CINCINNATI, Ohio – On a day that felt a taste of the spring months to come, with 60-degree weather and the sun shining down during the early innings, two of Ohio’s most storied college baseball programs faced off for a midweek matchup in front of a packed crowd. Ohio State used a four-run third inning that gave them a lead they would not relinquish until the last two innings, when Cincinnati hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth and a walk-off solo home run in the ninth to secure a dramatic 5-4 victory.
Neither team put any pressure on the opposing defense until the third inning, the only inning where the Buckeyes were able to plate any runs. In the away half, Marcus Ernst collected Ohio State’s first hit of the game with a one-out double and was driven in by an opposite-field moonshot of a home run by Zach Dezenzo, his fourth longball of the young season. The next two at-bats saw Drew Reckart draw a walk and Hank Thomas be hit by a pitch, which set up Colton Bauer for an RBI single. After a Brent Todys walk, Trey Lipsey skied a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to give the Buckeyes a 4-0 lead.
In the home half of the third, Ohio State starter Aaron Funk, who had spread two hits across two scoreless innings up to that point, walked the leadoff man and then induced fly ball outs to the next two batters. With two runners on and two outs, Funk rolled a soft grounder to third baseman Colton Bauer, who made a fielding error that allowed the first unearned run to score. Griffin Merritt cleared the bases with a home run in the next at-bat, allowing Cincinnati to draw within a run. Funk escaped the inning with no further damage. His final stat line was three innings, four hits, one strikeout, and four runs, none earned.
The in-state rivals were locked in an offensive stalemate for the next four innings. Freshman Tim Baird and junior Nate Karaffa were outstanding in middle relief, each pitching two scoreless innings to keep the Buckeyes in the lead. However, Ohio State reached base only four times during that stretch, all on singles that amounted to no runs.
After a one-two-three inning by Ohio State in the top of the eighth, junior setup man Ethan Hammerberg entered the game to preserve the lead. Hammerberg gave up a solo home run to the first batter he faced, which tied the game at four. That score would hold as the Buckeyes headed in for their ninth inning at-bat.
Marcus Ernst led off the ninth by beating out an infield single, but two strikeouts and a fly out by the next three Ohio State batters gave Cincinnati a chance to win the game in the final frame. Hammerberg remained in the game for the ninth, attempting to send the game into extra innings. However, after striking out the first batter of the inning, Hammerberg allowed a walk-off solo home run to pinch hitter Cam Sheler, giving the Bearcats a 5-4 win in front of an energetic home crowd.
Marcus Ernst continued his hot start to the season by going 2-4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored. Drew Reckart went 1-3 with two walks and a run scored.
The Buckeyes will travel to Fayetteville, North Carolina for a three-game series against three different opponents in the Armed Forces Invitational. Their first game of the weekend is against Campbell at 5:00 p.m. on Friday night.