A winless team was exactly what the Buckeyes needed.
Returning from a road trip to Oregon after losing three of four games — two losses to Oregon and one to Oregon State — the Buckeyes played host to the Siena Saints (0-17, 0-0) in their home opener.
After giving up four runs on two errors in its Friday win, the Ohio State’s baseball team (11-6, 0-0) shored up their defense and had strong outings from the bullpen to win two more games Saturday against Siena to complete the sweep.
Freshman pitcher Zach Farmer started on the bump in the second game for the Buckeyes and did enough to claim the victory going 5.1 innings and gave up just one run on seven hits. The Buckeye offense gave him confidence early by putting four runs on in the second.
After a leadoff double by sophomore first baseman Zach Ratcliff, redshirt-sophomore infielder Ryan Leffel drove him in with a single. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, junior catcher Aaron Gretz scored on a passed ball by Saints sophomore pitcher Bryan Goossens. With men on second and third and one out, sophomore infielder Troy Kuhn drove both of them in with a shot to center, but was thrown out trying to round it into a triple.
With the score 4-1 in the top of the sixth, the Saints were threatening with the bases loaded and only one out. The Buckeyes turned to freshman pitcher Travis Lakins and he responded in a big way turning a 3-6-1 double play to get out of the inning with no damage.
The bullpen didn’t allow a hit for the rest of the game and the offense added three more runs in the eighth to seal the 7-1 victory for the Buckeyes.
“I’m always looking for a real good pitch to hit,” Kuhn said. “But really I have the same swing every time … it was a pretty good weekend.”
Senior pitcher Greg Greve was given the ball to start the first game and found himself in some early trouble giving up a two-out RBI double to Saints senior outfielder Andres Ortiz.
The Buckeye bats had Greve’s back, though, plating two on a single by redshirt-junior first baseman Josh Dezse in the bottom half of the frame.
The Saints tied things up in the fourth on an RBI single from freshman catcher Patrick Ortland and then both teams traded runs in the fifth to keep the tie going into the sixth inning.
Unfortunately for the Saints, Buckeye freshman relief pitcher Tanner Tully came in and dealt smoke for the final four innings. Tully pitched perfectly retiring all 12 batters he faced.
“I was just throwing strikes, trying to get batters out,” Tully said after the last game Saturday. “I keep letting them hit it, but they kept hitting it to our guys.”
Meanwhile, the Buckeye offense finally woke up in the eighth, taking the lead for good. They scored four runs capitalized by a two RBI triple from freshman outfielder Ronnie Dawson to give Tully and the Buckeyes a 7-3 win.
After the impressive outings from Lakins and Tully, coach Greg Beals said he began to think about bumping them up to the starting rotation.
“Our relief pitchers did a great job today, no question about that … Tully and Lakins have been really good,” Beals said. “Two freshmen that are getting good experience, those guys are fun to watch develop. We have to figure out whether our relievers are going to be starters.”
Tully and Lakins looked like starters Saturday. Tully threw 51 pitches during his four innings of work, while Lakins showed poise getting out of a bases-loaded jam.
Tully said his time as a starter will come later, but for now he is just trying to help the team.
“I don’t really feel like a freshman anymore. Just trying to go out there and throw,” Tully said. “Maybe as I get older (I’ll start).”
Beyond pitching, Beals is still looking for improvement on the offensive side of the ball. While putting up big numbers in a single inning is nice, he said he wants to see his batters put up a fight every at-bat, no matter what the situation is.
“We need to find that fire starter every inning and get ourselves going. This has been very indicative of how we’ve been all spring … big inning then a bunch of zeros,” Beals said after the games Saturday. “We give our opponents’ pitching too easy of innings … we have to chase those guys.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to return to action Tuesday against Akron at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium. First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m.