DUNEDIN, Fla. Ohio State opened its 126th season of baseball in fine fashion by defeating Notre Dame, 2-0, Friday at Dunedin Stadium. Sophomore pitchers Alex Wimmers and Drew Rucinski combined for the opening day shutout by striking out 10 Irish while scattering six hits with just three walks.

Wimmers, making his first collegiate start, pitched 6.0 impressive innings, striking out seven and allowing just six hits. The Cincinnati native struck out the side in the first inning, although he did give up a double to projected first-round draft pick A.J. Pollack. He got out of trouble in the third after walking a runner, but he got two pop-outs with men on first and third, including coaxing one pop fly from the dangerous Pollock. He also got out of a jam in the sixth unscathed.

“I was running on adrenalin initially,” Wimmers said. “I pleased with my effort overall, although I could have done a little better. I walked too many batters.”

Head coach Bob Todd was pleased with the way his team competed.
“I thought we did a really good job of competing in the batter’s box,” Todd said. “We did some things right and there were a lot of things we did that I liked. We still have to get better, though. Dupra [Notre Dame starter Brian] was a good pitcher, but we beat him. We’ve got to keep doing that. We’ve got to beat No. 1 pitchers.

“And I thought Alex and Drew did a great job for us tonight. They competed on the mound. They kept us in the ball game.”

Wimmers, who picked up the win, gave way to Rucinski in the seventh and the Broken Arrow, Okla., product was equally impressive on the mound. Rucinski pitched the final three innings, faced just one batter over the minimum and struck out the side in the crucial ninth inning to register the save.

Offensively, Ohio State had just six hits against Dupra, who went 6.1 innings and walked just one while striking out two.

Ohio State scored in the fourth inning on a two-out, RBI single by senior captain Justin Miller. Cory Kovanda had led off the inning with a walk, took second on a ground out and then scored on Miller’s hit up the middle.

Notre Dame challenged in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs behind two walks and an infield single. But Wimmers slammed three straight pitches past Billy Boockford, including a called third strike, to end the inning and keep the Buckeyes in front, 1-0.

The Buckeyes increased the lead to 2-0 in the seventh and chased Dupra in the process. Dan Burkhart opened the inning by lacing a triple down the right field line. Cory Rupert then ripped a double to left to score Burkhart. 

At that point, the game was in the hands of the Buckeye defense and pitchers, and the Scarlet and Gray performed flawlessly to record its first season-opening shutout since downing Alabama-Birmingham, 2-0, in 2002.

The Buckeyes will play Connecticut, a 4-2 loser to Michigan State Friday, in a 4 p.m. game Saturday at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Fla.

Game Notes from Florida, Volume I…

  • The Buckeyes sported a new look for the first time in coach Bob Todd’s tenure. The team took the field wearing white sleeveless jerseys over red sleeves with white pants. The jersey sported a scarlet block “O” and a black NIKE swoosh over the left chest and scarlet number over the right chest. The big numbers on the back were scarlet trimmed in gray. It’s a professional look; reminds one of the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Ohio State’s starting battery of Alex Wimmers and Dan Burkhart have been playing together since they were 9 years old. Burkhart couldn’t even think of a logical number when asked how many times he’s caught Wimmers. “A lot” is all the standout catcher could say.  
  • Tyler Engle, a 48-game starter at shortstop last season as a true freshman, did not play due to a hamstring issue. Cory Rupert started at short and Brian DeLucia took over at third for Rupert.
  • The first starting lineup of the season looked similar to the 2008 lineups the Buckeye coaches used. Juco transfer Michael Stephens was the only new face in the lineup. He started at center where J.B. Shuck, who leaves Wednesday for Kissimmee for his first spring training with the Houston Astros, played last year when he wasn’t pitching for the Buckeyes.
  • Notre Dame started a lineup that included standout football players Evan Sharpley at first and Golden Tate in left field, Cape Cod 2008 summer MVP A.J. Pollock in center and Mike Ssioscia, son of California Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, at catcher.
  • Coaching his first game at third base: Pete Jenkins.
  • The opening day shutout was Ohio State’s eighth in the last 50 years. Included in that total was a 3-0 win over ND in 1976.
  • The peanuts at Dunedin Stadium, the Toronto Blue Jays spring training home, are incredibly tasty with a nice, snappy crunch to them and just the right amount of salt.