CLEARWATER, Fla. Ohio State broke open a tight game with four runs in the eighth inning to build a 6-0 lead and then held on to defeat UConn, 6-4, Saturday at Jack Russell Stadium. Ohio State is 2-0 in the BIG EAST-Big Ten Challenge while UConn drops to 0-2.

Heroes for the Buckeyes were sophomore pitcher Andrew Armstrong and juniors Brian DeLucia and Zach Hurley. Ryan Dew had four hits and scored twice. Cory Rupert had a pair of hits and two runs scored.

Armstrong pitched a career-long 6.2 innings and didn’t allow a run while scattering three hits, striking out five and walking two. He allowed just five batters to reach base and only one runner reached second before giving way to Jake Hale in the seventh inning and Ohio State leading 2-0.

DeLucia’s two-run double in the sixth inning put the first runs on the scoreboard and Hurley’s bases-clearing triple in the eighth extended Ohio State’s lead to 5-0, a margin they would need because the pesky Huskies chipped away with three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth to close the gap to within two. UConn had two men on in the ninth with the winning run at the plate, but junior Eric Best struck out Pierre LePage to end the game. 

“Today the intensity was there and there were a lot of good things about this game, but we were still a little flat,” head coach Bob Todd said. “Something was missing. We were coming off a long day yesterday and a long delay today, but that’s baseball. We have to adjust to that stuff, especially the hitters.”

Armstrong was simply terrific. Like sophomore classmates Alex Wimmers and Drew Rucinski’s combined shutout Friday over Notre Dame, Armstrong was in complete command on the mound, and he needed to be because the Buckeyes weren’t scoring and it was anyone’s game. Armstrong faced just one batter over the minimum through five innings.

While UConn wasn’t getting any opportunities, the Buckeyes loaded the bases in the third inning but couldn’t score. Dew led off with a single to right and with one out Hurley reached on an infield single that caromed off pitcher Elliott Glynn’s lower right leg. Michael Arp reached on another infield single, but the inning ended when Glynn got Michael Stephens to ground out to third.

The Buckeyes stranded runners in every inning form the third on and finally were able to score in the sixth. Rupert singled with one out and, with the hit-and-run on, Dew chopped a single over the first baseman’s head that advanced Rupert to third. Dew advanced to second on a wild pitch and DeLucia plated both runners by ripping a double down the left field line for a 2-0 lead.

Armstrong was replaced with two on and two out in the seventh inning by Hale. Seeing his first action of the season and his first relief action since the 2007 season, Hale got Doug Elliott to fly out deep to right field to end the inning with Ohio State hanging on to a 2-0 lead.

In the top of the eighth, Ohio State scored four times for a 6-0 lead. Rupert led off with a single, Dew walked and DeLucia was hit by a pitch. Hurley sent the first pitch he faced from reliver David Jennings and drove it over the center fielder’s head to score all three runners. Hurley later scored on a Cory Kovanda sacrifice fly.

Best, coming off a fine, eight-save sophomore season, relieved Hale in the eighth after the first two batters reached via walks. In his first outing of 2009, Best was able to get the last six outs of the game, including three by strikeout, to preserve the win, although the Huskies did make it interesting.

The first spring trip of the 2009 season for Ohio State will conclude Sunday at 10 a.m. with a game against Cincinnati at Red McEwen Field on the campus of the University of South Florida. The two teams have played 86 times on the diamond, but this will be the first game since the 2003 season. 

Game Notes from Florida, Volume II…

  • The start of the game was delayed 1:41 while St. John’s and Iowa were busy scoring 23 runs in a game that ended up being shortened to seven innings. 
  • The only deviation in the starting lineup from the Notre Dame game Friday was Ryan Dew and Zach Hurley switching positions. Dew came in from left field to DH vs. the Huskies while Hurley took over in left after DHing vs. the Irish.
  • Dew had three hits off left handed starter Elliott Glynn and a career-high four hits for the game. He also scored two runs.
  • Rupert had two hits and two runs scored and Hurley had two hits in addition to his three RBI.
  • Michael Arp also had a pair of hits.
  • Ohio State’s pitching staff pitched 16 consecutive scoreless innings to open the season.
  • Ohio State has not committed an error in its first two games.
  • The Buckeyes will be the home team vs. Cincinnati. That mean the pre-game breakfast is at 6:30 a.m. with the team in the batting cages at 8 a.m. after a 45 minute drive.
  • The team returns to Columbus at approximately 7 p.m. Sunday night.