PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – After falling behind 8-0 early in Sunday evening’s contest against Indiana State, it appeared as though Ohio State’s early season run of offensive excellence had finally hit a road bump. The Buckeyes, in an improbable comeback that took a combination of incredible performances on the mound and clutch hitting from the entire roster, scored nine unanswered runs including five in the eighth inning and pulled off a 9-8 win to move to 3-0 on the year.
Indiana State bounced back from their 9-3 defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes on Saturday with an aggressive offensive mindset, peppering the Buckeye defense with liners and forcing them into multiple errors. Two first inning singles by the Sycamores off of Buckeye starter Will Pfennig led to their first run, while back-to-back one-out doubles in the second inning gave them a 2-0 lead early. An unfortunate miscue by Buckeye center fielder Kade Kern allowed two additional unearned runs to cross before Pfennig could escape the second frame.
Third baseman Marcus Ernst, who singled to lead off the game, was left stranded after a triple to open the third inning and had the Buckeyes’ only hits through the team’s first four at-bats. Later, in the bottom half of the fourth inning, the Sycamores added to their lead with two doubles and a single, scoring two more runs, before a two-run home run by Mike Sears grew Indiana State’s lead to 8-0 heading into the fifth. Pfennig exited his start with eight runs allowed, only five of which were earned.
Ohio State was able to keep the contest interesting once their bats came alive in the fifth inning. Catcher Archer Brookman led off the fifth with a solo home run, and after Marcus Ernst reached and advanced all the way to second base on a throwing error by the Indiana State shortstop, he was driven home by a Zach Dezenzo single. Kade Kern’s single in the following at-bat moved Dezenzo up a base, and both Kern and Dezenzo advanced a base on a wild pitch and a balk by the Sycamore pitcher on consecutive plays. The balk pushed Dezenzo across home plate, and the Buckeyes narrowed the margin to 8-3.
The Buckeyes chances were buoyed by no-hit innings from a trio of young hurlers. True freshman Jake Johnson struck out two of the four batters he faced in the fifth, and induced three straight ground ball outs in the sixth in his college debut. Fellow true freshman Gavin Bruni walked two and hit a batter in the seventh, but was able to strike out two Sycamore hitters before redshirt-freshman Tim Baird was subbed into a two-out, bases loaded jam. He struck out the only batter he faced in the seventh, keeping the Indiana State total at eight runs.
After adding a run in the seventh by way of singles from Marcus Ernst and Kade Kern, the Buckeyes faced an 8-4 deficit heading into their eighth inning at-bat. A patient approach by Ohio State’s hitters allowed them to draw walks and strike at opportune times, and they gradually chipped away at the Indiana State lead while knocking out four of their pitchers in the process. An RBI fielder’s choice by Dezenzo and a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Colton Bauer cut the deficit in half, but also left Ohio State with two outs. With their back’s against the wall, and two runners on base, super senior Brent Todys delivered the signature moment of the Buckeye season thus far. Coming in as a pinch hitter, Todys came drove an outside pitch to the wall in right center field, scoring Kade Kern and Dezenzo and improbably tying the game at 8-8. Drew Reckart walked in the next at bat, and impressive freshman outfielder Trey Lipsey singled to left to drive in the go-ahead run in front of a raucous group of Buckeye faithful in Port Charlotte. Ohio State took a 9-8 lead to the bottom of the eighth.
Once Preseason All-American TJ Brock entered the game on the mound, Ohio State’s confidence in their chance to win the game only grew. The flame-throwing closer came in for a six-out save and delivered, allowing only one hit while striking out three Indiana State hitters. After facing what seemed like an insurmountable deficit, the Buckeyes celebrated their comeback win and stay unbeaten on the young season.
Marcus Ernst had three hits to lead the team, and Zach Dezenzo and Brent Todys each led with two RBI. Ernst, Dezenzo, and Archer Brookman each scored two runs in the victory.
Ohio State will finish up their Snowbird Classic schedule against BYU at 12:30 p.m. on Monday before returning home to Columbus.