April 30, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio – When Purdue took a 7-2 lead in the top of the eighth, the Buckeyes could have hit the showers. After all, Ohio State won the first three games Friday and Saturday to clinch the series. Instead, it fought back and nearly completed the four-game Big Ten sweep in front of 2,332 fans Sunday at Bill Davis Stadium.
The Boilermakers eventually prevailed 7-6, but not before the Scarlet and Gray answered a four-run eighth with three of their own in the bottom of the inning and another run in the ninth to close within the one-run final. The game ended with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second when pinch hitter Tony Kennedy (So., Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South) sent a ball into extremely shallow center field only to see Purdue second baseman Eric Osborn lay out and make the game-ending grab.
A win would have moved the Buckeyes (27-14 overall, 12-8 in the Big Ten) within one game of first place in the Big Ten standings. Instead they sit two games out with 12 conference games to play. The series win was the fourth by Ohio State this season to go with 3-1 victories at Iowa and Indiana and at home against Illinois. Purdue is 23-18 overall and 9-11 in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes had not committed an error in the first three games of the series, but in the top of the first inning Sunday, they had two miscues. Mitch Hilligoss reached on a fielding error on Justin Miller (Fr., Dayton, Va./Turner Ashby), who could not hold on to the throw from shortstop Jedidiah Stephen (Sr., Caldwell, Ohio/Shenandoah). He went to second on a liner into center field. The two runners moved up on a sacrifice by Eric Wolfe and then scored on a single to left by John Hunter. Hunter was able to make it to third base when leftfielder Jonathan Zizzo (So., Youngstown, Ohio/Sarasota [Fla.]) let the ball go past him and roll all the way to the wall. OSU starting pitcher J.B. Shuck (Fr., Galion, Ohio/Galion) walked a batter, but then hunkered down and struck out the next two batters, stranding a pair of Purdue runners trailing 2-0.
Stephen came through with a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game at two. by Eric Fryer (So., Reynolsburg, Ohio/Reynoldsburg) led off the inning with a single to left-center field and went to third on a base hit by Ronnie Bourquin (Jr., Canton, Ohio/Canton South). Stephen sent a ball to the wall just left of center field for his team-leading 16th double of the season.
The Buckeyes wasted a lead-off double by Miller in the fifth. He went to third on a ground out by Zizzo, but Matt Angle (So., Whitehall, Ohio/Whitehall-Yearling) grounded out to first and Fryer flew out to right to strand the go-ahead run.
Shuck hit Eric Wolfe to open the Purdue sixth inning and then a passed ball sent him second. He went to third when John Hunter grounded out to first and scored on an RBI single to left by Ryne White to give Purdue a 3-2 lead. There was no throw from Michael Arp (Fr., Reynoldsburg, Ohio/Reynoldsburg), who had come in for Zizzo to start the inning.
Purdue turned its second double play of the game to erase the lead-off runner of the Buckeye sixth and got a fly out to end the inning. In the seventh, the Buckeyes left the lead-off runner in scoring position. Then came the Boilermakers.
Jordan Comadena led off the eighth with a home run to left center field. With one out, John Hunter singled to right. He went to second on a passed ball and to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a single to left-center by Ryne White. White scored on a double to center by Neal Gorka and then Gorka scored on a double down the left-field line by Eric Osborn to build a five-run lead, 7-2.
The Buckeyes were not done yet.
The Buckeyes scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to close within a 7-5 deficit. Angle led off the inning with a single up the middle and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Fryer. Bourquin drove in Angle with a double to left-center field. Then with two out, Stephen teed off on a 1-1 changeup from reliever Andrew Groves and sent it over the fence in left-center field to score two more. It was his sixth home run of the season and the 24th of his career.
Including one in the eighth and two in the ninth, Ohio State left a total of eight runners on base. Six of the runners were in scoring position when the inning ended.
Stephen was 3-for-4 in the game with four RBI. He had a single, double and home run. Bourquin finished the game 4-for-5 and had two RBI. He had three singles and a double. Angle, Zoeller and Miller also had multiple hits in the 16-hit offensive attack. In fact, Ohio State had five more hits than Purdue, but got off to a sluggish start with a pair of errors in the first.
Comadena, Hunter and White all had two hits for Purdue. Hunter and White each finished with two RBI.
Shuck was tagged with just his second loss in eight decisions in his young Buckeye career. He allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits and struck out six against two walks. Groves, who came on with two out in the fifth inning, got his first win of the year (1-0). He pitched three innings and allowed three runs on six hits with a pair of strikeouts before Chris Toneguzzi pitched the final 1.1 innings to pick up his third save of the year.
Ohio State returns to action when it plays host to Eastern Michigan Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. The game will be broadcast on AM 920 WMNI and on ohiostatebuckeyes.com.