SARASOTA, Fla. Northern Iowa fought back from a five-run deficit to defeat Ohio State, 12-8, Saturday at Manatee Community College. The loss snaps a three-game win streak for Ohio State and drops the team’s record to 7-5. Northern Iowa improves to 7-8.

The Panthers, who are now 3-1 on their spring trip, kept chipping into Ohio State’s lead and then sealed the win with a four-run eighth inning that snapped an 8-all tie and made a winner out of the Zach Zirpel (1-0). Eric Best, who relieved Dean Wolosiansky in the sixth inning, took the loss and is now 0-1.

Cory Kovanda had three hits to lead another double-digit hit game for the Buckeyes. Tony Kennedy, J.B. Shuck, Justin Miller, Cory Rupert and Chris Macke all had two hits. Ryan Meade had three RBI and Rupert two.

In the first inning, Ohio State scored five runs off six singles to grab a 5-0 lead. Ryan Meade, continuing his red-hot play at the plate, stroked a two-run single for the big hit of the inning. The hit was Meade’s eighth in 11 at-bats in Florida and his RBI upped his Florida total to seven.  

Northern Iowa, with its students on break and in the midst of a nine-games-in-10-days Florida swing, countered with three runs off three hits all of the runs unearned, though to close to within 5-3 after the first.

Ohio State added solo runs in the second and third innings and the Panthers added two and one, respectively before there was a scoreless inning, the fourth. Meade had his third RBI of the game with a second-inning sac fly.

In the sixth, with the score 7-6 in favor of the Buckeyes, the sophomore Best replaced Wolosiansky, who departed with this line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 3 BB and 8 SOs. The eight strikeouts represent a career-high for the red-shirt freshman.

The Panthers touched Best for two runs off three hits in his initial inning with a two-run single by Brett Douglas the big hit that gave UNI an 8-7 lead. Meanwhile, UNI pitcher Taylor Sinclair continued to rebound from a rough first three innings by holding the Buckeyes scoreless in three consecutive innings.

Ohio State tied it in the seventh. Michael Arp walked and then hustled around the bases to score on a Cory Rupert double to left. Chris Macke followed with a walk, chasing Sinclair, but Zach Zirpel awoke the UNI crowd by coaxing an inning-ending double play.

Best faced just three batters in a solid seventh inning, striking out two with one base runner caught stealing. Ohio State then missed a golden opportunity to take the lead in the eighth with three hits in the inning but not one producing an RBI.

UNI followed with its game-clinching inning. The Buckeyes return to the field at 3 p.m. Tuesday with a game at IMG Academy Park against Bradley.

Baseball Bits and Pieces from Florida:

  • A hearty, and we mean hearty, wind blew in from the southeast right as the game started thanks to a low pressure system moving in from the Alabama/Mississippi area and turned a lovely evening to watch baseball into a rather chilly one. An attendant even turned the air conditioning off in the press box. 
  • Starter Dean Wolosiansky recorded four strikeouts in the first inning. A passed ball on a strikeout extended the inning and resulted in three unearned Panther runs.
  • The first two innings lasted 1:04. The teams combined for 11 runs, 14 hits two errors and a passed ball.
  • Chris Macke made his first start of the season for the Buckeyes. He played left field and wasted no time getting his first hit of the season and second RBI with a single in the first.
  • Speaking of not wasting time: it took Tony Kennedy all of three pitches to extend his career-best hitting streak to a season-long 12 games.
  • Michael Arp made his first start in eight games, taking over in right for Ryan Dew, who had started each of the first 11 games at the position. He swung into action immediately with a first-inning single and a run scored.
  • The latest food find: Sonny’s home-style BBQ in Sarasota. The manager, Erik, is an Ohio State graduate and the “feast for four,” featuring smoked pork, brisket, ribs and chicken, with beans, fries and slaw on the side, will satisfy even the hungriest foursome. Two “feasts for four” are more than enough for a party of seven…with leftovers. That is a true fact. The “smoking” BBQ sauce is sweet, peppery hot and mighty fine. More proof that it’s good: Ken Griffey Sr. stopped in for takeout.