JACKSONVILLE, Fla. No. 30 Ohio State improved to 4-0 with an 11-6 win over North Florida Friday at Harmon Stadium on the campus of UNF. Dan Burkhart had four hits and four RBI and Ryan Dew had three RBI to lead the offensive charge.

Six errors by North Florida and a host of oddities turned the game into a strange affair.

Ohio State scored its first, first-inning runs of the season by tallying two runs off two hits, two errors, a wild pitch and a past ball. Burkhart had a two-RBI single to drive home Ohio State’s runs.

UNF tied it in its half of the first as Michael Smith hit his first collegiate home run a two-run shot out of the park in left field.

No runs were scored in the second, but at the end of two the crowd of 874 fans on hand had seen three errors, a wild pitch, a passed ball, a pop-out double play to the catcher, and a runner caught stealing.

And by the end of the third inning things had gotten even weirder. Ohio State scored four unearned runs in their half of the third on two, two-run home runs to right center field by Burkhart and Dew. The plays were aided by a called third strike passed ball that put Michael Stephens on first base, a line drive to short that was ruled an intentional drop, thus negating a sure double play with Stephens off first, and a catcher’s interference. Burkhart and Dew took advantage of the miscues by bashing their first home runs of the season.

UNF put two men on its half of the third, but Michael Stephens made a diving catch in center and Michael Arp nailed a runner at the plate for the team’s first outfield assist of the season to keep the score 6-2 at the end of three.  

UNF starter Phil Rorabaugh ran into trouble in the fifth by way of a hit batsmen and a double. Reliever Tucker Pryor allowed two runs after taking over for Rorabaugh, on a single by Cory Rupert and a sacrifice fly by Dew.

North Florida closed the gap to 8-4 in the fifth on another two-run home run, this one by Brian Wilson. Two batters later, Drew Rucinski relieved starter Andrew Armstrong, who went 4.1 innings and allowed eight hits, four runs and three walks in a no decision. After giving up a walk to load the bases with one out, Rucinski got Ryan Puskar to line to first for a double play to end the inning.

Ohio State extended the lead to 9-4 in the sixth, scoring a run on a wild pitch, and the team added two more unearned runs in the seventh, compliments of a three-error UNF inning that allowed the Buckeyes to have six outs.

In addition to the errors, North North Florida, a team that led Mississippi State late and only lost to Michigan by one, hit three batters, threw two wild pitches, had a catcher’s interference and a player caught stealing, gave up six unearned runs, hit into three double plays, only walked two batters, hit four home runs and outhit Ohio State, 13-11.

Furthermore, a freshman named Alex Rodriguez came to the plate for his first career at-bat in the eighth inning for North Florida and the ninth inning featured a law firm-sounding matchup of Hale & Hale. Jake Hale faced Preston Hale with two out in the inning.

Rucinski got the win to improve to 2-0 this season. Jake Hale pitched a scoreless ninth inning, getting two strikeouts in the process.

The two teams will go at it again Saturday night at 7 p.m. Although some rain is in the forecast for Saturday, Ohio State is scheduled to play George Mason at 3 p.m. at UNF’s Harmon Stadium followed by a second game against North Florida. Sophomores Alex Wimmers and Dean Wolosiansky are the scheduled starters in the two games, respectively. 

Game Notes from Florida, Volume IV…

  • The team was dealt an unfortunate blow about 10 minutes into its practice at UNF’s Harmon Stadium Thursday. Third baseman Brian DeLucia, who hit two home runs and drove in six RBI last week in the BIG EAST-BIG Ten Challenge, injured a finger on his throwing hand fielding a ball that took a sinister bounce and smacked into his middle finger. No official word, yet, on the severity of the injury or the length of time he may be out.
  • Cory Rupert, so solid in his return to shortstop last weekend in place of the injured Tyler Engle, moved back to man third base his position throughout the 2008 campaign against the Ospreys while Engle made his 2009 debut at short after getting the go ahead to play after sitting out last weekend due to an upper leg issue.
  • Seeing their first action this season were sophomore infielder Matt Streng and junior catcher Shawn Forsythe, and seeing his first-ever collegiate action was redshirt freshman T.J. McManus.
  • Dan Burkhart’s four RBI was a career best. His four-hit game was the second of his career. He also had four hits last year vs. Harvard.
  • Ohio State is 5-0 in games in which Ryan Dew homers.
  • The 4-0 start for Ohio State is its first since the 1991 season when Ohio State started out 8-0 on its way to a school-record 52-win season.
  • Coach Bob Todd and North Florida coach Dusty Rhodes were honored together before the game as the longtime coaches and friends were part of the same induction class into the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame earlier this year.
  • Todd and Rhodes have 2,120 wins between them and 56 years of coaching behind them. They served as assistant coaches together in 1994 for Team USA.
  • The ceremonial first pitch was delivered by 1968 Knowlton School of Architecture grad Jack Diamond, who has been at North Florida since 1970 and who was the architect behind the majority of the athletic facilities on the 16,000-student campus.