WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. The Ohio State baseball team defeated Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 13-10, and Maryland Baltimore County, 16-9, Saturday at the Santaluces Sports Complex behind 37 combined hits in the two games and five home runs. The 30th-ranked Buckeyes have won four consecutive games and are 12-2 on the season.

The team’s starting outfield of left fielder Zach Hurley, center fielder Michael Stephens and right fielder Michael Arp did the most damage Saturday as the trio combined for 16 hits, 14 runs batted in and nine runs scored.

  • Stephens, the team’s juco transfer, hit two homers one in each game to increase his team lead in that category to five. He also scored three runs and drove in three.
  • Hurley had a three-run home run and a three-run triple among his six hits. He drove in eight runs and he now leads the Buckeyes in average – .415 hits 27 and RBI 25.
  • Arp, who had a career-high four hits vs. UMBC, hit his first home run of the year against the Retrievers and also had two doubles. He had six hits, three RBI and four runs scored in the two games.

Justin Miller (three hits, three runs and three RBI vs. UMBC) and Dan Burkhart (hits in both games to extend his hitting streak to 17 consecutive games) also hit home runs against UMBC and Ohio State has now hit 24 home runs in 14 games after hitting 19 home runs all last season.

Eric Best pitched 5.0 innings and allowed just three earned runs, didn’t walk a batter and struck out six to get the win in the Maryland Baltimore County game. The junior, making his first start since the 2007 season, improved to 2-0 on the season.

A six-run fifth inning propelled the Buckeyes past UMBC. With the score tied at 3-apiece, Ohio State sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning with six of them getting hits, including three home runs in the inning by Stephens leading off, Burkhart with one man on board and a solo shot by Arp.

The Retrievers countered with two in their half of the fifth, but Ohio State, which has scored 49 runs in three games this weekend, plated seven more the rest of the way to win going away.

Jake Hale pitched the ninth inning and did not allow a run for his seventh consecutive appearance, and he finished a game for his Big Ten leading seventh time.

In the first game of the day, Ohio State scored three unearned runs in the top of the ninth inning to break a 10-10 tie and defeat SIU Edwardsville, 13-10. Drew Rucinski picked up the win with 2.2 innings of effective relief work to improve to 5-1 on the year. Hale recorded the final out of the game with two men on base to record his third save of the season.

The Cougars, a pesky sort in their first season of Division I baseball as members of the Ohio Valley Conference, kept coming at the Buckeyes despite trailing by 6-1 and 9-5 margins. Three home runs hit into the nice breeze from home plate helped, as did the biggest hit of the game: a clear-the-bases double by Chase Thrasher that tied the score at 10-apiece in the sixth inning. 

Rucinski, who replaced Jared Strayer who had replaced starter Andrew Armstrong (5.1 innings pitched), got out of a key two-on with no out situation in the bottom of the seventh with two strikeouts and a fly out to preserve the tie ball game.

In the ninth inning, Ohio State scored its runs off three hits and two errors. Burkhart scored the go-ahead run on Arp’s single. Ryan Dew, who also singled in the inning, and Arp scored insurance runs for the Scarlet and Gray.

Offensively, all nine Ohio State offensive starters had hits and scored runs in the SIUE game. Stephens hit a solo home run in the first inning and Hurley had a three run home run in the second inning, part of a three-hit game for the junior. Three more Buckeyes joined them with multi-hit games: Cory Rupert (3-4 with a run scored); Arp (two hits, two RBI and two runs scored); and Cory Kovanda (two hits and two runs scored).

Ohio State caps its West Palm Beach weekend with a 12:30 p.m. game Sunday against North Dakota State. Sophomore Dean Wolosiansky (1-1) will be on the mound for the Buckeyes 

Game Notes from Florida, Volume XI…

  • The Buckeyes are hitting .353 as a team and slugging at a .560 rate behind 24 doubles, 10 triples and 24 home runs.
  • The team is averaging 14.1 hits per game and 11.1 runs per game.
  • The staff has lowered its ERA to 5.73 in the three games this weekend as well as its opponents’ batting average (from .311 to .296).
  • With runs scored in each of the first four innings Saturday vs. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Ohio State scored in 10 consecutive innings going back to the final six innings in its 20-3 win over Pitt Friday night.
  • The game with SIUE was the first of three consecutive games for Ohio State against first-time opponents. Maryland Baltimore County and North Dakota State are also first-timers on Ohio State’s schedule.
  • This isn’t a surprise: there are lots of Buckeye fans in Florida. They came to the games Saturday from places like Port St. Lucie and Boca Raton. They came as part of the Treasure Coast Alumni Association and they came with music and with their Buckeye beads and flags and they came with spirit and they came to have a good time. And they did. Go Baseball Bucks!