Port Charlotte, Fla. – Ohio State jumped out to an early lead and hung on to take down Western Michigan, 4-3, behind a strong outing from starter Drew Rucinski and a solid day at the plate for Matt Streng Friday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla.
“It was good to see that we could answer the bell again today,” head coach Greg Beals said. “We jumped out to an early lead for the second Friday in a row but this time we were able to hang on and get the win to start the weekend. We know that if we keep playing this way we can do some really good things.”
The Buckeyes did not waste any time getting to Western Michigan starter Brian Stroud. Tim Wetzel walked to lead off the game and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Engle. After a groundout by Brad Hallberg, Brian DeLucia singled to right to drive in Wetzel. DeLucia then advanced to third on a single by Streng and scored on a perfectly-executed double steal to put the Scarlet and Gray up 2-0 after one.
Ohio State extended the lead to 4-0 in the second. Ryan Cypret singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Joe Ciamacco before Greg Solomon drilled a 1-0 pitch to the wall in center for an RBI triple. Wetzel then came to the plate and laced a ground ball up the middle. Bronco shortstop Patrick Duncan was playing in and made the diving stop but his throw home was too late to get Solomon as the Buckeyes plated another.
In the meantime, Rucinski was making life tough on the Broncos. The senior from Broken Arrow, Okla., retired the first six before allowing a pair of singles in the third.
However, after cruising through the fourth and fifth frames, Rucinski ran into trouble in the sixth. Three singles and an RBI groundout plated a pair as Western Michigan cut the Ohio State lead in half at 4-2.
As Rucinski ran into a bit of a speed bump in the sixth, Stroud settled down to retire 10 of the last 11 Buckeyes he faced before David Brennan came on to relieve him after the seventh.
After striking out the first batter he faced in the eighth, Ohio State reliever Andrew Armstrong walked a pair before Josh Dezse replaced him with runners on first and second and one down. After inducing a flyout by Grant Simotes, Dezse hit cleanup hitter Troy Forton to load the bases but the freshman buckled down to get Ryan McMillan to ground out to end the threat.
After a single led off the Western Michigan ninth, Duncan hit a sharp grounder to Engle but the Buckeye shortstop couldn’t field it cleanly and Broncos were on first and second with nobody out. A sacrifice bunt advanced both runners and an RBI groundout cut the Ohio State lead to 4-3 with a runner on second and two outs but Dezse induced a pop out by Vinnie Booker to end the game.
Rucinski picked up his first win of the season, going seven innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits while striking out three. Dezse gave up a hit and an unearned run over 1.2 innings to earn his first collegiate save while Streng went 3-for-4 at the plate.
The Buckeyes will be back at Saturday for a noon doubleheader with the Broncos at North Charlotte Regional Park.
– Nice crowd at the game with great support from the RWA Buckeye Club and the North Port Buckeye fan club.
– Bob White, a fullback on the 1958 Ohio State national championship football team, threw out the first pitch.
– Brian DeLucia, Matt Streng and Josh Dezse each recorded a hit for the fourth-consecutive game.
– With the win, Rucinski moved into the Top 25 on the Ohio State career wins list with 18.
– Josh Dezse (.500), Matt Streng (.467), Greg Solomon (.455) and Tyler Engle (.417) each have batting averages over the .400 mark after Friday’s game.