WINTER HAVEN, Fla. Ohio State lost the lead in the seventh inning and ultimately the game as Rhode Island relief pitching was flawless in the Rams’ 8-6 win over Ohio State Friday at Chain of Lakes Field. The loss was Ohio State’s first of the season and dropped the team’s record to 7-1. Rhode Island won its sixth consecutive game and improved to 7-2.

Five Ohio State errors, a catcher’s interference and three hit batters helped Rhode Island score seven unearned runs and, coupled with fine pitching from starter-turned reliever Nick Greenwood, the miscues were too much for the Buckeyes to overcome.

Greenwood gave up a double to Cory Kovanda upon entering the game, and then retired 18 of the next 19 batters, including the final 17 consecutively, to pick up the win and improve to 2-1 on the season. Greenwood pitched 5.0 innings and struck out nine Buckeyes.

Drew Rucinski pitched the final 2.1 innings, allowed two runs off five hits, and took the loss to drop to 3-1 this season. Dan Burkhart had two hits, three RBI and a run scored to lead the Ohio State offense. 

The two teams traded leads in each of the first three half innings with Rhode Island leading 1-0, Ohio State taking a 2-1 lead on run-scoring hits by Burkhart and Justin Miller in its half of the first, and “Rhody” regaining the lead at 3-2 after its half of the second.

Ohio State regained the lead in the third inning, albeit helped along by two RIU errors at short. Something the Rams couldn’t control was the hot hitting of Burkhart, whose second hit of the game was a screaming, two-run triple down the right field line for the big blow of the inning. Burkhart scored after Cory Rupert reached on an error and Ohio State had a 5-3 lead.

Alert play by Ohio State kept URI from a big fourth inning. After starter Andrew Armstrong put himself in some hot water by the loading the bases with three one-out walks, the next batter lined out to left fielder Zach Hurley, but the runner left third early and, on appeal, was called out by the umpire and thus keeping score 5-3.

After Ohio State scored another unearned run in the fourth to increase the lead to 6-3 Cory Kovanda doubled to lead off against Greenwood and scored on a two-base error, the Rams opened the sixth with back-to-back singles to chase Armstrong, who finished with 5.0 innings pitched, six hits, three walks and three runs scored although none were earned. Jared Strayer came in and got a pop-out double play at first and a groundout to end the threat.

The gritty Rams scored four times in the seventh inning off three hits, a hit batsmen, catcher’s interference and an error to reclaim the lead at 7-6. Mike Label’s two-single was the big hit.

The Rams added an insurance run in the eighth and Greenwood continued to set the Buckeyes down in order and the Rams had their second big win of the week after defeating No. 8 Miami on Tuesday.

Game Notes from Florida, Volume VII…

  • Chain of Lakes Field, where Ohio State will play all four of its games this weekend, is the former spring training site of the Cleveland Indians, who moved to Phoenix for spring training this year.
  • Once upon a time Ohio State assistant coach Greg Cypret played on this field. It was back when he was playing single A ball for Daytona Beach in the Houston Astros’ system. Cypret would advance as far as Triple A ball before embarking on his coaching career.
  • A first-inning single to drive in Michael Stephens from third base extended Dan Burkhart’s hitting streak to all eight games this season and to 11 going back to last year.
  • Michael Stephens has a five-game hitting streak.
  • Justin Miller, starting at third base for the fourth consecutive game, was active with six assists and two diving stops on the line to prevent extra base hits. 
  • Rhode Island has won five in a row, including the biggest win in school history: a 3-0 win at No. 8 Miami Tuesday night.
  • The Buckeyes will play Northeastern Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and Maine immediately following that game. Ross Oltorik and Dean Wolosiansky are the scheduled Buckeye starters.