI in the eighth by Cervantez increased the Bearcat lead to 7-5 and then UC put the game away with five runs in the eighth.
Rucinski allowed only two earned runs in 4.1 innings of work. He scattered nine hits, walked just one and struck out six before being relieved in the fifth by Strayer. Strayer pitched 2.2 innings and allowed three hits and one earned run, but he ended up being the pitcher of record for the Buckeyes. Theron Minium also pitched for Ohio State.
Offensively for the Buckeyes, five players had two hits, including the first three guys in the batting order – Wetzel, Tyler Engle and Brad Hallberg – and eight of nine starters had a hit. Dezse and Streng were the other Buckeyes with two hits apiece. The team’s RBIs were spread among five players.
UC’s Cory Hough earned the win with 4.0 shutout innings in relief. Justin Glass had four hits to pace the Bearcats’ 18-hit attack.
The Buckeyes return to action Satuday at 4 p.m. against No. 16 Louisville at Bright House field in Clearwater. A free webcast of the game can be watched at CollegeBaseball360.com.
Notes and Random Thoughts from the Ball Park: