COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State bounced back from a four-run deficit to gain a much-needed, 8-4, win over Illinois in the third game of the series at Bill Davis Stadium. With the win, the Buckeyes move to .500 in the Big Ten Conference with a 9-9 record. That mark is good for fourth- or fifth-place in the Big Ten depending on the outcome of the Minnesota/Michigan game. Overall, the Buckeyes move to 25-19 while putting to rest a season-long five-game losing streak.
Illinois wins the three-game series, 2-1, but drops to 8-10 with the Sunday loss and to 23-22 overall.
Senior Ryan Dew led a 15-hit attack for the Buckeyes with a home run, double and two singles plus he had a career-best five RBI. Dew’s Worthington Kilbourne High School teammate, senior Cory Kovanda, had four hits and two runs scored while Zach Hurley and Michael Stephens had two hits apiece. Hurley also scored two runs.
Illinois, as it has done in all three games this series, scored first, picking up a run in the first inning off a couple of singles with a stolen base in between. The Illini increased the lead to 4-0 with a three-run second inning off Buckeye starter Brett McKinney. Josh Parr’s second triple of the series was the big hit, driving in two runs.
Dew opened the Buckeye half of the second inning with a home run, his fourth home run this season to make the score 4-1.
Two fine defensive plays kept the Illini scoreless in the third. Brad Hallberg made a fine stab of a sharply hit ball at third with runners on second and third. He got the Ilini runner heading toward home in a rundown and he was eventually tagged out. Hurley then made a diving catch of Willie Argo’s line drive to left to get the Buckeyes out of the inning.
Pumped by those web gems, Ohio State got itself back in the game with a five-hit, four-run third inning. Hurley led off the third with a hard hit single to left and Kovanda reached on a bunt single to chase Illini starter Matt Milroy.
Dan Burkhart greeted reliever Lee Zerussen, who lasted just one inning as the Friday starter for Illinois, with an RBI single with Kovanda taking third. Stephens then singled Kovanda home to make the score 4-3. Dew added two more RBI to his line score with a double to right, giving the Buckeyes their first lead in the series since the third inning of Game 1, 5-4.
Ohio State increased its lead to 7-4 with two more runs in the fourth. Dew’s two-out single scored Hurley and Kovanda, who had walked and singled, respectively.
While the Buckeyes were making their comeback at the plate, Theron Minium was keeping the Illini from scoring in 3.0 innings of two-hit, effective relief. He picked up the win to improve to 3-2 on the season.
Senior Eric Best pitched the final three innings to pick up his third save of the year. He gave up just two hits and one walk while striking out four.
Ohio State concludes its season-long six-game homestand Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. against Ball State.
Game and Series Notes …