WINTER HAVEN, Fla. No. 25 Ohio State pounded 19 hits, including two more home runs, and defeated Central Michigan, 16-7, Sunday at Chain of Lakes Field. The win improved Ohio State’s record to 9-2 while Central Michigan drops to 3-7.

Cory Kovanda led the Ohio State offense with a career-high tying four hits while red-hot Dan Burkhart 11-game hitting streak and 19 RBI on the season and Michael Arp had three hits apiece. Arp also scored three times. All nine Ohio State offensive starters had hits and all nine scored runs.

Pitcher Drew Rucinski pitched 3.1 innings in relief to improve his record to 4-1 on the season. He leads the Big Ten Conference in wins. Jake Hale finished his Big Ten-leading fifth game of the season. Dan Taylor (1-2) took the loss for CMU.

Ohio State built an early 3-0 lead against Taylor with a five-hit second inning. Cory Rupert got things started with a one-out double and freshman Brad Hallberg drove him home with a single to left followed by aggressive base running and coaching from third-base mentor Pete Jenkins. Hallberg advanced to second on the throw to the plate and he scored on Arp’s double to right center. Zach Hurley’s single to right center scored Arp. Kovanda followed with a perfect bunt single up the third base line, but Taylor got out of the inning with the help of a called third strike.

Back-to-back Central Michigan errors in the third inning put the Chippewas in bind and the Buckeyes capitalized by scoring five runs off three hits. Matt Streng’s three-run home run his team-leading third of the season over the 380-foot mark in left center field was a crushing blow that extended Ohio State’s lead to 8-0.

Central Michigan rallied a bit with three runs in each of the fifth and eighth innings plus one in the seventh, but the Buckeyes, in no way willing to let this lead slip away as they did in two earlier losses this weekend, put up four more runs in each of the seventh and ninth innings to put the game away.

Michael Stephens joined Streng when he hit his third home run of the season in the seventh, a three-run shot, and the team’s ninth inning included five singles and a CMU error, it’s seventh of the game. 

 Alex Wimmers started and pitched 4.1 innings before leaving in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. Rucinski replaced Wimmers and gave up two run-scoring hits before retiring the side with the Buckeyes’ lead now at 8-3. Wimmers was credited with the three runs, all of them earned. He scattered five hits, struck out four and walked five.

Rucinski, throwing strikes with Ohio State maintaining a significant lead, allowed seven hits, four runs (three of them earned) and he struck out four and walked only one. Hale pitched the final four outs of the game, including throwing to sophomore catcher D.J. Hanlin in the ninth inning. Hanlin, giving Burkhart a much deserved inning off, was seeing his first collegiate action.

Central Michigan threatened in the first. Two, two-out walks after a leadoff single loaded the bases with Chippewas, but Wimmers battled through an eight-pitch, full-count at-bat to strike out Sam Russell looking to end the inning. Wimmers was in control form that point until the fifth.

Game Notes from Florida, Volume VIIII…

  • Michael Arp’s three-hit game was his third consecutive multi-hit game. The senior is now hitting .367 on the year and he leads the team with six multi-hit games.
  • Arp made another terrific play in right field, running about 40 yards to snag a fly while sliding to one knee. The play was in the sixth inning with a man on and the Buckeyes’ leading 8-3.
  • Cory Kovanda’s four-hit game was his first this season and ties his career high set last year vs. Kansas. Kovanda has an eight-game hitting streak going.
  • Dan Burkhart’s hitting streak has now reached 14 consecutive games dating to last year. The sophomore leads the team with 19 RBI.
  • Michael Stephens has hit in 10 consecutive games.
  • Zach Hurley (14) and Stephens (10) also have double digit RBI totals for the year. Hurley had two and Stephens three vs. CMU.
  • Five Buckeyes are hitting better than .350 for the season: Matt Streng (.414), Hurley and Burkhart (.396 apiece), Arp (.367) and Ryan Dew (.353).
  • Five players have scored at least 10 runs this year led by Stephens’ 15 and Burkhart and Rupert with 14 apiece.
  • Sophomore starters Alex Wimmers and Andrew Armstrong lead the staff with ERA’s of 2.25, respectively.
  • The team’s 9-2 start represents the best record after 11 games since the 1991 team opened 9-2 on its way to a 19-2 start.
  • The Buckeyes hit two home runs this weekend after hitting 17 in its first two weekends in Florida. Part of the reason is the size of Chain of Lakes Field: 340 in left and right fields, respectively, 380 in the power alleys and 420 to straight away center field.
  • Ohio State will return to Winter Haven, Fla., and Chain of Lakes Field, the former spring training site of the Cleveland Indians, for four games during its spring break trip March 20-22. The Buckeyes will play a non-league game against Indiana, two games against Army and one vs. Hartford.
  • Ohio State’s eight games in Winter Haven are part of 80 that will be played at Chain of Lakes Field during the 910-game RussMatt Baseball Central Florida Invite that runs from Feb. 22 to March 28.