Down to its final three outs on two separate occasions, Ohio State wasn’t about to let a scrappy Akron team put the cap on its win streak.
The Buckeyes (12-6, 0-0) battled against the Zips (7-9, 0-0) all game, pulling out a 6-5 victory in 11 innings Tuesday for their fourth straight victory. Coach Greg Beals said winning games against fellow Ohio schools is an important goal for the team.
“This team and this university claim itself to be the Ohio State University so we need to represent that and we need to defend that and every time we get a state school coming in here, we need to be ready to go,” Beals said after the win.
The Zips lit the scoreboard first when redshirt senior catcher Brady Stewart hit an RBI single off of sophomore pitcher Jake Post.
The Buckeyes quickly answered in the second inning, however, when junior catcher Connor Sabanosh crushed an RBI double off the top of the left field fence, less than a foot from clearing it for a homerun.
Akron continued to hit the ball hard off Post early in the game, scoring two more runs in the third and fourth innings to bring the score to 3-1 heading into fifth.
Post retired the first two batters in each inning the Zips scored.
Post was pulled after pitching five innings and giving up six hits, three earned runs and six strikeouts.
“I thought Jake was OK, he struck guys out. I think he needs to be more efficient. He got down in the count, first-pitch strike needs to be at a higher rate,” Beals said. “But you see his ability to strike hitters out, that means he has good stuff if you’re getting a lot of swings and misses.”
OSU got a much needed run in the fifth inning when sophomore second baseman Troy Kuhn hit his third homerun of the season, a towering solo shot that sailed well past the left field fence.
Redshirt-senior pitcher Tyler Giannonatti came on to pitch the ninth inning for OSU after freshman Travis Lakins tossed three scoreless frames. Akron’s redshirt-senior infielder James Sheltrown hit an RBI single to left field to give Akron an insurance run heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Down two runs, senior left fielder Tim Wetzel led off the bottom of the ninth by taking four straight balls, then advancing to second base on a balk by Akron sophomore pitcher Zach Beaver. Beaver continued to help the Buckeyes when he threw sophomore third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic’s groundball past his first baseman, scoring Wetzel to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
In the 10th inning, junior pitcher Trace Dempsey quickly retired all three Akron batters.
Dempsey found himself in some trouble in the 11th inning, though, with the bases loaded and two outs. With the count at 3-2, Dempsey walked the go ahead run across the plate to give the Zips a 5-4 lead.
“Trace has a tendency to try too hard,” Beals said. “He gets caught up sometimes and I think instead of trusting his ability when a situation gets real tight like that, he tries to throw harder and tries to do too much and he got himself in trouble there.”
With two men on base in the bottom of the 11th inning, freshman centerfielder Ronnie Dawson smacked a ground rule double, scoring the tying run and putting pinch runner sophomore Jake Brobst on third base.
“At the beginning of the day, I was not feeling it at all, but I just had to make an adjustment and that’s what I did,” Dawson said.
Freshman outfielder Troy Montgomery stepped up to the plate as a pinch-hitter, sailing a deep flying ball into right field for a sacrifice fly and scoring Brobst for an OSU victory.
Beals said he was encouraged by his teams’ resiliency throughout the game.
“I feel really good about our ability to bounce back. We got behind in the game, but we found a way to score in the ninth inning to tie the ballgame up and then again in the 11th inning, we were down and needed to score and we got two to close it out and win,” Beals said.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to return to action against Xavier at 5:05 p.m. Wednesday at Bill Davis Stadium.