GREENVILLE, S.C. – In a classic opening day game, Ohio State scored three times in the top of the 13th to beat Illinois 6-3 in the season-opener for both teams.
Senior catcher Brent Todys, who was 0-for-5 at the time, broke the tie with a double down the left field line, scoring Zach Dezenzo all the way from first. That broke a stalemate that saw the Buckeye pitchers hold Illinois scoreless over the final five innings despite having the winning run in scoring position in four of those five innings.
In his collegiate debut, freshman Kade Kern had a special day. The Archbold, Ohio native went 5-for-6 with a double, triple and three singles. He also had an RBI double in the pivotal 13th inning. Kern is the first Buckeye since Dominic Canzone in 2018 to have five hits in a game.
“I’m proud of how our guys stayed in the moment tonight,” said head coach Greg Beals. “Our guys made some big pitches. We executed in key situations and no one panicked today. This was a good one and we got contributions from all over the place tonight.”
Junior Garrett Burhenn started for the Buckeyes and was great. He went 6.0 innings giving up just two runs on four hits with three strikeouts. The more telling stat isn’t really a stat, as Illinois didn’t hit a ball hard off him all game.
The OSU bullpen also worked 7.0 innings, giving up just the one run on five hits with nine strikeouts. Illinois had numerous opportunities in the late innings to win the game but it was the Buckeye pitchers who executed better in key moments.
Senior Sam Wilson also had a pair of hits and two RBI in the game.
The Buckeyes opened the scoring right away in the top of the first. Colton Bauer singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out RBI single from Conner Pohl. Illinois then tied the game with an RBI double in the bottom of the third.
Ohio State again took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth. Kern collected his first collegiate hit off the wall in left. He was later erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Nick Erwin. Wilson then delivered his first of two RBI hits on the day with a double to right center. Erwin scampered all the way around to give the Buckeyes the lead.
Illinois evened the score again in the bottom of the fifth on a walk, ground out and a single to right. In the top of the seventh, Kern tripled to deep center and later scored on Wilson’s single. The lead only lasted to the bottom of the eighth as Illinois tied the score again on a single after a lead-off walk.
TJ Brock came on in the bottom of the ninth and had a great outing. He went 2.1 innings, striking out three and allowed just one hit. He closed the door on Illinois in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings when the Illini had the winning run in scoring position.
Illinois had yet another chance in the 12th inning. A leadoff walk, stolen base and a wild pitch gave Illinois the winning run at third with no outs. Bayden Root collected a strikeout and then intentionally walked Kellen Sarver, putting runners on the corners. He then stuck out Ryan Hampe and got Cam McDonald to fly out to center.
The Buckeyes finally broke through in the 13th. A lead-off walk by Dezenzo was followed by an RBI double from Todys. Mitchell Okuley singled into shallow center and Nolan Clegg delivered an infield single scoring Todys. Then Kern collected his fifth hit of the day, a double down the left field line to score Okuley. After the dust settled, it was a three-run inning and the Buckeyes led 6-3.
Root then closed the door in the bottom of the inning to claim the victory, which was the fourth of his career.
The two teams will play a double-header Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. Game one will be a seven-inning contest and game two will be a nine-inning affair.