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Clutch home runs lead Ohio State baseball to 11-6 win over Xavier

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OSU junior catcher Jalen Washington (2), senior first baseman Troy Kuhn (5) and senior second baseman L Grant Davis (50) celebrate senior shortstop Criag Nenning’s tiebreaking three-run home run in the seventh inning during an 11-6 victory against the Xavier Musketeers on March 22 at Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Lantern photographer

OSU junior catcher Jalen Washington (2), senior first baseman Troy Kuhn (5) and senior second baseman L Grant Davis (50) celebrate senior shortstop Criag Nenning’s tiebreaking three-run home run in the seventh inning during an 11-6 victory against the Xavier Musketeers on March 22 at Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Lantern photographer

Xavier came out guns blazing, but it was the Buckeyes who fired the last shot Tuesday evening in an 11-6 victory at Bill Davis Stadium.

The Ohio State baseball team added another tally to a promising five-game winning streak as it begins to look ahead toward conference play.

Xavier (7-13) jumped out to an early 6-2 lead on the strength of home runs by senior shortstop Andre Jernigan and sophomore left fielder Will LaRue. But OSU (12-6-1) was the beneficiary of the long ball later on when freshman designated hitter Brady Cherry hit a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth. That was followed up in the next inning by senior shortstop Craig Nennig hitting his first career home run, a go-ahead three-run blast.

“That was probably a once-in-a-season pitch,” Cherry said about his grand slam. “It was a fastball right down the middle of the plate. It was probably 85 miles per hour … it was a perfect hitting speed, perfect spot.”

It was another rough outing for freshman starting pitcher Ryan Feltner, as the right-hander was touched up for five runs (all earned) on the strength of 10 hits in 4.1 innings of work. But even with the struggles, OSU coach Greg Beals said he has been encouraged by some of what he has seen out of the rookie.

“He’s got a chance to be really good,” Beals said. “He’s got a good changeup and he’s got a good fastball, but he needs something for that swing and miss to put a guy away with. And we’re working on that, on some type of breaking ball — curveball or slider.”

Falling behind early, it would be easy for a young team to become pessimistic about the outcome of the game, but Beals said he is confident that his team always feels it is in the game, regardless of the score.

“You saw what our offense is capable of,” Beals said. “(Junior left fielder) Ronnie Dawson had a big hit, but we didn’t get a lot out of our marquee guy in the lineup. I like what the offense was able to do and you’ve always got to fight those negative thoughts. We’ve trained ourselves in the offseason for doing that, for that positive response, and our guys were able to do that tonight.”

Late in the game, with its outcome undecided, some power came from an unlikely source, as Nennig hit his first career home run, a three-run bomb that drove in first baseman Troy Kuhn and catcher Jalen Washington.

“Before the game actually started, me and the coaches, we made some little adjustments,” Nennig said. “I worked on getting my foot down and basically finding my pitch to hit, letting my hands work, and I put a good swing on the ball.”

Redshirt sophomore Austin Woodby picked up his third win of the season, improving his record to 3-1 with two scoreless innings of work. Eight of the nine Buckeyes in the lineup registered at least one hit, with only Washington seeing a zero in the column.

OSU is next set to begin conference play over the weekend with a three-game series against Northwestern (5-15). The first game on Friday is scheduled to get underway at 6:35 p.m.

“With the winning streak, you want to keep that winning streak rolling into conference play,” Beals said. “You want to protect the home turf.”

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