May 29, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Ohio State survived a pitcher’s duel and scored once in the fifth and twice in the seventh before allowing two Minnesota runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Golden Gophers 3-2 Saturday night in the Big Ten Tournament and force a second championship game. If the Buckeyes can beat Minnesota at 1:05 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, they would become the first conference team to win three straight tournament titles.
Ohio State swept three games to win the 2002 Big Ten Championship and came out of the loser’s bracket after losing its second game against the Gophers to defeat Minnesota twice on championship Sunday. The Buckeyes are 7-0 facing elimination in the Big Ten tournament since last season, beating Penn State once and Minnesota twice in 2003 and winning a pair of doubleheaders this season, downing Michigan State and Purdue Friday, while bouncing Michigan before claiming the first game against Minnesota Saturday night. The host school has not won the tournament since 1995 when the Buckeyes won in Columbus.
Saturday night, the first four innings proved to be a duel between starting pitchers as OSU starter Mike Madsen (Jr., Canfield, Ohio/Notre Dame Cathedral Latin) and Minnesota starter Craig Molldrem kept opposing batters from scoring. Madsen kept Gopher batters guessing, allowing only three hits in the first five innings of the game, though it was Molldrem, who allowed the first run to score on five hits in the first five innings.
In the first four innings, the Gophers reached second only once, on a two-out double by Mike Mee in the first, while the Buckeyes had just two runners reach second base in the first four innings.
Ohio State finally got a runner home as Mike Rabin (Jr., West Chester, Ohio/Lakota East) scored on a sacrifice fly by Steve Caravati (Jr., Dover, Ohio/Dover) in the top of the fifth inning. Rabin led off the inning with a bunt single between the pitcher and the first-base line. Molldrem fielded the ball and threw wide of the base and that allowed Rabin to reach second. Derek Kinnear (Sr., Kenton, Ohio/Kenton) moved Rabin to third on a sacrifice bunt, his eighth sac bunt of the season, before Anderson’s fifth sac fly scored him. Jacob Howell (Fr., Ashland, Ohio/Ashland) followed with the Buckeyes’ fifth hit of the game, which gave them 61 hits in the Big Ten Tournament, which broke the tournament record. The Buckeyes finished the game with 10 hits, giving them 66 in their five games. The Buckeyes chased Molldrem out of the game when they started the seventh inning with three straight hits. Rabin led off the inning with an infield single and them moved to third on a single down the right-field line with the hit and run in effect. A double by Drew Anderson (Jr., Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) off the wall in the right-field corner scored Rabin and put runners and second and third. The Gophers brought in John Gaub, who gave up a single through the right side of a drawn-in infield to score Kinnear and give the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead. Gaub tightened up to strike out the next two batters and get a fly out to get out of the inning with only two runs crossing the plate.
Ohio State benefited from double plays in the sixth and seventh innings. Minnesota led off each frame with singles. In the sixth, the Buckeyes turned a 4-6-3 double play for the first two outs and then Madsen got Mee to fly out to end the inning. In the seventh the Buckeyes got the leadoff batter on a fielder’s choice and then turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Minnesota finally got to Madsen in the eighth, as the first five batters of the inning touched him up for three hits. David Hrncirik led off the inning with a single down the right-field line and then moved to second on a wild pitch. Tony Leseman doubled down the left-field line to plate Hrncirik before Madsen struck out pinch hitter John Arlt and got Luke MacLean to line out to left. Matt Fornasierre, who was just 1-for-17 lifetime against the Buckeyes, singled through the right side to score Leseman, who had moved to third on a second wild pitch by Madsen.
Brett Hatcher (Jr., Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine) came in to bail Madsen out by getting Mee to line out to Caravati, the Buckeye leftfielder, to end the scoring and hold the lead to one run, 3-2.
The Buckeyes were stopped in the top of the ninth after putting runners on second and third with only one out. Minnesota intentionally walked Jason Zoeller (Fr., Verona, Pa./Shady Side Academy) to load the bases and then Brett Garrard (Sr., Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) grounded to third, where Hrncirik fired home to prevent Anderson from scoring and onto first to nab Garrard and end the inning.
Ohio State returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, though it was more interesting than Buckeye fans could stomach. After a fly out to centerfield, a throwing error by Anderson on a grounder to second by Jake Elder brought the tying run to the plate. Jared Sanders fired a shot through the right side to put runners on the corners with only one out. Hrncirik grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, the Buckeyes’ third of the game, to set up a one-game, winner-take-all contest Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (EDT).
Anderson was 1-for-3, but drove in two of the three Buckeye runs with a sacrifice fly in the fifth and an RBI double in the seventh. Howell, Caravati, Rabin and Kinnear each had two hits for Ohio State (36-24).
Madsen, who got the loss against Michigan in the opening game, redeemed himself, going 7.2 innings, giving up the two runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking none for the third time this season. He improved to 9-4 with the win, while Molldrem was tagged with the loss to fall to 6-3.