May 22, 2005
COLUMBUS, Ohio – With the score knotted 5-5 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, catcher Eric Fryer fired a long single to right field to score Jason Zoeller and give Ohio State a 6-5 victory over Minnesota Sunday at Bill Davis Stadium to clinch the Big Ten series 3-1 and earn the fifth seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament.
After reliever Jeffrey Carroll (So., Columbus, Ohio/Bishohp Watterson) retired the side in the seventh, he got into a touch of trouble in the eighth. He gave up back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third. Carroll left in favor of Rory Meister (Fr., Mansfield, Ohio/Mansfield Madison), who struck out Arlt and got pinch hitter Taylor VanderAarde to pop up to second to end the inning.
Zoeller, a sophomore from Verona, Pa. (Shady Side Academy) led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single to right, but Wes Schirtzinger (So., Westerville, Ohio/Westerville North) popped up a bunt to third and Jedidiah Stephen (Jr., Caldwell, Ohio/Shenandoah) struck out. Zoeller stole second before Paul Farinacci (Sr., Westlake Village, Calif./Agoura) was intentionally walked to get to Fryer, who connected with a ball that seemed to want to stay airborne before falling in front of Gopher leftfielder Tony Leseman to score Zoeller and give the Buckeyes their eighth one-run victory of the year.
Mesiter got a fly out and a pop out to start the ninth, but gave up a double off the wall to Fornasiere. A passed ball moved him to third before Meister walked Mike Mee. Meister responded though to catch Hunter looking at strike three to end the game. Meister earned all three wins against Minnesota and won all four games this week, adding a victory Tuesday vs. Miami (Ohio). He pitched 1.2 innings in the finale and allowed one hit, walked a batter and struck out two to improve to 7-0 on the year to go with four saves. Gary Perinar took the loss for Minnesota to fall to 0-1.
Ohio State has won 17 of its last 20 games and is surging heading into the conference tournament with a 35-17 overall record. The Buckeyes finished 17-12 in the Big Ten.
Minnesota starter Josh Oslin walked the first two Ohio State batters he faced in the first inning before Steve Caravati (Sr., Dover, Ohio/Dover) launched his third home run of the season over the fence in left-center field to give the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Caravati took two balls and bunted the next two foul trying to bunt both runners into scoring position, but he teed off on the next Oslin offering for the 24th home run of his career.
The Golden Gophers scored twice in the top of the second. Jake Elder led off the inning with a single up the middle and then Buckeye starter Cory Luebke (Fr., Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local) walked Andy Hunter. After a foul out, Farinacci scooped up a grounder down the first-base line by David Hrncirik and tried to apply the tag as Hrncirik ran down the line, but he dropped the ball and Elder came home. Sean Kommerstad followed with an infield single to score Hunter and pull Minnesota within a 3-2 score.
The Buckeyes stranded Farinacci at third after he doubled with one out. He went to second on a single through the left side by Fryer, but after a pitching change that brought Andy Peters in for Oslin, the Gophers turned a double play to prevent Farinacci from scoring. The Buckeyes got the run in the third inning to build a 4-2 lead. Mike Rabin (Sr., West Chester, Ohio/Lakota East) walked to lead off the inning and went to second on a single to left center by Caravati.
Farinacci doubled in Stephen in the fourth inning to extend the lead to 5-2. Stephen led off the inning with a single up the middle before Farinacci doubled for the second time of the game and the 19th time this season, a figure that leads the Big Ten.
Minnesota tied the game, 5-5, with a three-spot in the sixth inning. Luebke walked Matt Fornasiere to start the inning and that brought in Brett Hatcher (Sr., Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine), but he hit Mike Mee and walked Hunter to load the bases. Kevin Carlson singled to right to score the first two runs and after a bunt by Hrncirik, OSU coach Bob Todd lifted Hatcher for Carroll, who gave up a sacrifice fly by John Arlt that scored Hunter.
Fryer, a true freshman from Reynoldsburg, Ohio (Reynoldsburg), led the Buckeyes in going 3-for-4 at the plate. His winning run was his only RBI in the game. Fryer now leads the team with a .331 batting average in all games and a .400 average in conference games. The Buckeyes overcame one error to out-hit Minnesota 11-8. Carlson led the Gophers in going 3-for-4 with two RBI. Minnesota is 29-27 overall and 17-15 in the Big Ten.
Ohio State welcomed 10,876 fans to Bill Davis Stadium in three dates this weekend, including 2,736 fans Sunday in the series finale. The attendance Friday was 3,012 and 5,128 fans attended the doubleheader on Saturday. In 18 home dates this season, Ohio State drew 45,666 fans, an average of 2,570 per date, up from 2,128.2 last season.
The Buckeyes finished the regular season tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings with Michigan, but will be the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which gets underway Wednesday in Champaign, Ill. The Buckeyes and Wolverines will open play in the conference tournament at 1:05 p.m., EDT (12:05 p.m., CDT) The game will be broadcast on NPR 820 (WOSU-AM).
Illinois is the No. 1 seed in the tournament, followed by No. 2 Purdue, No. 3 Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and No. 6 Minnesota. The first two seeds get a first-round bye. The other Wednesday game pits Iowa vs. Minnesota at 4:30 p.m.