In the second meeting between the top two offenses in the Big Ten Tournament, the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes beat the No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes 8-7 for the Big Ten tournament championship. This is their first tournament championship since 2007 and their ninth in school history.
The Buckeyes came into this championship game with a chip on their shoulder. Coming into the tournament winning eight of their last ten games, the Buckeyes lost to this Iowa team in the second game of the tournament, blowing a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning and eventually losing in the bottom of the 10th. Redemption was the key word for coach Greg Beals and his OSU team in their quest for their ninth Big Ten tournament championship.
In his second start of the tournament, after pitching only two innings in a rain-delayed OSU win over Michigan on Saturday, redshirt sophomore right-hander Adam Niemeyer got off to a rough start against the red-hot Iowa offense. In the bottom half of the third, Niemeyer gave up three earned runs on four hits including two RBI singles by senior centerfielder Joel Booker and sophomore designated hitter Austin Guzzo.
After Niemeyer exited the game giving up four earned runs on six hits through three innings, the OSU bullpen was stellar yet again. In four combined innings of work for junior, and 2016 All-Big Ten selection, Tanner Tully and sophomore right-hander Seth Kinker, the Hawkeyes got only three hits and a walk while striking out three times. Kinker was in for his Big Ten record sixth appearance.
The Buckeyes had a rough start to the day offensively against Iowa starter senior right-hander Calvin Mathews. Struggling with shoulder problems, Mathews only pitched three innings, but the Buckeyes could not figure him out. The 2015 second team All-Big Ten selection faced the minimum through his three innings, giving up a hit and striking out four.
Once Mathews left the game however, the OSU offense exploded for five runs on seven hits in the top of the fourth. They did not stop there as they tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh on a double by senior second baseman Troy Kuhn scoring junior leftfielder Ronnie Dawson and sophomore rightfielder Tre Gantt.
Going into the bottom of the eighth with a 7-4 lead, it was deja vu for the OSU bullpen against Iowa. Senior left-hander Michael Horejsei and redshirt sophomore closer Yianni Pavlopoulos gave up a combined three earned runs on three hits and two walks. The three runs for the Hawkeyes were highlighted by a two RBI double by senior first baseman Tyler Payton.
Kuhn then answered in the top of the ninth, scoring Dawson on an RBI double to give Ohio State team the 8-7 lead.
The Buckeye offense as a whole was very successful in the tournament. Averaging 6.6 runs per game in the tournament, the Buckeyes have recorded 15 extra base hits including three home runs by senior co-captain Nick Sergakis and Dawson respectively.
The offense was led not only in this game, but in the entire tournament by Dawson. In his 21 at bats, Dawson had a Big Ten tournament record 15 hits. Seven of those 15 hits have been for extra bases including a Big Ten tournament record six doubles.
The Buckeyes also wrecked havoc on the basepaths this tournament, stealing seven bases on 12 attempts including a perfect five stolen bases on five attempts for senior shortstop Craig Nennig.
As the tournament champion, Ohio State receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The double elimination regional will begin on June 3rd.