KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Ohio State ace Alex Wimmers threw eight quality innings and the Buckeyes scored just enough to close out its Arby’s Classic weekend with a 2-0 win over Tennessee in the second of two games Sunday in cold, gray and wet Knoxville. In the team’s first game of the day, Ohio State lost a 5-4 decision to Connecticut and with the Sunday split, Ohio State is now 9-4 on the season.
Wimmers improved to 4-0 on the season – and to 4-0 in his career when starting after an Ohio State loss – by giving up just three hits while walking five and striking out 10. He issued all his walks in the first five innings before settling down nicely and cruising to the win.
Wimmers never pitched with a man on third and only allowed two runners to reach second base. The junior All-American has now started 20 times in his career and, with double digit strikeouts Sunday, now has recorded 10-or-more strikeouts in eight of his 20 starts.
Junior shortstop Tyler Engle, after sitting out the UConn game, enjoyed his return to the lineup with three hits, including a fifth-inning double. Juniors Dan Burkhart, Brian DeLucia and Matt Streng each had two hits to support Ohio State’s offense.
The Buckeyes manufactured the initial run of the game in the sixth inning. After Michael Stephens ripped a line drive single off the right field wall, Ryan Dew sacrificed him to second. And with two down, DeLucia hit a bloop single to right center that scored Stephens.
Ohio State increased the lead with another run in the seventh. Streng opened with a single and Engle followed with a single behind the runner to complete a perfect hit-and-run situation. Zach Hurley’s fielder’s choice to second scored Streng.
Until those runs, neither team had much of an opportunity to score. Ohio State had a runner thrown out at the plate in the second. And it stranded a total of six runners through the first five innings, including two in scoring position in the fifth.
UT starter Stephen McCray was effective until getting pulled after 4.1 innings. He scattered six hits with just one walk. He was relieved by Steve Crnkovich, who pitched well in 4.2 innings in relief but suffered his first loss in three decisions this year.
Drew Rucinski pitched the ninth inning to earn his third save of the season.
Game 1 Sunday: Connecticut 5, Ohio State 4
Ohio State and Connecticut engaged in a well-pitched and well-played ball game that featured five lead changes and ties through the first six innings.
Ohio State took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Hurley hit a two-out double down the right field line that would have been a single for most players but Hurley, one of the team’s captains, thought “two” all the way and motored into second well ahead of the throw. Fellow captain Cory Kovanda followed with a first-pitch single and a sliding Hurley beat the throw to the plate.
UConn tied the score in the fourth behind three consecutive two-out singles, the first an “excuse me” swing that resulted in a slow grounder down the third base line to set the scoring rally in motion.
The Buckeyes came right back, though, to go up 2-1 with a run in the fifth. Cory Rupert led off the inning with a single and, rather oddly, moved up two bases on a fly out by Streng when a relay to first to get Rupert ended up in the stands. After Rupert was awarded second, and then third a moment later by the third base umpire, Hurley grounded out to second to score Rupert.
UConn tied it up with another two-out run in the fifth, and then the Huskies took a 4-2 lead in the sixth with two more runs. Mike Ott’s third home run of the weekend gave UConn the lead and then an unearned run followed.
Buckeye starter Brett McKinney (1-2) pitched into the seventh inning for his longest outing in his brief collegiate career. He went 6.0 innings and scattered 10 hits with five runs – four of them earned – with two walks and four strikeouts.
Each team scored a run in the seventh – Rupert walked and eventually scored on a Kovanda sac fly – to make it 5-3. Ohio State then missed out on an opportunity in the eighth when it had two runners on and one out but failed to bring home any runs.
Kevin Vance gave up a run in the ninth – an RBI single by Burkhart scoring Kovanda – but that was all for his first save of the year. UConn starter Matt Barnes, who went 6.1 innings, improved to 2-0 with the win.
Notes & Random Thoughts from Knoxville…