EVANSTON, Ill. At this point of the season it has become obvious that Ohio State wins when it packages lots of singles. The team had 14 singles among its 17 hits Saturday at Rocky Miller Park and leveraged 11 runs out of those hits to defeat Northwestern, 11-2, in the first of four games this weekend.

The win extended the Buckeyes’ lead over fifth-place Northwestern to 1.5 games and put the team into a tie for third with Illinois with each team sporting 9-7 Big Ten Conference records. The Illini was hosting Penn State today. Overall, the Buckeyes improved to 21-16 with the win on Pete Jenkins day the Buckeyes’ assistant was celebrating his birthday today while Northwestern drops to 14-18.
Justin Miller continued his torrid April hitting he is 27-for-61 this month; .443 and was one of many star hitters for the Buckeyes with three hits and two RBI. Freshman Dan Burkhart also had three hits and three RBI. Both players mixed in a double to their totals; Miller’s was his team-leading 11th of the season. Michael Arp, another hot hitter (he is hitting .571 8-for-14 during his current team-high six-game hitting streak) also had three hits and two runs scored. Ryan Meade and Tony Kennedy had two hits and two runs scored.

All the hits were plenty of support for junior Jake Hale, who was dominant over the final seven innings and improved to 5-1 with the win. NU’s Joe Muraski gave up six runs on 10 hits in 2.0 innings and dropped to 4-4 with the loss.

Northwestern took the early lead. Jake Owens led off the bottom of the first with a home run to right. Aaron Newman followed with a single and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Mke Kalina, giving the home team a quick 2-0 lead.

In typical 2008 Ohio State fashion, the Buckeyes retook the lead in the top of the second, scoring four runs off seven singles to lead 4-2. Five consecutive singles to open the inning by Miller, Meade, Arp, Cory Rupert and Burkhart tied the score at two-apiece. Tyler Engle’s sac fly and Cory Kovanda’s long single to the wall plated two more runs giving the Buckeyes a 4-2 lead.

Three more singles in the third the second of the game by Meade, Arp and Burkhart, respectively helped Ohio State to two more runs and a 6-2 lead going into the bottom of the third.

J.B. Shuck led off the fourth with a single and then stole second for this team-leading 15th stolen base of the season. He scored on Miller’s double to make the score 7-2.

Miller’s third hit of the game, a single down the left field line in the sixth, scored Kennedy, who reached on an error. Meade’s RBI single later in the inning increased the lead to 9-2.

Hale, from the second inning on, was in complete control of the game. He left six runners stranded through his final seven innings and he only pitched with a runner past first base five times in the stretch. Three times he got out of an inning on the strength of a double play. Ohio State turned a season’s-best three during the game.

The teams will play a pair of seven-inning games Saturday starting at 1 p.m. EDT. The games will be broadcast on WMNI-AM 920 as well as on the Big Ten Network.

Game Notes and Good Stuff:

  • Ohio State has 410 hits this season and 335, or 82 percent of them, are singles.
  • The 14 singles didn’t even crack Ohio State’s top five for most singles in a game this season and were three away from the season high 17 singles hit March 21 in a 16-5 win over Kansas.
  • Rather odd: the time of the game was 2:45 and the attendance was 245. 
  • In addition to Michael Arp extending his hitting streak, Cory Kovanda and Ryan Meade extended their personal streaks to five games.
  • Arp is now hitting .500 in Big Ten play (10-for-20).
  • Jake Hale is 4-1 in Big Ten games.
  • Matt Streng saw his first action since April 2 against Toledo and was solid at shortstop with two assists, including being part of one double play. He also drew a walk in his only at-bat. 
  • Tony Kennedy has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games and is hitting .354 during that run (17-for-48).
  • Dan Burkhart is hitting .476 over his last six games (10-for-21).
  • Zach Hurley made another diving catch in centerfield. The sophomore has at least five diving grabs this season.
  • Justin Miller increased his team RBI lead to 34. Cory Rupert is second with 25. Kennedy (22) and Meade (20) are next. 
  • Ohio State is now 16-2 when leading after the sixth inning.
  • Rory Meister pitched the ninth inning to close out the game. In his last four appearances, covering five innings, he’s allowed just one run and struck out four batters.
  • Student athletics trainer Andrew Walsh got a text message in the third inning saying to check the athletic training national boards website. He had to wait until he got back to hotel to check. The wait was worth it. He learned that he passed his national boards and that, once he graduates in a month, he will be a certified athletic trainer. Nice work, Andy!
  • Stop by the Village Inn, across from St. Peter’s Church, when in Skokie, Ill. The pizza’s are delicious and the hot peppers are fresh and hot.